Alpha: Chapter 17

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Where to begin?

I know I begun already but this is the beginning of the end. As conflicted as I was to tell any stories or even get as personal as I did, I really don’t know. Maybe I feel safe knowing it is not my real name and my family will probably know nothing about this. In a way it’s like a diary but just, a little more like the captain’s log I guess. Even if my family read this, they still couldn’t be sure since nobody knows my full name anyway.

 

Up to this point I tried not to get too personal. Maybe I succeeded. Maybe I failed but I just didn’t realize it at the time. I decided to treat putting my story down as a path to something. Maybe it’s corny, but I never knew the right words to use to express myself most times. Maybe since my family is all private in each member’s way. Well my family and then “the clan” as known of course.

 

Honestly I am never afraid to do a task but I had fear from time to time. Maybe I was just blissfully unaware or I was so hyped up doing all of this I never stopped to look and realize where I was until the moment already passed my by, like my military service record for example.

When I got out of Basic and ended up in a different land it was very liberating for me. Maybe I have not lived as much as some people so that could be why. I am happy where my life lead up to I think but in another way I just exploded like a bullet from a gun’s barrel. Even if I kept it more to myself.

 

I looked at all this as a person leaving home and moving to a big city like Dallas or even New York. All the freedom and none of the consequences from those living back home. Your own new or secret life.

 

Of course it did not seem so amazing in the day to day. I might be looked at like a pansy for saying it but I was a little bit homesick even since I wondered if people where I left were even thinking about me. I guess I was even depressed sometimes. These things did not last long since usually I didn’t have enough time to myself since there was either people crowded in around me or I just wanted to sleep.

 

There was nobody I ever talked about this to so it’s almost funny to think about it all now. It kind of even makes me feel a little sad but I’m not sure why exactly. Maybe I feel a little self conscious or silly for ever having thoughts like that even if it feels an eternity ago. Or just feeling stupid in general for telling people who are most likely strangers.

 

I doubt anyone ever knew how I really felt through that time. I was a quiet guy and followed any orders given. I was proficient or excelled at all I did. That was my job and I did it with pride. Maybe it’s true what they say about idle hands and idle minds. I was happier given task no matter how dangerous or impossible it seemed. Being able to type this all out with my own fingers proves none of my missions were ever TOO impossible. I’m not complaining about it.

 

When I was kinetic it was awesome. Anything where I could think about my duty or keep my eyes or ears busy basically. Even “honey bucket” duty (which I’m sure I don’t have to define). If it’s a task, then I stay on it and they are all the most important task at that moment. Most people can’t stand the cleaning or unloading from the “buckets” as we usually called it but I had a secret to help me with the aroma that cut through the air like a tracer round. When I am focused I don’t even pay mind to any smell I guess but there is another trick I never told anyone.

 

I’d keep an extra pair of socks I never wore. They were not the comfortable ones to start with so I wouldn’t have even worn them unless forced at gunpoint. But I had a stash of this detergent. I came up on it by accident one day- it was in this tiny blue box and I actually kicked it first. I grabbed it and I was allergic to the stuff I thought at first. Actually I know I can be a little sensitive depending on a laundry soap. The stuff was really smelly so I just tossed it in my footlocker and left it at that. It kept stuff from getting too stinky actually and I loved it for that. It was kind of my own version of a box of baking soda.

 

Anyway, eventually I got this bright idea to just toss some in an old sock so I could go by some of the “high traffic” areas as we joked, like the smell was a traffic jam of something rancid for the nose. But the system worked really well for me and I never let on it was an ace in the hole. Sometimes if you let on information like that it can be used against you for a practical joke. I’m all for fun but I don’t want to offer any bait. These guys come up with stuff all on their own. I pitch in even for that. I’ll treat it like a mission and I’m golden.

 

Before I went off to basic training I was given tons of advice from everyone. Our family / clan mostly. The biggest one was just to do my job and not make friends. Being a good sport was also what most of them pressed on me. Nothing draws attention more than someone who acts a bit better than the others. Being a good sport is even better than making fiends was pretty much what was said by them, and they also said it could even save my life, and maybe they were right. Lots of things could be said but I guess this is the participation I was best known for. Thankfully there was already a nickname for me or else I could have gotten it a lot worse.

 

They called it “the diet” and it was some sort of contest it seemed the guys made up as they went along. It had to be in code because it wasn’t something that was really supposed to be going on. I participated though since I figured I was young and in good shape from what my results always came up in examinations and tests. Besides I thought I would just make up for it later. Even what we were eating day to day did not seem like the best picture of health. Not that I’m wanting to say anything against the Service or system. There’s reasons the food is the way it is. But a lot of people grab snacks and all that on top of it. The food isn’t totally a strict thing overall but this was still sort of an under the table thing and I knew there was probably a lot of gambling going on with it also.

