Please read the beginning of this story as shown within the “Afghanistan Story” tab above.
Afghanistan, May 2010, Camp Delaram
Shortly after that conversation with William, I was walking out of the network tent and towards the exit of the compound to go eat lunch by myself when I heard the thuds of boots quickly coming up behind me. I wheeled around in alarm just in time to see Ski pick me up and throw me over his shoulder. Laughing and smacking him, I screamed at him to put me down. Some other Marines joined him when he set me down.
“Wanna go eat with us?”
We set off towards the tent that doubled as a chow hall.
We immediately stopped in our tracks and turned to the voice of a very angry Major.
“What is going on here?!”
“What do you mean, sir?”
“Why are you laughing?”
Ski stepped forward.
“Uh, I was playing around with her and we-”
“Stop. You, keep walking.”
I turned around and headed towards the exit, confused and embarrassed, while the three male Marines were talked to by the Major. William came out of his building and asked if I was heading to eat, joining me on the traipse down the hill. My thoughts of the others were dispelled until I saw them in the chow hall later.
“Ski, what was that all about?”
“Go away. We can’t talk to you.”
“Just go away.”
He was refusing to meet my eyes as he spoke and he turned around and left me standing in the center of the tent with my food tray in my hands.
When I went back to work, Staff Sergeant Rambo called me next to his desk.
“So, uh, yeah, some changes have to be made, and uh, it’s been decided that you will work nights from now on.”
“Alone, Staff Sergeant? Why? What did I do?”
“Yes, alone. And it’s just because of…circumstances…”
He trailed off and shuffled papers on his desk. This was clearly a conversation he didn’t want to have.
“So take off now and be back at 1900 to start your shift.”
“Yes, Staff Sergeant.”
As I left the tent, I heard the other Marines complaining.
“Man, I wanted night shift!”
“Fuck her, girls always get special treatment.”
I assumed that Ski would catch me up later on what the Major had said to them after our episode of laughter. I went to my shift, conducted changeover with the guy I was relieving, and began my work. Around nine, Ski walks in and mumbles at me to meet him in the martial arts tent. As he swiftly exits the tent, I gaze around at the other Marines working around me and see if I’ll be missed. No one was paying me any attention as they were indulging in Season 4 of Weeds.
I walked out into the clear night and entered the martial arts tent.
“What the hell, Ski?”
“Look, everyone was brought together and told not to interact with you at all. Perception is reality, ya know? ‘Female Marines are whores, right’?”
I was open mouthed at this explanation.
“But I haven’t done anything. I’ve been here two weeks!”
“Yeah, but everyone knows women in a grunt unit are trouble. I guess the Major had some bad experiences and he doesn’t want you here. Since he can’t get rid of you and we need you to do networking, he doesn’t want anyone to be anywhere around you and said he would question anyone who was.”
I had no idea what to say. A combat zone needs comradery. The idea of a brotherhood is sometimes the only morale that there is in a war zone.
“Look, he thinks we are fucking.”
Ski stepped towards me, closing the space between us. He took his hands and grabbed the back of my arms, pulling me closer.
“Ski, no…I…you’re my friend.”
I stepped away. The look that passed over his face was one of shock and almost immediate anger. He seemed to grow taller as he spun on his heel in rage.
“I knew you were a whore.”
Standing in the martial arts tent, with the ground-up rubber under my feet, I had never felt so alone.