and where the hell are they anyhow? late, of course. always. but this is too late. this is way too late.
well there’s nothing to do but wait with a patience i do not have and so that’s what i’ll do and lord knows i have nothing else to do and what the hell am i even doing anyway?
god, i’m a fool and it was the worst decision i ever made but at the time it seemed....at the time....no, no. i will lie to myself no longer. it never seemed right. so why? too late now, old boy, too late...
well, i can’t think like this. or at least i shouldn’t. that’s what they taught us. now that we’re here, we must accept, however blindly, and question no more. doubts are normal, they said, everybody has them. the trick is to get beyond them. "transcend them" as the one man liked to say. but this i cannot do. or is it will not?
and look at this thing in my hands dear lord just look at it! what the hell do i think i’m doing with this horrific thing? i remember the first time firing it and not really tucking it into my shoulder like they said. sore for days i was. gawdawful sore. my own damn fault.
i also remember being scared to death. not of having one turned on me. but of me turning it on another.
well i’m here now and that’s that and i have a job to do and i need to do it and i will fire this thing if i need to. what? what? i will. really. not just for me. or for those with me. but for my freedom. for everybody else’s too. i’ll fire it and i’ll keep firing it over and over if i must. this is how to win.
i’ll never fire this thing and i know it. i’m too damn scared. and this just doesn’t feel right. none of it. not a single thing.
and how does this whole affair work? if these cross-hairs fall upon the chest of a man and i squeeze the trigger, what does this do? he falls, he bleeds, he dies....and we are victorious? victorious in what? what the hell is this anyway? maybe the people here do not even want what we are forcing on them? maybe they do? but how do we know? what do we know? and who makes the choices? god, why couldn’t i have thought like this a year ago!
well i am doing what i have been ordered to do so i should be ok. they’re just a little late. they will be here and everything will go as planned. yes. any minute now....
maybe i am a fool but what i am doing here is a good thing. it is. sure, i am just a small component of all that is happening. but i am an essential component nonetheless. the cause is good. it is just. and worthy. i’m starting to feel a little better about it all. yes. yes. i am.
everything to hell! where are they? they’d better get here soon, and i mean it. they will, they will, they’re coming. i hope. and in the meantime, well, i guess i’ll just lay here and sweat my soul out and curse this vacant sky that knows nothing of a cloud! lord almighty this heat and i’m just supposed to wait here, in this bunker hold, like a schlemiel? just look at me! sitting here baking to death in the desert. hell!
well, i know one thing for sure and that’s that i won’t look at that picture again because all it will do is make me sad and lonesome and i don’t need that right now. well, maybe i’ll just take a quick glance, but that’s all. just for a moment and then i’ll be done with it.......and there you are, my own little son, just six months old then, and i am a bad father. there is no talking myself out of this fact though god knows how i’ve tried to. right when you need me most, here i am in a desert with a gun in my hand. god oh god i hope you can forgive me especially if i never even see you again. curse that thought and may i never have it again although i know i will. please god, are you listening?, please god do not let me be a man in a picture to a son that never knew me. dear lord, please not that. don’t let me be a few constantly repeated stories that he hears but never relates to or understands. i need to write my boy a letter. something autobiographical. i will do this. i must. just in case.
and melissa. you were right. you told me not to go but i went and am here. not for this...not now, you said, and i can still see the way your eyes looked when you said it. they made my stomach hurt. and it’s too late and there’s nothing i can do but wait and love and miss you both and long for the feel of your palms on my back. i ask, in advance, for your pardon. because i was gawdawful wrong about this whole thing and damn it all to hell i was wrong.
and where are they?
that’s it, i’m leaving. i’m standing up right now and i’m going back to base and i’m quitting and i’m going home. oh god, yes, i! i’m going to do it and i mean it this time. i don’t care if i’m discharged dishonorably because there is nothing honorable in war and i don’t even believe in what i’m doing and so i’ve already dishonored myself and, worse yet, my family. so let’s get up and get on with it.
but if i leave this cursed hell hole of a ditch, i’m nothing but target practice because i know the enemy, the "bad guys" (am i good?), are out there and if they see me a bullet will, somewhere, enter me. word will get home. my mother will be hysterical. my father will look out the window trying his best not to cry. my wife will wrap our son up in her arms and weep. and oh god jesus how is it i came to be here and please wherever you are just get me out of here. somehow. now.
and if war is effective, why are there so many of them?
it is simply too hot to live. how much water do i....? hell, hell, hell, i’m almost out. well this is just perfect.
i remember telling my best friend danny i was enlisting and he just stared at me for entirely too long and asked me what the hell i was thinking and i got insolent and told him that i loved my country and he said there were other ways to love one’s country. alot of other ways, he said. and, because i knew he was right, i became even more arrogant and told him that i hoped he valued his freedom and that in the meantime i’d be the one protecting it. and then he just shook his head and told me to do what i had to do and he left and i kicked a rock. god danny what i wouldn’t give to – at this very second - be shooting a three-pointer over your hand! but those good old days are gone. forever.
