Line Cooks Make the Best Soldiers…

I was sixteen, angry, arrogant, and stoned.

I knew better. I was ready to face the world. It is a magical time when i would oobstinately refute words of wisdom and years of experience.

The heat was thick in the restaurant. The two huge kitchen fans churned violently to push out the baking air. The AC worked only well enough to turn the deadly heat into a sweltering iron jungle of maddened monkeys. The smell of over spiced prime rib hitting the smoking hot pan with such inertial force that it makes your eyes water. The incessant buzz of the ancient hood system gurgled with months of spent grease. The frantic chatter of the servers pecking over checks like mother hens collecting chicks only added to the maddening chorus of chaos. Order after order slammed into the window. Person after person came to take the place of the served.

Welcome to the thunder dome.

Nothing really compares to the feeling of the rush, when its fresh, when it is new, and it is menacing; when I was green. It is like a soldier landing on the beach for the first time and the doors open wide to the onslaught of enemy fire. It tested my belief in my own immortality, but at the same time left me questioning it.

The feeling of the rush is the feeling of battle.

The brain fires into overdrive. The adrenaline cascades into my body like a furious tidal wave toppling thru the city streets. Throbbing thru, channeling something greater than myself. Quicker, more intuitive, adaptive to each situation, the feeling washes triumphantly to my core. I feel god-like, invincible. In a moment I glimpse at the face of death and laugh. Its kill or be killed, and I have pulled the trigger.

But there is a price.

The moment I crash is the moment of death.

Caught in the sniper’s sights, he pulls the trigger on the unsuspecting prey. The high caliber round of a surprise twenty top on top of a full dining room rips thru me like a stroke of white hot lightning. I stuck my head up too soon. I was too green to know, and now I pay for my inexperience. I am wounded and dying. Panic, anger, and confusion sweep over. My life flashes before your eyes. The tickets are coming too fast now. Too many questions. What could I have done? What do I need to do? Where the f*ck am I? How did I get here? The maddening spinning starts. The slow decent of death. Breaths are in shallow bursts. Every one’s words become a whisper. Tunnel vision sets in.

The moment of truth.

I am thrown off the station.

Despair. Disillusioned. Distraught. Defeated.

Rushed away like the in firmed to the MASH ward. I am left to coddle my wounds and reflect on my misfortune, my missteps, and my misery.

I am left wondering where I went wrong; even though I know the answer.

I underestimated the enemy. I left my guard down, and everyone suffered from my mistake.

Patched up, I wander back onto the battle field to help clear the debris from the battle. I was down, but not out, and next time I would learn.

Every time I would learn.

Thirteen years later, as the soldiers line up behind their stations making preparations for the next onslaught, I see a little bit of my old self in them. The tension, the apprehension, the fear.

The part of me that died that night.

It makes me smile.

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