Saturday, June 21, 2003

Loneliness and Talking to an American Arab from Michigan

21 June, 2003

Well it’s been a few days since I made an entry. Last night I talked to you for about an hour and 45 minutes! Wow! It was so great to hear your voice, and I know it’s hard on you with me not being there to hold you. It really tears me up actually, because being away from you feels so unnatural! It’s hard on me too – and I never get so busy that I forget about being away from you. It just goes on top of everything. I just want this to be over with soon. The anxiety never goes away, it just gets quiet sometimes – but it always hurts.
This morning after I got off the phone, I walked outside and the sun was just barely coming up. The birds were chirping, and the stars were still out. The ambience of the setting reminded me so much of early mornings in London. Something about it reminded me of Chelsea and Kensington. As I walked to my room at 0524 this morning, I missed Nora and I missed Britain. I would like to go back there for a week and maybe visit with Nigel and them in Wakefield. I love England though, I love it dearly.
This morning, I woke up at 1100 and played some Counting Crows on the radio. I got dressed and felt dirty. I walked over to the headquarters. Another freakin’ day with America’s finest. I can’t wait to get out of this place and away from these people. Sometimes it brings me to the edge of exploding. It’s hard to stay positive when I am working with people with the maturity level of a 12 year old. No, Mara is 12, and she is more mature than these people. There is a back area, like a patio, and all they do is sit there in the sun and smoke cigarettes. Fleischmann is out there now running his mouth. These are grown men – and they seriously do nothing all day. Grown men with no talents, no skill, no purpose in life. They act like they are on vacation – and they are as they sit there and hoot and holler like a drunken bar crowd. Grown men acting like children. If these people are America’s finest, then we’re all doomed. God, I want the days to go by faster, because this society of stupid men is driving me nuts. I have to do better than this, I must! I can’t imagine wasting my life with a bunch of juvenile do-nothings. I’ve go to do more! I have but one life!
Well, let me step back a day or two. Two days ago, we went back to the U.N. and then on to downtown Baghdad to pick up Mr. Stanton at his hotel. As soon as we pulled up, his U.N. truck pulled up and we waited for him to go inside and change clothes. The area was pretty nice. Some kids began to come out and play with us in the street. They were really cute. It’s good to be out with them and not talking to them across a wire. They looked at our Hummer and pointed saying, “Wheel, tire, light!” in English. One of the kids gave me a piece of candy. That was the second time, no, third time a kid gave me something to eat or drink. They are really thankful, some little girls came out and asked if we wanted some water – their parents must have sent them out to ask us. The kids are funny, at first they peek from around doors and corners with their little brown faces and big brown eyes. They slowly build up the courage to come closer, with their hands behind their backs, their little shoulders going back and forth. They look at us in amazement. I got down and shook their little hands, and then they quietly got closer and closer, and less shy. They would say something, and I would repeat it. They would all laugh. I was wondering what I said, maybe something silly, but they were all laughing – so it was OK. Then we had to leave for camp. We were taking Mr. Stanton with us. As we drove, people were cheering and waving. We pulled into a nearby market area just to show Mr. Stanton a neighborhood. The streets were packed with people. Lots of families were outside. All seemed peaceful, yet hectic. Many people waved, gave thumbs up saying “Very Good!” This was (is) a Shiite Muslim neighborhood – Shias were oppressed by Saddam. They have nice communities though, and respectable homes. Some look like something you would find in New Mexico. We drove past a square, and two men were standing around with guns – one with a shotgun and one with an AK-47. We would have stopped to arrest them, but Mr. Stanton was with us. There is no reason to have guns like that out in public on a Thursday night (called party night because the next day is holy day for the Muslims).
We came to the camp and Mr. Stanton visited for about and hour. It was then time to take him back downtown. We drove straight there, turned right at the German embassy, and pulled into the hotel. We got out and Mr. Stanton said goodbye to us and wished me luck. Then an Arab guy sitting on the steps of another hotel called us over. He said he was an American. He spoke good English and then showed us his Michigan driver’s license. His wife is American, and his children too, says he. He said he left Iraq 12 years ago and came over to see his father he hasn’t seen in 12 years. It was a surprise for sure. He was from Ann Arbor, Michigan – his adopted home town. I was looking around to make sure no one would come up on us. A lot of soldiers are getting killed by people walking up and shooting them in the head. I wanted the Arab-American to put his license away, because it made it look as if we were questioning him. I made sure to wave to the on-looking men to let them know all was OK. They waved back and went back to their business.
We pulled away in the Hummer to go back to camp. We got on the highway, and the sun was setting, a tan brown was the sky, with dark silhouettes of palm trees going by. All of a sudden, James Taylor started singing so clearly in my head, “I feel fine anytime she’s around me now…” and I leaned my head back in my metal seat, propped my foot on the edge of the doorless space between me and the highway flying by below me, and I thought of you Nora. It was a moment of peace, of trying to be with you in my soul, of feeling your soul with me. It was such a beautiful, calm feeling, with Baghdad passing by. Families would drive by with the dad and the veiled, glowing mother holding her smiling children, the light from the streetlamps flashing their faces – aglow and smiling, their little palms waving, “Mista! Mista!”
We went into a neighborhood, and it was now dark out, but the streets were packed. Then men seem to look at us with suspicious faces, and then you wave to them. They’ll continue to look at you with what looks to be contempt. I noticed that if you wave long enough, they will usually suddenly snap out of what seems to be a disgruntled-looking trance, and wave with a big smile. So, I continued this method of waving – and 80% of the time it worked. They seem as giddy as the kids. Kids were cheering, men were saying “Very good!” with their thumbs up. Of course, not everyone is happy or cheers. We went rolling down a street that looked like any normal suburban place in America – only the houses were brown. Kids were all outside playing, running next to the Hummer with bare feet asking for chocolate.
Some little girls yelled, “I love you! I love you!” and blew me a kiss. Major Stanton thought that was hilarious. He said, “Hey Thompson, she loves you!” I just looked over and laughed, ‘Yeah, yeah, Sir.” Conroy said, “Only Nora, only Nora.” I just smiled. We then got on the freeway and went back to camp. It was good to be out and see and interact with people. They are doing the best they can, even though power is sketchy at best and the place stinks of raw sewage. So much still needs to be done. Again, this place keeps you constantly asking the question, “Is this right or wrong?” in relation to the U.S. government being here. Everyday you get a different answer. When we were driving Mr. Stanton to camp earlier in the day, I saw that little girl with her father again by the canal. I waved again as I did the first time to her a few days ago. I kept waving and she ran out and kept waving back, again, until I couldn’t see her anymore. I caught a glimpse of my face in the side view mirror and I had the biggest smile. I wonder if she remembered me from days before. Her family was so poor, they all looked ragged and dirty. They live in a mud dwelling along the canal.
That night I was able to call you, well actually that next morning (0215). It was so good to laugh with you, we really were laughing a lot. When we hung up, and before then, I had already and unexpectedly started crying a bit. I just missed you so much. I love you so much! When we talked last night we talked about being around and seeing other couples and how it makes you feel lonely. I know what you mean, I just feel helpless to change that. All I can do is support you in my calls and letters. It is such a painful thing to know you are feeling so lonely, and there is little I can do about it. I need you to see us through Spatzi, to stay strong. I love you!


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