The inside of my mouth carries the taste of old blood all day long and it hurts to swallow. I sleep a lot. As I was in the office, breathing in the laughing gas and feeling my body take on more and more weight, I remember seeing the dark glass of the window streaked with rain and beyond, the charcoal gray sky and dark woods wavering and somber.
"How are you feeling?" asked the oral surgeon, as he injected into the I.V the medicine that would put me to sleep.
"Sluggish," I said and my voice was thick, hazy at the edges. "Delightfully sluggish."
"Delightfully, huh?" he remarked with gentle humor and I remembered nothing else.
When I woke, the oral surgeon and his assistant were standing about the chair, with the air of those who have fought a great battle and come through triumphant.
"You have some strong teeth," he said, his arms crossed, leaning against the window.
"Have you ever broken a bone?" asked the assistant, leaning over my face.
"Um...." It was still hard to think clearly. "No, I haven't."
"I don't think you ever will," she said.
"Well," I said, concentrating hard on stringing together the joke and trying to grin around the bruised muscles, "at least I know there's something that makes me special."
"I don't think that's the only thing that makes you special," said the oral surgeon as he walked by me; he placed his large hand affectionately on my head for a moment as he went by.
I waited in the sunny car at Walgreen's while my mother picked up the prescriptions. My dreams were hazy, I floated in and out of consciousness. My dreams were full of a bright yellow color and the heat of the sun.
That afternoon as I lay dozing upstairs I heard the doorbell ring. My mom went hurriedly down the stairs and I heard her exclaim. I was hoping; but Keith had told me he couldn't find a way to order me any.
Regardless, a few moments later a large, gorgeous arrangement of yellow roses entered the room, followed by my mother with a shining face.
"Look what came!" she said, and brought them over to me, so I could stroke the soft, silky petals.
"I wish I could have been there," read the note. "I hope you're doing well. I love you! Keith."
"I found a way," he told me proudly, later on when he called. It's part of our inner knowledge of one another now, the tradition of Keith always being able to find a way.
As I drove to the airport to pick my mom up, I noted with interest the disparity between the rational mind and the insistence of the body. My mind assured me that it didn't matter a whit that the last time I had been there had been to drop off Keith; that had been a long time ago, in the dark of winter.
It was now a bright and sunny mid morning in spring, the air was washed with silvery light from the clouds and the delicate green of the open fields shimmered from it. It was a completely different day and could not touch me.
All the while the agony that my mind ignored had settled into my belly, already inflamed by coffee. I thought I could not bear it if I saw a soldier; I was tense with the pain I anticipated.
At arrivals, I knew immediately that there was a flight arriving soon that would be bringing soldiers home to their families. The fear fell off me; I sat quietly and waited. I understood that I was about to witness something that very few people could truly appreciate. I knew the agony those women had been through; I knew the long moments, the endless procession of days, the weeks and the months that preceded this one moment.
The women who were waiting for their men stood out in the crowd, they were glossed over with some inner light that was unmistakable. There were perhaps six or seven of them in the crowd, the rest were just a group of people waiting on an airplane.
The wives were in all different sizes and shapes, but they all had clearly carefully chosen their outfits, everything was accessorized, in place and lit up with a trembling expectation. Some had children, two little tow headed boys ran quickly around the lobby until their mother lost her patience and put one on a seat.
"Daddy will be here in one minute," she said in subdued tones.
"One minute!" breathed the little boy. "One minute. One minute," he kept counting under his breath, hoping, I knew without having to ask, that at the end of each utterance his daddy would appear.
Then they did begin to appear and pulled their women out of the crowd toward them as though they had thrown out lines and each couple came together with a silent thunderclap of emotion, the emotion went ringing out in sonic bursts onto the crowd; we felt the aftermath like rain.
The women went to their men dancing on tiptoe or surging forward, straight legged, already choking up in tears. They would embrace and then wander off in a daze to the side, where they would gather their things, tears tracing down their face; the men with shaking hands and careful movements, the adrenaline still rushing through them.
The waiting mother quickly shrugged off her jacket and stood in a brown, eyelet sun dress and in that moment I loved her dearly and knew her as my own sister. She wished her man to see her in everything she had chosen for him, the glossy, just washed hair, the platform, woven sandals, the tanned limbs. The fact that it was chilly and the practical necessity for a jacket fell by the way side.
There were only two wives waiting by the time Daddy appeared and he gathered his whole family in his arms and his face shown with a disbelieving, pure light. He sat down while his wife, tearful and trying to brush the tears away, began packing up the bags.
The soldier suddenly bent forward and swept one little boy up into his arms; held him lightly a long moment and then stood and pulled his wife into his arms again as though he were starving, and then bent and picked up a bag.
One wife was left. She stood bereft in the diminished crowd, all of us with the shining faces of the blessed. Her long legs were tanned and set off by a jean miniskirt, she was bangled and bejeweled, her face fresh and made up. She called a friend.
"The last time I spoke to him he was getting on the plane, right that minute!" she exclaimed, her voice breaking. "I'm freaking out! Where is he?" She turned in little half circles, her long hair swinging and suddenly her whole body jerked up, her feet went dancing forward and suddenly she was swept up in the arms of her staff sergeant, a tall and burly man with a quiet face; she stood up on tip toe in her white flip flops to kiss him again and again.
Soon after my mother appeared and I embraced her with all the love and tenderness the recent scenes had engendered in me. It was good, deeply good to see my mother and I loved her.
"There were like, six or seven soldiers that came home to their families while I was waiting for you," I admitted, as we walked away.
"Oh my dear," cried my mother, understanding at once, her sympathy quick and genuine. "Was it very hard? Anyway, your Keith will be home soon..."
"But it wasn't hard," I said, wondering at myself, and trying to find a way to express it. "It was...rich. It was like eating chocolate and truffles."
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