And In The Beginning, There Were No Judgments

The act of writing is deeply personal. The words flow from the writer’s head, placed on paper or typed on a screen, only to be held close to the writer’s heart for fear of societal judgment of their most personal thoughts. If a reader studies the works of an author, they can see into the writer’s soul, exposing good and bad. And typically, writers don’t want to be judged; they wish to create or share, to teach others or heal themselves.

The author of A Million Little Pieces wrote about his personal experiences in a riveting book, only to be crucified when it was discovered that some of the stories were expanded beyond his experiences into a fictional realm. So a writer must take care to hold themselves close in their writing. Don’t expose much, don’t expand the stories to seem likable, don’t reveal the multifaceted factors of a person’s character that cause the person to go from a likable character to a relatable character. People are drawn to Melanie Hamilton and appalled with Scarlett O’Hara because identifying with Scarlett forces the reader to identify characteristics of their own that are unlikable.

In writing about personal experiences, a writer will water down the relatable characteristics to seem more likable, to escape persecution of their wrong doings. But what if an autobiographical author told the truth? Could a reader grow to like the unlikable character and accept that everyone, including themselves, is completely flawed? Or will they close the book and judge the writer as they ready themselves to commit their own flawed acts?

Chapter 66- Tangerine, Tangerine…

Afghanistan flag, American flag, United States Marine Corps flag

Please read the beginning of this story as shown within the “Afghanistan Story” tab above.

Afghanistan, August 2010, Camp Delaram

He and I looked off into the desert for a long time in silence. After a while, Sergeant P turned to face me.

“So what’s going on with you? You look like hell. And you keep flinching.”

I looked at him and ached to tell him what was going on. I felt as though he could help, somehow. The desire to tell him everything began to bubble over my chest only to pour out of my mouth.

“I…I’m pregnant.”

“What?”

“He ff-f-forc…”

I stuttered and broke down into tears as Mike looked at me, not in shock, but in a calculating way that made his eyes grow extremely hard with sudden understanding.

“Who.”

It wasn’t a question; it was a demand. I wrung my hands together and began backpedaling once I saw the look of angry determination on his face.

“No, no, it’s fine, he…it’s fine.”

“Who the FUCK touched you?”

Relief flooded over me and then a sudden panic as Mike stood up and grabbed his pistol, un-holstering it.

“I’ll fucking kill him. Tell me who fucking touched you.”

Sobbing, I reached out to him and grabbed his arm and tried pulling him back down beside me frantically.

“No, please, no, you can’t kill him, you can’t. He’s the only way I can even have the baby. Please, fuck, no, it’s fine.”

“No, it’s not fucking fine. What god damn Marine raped you?”

I was in full panic mode.

Would he kill him? He couldn’t kill him.

“It isn’t a Marine. Look, I’ll be fine. I’ll figure it out. Just please, please promise me you won’t do anything stupid. Don’t do anything stupid for me. I’m not worth it.”

“No one would know. There are ways, and the guys and I would make sure no one would fucking find that fucker. Ever.”

The thought of a dozen men coming to my rescue both humbled and terrified me. I longed to think of William hidden in some wadhi with a bullet in his brain.

How would they account for the missing bullet? He can’t commit a crime for me. I would forever owe a blood debt, as stupid as that sounds. And the rest of the guys wouldn’t do that for me.

“Please, Mike. I appreciate it, but please, calm down.”

Mike looked furious. I was seeing the wrath of someone who knows how to kill and doesn’t shy away from the act. I suddenly felt so cared for, that I had to talk someone down from murdering someone who hurt me. The relief that flooded over me was intense.

It could be over.

No. No. William has a daughter, and I need him.

“Look, you’re one of us, okay? No one fucks with us, with me, with the people I care about. No one. I don’t give a shit. You’re like a sister to me; I mean, a hot sister I would totally-“

He broke off as I laughed and laughed. The laugh was cleansing and I felt like everything was suddenly going to be fine.

“I’m serious, Savannah. You say the word. He’s gone.”

I still gripped his arm, and I wasn’t sure if I was holding him down or if I was clinging to him to hold me down.

With his other hand, he returned his pistol to his holster and reached into his cargo pocket. When he held out his hand to me, I gasped.

“A tangerine?!”

“Here, it’s yours.”

“You went to go find me some fruit. That’s why you left.”

“We get fruit occasionally. I was saving this one for a patrol. Go ahead, eat it.”

“No, I can’t. You need it more than me.”

“Just eat it.”

“Thank you.”

My voice grew soft with the ‘thank you’. I began to peel the fruit, and the fresh citrus smell filled the air. With every peel, the citrus juice sprayed its squeaky and sticky wetness all over my fingers and hands. Breaking apart the tangerine, I handed him half.

“Hey, let’s take a walk.”


We came back, satiated and relaxed. The sun was beginning to rise and I could see his face more clearly.

“I have to get back to the boys.”

“Thank you. For everything.”

“I’ll see you again, next time I’m around.”

“I can’t wait.”

We smiled at each other and he turned to walk down the hill, away from me.

The desert sky was turning shades of pink and red as the sun rose.

Red sky at night, sailors’ delight.
Red sky at morning, sailors take warning

The old rhyme ran through my head as I watched my skin turn pink with the sky. Finally feeling at ease for the first time in months, I walked back into the TCF.

Continue Reading in Chapter 67…