I'm a left hander living in a right hand world. I learned that the hard way in elementary school when, in the big box of scissors for the class, only one or two left handed scissors could be found. Most of the time they were loose and coated with rust, practically unusable anyway. When I scribbled out words in a pathetic attempt at handwriting, it would smear across the page and on the underside of my hand. In gym class when we played baseball, everyone got a baseball glove to fit their appropriate hand. I had to catch with my left hand, take off the glove and then throw the ball. Needless to say, I wasn't the first one picked on the team.
My abnormality followed me all the way to Iraq. As a private I was handed an M4 and a 203 grenade launcher attached to it. It became my weapon for my entire enlistment. Sadly, the Army does not issue ambidextrous rifles. Shell casings fire out of the ejection port on the right side of the weapon, which is an unfortunate trait for someone that likes to put their face up close to the sight. During firefights, piping hot shell casings would eject into my cheekbone, leaving circular marks on the side of my face. The sting subsided after awhile, but the marks remained for hours.
"Get ready to dismount!"
The Stryker came to a stop in a muddy Baghdad intersection. I had been in the airguard hatch on the half-hour ride up. Half of my body was exposed to the cold, biting wind that rolled across the top of the vehicle. A light drizzle started the morning off, but as we approached our dismount point, the rain began to subside, leaving behind massive mudholes and puddles everywhere. I asked Payday to attach a crowbar to my back by slipping it into jerry rigged zip-tie rings on my armor. He slid the whole thing into the bottom ring, leaving the crowbar hanging down to my knee. There was no time to fix it; the ramp was already dropping.
As the first one out of the vehicle, it was my job to lead to the first house to gain a foothold in the area. That meant jumping over a rather sizable shit stream. It looked doable - I jumped over plenty bigger in my day. I backed up to get a running start, stepped forward and lept-
As I left the ground, the crowbar lifted up and slammed into the back of my leg, sending me off balance and into the shit river.
I miserably crawled out of the muck, everything below my shins covered in freezing sludge. I prayed that it wouldn't seep into my boots as I got up in shame after my epic fall. As I walked down the street, my worst fears were realized: my feet started to become soaked in the cold septic water. Each step carried a loud squish squish as my socks sopped up the excremental liquid. My feet began to freeze. It was only 45 seconds into the mission and I was already miserable.
As my squad walked along courtyard walls down the street, I trailed behind, dragging my left leg up against the wall in an effort to wipe away the sludge that stuck to my pants and boots. The rough, uneven concrete scraped my wet skin through my pants. It hardly did anything. The black muck remained on my leg as a pungent reminder of my fall.
We rounded the corner and made our way into a dress maker's factory, where I had a brilliant idea. A heap of cloth scraps were kept in the corner ready to be tossed out. While the factory was being searched, I held a scrap tight and ran it down my leg like a squeegee to get the biggest chunks off. But there wasn't enough time to take off my boots and wring out my socks. Even as the hours ticked away, the crisp winter air didn't allow my feet to dry. Throughout the day I carried my wet and wrinkled feet as a frigid reminder of one wrong misstep.
Some shit rivers were too big to jump