Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Once upon a time...
a long time ago, or so it seems, there were two young people. These two young people had both recently moved to a strange and provincial place. While one was familiar with the country, she just wasn't familiar with the particular breed of people found in this borough. The other had lived mostly in a more bustling, urban environment, and so he was an equally uprooted transplant. Out of place and out of their elements, the two became hesitant friends. I say hesitant, but it was mostly due to an awkward shyness the two shared that put something of a hobble on the speed of their friendship.
The two were something like Heckle and Jeckle, I suppose. Always nearby one another, cutting up and cracking jokes. They had few secrets between them. The few they had, well they had their reasons for them, and the other didn't pry. They were comfortable with silence. That, alone, would have made either one of them a rare friend: to be able to sit and be silent without the silence becoming a presence of its own. They each had their own unique and problematic families, childhoods, and experiences that gave them cause to treasure peaceful, undemanding silence. They saw each other through botched relationships, failed friendships, ups, downs, and sideways that come along with high school. He called her "My Diabolique". Her temper was rather... legendary. And he was "My B", or sometimes "My Teddy Bear", though they never once dated. They claimed each other. Comfortable and very happy to have found such a good friend in each other, they never once talked about anything more. The girl just knew that she would never have a chance with him, and didn't want to risk losing him as a friend. She felt privileged. It never occurred to her to look for anything more from him. Quite possibly he felt the same way. Then, one day the girl, for she was the older of the two, graduated and went off to college. This was before the time of nearly universal cell phone coverage or even affordable plans. They neither one had computers, Myspace and Facebook had not yet been invented, and she rarely stayed still long enough to have a permanent address. Besides, who would write? And so time pulled them apart.
Partners changed, residences changed, chips fell and dominoes tumbled. The Fates threw Diabolique into some dark pits, before letting her begin to climb back out. The world can seem awfully huge when you're first venturing into it, and friends can be hard to find. Chameleons and mirages that are colorful and constantly changing. It's strange, sometimes, what the gods will do. The girl was dating the brother of a high school friend. The old friend lived in the town B was originally from. While visiting her brother, she mentioned to Diabolique who she'd run into at college one day. Diabolique was thrilled, and extracted many promises that her phone number would be passed on, email address, all those methods of communication that had been neglected or nonexistent several years before. And so, the Fates put them together again, though rather unkindly. Diabolique was living with her boyfriend. He seemed good enough. B was living in his old hometown, hours away, trying to work his way through school. Again the dice fell, the thread was spun, and Diabolique's temper was brought to bear. It resulted in a whirlwind drive in the middle of the night to load B and all his things up and cart him back home with her. That went over quite well with her boyfriend... eventually.
And so the three of them lived. B renting the downstairs, Diabolique and her boyfriend renting the upstairs, and the friendship resumed right where it left off. The only thing different was having to fill each other in on the missing pages of the story. Those things that had happened in the in-between. More failed friendships, more botched relationships, more heartaches, family problems, and ... well, more growing pains I suppose you could say. Some people are harder to teach than others, and the gods know Diabolique has a thick skull. B came home from work one night to find things far removed from civil between Diabolique and her boyfriend. The boyfriend ended up being physically removed to a different part of the house by a very unhappy B. It was the only time he ever asked her to leave someone she was dating, and he practically begged. He told her it would wind up no good, that she'd be hurt.
Women can be stupid creatures, stubborn creatures, and determined creatures. Diabolique was no exception. She was stubborn. Gods was she? Eleven years. That's how long it took her to finally get out. She was able to see that B was right before then. She tried to leave before then. But, the gods are strange. One thing after another prevented her escape. Job prospects fell through, family members died on both sides of the relationship she was in, and she made a death bed promise. That was the hardest to let go of. A promise to a dying man who had never been anything but good to her to take care of his son. But his son was not taking care of her in return. The situation got worse... and worse... Through these years B was still there. Right across town. They'd get together for breakfast, a movie, just a night hanging out. He was having dark days as well, and they drifted.
One very dark day, he showed up on her door step distraught, barely articulate, and then he drove away. She sat down and cried, because she was afraid that she would never see him again. For nearly a year, it was like he walked off the face of the earth. She continued to look for jobs, preferably out of state, but they never panned out. She would get so close, only to have them cancel on her at the last minute. Finally, she moved back in with her parents, because she couldn't afford to leave on her own, but she was damned if she was going to stay any longer caught in a downward spiral. Not long after, her phone rings late one evening. It's a number she doesn't recognize, and she almost doesn't answer it.
"Do you remember me?"
"OH MY GODS! Do I remember you?! What the *hell*! Where are you? Where have you been? I've missed you!"
And so the Fates spin, and the thread grows longer. She finds out he made it into the Army. He'd gone infantry. He'd almost been sent to a post much farther north, but they pulled his orders at the last minute. It was about the same time that the job she was trying to get out of state had sent her a Dear John note.
