In A Lonely Place

I stared at the ocean that spring until my eyes turned blue. I could make that sound like devotion, because my husband was on the other side in Europe, in the Army, in the war. But I barely knew him, and had already pretty much forgotten him and fallen in love with someone else. It's funny, how nothing alive and warm on the Earth is blue, except a few human eyes.

We came here by train from Minnesota, and until then I'd never seen an ocean, only lakes, which had no passion in them. My husband had been assigned to basic training on Long Island, and the idea was that I could stay with his aunt nearby. We could have her beach cottage all to ourselves when he had leave. Two days after we arrived, though, he volunteered for flight school and was sent to Texas and left me by myself. For what seemed like an endless string of days I just sat on the beach in the dim sunlight, alone on the sand, while the ocean roared with desire. It was an odd way to be married, and we hadn't been married very long.

At noontime, I would go up to the main house and eat dinner there. Aunt Trudy still buys as much gin as she ever did for the parties no one has any more, and when she drinks it, she gets sentimental about the war. She gets started on weepy speeches about boy soldiers, their tender bodies ripped by bullets, sacrificed to defend from Nazis and other ungrateful foreigners the American way of life. Aunt Trudy had waited too long for a man to divorce his wife, a story that had ended with the wife a widow and Aunt Trudy a spinster. She has a house now, and a little income, and a blue star in her window, even though it isn't actually her son that's at war.

When she was really soused, she'd put on her hat and her CDVO volunteer corps badge and go around to houses reminding people to save up their tin cans and copper wire for the war effort. I went with her; there was nothing else to do. I got to know every old lady in town, as well as details about their use of canned goods.

Library of Congress Copyright TKU 636740