#110. JDM to DPM (ALS, 1p.)
April 13, 1944
I can’t understand you’re not getting any for a week. I can understand your need for mail. You can also understand my periodic inability to write a line. I have thrown away some letters to you in the last month that really got as far as your name before the well ran dry. I don’t want to be dull, but I want at least credit for being able to imagine how my lack of writing would affect you if you were to misunderstand me. I am in no position to successfully or safely absorb a Tirade which affects my security in your understanding, one of the few factors left about which you can use the word security. I felt guilty enough to suggest to you that you cut the volume of your mail. I don’t feel guilty to the extent that I will make any promises about the quantity or quality of my letters. All I can do is to write something often enough so you will know I am okay, and write letters when I can. We are too far apart to carry on any heated discussion about it, so please let’s let it drop, with you confident that you will get them as I can write them and don’t accuse me again of deliberate negligence – it hurts.
You see, at the present time I can’t seem to generate the least atom of interest, energy, enthusiasm or ambition about this assignment, the war, my postwar occupation, my pay, my appearance, my friends, Hindustani, books, chess, the weather or anything else. It is possibly an unfortunate frame of mind – but I can’t locate the cause and thus can’t do anything about it. I just regret that I can’t sleep a bigger percentage of the day than I do. I don’t like to sit down and put my troubles on paper – I don’t want to bother you with them, and I don’t want to think about them. So bear with me and everything will be okay in a while.
#111. DPM to JDM (ALS, 3pp.)
April 16, 1944
The date reminds me to remind you that Mother’s Day and your Mother’s birthday will be approaching as you receive this, and I hope you will make a special effort to let Margie know that you remember her both times. She feels that you have shown very little interest in her as an individual for some time, I know, and if you stop to think of her as an individual, you will remember that she is an exceptionally pleasant one to have for a Mother.
The wedding month was an expensive one, and I hoped for a respite after that, but $41 to the doctor, car insurance, and car repair, Pen’s tuition, and such haven’t changed the situation much. Don’t interpret this as meaning that I’m in need, tho.
I’ve been told that I will be offered a job, teaching part-time at the Art Institute here. It all happened quite accidentally, when I took the kids to see an exhibit of marionettes last week, and the secretary found out that I had made them. They have been looking for someone desperately, and were alarmingly enthusiastic about my possibilities. It would be interesting, no doubt. Quite a surprise, though.
You wonder how “they” can expect you to make a satisfactory readjustment into civilian life. Your post-War adjustment problem is no different than that of millions of guys who’ve never before had what the Army has given them; – from the ones who never had three decent meals a day, to those who never had the contacts, the travel, or the freedom from responsibility. It will make some of them, like the gas-station attendants who turn out to be super-pilots and super-heroes, and it will break some, whose response to their experiences alienates them from normal living.
You seem to consider yourself in a rather unique position. You’ve always had unusual good fortune, and your luck seems to be holding out exceptionally well, which has the unfortunate tendency to make you feel that you are a rather special person. That is just the time when you should begin to be very conscious of the opinion of those who know you best. That is just a time when your reactions fall from the category of special, as anxious hearts begin to wonder if you’re going to prove that you can’t take it. Being special loses its charm when simple, ordinary, taken for granted things become forgotten.
Obviously the freedom from responsibility or obligation to anyone but yourself has had the temporary effect of making you appear to be terribly self-centered, without any thought for the effect it’s having. But even you can’t stand alone. Your need to express love and respect and concern is as much a part of you as of any human – to receive it, too. While it may give you a sort of perverted satisfaction to deny the past and the future, you’re not big enough to avoid its existence….. Besides me, there is another pair of eyes that have the straightest glance I ever saw, which someday will be right on a level with yours, looking into them.
The thing that impresses me most in this world-wide mess is the duplication of everything. It keeps me from being sorry for myself, and should keep you from finding yourself very remarkable. From what I read between the lines of your letters, and elsewhere more objectively, it seems to me that the Battle of Per Diem Hill is probably not a battle of guns and bombs and blood, but rather a battle for self-respect and integration against somewhat degrading living conditions.
You seem to have some misgivings lately about your own success in that respect. There is much that I think about it, as you can imagine, but little that I can say. It’s your problem. After all, you are essentially intelligent, you are an American, and you are in the midst of some exceptional opportunities. It seems to me that fundamentally you will concentrate on the things that will give you the most lasting satisfaction. But you seem more impressionable than I expected you to be, and the inertia and boredom of easy day to day living has possibly given you what seems from here a less mature and more superficial viewpoint than we all thought you would get.
Naturally, I hope you do a good job on it eventually. I don’t mean to sound unsympathetic, but you seem quite uneasy about John, and I don’t want him to be one of the casualties of all this either…. Also my capacity for certain things I am missing now cannot be denied forever, and the idea of a bit of post-War fun and change has a great appeal.
The denial of one’s need for change and color and comfort is too widespread now to matter. The few, who, like you, have found those things increased through this War are rare. But your picture of a life of security, travel, and leisure all in one sounds pretty wonderful. If that’s possible to find in India, if it’s not all insidious glamour and demoralizing climate, and shoddy people, India could be a much more interesting and possibly even a more comfortable place in which to weather out what I feel will be rather lean years in the States after all this ends.
I’d love to have someone else take over some of the domestic dreariness particularly. You’ve always had an unusual appreciation of how little that fulfills the capacities of a woman who has had some education and experience, yet sometimes I feel as if your only memory of me must be as being completely submerged in routine household situations.
We have just heard via the radio that Admiral Mountbatten’s headquarters have been switched to Ceylon. Since you have inferred a change of some kind in your position, we will be very curious to know if the Americans constitute a part of that change. I have a feeling that you have very little control over your surroundings, and that however much I want you to keep control over how they affect you, even that may be taken out of your hands, if in the middle of your adjustment you are uprooted. Maybe it’s up to God, after all.
All my love,
#112. DPM to JDM (ALS, 2pp.)
April 24, 1944
It is a peaceful Monday morning here, cold rain outside, and peace inside evidenced by the litter, on the floor of this room, which I’ve just cleaned – a chewed up candle, an old rope, a bone, the usual sprinkling of toys, boy and dog. I kept him home from school because he had a sore throat and a walk in the rain wouldn’t help that any. It is a bit difficult, however, since the little man downstairs has developed very fragile nerves since his appendectomy, and since he sits there all day (his wife supports him nine months of the year), he hears every sound up here. Someday I’m going to blow up and suggest that he take up weaving, idleness being bad for the nerves. You can’t keep a child absolutely silent; I do what I can.
Two letters from you arrived this morning, uncensored. Honey, I’m sorry if I had to blast you to find out what was causing all the peculiar tone of your letters, but up to the first of March, the tone was so contented, – or at least adjusted and busy, thoughtful, responsive, friendly, disarming, and seeking the same in us, apparently, that I was as happy as anyone could be, without you actually here. Suddenly the whole thing changed, to preoccupation, indifference, the sort of evasive non- committal harshness, and the general effect of the whole thing was that you weren’t interested in us, and definitely didn’t want us to intrude on your time or thoughts. Truly, all we know about life where you are is what we read. What we read in books and magazines isn’t very reassuring; there is nothing to counterbalance it except your attitude in your letters, and we have no way, except your letters, to even know the circumstances that affect your physical and mental well-being.
You know, John, that it would be better to tell me if you weren’t happy. If that is the reason all this happened, couldn’t you have counted on my sympathetic imagination if you’d made any indication of the reason? There is little we can give you now – it would be a pleasure, indeed, an outlet for some of the frustration here, to have had that opportunity. Perhaps sitting down and thinking about your troubles, and facing them on paper would be the best thing you could do, writing has always been an outlet, and it sounds as if you must do something about them. If you can’t write them to me, write them and tear it up, – but you know I’m with you, Dear, as long as I know what you want, that and not something utterly foreign to that – as I was forced to assume. Tell me anything you can – anything I do while you’re not here is only marking time for when you come home, but when you shut me off as you did, there seems to be no point to even doing that.
Good news from India today – the best yet. I loved the letter from you. Am sending a New Yorker today and mystery book. Look for birthday presents in time. Penny talks about you every day. We love you – that you have, it’s yours alone, use it!
#113. JDM to DPM (ALS, 2pp.)
May 3, 1944
I continue to be fairly busy. The old Col. got up for a few minutes for the first time the other day. The weather is well over 100 every day. Fred has gone. It looks as though my billet would be changed soon. I may end up with a room to myself, which would be nice. Played bridge last night and lost three rupees. Three of us Americanos and an English girl. I, of course, was big loser. Urdu goes slowly. I found my pen.
I had hoped that this would turn out to be a long letter, that the words would come when I got to writing, but here I am at another blank wall. I am extremely unfond of myself and bored with myself of late. I am so devoid of any intellectual, professional or emotional interests. All things in life – including stateside – seem to have turned the same shade of gray. I feel you would rather know this than to have a try to write a bunch of gay chitchat that would ring false as hell. Remember the Rochester deal where we went to see a man. This is the same thing all over again only worse. Try to understand, even though I don’t. I think I may tear this up. I feel as though I were in isolation, and, what is silliest I get the odd nameless feeling of having no past, no present and no future. I could weep out of pure sense of great loss.
#114. DPM to JDM (ALS, 1p.)
May 4, 1944
Last night they took all ration points off meat except beef steaks and roasts. everyone’s yelling “politics,” but they love it. Probably if I’d known that was going to happen I’d have looked for a Great Dane! Our Toppy is going to be a good watchdog, I think – her ancestors were the intelligent, scrappy breeds, and she loves to bark. When I think of staying alone in this place this Summer I’m glad we got her. Egad! A man in a red convertible followed me three blocks trying to pick me up at 9 AM yesterday. I don’t think I gave the conventional brush off speech, – after three blocks of serene silence I finally burst out with “You must be crazy – this early in the morning!” He turned the next corner.
They tell us that the gasoline will be so bad this Summer that cars will hardly run. Our last coupon’s worth must have been the first step, as we have a new engine-knock. After taking off Elinor Clinton’s garage door, then mine, the carpenter who put them on got intrigued with the problem and experimented with his car. He devised a Rube Goldberg way of driving in backward that has simplified the process greatly, tho I haven’t used it after dark yet. I’m saving one fender for you, dear.
Hey – Ernie’s going to India after he covers the Invasion.* Maybe you’d better stick around. I’d rather know him than practically anyone I don’t know now!
*Ernie Pyle, prize-winning war correspondent. See glossary.
#115. DPM to JDM (ALS, 2pp.)
May 6, 1944
Some day I’ll look back on these Saturday nights with a kind of nostalgia. They are all lonely, but they are all mine, passively ours. I always sit in the big red chair in the window-corner, and listen to music all evening. I hear the cars go by, people walking – mostly couples, and tonight the window’s open so the indoor comfort in outdoor restlessness are blended. Sometimes I read, and sometimes just sit, but Saturday night is a sort of suspended time, with things caught up and in order, and nothing pressing on the morrow. It would be nicer if you were six feet away on the davenport, relaxed and contented with a good weekend book.
The ad I sent you, for a collaborator, finally got me so curious that I answered it. The family thought it might be a trap, but it intrigued them too. I wrote a very conservative letter, just giving education, positions held, etc., and made it clear that I could contribute no genius, but only a kind of craftsmanship.
Yesterday when I was expecting Dorrie, he came. He is young and very badly a cripple, from infantile paralysis when he was two years old. He has been out of college, of which he only had two years of Business Ed. at Syracuse, ten years, and has been waiting for enough security and maturity to start writing. His name is Peter Ernhoff.
He has a poultry farm now, which is taking care of his family and gives him some leisure. He liked my letter best of the answers he got – there were a lot – and since he wants someone to criticize, polish, and type, he thinks he’d like to let me try it. He is conscious of the fact that his grammar is not what it should be, and that he is a flair for plots but lacks the education for getting them into final marketable condition. He wants to write short stories, and to do them from his knowledge of crippled and handicapped people, also from some people and events collected during a year when he ran away from home and bummed around all over this country for a year.
I don’t know what will come of it, but I have room for a hobby of some kind, and it will be an experience that might help me to be of some use to you sometime. The guy really has plot-ability, but tho his conversation shows a good vocabulary, it shows a lack of academic education to a bad extent, and I don’t know if his writing will have skill enough so I won’t mangle it trying get it into shape. This is just a shortcut for him, borrowing someone else’s education and typing ability, but it may work. I think you’d be perfect for the job, but you might have too much individuality to be tied down creatively.
If it works, I get 50% of anything he gets for a story. He told me a couple of plots, one a Christmas story about a crippled little boy, which was fair, the other about a cripple of college-age, which was excellent. If it doesn’t work, I can still learn something, maybe something which would be useful to you, too.
Peter is married, has a four-year-old child, and they’ve another on trial for adoption. That should eliminate any emotional complications, as long as his wife approves of his idea. It would be a more personal relationship than the average business relationship, but there are plenty of differences to stabilize it, apart from the fact that no one is looking for anything from it other than the initial situation.
Tomorrow I’m invited to the formal opening of the new exhibit – with tea – at Proctor Institute. If it rains there’s a symphony and plenty to read.
#116. JDM to DPM (ALS, 1p.)
May 7, 1944
Dear Dordo –
It is a stifling hot Sunday morning and I am in the office with so little to do that I’ve had a chance to dip into “In Bed We Cry” which arrived yesterday. The second half was in good condition but the first half was all messed up. I have pieced it together and all the pages are there but the front cover is missing.
It is certainly a very sad and wise book, earmarking the essential difference between the way people are, and the way they would like to be – holding up a painful candle to rationalization and leading one into intricate and unsatisfactory self-analysis. I suppose that the weaknesses of the human spirit are always more maudlin than tragic. Who is going to say which is the better distillation of reality – the brittle sexual counter play of the book, or mortar fire at Kohima. Possibly a truly Grecian outlook would relegate both of them to a secondary mediocrity. Almost all things are affecting me masochistically, yet without the clarity of being able to feel a part of them. Enough of this tripe.
#117. DPM to JDM (ALS, 2pp.)
