In the Green Zone, the sound of helicopters no longer gives me nightmares. I have seen propellers from so far away they looked no more dangerous than a lover’s eyelashes. But my trailer mates still thrash around at night in their beds, stretching their sheets upward as if to graft the sky with an extra layer of skin. For them, the helicopters sound like birds the size of the earth flapping their fiery wings, mythical beasts who swoop down to exact revenge on us. The others don’t blame men for war. They say it’s women who teach men how to hunger.
I don’t blame anyone. That would be like laying blame for hurricanes. For wildfires. For earthquakes that decimate entire hillsides. For the aphids that killed my parents’ crops the summer I needed new teeth. Maybe that’s why I don’t fear explosions or poison or the boys who skulk along the other side of the wall with their tattered backpacks.
A year ago, before I came here, before I left home and husband, I didn’t get out of bed. Now I wake up early. I work sixteen-hour days. I go to sleep happy, knowing I was of use. But still, I fear the ghost of myself. I saw her again tonight on my way to shower, a sliver of straw-colored hair in the mirror, a pair of dry, bleeding lips. She has the face of a prairie in the darkness of a Kansas winter, her voice the whisper of grass painted white by an overgrown moon. I hissed at her to go away. She flashed a gap-toothed smile.
I didn’t think she would follow me here.
The next day I go on a mission to a town hit by an earthquake. Inside the rubble, we find a constellation of small brown hands, their fingers curved upward like those of a child who wants to be picked up. We dig for hours, uncovering bodies, collecting teeth and hair as the wind shoots dust into our mouths and eyes and nostrils. Afterwards, I climb down to the beach and walk, fully clothed, into the green-gray ocean, my toes bleeding on bits of coral the tide has washed up.
The water makes weights of my clothes, pulls me toward the ocean floor with so much longing, I think about letting myself stay anchored there. But I push up, I swim back to shore, I let the sun burn me dry. And as the light spits black dots across the watery surface of my eyes, I know that war is just another form of mimicry, like dancers who learn their movements from the birds, like song, like swimming.
That night, my ghost asks to sleep next to me. Her limbs are soft, the muscles flaccid from lying all day in bed, her eyes the pink of uncooked chicken. Hold me, she says. I pull her close, cradle her until the sound of propellers fades. Around me, the others stop moving.