Part 11 - Margaret
The next day...
“Son, I’d like to see you for a moment.” Colonel Potter pulled Hawkeye aside after a grueling eight- hour day of surgery.
“Gee, I’d like to take you up on that offer, but I have a prior engagement with my cot. I was up last night and I’m afraid I wouldn’t make it through the whole show.” Hawkeye replied as he scrubbed his hands.
“Speaking of sleep, I hear you’ve made new sleeping arrangements.”
“Yeah, there’s a couple of critters crawling around. Turns out I’m allergic to animals.”
“I suggest you take a shot and hightail it back to camp. If we had everyone who had a disagreement with their tentmate move out why we’d be out of business. I’m serious, Pierce.” Potter dried his hands. “I want you back in your tent, pronto.”
“Is that all?”
“No. We got a copy of Gone with the Wind. We’re showing the first part tonight.”
“No but I made sure Hunnicut and Winchester were. You’ll be receiving a friendly visit from Sidney. I want you there when he drops by. This is an order.” He put his hand in the air as if to ward off any protest he might receive.
“You can’t do that to me! I don’t want to talk to Sidney about anything. I put in my eight hours. I haven’t slept. It’s my time. I want to write my dad, if you don’t mind.”
“You have plenty of time to write your dad. I can’t make you talk but I can make you listen. Look Pierce, I know that Radar’s death has been hard on us all. I also know I said some things to you before he...well, I was a bit hard on you. You’ve been taking this harder than anyone here. We’re a team, and we need you. Radar was a mighty special kid and it’s only natural you feel this way. But I get the feeling there’s a little bit more than you’re letting on. Something happened before he got hurt that you’re not telling me, Pierce. You don’t have to tell me. But you gotta get it out. Or you’re gonna drive yourself right out of your mind.”
“Look, Colonel, I appreciate your concern. I appreciate everyone’s concern. I left the swamp because B.J. was concerned. He meant well but he doesn’t need to be. I’ll meet with Sidney but you’ll see it’s a big waste of time. Everything’s a-okay. You can put money on that.” Hawkeye replied before turning away.
“I sure hope so, son. I sure hope so.”
“Pierce.” Maragret ran up to the doctor. “Can I talk to you for a minute?”
“If you’re asking to the movie, I’ll take a rain check. However if you’re looking for a chance to be alone meet me back in my tent in five minutes. I have it on good authority that my roomies are going to the picture show. “
“Oh, knock it off!” She rolled her eyes, then softened her voice. “I just wanted to tell you that you did a fine job back there. Excellent work, really.”
“Really you don’t have to work so hard. I’m not playing hard to get.”
“Oh, Pierce. Why do I even bother?” The nurse huffed, then turned to walk away.
“I’m sorry, Margaret. Don’t go.” He followed her. “Really. What is it?”
“I was wondering...could we talk? I mean..could we go somewhere and talk?”
“The only place I know we could be alone is your tent. I promise I’ll behave.” He added when he saw the indignant look on her face. “And if you’re worried about people talking, don’t. Everyone will be at the movies. I can’t stay too long anyways. So tonight’s as good as any night to talk.”
“I suppose.” She sighed. “But don’t try anything.”
“Look at me, Margaret. Trying anything is the last thing on my mind.”
Satisfied, she proceeded to her tent.
After a few minutes of silence, Hawkeye spoke up. “So...how are you?”
“I’m fine. How are you?”
“That Carter boy sure healed up nicely. Faster than anyone expected.” Margaret said.
“Medieval medicine for you.”
“Listen, Captain...”she thought about what she wanted to say.
It was impossible not to stare at the bags under his eyes. She never thought the handsome man could ever look terrible, but he did. It wasn’t just his looks that had suffered. Like everyone else in the O.R., she missed the unlimited supply of wit and commentary that he provided. Someone had to speak to him. Perhaps a feminine’s voice could help him to open up. But of course, she had to be delicate about it. He was far too an intelligent of a man for her to come right out and ask him how he was feeling. He would never just blurt out his feelings. Perhaps she could appeal to his sensitivity. A little reverse psychology, perhaps, might help to get him to open up. Lord knew someone had to try. She was sick and tired of seeing the man walk around like a dead man walking. Sidney was in camp and yet he hadn’t been able to help Hawkeye for all she knew.
