TUESDAY: Losing Your Way, Stockbridge to Afganistan

BY WALT GIERSBACH

Copyright is held by the author.

JENNY DEE, where are you now? Your last letter said Kandahar or Kabul or some crapped-out place full of dust and sand.

I smoothed out your letter, scribbled on tablet paper, and wondered if it’s just the miles that separate you over there from me in Stockbridge. Wished that you were near as Boston and not some heathen land. Did you think the world was some place you could hitchhike to? But you had to go and fight the wars for God and country or whatever madness. There’ll be a new one coming, they say. The generals and politicians will decide it’s the Eskimos or the Mexicans who need to be blown up and taught a lesson.

You know I can’t follow you, me with a bummed out leg and my classroom full of college kids eager to go bite the world in the ass. I can only offer my heartstring to tether you. You, a nurse at Mass General who said, “They need me more than you do. And it’ll be only a year or two before I’ll come back to answer your question.”

So I find solace skipping stones into the Housatonic and wishing they could fly into your nursing station. I’d like to paint the stones black to show the ache in my heart.

It’s gotten cold by the water. Time to go home and sleep, and perhaps a small whiskey to invite good dreams.

I must’ve done that, crept under the covers and thought of all we might have done and still might do. Until I heard your voice and saw you standing at the foot of my bed, saying, “Gerry, I’m home and I didn’t forget.”

God, you looked lovely even in that worn uniform. “Jenny, hold me tight,” I said. “Tell me you’re back to stay, I have so many things to say to you, but first tell me you’ve decided to marry me.”

And then that smile crossed your lips and your eyes crinkled. “Never fear, Gerry, my darling lover, I’ll always be with you till we’re old and wrinkled. And then we can sift memories and tell each other the old stories.”

“Do you remember that autumn night in Scolley Square?” I asked. “Remember when we danced like crazy people?  You were singing that song, ‘Stayin’ Alive.’”

But you held up a finger — wait! — and walked from my room. I waited. And waited. There’d be no more sleep. I was jarred upright by the ringing phone. It was your father saying a grenade had been thrown at your nursing station. He broke down in tears and your mother came on the phone and said, “Oh, Gerry, I’m so sorry.”

Now I’m left to wonder how far it is from Stockbridge to wherever you are, and knowing I’ll never find you.

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