Please read the beginning of this story as shown within the “Afghanistan Story” tab above.
Afghanistan, August 2010, Camp Delaram
William and I met on the porch and walked down the hill to the chow hall. It was 0500 and the sun was harshly breaking over the horizon as we made our way down the sandy slope.
“The Wizarding World of Harry Potter just opened in Florida.”
“Oh, that’s cool. I didn’t even know they were building it.”
“Yeah, they have everything. Butterbeer, wands, you name it.”
“Mmmm, butterbeer. I wonder what that tastes like. The books make it seem so amazing.”
William watched me as I practically salivated into the sand and he smiled.
“Let’s go. Let’s take our children when we leave Afghanistan.”
“Haha, yeah, of course. You’ll be her mother.”
“I’d like that.”
We smiled at each other.
See? This is good. He really is good.
“Did you get any more pictures of her from your family?”
“Yeah, do you want to see them?”
“Of course I want to see more of my daughter.”
We were approaching his can where he lived with about ten other contractors. He told me to stand outside while he opened the door and went inside. I wasn’t supposed to be in his sleeping area, but I had broken that rule almost two months ago so I was able to picture him rummaging through his things. His bed was fourth from the left…bottom bunk. I shuffled back and forth on my feet as the sun began roasting my back. When William walked out of the can, he was holding a few pictures of Amy. Her face was so cute and chubby and my heart ached to think of holding her.
“I can’t wait.”
“Me either. You’ll be a good mom.”
“I hope so.”
We made our way down to the chow hall. I grabbed the food that looked appetizing, Special K cereal and Silk soy milk. The Silk didn’t have to be refrigerated so it was perfect for transport through the desert. William encouraged me to put more food on my plate.
“You need to eat more.”
“I’m trying. Nothing seems appealing, and I really just want an orange or some fresh fruit.”
“You’re having cravings?”
“Are you taking your vitamins?”
“Yeah, of course. And I stopped taking those ridiculous malaria pills. I just can’t get the idea of fruit out of my head.”
I hadn’t seen fruit since the grunts had that watermelon. Fruit was scarce so of course that’s what I obsessed over having.
“Good. I’ll see if I can find some fruit for you in the next few weeks.”
“Anything for you and my baby.”
We walked into the dining tent and he held the door for me to proceed ahead of him. The dining tent was occupied with Georgians who were intensely watching the television that was newly installed on the far wall. The Armed Forces Network (AFN) was showing a news segment about Russia’s wildfires. Scenes of flames and destruction were filling the television. When an image of fleeing families overtook the screen, the Georgians erupted into a din of cheering and celebration. They were hugging each other and jumping up and down in ecstatic glee of Russia’s suffering.
“Why are they so happy to see Russia burn?”
William watched the Georgians celebrate and said nothing.
I caught the attention of another American in the tent.
“What’s going on?”
The American shrugged and went back to his breakfast. William chided me for speaking to another man and so I continued to watch the celebration in silence, admonished. A Georgian saw that I was watching them closely and spoke to me in broken English.
“Rossiya [Russia] burn! Rossiya deserve dead. Rossiya bad. Bad, bad. Sakartvelo [Georgia] hurt. Rossiya hurt Sarkartvelo. Fire good. Teach Rossiya.”
He went back to cheering and clasping his arms around his comrades. I turned back to William.
“Stop worrying about it.”
“But William, I was sent to help the Georgians originally.”
“Well, you’re not now. Focus on the thing you should care about the most: our child.”
We went back to eating; I shifted the contents of my bowl around and acted like I ate occasionally.
“Finish your food.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“She’s starving. Eat.”
Amid the shouts of the Georgians and the scenes of the fleeing Russians, I swallowed the rest of my cereal with a tight throat.