Sunday, March 19, 2006
Significance in a Sign Shop
Here is a pit. A gash, paralleling the Iraqi border as far as I can see both ways east and west. Jumping across the pit looks about as easy as kicking yourself in the nuts which is as hard as finding something to juxtapose against the previous comparison. Our mission? Throwing things at poor, Iraqi children. They’re supposed to catch it—even if with their face.
We drive down several kilometers with our treats bouncing around in the rear compartment. The desert is never a smooth ride. The desert is anything except comfortable.
Several mud huts pocking the landscape on the other side remind me how far from home I’ve ventured today. Gardens and goats hug close against the desiccated homes. The winds and the rains have stopped. The dryness of the sand, indicative of how the weather may not have deigned to slum upon this peasant soil. Weather, she can be a haughty bitch sometimes.
The children spot our sandy plume and I can see them running for dear life on an intercept course. We stop the SUV and whip out the treats. The kids skid to a stop at the lip of the manmade canyon.
The yells of the sandy ones are shrill and immediate and incomprehensible. I don’t speak the language but my own anthropologic studies suggest a possible translation, “Gimmegimmegimmegimmmegimme
We pitch our charity skyward. Our charity is made up of hard things like Gatorade, candy, soda, toys and whatever else we could grab—stuff no one should have to catch. We underhand throw our American products across the barrier to the poor desert children on the other side who ran out of dried mud for anything we care to give.
I wonder if maybe I smacked a little girl with a Tropical Punch Gatorade tossed about twenty feet across to clear the gap. It may have ricocheted off her face. She smiles as she picks her prize off the sand and jumps up and down yelling for me to toss her another one. She’s a tough one.
A couple of adventurous catchers almost fall over the edge trying to get at something thrown too short. Someone in our group gasps loudly.
“Do they even like any of this stuff?” I ask the Kuwaiti Sergeant who just pulled his Army vehicle up behind us to see what’s going on.
“They will not keep any of it” he replies with a smile, “They will sell it all and bring the dinars back their family. Look, that little one is asking for your watch—oh now they all want a watch.”
Look back and every one of the children is pointing to their wrist. More gimme.
Feeling like a Good Samaritan yet guilty for not bringing more, I drive away back through the border purgatory to get back to base. My mind should rest in an ease of post altruistic harmony but I can’t help but wonder what those friendly little kids will grow up into. Will their adult forms hate America? Will tossed M&M’s be the catalyst that creates the next Iraqi I-Atota-Li Hay’t am-Erican or will that yellow bag be an emissary of good will that grows into a Sheikh of benevolent import, halting the measures of the Antichrist as he sews his seeds throughout this sandy region in search of a Revelation? Will they inherit or make more mud huts and be happy enough?
As we drive past, the shitty parking lot remains still and another fly lands on my lips.
This time, I really want that fucker off my face. I strike fast and hard. I wince. It retreats. I pursue. It must die. The parking lot gone past, my mind still on the pest and the desert encroaching, I want only for the death of this tiny life.
Driving back to our encampment, I feel heady from the day. I’ve seen too much today my brain whispers. Then I spot the camel laying a few feet from the road. She’s on her side and a brand new baby camel tries rising to her feet. Mommy camel looks wiped out with a trail behind her. Did she drag herself or did someone drag her to that spot?
Now you’ve really seen too much today shouts my brain. It’s just way too close to be shouting that way.
I drive away from the scene with death and rebirth and politics and symbolism and life and cyclical forces spinning up dust in my mind and bug guts still stuck to the palms of my hands.
There’s an epiphany out here somewhere for anyone with enough energy to go hunting. Right now, I’m way too self-absorbed for that kind of thought.
Posted by SwallowedAlive