I’m trying to convince myself that writing a blog post is productive, because at least I’m writing. I’ve yet to write anything of substance for this semester. Don’t get me wrong, I probably have about eight or nine or ten single spaced pages of nonsense, but nonsense just won’t cut it.
It’s just that I have this problem: every time I sit down to write lately, all I can think about is Robert. You don’t need to analyze me; I’ll do it for you. If I’m sitting down to write and all I can think about is one person, then that probably means there is an important story to be told.
So why not tell it? Good question. Because it hurts too much? Maybe I’m afraid? It makes me feel too vulnerable? Because I don’t even know what I have to say about him? The story isn’t just about him; its about me, it’s about people who are here and safe and out of harm’s way… people who I worried about for years. It’s about how I didn’t worry enough for Robert.
If I were to start my story, here is what I would say: “Robert was killed on Jeremy’s birthday.”
That is as far as I can get. I can’t write about sitting on my parent’s couch and getting a call from my brother telling me that he heard that Robert had been killed in Afghanistan. How Jeremy asked me to find out if it was true, to look on facebook, to make some calls. I can’t write about how I searched the internet for hours like I was some kind of cyber detective looking for clues, even though my good friend John spoke with Robert’s mother and called to let me know. I don’t want to talk about how angry I was that the newspapers and tv stations weren’t announcing his death. Where was his picture? I don’t want to talk about how physically sick I felt and still feel when I actually saw his photo on tv, next to the words “Soldier Killed in Afghanistan.” I don’t want to write about how I still haven’t talked to his sister Becky since the funeral. How I don’t know how she is doing. How I don’t know how his two- maybe even three- year old daughter is doing.
I don’t want to write about how for years I made deals with God, crying and pleading, “If you bring Nicholas home safely I will never ever in my life smoke a cigarette again; I’ll go back to church. If you bring him home, I don’t care if he and I never even speak again, as long as he’s safe” or how I bargained with powers I don’t know for sure exisit to keep Gene and Stephan alive too. How even now, the USS Enterprise holds a special place in my heart. How that for years I was so terrified that something would happen to my friends. How I obsessed about it. How I was convinced that one day I would be forced to stand in front of a flag draped casket, to see their uniforms, empty boots on the side, to hear someone play Taps. I don’t want to write about how years later, when they were all safe and finished their tours of duty, there I was looking at a young boy’s empty boots, uniform, gun. I don’t want to write about how I didn’t even consider this being an option. How I didn’t obsess over Robert.
No, I don’t want to write about that. I don’t want to write about how the day before Robert shipped out, I told him he’d be fine “because I know everything.” My signature line. “Trust me; I know everything.” I hate those words. I hate myself for ever speaking those words. I don’t want to write about how we’d instant message each other at 3:00am because we both couldn’t sleep. How we’d always talk about my grad school applications, and how much work it all was. How he’d send me messages just to check in and make sure I wasn’t overdoing it; that I was taking care of myself. I don’t want to write about how he was a much better friend to me than I was to him. I don’t want to remember those conversations, even though they are all that’s really left.
I was looking through pictures of my oldest brother’s wedding a few weeks ago, when all of a sudden I saw Robert. I had looked at this picture many times before, but never did I notice him in the pew as Mike and I walked down the aisle. He looked so happy. He was always such a good friend to Jeremy; he looked up to him. Robert was still in high school then. He hadn’t yet enlisted. I remember how at Jeremy’s wedding he was talking about what a great time he was having, how he said he would have done the whole night over again when it was over.
Wouldn’t that be nice? To have the chance to do the whole night over….