“I just wanted to talk. I haven’t really talked to anyone since everything this whole thing began.” She looked up at him to see his reaction.
“It’s okay, Margaret. Everyone needs someone to talk to.” He gently replied. “I’m glad you felt you could come to me.”
“I can’t sleep, Captain. I can’t eat. I feel so rotten.”
“So take something.”
“I’ve thought about it.”
“So why haven’t you?”
“A good nurse has to be alert on all times, ready for anything. How can I possibly function if I take some pill that will knock me out...?”
“Margaret, you know as well as I do that those pills are meant to give you a good night’s rest...that’s right, you do know as well as I know what they’re made for. You think you’re pretty clever, convincing me you want to talk about your problems. When does Margaret Houlihan ever want to talk to me about her problems? You just want to try some pseudo-psychological babble on me...well it’s not going to work, although I give you an A for effort.”
He turned to leave.
“I was there.” She whispered.
“You were there, what?”
“I was there when Radar...passed on. I was assisting with Colonel Potter.” The tone of her voice convinced him to stay. This was definitely not an act.
“Please, stay, won’t you?” Margaret folded out a chair and extended it to Hawkeye, and then she sat down on the side of her bed.
“There was simply no time. Charles and the Colonel both worked as hard as I’d ever seen either of them work...I couldn’t have left them for a second. They were there. You have to believe me that they did everything, and I mean everything, that they possibly could for Radar. I’d never seen Charles in action like that before. When he knew he did all he could do, he asked for help. You know how he is. That never happens. The colonel was right there the entire time. They were both ..you should have seen them shouting at each other and shouting at me and shouting at Radar. The look on Colonel Potter’s face is one that will stay with me as long as I’ll live. Even Charles- Well I know you think he’s heartless but I saw this side to him that you wouldn’t believe. He was compassionate...well as compassionate as he can be. There’s nothing you could have done. There’s nothing anyone could have done. I’m so sorry, Hawkeye. Sometimes I wonder if you blame yourself for not being there but I just want you to know that it wasn’t your fault. This was an accident.” With that, she reached over and grabbed Hawkeye’s hand.
He didn’t return the gentle squeeze, but he didn’t’ refuse it either.
“And another thing....I want to tell you that I’m sorry.” She added, saying the two most difficult words in the English language. “I said some things to you that I shouldn’t have. I don’t know everything and I was wrong to yell at you the way I did. You know me. If I could do it all over again I would..”
Hawkeye let go of her hand, without looking at her. “Yeah, well there’s a lot of things I’d go back and do over again if I could.”
She frowned, wondering what he was hiding. He looked so lost.
“He loved you, you know.”
If it had been anyone but Margaret to say that, he would have ripped their head off for reminding him of Radar’s feelings. But he looked at her and saw the innocence in her eyes.
“Thank you, “ Hawkeye said, surprising himself with the sincerity he felt. “ I mean it.”
“Anytime.” She walked over and embraced her friend. They stood like that for a long while, not daring to move. And for the first time in days, Hawkeye smiled.
He finally pulled back. “Well, “ he spoke up, his voice cracking with emotion. “See ya.”
“See ya.” She whispered back as he left.
Just as Hawkeye physically shut the door to Margaret’s tent, he knew he’d opened an emotional one within himself. He’d let someone talk to him about Radar. He couldn’t see it but he was mentally preparing himself for the upcoming visit with Sidney.
Part 12 - The sessions begin...
“So, Hawkeye, how are you?” asked Sidney as he took a seat facing Hawkeye.
“That’s the million dollar question these days. I’m just terrific.”
“I hear you’re not so terrific.”
Hawkeye rubbed his head and frowned. “Say what’s on your mind, why don’t you.”
“I’d rather you say what’s on yours.”
