The State of My Former Besties

My previous visit to South Carolina, which was May 2014, was strictly supposed to be a “business” trip. Stewart, one of my best friends, was getting married to his girlfriend of a decade, and I made good on the promise that I would attend if such a event ever happened (I honestly thought it would never happen). While I was out there, I figured that I would indulge Rachel in letting her meet my family. Despite my relationship with them back then (there weren’t good feelings) and the fact that I hadn’t seen or talked to them in 8 years, I felt that it would be polite to at least show them what my future wife looked like. It’s not like I cared for their approval; if they said anything negative about her, especially the giant elephant in the room about my fiancee not being black, I’d simply leave and never talk to them again. But something felt wrong about marrying someone before meeting a single member of their family, and I knew doing that would give her some peace of mind, regardless of the outcome.

Rachel and I stayed in a hotel on the other side of town, hoping to avoid contact with the family outside of the bare minimum. She was really excited about eating at Waffle House, which I suppose is as much of a regional culinary monument in the southeast as Roscoe’s is in California. Unfortunately, the difference between the two restaurants is that Waffle House sucks, and although I already knew that, Rachel insisted on finding out the hard way.

Outside of the wedding, she gave me the freedom to come and go as I pleased, as long as I introduced her to the people who I was visiting first. So the very first place we visited was Trey’s house, and we passed my family’s house en route as if it never existed. Trey’s dad greeted us enthusiastically (he specifically said, “I would’ve bet the farm that you were never coming back here!”), but something was off. That “something” was his left leg. Diabetes had claimed half of his leg recently, and the tenor of the entire household was just off in general. Trey and Bill were there, and there was obviously tension between the parents and my two former best friends. It didn’t take long after the requisite pleasantries for Trey’s mother, never one to hold her tongue, to reveal the source of their tension.

Neither Trey nor Bill (who wasn’t related, but like me, was treated like family from our early teens) were really doing much of…anything. After life in Houston fell off the rails, Trey and Bill opted to return to Sumter while I enlisted in the Air Force. Apparently, they took their negative habits along with them. They were basically doing the same things at age 27 as they were at age 22, something that I consciously tried to avoid.

I guess that one of the benefits of being on terrible terms with my family during a drastic decision was that I had no illusion of a safety net in the event of failure. Both Trey and Bill come from cohesive, supportive families who graciously accepted them after the move to Houston didn’t pan out. And while that is a very nice luxury, I think that it also created a barrier to how far they would truly strive to carve out a niche for themselves elsewhere. It’s difficult to give everything you have in a seemingly hopeless situation (and Houston got really, really bad for all of us) when you’re still in touch with your family and they’re begging you to come back for a fresh start and they’re wondering why your pride is keeping you from doing what’s best for your family in the first place. It’s really easy to fold your tent and say, “Hey, I can go back home for a bit, get a job, save money for a few months, then go on a new adventure.” Then boom, five years pass and you haven’t made any real progress towards your goals. I didn’t talk to them during this period of time, but that’s my best guess as to what happened.

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago, and they both seem radically different, not only in terms of progress, but in terms of mindset as well. Trey bought a house on the other side of town and has a stable job with a wife and a brilliant, brilliant 3 year old daughter. Talking to him, as he casually solved a Rubik’s cube in 3 minutes (?!?!?!?!??!?!), I got the sense that he finally settled down and had his head in the right place. His daughter is light years ahead of any 3 year old I’ve seen mentally, and that is almost never an accident. That’s a product of consciously productive, targeted parenting, and I was beyond proud to see that he was taking his job as a husband and father seriously. He said that he had plans of joining the military after he cleared up his tickets, and while that isn’t a bad idea, I would like for him to aim higher than that long term. The question I kept asking him was, “So when are you gonna change the world?” He’s seriously one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, but he suffers from having so many gifts that he can’t seriously hone in on the one or two that can truly be life changing for himself and others. That admittedly nitpicky complaint aside, I couldn’t be happier for him, since I’m well aware of how much he’s been through and how easily he could have fallen off the proverbial cliff.

