I had a dream last night that I’ve had many times before.
Back in the mountains of what seemed like Afghanistan, in one of those dry valleys with rock faces reminiscent of Mars, mountains so old they’re crumbling under their own weigh. A small stream twists and cuts its way through the rock for untold eons and it creates the valley I’m standing in. This place seems familiar like somewhere I called home for a small piece of my life.
I’m in full battle-rattle; DCUs (desert camouflage), tan combat boots, wonderfully fitted helmet, LBE (Load Bearing Equipment) vest chalk full of canteens ammo and grenades, Kevlar vest, and a semi-trusty M-16A2 rifle. I either look terribly silly or an intimidating sight to the back-water tribesmen and nomads that fill the dreamspace. In reality I must look like an invader, something foreign and barely recognizable as a fellow human being in all that gear. But I see myself as the epitome of military professionalism, no smiles for the children that gather to look at me and my compatriots occupying a little piece of their part of Earth.
I see myself in a convoy of military vehicles filing through the valley that has stopped to allow a band of nomads to pass across the road in front of us. I watch them as they flow past us, robes and cloth flapping lightly in the wind. I’m a few vehicles back from the front, watching for any ill will in the form of weaponry from those fellows or the surrounding area. We barely notice a child of no more than twelve come from out of the dust and walk straight up to the lead vehicle in the convoy. One of his little hands pulls a 9 millimeter pistol from his cloths, point the weapon into the open driver-side widow and begins to fire and unloads the magazine into the vehicle.
The driver was leaning back and the kids bullets found the passenger. As soon as he was able the driver disables the kid and with a quick motion the kids arm no longer bends the way its suppose to.
I see later into that day and the passenger is lying in the medic shop of our little out in the middle of no-where fire base made of mudbrick, sandbags, plywood, and Hesco-walls. The medic’s shop is roomier than one would expect seeing it from the outside, two full hospital beds and all manner of equipment kept immaculately clean by the professional combat medics that call that place ‘the office’. On one table a doc is pulling expended rounds from the passenger’s body, he’s laid up, drugged, no pain where his mind is. The shooter – the kid – is on the other bed getting his arm fixed up by another medic, another soldier holds an M-4 carbine and points it at the kids head from a few feet back waiting for him to move the wrong way, emotions are a mother fucker some times. “Point that thing somewhere else.” Doc doesn’t like guns in the office.
The passenger wakes up. He’s a big man and when not on missions or planning for them he’s in the gym that is found on the firebase. Somehow the US military machine moved all the work out equipment you could want to this back-water alien place. Big-Man wakes up and the kid’s staring at him. Big-Man opens his eyes and the first thing he sees are the eyes of his would-be failed assassin. He blinks any dreams out his eyes and his arms flinch out and begin to strangle the kid. Doc and his medics pull him off, the soldier with the gun laughs as they pull the kid away into a different room.
I see a flash… I see my dad, he looks old and frail. We’re walking together down the street. He’s having trouble walking, he looks like he’s in his eighties, he’s 54. He was Navy reservist during Vietnam, they tell me he was exposed to Agent Orange while the fleet was anchored at Yankee Station. He smiles a lot, so do I, some sort of lopsided thing I plaster on my face. Fake smiles are all I could do for years after I got back home. My dad’s smile was kind of fake too, maybe not fake, more like something to keep things from getting awkward as he figures out how to say whatever it is he is going to say, more of a real smile than I can muster. We share a walk; we say things I no longer remember.
I wake up.
I have this dream from time to time, sometimes I am the child, sometimes I’m Big-Man, sometimes the driver, sometimes my father, sometimes the bullets, sometimes the valley, and sometimes one of the nomads, all aspects and many perspectives. When this dream haunts my thoughts I’m forced to think that I share the fate of living with all mankind.
I’d be anyone else if I possessed a different perspective. I am what I am. You are what you are. We are what we are in relation to our experience and the way we behave to stimulus from the world that we perceive and interact with.
Sometimes I think that we’re all sharing the same soul. That somehow none of us are different, that if put in anyone else’s shoes, having to live the lives others lived, I would’ve made the same decisions anyone else has. Sometimes that thought makes me smile; times like after I’ve had that dream the thought makes me weep.