"Time is the longest distance between two places."
We walked from the small wooden porch to the damp and silent street, flooded with yellow lamplight. It was 4am. He handed me the blue t-shirt he had worn a couple days earlier, crumpled and smelling of his cologne. The two of us stood next to my car, feeling as if we were the only ones on earth awake. Over and over in my head, I told myself not to cry, but tears were spilling down without any effort or notice. He tried wiping them away as more filled my eyes, and we just looked at each other for a moment before I buried my head in his chest. I couldn't help but picture the button down he wore fading into a dusty uniform.
He told me that he would be okay, and that he would take care of my brother, too. He promised me he would come home safely. I wanted to stare at his face to remember everything, inhale the scent from his hair so I wouldn't forget it. I kept thinking about his boots that would be in sandy Afghanistan instead of in this muddy Illinois small town. And I didn't really understand how it was possible to be filled to overflowing with wild hope, fiery love, intense fear, and pure dread all at the same time. When we finally let go, I drove away trying to get enough air to inhale. I made a a few blocks before the roads became blurry the rest of the way back to Champaign. I prayed a lot during that dark drive home.
But this time, there is no deployment. The only physical danger would come from a training accident, not from a war filled with an enemy's bullets or roadside bombs. This time, the months of separation are only because of a school on a post states away. There won't be the extreme heat and cold from weather in the Middle East- just the easy temperatures in a southern state. There will be phone calls and Skype chats, the kind of contact that can be hard to come by during some deployments.
This time, though, he and I are changed. I'm not sure we are that boy and girl who didn't know how to say goodbye. Instead, we're a pair with a little girl who needs her favorite blanket and monkey to sleep, and a baby still forming, six months from its first cry. We are two people with a history. We've been up and down so many times, I've lost count long ago. And though this time won't be the length of a typical Army deployment, it will still be the longest we've been apart since that first goodbye.
It should be easy in comparison. But I find myself awake at night, wondering what it will mean for us. While Sky can take every moment as it comes, I want to plan everything out in my life, down to every last detail. Life doesn't usually allow for that, however. There is no planning to this, even with the weeks of notice we've had. I don't know what to plan for anymore.
Someone mentioned it didn't seem like I will miss him much when he leaves. I will miss him. Of course I will. It is a strange and uncomfortable way to miss someone, though, when so much feels unsettled. What has happened between us isn't something that gets resolved immediately and disappears. It's something that takes so much time, so much rebuilding of trust, so much effort. It's not something done well over long distance. My worry this time doesn't spring from attacks in a dessert. It comes from what's already happened here in Chambana. This isn't the blog post that is supposed to be written before a farewell, and I know that. This is just real life. I want to miss him in that bittersweet, wistful way. I guess I'll only know once it happens.
He will be gone soon. The suitcases and green duffel are sitting in a lonely corner as a reminder. This time, we are both fighting for something. Guns and tanks are easy ways to battle, but preserving a marriage takes everything the two of us have. It's the most important war we can wage. I'm trying to borrow just a little of that wild hope from last time, needing it to see us through. I'm even praying to feel a bit of that passion and sorrow when we wave goodbye this time.