May 11, 1944
Your unfinished letter of May 3 just came, and I feel so frustrated. I can’t call you up, a cable is as slow as a letter, and you won’t get this until probably June! Nothing on earth concerns me as much as wanting to help you, and there doesn’t seem to be a thing I can do. I wish you had mailed the rest of the letter, tho. It’s a shame you don’t get as good mail service as we do from your direction.
You must’ve had a sort of famine of letters, too, of late. I’m sorry I got the impression you didn’t want to hear from us, which your letters sounded so snooty for a little while that I just thought you were fed up with the likes of us, and had gone all-out for the British end of Army social life that India seems to offer. In fact I’m afraid one letter from me may sound a bit snooty, too – or harsh, when you get it, but it’s because I had only a vague indication of what was wrong when it was written, and it hurt my pride to have you ask me not to write, after you had so recently begged for mail. As a matter of fact, I thought perhaps you had filled the gap with personalities that have made us seem a little dim and remote. But it seems to be John you’ve lost – –
Naturally, Darling, it makes me sad to have anything wrong with you, but sensing it, and not knowing is the awful thing. So let me urge you again to tell me anything or everything you want to or can. Above everything else we’re friends, Dear, and it seems as if anything can help you now, it’s that. To know that there’s someone who cares terribly about you and your happiness, and who wants to understand, and will if you have enough confidence to get it on paper and out of your system. You may feel assured that if there is anything tangible, I wouldn’t make an issue of it. When it will be a matter of years before you can come home, I hope to have enough intelligence (and experience) to know that only a few things last, and that what might be today’s troubles and problems will probably be changed or left by the wayside by the time we are together.
You’ve got to work this out of you somehow. It’s just my opinion, but I think the two greatest releases one can find are love and creative work. Under the circumstances, love might bring you more trouble than joy if you tried to find an outlet for it there. (There aren’t many loves one can live with, and I think we both already found the satisfying kind.) In fact, so much are love and creativeness akin that it seems seldom possible to completely fulfill oneself in both ways at once. But writing is such a complete outlet, in its way, that it might be well to try to overcome the natural lassitude that climate and malaise have brought, and sit down and beat it out until some of that burden is off your mind, and the tension out of your spirit.
It’s like trying consciously to be your own psychiatrist, to work out a way of action that will bring you back to a more normal life. Your life isn’t normal – but that’s too, too common, – our generation is just taking a beating they didn’t ask for, there. But some of us are more sensitive, less integrated, and some need to make a greater effort to maintain their balance. It seems as if to write is the best way you can control your situation; the Army controls so much of your life now. A dilettante sort of adjustment would give you little satisfaction, while to get started on what has been burning in you for years would be a growing way that would always make your life richer.
Possibly writing for publication sets up an unnatural constraint between you and your self-expression. If you just wrote it down and sent it home, it might release some of it, and I could save it for you, because it might be useful to you later.
I don’t know how much the climate has brought about your present state, but it must contribute plenty to it. Also, and I’m terribly serious about this, your physical condition may be much more responsible than you realize. Please don’t think I’m a crack-pot, but the average diet here shows a great lack of the vitamins that affect one’s nerves, energy, and general well-being, and the food you get there must be deficient in things you’re used to and need. If you can’t get a steady supply of vitamins there, (especially the B group), please send me a request for some, and please take them regularly if you can get them there. They wouldn’t hurt, and they might help. One’s sense of well-being can depend entirely on just this, really, – I know.
Good luck to you, Darling, – someday this may all blow away through a change like those which have happened so suddenly before in our Army lives. I’m on your side, anyway.
#118. JDM to DPM (ALS, 1p.)
May 11, 1944
Dear Dordo –
Lots of things received today – your number’s 180,183,185, clippings from 7 Jan, billfold, picture of cat and about fifty pounds of magazines and newspapers.
The billfold was certainly handy in that a thief in the night during my last few days at the hotel removed wallet – the one I got from Woods. Net loss, about 200 rupees (one guy lost 1500), but it had in it AGO card, ration cards, immunization register, pay data card and all that sort of thing.*
I am settled in my new billet with a room to myself. Not too bad a deal – faw and kuss kuss. The bearer did all the work.
The nights are now so hot it is almost impossible to sleep.
Re mood – what put me off and continues so to do is something that will go better and easier via conversation than thru letter writing.
*AGO card – Adjutant General’s Office, military ID.
#119. DPM to JDM (ALS, 2pp.)
May 13, 1944
Seems as if all day, over and over, the radio’s played “So Little Time.” It didn’t bother me until tonight, when I stopped trying and let the loneliness come drifting over –
Maybe it’s because this weekend marks the passing of the year; I never really thought we’d ever be apart a year. But we drove to New York on a warm Saturday a year ago, through storms and the silent parkways and along the gray River full of gray boats. And walked the steamy, moist, crowded streets on a Saturday night, like tonight, and in the sunny Sunday morning of a Mother’s Day, like tomorrow.
And met Fred Albiani, who’s rounding his year like a dream, completing his circle with uncanny timing. I hope I can see him, but it might be better not to. It could be so disappointing. After all, he’s almost a complete stranger – he was vulnerable the last time I saw him, but if he’s wearing his shell this time, especially if there are a lot of cackling people around, it could be just more frustrating.
When I heard you had to go, I thought I’d die. And the night I left you, and the next day, (driving back alone) was a sickness more real than I have ever known. In the year since, the superficial adjustment has been better than one could hope to expect, and sometimes you have been as near as you are tonight. But underneath all of it, you’re terribly near – you’re still part of my flesh and bones and the blood that warms me and the heart that beats in me and the quality of my mind and spirit and my body that is the flame and the light and the life, and is called love.
I’ve seen you wanting and hungering and naked and afraid for it, and warmed and blessed and folded in it.
We’ve never written love letters – it just isn’t anything you can put on paper, and because of that sometimes the distance seems great, impenetrable, unyielding. But there are times of solitude and times among all people when all the miles are nothing, and you are just across the room, beside me in the car, – inside me, everywhere. It is because, tho we’ve never had our share of security or leisure or pleasure in which to enjoy each other and fulfill what exists, we’ve known each other deeply and totally, and completely, down to the last two per cent, the last “margin of safety.”
It’s bitter and sad to lose, day after day, the touch of the hand, the cheek, the warm goodness of lips, the reassuring presence, the silent sharing, the friendly meeting of eyes, of thoughts, the tolerance, the impatience, the understanding smile – the aching, yearning hunger of body that nothing can satisfy.
Burning dry, like a crust, bleaching bare, like a bone – nothing to do but wait… But piled up hours, and a crushing load of days, and an aching void of years if it must be, don’t seem to make the reality of you one bit less real; it could all melt away with one long look.
Time and space can numb the heart, can strain the flesh, and weary the waiting mind, but the core of the flame is as living and clean and sure as life itself.
It is a slow dull throbbing place where emptiness
Winds slowly upon itself, an endless bolt of heavy velvet
Black and lusterless, moving with weary undulations.
Sounds tremble through on padded paws, made somber
By gloom and the slow and steady weaving of the shuttles of solitude.
Delicately jointed and cast and glued with fragile threads
The structure balances bleakly on verge and brink:
The bright careless flash of your voice
Would crash the house of gloom which weaves in your absence.
#120. JDM to DPM (ALS, 1p.)
May 20, 1944
Received your 190 today, and no other mail.
As far as popular music is concerned, there is now a radio station that broadcasts US programs from close by which gives all of the latest tunes. The only catch is that I have yet to listen to it except inadvertently through walls from neighboring rooms. I haven’t any great urge to listen to the new songs – I suppose that that is something that can wait. Don’t hear Tokyo Rose, but I have heard a bit of Java broadcasts of classics.
I didn’t get your ad yet on the collaborator. I think it is a fine thing, in that it broadens your horizons a bit. You and I both realize that you are going to need more than an empty home and fireside to keep contented. Plan to do a good enough job to get some cash together.
Speaking of differences growing up throughout the years of separation, I am enclosing a photo and would like a frank opinion. It was taken yesterday.
The heat continues, the prickly heat also continues. My clothes are going to ruin from the dobi beating them on rocks, my antisocial attitude is slowly but surely eliminating the very few friends I have made over here. All in all, I would welcome a nice big case of amnesia in that I am so damn tired of myself. MacDonald, the complete mess, caught in a mass of emotional masochism with no apparent way to get out of it. I certainly didn’t expect this out of the war. It is nonsense, and yet I feel that my inability to pull out is losing me everything I have had, including you.
#121. DPM to JDM (ALS, 1p.)
May 24, 1944
Nothing much has happened to Pencil and me this weekend. We went to church this morning, to a Universalist-Unitarian church, and tho I don’t think there were more than 30 people in the whole congregation, I liked it better than any we’ve tried so far.
What do you look like now? I haven’t seen a picture of you for several months. Of course I haven’t done very well by you there, one feels so foolish asking someone to take one’s own picture.
Are we to have wedding rings someday? Everywhere Dorrie and I go with Pen people think she’s the momma. We don’t know why unless they look for the wedding rings. A boy at the USO asked her last Sunday when she took him in there, if Penny was the child of her first marriage, because he heard she was married in March this year. She loved that.
Gee, I’ve seen a lot of uniforms today. They always made me feel lonesome. But I’ve never seen gold leaves on anyone as young as you.
#122. DPM to JDM (ALS, 2pp.)
May 25, 1944
It isn’t your habit to read a letter more than once, so this time, please read this one carefully, and think when you read it, so you won’t misunderstand.
For nearly three months now, since a change in you first became apparent, and you soon acknowledged your malaise, we have tip-toed around it as if it were some horrible disease, or some fragile link between you and your sanity, until I think the whole thing has assumed grotesque proportions.
Perhaps you don’t realize how much it has been with me, but knowing how close I feel to you, how little else I have to think about, anyway, and with what concern I would view so intense a condition were you here, you probably can deduce that with you so far away, of late I have spent my thinking moments with little else. It is obvious that it is something that affects you daily and unbearably, so it is natural that I should consider it serious, and you mentioned quite freely in your last letter that it is, indeed, a specific something.
I don’t want to make an issue of being told more, or to force your confidence. Obviously to do so might, among other things force a restraint on your future letters. But all we have had for a year is letters, and that may be all we will have for more years, and it is only through letters that we can maintain the understanding and mutual confidence we will need when letters are no longer necessary.
Recognizing that there could be several reasons for your preferring to talk about it, to writing – censorship, pride, lack of belief in your ability to put it into words, or your fear of my not understanding, I’m going to lay my cards on the table and say that it has got to a point where my state of mind makes it necessary for me to ask you to give me some indication of at least the nature of the reason for this situation.
I realize that there are problems in your new world, as well as diversions, but put yourself in my place, in the same old groove. You are someone I really searched for, and having found you, you are actually the center of my life, my axis, – as one’s husband might well be. Now that you are gone, I am limited to the routine of being mostly confined to the care and the companionship of a five-year-old child. I do not resent this: I love it, but for financial and practical reasons it is not yet possible for me to take on some other consuming responsibility or interest, and while I feel that it is right and natural that he should have almost my whole physical time, the job leaves part of my mind and heart quiet and open. That is your part, and I’ve chosen that it should remain a big part, and I have chosen not to fill the emptiness with some real or synthetic stop gap. It seems that that is a reasonable adjustment between a husband and wife whose marriage is affected by something entirely beyond their control.
So that anything that affects you deeply must in time have its effect on me. At this point that effect has become uncertainty, – insecurity. I can’t even determine what you expect of me because of it. I can’t tell whether, in spite of telling me, you expect me to ignore it – which isn’t possible, because of the change in you. Or whether you want sympathy, understanding and a sort of emotional stability from me. Naturally you may not know too much about it yourself, but you probably don’t realize that you’ve got me out on a limb, – very unhappily, because you’ve let it become part of my life and I don’t know what it is or what to do about it. My life hasn’t been very secure, -perhaps as a result my sense of security isn’t very stable. Yours also seems to be none too sure now. I don’t know how much you want my help, but it would help me to have some knowledge of whether what has upset you is the job, an individual, some misjudgment or mistake, a situation, an enemy, or some fear. It seems to be something serious enough to make you sick at heart and changed. You wouldn’t want me to remain indifferent to that, yet how can I feel concern without trying to analyze it, and one’s imagination can always run circles around reality!
It makes me sick to think that since there is a specific reason, the Lehners and the Bowlins will know and tell it all over, and I haven’t even the mental fortification of knowledge.
As for discussing it conversationally, how do you think we can go on for several years with any normal adjustment, with something like this awaiting explanation? And how could we ever meet, with the tension it will increasingly create to mar your homecoming?
We have been forced by this War to live a horrid, abnormal, frustrating kind of life. Solving our problems through the mails is harder, but magnified they would become, set aside until the War is over. We can only live this out one day at a time. We can’t put off our life until someday years from now, building up tension and misunderstanding. This is our life. These days don’t go on a separate record, to be totaled up after the War, it’s still our life, even if most of it’s on paper, and why should it not be as complete in unity and confidence as it is possible to make it?
So for Heaven’s sake please try to give me some knowledge so that I can give you whatever you need for me as the right response, if need be to take it like a lady – with you – to regain the peace and understanding that has made the last year endurable, and most of all get rid of miserable conjecturing.
#123. JDM to DPM (ALS, 1p.)
May 26, 1944
Appreciate your reassurances, patience and understanding. Also appreciate your willingness to reassure me as to the attitude with which you would accept any news about me which might be unpleasant. I don’t have anything unpleasant to tell you. If I did have, it might be easier. You say you would not make an issue of anything tangible. The only thing tangible about which you could and probably should make an issue happened a long, long time ago, and is so far lost in the mists of antiquity that there is no point in bringing it up. The intangible trouble is this – you spoke of the two greatest releases? Well, I have a version of the former, and I’m being good about it and the whole thing is bringing me nothing but quiet madness. I am the rat in the trap. I am Devon in “In Bed We Cry” waiting patiently for the temporary fever to pass away so that I can revert to the tried and true, but with the fever showing no sign of abating and with there being no solution to the problem in any direction. It is a deal with which I cannot use Devon’s methods. They say all things pass and all things die. I wish to God I could look into the future. I think it is best for you to know this – we are adults and you should know rather than wonder what in hell is wrong with me. If I were being a bad kid then it would be easier because then the whole thing would be cheap. And if I were being a bad kid I wouldn’t be in the dumps except from conscience and then I wouldn’t be writing you this. Please remember the defenselessness of the human spirit from approaches of this type. That is to say, you don’t go looking for trouble like this.
