The Cafard 2
She hadn't seen a U.S. commander tell those under his command that if one more soldier is killed by an I.E.D., "We're going to take away one of their basic rights" meaning the right to freedom of movement. No longer would they - the muj, insurgents, enemy, rebels - be allowed to move around, collect metal (for shrapnel) to combine with an explosive armed with a blasting cap. But they'd still moved around enough to fuck up my back and my head.
She couldn't see my unseen injuries. Couldn't see the ache in my head, the ache in my back. She could see the burn scars on my face, neck, throat, and still she asked, "Don't you see?" When she'd burst in and I'd been full frontal naked she'd seen my pubic hair, my dick, seen bruises and cuts and still she'd asked, "Don't you see?" Tattoos she'd seen and abrasions and chaffing and still she'd asked, "Don't you see?" Seen all the swellings and throbbings, all the welts and cuttings and still she'd asked, "Don't you see?"
I don't think she saw me at all. The wounded me, yes. The combat-fatigued me, uh fur muh tiv. The post traumatically stressed me (that's PTSD shit is still up for debate), roger that, if that had any physical symptoms. But she hadn't seen the me that hadn't wanted to see a trooper in his platoon shit himself while simultaneously firing a .50 cal, hadn't wanted to see that mutilated unnamed female, sure as shit hadn't wanted to see desperate dogs braving bullets for the merest chance of a drop of water. Hadn't seen but must've known that I'd okay'ed firing a bullet into the heads of corpses just to make sure they stayed corpses, had okay'ed shooting into the backs of fleeing muj because a muj spared now is a muj we have to kill later. She hadn't seen any of that, but still she'd asked, "Don't you see?"
If you're a romantic pussy you'd be inclined to say she'd asked and re-asked and asked again that question because she'd wanted to save me. Save me from what? - my job? my duty? losing my dick for God knows why?
"Don't you see?"
I started to undress - again - hell, if she don't mind, I don't mind - and I'd no more than gotten bare-chested when she'd put herself right there, in my face, point blank in my face like she had the first time we'd met. I'd been clean then, had just finished breakfast, on my way to the motor pool to see about requisitioning a new A.P.C., well, not new, just less beaten up. I guess she'd just happened to see me. Right in my face she'd come, "You are in charge here?"
"No, honey, not me."
"Who is in charge here?"
"That'd be - "
"You must get help of him who is in charge to help me?"
"What kind of help do you need?"
All kinds of shit for the Iraqis who worked on the F.O.B., you know, cleaned, cooked, ran some slight administrative errands. And needed more shit for their kids. They weren't paid enough, had a helluva time taking care of their families and that wasn't fair cause they were risking their families' lives by working for us. Didn't I see how wrong that was? She'd always hounded me. I'd rather dodge fire than her. I'd told her that I might be able to get her some H.D.R. (Humanitarian Daily Rations) that feeds a person for a day with 2,300 calories in a two-meal packet. She'd stayed in my face, obviously unsatisfied, goddamn French desert dime. We'd categorized the females into five categories: (1) Desert Dimes, females who are graded as a 10 on the attractiveness scale on account of her being the among the only females available in the desert (2) Houlihans, named for Major Houlihan on M.A.S.H., these females associate only with commissioned officers (3) G.I. Janes, a female soldier whose been bred to arms and hates men because she ain't been born one (4) khaki-whackies, females overly fond of men in uniform (5) Baghdad bait, females who worked for the insurgency or the muj or any enemy cell and sought out U.S. troops to win them over and fuck them over. These categories belonged to three groups: (1) Rimbos, basically, female soldiers, as opposed to Rambos, male soldiers (2) Indigs, Indigenous females (3) Kool-Aids, civilian aid workers from countries other than the U.S., who come in all kinds of colors/races. I'd figured that French lady would be a G.I. Jane if she'd been a soldier. Why she'd sought me out and continued to seek me out I ain't got a clue.
Naked again I started wiping myself off with baby wipes. She watched for a minute. Started to leave, paused, put her hand on my shoulder, "Don't you see? You have the cafard. That is why you do not help me."
She looked at her hand, at the filth that'd transferred to it from my body, rubbed her fingers, "Au revoir, soldat."
Saw her a few times after that, only by chance, only in passing, but she never said another word to me. Stopped hounding me, yelling for me, "Jacques! Ou est Jacques?" and I missed her a little. Just a little. Un peu. I did find out that she wasn't French, but French-Canadian. A citizen of al-Canaeda and maybe that explained her anger. Resented her country being called America's terrorist-riddled, porous-bordered neighbor to the north (al-Canaeda is a blend of al-Qaeda and Canada, dig?) and wanted to pick on an American, any American who'd let her. And that'd been me. 5'11"/ 180 lbs me who hadn't ever asked her her name, just called her sweetheart and darling, baby doll and honey. Would that have ended her campaign of anger against me? All I would've had to do was ask her name and call her by it. She'd asked mine at our first encounter. "Sergeant W_____," I'd answered.
"Your mama, that is the name she gives to you?"
"I go by 'Jack,' nevermind what my mom calls me."
She calls me by my first name.
That French-Canadian female, she ain't never called me anything other than "Jacques" and when she'd stopped calling me anyting at all she'd seemed to me less handsome, more pretty, never beautiful, just pretty more than handsome, not so broad, not so bold, just a pretty, though wilted, flower like one of the flowers from that roof top garden.
"Don't you see?"
I know that I will never see her again. I wonder if she's calmed down or if, to this day, she's yelling at some other soldier in some other country whose children need aid. If she is I'm sure that that soldier is enjoying it. The challenge. The attention, however angry, from a female. C'mon, fellas, ain't they sexy when their mad? All flushed and hot and bothered.
"Don't you see?"
My ex-fiancé had asked me that, "You've changed, you're different, don't you see you're not the same?"
But I am the same. Still 5'11", still 180 lbs, give or take. Still go by "Jack." Maybe not seeing that I'm not the same is part of the cafard that I wouldn't see back then. Do you want to see?