You are endless and amazing, and I miss everything about you. Even just the simple things. Standing in the grocery store, your height behind me. I swear, I think a bourbon and coke with you right now would be total heaven.
I am glad you are there for us, glad you will do even what doesn't have to be done, off in this war. But I miss every part of us. All the damned ordinary things.
And when my mind moves to thoughts of you…endless! Even thousands of miles away, I feel spoiled knowing what you give to me.
She's written again, and nobody can believe it. It's a moment to be savored – like being next in line, or knowing your birthday's tomorrow. She's written. Just finding that out has a way of lifting a day. And this time…even for her…it's unnatural, the thrill.
Myers retreated, as he always did after a successful mail call, and he wouldn't be seen for a couple of hours. Then it'd be time. It was almost hard to wait through it – his privacy, his hogging her. Not one of us failed to understand, but she had become our property, and she was something we waited for. For some, she was the only thing worth waiting for. The rest of them lost girl after girl – some of them wives – but Myers's chick had hung in for eight months and the news of another tour.
I remembered the first time we got Myers to share a letter. It would have been just a season before – but here, with no seasons but sand and heat, her words had changed the way time passed. A season unto herself, she changed the sere, blank climate.
That first time. Myers had disappeared with his mail like he always had – like a lot of them had to, to receive news and react to it without an audience. But I noticed Myers's disappearances didn't seem to end listless and laconic. He came back from reading his mail as if he'd gotten a letter from home. Really home. Not just “back there”, but from some real, hopeful, actual home.
I didn't get mail that go-round, and a punch on his shoulder was pretty heavy, laden with envy. “Fucker, where you been, Myers?”
He sat in the mess at the aluminum table where a card game, a couple of meals, and at least one football debate were passing. I didn't let myself go unanswered. “So you must get good love letters or something .”
And, he actually grinned.
We started to harass him for it. To give over details, to share just a phrase of what he had. He made it so obvious the letters were juicy – so share some of the juice we told him. Everyone was surprised when he actually did.
He did read it out loud, almost the whole letter – but we could see parts where he censored as he went.
The rush we got hearing her gory details was matched for him by being the guy she gave them to. And he read more of the next letter the next time.
Finally, he came to share every last one of her words. Intimate as he and she might have been, he liked that she was his, and he loved to show off everything she was.
The way you hold us together, so tight, God, I would give anything to make you come. Want to be your fucking playground – any way, anything you want – just if I can have you back again. The way you fuck my pussy and then fuck my face, one and then the other and back and forth. How can that be loving, Tom? How can the nastiest things be so amazing? I guess because it is you.
Summer was marked by night fights and extra snipers. It was about the fourth or fifth letter. I just sat back and drank it in. Holding the paper, alone, made it a whole different reading. When Myers read the letters out loud, we all took away something – usually the most obvious thing, simple fodder to jerk off to. She wrote pretty good graphics. But he let me hold the actual pages, read as if this were private, read as if it were my own mail.
I wasn't the only one – Myers shared with me, Jones and Keith like that – but even knowing four had this privilege was better than the public readings.
“She is fucking porn on two legs,” I said, handing back the four notebook pages.
For Myers, that was reason to smile. “I do love the way she talks.”
“And even when it's not dirty. She's cool, Myers. She's cool.”
He took the letter back and put it in its envelope, not a word.
“I can't even believe she actually writes these. I mean, no shitty email – she actually sits down and does this.”
“I feel like I'm bragging sometimes, Miguel.”
I stopped pulling stale socks out from under the bunk. “You are bragging, Myers. But we like it, man. Shit, if it were me.” The laundry bag hung slack from my right hand. He sat down and didn't move, and I fell in across from him. “Hey, Myers. She know you read these to us?”
“I haven't told her that, no. I don't think she would understand.”
“Shit. I don't pretend to know her, but she seems like she'd handle it.” She was frankly a freak, and I think he did know it. And I think every damn one of us wondered what if she had actually known.
And the letters changed almost just like that.
I can't believe all of you do this for us. I can't believe how much y'all are willing to give – and how many of you've given it. Lost fucking women who don't even understand. Lost what we all need…all the silent caresses and sweating moments alone. Tom Myers is mine and I am his, but I'd fuck every last one of you in the sweetest possible ways if I could come to you, thank you, fight back alongside you. Fucking trashed out in the desert, discarded like you were nothing. I would give anything – give it, and thank you for taking. Ahh, if only you all could come home again. Now.
I admit, it feels kind of naked, knowing he has shared my letters like this. But it's overwhelming that you guys even like to hear what I say. The mental me is standing behind an imaginary podium reading these like a lecture – but I have to laugh, because I put myself there either naked or tricked out in lacy black stockings …
It was always black when she described herself wearing anything.