Bill, on the other hand, had actually fallen off that cliff, but grabbed on to a rock on the way down and is gradually climbing his way to the ledge again. A cocktail of drugs and a very toxic relationship led to jail time for a crime involving burglary, child endangerment, and a slow motion car chase. From everything I’ve heard, his life had only gone downhill from there lately. I didn’t even expect to speak to him, much less see him,  after a conversation with his parents led me to believe that he was in a rehab facility in North Carolina. I wondered to myself how bad he could have possibly gotten, but I stopped myself from asking his parents, sensing that it was still a sore spot for them. The next morning, I received a panicked phone call from Bill’s mom. She told me that he had surprised everyone by coming back in town for her 70th birthday party. After talking to him for several hours, it seemed like he was heading in the right direction as well. He had been drug free (even weed) for the last five months, and was taking advantage of the extensive flood cleanup by finding local jobs in the area in the hopes that someone would hire him full-time. His experiences in various drug treatment facilities led him to pursue a new goal, which was to get a degree in counseling and open a facility to help addicts, using the ideas that he gathered from his checkered past. He, like Trey, is still exceptionally gifted, and I was encouraged that he was developing a laser focus towards a particular goal.

Really, general well-being aside, all of the particulars about those two are secondary. For the first time in forever, we got to just hang out and do nothing in particular. We drank, traded all kinds of stories (the wildest of which being Bill’s three week fling with crack), and just…felt normal. The same way we did during our good and bad times in Houston. Or when we first started bonding in high school. Or when they were the only people to really embrace me after I let everyone down by getting kicked out of Rutgers. Regardless of what happens to the three of us from here, I think that we have a bond that time and distance will find really difficult to break, and I’ll always root for them now and in the future.

(Names have been changed. They won’t care. They’ll read this and ask to fight me. Whatever. Still love them.)


I Needed to Go Back Home

I was pretty sure that this was the worst decision I ever made when I was waiting idly in Charleston’s airport, feeling stupefied about not being able to rent a car in the entire city due to the flooding. Five separate car rental companies, and they unanimously said there was nothing available. Now what? No way I took a week of vacation just to not get within an hour of the people who needed me most, right? Yet there I was, charging my phone while sitting in the rock hard seats near the baggage claim, wondering how my uncle would be able to find me, if a way was even  plausible at the time. A large stretch of I-95 was shut down due to the storm, so my uncle finding an alternate route to pick me up was an adventure in of itself, never mind that it was already 9pm and he’s felt the ravages of nearly 70 years of life. There’s no way I could reasonably expect him, or anyone for that matter, to pick me up from that distance on such short notice. Yet when I called, sheepishly explaining my plight, he insisted that a checking into a hotel wouldn’t be necessary, since he would be there as soon as he could. Our first extended contact in a decade, and I’m impelling him to make a 5 hour round trip drive in the aftermath of historic flooding. I never said I was a perfect child.

Over the course of the week, when I wasn’t cleaning around the area, I found myself turning into the 24 year old version of myself. I was eating like crap (literally had Zaxby’s daily with no regrets), not lifting weights, staying up until 5am, not doing homework or anything else remotely constructive until the last minute, and just…generally being lazy. And you know? It felt good. It really did. I kinda understood how people could get stuck in that mode, especially when weed and alcohol are involved. I also realized that if I didn’t take that idiotic 22 hour, drive to Houston on two days notice, I could very possibly be in that same position today. I could very well be grinding day to day in a factory without any way to go to school or any way to escape it. And that’s not to say the people there are uneducated failures either. One of my old friends was finishing up his Master’s degree, and he’s doing customer service at Sprint. The quality jobs for non-professionals just aren’t there, and while it’s easy to tell those people to just move to a better place…that’s fucking scary. It wasn’t scary for me, but that’s because I’m a moron. It’s terrifying for most normal, rational humans to break away from everything they know for something that might not even work, and even if the current situation is suboptimal, it’s something. It’s a concept that I understand a lot better now than I did at age 25.

