Across the desert, marines are touching themselves. This is happening. One is slouched against the rear wall of a guard post at the north-facing perimeter of a forward operating base unbuttoning his trousers to air out his barrel, to clear out his bore before his partner returns with a box of hot, cockblocking chow.

Another is scrubbing one out in the head, dribbles in waterdrops running, stretching, wrapping as tentacles down and about one leg, slipping, falling, layering the gelatin film floor, sticking there, straining his relief through drain holes, congealing, clogging, rising to the thin swimming surface of the shower basin to float, unavoidable—phylum: Cnidaria, subphylum: Medusozoa, order: Militarae, family: Marine—known colloquially as the great shower jelly, a little studied and highly debated subclass of gelatinous zooplankton indigenous only to American occupied regions of Southwest Asia, though commonly found in thriving populations aboard naval vessels and as dehydrated specimens among the lower garment wear of returning military figures, entirely unsuitable for taxonomical analysis.

This too is happening. In an office chair, one swivels a slow but full one hundred and eighty degrees from her computer, screen gone dark, headphone cord jumping as rope, carrying a throated chorus in stereo, a barrage of muffled climaxes, supercut, surging through and rippling beneath her thoughts as she bounces wrist on thigh, fingers wearing thin her orgasmic dam until it can no longer hold the flow of her self-satisfaction, her solace, her anxieties slipping from goosebumped curves into faux-leather cracks and down through tunneled pores in the foam cushion below, sighing as she stands from her seat in release.

Two are swapping photos of their significant others, imagining touching or being touched by them or watching a touching, touching while watching them touch one another. An officer in his quarters touches a lover in the past. A sleepless Private First Class touches the only person she travels home to see in the darkness behind her company armory. This, this and more is happening in the desert. Marines are touching themselves in uniform and, at times, without—naked, fleshing—the way you touch, maybe, when you touch yourself across whatever clime, whatever it is you happen to be touching when you make your time to feel.

CHRISTOPHER NOTARNICOLA's work has appeared in The Best American Essays 2017North American Review, and SmokeLong Quarterly. He lives in Pompano Beach, Florida.