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.

Captain America and Patthew McConaughey

Those boys may be loud, obnoxious and intentionally politically incorrect… but they’re our loud, obnoxious, inappropriate American heathens.

Hey you.

Its 6 weeks now since you left Seoul, 4 weeks since you landed over there in the thick of things.  It feels like a lot longer.  6 weeks without you feels much more like 6 months to me right now.  Time slows down some times when things aren’t so much fun.  But when I think about it, time slows down sometimes when things are really really great.  6 weeks after we did that awesome Tinder match, 4 weeks after we met, it really felt like we’d spent a lot longer together.  Admittedly, I think you stayed over just about every night after those Singapore Slings hiding out in a rainstorm, but I honestly can’t believe we had only known each other for about 3 weeks when you took me out for dinner to meet your friends.  And then at only 4 weeks I was on an island in the Phillipines with you, [Captain America] and [Patthew McConaughey].  On the plane ride out, I remember worrying that I could have been making a big mistake joining a boy’s holiday only 4 weeks in.

 

I’m not gonna lie – I was pretty terrified.

 

Because that first night meeting the boys was a disaster.  Don’t get me wrong – I was ecstatic that you wanted to take me out with all the guys.  That’s a good sign.  A very good sign that you were thinking things were going as well as I thought it was – the ‘meet the friends step’ was your suggestion and it came really early on .  And I was convined it would be easy for me to charm and befriend a bunch of alpha male pilots – I’ve been doing that most of my adult life.

 

I just didn’t factor in the ‘American’ part to that bunch of pilots.

 

En masse, you lot were a shock to the system.  An extra gallon of ‘alpha’ and a volume notch – or 3 – up on ‘stiff upper lip’ RAF pilots.  A juddering earth quake of ego increase compared to laid back Kiwi aircrew.  I was seriously wondering how we could keep seeing each other.  There was no way that I could ever get on with these loud American dudes who couldn’t go two sentences down a subject line that wasn’t something to do with the US Army, flying helicopters or some obscure American pop culture reference.  My best efforts to break through the boy talk – even to get a couple of attendant girlfriends to join on any other subject – was absolutely in vain. [Patthew McConaughey] and [Captain America] were smashing through every other conversation at that table – streaming obscenity-laced insults at you and each other that made me wonder what the hell I’d gotten myself into.  And its not like I’m new to laddish banter and locker room language.  I remember now that [Cambridge Grad LT] and [Nice Girlfriend] were sitting opposite me and not even trying to break through the diatribe (I just thought they were quiet – now I know they’re just used to letting you guys run out of steam).  I know that [Danger 2] and [Korean Beauty] were there but I don’t even think I managed to introduce myself to them.  I remember sitting in the car driving back in shocked silence.  I laugh when I think about how you broke that silence – because you totally knew that that those guys were going to be in ‘shock and awe’ mode that night.  “Yeah, sorry about that.  That was awkward”.  You could totally have warned me out.  I’m wondering now if that was some sort of a test to see if I had it in me to battle back and break through into your circle…

 

Guess you didn’t know yet who you were dealing with.

 

Only a week and a half later, I was sitting on that plane bound for the Philippines, crashing the boys’ trip.  Challenge accepted.  I never told you this – but I was just telling myself that if it got really bad, I could always just go hide in the resort’s spa.  (And I hate massages, so that tells you how much I liked you).

 

I think [Patthew McConaughey] and [Captain America] were impressed with my cahunas for coming along at all, at least enough to cut me a little slack.  Or maybe the different setting made them less focussed on the boy talk and made them open to actual conversations I could join.  Potentially I was helped by the group agreement that anyone talking about work was buying the next round of drinks (cunningly packaged as their idea, I might add).  Then again, it could have been just the shear amount of alcohol.  But from day one in the sunshine at that resort, I was included.  I’m not sure when I moved from included to accepted.  Maybe it was after the dive trip, with lunch on the James Bond-worthy tropical island restaurant.  Or after I laughed and joined in on the beach volleyball, played along to the blaring Top Gun soundtrack (not just ironically – I know you were secretly loving the association, not to mention the attention 😉 ).

 

Or maybe it was when I happily tried to mount inflatable unicorns with you and [Captain America], surrounded by mountains of foam and with pumping house music blasting across the sundrenched rave pool party while [Patthew McConaughey] laughed and ordered another pitcher of margaritas.

 

By the time we dragged our hungover selves back to the airport, you and I were ridiculously sun tanned and more than a little bit ridiculously besotted with each other.  [Patthew McConaughey] and [Captain America] may have both been seriously grumpy, and regretting leaving the resort for the local culinary delight of ‘goat pizza’ on the last night, but they were still relentlessly tearing us to shreds for our public displays of affection.  That made me even happier.  Because those insults were equally aimed at me.

