I never expected I’d marry a military man, but I did. Two and a half months after the ceremony, he deployed to Iraq for a year, leaving me on my own to decipher acronyms and navigate a labyrinth of websites that loop back onto one another while failing spectacularly to provide a shred of assistance to the new wife of an Army Reservist who doesn’t live near a military base. But already I am cursing the Army, and that’s a post for another day. This post is about cursing the party that got us into the war in the first place. …
I don’t know who those deployed soldiers are who are able to call and/or email home on a daily basis, but they obviously don’t have the same job as my husband. Sean is a combat photographer who traveled around among several different bases when he was deployed, and some of the bases were not exactly wired well.
One particular Saturday, I got a call from him at about 12:30 in the afternoon. The connection sucked (again) and we got cut off. I couldn't tell if the crappy connection was on his end or mine, as my cell phone kept doing that thing where the signal bars keep fluctuating. I’d pull it away from my ear to look at the screen, and I’d see four or five bars of signal strength. I’d bring it back up to my head and get zero bars. (Hm, perhaps no one else has this problem, and it’s just my witchy brainwaves interfering.)
Anyway, it was obviously extremely frustrating. I hadn’t heard my husband’s voice in two weeks. I would occasionally get little emails that said almost nothing, and if I got any snail mail letters, they would always show up out of order. So when he finally called, you can imagine how heart-breaking it was that we couldn’t even understand each other, and every other word was "what?"
He called back again with an almost equally crappy connection, and adding insult to injury, there was a female in the background that I could hear perfectly well: it was her job to shout out every couple of minutes to let the soldiers know how many minutes of talk time they had left of their half-hour allowance.
“I luh oo.”
“McCluskey, five minutes! Rodriquez, two minutes!”
It was so frustrating that by the 23rd minute, I was pretty much crying uncontrollably.
I had been in the kitchen when he called, making a peanut butter bagel. I was still in my flannel and fleece, not having showered. My hair was nappy and uncombed, and my glasses were now smudgy and speckled with salty tears. Naturally, the instant I hung up the phone, the doorbell rang.
Any other day, I might have just not answered. But I had left the window blinds open after a futile attempt to improve my cell phone reception. I hadn't seen who approached the door, but they likely saw me. I had noticed my neighbor, Mrs. Kravitz, outside a few minutes prior. Ok, that’s not really her name, but I thought it must have been her at the door, and I didn’t want to be rude by not answering. So I just went ahead and opened the door, cell phone still in hand, and a red, splotchy, still wet face from having been crying. I’m quite sure I looked like a frightful old hag.
Instead of Mrs. Kravitz, I saw this guy standing there with some papers. I thought it must be some kind of delivery, so I opened the glass door.
"Hi,” he said. “I'm Blah Blah and I live in the neighborhood. I am the Chair of the Republican Something-or-other of the neighborhood, and I am handing out some kind of blippidy blah propaganda for Republican candidates."
He extended his hand, which was holding a pamphlet that I presume he expected me to take.
But I just looked at him. With blood-shot eyes. And the pent-up contempt and scorn and fury of a Bridezilla who’d been gypped out of her happily-ever-after and finally found a target to unleash holy Hell upon.
I said, as politely as I could muster with flames shooting out my eyes, "I just got off the phone with my husband in Iraq, and I'm *REALLY* not interested in the Republican party right now."
By this point, he would have noticed my tear-streaked face. He stuttered and stammered and muttered something I didn’t really catch as I was closing the door. Something like "Oh, what happened?" or "I'm so sorry" and "Ok, I'll just...." His voice was trailing off as he backed away down the stoop.
I swear, he backed away, bowing like a courtier, fearing that the queen would call for his beheading at any moment.