Thursday, June 29, 2006

The War in Me

I dream of standing on a curb, clad in ACUs, with my M-16, surrounded by my fellow soldiers. In my dream, we're waiting for a bus to come take us to the airfield, from which we will deploy to the deserts of Iraq. The mood is quiet and anxious, and I feel a pit forming in the bottom of my stomach.

After a time, I wake up, lying in bed next to my wife. I look at the clock and see it's after midnight. It's now the end of June, and I realize that in less than three months I will be on a plane, jounced by turbulence and anxiety, speeding at 600 miles an hour away from everything I have ever known and loved. With every passing second, my spouse will be farther away. No daily words of encouragement to help me weather life's stresses; no weekends to help me decompress and nurture my non-soldier self. I will be sequestered for a year with people whom even now I still barely know, sleeping on a cot, lulled to sleep by the sounds of exploding mortars and the staccato whump of helicopter blades. I find myself wondering what the desert will smell like, and how I'll feel the first time I experience the detonation of a roadside bomb. I wonder if I'll even know; perhaps the shock wave of expanding gases and shrapnel will crush my body before I even hear the concussion. I'm not afraid to die, but I am afraid of what that death might mean. I'm afraid sometimes that I have thrown my life away, discarded any chance of a happy future with Anne. I'm afraid of leaving the Chaplain's car to pull up in front of my apartment, a cursed symbol in any driveway. I'm afraid sometimes that, by joining up, I have sinned against the undeserved gift that is my marriage.

But I also think to myself that, like it or not, I am a soldier. I am a warrior now, and I cannot afford to shirk the oath I took, if for no other reason than for the soldiers alongside whom I must serve. Right now, I am lying in bed next to a wife who loves me, with time yet to spare, and so I press my body up against hers, wrapping an arm around her and savoring the scent of her skin and hair. She whimpers softly, and presses back against me. She digs her face sleepily into the pillow, and mumbles a drowsy "I love you." I kiss her cheek. I am lucky to have a partner such as Anne.

Still. Three months.

Sometimes it feels like a death sentence.


Anonymous S. R. said...

Very stark Freeman.

10:36 AM  
Blogger essa said...

You told me not to look, so I do. It's like a car accident... you know (or have been told) it's going to be awful, but you look still. And, well, it's refreshing actually. That last paragraph is wonderful... 20 days and I will have that very thing. I don't think you've sinned against any gift. If nothing, you see that it is a gift, and are savoring every moment. That in itself is something not many do. There is still so much more I can say... I'm certain I'd run out of comment space. It's a nice post, Milo.

6:39 PM  
Blogger Jenny said...

I wish for you a very boring trip - nothing but sun and sand and boredom.

8:03 PM  
Blogger cameo said...

having a good partner makes everything better, and harder. i'm with jenny. hope your time there is boring as hell.

6:04 AM  
Blogger kim said...

that just makes me speechless..
spend the time being happy and carefree and in love... and then, please be safe

8:43 AM  
Blogger Trevor said...

You'll find that the towns smell pretty bad, actually. Lots of whiffs of rotting things and burning things.

It's hard to clean up during a war, and I'm not sure how much of a priority Iraqis have ever put on burying trash. They mostly burn everything they don't want.

I wish they would burn their ideas about jihad so their country could progress and mature.

Keep your eyes open and you'll return to Anne. Have faith in an ordered and meaningful universe even when you have no real reason to believe in such a thing.

1:24 PM  
Anonymous Bob said...

Not much to add to the wonderful comments already up there but be safe and I'm hoping you can blog from there because I expect your writing will be amazing.

4:25 PM  
Blogger east side girl said...

You are a really wonderful writer. Thanks for the post, and I hope the next three months are wonderful.

5:16 PM  
Anonymous Alice said...

You are a brilliant writer Milo. I can feel your emotions through every piece. You must have strengh and courage! I wish you well my dear friend.

1:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you people not know what good writing is for goodnes sake? This is not good writing it's self indulgent macho posturing

12:16 AM  
Blogger Spc. Freeman said...

This isn't for you. It's for me. You don't like it, don't read. But don't waste my time with your vacuous trolling.

2:10 AM  
Blogger essa said...

Funny how that person posted "anonymous"...fearing critic of one's own writing, eh?

3:50 PM  
Blogger dykotomy said...

cheers to a horribly boring, uneventful time - for sure. Or, perhaps, you and Anne can escape to Canada...

8:37 PM  

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