We're living in them. No, not those end times... I don't know anything about those.
Our time here will soon be up, as I've mentioned. It doesn't seem that way; no matter how much gear I pack up and turn in, this desert still feels normal, still feels like home. A year doesn't seem that long- twelve months, less than five percent of my life to date- but I barely recall what "normal" life is like. It feels so distant to me now that it might as well be a second lifetime, an earlier incarnation of myself. Leave wasn't that long ago, of course, but that was only two weeks, lived under the specter of impending return.
Before I left for Iraq, before I even boarded the plane that would take me to my pre-deployment training, I worried that my friends would leave me behind. I thought it might be a little like excusing one's self from a party, coming back minutes later to find the party a year gone and the merrymakers scattered. That mind picture skirted the truth, but as usual, analogy is suspect. When I left, most of my friends were in college. Now, most have indeed graduated and scattered- they range in domicile from Austria to China and many places in between. The difference is the time- rather than a year for them and seeming minutes for me, a year has passed for my friends. A lifetime has passed for me.
It seems like it's been forever since I lived that "normal" life- the normalcy that I know I'll never quite grasp again. Paradoxically, the last year blends and runs together into one long, blurred day. It doesn't feel like a year- it feels longer and shorter all at the same time. I want to leave, to go home, to take things for granted again. I also can't stand the thought of leaving now, of turning my back on so many things left undone.