T and I met in October of 2005. We dated for two months. Then his National Guard unit deployed.
Read Our Story from the beginning.
One day in early January of 2006, I drove T up to the armory so that he could report in. While he was doing army stuff, I checked into the hotel where we would be staying for a couple of nights as the unit prepared to deploy.
In just a few days, T would be on a bus headed for Fort Dix where he would spend two months training to do convoy escort in Bagdad. Because nothing prepares you for desert conditions like New Jersey in February.
T is an escapist. When there is an unpleasant situation that he can’t change, he waits it out by burying himself in books, movies or computer games. The afternoon before he left, he sat in our hotel room playing a game on his laptop. We still had a few more hours together, but T had already checked out, so to speak.
I was sad, scared and already lonely. My stomach was in knots and I was furious with T for ignoring me. I didn’t understand his coping mechanism. All I could think was, Why am I even here? Had he just wanted someone to hang out with for a few months before he deployed and now that the deployment was here, we were finished?
But we didn’t have time to make up. Instead, we shoved the fight aside. The next morning, before the sun had even risen, we said a tearful (on my part) good-bye. He slung his duffel bag over his shoulder and I watched my uniformed, booted soldier walk out the door.
The winter rolled slowly by. We had cell phones now and we talked at least once a day. I clung to that phone like a drowning woman to a life-preserver. I carried it everywhere and dropped whatever I was doing whenever it rang.
I don’t have that phone anymore, but even now, four years later, hearing that ringtone shoots a jolt of electricity through my body.
The unit was scheduled to leave for Iraq in early March. As February disappeared, we started hearing whispers of the possibility of a few days leave before the overseas departure. We made plans. The whispers changed. We rearranged plans. The whispers changed again.
Finally, we got the firm leave dates: 2-6 March 2006. T would have just five days. We decided not to waste time travelling.
We were going to The Big Apple!