April 23, 2008
Name: The Usual Suspect
Posting date: 4/23/08
Stationed in: Iraq
Milblog: Unlikely Soldier
The same familiar dry and dead landscape flies past me as I stand in one of the hatches, on the same repetitive mission, and in that moment it is like I never left Iraq on leave. Nothing has changed; same faces, same buildings -- some destroyed, some just in pitiful condition.
We stop and the ramp drops. I step out and scan windows and rooftops and nooks and crannies and everything in between as we all link up and enter a building. My travel buddy and I take up positions in the stair well, not having much to talk about.
The sun shining through a small window dimly lighting up the stair well adds to the recurring surreal feeling I sometimes get. Once again, I can't believe that I am here.
I light a cigarette and my train of thought begins to flow. I start thinking about all the events that led up to this singular moment, working backwards. For five minutes I backtrack, blowing my mind with each significant event. At any one of these points, a different decision would have changed everything. I follow it all the way back to the first real decision of my life.
The places I put myself, the people I surrounded myself with and the events that shaped me. Meeting one person caused a series of events and introductions which led to new insights, opinions, disasters. My head begins to spin a little. Anything could have re-directed this train.
A different MOS. A different branch. No military at all. College, or no college. Associating with different people, choosing to live in a different town: any small detail would have resulted in a completely different life for me.
The scary thing is that I don't want the ability to change anything.
Reality takes a hit of ether and a tiny part of me wonders if this is really happening, all of this. Or is it just one long vivid dream?
Later, as we drive down the streets again, I wave at a kid and he extends all fingers except the thumb and the ring finger, commonly referred to as "The Shocker".
I guess this is real.
There I am, that's me. Almost seeing myself from the third person, drifting through the most illogical experience of my life. Yeah right there, that's me again, teaching kids the universal hand signal for "rock on". Now I'm holding the flag at a friend's re-enlistment ceremony.
My feet are kicking up gravel and I'm on my way to get some chow. How the hell did I get here again?
I'm explaining that yes, ratemyboobies.com is in fact a viable excuse for being late to work.
I'm watching director's cut episodes of Beavis and Butthead in a third world country. What the fuck am I doing?
Most of the time, I don't think any of us really think about the reality of actually being here. We keep ourselves sidetracked when we're off duty. If you thought about it too much it just might drive you insane. And then you utter that subtle mantra:
"Holy shit... I'm in Iraq..."