 

Fact of the matter is, this was more a diet and a stunt than an eating competition. The secret item was Twinkies. I forget how many were in it originally. I think twenty were going to and then five dropped out. I was a last minute entry since someone thought I would be up to it. A bunch volunteered but I didn’t. Because of the “no friends” thing I didn’t even really hang out with a lot of them. Just in passing for the most part. I was not not a gambler (another family imparted piece of advice) since not only was I just wanting to hold on to the money I had, I didn’t want to get involved in anything seedy or even be kicked out for something like that. I was the most afraid of getting booted or any form of discipline or a serious writeup. I don’t think I’d have even shown my face at home ever again if that sort of thing really happened. Not even the same state probably. Thankfully I never had to find out what happened. I worked hard and have a very clean record for it.

 

So here’s how the diet was supposed to work. Every two hours we ate a Twinkie. That was all it was really. Someone bought boxes of them and someone gave them to us. Each of us had someone else kind of watching and making sure stuff was going as planned. We all had a code so we couldn’t cheat. Nobody dared get caught cheating since they knew they would have gotten cold shouldered and that would have sort of been the end of that. Nobody would have purposely but someone else in serious harm like past the Wire but it would have been a hell of a time being shunned from the group on the down time. I guess maybe I stood out as it was since people knew I was quiet and just helped when I could. Same for my nickname of course.

 

Every other hour we got a Twinkie and that was about it. We all kept the same schedule. We couldn’t eat anything else and we were supposed to just sleep and have two after we woke up. We were a little bit sneaky since we should have been eating what was mandated by the government. I wasn’t perfect but I knew I had to be a good sport. Actually I treated it just as any other mission. I had a task and handled it. My narrow focus was just like hunting or shooting I guess. I did it and it was just like instinct again. In the end I won. Wasn’t it obvious? I think I went two weeks at least. Some people counted every hour but I didn’t pay attention even by the days that passed.

 

That’s the example for maybe my best non-duty form of being a good sport. I never turned a challenge down unless I thought I might get horribly harmed or killed (unless that was something a Commanding Officer said. Then again that was ON duty). Once again I would have been written up or something if it was obvious. I did not want to take the chance. At least I had enough respect so I knew I was safe and that same respect allowed them to know there was a good reason if I couldn’t agree to something off duty. I’m sure they saw how it pained me or gave conflict to say no. If I didn’t have that respect I think I would have been giving a much tougher time to go. Bad road to go down otherwise.

 

Now that reminds me of one of the things that happens if people know someone has a trick for coping, but this one was more someone who was looked at as not being a team player. Actually I didn’t really have one opinion or the other. It was not my battle so they say. This is just what others felt or said. As long as it’s not over imposing or going to be a detriment, you share what you have the best you can. Everyone all live in the same situation of course and conditions. Especially on a Tour. I would share until it would hurt me I guess, but most times I was not asked. I did not ask anyone else to share what they had with me either so maybe it’s how I was more under the radar or just not bothered as much.

 

But anyway, I guess this guy had it coming. I know he would bum smokes or chew and all sorts of other stuff. One or two I guess is cool but guys start to remember if you always take and never give. At least what maybe kept me safe was offering stuff here and there for my fellow guys. It was fun to get some stuff and just spread it around. I never really had a lot of money to my name so I was not often sharing much in my family or buying gifts. To these guys, sometimes it looked like I was Santa. I didn’t do it a whole lot but it seemed they had this special look if I did. Having such bare essentials for the most part makes us appreciate things a little more. It can be funny now so see a roll of cookies being so exciting or a pack of gum. It was really small stuff but not always the easiest to get.

 

Another good thing was I never got into smoking. I was too afraid to start any tobacco habits (well a lot of habits) but I did have the advice to stow away a pack of smokes or some chew, stuff like that. When things got really tough and people were running out, I’d make sure they had a cigarette or what have you. It was probably another way I kept getting respect. Sometimes people tried to pay me back for it, but I always refused at least the first time. Some just insisted or even got a little mental if you did not want their money. I guess maybe they didn’t want to feel indebted or put another fellow soldier out cash. I’ll guess it’s just to make sure things stay square or nobody pulling a move saying “You owe me, dude” or something. Overthrill was maybe the worst at it as far as I ever experienced. That probably should sound a lot more like a compliment. I meant he was the person who would make the biggest effort to get you back for anything whether it was a soda pop or even one cigarette. He would even take it personal, there’s no best way to describe it to someone who didn’t witness it for himself.

