Please read the beginning of this story as shown within the “Afghanistan Story” tab above.
America, February 2010
I sprinted to a Home Depot cart and jumped on it, flying through the parking lot for a few feet before hopping off and breaking into a run again while I pushed. As I leapt onto the cart again, my sun dress floated behind me. I looked back at the man following me and laughed.
“My god, you really know how to act your age, huh?”
I rolled my eyes in response.
“Not everyone can be ancient and grumpy like you, Tim.”
“Not grumpy, just not a child in public.”
He said the last few words through clinched teeth as I smirked and took off again. When I reached the door of Home Depot, I got down from the cart and became serious.
“Okay, so what color are you looking for?”
“I don’t know. Just something that’s better than the boring white that it is now.”
We strolled off to the paint department to find a good color to repaint his bedroom. Tim and I were dating, I suppose, which is difficult to explain when I was married to someone else. I had met Tim through work about nine months ago. He was a contractor in cyber security and we had worked together to re-image the laptops my unit needed for our upcoming deployment. We hit it off through our mutual smart ass remarks.
I was head over heels for this guy. There were a few times that my marriage came up but I swore to him that it was okay, because it was. My husband was in a relationship with someone in the Navy while he was on his deployment and he and I had been discussing a divorce anyway. Tim and I had a few rough patches since we started seeing each other in July where he wouldn’t answer text messages. But sometime around the New Year, things had changed. We had spent the majority of the past two months together in some capacity.
I picked up a swatch of colors and showed him a baby blue.
“It matches the color of my room back home in Georgia. It’s very peaceful and I love this color. Get this one.”
He studied it.
“I promise it doesn’t overwhelm the room.”
He put in the color with the paint desk and we stood waiting for the mixture to be done.
“My husband is coming home from his deployment in two weeks.”
“Yeah? Isn’t that when you leave?”
“Yeah, it’s looking like we might see each other for like two days before I leave for my deployment.”
“Are y’all still getting a divorce?”
“I don’t know. I honestly don’t. I want to say yes because we won’t have seen each other in over 14 months by the time I get back. And they are talking about extending my deployment to 14 months so it would be roughly two years without seeing him. We stopped really communicating while he’s been gone. I’ve been busy with field ops and college and regular work and ship communications seem bad. The last I heard, he really likes the Navy chick he is seeing.”
Tim didn’t say anything so I continued.
“Plus, I really like you. Like, enough to pick out paint with you.”
Tim laughed and we put the paint in the cart to take it to checkout.
“So if we have a giant “Welcome Back” and “Have a Good Deployment Party”, would you want to go?”
“With your husband there? Uh, no thanks.”
“It’s not like that. He wouldn’t care.”
“Yeah, no, I’m not a fan of going to parties where the girl I’ve been having sex with’s husband is going to be there, regardless of their “swinging” arrangements.”
“Uh, he told me he didn’t care. I’m leaving anyway.”
“I guess we will see. I’m not comfortable with that.”
Two weeks later, Tim and I were laying in his bed at one in the morning. I was supposed to be on base in an hour to leave for Afghanistan.
“So did you want to keep…doing this…while I’m gone?”
“Seven months is a long time. Let’s just see what happens when you get back.”
“Of course, yeah.”
We lay in silence for a little bit.
“So your husband was okay with me dropping you off for your deployment?”
“I wouldn’t say okay. No, he wasn’t, but we’ve argued for the past few days that he’s been home. You can’t fix a marriage in 36 hours when one of the parties is leaving for seven or fourteen months. And I’m not sure I want to fix it.”
“Yeah, because you like me or something.”
He was teasing me.
“Yeah, or something. And thank you for letting me borrow your sleeping bag from when you were in the Marine Corps. I guess my husband lost mine while he was on his deployment.”
“Yeah, of course. Just bring it back. It’s great for camping.”
We lay in silence in each other’s arms. I was anxious to get going but wanted to savor every moment while I could.
“We better start going in unless you want to be late for your first deployment.”
We got into his car and Tim drove me to base. It was dark in Oceanside and hardly any cars were out on the roads. We pulled into the staging area. Everyone else was stacking their bags in various piles and hugging their sleepy families. Everyone looked tense in the harsh floodlights that barely cut through the darkness.
Tim got out my bags and threw them on the correct piles for me. Suddenly, it was time for me to go.
“I got you a present.”
Tim reached into his car and pulled out a tin of chocolate.
“Try not to eat it all on the bus in one sitting.”
“You know me too well. Thank you, Tim. That was sweet of you.”
“It’s not every day that you deploy to a war zone.”
“Will you email me?”
He rolled his eyes. We hugged and gave each other a quick kiss before he got back into his car and drove away. I placed the tin of chocolate in my cargo pocket and boarded the bus.