Johnny, I assume, went back to his base, maybe served a little bit of time in Marine prison, or whatever it was he might have to do for his AWOL. I slipped back out into space where I got my degree. Got a girl and got married. Her name was Megan and I loved her. Of course I did. We got married, right? But I thought, in my innocence, it was more than that. Megan and me. The way I loved her. Every fiber of my being called to her. In the morning when I first woke up and spotted her asleep next to me, the early morning sun splashing her face with fresh light, and whispered I love you into the quiet. Only I heard those words and knew what they meant. Everything. She could make me laugh with nothing more than a look. When she touched me, nothing more than her hand on my arm, I knew she felt the same. And I thought we’d always be together. We would be forever.
Got a kid, too. A little boy. He was due a few months after I got Johnny Mac’s postcard. I was scared and happy all at the same time. Being a father. What did I know about that? How fucked up could I make a kid? I had no doubt if somebody could screw it up, it would be me. Megan kept assuring me, J, you’ll be fine. You think I would have married you if I thought you couldn’t. She’d giggle and hug me and I would calm down, until the next thing came along to stoke my fears. Seeing a dad screaming at his kid in the grocery story. Or reading stories of horrible child abuse. What if? No, Megan insisted, you’ll never.
So, the postcard came. February 17, 1992. There was no introduction, just a statement. See you there. I knew what he meant and I knew he would. I had moved back home, on the first step of the corporate ladder in the accounting department of a major department store. Megan was teaching kindergarten. And on February 29, 1992, she’d be at a baby shower for one of her friends. What else could I do.
At first, we caught up. While I was getting all the good, Johnny Mac got sent to the Kuwaiti theater in the first wave. He got sent back with a good case of PTSD and shrapnel in his hip. He was back at home with his mom. His dad having passed on the year before. I still remember his dad, sitting on their porch. Smoking cigars and telling bad jokes. I expressed my condolences to Johnny Mac. And then he told me something else he got.
Stoned. In his older brother’s room. Just before he picked me and the girls up. I was out of my mind, he said. It was my first time. Truth is, he said, I’ve got no idea whether the light was red or green. Or whether there was a light at all.
I got up from my spot in front of Ginny’s grave and walked away.
That night, when Megan got home and burrowed into bed next to me, I hugged her and thought of Ginny. For the first time in years, I played the what if game. I couldn’t help it. I held Megan and imagined it was Ginny in my arms. Thought about the little life brewing inside her and considered Ginny as the mother of my child. My mind went wild and something changed. I swore I’d never go back. I was beginning to understand something about Johnny Mac’s pull on me.