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by Sarah Estime

I’ve invested too much time into the military to be called sweetie and honey. I wonder how many toolboxes I have to tote for these old timers to respect me. I’m out in the cold, I’m wrenching wrenches, I’m climbing stairs, I’m tolerating their stenches. And they joke but dammit breaking a nail really hurts. I could clip them but I just painted them and they match with my shirt.

My confidence has to assert itself from somewhere. I mean, my parents were army so my childhood was austere. My bedroom was a barrack and they called push-ups and suicides rearing. So having a greasy man with his voice thick with phlegm, his laugh dry and cracking, exclaiming, “She just wants to be like one of the boys!” isn’t my ideal job. “Haven’t updated my sensitivity training,” they say. I’m never offended. I’m just disappointed the jokes weren’t delivered better.

I’m not sure if I was made for the military or if the military was made for me. There was a time I had an accident and a maroon streak of you-know-what trickled through my pants. And then someone made a joke and I turned bright red and then they told me to stop acting like I was on my period and I said, “Well, I can’t.” I questioned humanity. Should I be the kind of feminist that loves to talk about the C-5 because I don’t. I have to somehow follow my sister’s West Point prestige. Like how am I gonna do that?

Well, you get married like a large number of enlistees do. It’s not tradition if you don’t do it within a month of knowing each other. And then you move to base and complain about the rent. Your husband gets put on nights and a resentment comes out of nowhere. You have a kid, you get into debt, you out-process, you think you’re set. But you become a vet and then life really isn’t fair because you learn that the world is “paying for health insurance” and “mowing lawns.” And if you’ve been stationed in Delaware (and stuck there as a result) you totally forget what a sales tax is.

But the military is also a wonderful place filled with joy. You move quicker, you think quicker, you develop the kind of photographic memory that makes you believe you’re a superhero. And if you stick it out with the guy you met in tech school, the only thing provoking you to get a divorce would be your one foot newborn giving you a month-long cold.

Sarah Estime is an aircraft mechanic in the Air Force. When she is not working her day job, she is composing works related to literary fiction. She been published by the African American Review, Burner Magazine, and O-Dark-Thirty.

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