By: Ed Creamer
I have to tell someone. Keeping it a secret all these years has taken its toll on my sanity. You’re the only one I trust and hope you will understand. Don’t judge me too harshly.
I was an Avionics consultant on H-34′s and had a contractual agreement with Uncle Sam. Not a difficult assignment, but it almost paid well. Their headquarters in D.C. had asked if I’d go look at some problems in a quiet little place called Ky Ha, VIETNAM. Wouldn’t take long I was told. So, I booked passage on the Princeton and arrived late in August. It was a hot, dusty little town without one decent restaurant and no bar. Picked up my blanket and looked for an empty embarkation box to sleep in. That night, under the gaze of a floating flare and the gentle, rhythmic sound of M-60′s, I slept.
I’m not certain when it was that I first realized I was in love with C-Rations. It must have been a gradual thing because I never did go through that knock me out of my socks phase. I just seemed to wake up one morning, opened the box and it was there. I knew. C knew. As if the master plan of the universe had placed us together. Together! But, only for one of life’s cruel short periods of time.
We both knew it was wrong. C came from a family of Flag Rank Officers, General Foods. And, me? I was just a kid from the south side of Memphis. Young and innocent. She was bright and shiny with the words PROPERTY OF THE U.S.GOVERNMENT stamped on her full, smooth, rounded sides. Cold to the touch but, oh so warm when held tightly over a flame. Whereas, I was just a piece of Marine trash in a dirty flight suit and unpolished boots. But, each time I saw C I fell deeper into the spell of her charms. It couldn’t be simple heartburn.
I’d heard what men said about her. How her Ham & Limas were untouchable. Her Spaghetti needed seasoning. The saltpeter they had forced her to be with when she was young. The tasteless rolls and green cigarettes. It didn’t matter. None of it mattered. I wanted her. Once I found her I wanted to protect her. To keep her from all those John Waynes and K-Bars they had used to open her. They didn’t understand her. They didn’t know C as I knew C. I loved her.
We had to steal our moments together. First we saw each other twice a day. Gradually, we grasped for more and more time. Anytime. Just to be with each other. For as I drew nearer to C, I could feel the emotions start from deep within my gut. My feelings would often run from both ends while knowing this was true love. The highs and lows of our love flowed together like nothing I’d ever experienced before. All I wanted to do was be with C. To Hell with the rest of the world.
Then it happened. Someone whispered a rumor. I heard it first in the four holer and later in the Green Garden Hose Shower Room. Nasty rumors which couldn’t be true. They said C was going away. Her father had sent her an ultimatum. Either be on the 0600 Marlog or she was to be disinherited. She’d never be able to see her little brother roll of toilet paper again. Her teenage plastic spoon. Her aunt Fruit Cocktail. She had to choose between ME and her filthy rich, godforsaken family. Why did it have to come to this?
I tried all night to reach her on the field phone. Her new roommate, SPAM, didn’t know where she was. I was frantic. I looked for her everywhere, but it was too late. She was gone. And with her went my heart and Kaeopectate. I was left with only the memories.
I’m older now and can afford to eat at almost any Burger King I want to. I no longer have a consulting contract with CMC, Inc. I still think about her though. The nights we spent together during the monsoons in our hardback tent. Just the two of us and eight of our closest friends. Whenever I reach for the Tabasco sauce I see C standing there with the moonlight glistening off her open top. The fragrance of her gravy still wisps through the air. She was so beautiful. And, for awhile, she was mine.