February 24, 2014
The realization came to me this morning, before the coffee had even finished brewing in the kitchen.
I always clean first.
He tossed his bags into one side of the car, with Walter peeking out of his seat from the other side. When we reached the airport, he waited in line at the ticket counter, the only one in line wearing camouflage and boots. He leaned down to tell Walter goodbye one more time, and then told me, and then he was gone- away for more courses and training. I drove home with a tightness in my chest, biting my lip and wondering exactly what I was feeling.
And then, I shut the door and started to clean. It's become a habit, a tradition that surfaces every time he leaves. He has been gone so many times now, there are traditions in his absence.
I wiped the counters with a dishcloth, and cleared off the kitchen table. I vacuumed and hand washed the dishes in the sink, leftover from the chicken I made us before he left. There was a pair of his sunglasses here, some of his papers there, and I scooped up everything and put it away. Twenty four hours ago, the house was covered in various things in various shades of Army green. Now, it's like it never was.
I'm trying to figure out how this works. What it looks like to be apart with the state lines drawn between us. What it feels like to have that physical distance while we steer through so many emotions. All the articles talk about the long nights pining away and the sweet homecomings with new dresses. They never mention the fight.
While he's away, navigating new places with his new compass, I am here. And there are no maps. The compass is a worn Bible. The shelter is this clean house, with his toothbrush gone and his towel tumbling in the dryer. I'm looking around at what's left.
The bed is made up on his side. I should be sleeping.