“I had a mystery meat for dinner tonight. I thought it was going to pack up and take a mile long hike. I have to do laundry. Let’s see. I haven’t got my newspaper in two weeks. Oh yes, I ran out of hot water when I was taking a shower today and I screamed like a girl. Not that I mind a girl’s scream in the shower, thank you very much.”
“Is that all?”
“Why? What do you want me to tell you? That I’m angry? That I slept in the supply room and I expected someone to walk in on me? Or did you want me to tell you that I sat on Radar’s bed yesterday?”
“Why did you do that?” The psychiatrist asked.
“I don’t know, doc. I went in there looking for Colonel Potter but he wasn’t there. I don’t know why but I sat down on Radar’s bed. It was the strangest feeling. It seemed like he was just in the other room. If I waited long enough he would come right back. It was as if he was he was out delivering the mail, or maybe he was out walking Sophie. If I just waited long enough he might pop his little head in...but then I looked around...no jacket, no locker, nothing. No sign that he was ever there. That’s just like the army. They don’t see the face, the spirit, the person. They just see the number on your tag. Well Radar was more than just a number.”
“I agree. He was a very special little guy. He looked all innocent. Looks could be deceiving. He hustled me for more than a few dollars.”
Hawkeye just stared at him. “Well, thanks for sharing. I feel better already.” He stood up. “Now if you don’t mind I have a standing appointment with a certain nurse and a bottle of gin. It was a pleasure doing business with you.”
Sidney didn’t budge.
“Well come on! What are you waiting for? An engraved invitation?”
Still, the psychiatrist refused to move.
Hawkeye sat down. “You’re not the only one who can play that game. You might be here but that doesn’t mean I’m going to tell you anything.”
“What are you afraid of?”
“Nothing. I’m not afraid of anything.”
Sidney decided to change his approach. “I understand that you had an argument with Radar before he died. That must be very difficult for you to deal with.”
“Actually it’s a piece of cake. I’m not dealing with it.”
Ahh, sarcasm...one of human nature’s best defense mechanisms. Sidney could see the sadness in Hawkeye’s eyes. Perhaps it was just too soon to talk about the argument. But he had found a starting point. Hawkeye had shifted in his seat as he spoke, which indicated a willingness to move in his conversation. He had a long, long way to go but at least the door was open.
“Look, I’ve enjoyed our visit. But I really think you should leave now. B.J. and Chuckles will be back soon.”
“Chuckles...I take it you two aren’t close?”
“We mix as well as vinegar and honey. And I plan to keep it that way.”
“You and B.J. are close, aren’t you?”
Hawkeye nodded. “He’s my best friend.”
“What about your previous tentmates?”
“Well there’s Frank Burns...I don’t even know where to begin. Always wanted to go by the book. Toward the end he was a little nutso...how did the army take care of him? he got promoted and sent stateside.” The surgeon laughed bitterly. “And then there was Trapper. He was my best friend. We had some great times. He always made me laugh. I don’t know what I would have done when I first came to this place if it hadn’t had been for him.”
“So you’ve had two best friends since you’ve been here. You’ve let people get close to you. That’s more than some people are capable of.” Sidney noted.
“Well we shared a tent.”
“You shared more than a tent. You shared life- you shared a war....you saved lives together. You’ve lost patients together. You laughed together. It’s okay to admit you cared about someone else, Hawkeye.”
“No, it’s not okay! You don’t understand!” he stood up. “I let myself care and then they just –they just go away. Those experiences don’t mean anything in the end-just ask Trapper. I went away on R&R and when I came back I found out he went home. And you know what? He didn’t even say goodbye. No letter, no goodbye, no thanks for the memories, no nothing. It was like I didn’t even matter to him. And I guess I didn’t. Here I am talking about him and he doesn’t even remember me.”
“Is that what you’re afraid of? That no one will remember you?”
Hawkeye sat back down. “Maybe this sounds crazy. But I have this recurring nightmare that I die. Each time is different- one time I was even run over my own dad’s car-it doesn’t matter how I die. Anyways I have this dream where I die and no one comes to my funeral. Not even my own dad. Maybe that’s why I try so hard to be so clever.”
“Trust me, Hawkeye- you’re pretty unforgettable.”
