[ double digits ]

by lt. mac

He lay awake in the dark, listening to the sounds in the barracks around him. Familiar, comforting, reassuring.
The men he'd met a little under a year ago had become the most important people in his life.
Sometimes he wondered how he managed before they came along. But remembered that they came along the same time this damn war did. Without the war they wouldn't be.

Without them he wouldn't be.

What was he going to do when it was his turn to go home? His turn to get out of this bad joke they called the Nam.
How could he survive without being able to reach out and feel one of them at his side, watching out for him as he watched out for them. Who’d look out for him when the booby traps were gone and the bombs were silent? Could he manage on his own? Would he ever be as close to another human being as he was to these sleeping men around him?

He was getting close to being short.
Sitting at the edge of those double digits right now felt like Limbo. Like Purgatory.
Either you were in it up to your neck or you were counting the passing days until the end of your tour. He was perched somewhere in between. Where the superstitions start to surface. Where you start to wonder if your luck's just about to run out. Where you start thinking that the next mission you’re out on, is the one where they’ll be scooping you into a body bag.
Saddest of all, it's where your buddies start to pull away. At least that’s what it feels like. But then again, maybe it's you. Maybe once you climb over that fence onto that precious double-digit side of going home, you start heading back to the world deep inside yourself and you're the one taking the steps away from the 'guys'. Pulling back just a little. Unconsciously withdrawing so that when the day comes and you’re on your final chopper ride out of the firebase, it ain’t gonna hurt so bad. You’re hopin’ to hell that it ain't gonna hurt so bad. With a frustrated grunt he rolled off his rack and slipped outside. Things were getting too crowded in there tonight.

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