Sunday, August 22, 2004

A promise not made

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A storm brewed above us. We could hear the thunder gaining momentum, rumbling in the depths of the clouds.

We held eachother closely.

Dan and Melissa were eagerly engaged in conversation down by the road, maybe forty feet away from us. They had driven the four of us out to the countryside, just past the city limits. I was on leave from the Army, visiting my parents. The following day I would be heading back to West Germany.

"It's cold," Angela said, wrapping her arms around my torso, inside my jacket.

We sat on the grass, listening to Cyndi Lauper wailing from the car radio below.

The wind blew around us, surrounding us with the whistling whispers of the tree leaves. Evening was quickly approaching and we both knew our time together was coming to an end.

"Get closer," I told her, pulling her even tighter to me. I could feel her breath on my face.

My old friend Dan had introduced us the week before, when I first arrived. He wasn't trying to fix us up or anything, she was just a friend of his. I was smitten though.

Angela had the most beautiful blue eyes I'd ever seen. Deep and magnetic; they held my gaze captive when I swept past them. Still to this day, I can't recall seeing a dreamier blue.

When she smiled, you felt compelled to smile back. Her frecklish complexion and her propensity toward blushing; her posture and her perfectly proportioned figure; her feminity and fragility; all these things brought me to make a move. A move that I would usually be reluctant to make, because I knew I'd be gone sooner than later.

"I love you," she said. "You know that, right?"
I hesitated for a second.
"Yes," I responded languidly, "I know."
I looked away, toward the darkening clouds in the horizon.
She pressed her face against my chest and squeezed tightly. I knew she wanted to hear more than that, but I couldn't say more.

The week before, we'd gone out to the movies. Then dancing, a picnic, and a fireplace gathering at a friend's house, where I played some guitar. Every activity was crying out for romance. I couldn't help it. I let myself get carried away and swept up with the possibilities. After all, I wouldn't be in Germany forever.

"Will you write?" she asked. "Will you let me know how you're doing?"
"Yes, of course," I said.
"Everyday...?" she added, with a smirk.
I smiled at her, and breathed her in. We kissed - soft and long, tasting eachother's
"Maybe not everyday," I said, looking in her eyes. "But I'll write often enough."

She was a dental student, second year. Very bright and very ambitious. The oldest of five sisters in a close-knit family. Yet, I could tell she'd leave it all in a heartbeat if I asked her to come with me.

My future was sketchier. I had a year and a half to go in the Army. After that I planned to hit the road to California in search of fame and fortune, with nothing but my six-string and a change of clothes. I yearned for that freedom. It was the one thing that kept me going during those long, lonely days in the service. Having somebody along would destroy those plans. And though women seem compliant and supportive at first, they grow obstinate and selfish about their own needs as time goes by. It's a natural progression.

I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her face up to mine, our cheeks meeting warmly. I nibbled on her ear, gently, breathing on her. She shivered.

"I don't want to make you any promises I can't keep," I told her. "I don't know what's going to happen when I go away. It wouldn't be fair to make any plans now."

"You don't have to make any promises. Just tell me the truth. Please!" she implored.

I hesitated. Who knew what the truth was? I couldn't be sure that the way I was feeling then would be the way I'd feel later.

"I can tell you I want to be with you," I said. "I can tell you I'm going to think of you and miss you when I get on that plane tomorrow. I can say that you've made me whole these two weeks, and that I feel like I'll be leaving a part of me behind when I go. I can tell you that."

I handed her my dog tags. "I'd like you to keep these," I whispered.

She sobbed. Her tears wet my chin, and her cries touched my heart.

I knew I would forget her. It had happened before. One moment you're caught in the thick of it and you believe that it's real. The next thing you know, when you step outside the situation and go back to your regular routine, you stop feeling the way you did. It fades away; loses its luster. It's hard to explain.

We drove back to the city and parted ways. It was sad and beautiful, both in one. Good-byes can be that way.

I wanted to promise her more than I should. I wanted to tell her I loved her, and drop the classic "I'll send for you" line. But I honestly didn't want to hurt her. I just wanted her to love me a little, to believe that if it was meant to happen it would; that the possibility was real and I was open to it. She deserved that much, even though I already knew it was doomed.

The next day I was on a flight to Frankfurt. Within days I was back to being a soldier, and forgetting the person I'd been back home.

I wrote her once. She wrote often. Eventually she called, wondering what was wrong. She caught me getting stoned in the barracks, completely unprepared to respond to questions about us. I don't remember what I said, but she never wrote or called again.

About a year later, when already stationed stateside, I went back home to visit my parents. Through Dan, I learned that she'd heard I was coming and was hoping to see me. I even met up with her sister who was dating a buddy of mine.

But I couldn't call her. I'd done enough damage. And even though I knew she wanted to see me, and I wanted to see her, I couldn't put her through the whole ordeal again. That just wouldn't be fair.


Vadergrrrl said...

very beautiful and sad story. the cindi lauper part made me smile though.

you really have an amazing gift here. i love reading you.


Anonymous said...

That was sad. Somewhere I recall reading that the saddest words in the English language are, "what might have been".


Sarah McBroden said...

I have been that girl, the one that he was so passionate about until he went back to work. I remember what it was like, going to the mail box each day, not daring to hope that the letter would come, praying each night for the call and feeling my heart break a little more when there was no mail and there was no call. I would rather he had just broken my heart all at once, then letting it crack a little more each day. All he had to do was say goodbye.



Anonymous said...

I've been that girl not once, but through two relationships and a couple deployments. Going to the mailbox and wanting a letter, a card, ANYTHING, just to hear from him. I love reading this blog, you are such a great guy. This story made me cry! Did you have to give her your dog tags if you knew there wasn't going to be anything between you? That was sooooo mean. *snifflesob*

SN said...

( a big one)

Amber said...

Mick, my boyfriend when I was 18 had been in Viet Nam. He had great trouble getting used to being back in the "world" again. For instance, it was not easy for him to be open and giving. He had grown up over there, having gone in at 18 and come out at 21 or so...He had been out for at least a couple of years by the time we hooked up, but still; his service had affected him in ways none of us understood at the time. I think now that for his own protection, he had had to distance himself from anything that might hurt him or make him feel vulnerable.

I wanted more than he could give me at that time. I remember being frustrated; I couldn't understand why he would grow close to me, then pull away again, but now I think I understand better why.

I still hear of him off and on. I hear he's very happy with his current wife. Has a bunch of kids.

I don't know if this is what you were going through or not, the need to pull back in order to protect yourself, because you knew your life was going to be in upheaval for awhile, but your story reminded me of him.

Loved hearing Elliott, btw. So nice to hear him, whenever I hear him...I loved Elliott so much; what a troubled but deep soul he was.

MICK said...

Thank you all for such wonderful comments!

VG, as always, very sweet of you.

Random, a friend of mine used to say that his only regrets in life were for things he hadn't done. I tend to agree. Unfortunately it's impossible to take all the roads we're offered, so there will always be regrets and the wondering of what might have been.

Sarah, Holly and Amber, I'm glad I was able to evoke personal memories in you. I hope, as was my intention, that I was able to portray the poor guy as a victim of his own uncertainties, and not just a cad.

KBear, that was a lovely sigh, thanks.

Oh and Amber, one more thing...thanks for the comment on the music. I'm glad to know somebody's listening! Also, I share your exact sentiments on ES.