Saturday, November 5, 2011

Moving On

Things within the team are strained right now. It's not that anyone is upset with anyone else, really, but more that none of us really knows how to deal with Mason's death. Steve seems to be handling it the best, seeming a bit quieter than usual but otherwise in good cheer. I notice him resting his hand on Mason's knife in those silent moments. The blade seems to have taken a permanent place on his belt.

Rachel and Becky, as different as they are in personality, seem to be bonding over the whole thing. There haven't been lots of tender moments between them, at least not that the rest of us have noticed. Neither are really the weepy girl stereotype. It's nice to see them talking to each other about normal things, getting to know each other a little better. I hadn't even realized how little socializing the two of them did until now. 

Will is not handling it very well. He's angry, more so than I've ever seen him. His knuckles tighten on the steering wheel often and his eyes get tight with rage. I've been there many times--playing the events over and over in his head, trying to imagine what we could have done differently. Wondering if maybe the big fella would have made it. If it would have been worth the risk to run through our medical supplies out here where the next batch might never come. 

And me? I'm crying a lot. 

I'm not a crier, usually. I've spent little time as an adult doing it. When I'm sad and overcome with it, crying is just not my go-to reaction. I get quiet, I think, I clench my teeth a lot. I can count the times I've openly wept in the last ten years on my fingers and have a few left over. 

Until the last few days. I find myself struck by bouts of uncontrollable tears at odd times. I suppose I should find it embarrassing, but I'm not. The others don't seem to mind. Steve is usually there with an arm around my shoulder when it hits me. He's always been there for me that way. When I met him all those years ago, my first impression of Steve was that he was a nerd (he was and is) and that he didn't let much bother him. He's a video game expert, a Star Wars fanatic, and not someone you'd expect to be an emotional rock for when the bad times strike you down. 

Funny how people can surprise you. 

It's almost annoying how much I feel Mason's loss. I can't stop thinking about how hard it must have been for him to be in the military all those years, unable to tell anyone who he really was. He was competent, dedicated, and hard working. And he could have lost it all, just because he happened to prefer men over women. 

Then I start thinking about the places we're heading, the sights we'll see and the people we'll meet, and I remember that he won't get to experience any of that with us. The practical, analytical part of me wonders coldly how many people will die down the road because he wasn't there to come up with a clever solution to a defense problem. My sense of humor asks the question: who will be the scary badass military stereotype now that he's gone?

But he is, and there's nothing to be done about it. Mason may have played his cards close to the chest, but I know he believed in this mission. He spoke at times about how important it was that the remaining people out there build bonds of friendship, that we try to see each other as people first and work from there. He knew as well as the rest of us that while this trip was halfway an excuse to get me away from home, it's evolved into something of real importance. 

Had I, or Will, or any of us been the one to die, Mason would have saluted our sacrifice and chosen to move on. He'd have recognized the need to continue over any other factor. How can I honor his memory by doing any different?

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