By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
On a high school lawn 10 years ago, I met you under a sparkling tree and gave you a tiny letter which simply said hello. You found me at the park a few nights later; you walked me to the bridge, where we stood side by side above the water lilies, where we fell in love.
Eight years later, a month after the towers went down, it was you writing the letter, to tell me you were going to fight the men who did it. You'd bolted from your ethics Ph.D. two years before to learn for yourself what honor and courage and loyalty really meant, sensing that a war would come, knowing that you'd see it in the Airborne. Suddenly I knew that in the time to come you'd simply be responsible for me, and I for you. We didn't know what could be coming, but we knew this, and were engaged.
We scratched and clawed for every hour together. I wanted to know everything; one night in Fort Bragg, over Polish brandy, you read me, laughing, clinical descriptions of all the snakes to be found in Afghanistan. I took strength from the facts, from your unshakable calm.
And then you were gone. You'd call at 2 a.m. from some desert outpost to say you were OK, that you got my package, that you might not be able to call again for a while, and I knew what that meant. I took my phone everywhere, from church to the bathtub. In the pictures you sent, you grew thinner and browner every month, your hands stronger, cheekbones cut, hair wild and sun-bleached. Your body became a very simple thing to me, fragile and magnificent. (Was it there, upright, blood pumping? OK.) You were good at your job, which was now much more than a job. You were loving me with every burning step up those mountains.
But I had never known such a loss of control. You were out of my reach, out of my power. I couldn't save you if a bullet came flying at your head; I couldn't hold you when you were in pain. Reality was two things only: you might not come back, you would come back. On that edge I learned to give you up, to trust you, to love you by faith and not by sight.
You're getting out of the Army soon, and soon you'll wait for me at the altar as I waited for you in the hangar six months later when your plane came in, heart pounding, eyes full of peace. Our first kiss there probably looked like something from the movies, but for us it was just . . . home. You and I are never really lost to each other, never suddenly found. We belong to each other. That's where we live, beyond the joy and madness of time and space, and in the midst of it as well.