It’s Halloween here in the states, and it’s raining. It always seems to be raining when I write these posts. It’s as if the universe knows I don’t want to go here. I put off the inevitable by going to the kitchen for another cup of coffee (because we all know that coffee always helps with focus). I sit back down and note I’m not in my workroom, but at the dining room table. The familiar, familial hub of this house. Interesting. Not sure if it means anything, but it’s interesting that I choose this space to write in today. It’s almost like I can feel the ghosts of conversations past sitting here at this table. I’ve got a million things to do but this post, the one that haunts me, is stuck in my head, blocking progress on anything else.
It’s quiet in the house. Too quiet. Although I normally crave an empty house, each random noise makes me jump today. I’m restless and alone with my thoughts, most of which are usually jumbled in a clamorous riot. But not today. The wind hows outside a bit, and I can’t seem to get warm no matter how high I turn up the heat. I feel a chill down my spine and my mind goes, unbidden, to the old wives’ tale that someone’s walking on my grave. Off my game, I reach for another sweater, pulling it on as I once more try to regain focus.
I suppose most scary stories start at the beginning. While this one started years ago, the latest nail in the coffin was the phone call last night. Subconsciously, I knew it was coming. It was only a matter of time. Inevitable, really, but for some reason I still listened to the reassurances. No, no, no, you’re worrying too much. You’re just being paranoid. Nothing is happening. Finally, unbelievably, I gave into the soothing comfort of the words. In retrospect, I did it to myself. I know better. I’m the adult here; I’ve been around the block enough times to know there’s no such thing as a free lunch. And yet somehow, I let myself believe that perhaps this would be different. I let myself be seduced by false promises. The comfort that it’s not going to happen, that somehow we’ll escape unscathed.
I am such an idiot. A foolish, foolish idiot.
Today is, ironically, a perfect day to deal with fear, with scary possibilities and frightening options. Today is the day where, once again, I remember why I never wanted to get a pet — sooner or later, there is loss, and you have to let go. This may be why I never wanted to be a parent; sooner or later, you have to let go. Truth be told, I never wanted to get married either, but that’s another story for another day. It seems reasonable to say I dislike not having control over my world. Control is good; control is safe. Control is protection from pain and loss and things that go bump in the night. I don’t like being vulnerable. But to be human is to be vulnerable; to love also means being able to fear. This is the crack in my armor of control, this weakness that is vulnerability. I dislike this weakness. I dislike that, despite years of honing inner strength and control, there is a spot where I am deadly vulnerable. My Achille’s heel.
I hate being weak.
I hate that my world has been derailed with a handful of words. God, how I hate those words. To add insult to injury, there is vagueness and secrets that cannot be whispered; we have entered an era of emptiness. Like ghosts, there is nothing solid to hang on to, and I will have to live without substance for years to come. Like walking through a cemetery at night on Halloween; you feel the chill of the night settle around you, a mantle of death you cannot seem to avoid. There are whispers of lives that have gone before, lives that once had been but are now buried in the ground, to be resurrected only in song and story. All you can think of are the horror stories, the ones they tell that have dismemberments, and loved ones who never come back, and horrible endings full of the living dead. You try to make your way carefully among the headstones, but there’s a secret fear within you of a brittle skeletal hand reaching for you, trying to drag you down into the empty grave, of being buried alive while you gasp for air which has, suddenly, been sucked out of your lungs. I desperately wish for someone to wake me from this nightmare.
But, this morning, I wake up to find what I fear most: I am indeed living my own scary dream, the one I’m terrified will have a nightmarish ending. It took him almost two weeks to get up the nerve to tell me. I’m not even sure he would have, if he could have avoided it. But sometimes, you simply need to take a deep breath, face your fears, and hope for the best.
Deployment. A year. Afghanistan. Very soon.
Beware the scary story — lest it becomes very, very real.