Letters to Lisa
13MAY10 – Hey baby, I wanted to send you this letter to let you know I am safe (well, if that’s what you can call being in a war zone) at Camp Baharia, 65 kilometers west of Bagdad. I arrived at 2300 hours yesterday, after a 14-hour flight and a 2 hour Humvee ride. I was shown to my quarters and collapsed on the cot assigned me.
The quarters were what I expected, an oversized tent with 12 of us sharing it. Our field cots are typical 26"w X 75"l X 16"h and we hope we don’t roll over in our sleep, fall off, and wake up face to face with a scorpion, rattle snake, or cobra. There is no water in our tents, so we have to walk to the water trailer for drinking water or, if we are lucky, go and shower. Today, I met my new CO and was informed of my “assignment.” I will email you when I get a chance. I am already missing your blue eyes and sweet smile. –Love Mick
20MAY10 – Dearest Lisa, Things are hot, averaging over 100 every day (108 was the high yesterday, to give you an idea), draining on the body. I’m accustomed to GI showers; wash face, hands, underarms, crotch, and feet with a washcloth – never the whole body like you’re used to.
We had a lot of problems with insurgents and have already taken casualties. IEDs are their preferred method of attack, but sometimes we get caught by a sniper or a recon team. Corporal Ramirez was injured when an IED exploded near our Humvee. He lost his leg because of all the radioactive shrapnel they built it with. He is a good man with a wife and two kids he talked about constantly. All he wanted was to make a better life for them.
Staff Sergeant Tuggle was killed by a sniper while on patrol Thursday. I was standing next to him when he was shot. I’m sad, but at the same time, can’t help feeling relief it wasn’t me. The only reason I’m still alive is because he decided to shoot Tuggle first. It is difficult to watch my friends and fellow Marines get wounded, or killed. It helps to have you. I am already battle hardened and weary, emotionally shot. You are the only thing helping me maintain my sanity. If anything happened to us, I wouldn’t be able to handle it. – Love Mick
27MAY10 – Dear Lisa, I haven’t heard from you since I arrived. Is everything ok? Are you ok? I need to hear from you to break the pressures of this place. The heat, the lack of color, the lack of scenery, the monotony of our views, they all make this place so dreary. Nobody talks much except about business, preparing for the next mission, or what is happening at home. I feel like I am locked in an asylum staring at four gray walls all the time. I miss our garden and hiking at Mt. Cheaha.
I was reassigned to a RECON team and things are hot now! My team is being sent out all over the place for critical “missions” and we engage the enemy every day. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you exactly what I am doing, or where I’ll be, but when you write, send them to my old unit and they will get it to me, when I am in garrison. Speaking of garrison, the good thing about being assigned to a recon team is I no longer share a tent with 12 other guys. It is only me and the three members of my team in a separate tent. It gives us a little more privacy, which is nice. Anyway, we are about to head out again. I love you. Write soon. - Mick
10JUNE10 – Lisa, I am worried because I haven’t heard from you. I’ve been here almost a month. It is averaging 105 degrees every day, and that is not accounting for all our 782 gear and protective equipment we have to wear, which adds another 20 degrees! We go through water like crazy. Of course, we also have to go to the head a lot, TMI, Baby?
Our team went out two weeks ago and got back last night. We were fortunate this time, no casualties. Other teams were not so lucky. Corporal Niebert and his spotter were found by some insurgents and ambushed. Both were killed. I have known Niebert since basic at Paris Island and we went to recon/scout sniper school together. He leaves behind a wife and a new baby girl, which is terrible. What is going on with you? Is everything ok? Love – A Worried Mick
“Sergeant Peterson! You got a letter.” Mick heard the CO say. The CO, Major Tom Davis, liked to pass out the mail, as it was about the only time his men were happy. It helped lift his spirits.
“Thank you sir,” he replied as he took the letter. He couldn’t help but smile, as he looked down and saw it was from Lisa. He walked back to his cot and sat down, ripping open the letter in the process.
I am sorry I haven’t written to you since you arrived. I received your letters and haven’t been sure how to respond. All the fighting and killing over there, I worry about you making it home. It has been keeping me up at night, sometimes going to the bars with friends trying to deal with all of it. In the process, I have decided I don’t need this kind of stress in my life right now, with my job and all. Last week, I met a man at the bar who, like me, is against this war. We have been talking and seeing each other regularly and I am starting to develop feelings for him. I am letting you know I am moving my things out and will be gone by the time you read this letter. Good luck, I hope you make it back safe and please don’t hold this against me.
Major Davis saw Sergeant Peterson’s face drop and eyes begin to water and thought, “Damn-another 'Dear John’ Letter.”
