Later that night, in-between sipping the Swamp’s famous still swine (the gin, made in different variations) from a martini glass and sucking the alcohol from an olive, I laughed like I had never laughed before. It was like Hawkeye was perfect at what he did. He knew when to make me laugh and what stories to tell me. He was, in an interesting way (believe it or not), a perfect gentleman, someone a little older than I am who could talk on the same level as me and make me feel comfortable. Other than Dean, nobody could do that to me.
It was long after midnight when Hawkeye told his last story to me, something about his father in Crabapple Cove, Maine (he had many of those stories strung all together for me, seeing as how the two lived together for so long). Others included childhood memories, school days and being a milk monitor, which was an important position then. He even had a serious moment when telling me about his mother and sister (passed on), writing to his father to send them his love on occasion, when the mood took him.
Afterward, it was quiet for a while. I could hear the crickets singing outside and Hawkeye sipping noisily from his martini glass slowly, as if it were the last glass of alcohol he would ever have. Then, after what seemed like an eternity of silence, he said, “Jeanie, you haven’t really said anything about yourself this evening.”
“Do you really need to know about me?” I asked, emptying my fourth glass of “swill”, as Frank Burns called it earlier.
“I never really noticed you before,” Hawkeye admitted honestly, seriously enough. “And this whole time, you’ve been laughing at everything I’ve said or looked sympathetic. You’re a good listener, but are you a good talker?”
“Do you want me to be serious and truthful?” I took the olive from the bottom of the glass and sucked on it, tasting the bitterness surrounding it. Damn, this stuff is good.
“Sometimes, I prefer it.” Hawkeye got up from his seat (his cot) and took my glass (I was sitting on a chair across from him), refilling it for me at the still by Trapper’s cot. Then, after seeing my unspoken thanks, he added, “You seem like a down-to-earth, solemn person. You’re too shy around other people and seem to want to open up to someone, if they would listen to you. You have a close relationship with Henry obviously, but he’s too busy to notice much of anything these days, especially you. You don’t like to speak up, either.”
I looked around the Swamp frantically (Trapper and Frank Burns were not around) and wished that nobody else but Hawkeye hear this, seeing as how things get around quickly in a camp like the 4077th. My worries about being overheard were confounded, though, when Hawkeye informed me, as he down with his drink again, that both of his bedmates were out for the night and nobody was likely to listen in on us, since nobody bothers him unless it was an emergency or if some nurse wanted something from him (I almost snickered). Frank was with Margaret (probably arousing his wife’s suspicions) and Trapper was in the Supply Room with one of the other nurses (sucking face and confirming his wife’s wild conspiracy theories).
I sighed. “There isn’t much about me,” I started slowly and with hesitation. “I’m a younger twin, my brother Dean is the oldest. My parents divorced when I was young, I think five, and my mother remarried later on and took me and Dean on a wild moving frenzy. Both of them – well, all three of the so-called parental unit – are alcoholics. My stepfather is an ass. My brother was my only companion, really, and…”
I trailed, but then continued, picking up where I left off. I had a sob story going on before long, but I was sure that Hawkeye didn’t mind. I mean, he listened to my whole story and encouraged me on a lot of the time every time I stopped, telling me that it was ok to move on, to tell me everything I could. I knew that he was listening to me by his body language when I looked back at him: practically staring at me at eye level, not being distracted by some other trinket or person, whatever. This, most of all, encouraged me to go on. I knew that he would be a true friend.
I was vague at first, but then detailed everything: how Clarence, my own stepfather (who had been chasing me around since he knew me) raped me and impregnated me, but I started a miscarriage at Henry’s front door late one night about five months prematurely; how my mother’s activities in Church blinded her to her husband’s infidelities and what else was really going on, like him trying to control me and Dean; how my own father would argue with my mother and stepfather, making us twins choose sides and hitting us in the face and then beating us when we did not chose his side, me so more than Dean.
I had tears rolling down my face by then, explaining how both Dean and I escaped. I went to nursing school for the military and he went off to just join the military (just like Clarence threatened to do to him, but he went out anyway), just like our father, and fought the Nazis. We were both eighteen years old.
Then, I went into the subject of Lorraine and Henry before Hawkeye could ask me. Lorraine was our neighbor in Bloomington, when we finally settled there and stopped moving away from my father, and she always watched me and Dean, but, as I explained to Hawkeye, she and Henry were also trying to become our guardians because they knew how dysfunctional our lives were. And, when that failed, she and Henry would take turns keeping an eye out for us, trying to help us, even offering to help us in whatever we did. Lorraine home-schooled me for a while, I explained, because half the time I was sick, stressed out and always wondering when my life would end (sometimes, trying to end it myself a few times over). However, very slowly, her ministrations, along with Henry’s, helped me to cope and to leave them without a second thought, barely without a goodbye, was hard, but I knew that I had to do it or cling to them forever.
