Read pat 4 HERE.
War is hell. At least in hell you can warm yourself by the fire while you get prodded by pitchforks.
Afghanistan, January 2012. It was about 2AM and Patrick and I were in the middle of an endless ocean of snow, sitting atop an Afghani roof, pulling security into what may as well have been a blizzard. We would later discover that, with wind chill, it was -35. Every time I blinked, I could feel my eyelashes momentarily freeze shut. It took little effort to open them again, but the fact that it took any effort at all was troubling.
“Luke. Tell me something: everyone came from Africa way back when, right?”
“Yeah I think so. Way back when.”
“Who the hell starts walking east, makes it to the top of these mountains, survives their first winter and says, ‘Oh this would be a cute place to raise a family and settle down?’” We chuckled between shivers.
“Tell you what though,” I said, “I get why we’re going after this guy. I’d be pissed if I lived up here too. The Taliban could offer me a one way ticket to literally anywhere else and I’d join up.”
“Dude, if the Taliban offered me a space heater right now, I might turn on you.”
Everything sucked, out there in the cold. We laughed quietly and pulled security.
Three years later I was sitting in the middle of the Burmese jungle. My legs were sore and my back was aching after three days of walking from village to village, sleeping on bamboo floors and drinking chemically purified water. I was ready to head back to our central location, where my hammock was waiting for me along with the makeshift shower. Filtered water was going to taste good.
Saw Rai sat next to me, alongside two Karen medics. The medics, pretty young local women who had undergone extensive training, didn’t speak any English and I could barely manage two words in Karen.
We were all drained, even them. Between our labored breaths we took sips of water.
“You have wife? Girlfriend?” Saw Rai asked me, out of the blue.
“Uh… nope.” The Karen have a direct way of asking things, which I actually enjoyed.
“You want a girlfriend? Maybe I can find you one.” He asked. I laughed, as if he had one in his back pocket. Or maybe he was about to offer up one of the poor, oblivious girls sitting next to us (who would no doubt have laughed in his face and kept on walking).
“Sure, why not?”
“Which girl do you think is the prettiest? Back at the hospital.”
I told him.
“Not her, pick another.”
“She’s… I don’t know how you say it in English.”
“Say what?” I asked.
“We call her a town car. Or a passenger car.”
I wasn’t following. The unforgiving sun beat down on us.
“Ahem…” He searched for the right words, “everyone gets in and has a ride.”
Everything sucked, out there in the sweltering heat. We laughed quietly and kept moving.