Lt. Ken James returned to the Bachelors Officer’s Quarters very tired after his
meeting with the general, and the rest of the day was devo ted to digging up
information for his talk on refueling safety. A day that had started with foreboding
and worry had almost ended on a positive note. As he entered the hall where his
room was located, the airman on night duty handed him a letter. He recogn ized
Jane’s handwriting immediately.
He entered his room, which was still overheated from the afternoon sun that
shone directly through the sliding glass door. Even with curtains, this room retained
the heat. Ken opened the glass door so some of the coole r air might come in, and he
then sat down in the lone chair. He noted that Jane’s letter seemed heavier than
usual. Her previous letter had mentioned that after she had come home from having
won her battle with tuberculosis, her parents had given her a trip to Europe as a
coming home present. She had mentioned her first stop in Paris and her anticipation
of visiting Germany and then Switzerland.
Ken opened the letter and, as he thought she would do, she described her long
walks along the Rhine River and ruins of castles that overlooked the river. Long
walks, he thought, were good for her legs that had become week from her hospital
Her next stop involved Switzerland. This time the walks were up in the high
meadows close to the steep mountains. The Bro wn Swiss cows came over to
socialize and get their noses and ears scratched.
The next sentence riveted his attention. A young Navy Ensign named John, whom
she met in Paris, accompanied her on these walks. He was able to make things safer
on long walks. Yes, he had proposed to her and she had accepted. They were to be
married in late June in a small church in the little village near the walking trail
where they had frequently stopped to have a dish of ice cream.
Ken sat absolutely still, in a state of shock. He had never considered that in all of
their letter writing, there was no commitment. His mind had always assumed that
they would get together when he was back in the United States. Doc Wakerson was
right. Girlfriends who were back in the States had opportunities to date attractive
men who could promise more than the “blood, sweat, and tears” of military life,
which could be terribly lonely for the un-deployed person left behind.
Ken’s mind swirled with regret. Would it have made a difference if he had known
how to write better letters? But he wondered how he should have written love
letters. He had to concede that he did not do it well and really did not know how.
He was reminded of Shakespeare’s words. “Then you must speak of one that
loved not wisely, but too well; of one whose hand threw a pearl away richer than all
his tribe; of one whose subdued eyes, albeit unused to the melting mood, drop tears
as fast as the Arabian trees, their medicinal gum.”
Ken looked down at the page in front of him and it was, indeed, wet with his
How could he write a letter back to her that contained the saintly grace of a truly
dispirited soul that must concede defeat? Yet he must honestly wish her well. After
all, she had saved his life and he appreciated that.