Sitting On A Green Duffel In A Red World…

I woke up this morning from a dream. We were waiting. We were always waiting, and that’s just how it was. This time we sat with our duffels lined up on the concrete floor of some factory. Up high, somewhere near the max height of the wall, were two rows of windows, some of which were broken out. It didn’t smell musty or dank or any of that. Not enough water. It smelled dusty. It tasted dusty. The dust seeped into everything.

I was seated with other soldiers. Some were men of my platoon and some were men of a sister platoon. Our commander moved around somewhere in the back panels of my vision, just close enough for my periphery to tell me he was a part of all this. He seemed to be smiling and I didn’t know why. The rest of us sat in the way we always sat, and we waited in the way we always waited: crouched, uncomfortable, burrowing into the sides of our duffels to create a little space to sleep or rest. It usually didn’t work. Our asses always wound up on the ground. But we never cared about ending up on the ground. We never cared about dust or sweat or the red-colored world. We cared about sleep and chow and mission.

All the usual, hushed banter issued back and forth between the soldiers while I sat as I so often did — alone — listening and finding my own peace in the solitude of a moment. We were getting ready to go off to a mission. In the dream it seemed as if maybe we were getting ready to go off to a training exercise, but the air had that alien look, and it didn’t make any sense. If it was a training exercise that should have been the first dead giveaway that it was only a dream.

After some time had passed, and a good deal of sitting, a thought occurred to me. I stood, turned to face Sergeant Weikel, and said something about the mission prep or training exercise (whichever it was) that I cannot rightly remember. He turned back to me and said, “What the fuck have you ever done?” His words drilled into me, then Sergeant Fugitt stood up and said, “Yeah, you’ve never seen anything. I bet you’re gonna charge right up Christmas Hill and take this all seriously and shit, trying to prove something.” He may have added a ‘typical’ in there at the end for good measure as punctuation to a lack of contribution.

Christmas Hill. That should have been the second dead giveaway that this was a dream. Nothing was named Christmas Hill. I stood in the warehouse, absorbing the effects of those statements and feeling a little forlorn. Unsure of how to respond I simply sat back down and bowed my head a bit. We sat for a while longer, and in time we were instructed to head outside. We were still going to be waiting, but this time with our duffels lined against the side of a dirt road. The air was dry as fossils, and the sky and buildings and roads and everything were red — everything but our duffels. Every once in a while a chopper passed over, but I never really saw it, and I never really heard it. The red air was setting in.

Our commander stalked around in silly looking eyewear that made him more reminiscent of Jeff Goldblum’s The Fly than anything else. That should have been the third giveaway that it was all a dream, but it wasn’t. And I sat and pondered for the rest of the dream, seated on my duffel, about the dust, and who I was, and what I had done, and how I’d come to be there — exactly there.

After enough pondering I awoke from that dream, and it took several long seconds to realize that it had been a dream. Once those long seconds had passed, I mulled the events over in my mind, sat in my underwear in my bed, and cried.

Every once in a while it all still gets to me.

~ Roman Newell

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by: Darlene Carroll

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