As I’d expected, I didn’t sleep well at all. If there was ever a night where I wanted Lauren to come back to sleep with me, it was last night. I wanted to hold her and drift off to sleep with her in my arms. Have that muscle memory with me as I move to the desert for the next eighteen months.
After getting up this morning, I went for a run. Decided I’d take a long run along the beach since it’d be a while since I was back here to do that. When I got back to the house, I’d taken a shower and began the tedious process of packing my rucksack. Luckily, most of my tactical equipment was at the base and being loaded into the cargo plane. I had to worry about my uniforms and any personal items I could fit into my bag.
I grabbed several photos of Lauren from around the house. I don’t know if she’d miss them, but I needed her with me in some way. Besides, if she were to serve me with divorce papers while I was deployed, I’d never get these items anyway. I’d actually given some thought to trying to back out of this mission. It would be highly unusual, and I’m sure I’d be disciplined in some way for it, but if it would save my marriage, I’d do it. But when I couldn’t get Lauren to speak to me, I didn’t figure it would be worth even trying. Besides, if I backed out I’d be turning my back on my duty, and a Marine does not back down or leave his men behind.
The only thing was, I didn’t like leaving my marriage in the state it was in either. I sat on the end of the bed, head in my hands when I felt the bedroom floor begin to vibrate. Our bedroom was directly over the garage. We didn’t think it was that big of a deal when we moved in. It provided the best ocean view and the best lighting. However, we didn’t take into consideration the garage door opener and how it would impact our bedroom floor. It didn’t matter if we were coming home together, but it really did make it hard to sneak home when you were out with your buddies.
I didn’t mind this rumble, it meant Lauren was home. I honestly hadn’t expected to see her today. I hurried to check myself in the mirror and make sure I looked okay. It’s not that I’m vain, but I wanted to look good for her when I left. I wasn’t in my uniform, I didn’t have to put that on until I was ready to board the plane. And honestly, if this was going to be the last time I saw her, I didn’t want it to be in uniform. That image is for the base, not when I could be walking out of her life forever because she doesn’t want to be married to me any longer.
As I walked down the stairs, my rucksack in hand, I noticed that Lauren wasn’t in the house. She’d evidently come up the steps but was still out on the front deck, looking toward the ocean and the horizon. I checked my watch, I had to leave in thirty minutes. I’d give her a few minutes to see if she was going to come in before I elected to go outside. After all, she came home early, I wanted her to come to me. It would say a lot regarding where things might go for us.
Several minutes later, when it was clear she wasn’t coming in, I made the decision to go out. I had my rucksack with me and my keys in hand. I knew I still had time before I had to leave to head toward the base, but figured I would go ahead and get it over with. I took a deep breath and opened the front door. Lauren did not turn around. Her auburn hair was softly blowing in the breeze, she made no move to tame her locks or to make eye contact with me. I shut the front door behind me and took a few steps toward the stairway that led down to the drive.
Before going any further, I said my goodbye. “I’m sorry that it came to this, Lauren. I wish you’d have let me explain that I had things worked out for us. I need you to know that I love you and I hope you’ll let me come home to you.”
She didn’t move, not even an inch. I felt as if I’d said my peace and nothing I could say from this point on would make a difference. I began to descend the stairs and tried to hold my emotions in check. I opened the door to my truck and tossed my bag inside. I turned to look up at Lauren one last time. She was not looking at me, her eyes were still fixed on the ocean and the crashing waves. Suddenly, they felt like a metaphor for my life.
I wish I could have seen some emotion in her. A look, a tear, a kiss-my-ass, something to let me know that she felt something. Whether it was rage and anger or love, I just wanted her to feel. When she made no move to look at me, I finally gave up for good. I got into the truck and pulled out of the driveway and drove in the direction of the base.
~ * ~
We were gathering at the base in Little Creek, and they were putting us on buses to head to Oceana to fly out. SEAL Team Eight has 6 platoons, but we don’t all deploy at once. For this tour, two platoons were going out, two platoons were coming back, and two were undergoing additional training. It’s a rotation that works well and allows for not all members of a Team to be out at once.
Our Team can deploy worldwide, several of the Teams are dedicated to specific regions, but our group is global. While I know we’re starting in Afghanistan, I fully anticipate we will be sent to another hotbed of terrorist activity before our eighteen months is over. My additional service time is two years, but only eighteen months of it will be deployed. Then I’ll be back in Virginia for training.
When I walk into the holding area, I check in and make a bee-line for the locker room so I can change into my uniform. I’m not the only one doing this. I quickly change and store my jeans and long-sleeve t-shirt in my locker before heading back to my platoon. Within thirty minutes of my arrival, we’re being led out to the buses for the ten-minute drive over to Oceana. While I know she’s not there, it doesn’t keep me from scanning the faces of the family members who have come to bid their loved one’s farewell. I had hoped that Lauren would feel something after I left and run to the base to tell me goodbye. But she didn’t do it. I knew it was too dangerous to have hope.
I stepped onto the bus, tossing my rucksack into the rack above my seat. I sat down on an aisle, allowing guys who had family there to sit in the window seats and wave as we drove off. I stared straight ahead, never daring to look out the windows again.