“PETERSON!” Staff-Sergeant Jacobs yelled.
“Here Jacobs,” Peterson replied.
“Major Davis wants to see you STAT!”
“Roger,” Peterson said as he rose from his cot, threw on his cammies, donned his cover, and walked out heading to the Major’s quarters.
“Sergeant Peterson reporting as ordered sir,” Peterson said as he tapped on the Major’s door.
“Come in Peterson,” the Major replied.
Peterson walked into the tent and stood at attention in front of the Major waiting to see what this was all about.
“At ease. This is an informal meeting Peterson.”
“Yes sir,” Peterson said and stood at ease.
“I saw your reaction to the letter last week. It was a ‘Dear John’ letter wasn’t it?”
“Yes sir,” Peterson replied, looking down.
“Sergeant, you have been an exceptional member of my group since I got you reassigned to JOSTF (Joint Operations Special Task Force) and you joined your team.”
“Thank you sir, I try.”
“Quit sir’ing me Mick, I said this was informal. We've been beating up bullies together since the sixth grade, we grew up pulling Jenny MacBain’s hair and harassing our Science teacher Mr. Pratt....we've both lost some good friends in the past few weeks, and now this...a woman, worse than any bully we faced! Wish I could help. After 12.5 years of all kinds of shit, you'd think we'd seen it all...all happen to other guys...now you...damn her. I thought my command position would give me the power to make things right for you guys, but...hey, wait a minute. Remember that shack my grandfather left me? Yeah! I did get the power from OCS, I can grant you an emergency two week leave and send you there. Go, get laid...lie on the beach, get drunk...get her out of your system. Get your head straight, God knows you're no use to me or yourself this way.”
He leans over and opens a drawer. He throws the handful of things he pulled out of the drawer on the desk.
He leans over and opens a drawer. He throws the handful of things he pulled out of the drawer on the desk.
“Here is the address, the keys, and the alarm code. Relax, have a good time, hook up with a local, enjoy yourself and come back ready for action.”
“Sir, I couldn’t,” Peterson started to reply, but the Major interrupted him.
“There is no arguing. It is done. I’ll have a chopper pick you up in 2 hours to take you to the airport to catch your flight to Atlanta, then catch a plane to St. Thomas, and enjoy the rest of your leave before you have to be back.”
“Yes sir.” Peterson replied.
“Dismissed. See you in two weeks.”
Sergeant Peterson replied, “Aye Sir,” did an about face, and left to pack.
PHILADELPHIA - JUNE
Tara picked up her cell phone and pushed the top name on her contact list, Mom.
“Hi, yeah, the conference is still going. I know the paper sent me here, Ma, and I’ve been to all the lectures and workshops but it’s four… I’m ready to bag it. Yeah, back to the hotel… take off these shoes! I miss Paul. How are plans for the wedding? Okay, okay, send me the stuff on email and I’ll decide tonight. Love you, too,” she said, clicking off the call and looking at her watch.
Finding an empty wing chair in a corner, she searched through her phone for some naughty pictures she took at the hotel last night. Finding the best one, she sent it to Paul. She chuckled, knowing he’d get it during his afternoon wrap-up meeting.
Tara never used to do things like that, but Paul chipped away at her Victorian attitudes about sex. He loved to look at sexy pictures, so she sent it, hoping he missed her as much as she missed him.
She opened a bottle of water, waiting for a sexy text from Paul telling her what he would like to do with what she sent him. Sitting back in her chair, she didn’t have long to wait. The message read:
Had a great time last night. Meet me at Gotham Arms at 7 to continue.
Color drained from Tara’s face. Paul didn’t realize the picture of the body part she sent was from her. Her mind went numb, her hands started shaking, and she nearly dropped the phone realizing what this meant.
Looking at her watch, Tara calculated if she left immediately, she’d be at The Gotham Arms at seven as Paul instructed. She rushed into a taxi and sped to the hotel. You bet I’ll be there at seven. Surprise!
On the two hour train ride back to New York City, Tara felt anger boil up inside her chest. Sadness creeped into the back of her mind as she kept hoping there was a logical explanation for something that defied explanation. Breaking up didn’t feel like an option, yet her rational mind couldn’t see a way around it. If Paul was cheating, then she was gone…and alone, on her own again.
She felt a squeeze on her heart, like a strong hand, killing her slowly. Paul and her job were her life for the past two years. Her job! She quit to do a book review column for Paul’s company. Oh, God, Al, will you take me back? She pushed those thoughts out of her mind and tried to sleep on the train but sleep would not come, her mind was racing.
