Please read the beginning of this story as shown within the “Afghanistan Story” tab above.
Afghanistan, July 2010, Camp Delaram
“We can go to Harry Potter land.”
As Will waited for me to speak, I shook my head quickly to jolt me back to the reality that I was actually living this life. It felt like everything had closed in on me and I was stuck between a rock and a hard place with no way of escape. I was determined to make this work for my baby. Will wasn’t a bad person, right? He had a daughter already and had sacrificed a year of his life to come to a combat zone to get enough money to give her a good life.
He’s just concerned because there are a bunch of men out here and I’m vulnerable. It’s understandable. I can make this work. He makes good money and I’ll need someone to support me if I’m dishonorably discharged from the Marine Corps at 20 years old for being a whore.
I smiled at him.
“Yeah? I love Harry Potter.”
“Me too. We can take the girls and explore.”
“That would be nice.”
Images of the four of us walking through the live experience of my favorite book series floated through my head.
We could get wands and drink butterbeer. Yeah, this can work.
Will smiled at me and relaxed into his seat.
“You’ll be a good mother.”
Will walked me back to work for shift changeover. All of the Marines gathered around in a group, bullshitting and talking shit to each other. Everyone avoided me completely until SSgt Rambo came in and sat down at his desk and looked at me.
“How was last night?”
“It went well.”
“Good. Leatherneck was happy?”
I had completely dropped all formal phrasing from my vocabulary as I spoke to the SNCO that was two ranks higher than myself. I wasn’t meaning to be disrespectful but I was having a hard time catching my breath from the walk back from the chow hall. SSgt Rambo began telling the guys what they needed to do for the day and I stepped back.
Suddenly, I started to feel faint. My knees weren’t locked, which notoriously causes fainting in the military, and I hadn’t been standing for that long. I stepped back again, stumbling, as my vision began to turn white. I focused on SSgt Rambo’s desk through the white.
Don’t pass out. Don’t pass out.
I fell against the wall and slowly slid down with my hands on my knees. I got really hot and suddenly very cold and then back to hot.
SSgt Rambo’s voice was sharp.
“Someone get her a chair!”
My voice snapped.
“I just need to…”
I slid further down the wall until I was sitting. I put my head in my hands and tried to stop the world from spinning between flashes of hot and cold.
Everyone stared at me.
I can’t be weak. I can’t show that something is wrong. I’m fine. You’re fine. Get up.
I struggled to get to my feet and leaned against the wall.
Fine. You’re fine.
Once the shift changeover was done, I shakily walked out of the TCF alone.
I turned around to see SSgt Rambo running after me. I stopped and waited for him to reach me.
“Yes, SSgt? I’m sorry about in there. I don’t think I’ve been drinking enough water.”
“Then drink more.”
His voice wasn’t mean; it was factual.
We stood in silence.
“Cannon, hey look, I understand that deployments can be tough. This is your first one, right?”
“Is your family okay?”
Without warning, tears sprang to my eyes.
“I don’t know. My husband won’t answer the phone or any of my emails.”
SSgt Rambo studied my face as I looked at the ground. He took a deep breath and sighed.
“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m not wearing my wedding ring.”
I looked at his hands. They were white and soft, and the third finger on his left hand was empty. I looked back into his eyes questioningly.
“When I went home on R&R, my wife threw her wedding ring at me and said she never wanted to see me again. We are getting a divorce.”
He was no longer the Staff Non-Commissioned Officer that I took orders from; he was a man forced to be thousands of miles away from the woman he loved who probably wouldn’t have stopped loving him if he had stayed in America.
“I’m so sorry.”
“All I’m saying is, we are all going through some personal stuff. You just have to buckle down and keep going because what is happening here, your job, is what matters now. You can’t force someone to be there for you. America doesn’t understand what goes on here and you can’t spend your time and energy on someone on the other side of the world.”
I fought back the tears as I thought about how much I appreciated his words, but he didn’t understand. He couldn’t.
“You can talk to me, you know.”
I paused for a very long time.
I can’t tell him what’s happening. I’ll be court martial-ed. I’ll be sent to the brig. Should I tell him? Can he help? No. He is bound to his duties by Congress. I can’t tell him anything.
“I’m fine, SSgt. Thank you.”
He studied me for a minute longer.
“Okay. Don’t be stubborn, Cannon.”
I laughed bitterly, turned, and walked away.