I lay in bed for hours with my earphones in, unable to sleep. The daytime world hammers on outside the tent. Saws and hammers. Rotary wing.
I can separate Chinooks, Apaches and Kiowas by sound.
I roll in my bag, lingering in that drowsy state between exhaustion and sleep. My eyes are closed, but my brain won’t stop.
I forgot to take my pills again.
“Sir . . . “
One of my tent-mates. I pulled my sleeping bag off my head and looked at him with drowsy, squinting eyes. I slept through my alarm. I reached over, in the dark, and grabbed the unopened RIP-IT sitting on my Contego box. I didn’t even open my eyes before drinking it.
I fell into my uniform and shuffled to the chow-hall. Dinner chow is my first meal. I miss it more often than not. My head swam, still drowsy and out of focus.
I stood in line, eyes closed, surrounded by people from an incoming unit. They just arrived, and they will leave with us. Shortened deployment.
I passively eavesdropped on their chatter. Some fat-body POG behind me was louder than the others. High-speed. Airborne.
“The fucking Hajji shop here sucks. He doesn’t have any movies or nothing. This base is bullshit.”
All static in my ears. I tried to tune him out.
“This doesn’t even feel like a real deployment . . . “
I turned to look at him. A bloated young sergeant, E-5 type. 1 each.
“This AO has the highest concentration of SIGACTs in the country,” I told him, softly, “And two guys from your unit just went into body bags two days ago. If that doesn’t feel like a real deployment, lucky you.”
I trailed off. His face went slack.
“Roger, sir . . . “
He hung his head. I turned back around.
[Originally Published Mar 14, 2012]