The holidays went and were gone before we knew it, the New Year of 1951 before us. The weather remained cold, the orphans were still very adorable (Hawkeye played Santa Claus, but had to drop in on the Front for the next hour, coming back changed, asking me for some time in the Supply Room later on) and the wounded kept coming. Although Christmas Day was quiet itself, save for our party in the Mess Tent, the next night brought time in the O.R. Over thirty hours later, we were released from our duty, but more wounded came within the hour. Another twenty-four hours on our feet brought me and Hawkeye to the Officers’ Club. After about an hour’s worth of drinking, we both fell asleep in each others’ arms, right by the jukebox. Trapper covered us up with a blanket, keeping all other people out so that we could sleep.
Before I knew it, it was December 29. It marked the first anniversary of Falk’s final departure from me, and possibly it being the day of his death, if he reached Moscow that day. I still didn’t tell Hawkeye about him yet, but, instead of talking it out (Sidney Freedman, the psychologist who likes to visit us, was around on Henry’s request, and I wanted to avoid him), I decided to disappear for the day, knowing that there was no wounded coming. Radar informed me before I left after my shift in Post-Op, so I took the opportunity to run for it…before anyone got to me.
A bar had just opened, owned by a Korean woman named Rosie, and all of the soldiers nearby were raving about it, Dean included (he stopped by, safe and sound to tell me, before he had to leave again). So, I decided to check it out. It was a short walk from camp, about five minutes, so I had time to pay some attention to a local business.
Dropping into the bar shyly and avoiding a fight in the corner (both were Marines, who fell through the window with some cheering from one side of the bar), I went to the counter. Rosie (I knew it was her in an instant), who was standing there cleaning glasses, noticed me and motioned me to a seat quickly. I obeyed, seeing the kindness in her eyes, and smiled at her when I sat down.
“What will it be?” Rosie asked me, putting down a clean glass.
I put down some Army script, about thirty dollars worth I had earned in my pay the day before. “Whatever I can get out of this,” I replied, wanting to get a little buzzed and forget for a while. “If I get drunk before my financial limit is over, keep the change. I don’t want it.”
Rosie looked down at the money on the counter and then back at me. “Gin?” she asked.
“Hold the rocks. I want it as warm and as bitter as possible.” I smiled at her again, almost laughing because she seemed to have known what drink I love the best. “I just want to forget some things for a little while before I go crazy again.”
Rosie took a bottle from behind her and poured me gin into the glass she just cleaned. “Are you forgetting somebody you loved?”
I laughed sullenly finally, taking the glass from her when she was done pouring. Raising it, as if to toast her, I replied, “Yes…to forget him and the pain I always feel whenever I think about it. Cheers, Rosie, and may this last for a while!”
* * * *
Hours later, when night had fallen and I was all but cold (I was beyond feeling any of the cold, to be honest), I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder behind me. Still slumped over the same spot on the counter, drinking yet another glass of gin and feeling my mind reeling from the pain of losing Falk, I felt my seat being turned around. I thought it was Hawkeye, sent out to get me out of the bar to sober me up, but it wasn’t. I couldn’t focus on person in front of me, but all I could see were grey eyes, staring at me with worry, I think.
“Come on, little sister, it’s time for you to get back. You need to sober up before anything serious happens to you or to the camp.”
The voice seemed familiar and it took me a few minutes to figure out who it was. And when I did figure it all out, I was ashamed. It was my brother Dean, who finally came back to me, safe again…and somehow away from the Front Lines and not on duty.
“Aww, Dean, do I-I-I have to?” I slurred. “I just…just…just got h-h-here…”
I sounded like I was a child again, caught in another mischievous act, asking if I had to stop my fun all of a sudden. I felt like I was back in at Blake residence, getting out of trouble with Mom and Clarence again, and Dean was trying to get me to stop what I was doing before something chaotic happened to us.
“Henry has been looking for you for ages and ordered that, if you were drinking, to cut you off before you got into more trouble.” Dean shook his head, pulling me up from my seat and hooking my arm over his shoulders, as if he was ready to pick me up. Then, looking up over my shoulder to where Rosie was, he said, “Thanks for watching out for her, Rosie. Next time, don’t let her drink so much. She doesn’t need anymore.”
“But…but…but, Dean, I put t-t-thirty down…”
Dean picked me up from my seat easily enough and put me over his right shoulder. Holding me by the ass with his large left hand, he turned around, allowing me to face Rosie when he walked out of the bar with me.
“Bye bye, Rosie,” I called back, waving to the bartender who helped me.
“Oh, God, little sister, what have you done now?” Dean continued to carry me back to camp, the ground below me making me dizzier by the minute. “What’s making you drink so much? You never did this before. Well, then again, this is your first war really. I heard about West Germany and Falk from Henry, who was worried about you and told me about everything.” He paused. “Is this it? Are you upset over your first love?”
I was feeling dizzier by the minute and, all of a sudden, I wanted to throw up. I didn’t even think to be upset at Henry for babbling to my brother about what we talked about.
“Jeanie, are you ok?” Dean passed under the entranceway sign to the camp (sighing, I think). “I’m dropping you off at the Swamp with Hawkeye and Trapper. They’ll sober you up better than I can. Right now, I don’t think I have the time and patience. I don’t think I can handle taking care of you.”
He paused again. “At this point, I don’t know what to do with you anymore. I’m at a lost, but am just as worried about you. You’re been quieter than ever before. Ever since Major Simmons had been captured, you’re drinking more and more, especially with Hawkeye in the Officers’ Club. Hell, I know what Simmons did, Jeanie, and I’m not happy about it. You filed the paperwork and he went to Leavenworth for all of his crimes and justice seems like it’s served. However, it isn’t satisfying me. I want more out of him. I want his ass.”
I gagged, trying not to throw up, but drool was dribbling out of my mouth. It didn’t help my stomach, so I tried sipping it back up, failing miserably. Finally, I spit it all out, a trail making a long mud puddle out of the beaten, dirt path.
“Jeanie, I know you’re listening to me, in some way. I know you understand me. So, don’t worry about it right now. When you’re ready to talk, you’ll talk. Major Freedman is here and he’ll help you, I hope. And I want you to talk to him, ok?”
A door to a tent finally opened and closed. With Dean still holding me, I heard some words above me being said, worried tones being expressed. Then, a few minutes later – blurry images on the ground and my stomach not feeling any better – I was put on a cot, soothing words being said to me, a hand on my forehead. I didn’t know who was with me or whether or not Dean was there or not. All I knew was that I wanted to throw up, my problems were still there and I still hurt everywhere: mind and body.
I closed my eyes, trying to forget everything again, but failing. All I saw was Falk’s figure coming within my sight, putting a finger to his lips, silencing me before I said anything. Then, he motioned me forward, as if he wanted me to follow him, and turned away from me, walking.