Carlos is intertwined with my love of the pleasures of Japan. We met there while we were both in the Navy, meeting the first time at work in the windowless, cold bunker that was our command’s building. We were under fluorescent lights in the drab beige uniforms of Navy office work, but he was vivid and funny and sexy. I found myself flirting helplessly. And soon we were off on adventures, Japan becoming the backdrop of our passionate affair, with a definite, looming ending date: I would be transferred to Hawaii in nine months.
Mono no aware is the Japanese concept for being sensitive to the sadness and beauty of fleeting moments. Everything we did–eat sushi, drink sake, visit temples, make love, read aloud from “The Confederacy of Dunces”–was tinged with my feeling of the poignancy of the impending end. For what relationship could survive my move to Hawaii, the inevitable fizzle of the long-distance romance?
So, Tokyo, September 1992, we are saying goodbye before I board the bus for Narita airport; I am crying, cradling this pain of the end, and he says, “Don’t cry, I’ll see you in 6 months.” It hadn’t occurred to me that this could continue, that he was already planning the future.
The future was expensive phone calls and long letters in the time before e-mail, a civil ceremony in Honolulu on October 7, 1993, and, when my four years of service were up, married life together–finally!–in San Diego in August 1994.
After all that mono no aware, the together time sped up and propelled us. San Diego, Washington, D.C., Naples, Italy, back to San Diego, Montgomery, Alabama, London, Yokosuka, and finally back to the D.C. area. Besides living in the U.K., Japan, and Italy, we vacationed in Bali, Vietnam, France, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, Ireland, Spain, Belgium, Mexico, Bolivia, and Puerto Rico. He deployed many, many times for six months, three months, eight months. Each time it hurt and then it stopped. Perhaps I learned patience, perhaps we were just stubborn and persistent.
We bought our first house. We renovated a bathroom, we gardened and hosted dinner parties. He retired from the Navy. We adopted two rescue dogs. We got fatter and older. We fought, we made up, we got drunk–often. And we laughed.
We laugh and laugh. We endlessly quote movies: “Stripes,” “Bull Durham,” “Caddyshack,” “The Godfather,” “Cool Hand Luke.” When we started dating, he read to me National Lampoon’s version of Che Guevara’s Bolivian Diaries.
Noviembre 13. [...] Even I found myself forcing down a bottle of Coca-Cola, the vile mate of yanqui imperialists, Although the foul liquid made me gag, I noticed an odd aftertaste that I could not dispel. A half hour later I found myself having another, and yet another. This is foolish counterrevolutionary weakness on my part, and I will steel myself against it. But I suppose it can’t hurt to kill the six-pack.
Enero 17. No Cokes for three days. My hands are shaky and my knees are weak. I am itching like a man on fuzzy tree. Delirious. I cannot go on unless I have another. Soon. A peasant in the village will deal with me–one rifle, one six-pack.
Enero 20. [...] A company of Bolivian infantry opened fire, chopping Pombo and his men into paella. [...] Marcos himself barely escaped with his life, shielding his body with a Coca-Cola cooler.
Summer 1992: I am laughing with delight as he reads to me. And then twenty years flash and burn. And I am here, with puppies and husband. And I am still laughing.