She is approximately my age with brunette curls tossed carelessly into a ponytail, plain glasses, and an oversized t-shirt creased down the middle by dog tags that have likely kept vigil in his absence. She chatters to another woman, who is also waiting, about restaurant reservations and other modes of anticipatory busy work. It is all I can to do cross my legs tighter and more awkwardly and to chew at already brittle nails and to hope that the New Orleans flight empties before the onslaught occurs of unbearable reunions. Quietly, I wish the Dallas plane would turn around and fly back to whatever Middle Eastern country it originated from, just for the amount of time remaining before my soldier returns. Or I wish that I were in her place, feeling the same surge of mad tingling throughout every atom of the body in those too-long moments before the countdown ends. Relief is a thing I have long put out of heart and mind, and Denial is the vein in which I mostly reside--maintaining a cycle of remembering and forgetting him so I'm not always acutely aware of how painful it is to love and miss a man so intensely.
If I were a bigger, less selfish person I would find it in me to be happy for her and proud even, that she and I are a part of the same parallel universe. Instead, she makes me angry, and with envy and malice I want her suffering to continue, for The Staff Sergeant to be the one instructed to sprint from the Dallas plane door to my arms, even though I know that she has earned this homecoming through the endurance of millions of seconds passing like pinpricks, stinging reminders that life fragmented must somehow move forward as though it were whole.
By the time I've begun nervously gnawing the inside of my cheek, I happen to spot the top of my friend's head, bobbing beneath florescent lights in the flow of travelers. Before she sees me, she calls my phone (always held close) and I urge her to hurry because of what's coming. Without missing a beat, we join paces, step onto the escalator in synch, and crinkle our faces almost together in the funny looking but effective way that dams up the woe of this war thing. She hasn't been here since January, since the two of our soldiers left for the desert. More than anything, I think, she wants her fiance to take my place, to be the first hug after her flight. But nothing is normal anymore--for her, it's this welcome and pulling into the driveway of his house without him being home. For me, it's the stranger living the role I crave to land, the seething joy of enthusiasm weaving through each of her uninvited explanations of directions she has given her Cory or tasks she has carried out in preparation for the soon coming infallible instant, first of locked eyes, then a hug, a kiss, and the way her body will shudder from the shoulders down in a sigh of long-overdue relief.