Susan was startled, looked at me, then at Mike, “You two know each other?”
By now my long hair and mustache had erased most traces of GI identity. It was not something I advertised and in my bio I had omitted telling Susan of time in the army but Mike recognized me immediately.
I mouthed the words, “Shut the fuck up!” back at Halftrack.
He mockingly zipped his mouth shut and motioned me over.
“Yeah, I used to know him. Excuse me a minute, I just wanna say hi,” I excused myself to Susan.
His girlfriend looked me up and down before asking Mike, “Who’s he?”
“Just a guy I used to know,” answered Mike.
“From Nam?” she asked.
“Umm hmm,” mumbled Mike.
“Sit down, can I buy you a drink?”
Thanks. Just a quick one,” I answered.
His girlfriend moved over in the booth and I sat next to her across from Mike. She smelled nice.
“She alright?” I asked nodding in her direction.
“Yeah, Sandy’s alright. So, how do you know Susan, you lucky dog?”
“Just that. Luck. She showed up at the Funny Farm for a weekend in the country with the rest of the Hotel Universe.”
Halftrack laughed at the names. We sat for a few minutes and caught up on the past four years.
“How long you been back?” he asked.
“From Nam about five years. Out of the army, four. I don ’t live in the city now so I’m not really ‘back’ if that’s what you’re thinking. How ‘bout you when did you get out of Nam?”
“About a year and a half ago. As the troop pullout really got going it was tough to do any real work. Everybody was afraid to move anything anywhere. The Frenchman left for Paris. You couldn’t trust the ARVNs and they were supposed to be running things. It was chaos. And dangerous. So I left.”
“Did you ever trust them?
“So you hang out here now?”
“Here and the U.”
“And I see you met Susan.”
“Yeah, I made a point of it.”
Sandy gave me a knowing look. As Mike was about to order another drink, Susan turned around on her bar stool and tapped her watch. We had a dinner invitation.
“Gotta go. Hey Mike, Good to see ya. You’ll be around a while?”
“Yeah, right here.”
“I’ll stop by.”