The Mother of All Weeks

Captain America leaves then nothing makes sense where you or I are in this crazy world.

Hey you.


I’m struggling today to put together everything that’s happened in just over a week to make some semblance of rational, sensible order in my head.  But I think that’s because this week has been about as far from sensible or rational as you can get – for both of us.


Only a couple of weeks ago I was in a restaurant in Itaewon laughing at [Captain America] pounding South African Chardonnay like it was water and shaking my head again at how much he camps up with the merest whiff of alcohol.  If ever there was a pretty boy born to wear spandex adorned with the Star Spangled Banner, it’s [Captain America].  He misses you.  Really misses you.  I miss watching you two banter off each other like you’re brothers who’ve known each other all your lives, rather than a junior Lieutenant and his mentor who only met a year ago.  There is no way he’ll find a best friend to match you in Honduras.  I’m sure the Honduran ladies will be appreciative of his All American-ness enough so he doesn’t mind too much.  As long as he keeps the song and dance acts to a minimum so they don’t worry about the spandex.


Everything started out so normal last week.  Well, rational at least. Some text banter that I’m sure was very annoying over there for you by a drunken [Danger 2] when I stayed over with him and [Korean Beauty].  It just made us all a bit too sad that you weren’t here.  Then we both pushed on into the week in our different parts of the world.  And the sense just seemed to go out the window.  But in the two places where you and I are ‘rolling with the punches’ at the moment, I’m starting to realise we should forget about sensible.


The Mother of All Bombs.  You didn’t have to tell me how close you were.  I had Google maps open the minute the news alert flashed on my screen.  And before we could even talk about the Freudian symbolism of that decision, I was shaking hands with your Vice President up on the border of North Korea while enough camera crews to satisfy a Kardashian family outing were literally pushing leaning on my shoulders.  I didn’t know at that stage the ‘mother of all rhetoric’ bombs that were being lobbed cavalierly into that tension soup.  Everyone here has been going about normal everyday business a little bewildered at the number of messages coming from every corner of the globe to try to get the on the ground assessment of how bad things really are here.  (Answer – they aren’t.  We’re all just a bit baffled by the spinning top of words and news reports that look like they’re going to topple over the edge into fantasyland hysteria).  I think the most bizarre moment I had was reassuring the anxious [Some Latino] embassy in the middle of the night that the UK tabloid news link they sent me had about as much basis in reality as a Harry Potter film.


I think over the weekend I was starting to accept the governing strangeness of this new not-quite-reality.  I even ignored the Australian and New Zealand media spinning things up after some off-the cuff rhetoric bomb directed at the bottom of the planet.  My mum has at least stopped texting me just to make sure I’m not under siege after the daily evening news back home.


This week started feeling like rationality might just win out as I saluted flags and gallant veterans at traditional commemorations of Commonwealth heroism in South Korea 66 years ago.


The poignancy of the Last Post at dawn today reminded all of us of the ANZAC sacrifice to ensure the civilized, rational world we really do live in after all.  A world so civilized that a US General getting angry that I was handing him the wrong commemorative wreath – because the Korean General jumped the line – was the biggest concern of my day.  I sat down to breakfast with the other ANZACs in our dress uniforms, with a splash of Irish in our coffees in tribute to our predecessors, and the world was rational.


But then I read the text you’d sent me while those wreath Generals were shuffling for commemorative positions – and the whole world flipped upside down, inside out.  Irrational.   Nonsensical. To read just 100 or so characters that include ‘VBIED’ and ‘KIA’ takes stopped my heart.


‘Don’t worry, I’m ok’.  I’m hanging onto those four words because they are the only reason my heart started to beat again.  I cannot express how relieved I am that you’re safe.  Please stay safe you.  Please.  I need you to be here, in all this craziness, for this world to make any sense.

Note to Self

Hey you.

Its been a tough week. I’m trying to keep my head straight and remember how I told myself I would just grit my teeth through the tough times I know I’ll have while you’re there and I’m here. But this week I think I lost sight of those sensible ‘notes-to-self’ I told myself before you left. 

