I am thinking about movement today.
I am thinking about movement and about its absence.
About a bomb lodged underneath the unarmored Ford pickup truck my husband drives, every single day, up and down the road they call the Highway of Death. About how a bomb will force his pickup, up, into the air, and how it will force his body, up, into the air. About how his head may blow up or fly, fly across the road, his head, and land somewhere else.
I am thinking about how, here, at home, time feels like it is standing still while my husband is away. And about how time marches on. About how horrible this deployment is, but, as the days turn into months, how it has gotten easier, and even more enjoyable, this time I have now, time which is only my time.
I am thinking about America. This country I live in, about how we all seem to pretend the war is not happening. Because I am thinking about movement today, thinking about movement and about its absence.
I watch the news, sitting, here, on my bed, which used to be our bed, except, now, my husband is gone. And I am watching the war on television again, this footage that has been edited and squeezed into something that can fit between two commercials. How this war has become a product, packaged into tearful homecomings and loyal dogs and sweet wives.
I have seen this happen before.
How 9/11 was turned into a tourist attractions. T-shirts and car decals and miniature Twin Tower snow globes.
But the truth, I say, out loud, to the television.
The truth is something different.
The truth is that war and terror are this. An amputated leg, a dead body, a road littered with bombs, a lost country, with children, children like ours, living in war, and soldiers coming home, soldiers who have given so much, that they have nothing else to give.
When you are a military wife, your life is full of holes.
Your husband goes to war.
He is gone. And there is a hole in the calendar, the hole where days fall and never come back, where time has stopped but still goes on. And while he is gone, you think about it, about what can happen. You think about him getting killed. And about how, how they will lower him into a hole, dug into the ground, a flag draped over the coffin. You think about him getting shot, a hole in his head, where the doctors will put a metal plate. You think about him getting blown up, blown up by a roadside bomb, his right leg amputated, that missing limb. And you don’t know yet. You don’t know about the other holes. More holes, the holes that will come later, if you are lucky, lucky enough, and he comes home alive.
My husband has been gone for one year.
And I think about it, about what can happen, all the time. As I lay, in our bed, a hole next to me, this space where his body used to be.
On 9/11, I fell, down, in the street,
After the Tower fell, down, behind me.
A man I did not know lifted me up,
His fingers in my armpits,
Asking me, a thick German accent,
What is your name and how, when I told him,
He smiled, repeating it, Amalie
Because my name is German too,
Pointing up, to a window,
On the side of an office building,
And I followed him up a fire escape,
Into an empty room, empty desks, empty chairs,
Sitting in a chair at a desk, someone else’s.
And using the telephone, calling my mother,
Saying the words I am still alive.
Now my husband is calling me, calling me from a payphone in Kabul, his voice, almost lost, in static, telling me, how, he is still alive. And I know. I know what those words mean. How they really mean, I almost died today.
It is early morning in Afghanistan, not even five your time, I say, into the telephone, to my husband, who is breathing, back, to me, on the other end. And I am distracted, because I am busy, driving somewhere, the radio on, and our son, talking, in the backseat.
I say, it’s your Daddy, to my son, but into the telephone, to my husband, who is standing at the front of a long line, ready, in full battle rattle, helmet, armor, fatigues, boots, and gun, but waiting, waiting for his turn to call me, and hear my voice, before he goes, just another day, driving down the Highway of Death.
And when I hang up the telephone, things feel heavier.
A machine gun hanging at my husband’s side, that conversation we just had, his words and mine, the ones I said, and the weight of the ones I forgot to say, and the days and nights stretching out in front of both of us, now, that it is done.
But this is just part of being a military wife.
How when your husband calls you from war, you are not always ready, even though, even though this could be the last time.
You must miss him.
Everyone says that, says you must miss him.
And I always say I do, how I do, I miss him.
But the truth is this. Deployment is hard. And deployment can be easy. My husband has been gone for over a year, now. And, yes, I miss him. But some days I don’t. I don’t miss him.
This is deployment. It is the pain of missing him. And it is the pain of not missing him. Some days I forget about him. Because it has been so long, too long, this separation.
Amalie Flynn is an American writer and the author of WIFE AND WAR: THE MEMOIR and two blogs: WIFE AND WAR and SEPTEMBER ELEVENTH. Flynn’s WIFE AND WAR poetry has appeared in THE NEW YORK TIMES AT WAR and in TIME’S BATTLELAND, has appeared in her blog for THE HUFFINGTON POST, and has received mention from THE NEW YORK TIMES MEDIA DECODER. Her SEPTEMBER ELEVENTH blog has received mention from CNN. In addition, her WIFE AND WAR blog has a global readership, with readers from over 90 countries. WIFE AND WAR: THE MEMOIR is her first book.