There was no last plane at the end of my last deployment. There was a bus ride though. And somehow a stop at Denny’s. Getting off the bus last time sucked. I’d had an amazingly, relationship-near-destroying fight with my gf around that time and I had not recovered from the yet, so when I saw her, all I saw was the fights subject. I was angry and hurt and angry. She was angry and hurt that I didn’t react the way she had wanted me to at seeing her. She’d expected me to sweep her up in my arms and spin her around and photos and tears and kisses. It was so bad, that little reunion came up a few times over the next few years during fights, once was right before I left for this deployment so she wasn’t over it either. Being single now, at least I didn’t have to worry about her expectations of my homecoming.
This time, just as it had been when I left, it was raining. Oh Pittsburgh weather! We were packed onto busses again and taken to a place where we could unload. Every moment of that arrival ached. I knew where my ex and the kids would have been waiting with a sign. I knew my youngest would have gotten to me first. My teenager would have barely hugged me and been awkward about it, but would have smiled anyway. My middle would have crushed my ribs with a hug that I felt for an hour afterward, then tried to carry my duffle bag because it was as big as he was.
Instead, one of my oldest and best friends was there in the rain with her new boyfriend. He has kind eyes. I got a crushing hug from her and we got my duffles. We then got perfectly stuck in Pittsburgh traffic, but that first view of the city coming through the tunnels, even in the rain, was perfect. We stopped by my new apartment where I saw it for the first time, as well as my new roommate and her boyfriend. Then we drove to my ex’s fathers house were my car waited. Then off to dinner. I was craving lobster so my best friend made it happen!
So surreal to be back, to be cold, to know the city has changed for me. I miss my kids.