People are fond of saying absence makes the heart grow fonder, but during Adam’s deployment, I felt more suffocated by our relationship than ever.
As his deployment wore on, Adam became increasingly possessive. Most civilians picture this time as an interminable period of radio silence from the soldier, with a tired, strong wife at home, wringing her hands in between working a job, going to school, and raising a family as, essentially, a single parent.
I never experienced that kind of deployment.
For a year, my life followed a strict routine:
12:00 – 3:00 AM: Play World of Warcraft online with Adam. Practice my patience as Iraq’s shitty internet connection gave out and dumped him out of the game.
3:00 – 3:30 AM: Talk Adam into letting me sleep. Resist cries of “Let’s just stay online a little longer.” Have nothing to talk about. Sit on the phone in silence for another 2 hours.
3:30 – 7:30 AM: Sleep.
7:30 – 9:00 AM: Wake up to multiple missed calls/MSN Messenger pings from Adam. Panicked IMs of “Are you okay? Sweetie, what’s going on? What’s wrong?!” whenever my cat would walk across the keyboard. Talk him down.
9:00 – 12:00 PM: Alternate between calling/texts in between naps. “Let’s just talk for a while longer. I don’t know when I’ll be able to talk again…we’re going on a mission, and I don’t know if I’ll have access to a phone or a computer…”
12:00 – 3:00: Run errands. Prepare to drive home if Adam needed to talk.
3:00-ish – 11:30 PM: Work.
11:30 – 12:00 AM: Drive home. Repeat.
Despite the fact that Adam was the only man I had ever been with—despite the fact that I had married him and was willing to uproot my life every six months to a year to follow him across the country—he could not accept the idea that I was faithful.
Instead, he would fly into fits of rage over minor offenses, like when I wouldn’t answer my phone, or when I wore a denim miniskirt to the movies with my cousin Kelsey.
“Are you trying to get some other guy to fuck you?! That’s the only reason you would wear something like that! Are you trying to be a whore? Because that’s what—” The line went dead. His base’s unreliable phone lines were often a god send, granting me a few moments of peace before he managed to find another phone and dial through again, lighting up my phone with another, different international number.
Often—as in the case of the miniskirt—he would call when I was at a family get-together. My phone would buzz, I’d sneak off into the makeshift pool room in my grandparents’ garage, pull the door closed, lean against the pool table, take a few deep breaths, and answer.
“I called my mom. From now on, you’re going to do exactly what she says, and you don’t go anywhere without her knowing where you’re going, and what you’re wearing!”
“Adam, I wasn’t trying to fuck somebody!” Someone knocked gently on the door.
“Tiff, you okay? The burgers are ready. Do you want a Pepsi?”
“No, I’m okay, I’ll be out in a minute!”
“Is that your family checking in on you? You better not bring them into this—this is between you and me.”
“And your mother.”
“That’s different. She is there to help us. She’s there because I can’t be. And don’t change the subject.”
“Whatever, Adam. It’s 90° outside and long pants are a pain in the ass to wear in this heat!” I hissed, keeping my voice low—my aunt and cousins were only a thin wall away.
“That’s bullshit! If I can wear my BDUs in 110° weather, you can wear jeans!”
“But you said the BDUs had little holes in them that made them cooler—”
“It doesn’t matter, Tiffany. You’re my wife. You’re not going to dress like a slut!” Adam paused, leaving me to seethe 7,000 miles away.
“Sweetie…” His voice was suddenly softer, more understanding. “You’ve got to understand…I just…I love you so much. I’ve never had someone as beautiful, and sweet, and smart as you…I just know guys—I’m a guy, I know how we think.” He chuckled. “I’m afraid they’ll try to steal you away from me.”
I took a deep breath. “Adam…I told you—I broke up with Rudy because we had been dating for 6 weeks. He was ignoring me, we were barely dating at that point—it was a dying relationship.”
“Well…if I could steal you away from him, who’s to say someone can’t do that to me?” His voice was pleading, borderline whining. I could hear him smiling, as if he was only joking about the whole idea of me running off with another man.
“No one is going to steal me away—I love you, I married you.”
“Well…just…please don’t dress like that anymore, okay, Sweetie? It sends the wrong message to guys—it tells them you want to fuck them. And you don’t.” He dropped into a devious whisper. “You only want to fuck me.”
I sighed, caving just to end the fight and get back to the way things were. Just to avoid awkward questions from my family.
“I do only want to fuck you, so why don’t you trust me?”
“I trust you, Sweetie…I love you…I gotta go, but stay close to your phone, alright? I might get a chance to call before we go on a mission tonight.”
I looked at my phone’s dying battery—I’d have to run to the apartment to grab a charger before dinner.
“Okay, sure, hon…I’ll talk to you later.” After a few more prolonged “goodbye”s, “I love you”s, and “I’ll talk to you soon”s, I hung up the phone and soaked in the silence for a few moments.
“I’ll be right back!” Shouting a goodbye over my shoulder, I picked up my car keys and slipped out the door.