There’s a funny thing about love. It has a wicked sense of humor. Sometimes you can sense it speeding toward you with the power of a supersonic jet, and sometimes it slips into your heart with the deftness of a stealth bomber. Which is how it happened for me – appropriate, I suppose, as I am an Air Force pilot and I fly a stealth bomber.
It was a chance encounter on a sultry summer night in New York City. I had a three-day pass to relax and have a little fun before we were sent back to the desert. I was walking down a busy street when I first noticed Jess, sitting on the edge of a fountain, just watching the crowd go by. I stood for a while watching Jess watching the crowd. Then Jess turned my way and smiled. Waved a hand, beckoning me forward. I don’t remember moving, but then there I was, sitting next to Jess, watching the crowd go by.
Eventually, we moved on. Started a conversation, laughed at each other’s silly jokes, and shared a dinner of hot dogs and soft pretzels on the steps of the Met. Found our way to Jess’s place, and didn’t budge until the hour of departure approached. When we were hungry we sent out for food, and Jess was a wiz at whipping up interesting concoctions from the white boxes of leftover meals stacked inside the fridge.
Why now? I thought. as I reluctantly dressed to go. I didn’t have time to fall in love. We didn’t have time to know if it was love. We walked slowly toward the bus depot, each lost in our own thoughts. What was there left to say? Words of promise we could not keep? Jess kissed me, and strolled casually away, as I stood alone, in the crowd of soldiers lining up to board the bus. I turned to join them and suddenly Jess was there, sweeping me off my feet and kissing me, long and hard. I dimly heard the catcalls and whistles of my comrades. “Kat Mitchell” he said in a quiet whisper, “Stay safe. And come back. I’ll be waiting.” I hefted my duffel bag and boarded the bus.
There would be a lot of time and burning desert sands before I could see Jess again. Maybe he would wait for me. But in this women’s army, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. And the more things change, it seems, the more they stay the same.