Your correspondent sits shivering in a shabby spectacularly overpriced hotel room. It’s cold. Before him crouch broken heaters, huddling together underneath a fan spinning violently overhead. Your humble correspondent needs the fan, because he chain smokes. That’s okay, he tells himself, because there’s little else to do. He’d open up the windows and let the smoke out, but they’re covered. This, he’s told, is a security precaution. But they’re covered with Styrofoam. Which, he thinks, doesn’t seem very secure.
His sister sends him an email warning him not too sleep with local women, it’s frowned upon. He does not think this will be a problem. Outside, the sidewalks shudder with angry generators and American drones hum in the sky.
Work? He’s been trying. Filing, badly, for a website and occasionally shooting what he can for who wants it. But no one wants it and he’s running out of bad ideas for the website. He severely underestimated how difficult reporting news in Iraq would be and how uninterested most of the world would be in it. To report a story, he has to hire or steal a driver from a real journalist. The former’s expensive. The latter, awkward. He’d rather spend the money self-medicating on warm Heineken. And drugs. If he could find some. Every now and then he leaves to be bored with other bored journalists. They sit in compounds trying to think of things to say to one another. Like what smells smell like. Who mispronounced this, fucked up that. Maybe, they should fire their evening chef. Their day chef’s doing just fine. It’s a strange fraternity. A cocktail of altruism, love, dependency, mistrust, cruelty and paranoia. The journalist keeps himself to himself. He’s not sure what to tell these people.
Baghdad certainly looks like a war zone. What with all the soldiers, guns, sunglasses and helicopters above helping throw the grime around. All create a city of dust and checkpoints. And waiting. Everyday waiting. For news. For traffic. For the generators to kick back in and for the power to turn back on. For the soldiers to finish walking by with their ADE 651. Their bomb divining stick. The most dangerous thing in Iraq. The reason why more than 120 people were killed on Tuesday morning.
The journalist, however, has not placed himself in any danger. He thinks. It’s hard to tell. All the threats here are invisible. Or obscured by Styrofoam. Even Tuesday’s bombings had an air of routine to them. A familiarity. A distance. A sterility. No fear here. Not much left. The most dangerous thing the journalist does is drink Iraqi tea, hot wet sugar. Or eat Iraqi baklava, cold hard sugar,. Oh, and the smoking. The incessant constant chain smoking. He’s never smoked so much before. And he’s smoked a lot. He’s smoking now in fact, thinking of better cigarettes.