Come As You Are
I strolled into the desert that night outside Kuwait with the notion that I might eat my gun.
I had to be away. I had to be alone. It was not possible to lead men who had seen you fall apart, who had seen your hand shake, who had seen the doubt in your eyes.
They called me the Iceman because I knew how to hide that shit. I had always known how to hide that shit.
Sometimes though, I ran out of places to put it. If I were home I would jump on my bike and ride as fast I could. Ride away from this failure of self. Ride toward some new secret place in my mind that could hold these terrible memories. One of a thousand that I did not want. One of a thousand that needed a place that I had yet to make.
I would walk until I put them away where they belonged.
This is why she left you. Too many spaces that she couldn’t get into.
Ah, and there they were, the devils that lived in my brain. The ones that told me my wife cheating on me with my best friend was my fault.
Hello, old friends. Go fuck yourselves.
Sometimes, I was sure I was crazy. The rest of the time I was sure that what was happening around me would make me that way. It was supposed to be so simple. I needed simple. I got anything but, always.
I wanted to be a warrior. I wanted to save the innocent, punish the evil and fall like the hammer of God across this ancient land. Ray had been right, I wanted to slay the fucking dragons. I could not countenance being made into one. It set me against myself.
When I was sure that I was far enough away that no one would hear me I fell to my knees and let the shakes take me. I felt like my skull would crack along with my chest when I gave it reign. How long I knelt there I don’t know. I only know that in that spot, in the middle of the desert she found me.
Was she looking for me? Had I been looking for her? Was it just a happy crappy coincidence? Fuck, for all I know it was a madman’s delusion.
What I do know was that I needed her.
This is an ancient land, I remembered someone saying as she came toward me. Wars have been fought here forever. She might have been the angel of death that graced every battlefield to take the soldier’s home.
She might have been here to take me now.
I would have felt better if I had known whether or not I wanted her to.
Instinctively, I tightened my grip on my gun, and leveled the scope at her to get a better view. I could see her with my eyes as though she seemed to walk in sunlight in the darkness, but on the scope there was nothing.
I wiped my eyes and shook my head to clear it. She was still there, and not there.
I rose to my feet suppressing the urge to fire, it was a woman. Warriors who slew dragons didn’t shoot women. Fucked up shit like that was why I was out here in the first place.
Still she came there and not there. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. Clearly, crazy had finally claimed me as her bitch.
The box was squawking, Hit Man Actual was calling, but he sounded so far away, and a moment later her voice completely drowned out the squawk.
“Warrior, you have summoned me.” Did I? I didn’t know. “Your pain calls to me.” Well, if that is the case, where the fuck have you been my whole painful life? “I have been waiting for you. I am always waiting for you to find me.”
She stood before me and seemed to be reading my thoughts. Her deep blue eyes and light blonde hair were unexpected in a place where the natives were all dark. She reached a hand toward me, touching my cheek softly. The scent of cool water and redemption came wafting to my nose, overriding the stench of my unwashed body.
“Who are you?” I managed to rasp out of my sand filled throat. It was not only the lamest question, but the only question that I could think of to ask.
“Dejederee, is what you have called me lives long past.”
“Dejederee,” I repeated, and somewhere inside me, I knew that I knew that name. That I knew this woman, this creature who stood before me. “Child of the sun,” I translated, as though I been waiting to show off for her. I was rewarded with a smile and another lingering touch on my stubbly cheek. I felt my body respond to her touch and her closeness and I moved back a step ashamed to be sporting a boner in front of her.
“You hide from me, Warrior. Why are you ashamed?” Gentlemen don’t behave this way to a lady, is what I thought, but I could not speak it. I was no gentleman and she surely was no lady.
“When you first came to me you called yourself Alexander and hailed from a land called Greece. Then as Mark Antony of Rome. Countless times, countless warriors, countless names. How now, Warrior?”
“Brad Colbert, from the United States.” I was captivated by her. Her head came to the top of my shoulder, making her around five foot ten or eleven. She was dressed in what my mind told me were harem clothes, belly dancers clothes, in shades of deep blue and purple like an early night sky. They were reminiscent of the old television show I had loved as a child, I Dream of Jeannie.