He’ll withdraw for a while, its his coping mechanism – he told you that. 

The communication will be tough, he’s so busy and the time difference sucks.  

Your life will seem unreal to him, because he’ll be living in god knows what sort of conditions, with uncertainty and threat every day. 
I know all of this. I’m not needy or uninformed. But when those excuses whittled down to something less than the worst combination I’ve been worrying over when you finally called, it made it really really hard to accept the withdrawing and just superficial texting. It makes me angry at you. We talked about your withdrawing. You said you’d do it differently this time. God, I was so angry that I’d been wasting all this care and literal heartache in missing you, sending a continuous stream of positive at you even with silence (or the far worse – ‘Have a great day!’) coming back at me. But then you told me about all the ridiculous unnecessary stresses the stupid US Army is putting on you. And then what had seemed to me like flailing, self absorbed ‘future combat hunting’ didn’t seem so hurtful. It didn’t seem so much like you trying to find a future that would definitely exclude me. What you are chasing now no longer seems like an indoctrinated soldier who can’t look forward to a future that lets him have a full human experience. It seems more like someone desperately trying to find some direction to hook his identity to. Some way to feel complete when this organisation is trying to strip away everything you have done – done so well and made your family and me so proud of who you are. You may not be living that worst case stress load over there, but the stresses are still real. Still life threatening and exhausting. So of course your reactions are to chase what you know, the only future you’ve been told can be held up as success – since you were literally a teenager. Even though you know that it won’t make you happy in the long run and you won’t get to be the complete, wonderful, rounded human being you’ve shown me in the last nine months that you can be. That you’ve already been in flashes with me, your family, your friends. What did you tell me your commander said to you when you got into it all over there? “There’s more to us than this shit”. I know you get it – when you’re not under all these other stresses and you can have that wider perspective of life and what’s important. But you are in the thick of all these stresses and you are exhausted and the US Army is doing its best to kick you while you’re down.

So I’m not angry. 

I’m reminding myself of my last ‘note-to-self’ – and I’m going to actually write it out and stick it on a wall. Give it time. We are only a handful of weeks into this, you. We’ve got a long way to go. The unknown is a little less now. This latest stress will pass. I know you.  

And I’m not ready to give up. Not by a long shot. I’ll give it time. 

 And I’ll keep sending that positive your way. 

It certainly can’t hurt.

War Games

Hey you.


I woke up in the early hours this morning for no reason that I can figure out except that I felt like my lungs were being crushed in some sort of vice because you are gone and I was filled with the overwhelming feeling that you being gone isn’t going to get better.  I know that anxiety is a physical reaction to stress and overwhelming emotions, and I talked myself through the release of those physical symptoms and eventually even got a few more minutes of sleep.  I learnt how to do that and I know I can talk myself through it, anxiety doesn’t grip me and take over like it did once upon a time.  But here’s the thing.  I haven’t felt this iron grip for a long time.  Actual years.


Yes, the anxiety was conquered, but the emotions that gave it free reign to choke me out of sleep are still very raw and in charge right now.  And I don’t know how knock them out of the Captain’s chair.  Everything I’ve been doing isn’t even nudging them.  Not very optimistic, huh?  Sorry.


I know while I write this that I’m not going to send it to you.  Maybe in a few days or weeks I’ll know more of what’s going on with you, but I’m not going to add to your stress.


I know why I’m feeling hopeless even though I really was feeling all that positive energy in my last email.  I’ve been sitting in war room briefings straight out of a 1980s Matthew Broderick Cold War doomsday movie, shaking my head at just how real these ‘games’ could actually become on the whim of egos.  And then, from inside a whole different kind of war, you send me texts saying how much you didn’t enjoy flying there.  You love flying.  You said it was ‘spooky’ flying over there.  I could hear your relief in the text that you’d actually managed to make all your dust landings.  I am worried.  You never ever say anything less than that you got this.  And its not like its first time nerves over there.  For you to tell me that you are doing anything less than being in absolute control is practically screaming to me that shit is not good.


