Waiting for joy

Why can’t I stop my body from shaking and convulsing like I have my hands on an electric fence? I feel so shamed; urine keeps seeping out of my trousers and on to the ground, why won’t it stop! It begins to mix with a pool of blood collecting around my waist. Where is the blood coming from? Faces drift in and out of focus like a bad TV signal. I see their mouths moving but I can’t hear a word they are saying. “Am I okay? Am I dying?” but not a word comes out. And can someone turn off that damn ringing; I can feel it slowly burrowing into my skull with claws comprised of shark teeth and chainsaws. I’m trying to open my mouth again, but the only thing that comes out this time is intelligible gurgles and spitting, it seems right now that the only language my body is fluent in is excruciating pain.
It’s difficult even to begin to express or articulate to you how much it hurts, if hurts is even a strong enough word to describe what I’m going through. But I’ll try to describe what it’s like being shot. First the impact is like the sharp pain of getting acupunctured by javelins. Then the contact zone gets real hot, the type of heat you get when your hand is welded to a boiling kettle. Then the real hurt begins when your body has enough time to process exactly what just happened, and then you get the type of pain as if your skin is being scrapped with sand paper wrapped around with barbed wire. I’m dying, I’m going to be dead, deceased, demised or eradicated, whatever you want to call it it’s about to be my reality. I know it only takes a loss of two liters of blood for a human being to die and at the rate I’m going, it will take 2 minutes, maybe three minutes if I’m lucky.
It wasn’t too long ago that my heart was hurling itself with reckless abandon against my chest, while simultaneously blood shoots around my veins with the force of a water geyser. With my khaki overalls adorned with an American flag on my right shoulder, with an assault rifle on my left side, running on top of the rubble of designated buildings under harsh unremitting heat. At that moment I felt unstoppable, a one man army. You don’t even have to own a TV or internet connection to know why I and three other men were making our way through a small little town, while countless over platoons in countless other small towns across this wounded country called Iraq did the same.
I was sent to this country with one specific task to accomplish and that was to return American hostages where they rightfully belong, back home. America doesn’t negotiate with terrorist. The money they save form that philosophy, they use to train men like me into real life Rambo’s. While the rest of the money is used to implant a miniature tracking device beneath the skin of any journalists of American or British nationality that is operating in the Middle East.
The tracker pointed us towards what appeared as a maze of interconnecting houses and alleys ways carpeted with broken glass, concrete and human skeletons. I don’t know if it came from a high vantage point, a hollowed out crack in a crumbling walls or in the heat that very moment, maybe even from my own fellow soldiers. All I did know was I could feel a sharp jolt of pain in my stomach and like a dominoes set on fast forward; it quickly consumed the entirety of the left side of my body. Everything around me was shut out like I was a race horse with the blinders on before a big race. The only thing in my field of my vision was the tracker tumbling to the ground almost as fast as I was.
Why do men go to war? Everyone loves to say they do it because they love their country and their people. But I don’t believe them. In my mind the truth is this; most do it for the glory, the prestige or the medals. Others do it for the excitement of the constant waltz with death and that life affirming addictive jolt of adrenaline. While the few men who don’t like to admit it, go to war because they just plain love killing people, especially when they look like me. I might be wearing the American flag, but without it, I look just like the enemy. So why did I go to war when both sides have a reason to hate me?
I don’t even know why I’m here. I guess I was trying to find something I feel that I’ve have been trying to find all my life, what is that something? Joy. I thought I found it in friends, but they did very little to calm the furious storms of lost in pit of my stomach. So I turned my back on them. I thought I found it in family, but they were unable to douse the raging blaze of uncertainty of self in my head. So I turned my back on them. I thought I found it in the love of a good woman, but she also was unable to ply loose the thorn covered vines wrapped around my heart. So I turned my back on her. My last hope was placed in Islam a father to billions around the world, but it took my short life time to realize that I was always an unwanted adopted child. So I finally turned my back on Allah too. My whole body is going numb now as if I just ducked my entire body under bath of ice cold water.
