Note: This post is part two of a three part story called “Elbows.” For more information, see Elbows, An Introduction.
Some time after acquiring the dirt tan, I was able to go back to my squadron on the part of base that has buildings with solid walls. I’m not sure if the door guard said it or just wrote it on his face, but he clearly thought I looked like shit. Perhaps it was all the brown.
I took a painful, hot shower, every little cut reacting to the water that moved the dirt-turned-mud down my body. It was the best shower I took in basic training. It must have lasted a full seven or eight minutes.
Upon drying off, I discovered the reason my elbows had been demanding so much of my attention: They were a bloody red with “shit, that’s not good” white spots. I don’t know if the white was bone, ligaments, tendons, or fat—I was no doctor, just your average roast-beef-elbowed Joe—but I can tell you on a scale from one to ten they were at a “Holy Hell, just amputate!” level.
Despite the ample supply of bandaids my comrades offered when they returned, the gashes were too large to be covered with a complex jigsaw puzzle of bandaids, arranged in such a way as to prevent any sticky part from directly touching the wounds. I tried anyway. Fortunately, I obtained permission from my insane TI to see a doctor in the morning. I prepared by ripping one of my white shirts into strips with which to cover my elbows, opting out of the failing bandaid conglomerate.
The next morning, I went to the squadron’s command quarters (administrative area) in order to sign out. The military has paperwork for everything. As I was leaving, two TIs yelled at me.
I did my best to describe my dilemma without sounding like an idiot. I’m not sure that I succeeded, but the fresh strips of shirt at my elbows were no longer a clean white, lending some legitimacy to my plight.
They yelled at me some more before giving me permission to leave (i.e., “Get the hell out of here!”). As I was about to go out the door, I heard those TIs talking to each other. One muttered, “Damned trainee, thinks he’s Rambo.”
That statement filled me with more pride than anything else ever had in my entire life.