Thursday, June 3, 2010

Fast and Delirious

That first morning was overcast, a mild breeze coming off the bay as I wandered around the base, lost. Only two hours of sleep with the red eye arrival and then the time change didn't bother me much since I couldn't have slept soundly anyway. Cary directs me over to the gym parking lot, where he waits between drill practice and class at 06:30. I shove the minivan into a parking spot and jump out to waiting arms. I find out later that a leg hug isn't base conduct, but we wander arm in arm (hand holding isn't approved of either) toward the bay and out onto a point that offers a picnic table and more privacy.

*** (yeah, you know it)

His Navy working uniform looks really good, ends up being my favorite oddly. We try and catch up, in person, and then just enjoy the presence, being able to touch another human, a person that knows you so well, a spouse, beyond a quick hi, handshake, or hug after three months of just being, alone. I got used to the quiet. Used to the sounds of Butters and Dot licking and wandering. Used to being welcomed home by only them. Used to leaning on friends and coworkers and family more. Used to letting my social calendar fill up with completely selfish items. But even though the missing fades, there's always going to be a soft, maybe numb for a time, hole for the company of your partner.

And of course it's always nice to go back to hand holding, flirting, making out, and leg hugs.

We say goodbye again, spending most of that first day apart, he doing and taking care of things on base, me joining my parents in town for breakfast and sightseeing. There are docks and art galleries and Newport charm to explore. Though ostentatious dwellings, including the Vanderbilt Breakers mansion, are mere miles away. There are also a few beach cottages and hidden coves and colors to oooh and aaah over.

Our growing party of family meets up at the drill parade (which involved pictures akin to go-for-it tourists posing with the Queen's Guard) followed by the Hi-Moms Reception, where I met briefly Cary's 6'4", solid and southern drill instructor, Gunnery Sergeant Hearst. I'm glad he's on our side, my dad says. I also got to meet the friends and the girls of the friends. Hatchmates, comedians, specimans, the future Navy Seal, the wives and girlfriends who helped get me through a dozen weeks of singledom. The hall is filled with aviators, navigators (yes, I know it's actually naval flight officers, but no one knows what the heck that means, er, I could say Goose, but it makes me sound like a Hollywood-obsessed chick ... Uhhhh), surface warfare, public affairs, sub nuke, specwar, supply. All on the eve of becoming actual officers.

His first night off base, we wake up in the hotel at 0400. He so he can muster and get ready to begin the "day in the life" routine for the guests willing to roll out of bed--me so I can try out the running path along the water. Adrenaline for love, people. I quickly shed the sweatshirt as the weather is decidedly sticking with mild and enjoy pretending the Shiny Toy Guns are serenading the first female Seal. (I was shocked a year ago to realize G.I. Jane was not based on a true story. Giving myself away again.) The ships are black against the lightening sky, and I jog by the Lt. Michael P. Murphy from Seal Team 10 memorial swimming pool. By the time I get back, the 1.5 mile cadence (er, chanting) run is beginning, and I run at a good clip with the other guests at the back of the pack much to Cary's humor. Not fast? Pretty fast. How did you shout out responses too? Easy. Oh, right. Pie.

The candences are pretty creative. Ask Cary sometime about a soldier's job of blood, guts, and danger in terror areas of the Middle East.

Then we watch them do wind sprints in a sand pit by the bay as the sun comes up more. "Zeero!" the DI bellows. "Freeze!" they call. Then on command they drop and do push-ups or sit-ups or leg kicks. Then we watch them count off and file into the chow hall and eat in crazy cool synchronization. Coleman gets yelled at for his tray not being "grounded" (lined up at the edge of the table; everything has to be grounded--spoon against plate, glass against plate, symmetrical, clean, fixed). Everything is crisp. At graduation, I've never seen so many cutting salutes and smooth turns and perfection. There's pleated uniforms and sparkling white everywhere. There's tight, big embraces and watery eyes and big grins. I keep my makeup off his jacket. I pick up some trash. I feel like his new "yessir"s and "yes, ma'am"s and above and beyond civility and chivalry mean I need to start ironing and avoid being a litter bug and be sweet and strong. Above all though, the pride is bursting naturally. For everyone, I think. And that makes me grateful. Really grateful. See what it's like. See he's the same. See? Nothing to worry about.

After pictures and more pictures and more packing, we pick up Cary's dog tags, which eerily state his name, branch, blood type, and that he's a Christian. I wait while he's inside picking them up. A couple walks out of Callahan Hall, arms linked, dress whites and a pretty polka-dot dress that looks like it might spin out if twirling. A new lifestyle started.

The two minivans trek into Boston. We begin our touring with Lexington and MIT for the Lawsons and a roundabout maze of traffic and side streets for the Pritchard/Lawsons. We tour the bay, the U.S.S. Constitution, the monuments, Harvard Square, the Cheers bar. If you ever plan to climb the Bunker Hill monument, practice on a stair stepper for a month first because my calves never recovered. We walk and eat and then eat again. It's hot, and the humidity tumbles into rain by late afternoon. There are Dunkin Donuts on every corner. Weird for Boston. But good for breakfast. Coconut popsicles not so much. Good idea. Bad idea when you include the flakes of coconut. Hello, artificial flavors, people!

We start losing people to flights.

Dane has this fascinating conversation with Cary as we share snacks in the hotel room.

"So when do people have to salute you?"
"When they're lower in rank."
"How can they tell?"
"It's pretty obvious from the crest on your cover."
"That's your hat?" Cary nods.
"What if you're not wearing your hat, cover?"
"You only get saluted when you're wearing your cover ... And you always have to be covered when you're outside."
"In your car?"
"What if you're just entering a building, going inside?"
"I guess."
"What if you're in the process of taking it off? ... What if you've taken it off, but they can see the line on your forehead and know that your cover was just on?"
We're all rolling by now.

And then Cary's Uncle Bradley lectures Cary about using so many acronyms. And we all agree.

On the subway, my mom and I watch a young couple so very and obviously in love. They're young. Maybe 25. She stares up at him from her seat with clear blue eyes and cheeks with freckles. She has pale red waves escaping from her bun. He's skinny and dressed well. He pushes her hair off her face, touches her cheekbone with his thumb. She smiles. They're talking about something, laughing quietly. It feels so good to be in love, doesn't it?

No comments: