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Things You’ll Never Know

by Michelle Malinovsky

You’ll never know that I close my eyes at night while lying on my side, and I convince myself that your body lies behind me. I imagine the warmth of your skin heating up the air underneath the blankets, and pretend that if I want to touch you, all I have to do is reach back and you’ll be there. I won’t ever let myself reach back though, I don’t want to feel the cold sheets and empty space where you should be.

You’ll never know that I do the same thing during the day sometimes. I’ll be in the living room, doing something unimportant, like vacuuming or reading, and imagine that you are upstairs in the office, working on your computer with your headphones on, so when I call you don’t respond. But I’ll never walk in there to get you, knowing the screen would be black and the chair still.

You’ll never know that I start to do this more when I don’t hear from you for a few days. While I know that the internet is spotty, and the phone is hard to get a hold of because you share it, this is the only way I can stop myself from panicking, from imagining the worst, so it is easier to convince myself you are in the house, out of sight but within reach. I do this so maybe I won’t freeze every time the door bell rings when I’m not expecting company. It never works though.

You’ll never know that every time my phone rings, I run to catch it regardless of where I am, and pray you’re on the other end. I refuse to turn it off, and turn around to go home if I realize I forgot it. E-mail has become my life-line, I check it once an hour to be sure. I e-mail you every day, telling you bits of my life that you would find funny or interesting. I’ll tell you about the decisions I made for us about money and the house so you won’t feel left out when you come home. I only ever type a simple “I love and miss you” at the end, and re-read over what I’d written multiple times to make sure the tone was right.

When you told me you where deploying again, I simply nodded and said “Okay.” I didn’t scream or throw a fit, I didn’t cry and cling to you, I didn’t demand that you stay.

When you told me you couldn’t tell me where you were going, I said “Okay,” and asked, “Do you need to pack for hot or cold weather?” and thought which uniforms I needed to make sure were clean. Together we searched the house for your black holster, and you hugged me when I found it in the attic with your cold weather gear. I didn’t let you know the bubble of fear that built in my stomach as I pulled it out of the box, I didn’t let you see my hands were shaking.

When you told me you didn’t know how long you were going to be gone for this time, I said “Okay,” and promised to wait to buy plane tickets for Christmas until we had a better idea. I thought about the Vegas trip for our anniversary that I’d probably need to cancel, and wondered if your orders were classified or if I could use them to get our money back. I didn’t pout about not being about to go, instead I prayed we could reschedule it for next year.

We drove to base at 2:30 in the morning because you were booked on the rotator for the first part of the trip. I complained about how tired I was because we stayed up together instead of worrying about how much I’d miss you or if I’d see you again. I parked under a street lamp so I could find the car again later, when my eyes would be blurry with tears.

We walked to the air terminal in silence, only holding hands because you were in uniform. You had your roller duffle behind you while I shouldered your backpack. Once inside, you went to check-in and I looked around for familiar faces in the large, unadorned room filled with people in uniform and luggage piles strewn over chairs. A few other wives that I knew stood together next to a vending machine, so I walked over to join them. The women and I gripped our coffee-filled travel mugs with both hands and forced smiles on our faces while we chatted. We complimented each other’s styled hair, cute clothes, and funky jewelry. I had my hair down and smooth because I knew you liked it that way. This was the image we wanted our husbands to remember.

We all asked the usual questions to each other, “Are you going to travel at all? Is your family going to come into town? Are you going to go home?” We talked about the wives who decided not to come and instead said good-bye at home. We talk about kids, most of who are still at home, sleeping soundly with a baby-sitter or a friend napping downstairs on the couch.
The women and I made plans to have dinner the next night, giggling about finally getting to have a girl’s night when really none of us wanted to be in an empty house, alone.
You came back over with your paper-work rolled up in your hand, you smiled a bit when your eyes found mine. I ducked out of the conversation and followed you to empty chairs, the women understood. Once we sat, you reminded me to call Hamilton’s to change the oil in the lawn mower and to send the Power of Attorney to the bank. We held hands, pressed our knees and thighs together, found excuses to touch each other with our free hands.

It wasn’t long until the five minute warning was announced. We both wanted it to be over so the countdown could begin. We hugged and kissed, letting our tongues quickly slide into each other’s mouth and savored the taste, committing it to memory. We pressed our bodies together. You pressed you face into my neck and inhaled, your hand slipped just under the back of my shirt, and you flattened your palm against my skin. I wished I could absurd the heat. You wouldn’t get on the plane for another hour, but spouses and family weren’t allowed to stay that long.

I watched as a new, young wife wailed as she clung to her husband across the room. His face was scrunched up while he ran his hands over her hair. I considered going over to her, but I knew it wouldn’t help. So I looked down and shook my head, thinking to myself that she’ll learn.

We said “See you soon,” and withdrew from each other. I forced a smile and told you to be safe.

I blew a kiss and turned quickly to walk to the door. One of the other wives caught up with me right before the exit and we put our arms around each other. Her fingers dug into my hip. We kept our backs straight and looked ahead until we made it out the door.

You’ll never know that she and I waited until we were out of sight before falling into each other, holding each other up in the blue-black of the pre-dawn night.

Michelle Malinovsky was brought into the military world 3 years ago when she married her husband, an Air Force pilot. Since then, she’s moved to three different bases and has been through two deployments, and she thinks she’s finally starting to progress from a “new wife” to a seasoned one. She is currently working on an MA in English and Creative Writing through Southern New Hampshire University.

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