Barefoot

October 20th, 2010 · No Comments

Jessi A is the partner of Specialist Christopher Robinson, the Iowa Army National Guardsman who will be deployed to Afghanistan during 2010 and 2011. His reflections on the Afghanistan war debuted in the September issue of the Ames Progressive. This is the first of Jessi’s reflections from back home.

You left on a Thursday.

I made you breakfast. I made bacon, even though I don’t eat bacon. I made a picture-perfect grilled Tofurkey-and-cheese sandwich (a surprising favorite of yours). I got the coffee beans out of the freezer from my trip to Panama to make your coffee. I even set the table. I intended to sit and watch you eat your last civilian breakfast. I was worried you’d try to rush out the door – I know how you are when you feel late – but you sat at the table and you ate. Neither of us was hungry. Thank you for eating anyway.

As you left for the ceremony, I stood in the street and clung to you, barefoot. As cars passed, I wondered if they knew what they were seeing: our last moments alone together for a year, a “warrior’s farewell,” you in your uniform, me in your ARMY shirt, clinging to one another.

I wanted to be angry at the Army for taking you away, but all I could muster was a sense of resignation. I don’t feel entitled to this anger. No one’s going to be shooting at me this year (presumably). Plus, the Army brought us together in a weird way. If they hadn’t fucked up your housing a few years ago, I never would have held your hand on the couch when you stayed with me.

I wanted to be mad at you for going, because you did have a choice, unlike everyone else getting on that bus. But anger is such a waste. I resign.

*

The congressman said thanks, and the governor’s wife said blah blah blah thanks blah, and the mayor said something, and the other mayor said something, and the children in the audience were howling their grief and fear. For once, I didn’t mind the sound of babies crying. I felt the same way.

Whenever someone said, “We are all so proud of you,” I bristled. Pride. The word clangs and rattles in my head like aluminum cans. Tawdry. Showy. Hollow. Pride doesn’t touch what I feel about sending my partner into a warzone. You inspire me, challenge me, bolster and encourage me. And you break my heart. Not maliciously. Take my breath away might be more accurate. It’s the feeling that some vital organ is missing or malfunctioning.

There were so many white teddy bears in the gym. Every little kid whose daddy was leaving got one, and all the mommies-to-be, too, were holding their tummies in one hand and their white bears in the other.

*

I hugged and kissed and kissed and hugged you, but I would not watch you get on that bus. I heard your ring tap the window and looked up to see your wide palm pressed to the glass: a farewell. I couldn’t see anything through the tinted bus window, just your big hand with a
hint of camouflage at the wrist, fading into obscurity beyond that. I turned away and realized your carton of cigarettes was still in my hand.

You left on a Thursday. Thursdays have become my new minute hand, ticking away your absence. Just a few dozen left.

There’s a lot of different ways to do deployment math, to divide up the time.

It’s over 300 mornings I’ll wake up (alone) to my alarm instead of yours.

It’s like 50 or so salsa nights, right?

A dozen full moons.

Just one of each season.

I can go a winter without you. Then a spring.

A summer.

It’s another birthday.

It’s my hair growing 4 inches, if I am an average adult (a dubious assumption).

I will make approximately 27 biweekly mortgage payments in your absence.

I will go grocery shopping 40-some times without you. I will have to carry the basket by myself, though, and I won’t find you lurking in the beer aisle when I want you to carry the groceries.

Let’s, see, it’s been 10 weeks since I saw you. I can do that again.

Four more times.

Right?

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