The hours passed slowly in the O.R. (we had another session that lasted for almost three days), the New Year coming to us as Radar announced it over the P.A. exactly at midnight. In return, the unit, after the wounded came by and were settled in, had a belated gala to celebrate the coming of the year 1951 before more wounded came to the compound. We had, of course, missed it by a few days and were too busy to celebrate, but with the short time given to us, the 4077th had given a party like no other, save for the call Majors Burns and Houlihan put through to Seoul when things seemed sillier (and everybody drunker).
Of course, after talking to the General who came by to bother us (Barker was his name, bastard he will remain to me, at least), Henry saved the day and invited said General to the New Years’ party to drink. Then, the wounded came (and how quickly people sobered up!) and Barker was then obliged to help us in the O.R. until things settled down again.
After the session, General Barker left us, tired and stiff, just like last time. He suggested (again!) to get rid of Frank Burns, but Henry could not afford it at the moment. After the events whirling around the former Major Simmons (who is situated in Leavenworth, so I heard), I don’t think that our Commanding Officer would want to go through another parade of doctor officers, trying to get another to stay permanently with us (or, for a while, and be rotated out).
I also don’t think that Henry would trust another around the camp anyhow.
Hawkeye, our Chief Surgeon, was calm about the situation, only saying that we need more hands on deck before we sank under the pressure. I agreed with him quietly, only wanting to take the worry off of his back as often as I could.
But, for days afterward, I tried the best I could to help Hawkeye. While Nurse Bigelow helped Trapper (they were dating for the time being before Trapper found another nurse), I poked and prodded at Hawkeye. I massaged his back and head (and more, in the Supply Room), insisted he sleep when he could (oftentimes, he was in Post-Op when he was not on a shift or needed or just being in the way, so I had to push him out) and even bothered Radar to get real food for him when we could.
Well, the food was for everybody, but still, it helped Hawkeye’s mood, especially after he yelled at poor Igor about the food (liver and fish so many times that even I was groaning and wanting to puke). Even ordering from Adam’s Ribs a few times changed everything, and we even got the cole slaw the second time around!
Soon, however, the roles had to change and I didn’t mean for them to.
After the day I talked with Sidney Freedman and then headed to the O.R. (thank GOD he left after the session on an emergency, promising to come back later), things changed in me that I never knew could happen.
Well, this is Radar speak, so I’ll translate: my body changed and it changed suddenly. I am a petite and thin person, about five feet, four inches. Within the month (all throughout January into February), I was bloated, tired, fat and plain disoriented, and it wasn’t my period either, to be blunt and honest (it had stopped after a month of coming to Korea, as it always has when I’m too stressed to care, so that ended that). After that day with Sidney, I felt like I wanted to puke every other day.
It was easy to hide it all of course, but soon enough, I was bound to be promptly caught and made to go back on the table for examination once more. And that day came soon enough.
It all started when I began taking walks outside of the camp, in the fields and even near the landmines, where the invisible metallic beauty could have me killed. In warmer weather, I’ve seen picnics, races, games and even make-up sessions there, but in the colder weather, it was deserted for obvious reasons and it delighted me.
To me, it was beautiful – the feeling and the sight of desertion – especially early in the morning, when the dew turned to ice and sparkled at me, sometimes crying, telling to be positive and wait for spring: a time in which the war might even come to an end.
Have hope, it seemed to say to me, whispering of a name I forgot to remember. Everything is coming out as planned.
I started avoiding the people who were up and about early (Frank was usually one of them) and being amongst the hills and grass was comforting. But, I thought it best of all that I was lucky that nobody followed me at all, not even bothering to ask me why in God’s name I was walking towards a barren wasteland to be alone in the early hours of dawn…other than my love of the tall, dead grass making my pants wet as I walked through them.
