After deciding that I was ok with probably dying soon, and having in my possession a yellow volleyball, I concluded that what the platoon needed, really, was a good old-fashioned game of four square. First I’ll explain why I was ok with dying. As for how I got a volleyball at the train station in Fallujah—I’ll get to that.

Right. The dying bit. The thing is, here at home, we are comfortable in our belief in the sanctity of life. Our thoughts fall reasonably in step with societal norms, which hold life more or less unassailably atop a pedestal. Mine is up there, yours is too, your buddy’s life sure as shit is up there, and even the strangers and folks you bump into on the street, well yeah, they’re up there. And those who do not recognize life’s place of eminence are, well, aberrations: your Charles Manson types.

In war zones this pedestal gets sanded down, slowly, methodically, until eventually you are left staring at life eye to eye and you’re not all that impressed with it. You drive around for hours, weeks, months, wondering when the bomb is going to go off. Is it going to explode NOW? Or perhaps . . . NOW? And if you want you can worry about it—about if everything will turn to fire NOW. And it wears on you . . . because the ground might explode NOW. And you have two choices. Think about how searing pain could engulf you NOW—Or NOW— and go insane with anxiety . . . about everything ending NOW. Or you can just stop caring about whether the bomb goes off NOW. Or NOW. Or NOW.

You can accept that you are probably going to die. I misspoke; it’s more passive than that. You just stop obsessing about living. And you stop obsessing about your buddy living, and the civilians around you. Don’t think that you become a numb zombie. Not at all. You still laugh and joke, and work out, and write letters, and care what’s for dinner, and play Four Square (which I am getting to) and watch DVDs of ‘Chapelle’s Show,’ and whack-off in porta-johns, and all that. You just aren’t concerned with your own longevity, or anyone’s really, and in the whole process life as an idea is devalued. It’s once grand pedestal is left as a pile of marble dust getting kicked about and it is liberating. Honestly. And . . . and speaking of honesty, I don’t remember where I got the fucking volleyball.


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