He is drunk as we board the bus.
My friends and I climb on the bus to head back to our condo, and the drunk, Eminem look-alike welcomes us gleefully to the Party Bus.
My friend and I glance at each other nervously as he invites us to the kegger he is going to. I am 24 and have been to one kegger. I don’t know if this is the time to break that record. My friend admits that she too has only been to one. Our new social director, who introduces himself as Barrett, looks shocked.
“You’ve only been to one? How is that possible?” he asks her. “You’re so pretty.”
Can’t argue with that logic. He then admits to having a lengthy criminal record. This is all seeming really amusing.
Barrett asks my friend if she has a cigarette. She tells him she doesn’t. But offers him a Thin Mint instead. His eyes get wide like a little boy, and he eagerly grabs the cookie from her outstretched hand.
The friendly yet fairly awkward banter between the squarest girls on the planet and Marshal Mathers’ personality double continues until Barrett mentions that he’s going into Basic Training in two weeks.
The mood on the Party Bus immediately sobers.
It is always an emotional thing when someone enlists in the military, but it seems especially poignant on the very night before war could easily be declared. I look at Barrett and could be looking at a walking corpse.
And I say the only thing that I can think of at the moment. I say “thank you.”
His eyes widen for the second time in five minutes. He asks me if I know why he’s doing it. I’m still trying to figure out why I haven’t been to more keggers, and so I don’t try to guess. Yeah, he loves his country, he says. And yeah, the money for school is intriguing.
But he’s really enlisting for his grandfather. He talks about being 21 and feeling like he’s done nothing to contribute to society. Feeling like he’s doing nothing but waste his time. And he talks about his grandfather who enlisted in the Army in World War II, and how he has nothing but respect for this man who stepped up when it would have been easy to stay behind. He muses that his grandfather made a sacrifice so that Barrett could be riding on a bus in Steamboat 60 years later. And he feels like he also needs to do something for some kid he’s never met yet.
And then he starts talking about a pretty rough upbringing and about his little sister (for crying out loud, did he write the script for “8-Mile”?) and how much he loves her.
How he would do anything in the world to make her life a better one.
And at this point, going to war fulfills both of those debts he feels he needs to pay.
We live in tenuous times that make self-preservation seem more attractive than ever. And it would be a marvelous thing if our problems just went away, and if we could rely on reason to be victorious. If we could give love and peace a chance.
But we live in tenuous times where despots kill their own children in frantic feats of self-preservation, and who only revel in our complacency. How many times do we have to swear we will never capitulate again?
I am in awe of this foul-mouthed puck sitting next to me on a mountain bus. Because he is willing to put aside that wicked temptation to live a life of quiet complacency.
He is willing to put his very life on the line so that we can live in a world where we don’t have to worry about being murdered in our beds by our enemies. Barrett may be a drunk, but he puts me to shame.