"I care," Calliope says to me, and I fall in love with her all over again. "I just don't have the lingo." We're having lunch in what I have just learned is a vegetarian hash-joint, a bistro in which you can order breakfast for lunch. It is Iowa City, a crunchy college town, and about as urban and urbane as you can get in Iowa. Anyplace else in the state, bacon would be mandatory.
I am having some sort of mystical-and-many-armed mac-and-cheese, one dusted with a hot curry powder or other Indian spice. In the glow of a slow-burning heat, I am become death to all other forms of comfort food. I am ruined, subsequently destined to discard at home pot after pot of failed experiments of duplication.
Callie is having some sort of sandwich that involves brie. Not exactly a standard sandwich cheese, I suppose, but I'm normally a Kraft slice kind of guy myself.
Callie's former college roommate Urania--call her "Rainey," although she'll probably hate that--is having the waffles. Blond and lithe and single, Rainey is a doctor of pharmacy and the world-traveler among us. She has visited places like the Galapagos, Vienna, and India, for no other reasons than that they exist.
I have known Rainey since junior high school. In some ways, she has known me longer than I have known myself. Ask Rainey to critique any of my former romantic relationships--any of those before I met and married Household-6, of course--and she'll give you a surgically succinct piece of my mind.
Callie is an assistant professor of English at a nearby liberal arts college. Back in the high-school day, she and I dated for awhile. At the same time, I was dating Thalia, a gleeful and sarcastic short-haired girl who would eventually come to share an Iowa City apartment with Callie and Rainey.
Confused? So was I.
As a younger man, I would've called them the Three Furies, but now they're probably like the Three Graces--or, even better, the Three Muses. Our individual and collective history together gives them surprising insights--and implicit permission to share them without concerns about hurt feelings. Getting together with them now is like a high-school reunion, a talking cure, and a motivational life-coaching seminar wrapped into one package.
I should note that, in terms of love, Greeks were like Eskimos are allegedly with snow, in that they have 17 or 31 or a similarly ungodly number of flavors of love. I'd have to say that, after more than two decades of dating and not dating, talking and not talking, my affection for these three is equal parts agape and philia: holding each other in high esteem; virtuous, familiar, loyal.
Still, what do I know--it's all Greek to me.
"I care," Callie says to me, her long brown hair framing her wide, open face. "I just don't have the lingo."
She is talking about the military, and my half-life in it. And, without knowing it, she has just confirmed for me that I need to figure out a way to resolve my various identities--citizen, soldier, friend, husband, father--into one.
I have spent years not talking about military stuff with my civilian friends and business colleagues, just as I have avoided talking about civilian stuff with my military buddies. I have a foot in each door, a boot in each camp. I love my crunchy, Earth-hugging, poetry-reading, vegetarian-waffle eating friends. I love my gun-toting, FOX-news-watching, conspiracy-theory consuming friends.
They don't understand each other, but I think maybe I understand them. Maybe I can find the words. Maybe I can help translate.