#124. DPM to JDM (ALS, 3pp.)
May 28, 1944
Another nice Sunday afternoon – I wish we could share just one of them with you. Big elm trees all around, sunshine, and the quiet peace of little things.
You are living in such a different life, and the attractive features that there are in your life are so far removed from the sources of our joys that you probably can’t even imagine getting pleasure from the things we do. Your physical surroundings, your companionship, your pastimes, are all on a different scale. We must seem awfully like vegetables to enjoy being out in the sun, looking at the green hills, watching the leaves shimmer in the light, planting seeds in the ground, listening to the radio with the usual symphony, doing our un-world-shaking work, reading the Sunday paper, and enjoying the company of small fry – human and canine, and all of the usual run of ordinary middle class Americans. I hope you have enough sympathy left to remember how much these things have meant to you, so that you will want them again, and that we have enough imagination to realize that the world you are in is attractive, and interesting, and terribly important.
I don’t think we could enjoy one day here if you were in great danger, and it is the feeling that you are safe and having a wonderful experience, and capable of taking care of yourself and us, that gives us the power of enjoying little bits of life instead of great hunks of it.
– Which outburst is due to wishing yesterday that I could let you in on the pure joy I felt just standing on our hill in the country, with the hot sun and the breeze, and the green countryside all around, watching the farmer plow our little borrowed spot of earth. I just kept thinking over and over – “What a wonderful thing this is, what an experience!” – And it sounds so dull, trying to tell you about it!
I guess I’ve wanted to do something about that place for a long time, and this is a sort of fulfillment of that wish, even if it won’t last. We started up there with all our seeds, and little plants, and tools, to work yesterday, but since the earth had been too damp, it wasn’t yet plowed. We had a lunch packed, so decided to enjoy that there, anyway, and while we were prowling around, the farmer came and plowed it. I like that place where we decided the garden should be, it’s between the house and the row of willows and pine trees on the hill from the house, – sunny, and yet sheltered. I’ll send you a picture of it. The farmer is swell, he is so interested, and knows every foot of the country around there, is willing to talk about it, and tho he doesn’t smile, he hasn’t the usual farmer sourness – he really loves what he’s doing, – which seems to make a difference with anybody.
How anyone could ever sell that place, say anything of leave it! We’ve been there enough now so the first eeriness of it has worn off, and seeing humans working around there makes the difference, anyway, and after I dragged the barn door to cover the well, it lost all of its “abandoned” appearance, and you don’t expect a tramp to crawl out of the cellar anymore! The house was originally brick – how terribly sweet it must’ve been, inside the rooms were an oyster shade of plaster, with blue woodwork, doors, etc. All the things that grow in the dooryard are wonderful to have around your house, I spoke of them last year – pine trees, willows, lilacs, apple trees, a maple tree, and one sparkle tree. And a valley in front with a city in it, and one at the side and rear with farm-covered hills! You could look for years for a place like that – if you had the money in your pocket, to buy it with, especially.
We picked up some terrific sunburns, but no one seems to be suffering. I expect to get a better tan this year than ever before. – If the darn car holds out. It awfully sounded like a new whisper of the same old knock was starting last night. I inquired about a new (reconditioned) motor a while ago, but it seems they don’t have them anymore.
I’m sorry the manuscript came back from “Esquire,” but their comment is, I think, encouraging. I’ll try “Harpers” next, then “Story.” The only thing I can see that might be weak in it is the sentence in which Miller says “No matter what you are, you are also a complete bitch.” She was too subtly a bitch for such a blatant accusation, especially considering that he had considerable responsibility in the matter. If you think this is a justified criticism, you might send me another sentence for that spot, otherwise I’ll keep sending it as is. I think it’s really good, on the whole.
Peter Emhoff was here this week. He hasn’t started writing, yet. I hope he doesn’t turn into a terrible bore. The first glance at what his writing is like will be some help toward deciding if I’ve let myself in for a headache.
The DeValls have gone for the Summer, so now we can bang on the floor and turn the radio loud and cheer. Toppy has achieved a sufficiently fierce look to cause two grown men to question her disposition yesterday, which is encouraging. When one of them remarked about her, Penny said, for one of his usually obscure reasons, “You ought to see my Daddy.”
I wish you could know how much he talks and thinks of you. Not a day goes by without his referring to you, and you have a very real place in his everyday life. It’s good, you’ll be glad when you see him. He’s a handsome boy, and companionable, and all of us are very proud of him.
They have just had Bard to Syracuse to consider putting him in the Hospital for crippled children. The doctor advised against it, and I think it’s better, he’s not the type to adjust to institutional life just now, I think. He’s the one with a brain, tho!
#125. DPM to JDM (ALS, 4pp.)
May 29, 1944
Today certainly started off with a bang. I arrived home after making the rounds of garages with the car sounding as if it would fall apart, feeling as if I’d like to shoot a couple of people, and found your no.116, with picture, which sounds as if you had reached a new local, too.
After all my blithe assurances of our happy stage in yesterday’s letter, which of course you won’t get until a week after this one, anyway, I began to feel slightly depressed, and when I took the car out for a few minutes, and found it with a beautiful skip in the motor, my bliss turned into cold despair.
This morning I decided to take it to a different garage, recommended by both uncles, so as soon as Pen was at school I drove over there. Of course it was closed. Most every place of business that could made this a long weekend, because of Memorial Day tomorrow. So I took it to the Ford place, which was closed, and finally to the Oneida Square place where it has been every time before. I thought I’d find out if my orders to replace the whole ten valve springs were really carried out, as the man who owns the place wasn’t there when I picked it up last time. His helper, who is little more than a janitor, but seems to have more on the ball than the boss, suggested that I drive it over to the mechanic who repaired it the last two times.
I’d decided not to let them touch it again, but it looked like a good chance to check up, and though he couldn’t promise much in the way of avoiding the trouble, I made quite a discovery. It seems that the garage man on Oneida Square has charged me exactly double what the mechanic charged him every time. That gives him a damn nice profit for just driving it over to the mechanic’s and back each time!
Just to cover certain questions about my intelligence which may rise when you read this, the first time I took the car to Oneida Square I did it because he was the only guy who would help me out that time the top wouldn’t go up last Summer when Pen was in the hospital, and all the garage men couldn’t go out in the rain. When it went bad again, I felt his mechanic might be responsible, so returned it to him. The third time, Bill and my uncles having assured me that if there are 16 valve springs in a car, and they start to go, it probably isn’t the repairman’s fault, I took it back and told them to replace all but the new ones. Also I checked with Mr. DeVall on the garage man, and was reassured that he was honest.
This is what I get because your father is vice-president of Savage Arms, I bet. Freddie DeVall is a little twerp who makes his living off the prosperous, and I know they tell people who the family is, (which immediately raises prices for me,) and I found out later that this man goes fishing with Fred frequently, and he was there when I brought the car in the last time. So he has doubled the cost of getting the car done every time, and this morning when I was talking about having to get rid of it, the mechanic found out what he’s been wondering, and now Mr. Garage man has lost both a customer and a mechanic.
So far it has cost about $56, and this time will be much less than usually, but it seems that there is little they can do about preventing a re-occurrence, and that makes me pretty discouraged. The car is all we have left of the old life. You know what it means to me, anyway – it’s like losing an arm or leg. On the other hand, it’s more than a luxury, it’s an extravagance, if it can’t be repaired permanently. So this is my last try, and if it goes again, I don’t know what I’ll do.
Money seems to have a higher than usual place in your thoughts, and you must have some reason for it. In which case I’d better be careful, or I’ll become an extravagance, too. As a matter of fact, I’ve just started wondering if what is at the base of your sad state isn’t some form of money trouble. For a long while I thought it was some emotional situation, and felt it might be a little indecent for me to show the curiosity I naturally felt. It could be financial, though – that would be about as discouraging to you, if it were through your own lack of judgment, as anything.
If that’s it, I’m not much help, getting $86 doctor bills, $56 car bills, putting our child in a private school, and earning nothing, and saving less. When you were made a Major I raised Rita’s stipend to $32, because her sickness and the rising cost of living made what she had practically shameful. If we didn’t have the car, the $167 left would probably keep us very comfortably, if we kept well, but I felt that with your promotion we could afford to have one thing like that which wasn’t pure necessity. I subconsciously think, – and obviously so do others, consciously, – that since you have attained such a high rank, our standard of living should be at least as high as it was when you were here, but the fact that you have to maintain an establishment here, and live like a Major there, should dispel the illusion, if I faced it with thought. And we certainly could use a little nest egg after the War. I still don’t think I’m spending money foolishly, either in large or small amounts, yet it goes so appallingly fast. So you see, Dear, if your trouble is monetary, I’m no one to pass judgment.
I’ve talked and thought much about getting at least a part-time job, but right now it doesn’t seem to be at all possible to arrange it. It just isn’t practical, to try to compete with war-worker’s wages in hiring someone to do my job so I can earn the money to pay them to do it. If one could get reliable help, even, which no one can, there’d be little profit, as long as Penny has to be watched and tended all but two a half hours a day. I don’t know of a single arrangement that I could make in that respect, except to have Rita move in with us, and I know how little help, and how much strain that would be. Besides which there is still about the same amount of housework that we’ve always had, and you know I haven’t been a slouch in that respect nor had much leisure. When he gets in school full time, I thought I could get a part-time job, and though I think about it a lot, I stopped feeling urgent about it since it looked as if the War would be so long there’d be plenty of time for that yet.
I have enough time to think, now, so that I’m frequently making plans in my head about things to do, but I can’t even get out in the evening much, sitters are more expensive here, and only one of them is very reliable; it’s like Massena, the high school kids make so much extra work you wish you’d stayed home. So I’ve not studied Art, with the institute two blocks away, nor learned shorthand, with the business school one block away, nor set off for the West coast, nor done anything but think of things I could do – if. I don’t resent being tied down by Penny, you mustn’t think that, he’s worth it all, and it’s the last year or two that he’s going to need so much care. I’m not too busy, I’m not too idle, – there’s just a gap in my life, and while the job might keep my mind off the missing link, it wouldn’t make me one bit happier, and while I’d like to earn some money to give us a little more leeway when you get back, I’m just too tied up now for it to be possible or practical. Anyway, this is the first chance I’ve had to draw a deep breath, practically, since Penny was born – five years, and after looking the situation over, it seems as if the best adjustment I can make is to get as much pleasure out of the little things Penny and I can do now, and have a little reserve for the time when the pressure gets greater.
So unless Peter Emhoff turns into a gold mine, my job isn’t going to be the remunerative one in the family. If you have some project in mind that requires more from me than I am now aware of the necessity for, you’d better take me into your confidence, and I might be able to streamline things – perhaps something specific would make some difference with plans for next Fall, or make some other course of action more desirable.
Now for the picture – funny, I just wrote you and asked you how you’re looking. Well, I love that old face so much it looks wonderful to me, Baby. No one else has ears that fits so neatly against the side of his head, or just that kind of crispy hair, or eyes any straighter, or mouth showing tolerance and determination and sensitiveness all at once, and they all match up so well and so familiarly, and so beloved by me, that even if the expression looks a bit weary and sick, it’s every bit John, the one I love.
As for losing me, my friend, you must now have felt plenty of reassurance in recent letters. You will not lose me as long as there is the slightest indication that you don’t want to. You have left some room for questions sometimes in your letters this Spring, so the misery has been mutual. Don’t you find that there are damn few people who really give a damn what happens to you? I do. And if there’s one person on earth who does, it’s always there to hold on to when someone else, or just things in general, have let you down. You and I found each other when we were both in the same condition, and that’s why I’ve felt it had to be lasting, – we were both emptied out of everything and everyone then, and what we found was laid on the very bottom – I think it’s the last thing I could toss out of my life, – I couldn’t, really, ever toss it out, it’s too fundamental. You are too much like my own self, and I’m afraid we human beings find ourselves more understandable and more livable than most other people, ultimately. Only we can love ourselves, so the ideal thing is to find another self, because we need to love. – That’s quite a confession, I hope you understand it… I mean I know you thoroughly, and I love you, because of the things I know, and because you’re easy for me to live with, and easy for me to love completely, – without reservations, and over and over.
Did you ever know anyone who had such a world of wonder and sheer love as we had, for our courtship? Most people don’t even have the time, or the opportunity. All those hours, day and night at the brook, in that little black Fordsie, living inside a big bubble – pure mist and rainbow and golden light, no matter where we were, or where we went. The bubble didn’t break, and even if we had to step out of that, we know what it’s like inside, and I think few people ever do. You can’t repeat an experience like that, or replace it, and I honestly don’t think it could ever be equaled or surpassed. But it makes everyone and everything different. Perhaps that’s why you’re unhappy, too, a little – your standards of happiness have a right to be pretty high.
I wish I could help you. It won’t last, Darling, nothing does, – we’ve been so miserable, and Uncle Sam’s army has suddenly switched us into something so different that it’s taken everything we could muster to get used to the change. I only wish you could get more pleasure out of what must be a very interesting experience; – and I wish you could find a means for getting out of this in yourself – it would keep you from ever fearing it again. At any rate, you are a living part of every day, here, and nothing will fill your place until you can come back into it yourself.
With love from your very loving wife, Dordo.
#126. DPM to JDM (ALS, 2pp.)
May 30, 1944
We did get the car back today. The man put in 10 more (total 26) new valve springs, and drained out 4 gallons of Prestone (and water) like a nice guy. We had to wade across the Memorial Day parade and walked just a mile to the mechanic’s to get it because we couldn’t get him by phone. Penny enjoyed the parade, but I’m saving my enthusiasm for the parades when about 5 million citizens, home, – they only make me sad, now.
