It was a strange feeling but I knew he was right in every aspect of what he told me. He asked me if I had a girlfriend back in the states. I told him that i was clean in that department and had broken off any ties that I had. He said, that was a wise thing when you are coming to VietNam. It seemed that loneliness and the absence of ones loves played the greatest havoc on ones mind. He further told me it was a long lonely period of time that I was going to spend in this place. There was a lot of boredom and time in which there was nothing to do. He had only just gotten married before he came toTHE NAM. That he said seemed like a mistake but the end was just forty and a wake-up. He told me the separation from his wife played havoc and torment upon his mind. He had seen her for a week on his R&R in Hawaii. R&R was like a vacation from the war. Everyone was entitled to travel for one week, outside of Viet Nam. This seemed to me almost inhuman at times to the point of frustrated insanity.
His marriage was the whole topic of his initial conversation with me. I could only listen and not fully comprehend the emotional upheaval. Partly due to my immaturity and just growing up in life. There was a tormented anguish in the recesses of his eyes, that I came to notice. There was a fear that lurked in the unknown of his being and his emotional plight. Reflection back brought the reason of being killed and never seeing his loved wife again. The mind shattering thought again of dying, ceasing life. Never breathing or feeling the presence of life about you. Young and in the throes of blooming life and manhood, to have it all come crashing down in the fate of war and Viet Nam. The separation from ones loves only heightened that thought to a higher level of reality.
It seemed like the real test of marriage, to my virgin wife. The married guys were quiet and mostly stayed to themselves, in that hollow world that tore ones soul and mind apart. It was their way to read and write letters to their wives. Hold the old letters and lament in quiet. For the single guys it was a test of will power to avoid the profuse prostitution in AN KHE. The single guys would smoke grass and get stoned. There were some married guys but they seemed to shun the events.
This conversation went on for hours then it came into repetition of of the same topic in other uniform words. Then the real deep hurt and loneliness of the guy started to become apparent. That feeling of being ten thousand miles away from home life became apparent to me myself. The ware and tare of time had taken its toll upon him. Loneliness here seemed like a giant leach, that sucked your life and left you an emotionally shattered person inside. There was the inner ruination of the moral and social fiber that made you once a happy person. Now it became a dark hidden monster inside, invisible to the outside others.
After a few hours we went into a sort of sleep. It was the kind of sleep that kept you half awake and half asleep, with Viet Nam as the resting platform. It seemed that there was a force within you that played on your instinct to survive. We rested on the floor to the whine of the radio and the broken static that would break at times. All night was a quiet night but long for the first shift in the tower. You just dreamed of home and a thousand other memories.
Soon the morning was upon us in the tower. The night was quiet and the reality of war was placed in the back of the mind. The early morning brought a misty sunrise, that was different from any other I had ever seen. The air was crystal clear and there was a freshness the was beyond perfection. I took a long stretch that seemed to put life back into better focus. The other guy seemed to be in a slumberous world. The excitement of the new day was upon me. Soon the sun was rising over the horizon of the hills. It seemed like a sharp beam that penetrated every corner of the tower. It shone with the radiance of many blaring candles. Color was an essence in the thin clouds that scattered the sky. The brilliance of the oranges and purples gave one a feeling of no return.
One of the guys from operation came up to the tower. He usually did this as his morning routine, to see what was going on. As he climbed the creaking ladder, my friend jumped up and began to straighten things out. Soon the operations man was through the trap door. He looked around with a smile and a grin on his face. In a joking manner he asked, if we had a good nights sleep. It seemed that this was a standard joke to all involved. The guy with me told him to go fuck himself. That was his favorite expression I was to learn. The operations man said, the officer wanted him to heat the water for the showers. It seemed to much of a funny thing to have been real. Here in the middle of a war, people were enjoying the comforts of a warm shower. Rank did have its privileges, that was a truism. Most of the time the enlisted men bathed in the river. There was a enlisted mans shower that worked on the sporadic workings of a water pump to fill the water tank.
Soon the sun was fully above the horizon. It was going to be another hot day by the redness of the sun. The monsoon season was ended and the hot dry season was upon us. The inside of the tower was getting warm being fully enclosed and no air-conditioning. Not even a fan, there was just a hot house affect. It seemed who ever designed the tower left ventilation out of the plans. This was another problem that I would have to get use to in the course of duty.
My friend went over to the water tank situated of top of the roof. He was going to try and light the fire for heating the water in the tank. It was a crude makeshift operation, but I guessed it did the job. It ran on gasoline and had a crude carburetor system that allowed it to burn at a constant rate. Gasoline I thought to myself.
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