Friday, May 30, 2008

JAN 16 1970

One December winter afternoon in the month before RTN was to leave for Vietnam for what would be almost a year, we drove south from Miramar to Pigeon Point Lighthouse, north of Santa Cruz. Instead of walking on the bluffs, we sat in my secondhand 1965 VW Bug and looked out at the ocean. To my surprise and dismay, RTN quietly said, "I'm not expecting you to wait for me. I'm going to be gone for a long time." To that I said in protest, "There's nothing in the world I want to do more than wait for you."

In my memory, he was relieved to know that I would wait. When I think back on that moment, though, it has occurred to me that he was attempting to break up with me. It had never occurred to me that our relationship would not continue while he was in Vietnam. We made a pact that we would write each other every day that he was gone. That idea was his.

Above are both sides of the first letter I received from him. Unlike the letters that followed, it has a stamp. The nearly 365 letters that followed were marked "Free" where a stamp would have been.


Dale said...


robin andrea said...

It's hard to know what's in someone's heart, especially in retrospect. It's possible he wanted to hear those words from your lips, the ones where you say you will wait.

R.L. Bourges said...

yes, I also think he wanted confirmation that you loved him and would wait.

cbb said...

I've always told my children the old cliche that actions speak louder than words. The "action" of his writing to you every day for a year - what a powerful expression of his attachment, am.

It gets back to the question of how we each can simultaneously know and not-know such crucial things. The paradox of consciousness, perhaps.

Clearly he loved you, am, whether he could say so or not.


Zhoen said...

I think your insight is correct. Allowing you an out so he could also honorably let go. Not out of lack of caring.

I know this sense of loving, but not wanting to love because it means needing to continue to care about myself and life.