This was our day to plant, and we got there at the approach of the day’s heat, and labored through it. By sticking at it, a lot was accomplished, and we triumphantly started home. Topper, seeing me put the tools away, and gather up our belongings, went and got her harness and leash, and ran along beside me proudly carrying it in her mouth. Pencil got me sidetracked with a bird’s nest, and when we finally started again, he and Top went ahead, while I hunted up the harness and leash – we never let her out without it.
I caught up to them at the roadside, and Toppy crossed the road to the car while I waited for Penny to crawl down the bank. I told him to hurry so we could get on the same side with Toppy before a car came. Just then we heard one coming. She lowered her head and ran toward it – she’s been showing a morbid interest in rolling wheels when we crossed streets lately. It never swerved or slow down a bit, it just slammed into her, and rolled away leaving our sweet puppy lying there. Our little warm dog, with her eyes still open, and blood running out of her mouth.
I think it broke her neck, she seemed dead right away, but she was so alive just a second before, and when I picked her up she was just as warm and soft, and her eyes were so pretty, it was awful.
It’s awful to see anyone’s dog get killed, but when it’s your own, and with a child standing right there, and you fed it and loved it and nursed it through sickness, and scolded it, and been proud of it, you just get sick to your stomach.
I tried to do the right things with Penny. If I’d gone to get her, it might have been him crossing the road, so it was a relief there, but he was horrified, and I laid her on the grass and carried him to the car and got him quieted, then took her down the road where he couldn’t see her.
Honey, there was a woman driving that car, and she saw Toppy, and must have both heard and felt the blow, and saw us, – and she didn’t even stop. How could anyone be so heartless?
We got a shovel from the farmer and I buried her by the road, on the curve by “our house.” Lord! I hope she was really dead. I couldn’t do everything the way I would have otherwise because of Penny. We couldn’t stop there, and I couldn’t very well bring her home dead, – there was such a peculiar odor she must have been dead. There wasn’t any reason to subject Penny to any more than was decent. It will be awful to go out there again, but that’s probably the best thing to do. Poor Penny, she was so alive you can’t forget her. She was the same kind of pup that he used to be – an awful, awful lot of work, but so busy and bright and cute. In the evening she was lots of company for me, too. She was so big few people realized she was a puppy, but that black mustache was so cute, and she looked so fierce when she barked that she was a fine watchdog.
Thank Heaven when we got home there was a note under the door from Margie saying they’d stopped to take us to dinner with them, and to come up for lunch at 6:30 if we wished. We were glad to have a place to go. I really think most of the horror has been taken out of it for Penny – I let him talk about it and ask questions, but tried to be as casual as possible and divert him after the talking was satisfied, and a little change of scenes, instead of coming right home helped. – I still keep smelling that smell, tho.
Pop and Margie and Nana were all lovely to us, and human companionship was very desirable, but as sad as I felt tonight, and as low as you feel now, I hope, and I’m sure we’ll never get the sort of philosophy which says “maybe it was a good thing.” — — — — — Penny saw the dog get killed so he won’t run in the road, — — — — — it’s raining all the time in India because it’s a change from the sun, — — — — — Bill’s in the stinkingest division in the whole U.S. Army because he’s an only child. Is that why the Scotch are called dour? – Well baby, you can still gripe, even if it’s at yourself, and you just keep on griping ‘til you get something worth smiling for.
Today we planted peas – rows of ‘em, green and yellow beans, Swiss chard, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, beets, parsley and onions. Farmers should get to bed early. How I wish I had someone to talk to tonight. If Dorrie or Mary were home I’d have asked them to stay with us tonight. Pencil’s in my bed, anyway.
Gee, it’s about time things started getting better for us –
I think about you all the time, and I love you, John,
#127. JDM to DPM (ALS, 1p.)
June 2, 1944
I suppose that this is as good a place as any to tell you that I don’t think my number 119 was a very good letter. However, writing it has seemed to help in that it has gotten me on the way out of the gloom, but I am afraid at your expense. Your letter 193 makes me realize what effect my letter may have had. It was quite the nicest letter I have ever received from anyone. I recognize the difficulties of time and space and recognize the inadvisability of starting anything in correspondence when we cannot talk it over, but I have wrestled with this personal problem long enough so that I am afraid that for a while I became irresponsible and irrational and by the time I realized that it was not the thing to do the letter had been posted. You certainly got a fine bargain, Dordo, when you got me. I seem to be gifted with a combination of lack of emotional responsibility, sympathetic imagination and plain old every-day control.
Nevertheless, my little problem is still with me. It is like being a schizophrenic. The ultimate solution baffles me.
However, I do want you to know that I have enough elements of being an adult in me so that I can appreciate us – and that I would do nothing to make me ashamed of myself, or you ashamed of me. It is just an unpleasant fact that has come to me and I can find no way of ceasing to live with it. Most of my energy is directed to preventing it from tearing me into bits (that sounds too melodramatic).
Please write me what you think because I need your judgment. I never expected this to happen. I didn’t ask for it, and I don’t know what to do about it. It doesn’t seem to be going away as I have been wishing for it to do for the last four months.
With love, J.
#128. DPM to JDM (ALS, 1p.)
D-Day, June 6, 1944
There isn’t much left for me to say tonight. They’ve been saying it all day – King George, Gen. Eisenhower, Gen. Montgomery, the President, and hundreds of newsmen and commentators, and I’ve listened all day until my head is whirling, but I couldn’t go to bed without saying Salaam, and telling you that we’ve been thinking of you all day. It’s hard to say much else tho – one feels inadequate.
I’ve wondered when and how you first heard it, and if all the news came via BBC, and what your reactions are, now that it’s here.
It didn’t seem as if there was any end in view without this even started, but now, with such an auspicious start, it looks as if you might get home – before your child is a soldier, too. And that puts the crowning touch of hope and excitement on this day.
We first heard the neighbor’s radio at 7 A.M., just screaming loud, and I was furious, because it had wakened me twice in the night, but at 8 when we got up and turned on our own, we felt different. It’s been on all day, and there has been nothing but news and progress, and church or martial music all day. People have taken it very solemnly, very reverently and prayerfully, and I haven’t heard a single word in bad taste (except Red Skelton’s program tonight,) or noisy celebration or lacking in dignity.
It seemed like a good idea to spend part of the day with the family, so we invited them to dinner. Pop was busy with some officers from Rochester, and Margie playing golf, so we didn’t know whether they could, until five o’clock. Margie and Nana came up for dinner and Dad came soon after. We listened to the radio all evening. Very few of the regular programs have been on, but there have been across the country programs summing up popular reaction. (Like New Year’s Eve) question forums, and hours and hours of description and analysis of every detail. It’s all very interesting.
I could use some mail – haven’t had any since the glum letter and pictures of last week, and naturally I’m wondering how you are. We had our first rain for many days this afternoon, so tomorrow we’ll drive out to see if the garden’s well ???? I hope all this shortens your abroad by months.
#129. DPM to JDM (ALS, 4pp.)
June 7, 1944
It’s been a long wait, but I knew it would come. I knew it was so. I know you.
I don’t know how much of this I’ll send you. I’m just writing things down as they come to me; there will be different reactions later. The letter just came, and though the news was somewhat expected there is still a shock, even physically.
It’s odd, – the decks were all cleared for it, – no appointments, no commitments for the day, no claims on my attention for a little while. A gray, very cold day, and time to let it soak in before Penny is back.
We are so alike, even if you don’t feel that way now, we are, and I know what you’ve been going through. I know just how it happened. And the impulse to cry Weakling, and Selfish can’t be given voice, because the knowledge of all the emptiness and longing and endless burden of love with no place to lay it down is too vivid.
Our circumstances are quite different, but the feelings are the same. We’re both capable of a tremendous amount of emotion, love is in us and must have an outlet, and I know how easily in your loneliness, without a single person to claim any part of you, you could hang that awful load of human love around the shoulders of whatever person seems the most attractive and sympathetic. Because I am sure that that is what has happened, my mind is quite able to face it.
I firmly believe that the only thing either of us can do, under the circumstances, is to live one day at a time – one hour at a time, with as much personal integrity, as much consideration for each other, as much respect for our marriage vows as thoughtful, determined effort makes possible.
I believe that the circumstances of War and separation have presented us with a situation that only the circumstances of War and separation can see worked out, and since we have no control over these, it seems as if it would be better to control ourselves, and trust the God we know – the God who is love, to help us to keep on the beam so that as our physical circumstances change, (which they will do), we will avoid any decision or situation of permanent harm or disintegration.
Naturally, the greatest difference in our present conditions, rather than environment – which really doesn’t matter in basic emotions, – is Penny. I have had his constant claims upon me, and a very deep love for him. You have missed both, and as he grows more attractive, more a complete personality, I wish you could know him. He is part of you, you know, it looks, in actions, and in devotion. I try to be rational about this, but I have a blinding fear that if I lost you, something would happen to him. In telling you this, there is no attempt to influence you, it’s probably just because he is so much a part and product of our love. But such intuitions can be very real and terrible – and you will surely grant me one small psychopathic twist. I just want you to know that that is part of the apprehensions that have accompanied the knowledge of your emotional irresponsibility. On the other hand every sense of our unity gives me a sense of his security and living, and a sense of the deep enjoyment you can receive from your own part of him, all your life. This isn’t in any way a threat or rationalization, – it’s just part of what I feel and I wanted on the record. (Also that I want Dorrie and Bill to have Penny if anything should happen to me and you are incapable of assuring that he has the kind of home we had.)
I wish you would give me some indication of why Fred the major is being sent home, and it would be of great interest to know whether you also had an opportunity to come, and turned it down. I could appreciate your wanting to stay until you had achieved mastery of whatever situation exists, or of yourself. I must confess my wanting to know is partly a matter of pride. There is still a preoccupation with how much the Lehners and the Bowlins know and will pass on to others in Rochester. You know what one word will do there; there is simply self-protection in knowledge of what people know and think, and how armored one must be against their knowledge. And don’t kid yourself about how much they can guess, and tell, if you’ve given them any evidence at all, either in this, or in that “tangible issue” of “long, long, ago.” (How long?)
There is a measure of relief in all this, bitter as it may be. There have been evasions and contradictions which I hope you will sincerely try to eliminate in the future. I must add that, being human, there would be some satisfaction in knowing the circumstances of these things of which you write. I am quite sure the woman is British, – your late scorn for the American way, and preoccupation with things British, has been rather amusingly obvious, and I assume she’s married – possibly a Catholic. But whether your affection is returned, and whether her husband is on the scene (I suspect he is the prisoner of War, – if so how could she be other than a bad investment?) is still a mystery. Apparently you see quite a bit of her – I hope you will not get yourself in a corner until you have a better chance to gain the perspective that only time can give you.
There is some reason to believe that you desire at times that I should make more of a life for myself, independent of view. I’m glad you haven’t apparently admitted it to yourself enough to suggest it to me, because I don’t intend to live one bit differently than I am. No long looks at the future, no dalliances, no artificial preoccupations, nor mental crutches. I intend to take one day at a time, and change my attitudes or needs or interests only in so far as the new day presents real and compelling ones. I’ll take my chances on the old ones being enough, and it isn’t compatible with life as we’ve known it, for one to find oneself empty if the old ones fail.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be this specific – since you can always point out that there are measures of devotion, (and therefore measures of how one must react). But Darling, I have experienced something at least similar to your present condition, since you’ve been gone, and it is just possible that its intensity was lessened only by the differences in our environment – your being alone and uncomfortable, my having Penny and familiar surroundings on which to ground my adjustment. In the first case I was able to leave the scene – that is why I really left Poland. The second case has just been pulled back onto the shelf of reason, but the circumstances still exist for the daily practice of keeping it there. In the first case the situation was wildly impossible of any resolution, and the only sensible thing to do was to go – which of course you can’t do entirely. The second case is one of foolish but very active mutual attraction, and all the game of approach and withdrawal, until it got so near the edge of action that I’ve just spent some careful thinking and some tactical removal to avoid a situation that could only produce ultimate misery. We’re not so different, Dear, we hooman bein’s.
You see, once I made a solemn, solemn vow, that never again would I have any part in the real involvement of another woman’s husband – no matter who took the initiative or what the excuses. Any man, upon whom any woman has any claim by law or by ethics, no matter how attractive, is just poison just as long as that claim exists. One’s need can become great, and the desire for love, for sexual companionship, for man-and-women understanding, – or just the natural urge to flirt (which is grossly under-estimated), can lead to a place where everything begins to cut loose, – but I have a barrier -experience, and in the last analysis, that enables me to pull out. And I think you will do the same, in your own way.
You say there is no solution with us to the problem in any direction. I think it is possible for one to subconsciously choose a situation to which there can be no solution. Not to belittle the intensity of your emotion, but possibly its duration. If one subconsciously feels that the need is temporary, that its permanence would only bring permanent unhappiness, one might unknowingly avoid a situation where any direct action would be necessary. In other words, you can let yourself go now in a way that won’t necessarily jeopardize your future. Coldly, is the only way you can have your cake and eat it.
This isn’t even mental condemnation, and I hope it isn’t wishful thinking, in fact I hope it’s true in this case, because if it is I can understand without unendurable hurt, and because I am truly fond of you, John.
Surely this is a result of the war, and your hunger is real, I know. But don’t turn into one of those people who go through life tasting. You have a flair for it, but don’t develop it, – you can’t live on it. Get for yourself out of this the strength and the experience that will give you, John, something to begin with when the storybook life is over. Without oak leaves and Army pay, life will be the same here or there – get the things now that will be beside you and within you so that what is ultimately around you will bring you confidence and peace. I could not say this if I did not know that our love and our life were real, and always can be.
And one last plea, which sounds ridiculous, but since you instituted it at a certain time, you may appreciate it’s truly distressing quality – I mean signing your letters “J.” Please don’t. It’s one little thing I can’t stand, and you should know it, – now that the reason for the device is over, please write what is true, and sign it John. Please.
It is easy to “remember the defenselessness of the human spirit” to certain approaches, but it is also easy to remember that the human spirit is capable of building up some very fine defenses against approaches which it finally recognizes as distractive. The human spirit has its wayward impulses, especially when it has little within its grasp which it may serve, and from which it may seek a tangible response. But being human, “by continual adjustments of thought and experience” it withdraws from what can yield it only pain, and seeks that in which it knows will be self-expression and completion. You have left a great part of yourself here, as time, I’m sure, will show. There has to be something to fill your time and energies and to take up the emotional slack. As far as I can see, like any other sickness, this one will have to burn itself out, and like any other sickness only intelligence can keep you from permanent injury and protect others from you.
