War Journal 40: Thirst for Balance

Activities are important in the field, even if it’s competing in the Glorious Nipples Competition.

Long time subscribers and passersby have probably noticed a trend with the blog: new fictigristle material available every week, sometime between Tuesday and Thursday.  It’s my thing, fictigristle, I have to update it.  Nevermind that sometimes I find myself thinking of what the hell am I going to say about a place that stays rooted in time or my writing endeavors which are still a work in progress.  I’m good at creative writing, I’ll think of something…

This last week duty called and I answered, leaving my duty station for scenic FOB Whitehouse.  It’s beautiful countryside, a camp built onto the side of a mountain overlooking a fertile river valley.  While the base itself isn’t as presidential as it sounds, the view helps lessen the nuisance of wag bags, field rations and tent living.  But the vista took me away from the blog, my weekly update, my thing.

Not updating made me feel like an errant parent.  That’s when I realized how much my psychological well being was tied to my humble little website.  It balances me out.

It’s not just me.  We’re all thirsting for balance in the deserts of Helmand.  My next door neighbor grows grass, just a narrow strip, outside his door.  He had to order the grass seed.  He has to water the grass throughout the day just to keep it from browning out and dying in one of the harshest environments I’ve seen.  That’s his thing.

In the British base of LashKar Gah there’s a garden, beautiful flowers and shrubs that line the paths between buildings, watered just as religiously as the narrow strip of grass that grows next door to me.  It’s like the base commander at Lash went Colonel Kurtz on us, decided to cut out his own swath of heaven in the middle of war torn desolation.  Out in FOB Whitehouse, the Marines’ thing is killing insurgents.  They excel at this.

Portajohns and toilet stall walls throughout theater are covered with dicks.  Small, massive, hairy, veiny, exploding, it’s the one thing you’re guaranteed to see during your number 2.  I think part of it is because female anatomy is much harder to draw, part of it is because undoubtedly the guys have more experience with their own toolset.  But when I had to use some facilities that employed shower curtains instead of doors and somebody at sometime underwent the monumental task of drawing a dick on the shower curtain, I realized that for some guys, penning penises in the bathroom brought some sense of balance.

Back at home station, a Marine sergeant asked me to follow him to his office.  He had just moved into the room where my servers occupied a corner of his new real estate.  An accommodating man, he didn’t ask if I needed all the stuff or if any of it could get shutdown,why is it here, or any other complaint about it… he simply moved his desk around the server. He pointed to the new design and asked me if it was ok.

“Sure,” I replied, “I’m just glad you didn’t go off and start unplugging things.”

He cracked a smile, “that’d make them mad at you, wouldn’t it?”

Without ceremony he drew his pistol, pulled back and released the slide, filling the room with the distinctive “Cha-chink” sound.  He pointed his weapon at my server as if he was going to shoot it dead.

“A whole region of folks I support probably won’t like the abrupt lack of services,” I say in response to his joke.

His smile deepens.  “That’s what makes it funny.”

It didn’t dawn on me until he went over to his new desk, removed the loaded clip, and slid back the bolt to expel the round from the chamber that it wasn’t just a decoration or tool in his hands.  You grow numb to guns when virtually everyone’s holding.  I was suddenly reminded seeing that live round come out of the chamber.  The only thing keeping his weapon silent was his sense of balance, maintained enough to not pull the trigger after going hot, not in balance enough to see that a loaded gun may not fall in everyone’s sense of fun.  What if I piss you off?  Or the world?  Or this deployment you’re stuck on for another four months?  The worst kind of therapy for your rage is holstered on your hip, two seconds from going hot.

Out here, balance is crucial.  Mine is fictigristle, with updates on the weekly, even on Saturdays if I can’t fit it in during the week.  I pray that everyone maintains their balance through whatever form it takes.  And if that means more dicks on shower curtains, so  be it.


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