Ed, of Recycled Thoughts fame, posted recently on his memories of past roommates from his pre-marriage days and it got me thinking. One of Ed’s roomies was a bit of a jerk, a Nigerian named Datun who was quite a character. It’s a good read; check it out. The story of Datun brought to mind one of my own nearly long forgotten roommates, a Floridian originally from Jamaica. I just wish I could remember his name, but anyway…
My very first assignment after Marine basic training was my technical training at Meridian Naval Air Station in the deeply southern U.S. State of Mississippi. Our barracks were nice, more like dormitories than a spartan military barracks. Even so, as civilianized as they were, we still called them our barracks. You’d never catch self-respecting Marines refer to their quarters as a dorm—that’s way too sissified; although the Air Force seems to have no qualms with calling their quarters dormitories. I guess airmen just don’t get all that worked up over what’s sissy and what’s not.
Anyway, the relative luxuriousness of our accommodations surprised me; I certainly wasn’t expecting it. It had more the feel of a nice motel. The red brick buildings were less than a year old, three stories high with outside exposed walkways for room access. They had put up several quadrants of them and right in the middle of a pine forest—I think loblollies or long leafs—and they managed to keep many of those big old trees in place. The lofty pines dominated the base; they made it a very beautiful and tranquil place to be on foot.
Our sleeping rooms were arranged in groups of three, with each of the three rooms opening into a common area. The common areas were basically living rooms setup with two couches plus a dining table and chairs. I thought it was a pretty sweet setup after having just lived for more than 3 months with 74 other recruits in a single open squad bay.
Each sleeping room accommodated three Marines. I thought it was great that each room had a separate bathroom, which was a luxury not yet often found in the fleet back then in the mid 70’s; although, over the next 20 years that toilet arrangement eventually became the standard for all the armed forces. Aside from the bathroom, our room had three wall lockers, one bunk bed and a single bed. A lighted study desk was also available that we took turns using. Taken altogether, it was a very collegial arrangement; not bad at all for 1975. I didn’t realize it back then, but it was way ahead of its time for the U.S. military.
Even after 32 years I clearly remember the faces of my two roommates, although unfortunately, I don’t remember either fellow’s name. One was a rather pompous self-assured lad from just outside Atlanta, Georgia; the other was a Jamaican fellow who had moved as an older lad to Pompano Beach, Florida. Both guys were good roomies. I had no problems getting along with either one. Oddly enough, all three of us wore glasses.
I had never met a Jamaican before, and it turned out that there were two of them on station. The other guy from “the islands” was a sailor. Just like the diaspora of Filipinos always manage to do throughout the world, these two Jamaicans quickly found each other and became fast friends.
I was quite amazed and fascinated the first time I heard those two Jamaicans talking together. They were sitting in the common room across from each other and in a language of which I had absolutely no comprehension, they spoke loudly with great excitement, interspersed with continuous laughter and dapping hand slaps.
“What is that you guys are speaking, some kind of Caribbean French or something?” I asked them.
“It’s English!” my roommate declared in his more understandable (for me) brand of Americanized English flavored with his cool-as-hell Jamaican brogue.
“No way!” I insisted. “I couldn’t understand a thing you guys were just saying. Is that how you guys talk down in Jamaica? Say something again, only slower this time.”
The sailor Jamaican gave me a sentence or two of his supposedly slowed down Jamaican English but it still sounded like complete jibber jabber to me. My roommate gave it a try, even providing a translation, but for the life of me I could not hear words that made any sense. I don’t know why, but I was delighted. I gave up trying to understand them and left them to go do some studying. I had the distinct impression that they were having some fun at my expense, but it was cool.
The night before my Jamaican bunkmate (he had the lower rack) was due to ship out after graduating from his supplymens course he decided to have a final blowout at the enlisted club. Not being much of a drinker myself, I opted not to go with him and instead went to a movie at the base theater, after which I had a late night snack and a combination BS and study session in a classmate’s common area.
It was fairly late, just after official “lights out, around 9:30 p.m. or so, when I entered our common area from the outside walkway and then went to my room door and unlocked it. When I entered the darkness I knew immediately something was not right. First was the strange sound, and second was the awful puke smell.
‘Oh my God,’ I thought, ‘Now what!’
Normally, we would never turn on the lights after "lights out." It was considered rude and it was against the rules anyway, but from what I was hearing and smelling I knew immediately that I was about to make an exception. Anyway, there was only the Jamaican and I; the Georgia boy was not yet in. I turned on the lights.
With the desk lamp switched on, the source of the awful sounds and smell was immediately evident. Jamaica had overindulged in some kind of milk based alcoholic drink, probably Kahlua. It seemed that most of what he had consumed was now all over him, on his pillow and splashed all over the floor, and even on the wall. The biley Kahlua vomit covered him from lower chest to the top of his head.
I saw too that the weird sounds were emanating from him; he made a sucking slopping sound as the whitish film of clotting sludge glazing his nose and mouth caused puke bubbles to noisily form. Snoring contentedly, these bubbles grew big, popped audibly and then reformed in an endless cycle. His alcoholic-induced oblivion allowed him to curl up contentedly in the fetal position with both vomity hands clutching his barf-slickened pillow to the side of his spew-coated face. Only a few months passed my 18th birthday, I had never seen anything remotely as sickening.
I yelled at him, “Hey, Jamaica, wake up man! You puked all over yourself dude. Get up and clean yourself off man!”
I tried everything to wake him up. I yelled repeatedly. I even tugged and kicked violently on the one part of his body that had almost no regurgitation spattered—his sock-clad feet; but no matter what I did, I could not rouse him from his stupor. After more than a few minutes of this fruitless activity I got mad and quit trying. I could see he wasn’t going to asphyxiate on his upchuck, and in fact he looked quite comfortable sleeping that way.
‘Let him stew in his own spew!’ I reflected angrily looking down on his disgusting form.
Stepping carefully, I grabbed my pillow, sheets and blanket and made a nest on one of the couches in the common area. My last thoughts before falling asleep were curse words directed at my puke-slimed Jamaican roomy.
‘You rotten bastard!’
When I woke up the next morning it was as if the Jamaican marine had never existed. His rack was stripped of all sheets and blankets, and even the pillow was gone. There was still a hint of puke in the air, but it wasn’t all that strong. Puke boy was gone for good. He had an early flight out of Meridian and had evidently made it. I was relieved to see him out of there and all vestiges of the previous evening vanished as well; or was it?
A week later we had one of our many “field days” where everyone turns out and turns to accomplishing a thorough cleaning of all living areas and spaces. Every corner—behind, on top of and under everything—was cleaned with detergent, steaming hot water, mops and scrub brushes. I pulled my bunk away from the wall so I could mop under it. As soon as the hot soapy water on my mop hit the floor against the wall I erupted into a string of the foulest Marine curses I had yet learned up to that date.
In his hurry to depart the premises in time to make his flight, my Jamaican roomster had missed cleaning up a considerable swathe of his Kahlua-laced throw-up. It was directly under the radiator vents and the dry heat had quickly preserved it into a dehydrated hardened mass. The load of hot mop water had awakened it back into its original smelly disgusting state and there was a considerable amount of the stuff.
Me and Jamaica had been pretty good pals all the way through our months together, but to this day I have unambiguously bad feelings toward the guy.
Spew me once shame on you, spew me twice and STILL shame on you!