 

He got offended as strange as that might sound. The first time something like this happened it I thought I was going to end up with my nose broken just because I tried giving someone a free cigarette for morale. I never really asked straight out what the big deal was but I guess it was just a pride thing or he didn’t want a “bummer” kind of reputation by just taking things whenever he wanted or felt like it. Seriously, he was offended. After me saying it was cool or it was fine or anything else to let him know I wasn’t doing such a thing for pay, he started yelling. His face got read. It didn’t start out by a yell but he had a way to let it just sneak up on you like twisting the knob on a stereo.

 

“What is the hell are you trying to do to me here?” What’s the big idea. I ain’t owen you nothin’ you know.”

 

He really would say it like that. Each sentence would be after I already promised him I knew he meant to pay me back.

 

“You think I enlisted just to get rich off of gettin’ smokes and chew off you all?” “This is your money, you hear?”

 

When that first happened I really was scared. But I never just allowed him to give me the stuff the first try. I just didn’t feel right. After he hollered loud enough for everyone within a mile to hear his intentions, he just shoved it into a pocket on my uniform. Just to see what would happen (I knew him a lot better by this point of time) I did kind of screw around on one occasion and made sure I had no pockets since I pretty much knew what to expect or what he’d try. He acted a little annoyed since he didn’t even pay attention when he tried to slide it. The money didn’t stick since there was nothing. He got more irritated. Then he pulled on my waistband and threw the money in my pants.

 

“And you better keep the change.”

 

He did it to be funny I think by looking extra upset. Nobody was around so I’m sure he would have not done anything like that otherwise. I still laugh thinking about it now. If he really was that worked up for real I’m sure I would have gotten punched in the face if he wasn’t messing around and knowing I was just trying to get a reaction from him. I saw him lose his stack in the past, and it wasn’t pretty. I’m glad my nature is not antagonistic since I would not have lasted against that guy. I like a long barrel doing the talking rather than anything close up. Maybe just because I prefer to hunt and fist than get into fistfights. Or it could be more telling about myself. I don’t like to confront as a rule. It’s not my sort of thing. My day to day life and time serving were way different of course but hopefully people realized that. A job and home life are two separate things.

 

As far as all the unexpected money returned to me, that what I often used to buy the extra stuff to share. So really I was getting everyone back with money I never expected to have. Some would call that karma but I just considered it being nice. I did it since I liked just feeling good. There was no way better to see people happy I worked with. Despite personalities, all of these guys deserved some respect even if I was doing the exact same job. It wasn’t a real common thing, but it just happened that way.

 

Even when it wasn’t buying stuff, I’d find a way to share. This was not often either, but I would occasionally get a care package from my family. Really it was my mom basically, but I never expected anyone else to since they were vets as it was, and probably my dad or whoever thought it was women work maybe. They call it gender roles in our clan. Not disrespectfully, but I guess it’s just tradition. The men hunt and women bake. That sort of thing. I don’t think one ever felt like doing the work of the other so it worked out. (Another one of those passed around jokes in the clan is how barbecue is not baking.) But my dad I assume still gave input on what to add. At any rate, I took the stuff I really wanted the most then I would either dole the rest out to some of the guys I knew if they were nearby and they couldn’t forget I had a package then it’s what I’d do.

 

My favorite was to wait until we had “a lull in the action” as was the slang. It meant either morale was kind of low or people were just getting worn out in general. It’s tough to describe but it was easy to recognize when there and feeling the way people interacted or just the mood altogether. Homesickness or just fed up. Then if I was in a small group I would pull the stuff out and they would freak out with their silly sort of excitement. I’m sure people would think it’s silly to get such a big reaction to something tiny like that. It was like seeing a brand new toy commercial during Saturday morning cartoons. Like I was hiding Christmas in my pack or foot locker.

 

Before I get to the meat of the matter I almost forgot the story about people getting payback when it seemed things were due by the others. One sticks out in my mind the most since I guess it’s the cleanest one I can think about right now. The other one I can’t say but it involved a string and a lot of embarrassment, lasting weeks.

 

One of these guys was a little bit a jerk anyway, if I can be as bold as say it. He didn’t have much respect in general and I guess he’s known more as a certain category that took the cash for the cash and not answering a call of higher duty. That is putting it mild, but a lot join not thinking what they are really coming into. But anyway, this guy was always trying to take something whenever I noticed. Since I was not palling around like a lot of the other guys I’m sure it had to go on a lot more often when I wasn’t there also. There came a breaking point and someone felt like doing something about it.

 

It’s a little bit of a secret but we dealt with a lot of death or just general nasty stuff. The smell is something people can’t even get over. I will say that’s a good thing since it’s natural to not want to smell the rot of your own race. It is more a genetic protection method I would assume. I can’t remember the exact words as he would say it but my grandfather had a saying my dad would sometimes use too. But it was something like this:

 

“Never trust a man who isn’t bothered by the stench of death.”

