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The Girl on the Webcam

My face hurts from smiling too tight.

It takes me a minute to recognize you

To remember that you are mine.

Your image flickers and lags over the computer screen.

I am speechless, I don’t know where to look

My face hurts from smiling too tight.


You are putting together a backpack

The shell of which looks like the mobile home

Of some giant tortoise that you

Have killed and evicted.

You are watching a tutorial video at the corner

Of the screen, your face distorted

And funny in concentration.


Your new friends are in the other room

Singing along (badly) to Wrong Way by Sublime.

This is not what I expected when I heard, “barracks”

Had not expected you to be as young as I had

Last left you. Your friends trail in, you introduce me.

I wave from a time zone away

Wish that I had worn something other than

A Hooters tank top and boxers

“This is my girl from back home,” you say

Prideful. It makes me happy in a way that

Has always made me afraid.


“I wonder if she’s into Mexicans,”

One of them asks, because his last name

Is home to an accent mark. He doesn’t

Realize that I can hear him.

I cover my face, shake my head.

“He’s staying in tonight because he’s loyal,”

The same boy tells me, as if in apology.

“I know he is, he’s a good guy,” I say

Even though I know no one can hear me

But you.


You dole out advice to them, to get home

Safe. This is what you do, you take care of

People. 

Someday you will take care of me.


I crack jokes about your massive backpack

Say that I’ll have to explain to our grandchildren

About your hunchback. You do not wince

When I mention the future and I love this about you.

You are not afraid to promise me decades.

You imitate what my voice will be as an old woman

But it sounds like screeching metal and rust.

“What is that?” I ask you.

“That’s your voice after you resort to chain smoking

During my first deployment.” And I laugh

There’s nothing I’d rather do than ruin my lungs

Worrying to death over you.


You do a fashion show, model for me all that

The army has given you.

You show me your plated vest, explain to me

All the ways you will not die for me.

It makes me feel slightly better.

Almost.


In turn, I I twirl my leather skirt around

For you, explain that this was my plan for graduation

If I was going, that is. Graduation day

Is just another sacrifice at this altar,

Another part of me I’m gnawing off trying

To get out of this trap college town, trying

To get back to your skin sooner.

You smile.


You sing me cadences

Mostly questionable, bloody, and

Nauseatingly patriotic, but from

This pile of rot comes a rhyme

About a girl with a ribbon in her hair

Pushing a baby carriage, carrying on life

For her tanker who is so far from her.


I picture you

Singing this in basic, when you could not

Speak to me, when I was your happy place

In a world of chaos. And I know that you have

Never stopped thinking about me

I want to cry for all that we have endured

For all we have yet to face

For all the happinesses that will never

Be guaranteed to us.


You riffle through your wallet.

Find the picture I mailed to you

What seems like years ago.

“You told me to keep it in a place

That I would see it every day,” you say

“And I do.”

I never thought of myself as the girl in

Someone’s wallet. I’m painfully happy

To be the face in yours.



Tonight is the first time,

I hear rather than read your voice

Tell me that you love me.

It’s all I’ve ever wanted.

I tie my hair back in a ribbon

Countdown the minutes until

My tanker is no longer so far

Far away.

Aliza Dube
Aliza Dube

I am a recent graduate of the BFA in Creative Writing program at the University of Maine at Farmington. I am currently living with my boyfriend and cat in Kansas, cause why not? I am currently seeking publication for a memoir manuscript. 

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The Girl on the Webcam
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