Pete stretched his back against the inside of his T-shirt - he felt the fabric and the sweat and the sand kind of pull against his skin, and it felt good. Good the way that rubbing your eyes when they're tired feels good. His back was a little tired and his skin felt chafed and his muscles just plain ached, but here he was, sitting in the sand on the outskirts of some nameless town. It was late in 1990, the men of the First Marine Division were having a quiet moment, and Pete was writing a letter.
"Dear Tom, Thanks for your letter. Tell everyone I'm just fine. The weather is pretty hot but not unbearable. We're all ready for whatever is coming next, so don't worry. I spend a lot of time with weapon maintenance and keeping things clean, so I try not to think about where I am too much."
This did not look anything like Chicago, Pete thought to himself - how can I not think about where I am? That was dumb. Nevermind.
"Days are pretty long and I never know what's coming next or where we'll be next so I just keep focused on what I'm doing today. It helps."
"Don't worry about sending any of the things you mentioned. I don't think we'll be here long enough for me to read them, and we could move anytime, anyway, so don't worry. I'll just get home soon and read them when I get back. Thanks for thinking of me in the bookstore though - when I get back, remember me at J.R.'s Liquors, too, OK? Ha ha."
I would give my eye teeth to sit and relax with some of Yeats' poetry, Pete thought to himself. I shoulda' said to send it. Oh. Nevermind.
"The Saudi sand is holy, so I am not allowed to send any to you, as you asked. I will therefore discreetly drop the envelope alongside my boot before I seal it. Anything that gets in and safely makes the trip home you must treat very carefully. Promise?"
"I miss you guys, but I know that I'm where I am supposed to be. Keep us in your prayers, Tom, and tell everyone I'm fine. Tell Moose he owes me a beer when I get back - I haven't seen any flying carpets. Write me again soon if you get the chance. Your friend, Peter."
Pete discreetly dropped the envelope next to his boot. As he reached for it, he pushed it along the ground a little way, allowing some of the holy sand of Saudi Arabia to get in. He quickly picked it up and sealed it. Pete stood up next to his Humvee and stretched his arms out, feeling the hot sun on his dry skin. He heard some Aerosmith coming from a tapedeck in the distance, and thought back to a party one night somewhere in the North Chicago suburbs.
Chicago seemed very far away, and the sand of Lakefront Beach in Evanston seemed infinitely holier.