 

It just meant if someone liked killing or death a little too much then he may not be exactly right. I am reminded of this quote because of the secret- which is a little of a coping mechanism when doing an uncomfortable job we have no alternative to.

 

Dealing with death is a byproduct of way. I’m sure someone famous said it. Sometimes we would come across a scene which literally was death warmed over. So someone died or was killed and happen upon it. The sun cooking it at an unhealthy temperature and causing all sorts of disease and bacteria to purify. That doesn’t sound like anything to put me in the mood for lunch time.

 

We’d still have to hang out and wait for someone to arrive or try to clean things up. It all depended on the situation and how busy we were for the most part. Let’s just say these cases were mostly us just finding them by accident more or less.

 

Nobody could function on full alert and deal with the smell. So that’s what the “coping mechanism” was I was alluding towards earlier. It was something very common. A jar of Vicks mentholated rub that comes in a glass jar. In the commercials it’s always the mom rubbing the stuff on the kid and its menthol therapeutically eases chests or colds. In our case its therapeutic action is keeping people from getting completely sick which being around dead or decaying stuff.

 

This stuff in not being used as intended, but it was an unofficial item most everyone started carrying or keeping as part of their kit once learning the secret. A swipe in each nostril or any other variation people preferred; due to either sensitivity or ritual. I carried it also at the insistence of my dad. At least I didn’t exactly learn the hard way. I wanted to see what things were like without for just a second but… Yeah that did not work out well AT all. It really was a punch to me. I’m afraid to even talk about it now since I don’t want that smell to pop back into my head. I’ll just say it was bad and hope it’s not a letdown I wasn’t descriptive.

 

So this guy who got a little too well known for taking and taking with no payback or giving? It even applied towards the Vicks. He was getting just a little too friendly I guess since he wanted to keep digging his finger into the little car of others. One of the guys figured it was enough.

 

One day we came upon another occasion to use our menthol masks. Seriously, I can get away with stuff like the latrines with that detergent secret but that other decay smell is just way too much. But anyway, he was asking again to bum more Vicks. One of the men held his jar out and insisted. The person in question grabbed a pinkie full and just started rubbing it in his nose vigorously like how some people towel off quickly from a swim.

 

Unaware to this mooch, but the Vicks was doctored. It was not the product as intended but actually a small amount which later I found out was a very powerful and potent suntan oil. I say potent since the stuff was supposed to be so bad he was a complete mess. There was not much of the mentholated aid as supposed to have been so he could smell all of the carnage on the scene. What he could make out distinctly was the coconut extract and all that, which belonged on a tropical beach and bikinis but nowhere near this unholy sandbox.

 

It was a lesson learned I suppose since he seemed not to ask for many favors after that. It may have been a little more cash he was spending (or just going without) but he was probably paranoid what might be in store for him next time if he kept with those bad borrowing and using habits.

 

What probably sealed the deal for him (I think) actually happened a couple weeks later. He was coming into the room reporting for an assignment or someone just lured him in by false pretenses. I forgot actually even though I was in on it. But here’s what happened: He came into the room and we ambushed him. We weren’t cornering for an attack or anything. It was more his nose. We were all bare-chested in sunglasses, issue pants, zinc oxide on our noses and lathered in that same tropical suntan oil. He took one whiff after walking all the way into the room and got sick right on the spot. It wasn’t the prettiest sight but I think it really cemented the point. And the guy had to perform his own clean up duty also. Poor guy but it seemed he had it coming.

 

All of this leads up to my discharge. Well it’s not that moment got me discharged. I mean it all leads up to this last chapter in my time of service. I never claimed to remember a lot about it. Really it’s a blur all as a whole. Maybe it wasn’t helpful but it was just as well. Enough was seen from people to put a story together and that’s still of little use for the people who had to make a “horizontal return trip” or a “flag side plane seat” as people would say with a nicer but still dark truth.

 

For me. Well… It’s all not so simple. All I know is from my own perspective really. I’m almost ashamed to say it but I feel it’s almost too selfish to only know my experience above what really happened or all the people who made it or didn’t. In a way I could have easily joined them. It was a much different day and experience than I ever had. I basically thought I saw it all up until then.

 

Maybe I was really selfish. Yeah I get I was young and sort of felt immortal around a steady stream of death. It was not from videogames but maybe just a defense mechanism somewhere. I don’t know really. Sometimes I wondered if I did have a death wish. Very possible the more I think that day over.

 

My family was of the type to “internalize” I think the word is. Nobody asked for my war stories or anything like that. There’s a saying I hear a lot from people who had parents that served. The real vets never talk about what happened. Same thing for my family as a whole. They may tell a little story about something little or insignificant. Nothing about a battle usually or anything describing what was really supposed to be going on. If it was a fox hole, the story was about that one guy who always had a fresh bottle. Things of that nature. Nobody questioned me about it or tried to pry much. It was all for the best I suppose. I’m sure anything I share is only a tenth of what the real stuff was like that people like my dad or his dad had to go through. Or however many uncles and cousins too. Well I made my point. Still doubt they had anything like my last moment.

