Being in the army, regardless of your role, reconnects you with the most primal aspects of being human. As a friend in my unit remarked over lunch the other day, soldiers are always hungry, tired, and horny, no matter what they do. Whether you're a desk jockey or a combat soldier, you are constantly wary of lurking foes- most often referred to as officers- which exacts a heavy toll on your nerves.
Far worse, however, is the perpetual motion between base, home, and points inbetween. Together with food that would make a gastronome contemplate suicide, regular long distance bus travel reminds each and every soldier how limited in size a colon or bladder can be, and how very precious the comfort of a clean bathroom. An average trek home in Israel's midsection from my base in the craggy heart of the West Bank takes an exhausting three bus rides totaling four or more hours. According to soldiers posted on Israel's extreme peripheries, far from the beaten path of public transportation, I am fortunate. That is of little relief when you are stuck in traffic and really have to go.
The true sanctum of the god of war lies in Morpheus's arms. No matter how much sleep I had the night prior, when I get home I immediately change out of uniform and curl up in bed. Sleep on base is a physical necessity, a chore imposed upon us by our bodies; at home it is a visceral pleasure akin to sex.
On leave in Jerusalem the other night, my brother and I ate an impromptu dinner (my second, closely chasing a bagel and cream cheese) with his friend, Josh. Passover is fast approaching, so consumptive eradication of leavened goods like whiskey, pasta, beer, and bread were in order- with a side of salad. Josh apologized for the botched baked ziti. I reminded him (a former soldier himself) how any food off base beat the monotonous slop they fed us daily and ate it with gusto.
As I sipped Balvenie I contemplated these and other oddities of army life: the value of a quality rubber band for rolling up a pant cuff, the pervasive hurry up and wait attitude, the ease with which politics are put aside with your jeans and t-shirts- and laughed.