I once heard that the largest rivers in the world don’t cascade from high mountains, they silently churn across the tract less sea in wide ribbons of kinetic force. Time here in Baghdad flows like those broad currents, always churning forward in some great anonymous flow. Out here a calendar isn’t just a schedule. It’s a map. And a lifeline. And an anchor.
There is no pattern to our days here, no chronological landmarks to tether your memories to. You don’t realize how comforting the orderly progression of the week really is until the days of the week become arbitrary symbols. Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday. Thursday. Friday. Saturday. Sunday. In a world far from this place these words carry power. But here in Baghdad they sit idle and useless. There are no weekends to look forward to, no hump days to cleave the work week into manageable chunks. There is just the slow march of the calendar. Day after day. Month after month. Life reduced to geometry, with each square representing a day. And each page a callous reminder of all that has been lost, and how much more must yet be borne.
Today is a sad anniversary of sorts, because it marks the one year point in our deployment. Twelve pages of my calendar now lie crumpled, the discarded paper bearing witness to a year of youth and a year of life… gone. I am still proud to serve here with my fellow Nightstalkers, but pride isn’t a magical pill that heals all hurt. It doesn’t make the days ahead seem any shorter. Fortunately the road ahead is shorter then the road behind. And for now that will have to be enough.