Act three

Being a body, leaving a body

We are waiting because there is a queue to perform the control point’s task. I need to pee. There is no toilet, which means I need to pee in nature. I get up and try to find a place where I can squat without anyone seeing me. But cadets seem to be everywhere, and because it is so dark, I do not want to wander too far. I finally find a place where I hope not to run into anyone, but it is also a spot from where I can see another group of cadets marching towards the control point.

The following is hard to explain, but I will try. Squatting, I feel an odd sense of relief and power. I am exactly where I am supposed to be, and where I want to be. At that moment, I belong to the world as a body. I belong to no place and every place. I do not remember if I laughed out loud, or in my head, but I laughed out of childish joy. I am under no threat. I do not feel like a sexed/gendered body. Maybe I felt this way, because “I wanted there to be places to go where I could just leave my body behind” (Ahmed 2017, 29).

As if I am simultaneously a body, and I am leaving a body behind. I am in a place I have not been before. There is nothing familiar to rely on. For once, in a public space, I do not have to be careful and cautious.

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.