The "I" in Dynamite
By Dominic Laing
This is, I’m told, the happiest place on earth.
A dream, I’m told, is a wish your heart makes.
And this, I’m told, is the place where dreams come true.
I can feel the sound echo against my chest, and I reach for my M-4 Carbine. I pinpoint the location of the sound and with the nearest members of my unit. I estimate the distance between us and the enemy, and judging by the number of blasts, I estimate the number of his forces.
My hands do not shake because I am scared. My hands shake because when I reach for it, there is no M-4 Carbine. There are no members of my unit, and there is no distance between the enemy. Because there is no enemy.
I shake as I crouch low in my bunker, so as to avoid being sighted by the enemy.
I shake as I crouch low in the corner of the bathroom, so as to avoid being sighted.
The tile amplifies the sounding echo of the enemy, and with every echo rushing my shore, I have to fight the temptation to reach for my gun.
I have not been taught to look up. I have been ordered to get down. I have not been conditioned to look at colors in the sky. I have been commanded to remain on guard at all times. I cannot let my guard down, because somewhere out there is an enemy.
And the enemy is after me.
This is, I’m told, the happiest place on earth. This is, I’m told, the happiest place on earth. And so long as I keep repeating that to myself, so long as I lock my head between my knees and keep my hands locked together, I won’t cry and I won’t break.
A dream, I’m told, is a wish your heart makes. And this, I’m told, is the place where dreams come true.
I dream of being strong. And I must be strong...because the enemy is always after me.
Four hours a shift. Ten hours between shifts. An hour and a half prep course given before each shift. This is the song that never ends. It goes on and on...my friends?
The last thing I remember stretching out so far was the ocean. The ocean and the desert, stretching out forever and ever.
Meanwhile, I am forced to wait. And so I will. I will wait and rest and prepare and wait again, as sands and waters stretch out forever and ever.
But you do not think about eternity in the tower. You think about the next ten minutes, about how to react when you hear mortar fire, about how hot it is and about how life is moving on without you. You are ordered to wait, by decree of your government and commanding officers.
You are ordered to stand still and witness the passing of time.
The first thing I see is an appetizer plate with barbecued chicken wings, and I know I could eat nothing but chicken wings for the next thirty years.
The second thing I see is my friend, and I know he’s here to kill me.
He must’ve picked this table. There’s someone in the parking lot, someone hidden in a car with a scope. He can see our table through the adjacent window, and as soon as I sit down, he’s going to put a bullet through my skull.
For a split second, I imagine my blood splattering all over barbecued chicken wings.
No, I thought. He must be here to kill me himself. He’s the person I’d least expect. He’s hiding a gun under a table or a knife behind his back. Everyone seated at the nearest tables are with him. They’re going to surround me and kill me. The whole matter of my death’ll be over in seconds.
And for a split second, I felt calm, as calm as I’ve felt since the last time I fired a gun.
He stands, and I ready myself for death.
“Hey, Kirk” he says. And he opens his arms.
I blink once, twice. I’m in an Applebee’s. In front of me is someone who knew me from Before, someone I taught how to surf. I blink again, again.
For the entire lunch, I’m convinced the male in his mid-40’s seated at my five o’clock is going to cut my throat. Either him or my friend seated across from me.
If someone asks you, “What’s your favorite movie?” You typically respond with something akin to, “Gee, I don’t know. There’re just so many.”
Which is bullshit.
The answer to a question is either “yes,” “no,” or a specific item/location/amount/reason.
There is an answer to every question.
Make a list of every movie you can ever remember seeing. Take your time. You have four hours in the tower, ten hours off, and ninety minutes prep before each tower shift. This is, one feels, never-ending, so be thorough.
When you’ve finished making the list, look at the first two movies on the list. Between “Gladiator” and “Legally Blonde,” which movie do you like better? PIck your favorite.
Look at the next two, and pick your favorite.
Look at the next two. Pick your favorite.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
This process works for any preference you may have and any part of your personality. I know the name of my favorite movie, my favorite book, my favorite TV show, may favorite band, my favorite song, my favorite combination of weather and temperature, my favorite city in the United States, my favorite color, the top three personality traits I look for in a woman and the last meal I would want to have were I to die tonight.
With enough patience, you will discover exactly who you are to the most finite detail. You will know that you know that you know that you know yourself entirely.
You will also, beyond a shadow of a doubt, go insane.
I can feel the texture of the sand at my feet. I can feel the mist accumulate on my skin. I can hear distant shouts and screams. I keep my hands locked together and tell myself those screams are not people I know, and that no one is trying to kill me.
I breathe through my nose and smell the ocean air. I keep my eyes fixed on the waves and tell myself to look straight ahead. I feel every heart beat against my chest. I visualize the rhythm of my heart and the rhythm of the ocean waves.
I wait and I watch the waters stretch on forever and ever.
The sun has seconds before it disappears over the horizon. Soon, it will be dark.
When I was fifteen, I took a girl surfing during red tide. “Red tide” is the term given to a specific kind of algae, a phytoplankton with the scientific name Lingulodinium polyedrum. In the daytime, the algae is a brownish-red. However, at night, the motion of the waves churn the algae and produce a bright blue glow under the surface.
I can see the sand and the water. I can feel the chill and I can see the water churning. I can feel my chest rise and fall with every breath I take. I can see the waves rising and falling, crashing and climbing against the shore.
I will always love the water. But I will never trust it again.
A dream, I’m told, is a wish your heart makes.
Soon, it will be dark.