It’s funny. When you start writing sometimes you don’t know where it’s going to go. This has been one of those times.
This was written for Sue Vincent’s #writephoto, which I love to do but haven’t done as much recently as I would have liked. Thanks, Sue. The photos are always incredible!
“Just you wait, dear. You’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel,” my Grandmother’s friend says as she pats my hand.
I have no answer, so I barely smile. I don’t want a tunnel. I do want a light–my light who thought joining the Marines was a good idea. How could that ever be a good idea when these altercations in the Middle East show no sign of ever abating?
Sam Rodriguez and I fell in love in high school. He was the star of the soccer team and I was the editor of the school newspaper. We were complete opposites until he started quoting Pablo Neruda and Jorge Borges and Emily Dickinson, the last completely flooring me.
Saturating kisses, two proms, graduation. I was destined for Johns-Hopkins while he shrugged away two soccer scholarships to join the Marines.
“It’s honor and loyalty, Carolina,” he said.
“Semper Fi and a sexy uniform,” he added to make me smile. I didn’t; I understood the risk because my Grandad had died in war, a fact my Grandmother lived with. I didn’t want to live with that. Ever.
He proposed. I vacillated.
He left for training. I left for college.
Thanksgiving was the last time we saw each other, before he shipped out, his fingers cupping my chin, his smile 100 watts of brilliance.
“How can I leave you without putting a ring on your finger? Making sure all those college boys know you’re taken?”
He smelled of mint and sandalwood and cilantro. I buried my face in his neck, ran my lips over his jaw.
“You be safe.”
He’s missing. No one states the obvious. No one just goes missing these days. He’s being held hostage or he’s dead.
“When you look up at the sky, I’ll be looking up too. It’s like we’ll be seeing it together,” he’d said.
He is the poet. He should be earning this writing degree, not me.
Days pass. Hope died ages ago. I exist in a world where college boys practice arrogance and smarminess and party too much. They are ignorant to a world where peers die in a sunburned land. How does this disparity exist?
My dorm room, shared with a nose-constantly-in-a-textbook physical chemist named Stella, becomes my sanctuary. Stella never intrudes. She seems to intuit my pain.
My cell chimes at 8 am. “You don’t always get what you want. Sometimes you get what you need.”
It’s a text from an unknown number. Bleary-eyed I frown. Wrong number. Must be.
“Meet me in 10 minutes at Donuts and Roast.”
Donuts and Roast? That’s five minutes away. It must be someone I know. Strange. Do I just get dressed and meet this person? Yes, something tells me: Yes.
With no makeup, sleep still pervading my being, yawns echoing inside unattractively, I enter Donuts and Roast driven by curiosity. I glance around. It’s crowded. It’s always crowded this early. Students looking for good coffee outside of the university, business folks catching one for the office. Someone taps me on the shoulder. I turn, wondering if I’m about to beat off a serial killer.
Sam Rodriguez smiles at me, his light blinding. I whimper and then throw my arms around his neck. He rocks me back and forth.
I hear clapping. Clapping?
Every patron in the restaurant is clapping. I pull back and stare at him. He grins.
Someone yells: “Thank you for your service.”
Sam waves before leading me out of the shop.
“What about my coffee?” I ask.
“No. God, no.” I hug him again, relieved by the very corporeal reality of his being. “The Rolling Stones?”
He kisses me. “Your Gram’s favorite song.”
I’m amazed that he’s remembered that, but Sam remembers so many things.
“I love you,” I say. “I want to marry you.”
“Are you staying?”
He’s hesitant. His brandy eyes stare at our clasped hands. “I’ve got some months to serve, but I’m promised a scholarship at Virginia.”
I look away. Months to serve?
He pulls me close. “I’m not going back. I’m here. I’m yours.”
I allow myself to dissolve into his embrace. And hope.