Friday, December 12, 2008

The First 24

I have had approximately two hours broken sleep last night. I woke up once in the night and was completely startled by the fact of Keith's presence beside me. He had slept during all or most of his flights so he was, to use his own term, "wired." He did not fall asleep until past two am and woke up at five forty five, ready to make cheesy eggs for breakfast and start working on his truck.

At the airport, I couldn't stand when I was waiting for him, I sat huddled down in an airport chair, it took all my concentration to keep my pounding heart in my rib cage. People kept trickling by and I began to worry that maybe he wasn't on that flight. I started to pray, "Dear God, please let him be on the flight, please.."

Then I saw him, he was talking in a friendly way to a fellow in a cowboy hat. Keith's uniform was crumpled and stained and his shoulders were sloped forward from the weight of his ruck sack.

I knew him at once, but not because of the uniform. I saw his face and in that one moment, I remembered all of those things that I had lost. I couldn't believe how much knowledge of him time had stolen away and that in one moment, and one glimpse of his face, had been returned.

I stood as though pulled up by strings, I walked to him in a daze, faster and then faster, he lifted an arm and I was tucked up against him. I forget what we said, all I know is that I had him in my arms and I wasn't letting go.

"...and I'll leave you alone now," finished up Mr. Cowboy hat at that moment, humorously and I think, a bit jealously. I was looking far too elegant for the surroundings, in polished black boots, belted coat and my face pale as fine china (I had done a mud mask that morning to ensure that affect; there, the secret is out...) and set off by the high collar of my Burgundy sweater.

There was a whole semi circle of other people still waiting and I felt the pressure of their awareness of us, but my back was to them. I was delighted by everything Keith did or said, by the sum total of who he was. I couldn't believe that I had had the good fortune of finding this person and then marrying him.

We began walking, still tucked up close; we turned and saw the entire group of people watching us. I was incredibly proud; I couldn't hide it, my face shown from it. We felt the warmth of their attention and good will.

"Welcome home, Soldier," said one woman and we were so in our own world that she had to repeat herself. I felt as though I were focusing on her face from a hundred miles away as she spoke.

"I stink, honey," Keith said, more than once. "It's all that water got dripped on me."

Apparently, all the condensation from the cabin accumulated over his seat and steadily dripped down on him the entire eighteen hour flight. When they were landing, the dripping became a sudden down pour.

"Oh, Baby," I said, laughing despite myself, "how could that have happened?"

"We're not going to talk about it," he said with cheerful determination.

As he was waiting for his bag, we stood huddled up close together; I couldn’t stop squeezing him. I had forgotten how affectionate he is, that little, mischievous grin that he get when he puts his face down close to mine and lifts his eyebrows, his blue eyes all devilish and dancing.

He put his face down close to mine; I knew what he wanted but I was shy in front of the crowd of other people waiting for their luggage. I lifted my face to his anyway and he kissed me softly; it caused all the joints in my body to unhinge, I had to hide my face against his chest.

“I had forgotten how nice you are,” I declared happily, as we were walking out to the car.

“Awww!” he laughed. “I am a nice guy.”

“I know,” I said in joyful wonder.

“Honey, do you mind if I drive?” he asked me, so humbly.

“Of course I don’t mind!” I replied. “But I did expect you to be, well, at least a little sloshed.”

“That’s another thing we’re not going to talk about,” he declared with the air of a martyr.

“Ah ha,” I replied, laughing. “Then, maybe this is also a good time to not talk about the fact that there’s a bag of trash in the truck of my car right now…”

He laughed. “I’ll take it on post for you tomorrow,” he said.

When he stepped in the house, he dropped his bags with a thump to the floor and straightened up wonderingly. He took a deep, slow breath.

“It even smells good,” he said softly, crossed over to where I was in two huge strides and caught me up tightly in his arms.

“I love you, my little wife,” he murmured into my ear.

Then he let the dogs in and the place erupted into doggy joy. Both of them leaped up on him, over and over again, frantic to lick him, barking and wiggling up between his legs and over his boots.

“Honey,” he said, turning his open face to me, “they remember me!”

“Stand back, honey,” he said, after greeting the dogs. He was wrestling with his boots. “You have no idea how bad I stink. I’m serious.”

