The final trip home. The end of the line. The end of the contract.
They wanted me to extend; and I admit that I was tempted; but I missed home.
I knew I’d miss it; knew I’d want to go back; but I had to see home. I had to feel the grass between my toes and see the hills of green. Pine and Spruce trees covering the hills along the highway home was what I longed for after months staring at a mountain from which rockets were hurled.
We approach the plane on the Kandahar Airfield Airstrip; watching Filipino men load our bags into the cargo-hold. Front of the line; first on the adventure I was. I walked up the stairs from the tarmac, leading to the plane door, and turned around. I turned around to do what I had planned to do seven months previous.
I turned around and extended both arms into the air with my index and middle fingers extended on each; waggling my hands like Richard Nixon.
My mate was behind me and pushed me, “Get fucking going”, as I was holding up the line of people waiting to head back into the world.
It was important that I did the Nixon. I’m not sure why. Knowing basically nothing about Richard Nixon other than the fact he’s a bastard; there’s no reason for me to aspire to do the Nixon as I boarded the aircraft; but I was compelled to.
We land in Dubai, mid-afternoon.
Our belief was that our company had booked and paid for our hotel; and a rich hotel it was. We arrive by taxi; enter and try to check in. The hotel staff are expecting payment in full for the room. Turns out the hotel was booked but not paid for.
We break at the poolside bar in the courtyard to mull over our predicament.
The man I’m travelling with is two and a half times my age. I’d spend my twentieth birthday in Afghanistan just a month before; so this seasoned tradesman knew he was dealing with an oblivious young man at the height of his un-mindfulness.
Or so he thought.
We considered our alternatives; one of which was crashing the hotel of a fellow Canadian, unannounced. After two beers each and a few delicious cigarettes, we call a cab.
We jump in the cab and twenty-year old Oblivious says, “I know a place.”
Bullshit calls my friend and confidante.
Pulling a business card out of my wallet and handing it to the driver, I smile.
The smirk of calling a young bucks bluff is written all over his face.
“I’ve got a place; they’ll set us up at a fair price.” I tell him.
Disbelief and amusement strewn across his face.
A few minutes later we open our doors and hear, “HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEY!” from Salazar, with his arms extended and in the air.
“Salazar!” I exclaim.
We shake hands and embrace.
A smile and a laugh of disbelief and amusement from my elder compadre.
Told you, this is my place. That’s Salazar.
The time of year happens to be Ramadan; fasting and alcoholic-abstinence in this city. Having an inside man at the hotel; I knew I could get at the stash.
Salazar, this is my friend. If you can swing it, get us twelve beer.
Take care of my friend; women, more beer, anything he needs.