I'm stuck down here in the middle of the month. The first half always flies by so effortlessly and it's with joy that I see the days flip by, one by one by one. And then the bottom half gets all bogged down and drags. By the time the new month has arrived, I feel exhausted.
I kept thinking of Keith all day and night. It doesn't help that he is right now doing the most dangerous thing that he has in the entire deployment. It doesn't help that he is the type of man to tell me so, straight up and then to ask for more prayer. It weighs on me. I haven't talked about it, because I haven't wanted to draw attention to it. And I was doing pretty good ignoring it until I heard his tone of voice yesterday.
I know he has reserves of endurance and strength that I can't begin to imagine and that he has been in many ways conditioned to what he is going through. His first deployment was far worse; he spent three months straight in his tank, eating nothing but turkey MREs. To this day he can't stand turkey and won't eat it. We will never have a turkey dinner for Thanksgiving.
When he did get orders to come back in and arrived at a FOB that served hot food, he and his crew went straight there without washing up or changing their uniforms. The guards at the canteen took one look at them with their wild eyes and said nothing.
Keith got all the way through the line until he reached the pizza. Now, Keith has a thing for pizza. When he got home from R&R, we ate pizza four nights out of the seven. We ate pizza on our first date. One of our best memories is of making pizza at home. So, even though his tray was loaded with other good things, this was the mecca.
However, he was so exhausted and tense that his hands were shaking. When he reached for the pizza, his tray over balanced and everything slipped off and fell to the floor. As he was telling me this story, when he got to this part he turned to me and his eyes were full of depth.
"It took everything I had not to eat the food off the floor," he said quietly.
Instead, he cleaned everything up and went to the back of the line. The second time through, he kept a firm grip with both shaking hands on the tray at all times, ate too much and got sick later on.
I have an excellent imagination, but it is very hard for me to imagine what his life is like right now. When I try, I see heat and a vast jumble of canvas tents spreading out for miles and metal boxes and the days and nights tupsey turvy and broken sleep and long, trudging marches in the unrelenting heat and confusion and noise and insects and dust and grime everywhere.
The phones are somewhere far away, he has a hard time getting money out of his account, his cell phone does not work, the Internet is far away in a different direction. Everything seems to be sprawled out and overcrowded; it makes the simplest of tasks complicated.
Despite this, when he calls he is usually cheerful and affectionate, or determined with a fierce pride in what he does that shines through and makes his complaints about the difficulties sound more like bragging about accomplishments. This is very reassuring to me.
When his voice comes across all ragged and colorless, so thick with exhaustion that I almost can't recognize him, it is alarming. He sounded beaten down. And then in turn the house feels empty and closed in; I pace around, searching for some kind of distraction and finding nothing.
He'll call me again, either today or tomorrow and be his usual self and everything will return to normal. But I just want to be done with this stupid deployment. I don't want anymore ups and downs. I want a slow, steady return to normal. I want him on a long, even descent to the landing strip. I don't want anythng upsetting things, not this close to the end, not when we are almost there.
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