Nothing at All

A few years ago, I was off on a military training event for 2 weeks in a foreign country. I don’t talk about my military life because it has never defined me, and I truly honor and respect the need for limitations on the spreading of details of that life. But this is a story I want to share, because it is something that has been incredibly important to me for the last few years and I hope it is important to a certain woman.

I went to a party 3 weeks after I dumped my first girlfriend. I had a few more than a few drinks and ended up talking to this girl for hours. We started talking at about 8PM and were talking on and off until 2PM. 20 months later, she decided to join the military reserve for college money. 18 days later was 09/11. 3 months later, she was raped when I was 1,000 miles away. 3 months later I joined the military.

I did it because I could never forgive myself for the fact that she was 1,000 miles away and I couldn’t protect her. I know that even if I had been there I may not have been able to protect her. I ran it through my head a million times and I eventually concluded that if I was there, they’d have at least had to hide my dead body and murderers get caught more often than rapists. I also joined because I loved NY and those buildings were the pillars that held the earth. I talk of Atlas a lot on here and that is what NYC is.

I joined the military for the worst reason possible.

Shortly after I joined, she got deployed. I wasn’t finished with my training so I had to kiss her goodbye and now she was 3,000 miles away. 8 months into her deployment, I got deployed.   When she got back before me, she talked of moving halfway across the country to be close to the people she was deployed with. I felt like I was losing her.

2 days before she’d shipped out, we had gone out with her parents and in her excitement, she told her parents that we were getting married. Her father pulled me outside and I assured him that we had talked about it in a far off, maybe one day context and that I wasn’t marrying his daughter because she being deployed. But when I felt her slipping further away, I asked her to marry me.

I asked her to marry me for the worst possible reason.

A year into the marriage, I lost my dream job and found depression. Maybe I found depression and lost my dream job.   Depression sneaks up on you and starts whispering judgments in your ear long before you notice he’s arrived. I was once again at a point in life where I had to look around and figure out why I was even alive. Why was I with this woman? Why was she with me? I felt worthless and useless. I felt like the only thing I was good at in life was turning food into poop. That is exactly what I thought. If that was all I was doing, why was I alive? Suicide ideation entered the picture.

I decided to go on living for the worst possible reason.

Eventually, as I realized that I was still alive and the darkness around me wasn’t a coffin, but just a hazy fog of depression I started to ask those questions again. I moved out of the bedroom. The night I moved out of the bedroom I saw a look on her face I hadn’t seen in years. Something changed. Then I got sent to a foreign country for a training event. I spent the 4 hour drive to the unit thinking about what any of it was for, if I lost her. I wanted children and losing her meant that I would be 10 years further from children. I never wanted her to think that being raped had taken me from her. I never wanted her to feel as alone as I know she felt that night. I wanted to stay with her. I wanted to be the man that could bear all of this.

I decided to give it another try for the worst possible reason.

We’d been there for about a week. It was awesome. For the first time since I had joined this unit I was really beginning to get to know some people. I’m not an outgoing person, but I really do fuel myself from others. We were just working all day, every day, so I got to know who the workers were and we developed some real comradery. Every day, we’d be driven about 30-40 minutes to the jobsite and the driver would play this song 1-2 times on each trip. All of us would sing it. Only about half the unit spoke Spanish and I don’t know if they listened to the words and knew what it was about, but the loudest singers among us were not the Spanish speakers. We’d wail out the words mnemonically with smiles on our faces. 11-15 men in camo (with 1-2 women, depending on the day), just singing happily along.

While we were there, I called her almost every day. One night she again told me about this girl she was in love with. To me, this was the girl who was supposed to be with her the night she got raped but bailed on her and left her alone with half a dozen guys. To her, this was the girl that she talked to after it happened and who literally held her up and washed her off and helped her through it. To my friends, this was the girl that my wife had been in love with for almost a decade, when she should have only been in love with me. I was upset. I went outside and stood at the side of the road in the dark, with tears in my eyes.

One of girls that was there with us came out to check up on me. And we talked. She told me to do what I knew I had to do. That I knew what I had to do, and if I had to do it, it was perfectly fine for me to do it. It didn’t matter that I thought divorce was wrong. It didn’t matter if I didn’t believe in it. She told me that deep down I knew what I had to do and that I had to do it. She never told me to get divorced. She told me to stand up and be a man. She told me that no one could fault me for doing what I had to do.

I don’t know if she knows how much that meant to me. I don’t know if she knows how much it means to me right now. I don’t know if she knows that I will hold onto that forever and will try to remember and live by that.

When I got home, actually in the bus from the airport when I booted up my phone and the internet, I read the lyrics to that song that had been translated to English.

You were for me, everything in my life
My reason to live and you left me alone
Just think of me, when I loved you more
I don’t mind suffering, I even expected it

I got tired of waiting for you to decide
You decided too late to see what remains

In me there is nothing, nothing at all
Not even a trace of how much I loved you
I got tired of begging you to return to me
But you did too late and I’m not the same
You thought you were the doll[?] of the world
And you tested by trampling my pride
You thought you were the queen of my heart
And now nothing remains of that love.

In me there is nothing, nothing at all
Not even a memory of when I loved you
In me there is nothing, nothing at all
Not even a footprint left in my soul
You thought you were the queen of my heart
And now nothing remains of that love.

As I read those words, I knew what I had seen on her face that night I moved out of the bedroom. I knew it was too late. After a decade of waiting for a spark, it doesn’t matter if there are fireworks. I think she changed. I think she knows how to love one person completely. I think that in that moment she did love me completely and utterly. But in that moment, I felt nothing. There was nothing left in me.

I left for the right reason.

So, to that lovely young lady, I want you to know that doing something for the right reason is the best feeling in the world. No matter the pain and hard work that goes with it.   When I do things for the right reason, I think of you.

Do what you have to do. That is the right reason to do it. Do it right. Give it every chance when there is something left in you. Talk to people. Give people second and third chances and 81st chances, so that when you look inside yourself and don’t find a chance to give them, you can walk away and know that it’s not you. Pain is unavoidable, but if you do it right, guilt just never appears.

But… talk to people…

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