I wanted to be in the navy ever since I was a little kid. The ocean always fascinated me. We lived in New England and my parents would take my siblings and me on boat rides and whale watches. I loved everything about it: beaches, little boats, big boats, ships. A ship is like a little world on water, a Waterworld, to quote Kevin Costner. And those navy ships they land planes on? Forget about it. That's like the Death Star.
I wanted to be a naval officer, or better yet, a Navy SEAL, like Jesse Ventura or Charlie Sheen in the movie. That never panned out because I had too many afflictions. The training is brutal and I could never skydive from 25 feet, let alone 25,000.
My father was never encouraging about me wanting to be in the navy. He said I'd ruin the military. He always said to me, "Then be a fisherman or a seahorse. Don't fuck up the armed forces." He was always afraid I'd mess up things, whether it was the navy, my little league baseball team, or a game of Monopoly. But the military was for me. I watched A Few Good Men at least forty times and even started greeting my dad by saying, "You can't handle the truth!" He'd usually reply with something like, "The truth is you're a loser who had to wear floaties in the pool until you were fourteen."
While this was true, I didn't even start working out until high school. I would be a late bloomer, but I would make it. I was confident in myself, even if my father wasn't. Once he said to me, "You wanna be a naval office?" and then he tore my Popeye T-shirt off and jammed me repeatedly in the belly button with one of my mom's vibrating devices.
He humiliated me at every turn. My entire senior year in high school, when it was most important for me to train and get into the military, he kept the record player around just to play "In the Navy" whenever I came home. He'd dance and sing along, then say, "You and those Village People fruits think it's so simple. Sail the Seven Seas! Put your mind at ease! Well, it ain't like that!"
It didn't matter. I was going to show him. I'd make it into the navy. Despite all the making fun he did, I wanted to impress my father. I wanted him to eventually say, "You did it, son."
Finally, and despite my dad's endless mocking, I worked hard enough that I got an NROTC scholarship at Worcester College. When I told him this he looked at me and said, "That's good son." I was so happy that I had to go and start crying, upon which Dad began firing the seaman jokes at me. I could tell he was proud though. This was only the beginning for me.
Once I graduated high school, I joined the Naval Academy. I did everything they asked me to do. I cleaned the bathrooms and even acted as a nurse assistant. Still I took a lot of ribbing from the other guys. They were a lot like my dad. My classmates would go from making the same seaman jokes my father made to silly pirate gags, like making me walk the plank and convincing me I had scurvy.
Then I dropped out. Despite my love of the navy I couldn't hack it. The day I decided to quit I hid in the basement of my parents' house until my father came down and pointed his shotgun at me.
"I knew it," he said, lowering the gun once he saw it was me. "You quit, didn't you?"
"Yes," I said.
"How long you been down here?"
"Well, that's all right. Come upstairs and have some cocoa, navy boy."
It was a rough time. I sunk into a depression for five years and then I met John John after watching him wrestle a giant squid by the docks. We became really good friends and I became a navy groupie.
We helped each other out a lot, John John and me. I tried to get him to stop picking fights with sea creatures and he tried to convince me there were no such things as mermaids and water unicorns.