The Wild

Ours was the wildest of starts.
I remember the guests of our wedding, leaving with smiles pleasantly lit on their faces, heard a group of our cousins murmur happily things like “buzzworthy,” “elegant,” and “absolutely charming.” And I remember you holding my hand so tight when you could tell I was tired of standing and greeting this sea of faces, the women’s perfume enshrouding and choking us in waves of vanilla and citrusy scent. I remember squeezing your hand back, and you playfully fidgeted with the ring on my finger.
I remember vaulting free, launching ourselves into the great big world. I remember those days when you went to school and I went to work, and we would both come home exhausted and sleepy, but you’d make me laugh anyway. I remember you sitting cross-legged on the floor with me, helping me grade my students’ papers, your forehead furrowed with unwavering concentration, and I smiled and got distracted because that look is one I love.
I remember going to the beach with your family, the sun roasting our skins and the grainy sand clinging to our toes. I remember you picking me up and throwing me into the waves, and we laughed, sogging wet, until we cried.
I remember laying on a table, the doctor pressing that machine against my belly, and I was blushing and we were both crying because there was the image of our baby boy, projected in ultra-sound onto the screen. And you held my hand again and nuzzled my nose, and we stared in hopeful awe at the fuzzy picture of our baby, our boy.
I remember how brisk I could be, those mornings when my head hurt or my back ached or my feet were swollen, and how you tried to calm me down. And I remember that in the middle of your consoling hug our baby boy kicked, and we both jumped and started crying all over again because we were so happy.
I remember the first time we held our baby, cradled him in our arms, his face pink and squishy and his head of hair fuzzy and long, and we both just sat in silence, not wanting that beautiful moment to ever end. You kissed me and said I looked beautiful, and I laughed in protest, but you just wrapped your arms around me and watched our baby boy clench your fingers.
I remember a lot of things, like those hazy summer days in our herb garden, weeding while the baby played in the grass; the days when our baby girl was new and our little boy couldn’t help but poke at her eyes; the days when you were gone at work and the wind would whistle and the children would cry and I would sink to the floor and angrily, frustratedly sob; the days where the children were asleep and we’d sit on the front porch, a blanket and your arms holding me close, listening to the heavy, distant rumble of black thunder across a somber sky; the days when our third baby, our second little boy, would be colicky and scream and scream at two in the morning, and you’d murmur for me to stay, and I would listen to your pacing footsteps as you held him close and sang him our favorite songs. I remember days where I’d find little love letters from you in the morning and they’d keep me smiling all day long. I remember the kids’ first day of school all together, and how we walked them to school, all of them so excited, our baby boy a little scared. I remember glossy family photographs, all of us wearing blue and the baby with angry tears streaming down his face. I remember making cookies with the kids and falling in love with you even more as you taught them how to crack eggs open against the side of the bowl while they watched with wondering eyes.
I remember the days where the kids were at school and we’d sit at the table, pouring over the never-ending bills and listening to the drone of the news, and you would look at me and tell me it would be alright, but I could still see the fear within your deep, dark eyes.
I remember the day our baby girl lost her first tooth, the day our oldest broke his leg while playing tag, the days we’d be sitting with an injured kid in the emergency room and our littlest boy would sit smugly and watch.
I remember hearing the jets, the planes and drones flying overhead, just like the airshows we took our babies to when we visited your family during that long-ago summer, but this time it was louder. More of them. Carrying menacing cargo, artillery that could destroy us a million times.
I remember the looks of awe on the youngests’ faces, and our oldest boy’s slight frown.
“Where are they going?” he said.
“To protect us,” we responded.
Lies. But we couldn’t let them know the truth. Not yet.
I remember the blackouts, the wailing sirens, waking us at predawn, and I’d grasp your hand in the dark and clutch our sleepy children to our chests. There were times when the sirens screamed at us while the kids were away at school, and I’d cling to you, sobbing as we hid under our bed, the sirens surrounding us shrieking into our uncovered ears, and I would shake and sob:
“Please don’t take them, please keep my babies safe...”
And you’d wrap your arms around me and shield me from the window in case the glass broke and the world became fire, and your breathing would be short and shallow, your fingers interlaced in mine.
I remember telling our children it was a drill. A drill. Meant to keep us safe. They’d cling to my skirts and whisper, “I’m afraid, Mama,” and it would break my heart to hear those words, but I’d caress their hair and whisper that if they did as we said, we’d be safe.
I remember the threats and rumors, flickering across the TV in speckles of gray. I remember the family across the street going missing, their youngest found dead by the border with bullet wounds pockmarking his body. I remember the days we stopped sending our children to school, the days where eerie silence settled over our street before the drones poured through and the trucks roared down, and the interrogations, and the screams that would sometimes follow. I remember the rumble of wheels and whir of engines that left red dust lingering in the air.
I remember the day the alerts came, on the screens, blaring red: RUN. And I remember the blood-red sunset as thousands of those drones and planes flew over, releasing their deadly cargo- we could see it raining from our window miles away, growing ever closer, closer- and I remember the blasts thumping closer and closer to our ears. You looked at me, your dark eyes filled with thousands of emotions and memories, resurrected before your eyes one last time before being silenced. I remember you wrapping me in your arms, kissing me slowly, and hugging me like you’d never let go.
You whispered, “I love you,” and I whispered back:
“I’ll love you forever.”
We embrace our children, our beautiful children, our tall boy, our sweet baby girl, our funny little baby boy with his mismatched socks. I kiss them each and try to hide my tears, but they’re crying too.
“Keep your eyes on Mama,” I calmly say. You all lock eyes with me, brown eyes just like yours, my darling. Eyes red with tears, but hopeful as they meet my gaze.
“Just keep your eyes on me!” I yell, but I can’t even hear my own voice over the blasts now. You smile sadly at me and squeeze my hand.
We had quite the ride, huh? My kind of wild, start to finish.
I squeeze your hand back.
Then all is darkness.