Monday, December 11, 2006

Snow-Dusted Sidewalks

I dreamt last night that I was back in Germany, walking with my wife.

We were in Heidelberg for the holidays, crowded and baroque, with its cobbled streets and alleyways lined with shops. We were bundled up against the cold, and as we walked down the snow-dusted sidewalks our breaths formed mist in the evening air. We talked gaily of art and music and politics, detouring at one point into a coffee shop for cappucino. We smiled at the clerk and placed our requests in German, and after paying with a few euro coins, fished from our pockets, we switched back into English, walking out of the shop and staring at the brightly-lit window displays. The warm drinks were soothing, and they only seemed to enhance the rosy glow in Anne's cheeks as she spoke.

It was snowing out, and in Heidelberg's Old Town the Weinachtmarkten--Winter Night Markets--were out in their full holiday bustle. Christmas trees, glowing bright, lined the red-brick courtyards, and in front of the Old City Hall a live band had set up shop, performing jazz renditions of old Christmas classics. A young Turkish woman in a stunning red dress sang smokily in English of sleigh bells ringing. The benches surrounding the impromptu stage were nearly full, so we decided to take seats near the edge of the yard. Giving in to our impulses, we elected to stop at yet another vendor's booth; this time for potato-bacon soup and mugs of hot gluhwein.

Turning to find ourselves a bench, my wife stopped me and laughed. She smiled warmly. What, I asked her. Nothing, she said, you're cute, and brushed snow out of my spiked-up hair. I wrinkled my nose and grinned as the wet droplets landed across my cheeks and nose, and after I stole a kiss we sat down, finding a seat next to a group of middle-aged Germans, who paused briefly to make room for us before returning to their conversations. One thing about Germans, I thought to myself, they're both less private and yet more respectful of other people's privacy.

We spent a few minutes in silence, content to simply enjoy our soup and let the strong German wine soften the edges of our perceptions. After a time, we got to talking of family, and home, and I listened for a few moments as Anne filled me in on her parents' plans for the holiday season. The restaurant, she told me, has really been picking up lately, what with all the snowmobilers.

"Mom," she said, keeps complaining that if the place doesn't find a buyer soon, Dad's gonna be trapped in the kitchen for the next Christmas too."

She laughed, and I laughed with her, knowing how much her father despises kitchen work after some twenty years as a carpenter. Honestly, I felt bad for the poor guy, and yet envied her family's wanderlust; buying businesses and home across the Upper Peninsula, fixing them up for a few years, and then pulling up roots again when their restlessness overtakes them.

"I don't know," I told her, "why your dad insists on bitching so much. He's got the perfect situation, makes money hand over fist, gets to run his dogs whenever he wants. Matt and Jessie follow them everywhere. Honestly, I'd kill for your parents to be us when we get that age."

"What," she asked me, "you don't wanna be teaching English back at Northern when you're forty?"

"I didn't say that," I replied. "I just said I wish I could have that kind of flexibility."

"You will," she assured me, "you will. Now drink your wine, you. It's gonna go cold."

"I am, I am." I shivered a bit and took another sip of my gluhwein. The heat and cinnamon burned a bit in my throat, and I remember the strong tartness of the plums. The band changed tunes at this point, moving onto a sultry rendition of Bing Crosby. The woman leading the band smiled and crooned with a voice that would have made Ella or Billie a tad jealous, and the rose-red of her lips glistened invitingly under the stage lights.

"That poor girl," my wife said. "I mean, don't get me wrong, she's beautiful, and that's a lovely dress. But how is she not freezing?"

I shrugged. "You never know," I responded. I craned my neck over my wife's shoulder, feigning an attempt to get a better look. I smirked.

"She doesn't LOOK happy to see me, but hey."

"Milo!" She slapped my arm, just hard enough to sting. She feigned outrage, but returned my smirk coyly.

"Oh come on now," I said to her. "The punchline was there! Don't tell me you wouldn't have taken the shot."

Now it was her turn to go on the defensive. "I didn't say that", she grinned, pursing her lips and raising her eyebrow at me in a way that even now never fails to get me riled up. We stared at each other smugly for a moment before our mutual resolve finally broke. She laughed openly, kissing her thumb and planting it on my lips. I returned the gesture. She grinned shyly, cocking her head and brushing that errant lock of blond hair out of her face.

"You're horrible."

"I know." I shrugged.

"But I love you."

"I love you more."

"And I'm so lucky to have you here with me."

"I'm the lucky one."

"No..."

She shook her head and stared at her hands. She was just sliding over into tipsy, and I gazed in admiration at the way it softened her mannerisms; raised the pitch of her voice ever so gently. She looked back up at me after a moment, smiling, and as she did leaned across the table to kiss me full on the mouth. I savored the momentary mingling of lips and tongues, and as she pulled away she grinned again, slowly, a hint of lust just peeking out from out the corner of her mouth.

"It's good to be your wife," she told me.

"It's even better to be your husband."

"Merry Christmas, baby."

"Merry Christmas, love." We kissed again, rubbing noses as we pulled back, grinning. The young woman on stage continued to sing with her dusky alto. "I'll be home for Christmas," she breathed sensuously.

"If only in my dreams."

And then the alarm clock buzzed.

0530, just in time for morning PT. For a second, I refused to lift myself out of bed, but after a few moments the nagging whisper of obligation forced me to throw back the covers. I fumbled for my glasses and began to squeeze my feet into my running shoes. For a few moments, the dreamtime smells of hot plum wine and pine needles lingered in my nostrils, but by the time I reached for my ID and weapon, they were gone.

Every morning starts to feel the same; brief nights remembering the person I am Back in the World; being able for once to just drop the Soldier Thing. Then, of course, comes the sudden rasp of the morning alarm and after that it's just another day's numbing dullness; another day's reminders of how lonely I am here. My only only real friend is over four thousand miles away, and the only things I can smell anymore are the stench of diesel and the moldy-paper odor of Iraqi dust. That smells stains my clothes and fingers, now, and no amount of showering will rid me of it.

God, I miss Anne.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anne said...

*hugs you tight and kisses your forehead*
Sometimes you just break my heart baby. Just remember, no matter how lonely you are, I'm still here loving you from afar. There's nothing that can ever take that away.

9:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful dreamer...May they all come true.

5:25 AM  
Blogger Softball Slut said...

Funny I got a postcard from Heidelburg. It's a pretty postcard

11:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this was incredibly written, and tears could have stained my cheeks from that feelings this left inside me, if i'd let them. let your dreams be something you not only cherish but hold closely. let them be what keeps you going on days you just dont feel you can. dreams are inconsistant but when they are good, they can mean so much. you'll be home sooner than you think, i mean, look how fast this year went. and when all this is over, and we can all just live "normal" again, you will have this to look back on and be proud of. and you should be proud, so many miles from home, your love, your life, and still you remain and incredible man. take care of yourself, and things will fall as they should.

xx
trish

5:11 PM  
Anonymous blue girl said...

Milo, what a beautifully written, hearbreaking post. You're a wonderful writer. Can I post some of this at my blog? I would only do it if you said it was ok. Zip me an email at abluegirlinaredstate@yahoo.com

...this post will stay with me.

Take care of yourself.

5:38 PM  
Blogger GiG said...

What a beautiful dream, thank you so much for sharing.

Hang in there, and take good care of yourself...and never stop dreaming!

12:36 AM  

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