 

Little did we all know that those alcohol-soaked four days in the Philippine sunshine would be the beginning of such a beautiful friendship – you, me, [Captain America] and [Patthew McConaughey].  Those boys may be loud, obnoxious and intentionally politically incorrect at every opportunity for greatest outrage – but they’re our loud, obnoxious, inappropriate American heathens.  Our nine months together wouldn’t have been half as much fun without them.

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.

Singapore Slings and a Tiny Umbrella

Hey you.

 

It rained in Seoul on Monday for the first time since you left.  Actually, I think it might be the first time this year. I really really needed to get out of my room so I forced myself outside anyway (also driven by need to get dancing shoes fixed in advance of [Captain America]’ farewell drinks – I’ll capture ‘fly on the wall’ details for you in my next email, for certain 😉 ).  I dragged my little umbrella with me – it did not fare well in the wind.  It’s looking very sad and lopsided actually, but I can’t bring myself to put it out of its misery and throw it away.  It’s the one I bought during that freak rainstorm on our second date.  We were headed for some bar where some friends of yours (was it Ethan?) were waiting, but the downpour forced us to dive into a convenience store and I was fleeced for this little purse-sized rain shield.  We never did find your buddies that night… but I’m getting ahead 🙂  More on the second date umbrella later.

 

I’m hoping you are settled in at the final base now.  I’m not going to ask questions or make comments, because I know you haven’t got a lot of time and it really seems pointless with how little you can tell me over text, and I’m thinking that emailing isn’t going to be any easier to schedule than a phone call.  I hope soon you’ll be in more of a routine and we can actually talk.  I miss talking to you.  I don’t have you to share all my eye-rolling on the crazy US Army crap at work, or whinge about the crap air pollution here at the moment that makes me cough up a lung, or share all my planning for what happens in 6 weeks when I jump on a plane out of Korea.  I haven’t been able to tell you about taking [Cambridge grad LT] and [Nice Girlfriend] to the British Embassy bar and the crazy Aussie and Brit Colonel’s who got on a mission to get us all rolling drunk.  I didn’t get to tell you about the pandemonium the next morning at the Korean wedding, where potentially it was also some sort of cattle auction with all the pushing and shouting and handing over of envelopes of money.  (I don’t recommend ever attending a 300-guest Korean wedding with a pounding hangover!).

 

So, in the meantime while you are super busy, you’ve got to read more of my reminiscing and reminding you that there’s a kick ass girlfriend you kinda like over here 😉 It is also an excuse for me to go through all my photos while you’re away, and remind myself of all the fun times we had.  That’s the crazy thing with camera phones, right?  A million photos but I never look through them.  Changing that, as of now.

 

I don’t have any photos from our first days together though, so this email is just flicking back through memory ‘photos’.  Like how traveller-tanned and stubbly hot this Gladiator [You] fullah was when I first met him after a loooong two weeks of texting.  I am still really flattered that you literally landed from Bangkok, showered and then took me out for our first date.  I’d already texted drunkenly that I kinda liked you.  Guess you must have kinda like me too? 😉  And I was thinking that you must have kinda liked me after lunch turned into a walk, turned into a drink, turned into dinner, turned into standing at the Galloper saying goodbye 9 hours later.  And then – the urban legend that has become The No First Fate Kiss!  Forever my embarrassment, but also a really cute story now I know you were asking your friends if you messed up.  (Whereas I was asking SGT Vicarious if maybe you might be gay – there’s my ‘healthy’ ego for you!  I mean – what red-blooded straight man would spend 9 whole hours with me and not want to kiss me?!?  Right??).  But you restored my ego, and got a very very good beginning back on solid track, with your cute texting from your car while I was still walking home.  I still smile at your cute texting now (no small achievement with ‘she-who-does-not-enjoy-the-texting’!).  (But I’m still missing talking to you).

 

I definitely must have enjoyed the texts way back then, to be out in a rainstorm with you (and a tiny umbrella) in Itaewon on our second date, rushing towards the nearest bar where we could find some cover.  You know, I still have no idea where that bar is or what it’s called.  I remember there were people playing crazy ball throwing games, and there was some sort of photoshoot going on… or maybe it was just really intense selfie-taking by some half dressed girls and their boyfriends??  My memory ‘photos’ are a bit fuzzy from that part of the night – in some part due to the Singapore Slings I made us order (which were probably horrible, but I thought I was being sophisticated).  But probably mostly because everything else that night faded into insignificance after our first kiss.  Now that is a very nice memory ‘photo’.  Singapore slings, a tiny umbrella in a monsoon downpour – and kissing you J

 

Hopefully that’s a memory to make you smile in all your busyness.  Stay safe over there, you.  I miss you X

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P.S. Random fact to keep you entertained (as promised!):  The oldest reference to a collapsible umbrella dates to the year 21 AD, when some fullah in ancient China had one designed for a ceremonial four-wheeled carriage.  Not to be confused with a parasol (non-collapsible), which goes waaaayy back to Ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian times.  The use of the parasol and umbrella in France and England was adopted, probably from China, about the middle of the seventeenth century.  (There, now you know!).

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