It is the “in-between” time. The time when you’ve had to check out of the hotel but it’s still too early to leave “him” before he goes down into the black hole, into the belly of the whale. Once he goes down into the black hole, it’s months before he comes out again.
We sit in the town’s gazebo sipping iced tea and watching the sun sparkle on the little waves that die on the rocks at the water’s edge. It is the little town that isn’t built yet, Kings Bay, Georgia. Three hours and twenty-seven minutes from Charleston — from home. (If you drive the speed limit.) That’s where they park the submarines. That’s why you must drive down the swampy coastline and through the fabled antebellum low-country to be with the ones you love for the weekend.
Sometimes I think I can feel the ghost of Sherman marching that same route through the marshes and swampland. Generations of egrets and blue herons glide over the marshes and point the way. The rustling of the palmetto trees high above whisper the names of thousands of women who’ve made this trip, for a weekend stolen from the military machine.
There isn’t anywhere to live yet, in the little town that isn’t built. Only a heartless hotel and a long cement pier. The town will be built sooner or later. I guess it really doesn’t matter. I’ll follow him wherever they send him.
The bridge over the Savannah River is the halfway point on the drive. When I cross it to the southbound side, my heart starts to lift because the whale comes to the surface. The prodigals return.
When I cross it to the northbound side, I dry my eyes and begin to figure out how to make the upcoming months fly by without pain. Pain is useless against the black hole. Pain is useless against the whale.
“Want to get something to eat?”
“No, let’s sit here a little longer”
It’s a long drive back and I don’t like to do it at night. There always seems to be a storm that comes up and it rains like hell for most of the trip home. It never fails. He holds my hand. “”‘ fritter away the rest of daylight and have a quiet dinner. The dread begins. Why can’t we just separate and be done with it? Dragging it out like this only makes it worse.
I say, “Go and be gone so that you can come home!”
“I wish I could,” he answers. This banging around is awful.
There must be a better way to live. I never thought it would get this bard.
This is the way we live because be loves his job, his career, this adventure, and I love him. Neither of us would ever change it.
The spotlights shine out in the blackness of the coastal sky. They call it the wall of light They hide the whale behind the ugly brilliance. They ruin the night for star-gazing.
He leaves the comfort of the car, (Corinthian Leather), and starts the long walk down the concrete umbilical cord towards the black bole. There are many whales to be filled tonight. The spotlights illuminate them all. There will be many new Jonahs before the week is out. My own beloved Jonah becomes a blurred shadow. I try to switch off the love but the switch is stuck and the love won’t go away. It would be so much easier if it did.
There is a heartbreaking clash between love of country and freedom and the love between us. Why did I marry such a gentle man of war? It always seems that the love of country and freedom wins until the whale surfaces and the black hole returns in a distant, fiery dawn to disgorge its inhabitants into the arms of waiting wives and girlfriends.
The long ride home begins. They told me that it would get easier as the years vanish like the tides. That’s what they said when it was my first time watching him climb down into the hole. It isn’t my first time any more. It hasn’t been my first time in a long time. I’m a “they” now. I’m a seasoned “Boomer Wife.” I have to help out the new batch of firsttimers; the new eighteen year-old brides from Kansas and Spokane and Two Sticks, West Virginia.
I tell the new ones everything. I tell them to start a hobby, learn to cook, see how much money they can save, tell them anything, but I don’t tell them it gets easier. It doesn’t.
Don’t cry on my shoulder. I have enough to worry about now. I’m on the northbound side and it’s raining like hell and there goes the Savannah River.