My senses fill with the musky scent of sweat and soap and a long hard day.
I float my hand across his cheek, hovering just above my own face, and feel the sandpaper bristle of his evening beard. His hands move behind my shoulders, his fingers knead into my sore muscles.
It feels good to be held again.
“Hey honey,” his deep rich voice softly saturates my mind, and then I open my eyes.
“Hey yourself,” I say playfully. But my heart fills with a mournful joy at seeing him again. His deep brown eyes steadily gaze into my own, and though we’ve been together for seven years now, I still feel like looking away at their intensity. But one of the greatest gifts I give myself is to let them stare at me, let them engage me, and let their love soak into me.
My body warms against his.
His right hand starts a journey down my bare arm, leaving a wake of goose bumps behind its gentle cascade.
“I miss you,” he says.
A gentle kiss on my cheek.
A soft caress of his hand to brush the stray hair from my forehead.
“Are you doing alright?” he asks.
I shrug and gently shake my head. “Alright, I guess. I miss you too.”
“Danny was a star student today,” he says. His fingers continue to drift across my skin, softly, tenderly.
“Really?” I say. I miss those times.
“Yup. Got to do show-and-tell and lead the class to lunch. The whole nine yards.”
I laugh, but a pang of homesickness brings a tear to my eye. But I have to hear more–anything to savor normality for just a little longer. “What did he bring?” I ask.
He pulls back a couple inches, an amused smile on his face. I could feel his body shiver with amusement.
“What?!” I push up on my elbows. “What was it?”
“I was making his lunch this morning and I told him to grab something from his room. He came out with his backpack and said he was ready to go, so I dropped him off at school without thinking to check…”
He pauses, he knows he has me. He wants this moment to last too, for this joy to resound, engulf, and protect us while we have the chance.
“When I picked him up this afternoon,” his deep brown eyes glitter with excitement, “he was dressed from head to toe in your fatigues.”
“Yup,” he laughs–from deep within, from humored remembrance–“He was drowning in them! The sleeves were all pushed up in a bunch, the pants were rolled almost to his knees…which the coat practically came down to…” his chuckle echoes past the luxurious silence of our intimacy.
He gazes into my eyes again, runs his finger across the top of my ear now. “I got a picture,” he says softly, second-handedly.
Softly too, I reply, “I can’t wait to see it.” My mind drifts in the current of our shared warmth.
“BAILEY!” a shout suddenly blurts.
His brow furrows, shoulders droop. “Already?” he says.
All I could do is shake my head. I don’t want it to end either. “I’m sor-“
“No, it’s okay. I’m just glad I got to see you. Tomorrow?”
“Absolutely,” I say.
If I’m still alive.
“BAILEY, LET’S GO! WE EVAC AT OH-EIGHT-HUNDRED!”
I turn my head and bark back, “Alright already, I’m coming!”
His head flinches at my commanding decibels, but his giggling shoulders belie his amusement. “I’ll tell the kids you said hello.”
I put both hands around his head and pull him in. I kiss him with love and endearment, but I kiss him hard.
We unlock, and then my hands move to the sides of my own head.
I pull off the glasses, and our bedroom vanishes. The draping tarpaulin tent fills my field of view, its browny-tan camouflage replacing the dim moonlit glow of the painted walls of our home.
The sergeant pushes his head through the tent flaps. He catches me reclining in my cot, the tech specs resting on my chest. “Sorry, commander.” He pauses, making sure I don’t offer up an immediate reprimand or counter-orders. After my accepting pause, he finishes, “We’re ready to go.”
“Alright.” I toss the specs onto my footlocker and push off the cot. Then I grab my M16-A1 and sling it over my shoulder. “Lock and load. Let’s get this over with.”
I follow him into the blinding glare of the Iraqi desert, and get into the Humvee with the hidden reluctance of a soldier who just wants to go home already.
Everyone’s familiar with virtual reality (VR) by now. Back in the day, there was The Lawnmower Man and Tron, and then The Matrix and Tron Legacy took it to a whole ‘nother dimension. You put on a pair of glasses or plug a socket into your head, and WHOOSH–off to another land, one that resides inside a computer and where you can do all sorts of cool things, like ride laser-bikes or jump across rooftops wearing fifty-pound steel-toed army boots.
Thing is that science–real life current developments–are bringing us MUCH closer to experiencing this world than ever before. Google unveiled its new Glass interactive glasses–ones that could take pictures and videos, access the internet or plot directions as you walk down a sidewalk. Glass understands verbal commands, and can intimately change–literally–what you see and hear.
But VR is more than just what you see, it’s what you experience. More work is being done to immerse people into the virtual world. Researchers have developed a VR system that you strap onto your head and walk around with. It guides you through an infinite series of rooms with strategically-placed turns that keep you confined to a small area in the real world–you’re essentially walking in circles, but through the magic of VR, it feels like you’re traversing an endless labyrinth.
It’s all a matter of perspective at this point, but perspective isn’t everything–VR will someday link directly to our synapses so we can feel what’s going on in the virtual world. This is a little longer off, but significant advances have been made to integrate technology directly into human tissues–where nanoscale wires grow into, and interact with, living cells. It’s only a matter of time before we’re able to stimulate areas of the brain that allow us to smell, touch, taste, and essentially live within a VR world.
In the story above, the technology is used to link two people separated by distance, but drawn together by love. Women serve in combat roles now, and the tenderly ferocious one above needed a little breather from the desert life. She and her husband each put on a pair of tech specs, and though they were thousands of miles apart, got to spend at least a few close minutes together before they had to transport themselves out of the virtual world and back into the real one.
I see nothing wrong with that.