But having the opportunity to be lazy again wasn’t the reason I need to go back. I just needed to make peace. With everyone. My uncle and cousin laughed and joked with me for the entirety of that terribly unpleasant drive back to Sumter. And my aunt and I were finally peaceful. We just talked and joked and did normal things that mothers and older sons do. I’m pretty sure that this was the first time that we’ve spent an entire week together without her yelling at me. That isn’t even satire. She literally yelled at me for something every single day for the five years I went to school there. I lived in misery, and to a degree, so did she. It was so shocking for us to be “normal.”

It also helped that people who I have seen or even contacted in a decade told me that they didn’t blame me for leaving, even if I could have done it in a better way. I figured that I would have to explain what was going on all those years ago, but they said that it was unnecessary. They knew that I was unhappy, even if I never actually said so at the time. A change of scenery was the best thing for me, and they hoped that I escaped my personal hell back then.

It took a while to get back to my normal self, whatever the hell this version of “normal” is (which explains my lack of posts lately), but I knew that I could only stay in a state of stasis for so long. I’ve grown too much in these last few years. I always have to be doing something, anything to keep my mind busy. But a few days of breaking my routine was a small price to pay for what I received in return.

Honestly, it felt like I left Sumter a whole person, which is something that I thought would never happen as recently as 20 months ago. I hugged my aunt, uncle and cousin, but it didn’t seem final. It felt much more like a  “see you later” goodbye instead of a “it was fun while it lasted” goodbye. And I agreed. I can finally go home again. It’s cool.

On Going Back Home

There was a time where I promised myself that I would never return here, no matter what. I was the black sheep here. Too many bad memories. Nothing and no one I can think back on fondly. It’s boring. I lost touch with 99% of the people here. But after the storm and the subsequent flooding, I really had no choice.

Well, I absolutely had a choice. I had gotten touch with my family during the worst of the storm, and they weren’t in any mortal danger. I could’ve just used that as an excuse to not give much outside of prayers and well wishes to them. But I kept prying for something, any excuse for my presence to be necessary. I found the excuse the moment the words “you know we’re too old to take care of the yard in the aftermath” were uttered. Now I’m sitting in an empty passenger terminal, waiting to take an unpleasant four hour flight (flying on any military plane outside of a C-5 is unpleasant) from Honduras to Charleston, SC which will lead to a two hour drive to Sumter, the place where most of my skeletons and human flaws and insecurities were born.

But why? I don’t really know. Maybe it’s the quest for closure that I alluded to in my last post. After I actually had the chance to say goodbye to people I cared about for the first time, maybe I’m chasing that oppurtnunity again. Closure is a very foreign, but welcome feeling.

The impending move to Germany certainly feels like the end of a chapter in my life, and although it doesn’t mean that I’ll stop speaking to the friends and family I already have, there’s no use in pretending that life, for me or them, will be remotely the same when I return to the States in 2019.

Can Time Just Slow Down A Slight Bit, Please?

It can’t be October tomorrow. It still feels like this whole…whatever this is supposed to be…just started in some ways. Instead, I’ll be in Honduras for 5 months next week, which means that I’m almost halfway done. My wife is officially in her second trimester. I’ll be done with my undergrad program in 12 weeks. Nothing in my life is remotely the same from this past May, yet it feels like “this past May” was last week.

It was weird saying bye to my closest friends from California. There was an awkward vibe that surrounded our good times, a kind of “this is probably never happening with us again” cloud that never quite lifted. Although I’ve moved around a great deal, I’ve never had that feeling before, and I genuinely enjoyed it, as uncomfortable as it was. I left to South Carolina from Queens at age 11 without being able to tell anyone. I left to New Jersey from South Carolina at 16 without telling anybody outside of my very best friend at the time. I didn’t even get the chance to do that much with my new college friends on my way back to South Carolina from Jersey; I was on the first Greyhound smoking after my cousin found out about my grades. That was the routine for me. I was somewhere, and then I just…wasn’t there anymore.

