Amidst the lunching tumult of the cookhouse, he barked my name and beckoned me to take a seat by his side. Eight ranks higher with a uniform worn for twenty years more than my mere three months, it was more of an imperative order than a request. I sat there in the den of his cronies where he expounded on his favourite topic of my long two year shelf-life. He made many promises. He promised immediate career progression. He promised fast-tracked rank promotion.
All he insinuated to want in return was my competence and my loyalty.
And then as if my presence ceased to have no more interest to him, the multilingual and multidirectional conversation of him and his cronies tumbled on – gossip, guffaws, profanities and coded languages with snatches of references to bees and shit piles.
Across the tiny dining hall which encompassed an entire social structure, I couldn’t help but notice the crossfire of contemptuous glances and hushed conspiratorial conversations. In an unmistakable tremor, there was the perennial undercurrent of tension that has roared for generations. And there I was like the many conscripts before me, at the entire behest of the machinations and private feuds of these uniform-clad, politicking dinosaurs in a world of green – a tangled web of political divisions, physically crystallised in the seemingly innocuous layout of tables and chairs in the dining hall.
While conscripts like me serve and fuck off in a mere two years like cans of pineapples relegated to the rubbish bin upon their date of expiry, these dinosaurs stay here forever, roaming and roaring and rotting with jurassic authority.
It is intriguing how in military service, the pecking order is formalised with uniform and rank; and institutionalised with who is personally served a plate of sliced watermelons at lunch and who is not. It is intriguing that for all the sound and fury, there is little significance to it all.
I am a mere can of pineapples and I expire in 21 months. You do not need me to fight your little proxy wars.