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Eleven Months

by J.E. McCullough

Eleven months of
waiting, war and uncertainty
concluded in the same
Camp Pendleton parking lot
where they began.

Rusted white school buses dropped us off
right where they had picked us up—
Spilling us back onto cracked, weed-filled asphalt
outside battalion headquarters.

All the wives and girlfriends waited
where they had left us
last September.
They all looked the same,
unchanged from last September
except now they had beer,
glittered signs
and smiling tears,
instead of just tears and heavy hearts.

We drank our beers in a silent small circle,
and clinked the bottoms of the bottles
without offering a specific toast.
Uncertain how to part
after eleven months of
Together.

They went home with their wives and girlfriends
And I hailed a cab
to an empty apartment.