#130. DPM to JDM (ALS, 1p.)
June 8, 1944
What a world! It is simply overwhelming – and even terrifying! – to stand in your own home under blue skies and green trees, and actually hear the war that’s going on thousands of miles away at midnight around an Allied warship. A man with a microphone standing on a ship in the English Channel near France, describing the darkness, the lights, the men and ships and planes around him, while you hear German JU 88’s and Messerschmitts flying low over the boat, hear flack and ack-ack and guns exploding, rockets, the gun crews yelling, a bomb exploding 150 feet astern, and actually hear the shots that brought one of the Jerries down, from a gun right next to the microphone – and did the man yell then! It’s fantastic, and really out-of-this-world. I can’t forget it.
Speaking of Invasion news – this morning I heard an interview with the wife of a 29-year-old paratrooper from Skaneateles, Capt. Frank Lilliman (I think), who was the first Allied soldier to set foot on French soil at the Invasion. His name was mentioned on national hookups all day, but what interested me is that he was the recruiting sergeant at Syracuse headquarters in 1940, and probably someone with whom you discussed your commission, if not actually the man who swore you into this Army. – If you and he could have seen ahead!
Sammy has escaped the draft once more. He has been invited to spend two weeks, expenses paid, deep-sea fishing off the coast of Virginia with Frank Miller. He will probably take one, then we will all go to Piseco. That will be something for Dordo – Piseco.
Considering that the other three are coming home, it seems quite logical that you refused the opportunity to do likewise. I hope that isn’t the case, but if it is, that you still have time to reconsider, while the colonel is still there. I am positive that your troubles would change color unbelievably if you could leave them behind.
Remorse is bound to catch up with you eventually – don’t add a lost opportunity to that.
In fact when it actually comes to bidding goodbye to the other two, you will probably feel pretty desolate and forsaken. If you can’t come home, why don’t you plan to take a few days leave at that time and go to the hills, or some other place, for a little change?
Your family haven’t heard from you much lately.
#131. DPM to JDM (ALS, 4pp.)
June 11, 1944
The whole world watches as men die in France; the whole world reasons that nothing can justify this except the right of those who fight and those for whom they fight to meet again and live in security and peace… What a mockery it is – hour after hour to listen, and to have lost one’s own private reason for caring. No longer do we have our share of the world’s hope and despair and pride, we view it, we sympathize, – we hope for them, not with them. Because we no longer share it with you. Because our private misery is no longer kin to it, but overwhelmingly nearer.
Our misery lacks the touch of pride the others have. The site of a tall, olive-drab individual no longer evokes the burst of pride, of union with the rest of them, – it simply hurts, and we turn away. All we asked was the security of knowing we shared your part in helping to end it, your anxiety to return. You were our biggest stake in its progress. But now when you think of it, it is probably with half-conscious regret that its success will bring to an end whatever life you have made without us there, – at least you have viewed it with sufficient indifference to run yourself and us into the ground with your extra-curricular activities.
This whole War has been a picnic for you. Not for you the clean-cut danger, the fundamental fears and exhilarations of mortal combat. Nor had I wished that. For you the dissolute existence, the easy companionship, for a lone male in uniform, with plenty of leisure, a luxurious setting, and $350 a month. And you fell into it body and soul.
Or did you? Darling – did you? Or did some basic dignity and honor, some fundamental decency, some deep-seated love and generosity keep you from losing all we had spent so long in building, restrain you from uttering the words and committing the acts that it would take years to efface?
You have been terribly wary of presenting me with facts – facts which are essential to any reaction other than confusion and despair. Unwittingly I have become a part of the situation, with 14,000 miles, torturously slow communication, and only superficial knowledge of a crisis between us. I said I wouldn’t make an issue of it – to take any action is absurd and impossible.
But you show a supreme lack of imagination in not realizing now and in the beginning that every part of this would have profound reverberations in the human being to whom you have looked for love and trust and companionship until it has become a habit and a necessity for both of us.
It was a little naïve of you to say that you had nothing unpleasant to tell me, and in the next sentence say that (1.) there has been something about which I could and probably should have made an issue, and (2.) that you’re infatuated with someone else in a situation to which there can be no solution! Ye gods!
Obviously you have gotten yourself into both situations through a certain emotional carelessness or feeling of temporariness. The eschewing of your wedding ring indicated your frame of mind. It is possible to understand, but that doesn’t remove the necessity for you to think about how it came about, and to try and avoid making a mess of so many lives. All the time you were leading up to it the consequences were as obvious as they are now… You always love to pretend to yourself that what you do is your own business – You’re a mental isolationist, but you’re not an emotional one, and no one can live in a human world independent of its creatures. You’ve always had a sort of scornful contempt for the familiar, the possessed. Your surroundings, your family, and now, I suppose, for us… Being loved by you is not to be glorified, – for long, not to feel endeared and blessed, – it’s only to be tolerated, even belittled by relegation to the discipline-and-duty department, and seldom sought except when your self-sufficiency fails.
I really think your “temporary fever” is a sort of rationalization of a situation in which you have become disastrously involved. By invoking pity in and for yourself, you can reduce guilt and accusation. Truly, isn’t it so?
Well, you have all my sympathy. I know how horrible you’ve been feeling. But I’m your wife, and don’t want to be put in either the position of your keeper or your hen-pheasant. Can’t you learn that no woman on earth can fill in the gaps in the way you eventually choose to express your love? She may give you all you demand, but you also need to give – to enrich and sustain and support her love. The soul wearies of having to rally itself, after a while the misery over-balances the happiness, and self-preservation takes over.
It took long to regain confidence after the Rochester deal. But I did, deeply. I would so like to know now, that you really have fought this, actively, instead of inviting more disintegration and heartache for all of us. People do. Darling, remember Joe? Why do you think he walked the streets at night, and beat his breast so fiercely? – Didn’t you know?
These flights from reality, from “the tried and true,” – everyone has them. Usually we’re only trying to get away from ourselves. But we are civilized enough to try to control impulses that only bring madness and trouble.
When I use the words self-control to you, I’m fully aware of what it means. It’s taking plenty of that commodity to keep from putting my fury and frustration into action that might be most regrettable. It even takes so much to guard against impatience with Penny, who so innocently has me completely trapped. – Penny who is hardly a reality to you, but to whose heart and mind you are so real. That’s my fault, too. That every day he talks about you, that he prays for you to come back. – How even this could harm him, which was only meant to help him! And you.
Knowing you so completely, John, I truly believe that what you so restlessly have sought isn’t basically related to love, except temporarily. Some lack in you is practically psychopathic, and the (lesser) lack of discipline, and the fear of maturity (as perhaps as it is expressed by your father, to you), has made you hesitate to search for it.
It seems to me that it is concerned with the disposition of your energies, particularly creatively. Call it work, self-expression, an outlet, career, or what you will, it is a need all people have, which frustrated or distorted means soul-sickness. We are living in a time when these things can be helped, a place where there is freedom to take our own way of bringing them about.
So it seems as if you would be wise in not trying to bring this to a “solution.” You are not in normal circumstances, and your reactions are not normal. It wasn’t love that got you into this, it was loneliness and boredom, brought about by a situation induced by War. You might find things in a horrible mess when it’s over if you could do what you wish about them now. Most of our troubles have come from outside circumstances. Let’s not increase them through inside weakness, we have too much to lose. It will all come back, I promise.
Many things will change before we see each other again, but all the days between have to be lived. Let me know what you know, that my judgments may not be too harsh, the pain no deeper than necessary, and the bitterness not too blinding when it is over.
Why don’t you cease trying to be subtle and artistic about it, and try the coldly professional approach? Just lay the facts about both situations on the line, like a case history of someone else.
Right now you probably don’t care a hell of a lot whether you lose me or not. – Now is the time to be surgical, to do a thorough job with no hold-outs to crop up after the scar is supposed to be healed. I’ll have to feel sure that I know what the facts are in any case – why don’t you put them up to me when it doesn’t matter what I think?
This time you say you’re being good. (Oh if I could only hold that securely in my heart.) Why don’t you tell me whether that’s your idea or someone else’s? Maybe it’s impossible to be anything else. Or do you really want to be good? – I could believe it.
And as for a solution. It worries me that you have talked and talked about the future. What suggestions, what requests, what pleas have you made, how many times have you deplored the situation with someone? How much have you quietly suffered alone, and how many times has someone suffered with you? This can’t all be in your head, what about all those long Sunday afternoon walks, those long languorous evenings? – I have a right to be told these things. I have a right to hope that you haven’t actually suggested a solution involving someone else, or tried to bring one about, but I want to know how involved you have become. Your infatuation may be unconsummated, but is it undeclared? Anything but the whole truth is no use now, we’ve got to get down to rock bottom before anything can survive. But what is the truth? I don’t know… I don’t know… – Can’t you see what this is like?
Of course the time element makes this little short of grotesque. It is 22 days since you first wrote me what I have alternately sensed and denied since March. I don’t know what letters are on their way now, or how much nearer you will be too bringing yourself out of this when this reaches you, but I can’t sit here and see our world destroyed in utter silence.
Since you are keeping my letters and I have all yours, someday the story will be complete. (Please don’t lose or destroy them. If at any time their presence among your possessions becomes irksome, please return them to me.) – Write to me as much as you possibly can, it will help. I hope the story’s end will make us proud of us.
#132. DPM to JDM (ALS, 2pp.)
June 13, 1944
I feel a new strength in you, and a greater confidence. I know that this time there is not deceit, and that what you tell me I can trust and believe, – as you gain the fortitude and confidence to tell me the whole thing, bit by bit. I am proud to know that you are doing what you feel is right, as well as thinking it, though I am still concerned about what has already been done. Isn’t there a much greater feeling of release and confidence and new clean pride in taking the straightforward, honest, simple way with me, even though it takes more time and more control. Perhaps that is the one advantage of letters, we have time to think before the words are said, and time to leave out the words that crumple the spirit and shame the soul and sicken the heart.
If you find bitterness in anything I say, remember the last three months, when you gave little thought to what I felt or hoped about you, but in which I was very much alive to the continued absence of your person, and the growing absence of your interest. In particular, my last letter might sound resentful in spots, but I had just the day before read your letters to me through the Spring, and they carried such a supercilious attitude, they were so alternately snotty, evasive, disarming, and imploring, that it was a sad pastime. Two things stood out: first I wondered how I so quickly became aware of the change in you, because there was such a subtle indication of it in many of them, and secondly, the supreme cruelty of your continued indifference to what effect your apparent loss of integrity would have.
I could be specific, about their sometimes blatant callousness and affront, but doubtless you know the ones; I think sometimes you must even have offended yourself, then. So you see, if there is an occasional trace of indignation, it isn’t just from the discovery of this situation, but from an accumulation of hurt.
Don’t ever try to “protect” me by not telling me anything which might have an unhappy effect. It just doesn’t work, for one thing, it promotes deceit and evasiveness, for another, and if they were not enough between us so that I’d realize the existence of trouble there’d be no point in protecting me.
So don’t apologize for writing that letter, but only try to appreciate to what extent a person would want to know the whole truth about a thing which so deeply affects his own life, and that of the other closest in all the world. I feel so helpless in this, in some ways.
I can still be objective about all this. I know what you and I have, and how much that very quality of mutual respect and mutual confidence can become a portion of the union of two people who have lived and loved until they are truly part of each other. I know the circumstances of your life, and my own, what our limitations are, what our needs are, and what our interests, ambitions, handicaps and desires are; and how high and how low we’ve been together, where we began, and how far we can go together, because of the similarity which binds us to each other and makes our relationship unique.
In only one point do I think you are not fully facing the realities in this, and my ignorance of the circumstances impede any judgment I may offer. You speak of the “ultimate solution” being “impossible,” yet you seem to have some particular solution in mind. That seems to indicate that you have confused wishful thinking with the facts, and as long as that exists, you’re not going to become independent of the vicious circle of your emotions. Eliminate the worry about an ultimate solution, and give time and circumstance a chance to help you. For once trust the gods who have done such a good job of giving you more and better than most of your fellow man.
If you really want to cease to live with this madness, avoid the things which bind you to it, put yourself behind a barrier of different associations, the old familiar pastimes that have saved you in other situations where it seemed as if nothing else would ever matter, and maybe you might seek a new human relationship – some kind of a friend with whom you can pass undemanding hours – there’s always one around every place, and people are the most diverting and distracting commodity available… And give some time to that other asset – the people who love you, and need you.
Peter came in the middle of this, and we put in our first four hours’ work, mostly in just getting the details of a plot under control. I was able to help him substantially, yet it is nothing I could ever do alone, so I think we make a good team. I hope our combined efforts will always be as smoothly meshed as they were today, but we will probably have our struggles and our differences. He is a little slow in getting underway, but has terrible tenacity, and I think ability. – He’s awfully good about the Little Interruption. He can ignore him unbelievably when he’s at work pinning down an idea, and can be very understanding and entertaining with him when he is ready to relax a minute.
He brought me a copy of a thick manual, called “The Writers Market,” put out by the Writers Digest publishers, which contains extremely useful and time-saving information. I think I’ll get you one, and if you’d like it sent sooner than September send me a request for it.
I will not be teaching at Proctor this Summer, as they are limiting the variety of their classes until fall, but Penny will have an opportunity to go there four days a week, two hours a morning, which will help with the problem of getting him with other children. It’s gratis in Summer. He has acquired a new friend in the neighborhood, but I have to be a bit careful about his accepting some of the companionship that is available in the neighborhood. – Can’t have him contaminating the little Kernans and Hunters and Butlers, y’ know, at school.
We’re all actually praying for the ones who are trying so desperately to make this War short, and I find you slipping in along with the rest who are fighting for things they don’t always quite understand.
#133. JDM to DPM (ALS, 2pp.)