She finds out that a good friend from high school lives less than an hour from his post, and is more than happy for the two of them to spend a weekend with her. A friend neither had seen in a decade.
She finds out that he has orders to go to Afghanistan, scheduled to leave in slightly over six weeks.
Just a few days after her regularly scheduled four day weekend.
She thinks she might actually be sick. Infantry. Her Teddy Bear? The sweet, non-violent, soft-spoken, quiet, lovable pacifist? She was the volatile one, the hostile one, the fighter... le Diabolique. Not him.
He almost didn't tell her he was deploying. He almost disappeared again. She told him she'd be at the post's main gate at 0800 on the Thursday before his departure, and he'd better be there to meet her, or she'd have the MP's drag him out of bed. He argues.
It's too far.
I'm not worth the trip.
You don't need to waste your time on me.
Every sentence making her both more angry and more determined. If there's anything he ought to know by now, Diabolique is stubborn. And there's a reason he started calling her Diabolique in the first place. She's got a temper. And she's a little protective of who and what she loves.
"If you think for one single gods-be-damned second that you, my best friend, the best friend I've ever had, are not *worth* the trip, then you got another think coming, mister. I'm coming down there, even if it's just to slap the shit out of you for saying that. Your ass better be up, dressed, and at the gate by 0800, or I'm going to raise so much noise you'll have to come bail me out of jail. The only real question is if it's going to be Wednesday morning or Thursday morning, because I'm putting in a leave request with my lieutenant before the night's out. Are we clear?"
He did what he's nearly always done when she got angry at him for being down on himself. He laughed at her. But he had to concede. It wasn't like he could stop her. And so she went, and they had another time of catching up to do. She told him she'd left her husband. His reaction was immediate, and to her at least, completely unexpected. He asked her to wait for him to come home from Afghanistan before "getting into another stupid relationship?" Her mouth opened before her brain engaged, and she said she would. She'd never been more afraid of anything in her life. She was so afraid to mess this up. She wasn't afraid of him, though, and wasn't afraid to trust him. She'd always trusted him. It wasn't even a question. But the very best things, the things we want so much we'll never admit it even to ourselves, those are the things the gods dangle in front of us and then snatch away. At least, that was her experience so far.
His orders got postponed, and he was able to make a trip back home to visit her and a few friends and family before he deployed. They discussed things. She'd been trying to enlist since about the same time he started trying. They'd both begun dieting together, but male physiology being what it is, he lost the weight first. She had finished college, though and was trying to enlist as an officer candidate. Complications would ensue. Fraternization, deployments, duty stations... Stubborn, both of them said naturally they'd find a way around it. They weren't discussing the "m" word, by mutual consent. That was just a great big negative. The ink wasn't dry on her divorce decree, yet. He'd been used, abused, and discarded enough. He was getting ready to go to a war zone and didn't need the distraction. She didn't want to be the distraction that took his head out of the game. They'd figure something out. They'd stayed friends for nearly 14 years, and through everything they'd never broken each other's trust, let each other down, or entirely given up. "What's a year?" she said. "I'm stubborn enough for both of us." she said. "We'll figure it out." he said.
He was in the desert 30 days.
The "m" word they weren't discussing suddenly became a discussion.
"I think we should talk about working around these complications if you enlist, especially if you go officer. I think I have a solution" he says.
She says "We've already discussed it and agreed we're not discussing it."
"If that's what we have to do for me to know you'll be there when I get home, then by God let's get hitched"
She told him no. Twice.
"I'm not backing you into a corner like this."
"You're not backing me into a corner. The way I see it I'm just plain stuck with you anyway. This'll just make it legal."
"Just plain stuck, huh? You're damn right you're stuck, so you don't have to rush into anything."
"I'm not rushing into anything. Damnit, I don't have much time, so just listen to me. I love you, Diabolique, and no army is going to keep me away from you."
They got married on his R & R. The judge was in cowboy boots and faded blue jeans. He didn't recite vows. It was Casual Friday. He only said "I've been marrying people for a long time, and all those words really don't mean a thing. There's only one question that matters. Do you love her? Do you love him? Will you continue to love each other? Well all right then, kiss your bride, son."
It was rough around the edges, short, sweet, and perfect. Fifteen days goes by awfully fast. Four months is a long time not to hear someone's voice. Sometimes she wakes up in the middle of the night, and she can't find the teddy bear he gave her before he left the first time. She never sleeps without it. She just can't. She almost wonders if it's all been a dream. But the teddy bear turns up, and her Teddy Bear will come home soon. Then Once Upon a Time can start to become Happily Ever After if the Fates are kind, keep spinning, and Thanatos keeps her shears to herself.