Saturday, October 16, 2010

Stomach of Darkness

Twenty-five years on, I’m now more than two times older but not much wiser than I was the first time I traveled abroad. I spent that time thriving on the unfamiliarity of a tangle of steep hills, abrupt valleys, frequent streams, double canopied jungles, and barefoot locals whose village lay half in one country, Honduras, half in another, Nicaragua, two countries which may or may not have been at war with each other at the time. Reagan was president and back then, who knew what about anything? 

I loved the asymmetry of time spent in the jungle as time passed unbroken by week days or weekends, untangentially entwined without names or dates or even hours. Time passed according to light and darkness and was marked by a percentage of job accomplishment.

As an Army reserve medic I observed from an air conditioned ambulance army engineers busting their backs while hollowing out in the middle of all this awesome fecundity a stretch of run-way that for the record was never there, and for the record neither was I nor the other reservists or the military training camp nearby which was, off the record, being funded by a non-governmental organization with the vague name “Friends of the Americas”. 

This is my war story.

A man once said, there is nothing quite as satisfying as being shot at and missed. I’ll take his word for it. It has no application to my war story. Although I did have a pistol and the workers were issued rifles, nobody had any bullets. I did hear a shotgun blast at one time. Some locals hunting wild birds I was told.
I sum up my war story with words attributed to some other war-type guy, “C'est la soupe qui fait le soldat" (an army marches on its stomach).

There I was, stretched out on a stretcher snoozing in bliss under a canopy of mosquito netting, 50 milligrams of sleepy time Benedryl coursing through my bloodstream and nobody bothered themselves to think of me and walk the couple of dozen meters from the dining tent to my ambulance to tell me breakfast was being served. 

By the time the racket of earth digging and moving machinery got underway and I pulled back my mosquito netting well past sun-up, the kitchen was closed, and I had to content my stomach with tin packets of cold field rations and instant coffee. It would be hours before my stomach would be sated with a hot meal. 

To this day, I still find it hard to talk about.

2 Comments:

Blogger booda baby said...

Very VERY amusing! I think that really says it all. Amusing's pretty hard to pull off.

4:35 AM  
Blogger Mimi's Pa said...

Thanks. Gustatory PTSD is a secret shame. Feels good to be able to talk about it after all these years.

7:33 AM  

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