Two days later and I almost wish that you didn’t have wifi, that you couldn’t flick a three word flippant morning greeting, or a ‘lol’ to some light hearted article I send just to try and keep it light, optimistic.  Cos now I’m just wanting to talk, now every text is feeling so superficial.  I’m stressed you’re having to cope, and you’re going to cope by pulling away.  I know that’s your fall back, from your time with me but also you told me that’s how you were the last two deployments.  You told me you’d be different this time.  You were so open about it – bloody fighter jets taking off in the background while you were saying you want to keep talking this time, not cut me off and isolate yourself.  I’m still trying to hold onto that.  But ‘Good morning, have a great day!’ is pissing me off.  And in the anxiety, in that crushing fist, I was pissed at you as well as worried.  Really worried.  I fell back asleep telling myself I’d back off, not engage and let you actually communicate with me when you can do it.  I hate playing these stupid games – you know I do.  That was one of the first things I told you about me.  But it works with you, which also pisses me off.  Pull back and play cold, and you make the effort.  I can tell this is a learned pattern with you from past times, and I’m angry that your distance is making me adopt that same stupid behaviour.  I do grown-up relationships, you know that.  But ‘Have a great day!’ from the Afghani mountains and the iron fist crushing me in the dark made me decide to play games to make you communicate.


Then I woke up and London was in lock down.  I’m texting [Sensible BFF] and she’s ok, thank god, and we’re having a text conversation from war games in Korea to terror attacks in London, very calmly assessing that it could have been a lot worse.  God.  You know what?  Screw games.  I don’t know what’s going on that’s making you pull back right now, but I will tell myself its just temporary while you sort out whatever is going on.  I’m not going to stop making sure you know how much I care about you, how much I think about you and us.  Life is just too precarious.  No holding back.

Tinder and Daffodils

9 months apart – we got this! Because for 9 months together, we were awesome. And the first thing that made us awesome? We did Tinder right.

Hey you.


It was so good to finally talk to you over there yesterday.  I’m doing better, and I promise I’m going to work on staying optimistic.  Time will tell, like you said.  I hate gambling, by the way.  Did you know that?  So I’m really really out of my comfort zone ‘rolling the dice’ – but you already know that.  I’m going to do my best to stop stressing about what will happen over 9 months with you over there and me in Korea for a little bit longer then well, who knows where to be honest.  Something else to stress about… But I’m going to try to stay optimistic. I’m also going to try to ‘load the dice’ a bit to at least calm down my panic over this lack of control (issue, you think?? 😉 ).  I want to keep us talking, I know you want to keep us talking, and I don’t want either of us to forget that we are awesome while we have these completely different lives for 9 months that will be pretty all consuming – full on Afghanistan stuff for you and total career change – again – for me.  Because we are awesome you know.  You and me.


So I’m going to start with the first reason why we are awesome: we did Tinder right.  Awesomely right.  I actually don’t know anyone else who’s done it better.  Its really funny to think that the only reason we even know each other is because a very pushy Maori Sergeant told me to ‘harden the fuck up, bro’ (or other such ‘[SGT Vicarious]-isms’) and just get myself on Tinder already, 3 weeks into Korea.  And then proceeded to rip my phone off me because I couldn’t be trusted to ever actually swipe right on anyone.  Ok, so initially [SGT Vicarious] did Tinder right, not me, by getting me on it.  I swear you were not a [SGT Vicarious] pick though!  (I will not even discuss the scary array of characters she swiped right on…).  But on day 2 of me on Tinder, I did Tinder right on my own.  Cos that’s when I swiped right on you 🙂


And you totally did Tinder right.  First thing you did right: Your profile pic was cute and a little goofy.  Don’t get annoyed!  Your photo was very super cool dude – but fun.  Like you didn’t take yourself too seriously.  You didn’t put your sexiest photo first (diving pic – you know that one’s very very goooood 😉 ), which made me think you might not be a narcissistic wanker (there are many, many on Tinder).  And even though I can’t remember the exact words, I remember you described yourself as exactly who you are – 6’3”, Blackhawk pilot, adventurous.  I liked all of that – even though I’d promised [SGT Vicarious] no more pilots.  (She’d never know… lol!).  And then you described who the girl swiping right should be.  And I swear to god – I told [SGT Vicarious] that day that you exactly described me (over too many wines, Jaegers for her probably – you think us drinking and Tindering together might have been why it didn’t work so good the officer/sergeant thing later on??).


