The same familiar dry and dead landscape flies past me as I stand in one of the hatches, on the same repetitive missions, and in that moment, it was like I had never left Iraq. Nothing had changed, same faces, same buildings, some destroyed, some just in pitiful condition.

We stop and the ramp drops. I step out and scan windows and rooftops and nooks and crannies and everything in between as we all link up and enter a building. My travel buddy and I take up positions in the stair well, not having much to talk about. The sun shining through a small window dimly lighting up the stair well added to the recurring surreal feeling I sometimes get here in Iraq. Once again, I couldn't believe that I was here.

I lit a cigarette and my train of thought began to flow. I started thinking about all the events that led up to this singular moment, working backwards. For five minutes, I backtracked, blowing my mind with each significant event. At any one of these points, a different decision would have changed everything. I followed it all the way back to the first real decision of my life.

The places I put myself and the people I surrounded myself with, the places, people, and events that shaped me. Meeting one person caused a series of events and introductions which led to new insights, opinions, disasters. My head began to spin a little. Anything could have re-directed this train.

A different MOS. A different branch. No military at all. College, or no college. Associating with different people, choosing to live in a different town, ANYWHERE, ANY SMALL DETAIL would result in a completely different life for me. The scary thing was that I didn't want the ability to change anything. Reality took a hit of ether and a tiny part of me wondered if this was really happening, all of this, or was it just one long vivid dream?

As we drove down the streets again later, I waved at a kid and he extended all fingers except the thumb and the ring finger. More commonly referred to as "The Shocker".

I guess this IS real.

There I am, that's me, almost seeing myself from the third person, drifting through the most illogical experience of my life. Yeah right there, that's me again, teaching kids the universal hand signal for "rock on". Now I'm holding the flag at a friend's re-enlistment ceremony.

My feet are kicking up gravel and I'm on my way to get some chow. How the hell did I get here again? I'm explaining that yes, ratemyboobies.com IS in fact, a viable excuse for being late to work. I'm watching director's cut episodes of Beavis and Butthead in a third world country. What the fuck am I DOING?

Most of the time, I don't think any of us really think about the reality of us actually being here. We keep ourselves sidetracked when we're off duty. If you thought about it too much, it just might drive you insane. And then you utter that subtle mantra:

"Holy shit....I'm in Iraq..."


  1. Ky Woman said...
    Strange, isn't it, the decisions we make determine the lives we lead.

    If it's been one long dream, then you have had many others dreaming the same as you.

    Soon though, you will be able to say "Holy s**t! I'm heading home!"

    For right now, keep your head on swivel and in the game. Ya got it?
    OIFIII said...
    You're going all "Matrix" on us now with that deep philosophical thinking.
    Red said...
    You have the phenomenal ability to reach down to the absolute core of your own reality, and explain that reality in terms so plain, yet so powerful that none who read them walk away unchanged.

    How do you DO that??
    Jenni said...
    so you're telling me i shouldn't joke about "an hero" while you're teaching gullible little kids the shocker???

    Tarren said...
    I just got back to this wonderful land for the second time. I had those those exact thoughts going through my head. I couldn't have said it better myself. Great explanation of how it feels to be here.
    Anonymous said...
    Keep writing troop.
    The memories and emotions will be terrific 'grist' for the stories you are destined to write.
    Be aware... be safe ..you know what to do.
    Thanks for sharing the journey;you're short and soon you will be home.


    Thom Paine
    Pearly said...
    Awaiting summer :)
    Earl said...
    It is snowing here, I am glad I didn't take an R&R when I was in the Boomer's War... I would have adjusted badly to returning to bombed out rice paddies and waiting for the next mission or week old letter from home.
    Office Lady said...
    Another brilliant post.

    What you described, sans Iraq, could just as easily have described my own personal experience. Any one decision along the way could have changed everything. Wow.

    Only difference being - and I'll have to paraphrase you here-
    I sometimes find myself saying "Holy shit...I'm 50."

    For all our differences - we humans are really very much the same.
    Anonymous said...
    You know, you have fantastic perspective. I think you get it from your mom, but I could be biased...

    BigD said...
    You made me laugh again today. I didn't know there was a ratemyboobies.com! If rating boobies keeps your mind off your present "realtiy" so be it...I hope a new and improved reality comes your way very soon. As far as I've figured out we can't go back and we are required to plod forward into an unknown future. The mind works in mysterious ways and yours is working overtime, in order to cope with a place, a job, an experience that is so far from "normal" than no one can really understand except those who have been there. Hang in there, the world needs thinkers like you!
    Anonymous said...
    yup yup. I've mastered the art of distracting myself, too.
    Tokyo Five said...
    We've all had those "What if...?" thoughts at one time or another.

    Can't dwell on that, though.

    I've told you before, but...I really enjoy your blog.

    I moved mine and I'm starting it over. I added a link to your site on it.
    My new site's at:

    Be careful there (気をつけて)!
    Anonymous said...
    Love the image of you inciting grade school kids to "riot"-- I can't count the number of times I waited for some incarnation of original thinking (or maybe just sheer novelty) to penetrate my entitled suburban princess grade school existence...

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