There used to be a Navy base there-- a big one. There was a recruit training center, which is Navy boot camp. That is where Mike was sent. He sent me letters for nine weeks, flimsy little folded things that I treasured. We were 22.
I flew down to marry him, over a long weekend. We rode a motorcycle to the JP, and stood clutching the helmets as the words were said. On Monday I flew back to Boston, I had work, he had school. In the fall he came and got me, and we drove down the coast, through the South that I had never seen. There was so much I had to learn: fire ants, palm trees. He was in Nuke school, I hardly saw him.
It seems to me now that it was a city of young men. Everyone was rushing, outgrowing shirt sleeves, learning at top speed. We were all so earnest, so striving, so silly. We were still playing grown-up, playing house. We drank a lot of cheap beer. The nights were pale, and the days were hot. We lived in a horrible apartment complex 5 minutes from the base. Nobody there was any older than us. One couple was 18 and 17, and expecting a baby. They were from Tennessee. We had an actual language barrier problem. They understood me ok, but when they talked I had to ask them to slow down. I was scalded with embarrassment by this.
And maybe this has has nothing to do with the horror in Orlando this week. They were LBGT, and that is different than me. And I am old now, old enough to be the mother of most of them. (Those who were killed were so young. Young in a city that seems made for the young.) But I remember the streets of that city. I remember how it smells at night when you step out of a lighted building into the Southern night. I was young there, I had plans. They had the same wonder and anticipation about the lives they had planned. that I had at that age, in Orlando.
We have all been denied the good things they would have done, the stories they would have told, the lives they would have touched. The loss to us is an ache that we cannot relieve. But they lost so much more, their loss is obscene and monstrous.