THE QUESTION |
December 12, 2006
Name: SGT "Roy Batty"
Posting date: 12/12/06
Stationed in: Baghdad, Iraq
Hometown: Yellow Springs, Ohio
It is dusk, one of the few times of the day that Iraq seems like something other than the fifth level of Hell. The sky above is a pale cocktail blue, brightening to a washed-out yellow before sinking into a dust-brown shading of smog and sand just above the horizon. The air is cool, refreshing, now that the demon sun has dropped below the horizon, and the temperature is a balmy 100 degrees. A light breeze teases a half-hearted whirlpool of sand to life in front of me, and it dances across the road for a second before wandering off in search of another partner.
The moon is out already and almost full — a pale skull above the camp, the man in the moon’s phantom mouth silently agape in a voiceless scream. The locals have lit yet another trash fire just outside the perimeter wall. The thick black smoke, laced with the smell of burning rubber and human feces, curls and writhes in a thick, slow-motion band directly overhead, sliding greasily across the moon like a dusty veil over the face of a corpse.
In the distance, I can hear the faint crack-crack of gunfire, competing with a cheap loudspeaker wailing an Imam’s call to prayer. The sounds are utterly alien, inherently unfriendly, and yet instantly sum up being in Iraq — along with the choking punch of the acrid smoke in the back of my throat, the irritating rasp of sand in my boots, and the swarmy embrace of sweat-greased body armor.
I turn to my friend and say, only half jokingly, “Tell me again why we are in this country?” Phil just looks at me and grins thinly in his quiet way, and says nothing.