 

To make it easier, we just decided by however reason to not get too descriptive about where or what it was, not the day or anything else specific. “The Incident” is the easiest thing to say if we have to describe. I don’t care what a lot of the smaller stuff was. I heard some things here and there but I don’t think any of us in this core group ever go into so much detail. Why rehash it? At least for me, I think it would only make things worse. If I was a big drinker, about now is where I’d stop myself for a tumbler of whiskey or vodka.

 

Since I’m not a big drinker (moonshine and sometimes mead or a “dirty wine” but that’s it) I’ll get right to it. I would prefer to have my senses about me to try to make sure I don’t get too crazy in sharing about it,

 

Funny to say this but water is the first thing that comes to mind when I think about it. In an enormous cat box of a wasteland and I have to think about water.

 

This incident was a cowards way to ambush. I am not saying strapping a bomb to you and filling your pockets with stuff from a hardware store is a noble thing, but they have balls to at least stand up for what they believe in – well literally standing up for it and dying for country. They may be twisted and just plain wrong, but it is conviction. I don’t care how much I love my country, I won’t walk into something 100% to die. I realized I am at least a fighter to a certain aspect. I need a gun or something. And I am damn positive I will never just drop a bomb and hide it. That is just the most despicable thing I can think of. I know a couple hundred years ago or so a guy like me was thought of as despicable also: way far from the action waiting for one precise moment. It’s not looked at it that way now. But I still don’t think a hundred years or whatever that hidden bombs or suiciders will become standard fare. I do not condone this, but at least I understand the concept of germ warfare a bit more as where it comes from figuratively. More of a chance defending against that than an IED if you ask me.

 

On this occasion we ended up getting an IED attack. Most times it’s one. We had more. I heard it was a rocket too but I just know explosions happened. But remember I am the one who thinks about water. No matter what the possible situation was, the casualties and deaths were the only hard fact needed to go on. I won’t say how much but it was the most in any single instant- at least for our side.

 

My most vivid memory of it all was being underwater. I don’t exactly know why. But I am going to be as honest as I can about my personal experience.

 

Nothing can be more than true about what happened to me. I am a guy who keeps rooted, a Christian, and the best kind of guy I can be while a little shy and all that. Religion is just illustrating I never pay mind to the “hokum” as my dad called it. Or pappy saying “hokum poke ’em” as his own little joke. I don’t have anything to say bad about anyone else’s belief but this is just my own view. Preachers are for converting but not me. I just have a hard time with all of the new age stuff and visions, all of that. But I had my own sensation. It could have just been a dream and I thought it was at the time. I never tried to explain it away. I just feel like being the most honest I can be for my feelings.

 

Right now I can see myself just as I remembered it. Seeing a vision, if that makes sense. At the time I thought I was just inside it like in a first person shooter – seeing as my POV. This was myself underwater. It sounded a lot like I was.

 

I remember as a kid jumping into a lake from a higher point. When I was a littler kid and more fearless I could do a cannonball and land in the water with my hands pulled around my legs to help me stay as small as possible. I’d hit the water and then sink like the rock sort of position I shaped myself into. Then with no fears or cares, I would stay still and let myself glide all the way to the bottom. It would start fast and then almost stop. The momentum would coast. I remember it must have been the closest to being a cloud I could ever get.

 

The moment shared the same quality. Me underwater overseas in the land with nothing to swim in but a human sludge we as soldiers brought from ourselves. That and also oil in some places, yeah. Back to seriousness though: I still have no idea what caused what I saw or felt. Or even how I perceived it. Sometimes I think it might have been from when I was on all sorts of medication.

 

So there I was. Just almost standing. It wasn’t that cannonball position like a kid. But the similar tranquility was there. The water was more of an amber tint to it. And bubbles rushed past me. Not as much as air bubbles coming from me as breathing. Just these small streams of even smaller bubbles rushing past me. I could hear them zooming past me and even around my ears. It was all in that muted sound. Feeling less like water and more like a gel. I was frozen for a moment in time.

 

I don’t know how long I was exactly that way but I remember my eyes opening and I was certainly not in water. I could barely hear though. I was blasted by white light since my eyes weren’t adjusted. It was like being in the theater and then opening a door and a huge blinding light making everything a color you did not remember it should be.

 

These colors I was looking at were nothing really. The colors of sand, sky and our carrier. Bluish, yellow and tan basically. Nothing I would even consider colorful in any situation. Maybe I can say white was another color since I soon realized it was a blinding pain. I don’t know if I blacked out but it was very possible. I never remembered any blackness but a lot of time I was not aware of. It just didn’t seem to exist for me. From what I can guess it was an explosion or something incoming that jolted me back; whether I was dazed or passed out I don’t know.

