It’s just a footlocker, but that few cubic feet might as well contain a black hole, creating an event horizon beyond which I cannot see. Staring into the box, trying to decide how to fill it, I’m gripped with indecision. What to bring, when your life for the next year is reduced to three bags and a box?
This weekend, we loaded our bags for shipment overseas. We won’t see them until the peak of summer in the mideast desert, when the hot-on-the-eyeballs wind greets us and we curse it from the very first blast. It’ll be like a time capsule, opening that box to see what I thought was important months ago. I hope my foresight is accurate.
The load so far consists almost completely of comfort and entertainment, since all essentials will be provided. A blanket and some sheets will give color to our cell, and will beat sleeping in a bag for a year. A practice pad, books, and sticks will let me practice my drumming, since even a Rock Band set is impractical in our shared quarters. Board games, my new obsession, will help pass the time, though I have a burning desire to fill the entire box with them, so desperate am I to avoid boredom. Other tools and useful equipment round out the load, though I can’t help but think that I’m forgetting something critical.
The whole thing veers into life-as-RPG territory, as I visit the item shop to get geared up for the unknown mission. Inventory space is limited, so you have to try to cover all the bases, yet not spread yourself too thin so as to have bits of useless stuff. Luckily, my base stats are good, so equipment doesn’t matter as much, but still…
On the night before drill, I felt like I was really leaving the next day, as I scrambled to throw things into the box. I had to remind myself that I wasn’t really leaving, that there was still a month to go, and that it’s not like we’re deploying to Mars. If something gets left home, I can acquire it or have it sent to me. But now that the bags have been packed away I feel much better, as if the physical weight of that stuff was an emotional weight as well, a weight now lifted. Maybe it’s that by loading that trailer full of bags, it’s a concrete signal that this journey, so long discussed and anticipated, is really about to begin, and I’ll do it with nothing more than I can carry on my back. Or, maybe it’s that I should heed Friar Laurence’s advice to Romeo:
A pack of blessings lights up upon thy back;
Happiness courts thee in her best array;
But, like a misbehaved and sullen wench,
Thou pout’st upon thy fortune and thy love:
Take heed, take heed, for such die miserable.
Indeed, there are many worse ways to start a journey than friends at your side, sixty pounds of bags stuffed with ceramic, velcro, and ballistic nylon, and your loved ones, wishing well, at your back, waiting for your return.