The night Clay came home, I was not there to greet him.  We had worked out a way for me to be there, but I ended up being caught in a horrific traffic jam and missed it.

I sat in the car –  slowly inching forward and gripping the steering wheel so hard I thought my fingers would break.   I kept telling myself, “This can’t last much longer…”  Hours passed and it soon became clear that unless I could break the sound barrier in a 10 year old Corolla, I wasn’t going to make it.  I kept playing out the scene of him frantically looking for me over and over in my head.  My eyes bugged out and the veins stood out on my forehead, and then…

I just relaxed.

I had been of two minds about being there as he arrived.  Every last molecule of my being needed to psychically be there.  I needed to see his eyes as he looked around for me.  I needed to see his expression when he saw me.  I had imagined this moment since the day he deployed.

But I also knew that I wouldn’t be able to restrain myself.  I knew that I wouldn’t be able to prevent myself from running to him and embracing him in a way that would leave no doubt as to the extent of our relationship… I’ve had to pretend otherwise before, but it was asking too much of me this time to be anything other that his lover, partner, husband.

The idea of standing there and pretending to be something else literally made my head hurt.  In the weeks before I had imagined our friends and family bestowing teary hugs as I milled around the periphery.  “Just wait” I’d keep telling myself, “Just wait a little longer until you can somehow get out of sight…”

So, when the inevitability of not being there finally sank in, I just relaxed.  I let go.  I told myself that all that mattered was that he was home.  That he was safe.  That no one would be trying to harm him anymore.  I had waited this long, I could wait a little more.  It would all be ok.

When I finally got there, my friends had sequestered Clay in a place away from everybody else.  They had people watching for me as I ran from my car.  They brought me through a back door and led me to where he was.

It was like all the clocks had stopped.  I can’t remember any sound.  All I knew was that I was holding him as tightly as I could – afraid that if I let him go he would disappear and it would all turn out to be a dream.  I held his face in my hands and stared into his broad smile.  I squeezed his arms.  I felt the top of his head.  And then I was sobbing uncontrollably from somewhere deep within…

all that mattered was that he was home

all that mattered was that he was home