I walk, plodding through the desert, this one small arid island encompassed by a sea of green.Like a biosphere, this desert sits self-contained within its perimeter of concrete walls, razor wireand armed guards. What's over those walls, beyond that fence? What are those guards guardingagainst? Farmland. Green vineyards, lush palm groves and endless farmland spotted bysettlements and eventually cities. Somewhere in those groves, among those palms, grapes and
, someone wants to kill us. They remind us of this, every now and then, usually about threetimes in five days. Most times, we don't hear their reminder, just the bellowing of sirens as thepost-wide communique is put out telling us that it's safe to walk the streets again and to bemindful of unexploded ordinance. Other times we'll hear the boom from somewhere distant, aplace we'll never see even though it's within a couple miles of the base. And, a certain few times,we feel the very floor and buildings quake as the concussion of those shells reaches out to tap uslightly on the shoulder. I always thought it odd to be witness to so many mortar strikes and neversee a crater or an explosion.I walk, plodding through the desert of Iraq, this one small arid island encompassed by a sea of green. Like a biosphere, it sits self-contained within a perimeter
of concrete walls, razor wire andarmed Ugandans. What's over those walls and beyond that fence? What are those Ugandansguarding against? Farmland, green vineyards, palm groves and families tending to their fieldsacross the rural landscape. Somewhere among those grapes, groves and children, someone wantsto kill us. We're reminded of this almost every other day. M
ost times, we don't hear the reminder, just the bellowing of sirens as the base-wide communique tells us the shelling is over and towatch for unexploded bombs. Other times we'll hear the boom from somewhere distant, a placewe'll never see even though it's within a couple miles of here. Although, periodically we feel thefloor and buildings quake as the concussion of those shells reaches out to tap us lightly on theshoulder. I always thought it odd to be a target of so many mortar strikes and never see anexplosion or a crater.This is Iraq, where I'm supposed to be living; where they tell me I am to make my home.
where my tan boots kick up the tan dust against a tan background of concrete walls. Sometimes
even the sky is tan, filtering the sunlight to an eerie orange that always makes me wonder
whether Clark Kent would dare come out of the phone booth on such days.
he's holding something large and shapely. I don't give it second thought until I hear the
strumming. A guitar calling out to me from the comfort I left behind for here.S
omething strange happens next. Passing by him, I feel heat. There's something odd about the
heat, it's not constant. It's a wavering, flowing kind of heat. The sort of heat you catch when
warmed by wind-whipped flames. Along with this, I smell something. Marshmallow roasting over
open flame. In that instant of confusion, I'm sent years into the past and decades into the future.
I remember every campfire I ever sat in front of while my siblings criticized my marshmallow
technique. I keep telling them it's flambe. However, these fires never had a guitar with them and
so my mind searches through my future. I see plans and visions of my wife, son and I. I see us
gathering around those open flames. I see my son and I losing hot dogs off the sticks too small to
keep from burning the hairs off all our knuckles. I see myself strumming that guitar, utterly
embarrassing myself as I can't remember one single tune. I see lifetimes and futures passing
before my eyes and through my senses. And then it's gone.A
ll in the space of one stride as I walk past that figure with his guitar, with his hopes and
dreams, with his choice of pastime and personal visions of tours where women throw their
underwear on stages drenched in alcohol. A
nd when my next foot lands I'm still here. I still hearthe strumming coming from this man and I just want to go home. I want to feel the heat from afire instead of that hateful sun burning down at me. I want to relive the moment I just had andshare it with the world. I know there never was a fire. I know some hot draft from the generatorexhaust is playing tricks with my mind, so I just continue walking. If I stop and turn, this memory