One in the Chamber

Today, everybody stopped what they were doing and gathered to clap for some Wounded Warriors passing through. Apparently, they were injured in-theater and had to be medically evacuated, and this was their way to leave “on their own terms,” for closure. I’m not a big fan of closure, maybe because I’ve never had it for my various issues and therefore think it’s overrated. Hey, I’ve lived through a multitude of soul-crushing life experiences and turned out fine! Just fine, dammit! Sometimes the world makes you a shit sandwich, and you have to eat that sandwich and move on, because what else are you going to do? Demand the corned beef you’d originally ordered and refuse to leave until you get it? You’ll be waiting around for the rest of your life, brochacha.

So anyway, a big group of us are gathering along the main street that runs through the KIV, waiting for this Wounded Warrior motorcade. As we clump together, I recall the guy who blew himself up inside a nearby base just a few days ago, as people had gathered for breakfast. And here we are, gathering. I start getting uncomfortable and paranoid, scanning the crowd and the periphery around us over and over again, looking for anyone with bulky clothing and dead eyes. I even look above me into the trees, as if it’s Vietnam and Charlie might be up there. I finger my gun and remind myself I need to rack a round into the chamber before I’m able to shoot, and because my hands are too small to reach the safety lever, I need to click the safety off while it’s still in the holster before I draw my gun.

As we’re standing around, the guys next to me talk about sewing their collars down because the stupid things constantly flip up into their faces. I look for death and go through the sequence I’ll need to execute if I actually see it:

Safety, draw, rack, fire. Safety, draw, rack, fire. Safety, draw, rack, fire. Safety, draw, rack, fire. Safety, draw, rack, fire. Safety, draw, rack, fire. Safety, draw, rack, fire. Safety, draw, rack, fire. Safety, draw, rack, fire. Safety, draw, rack, fire. Safety, draw, rack, fire. Safety, draw, rack, fire. Safety, draw, rack, fire. Safety, draw, rack, fire. Safety, draw, rack, fire. Safety, draw, rack, fire. Safety, draw, rack, fire. Safety, draw, rack, fire. Safety, draw, rack, fire. Safety, draw, rack, fire.

Etc.

Then the motorcade finally shows up! Everybody claps, as was the plan. Guys get out of the cars, and some look physically fine while others are missing limbs. One guy even has a bionic hand that moves somehow. It looks really cool, but also makes me want to cry. I don’t think I could have done it—endured all these people’s pity. At least, that’s how I would have thought about it, even though I myself aren’t feeling pity for them, but admiring they had the guts to come back to a place that had taken so much from them, and smile and look gracious as these fucking people are clapping for me like I’m some sort of hero cuz my goddamn hand was shot off, and they’re just grateful they’re not me. That might be what I’d be thinking, maybe, if I were in their shoes, even if it wasn’t true. Which is probably why I would never come back, if I were them.

Relieved to have not been blown up, I start to slip out the back as the Wounded Warriors pose for photos with high-ranking people. Another guy joins me on my exit.

“Crowds like this make me nervous, too,” he whispers to me.

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