We rent out our house in Maine. And I rent a condo in New Jersey, so I can be near my parents. And my husband moves us in, before he leaves, leaves for Afghanistan.
And I am upstairs and I come around this corner and I look down and I see him, my husband, standing at the bottom of the stairs, holding him, our sleeping son, ready to transfer him, from the car outside, to his bed upstairs. Our son, a two year old boy, whose only job, now, is to forget his father.
And I will never forget this.
I will never forget how my husband is holding him and cradling him. His hands underneath his tiny back and bent knees. Like an offering, I think, the offering he never wanted to make.
How my husband does not look up, does not see me watching. He just stands there, at the bottom of the stairs, holding him, his son, and sobbing. My husband is sobbing.
And it is in this moment, this moment, when I remember, because I had forgotten.
I had forgotten that he is the one who has to go.
Before he leaves, my husband talks about it. He talks about dying, about where I should live, about who will help me, and how I will get the life insurance money. My husband makes plans for me, postmortem plans.
And I have to accept it.
I have to accept that he may die.
We lie in our bed together, lean against our kitchen counter together, and, now, we are standing together, here, in a parking lot, with the military barracks behind it, and a government issued bag at our feet.
Here, at boot camp, where my husband, who is an Officer in the Navy, will train to be an Army soldier, train to kill, train to be ready to go. And, then, he will go, go on a plane, and go to country where news stories are made.
Because there are not enough of them, not enough Army soldiers, he will go. Because there is no draft, he will go.
My husband will serve for the Army, on an Embedded Training Team, embedded in the heart of Afghanistan, working at a college in Kabul, and training Afghan soldiers.
And he says, I won’t be gone forever.
And I say, promise.
I want him to promise, my husband, promise, not because it is possible, to make this kind of promise, but because it isn’t. And because, this is what you do, what you do when your husband goes to war.
This is the moment we have to say goodbye.
Goodbye, goodbye for fifteen months.
And our son is only two years old, sitting in a car seat, in the backseat, in the car. And my husband is leaning over him, leaning in the car door, trying to give him a special coin, a silver dollar. And our son will not take it, putting his little hands, behind his back, no and no.
It is as if he knows, as if he knows what it means.
How I will take it, the silver dollar, take it home, and put it in a box, on a high shelf, in my closet.
Because if my husband dies, his father, if he dies in this war, it will be the last thing he ever gave him.
My husband is gone.
I walk around this condo, up stairs, through rooms, down a hallway. I check the front door and the back door. Turning locks, twisting knobs, saying out loud, to the darkness, and to no one, just to be sure. I watch my son sleep, his small chest rising and then falling, before I fall too, into our bed, but on my side, still.
There is a shirt stretched across his side of the bed, a shirt that my husband left behind, or maybe, just forgot, with a sleeve, one arm, hanging off the bed.
My husband will be gone for fifteen months.
This is the first night.