The Soldier

To make sure you understand, this is the backstory.

I met this young man off campus about a year ago. I walked in Starbucks a few miles out and grabbed something warm. I noticed someone was sitting there. It was pretty crowded for that time of day, but I wasn’t expecting to see him. He didn’t look like the Starbucks type.

 He looked nice, judging from the back of his head. Clean-shaven, his hair was nice and he was reading a book. I smiled at him and clomped around the back. He perked up when I sat down, I guess. I pulled up my laptop and plugged it in.

Suddenly, I heard, 

“Hey!” I frowned and turned around. I smiled politely but cautiously. But dropped my guard when he was grinning at me, giving me the once over. I was definitely giving him the once over too. He was  nice and had the most stunning smile. It was stunning because it was genuine. He leaned over across the chair. 

“Hey, how’s it going?” I grinned. I shook his hand.

“Good, I’m in your class, the Communication one?”

I frowned, not knowing him. I didn’t know anyone, especially after what was going on in my life at the time. I blushed and looked down. I apologized honestly and he laughed.

“No, no it’s all right. You sit next to Wes, right? The one who’s always on his laptop, talking to his girlfriend?”

My eyes widened and I laughed,

“You’re exactly right! Yah, that’s Wes!”

He laughed humbly.

We talked chit-chatted for a few minutes across the chair. He slowly wandered over towards me finally. I sat back down and offered for him to sit next to me,

“You know, you can sit if you want.” He smiled and sat next to me. 

“Thanks,” I smiled back.

Soon, we had an inside word in latin that he remembered months later.

And he had the most stunning smile. It was stunning because it was genuine.

He missed a few days and he told me he would. He was on a training mission. Someone else asked him where he was, not knowing. I’m pretty sure I was the only one in the class who knew he was gone.

Well, one day about a week or so later, he comes into class with his uniform on! I literally gasped and had to physically close my jaw. He looked exhausted and worn out.  

Someone asked him where he was in class and then asked genuinely asked,

“Are you in the military?”

His eyes popped open and he stared at her.

“Yep, I am.” Slowly.

I rolled my eyes as he asked her how her week was. Bowling. He said it sounded fun, but she whined that she couldn’t bowl. He frowned and shook his head. I shook my head, waiting for him to rid of her.  I wanted to ask him how he was. No one had. He caught my eye and smiled, saying something sarcastic back to her without breaking eye contact. I liked that.

Finally, I get to ask him how his weekend was. He smiled and told me what he could I guessed. He told me he’d just gotten back a few hours ago. We walked side by side. I was tall in my heeled boots, even with his combat boots on we were at eye level with each other. I was close enough to smell his cologne. I noticed his uniform and his dog tags stuffed down his shirt. I was so close. I regretted not hugging him. I could have easily. He would have been open to it.

And even though we both looked back at each other, we didn’t talk much after that.

So, when class ends, we really don’t talk. For a while at least. Now, he talks to me more. But it used to be that only in my dreams that we’d ever talk. But the only time I dream about him is when he deploys. Sometimes he tells me, and sometimes it’s not him telling me.

For whatever reason, I don’t know why; I think I dream about any time “Tolly” goes away or deploys. I have had a dream of him in his uniform. He’s just standing next to me, staring. Smiling. And I know. Or sometimes, I hear someone saying,

“Good luck, buddy,” or something.

Well, last night I have a dream about Tolly. It was…weird. No, I realize now looking back on it there was something more. It was precious.

I was walking out of a Church. It was old, you could see the wood structure, just as is. It was only wood. It was damp because of rain, I knew. I am walking outside with two other people and I feel something behind me. I ignore those spirits when they come to me in life.

Suddenly, I am outside and Tolly is beside me. I smile at him, not realizing completely what that probably meant. Suddenly we are sitting, watching our two companions venture out into the new world. The world about to end. The sky was black and there was fire from heaven. Everything was on fire and we could hear distant shouting.

Tolly had shook his head. Suddenly, we both looked up at Heaven and we took comfort  in that God knew what he was doing. We knew it was prophecy and that it must pass. We both looked up at the sky and then I looked down at him. I noticed he smiled at me, looked down, pulled out his phone and started texting some girl named “Betty” I saw him trying to fix her name to “Betty Baby Maybe”. I frowned. Then I heard him mutter something and delete her from his phone.

A smile and he said, “She doesn’t like me.”  I looked at him full on and saw that it was undoubtably Tolly. I smiled and really realized that he was probably gone. After staring at him again, I told my nervous heart,

“This is a dream but he is here! Talk to him!”

So I ask him if he’s in town for a while. He nodded at me, making eye contact and said,

“For now. A few months but I’m leaving in December.” This is where the dream changed in feeling. I always know when I dream something I should pay attention to. His voice got louder and I felt the spirit move in me somehow.

I smiled at Tolly and said, “That’s good! I’m so glad your back! It’s great to see you.” He smiled at me again, and something in his eyes was off. For a second we just look at each other again and that I know it’s time for him to leave. I sighed as he got up. I stayed down, head in my hand. He patted my knees once and said quietly,

“Don’t worry about me.” I noticed  he had a samurai sword slung over his back and a pistol in his hand. I wanted to cry, but I didn’t. I realized that I could go fight side by side with him. I followed him. I saw the back of me& I too had this sword and a Ka-Bar on my hip. For a brief second before I woke up, I saw him take my hand in his.

That’s where the dream ended. I woke up and thought about it the next day. I actually realized later that…he’d actually not re-enlisted! He’s safe and sound doing amazing things with his life. I’m happy for him. And when I dream about him, I don’t wake up in sweat. I just…smile.

Honestly, before, I hated dreaming about him. But I realize now that it was good for me. It’s a gift and a blessing. Not a curse.

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