Second thing you did right: Really different opening line!  You were interesting from the start!  Not many Tinder conversations devolve into discussion of Roman gladiator leather skirts in 3 or 4 exchanges.  And third thing you got right?  You were you.  And you had good chat (that’s a thing).  You had just as good chat over 2 weeks of Tinder as you do in person.  That’s a rarity, mister.  I really enjoyed texting with you – you know what an achievement that is with ‘she who hates to text’ – you should be very smug!  I was calling you ‘Gladiator [You]’ when I talked about you to [SGT Vicarious], smiling every time I said it (what happened to that nickname, by the way?  We should bring that back 😉 )

Ok – random facts (I promised to keep your inquisitive mind entertained 😉 ):

Jaegermeister – that terrible horrible stuff that [SGT Vicarious] poured down my throat (only one night and no one ever ever will again!) – literally means “Hunting Master” and was an after dinner tipple for blue collar Germans until it was re-marketed as a party drink by an American importer in 1935.  (You Americans can party up anything 😉 ) Contrary to popular rumour, it does not contain elk or moose blood (I know – WTF?!?!?!).  Yep, now you don’t have to Wikipedia it.


Another thing I reckon we got right on Tinder wasn’t any of our doing.  2 weeks enforced texting while you swanned around South East Asia.  I was really surprised how much you kept texting while you were busy hunting down temples and surfing on deserted beaches (hate you).  And your chat stayed good.  You made me laugh.  I texted with a couple of others (unenthusiastically) but I kept saying to [SGT Vicarious] – ‘I like [You]’ – during her compulsory daily update (the woman was nothing if not persistent in her ‘living vicariously through me’). And – ‘But I really like [You]’ – when she made me set a coffee date with some unexciting buzz cut the day before you got back (who clearly ‘missed legs day’ every day at the gym by the weight room selfie profile pic – he did not do Tinder right).  I think we were forced to get to know each other a little bit over those two weeks.  I got drunk and texted that I liked you before we even met.  You told me that’s why you didn’t feel uncomfortable on our first date.  I liked liking you before our first date.


See – first thing that made us awesome.  We did Tinder right.


Last thing for now (cos its late and you know I don’t like this computery stuff to interrupt my crazy sleep wind down).  Daffodils.  Daffodils make me very very happy.  We used to have this huge bank covered in them behind our house when I was a kid, waaaay out in the middle of deepest darkest ‘Middle Earth’.  It was actually part of the cricket ground behind our house that I pretty much considered our back yard (don’t be afraid because I’ve mentioned a weird English sport – I won’t make you watch it, promise 😉 ).  We used to pick so many of daffodils in the spring that we’d have three or four huge vases of them in every room of the house.  Those big trumpet ones were my favourite, but we had all different sorts.  There are a lot of different types of daffodils now I think about it (I might Wikipedia that later…).  I love seeing daffodils – I have really happy memories of being a kid, and they mean spring and sunshine and summer coming.  I don’t think they grow daffodils in Korea.  I’ve been looking.  I found some other yellow flowers so I got them to cheer me up – freesias.  I like them too, they’re spring and yellow and smell great.  But they’re not daffodils.  Daffodils are awesome.


Ok – I’m done.  I’ll leave you to sleep.  I hope it was good flying again today, and the shift to nights isn’t too tough.  (Yeah I know, you’re an old hand at that stuff).  I’m sleeping with a smile remembering all of this about us (and also thinking about daffodils 🙂 ).  I hope you get a smile too (that’s my cunning plan…).


Goodnight you X