Stories in my Pocket: Mountains and Molehills (Part 2)

Click here for Part 1. 

"Oh yahyess, you've just gotta go up to Fort Seeuhl. There's mountin climbin' and you can see like five states awahyee," the old temp bubbled on about the day trips I'd just hafta take during my short stay in Texas.

Just a year out of high school, she was already moving up to a permanent office job, that is, after she trained the new temp. We were done in a day or two, and she told the boss it was because I was a quick learner. Except for driving the pallet mover. I had to ask her twice about that.

I stood at a folding table in a loft-like portion of the warehouse, watching the line below churn out product as I stuffed binders with specs and cleared my head a million times over. With so many thoughts taken captive, the holding cells tended to overload. Those dreadful thoughts often rose up in revolt and staged cerebral jail breaks. They turned on me--questioning, accusing, doubting, and holding me hostage with a pointed finger.

That degree I was so anxious to get? The one that would surely open doors and change my life? My chance to trade my greasy fast food uniform for a white collar? The only thing it did was roll itself into a scroll and slap me in the face.

To cover the abuse, I read a semester's worth of English Lit on my lunch breaks. Perhaps with my nose in a book, no one would notice the splotchy marks of misery on my face.

Back at the base, my airman made use of his bootstraps. He wore a yellow rope around his sleeve, the signal of a student leader, and Highest Honors would soon be his. He was a product of trying, failing and trying again. To him, rejection was just an arrow pointing to a different path. To me, it mapped the quickest route to despair.

He dreamed; I schemed. He birthed wild ideas and I named them in obstacles. He dug up possibilities, and I buried them under the reasons why not. So when he refused to be bound by my carefully constructed limits--the kind that prevent failure and success--it was a profound act of leadership.  But it would be years before I saw it as such.

I followed him into the fray, not because I was wise or brave, but because given the choices, it seemed like the safest thing to do.

"So that girl from work was telling me about Fort Seal--just a short drive from here. She said there's some great hiking and views. Maybe we could do some bouldering and take a picnic or something." I suggested.

It took us a few tries to find the landmark. "Oh, she must have meant Fort Sill. Yeah, let's go Saturday. I've got the day off." Larry agreed.

Armed with travel mugs, trail mix and a sense of adventure, we sputtered north. Thirty minutes passed and still nothing but red dust rose from the horizon. We laughed at the hoards of prairie dogs popping up randomly along the side of the road and wondered when the silhouette of the mountains might make an appearance.

A short while later we pulled into the lot and exchanged "oh well" looks as we set off to make the best of a disappointing outing. 

"I guess I should have clued in when I told her I was from Ohio and she gushed about how beautiful the mountains are there. I thought maybe she was thinking of Idaho, and I didn't want to correct her."  I said. She really was a sweet girl, even if she did make mountains out of molehills.

On the way home, after another unsuccessful attempt to convince my only friend in the vast state of Texas to delve into a literary criticism of The Mill on the Floss, my husband suggested a remedy. 

"Do you want to go back to school, maybe get your masters? I hear they have scholarships for military wives. You should check it out. Honestly, Jo, you need to find an outlet besides me. I'm too overloaded with school to be your solitary book club member."

He was wise well before I called it wisdom. He knew from the start he couldn't meet my every need, that marriage was not a cure all. 

"I'll look into it," I said, throat tightening under the threat of tears. I was not ready to part with my unrealistic expectations.

Nothing was as I had pictured it.  I earned minimum wage at a factory while my college loans loomed.  I married my best friend and never felt lonelier than when he couldn't relate. And those blasted mountains were just rocky foothills. 

So naturally, I blamed it all on Texas and counted down days until new orders would send us East to flat but familiar terrain.

Click here to continue reading (Part 3).

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