At first, our provided room is an industrial-looking control deck of some sort, with big, archaic machines made in "Jugoslavija", arrays of piping and wires traversing parallel and perpendicular along the walls. Ventilation ducts and flourescent lighting cover the ceiling, a short ladder climbs to some dark, low passageway no one bothers to explore, and bunk-bed skeletons litter the floor.
Mattresses are dragged up from somewhere and the bunks are given flesh. A pair of exposed wires is jerry-rigged into an outlet and, soon, coffee is brewing. A small, makeshift table made out of plywood and 2"x4"s is found, along with a couple of plastic chairs, and a Spades game starts up. A pile of magazines, old and new, appears out of nowhere.
There are an odd number of steps in each flight of stairs down to our berthing; from the top: eleven, corner landing, nine, landing, nine, corner landing, three.
The reservoir playfully refuses cigarette butts flicked off the North side of the dam, sailing them back up and overhead.
The gusty winds that blow across the top of the dam can be avoided on the way to chow by going down the quarter occupied by the Azerbaijanis stationed here, and crossing over on the seventh deck.
Just as I'm getting good at navigating the dark stairwell without resorting to my flashlight, we're already leaving. That's the way it is though: we get comfortable someplace, settle in, only to pack up and leave, mostly never to return. All I can do is hope the next FOB has an internet center and decent chow.
On different scales, I think about the creature I was when I arrived here, what I am now, and what I will be when I leave for good. I wonder how much I will be leaving here, how much I will take away with me, and whether I will be greater for having been here, or smaller. Narcissistic, I know.
Things I wish I could bottle and give away as gifts:
- Stepping out of the stifling sulfur stink into brilliant morning.
- Modest, persistent whirlpools in the reservoir at the dam's edge.
- Interference patterns that manifest as whitecaps.