Sitting back up, he looked me in the eyes. I noticed so much more in them now, and wanted to find still more in them.
“Her name was Amelia?” I smiled. It was the first and only time anyone said her name besides me.
“Yes, a girl who would fly.”
Unsure what sparked his course change to Amelia, a new subject lightened his voice. I decided to broach the subject that we avoided all day.
“I want to ask you something, and I don’t want to sound selfish or narcissistic, or anything, I just want to understand where your head is.”
He remained silent, his eyes fixed on mine. What I was thinking felt foolish, especially given his recollection and my confession, and not for myself or my own curiosity or even just confirmation, but for full consideration of all possibilities. I followed his style and spoke slowly and deliberately.
“Is there any chance that your actions last night may have also been prompted by just wanting to have sex with, you know, just have sex with someone?” The words clogged in my throat as I clumsily attempted to discuss facts rather than emotions, accentuating that maybe there was another reason for what happened between us. Beyond his flashbacks, maybe he could see women, or even the woman in front of him, beyond the violent thoughts he finally released. I waited, trying again to read anything into his silence.
“Yes,” he finally breathed.
Feeling relief, I contemplated if my elation might be about his no longer feeling isolated, or his equation of what happened last night to no longer be wrapped into his memories from Iraq. My tinglings of happiness felt less about his attraction to me and more about a future free of the events and memories stabbing at his gut and holding his mind and body hostage.
“Okay, so maybe there could be another reason why you, you know, did what you did last night.” I avoided a witty comment as we still were awfully close to the psychological edge for casual humor, even if we’d taken a step back. Acknowledging last night’s sex might just be sex and nothing more offered enough to nibble on for now.
“Maybe,” he agreed, “but I still feel like I did something wrong to you.”
Telling him once again that what happened didn’t feel wrong, that it wasn’t wrong, would just be lip service. He needed a way to move past his false impression and allow the truth that his behavior during the night was welcomed and encouraged. “So maybe that’s something we should work on changing.”
The corner of his mouth curled upward slyly. “Okay,” he grinned.
“Oh,” I chuckled, and felt as if I might have quite possibly blushed, “that is not what I meant.” I smiled back so he knew it was not out of the question. Other than a couple remarks about my pajamas before we left camp, we finally reflected on our initial tryst with a bit of levity.
Only the Lumberjack knew about Jason. In the last decade, I wondered if anyone knew what he just told me. The military must have investigated the deaths, completed a report. He was the only survivor, and someone somewhere must know more than what I now knew. Confiding little in others, he may never have mentioned this to anyone since he left Iraq.
When we chopped wood, I flat out told him talking about the war didn’t scare me, and it didn’t. How could I be so willing to do this, but I couldn’t keep Jason from beating and humiliating me? My own vulnerability and anger and fear felt so different, and still our lives and our pain felt eerily similar. I didn’t understand, but more importantly, throughout the revelation of his ordeal, I didn’t let go. Strength regrew in me since I left Texas, but it flourished in these mountains.