Last night my husband and I double-dated to a cute little Irish pub on Hwy 1. We all had a wine or a beer and ate together, laughing and telling old stories that feel like they were lifetimes ago. To look at us you’d probably think we’d spent the last 6 years doing just this while we all went to school close-by. Two young couples goofing off and enjoying the last days of a misty California summer.
We’ve been doing these dinners, or little house parties, or pool days with different couples or groups of us all summer long. They pass like normal evenings, teasing, joking, laughing, and the occasional gloom. But as much as we wanted them to just be normal nights… there was something real in the air and we were not fooled. Just as summertime slips away every year into a crisp autumn or a California windy season, so our friends have been slipping away — couple by couple — man by man — until we two were the last of the originals still standing.
“Don’t blink” we girls told each other as we hugged hello at the end of this past deployment. And we counted the weeks we had remaining together. Really it was so bittersweet, we all want our own lives that we run. We want late nights to mean that we decided to watch an extra 3 episodes of Seinfeld, not that the men were still out in the field. We want lives for each other where the only separation we have from the small families we’ve made are voluntary and by our own decision. We wanted this for ourselves, we wanted it for each other.
It feels like a strange Harry Potter magic trick though, like we’re all standing together in a photograph two and a half years ago, smiling and waving and thinking how lucky we are to be all together and alright. The trick actually started back in January when the first couple walked out of the picture, the rest of the battalion was deployed so their quiet departure wasn’t really realized until much later. Then it started happening more quickly, one day we would see people, the next I’d say “Lets have so and so over this weekend” and the Cpl would tell me they’ve been home for two weeks now, and in my mind I’d watch them leave the picture. Couple by couple they’ve all gone now, the last two leaving today. Here He and I stand 6 days away from our own departure to our own lives. The picture will sit empty and probably be taken away by the winds of the winter here. A history only we few will know to remember.
Every time I move I look around an apartment with the sobering honesty and knowledge that we wont be remembered at all from here as soon as we exit with our things. No imprint stays behind to let on to all of the good days that have passed in quiet summer revelry. But I like to think some sort of ghost of our laughter will be greeted by the oceans and the mountains that surround us and in some stillness the world might acknowledge that we’ve been here and what we’ve done in our time serving. I hope my sons will learn about their dad’s fight in history class and see him for the hero he is. I hope at least the corps remembers the brave men who stood here during their time and did what had to be done. I hope some wind in California remembers the girls who laughed because there was no other way to cope through. I hope the honest love and respect for each other will be found in the next generation of young couples here.
We leave no void here. Like water, as soon as we leave there will be someone to fill the space.
It is well.
That’s all there is
There isn’t anymore.