Autumn was marked by everlasting oil fires. I didn't need the letter all alone this time. None of them did anymore. She couldn't be any more giving, more breathlessly close to us. All of us.
The way cropped hair feels under my palms. I can feel curls tight and too short even to catch on my fingers … straight, fine hair so soft it's like mink brushing on my skin … pure bald skin – as smooth as where I trim the quim for your evil tongues to taste …and fingers thick and calloused … or long and thin … reaching places …
The most amazing thing was she managed not to seem like a whore. How a woman can offer to pleasure several dozen guys just because they are soldiers – warriors, she would call us – and seem somehow innocent and just giving was a mystery nobody needed to solve. It was like love, it was like thanks nobody else seemed to be able to give. Sometimes she wrote pointblank about taking everyone in a row, fucking gangbang extraordinaire. Sometimes she made up an imaginary “one” – and every guy could believe it was just himself in the words. The deepest raunch would give way to the most personal power.
She didn't even believe in the war. It was Myers's comrades, just us she gave her thankful lust to. Like we were people. She avoided writing about anything larger than our skins, our eyes, our cocks. Eventually, she began to send photos too.
Eyes wide, and a bright smile caged by self-consciousness, the first time she sent a picture it was strangely demure next to her shockingly vivid dreamscapes. She had light brown hair to her shoulders, and freckles. She was short. She was beautiful. Myers was assaulted daily with visits, the post of his bunk a veritable shrine.
It went on about six months. Then, an unlucky shot at a Humvee. Myers went home. That was it.
After he was wounded, we didn't hear from either damn one of them, and we understood that. Myers went back to Mary, and we guessed where things went from there. Most of us guessed that the lusciousness of the letters gave way to bandages for a while, then to drywall-and-lawn concerns. Just the shit everyone has to do back in the real world.
It had been a great interval, but it had come to an end. I got a new stripe. Myers' discharge came through six weeks after he left, we heard. Spring came with waves of rumors, and mail call grew tense and laconic again over time.
February, arid as any other month here, and longer than 28 fucking days. She's written again, and nobody can believe it. It's a moment to be savored – like being next in line, or knowing your birthday's tomorrow. She's written …
She just addressed it to “Miguel Vega”, without rank. I feel…awarded. I feel gently stroked.
She leaves me vague, distant and wordless. She leaves me dry and brittle. She leaves me wanting so much more. Three pieces of paper, in hard, large, blue handwriting
My dear all of you, all my beloved warriors -
I miss you so badly.
Tom doesn't know I am writing, but I have thought of you and thought of you. In some way, I think he became part of you for a while – or you all became part of the man I missed so much while he fought. Talking to him became talking to you, and missing him part and parcel of the whole of you.
I never knew all of your names – he didn't write back to me much – and none of you ever spoke to me. But you were with me so constantly, for what seems a long time.
I don't know. Just knowing ears were listening, that I was heard so intently. My mental podium. Beloved audience. The first time he told me he'd read a letter to you…
I had just watched my father die. I was damn near failing out of college.
(It's so strange, suddenly I want to tell you all who I am… and who I was last year…)
You never knew about me beyond the letters, but I poured out so many things to you – grief given outlet in a diversion so complete it was perfect, inviolate. You took me away from campus, from family. You reminded me of what was larger than myself – giving yourselves to me by being part of something I wouldn't have to do. So I wouldn't have to go. So my brother wouldn't, so my friends wouldn't. Only my man. And I swear… every one of you is my man.
I was twenty-two, now almost twenty-four.
I'm an English Lit major looking for secretarial work now.
In my mind, you were everything there is – Hispanic, black, Asian, mixed-race…tall, short, beautiful, angry, dusty…every man between eighteen and fifty, all my own, all my warriors.
Now that I have seen Tom again - I can imagine where all of you have calluses and scars. The look of your eyes. He had pictures with some of you. Having your faces makes you my memory. Putting real men to ideas almost cements my words to you. Makes me really mean it. Just to find a way to…
I don't know.
I think of touching you more tenderly now than before. You healed me, without knowing it – and I wish I could do as much in return for you. Maybe it's nursing Tom. Maybe it's mourning's descent, for all the things lost and gained. For never breathing in the same space with you.
A bittersweet welcome still lives in my heart for every one of you, I want to say that. And the way I expressed it then, it doesn't seem wrong at all. The thoughts were so literal. Ah, but my loves, they are no less so now. I want to give this little thought: that it will never be over in my mind, the things that fueled our letters. That I still think of you all.
I wish I could kiss every jaw, every mouth, every beard, every closed and dreaming eye.
Thank you for the blessing of knowing you. All of you.
Thoughts all entwined and tangled, I am always,