Waiting on our flight yesterday, Billy and I unwittingly slipped into a sort of spoken review of our entire tour in Afghanistan- the things we learned, the things we wished had been different, the moments we were proud of. "We're sitting here reminiscing on our year," he pointed out, " and we haven't even left yet." We both felt more than a little ridiculous… and then kept on with it. It seems unavoidable. I can't seem to write it all out, yet, but it's coming.
During the flight, we watched bad Arabic music videos and pantomimed our amusement/ excitement to each other over the engine noise. I worked on a sock and tried to ignore the staring; I'm guessing there isn't too much sock knitting going on in military flights.
We landed on Al Udeid; Qatar at night always reminds me of going to basic training in San Antonio. It's warm and humid at night, and there is this orangey light from the city; it never seems to be completely night here. The familiarity in a place that is still essentially so strange to me -despite this being my fourth visit – that is welcome in a playful, unexpected way, every time.
After we cleared immigration and customs we then gleefully unloaded our gas masks, bulletproof vests and Kevlar helmets. Walking into the tent, we were asked, "How can I help you?" and I yelped out, "We'd like to drop off our gear forever and ever, amen, please!" Outside of the weight and bulk of the stuff, there's a symbolic quality to getting rid of all of that gear, checking another box towards Going Home.
Leaving Afghanistan was harder than I thought it would be- as happy as I am to be on my way home, especially to return to my family, I felt something almost like regret. Most of all, though, what I felt as I left- and again, when I arrived in the hotel in Doha- was amazement. How did I end up in this life? Sometimes I wonder if there has been some sort of cosmic mistake, if some other girl is out there living the life I was supposed to get and I'm living hers. I have been so amazingly fortunate- these adventures, all the love in my life, lucky breaks and startlingly lovely moments. The first 20 years or so were a bit rough, but this- all of this, and the gratitude it inspires in me- more than makes up for it, and then some.
(Listening to: Muddy Waters, I Life The Life I Love, I Love The Life I Live, which came up randomly as I was posting this. I love synchronicity.)