“Yeah. One of the buddies I made it back with was a professional tattoo artist before going in. Promised me a free tat when we got back.” Patrick let out a small chuckle and pat his shoulder. “I may look like a monster, but I acted like a little kid when I was getting inked.”
I gave him a sly look, “That’s to be expected of you. So, why on the shoulder?”
“During a shootout, I got grazed by a stray bullet. It tore straight through my uniform and gave a flesh wound. Thankfully, it wasn’t too bad. Just got patched up, stayed on rest for a while, then was back in the fight like nothing happened. I originally wanted a demon’s face and use the scar as the tongue.”
“But you changed your mind?”
“Yeah. The yin-yang was like a, uh, what’s the word I’m looking for…? I felt… balanced after I came back from the war. Like, seeing war with my own eyes made me realize just how delicate life it.”
Patrick continued on with his war stories, going through a few of the things he did during his downtime, like trying to shoot cans at a distance, or running an obstacle course set up to keep their aim sharp. It’s like hearing all of the beginning stages of your usual first-person shooter video game, but hearing it from somebody who was actually there instead of some A.I programmed into a disk. Before we knew it, we were down to last sips of beer when he was done with his stories.
“–and by the time we made it back home, I had become the poker champion. I swear, that plane ride back was wild.”
“There’s a casino just on the edge of the city,” I told him. “We should spend a Saturday there and see who can leave with the most money by the night.”
Hearing that peaked Patrick’s interest, “Is that a challenge?”
I return the offer, “You know it.”
We raised our glasses and gave one last toast before downing the rest of our drinks. Patrick looked at his empty glass for a moment, then looked at me.
“Thanks for hearing me rant on and on about my history. I’ve told that story over and over to people, but I feel like you’re the first person to actually get me.”
I laugh a bit, then punch him in the shoulder, “Oh, shut up. You’re making it seem like I’m your wife or somethin’.”
He gave me a small smile and flipped me the bird, “You ass. I’m gonna go take a leak before we head out. You goin’ home or you want to stop for food?”
“There’s a taco stand just a few minutes away from here. It’s like a quick five minute drive if you’re willing to head downtown.”
“Tacos after drinking beer for a few hours. A perfect combination.”
With our next moves established, Patrick knocks on the bar counter and made his way towards the back of the bar where the restrooms are. With him gone, I quickly reflected on the stories he shared with me tonight. We were already friends, but I felt like I had a new found respect for him. He’s still a dick, though.