What nobody tells you is that when somebody stops loving you, you’re expected to stop loving them.
They will no longer be telling you of their well-being. If they survived the thing neither of you were sure they would. If they made it home in one piece.
If they are alive, whole, breathing.
I knew what I was getting into when I fell in love with a military man. Sleepless nights filled with worry, no guarantee from one day to the next.
What I did not expect, what I hoped never to have to expect, was what would happen once he was no longer my military man.
I have long given up hope of getting a response to a call or a text. Even if the text is, “I saw something on the news and it scared me. Please let me know if you’re alive.”
If you are alive, whole, breathing.
I expected to be scared all the time when I was with him. I did. I signed up for it, as surely as he signed up for what he did. It was the price to be paid to be with him, and I would have paid any price. There was no such thing as too high. There was whatever it took to be with him, and I would turn out my pockets to pay that fee. I would turn out the contents of my heart, I would spill blood all over the place. I have spilled blood all over the place. Where no one could see it, unless they looked very closely at the cracks behind my eyes.
I expected it.
To be with him.
And now that I am not with him, I am still spilling blood all over the place, and he took the gauze, he took the powder. It can’t, it won’t, it doesn’t clot. I see the news, and I hold my phone carefully in the palms of my hands, and I stare at it. At the blank screen. At the blank screen that used to light up in the middle of the night with his face, my favorite face, with the ringtone that was only his.
No call comes, and I try to convince myself that it doesn’t mean he isn’t okay. It just means we aren’t us anymore. He’s not half of us, he doesn’t form a whole with me. He doesn’t call to tell me he’s okay when I’m scared because I’m not supposed to be scared anymore.
I’m supposed to stop caring if he lives or dies, because he walked away.
Is that how that’s supposed to work?
How is that supposed to work?
I loved him in a way that was splitting and rearranging and completing. If there is a switch that turns that kind of love off, I have not yet found it. Maybe if I could clear away all of the blood.
Maybe if I could turn off the news.
Maybe if the world wasn’t a place where boys go to war and expect to die there. He expected to die there, he told me one night, his voice low in my ear as I pressed the phone between my face and the pillow. He wanted me to see it, to understand it. He expected to die there, surrounded by his men, his brothers. I shook my head, even though he couldn’t see it. I didn’t stop shaking it.
I haven’t stopped shaking it.
He says kind words to waitresses and lets my cat sleep precariously perched on his knee and rolls his eyes at the ridiculous things I say and laughs the best laugh. He can’t do all of those things and expect to die before he gets old and his laugh carves lines into his face and he gets to stretch to the full width and breadth of life.
He can’t expect to die without even seeing 30-years-old.
I’ve seen thirty. My bones have settled into thirty. I have settled into myself at thirty. It’s something I want everyone to see and experience, especially him. That boy. Nobody has ever made me happier, and nobody has ever made me sadder, than that boy.
Nobody has told me how to stop caring if he lives or dies.
Nobody has told me how to stop staring at my phone.
Waiting for an answer to a text that says, “I saw something on the news and I’m scared.”
“Please let me know if you’re alive.”