I've spent the last hour or so on the phone with Aaron. He leaves for Iraq tomorrow. I know it's his third time, and that he's a well trained Marine, but every time he gets on that plane, I worry about him until he's on American soil again. He's been my best friend since the first day of high school, he's the one person who knows how to handle me when the irrational takes over the rational in my head. We've never fought, there's never been any drama or romance, it's just a pure good friendship that I am beyond grateful for. After he called me last night to tell me he was leaving, I laid on my bed and a memory flashed through my mind. I remembered the night before he left for basic training. We had gone out with friends and I had driven him home. We sat on the bottom of the staircase and talked about how he felt about going, about what scared him, about how right he felt the decision was for him. I know the things he shared with me weren't things he had said out loud before. The last thing we said to eachother that night before he left (and before he left each time for Iraq) was I love you. A few years later Aaron came home on leave, he hadn't told his parents he was coming, so his brother made sure they were home, and I went to pick him up at the airport and drove him to his parents house. When I pulled up, his dad and brother were in the driveway. I was a familiar face in that house, even after Aaron left, so they didn't think twice about seeing my car pull up. His dad didn't even look up until Aaron and I got out of the car and he said "hey Dad". I've never seen such joy on a father's face before. When we went in the house, his mom was upstairs and Aaron's dad called for her. She took two steps down the stairs before she saw Aaron and her eyes teared up and she had to stop and sit on the stairs to regain her composure. Aaron and I ran up the stairs to help her and when I arrived she punched me on the arm for not telling her he was coming home. Later that night the guys were out on the porch and she and I were sitting in the living room. She looked at me and said, "I never told Aaron this, but that night before he left for basic training, I heard the two of you talking on the stairs. I know he never could have told me the things he said to you that night and I am so grateful he has someone he can wholly confide in." I never knew she heard us that night. A part of me thinks that she was meant to hear his words, even if he couldn't say them to her. She needed to know how important it was to him and how he felt it was his path in life to take.
As I'm writing this I'm remembering the day we helped Aaron move out of his duplex. His mom and I were packing up his closet and she found a box. She handed it to me and asked me to open it, figuring it was safer if I opened it to see what was in it (in case it contained material that was...uh "private" in nature). When I opened the box I found every letter I had written him in the two years I had gone to a different high school. We had written back and forth constantly and it never occurred to me that he would keep those letters. I don't think I have felt that loved in all my life. I put the lid back on the box, put it safely in the "keep" pile and never told him I had found it. I wonder where the box is now. My guess is safely in his closet in exactly the same place my own box of letters from him resides.
I love you Aaron. Be safe.