The Masa Kumta, Part III
My feet are starting to zigzag. I’m somewhere, sometime, and I feel like I’m in a camp ghost story: the trail is fogging up… I’m almost out of pbj’s… and a bunch of anxious Jewish parents are waiting for us to get back.
My watch tells me its 2:34. I try convince myself my watch is lying and that it’s really 6:30, my back is in a horizontal rather than vertical position, and I currently smell like victory. But it’s no use. Although I forgot my fancy GPS watch at home which measures kilometer distance, pace, split times, and calories burned (“Does it also tell you where you’re going? Well then why would you buy a GPS watch?! -my dad) I have a good sense of how fast were actually going. And it feels like we’re walking backwards.
As the day begins to empty itself into the sky the situation on the ground can best be described as ‘zombied.’ “Just a few more kilometers,” words intended to placate have become equivalent to “LET’S GO TO THE DMV!” We all have to do it, but it’s gonna be nothing but pain until it’s over. Physically, I’m still doing well; for others though, the going’s getting rough. With Ari-who busted his ankle a while back-holding one shoulder and my buddy David-whose knee is giving out-holding the other, I push on, the conductor of a disabled three car choo-choo train hoping there’s enough steam to make it into the station.
We’re all pushing, supporting, and encouraging each other and it’s awesome to see everyone helping everyone and anyone. We talk a lot in the army about the need to work as a cohesive unit, to be there for one another, to be brothers. What I’ve learned is that the best bonding situations are ones where it mutually sucks for everyone. You remember getting through a really tough time much more than you remember enjoying a really good one.
But just as it feels like we’re about to derail, I suddenly hear the most magical words I’ve heard in forever: “STRECHERS OUT!” On a masa, opening a stretcher means we’re approaching the end. It’s like taking a final exam: just get through this last act and you’re done. So, four guys to a stretcher, the lightest and least helpful kids propped on top, we start moving. I start flying.
I dunno how but I somehow tap into an unknown reservoir of rabak as I run up, throw the stretcher onto my shoulder, and start cheering like they just cancelled school for a snow day.
Meir: WOOOOOOHHOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! HELLLLLL YEEEEEEEAHHHHH!!!!!!!
The other three soldiers holding the stretcher: Huhh whose like yelling and stuff?
Meir: WOOOOHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! LETSSSSSS GOOOOOO!!!!!!
At one point one the more annoying commanders, “Sneer,” tries to snatch the stretcher from away from me. Ish don’t think so.
Sneer: Meir! Give me the stretcher
Meir: NOT A CHANCE!
Sneer: Move!! I’m getting in
Meir: GO AWAY!! IT’S MINE!!!
Then, furthering my complete disregard of proper commander-soldier relational etiquette, I hockey check Sneer out of the way, watch him stumble to the side, and keep running in amazement.
And I keep running with it. Running even though I can’t see the end. Running and running and yelling random stuff and cheering about things- my eyes closed, shoulders burning, knees buckling, breath heaving but then we’re there. And I actually have to convince myself it’s real. We line up at the entrance to Metzudat Yoav, 9 stretchers in a line. To the chorus of “ALEH KRAV!!! we hoist the stretchers skyward three times. It’s over. We did it. Of course I start tearing up cuz apparently I do that after overcoming intense physical challenges in the army. But hey, I deserve this one.
After some stretching I trudge to the showers, along with what seems every soldier in the history of Israel.
Not only is the entire Givati draft class of 2012 contained to one normal-occupancy-of-12-not-35 shower house, but if Antarctica had a mikveh I just took a dunk in it. So many soldiers showering at once depletes the hot water supply ages before I arrive but seriously who cares. I have so much dirt on me I feel like I’m washing off my own skin and it’s heavenly.
But this moment of H20-sponsored bliss is suddenly shattered as I’m suddenly reminded of it.
We still have to do Tasachim.
Tasachim are procedural drills before a military ceremony: how to walk in, how to stand, how to turn, etc. Which is all fine except that you do them over and over, even after you’ve got it down. It’s too many degrees outside, standing has become conditional on willpower, and now this. Imagine standing inside a life-size toaster while a snooty-faced, I-permanently-look-like-I-just-swallowed-a-lemon disciplinarian sporting an absurdly oversized police hat teaches you dance moves. Can I please get an IV drip and/or a pep talk.
But soon enough the actual ceremony starts and it’s awesome. My officer puts a purple beret on my head and I feel super proud. All the awful, tiring, disappointing, frustrating times I went through to get here, to this exact moment, makes it all worth it. Now I’m part of something bigger. Now, I truly belong.