Three months into his first deployment, two soldiers from T’s unit were killed in action and a third was wounded. Shortly after the incident, in a fit of alcohol-induced despair, I drunk emailed a message to my then-boyfriend with the subject line “BREAKING UP WITH YOU”…or did I?
Read Our Story from the beginning.
The screen went to a blank Hotmail page.
“Oh shit.” I said, stricken.
I looked at K and Laurie Loo. Their faces mirrored my horror, but I tried to swallow my panic.
“Did that go through?” I asked. “It doesn’t look like the regular ‘sent message’ screen.”
“It might not have,” K said, always the one to give solace. “I’ve had that happen before and the email didn’t send. It does that sometimes. I don’t know why.”
I wasn’t convinced and my stomach felt leaden, but I laughed anyway. What else could I do? I’d just pulled the world’s most bone-headed move, but there was no way I was going to admit it.
I got up from the computer and we went about with our evening. We played some cards. We laughed. We drank some more.
At one point I remember lying on the kitchen floor staring through my haze up at the ceiling. I think K was on one side of me and Laurie Loo on the other, but I wouldn’t swear to it in court. We lay there talking and laughing.
“I can’t believe you’re laughing about it,” Laurie Loo said. “I would be devastated.”
“Well, I am,” I said. “But I can’t take it back. If it went through, it went through.”
“Is that how you want things to end?”
I was quiet for a moment.
I jumped up and sat back down at the computer and I typed this email to my soldier:
Subject Line: Okay, that was bad…
I’m sitting at K’s computer right now and I am obviously upset and alcohol has a lot to do with this.
This is why alcohol and computers don’t mix. It’s sort of like drinking and driving and I think I just crashed my car.
I really was trying to express my frustration but I obviously meant to change the subject line. Unfortunately I’m not really all that coordinated right now and I totally hit the wrong button. I don’t truly feel that way. I’m sorry.
I also don’t remember everything I typed and I sent it before it was complete so I’m sure it was way worse than I actually remember it being. Please forgive my ignorance. I’m retarded and drunk.
I hope that you will just disregard that entire email and realize that drunk, emotional people should not be allowed near the computer.
Sorry, baby. I still love you. That’s why it hurts so much.
P.S. I’m not really sure if that actually went through but just in case…
P.P.S. I’m not really a twat, like Laurie Loo says.
P.P.P.S. Okay, maybe I am, if I actually sent that.
P.P.P.P.S. Actually, I am, anyway, whether I sent it or not, because I’m sending you this.
P.P.P.P.P.S. But I love you.
Then I logged off and waited with a churning stomach for a reply.
I don’t remember when I heard back from T. I don’t remember whether it was the following day or later that week. I don’t even remember whether we addressed it by phone or by email.
What I do remember is that when I did hear from him, he had no idea what email I was talking about, though he quickly put two and two together. I told him I was most upset about the subject line and how hurtful that would be. He asked what I had written and, with quaking guts, I told him.
I think he may have laughed, but I was too busy trying not to throw up to remember. But my head swam with relief; I hadn’t made the fatal mistake I thought I had. And we would go on enduring.
That week was a time of record rainfall. Rivers swelled and crept over their banks. The water tables leapt up, basements flooded and roads washed away. People were forced to take alternate routes and were urged to stay home if at all possible.
It seemed to me that the whole world was crying for our fallen soldiers.
And still the rain came down. The National Guard was called out to keep people away from the roads and rivers and I glared at the irony with bitterness, wishing my boyfriend could be standing the cold rain he hated so much instead of sweating in an arid desert that was beset with a strife that seemed so, well, foreign to me.
That weekend at the funeral the FRG came together for one last time before it came apart for good. It is a day that is etched in many images in my mind, both powerful and horrible. It is a day that none who were there will ever forget.
But I wish no one had to remember.