This morning, I said good-bye. Mike asked, months ago, that I not cry. I told him I'd try not to, that at the very least, I'd try not to cry in front of him. I broke my promise.
I've never been much good at promises. And I've never been good at not crying.
For awhile, I was fine. Talking to people. Talking to soldiers. Talking to soldier's wives, girlfriends, parents, sisters and friends.
Then, I talked to a friend who was crying incessantly. She told me, through her tears, that she'd been crying for the last two days. I don't doubt it. If I wasn't just home from vacation... in any case, her husband, when I announced my departure, again trying not to cry, told me to take care of myself. "You take care of yourself."
"I have McClure to take care of that."
I smiled, and I felt it falter. "Take care of him, too."
He nodded and returned the smile, perhaps realizing the mention of my boyfriend wasn't the most beneficial thing he could have done, and I turned away, quickly.
Not long after that, less than 30 minutes later, I stood outside with Mike, his dad, his great uncle, his stepmother, his grandmother and his sister, watching as they left.
I've never seen my boyfriend cry before. The first tear, he brushed off as the cold. Later, he couldn't do that anymore. Later, I knew he was crying for the same reasons as I. Later, when the tears wouldn't stop.
His tears were my undoing.
But the thing that sticks with me the most strongly is not my story, but someone else's.
Earlier this morning, Mike introduced me to another soldier in his unit, one he always talks about, but that I'd not had the opportunity to meet. Matthews, in turn, introduced me to his girlfriend (and future wife).
While we were waiting for the buses to leave, standing, shivering in the cold, one of her friends, or one of his friends, scooped her up onto his shoulders and ran with her to the bus. He held her close enough that she could touch the windows, and she did. She pounded, with her fists, "I love you!" She screamed, again, louder, hysterically, "I love you!"
She touched the window, the heat from her palm leaving a print. It stayed as the buses drove away.