When I volunteered to extend my tour in Afghanistan, my sister asked me why I didn’t want to go home. I tried to explain and failed. Then I sat down at my laptop and wrote this.
She asks why I don’t want to go home.
The boundaries of enlightenment are confusion and panic.
You are walking down a goat trail, using your black rifle to keep your balance while gravel slides, when everything that is not intrinsic to who you are gets stripped away by the sound of an RPK opening up behind you.
Even wearing full kit and armor, you drop to your belly. A rock no larger than your head becomes a fortress hiding you from the sharp killing whine above your head. Every sense you possess focuses on the origin of that noise. Eyes seek movement…ears seek the barking…part of you just FEELS for the thing trying to kill you.
And who you really are emerges to seek and kill. You no longer have a degree from a third rate engineering school. You are no longer a father, a son, a brother, a friend. You have never heard music, smelled grass, tasted caramel, kissed a girl, danced at a wedding, played with a child.
You become a primal beast on which society has overlaid it’s designs. You act without thought because beasts do not think. You violate the ultimate taboo…focusing everything you are on killing another beast that might once have been a man. Every muscle strains to close distance…you move so you can shoot…shoot so you can move…
Then it is over. That moment of satori, that moment of crystal clarity fathomable only to mystics and animals, ends. An RPG from an ANA soldier finds the machine gun. A round from a black rifle finds the heart or brain or maybe only the guts of the image of God that found his destiny in your reticle.
And slowly those layers of lies and half-truths and trivia envelope you again.
You become something you were not meant to be. Your son’s father, your mother’s son, citizen, Deist. That student who graduated cum laude with a meaningless degree in philosophy. The target of advertising campaigns designed to sell sex and beer. The inheritor of promises made by prophets long dead.
The first time you vomit. The second time you shake. The third time you laugh.
But you never get to go home again.