Fall 2010. Bad weather, bad luck. Big Jay dies not long after this is written.
Whimsical, sultry vocals from a faded French pop star. I can go anywhere I want, with my eyes closed.
Inhale. Exhale. Focus on the breathing. This is light meditation. I'm told that the deeper states can cause measurable changes in brain function, but I use it to calm myself and doze off when I have the chance for a few hours' sleep on short notice.
I can go anywhere I want. What I want is a green place. Here, there are proper trees, not the overgrown desert scrubs they call trees for lack of a better term. There are freestanding green plants. There is grass.
For a moment, I second guess myself, because I don't immediately remember what grass actually looks like. Here, it looks like green shag carpeting. Don't break the spell, just roll with it, and there are flowers. Cartoonish at first, they are 3D renderings of the chunky Crayola daisies that cover the notes from schoolchildren hanging in the work hooch.
I'm just starting to decide if I want bees to be buzzing in the flowers when, somewhere to the Northeast, something big blows up, and the green place is suddenly gone back to where it came from.
My eyes are open, and the warm breeze isn't the forerunner of a healthy spring rain, it's the neutral blower on the elderly A/C unit. The birdsong is the fat brown trashpicker that lives in the bunker outside, and the only green is the faint glow of my watch and the lovingly patched woobie I wrap myself in to keep my skin from making direct contact with the filthy mattress I inherited from a hundred other unwashed sleepers.
I have to be up again in two hours.
A couple more things blow up. Rotor noise of the Apaches lifting off to go try to take a look. I can toss and turn until my watch beeps to tell me to get up, or I can beat it to the punch and get up now.
I'm shuffling into boots that I could swear are still warm and pulling pant legs down into them, when the gentle hiss of a piss-mist starts up on the corrugated iron roof, and the drips from the eaves send the rats under the floors scurrying.
Grab the green fuzzy; it's the old style, phased out when they got too expensive; stretch fabric side panels and mesh interior pockets; reinforced forearms, not just elbow patches, and no elastic on the cuffs. New guys always ask where I got it, offer to buy it. Maybe they'll inherit one of their own from an old salt who rotates home for the last time, just like I did once upon a time.
Someone's got a bonfire lit, burning paper and trash and the pallets that water bottles come on. Go stand around it, eyes on the fire or the dirt. Studiously avoid the low gray sky, the sixth day of on/off piss-mist, the choppy clouds that mean no fixed wing support. Smoke cigarettes and drink coffee in the mist. Nobody talks. Nobody needs to. We're all not sleeping at the same time.
The fall is here, and the leaves on the trees-not-trees are starting to brown. The rain will stop when the leaves are gone, and the snow will start. The snow will stop when the ice arrives, and when the ice stops, it will be too cold for anything at all to precipitate, except my breath.
The new guy looks bad. I can see his pulse in the thin veins on the backs of his hands. He's gripping the mug so tight that if it wasn't made of metal, he'd probably have broken it by now.
It was the first time he'd ever been mortared. I remember, vaguely, how I felt when I was in his place and fill his mug from the thermos. The good coffee, the stuff I have to hide under my underwear and ration out one pot at a time.
Someone's written "Cloudy with an increased chance of indirect fire" on the weather board.