The definition of “detente” is “the easing of hostility or strained relations, especially between countries.”
The definition of “taunt” is “to tease and excite.”
The title of this post is a combination of these two words. It was done that way on purpose. Wether a cruel joke or just hidden multiple meanings, the man who, once upon a time, signed his letters to me as “your Detaunte” is the only one that really knows why he did it that way. But looking back on things, I can make a few guesses.
The reason I bring this up now, 12 years later, is due to a very bad anniversary coming up for me in a few weeks and I cannot remember it without remembering him. For good and/or bad, he is the reason I am doing as well as I am after that very traumatic event, he is a big part of why I have been single, for the most part, since I came home from Iraq and he is the reason I have the standards I do when it comes to the men I might consider going out with. Those that have read my book have a small part of this story. Those that were there have a bit more of the story, but he and I are the only ones that have the full story. Why, you may ask am I doing this now? Well, I think it is time. Over the years I have managed to let go of some things and say goodbye to others. But, I don’t think that he will ever fully leave my mind or heart though.
I wont bore you with to many details and I am not going to give you the FULL story. Some of it I needs to keep to mine and mine alone. But I do want those that think I have never known true love to know that I have, at least I have felt it for another. Wether he felt it for me or it was all just a fantasy, you can make up your own mind after you have heard the story.
I met Matt Lawson not long after I arrived in Iraq in September 2003. I heard all sorts of stories about how he was full of shit and told stories about things he did when he was in the military and that no one believed them. I didn’t care. We didn’t talk about that stuff. We talked about life, his, mine, what we hoped for the future, problems at home and what I was running aways from. We became friends over time and talked many times. That was that, nothing more, nothing less. Just two people who worked in the reefer section for Halliburton/KBR. Then March 9th happened me.
I don’t know how he knew something was wrong with me when no one else seemed to notice, but he did. Over the years I have wondered just how much did he watch me in the days and months before that. Was he a bit of a stalker or what? Doesn’t really matter now. He noticed, confronted me and after a bit, I told him. He is the one that finally got me to report what had happened, a month later, when it almost happened again. When I reported it, I didn’t tell all the truth at first. I just reported that my room was broke in to, nothing more. But I think the people above me that I reported it to knew better. Maybe they had seen the change in me as well, but just didn’t want to know why. That doesn’t matter now either. Things happened the way they did and for what ever reasons. The important thing is what happened after, how I got through it and how great and devastating my relationship with Matt was.
Without going in to too much detail let me give you an idea of how Matt became such an important part of my life while I was dealing with reporting what happened to me. I was still living in that room. I still did not have a key to the door of my room or the villa. SO, I could not lock any doors on any thing except the truck I drove when out on missions. So I went on every mission I could. Not only for the security of the locked door and not having to be in that room, but the longer I was out on a mission the more I could put off having to talk to the “powers that be” about it. I wanted to forget it. Act like it never happened, even though I knew that would never happen. Ya know what got me to finally report what happened, to tell them the full truth of what happened and to NOT let them ship me home? Matt. No, it wasn’t that the guy came back to my room to do it again. It wasn’t that I told that guy that I wished he would just go ahead and kill me and get it over with. It’s that he let me live. It’s that I was not living. Through a few talks, Matt got me to report the assault. And when I was thinking about going home, Matt pointed out that I had spent most of my life allowing men to decide for me what I was going to do with my life. But this was different! This was not an abusive husband! This was that! And the “higher-ups” would ship me home even if I didn’t want to go home. through our friendship, Matt knew that I didn’t go to work for Halliburton/KBR for the money. He knew my real reasons. My running away from an abusive ex-husband. My great desire to support the troops. My need for a great adventure! The adrenaline junkie I tried to hide from everyone. He said to me, “Out of all the people I have met over here, you are one of the few people I have met that truly believes in why you are here. Your patriotism and dedication are a bit naive, but you really believe in what you are doing here.” So I stayed and Matt stayed with me.
When I was in Kuwait and before they finally moved me to another room in another villa, Matt would leave work to come clear my villa and my room so that I would feel safe walking in to it. He would sit and watch over me till I fell to sleep. On nights that he could not get away from work for a bit to do all that, he would stay on the phone with me till I fell to sleep. He went to every interview with every person of authority with Halliburton/KBR and the military. When I had to go talk to the Kuwaiti authorities about it and he could not be there because he was on a mission in Iraq, he gave me 2 challenge coins that I still have today. One has the twin towers on it. These coins were to give me strength and remind me why I was there. It worked. I refused to be sent home and my relationship with Matt got serious.
I don’t have the date of when I received some of the hand written letters that Mat gave me, so please forgive me for not being able to give you an accurate timeline. But I do want to share parts of some of them with you. Email is great, but you either have to print it out or have access to internet to read them. A hand written letter means SO much to anyone in any combat zone, military or civilian. The first letter I want to share with you is the first hand written letter he ever gave me.
I hope that you can read the letter without to much problems. It was sweet and I was flattered that he actually took the time to sit down and write a real letter to me. I didn’t understand why he singed it “Detaunte” though. When I asked him about it, he refused to tell me any more than to say he was my detente. He also told me that his spelling of it was not a mistake. It confused me, but I let it go. I had way to much going on in my head to worry about it at the time.
Many of his letters voiced his concern about my well being. Being a female convoy commander came with a lot of doubts from some of the men. Some were not sure a woman could handle it. Some just didn’t like women in trucks on convoy missions. But thankfully, I had some supervisors that believed in me and Matt believed in my abilities. He just was concerned about me getting hurt. I was volunteering for every mission I could get my hands on. It kept me in a truck with a locking door between me and the rest of the world. It was also a time when some other folks were refusing to run certain missions. But I didn’t care how dangerous it was. I still was not sure I wanted to survive my time there. But Matt was starting to convince me that I should want to.
