Last Fourth of July, The Sarge told me, “When your work is killing strangers, you have a good reason to hate your job”.
Me, I can think of more than just one.
It’s a beautiful day in Afghanistan. That means it’s about 400 hundred degrees all day and 300 below at night. I smell like beef jerky and I haven’t seen a women’s face since Faith Hill came over in June and did us a concert. That was real nice.
I’ve been here for two tours and I have 58 men on my gun which is a lot considering the fact that I’m a pacifist. Real mean guys like Fat Henry, hell, they don’t even bother counting. It’s humid as hell, and it’s starting to get to me.
We wake up at 4. We do push-ups and drills for two hours and then we have breakfast, usually an MRE, but sometimes corn muffins with nothing on them. Butter and jelly isn’t allowed due to the fact that the insurgents can use it in their bombs. I’m not sure how…
Every morning, after we eat, I break off from the unit for ten minutes while everyone is hitting the head. In my bunk, I’ve got a rearview mirror I ripped off an abandoned Mercedes in Turkmenistan. When I look in it, my face looks really far away, but I don’t mind that much, because there’s a warning about that written on the mirror.
The g-damn humidity. It’s not enough that I gotta walk on my tiptoes when I go for a piss, so I don’t step on an IED and blow my tushie off, but I gotta deal with this g-damn humidity. It wouldn’t be that bad, if I was Tyrese in Unit 3 or that blond dude Junkins who shipped out last May. But, my hair has always had a slight curl to it and in this humidity there’s nothing I can do with it.
When I’m back home, and it’s during the winter, I’ll shower, dry with a towel and apply a humectant so I can maintain the curl, but control it. But out here, everything is different, I sleep on my gun, so I’ll be ready when the Drill Whistle blows…basically, there’s just no time to monitor my wave.
It’s 3AM when I awake to the crack of sniper fire. Everything is a blur as I flip out of bed throw on my camo (sooo Desert Storm) put in my contacts and double time it to my outpost. There’s a “comfortable” spot for me next to Stevens, because I’m one of the best shots in the company. We sit and we wait…
It’s dawn. There was a medic named Sam, who was taken down on patrol. He used to wake up to watch the sun rise at least a couple times a week, drills be damned. When the sun comes up in the mountains of Afghanistan, he said, it really comes right the fuck up. Sitting there, with my rifle aimed at specks of sand a mile off, I had to agree with him. I wasn’t gonna take my eyes of the scope, but I could feel it rising. G-damn. My cowlick on the top of my head is practically moving my helmet. If my girlfriend had mailed me the G-damn that strong-hold pomade from the g-damn Mac store, I wouldn’t be having this problem. But, at this point my bedhead was so bad, if I got captured the enemy would probably think I have cornrows.
My trigger finger is sweaty. I’m not sure I could fire right now if wanted to. I once shit my pants in this scenario, it can be exhausting waiting for someone to move so you can shoot them from a mile away. Especially when you look like Yahoo Serious.
It’s too far out. I was just wondering if my accident with hydrogen peroxide back in ’92 could have have had any long term effects on my root strength, when something scrambles on the horizon. It’s too G-damn far out, so I have to approach. I double time it to the steps, triple time it down to the ground and quadruple time it about a half mile, at which point I half time it for an eight of a mile and then normal time it. I need to learn to pace myself better, but this G-damn war!
As I approach I’m actually coming in at a lower angle then I had at the outpost and there’s an outcropping of rock in my way. It kind of shoots sideways to the right in a jagged, uneven parting that reminds me to stop over-conditioning my g-damn hair. (Stop over-conditioning! I tell myself.)
In this situation, a soldier has two choices. 1. charge the outcropping ready to shoot anything that moves. Or 2. Stand stone still and wait for sound. That can tell you a lot.
I decide to improvise by throwing my gun at the rock.
I wait for what seems like three or four seconds. Then I look at my watch, and four seconds goes by, making my wait approximately seven or eight seconds. At which point I see it.
It peeks around the edge of the outcropping shyly. It’s like a scraggly shadow at first, growing bigger and bigger until it becomes an enormous uneven “Kid and Play” in House Party style afro, connected to the head of a terrorist.
After he reveals himself, he stand there. Like a more authentic version of Lawrence of Arabia. He throws his gun at me.
“I’m having a bad hair day.” he says.
“Moi aussi.” I say (but in Pashtun. I figured, what the hell, I know a little Pashtun.)
We each pick up each other’s guns and walk ten paces in opposite directions and turn to face each other.
He accidentally farts a little. We laugh.
“It’s the g-damn chickpeas.” he says.
“I’m the same way.” I say, farting.
It’s obvious that we don’t want to shoot each other, we’re just two dudes on a mission that we never wanted to complete.
I take off my helmet and watch as a look of recognition mixed with horror washes over the ruddy visage of my would-be adversary.
“I’m having a bad hair day.” I say.
“Me too.” he says. (but in English)
In the distance the sound of the adhan and the dinner bell fight for our attention.
At this point, one of us may have farted again. I’m not sure.