Just mailed a box to Isaac, the neighborhood kid… No, something more immediate than “neighborhood.” He’s the kid that grew-up on our quiet little block in West Highlands; the kid who is now serving his first winter in Iraq, with the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division. (My first entry on Isaac is here.)
Will admit the concept of “winter” in Iraq never occurred to me. Sand, desert, immense heat. That’s my perception of Iraq; of hell. But, it is winter. A frigid desolation.
Talked to Isaac’s mother not long ago. She told David and me that Isaac had experienced his first IED attack. She teared-up, her voice broke. Said Isaac reported he had “lost it” momentarily with the third explosion; the nearest hit–hell incarnate. She said also that he is serving in the south, within what is commonly called, “The Triangle of Death,” where the mission is, apparently, to protect a power plant in the area. The standing orders for Isaac and his fellow soldiers is, “Shoot to kill,” anything that moves after the daily imposition of curfew.
I asked Isaac’s mother what he wanted/needed for Christmas. “He’s got all the candy he can eat,” she said. “Also has access to Cuban cigars.” (With this I smiled, picturing Isaac lighting up a fat Cuban cigar at the end of the day, perhaps sipping a beer. He within the circular clutch of young men, fatigued, sharing bullshit or truths; the socialization of brothers in war bound by the certainty they are each other’s keeper; knowing that the night may give little comfort against the horrors, the fear, the specter of knowing someone–could be anyone outside their clutch–would kill them without remorse or second thoughts, if provided any opportunity.) “Hand warmers and over-the-calf socks is what he really needs,” his mother continued. She had also told me in an earlier conversation that he appreciated pictures of home, of the neighborhood, of Colorado. “Just something to remind him…” Her sentence not finished. My thought: Just something to remind him there is still something a world away; something ensconced in his memory: the quiet little street, backyard barbecues, his fiancee, mountains, lakes. But, now, for him the ancient Euphrates might just a well be the Styx.
So, I loaded a box with hand and foot warmers; over-the-calf socks; pictures. And, in the wrapping of the box with sturdy tape, adhered to each length of tape were prayers begging his safe return…back home to our little street in West Highlands, back home to his front porch where a careless, easy loll on the porch swing is really all that will be required of him.