well, i’m going to eat a life-saver from that roll my wife gave me before i left and i’ve been saving it forever and it very well may be that my life isn’t worth saving anyway. is my soul?
all we have is our soul. i hope.
lord i want to hug my mom and refuse to shake my father’s outstretched hand and hug him too. i’m sure this will make them real proud – me dying alone, sand filtering my gore. and melissa and travis, deserted. a single mother with a baby. all because of me and my previous ideals. i’m sure the officials will make up a nice story to tell them. a fabrication that can't be unfabricated because i will be in a box. "you’re son/husband died valiantly while patriotically serving his country. he was a brave soldier never to be forgotten." and then i’ll be forgotten. after a token picture in the newspaper of course. i wonder which one my mom will pick out...? no one will care anyway. a little blurb in the paper, another spoonful of cereal in the mouth, turn the page, go to work. ok, maybe some "tsk tsk"’s with the tongue or a "what a shame," but that’s it.
there will always be evil people. so when is it over? when is it enough? when do we win? when do we lose? it’s gotten so out of hand there is no accountability for anything. something goes wrong, someone demands answers, fingers are pointed in circles, shoulders are shrugged, and eyebrows are lifted. then it’s back to cigars and a semblance of strategies. and that’s that.
maybe i should pray. but why? god has a will and that will will be done. i don’t believe that i, and who am i anyway?, can influence god’s will. after all, god knows best. if a human knew better, then god wouldn’t be a god. so prayer does one of two things. one, it encourages god to do what god was already going to do. or two, it discourages god from doing what god will indeed eventually do. so what’s the point? right now, if i pray to god to save me from death but god's will is for me to die, then what? and i’ve asked people about this; prayer. i’ve asked the people who pray everyday and go to church on sunday mornings and sunday nights and wednesday nights and bible studies and fellowship groups and all those things. but my question has never been answered. though the people always say they will pray for me.
i’m going to write a letter. to my boy. to my wife. to my family. right now i'll do it. i’m going to write everything i was too cowardly to ever say....and what a great idea this is seeing as i have not a pen or a sheet of paper...hell!
wait a sec...what?....i think i hear them! i think i hear them coming! i knew it! hallelujah praise god it’s about time boys! god i hope they have some water....now i’ll just take a quick look and see if....what the?...wait a min... where are they? i know i heard something! i’m sure of it. it had to be them. over three hours late now.....this ain’t good. this is very very not good. i gotta get back to base right now. no more excuses. i need to do something.
what the hell am i going to do?
but what was that noise i heard because i know i heard voices and....oh god oh god oh god no. if it’s not my soldiers, then it’s them. and if it’s them, and here i am – one man, one gun – well, then that’s it. i’m already dead.
god? is it your will for me to die? here? alone? in a hole? why? god? hello?
what will a bullet feel like entering my body? exiting my body?
ok, think man, think. i gotta take a look and be sure about what is going on out there or my imagination is going to go wild. wilder. ok, slowly now, just get my eyes above the......
damndamndamndamn! at least twenty of them. oh god god god no. don’t let this happen god! you hear me!? not like this lord...not like this! ok, hell. what is there i can do? if i fire at them, maybe i hit one of them, maybe one, and then they all rush me and do god knows what. if i just sit here, they will find me. and then it’s my death or my torture or some horrible combination of the two.
i can’t imagine a world where i cease to exist. can anyone? and as soon as it happens, imagination is no longer possible....
focus now! what what what can i do? nothing! wait. nothing? there is something........
oh jesus i can’t believe i am even thinking like this. no no no, i won’t, i can’t do it! stop it! now!
but if i know i am going to die......and i know i am going to die.....why should i give them the pleasure?
i can’t believe this....me.....thinking like this! about that! you hear about other people doing it. and that’s just it....something that other people do. but this is different! this is me. i feel sick. what is this that now runs through my veins?
ok! god! ok....it’s time to make a decision. so maybe i should just see..... just put this muzzle in my mouth and see if i could even pull the.......
what am i doing?! look at me jesus look at me! am i even i?
what if these men, and lord i hear them getting closer!, what if they don’t want to torture and kill me? what if they are like me? and they recognize the futility of this and everything and somehow it will all be ok? oh god! what if that? yes, yes, what if that?, but rather than give them a chance i have already taken myself? what do i do what do i do?!?!
lord i can hear them so closely now! and here i am in my forever state of indecisiveness and it is now and why on earth would they not want to harm me after what we, collectively, have done to them, their country, the whole world even?! melissa! travis! jesus, i can smell them now...oh god, this is it! ok! the muzzle goes in and my thumb on the trigger! they will find me... god! they must be less than three feet away! our eyes will meet and i will decide, i will decide....help me god! here they are!! here they a....