This update was ready sooner than I expected; my projection was next week. I’ve had some ideas percolating about how I wanted to expand Measure 1 of Floating to the Ground, and while I was needing to take a grading break, I wrote. As I was writing, I kept thinking to myself, “What if I need to go back and revise something I’ve previously posted here?” I guess when that happens, I’ll re-post the section with the same name and add “Revised” to it. I think this whole writing-a-story-in-public thing is like birthing a child in public: the story means a lot to me personally, but if feels incredibly embarrassing, even though yes, I’m choosing to put this story out there (I probably feel this way because I’m an introvert). #joysofbloggingastoryinprogress
Measure 1 (Note: previous part of story is Prelude)
Assignments are a function of the military under our Confederation, Confederation Number Seven, to be exact. The Dominion requires each Confederation to write its own regulations regarding military service. Some Confederations mandate military service; some offer choice, depending on age and health status; some have a lottery—if you’re called you serve, and if you’re not called by a certain age, then you never serve. Confed. 7, as I affectionately call ours, requires that all males under 40 serve in the military. We, or should I say they, are supposed to feel free because they are given windows of choice about when they will serve: 18-22 years old, 23-26, 27-30, 31-35, or 36-39. Norman wanted to get it over with early, so he chose the first window. Most guys choose one of the second through forth windows because they want to party with no responsibilities while they can; not Norman—he likes to think ahead, and he thinks he’ll want to settle down sooner rather than later. When they serve in the military, they can go to college or trade school afterward, if they choose to go. Some guys choose to stay in the military for life because of job security and decent wages. Females are completely free to choose to serve or not. If we choose to serve, there aren’t any stipulations, such as which age window we’ll serve within—we just have to be under 40 and healthy enough to serve. I chose not to serve. I’m not against the military; military’s just not my thing.
Right when he turned eighteen, which was a couple months after graduation, Norman signed up to serve in the first window. Once you sign up for your window, you don’t know when The Assignment will come; all that you know is that it will fall within your age window. Norman got chosen for The Assignment twenty-eight days ago. I was mentally prepared for The Assignment to happen, but I still didn’t know how I’d feel when it came.
Twenty-eight days ago was like a death blow in a fight that I didn’t even know I was in. He came by to tell me in person.
“Can we talk?”
“What’s this about?” I started to panic inside. Norman never said it like that before.
“The Assignment came, and I have to leave Ethereal in thirty-five days. They’re sending me to a land state. A land state! I won’t even get to see you for at least a year.”
“Who else have you told, besides your mom?” My voice was getting a bit shaky at this point. I never expected him to have to go so far away. It didn’t seem real, like it was some kind of weird dream that you know you’re in, and it’s just a matter of waking yourself up. I kept thinking to myself, “Wake up. Wake up. Wake up!” But it didn’t work. The weird dream just continued.
Norman replied, “My sister, and that’s it. I’ve gotta still tell Steve, Derrick, and the other guys. Jon’s coming too. Same assignment.”
“Oh…” I couldn’t find more words. I’m sure my silence felt like carelessness, perhaps even coldness, but hearing, ‘I have to leave Ethereal in thirty-five days,’ stole every thought from my mind. I was knocked down and robbed blind. My eyes were quickly and uncontrollably filling, and the hot tears started falling like a sudden storm outside Ethereal. Why was I freaking out? We were just good friends, close friends. But I felt like my heart was about to get ripped from my still living body. I wasn’t supposed to feel…like this.
And then it happened. I glanced up, and he was looking right at me. It’s like we were gazing into each other’s souls. Silent and knowing. I don’t know how long it lasted; I just lost myself there. Thirty seconds, maybe a minute. Then Norman softly mouthed the words, “Me too.” It was almost unnecessary because I could feel him feeling the same way as me. There was nothing else to say then. It was like someone just delivered news of a death in the family. What else can you say in that moment when all you can do is feel? You’re just there: present, longing, and loving. And that was us in that moment. He took the edge of my right hand in his and pulled me in, placing my hand on his back. Then I wrapped my other arm around him. We held each other. My crying was like the drizzle that turned into a steady rain; he squeezed tighter. I have never felt safer, and I have never felt more broken.