Manuel stood clutching the wrinkled photograph of Mariana from the Lake Michigan dinner cruise, the one of her in her little black cocktail dress. It had been four long years since that happy time. Their celebration of nuptials just prior to her deployment with her combat support unit in Afghanistan was the last happy moments he could recall. After the roadside bomb shattered her Humvee and rendered her a shell of herself he had never been able to reclaim the love of his life.
“Why? Why Mariana, why do you go away?”
Manuel had not noticed his wife’s good friend, Sophia approach.
“She doesn’t realize what she is doing,” she said softly. Manuel flinched and pivoted quickly, showing his surprise at her presence.
“I’m sorry, you were so deep in thought you did not hear me,” Sophia explained.
“What are you saying? She doesn’t know what she is doing?”
“I went with her to see the neurologist yesterday. He says there is something triggering her mind, throwing it back to the day she left for Afghanistan. You see that is the last day she remembers very well. Whatever this trigger is keeps sending her back to that moment.
“It’s me,” Manuel said as he squeezed out the tears overwhelming his eyes.
“No honey, it is some event.”
“I keep trying to get her to remember the dinner cruise, The Chicago skyline, the smells or anything else to bring her back. Each time I try she just seems to float away. It is like losing her again and again.”
“Then you have to let that pass, at least for now. Try another way to get her back,” Sophia said.
“It’s not fair. She loves this country. We have it so much better here than in Cuba. She just wanted to do her part, to support her new home and show she was just as willing as any other American to serve her country. Why did it have to be her? Why are we trying to change a culture that has been this way for centuries?” Manuel said through heavy tears.
“I don’t know Manuel. I think you join a long line of family members demanding answers to these questions. You just have to try harder with Mariana using another approach.”
Manuel embraced his wife’s friend and turned to walk home. Along the way he racked his brain for another way to reach his wife. Seeing his front door he finally set tled on a new approach. But would it work? Would she respond any differently?
From the bottom of the short stair case he could see her folding laundry. The army way was ingrained as it always would and the neat piles showed her training had not been lost with all the other pieces of her life. She offered a familiar smile as he opened the door to enter.
“I was thinking we could ride over to the boardwalk after supper and try the ferris wheel,” Manuel said.
“Are you trying to sweet talk me Manny?”
“Is it working?”
“Perhaps!” she said cocking her head and batting her long eye lashes.
She stood and he pulled her into an embrace. She sighed contently as he held her. He hoped this would finally be the way to reach her.
“We can’t stay too long dear. I must finish arranging my gear. The bus for the base leaves at 0600 tomorrow morning.”