Friday is everyone’s day off, and most of the guys here, exhausted from the 10- to 14-hour-day work week, would shut themselves up in their rooms and sleep it off. I’m the only one that takes the day off on Saturdays, so on most Fridays it’s just me out on the camp and the few gurkha guards that rotate and stay on security duty all days of the week. Fridays are time sheet days, that’s when I spend most of the day going over the hours everyone logged flying planes and choppers, repairing them, or doing other support work that is necessary in getting our birds to fly.
As a brief diversion, I like to take my coffee mug and sit outside at the little gazebo where we have our barbeques and gatherings. On Friday afternoons such as this, at 1400, with no missions, no flights coming in or out, no one else is around. I have the entire sweep of the view to myself. The camp looks abandoned, everything seems at a standstill. The gates are closed, the hangar doors are shut, the helicopters are still. Even the dust seems to have stopped its incessant swirling. I sit still and enjoy the quiet. No one will be in sight for hours, if I am lucky.
After a week of being attentive and tending to people’s needs, I feel relief just sitting here, no one to talk to, no one to listen to. Kandahar is home to such contradictions–a frenetic pace all week, and then suddenly you have this pocket of absolute quiet. The sky above is a cloudless blue, so crisp and clear it makes me think of the hidden island beaches of my hometown. Looking out on the flight line, I can almost believe there is a sliver of blue out there on the horizon, a secret beach with waters warm as milk. Almost.
I think about everything and nothing in particular, letting my mind drift and relax for a few minutes. A lot of times, I hear people complain about the bleakness of this place, how there is not much to do or see, how nothing much happens. At times like this, in the stillness of the moment, I don’t mind the bleakness as much. In fact, it is a welcome respite from all the noise of the week that was. I miss the quiet that allows for a little bit of introspection, sometimes I think I crave it.
This is my second year here, and I admit there are times I curse the luck that has brought me to Afghanistan. But for most times, strangely enough, I am grateful–glad even–to be here.