Sunday, October 22, 2006

Baghdad nights

I usually like to fall asleep early the first night in a new place. As if the very fact of having slept there legitimatizes my being there. I wake up and things are where I left them, so there’s a history between me and this new place, you know? But I can’t sleep tonight, despite the fact that the last caffeine I consumed was over 18 hours ago.

The room is small, about six feet by eight feet. My pack, rifle, and duty belt pretty much take up all of the space on the floor, except for a spot to put my feet while I sit on the cot writing this. Outside the helicopters come in low; low enough to fill my existence with their cutting thoop-thoop-thoop noise, to shake the whole building. I guess the LZ is only a couple hundred meters off – much closer than at Slayer.

The plywood floor sags when the guy in the next room stands up – perhaps he can’t sleep either. I hear him shuffling around next door, and I stop to listen. Nothing. I pick up my book (Babbitt, by Sinclair Lewis) for what seems like the twenty-seventh time, telling myself that I’ll just read a couple of pages and nod off. But then there’s an explosion in the distance and I am awake again. It’s the fourth one tonight.

I find myself a little bit nervous around unexpected loud noises now. In my mind I jump every time a dumpster lid slams, but, other than a momentary squint, I don’t think it shows. It’s not like I dive for cover when a car backfires or anything. The normal response to explosions is to merely look up from what you are doing for a moment, as if tolerating an inopportune interruption. A minor inconvenience, like the damn flies. If one should go off exceptionally close then a casual “they seem to be getting closer, eh?” is allowed. Nothing more. I flinch as the next explosion goes off. It’s closer, but there’s no one else in the room to talk to.


Anonymous Pixie said...

Mark, I've read this several times... mostly because I am now a "My Brother's Year In Iraq" Junkie... heck, everyone at work is reading this blog now (K - got sitemeter or Statcounter? They're both free... ).

Anyhow, I wondered as I was re-reading it, if you have a digital voice recorder? While you might still be talking to "no one", it could come in handy.

Let me know, k? In the "mean" time, stay safe... and thank you.

October 23, 2006 10:24 PM  

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