I have an ex-boyfriend in this war

"Special forces." I know nothing more specific than that, except that he's in Afghanistan and commands Afghani soldiers he refers to as "my brown guys." This is the boyfriend I was always a bit nervous about introducing to people, having something to do with comments like that. Once, on a trip to Vancouver, he got into a huge fight with some friends of ours about debt relief for Africa (which he strongly opposes). I believe the phrase "survival of the fittest" did in fact come out of his mouth. I said nothing, practically crawled beneath the table. Then later all I could get out was, "This is Canada for God's sake. Ruth and Tom are Canadian." He shrugged, pursed his lips in this way which means "People like you don't agree with people like me but I don't give a shit because my job is to protect you from evil."

When he was my boyfriend, pre-war, he was an Airborne Ranger who spent most of his time jumping out of airplanes looking for coke dealers in Columbia. "You mean where Bush [senior] put the drugs in the first place?" This from me, ever the charming pillow-talker. From him, same small-lip-face, though none of us knew what evil we'd need protecting from back then. Another night it was "J, did you ever kill a man?" aware that the words "a man" sounded more dramatic than "anyone"? When he'd go "to work," as he'd say, I'd worry like crazy, write stories about him, my soldier, and though I feared that he might die doing something totally futile, he was happy with his job, felt purposeful and duty-bound. Not patriotic, just committed to his work and his comrades in arms. (Can you say that nowadays?) I was proud of him, with reservations.

Then 9/11. My hero! I was married then, and my husband, who has his own very conservative streak, exhibited jealousy for the first time in our entire relationship. He's a man, he'd say, at a point where men in our culture are totally emasculated. Hmm. I didn't totally buy it, and when J. called to say he was leaving me his vintage green BMW in his will, I had a hard time feeling proud of his masculinity, instead imagined how it'd be the coolest but saddest car I'd ever own.

The answer to the man-killing question was yes back then in 1997, but "just one." I can only imagine what the answer is now. He talks about it very little, though his main story of late is about putting one of his brown guy's brains back into his head after he was shot in the head. (He survived.)

He's not my boyfriend now, but he did come out of the woodwork when I became single, as they do. It seems that the boys I dated in the nineties have gone through the last decade looking for someone better than I and failed, and now they want their second chance with me (OK, please know that I'm laughing and winking at you as I'm saying that). If our dear friend and Patron Saint Nick Tosches hadn't already done so, I would have posted "Shop Around" in addition to this great Dixie Chicks song (I really can't believe how much I like a song by a band with THE most inane name of all time, but I can't help it.)