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I got a cot in our squad that looked no worse than a bed in a 3-star hotel, with almost white sheets. I slept anxiously, often waking up, remembering that I was the orderly and my duty was to wake everyone up in the morning. But when? At seven or six am? Fortunately, a woman who slept on the next bed had a wall clock with her. She just woke up and was looking at the hands of the clock, slightly adjusting their position on the dial. Finally, the big arrow pointed strictly up, and the small one looked down. Six o’clock in the morning! It’s time for me to go to wake people up. But in what terms? The task requires delicacy. It would not be a good idea to shout in the seasoned ears of the senior soldiers, “GET UP!”

I went to the compartment where all the “seniors” rested. Now I say in a casual tone: “Hey, men, time to get up!” But they show no interest in getting up laying like kings or, rather, jacks: two in one cot. They tell me, what the fuck do you want? One of them even jumped out of his bed, half-naked as he was, and took me by the breast. I felt a firm grip of his fingers through my khaki shirt. However, I was not taken aback by his question. I tell him not to take it too personally. It’s merely my role of the orderly. Someone has to come and tell you the truth about waking up in the morning.

Then, without releasing his grip on my breast, he says to me:

“That’s right, you sure can talk the talk, but why do you have such a soft and loose body? Of course, it is not very noticeable through your khaki, but when I grab you like that I can feel the fat rolling under your skin, no muscles.”

I did not lose my temper and said:

“Suppose I am a softling. But what’s the point of you thinking about my body? Would it not be wiser to devote the rest of your days reflecting on your own body, as a temporary refuge of the soul? After all, very soon you will die and as you lay dying you will speak to your young and still agile but useless body: ‘You are so beautiful, why didn’t I pay you proper attention, wasting it on Lipkovich’s miserable body?’”

The soldier looked at me with respect. No one has ever talked with him like that. I thought that people sometimes just need someone to talk with them kindly. I also thought that I needed to rush to brush my teeth and have breakfast.

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