Sometimes, and often at the most inopportune moments, a fine line appears – the line between “life” and a “Lifetime Movie.” I’ve been known to be overly dramatic now and then – heaven knows I’ve had my share of drama. In fact, I spent most of my childhood with my mother saying, “Oh, don’t be so dramatic.”
However, this latest episode takes the cake!
The last few weeks I had been anxiously awaiting Frank’s return from Afghanistan. I’d scrubbed, peeled, and waxed myself. Cleaned the house and made room for him in my bureau drawers and medicine cabinet. I psyched myself up for his return. Last Thursday I heard a local news story that his unit was returning that evening. Originally he said I could pick him up Friday night, so I emailed to check on the new arrival time. He wrote back saying, “We’ll be there tonight! Come get me.”
So after work I rushed home, changed clothes, touched up my hair and make-up and set out for the Armory where the families and friends were gathering to greet the soldiers. The gymnasium was filled with people – all in groups, families. I seemed to be the only one there alone. It felt weird, a place I never would have expected myself to be, ever. About 15 minutes later, the unit marched in.
After a prayer and a short speech from the CO, they were dismissed. It was some sort of organized chaos. Families running to hug their soldiers. Daddies holding infants they barely knew. Spouses kissing. There were only 150 soldiers in the unit, so not that many to search through. I waded onto the floor of the gymnasium – like a salmon swimming upstream – walking amongst the throngs of happy people. I looked around at all their faces – couldn’t find Frank. So I stepped up on to a set of bleachers to get a better look. Scanned the crowd, but still couldn’t see him.
About a half hour passed and the crowd started to thin – all the families were going home together to get reacquainted. I started to panic. Where the hell was he? Did he go home with some else? Was he avoiding me? Had he even gotten on the bus at the airport? He knew I was coming to get him and he had said he was anxious to see me, so where the hell was he?
I girded my courage and asked a couple of his fellow soldiers if they had seen him. Each in turn answered, “No.” Strange. By then it was 11:15pm – I had been there for 45 minutes. I was just about the only civilian left in the Armory. This was where it started to turn into a Lifetime Movie.
I was standing in the middle of this vacuous gymnasium – soldiers milling around me in slow motion as the camera pans in a circle with me in the center. Something strange was definitely going on.
I found another solider – an major, same rank as Frank – and asked if he had seen Frank. The Major told me that Frank had been on the same bus as him, so he knew that he had returned to the Armory. He searched the restricted areas of the building for me while another soldier found one of Frank’s bags by itself in the parking lot. The Major returned and said that Frank didn’t seem to be in the building.
Crestfallen, I walked out of the Armory at 11:30pm with my head held high. I fought back the tears until I was well away from the building and then once in my car – a deluge. I honestly don’t know how I drove home – I was nearly hyperventilating the whole way.
Friday came and went – no word from Frank. Saturday, Sunday, Monday – no word. Devastating! That is the word that I’ve used to describe this situation – devastating. All of our communications for the past year had led me to believe that upon his return he wanted to build a life with me. How could he just walk away from all of that without a word?
Weeks ago, he had sent a nice tea set from Afghanistan to my house and told me it was for “us.” Now that tea set is taking up precious real estate in my small condo – and it reminded me of him, something that I wanted no part of. Monday morning I emailed him and told him that he could come and pick up the tea set in the lobby of my building. I also mentioned that after what he had done to me on Thursday night he didn’t deserve it, but that I was trying to be the “bigger” person in the situation. No reply – and the tea set was still in the lobby the following evening.
Tuesday night I emailed his sister – my first communication ever with a member of his family. I asked her if she had heard from him and told her that he needed to come and pick up the tea set. She replied that she had not heard from him either but knew that he had seen their mother and that he was fine. She told me that she would see him on the weekend. (PS – it’s the following Monday and still nothing!)
So it’s been a week and a half since that fateful Thursday night. I just don’t get it! The only explanation I can muster is that he must have had some sort of mental breakdown. There is serious mental illness in his family. Maybe the pressure of the return, some PTSD, not knowing what kind of life he was returning to – no business, no job – he just freaked and decided he couldn’t face me.
But to not even offer me the courtesy of an explanation or an “I’m sorry, I can’t” is unforgiveable. I want to know that he’s okay, but I’m out – no more Frank in my life. What hurts the most is that I wasted a f*cking year of my life with him! Was he trying to play me? Well, if that was his mission, it worked! So now I’m back on the dating scene… 37, cute, smart, and sassy. Oh yeah, no more soldiers. Period. Ever.
And if he doesn’t come get that frickin’ tea set before the end of the month it’s going to Goodwill!
Teary eye photo available from Shutterstock.
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Last reviewed: 22 Feb 2012