by Trapper's Girl
He was crazy – consensus on that much was overwhelming. Crazy, screwball, nuthouse. A regular bastard. What else he was was harder to fathom. So many ways to describe him. So many words. Things that people said about him, and other things that they didn't, but that I knew (know) anyway. He was a bastard. Cynical, pessimistic, bitter. Didn't give a damn. Insane, mental, haunted... He used to wear a yellow bathrobe.
No... not just yellow; golden. Bright yellow-gold, exuberant and cocky like his personality. Everything about Trapper John was shades of gold. Dusty golden curls, yellow devil's eyes, skin of pale, burnished copper, an outrageous mustard-patterned Hawaiian shirt. And the yellow bathrobe. Yellow and stubborn like ragwort, the only flowers that grow in this upholstered cesspool pf a place. Yellow and oblivious like the crayon sunshines Becky and Kathy drew on brown paper and posted to Daddy away at war. Bright yellow, because when something's that confident and that open you laugh, and don't notice so much the other things hiding beneath the surface.
I remember those bathrobes. Once they were a set of three. His was yellow, like himself. Mine, red... I don't know exactly why. Maybe because if you're wearing red, the blood doesn't show, and you can pretend it's only spilt gin soaking right through to your skin, warm and red like a kid's lifeblood. (Like Napoleon. Haahaa... Except that he would have been spilling the blood, and I was trying to staunch it. Trying to soak up all the blood in Korea with a red bathrobe. Only fools and doctors.)
Henry's robe was blue. Pale, ice-blue like those eyes. Brave, like the baby-powder blue hospital pyjamas buttoned over the shot-up chests of kids barely tall enough to fill them. Brave, and stupid, and just too damn naïve. (But how could you have known? Why that one plane out of all the millions?) Blue, like the Sea of Japan (But I won't think that), and like the dye leaking from a new (ridiculous) suit, bleeding and bleeding until the whole sea was the colour of Henry's eyes.
Red and yellow and blue... we bought them on the same day on leave in Tokyo. Cut the appendix outta some General's kid (And why him, when hundreds, thousands of guys were dying on the front line?) Showed up in Mrs Lee's at oh-fivehundred in the morning wearing nothing but Papa-San hats and those bathrobes. Because that's the sort of thing we did. Because we were crazy (Crackers, bonkers, section-eight, nutsified.) Because when you're crazy, the madness is easier to ignore.
I still write sometimes. To Trapper John. (But not to Henry. Because although I'm crazy, I'm not mad. And what's the use in writing to a dead man?) I still write letters, but I never send them. Because I know that if I send them, he still might not reply. (And that's worse than not knowing, right?) I wonder if he still wears a yellow bathrobe. I wonder, but I don't really think so. The yellow bathrobe was a thing of the war, something to hide behind, so that he always looked cheerful even though he wasn't. It was a defence. (And who needs those now? Not us. Not you either, ay Henry?) Now that Trapper's home he shouldn't be hiding still. (Should he?)
It's hard now, to think of him. I think perhaps I hate him. Hate him for leaving me, just like I hate Henry for dying. And then I think of him, and I wonder what happened. I remember him like he used to be: the wild card, the joker, the clown. (And his jokes were always somehow funnier than BJ's. Fresher, wilder, more dangerous. Just something in the quirk of his speech, the raised eyebrow, the mocking, laughing eyes, that stupid, irrepressible grin.)
I remember all the things they used to say of him. Impossible, impertinent, incorrigible Trapper John. And strangely, when I think of him I think of love, which God knows is in short enough supply around here. It's as though maybe Trap drained all the love outta this stinking place, and then when it was gone, he just up and left too. Because he needed love. Needed it like he needed the alcohol. Because it was an escape. Because it drove him away for a while. From himself, from this place. And it didn't matter if it was chasing every goddamn nurse on the base, or screwing the arse off of every geisha in Tokyo, or even just crying his eyes out over some kid's shot-up body (And crying and crying..... Goddamn it, I can still hear him crying.), when Radar comes in and tells him (us) that Henry's dead. Dead. Like all those kids we bust a gut trying to save, and still didn't make it. Dead like we used to call Ferret-face, only he wasn't, and Henry was (is). Dead. Screwed up in reverse.
I remember Margaret used to wear a pink bathrobe. And I wonder why. Because pink wasn't her. She was too strong for that. Too proud, too goddamn regular army. But then again, perhaps it fits. Because pink and red clash so bad, (And my bathrobe is red.) and yet, when you stop to think, they're really just two different shades of the same thing. (Even blood fades to pink after a few washes.)
That wasn't till later though. When BJ was here. BJ's robe was blue. Pale, ice-blue like the Sea of Japan, or Henry's eyes. So many times I wanted to tell him, but what could I say? That his bathrobe is the same colour as one once worn by Henry Blake , whose plane was shot down over the Sea of Japan? (It spun in... There were no survivors.)
At least BJ's bathrobe wasn't yellow. I don't think I could have handled that.