“We don’t lick trash cans,” I say to my youngest child. For good measure, I add, “We definitely don’t lick infantry trash cans.”
If the trash can germs don’t end up killing him, his immune system will be stronger, right? At least I’m not pulling him from the staircase of doom again.
I am done. I’m ready to get the hell out of here. My emotions are spent, there is nothing left to say. The kids are closing themselves in lockers, running in circles, and apparently licking trash cans.
I wander around taking photos of other couples. I’m still wearing the smoky leather coat the soldier’s father wrapped around me. I take a picture of his young daughter with her husband, huddled together on the concrete. I take shots of the baby and his parents, cuddling on a folding chair. The engaged couple flashes me a big smile. Two little girls ham it up for me while their daddy rubs their mama’s back in the background. I resist the urge to say, “You guys want one (last) photo?”
I take a few more photos of Ollie, but I am really done. I love him, I don’t want him to leave, but this is excruciating. I’ve already said goodbye.
A few hours of this and they announce it is time to go back to the buses. I can’t repeat that scene. It is windier now, colder and darker.
“Can we do it here?” I ask.
“Yeah, that’s best,” he says as he scoops up the kids. This time it is short. We embrace, kiss quickly. “See you in a few months!” We say it as easily as if we were just running to the store for a few minutes.
He grabs his gear and heads for the door. I see him standing there, framed against the night, holding it open for us. We walk together a short distance before going our separate ways.
I pause to watch as he easily trots away from us on two good legs for the last time.