It is flat. And hot. And windy. The only living thing I have seen in two weeks other than scores of Soldiers and Marines are sparrows. And flies. There was a tree, way out in the middle of the desert, and it had a fence around it. One tree. Fifteen feet of fence. It was tragically funny and proud at the same time. This is my tree dammit, and I am going to protect it.
It is an oppressive kind of heat that brings with it a fine, granular coating of grit that dries your eyes and accumulates in your ears and makes pudding crunchy. All the fun of the beach without all that annoying water. Too hot to smoke, almost. Yes, it’s a dry heat. Really though, at more than one hundred and ten degrees or so it doesn’t much matter anymore so don’t try to console me with that fact. Especially don’t try to console me with that fact if you are in Minnesota and the high today is sixty-five. Sixty-five glorious degrees and I am sure the trees are budding and the lawns are greening.
We do have air conditioning, which is different than last time. I’m not sure it’s a positive though. At the heat of the day, it is not a good thing to have to endure a twenty to thirty degree change in temperature just to get to the porta-john. Oh, lest I forget. We have Starbucks. That’s where I am right now. That’s where the best internet is. Starbucks and KFC and Burger King and Taco Bell in the middle of the Kuwaiti desert. This will be a different war than last time.
I suppose this is meant to make it easier to be away for so long. They give you a lot of creature comforts like fast food and high speed wireless internet so that it’s more like home. The reality, in my mind, is that it makes it harder. Just ask the folks we left behind that have to go through normal life with all things familiar except that one person that makes home Home. Last time, we had nothing. I think it might have been easier that way. We were in an alien environment with only the occasional perfume-scented letter to remind us of what we were without. Now we have things that are almost like home. Just enough to remind you of what you’re missing. Like clothes in a closet that won’t be worn for another year or that depression on the other side of the bed.
We make fun though. We make fun of each other, and of our situation. Of other people. I follow the porta-john graffiti the way I used to read blogs at work. Mostly garden variety high-school locker room crap but there are some gems out there. Not suitable for a high-class establishment like this, but good for a chuckle here and there. We work out. Mostly we fight against boredom and homesickness and wait to move north.
“North” has become the euphemism here. No one says the obvious. They all say, “When you get North.” So we wait, again. This time we wait to go north, to the sandbox, to the suck (no one actually says that anymore), to the war.