It's the randomness that makes your head this way, living the Russian-roulette lifestyle every minute of the day. Mortars falling out of the sky, random. Rockets, lob bombs, IEDs, all random. Once on OP Billy was pulling night watch and felt a sick little pop just off the bridge of his nose, which was, he realized as he tumbled backward, the snap of a bullet breaking the sound barrier as it passed. Inches. Not even that. Fractions, atoms, and it was all this random, whether you stopped at the piss tube this minute or the next, or skipped seconds at chow, or were curled to the left in your bunk instead of the right, or where you lined up in column, that was a big one. At first they were hitting the lead Humvee, then they switched to number two, then it was a toss-up between two, three, and four, then they went back to one, and don't even talk about the never-ending mindf*** debate as to your odds in any particular seat inside the vehicle, on any given day it could be anything, anywhere. "You can dodge an RPG," he said to a reporter a couple of days ago. He hadn't meant to reveal such a fraught and intimate fact, and felt cheap, as if he'd divulged a shameful family secret, but there it was, you can dodge an RPG, that damn crazy thing lamely fluttering at you, spitting and smoking like a cheap Mexican firework, tttttthhhhhhhpppppfffffftttt-FOOOM! What he'd meant to say, been trying to say, is that it's not a lie, sometimes it really happens in slow-motion time, his ultimate point being just how strange and surreal your own life can be. Lately he thinks he could have tapped it as it flew by, sent it spinning off to nowhere like thumping a balloon instead of merely dodging as it sputtered past on its way to making such a christf*** mess back there. What's happening now isn't nearly as real as that, eating this meal, holding this fork, lifting this glass, the realest things in the world these days are the things in his head. (Virtue.10)
There it is, again: the randomness of warfare. It seems like, to Billy, that's the worst part of war, hands down. Not the fighting, not the weather, not the job…but the not knowing. Everything is ultimately out of his control.