Wife and War: The Memoir is Amalie Flynn’s story of 9/11, of being just blocks away and witnessing the terror attack, of running in the dust and debris as the Twin Towers collapsed behind her, and of how, in the years that followed 9/11, she became intertwined with the war on terror that began on that day. She became a military wife. She and her husband survived his fifteen month deployment to Afghanistan. And then they endured the aftermath of war when war followed her husband home, occupied their house and their marriage, and created battlefields they did not expect. But Wife and War: The Memoir is more than just Flynn’s story. In a time when war spreads itself across the globe, Wife and War: The Memoir is our story.
My husband is whispering. Whispering over the telephone, because it is a community telephone bank, set up in a makeshift building, on a makeshift base, the one I send packages to, writing Camp Phoenix on the front, declaring the contents, a pair of socks, a container of cookies, my son’s drawing, and, yes, no explosives. Sent to my husband, on this makeshift base I cannot picture, and, yet, his is there, whispering across all of this. Whispering a story about how it happened again, how they had to drive to a more remote part of Afghanistan, drive the Afghans they are embedded with, on dirt roads, and show them different military sites, show them how they are run, and say this is counterinsurgency in action. But his colleague was scared again. Too scared to go outside the wire, five years younger than he is, not married, no children, his whole life stretching in front of him, like a blank piece of paper or a desert, and how my husband, how he has us waiting, and how.
When I go to the post office, next time, they will place my package on a scale, the one I will send over to that base, in this country where killing happens, to men wearing fatigues, to a child riding a motorbike, to my husband, this place, where lives are measured against one another, and where they are not.
And I wonder how, how weight is possible at all.
My husband talks about them, these Afghan men he works with, at the college they run in Kabul. His friends, who call him my brother and dear teacher, men whose lives have been marked by war, their country torn apart by decades of war, the war with the Soviet Union, and now, now this, they say, as they sit at a table in a meeting room, in Kabul, and tell my husband their stories.
How one of them, who fought on the Soviet side, says he placed a grenade under a bed, the bed of a Colonel for the Afghan Mujahideen. And another man is leaning forward, palms flat, on the table, saying, that was me. How it was him, his bed the grenade was placed under, his body burned by the explosion, how he was hospitalized for eight months.
Two men, my husband says, quietly, to me, over the telephone, two sides.
And I can hear him, across this hum of a bad connection, his disbelief suspending, there, somewhere over an ocean. I listen to his stories, about a world I cannot imagine, this world my husband lives in now, the telephone against the side of my head, like a transmitter. And I am lying on the bed, this bed we used to sleep in together, his head on that pillow, or his leg swung over mine, like a rope.
And I am lying, here, on our bed, horizontally.
So I am on both sides.
I wake up sweating and shaking and looking for him.
Because in my dream he was here, lying on the couch, in our living room, wearing gym shorts and socks, eyes closed, with a large hole in his head, on the right side of his head, and I can see blood and the smooth surface of his exposed skull. Or he is in the backyard, sitting on a lawn chair, a garden hose in his hands, and his legs are missing, both legs blown off, and missing from the knees down. Or he is on the treadmill, running, and when he turns to the sound of me, saying his name, Jason, I can see that half of his face is gone and what is left is a deep cavity.
I am in bed, fully awake now, my arm stretching across the bed, towards the alarm clock, and I am saying no and not yet.
I am dreaming about him, I tell my mother.
I tell her how my mind is full of holes and bodies and dismemberment, the detached parts of my husband.
But I already know what she will say.
How she will say it is normal. It is the stress of having a husband at war. But I am afraid.
I am afraid of what the dreams mean. How maybe I just want my husband back. And if they delivered him to me, now, dead or maimed, he would be mine again.
Amalie Flynn is an American writer and the author of two blogs: Wife and War and September Eleventh. Flynn’s Wife and War poetry has appeared in The New York Times at War and in TIME’S Battleland, has appeared in her blog for The Huffington Post, and has received mention from The New York Times Media Decoder. Her September Eleventh blog has received mention from CNN. In addition, her Wife and War blog has a global readership, with readers from over 90 countries. Amalie Flynn’s first book Wife and War: The Memoir is available on Amazon in Paperback and on Kindle, on Barnes & Noble for the Nook, and in Paperback at Barrington Books and Brookline Booksmith. You can find Amalie Flynn on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest. For more information about Wife and War: The Memoir, visit the book’s blog and its Facebook page. You can also contact Amalie Flynn by email.