Obviously, Dean and I found our own footing by ourselves (Dean more so than I did), which Henry is still angry about, in a way. Many secrets had to be kept afterward to keep him at bay, to keep him away and to keep the hard feelings away, many of them I wish I could tell someone about. I could not help myself, but I even told Hawkeye things I never told Henry, like when I was West Germany, how I spied on the Soviets under a different name (“It’s a lovely country, but the food is lousy sometimes and the Soviets have the best cigarettes,” I mentioned) and there was told my duties as a nurse were needed in Korea. I didn’t tell him much else, forgetting, of course, the most important force of all when I was in Europe: my lover, my falcon, the one I could never mention.
I calmed down by the end of it, when I explained how I came to the 4077th and how lonely and humiliated I felt with everything and everybody around me, even going as far to explain that my excitement over new assignments was not even there after a while.
“I even wrote to Henry about it,” I mentioned. “Radar didn’t bother to give it to him after he found it on his desk and tried to hide it because of the personal tone it had, some of it pretty hideous or some people’s eyes. The Majors then found it, read it and complained about it instead of punishing me for ‘wasting supplies’. Henry was yelling at me in his office about it. And that was when you came in.”
I never really told my life story to anyone before. I was afraid to, too reserved and too shy of everybody and what they would think of me if I dis. However, when I looked to Hawkeye, half-expecting him to scoff at me and walk away (even though I knew he was listening), I saw his face: incredulous, full of surprise and disbelief at what had happened. He didn’t even drink his swill that he went up to get. Indeed, his hand stood in midair, his glass almost tipping over and spilling. At the last moment, though, he noticed it and took a gulp quickly, as if to forget what I said because it seemed like too much to comprehend, too much to bear almost.
Soon, though, Hawkeye regained his composure, shaking off his last drink. “I’m sorry, Jeanie,” was all he said. “I’m sorry for everything.”
I shrugged my shoulders, like it was nothing to be sorry about (it wasn’t Hawkeye’s fault any of this happened, anyhow, so he shouldn’t be apologizing). It did feel like nothing, though.
“Hawkeye, it’s been a long time since it’s happened,” I only replied. “It’s not anything you can help with. I guess I just needed someone’s ear.”
But the doctor shook his head, unbelieving still. “If there’s anything I can do for you, you know you can come to me.”
Hawkeye then took another gulp of swill, showing me his true face, if only for a moment: tired, depressed and desperate. For what he was desperate for, I could not tell. But he looked like he needed help and humor was his only way of coping if he could not get that help. All of the jokes he said or the pranks he pulled were things to keep him sane from an insane place. I felt sorry for him instead of myself. Just his face put a lot into perspective for me. What a pity party I’ve been!
Rising and gulping down my fifth glass quickly, I sighed. “And you know you can do the same thing,” I whispered, knowing that Hawkeye heard me (he nodded his head to tell me he heard) and would, most likely, do it. He knew already that I was a good listener.
Hawkeye finally got up and put his glass down on some sort of nightstand (his footlocker). “Do you want me to walk you back to your tent?” he then asked, knowing that it was time to do so (and knowing that he probably didn’t need to ask me anyway, but just needed something to get a conversation going because the moment seemed awkward).
After all, just telling each other heavy stories, it seemed right to go to bed and to sleep it off. And my heart was already so heavy from holding his grief and mine.
Without even answering him and hearing my own wistful sigh once more – and just watching my face all evening – he knew that I was, slowly, falling in love with him. I didn’t know it then (I only knew that I liked Hawkeye very, very much), but it showed. It took some time for me to notice it, though, and when I did, I felt kind of stupid, I admit.
I got up, putting my empty martini glass down, and walked over to Hawkeye and took his arm, the two of us entwined together as we went out of the Swamp’s door and ambled to the nurses’ tent a little ways down, the smell and mess of the Swamp slowly disappearing from my senses. I started to miss it, but, then again, I knew that I was going back there again.
However, at the door of my quarters (after a quiet walk, watching the night creatures of the camp on the way there) Hawkeye and I separated from our tangled arms. I was about to open the door quietly – not disturbing the sleeping nurses inside – when Hawkeye stepped in front of me and closed it with a loud bang. I was going to protest this and mention how the nurses hate me already and would complain to Major Houlihan is they knew it was me that was the cause of that noise. And he knew this and put a finger to my lips, as if to shush me.
I savored his finger on my lips – the soft touch tingled my body, sending shivers down of my spine – and was tempted to bite back, but did not because of that wonderful feeling running up and down my body. Instead, I looked his eyes, searching for something in those blue blobs of love, trying to understand why I was chosen to be his companion for the night, but nothing was there except for a deep, dark pool I can swim in easily. I was trapped. I was going to be forever trapped in his blue eyes.
Then, without me knowing how or why and with me staring so intently into his eyes, Hawkeye took me into his arms and kissed me: passionately, hotly and with so much feeling that it took my breath away. He did it so quickly that I didn’t know that it happened until I felt his soft lips on mine. And it was so amazing, me not believing what had happened. I couldn’t understand it, but somehow, it made sense to me, this doctor kissing me in front of my quarters’ door.
Suddenly, though, Hawkeye left me in suspense, left me in utter breathlessness, breaking off all of the sensual feelings I had, as he broke off.
My God, I could not believe it. And all I could do was watch him walk back to the Swamp, only a minute away from me, disbelieving of the whole night and how it all happened.