Please read the beginning of this story as shown within the “Afghanistan Story” tab above.
Afghanistan, July, 2010, Camp Delaram
I was on the phone with a contractor from Leatherneck.
“Go change the MTU on the taclane to 1423.”
“Are you sure?”
“We have a maintenance window of four hours to do this. They expect your communication to go down.”
“If you say so.”
It was 0200 and I was the only person in the TCF. I walked over to the room across the hall and changed the MTU on our taclane. I walked back to my desk and picked up the phone.
“Okay, hold on.”
I poked around my computer while I waited for Simon to check my connection from Camp Leatherneck. He was one of the main engineers in our Area of Responsibility (AOR). I had never met him, but we had cultivated somewhat of a resemblance of a friendship from these middle-of-the-night maintenance windows from over the months.
As I tried navigating to Facebook, I saw another email come in.
I ignored it but felt a sense of dread settle in the bottom of my stomach. Simon came back onto the phone.
“Hey, it worked. You’re back up.”
“Hey, are you okay? You’ve been…different recently.”
I sat in silence, shocked that someone who was miles and miles away could sense that something was wrong.
“Uh, I’m fine.”
“Are you sure? Your voice sounds…different.”
“There’s just a lot going on out here.”
“Hey, look, just let me know if you need to talk ever. I’ve been around the block a few times, and I never sleep.”
“Thank you. But I’m fine.
I’ll be fine.”
“Alright. Enjoy the rest of your shift.”
We disconnected and I sank back into my hard metal folding chair.
Where are you?
I sat upright with a jolt. Almost robotically, I walked outside and inside the compound where Will sat on the front porch of the COC.
“Why didn’t you answer?”
“I was working.”
He looked at my suspiciously as he lit his cigarette. He took a long drag and sat down on the wall with his feet on the bench seat.
“You’ve been emailing your husband.”
“What? How did you know th-”
“Why are you emailing him?”
“I…wait, how did you know?”
“You don’t think I know what happens on your computer?”
“You’re reading my emails?!”
“Don’t contact him again. He isn’t your family anymore. You’re carrying my child. You will go back to America and get a divorce before she is born. You will not talk to him again. You will marry me so she won’t be born out of wedlock.”
My mouth dropped open and my stomach turned cold. Somewhere in the back of my brain, I laughed that this wasn’t the kind of cold I was daydreaming about experiencing.
“I can’t just stop talking to him.”
He ignored me.
“And while we are on it, I know you have access to Facebook. Don’t think you can try contacting him through that either. I’ll know.”
My brain was screaming with questions and fear.
This is the man I’m going to raise a child with? He expects me to marry him. I can’t marry this!
Will continued talking. I wasn’t capable of listening until something jarred my distractive thoughts and brought me smashing right back to earth.
“She’ll be raised Catholic.”
“But I’m not Catholic. And I’m not even sure I believe in God anymore.”
“Dumaw? War in general? I don’t want to raise my child to believe in some guy in the sky who doesn’t see the swallow fall.”
“Dumaw wasn’t a swallow.”
“It doesn’t matter, I don’t want to raise her Catholic.”
“We will raise her in the church.”
“I’m not okay with this.”
“I’m not okay with having a child with someone who doesn’t fully believe. You said you did.”
“So change them back.”
At this point, the sky was beginning to turn light blues and pinks. Will finished his cigarette and tossed the butt into the sand.
“Let’s get breakfast.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Your daughter is. Eat something.”
We walked off to the chow hall. The sun broke as we descended the hill and I felt my back grow hot as the rays struck it. After 10 hours of darkness, my eyes strained at the bright and relentless morning sun.
Will and I went to sit in the extended tent. I walked in first and walked to side of the back-most table that faced the only entrance to the tent. Will put his hand on my shoulder.
“No, sit on the other side.”
“I can’t sit with my back to the door. We can both sit on this side.”
“Sit on the other side. I want to see your face while I eat. We need to discuss some stuff about our child.”
I slowly slid my tray to the other side and sat down with my back facing the door. Having my back to the door made me anxious. Someone could come up behind me without me knowing. I heard the door open and turned around to see who it was.
“Why are you looking at the door? Are you expecting someone?”
“No, I just can’t not look.”
We sat in silence. The door opened again. Will watched my face to see if I would look again. My eyes flickered over as someone came into my peripheral vision.
“Stop looking at other people.”
“Why does it matter if I look?”
“Why does it matter if you don’t?”
I didn’t respond. My throat began to close up and I couldn’t breathe. I was in a combat zone and I was being forced to not be aware of my surroundings. My body screamed to look as the door opened again. I didn’t and Will smiled.
“Good. See? You only need to look at me.”
I pushed the canned peaches around my plate and sunk further into myself.