Please read the beginning of this story as shown within the “Afghanistan Story” tab above.
Afghanistan, August 2010, Camp Delaram
Day after day, hour after hour trudged on repeatedly like an alternative version of a Bill Murray movie with less fun antics and much more heat and misery. I had stopped eating completely and had sunk into myself in a state of despair that Virkler desperately tried to drag me out of. He knew I wasn’t okay.
He would wake me up every day and walk me to the chow hall to try and encourage me to eat breakfast (which was technically dinner as he would wake me in the afternoon at 1700), then he would walk me to our changeover and he would pass off his duties to me with all of the other data Marines. Then Virkler would leave with his laughing friends and I would spend the next few hours alone, working or catching up on the Marine Corps Institute (MCI) classes I was trying to complete to advance my college career.
Virkler would run up to meet me hours later after goofing off with the guys in their can. He would be in sweats, his rifle slung across his shoulders, and we would talk. For hours, we would talk about our childhoods, our relationships and how they were broken and shattered; we spoke of our hopes and dreams and our desires to be writers. He would email me rough drafts of his work and I would edit them and send them back. He was always quite terrible with the editing process but I suppose most creative people are.
We spent hours discussing all sorts of atrocities but didn’t speak about Dumaw and I didn’t speak about William. Some things are just too raw to talk about.
Virkler and I would talk until midnight or sometimes later. I always made sure he left before 0200 though, so I wouldn’t have to answer to William’s accusations as he began his workday about speaking to another man.
One night I couldn’t handle the turmoil in my head anymore and I told Virkler, sobbing on the top of the bunker we had climbed onto, looking at the stars, that I was pregnant. In a spill of words that spewed from my mouth like a run over fire hydrant, I told him everything…almost. I cried about my concerns about my husband; I cried about my concerns of jail and of my future with no career and no degree and no money and no support as a scorned member of Southern American society; I cried until my lips were swollen and snot covered my sleeves only to be dusted with sand.
And he listened.
By the time I was done and silent, he was holding me. I was clasping my hands and wringing them, shaking visibly. And he held onto me tight, almost like he was trying to keep me from breaking apart. He was silent while my body shook and I tried to regain my composure.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
“For crying. For being so unstable. For telling you this and burdening you. For getting you in trouble with the guys for being my friend.”
“Fuck them. And don’t say you’re sorry for having feelings. Don’t ever apologize for that.”
I choked a sob of laughter and clung to him. Virkler knew he was out of his depth.
“Look, I want you to talk to my brother.”
“He’s older; he knows more about the world and its shitty experiences than me. Trust me, he can help.”
“I don’t know. Be another person to talk to outside of this shithole? Someone who can support you when I’m not around? Someone you can bounce ideas off of?”
“Talk to him. I’m serious. This is a lot to handle by yourself.”
Virkler gave me his brother’s phone number and I wrote it down in my notebook. He proceeded to hold me for the next hour while I calmed down. Every second that he was there, I knew he was sacrificing his sleep. Every single second that he was there, I knew that he was an unparalleled source of comfort and an anchor in that sea of sand.
The next day, Virkler didn’t wake me for breakfast. When I got to changeover, I was told that he had been sent out to work with another unit while I had slept.
“When will he be back?”
“A month? Maybe two.”
I wouldn’t see Virkler again. I hadn’t even gotten to say goodbye.