June 24, 1944
I suppose that by now you are wondering what in the hell has happened to me to prevent my writing. I have been a bit incapacitated for writing for about a week due to an attack of dust conjunctivitis which is likely to attack you in this place where dust blows around so freely.
I did not have a chance to come home and I see no chance appearing in the immediate future. As you now know well, Colonel B. had the heart attack that put him out of the running. Colonel S. went back on temporary orders to attend a course. Such things depend on drag and being regular army, none of which is possessed by MacDonald. Captain A. went home on the basis that he was overage and there was no suitable assignment for him.
We are living the life of gentlemen who are not finding the white man’s burden resting too heavily on our shoulders. We use that damn radio about which you have heard so much, drink the local liquor, eat like pigs and go to bed early on the uncovered porch. During the cool hours of the morning it gets nice enough to sleep pretty well. I wish I was there right now with a tall cool gin and grapefruit juice in my hand.
I was so sorry to hear of the Pencil’s dog. I hope you will get him another as soon as you can swing it. It is nice for a small boy to have one around. He will probably always remember that, and the memory will be dimmer with a succession of dogs. Too bad that I didn’t get to know her.
Now that you have gotten through the rest of the letter, I will get on to this business of which you are concerned and about which I have had more than an ample opportunity to think. First off, let me tell you that I am proud of your attitude and your whole approach to the thing makes me a little ashamed, but not self-pity – I have done enough wallowing in that to last me for some little time. I know that it would be easy for you to fall into self-pity and you would have damn good reason as you have and are getting a pretty lousy deal off of the bottom of the deck. You have been a good kid and it ain’t fair to have this pop up when you have the problem of separation to contend with – and that is no joke.
I have your letter of 7th June in front of me. Don’t ever be afraid that I will destroy your letters. I will keep them all and send them to you if they become too bulky to carry back.
I will do as you wish and live one day at a time and one hour at a time in the best way I can. You are right about Penny and of the fact that I am missing the best time of him. That can’t be helped, but I don’t feel particularly fit to give him much. I don’t feel as if I had enough emotional security in myself to spare any even for a small boy that needs it.
There is nothing that anyone knows. They may suspect but I haven’t been caught off base for the simple reason that I haven’t been off base. I don’t understand the reference to “tangible issue” but I assume it is something I wrote. I can’t remember what I wrote.
Your conjectures about the subject were all quite correct except for the prisoner angle. Just a distant station.
I seemed to detect in your letter the veiled idea that you were willing for me to do something about it on a physical basis. Maybe I am wrong. Maybe I misinterpret. However, it would be impossible for me to do so. It just isn’t on that particular plane. It is sort of on no plane at all. All difficulties are recognized and spoken of. All that is obvious is the conflict between the necessity of being together on the present unphysical casual basis, and the impossibility of perpetuating the situation. It is like a fever with no cause and no cure. I would like to do that if it would end the deal. But it wouldn’t so it is much better not to meddle with fire in any form. I don’t intend to. Maybe I have reached an age of conservatism. Anyway, there is something there that can’t be denied, avoided, cured, ignored, fulfilled or anything. It is a source of irritation and unrest. It is not good. But nothing will be done about it on the physical plane. I have now told you everything there is to tell. I know that I am being selfish, but please tell me what in the hell there is to do. You can take your choice and shove off if you wish. I deserve it. I am just keeping a good firm hold on myself to keep from doing anything foolish in other directions. The other party is being foolish in other directions by, against my advice, and saying that it wouldn’t make any difference were I around or not, taking the Teed step.* It doesn’t pin any responsibility on me but I think it’s foolish. There is a god damn war on though, and it would take one hell of a long time for her so to do. Though I think she is honest. It is a mess. Maybe if you write me and tell me that I am a royal son of a bitch it will help somewhat. I still need you.
(Editor’s Note: reference to Teed is Willard Golding Teed, who was briefly married to Dorothy. The Teed step is presumably annulment.)
#134. DPM to JDM (ALS, 3pp.)
July 4, 1944
I had given up hearing from you yesterday when a brief stop here brought your letter via the afternoon mail. It had been a long wait, but I felt there must be a reasonable explanation as you have been considerate about unreasonable delays between letters. Your mind is not yet completely capable of projecting itself into the world you left behind, in either its outward or its intimate aspects, but that is probably because you just aren’t ready to permit yourself to think about home when it is still so far away, and shut out by so much conscious effort.
It was a most pleasant surprise to discover yesterday that Grade 3 tires are available for immediate release, and all I had to do was to get my gas-man to condemn two of ours to obtain permission to replace them. Of course one pays outrageously for the privilege of buying used or rejected tires, about ten bucks apiece, but it makes for a great deal of security, and since the family presented me with a check yesterday, there seems to be no more fitting or desirable use for it. The car I shall cling to with all the effort I can manage; it means so much to me, and even you will eventually be glad to enjoy its dusty green reassurance again, I bet.
You didn’t say which letters you had received except the one at June 7, but you spoke of “so many.” It isn’t quite honest of you to issue a mealy-mouthed blanket statement like “your conjectures about the subject were all quite correct, except the prisoner angle,” when conjectures might have covered several letters, – or to say “I have now told you everything there is to tell.” That doesn’t show much respect for my intelligence, and it isn’t fair. It sounds like Roosevelt foreign-policy language.
Little things have great psychological strength in a situation like this. Small devices and evasions have no place in such a serious squaring up of the facts. For instance the letter which said there is no physical relationship now and that you don’t intend that there shall be carefully side-stepped the past, and, small as it may seem, I am quite aware that you didn’t sign that one: you typed your name on it. For God’s sake, be honest. It is not impertinence which prompts my questions, I believe that you must get the shabby little details out of you to relieve this “fever.” And there’s got to be one person in the world with whom you can be honest, John. I doubt you have been entirely honest with this new, and untried, love. Our friendship is secure and tested.
How about a few facts: think over these questions, answer what you can honestly to me, and the rest to yourself, honestly. Given: the woman is British, Catholic, and married to an officer stationed elsewhere. What does she do in New Delhi? Just when did this start, and how? Is it unavoidable that you see her? Has either of you made any actual effort to stop this? Has her husband been told what goes on? How can she get a divorce if she is a Catholic? Granted, her present marriage is unsatisfactory – has she been honestly informed of the facts that our marriage was complete, that it had no reason or motivation except love, that you didn’t want to be away from me, that I love you and trust you?…. Surely she is in a position to get out of this – is she making any effort to do anything but try to fill the gap in her life by destroying a family, a man who is merely lonely, three lives so deeply a part of each other that this destruction would only leave them wizened and gaping for all time?
She will cling to you with all her might and main because you have foolishly permitted her to become emotionally dependent on you. She will use every excuse, every device, every rationalization to justify this… Well, there’s no justification for it but War, and that’s recognized to be totally uncivilized. – It’s a common, cheap, cliché situation, begun with weakness and irresponsibility, and rendering little but pain and disintegration. She is as much an adult as you, surely as aware of the consequences of messing around with a married man, who was separated from his wife entirely by circumstances beyond his control, and she is facing a serious responsibility in continuing to have any part in trying to ruin something that was complete and lasting and good. If she doesn’t wish to face this, she is truly in for a sad time. But you are not obligated to be a party to that.
I truly understand this thing, as any person of feeling understands any impulse or longing or need that drives other people to hurt themselves and others. – But mostly because I understand you, and your temporary loss of so much that you need. Yet understanding all of you, I expect you to become master of this somehow – in time, and to have much more confidence and wisdom (and understanding, Dear,) because of that mastery. You couldn’t live with yourself any other way.
Self-pity for yourself I cannot understand, tho. Why should you be sorry for yourself? Few people have contrived this long to eat their cake and have it (- mine, too, Baby). Pencil and I certainly aren’t liabilities. He’s beautiful and intelligent and sweet, – many other men are crazy about him. I wasn’t unwanted when you sought me, and I never will be. There has been no obligation between us – we chose each other, we knew, and we both still know that we are right for each other. That’s why we have so much confidence in each other now. And you are being given the opportunity to work it out in your own time. What more could you want? Unless the thing is big enough to make you pity yourself for being mortal, – and a little more humble and willing to ask for help outside yourself.
Darling, I don’t veil my ideas – especially when they are so liable to misinterpretation. I don’t see how you could possibly infer from anything I have said that I am willing for you to do anything about the situation on a physical basis. Surely you have enough sympathetic imagination to realize the shame, and the unbearable, endless misery that would bring to me. Let this be firmly on the record – I would neither suggest nor condone any action that would increase the cheapness and weakness and shame of this already over-rationalized situation. You have been put to a test that thousands of your own kind in background, intelligence, and experience are meeting with integrity and active resistance. Surely we prefer to feel that you have as much maturity, control, and plain decency as they. Why should I ask for shame, when so many have men they can be proud of? No, John, – I don’t want any part of the responsibility for any physical solution you might attempt. Something really sordid might end it sooner, but you’d lose something (and so would I) that could never, ever be recaptured.
You utter fool – don’t you know that we have always felt that you and I were perfectly mated physically? How could I endure sharing you? How could I ever lie in our bed where you have loved every inch of me and I have known the thrill and ecstasy and the blessedness of your body, – how could I endure for one minute the thought of your touching another woman? Do you think we could ever again “feel the earth move,” or be so completely suspended and submerged in love; so utterly blended in body and soul and mind as we’ve been, if you threw that on this pile of accumulated trash? If you have an atom of decency and judgment left, don’t toss that in, too – Save for me your clean, warm body, bring me your good, strong man-love, and I will give you back enough to wash away all the doubt and hurt and guilt.
If you’ve still got that, it’s all we need. We will always have the rest. All else is just War and a discontented woman and a lonely man – and separation, – it is only a sickness of the soul, and since you seem to recognize that, you will find a way to rid yourself of it. It’s a very old saying, but you might try thinking about it, Darling, “where there’s a will there’s a way.” You can do it, – you have the elements of goodness, you never had so much to gain by it before.
#135. DPM to JDM (ALS, 2pp.)
July 5, 1944
There are a few comparatively impersonal questions in the letters you received all at once that you didn’t answer. (Viz: about the short story). Sometime if you have a little free time, you might look through them again and jot down the items of query and dash off a few answers. We would all be interested in some sort of description of your new boss; you could designate him as Colonel Second.
As time goes on I find myself wondering who was the aggressor in your present setup. Your letters sound as if you might have been, – not making much time at first, and then having the whole thing catapulted onto you like a spoiled tomato. Yet you seemed so firm in your devotion to me right up to a certain definite line of demarcation, that it puzzles me.
Many things are puzzling, and I get so tired of it and from it that my brain feels actually stiff. There are two things I left out from yesterday’s letter which are really responsible for this one. I was too tired to cope with one, and to express the other. I don’t want to replace the emphasis on the element of physical relationship, but they both concern it.
The first has to do with your statement of having forgotten what you wrote about a “tangible issue.” Just to straighten things out I will quote from the original letter which referred to it: “You say you would not make an issue of anything tangible. The only thing tangible about which you could and probably should make an issue happened a long, long time ago and is so far lost in the mists of antiquity that there is no point in bringing it up.” That is what I mentioned in another letter as having possibly occurred while you were at Camp Shanks. It may be concerned with the present mess. Anyway, you have something definite in mind, and since you have gone this far with it, it is only fair to be explicit about the rest of it.
The second, an explanation regarding both situations: I was prepared to hear that there had been physical unfaithfulness on your part, because you were so sick at heart. That is why I wrote what apparently gave you the impression that I “would be willing for (you) to do something about it on a physical basis.” I was fortified mentally, and capable of receiving that knowledge if it is so in either case, but did not mean to suggest it, – so don’t commit adultery for my sake.
What I wrote last night refers to deliberately attempting such a thing. Naturally my emotions would be pretty shaken if it were already so, but I have already faced the possibility, and if it is I promise not to use that knowledge against you in any way, either in the realm of reaction, retaliation, or judgment.
I well know how hard it is to spend these years in enforced chastity, and how some temporary circumstances might cause an act that might bring release, remorse, or even disgust, depending on many things. It wouldn’t be that knowledge I fear, it’s what it would do to both of us if you lied to me about it for any reason. You’ve got to feel how necessary it is for me to know if this is hidden in your heart and on your conscience. Once such an ugly fact is out of your subconscious, the knowledge shared with the individual it might wrong, conscious reasoning and adjustment and love can do more to quickly right the wrong that a lifetime of concealment. And silently vowing to make up for it is positively vicious, it foments resentment immediately… People seem to be terrified of telling the truth sometimes, even when they are willing to face the consequences. You may trust me to take the responsibility for whatever effect such a thing would have on me, in that it wouldn’t cause you further unhappiness or harm. In other words, I’ve asked for it – have you been unfaithful to me since you left me a year ago?
P.S. Answer this honestly and completely and now – even if you have to get drunk to do so.
#136. JDM to DPM (ALS, 1p.)
July 5, 1944
Should have written on the 3rd and tried to find time to do so but was pushed so much that I collapsed into bed by the time I normally would have written this.
The rupee is 3.3 to the dollar – not 30. My questionable position does not and will not entail any financial responsibilities. My expenditures, however, are heavier in the new apartment with Col. Barroll than previously. – 200 rupees for food plus service as against 300+.
Yesterday they – the Red Cross and Special Services – had a carnival lawn party to celebrate the 4th, with bingo, fireworks, concessions et al. Went and milled around with the throng for some time. The Indian fireworks were particularly exciting – the rockets zipping off in the wrong directions, and the aerial bombs dropping back to earth before going off. The Indians took a very dim view of the whole thing. They did have hamburgs and coke, however. This country is becoming practically civilized.
Played bridge on Monday, again tonight, and again on Friday – concentrating on selecting opponents calculated to do me some good if I ever need it. Won 11 rupees on Monday.
Expect to make a trip in the near future. Will be gone a couple of weeks. As you can see by the papers, we aren’t doing so hot in some parts of our theater and getting along okay in others.
My eyes are all cleaned up now. Bridge on Monday was a bit difficult at times due to weeping – but okay for tonight.
When I get a chance to go to the Post Office I will get a money order to cover a new pooch for the Pencil.
Enough for the moment.
#137. DPM to JDM (ALS, 1p.)