I’m waiting for the cathartic experience where I see all the happiest moments of my entire life, shared with the people I love the most flashing before me. Finally ending with a bright light enveloping me, accompanied with the voice of Zeus, Allah, Buddah or whoever, telling me it’s okay to go into the light. But I get none of that, instead I get a serpent of regret and remorse slowly constricting my every organ and muscle, only stopping from completely crushing me just to keep me on the fresh hold of this torment awhile longer. At any minute now I will be unable to utter a word.
I don’t want to die; I have no shame in admitting that I’m scared. I’ve never been so scared in my life before. I don’t want to find out what it is like not think or feel joy anymore. I don’t want my eyes to be blinded, my ears deafened and my mouth muted from all the beautiful things the life in me and the life outside of me has to offer. I have had many regrets in my life, and the fact I have no salvation of faith in my darkest minutes is probably the biggest regret of them all, but I truly want and need to accept it now.. I’m out alone in a middle of an ocean of painful uncertainly, with a broken paddle and compass in a quickly sinking boat.
What does the afterlife have installed for me? That one thought is the only thing resonating around my head like a perpetual echo. I have searched for many an answer to my questions. But no religion out there has been able to quench my questions for so many years.
Christianity speaks of a judgment day; when the righteous and true ascend into heaven and the sinners remain on earth. The Hindus speak about reincarnation and how after death your spirit is passed on from vessel to vessel, governed by a force called karma. Then there is Islam which speaks of heaven and hell; heaven as a place of unimaginable divine beauty a reward of a life absent of sin and hell a place of punishment and perpetual torture for those who have sinned. But for a while none of these ever filled me with any semblance of fear or anticipation, they had lost their meaning to me until now.
I’m not sure if it’s too late, but better late than never right? What am I doing, this isn’t a time for cliché jokes. God if you are out there, I need you. I don’t want to be a lone in moment where I need someone the most. I turned my back on you, I know. A I’m sorry can’t even begin to express the remorse I feel from my actions. But I ask you with every ounce of my being and the very last my breath, that you give me that light that I need to guide me through this darkness. I deserve at least that that after a whole life where my only true sin was turning my back on you, but I feel have suffered long enough. You’re not answering. Fine, do you want to know the good I have done?
I denounced my religion at 20, but still Islam’s pure and untainted teachings are still etched deep into my heart, where I wear them with unquestionable pride. When I joined the army in 2003, I was met with a lot of hostility. They didn’t understand my people, our costumes the teachings of our sacred book. The destruction they were seeing on the TV had made them grow bitter and deaf to any arguments I made in support of the good of my people. But I didn’t give up; I stayed loyal to the American people as I did the Islamic. After years of combat together, dinners at each other’s houses and kids play dates, eventually they warmed up to me. So when I began to tell them again about the overwhelming good my people are capable of doing and the beauty that their faith can install in their hearts, they began to listen. I told them about our hero Mohammed and I told their children stories about the guard who found Islam and the carpenter, which they replied with faces of joy and requests to retelling of stories.
It now puts a smile in my face to realize that once all this crazy madness is over, these lucky few men who get home to their children and wives will come back to them with a little less hate in their hearts and a little more understanding.
As the time winds down, my mind clears from its fog and I can begin to see the redeeming good I have brought in this world. For years I have worked hard do get where I have gotten, on my death bed I am soon to literally die for my country. My vision is darkening, but I didn’t see any one turning of the lights. I’m just barely able to make out the swarm of faces and bodies awash with frantic activity around me. I could still see that when they looked at me all they really saw was a brother. I understand what religion is about now; it’s about being part of family and something bigger than one’s self. God I want the joy of being a part of that family again.
I just don’t know what is next after this world, but finally I’m ready to face it. I can feel the terror and dread slowly elevating my body accompanied with that a little bit of my being. Now I no longer feel a need to fear the unknown, because for the first time I truly believe it will offer me the type of solace I never knew I wanted until now, joy. With every passing minute I can feel my heart finally slowing from a desperate sprint into a tired stagger as it prepares to sing its last swansong. Taking a rest my little


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