I wrote this in February of 2007 right after my friend was killed in Iraq.
I don’t know, I guess for those I have talked to today or talk to my family expect me to write about Jen. I am not sure what to do here. I remember being in my bed as my alarm clock went off this morning and thinking to myself….”damn I don’t want to get up today”. I dragged myself out of bed and got into the shower. As I was in there I heard my apartment phone ring. Only 3 people call me there, my mom, my dad, or Aqila. I didn’t think anything of it because maybe one of them wanted to tell me something. Of course I worry anytime I get phone calls at weird times, but I was wet, naked and it was cold outside the shower.Then in the middle of shampooing and soaping up I heard the phone again, Ok, it must be an emergency. I run out wet and soapy and pick up the phone, next thing I hear is my mom crying and I hear the word …”died”. I immediately felt the adrenaline in my body and said “WHO! Who Died?” Then I heard her say Jen Harris. My heart sank.I got back in the shower and finished up what I was doing……the funny thing is the first thing I thought about was how we used to make Jen carry the gas tank for the whaler from the gas station across the street and all the way down the pier. We kept telling her that if she wanted to make it at the naval academy she would have to be able to do stuff like this. Yeah, like we knew what it took to make it at the naval academy.
She certainly did, when I was at Maryland she would come visit me from the Naval Academy in Annapolis. By that time she had far proven herself as an individual and could teach me a hundred and one lessons on being tough. The last time I saw her we were sitting at the island in our kitchen in Swampscott and she was showing us pictures of her flying as a marine aviator. You could tell she was proud of what she had done. Who wouldn’t be, she was a fucking pilot in the marines!!!
I can still see the frustrated look on her face when I would beat her in sailing and I can still feel the pain in my gut when she beat me in sailing.
Is it a waste to have someone of her intelligence and kindness die in war? Sure is.
My mom sent a picture of us when we were receiving sailing awards back in 1993. I was of course wearing a reptile shirt and Jen had the same look she had in every picture, Jon Keiser was hamming it up for the camera and Brian Hurley was looking to cool to even be receiving an award.
I became sad, not just because Jen died, but because I missed those summers as a teen walking up and down the dock, sailing with my friends and being young and care free. I missed getting excited for windy days and curly fries at the Corinthian during raceweek.
I missed sitting with Brian, Jon and Jen on the whaler, teasing Jen because Jon, Brian and myself were guys so we had an instant bond.
I miss the dry salt on my skin, clothes, and hair. I miss the smell and taste of saltwater.
I miss going to white hen and buying a big ugly thing for breakfast, sitting in the loft of the fish house eating with the lingering scent of bait and salt air coating your tastebuds, swatting away flies under the “Slow Chiedren” sign that hung near the window. Hitting each other with spinnaker poles and falling asleep on the sail bags when it was raining and we had to cancel classes.
I miss knowng exactly where every nail and spike stuck on the pier, I also miss how I wouldnt pay attention and stub my toe while walking down it, I miss the sound of the sea gulls and the sight of 4 widgeons across the harbor. I miss the slow transport of bringing in each boat at the end of the day from mooring to pier, mooring to pier, mooring to pier, then putting away the whaler and rowing in.I was so young, my hair shaggy and crusty from the salt, my ideas big and my dreams new. I had the world in front of me and I lived a sheltered life in the town of Swampscott, where the huge expanse of the Atlantic came to a slow lingering stop along the main street where chapels and barber shops peppered the landscape adding a hometown feel as you drove along the road of this postcard town. The largeness of Egg Rock looming on the horizon and the high bows of the lobster boats perpetually pointing into the wind, the gulls gliding on the breeze before they finally settled on terra firma for the evening.I miss my days of youth, when the biggest deal to me was that few hours of driving around with my friends and maybe, maybe talking to the girl I liked and trying to find out if she liked me. It was simpler back then, so much simpler, cliche I know, but it is cliche because it is true. It is strange how things start to come full circle in your life. Recently I came in contact with a friend of mine from middle school, we began talking about way back when, now this. Is my life trying to tell me something.
I am struck with an intense sadness right now, it is strange. I am surrounded by so many people and I feel so alone. I can only assume it is because I am around people who have only known me for a few years. I was with Aqila tonight and I felt a million miles away from her, she could sense it and could only assume it was because of the stuff going on.
I don’t know, I just want to shake this feeling I have.
Me, John Kieser , Brian Hurley ,John Sherlock , Jennifer Harris