Looking back from the point of view of the people who cared about me back then, that shit is weird. And hurtful. Having someone you talked to daily just disappear without a trace one day, especially when Facebook wasn’t widespread and Twitter didn’t even exist, just has to feel so abrupt. Like someone rage quit your relationship. I really regret doing that, even if a couple of those instances weren’t under my control.

Last May was the first time I’ve really said goodbye to anyone close. The first time that I’ve given (or had a chance to give) any widespread notice to my departure. The first time I’ve had any finality. A going away party. Closure. All that good stuff. It was also the first time the majority of my friends and family was able to say, “Oh yeah, Shawn’s moving to _______ during ________. We should see him before he leaves.” That was really important to me. It was cool knowing that someone actually cared about me leaving.

Until I got married, I never got the feeling that people’s lives would change after I left them. I’m sure people missed me in a “that Shawn guy was cool. It’s a shame he left,” sort of way, but I never felt indispensable to someone. That’s one of the benefits of having a set of parents and/or siblings that people take for granted. You know someone genuinely cares about your whereabouts. You know that you truly matter to someone. Since my family wholly consists of cousins and aunts and uncles without actual parents or siblings, I’ve always had the sense that I could only hope to be second fiddle in anyone’s heart of hearts. I could only hope to be “like a brother” to someone or “like a son” to someone else. No matter how much someone loved me, there was always at least one human being that they loved more than me. I couldn’t pass the ultimate cliff test (if two people were hanging off a cliff and you could only save one, who would it be?) with anyone because there would always be someone more important to them. This, of course, is selfish. And terribly unfair to my aunt and uncle and cousins (their two sons) who voluntarily took care of me and loved me as much as they possibly could. But I don’t think it’s false.

I think that’s part of the reason I’m irrationally excited about having a child instead of having the nerves that normally come with it. I don’t want my child to ever have that feeling. That’s not one of the common adversities that people overcome to build character. It’s debilitating, mentally and emotionally. It makes you think that ending it all wouldn’t bother the rest of the world all that much. In short, it sucks. Fortunately, I don’t feel it much anymore. Thanks, Rachel.

I just have this feeling that time will go exponentially faster as the birth draws closer and I’m going to blink and it’ll be Halloween and I’ll know whether we’re having a son or daughter and oh my God can I just please hit the pause button to process what exactly is going on sometimes? Everything is scary. But at least I’ll get to say goodbye to the past this time.

(No, my wife hasn’t ripped my head off via Skype yet. But it’s coming. I can feel it.)

My Wife is a Bundle of Hormones

Oh, this month should be an absolute blast. Rachel has already obligated that I shower her with compliments until Halloween, even if she’s in the process of ripping my head off via Skype, because she can’t help it and science agrees with her. You know? If I have to deal with that part, I should at least have the reward of Rachel being ready to bone 24/7 to counteract it. But no.

According to my cool What To Expect app thingy, our baby is the size of a peach now. A big headed peach. Seriously, the baby is 75% head at this point (it’ll remain that way after birth, due to our genes). The baby is developing tiny bones, so that’s cool too. H/she’s also developing vocal cords, a process that I’m sure we’ll wish was delayed or disabled at various points.

Other than that, we’re both slowly getting back to our normal routines after her visit. My school and writing rhythm has been thrown off a bit, but that’s a small price to pay to see my radiant wife in the flesh (she totally approves this message). The next major milestone in the pregnancy (since, again, I won’t be able to enjoy her wanting to bone 24/7), is figuring out the gender of the kid. All of the silly signals that we’ve read in “how to tell if you’re having a boy/girl/whatever” articles point to us having a boy, but I’m still holding strong to my hunch that we’re having a girl.

I don’t know what happened between the rest of my adult life and Rachel’s pregnancy, but I would really enjoy raising a daughter. That’s something I would’ve never, ever said as recently as the moment before I found out my wife was pregnant.   I always thought about the moment that I would have to kill someone with my bare hands for hurting my little girl or worrying about her becoming a stripper or something else crazy, but I never actually considered the cool parts of having a daughter. Little girls are the cutest creatures on earth, there’s less pressure for them to turn into pro athletes, so it’s relatively easy to raise them to be well-rounded human beings, and when they inevitably turn into the preadolescent/teenage monster version of themselves, they just turn on their mothers, so I’m still in the clear! Plus, it would give me a chance to reenact one of my favorite scenes ever.