“Ok, I’ll stand over here,” I said, positioning myself behind the couch, “up wind of you.”

“I’m just going to take a quick shower,” he said, bounding up the stairs.

When he came back, he was still soaking wet. “Where’s my wife?” he asked, and threw himself on the bed, belly first.

Sometime later, we left the chaos of the bedding and went out to inspect the rest of the house. I had told him that I was nervous about how he would think of my job on the house, so every where we went, he made a point of saying over and over again, how beautiful everything was and how proud of me he was.

“It feels like a real home,” he said wonderingly, standing in the middle of the kitchen. “It never felt like this before; it’s because of you.”

“No, sweetie, not just me,” I protested, “It wouldn’t be like this without all the work you put into it, making it so comfortable and warm.”

“Trust me, hon,” he said wryly, “all the work in the world doesn’t make a place a home. It’s because you’re here, it’s because of what you’ve done.”

“Well, you put down the foundation, I just built off it.”

“You built well.”

As I write this, I am sitting in a spill of light that falls through the partially opened garage window. I feel the cold, fresh air, but the garage is warm, heated by a huge, kerosene heater that is reminiscent of a small and throaty jet engine, and its rusty, smoky smell is faintly present.

Keith had felt bad at keeping me up so late last night, so this morning, after breakfast he told me to go back up and nap while he went out to buy some motor oil and chew.

“I want to go write,” I said seriously. “I don’t want to forget any of this.”

His face melted; he kissed me goodbye and I went upstairs to write most of this. When I heard him come in, I met him at the stairs; he simply pulled me up against him and buried his face in my neck with a deep sigh.

“Woman,” he said sadly. “I’m never doing that again.”

“What?” I asked, tenderly, “leave without me?”

“Yes,” he breathed. “All I could think about was coming back for more kisses. They didn’t even have the oil I was looking for, I went to four places and then the light just kept on never changing...I didn’t even bother with the chew, I just came straight back here.”

I laughed and covered his forehead with little kisses. “What are you going to do now?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “Stay in the general vicinity of you.”

I think that’s a good plan and we will stick to it.

He just now got the truck up and running, she started without a hitch and his face lit up. He wandered over me at one point though.

“I’m still not fully relaxed,” he admitted.

“I’m not surprised,” I said simply. “You might not be able to be; it’s only for two weeks.”

He said nothing, simply tapped my nose gently with his finger and nodded, went back to his work.

I went out and got him chew and myself a pumpkin spice latte at the local seven eleven. I ran into Larry’s daughter, Larrietta. I told her that Keith was back, we got to talking, the subject of children came up.

“Yeah, we’re kind of hoping something might happen on R&R,” I told her. “We’re working on it.”

“Wow, that sounds like a job that might take up a lot of time,” she joked, both of us laughing.

“My god, it’s grueling,” I replied, rolling my eyes. “Though, of course, it does have its rewarding moments. In fact, I should probably head back and get some more work done…”

“That is the kind of job I would love to have. You go punch that time card, honey.”

We had pizza for lunch; I had forgotten how he loves to have ketchup on everything. His face lit up when he found the white cheddar cheese puffs in the pantry.

"I know you told me not to go grocery shopping, but I had to go out and pick up a few things," I explained.

"I couldn't help but notice," he teased, "that they are all my favorite things. Imagine that!"

"Yeah, funny how that happens," I replied.

He is now in the garage, literally wresting with the grill for the truck. It didn't come with instructions, which means he can complain about the lack of them, but I can assure you, if it had, he wouldn't have looked at them. I couldn't figure out how to get my file from the laptop onto this computer, he came in here and tackled it.

"Just promise me..." I said, trailing after him as he went determinedly down the stairs, "that if you get frustrated you'll just walk away."

"Nope," he said, without even thinking about it. "I can't walk away."

He figured it out, of course, and is now back figuring his own project, and I must go rejoin him. But I could no more stop writing than I could stop breathing, so T, no worries! Further blogs are bound to come, and I'll be writing the next one on Keith's laptop, he's had enough of mine.


KJ said...

ah, I'm so happy for you!!!

T said...

I only just now saw this. Can't figure out how I missed it!!

Hooray for a happy homecoming.

Is it selfish to say that it made me cry?