It was late spring in the deep South. Those first few weeks of basic were a suffocating nightmare of exhaustion and sweat. There was no air conditioning or personal space in the old barracks. Thirty men lived shoulder to shoulder amid open toilet stalls and communal showers.
I don't know how I did it, but eventually I paid attention well enough to qualify for a limited pass. For six hours I could go anywhere I wanted as long as where I wanted to go was on Fort Jackson.
I went to the PX. It was there that I realized what else the Army removed from my life: women. It had been weeks since I had seen anything remotely female.
The first one I saw was middle-aged, harried and dragging a howling snot monster into the PX. Didn't matter. Compared to what I was used to, she moved like an art form.
For an hour I just sat and watched women. It wasn't lust (OK, some of it was). It was the way they moved and sounded. Fat, skinny, young, old, it didn't matter. After weeks of men, dirt and machinery, it was as if music had been restored to the world.
This earth-moving attraction may have been what Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was referring to when he predicted in 2010 that an earthquake would hit the country if women there didn't stop tempting men.
Note: Iran has experienced a number of earthquakes since Ahmadinejad predicted this, so maybe he was right. Hey, you don't know.
According to The Guardian, a British newspaper, there's scientific evidence for this claim.
"Many women who do not dress modestly … lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which increases earthquakes," Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, a senior Iranian cleric and seismologist, was quoted by Iranian media as saying.
"What can we do to avoid being buried under the rubble?" Sedighi asked during a prayer sermon. "There is no other solution but to take refuge in religion."
There you have it. The state of the world is the fault of women for being so … women.
Unlike the Iranian government, I happen to think this is a good thing. I came away from the PX that day with hope rather than trouble in my heart.
Someday I would get out of the Army, my hair would grow back and maybe I could get a woman to make eye contact with me long enough to get something serious started.
I did, and it's had an earth-shaking effect on me. Thanks to a woman I keep a job, stay out of jail, don't mess around, eat with utensils and treat other women with respect. I dress better, pay my bills and don't go to church with food on my face.
I don't know how it works in Iran, but that's way more than religion ever got me to do.
Robert Kirby can be reached at email@example.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.