 

There wasn’t much I could do. I think I went for a pistol I had on me. For some reason I can’t remember if I lost it in the shuffle or if it was just out of reach for the way I was thrown. In all reality I was actually trapped inside. It was complicated to explain, but something from the blast rocked part of my vehicle and I ended up being crushed in such a bizarre way I can’t even begin to describe.

 

I was pinned and had no other choice but to basically wait it out. I make it sound much easier than it was really. But from the outside I assume it looked no different than me waiting for it all to be over since I was totally helpless. It was pathetic I guess but maybe it should have been be anyway. I was not sure what I would have added to the mix if I was able bodied. On top of that maybe something far worse would have happened to me if I was able to scramble myself out of that vehicle before I was rocked out of my mind- or maybe at least rocked out of consciousness.

 

Enough of what I may or may not have experienced or “saw” with my eyes closes. Any of that can probably be explained away but I wanted to be as honest as I could for the sake of anyone else who may have gone through what I did or maybe it’s just an outlet to finally say stuff without really having any worry. Especially for the next part of it all.

 

When I came to I just remember being immobile. First I tried to just jump up to get going, I was sort of out of my mind or just running off instinct I suppose. When I couldn’t get up I went for my piece, thinking I needed to defend myself since my mind was telling me I must have been captured or bound up if I couldn’t get to my feet. After I realized the position I was in wasn’t letting me go for my last resort weapon, I checked around and noticed I was physically pinned. I don’t know if that counts as shock but it was pretty insane. I never did drugs but I guess that may be part of the feeling. Not in control.

 

I can’t even really remember what was on me. For all I know it was part of the vehicle itself. But once I started coming back to reality not only did I come to realize my situation and surroundings but also the incredible pain I had. What’s a little bit funny is I can’t even describe it now. I can sort of see it if I let my mind go back there and even feel it a bit but there’s no words I can use to explain that. Maybe that’s some blocking mechanism to keep me from reliving something of such misery. But sadly this is the whole point of this chapter or exercise.

 

My lowest of lows I can be sure to say came at that moment where I was trapped. I’m not proud about it but I don’t think this is the place to cover things over or lie.

 

That was the point of time things felt the most desperate. Not really something I want to admit but I feel like I have to. I signed up for this, basically on my own free will, to write about It all. It’s kind of like a duty or mission for me so of course I will give it my all. That is my promise.

 

Sadly I feel I did not give my all in that moment of the incident. It’s tough to describe but I know I would have acted one way in many other scenarios but this particular one was a very different kind of struggle I imagine.

 

Here is the secret. There was this point when I think I consciously made a choice. Not only the choice but also the fact I sort of changed my answer when faced. I guess they say it’s not what you answer or how you come to that answer but if you’re right. I am pretty sure I made the right choice.

 

If I was captured, I know I’d fight. If I had a friend in trouble, I know I’d defend him. If we were in a losing firefight, I’d put up that risk to help save the others. But when thinking about me as myself, maybe it is a different story.

 

Sometimes my mind wanders when thinking about this- when pondering about myself I guess. When it’s anyone else I am ready to take the charge and do my part to support. But there was always much more conflict when it’s turned internally. I know there was an exercise in school in most of my language arts it was pretty standard to have analysis of a story. I was not always so good at it but I remembered the first question was always about the conflict.

 

“What is the conflict of this story?”

 

The answer was always a versus. Man vs. this or vs. that. I always read a story with that first question in mind when it was a class assignment. I don’t think much about it now, but I also don’t read for class credit either. I do it for my own self and usually when nothing else is going on. Obviously lately it’s a lot more (when I am not writing these chapters that is). I meant overall.

 

For me, I’ll say in this particular part of my life story it was a theme of man vs self. I now know this. I ran through so much in my mind once I became aware of the whole situation I was a part of. It really was a struggle, which is what a conflict is all about. Being pinned down in the way I was lead to a struggle which had nothing to do with being physical.

 

All inside of me. I remember the pain. It was a lot like a bright light. Just trying to overtake me with a yellow and white kind of like the sun. I struggled at first to stay conscious once I was awake. I flexed and all of that. And then I got really still. The feeling was still a lot of pain but it just turned into a warmth. It was a sensation. Like drinking something hot and then feeling it coat the body of the drinker. It happened to me very similarly but it started from the feet down. Thinking back, it may be from how I was crushed. When I relaxed maybe it took more hold. But my mind was going somewhere elsewhere at that point. It was suspended a little.

