I was thinking last night of someone I dated not too long after I lost my job in the fall. His name was Kirk and he was the oldest person I had ever dated. Taller than me but not too tall, he had blondish hair and a coy smile, a medium build that was strong but not gym-rat ripped. We didn't get much time together before he was deployed for training in Georgia and then back to the middle-east. Before we met, he had volunteered to go back to Iraq for a second tour of duty having first been stationed in Bosnia. He reasoned that as an officer and a full-time member of the Nebraska National Guard, he would return and be able to pay off his house, retire very early and would help those still in the country. It was something I couldn't comprehend, volunteering to go to Iraq, of all places. He had served his country and clearly it had taken a toll on him. For someone in his early-30's he had pain creases deep in his face. I don't mean natural wrinkles, they were in places that only come from constant frowns and straining, a truly weathered look...weathered by life and the elements.
I think, in retrospect, while the relationship was short-lived we found each other at very important times. Having just lost my job, and someone I cared about but just couldn't have, I needed some comfort and loving. I think I gave him some compassion and support that he needed while preparing to leave. It wasn't that he talked much about leaving, in fact, he couldn't talk about it. This guy had so many emotional scars they left him bound and gagged and, if I'm going to be honest, sometimes a little dangerous. The support was more about a connection to another human being, another soul that he could take with him when he left. At first I was angry about the way in which he left things, which was by disappearing and not calling, but I realize that he couldn't say goodbye. After everything he had seen I think it was too hard for him to leave on a sad note, he had to pick up his gear and just go. In some strange way it was also a comfort, I think if he hadn't been attached or we hadn't made that important connection, it wouldn't have been difficult to say goodbye.
I sent him an email this morning, not knowing if he will ever receive it or not, but sending one none-the-less. Honestly, I have no idea what the protocol is for wartime correspondence. Hey, how's it going, hope you're not dead, haven't talked to you in eight months, I have no right but I am thinking of you anyway. Oh, by the way, I moved away from Nebraska so if, like me, you had ever harbored a fantasy reunion in your mind, it's doubtful. I felt foolish trying to write it but I felt compelled to do so. I supposed it's never terrible to get a note from someone who says they're thinking of you. I don't know if the fact that it's someone to whom you've made love makes a difference or not, someone you had to let go before going back to war. Will that hurt him more than it will help? I want to GOOGLE his name but afraid to find an obituary pulled up in the search.
Dating Kirk gave me a face and an appreciation, if not a true understanding, of the toll that war or military "conflict" takes on human beings. It reminds me of a short-lived but sweet and intense connection I made and that, despite my recent self-focused nature, it's something I could probably summon up again. If even a connection is only made somewhere in the ether, I hope he feels it right now.