I do not feel protected, and yet I feel safe. My body has a new presence. I am de-gendered, and in my eyes, soldiers are de-gendered too.
I feel outside of all places, and inside all possibilities.
As we approach the base, I am told I will not get in from the gates without a commander’s escort, so I am prepared to be stopped at the checkpoint. Yet, I walk so confident as part of the group that I get in, even though I am not supposed to. I stand out with my civilian clothes, but even still, I am not stopped and checked. Then someone says, or maybe it was later at the base, that I fit in so well the guard did not realise I was not a cadet.
When the march is over, and the blisters are examined at the sports field outside, joking increases. Someone realises I am still there. The fact that they forgot that they need to be careful with what they say in my presence makes us all laugh. A cadet proposes a group hug. Someone says, “We are soldiers, and we do not show emotion. You should write that down.”
“Soldiers”, his word, not mine.