Please read the beginning of this story as shown within the “Afghanistan Story” tab above.
Afghanistan, August 2010, Camp Delaram
William and I were inside of a bunker. I was standing with my back against an inside wall. It was dark in the bunker, and no one could see us. He was standing in front of me. We were arguing.
“I can’t do this, William.”
“Stop saying that. You can. You’ll be a great mother.”
“No, I can’t do this. I’ll be punished. I can’t. I can’t.”
He grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me slightly to cut me off. I began to cry and continued to blubber, dissolving into a bout of uncontrollable insanity.
“I can’t. I…I have to get an abortion.”
William was suddenly filled with rage. His fingers dug into my shoulders and he shoved me hard into the side of the bunker. My back slapped against the concrete and my hair, which was tightly in a bun, protected my head from the impact. Shocked, I looked at him and continued to cry. He shook me again and then abruptly let me go. Still filled with rage, he wheeled back his right hand and hit the bunker with his open palm, full force, right next to my head.
“You CANNOT be that selfish. You will NOT get an abortion. You will have our child and raise it and we will be happy! Do you understand me?”
Still crying, I nodded my head. With my agreement, he relaxed visibly. His right hand was still next to my head. He reached up with his left hand and tilted my chin up to him. And then he kissed me.
Everything began to scare me. From Americans getting murdered on our own bases by the Afghans, to the threat of jail, to mortars and gunfire, to bases catching on fire while Marines slept, to my nightmares, to my fear of William…I wasn’t safe anywhere I turned. I stopped sleeping completely, and my mental stability disintegrated rapidly. Like a cornered and injured rabbit, I was wide-eyed and panicked, jumping at every movement and sound.
There comes a time when a person becomes so fearful for so long that they begin to slide into paranoia. My personal descent into the depths of that particular darkness came soon after I lost my one touch with normal reality: Virkler. No longer was there someone who I could trust to keep me grounded.
As a communications Marine, I knew exactly how much information could be intercepted by the people who built and maintained the network because I had taken classes about communications security and had seen firsthand the access that we had. The worst enemy to have is a systems or network engineer. They have all of the access to control and see everything you do. There is a type of moral and ethical responsibility for engineers when they design and maintain systems of communication. Not everyone is ethical.
There were no cellphones using a cellular network for me to use. There was a white line (I believe provided by ATT?) that was installed on Delaram around the end of July for an Internet café but we were constantly in River City from people dying and the café was closed. There was only the Marine Corps network, ran by Marines and contractors, the same Marines and contractors who were bored, petty, vindictive, and particularly interested in the only female Marine around. I began to believe that my every move was being watched, and after William told me to stop emailing my husband without me telling him about it, I had every right to think this was true.
Voice over IP calls can be monitored by call managers, Exchange servers retain copies of all emails, and key loggers can be installed on computers to send every keystroke that you make to another person’s computer without your knowledge. Everything can be monitored. I became paranoid, and I knew enough about the Internet to know that my paranoia wasn’t unfounded.
I had to start being sneaky. I would send emails to my husband and immediately access my repository within the Microsoft exchange server and erase every copy of my emails. Microsoft Outlook 2007 allowed people to do this to their own accounts without requiring administrative access, which was good because I wasn’t an administrator of the Exchange server. I don’t remember how I figured this out. I firmly believe that the best way for someone to learn something is when they believe their life or livelihood is at stake. I began to learn other covert ways of communicating on the Internet and how to best protect myself. I accessed the wireless Internet white line once and scrubbed my presence from the Internet. Xanga, MySpace, all records of my awards and recognitions from high school and my college, everything; I ensured it was erased. I contacted website administrators and told them to take down information about me. The only thing I kept open was my Facebook. The only things about me on the Internet were things I wanted out there.
If you’re wondering how I prevented my incoming emails from being read, don’t worry, everyone had stopped responding to me. I hadn’t received mail since March.
As for verbal communication, I didn’t speak to anyone but William. Everyone else seemed fine with that; the conditioning started by the Commanding Officer for all Marines to avoid me was fully in place. I was ignored when I would enter rooms. Everyone’s eyes slid over me and they would talk around me. During changeovers, orders would be spoken in my general direction and then everyone would leave me to sit alone for 12 hours. I forgot how to use my voice; it was strange to feel reverberating vocal cords when I had to respond to William.
12 hours of no communication with anyone for a month leaves a lot of time to think. Coupled with vast isolation and paranoia, I began to daydream about multiple different universes: one where I wasn’t pregnant, one where I was pregnant and not in the Marine Corps, and one where I was dead. I began to daydream about my life in every scenario.
Travel the world
Join a community band
Finish my degree
Pregnant and not in the Marine Corps:
Mother of Amy
Living in Arizona
…I made a list of what songs I wanted played at my funeral.
The most comforting scenario: being dead. I could die and all of this pain and discomfort and fear would be gone. If I died by an IED or a mortar, I wouldn’t even have to do it myself. No one would think I was a coward; I would die an American hero. I fixated on this and hoped that the Afghans would suddenly become target experts and end my self-inflicted misery. Every explosion could be the one. I began to welcome them.
With these thoughts came the guilt.
Dumaw actually died a hero. It should have been me. I almost went with them on that patrol. I should’ve. He would’ve been safe. I would have died. I should have. He had a pregnant wife. He was so mangled from the blast…He was so tall. If it had been me, I would’ve been disintegrated from the stomach down. No one would know that I had ever been pregnant. Everything would be better. His family would have him alive and in their arms. They miss him, I’m sure. I can’t even get an email response.
Thinking about death made everything calmer for me. I was no longer panicky. I had a solution. I had a way out. I was back in control.