Sunday, September 4, 2011

Incirlik (nonfiction)

How many times have you ever felt like running away from home? Maybe your parents got angry at you. Maybe you broke something and didn’t want to get in hot water. Or maybe you decided to go somewhere, not for an adventure, but because you didn’t feel like it at first and later realized, you wanted to. That’s what was going through my mind when I ran away.
            I used to live in a foreign country for two years of my life, when I was a youngster. The four to five years, the careless years, the years everybody wish they could return to. Times of our lives that had no bills to pay, college courses to cram for, or finding the crunkest place to party. Just worry about which toys to play with in the tub and getting a happy meal whenever you went for a doctor’s visit. I lived on Incirlik Air Force Base in Turkey with my parents and siblings. My dad was stationed there as part of the Air Force and brought us with him. Turkey is completely different from New Jersey, at least the parts I have seen. The sun was always beating down, unless it was the rains turn. Lizards would live atop the roofs and there was a lot of dry grass. The towns were brown and covered in dirt. Some places you were able to ride llamas, camels, and elephants. It even snowed one time, if you could call it that. White flurries never reached the ground. They were swallowed by the heat, it was snowing but it was warm. I don’t think any of those things can happen in New Jersey.  
            Our house was situated on a cul-de-sac. Behind the homes ran an active railway but it was fenced off, one less danger to worry about. Between the railway and my house was a watchtower. During the years I lived here there were no bombings or gunfire that I was aware of. But the watchtowers were there for precautions. It is where armed soldiers stood and kept an eye on the area, sometimes. It is also where I encountered my first brush with death. I climbed the tower only to find a man with his rifle drawn, pointed directly at me. Luckily he had better judgment than to shoot a kid. I climbed back down after brief eye contact. I was scared but I did not learn a lesson. I don’t think I told my parents about the incident, but it was okay, nothing happened. Unlike the next event.
            One day my dad went to the grocery store and asked if I would like to come along. At first I didn't want to go so I was at home with Soltan, our house keeper, while he shopped. Then after a little bit, I decided I wanted to go. So I left my house all by myself and walked toward the grocery store. After exited the front door I made my way to the entrance of the street. I made a left there and headed down the sidewalk. Cars passed forcing the roads to reek of exhaust. I remember most vividly one particular van. The sliding door was open and I could see a few men staring at me. Their eyes shined against the dark interior like stars at night. Except they were not beautiful…they were frightening. I realize now what could have happened. Those men could have taken me away. Maybe I would end up in some anti-American terrorist cell. I could have been in the Taliban; leading praise Allah chants and raising my Kalashnikov high in the air. But I was lucky, they just rolled on by. The building where my mom worked was on the way to the grocery store. At this point I probably told my self to find someone. The fear of being kidnapped must have hit me. I went to the office my mom worked in, looked around, and couldn’t find her. I saw some people, maybe fellow employees; I think they saw me too. Since no mom was in sight I decided to go back home.
            At possibly around this time in my journey the housekeeper called the grocery store and asked for my dad. “Hobby Hobby, Jacob, he is missing!” (she was saying Bobby, but her accent said differently). I’m not sure if he got to finish shopping or what but he immediately called our neighbors to keep an eye out. My mom was notified too because she wasn’t around when I got to her work. She probably left to go look for me. On the walk home a different van pulled up next to me. But it was of a friendlier face, our neighbor, “Little Bob.” I got in, he took me home, and everyone was relieved. I remember seeing Soltan holding my sister who was holding a Dr. Seuss book.
            But can you see how dangerous this place can be? This is supposed to be my home, where I feel safe. I can’t imagine the panic my parents went through. Imagine how horrible Soltan felt. I wish I could tell her I’m sorry. An American Air Force base and I walked around the place like it was made of cloud and marshmallows. Not a fear in my mind until I could have been taken away forever.

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