Drinks with A Vet

Back to our drinking night, I noticed something that was a bit off about Patrick’s tattoo, almost like it’s there to cover up something. Out of pure curiosity, I slid my hand down his arm to see if I felt something.

Of course, any man would give a strange look at somebody who suddenly decided to stroke their arm. Even though Patrick knew me, I was no exception. He gave me his usual single raised eyebrow and questioned, “What the hell are you doing? Don’t tell me you’re swapping teams right now?”

“No, you bozo,” I answered. “You know I’m dating somebody.”

“And you know I’m married, but that still didn’t stop you from doing what you did.” In a feat of strength, Patrick put his beer glass down and did a quick flex, “You can look, but you can’t touch.”

“I’m gonna slap you one day. I was just looking at the tat on your arm and noticed something didn’t seem right about it. Did you have to get it done in multiple sessions because the guy fucked up?”

Patrick lifted his shoulder to get a better look at his tattoo. It was a simple, but highly detailed depiction of a yin-yang symbol done with one fish being the white part and another fish for the black.

“Oh, this old thing? It’s nothing special. Just a little thing I got when I came back from the war.”

This time, it was my turn to have surprise in my voice, “You served in a war?”

Usually when people talked about being in a war, at least in my handful of conversations, they take a moment to ready themselves in case they start to relive flashbacks or some kind of PTSD. In Patrick’s case, he simply gave me a shrug and took a sip of beer to clear his throat, “Yeah. Served for four and a half years. Platoon 67, Squad C. I joined towards the turning point, when things were really getting hectic out in the field. Saw lots of flying bullets pass me, saw a few of my platoon members go down in the line of battle.”

“I’m sorry you had to go through that. And thanks for protecting us.”

He gently waved me off, but not out of rudeness, but out of a casual sign of “don’t worry about it.” Then then started speaking again, “I’m not sorry. Being in a shootout really gets your blood pumping. Ever saw a bullet fly right in front of your eyes?”

“No.”

“It seems like time slows down just for that moment. You see a bullet spinning like a flying top going at some miles per hour. In one second, it’s still in the barrel of a gun and within the blink of an eye, it’s gone. Witnessing something like that really makes you think about life in a new perspective.” He took a large gulp of beer before continuing, “I was in my share of firefights, but it quickly came to an end after like a year or so. The rest of my time there, I was mainly on patrol and guard duties during the rescue efforts. My platoon was one of the last ones remaining for the trip home. Not gonna lie, got to see a lot of the countryside during that time. When I got back, that’s when I got the ink.”

“What made you get a yin-yang? And what are the fish? Koi?”

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