Pen Pal

   In late 1943, I was stationed in England.  The preparations, for what was to be known as D-day, had begun.  My days were usually not filled with activity.  Idle time gave me a chance to think about the terrible war I was now a part of.  I needed something else to do.  I discovered a pen pal service that was posted on a board in the mess hall.  Basically, a large group of women volunteers would correspond with service men, who didn't have wives or girlfriends.  I met that requirement.  I thought I would give it a try.  There was a binder of women's names and addresses in the Corporal's office.  I picked a girl from San Francisco.  Her name was Lindsay.  I wrote her a letter and introduced myself.  I told her a few things about me and sent the letter off.  Luckily, the mail to GI's was pretty quick.  Two weeks later I had a response from Lindsay.

   She said I was the first soldier to write her.  I assumed she told everyone that.  I was a realist.  She went on to tell me about herself.  We had a lot of similarities.  We were from small families, we both had lived in the country, we both were creative types, and we both loved to write.  I decided to tell her some more.  I told her I was scared to be at the front, but I was proud to help my country.  I told her I was not that scared to die, but I was scared to die without accomplishing certain things.  I told her who my favorite authors were.  I told her some of my dreams.  I might have been jumping the gun, but I needed to tell someone.

   Lindsay wrote me back.  She told me she understood how I felt.  She had lots to accomplish too.  She said she could not imagine being faced with the dangers of war.  She wanted to become a writer and wanted to find love.  She had never been in love and most of her friends were already married.  She felt abnormal.  She said she loved most of the authors I had mentioned.  Some, she had not read.  She mentioned several books to me that I had not read.  I went to the library and devoured those books.  They were perfect.  I wrote her back immediately and told her how great they were.  She had written me, in the mean time, to tell me the same thing about the books I suggested.  (JINX)  I amended my letter to her. I asked her for a picture and enclosed one of me.

   Two weeks later Lindsay wrote me back.  She had sent a picture.  She told me up front that it was not a good picture.  I laughed.  She was so beautiful.  She was asking me questions about the books she had read.  What had I thought about certain aspects of the plot?  She also gave me her opinions.  She was brilliant.  She was telling me things I would have never thought about.  She also gave me something very special.  She gave me a sample of her writing.  It was one of the most touching stories I had ever read.  I wrote her back.  I told her how impressed I was with her dissection of the books.  I told how beautiful she was.  I told her how wonderful her story was and that she should try to get it published.  I also sent her one of my short stories.  I couldn't wait to hear back from her.  

  Two weeks later I got her letter.  She thanked me for the compliments.  She thought I was a handsome young man too.  Then she told me how much she liked my story.  She said she had even cried.  I could not believe it.  I never thought anyone would be moved by one of my stories.  Lindsay really understood me.  I took out her picture and laid on my bunk.  I thought about her.  Why had it taken this terrible war to bring us together?  Plus, she is in California.  When I got home, I was going back to New York City.  Maybe I could talk her into visiting me.  My thoughts raced on the subject.  Then a cold sweat broke over me.  I was in love!  In love with a girl I had never met.  In love with a girl I may never meet.  I may not even get back home.  The desperation set in.  I had to tell her.  I wrote her a letter and told her everything I was feeling.  I also told her I would be heading out for the mission by months end.  I mailed it and felt both sick and elated.

  A reply from Lindsay never came.  I assumed my letter was too emotional, too quick, and too desperate.  I did not regret sending it though.  D-Day finally arrived.  My fellow soldiers and I did our duty.  It was a horrific experience.  I'll never get those images out of my head.  Those few weeks in France made me emotionally broken.  It took several years to repair.  I thought about Lindsay and wrote her a couple of times.  The letters came back saying that she no longer lived there.  There was not a forwarding address.  I eventually got over Lindsay.  I married a girl from my Bronx neighborhood.  We had three wonderful kids.  I worked in a factory for 32 years and retired.  I never wrote again, after that story to Lindsay.

   In the summer of 1985, I was at a crowded deli in my neighborhood.  I had just paid for my order.  I was trying to get my wallet back in my pocket, when I bumped into someone from behind.  My wallet fell to the floor and the contents spilled; including the picture of Lindsay.  I bent down to pick it up and the woman I bumped into was bending down to do the same.  She promptly grabbed the photo of Lindsay.  She quietly exclaimed, "Oh my God!"  She looked at me and said, "Roman?"  My face turned white and my heart raced.  She put her hand on my arm as we stood up.  I got a warm fuzzy feeling over my entire body.  I said, "Is it really you Lindsay?  What are you doing here?"  She said her and her daughter were site seeing and came into the deli to eat.  I could not believe it.  

   We sat at a table and talked.  I asked her why she had never responded to my last letter.  She told me she did, but it had come back to her.  The mail stopped running because of the invasion.  She took an old envelope out of her purse and handed it to me.  She said, "I still carry it wherever I go.  It's yours now."  I smiled.  She asked me if I still wrote.  I told her I had given it up.  She seemed sad.  She too had given up writing when she became a mom.  We talked about how different our lives had turned out; compared to the way we had thought they might, so many years ago.  The time came for her to go.  We said goodbye and gave a hug.  It seemed so anticlimactic for such a wonderful story, but she was married and so was I.  What else could we do?

   I got home and immediately read the letter that was written over 40 years ago.  In it, Lindsay told me she too was in love with me and would love, more than anything, to meet me.  She said I could come visit her or she would love to come to New York City.  She told me to be careful on my mission and stay safe.  She wanted me to come home and spend our lives together.  I thought, "What a cruel joke life had played on us."  I began writing again.

Uploaded 12/20/2009
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