 

I felt myself sort of drifting at that point. Almost that the only thing left I was in control of was my head. I think my eyes would close and open at points, but I was not focusing on the light of it or when there was none with my closed eyes. It was just a feeling of letting go. I was so close to it. I really was.

 

Something told me if I let go I wouldn’t have to worry anymore. No more conflicts at all or worrying what my outcome would be in life. Not if I would be accepted by my family or clan. Not even a worry on how my service record would stack up to any other member in the clan. A life free from worry.

 

Life was the operative word. This letting go I know was life itself. Like I said, it really was a man versus self situation. And these voices in my head were not working in the part to keep me on this plane. What I heard was sounding valid to me. Dangerously slow. This pain somehow started turning into a numbness once it stopped being that heat I initially felt. It was so strange and I can’t describe feelings so well. It was almost that fuzzy feel when a foot or leg falls asleep before those pokes and tingling start in.

 

It was so odd and creepy how convincing that feel was. Just ready to agree and lay down for… Well forever. I kept relaxing more and more and tried to keep feeling that strangely numb but almost happiness in the decision.

 

Then I fought back. I didn’t jerk around or anything physical. But I thought of the outcome. About how people would feel in my family. What my clan would think on it all. Would there be a letter sent home? And what would the letter say. Would I be painted as a hero? Or maybe it would have painted me as a coward who did nothing about his situation. How I just happened to be a random statistic and not forging through adversity of the situation. The official report might say I was hit and just never moved again.

 

Mostly at that point I just thought of my mom. She was probably the biggest reason. I know she would always stay conflicted and never let go if I didn’t come back the way she sent me off. With a pulse I mean. None of the clan ever died in war though a couple got messed up badly. But back at my mom, I thought maybe she’d blame it on others. I didn’t want that. I know even when I had a bad report card she would take it a little bit personally. That is an example. She would worry a lot about me and I know in a lot of ways she tried to protect me from my dad. More emotionally than anything along the lines of punishment.

 

The real me was winning out in this conflict. I stopped existing in that nice warm glow by really thinking of the ramifications. Not to sound a sissy but I guess in a way my mom is what tipped the scales in the Earthly kingdom. It was probably all of the family but maybe that was something to start tipping things towards my survival.

 

Once I finally got a clue, or when I finally understood how dire the situation was, I fought myself in my head. It was I guess my real man vs. self moment. It was not me fighting myself really or like two people. It was my conscious and unconscious self I guess. I’m not saying I have two people in my head or I have a split personality. But everyone always has a voice in their head to justify or rationalize a decision. Maybe for a lot of people it’s to get drunk at a bad time, or stealing something.

 

Not doing homework used to be the biggest thing where I wouldn’t listen to the voice of reason. There was always a way I thought it was rational to procrastinate. I could do it another hour later, or after a tv show. Or before bed, then telling myself I could do it the next morning if I just woke up an hour early… And so on.

 

It felt a very long time, but it may have been only a matter of minutes for me to get out of that self-made situation. I was not really talking but in my head I was. Thinking it through in a normal way to survive. I guess it was my own way of fighting since “flight” would have meant not being here.

 

Maybe it did not seem like much, but it was important to me obviously. But I never thought of it much more until now. I didn’t want to try analyzing it since that isn’t my thing. I kind of take things as they come and I know I would be crippled if I analyzed every little thing. I just couldn’t hack it otherwise. So I pushed past all the other stuff in my hand at that time and then my eyes totally opened and my eyes finally adjusted to the light and my surroundings.

 

After I awoke I had an enormous surge of pain. I felt it all the way through me. Not only until my toes and fingertips but I could even feel like my fingernails were on fire. It was raging inside me and I felt it but I didn’t show it that I could tell. I was just there and waiting trying to figure the rest of the stuff out in my mind. Then someone saw me inside. I wasn’t sure who it was. It was a little trippy since it was a little bit like a movie.

 

This guy came in and he filled up the whole doorway. It was cloudy from all the dust and everything else in the air. It was Overthrill if I remember but I didn’t have any way of knowing at that time. I’d say his mouth is enough but I could barely make anything out. The explosions rattled the heck out of my ears. I’m almost surprised now how my hearing is about normal if not perfect now. From all the gunfire as a kid I didn’t think I’d be listening to anything without a hearing aid really.

 

He entered and looked at me. I can’t even remember if he spoke or reached out to me. He just looked. And then left. I’m sure he had to have seen my eyes and me alert but at that point maybe he didn’t. I mean I wasn’t sure while it was all happening. The way I was hit and pinned down, I couldn’t even talk actually. And then I was left alone.

 

My hearing and equilibrium was off. Aside from that, the pain started gripping me even more. Maybe since it was so out of my head, that made it all twice as bad when I realized it was all returning to me. So I had no idea how long I was left alone. However long later I saw two men. They came in and talked but I couldn’t hear anything. Maybe every other sylable or something since I could hear part of a word but then it would echo or just fade out. It felt like my ears were packed in with dirt or something.

