Chap 2 - Middle Ages
As I came upon a row of luscious foliage and grain crops, I began to spot people. I had to determine where I am, who they are, how I came to be in my birthday suit, and how I will explain things?
Two ladies came from a nearby farm to greet me. The elder of the two quickly shielded the younger maiden’s gaze from my nether region.
The elder grabbed her apron with one hand and with an expert flourish took it off and tossed it to me, ”Geht es dir gut?” (Are you alright?)
I stood unwilling to speak. I had no clue what the lady said nor what language she spoke. My ignorance as an American grew to the forefront. I began to pantomime what I prayed was a universal hand sign that I had an issue with my throat and hearing.
“Oh, er muss stumm und taub sein. Muss einer von ihnen Ritter sein.” (Oh, he must be mute and deaf. Must be one of them knights.)
“Aber Agnes, wo sind seine Kleider? Sein Pferd? Warum ist er allein?” (But Agnes, where are his clothes? His horse? Why is he alone?)
Hör auf, Sophia zu reden. Hol deine Brüder und sag dem jungen Abbo, er soll das Schloss informieren. Wächter Metfried sollte kommen. (Stop talking Sophia. Go fetch your brothers and tell young Abbo to go let the castle know. Guard Metfried should come.)
I had no clue what they were saying. Obviously, this had to be a German dialect. I had no place to have stuffed a tourist language pamphlet, so I was completely at the mercy of these two ladies.
“Meine Güte. Du bist in einer traurigen Verfassung.” (My goodness. You are in a sorry shape.) The elder woman began to walk around me, no shame in her expression.
Wie lange warst du in der Sonne? Deine Haut ist so dunkel.(How long have you been in the sun? Your skin is so dark.) She continued inspecting me as more people began to make their way from the fields to see who the fuss is over.Ich habe noch nie ein männliches Mitglied wie Ihres gesehen. Wo bedeckt es? (I’ve never seen a male member like yours. Where is it’s covering?)
“Liegt das an Ihrer Religion oder auf Anordnung Ihres Leibeigenen?” (Is that because of your religion or by order of your Serf?)
I don’t recall much after that. Strange, the things you remember; the smell of tea, and feelings that stay with you.
I remember SCREAMS of agony as SOLDIERS badly wounded filled the area. Soldiers are in a firefight against a faceless enemy hiding in a village. We were crouching in “Ranger graves”, foxholes they have scraped out of the earth when I saw a kid no older than fourteen or fifteen running at me from a few yards away, firing an AK-47 too big for his little hands, past me at the Humvee, as a grenade no bigger than a soda can hit me square in the chest.
I looked up in shock, bringing up my M4 to fire at the child when the top half of him disappeared. His head, his torso, his AK, all dematerialized in a puff of pink smoke.
Targets pop up. Everywhere. I squeeze the trigger and hit everyone, plugging rounds into the armed enemy. The soldier to my right takes a bullet in the knee.
Gunfire erupts from all sides. The Airman to my left stops shooting, staring at their hand, covered with blood. His fingers hang by a thread of skin.
Bullets ZING! Poorly aimed bullets ricocheting off the Humvee and the sand dunes. A MAN determined to kill me comes from my two o’clock position only to crumple to the sand, dying.
The hollering of someone two vehicles ahead struggles to overheard the chaos. That someone at a half-run heads toward me, blood streaming down his nose. His face is gray. He stops a moment to speak when SILENCE kicks up at the moment. The world hushes for two heartbeats, then speeds back up as several bullets take off his face under his helmet.
I crouch low and push the soldiers around me to burst into motion, moments before a mortar tries to join us with the convoy commander.
This was no fucking light resistance to winning hearts and minds? It’s the fucking end of the world -- swarms of bullets rake the Humvee convoy, RPGs streak by with deadly whispers, exploding everywhere there is an open spot. A fifty-caliber gunner slump down the turret, hit by small arms. I scream at the nearest soldier, “Get the .50 up! Goddammit!” A recruit tries, can’t get through the bodies blocking the way.
Another RPG hits the back of the vehicle behind us, the shockwave knocks us to our knees like unwanted toys during a tantrum.
“Defensive perimeter! Now!” I shout.
The soldier with the low-hanging fruit of fingers mutters something, somehow still alive but in shock.
“Never mind that!” I shout at him, “Kill all the motherfuckers trying to kill you! We’ll get you a bandaid later.” I yell at him as I slap the spit out of his mouth. His chinstrap almost pops off by the blow. I see an enemy come in range to take a bead on us and I take him down. Two more come from the targets right, I knock them down as well.
“JESUS CHRIST! OHMYGOD, OHMYGOD! OH DEAR JESUS!” a recruit screams as he runs from behind us. A spray of blood splashed across my face as the recruit fires at an enemy sneaking around the Humvee edge.
I see exhaustion etched into every inch of everyone’s faces as they rally around me. The sound of random gunfire continues as I stand in my blood-spattered uniform for a moment, numbly trying to understand what I see in the distance.
Another explosion close-by and my world blacks out.
My memories are hazy at best after that. I know when I returned home I masqueraded for the business of getting to know the woman I had been apart from for almost a year.
I took up the military's offer for the reconciliation trip to look at darkened door sills, walk people-filled streets that feel unnatural and disturbing to me. Tension fills my gut.
My spouse gasps as I fumble to hold her hand. She jerks away. The cacophony of emotions overwhelms me. I need my wife to want me, to desire me, to make me feel... human. All I know right now is war and engineering. I need to be a man. I take charge and guide my hands to her breasts. She swats them off.
I try to go slower, somehow sexier. She reacts with a pitiful frown. In my rejection, I feel as if she was empowered. To emasculate me. She doesn't need to say a single, fucking word. This was a disaster.
I fix my clothes and go for a walk. God knows I wouldn't want to force my wife to be sexual with me, or at the very least pity me.