Dear me at 16:
You made plans to go to an AP Euro review session.
Cancel them. I beg you, cancel them.
If you don’t cancel those plans, you will regret it for the rest of your life.
Your cousin Allen is home on leave. He only has a little time in town, and he wants to see you. But you have an AP Euro test review. You tell your dad that you’ll see Allen the next time he’s in town. This is true. You will see him, but it won’t be what you think.
You won’t remember what you studied that day. You will always remember that you didn’t go see him that day. That last day in town.
In a few months, Allen will be deployed to Iraq. Again. It’s no big deal, you tell yourself. He’s already been there once before.
Anyway, he’s Allen. Nothing will happen to him.
He is invincible. He is your older cousin, your only cousin on your dad’s side of the family. He is the boy your parents treated like a son. He is the boy who loved you and hung out with you, even though he was twelve years older. He is the boy who taught you to climb trees. He is the boy who taught you to dip icicles in juice. He is the boy who wore your dress-up jewelry when he played with you. He is the boy who played Pig with you while your grandfather slowly died in the next room. He is the boy who whipped you around the yard in a Radio Flyer wagon. He is the boy who loved you in his own way. He is the boy who tried to protect you.
Remember when I told you to cancel your plans and go see Allen? You didn’t. You didn’t see him.
In a few months, he’ll be deployed again. His deployment, though, will be delayed. It will be delayed so that he can be home for the birth of his daughter. But then, he’ll still have to go.
You’re not worried about him, though. He is invincible. He is the boy that tried to protect you. And that war is a long way away from you. What does it matter? He’ll be fine. He is invincible.
You’ll be seventeen. It is Friday the 13th in July 2007. Your mom will sit on the edge of your bed to wake you up. You’ll know before she says anything that something is wrong. Allen, your invincible cousin, did not survive a land mine. He was on foot patrol, and something went wrong. He is gone. Two men are wounded. That is all.
You won’t be able to count the number of times that you will cry because you didn’t cancel those plans. You didn’t go see him. You didn’t see how happy he was with his girlfriend, the woman with whom he’d celebrate his first wedding anniversary five days before that land mine destroyed everything. You didn’t see how much he loved his step-daughter and wanted to adopt her, just like your uncle adopted him and your grandfather adopted your dad. You didn’t see how much he loved his life. You didn’t see how hopeful he was for the future. You didn’t see how he transformed from a juvenile delinquent to a man. You didn’t see how he completely changed his life. You didn’t see how much he loved you, even if he rarely saw you. You didn’t see anything.
You waited to see him the next time he was in town. Except next time instead of his Lamb of God shirt and a mischievous smirk on his face, he wore his formal uniform and bits of gray putty to hide where that land mine blew the smirk off his beautiful face.
Cancel your plans. Please.
A rural Michigander, Alison splits her time between school, blogging ( http://literarycrap.blogspot.com/), and making life awkward.