But he was not without his own baggage. Still to this day, I do not know how I could have possibly helped him with anything. I was pretty messed up in the head when it came to the personal side of my life. That is why I focused on doing my job, running missions. But I guess none of us are without some kind of baggage. And maybe we were drawn to each other because of our baggage. Maybe he needed to “rescue” someone and maybe at the time, I needed to be “rescued.”
After several month of avoiding having to talk to the Kuwaitis and just days after the first ambush I went through that one of my drivers was shot, I was pulled from the convoy rotation in Kuwait. I was sent to talk to a councilor, David. He had met with some of Tommy Hamill’s family during all that mess. He didn’t really know how to talk to me about what had happened to me, but he did his best. I tried to talk about everything but what I was sent to him to talk about. Five weeks I was stuck in Kuwait, talking to him almost every day. And I had to talk to the Kuwaiti’s. David was nice enough to go with me when I had to talk to the Kuwaiti authorities. I couldn’t have the person I really wanted there, Matt, but having David there did help. During that 5 weeks, Matt continued to write me letters. Yes, I got emails from him, but the hand written letters were the best. They were so much more personal and I could hear/read what he felt for me, or at least what he wanted me to think he felt for me.
How could I not fall in love with this man? He had been my protector, my guard, my rescuer, my friend and in the end, my lover. No matter what BS he fed others there and how much they tried to tell me that he was so full of shit, I was in it. I remember telling him and I didn’t care what kind of crap he fed all the guys, as long as he was honest with me, he could tell them what ever he wanted.
I like to think that is some small way, with me, he was the man he wished he could be, even if it was only for a few months. I do know that he was happy in the time. I think you can see that in the letters from him that I have posted already. But here is one more.
I can’t say that there were not some signs in his letters that I should have noticed that were warning me that it would not last. That one day he would break my heart worse that anyone had ever done in my life.
He was right, to a certain point. A few months after I was fired from Halliburton/KBR he was too. He called me and asked me to find a trucking company that we could run team with. I did contacted a company that I had driven for before and they said they would take him but I would have to be lead seat. He loved it. the only thing was that he needed to get a few things settled with his ex and make sure things were right for him getting to see his son. According to him, he had never been an over-the-road driver. He asked that I give him 2 weeks and we would make the move. Two weeks passed and suddenly I was not hearing from him any more. After a couple of months and me loosing my mind, when my son who was in Iraq with the Army said I could come back while he was there, I found a job and did. I went about a year before I heard from Matt again.
I took a vacation in September 2005 to Malaysia that he and I had been planning the year before. I changed a few things in the trip to make it my own, stayed for 3 weeks, but still went to see the rain forest. It was in the rain forest that I finally allowed myself to feel the full pain of his disappearing from my life like he did. I could not understand how someone could go through everything he went through with me in Kuwait and Iraq and just walk away with no word. All those long nights he would watch over me while I slept. the risk he took leaving his job just to come make sure that there was no one in my villa or my room that would harm me again. The many nights I would wake because of some of the most horrible dreams and he would sooth me, make me feel safe again. How? How do you not at least tell them fuck off or something?!
It was Christmas or New Year’s Eve 2005 when I heard his voice for the last time. I was in Kuwait in my little apartment, drinking. To say I was a bit buzzed would be an understatement. To this day I do not know why I dug up his number in the states and called it. I know that I was not expecting him to answer it, but he did. I had always thought that if he ever answered when I called that I would tell him what kind of a low life SOB he was for doing me like that to me. But, I didn’t. I asked him why? Why did you disappear without a word? Didn’t he know that doing that would break my heart?
He gave me several excuses that I called bullshit on. Then I got the closest thing I was going to get to the truth. His soon-to-be ex-wife had found out about us and to make sure that he didn’t lose his son, he could not call. I called BS on that as well. Could he have not just used a pay phone?! He said that she was having him watched and he just could not risk it. I still called BS! Was he really getting a divorce or was that more lies?And I asked the million dollar questions. Did you care about me? How could you go through all that you did with me over there and just walk away without a word? All he would say was that it was not me, it was him. I was everything he had ever told me I was and yes, he cared very much for me. He was the one that was messed up. That he was more messed up than I was. I had to agree to that last one.
Anyway, here I am, 11 to 12 years later and I still have all those hand written letters sitting in a drawer in my bedroom. Today it the first time I have looked at them, other than to move them from one place to another, in a couple of years. I am not sure why I pulled them out today and re-read some of them when I found them today, I just did. Maybe it is because there are a couple of things going on in my life that have brought the anniversary of March 9th to the forefront and caused me many rough nights of little sleep. I don’t know.
What I do know, is that no matter what kind of man Matt is in real life, he was what I needed at that time in Kuwait and Iraq. No matter how much it hurt way down deep for him to just disappear from my life without a word, I am a better person today because he was there to help me stand back up on my own two feet instead of dyeing.
So Matt, where ever you are out there, I hate you and you are still the biggest son-of-a-bitch I have ever known. I hope you are happy that you were/are the greatest heartbreak I have ever known in my life. I have raised my standards a great deal because of knowing you. I have grown a tough skin around the outside of my heart because of you. I do not let men run my life or tell me how I am going to live it. And I miss you. I miss the person that watched over me and helped me find myself. I will always love that man.