Before long she was in a taxi headed to the Gotham Arms hotel. At the front desk she marched up and asked for Paul. The desk clerk asked her who he should say was calling and the only name coming to mind was Wanda Ferguson, his assistant.
“Room 512, fifth floor, turn right, the end of the hall,” he said, after talking to Paul.
Tara didn’t think she could breathe for a moment. She tried to smile back at the clerk but couldn’t quite. She turned and walked to the elevator as thoughts of all the ways she could kill Wanda raced through her mind. As the elevator doors closed, Tara smiled an evil smile as she thought about Paul’s face when he opened the door, expecting Wanda. She hurried down the hall to arrive before he had a chance to open the door, see her and hide.
Her hand trembled as she made a fist and knocked on the door.
“Hey, Baby…” Paul said as he opened the door, dressed in only boxers.
“Hey yourself…” Tara responded, frowning.
Paul stood, speechless, looking at her.
“Tara…what are you doing here?”
“Nice greeting for the woman you sent a text to. You told me to meet you here, Paul.”
“Un huh. That picture I texted…the…uh…sexy one? That was me, not Wanda, Paul.”
“Oh my God,” he said, staggering back and sinking onto the bed.
With trembling fingers, Tara yanked the engagement ring off her finger. She walked up to him and slapped him across the face as hard as she could and placed the ring on the dresser before leaving.
She kept walking, holding back tears with all her strength.
“Honey, I’m sorry…it’s a mistake…please,”
“Yeah, a big mistake…and I almost made it.”
In the taxi, Tara couldn’t hold back. She sobbed. The driver tossed a box of tissues in the back and shot her a sympathetic look in his rearview mirror.
“He ain’t worth it, honey,” the taxi driver said.
“You can say that again,” she replied, blowing her nose.
She whipped out her cell phone, took a breath to steady her voice and dialed.
“Mom, stop the plans. What? No. The wedding is off. As of now, that’s when. I’m all right, Mom…sort of. I know you never liked him. Well, now I agree with you. I’m sorry about your deposit and…and…all this,” she said, tears pouring down her face.
“Don’t come, Mom. I need to be alone. Yeah. I know. Thanks, Mom. I love you, too.”
She hung up the phone, grateful to her mom for not prying. She quieted down and watched the big buildings pass by as the taxi took her up Park Avenue to 79th Street, where it made a left turn to ride through the park to the West Side.
Music from the radio filled the car. Then she heard it…”Kokomo” by The Beach Boys. Key Largo…Montego Bay…beautiful, romantic beaches. Making love with Paul in the moonlight. Her heart felt heavy with disappointment. The image of the resort flashed in front of her eyes, luring her, mocking her. She would lose an amazing, sexy two weeks there, along with everything else in her life. It was almost too much to bear.
The song continued…”get away from it all”. She never wanted to get away from it all so much in her life. An idea leaped into her brain. The car pulled up in front of the brownstone that housed her apartment. She paid the driver and almost ran into her building, flying up the stairs. She turned on her computer, singing “Kokomo” out loud as she stripped off her business clothes. Standing in her lacy bra and panties by the window watching the sun peek out from behind a dark cloud, she picked up her cell phone and called her boss.
“Remember the letter of resignation I gave you, Al? Yeah. Can you rip it up? Seems I’m not going to work for Paul after all.”
“Don’t know if I can give your exact job back, Tara, but we’ll find something for you.”
“Hey, I’ll take city desk, if I have to.”
“You’ve always got a job here, sweetheart.”
“Thanks, Al,” she said, tearing up at his kindness, “just one thing.”
“The honeymoon time you were giving me?”
“Not exactly. I want to take it now, instead of three months from now.”
“I suppose you will explain all this to me when you get back.”
“How did you guess? You’re such a mind reader, Al. What would I do without you?”
“Somebody has to take care of you…”
“Love you. See you in two weeks.”
She found “Kokomo” on her itunes account and played it…putting it on repeat. She needed to keep hearing the words. Tara started to dance, shaking her hips and singing along. Sitting down at the computer, she logged in and located her honeymoon travel plans. She smiled. Paul left the arrangements to her but used his credit card. Hah! She exchanged the two plane tickets for one first class ticket and a luxury suite accommodation at the resort.
“Suck it, Paul, you owe me. Departure, tomorrow…” she said aloud to no one, as “Kokomo” continued to play on her computer.
After she clicked on “Save changes”, got up and pulled out her suitcase. Still singing, she examined the sexy “honeymoon” lingerie and nighties in her drawer. Light blue with lace, sheer pink, black…all selected to go perfectly with her auburn hair and green eyes. Screw it! She grabbed them all and put them in the suitcase.
You never know…