Almost immediately following the funeral, David and I were on a plane back to Twentynine Palms.  I found it ironic how I used to hate nearly everything about the place; the constant taste of dirt on your palate, the way the scorching heat burned your nostrils as you inhaled, bland hues of the terrain.  It was a wonder that life could persist at all in a place like this.  But even now, I couldn’t get back fast enough.  I craved to be surrounded by the familiar, the comfort of my dad’s belongings, to remember his voice more clearly, how he felt, how he smelled.

It was unsettling walking through airport terminals.  We didn’t have time to change before our first flight, so David was still in his Blues and I was still draped in solid black.  At that point I didn’t care anymore.  It was obvious on most faces that they understood what they saw as we walked past.  They were familiar with the redness around the eyes, recognized the shell-shocked expressions David and I wore, and understood the ritual of our attire.  What brought it home for our spectators though, was the tightly folded flag that I refused to loosen my grip on.  The flag that gallantly flew over the base David and my dad were deployed to.

The Marine on duty picked us up at LAX and drove us to the base.  The haul was silent and longer than I remembered.  When the driver stopped in front of our house he helped David carry our bags to the door.  The Marine spoke to David for a few seconds before sharply saluting and turning to leave.  I didn’t hear what he said; I was too distracted by the swirling in my head and deafening thud of my pulse.

David walked through the front door unhindered, turning on the air and then the lights.  I stood unmoving on the front porch, suddenly unsure if I was prepared for the onslaught of memories.  I dropped the heels I had been wearing all day on  the living room floor and went straight to my dad’s bedroom.  I stood in front of the closed door for several minutes before deciding that I needed more time.  I wasn’t ready to be consumed by the power of his memory yet.  I walked back down the hall, passed a silenced David, and crashed on my own bed before even changing clothes.

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