Not like I’m ever going to complain about doing father/son stuff, but the thought of having a daughter has really grown on me. Maybe I can wish it into existence.

I booked my flight back to California to be with everyone for New Years. By “everyone,” I mean “my wife, her family, and God knows who else because all of my friends left the Bay Area for greener and cheaper (mostly cheaper) pastures.” Should be fun to be back in the States again, at least until the next time a black or Latin kid gets shot in the face by a cop and I have to watch people justify it. Then I’ll be ready to leave again.

Time’s moving too fast. I have no clue where September went. I’m already in contact with my replacement for Honduras. I’m going to say something that will cause Rachel to stab me through the phone in a pregnant rage while I have to complement her as I swim in my own blood pool. Help.

My First Trip to the Boy’s Home

I strongly considered never going to an orphanage of any kind, much less one in a third world country. I hate seeing children in pain. I hate not being able to substantially change that pain. I feel like the whole endeavor is pointless in the long term, and knowing the big picture of why many people go to these orphanages, which is a sickening mixture of holding some position of superiority over the children and being able to pat themselves on the back while telling their friends in the States about how charitable they’re being to these destitute, hopeless kids, turned me off on the idea even further. The thought of experiencing that process in person made my stomach turn. I can’t be one of those fucking people. And really, how do I even avoid looking like one of those people?

Some of these local Honduran community leaders have to absolutely despise us. I know I would if I was in their position. They’re doing their very best to survive on a day to day basis, and here come these rich Americans once per month, flaunting their expensive clothes and jewelry, ready to throw their spare change from their pockets and act like they waved a magic wand that solved all their problems. Yet, times are so rough that every bit truly does help their cause. The amount of pride they have to swallow to accept money and donations from some of us has to be staggering. It has to be.

After changing my mind multiple times on whether I’d attend the orphanage, I decided to at least give it a try the evening before the group was set to leave. If I ended up hating the entire experience, I could still give from a safe distance in the future, something that would serve the purpose of helping the children while not developing an anti-American sentiment (that type of thing is frowned upon while serving in the military, I guess).

That morning, I was careful to dress as humbly as possible. I took off my wedding ring, wore a dingy white tee with basketball shorts, and slipped on the worst set of sneakers I owned. A couple of other concerns ran through my mind, the most pressing of which was the inevitable language barrier. How can I possibly connect with these kids if I can talk to or understand them? My Spanish was elementary at best, and resorting to Google translate after every sentence doesn’t exactly make for an organic experience.

I didn’t know a single person. The orphanage that we were attending was sponsored by the Army, and I was the only Air Force guy among the 20+ people who ambled onto the bus that morning. The “who is the new guy” stares that I felt as I signed my name on the accountability sheet only amplified the feeling that I was in foreign territory. The Air Force and Army have an interesting dynamic with each other. Their overall relationship stops short of animosity, since we do work together on occasion, but we make our share of jokes about the other branch. They very much do the same. A friendly rivalry, I suppose. I thought about creating small talk with a couple of them while waiting, but instead opted to drown myself in my iTunes playlist. Our Chaplin said a few words that I didn’t hear due to the music blasting through my ear buds, then I felt the bus engine start. We were off.

After a brief trip into a town called La Paz, the bus made a right turn from a public road to the middle of nowhere. We drove onto a road that made me wish for the dirt roads that I often travelled during my time in South Carolina. An endless stream of giant stones and potholes turned a half mile stretch into a 20 minute ordeal, since driving over 5 MPH would mean severe harm for either the bus or the people inside it. The snail’s pace meant that we felt every bump and sudden dip that the road had to offer, and the accompanying discomfort that everyone felt was obvious.

