Military outposts are not like homes but they are where soldiers sleep, eat, shit, work out, drink bottled water, make ourselves think we are something like safe.
Outside the wire, where regular people live, is not considered safe. The ability of American soldiers to “enter Afghan homes” was a sticking point in the Afghan-U.S. security agreement, finally signed in 2014. When they say this, both sides mean, of course, entering to search, not entering to eat dinner or to watch a World Cup match.
To scale our own walls took laughter tuned to horse-carts mingling with Corollas, tongues tuned to tea alongside Coca Cola, salaams sliding gentle down the spoon, vision tuned to the yes in the so-called other’s gaze, feet tuned to bridges made not from metal crates but promises kept.
Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Namedwell: Synonyms for Self by Farzana Marie. In her submission, Ms. Marie described Namedwell as “vignettes and mini-essays…composed of the raw materials of personal story.” Twelve days after submitting her work, Ms. Marie, a U.S. Air Force veteran (2006-12) and a doctoral student in Middle Eastern literature at the University of Arizona, suffered a massive stroke and fell in Afghanistan. She is now being treated in Arizona, but has so far lost the ability to speak or write, and is challenged cognitively. To find out more about this inspiring young writer, please visit the fundraiser page set up in her honor.
Note on the Photo: A young resident of Maslakh Camp takes a drink of water. Maslakh (Internally Displaced Persons or IDPs) Camp is named after a once thriving business (Maslakh translates as slaughterhouse). Situated near the western Afghan city of Herat, it is home to more than 350,000 displaced Afghans according to the official count from the time of Taliban rule. However, international aid organizations conducting a survey of the camp estimate that there may be only around 150,000 inhabitants, but it is certainly the largest such camp inside Afghanistan and among the largest in the world. A new count to determine the exact number of inhabitants is underway to better determine humanitarian needs. A vast camp of mud huts and tents under the Afghan mountains, Maslakh’s temperature plunges below zero at night. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is the coordinating agency for humanitarian aid to displaced people in western Afghanistan. World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF are delivering food, blankets, clothing, stoves, and other items to Maslakh’s desperately poor population. (United Nations photo by Eskinder Debebe)
From Eight Slices of the War in Afghanistan by Farzana Marie
Introduction by Dan Cafaro, Publisher
I: To Merge, To Erase
II: Restrepo: One Slice of the War
III: Inside with an Itch
IV: Enter to Search
V: To Fight
VI: To Find or Be Found
VII: When Language Fails
VIII: Tea with Terrible Questions
Afterword by Dr. Timothy Kirk, Colonel, U.S. Air Force (Ret)