Ok, so I was just emailing a friend and I remembered an episode in the past. It all revolved around a carrot cake.
Readers, you have no idea how sublime carrot cake can be. Especially after a long tour filled with unhygienic circumstances, tons of rice and goat meat, and stolen melons.
Lemme set the scene. It was September of 2011, a pretty bad month. The little team I was on went through about a month of combat operations up in the mountains, lots of bad stuff happened.
Some vivid imagery from that period.
Bullets clipping off marijuana buds and tree leaves. A pair of fighters that flew beneath me in the midst of a firefight. An Apache chased away by RPG fire. An explosion witnessed from afar that looked like a mushroom cloud. Purple mountains with snowy caps, rapid running streams. Dusty villages as old as time. Oxen pulling wooden plows. Old men listening to the radio, powered by a little Chinese generator. Talking with bombers, their crews would fly back to Al Udeid after their mission. Fear. Disgust. Loathing. Prayer.
So like all things, the period ended. Our weary team returned to our firebase in the “rear,” there was a ghetto little chow hall there run by the 2-18 Infantry.
We were quite the sight. The Colonel was wearing an Air Force flight suit, our Team Sergeant had a “Fuck Al-Queda” T-shirt on, my left arm was swollen up to the size of an American football. We all had beards and probably stunk to high heaven. We were covered in dust, I had a cough that wouldn’t quit. We smoked Pakistani L&Ms, there was nothing uniform or regulation about us, and we didn’t give a shit.
We cleared our weapons and headed into the chow hall.
My eyes were drawn immediately to a carrot cake. I had to have it.
Grabbed a tray, plopped an unknown number of pieces of cake upon it. Heaped mashed potatoes on top, for good measure added some fine Army gravy. Sat down across from some random Department of the Army civilian sorts. Started to eat. A lot.
One of the DA guys spoke.
“Hey Lieutenant. We heard about you guys.”
I said nothing, looked at him for a second and then I jammed another bite of mashed potato and carrot cake in my mouth.
“The Apaches got shot to shit. You were there?”
“Yeah.” I swigged at some mystery fruit juice.
“Good fuckin’ job, LT.”
I probably nodded, can’t really remember much after that. I felt a fierce pride in my team, our band of misfits. And I felt pain. A lot of pain.
The carrot cake helped. The shower that followed was amazing.
A clean toilet, a real bed. God, it was paradise. I wept when the C-17 finally carried us away from Bagram Air Base.
Ever since, all I can see here back in the world is paradise. People have no idea how good they’ve got it; piles of carrot cakes if you want. Amazing food, relative safety.
I ended up in the hospital, the Army and I parted ways.
Unfortunately, I kept eating as if I was in that chow hall.
Sooo… I’m doing a lot of walking these days.
And I stay the hell away from the bakery section of Wal-Mart.