We stopped on the right side of the road, and saw this giant black gate. It was about ten feet tall, rusted over, and imposingly surrounded the property I assumed we were about to enter. The two doors that dictated entry into the property were wide and sturdy, with the tops of the doors steadily curving upward to create a sort of antiquated elegance. After waiting in front of the gate for five minutes, we saw two little kids sprint towards it. They could not have been more than eight years old. They each unlocked a door and pulled them backwards for the bus to enter, with the dragging of the doors against the ground reminding me of someone digging their nails into a chalkboard.

The bus churned through the gate and into the orphanage, where we were greeted by a building surrounded by a barren plot of land. The building was made of stone, and it had “San Antonio Boys Home” painted on the side underneath a cross. There was a soccer field that didn’t have any nets. A large slab of concrete that was used as a basketball court. The rims were about 7 feet tall and poorly maintained. As we stepped off the bus, 30 children of various ages and sizes enthusiastically greeted us. Many of the people who had been there before greeted them back, whether it was with hugs, high fives or piggyback rides. None of the kids were wearing clothes that seemed fit to play in. Most of them were wearing jeans and button-up shirts, and quite a few of them wore shoes normally associated with formal events. The Honduran version of putting their arm around someone in friendship is interlocking arms, and it seemed every kid instantly found someone’s arm to hook.  Their reaction took me aback. I was expecting these downtrodden children who needed to be prodded to interact with us, but it was very much the opposite. There was genuine joy in their eyes, as if this was the first time they’ve been let loose from imprisonment.

Before playing with the kids, we gathered everyone around a small whiteboard and the Chaplin taught them a basic english lesson. The lesson centered around how to translate what the kids wanted to be when they got older and the qualities it took to get there (which just so happened to coincide with the Army’s values). As the Chaplin was speaking, I felt someone hook my arm. It was one of the older kids. I looked down at him. He looked up and smiled at me. I smiled back. I guess we were best friends now. After the lesson ended, it was time to play with the kids. We brought soccer balls, a basketball, and a football from the base. My attempt to communicate with my new best friend went like this:

“Ummmm, como se llamas?”

“Juan Manuel”

“Y usted?”

“Me llamo es Shawn”




“Jugar fútbol?”


And off we went.

I should’ve started with basketball. After passing the soccer ball to each other for a few minutes, I thought it would be a great idea to try to take the ball away from him while dribbling. I had been dabbling with soccer since coming to Honduras, and I thought I was developing a knack for it. He ensured that I had no delusions about my talent level. After 10 minutes of chasing him around to no avail, I resorted to defeating him the best way I knew how: with tickles. We wrestled to the ground and while playing in the dirt with this little person I had never met before, I realized that everything I worried about the night before didn’t mean much of anything. Nobody cares about language fluency and the big picture when you’re rolling around in dirt having the time of your life.

After an hour, it was time for the kids to eat. We had brought some burgers and candy to share with the kids, and they were being grilled while everyone was playing. After a quick prayer, the kids sat around a giant wooden table that comfortably seated all 30 of the children. As the kids ate, I noticed that Juan’s eyes followed me everywhere that I went. I went up to him and asked if he was ok, and he just kept looking at me. I rubbed him on the head, smiled at him and walked off.

After eating the burgers, it was time for the candy to be passed out, which quickly devolved into a chaotic scene. During the scrum, I noticed that Juan wasn’t among those wildly scrambling for the candy. He calmly waited for his turn, grabbed a few pieces of candy and offered me a piece. My voice cracked with emotion while declining the candy, since I couldn’t fathom anyone being so gracious and unselfish when their circumstances almost dictate them to take on opposite qualities. Being in that situation forces people to develop a mean streak for the sake of self-preservation. But Juan still seemed like a genuinely warm human being. Like he had been raised in a normal, loving home instead of all the difficulties that came with being a foster child. For whatever reason, I thought about all of this right after he offered me his piece of candy, and it briefly overwhelmed me.

