In some ways, pain is a universal language. What causes pain can vary, but pain is that which we all understand. Devon had a way of identifying people’s pain. Possibly because he himself was in a constant (yet hidden) state of despair. He knew the signals. Could recognize the small facial changes and energy shifts. And he would often take it upon himself to bring smiles wherever possible. It never seemed enough to satiate the growing void in his own heart and he had come to accept that his void would always be there. But the idea of eradicating such a feeling for others became a source of livelihood for him. He had a light-hearted nature that he maintained even after two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, this boyish disposition helped keep the nightmares at bay. He would play theme songs from the movies and shows of his childhood to aid him in getting through each night. In many ways, he had remained unchanged as the chipper and starry-eyed 17 year-old who fantasized about saving the world as a patriot. In many other ways, he was ruined. Stuck with the memories. The taste of a baby’s blood after being blown up in a stroller bomb; The dying words of his comrades, some he believed to be men much more deserving of life than he. Devon was someone who became complicated by way of experience. His core self (if one would like to argue that such a thing exists) was not intricate or heavy. It showed no signs of neurosis or anxiety----just depression. Brought on by the juxtaposition of his inner exuberance and the outer realities of his childhood and each numbing experience after. Perhaps this innocent simplicity lent to his reckoning. He had always dared to hope. Tasked himself with ending the suffering of others, even though he would never know such a feeling in his own heart.
This urge combined with a charming flirtatiousness is what led him to stop Lima on the street. She was, by any standard, a fat woman. Devon thought it looked good on her though, and he found that bigger women often let their guard down pretty fast if they felt desired. He caught a glimpse of exhaustion and sadness in her face--which he took as an opportunity to offer some dashing comfort. He found out her demeanor was due to a long day’s work, so he offered a consoling hug-- an excuse for touching-- which he thoroughly enjoyed. Lima had both a coltish and serious disposition: warm, intense, and grounded. Like hot Lava cooling on water as it turned to earth. She didn’t seem particularly giddy or impressed, but rather offered a genuine and curious interest in Devon. He had an affinity for genuine women. It helped him make up for his own deficit. What began as a transitory chance to put a smile on a pretty girl’s face, led to Devon considering an entire courting process. He had, in spite of himself, felt something. Hope reared its beautifully ugly head again. And in a fit of hopeful doubt, he took the bait.
Days later, Devon had arranged a date with Lima. He picked her up from her job and they set off for pizza and conversation by the lake. It was an evening in early November, so it was rather cold to be by the lake, but Devon had to bring her here---this particular beach offered many nostalgic memories for him and he needed to relive them. The pizza they had was also from a place he had frequented in his childhood--only befitting. Lima recognized this pattern of relived memories when Devon then drove them to a mall nearby that he used to visit as well (though she wouldn't analyze how pathetic and sinister this contrived list of destinations was until much later). If Lima had known any better at the time, she would have--for personal enjoyment--counted the number of times Devon said the word "SEAL." He would find ways to slip it in to parts of their conversations "when I was a SEAL..." or "As a SEAL..." or "SEALS are trained to..."
In spite of his incessant need to relive the past and his sadly obvious peacocking, Lima found Devon to be quite charming. In actuality, she subconsciously saw a project...a challenge to help the bruised veteran become whole again. For Devon, she would do. Lima was comforting and inviting--she could scratch his itch.They both unknowingly provided sufficient artillery for the other's complex.
They entered a whirlwind romance. Devon had professed strong feelings very early on. Lima, swayed by the persistence and consistency and his seemingly open and vulnerable communication, followed suit. They spent time together mostly at night after Devon got off of work. The first time they had made love, Devon proclaimed to be able to feel Lima's heartbeat and said their night was perfect. Lima had felt quite unsure and was numbed from nervousness and uncertainty. She didn't quite understand how the night was perfect for him. But he seemed so sure and his affections felt so nice that she assumed it to be so. Devon had a tendency to be quite confrontational with other men. On three different occasions, she had to diffuse situations where Devon almost got into fights....a passing car didn't slow down enough, a passerby didn't get out of the way fast enough...Devon had to be sure these other men respected him. Lima was pained at these useless displays of macho behavior and often wondered if this would be their future.
She never quite understood how the male ego worked…all she knew was that there was one, and that it was quite flimsy. He talked a lot. Mostly about himself--old memories and ever present feelings of despair. She listened. She gathered that most men do not have friends that they can vent to in this way. And wanting to feel needed, she readily accepted the opportunity to "be there." One day, as they were driving back from a day-long road trip out of town, Lima pushed herself to discuss her own turmoil. She had started to talk about her weight and struggles with wanting to feel admired. "You're beautiful" and some blanketed advice were all Devon could offer in that moment. A consoling compliment that would lighten the mood was often how he approached Lima's attempts at vulnerability. He figured women were easily appeased in this way. Validation was key. The conversation lasted 5 minutes. While she appreciated the affirming statement, she didn't feel quite comfortable enough pushing the subject or any of the deeper implications. She hushed. And Devon used the opening to reminisce about the day he completed his training "as a SEAL" and of a lover he used to know and how she broke his heart. For the next hour, he told story after story and when he stopped, Lima looked over to see that he had started crying. She felt many things--annoyance, curiosity about his past, a weight from the somber nature of his words, and a genuine appreciation for his story telling. She could not focus too long on any of these feelings for she felt a bigger need to help eradicate whatever sadness was sweeping over him and leading him to tears. As Devon let the tears fall down his face, he stated: "I'm finally ready to die." Panicked, Lima tried all of the flowery words she could, but Devon had seemed content with the hopelessness and preferred to turn on the proper song that he usually listened to in those moments. A song he discovered when he first fell in love with this girl and when he first joined the military. Lima stifled her own disturbed feelings as Devon parked in front of her apartment. They ascended the stairs and as they laid down in her room, he began removing her pants and expressed gratitude for her presence and support. All was well. She felt loved through feeling needed.
Devon came home pretty late that night. As he left Lima’s apartment, he drank an elixir of whiskey and NyQuil on his drive home. He rustled through the refrigerator to find something to eat…something to help cool the heart burn, the stomach ache, and the voices. He noticed a plate of leftovers wrapped in foil. He ripped off the foil and devoured the food. He washed it down with some old wine. He popped three Tylenol then went to his room. "Hi Steven" he heard from his bed, as he undressed, not bothering to wipe the juices of sex and sweat off of his body. He nestled under the covers, then leaned over and made love to his wife.