She has been hiding here for almost three days…she is basically lying in a sewer. The smell and wetness don’t affect her anymore. To get the shot she must not move. The target is hiding out in a bombed out building. She didn’t eat, barely sipped enough water to stay alive and wore basically a diaper for urine. She has had very little solid food in her so her bowels did not move…she stayed hydrated and that is key but if the shot took much longer she would inevitably grow weaker. One time she stayed in a position for six days…recovery was rough. She would need intravenous fluids after this and a push of vitamins and electrolytes as well but she knew her body and she knew her window of time and the clock was running.
She is well camouflaged by a versatile cape that also provided some protection from rain and dampness. Her small frame is every inch muscle. She is tall and lean. Her rifle is wrapped in strips of burlap and tied down with yarn to ensure no reflection from the sun. To be a good sniper you simply must have common sense. It is a matter of fact. What is the distance to the target? How will gravity influence the bullet across its travel distance? What are the wind conditions? Is the target moving? Is the target getting too comfortable with his hiding place and becoming less vigilant? If the target is moving, how fast is his speed? Most people believe being a good sniper is all about control and having the best rifle but she begged to differ. She believed it all came down to what she believed about herself, about what she knows she is capable of, and what she is willing to do to get “the shot” the first time. She does “know” her rifle intimately however. It is like a part of her body. She knows the rifles scope like she knows her husband. She is precise about everything. Being the best sniper involves making decisions in the split of a millisecond and knowing it is the right decision without question. She is able to slow her mind. She thinks “I am one with this sewer, I am sound. By the time you hear it and try to process it, it’s too late because I am already gone.”
Yes she is a woman. She is a soldier. She is a Special Forces soldier. She is here to serve her country. She does not worry about PTSD or being raped by anyone. Those are the only subjects most of the world like to talk about when it comes to women in the military. She has never been disrespected by male soldiers and she has never disrespected a male soldier. Her calling is to be the best soldier she can be and she is a good one. She is an even better sniper. She will not hesitate to kill the enemy. She does not count her kills but she has never regretted even one of them. She has saved the lives of hundreds of soldiers by doing her job and being the best. She is a daughter, sister, wife, and mother. She is a woman. She is brave and she is one of the elite in her field. She is part of a controversy, not by her choice, in America regarding women in the military but she will carry on because her country needs her. She is paving the way for other smart determined women soldiers. She has counted the cost and is willing to pay the cost. She is an American hero…ahhh, here is the moment, the millisecond has arrived, and she takes the shot…it is done.
He said, “I get my meanness from the gutter and I get my kindness from God.” I sat down under the bridge with him and I said, “I think I could say the same.” He looked at me square in the eyes and I could see he was surprised by my response. He said, “You don’t look like you know much about the gutter.”
I smiled and said “looks can be deceiving don’t ya know?” Then he laughed. The sound of his laughter was one that made me smile. His laughter was like a nine month old baby’s belly laugh. The kind of laughter where nothing is held back and a sweetness of joy rings from it. I told him I had not laughed like that in ages and he said, “Oh you can only laugh like that when Fury and Thunder have cracked your soul and all the dark places have been opened up and cleaned out and all the pieces are strewn about and you cannot put them back together by yourself. I call it reconcilable purity. This laughter only occurs when you have lost your life to save it and when you were first but now you are last…”
I sat there in sober silence but something inside of me begin to tremble. “Who are you?” I whispered. He said, “I am just an old man who has been given a new heart and all day long I just like to go around and give my heart and life away to whoever might need it for a minute or two so that they can go about their day with some pure laughter…” The gorged veined, brown spotted hands palmed my face and the old man looked me in the eye and he said, “Go and be, not do. Go laugh and cry. Go and give your life away for someone else and you will see. You will laugh the laugh of “reconcilable purity.”
I met a young sweet boy in high school. He was trying to find his way to manhood with a heart so kind and fragile. I, as well, had no idea how to handle the heart of anyone. I desired to be careful yet there is an “innocent ignorance” of youth that is just brutal… This boy thought that I was unattainable as he watched me from afar laughing with other boys… Oh the angst of those lovely awful years of high school! None of us can know the “power” we have to hurt others…I certainly didn’t.
I liked high school for mostly social reasons. Academically I was only interested in English Lit, and writing with a little bit of interest in history. I suppose I was a “cool kid” in the world of “labels” that befall us in high school. However I was terrified of being a fake. I will never forget one of my classmates who could cut you deeply with his wit…he reminded us almost all of the time that we were ALL fake! I just love that he did that. (Thank you Bill)
One day the sweet boy waited for me after school and asked if he could give me a ride in his car. I said yes and his face turned red. At the time I had no idea how much courage that took but I understand it now. After all the possibility of rejection drives the human soul to craziness.
Now it is some forty years later but I have never forgotten that gentle boy…he went his way and made his life. He is a man now. A good man. I knew he would be…and even now I will smile when I remember what he said to me one day…”you are beautiful inside and out”…such few words yet having a major impact. I took those words with me from that day. I have tried to live up to them and failed many times. It made me want to be a better person…it still makes me want to be better…Thank you sweet boy…I remember…
“now to see things clear is hard enough I know while you’re waiting for reality to show…but when you have a real friend somewhere it makes all the others so much easier to bear…” Jackson Browne