I’m always awkward and falling all over myself. I’ve learned to avoid men at all costs, even here at the school with male teachers. Some have asked me out, but I’m quick to shake my head. I’ve tried to get past it, but I never seem to be able to get comfortable enough to try to date. I’ve got to be the world’s oldest virgin, something I’ve resigned myself to at this point. I’m content and okay with where I’m at in life, but maybe it’s time to push myself a little more.
My shyness has gotten the better of me over the years, but maybe this will be something to break me out of my shell. I’ll never meet this man. I shouldn’t worry about it. What’s the worst that could happen? He doesn’t write back? The thought makes an unreasonable ball of nerves grow in my stomach, making the lunch I packed for today suddenly seem unappetizing.
I bite my lip as I gather all the letters, dropping them into their assigned envelopes for each one of the Marines. I wonder how long it will take to reach them. A nervous excitement fills me, and I try to think of it as an adventure.
Now, we wait.
“Mail, Sergeant Major.
I look over to see the corporal holding a letter in his hand, and I’m confused as to why he’s giving me mail. “Check that address, Riggs. I think you’re mistaken.”
“Begging your pardon, sir. I’ve double-checked and it’s for you. Sergeant Major.”
The young corporal is nervous as most of the guys are around me. I’m an almost forty-year-old Sergeant Major with five tours under my belt, so I can see how he might be afraid to tell me I’m wrong.
The sad part is, I know I’m right. Three years away from the big 4-0 and I don’t have any family back home who would send me anything. All my friends are the guys I’ve served in combat with, and we don’t really do the whole letter thing.
“Alright. Leave it with me.” I’ll just have to make sure it gets to the correct person since it must have been labeled incorrectly. “Dismissed, Riggs.”
“Yes, Sergeant Major.”
I walk over to my desk, turning the letter over in my hands.
I’m on my last tour before retirement, deployed in Yemen with a group of about eighteen men. I’m in charge of all of them, and my job is to get everyone home safe. It’s not something I take lightly, and as soon as this is finished, I’m looking forward to hanging up my boots. I’ve been enlisted and working up the ranks since the day I turned eighteen and could enlist in the Corps. I was raised in an orphanage in the Midwest, and when the high-school recruiter came by telling me I had a way out, I was all too eager to jump at the chance. Now, twenty years later, my time is up, and I’m ready to do what I want to do.
I take a seat in one of the chairs next to a makeshift desk and look over the envelope and see my name perfectly spelled out in beautiful handwritten script.
Thinking it might still be a mistake, I open it up and read the letter. I feel my face start to ache from the smile plastered on it as I read the words intended just for me.
I remember that our platoon is registered as pen-pal responsive. Our names were put on a list through the Marine services, so if people wanted to send care packages or write, we would receive such items.
I don’t care that she did this out of some obligation or class project. Or that it was sent to us for any reason in particular. She’s utterly adorable, and I can’t describe how it feels to have someone write me a letter. I’ve never gotten anything like this before, and it surprises me how much I love it. What’s even more surprising is how much I enjoy her.
“Katie Lovely. You sure do sound like it,” I say, running my roughened fingers over her signature. I spend a few minutes re-reading the letter and trying to picture what she looks like. I bet she’d be the prettiest thing I’ve seen in the last twenty years.
Picking up a pen and paper, I decide to write her right now before I chicken out. I’ve never really had any sort of way with women, opting to grunt when asked a question. I can lead an entire troop of Marines, but I’d rather just not bother when it comes to the opposite sex and dating.
I hope it’s okay if I call you that. It seems we’ll be getting to know one another, and I’m usually pretty direct with people. You can call me Mark; nobody ever calls me that. I think it would be a nice change, if you’d like to.
I’m a Sergeant Major in the Marine Corps, and I’ve been in for almost twenty years. There’s not a lot to me beyond that.
I spent some time in South Carolina down at Parris Island when I was eighteen. It’s where I did my boot camp. It’s hot as hell down there. I’d love to go back and visit someday, but maybe not in the summer time. Too many memories of heat stroke and cockroaches the size of my hand!