Saturday, September 09, 2006


Some fight it, struggling to live amidst the blackness. They drive their children to school because they are afraid to let them walk alone. They take the long way to avoid certain neighborhoods because their ID card shows they have a Shiite (or a Sunni) name. They shop at night because the bombs usually go off during the day. Sometimes they are stopped at a militia checkpoint, and they just disappear.

The artifacts surround us. City workers hosing down the streets. A soldier walking into the chow hall with a bandage covering his cheek. The broken rifle stock I kicked that was lying in the dirt just outside of the gate. I walked into the 101st division headquarters and stopped at the upturned rifle with a helmet on it. Usually the dogtags of the dead are suspended from the handgrip – in this case, there were eighty-five sets of dogtags hanging from the handgrip.

I hate death. I fear death. Shawn, Aunt Patty, Grandpa and Grandma, Aunt Keena and Uncle Frank. Franklin Brazier and Mike Nowak. I remember Mike showing me how to toenail perpendicular 2 X 4s when framing a wall. It doesn’t matter if you think you are ready for it or not, you never are. It creeps silently amongst the beds of the cancer ward, and it announces itself loudly when the market stalls and the body parts become missiles flying outward from a universe centered on one desperate man’s need to go to heaven. And now I have children myself – and so does Marc! Who would have thought? Who would have thought that our greatest joys could also encapsulate our greatest fears?

Death is nothingness - often dirty, usually messy, always cold. I was hurrying to a meeting yesterday when I saw three humvees returning from a mission. As they passed through the gate I noticed that the rear quarter panel of one vehicle had numerous jagged shrapnel holes in it, and that the spare tire they carried had been shredded. I had my camera with me and thought to myself what a good picture this would make. Unfortunately, I did not have time to stop.

After the meeting I hurried back, thinking that maybe I could still get a picture if they’d pulled onto the PX parking lot, a popular site for post-convoy de-briefings. I may have even smiled as I turned past the cinderblock wall and saw them there – this might be a photo Kraig would like. Something to go into that coffee table book about the war that Shell had suggested. Something to show what a real hero Jack’s Dad was in the war, even if only by association.

They were washing the humvee with a small hose. For some reason, all of the hoses in this country seem undersized. Fire hoses look like canvas garden hoses, and regular work-a-day rubber hoses seem able to produce barely a dribble. Maybe it’s a factor of existing in a country that has more oil than fresh water. Maybe it’s just the Baghdad water system - I don’t know. As I approached with my camera, I noticed that they weren’t actually washing the damaged humvee, they were rinsing the inside of it. And out of the rear passenger door slopped small rivulets of dingy pink water tinged with blood.

I never did get that picture.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


You seem so sad today. I wish there was some way I coud make yu feel better. I talked to Jack yesterday. He said there are no mean kids in his class this year, unlike other other years. He also said you send him stuff like the shirt he was wearing that he couldn,t read because he couldn.t turn his head upside down. He also said he does some alegebra and likes Math best. I know hearing about Jack makes you feel better.

We love you,

Yo Yo Ma

p.s. ditto ditto Pixie!

September 10, 2006 11:36 AM  

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