Sh*t, I’m still off the coast of Ecuador. It is mostly dark except for a dim, dark blue light. I don’t see much, outside of a pair of boots two feet away from me. It is immensely cold, even underneath my rough wool blanket that is usually given to hurricane victims. I shake anyway. It took me thirty seconds or so to figure out where I was at. I knew it could not be heaven, it doesn’t smell like low grade diesel fuel. This was reality. But I had found myself in some other place in my dreams, often with an erotic beauty or its polar opposite, my own murderer.
At times I felt like my military career had careened into Apocalypse Now. Instead of Saigon, I found myself at a run-down set of apartments outside of the port my ship was home ported at. Much like Saigon, there was some insane noise ringing out like the movie. I was groggy and hungover on a boring as fuck Saturday afternoon. I felt like taxpayers weren’t getting their money’s worth. Apathy, added to alcohol, gave everyone a death wish but like Captain Willard, no one wanted to kill themselves. We had no real mission and we put on appearances, did our jobs at least. Never excited about work.
Captain Willard and I had our own purgatory. I a ship and Willard the patrol boat. I never seemed to escape the mundane stupidity of going on watching and hearing incessant beeping. We all had a legion of equally damned. The cast of characters being tortured the same as I was.
Willard found himself in various levels of hell, described in a few scenes. I found a little interruption in stops for debauchery, just like the boat crew’s USO show attendance and meeting up with the Playmates at the rundown base. (My own rundown spot was Ecuador, which got old quick. I quickly had nothing to gain from stopping there. )
The irony is that neither one of us seemed to be a leader. I was sent off to do mundane work away from everyone else. Willard was sent off to “terminate a renegade colonel’s command with extreme prejudice”. We were the right nut jobs for the wrong tasks.
I never seemed to find my Colonel Kurtz. (Might have been the faceless murderer that caused my night terrors). But in the end, neither I or Captain Willard “found our way home”. We completed our tasks but found ourselves just as lost, further “upstream”.
It has been years since I woke up in my current place, wondering where my fellow sailors were. I still get a whiff of diesel fuel late at night.