The End of the Line
When you are far away from everything that is comfortable and familiar, you have to make do with what you’ve got. Pops told me that in order to cope better out here, I need to make a life for myself. Get a hobby, get into a routine, find something that’s enjoyable. Sooner or later the time will pass and then one day it’ll be time to go home. I took his advice. I found a piano in the USO and even though I suck at it, I decided to go in there everyday and play for an hour. I heard they are offering French lessons soon, so I signed up for that, plus some college courses. All that study should keep me busy. And then of course, there’s running. I honestly enjoy running now that I’m somewhat decent at it. I’m not the fastest runner and I will never come in first but it has become rather enjoyable for me. Before this deployment, I was running a road race almost every weekend, so I was very happy to know that they had 5Ks and other races here.
Since I’ve been here my 5k time has improved dramatically. I’m not at my goal of sub-25 minutes, but I’m working on it and that is helping me pass the time here. I know that is not much: shitty playing on the piano and running, but that is all I’ve got to go with right now so I am clinging to it. I am not magically cured, but it’s been working for me.
But what do you know… these people are doing everything in their power to strip away even the most minute happiness I can find. I did not think it was even possible. You never have much freedom in the army; you have even less when you’re in a war zone. I knew that coming here, but little did I know that I would be treated worse than any prisoner in a maximum security penitentiary.
When we first arrived they put out a memo (you got the memo, right?) about the civilian clothes policy. The long and short of it is that we are not permitted to wear civilian clothes. I’m kind of annoyed at it, but I guess I’ll wait till next summer to prance around in my daisy dukes and bikini top (since that’s all I packed). There were a few exceptions to the policy and even though I thought it was stupid, I figured it was a compromise in a system where everyone on the bottom is a piece of shit and you just have to deal with it.
I don’t really need to quote the whole memo but one of the exceptions is that we could wear civilian clothes to MWR events. One such MWR event is the monthly 5K run. There’s a weekly fun run, but the monthly run is usually in honour of some kind of holiday and they give you a t-shirt for it. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Martin Luther King, Marine Corps birthday, whatever they can find, they’ll have a race for it and you get a t-shirt if you finish in a reasonable amount of time. Sure, it’s the same route every time and there’s a whole bunch of shitheads with poor race etiquette, but the point is for me to find something to focus on other than being depressed.
They have the races at 6AM and the whole thing takes like 30 minutes, if you’re a somewhat decent runner. When the race is over you get some breakfast or you get a shower and then you put on your uniform and return to your regularly scheduled program. Nobody is trying to hang around in their sweaty running clothes all day long.
They have issued a new fatwa, or rather they claim to have clarified a previously issued fatwa. You may not wear civilian clothes at the MWR races. This is what makes me want to stab myself in the eye. This is what demoralizes me. You should be happy that people are getting out of their fucking beds at that ungodly hour to do any form of physical exercise. When they made us do mandatory PT back in Texas, you should have heard the complaining. It was godawful. Now you have people willing to get up on their own, without being forced, to do something physical and there’s a problem. This shit is not required. I’m doing it because I think it’s good for me, both mentally and physically. I think as you should be saying, “Well, at least they’re doing something constructive.” We’re not getting out of our beds at 6AM to shit in the fucking shower, or to rape, burn and pillage.
The crazy part is that this is like the fourth race I’ve run in civilian clothes and suddenly now everyone wants to clarify things. I am not the only one; there’s several of us and we are all dressed decently, in running clothes. No one is coming out in a thong or an offensive t-shirt, or something that will cause alarm. Which they should be fucking happy, because I normally wear either teeny-tiny booty shorts or some skintight obscene pants. I put some thought into what I would wear while on an army base, serving on active duty. That is what eats me alive is that they didn’t give any of us a chance to show that we know how to act like civilised human beings. They automatically assumed that everyone would go ape shit. The civilian clothes policy was idiotic from jump, but now it’s just an example of sheer lunacy. I know it is ridiculous but I get this mental image of some jackass watching from afar, like, “Hmm, I think I see a little bit of happiness. I MUST CRUSH IT!!” Everyone claims they understand the reasons why we’re not being allowed to wear civilian clothes. I’ve heard everything from a fear of anarchy to a fear of sexual assault. I’m sorry, but I think my chances of being gang raped in the middle of a 5K race is low.
All I really wanted to do was have one run where I am actually comfortable. I don’t have the stupid army shorts crawling up my ass, or cutting off my circulation, or the too-hot army PT shirt rubbing my skin raw. For 30 minutes once or twice a month, I am a human being, a normal human being. When I am running, no one is talking to me. There is no one else but me. For 30 minutes. And now I do not even have that.
But whatever. There’s not much I can do about it except rebel in my usual fashion. I will no longer participate in any of the 5K races. I will stay my fat lazy ass in my bed. I don’t need to get up when it’s fucking freezing cold outside to run no-goddamn-where, to collect a whole bunch of T-shirts that I’m not allowed to wear anyway, and I’ll probably just set those bitches on fire when I get home so I can erase all memories of this living abortion.