Please read the beginning of this story as shown within the “Afghanistan Story” tab above.
Afghanistan, August 2010, Camp Delaram
Sgt P’s presence came as a shock; a welcomed shock. He was standing at the bottom of the three-stair lead to the TCF and he was looking up at me with the self-assured calm that always emitted from a man who feared almost nothing.
He had just showered. His face was uncharacteristically clean with small drops of water that were quickly evaporating dangling from the lobes of his ears. It was strange to see him so clean. His cammies were even clean; no streaks of sweat and dust and blood were anywhere.
“Hey! Wow, you came!”
“Of course I came. I told you I’d come by to see you if I could, didn’t I?”
I was breathless with the surprise that someone wanted to see me, and that someone was him. His sleeves were rolled slightly, exposing his tattooed arms to the elbows.
“Yeah, but it’s been so long I thought that you forgot me.”
It had been over a month since I had seen Sgt P. It was from afar at Dumaw’s memorial service as I stood very detached in the background before leaving out of disgrace. Sgt P was focused on his men and hadn’t seen me. Before that, it was when he was practically carrying Red from the bloody vehicle. A lifetime had occurred, and had been lost, since he had made his promise to see me again.
“We’ve been pretty busy out at the station.”
“Fuck yeah, I’ll tell you all about it.”
I glanced over my shoulder at the now closed doorway to the TCF. I was extremely concerned that a wireman would come out and start rumors about me talking to a strange man. The last thing I needed was for William to hear more rumors. Luckily Sgt P was extremely astute.
“Want to go eat? I’m starving.”
I looked at my watch. I was never hungry, but it was 2330 and I guess it was as good a time as any to practice the charade of eating. We headed off to midrats. Midrats is the name for “midnight rations” or a meal served at midnight. Anyone could eat at midrats, but it was mainly partaken by the people who worked night shift.
We entered the chow hall tent, which was dimly lit and empty.
“Oh yay, chicken cordon bleu…”
I sarcastically smiled at the TCN (third country national) who scurried out to scoop the cheesy blob of fried chicken and ham onto my plate…for the fourth time that week.
“Why the fuck can’t there be any other kind of food? I’m tired of the same thing over and over.”
“Hey, you could be eating MREs.”
Sgt P’s remark reminded me that I had access to hot food, even if it was the same food and even if that was all that was left for midrats. The TCN spooned canned peaches onto my plate next. They slid from the spoon like slimy pale orange slugs. I suppressed the urge to dry heave; my face was in a grimace. As usual, Sgt P noticed.
We had left the chow hall and were carrying our trays into the separate eating tent.
“I miss fresh fruit so much. Crisp, fresh, clean…I think about how spoiled I was in America. If I wanted fruit, I could go get it at any time. Shoot, I didn’t even like fruit that much. Now I have to force slimy fruit into my mouth and I would kill for a piece of fresh fruit.”
“You guys don’t get fresh fruit?”
“I haven’t seen anything fresh since y’all had those local grapes at the BBQ, fruit or otherwise. They run out of the soy milk and veggies within 12 hours after getting a convoy in, which also rarely happens.”
“You’d think you’d get more fruit. I know convoys haven’t been getting through but damn.”
We sat down and ate. Sgt P ate like he hadn’t seen food in weeks and I pushed the peaches around my plate.
“You really need to eat.”
“So where are the other guys?”
“Around. Showering, shitting, the usual. We needed to do a trash run and I managed to get them a night here to try and grab a real shower and a night without watch.”
“Awesome. Y’all need it.”
He had finished and we stood to leave. Upon reaching the TCF, Sgt P turned abruptly to me.
“Hey, I forgot I need to do something. I’ll come back up to you in a bit.”
Panic quickly overcame me. The likelihood that he would leave and not come back again was high simply based on the importance of his position and how quickly the grunts came and went with the dangers of combat.
“Please don’t go.”
“I have to. I’ll be back, really quick. I promise.”
He strode off quickly with a purpose and left me standing and watching his back fade into the darkness.
I sat in my rolling chair with my feet up, cradling my stomach underneath my cammie blouse. I had started watching Big Love after finally finishing Weeds. As I sat there…I felt it; something slid out of me. As the substance soaked my panties, a sudden cold overcame me. It felt like my period.
Am I miscarrying? Will my hedonistic prays be answered? Fuck, what if I’m miscarrying?
I rapidly walked outside the TCF and sprinted to the nearest portajohn. The tan portashitter, as it is so lovingly called by the Marines, was silhouetted against the backdrop of the never-ending desert. The moon shone directly from behind, so when I opened the door, I could see nothing; but boy, I could smell it. Attempting to adjust my eyes to the darkness, I realized that it was an Afghan portashitter. There was no place to stand on the inside; an individual had to climb atop the plastic cover that occupied the space generally used for standing. Once the individual had climbed inside, I realized they had to drop trow and squat over the giant hole in the center of the cover.
Mouth aghast, I decided against climbing atop the plastic cover in the darkness and tried looking for some toilet paper to wipe myself to see if I was bleeding.
There was no toilet paper.
Don’t Afghans use their hands? Oooooof course.
I sighed and gave up, unbuckling my pants. I stuck my right hand down my pants and slid my fingers inside of myself. Pulling them out, gingerly avoiding all articles of clothing, I lifted my fingers up and tried to see what color the substance was. The moon’s light was bright enough to show…
Clear. A giant gloop of clear…fuck.
I pulled my fingers apart and watched the sticky liquid pull and expand between my fingers. It was so sticky that it didn’t break apart. I could see the moon between the clear gloop.
Look, the moon is shiny.
Half hysterical, I wiped my fingers on my cammies, buckled my pants back up with a few loud clings of the belt buckle, and headed back inside.