I am a soldier

I am a soldier, and I’m proud of it. If ten years ago you had told me that one day I would be going around with my head shaved, and wearing a uniform, I would have burst out laughing. Me? A soldier!   What I liked was going out at night, drinking, dancing, and especially…girls. My dream was to get by somehow without having to work too much, and some day find a woman who would support me.

But one afternoon a patrol came to my little neighborhood bar looking for recruits. They roped me in, taking advantage of the fact that I was half drunk and not thinking straight. They marched me off to the barracks, asked for my papers, and decided I was due for military service. They shaved my head, took my civilian clothes, and stuck me into a khaki uniform. The drill instructors gave me so many kicks in the ass during training that my behind has been red ever since. But I got through it, and before I knew it I was beginning to like the Army. The discipline, the organization, the security, all that. The senior officer of my section told me, “You have the makings of a soldier.” And I do, because besides knowing how to obey, I also know how to command, and I’m the best marksman in our unit. That’s why they made me a corporal, and in the normal course of events I will soon make sergeant, and I won’t stop until I’m a sergeant major.

In the short time I’ve been in the army, I’ve already been in three revolutions, which is a real kick. When there’s a revolution, the food gets better and we get bonus pay. And there’s a lot of excitement and speculation in the barracks, trying to guess who will end up as President. Because if it’s the general, the commander of our regiment, we—by that I mean my battalion, my company—we’ll get a real boost. The best thing that could happen would be to be picked for the presidential guard, the ones who guard the Palacio de Gobierno. Now that’s a good life. You eat like a king, and no girl can resist you.

On the other hand, this acting as escort for the Christ during the Holy Week procession has its drawbacks. Me, for example, the smell of the incense makes me sneeze, and there are priests and nuns burning incense all along the route. I have to hold back the sneeze—a soldier sneezing when he’s part of the honor guard makes a bad impression—but sometimes I can’t help it, I have to let go. Even worse, by the time it gets dark and people start getting wound up, it isn’t as easy to hold back all the pious old ladies who want to break through the rope barricades and touch the platform that holds the Christ, throw flowers to Him and ask for favors. The worst of all are the nuns, who push and scream like hysterical teenagers. And you have to be nice to them, because we’re in a religious procession, not a political rally or a strike, where we’re allowed to use our night sticks, and even in extreme cases shoot. I’ve come out of more than one procession pinched and clawed by those witches. I can tell you.