45. I walked out of my cabin to…(R Nyabando)5 min read

I walked out of my cabin to be greeted by the blistering heat of the dessert, my forehead already
covered in a layer of perspiration from the morning activities. I lazily removed my camouflage coat
as my boots swiftly moved towards the tent. The boisterous chatter of men reached my ears as I
pushed the curtain open to let myself in, a putrid smell wafting to my nose. I found myself
approaching the serving station where a pile of beans was duly slopped onto my plate in an
unpleasant notion and along with it I grabbed four stale slices of bread.

I couldn’t remember the last time I had fresh bread as our camp was isolated in the middle of the dessert, away from prying enemy eyes. I unconsciously sat down on a lone table and religiously pulled out my wallet to look at the black and white picture of my family like I did everyday this time. My hope was to lift up dreary
spirits; my father’s bright smile reminding me of why I joined the army. I glanced at my mother’s
petite frame and instantly remembered my promise to find father and bring him back home They
always say no news is good news right? A telegram was never sent to notify us of father’s death
since he departed for the army fifteen years ago for the army. I still clung frigidly to the hope one
year into joining the army that I would reunite with my father. I wondered if I’d be able to
immediately recognize him if I saw him today as I was fresh out of nursery school when he left.
Suddenly the siren blared.

Rapidly pulsating. My head jerked up scanning the sudden chaos that had
settled over the men. An attack. One by one men filed out of the tent to be given their emergency
back-packs already stocked up with all the ammunition they would need. The realization finally
dawned on me, the loud clatter of my half eaten plate reverberating through the noise. I hastily
grabbed the back-pack to see one remaining ghastly looking tanker waiting for me. My breaths
became rapid puffs as I sat down on the seat. Opposite me, sat an older sergeant who I’d never seen
before; a deafening silence settled over the tanker as people said their prayers hoping that it
wouldn’t be their last. I opened my eyes and saw the man staring intently into my eyes seemly
ignorant of the impending doom before our eyes.

“What a way to start the new year,” he chuckled, wrinkles forming at the corners of his eyes. I
grimaced, not in the mood for some uninvited humor. It was almost as if he could sense my anxiety
as I saw his jovial expression morphing into one of grief.
“It’s hard not knowing if you’ll make it out each time but that’s the thrill of it.” Again I glanced up to
see him looking upfront his mouth turned downwards in a rueful expression. “But it’s the hope that
you’ll make it out and be able to say ‘I did it!’ that makes it worthwhile.” Yet again he was greeted by
complete silence and the purr of the engine trying to break it.
It happened too fast. I heard the clatter then felt myself spinning. A mouthful of dust forced its way
through my nose as I landed on the soil. It took me a long time to react to the situation. I lifted my
body from the ground, my head pounding heavily as I tried to see something, anything through my
blurred vision. That’s what scared me the most in that moment: I could only see waves of color but
nothing well defined. I settled my back on the ground closing my eyes in an effort to soothe the pain
that was making its way through my body.

A deep groan reached my ears but I did not have the
strength to open my eyes. Again I heard the cry of despair. A sudden flicker of panic sparked within
me. Adrenaline pushed through my veins, my body becoming numb with every passing minute. I
groggily got up; I squinted my eyes to see the truck I was flung out of laying on its side, the bonnet
and two wheels tossed to the side. I limped towards the truck, determination making itself present
in each step I took. I glance around in search of any danger. I finally reach the truck assessing the
damage, glass shards splayed around. The wind picks up speed and with it the dust lifts. A bout of
coughing comes from the truck and I crouch down to see the old man crushed underneath the
weight of the truck. A lazy smile etched itself onto his face, ‘’ I guess this time I won’t make it.’’
Another fit of coughs exited his mouth as he reached into the front pocket of his army jacket.
‘’ Is there anything I can do to help,’’ I finally muttered after staring at him for second as he
rummaged through his pocket.

I was replied with a weak cough as he placed a locket near me. His
coughs continued, each one weaker than the last; I could feel his will to live fading away. I could not
help but think the man was somewhat insane, there was no thrill in watching a man die and knowing
there was nothing you could do.
I heard the thud of footsteps as I saw the driver and an army paramedic making their way to the
truck. Their clothes were stained with dirt and cuts scattered across all visible parts of their bodies
but it was already too late.

The man laid there, unmoving and I knew he was gone.
I picked up the locket, my hands shakily pulling it open and there it was: the same picture I had in my
wallet. I gasped as I looked at the man.
He was my father.