“How long will he be gone?” I ask. Across the satellite towers and invisible phone lines, my friend types a message back.
I stare at her words, the little yellow text box lighting my screen. Seven months. Seven months her husband will be deployed, somewhere across the world where she can’t just pick up her phone and call him, where she can’t reach for him in the middle of the night, where she can’t walk across the tile floor of their shared bathroom and pull him into her arms.
My fingers hover above my keyboard. There are so many words I wish I could say—words of comfort and love, words of support and encouragement, words of truth, “this sucks, I’m sorry”—but my hands are stuck.
Because all I can picture is the curve of her husband’s mustache, the deep tones of his voice and the way he would playfully grab her thin shoulders, turn her to him, and kiss her wildly on the mouth. All I can picture is the way he said her name, “Alllllie,” with the ‘l’ all drawn out. All I can picture is the first night I met the two of them across a crowded bar, his guffawed laughter filling the space between us. He was nine or so beers deep, sloshing around in the blissful state of post-deployment, Allie hanging loosely on his arm.
At the time I was caught up in their energy, the way the smiled so freely at one another, it was as if they’d never known anyone else.
I would never have guessed the backstory, their complicated marriage, their military commitments leaving them thousands of miles apart. I would have never guessed that they became a husband and wife so young, that they hardly saw one another, that there were nights upon nights when the both of them went to sleep alone.
I look back at my screen again, another text, this time a small frowny face—conveying every bit of emotion that wasn’t said. I wish I could reach through my screen and hug her, hold her to my chest and tell her this would all be okay, that this was just another hurdle to climb over, and only a few months.
I wish I could tell her that this would only make them stronger, that they had already gone through so much. I wish I could print out the image in my mind of the night I met them, the sunset dipping behind the late June clouds, making the sky a purple-blue; the clinking of glasses mixing with the music; he rosy cheeks of both of their faces, taking tequila shots and chasing them with Mexican beers.
I wish I could show her the way she tipped back her head and laughed, how he grabbed her and she squealed like a child. I wish I could tell her how effortless it looked—their love—like there was no such thing as distance coming between.
I wish I could tell her what matters is not the moments spent apart but the bond continually growing, even with hearts in two separate places. I wish I could tell her that every time I looked at them, I was no longer afraid.