Note: Yurei is currently in the Persian Gulf.
Heathrow Terminal Three
Traveling for the last three days, more trouble than it has been worth so far. This started in San Diego some seventy-two hours ago with the first of several plane flights to three countries. I never slept the last
day at home, spending most of my time between noding and packing until shortly before I was due to leave. The last of the checks written and safely stuffed into envelopes I set out to pack the truck and make the obligatory return trip after realizing that I had managed to forget my
sunglasses. 7-11 providing one last touch of Americana prior to leaving, a hastily consumed Mountain Dew washes down the last of the cigarettes smoked on home soil. The ground beneath my feet shifts into a haze of airports and time spent asleep travelling. The space covered seems distant from where I stand now, the location that I inhabit now seems less real for having slept through the passing time used to arrive. In a way I am not here and at the same time everywhere in between the root of my existence and the ship that I am riding in now.
The U.S.S. Lincoln, CVN-72, cuts a wide swath of roiling wake through the waters of the Northern Arabian Gulf. The ship intermittently shudders as planes are launched from the catapults, the roar of jet engines preceding the crashing hiss of the steam catapult hurling more mass into the sky. I stood on the flight deck for most of the previous day watching the planes taxi toward the launch area, carefully checked for last minute problems and then thrown beyond the grasp of gravity. They carry ordnance
that up until now I have only seen pictures of, only heard about through local rumor and myth. They leave with heavy loads straining metal wings only to return empty with another blast of jet exhaust and the unwinding
spool of the arresting wire being pulled from below decks. The war it seems, is real. To what end we push man and machine is lost in the translation between the hectic movement of the daylight hours and the silence bleeding into dawn. The flight schedule stops at 2230, national
defense needs a nap every now and again.
The tale winds down again. I explain to another person what I am doing here over space competed with by the blaring of a television mounted over our heads and the occasional low crash of an endless series of launches. The motivations as to why I would volunteer to come to the Persian Gulf are deadened by this translation into speech, occasionally I shift the conversation away from where it is we are headed only to have a circle drawn in meandering verbal sands. There are people that do not know why it is that I am doing this, why I am asking for this, why someone would be such a fool to come here of all places. To this place and at this time, for no reason. Many things are pointless, pyhrric victories won in inane wars. My desire to give myself to Mars just to see if the open hand is accepted? This is my own and no one else's.
Watching the sun crest over the waters this morning I seriously wonder if this was the right move to make. If the open invitation to dance will be taken, filling in the missing pieces with something more broken than what was there before. The time to be tested calls for a reckoning.
Begging, crawling on abraded knees, it pushes itself forward in a shuffle leaving behind the blood of claimed lives. Forcing open a mouth once wired shut and twisting the shredded flesh into a leering gap-toothed grin, war
sings to be loved again. It pleads with all of us to let it have a kind heart, a gentle touch so that it can stand upright and claim the share of living thus far denied. We know it is there. We hate this creature and yet wish to kiss the deformed mouth, mix violence with passion in a final union. Making the madness ours, justifying the energy and training endured to bring us to this point. The ship shudders and another plane is into the atmosphere bearing another load of ordinance. This machine like the rest will return empty. I watch and wonder what else we're planning on doing today aside from blow shit up. Sweepers, have to keep the ship clean. Bingo perhaps, it is Saturday night.
The alcohol buzz riding heavily over reality from the pint of Boddington's I nursed in the Heathrow airport is gone. Crispness in the air hinting at a coming winter bled into sticky humidity and flies that seem to spawn themselves from nowhere in particular. I desperately wanted to stay there, just loaf around London for a few days before travelling the remaining distance and dropping into what I knew was unavoidable. Trying to deny the eventuality of arriving in this place at this time, with nothing more to do than accept. Slow tendrils of daylight slowly creeping across concrete and brick, the shutter of my camera snapping open and then closed in slow exposure to capture the fading taillights of passing traffic.
Justifying anything at that point was ludicrous, halfway around the world and trapped in a time I could never go back to if I tried. This is what being a brave little boy is, this is facing it like a man. Tired, halfway
around the world from anyone who even remotely knows my name, lost and alone. Capturing the vision of a single moment with film and light twisted by an unblinking lens. This is putting one's money where one's mouth is and
owning up to responsibility. This is not crying when mom puts the iodine on. This is fucking pointless and I have picked the wrong time to come to that realization. Lighting another cigarette while resting on my collected possessions in front of Heathrow Terminal Three, I question if it is indeed futile. If there is no point then why act at all? Why not just sit on my can smoking cigarettes and watching the dawn break in London? A mother and her child stroll by in the pre-dawn gloom, I switch to questioning whether or not I will ever have a life normal enough for kids.
Bounce onto the ship, the decking of the aircraft's floorboards bucks in response to the impact with the steel beneath the tires. The crewman motions for me to depart the HH-60H I rode over to this ship in from the Lincoln as the strangeness of finally being here settles. Wind from the downdraft created by the rotors surges through the open crew window in front of me briefly pushing the M-60 machine gun and the pintle mount it rests on into my knee. Limply pushing at it I unbuckle the web strapping holding me to the seat and climb out of the turning aircraft. Home rolls slowly underfoot.