July 7, 1944
I’ve tried not to go off the deep end in my letters. You have no idea of the hours in between. It’s getting worse everyday, until I think it’s time you took more careful stock of your moral accountability.
It’s unbelievable to me that you would go on, day after day, so utterly blind to the implications of this affair, to the selfish concern with which you have let it continue.
My love is as big as yours – bigger? I haven’t been bad, but still I am alone, unable to face the competition on mutual ground, unable to see you or talk to you; and still you go on seeing this person, continuing to seek her companionship, prolonging a relationship which is dishonest and pernicious in its very essence.
Have you considered the effect that has on my state of mind (and health)? – Instead you pity John. John, who has everything – even someone to run to whichever way the wind blows. And you ask me “What can I do about it?”
A “jolt” you said. Do you remember what happened when you pulled something similar to this in Rochester? I had always thought my mind was as firm and strong as a rock in its balance – and it had met some pretty stiff tests up to then.
But then I looked over the edge… and it was so horrible I never want to do that again. But multiply that situation by the frustration of this, and the fact that you’ve gone so much farther in this, and try to realize what it means.
How can you remain so passive, and so unsympathetic? The quality of this affair is characterized by the needless suffering it has caused. Don’t you realize that there are things you can do to avert hate and madness, to avert serious consequences to the balance I’m forced to maintain?
I’m not threatening, I’m scared simply because of the last time.
Fewer days with no word from you, less of the irritation of ignorance, less assertion of your inability to cope with the circumstances, assurance of some effort to control the situation – a small price for the wrong you have done both of us.
I need you too, you know, and if you were to give me what you can now – just enough of yourself for the few extra letters that would show that you realize what this means, and break up the tension, it would do something good for both of us.
#138. DPM to JDM (ALS, 2pp.)
July 11, 1944
There is so little I can do about this that it’s distressing, but there is one thing I’ve felt I had to do.
In my experience it has appeared that the intruder into a marriage so often has no opportunity to know what the effects of the intrusion are until it is too late. Sometimes they just won’t regard the obvious, and sometimes they really don’t have any chance to find out. But it seems like an unnecessary injustice to everyone involved that this is so often the case.
It appeared impossible for me to do anything about it, not knowing the name or the address of the creature, but suddenly I thought of you.
You’re smart enough and guilty enough to be fair about a reasonable request, so I’m asking you to please give the attached letter to the proper party. Such a thing might seem difficult to you if you could not see the letter or choose the time for presenting it, so I’m leaving it open, and asking you – as my friend, John, to give this to her when you think it will do the most good.
Let me know when you have done it.
(Editor’s Note: the following is the letter Dorothy enclosed):
There is no possible salutation for a letter like this. “To whom it may concern” seems a little melodramatic, doesn’t it?
You probably know a great deal more about me than I do about you, yet I must be quite unreal to you, or you wouldn’t find it so easy to try to destroy everything I have.
John has written me of the situation between you. He feels that he has been honest and complete in his account of it. But there are many things I don’t know. I don’t know what kind of woman you are. Or who was the aggressor in this. I don’t know whether both of you sought the affair deliberately, whether one of you fought it, or whether it developed through some chance of unavoidable daily contact until you were both involved. I do know that you seem to feel no necessity for loyalty to your own husband, that you have consented to much completely uncalled for companionship with mine, and that you have taken no action to put an end to the affair.
John may be as responsible as you for the whole thing, and part of that responsibility may lie in his not giving you the complete facts, as he has somewhat failed to do with me.
Because, – if you are at all decent and honest and intelligent, – it might make some difference to you to know something of our marriage, here are a few things for the record.
In spite of any rationalizations John may have made to justify this, it is true that when he had to leave us he loved me too much to be anything but miserable about going. We had been married five years when he left, and economic difficulties had given us some very stiff times and trials, but our marriage is considered successful by us and by the others who know us intimately. It has been a complete marriage: we are well-mated mentally, physically, spiritually. We are so much alike, even in appearance, it always been a source of wonder to us and to our families and friends.
If John has in the past, or now, displayed a lack of stability, it is not because his love was not satisfying, it’s another very strong emotional factor, having to do with self-expression of a different kind, and no change of loves will ever solve that difficulty. It’s a matter of maturity and intelligence and effort.
If you wonder how, if our love is real, he can feel as he does towards you, consider the fact that love is an emotion, not a person, and he had a need which time and space made it impossible for me to fill. But marriage is not an emotion, it is a situation which excludes all others but the two involved. You must have known he is married.
I am ashamed that neither you nor he had the perception and the strength to avoid bringing this to open discussion, or the control to stop it once it was recognized. – You see, each one of us knows now the poor limitations of your loyalties, your weakness, and the blind cruelty of your selfishness. It isn’t a very inspiring emotion which destroys so much, is it?
This is what you must consider. John has loved me for over seven years, he still does, and I am a part of him, and much of his self is in me. We are the same kind of people, we have earned the right to finish our life together because we began it of our own free will, and developed it successfully through serious hardships, and our love and understanding have stood the test of time. Our separation was completely beyond our control, – we would be together now if that were not so. John has a son who loves him and is waiting for his return. He also has a wife who loves him, and believes that he has something here that he could never live again without.
I thought if you knew this it might help you see the viciousness of the whole thing.
Can’t you take your share of the responsibility?
#139. DPM to JDM (ALS, 3pp.)
July 13, 1944
I’ve been reading some of your letters again. God knows what for. It’s a form of masochism, I guess, -maybe I’m looking for something. Some feeble spark of manhood, and what is commonly known as guts.
Looking back makes me wonder why in Heaven’s name you were sent to Delhi, of all places. It looks as if that was the one way to exaggerate your weaknesses and undermine your virtues. Why not China, where there’s a real job to do and decent men are doing it? Dilettantism is the greatest threat to your success, and it seems as if the gods handed you a pretty big handicap, to have this War that is bringing discomfort, hardship, suffering and general Hell to a lot of people who don’t deserve it, hand you a soft life, no incentive for stability, impressive surroundings, such nice plausible temptations, – – a fiendishly perfect set-up for middle-class snobbery and disintegration. The fact you have done worse than you have may be the clue to the reason for your being there. Perhaps you had to find out a few things completely on your own.
However considering that you were sent there, and what your reaction has been, it’s probably just as well you didn’t come home with the rest. If you can’t stand comfort and privilege without the corruption of all our dreams, you should be given the sickening knowledge of all the surfeit and weariness and impotence of a mess of pottage.
Until you’ve run the gamut of your unseen passion for your greedy little English two-timer, until you’re sick of the furtive exchange of bargain-counter emotions, contemptible violation of all the good things you ever had or wanted, you should stay right there and wallow in it.
Build it up, chum while you may. It had better be your last adventure of this kind or someone is going to conclude you’re just a common, garden-variety philanderer, – a sneaking little Newcomb. I’m sick of this land-lease marriage, of making excuses for you, of stupidity, self-importance, rationalizations. I’m no divinity, but I want something better – from you.
We all expect something better. If you came home now, bringing this trouble, you might find it a little tough going down the receiving line.
First to greet you is Dordo. She’s the one who quote “knew you when.” When you were human, not a crown prince. When you have dreams, when you wanted goodness and love and a place in the sun; when you, John, were truly pure in heart. – You sure sold me a bill of goods. No other person will have as much faith in you as she had, no one else will ever so badly want you to (as the Americans say) “make good” simply and sincerely for the sake of your own satisfaction and happiness. She wasn’t raised and educated to spend her life in the kitchen either, but you’ve never been able to give her any other life, and she learned something there. If you came home to her you’d find that she’d expect to meet you on a different level. The rewards of “a little money in the bank, kids in school, wifey cooking dinner – – – the ability to depend and rely on the attitude of certain other people – – – formula for security” (your words) aren’t very obvious any more. You might find her as lazy, as demanding, as eager for diversion, as much of a snob as you. – She knows the limitations of both of us, but she remembers when you had things figured out, – a way of life, – and now that your capacity for bringing them about is more developed, she sees you faltering and futile, and she is sad.
Then there’s Dad, – the one who thinks that at last you’ve put away childish things. Doubtless his disappointment would evoke some pretty stern judgment, – he had to set his course pretty early, and there wasn’t room for capricious impulses or he couldn’t have made it – but you’ve always said his justice is scrupulously honest. This would offend him.
There’s Margie, who, as mothers should, always hopes for the best for you. Wrong only confuses and hurts her. It’s not a mother’s place to pass judgment. But how do you think she’d feel?
There’s Dorrie, – whom you’ve always patronized a little, but she is a hell of a lot smarter than you are about many things, too mature and smart to make such a mess of her personal life.
There’s Penny. No, you’re not missing the best years of him, I’m sure that those are yet to come. You’re just missing the years when he would love you as a child loves, without disillusionment. He will be much more interesting later, and he will always be capable of intense love, – he’s made of it -, but he’s a positive little character, and wouldn’t be satisfied with anything but positive parenthood.
…. So you better go somewhere and wash your face and hands and pull yourself together before you meet your people again.
Sure, Baby this is a tirade. And you don’t like ’em, do you? Or was it you who suggested that calling you a royal son of a bitch might help? Are you going to sacrifice your own self-respect, the right to come home with the rest of them, the things you know are true, for physical comfort and a relationship that’s eating your heart out? Or are you going to take the only obvious means of getting all sound again, and pull out? Maybe you’re not entirely ready yet, but you’ll never get any perspective staying there. You’re only human – no one would expect you to get control of yourself under the same circumstances as those that led you into it. When the time comes can’t you get a transfer to someplace where you can think of something besides John for a while, until John is healed and strong enough to see clearly what now only intuition tells them?
#140. JDM to DPM (ALS, 1p.)
July 14, 1944
Today is a very hot moist sunny day – completely uncomfortable for everyone. The Indians seem to be immune to the prickly heat. I guess that is because they use oil on their bodies. They certainly are a scrawny puny looking bunch of people. They are painfully thin, naturally so, I believe. I don’t think that it is the result of an under eating. I think it is a racial characteristic, helped along by the climate.
The city of Delhi is pared down to the minimum now. All the people who can possibly get away have gone to Kashmir or Simla or some other place in the hills. In the early afternoons, when the headquarters is humming away, the streets outside are practically deserted. Maybe you see an occasional sleepy tonga, but that’s all.
The insect season is now well under way, with all sorts of flies, mosquitos, beetles, crickets, gnats, etc. buzzing around the lights at night. The malaria rate goes up, as it does every year at this time. I suspect I will stay free of it in my present location, being on the third floor of a cement building in the middle of town. The mosquitoes that carry it are found usually at ground level near grass.
One of the other things which I hope I can avoid is boils. There is a lot of them around now, one Lt. I know having so many that they are keeping him full of morphine. It is probably due to some diet deficiency or maybe too much of something. It would sure be rough to have a mess of boils in this weather.
From the looks of the War in Europe in this morning’s paper, the Russians are going to get the thing settled before we get a chance to get rolling through France. With those kids only 35 miles from the German border, there must be a number of very uneasy people in Eastern Germany. Maybe if the Russians knock off the Germans, they will be nice enough to give us some bases for use against the Japanese. You really can’t feel that there is very much real solidity in the Japanese empire, but it is so hellish hard to get close enough to them to do much damage, except with the 29’s.
Had a fairly new Life, through the mail yesterday, and had my pleasant anticipation of having something to read destroyed when one of the sweepers filched it. It’s a poor country.
#141. DPM to JDM (ALS, 3pp.)
July 17, 1944
I’m full of codeine from a two-day “toothache,” so I may not hold out for long. It isn’t really a toothache, probably, because the only one it centers on is dead, but seems to be a cold or something affecting the facial nerve. Anyway, there is no place or anything like that now, – we’ve become a destination for refugees from infantile paralysis, very suddenly.
Saturday noon I had a wire from the kids that they would like to bring Bard that day, so he and Evelyn arrived in the afternoon, and she went back last night. She will return with John as soon as he is over a mild upset from hot weather or teeth, and they will probably stay until we leave for Piseco August 7.
So there goes the Summer. Because when we return the last week of August, there will only be one short week until school starts – (which is a problem quite unsettled at this point). But it is certainly unthinkable that I should waste even a sigh over the slight confusion of the next three weeks. There are now 58 cases of infantile in Elmira, and it was increasing at a rate of 7 cases a day.
Of course their first thought was that they just couldn’t risk any further trouble for Bard, and now that he is removed from immediate danger, they will be quick to realize that they aren’t any more willing to have John crippled either. He doesn’t have the contact with other children that Bard has, but I imagine Sam’s being in such a public position increases John’s danger, and of course flies get everywhere, and they are the worst offenders and spreading it, I understand.
The Southern states are full of it, and Buffalo is having a serious epidemic, but as far as I know there is only one case here. If it reaches here, we may be fortunate in being at Piseco during most of August, and if it is here in September I simply won’t send Penny to school. According to “Time” there will be a serum for it in another year or so, that would make it even more unfortunate to have it now.
Bard has been wonderful so far, he’s the homesick one, you know. We got him an Indian suit like Penny’s today, his mother thought it would be diverting. (Rita was here yesterday and today, returned to Poland tonight.) The two of them look so cute, with their full-feathered head-dresses, guns in hand, stalking down the street. They are just the same size, and there is a strong resemblance between them, tho they don’t really look alike. It’s a relief to have a rest from machine guns for a day.
In your last letter you mentioned financing a dog for the Pencil. It would be wonderful for him to have so alive a proof of your thought for him. It doesn’t look as if Mr. Woods is going through with his hint of getting one, and it would mean more than you realize for Pen to have a dog his Daddy got for him. His memory of you is completely of the time and affection you gave him. But something so tangible couldn’t but be reassuring in your continued absence from his days and nights.
You didn’t mention your trip in this July 8 letter, but if it is coming up, it means so much to have a better understanding while the silence and the danger of that goes on. You probably don’t realize that I had just two letters in twenty-eight days until today, and considering the seriousness of the burden that has been added to our separation, it made it seem more difficult than necessary. I appreciate the kind of letter you wrote even more with this trip looming up.