 

The two of them entered the space where I was. One backed in while the other was more entering as a crawl. I was stuck in place but the vehicle the touched me but I couldn’t feel it through the pain. They tried to say something, but I didn’t make it out. Most likely they were trying to do the standard acess the situation. I couldn’t point to my ear to show they were blown out. Racking with pain I just stayed still despite how I tried looking alert.

 

Not knowing my status, they made a mistake unknown to them. They went to the object pressing on me and tried to move it off. That’s when my brain started to know what to do. The instinct to get my feet back on reality’s ground. What I did wasn’t me. I mean it was my instinct to what they were doing. I screamed as loud as I could. Just belted one out. Of course it was the pain but a lot of that still wasn’t registering with me. Maybe it was shock? I don’t know really. It just seemed at that point I couldn’t differentiate any pain or change it it at that point. It all felt like my body way laying naked on asphalt in the summertime. Ablaze.

 

Needless to say, they both let go and stepped away. One of them tried to ask something again but they were talking to each other. Then one of them bent over and tried whispering something into my ear. It was probably just talking actually or it could have been screaming full blast, but I couldn’t make out a single word. He leaned in and put an ear closer and closer towards me. I didn’t have much to say. I think my lungs worked since I was breathing a little shallow still but it seemed normal enough to me. Maybe it was my vocal chords.

 

They exited and did something else. I don’t remember too much else except maybe I did close my eyes. I was injected and later I must have woken up. I thought I was just resting my eyes but there I was with a bunch of people over me. After that I must have dozed off again or they made it that way. I am sure I fought somehow since I am back to put all this down now. I decided I wanted to go on and I had everything to live for or look forward too.

 

Everything wasn’t a breeze, but I figure it was better than being stuck somewhere which was basically a metal box when you get down to it. Helpless and trapped. What more can I say?

 

The doctors told me everything but I guess I just chose to forget it. I know I didn’t have it easy but I wanted to stick to my program and improve little by little. I also wanted to go ahead and didn’t pay a lot of attention to what the doctors told me. One of the only things I remembered hearing was something about Compartment Syndrome which was basically something that can happen when crushed by something. I guess it could have gotten a lot worse if it wasn’t for that scream of mine keeping the two soldiers away from trying to pry me free. Deep down it must have been my survival instinct whether I knew it or not in the conscious way.

 

“Will I be able to walk?” That was about all I know I asked. That and if I’ll be able to shoot again. One of my arms was fused or something. I guess it’s why I couldn’t go for my gun. Thankfully I had at least one other operational arm or else things could have gotten a little bit embarrassing.

 

I didn’t care as much where I would be assigned or if assigned at all. I just liked I was alive and maybe had a chance to shoot a gun again. And I’m sure somewhere I felt a little bit of validation in the clan. Making it back from a war in more or less one piece.

 

I could have been a lot worse, I know. At least in my mind I figured I’d heal to some capacity. Maybe it would have been a way worse ordeal for me overall if I was in that situation more than just trapped inside a hot box basically. I may have been in the middle of a war but that tale was an internal struggle. Man versus self. At least I survived that round.

 

Things maybe helped me ease back in a bit anyway. On one hand I think my family and the clan wanted me to be a career guy. Well more my dad and the clan rather than my mom pushing for it. At least to my dad I fulfilled my destiny or whatever the right word is. I didn’t disappoint the line.

 

When I got back, it was pretty cool since even though I was all messed up they wanted me to be the guest of honor. Gimped up and trying to make sure my painkillers were just enough to help me function.

 

(I had a desperate fear of getting addicted or over medicating since I heard so much about it and people bragging about things like that too. I was too paranoid maybe, but I didn’t want to stay on pain meds or medicating myself in the future. It was just bad news in my opinion. Maybe I looked at that just as a mission. Get better and avoid pain killers to the best of your ability.)

 

Basically I was the guest of honor when I got back. I thought I was going to get some rest but it wasn’t in the cards for me. That’s fine since I liked how unexpected it was. A boost I wasn’t looking for. Nobody said much about how pathetic I looked when I got home, but I really didn’t care either. I knew a lot of other people wished they had a condition like mine; which would have been an improvement to them.

 

The funniest thing was my dad joking I can shoot by balancing my cast. Another guy said I should have my hand re-set in the cast so I could hold a can or remote control. It was a way to put a positive spin on it I suppose.

 

Even though it was supposed to have been all about us as a team, my story ended with just me I guess. Kind of funny. I always thought our whole story was man vs. man if the war, or man vs nature as in surviving the FOB. But it all dwindled down to man versus nature: me and myself.

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