'Not From Here,' stories by Nathan Deuel

You are not alone; we are all alone

Northwestern Afghanistan

Northwestern Afghanistan is both real and more real than you can imagine. (Image via Wikipedia)

Another dream. I’m at a crowded airline terminal, and all the other waiting passengers are American high schoolers: Rowdy, urban, multi-cultural, coiled with teen-aged energy.

Under the fluorescent lights, against the soft hush of the industrial carpet, a hefty boy with tanned skin, dark hair, and pimples stands to give a Heil Hilter salute.

He’s rooted there there, tall — is he Mexican, from Latin America? he’s a citizen, though — ramrod and with a blank face, giving this awful salute.

Catcalls ensue. “No he didn’t!” “Oooooh.” “Damn, that boy crazy!”

But he just stands there, rigid, unmoving, this real boy doing something real.

The chaperone bellows for quiet. He’s tall, white-haired, gentle, strong. Reminds me of the old Baltimore Sun Beijing bureau chief, or my 12th grade physics teacher.

His white hair is a beacon in the sea of angry, confused teenagers. He starts reading from a book about architecture in Kandahar. His voice is big, distracting the nervous teenagers, who begin ignoring the Heil Hitler-ing boy, who is still doing his thing.

Then I notice two newspaper reporters at the front, near the gate to board the plane. They’re from the Daily News and the Times.

The Daily News guy — khakis, chewed pen in mouth, bed head — interrupts. “But how do the pages relate to the boy,” he says, gesturing with his thumb.

It is then I realize that we’re all on our way to fight in Afghanistan. These aren’t students; that isn’t a teacher. We are soldiers and this is war.

“On the plane,” the white-haired man says, silencing the reporter, me, the chattering soldiers. “You might consider talking to this boy. Or he might corner you, to talk. I don’t like what he’s doing. But he has every right to do it.”

It’s all so mannered and genteel and real, I think, unlike the internet.

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Filed under: Afghanistan, U.S. Military, War, World, Writing, , , , ,

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