Towards the middle of February, when I could not take throwing up every few hours anymore (it had gotten worse, but ceased after the afternoon sun came up), I started walking farther and farther away from the camp. In that case, I usually checked with Radar on updates from the Front Lines, always asking when the next offensive was going to be or if there was heavy fighting in the area. Then, I could calculate the time in which I could be gone and when I could run back. If I was caught sick when the wounded came (it hadn’t happened yet), I could always brush it away by saying it’s just something I caught and nothing more. And I might be able to stay away from the O.R. for a while, just helping to bring in soldiers, satisfied in the fact that I was safe.
Anyhow, I was caught. I knew that I was going to be, but I didn’t expect to find out that it was Hawkeye: Hawkeye, who had been watching out for me ever since I started disappearing in the mornings…Hawkeye, who missed having me around when he woke up in the morning, if he didn’t have an overnight shift…Hawkeye, who noticed that I was avoiding everybody on purpose, him included, and wanted to know what was going on.
Dammit, I should have known. He and Henry both watch over me carefully. I should have KNOWN it was going to one or both of catching me in the act.
“Jeanie, are you ok?”
My body and head were bent over, kneeling in the dirt, to somehow empty my stomach of nothing. Upon hearing that familiar voice suddenly behind me, I gagged with fright.
“Hawkeye?” I gargled, trying to spit out the last of the vomit in my mouth and wiping my lips clean of the offensive liquid. I managed to still my stomach and make it stop heaving, so I could sit up, tired already of kneeling in the high grass, to hide my ghastly deeds.
Hawkeye sat before me, worried. “Where have you been, Jeanie? I’ve been worried about you. You’ve been dodging everybody lately.”
I crossed my arms, stubborn. “I’m fine, Hawkeye. I’m just a little sick, is all.”
Immediately, Hawkeye felt my forehead and cheeks, which annoyed me a bit, even if it was my Love and I understood the concern. It was something that Henry would have done to me too.
“You have no fever, just little warm,” he declared. Then, a worried look crossed his face. “Jeanie, let me –”
“Hawkeye, I’ve had my appendix out when I was thirteen.” I sighed (knowing what he wanted to do), keeping the vomit swallowed as it came back into my mouth. “You can ask Henry about it. He did the procedure himself. I can easily get my medical files for you.”
“You’re awfully defensive today.” Hawkeye tried making the mood light, but he knew that something serious was wrong with me. “You’re not going through one of those moods, are you?”
My face flushed red with embarrassment. “You’re assuming too much, aren’t you?”
Hawkeye held out his hand, trying to get me up, knowing he had me in a corner: the most vulnerable that I was going to be. But, as I took his hand and stood up, my head spun and I wanted to faint again, but the Chief Surgeon had me in his arms before I passed out.
Immediately, though, I felt safe…safer than I ever felt in my life…and not frightened and insecure anymore, wanting to keep the secrets deep within myself. I wasn’t afraid of what was happening to me or the changes in my body…all of that was gone. Everything was going to be ok…or so I hoped.
“Come on, Jeanie, let’s get back to camp.” Hawkeye was helping me walk back to the compound, intent on heading to Pre-Op, I’m sure. “Let’s talk to Henry. He’s been worried too. He’s been pacing his office for a few days now, since you haven’t been talking to him lately. He hasn’t done much else, not even sign papers that Radar says he needs to sign.”
“Why be worried about me? I can take care of myself and he should know that by now. I’m a big girl now, Hawkeye, and he should know that by now. I’m nearly thirty years old. What a feat!”
I was walking by myself then, without Hawkeye’s assistance, but almost tripped on something. I think it was a rock because I stubbed my toe. I felt blood fill in my boot quickly.
“With you hiding everything, we may never know.”
Hawkeye laughed – bitter and worried – as we walked down the hill, ignoring the lone chopper behind us, the wind whipping our hair to and fro, the dust flying in our faces.
“Attention, all personnel: chopper on the compound. All personnel on shift right now head to the pad. We only have a couple on the chopper, everybody!”