For the past two weeks, I haven’t had to fight with the fitted sheet on my mattress. Specifically, the upper left corner. I simply pull the covers down and get into bed. No more tugging, pulling, inadvertently bending a nail back as I plead with the elastic to please, please, stay the fuck down for one goddamn night. For almost two years, I’ve engaged in this nightly boudoir battle, each morning waking to defeat. Suddenly, one morning, it was over. The sheet stayed down, compliant in its position. At first I was thrilled. FINALLY! As the nights ticked by, my celebratory mood turned sour. The left corner is mocking me.
This miracle of my bed sheet isn’t due to divine intervention. No, it’s because that side of the bed has been empty for the past two weeks and will continue to stay empty for the next six months. My boyfriend is gone and won’t be back for quite some time. Instead, he’s sleeping in a shitty twin bed in a desert land far away from here and I fucking hate it.
He’s been overseas twice, before I entered the picture. When we started dating, he had only been back a few months from his second deployment. I heard the trials and tribulations of being away in a foreign land. It sounded interesting, exotic, and terrifying. Those stories were all past tense and I didn’t anticipate him leaving any time soon again.
Until he did.
I never grew up around military, so this is a whole new world to me. When it was confirmed he would be leaving, my blood ran cold and my face got hot.
How could this happen again?
Do you have to go?
Where are you going?
When are you going?
WHY ARE YOU GOING????
Selfishly, I held out hope the deployment would fall through. Maybe it was an elaborate prank and we’d all have a laugh about it. Of course, that’s not what happened. What happened was time went way too fast over the holidays, never enough hours in the day. Then I was watching him pack his gear on the kitchen table, setting the bags by the door before we left. The night before he left we had dinner at his parents’ house where I ate too much and drank too much and sobbed with my entire body. I laid there a complete mess while he silently hugged me and let me go. I tried to apologize through my tears but I only got as far as “I’m” before my voice was murdered in my throat. I felt foolish and selfish because why was I so upset? I’m not the one leaving. I’ll still enjoy my life here. He’s the one who has to go to the middle of the world without his family and creature comforts. Yet, the tears still came and he told me it was okay to feel sad, which made it even worse.
The next day was surreal, similar to the atmosphere the day of a funeral. The house was quiet yet felt like there was an electrical charge, like if I touched something 2,000 volts would surge through my body. I felt slightly better from the night before and thought I might be able to hold it together. This false sense of confidence was immediately revoked when I heard his 4-year old son tell him he loved him, he was going to miss him SO much, and couldn’t he come with him? A guttural blow. I could hear his tiny heart breaking into pieces and there was nothing we could do.
The rest of the morning is a blur. Breakfast was consumed, a few jokes made, but mostly silence. We got to the airport and stood among the rest of the unit. I succeeded in smiling, nodding, introducing myself to others. My eyes raw and swollen, snot almost certainly running down my nose (heeeeeeeey, Aqualung!), I’m sure I didn’t make a very good impression. Then they were leaving and we were saying goodbye. We watched as they snaked their way through security, their camouflage failing miserably to hide them, in turn making them most conspicuous.
The first week was awful because I barely heard from him. I knew he got there, he was safe, and that was about it. I’ve come to understand details are never given with this kind of thing, which is torture for someone like myself. Communication has gotten better over the past week with emails. We were able to FaceTime on my birthday, by far the best present of all (corny, I know).
I keep hearing time will fly when he’s gone, but it hasn’t happened yet. As of now, minutes have turned to hours with no end in sight. People have told me to “Get in a routine, it will help!” So, that’s what I did. I picked up a part-time job. Now, I get up at 5 a.m., go to the gym, shower, work, work again, and have a snack. In the bedroom, my path now only deviates to the right side; there’s no need for me on the left. Into the bed, under the covers, and sleep.
Repeat for six months.