By Reggie Cruz
7 months. 5 days. That’s how long I’ve been here. 1 month and 2 weeks ahead of me until I see my family and Ashley. My soul goes restless in this small faded camp. Today is different. Today it is raining for the first time in… I don’t remember. A month? Maybe 2. It was raining when my CHU-mates (containerized housing unit/2 room 1 bath trailer) and I woke to the sound of the base alarms. Another first in awhile, the insurgents having saved up enough rockets for a barrage. Rain and rockets. Grey skies and restless souls. We go back to sleep and try to catch one more hour. Some of us sleep.
It’s a beautiful cold, wet, grey day. Normally the type that calms me and it does. I can smell the water in the air and it’s glorious, something like the feeling of Christmas but it’s almost April. The cigarettes aren’t good today, but it gives me a reason to go outside. I put it out and decide that a bowl of ramen would be an ideal complement to the weather, accompanied by some Norah Jones. What a jazzy and soothing voice she has. I don’t put enough water in the Ramen/microwavable plastic tupperware but it’s still good. I finish my repast with a chocolate from one of Ashley’s many boxes from Valentines day (delivered a few weeks ago so it’s definitely still good). She is an amazing woman and a pulse of admiration for her patience and beauty ripples through my blood stream ending up in my head and producing a soft one-sided smile. My eyelids relax, I glaze a bit and almost forget about the attacks. It’s time for work so I get ready. I’m second in the queue for the shower since Nick has to take a dump after me.
Fast forward. Work is work. There are jokes, I send a couple personal emails, work on my current project, stare off into space, smoke, phone calls, printer, etc.
I eat more than I should for dinner (some kind of Middle Eastern dish that I can’t pronounce or remember right now) and pass out from food coma aka “the itis” as Leeho likes to call it. It’s only 7:30 pm. I wake up 3 hours later and curse. I wasn’t supposed to take such a damn long nap. I fiddle around with the computer. I turn it off and try to go back to sleep. Unsuccessful and it’s no surprise. I lay there in the dark trying to blank out my mind but the restlessness from this morning is still there. Fuck. My mind is racing and isn’t slowing down. I toss around. I take endless mental measurements and calculations of the future, I review tomorrow’s work agenda, I worry over stupid things that I see out here, things that I understand and don’t at the same time. I think of home and wonder how everyone’s lives are going. I think of the world and how crazy things are getting. I think that it’s always been this crazy, we just have faster and more accessible information to inhale. I get sad. Then frustrated. I say a prayer because I forgot to pray earlier. It helps for a millisecond and then I’m back on the mental raceway.
I’m restless and I get up to work out. It’s 12:30am and I have a run at 7am. Whatever demon is inside me I need to sweat him out now.
Fast forward. 2 hours of back, shoulders, abs, and kickboxing while listening to soft rock, classical and trance. I was already hyper inside so 2 hours of rock and rap would probably make my head explode. Breathe, lift, slow, rest, repeat. My strikes find a calming rythm and cycle. Quick, strong, quick, strong, dance, steady, breathe, move… The regimen helps but now I’m just awake and not restless. I throw my Navy hoodie on and leave the gym. There are those nights when you just need to be awake while the world sleeps, when you want to be king of the little plot of land you’re on and no can say no because they’re all dreaming of whatever. There are no sounds except for the crunch of my Nike’s on the wet rocks and wet sand strewn pavement. I slip back into my Chu trying not to wake my roommate and grab a candle, Bumblebee chicken salad snack, and a mini-heart box with more Ashley chocolate. I sit on a previous generation/unit hand me down lawn chair and set my feast camp like on the rusty metal picnic table. It’s round and has a faded purple umbrella stained from the rain/s mixing with the layer of dirt on her wings. The thing was probably stolen from the bazaar down the block before we came here. We didn’t return it, hell we liked the old worn thing. Something like a character.
Josh Groban track. I light the candle and make slow work of the chicken salad, cigarette, one piece of chocolate shaped like a heart and wrapped in red aluminum (thanks baby), and water while trying to savor my solitude. I can’t tell what scent the candle is. It’s small and I palmed it from an empty desk at the office. There were two of them and they’ve been sitting there for like forever and who knows when you might need a candle because the electricity goes out from time to time in Chu-ville and it’s better to be prepared than trying to shave yourself in the dark and coming out with half a dozen cuts. Blessid Union of Souls is playing on my Ipod. I look up. The moon is bright, hazy (from the humidity? it’s a good cool humidity) and slightly yellow like watered down lemonade. There are wispy grey clouds that play hide and seek with it against a midnight blue backdrop. The candle flickers and I can feel the light on my skin from beneath the hood. It’s beautiful and I think of the departed. I think of my gambling, dancing, leading, no apologies to life Grandpa (pronounced Lolo in the Filipino tongue). I think of a dear friend giggling somewhere in Heaven and probably having a margarita. I’m calm again. I take a second to worry about my running and work ability tomorrow but just as soon shrug it off. Now Mariah Carey is playing from the Daydream album. I clean up after myself and shower taking the candle with me. Goodnight and I write this first to finish up the exorcism.