“Unforgettable..that’s what you are...
Unforgettable though near or far...
Like a song of love that clings to me...”
“I think you know what I meant.” Sidney chucked. “But thank you for the song. I’m afraid I don’t have any champaign. We could have had a real moment. Maybe some other time.”
“Party pooper.” Hawkeye sighed.
“now where were we...”
“We were about to leave.”
“I believe you were talking about Trapper leaving. How did that make you feel?”
Hawkeye closed his eyes. He could almost see his friend’s yellow robe hanging up in the room and hear his contagious laugh. “Yeah. He took off so fast. I mean, B.J. came in, so it was fine. I liked B.J right off the bat. So it was no problem.”
“Wait a minute.” Sidney interrupted.” Your best friend abandoned you and there was no problem?”
“He didn’t abandon me! He went home. He took off. It was time for him to go. I would have left too. He did his time. He just should have left a note. But you’re right. We did go through a lot. We went through hell together. He didn’t owe me a note. But it was the least he could have done for me. I thought he ...well I thought he cared about me. I cared about him. I would have been happy for him. Heck, I would have thrown the biggest shin-dig this company’s ever seen. I would have gone to the front line for that man. And in the end he leaves. Just like that. Gone. Adios. Au revoir. On the next train to Boston without looking back. Good riddance, I say.”
“Is that all you say?”
“What more do you want me to say? It hurts that he left! There, are you happy now? It hurt when he left.” Hawkeye took a deep breath, as he felt his eyes welling up with tears. “He hurt me then but he’s not going to hurt me any more, I can tell you that.”
“And by crying you think that he has the power? Hawkeye, “ Sidney sighed. “Can’t you see, “ it’s quite the opposite. “If you cry now, you’re getting rid of the negative feelings that are associated with Trapper. You’re in control of those feelings. You’re letting go of the hurt that you feel he caused you. You’re in control of those feelings that have been holding you for a very long time now.”
Hawkeye looked at him, his bottom lip trembling.
“I didn’t want him to go. We were supposed to do our time together. I thought that if we did our time together it would make this place a little bit more tolerable. He knew me. He knew how to make me laugh. He knew how to get me drunk. He knew how to get me out of myself. “ Hawkeye wiped the tears away from his eyes. “ We liked the same people, we hated the same people-make that person. We had the same sense of humor and direction. Great humor, lousy direction. And we could talk about women like you wouldn’t believe...it was like having a brother around. And when we found out Henry died it was Trapper that got me through that night. We came back here and we got sauced like you would never believe. I don’t know what I would have done that night if it wasn’t for Trapper. Then I turn around and find out Trapper’s gone home. Dirty dog. You know, sometimes I wonder if I hate him.”
Sidney frowned. “I think we both know that isn’t true.”
A single tear falling down his face, Hawkeye looked at the psychiatrist. “Then why do I feel like this?”
“You miss him. You didn’t get closure on that important relationship.”
“The only kind of closure you get on relationships around here are the fatal ones.” Hawk muttered.
“Trapper didn’t die.”
“But Tommy did. Trapper was there for that. Then Henry. And now Radar. You’re right.’ Hawkeye dried his tears. “Trapper isn’t dead but it sure would have been nice to get a chance to say goodbye to at least one of my friends.”
“Well he’s going to have to say good night to one of his friends.” Came in the voice of Charles Winchester. “I couldn’t make it through the movie and I’m ready for bed. Excuse me, gentlemen.”
Hawkeye looked away to wipe his face. He hoped beyond hope that Winchester hadn’t been sitting outside, listening to their session.
“Well, Hawkeye, “Sidney said as he stood up. “They’ll be showing the second part of the movie tomorrow. Same time, same place. Perhaps, “ he looked over at Charles.” We could find a different place.
Hawkeye nodded. “You know where to find me.
And now Sidney had a place to start. Hawkeye had abandonment issues to the deaths of those he loved. Trapper’s abrupt departure certainly triggered some of those issues. It would take a lot of hard work and some more therapy but Sidney was willing to help Hawkeye face some of his fears.