I’d spent hours watching re-runs of the lovely Barbara Eden in her pink genie costume. She had been my first erotic muse when I was old enough to entertain such thoughts. I’d never thought of it, but I had been attracted to blondes my whole life, probably because of those very prepubescent fantasies.
Were those things tied to the woman who stood before me? Had I been seeking her, unknowingly all my life?
Did she just tell me that I had been Alexander the Great? Mark Antony?
What the fuck?
“Brad Colbert,” she repeated, tasting this, drinking me down. “It’s been so long, Brad Colbert. I have missed you.” She stepped to me than and placed her hands on my face pulling me gently to her. “Let me,” she said and I found myself bending down to her lips.
Her kiss was enthralling. I opened my mouth to her, sure I was dreaming of Jeannie in another way, probably in my grave back at base-camp about to embarrass myself in front of the squad by shooting a load in my shorts. As before, I just didn’t care. It had been so long since I had touched a woman, any woman, even in my dreams.
She moaned as I opened to her and I dropped my gun in the sand so that I might hold her closer. Her arms slid around my neck and imagined that I could hear her in my mind.
There is always war, and you are always drawn here to it, my love. Let me heal you as I have in days of old, in lives long past.
Yes, I thought to her, images first of the warrior in dress blues slaying the dragon with a shining sword, followed by all the ways that dream had been subverted, tarnished.
All the ways that I had been subverted and tarnished.
The substandard equipment, the idiot command, the civilians that couldn’t seem to get out of the way of our march to liberation and victory, their mangled bodies haunting me each time I closed my eyes for more than the space of a blink.
Then she went further. She drank the pain of my wife’s betrayal, the loss of my best friend and I felt the barbed wire around my soul loosen for the first time in so long it felt like I might collapse and lose our connection just from relief alone.
On she went, to the pain of growing up the only six foot four blonde haired Jewish boy in our synagogue. I loved my parents and they loved me, but that had made it easier to camouflage that I was not truly part of the Jewish family and culture. I was a convert, raised in the tradition and accepted but never embraced.
I had always been on the outside, where nothing could touch me.
She took the pain and the delusion that I had chosen this life and then gave the one thing that I had always needed.
She accepted the pain, the scars, the loneliness, the ideals that crucified me from the inside out every day that I tried to walk the line between what is and what should be.
I’ve waited so long for you, Dejederee, I thought to her, tangling my large hands in her hair, and pulling her closer, that she might eat me more quickly. She could have it all, if only she accepted me.
Always, my love, I heard her whisper in my mind. I will always accept you, always be here waiting for you when you need me the most. I could never turn away from you. I would never turn away from you, no matter your face or name, you are my Warrior and I am your Dejederee.
Always, I promised holding her closer, deepening this kiss of souls.
Always, she echoed.
“Brad.” Her arms held me tighter.
“Brad!” I felt her slipping away.
“Wake up, Brad!” I was losing her.
“Wake the fuck up, Brad! Team leader meeting now!”
I opened my eyes and found that my face was covered and I was in my grave. “I’ve been asleep fifty six minutes,” I growled out, checking my watch and adjusting my hard on under the covers before rolling up with intent. I grabbed my gun and headed toward to meeting. “I only had time for one dream.”
“At least you got to dream. Was it good?”
“I was in Iraq,” I mumbled as I marched away. Halfway to the meet I stopped and looked over my shoulder into the night. It had been so real.
“Dejederee,” I whispered, looking out into the darkness. I felt as though a weight had been lifted. I couldn’t remember ever feeling so light in the center of me before.
“Brad,” she whispered back to me on the wind. “Warrior…” The hair stood up on the back of my neck again and I had to make myself turn away. It felt like I had left part of me out in that desert, in that dream?
As I knelt in the huddle I wondered if I would find her again in this life or another and if she was real or just a creation of my mind to save my own tortured soul from the hell I found myself in every time my eyes opened in the desert sun.