We pile into the car like sardines and three hours flash by in a haze of rolling hills and clear sky. My brother and I escape to childhood as we harass one another in hopes of a reaction. We do this until the heat of our mother’s glare burns our skin and a stone plunges into my throat until I swallow the sorrow away. This ache has been a constant visitor for the past year, haunting me alone in thought or surrounded by laughter. It throbs, “this is it”, causing frustrated anger to bloom within me.
Soon the emerald scenery transforms to brick as Lexington rises into view. The streets bustle with loaded cars, parents, uniformed cadets, and anxious rats. Our travel weary bodies find the hotel and rooms where the luggage is left at the call of our evening duties as family of a Virginia Military Institute rat, or freshman. The parent social passes in a craze of handshakes and introductions, the lacrosse meeting on its heels. Night soon comes with challenging our minds to sleep.
Crisp morning air greets my skin and a pink sunrise kisses my sad, sleep stained eyes. The precious hours sprint by until I find myself breathing in the cold gymnasium air, nearly choking on the anticipation that pollutes it. The ceremony begins with efficient speeches of the future causing a fog to roll over my brain. Until, a voice fires out to signal the time has come, and I feel its wound in my chest burning. The cadres call upon their companies, one by one the families release their child as they are called into the greedy hands of destiny. It is a scene of desperate mothers reaching to hold their babies on the dusk of childhood. Proud fathers with chests puffed, their hands outstretched waiting for the firm handshake with undisclosed mournful eyes uttering, “I love you”. The rumbling of feet against concrete and goodbyes ring in my ears. Then I hear it, the sound leaves me shell shocked as it shatters my world. It rains down the ashes of childhood innocence and shrapnel of memories. The sound causes my feet to stand, my arms to embrace my comic relief, companion, and my rock for the past seventeen years, letting go becomes a sin and tears ambush, blinding me. The once visiting stone in my throat becomes a boulder making its home. I watch my rock roll down the steps into his company line, my vision blurred.
The pavement beats my feet and the raging sun burns my skin, but numbness has overcome my body as I dash to see him march into the barracks. Panic rises and falls to the beat of the ominous battle drums. The familiar flash of red hair calms my wild nerves as I watch my first best friend disappear into the mouth of the barracks, inhaling my last glimpse of him until Christmas.