Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Sleepless Night

Last night I had a hard time falling asleep, most likely because I was crashing on a project and drank an energy drink later in the evening than I should have.

Not that it mattered.

I was awoken at 0055 by the crack of small arms fire. It is not uncommon to hear the Triple Canopy guards fire off an isolated warning shot from the guard towers overlooking the Tigris whenever a boat comes to close to the Western Shore. But last night I heard about thirty shots from at least two weapons. It sounded like someone in the distance was walking on bubble paper.

In some ways, small arms fire is more disconcerting than incoming mortar fire. The blast from indirect fire is a discrete event, and by the time you hear the explosion the attack is essentially over.

But small arms fire could mean many things: Was it just a series of warning shots from multiple guards? Warning shots met by return fire? Or could it be the start of the Jaish al-Mahdi finally storming the compound, an event we joke about in moments of dark humor? Lying in the dark, isolated in my trailer, there is no way of knowing what is happening outside.

(And I'm pretty sure that running outside in my tee shirt and boxers, clutching my 9mm, is not a sound response to these situations, tactically speaking).

It was probably nothing, and certainly does not compare to what thousands of soldiers and Marines out in the field encounter every night. But these uncertainties are the types of moment I look forward to leaving behind in three months.