Thursday, September 29

a letter home

You don't sweat in the desert, not as much as you'd think. You're hot and grimy and you feel that drop of moisture begin to roll down...and then it's gone. It's a creeping feeling, wrong in all the ways we learned in our youth, though at least the bugs are a good deal less.  It is never humid in these mountains, and we have not seen rain in months. We have to be careful around the tribes here, careful of the roads and paths and water rights. The right of a goat to drink before a man has caused more than one confrontation.

At night, we march. We set up camp in the bone-colored light of the desert dawn and it's then I have time to write to you, before the sun fully rises and we can do nothing but try to sleep in the oven of our tents, the sour wine and tough flatbread of our daily ration furring our mouths as we grope after dreams under a molten-silver sky.

I know you wanted me to resign after the last campaign. I hope you've forgiven me by now. I spent only six months in Persia, made such a tiny contribution to our new homeland...well, I wanted more. I want to heap glories on the name I've asked you to share. I didn't know I would be here so long. I don't regret coming, but I do regret our parting. It can't take much more than a year in this wasteland; the great Alexander rides as if Athena herself were at his side.

I wish I could have brought you instead of all the wine in the supply train, though the women of the camp would make you poor companions. They are desert women, draped in their fortunes, with hawklike grins hid behind a number of veils. The odd, muted clashing of their robes and coins reverberate in the silent morning as they go about the homely tasks of making bread, pressing the cheese from the whey for our nightly meal. The complaints of the goats, and the odd tribal tongue in which they are addressed, have become our lullabies instead of the poets in your courtyard.

I think of you constantly, and wish to have you by my side. I cannot see you here yet. Perhaps in the new Alexandria we will build upon the river, the one they call Oxus. The desert people have already named it in their own tongue as well, Ai Khanoum. I am told it means "Moon Lady", a fitting tribute to the future home of my own maiden. May Artemis guard you, my love, and Hera Teleia guide you soon to my side.

It took the army of Alexander the Great six months to conquer Persia (present-day Iran), and something like THREE YEARS to subdue what is now Afghanistan.  The pre-Islamic history of the country is fascinating, and something I think a lot of people forget about, which is a shame.
This week's Indie Ink challenge came from Kevin Wilkes, who gave me this prompt: "Write a story about a soldier in Afghanistan".
I challenged Amy LaBonte with the prompt "You only love me when you're leaving".