After gathering myself, we resumed playing, and I taught him how to arm wrestle and play Rock, Paper, Scissors (I still don’t know how to say this in Spanish) while everyone else was winding down and getting ready to leave. As our time with the children drew to a close, I thought about different ways to actually help them long term, and I concluded that the best way to do that would be through education. As I looked through the building, I didn’t see anything that would help the children learn anything. No books, no puzzles, no computers, nothing. It was just…them. They were literally all they had. So I resolved to transform the orphanage little by little during my time here. One month I’d bring books, the next month I’d bring school supplies, and so on.

Juan and I took a selfie together and shared a long hug. I promised him that I would come back as often as I could and that I wouldn’t let him down. He didn’t understand it, since I said it in English, but I hoped he at least felt the tone of my message. I dragged my feet on the way back to the bus and glumly returned to my seat. As the bus exited the orphanage and we prepped to traverse the same battered road that led us here, I heard the screech of the gate closing, knowing that a piece of me was trapped on the other side.

What Did I Expect, Really?

Well, I’m shocked that I wanted to spend more than four days with my wife after not seeing her for over two months. I don’t even know how else I’m supposed to feel in this stupid situation. Not like I’m going to watch her leave and think to myself, “You know? I’m totally ready to not see my pregnant wife for another three months. Those four days were justttttt enough to hold me over.” It’s the most obvious thing to write in the world. Watching her leave was sad. I’m still pretty sad about it. Watching her cry sucks. I felt like crying at the time too, but it never happens. It’s always at an airport or something. Too public.

We had a great time while she was here, though. Took her to the base the first day so she could get a sense of my daily routine (and to make sure I wasn’t hiding her existence to random women on the base, but that went unspoken). She couldn’t envision what the base looked like from my description because my description consisted of, “it’s just like any other base,” which proves that I need to write way more often. I think she wanted me to wax poetic about how the maroon tin roofs (rooves?) of the buildings defiantly reflected from the sun and gave the base an eminent glow while…I don’t know…the antiquated but reliable architecture of the offices reminded those entitled military Yankees of Central American improvisation and mettle. Whatever. She got to see my dorm room, and we got to take the twin bed for a spin like we were in our late teens. Fun stuff.

I think my favorite part of the entire visit was the both of us sitting on my bed, using the TV as background noise while we both caught up on our assignments. Silent, with the occasional exception of leaning over for a kiss or asking how far we were in our papers. Everything else in our lives is basically new and totally liquid, but none of it mattered for the 90 minutes that it lasted. It’s something we’ve done countless times while I was at home daily, and I took it for granted right up until that point.

I lied. My favorite part of the visit was definitely Rachel framing her first ultrasound for me and tracking the baby’s rapid heartbeat together. The previous paragraph is a solid runner-up, though.

The next afternoon, we took a two hour ride to a brewery when neither of us could drink alcohol (my squadron is doing prohibition since we’ve mistaken this assignment for a reality show and Rachel is pregnant) and hung out by the lake all weekend. Went birdwatching on a poorly designed boat (which was way more fun than it sounds). Took way too many pictures of the waterfall. Spent much of the evening walking through town with this older couple that teaches in different international schools in Central and South America for a living. No TV, very little wifi, no minutia, no worries.

We spent Sunday at the Intercontinental, where we exchanged nature for room service and hot showers and adequate plumbing. Football was cool too. Even had a first world issue of the room not having ESPN in English. The IC is a pretty somber experience for us both because it reminds us of the end, since the next stop is always the airport. There’s this inescapable cloud of finality that hovers over an otherwise wonderful experience. I tried Twitter for a solid 15 minutes. Gave it a real effort. Nothing. Maybe it’ll be better during basketball season. It won’t, but I can dream. Who cares?

The countdown resets. Again. I should probably look forward to seeing Rachel again in late December instead of dwelling on the fact that I won’t see her during her entire 2nd trimester. She’ll go from having a baby bump to a full grown belly. I won’t even be there to find out what the gender will be. This is supposed to get easier. I’m on month four. It’s not getting easier. Everything sucks again. Can’t wait to not do this anymore. Until then, I’ll just keep breathing.