Please read the beginning of this story as shown within the “Afghanistan Story” tab above.
Afghanistan, June 2010, AUP Station in the Town of Delaram
I woke with a jolt.
The sun hadn’t broken the horizon but the sky was bright pink and blue. I glanced at my watch and saw that it was 0445. I reached up with my hands and scraped the giant clots of sand from the corners of my eyes. It was painful to grab the sand that had turned to a binding mud on my eyelashes. Throughout the night, dust and sand had settled over us, coating us in a layer of dirt. This dirt would collect inside of our ears, noses, eyes, and mouths as we slept. The first thing we had to do upon waking up was clear our eyes, lick the grit from our teeth, and wipe the goobie mess on our cammies. It didn’t matter if you slept inside a tent or on a roof; that dusty sand was inescapable.
I sat up achingly, my hips on fire. I did a quick assessment of my injuries and noted that the bleeding had stopped on my hips but my cammies were welded to them from the blood. I started to peel the material away and then stopped. No need to rouse an infection. Virkler was still asleep but as I started to stir, he woke up and stared at me rustling around.
“Did you sleep well?”
“Best three hours of sleep in my life.”
“Yeah, I love these sand boogers.”
I was digging into my right eye.
“No, really, it’s satisfying to clean them out.”
“Yeah, I can see that.”
As we packed up the sleeping bags that we had laid on, I glanced over the edge of the building. Marines were milling about already. Climbing the ladder back down, we entered the radio room to find Sgt. P. Two Marines were on radio watch. They glanced up as we walked in.
“Hey, seen Sgt. P yet?”
“Yeah, he’s around. Dude never sleeps.”
The giant video game-looking console with the joystick no longer had a black screen. When I glanced at it, one of the Marines scrambled to move the joystick.
“You…you were watching us sleep?”
“We were watching the village.”
“Uh, that thing was pointed directly to where we were sleeping. You were spying on us?”
“Come on, you guys slept on the roof. A girl, a guy, sleeping together…what else were we going to do?”
“Uh, I dunno, watch the god damn war zone instead of two fellow Marines?!”
The second Marine interrupted us.
“Hey, should we show her?”
They both hesitated and trailed off awkwardly.
“Oh, hell no. You’re showing me. You watched me sleep all night. You owe me. And what the hell is this thing?”
“It’s a GBOSS. Ground based operational surveillance system. The tower is on the roof. You control the 360 camera with the joystick. You can also take videos of activity.”
“Oh, that’s cool.”
Did they get video of me sleeping? Creepy.
I started moving the joystick around.
“Hey, Virkler, look, you can see Camp Delaram from here! I think I can see our compound!”
The guys on radio watch seemed relieved that I had seemed to forget what they were going to not show me. Without my eyes leaving the screen, I spoke again.
“So what were you going to show me?”
“Think I can’t handle it?”
I laughed. The thought of me not being able to handle something after last night was laughable.
“Fine, just don’t tell anyone we showed you.”
The one pulled out a laptop and navigated to a folder of GBOSS videos. As it began to play, my eyes had to adjust to the night camera lighting.
The camera zoomed in on a man standing behind a large animal near what seemed to be a housing building. He was grasping the flanks of the ox/bull/bison/cow?? As his hips pumped away, my brain registered what my eyes were seeing and I was disgusted. I couldn’t look away.
“See? We call them goat fuckers for a reason.”
“But…why isn’t the animal fighting back? How is he not being bucked or kicked off? Isn’t the cow in pain?”
“The cow probably likes it.”
The other Marine butted in.
“Yeah, because animals like being fucked in the ass just like you, man.”
Everyone laughed. Sgt. P walked in.
“Put that shit up.”
“Cannon, we are taking you and the others back to Delaram. We leave in 30.”
I was seriously bummed. This was the first place I wasn’t treated differently. The grunts treated me like a sister.
Oh well, back to Delaram, where I am a leper.
The convoy back to Delaram was uneventful. I felt extremely safe behind the bulletproof doors that I could swing shut with ease now. I felt cocooned and comfortable with the weight of the doors, with Owen in the turret, with P in front of me. Unless someone hit us with an IED, I was the safest I had been since leaving Camp Leatherneck. I wouldn’t even have minded an IED. The bottom of the MATV could sustain a blast. My Kevlar probably would’ve shattered to bits with that gunshot.
I allowed my mind to wander on the drive. As we bounced through the sand, a realization came to me slowly. Panicking, I tried not to think about it but the thought forced itself to the surface and made itself known.
My period is late.