Please read the beginning of this story as shown within the “Afghanistan Story” tab above.
Afghanistan, June 2010, AUP Station in the Town of Delaram
Were the gunshots at my head? I don’t know. I don’t think so. I didn’t hear anything whiz past me like in the movies. All I saw was a flash of white fabric. I couldn’t see a rifle; I couldn’t see his face. My lack of NVGs could’ve meant that I would have never seen the person who killed me. The Taliban is known for being really bad at shooting. They are cowards; they don’t aim in on their targets, they are seen hiding behind cover and wildly firing into the air or in the general direction of their target. So was I in any danger? I don’t know.
The gunshots could have been on the other side of the building, where Sgt. P ran to. Regathering my breath, I crouched down behind the wall and looked up the street. The other Marine, also crouching now, looked down the opposite direction. We were both silent.
I wonder if the guy aiming at me saw my head barely over the wall. I wonder if he knew I was a girl. I wonder if he was trying to kill me or if he was just trying to scare an American. I wonder if he was one of the kids from the street. I wonder if he was angry and filled with hate.
In the years since this happened, I have put myself in his shoes, looking down at me and aiming. Maybe I looked like a mushroom to him, or just an easy target. I was angry with myself for allowing the top of my head to be silhouetted over the wall. That’s the easiest way to be targeted. If I had been hit, it would’ve been my fault.
I wonder if the bullet would have connected with my head. I wonder if my Kevlar would have held up to the gunshot. It was the same Kevlar that had toppled to the ground in the 7 ton flip from two years ago. I wonder if I would have headaches from the Kevlar cracking open onto my skull from the impact. I wonder if my husband would be upset when he heard. I wonder if Staff Sergeant Rambo would be pissed at me. I wonder if they would cover it up to prevent backlash about me being out here. What if P wasn’t there?
My mind was numb and racing. After a time, the patrol came back. They were excited. I walked back inside the compound and went off to be alone. When the debriefing happened, I wasn’t present, and no one came to get me.
It was about one in the morning when the night patrol wrapped up. With the sun down, it was a brisk 110 degrees. The tent that held the cot that I had claimed was stuffy. When I finally walked into it after the patrol, Virkler was setting up his cot to sleep. The sadistic staff sergeant was on the cot next to mine.
Fuck this. I don’t want to be in here.
The tent smelled of dirty sweat and I couldn’t breathe. Walking outside, I found Sgt. P.
“Hey, is there anywhere else I can sleep? Literally anywhere away from that fuck.”
“Not really, all of the Marines are crammed in the other tent and they live like animals. Me and a few others have our own tent but it’s also crowded.”
I looked around. I would sleep anywhere, even on the picnic table if I could.
“What about the roof?”
“You wanna sleep on the roof? Alone?”
“Virkler will probably come too. It smells like ass in that tent.”
“I mean, sure. No one goes up there anyway.”
He watched me walk off. I wanted to sleep with him but it wasn’t proper and people would talk. I doubted I would ever feel safe again if he wasn’t around. I grabbed my stuff and told Virkler I was going to the roof and he could come if he wanted to.
We climbed the ladder to the roof and laid out our sleeping bags next to each other on the dirt. The roof wasn’t flat; there were large mounds and valleys of dirt. When we laid down, our feet and heads were elevated and our butts were at the bottom in the rut. We sat awake for a little and talked. I took another picture of him.
When the flash from the camera went off, I panicked.
“Shit, that probably wasn’t the best idea huh?”
“Uh, no, now everyone knows we are up here.”
“Oh god. That flash of light.”
I collapsed into a fit of laughter, almost delirious. Virkler started to laugh and we fell asleep laughing and looking up at the stars.