I appreciate your desire to be honest with me. But can you be honest with yourself and say you did not seek it? I do not know under what circumstances it started, – I have asked you if seeing each other is unavoidable. But unless you choose to tell how it happened, I don’t see how you could expect anyone to believe it was accidental. When two married people start breaking the accepted rules what are they seeking? People can feel the approach of this thing – I know – if you continued to accept each other’s company when these approaches began, then it is still true that it was within the control of one of you, if not of both.
Knowing so little of it, outside its obvious degrading quality throughout the Spring, and of watching the change in your letters, one can still make a fairly approximate estimate of how it got to this point:
You were both psychologically ready for it, and when the capitulation finally came, it was so overwhelming that for a while you thought of nothing else.
Then each of you, finally aware of the judgment of the other, sought to justify the weakness that otherwise would make the whole thing cheap, by taking on the emotional responsibility for it by identifying it with the things which are lasting. But by thus convincing each other and yourselves, consequences immediately appeared. And now fascination, pride (the need for self-respect), and the associations and experiences you have now built up around each other, have you surrounded by a wall from which there seems to be no way out.
No way out but straight up or down, John.
I don’t know what she’s like – I don’t care to. But she wouldn’t be human not to welcome in her heart once it looked like a real emotional experience. If her marriage is a failure, how could she be expected to have the strength to resist what you represent? And because she was obviously in a starved condition, you look like the only way out to her, now, and the more you give her the more she’ll need you, – the more harm you will do her to let yourself become more necessary to her.
And you – it will cost you just as much of yourself as you put into it, past, present, and future.
It certainly was perfectly set up for you, the whole situation, and because of that I’m willing to believe that it has some purpose in your life. Why you, so fed up with the upright and righteous example of your father, which is so lacking in love in all its expressions, were given everything you needed most, then suddenly snatched out of it, and put down in circumstances conducive in every way to this sort of situation, cannot be understood. Unless it is actually an opportunity to finally expel your resentment and frustration at having goodness and truth without beauty rammed down your throat from early childhood, an opportunity to learn, – at the cost of humility and hurt, which seems to be the most lasting way – that there is a God who loves us. – Could it be that in that mercy and wisdom of his, He gives us an opportunity through our very weakness, to find out our need for him, and through him to find our strength, – the strength to “wait and hope and be good,” as you said, until we are sure what He wants us to do?
He made it necessary for you to look for help outside yourself. He made us both so helpless in this that only prayer was left. If instead of beating ourselves again at our trouble, we turn from it to faith in his judgment and compassion, and pray for help, I believe he will show us the way.
In all the darkness you were not made to wait alone, Darling, because all my prayers and all my love are with you every minute.
#142. DPM to JDM (ALS, 1p.)
July 19, 1944
It was so very good to find two letters from you in the mailbox this morning. You can’t know how much it means just to hear from you more often, and to have whatever reassurance there is about you.
Since my letters reach you so much later than the ones you write reach me, you will have to make allowances for the lag in my reactions. A lag which doesn’t make them any less real, but which might cause them to appear a little behind the progress of your attitude toward the cheerier aspects of life.
Last week’s letters were written during a period of 28 days in which just two were received – one mentioning a decision to take the Teed step which indicated to me the disintegrated aspects of the affair, and the other containing no information, good or bad, relating to the whole situation. So perhaps I can hope to have touched bottom last week. I probably failed even yesterday to indicate completely my appreciation of your long letter about it, as I am now very tired, especially after several sleepless nights because of some trouble with a facial nerve which seems to be trying to scare me into the dentist chair. But it was a very fine letter, Darling, and I feel sure the John I love is very much alive, if a little lost yet. I think you are looking for help from the right source now, and I’m doing the same. You see, I love that John so terribly.
Will get oak leaves tomorrow… Do you know my status at the Valley Club, if in town could I go there? Got you a little change purse Monday, but your made-to-order one is probably far superior… Got a ten dollar reward for the Greyhound… Margie is sending more shorts… We’ll try to speed some short stories pending the arrival of your books now en route… War news all to the good tonight.
Goodnight, my friend,
#143. JDM to DPM (ALS, 3pp.)
July 19, 1944
Nothing much has been happening around here… a few downpours but that is about all.
Got your number 213, and if you’ll hold the phone a minute I will reread it and find out if there is anything in it can use for some subject matter. All the things coming sound good. It is a damn long time since I have had any packages except those which have contained magazines, writing paper, clippings, etc. Reference my asking for less mail, I only did it because I was sure this everyday stuff was a burden to you and was interfering with your leisure. It wasn’t because I wanted to get less. I think you straightened out the rupee situation before you got my righteously indignant protest.
Sorry the Pen has had a bad reaction from the dog deal. Hope E.A. gets him another soon. It will probably help.
The apartment is precisely 250 steps from my desk, so I am not getting as much exercise as I used to and as I should. It is too hot for me to go out of my way to hunt for it, however.
Anyway, through waiting, I got three letters from you yesterday. Comments follow:
a. Glad to hear that the packages are coming. I am definitely getting package hungry and want to get something, anything in a box that isn’t either Ordnance publications or rations. Also I am definitely getting book hungry again. Please give with the books, though I don’t know how I’m going to get them back with the new weight restriction of 10 pounds outgoing once a month.
b. Re the short story, you can proceed to try and market it but please do so under your own name, as the censorship rules and regulations are very vague. I hope to be able to supply you with more as time goes by.
c. Re your speaking of a termination date to my devotion, don’t be silly. This damn thing has been like an overlay, like two things occupying the same space at the same time. Chez le pot, Syracuse evenings, the library in Rochester – all have a vivid place and make me very, very nostalgic to think of them.
d. I am sorry but I still don’t get the reference to the “mists of antiquity” (damn cliché phrase, that). It sounds like someone else when you quote it. The only thing that I can think of that I was thinking of was possible the Rochester incident, and when I say “should” have done something about it, I was thinking how nice you were to do as little as you did. I remained a good kid at that time, but got damn close to not being so. However, a miss is a good bit better than a mile and in that type of deal. Anyway, you got me. I don’t honestly know what I was talking about.
e. I don’t have to get drunk to answer your direct question. The answer is no, and you know in your heart that it was and will be no. I am gifted with a conscience that magnifies minor sins, to say nothing of what it would do were I to be faced with a major one. In addition to my emotional disinclination to cheat in that manner, there is of late – 7 or 8 months – a physical disinclination. It maybe has something to do with the climate. Anyway, I am cooled off to the point of being frigid. I hope that a temperate climate will effect some improvement, but honestly, at this point I not only feel no urges, I fail to remember what an urge feels like. Not only has all evidence of any urges, including nocturnal evidences ceased, but the applicable equipment seems to be dwindling. Maybe if I stay over here long enough, I can join the WAC. I am a neuter. It ain’t a good feeling either. Don’t think however, that that is the cause of my morality. I have too much pride to want you to feel that. Anyway, I don’t want you to anticipate having to become too familiar with the ceiling on my return. It would be embarrassing for me to have to be expected to act like a sailor returned from the sea. I will probably need complete reeducation, in a gradual fashion.
f. No.217 is a very sad little letter. I regret having done all of this to you. I thought that I was doing better by you in a letter business. And I guess maybe I am but you haven’t had a chance to start to receive them. I will continue to do better. Please don’t talk of “the wrong I have done both of us.” I repeat that it wasn’t willful, and I didn’t look for it. I would rather not hear that sort of thing from you.
g. Please don’t think that I am being mealy-mouthed in my letters when they are going through censorship by officers I know. It makes it a little tough, and when I can talk in double-talk which you understand, it is all the better as far as my peace of mind in hiking around the halls here is concerned. In other words, it is the usual reticence to let others know your business. If they were being censored elsewhere, it would be different.
h. Referenced my typing my name, please look through past letters and see how often I do that. I seldom take the letter off the typewriter and find my pen and write my name. I usually just bang it off. Don’t be too sensitive.
i. Reference your questions about circumstances and my going out of my way to keep in touch with my problem, it is not my fault that my problem is close at hand during working hours, being employed about ten feet away from me for the last six months. It is sort of an uncontrolled proximity. I think that may explain a few things to you. Emotional dependency is non-existent.
Your confidence that I will come out of this okay is well-founded. You are right about the cake business, but the trouble is, it is sort of a poisonous kind of food to have and eat too. Maybe I will be left, as you say, irregardless of the solution, with more fiber, more understanding. As it is, I merely feel like the perennial adolescent.
Answering the things brought up really stretches this out into a letter. Can’t think of anything more to say at the moment, except that it is damn hot here in my shirt is sticking to me. Also that there is a vague possibility of a change of station coming up soon. Temporary duty for a few months. That will probably make you feel better. And I don’t intend to grow any green fungus on the back of my neck.
#144. JDM to DPM (ALS, 2pp.)
July 22, 1944
This morning’s paper contained the cheeriest bunch of headlines that I have seen in months. Invasion progressing, riots in Berlin, attack on Guam, Russian drive, attempted assassination of Hitler, etc. It almost looks as though the house of cards was folding up after so many long years. It makes a return to the states almost a matter of possibility.
The news we get here isn’t very recent. We can listen to the Army station, which merely reads the news out of the morning paper “The Statesman,” or sometimes out of the previous evening’s paper “The Hindustan Times.” The British news is given in a bored off-hand fashion with important items buried in the midst of a lot of tripe. Our best source is the bearer. He listens to the broadcast in Hindustani and then tells us what it was about. My Hindustani is not yet good enough to follow more than a few words here and there of the radio broadcast.
I don’t know where to start. First of all – you have gradually shifted your point of view to where you are beating your brains out over a minor matter. That was evident from the letter you sent me to give to her. My relationship with her has never progressed to a point where it would be possible to give her such a letter.
In the words of the Indian, the whole thing is “bas” meaning finished. I never in word or deed or thought made any transfer of devotion from you to her. It is you I love and have loved all the way down the line. You provide me, through that love, with a core of stability which will forever prevent my going overboard. I want to see you, my darling. All this has been a slightly fogged bad dream. It has been a comedy of ineffectuality – with nothing said and nothing done – only the constant pervasive knowledge of the existence of an attraction. That attraction, merely through course of time and thorough knowledge of the underlying selfishness of the situation has paled until now, on both sides, it has gone merely to
(Editor’s Note: some missing words here)
I don’t want you to ever try to create or recreate for yourself any illusions about me. I am not particularly fair-haired in any way except that I have you. I don’t feel quick or bright, or competent, but I do feel stable and, at the moment gay. I have always tangled myself up in confusions of intellectual honesty and dishonesty, being overly honest and hurting both of us in somethings, and being overly dishonest in others. I am on the level at this point. This letter is okay, but the unforgivable thing is that I could have written it a week ago and didn’t, merely because I wanted to make certain that I had no fragments of this thing left in me. It is no question of tapering off, since no commitments have been made. As said before, it is “bas,” finished. I have no doubt whatsoever about your forgiving and forgetting (of which forgetting is the more important). Because there is nothing to forget. You know my weaknesses better than I do (you have written me about all of them). At this point, Dordo I want you to be gay – please try. I want you to dig up a drink somewhere and toast the future. I am now over the halfway mark. Considering time as a road, I have been going away from you up to yesterday, and I am now on my way back. We can wait it out as we have waited out so many other things. I guess I’m not giving you a very good life on the whole, but knowing you I guess maybe the moments in the past and the moments in the future will combine to make the whole deal worthwhile. What I really want is to forget this whole thing now in letters and make out like it never happened. It is over like an illness. I make the unreasonable request that I want the same as you were when you wrote me that best letter. Let’s both drop it – it should be easy, and when we are together again, some time when we have gotten used to each other again, and we are comfortable and relaxed – I’ll tell you how foolish and insignificant the whole thing was. It was a mole-hill baby – not mountains.
I had a very quiet birthday. Slept during lunch, had a few gins after dinner and in bed by 10, after a bull session in the dark on the porch with the Colonel Sahib.
All my love,
#145. DPM to JDM (ALS, 2pp.)
July 31, 1944
A good letter from you came Saturday. It explained some things which it would have helped us both to have had explained before, but it is your custom to forget that sometimes it is only through you that certain things can be known, and that you often expect one to allow for them before you have imparted the necessary knowledge. However, I don’t mean to sound cross, I just wish you’d remember to tell a situation so important in enough chronology and detail so it wouldn’t be necessary to use inference and deduction. At the risk of being boring, a person who unfolds the story in enough order and detail so that its essentials can be grasped simply, does himself greater justice in the end, in any situation where he doesn’t want to deliberately keep the person on the other end from going up blind alleys. In this case, the circumstances don’t call for diversion – it takes all I’ve got to keep on the beam.
Today I got two recapped, used tires, and was able to select a couple whose rubber sides weren’t completely disintegrating. $23.40 for something they’d have given away a few years ago. But I’m so relieved to get them. The roads are going to pieces faster than the cars that travel them, and with every jolt I expected the blisters to pop. Our gas is pretty low, but we can make it to the lake, and there will be new coupons due before the return.
In my present stupor, it would be easier to answer your letter item by item, as you did mine. It’s more like conversation, anyway.
Re: Your asking for less mail. You’re damn well right writing to you almost every day interfered with my leisure. It used up most of the evenings, when they were the only time I had to myself. But they were the only time I can spend with you, and that comes under the cover of more than leisure. In fact, it is small sacrifice of so-called “leisure” to maintain whatever relationship is possible when a War has removed most of the normal outlets for that relationship. You had asked for mail, too, and when I thought you wanted it, it seemed pretty selfish to put any activity that might pass an evening by unnoticeably before the fact that you might be wanting the letter I could write. A little time in the evening of every day in the week is still damn little to keep a marriage that’s worth keeping alive, and active, instead of a passive, thing. Writing to you wasn’t a duty, or an obligation, it was a means of communication with someone whom I didn’t want to replace, and the most constructive way I know of keeping you from being replaced by something less desirable.
There was a termination date to any sign of your devotion, definitely. (1st week in March.)
Last, but not by any means least, your answer to my direct question did me a great deal of good. One could have no real comprehension of your circumstances without regarding the possibility of tossing in all such a situation can demand. I loved you, but thanked God, to hear that you hadn’t. It not only puts the affair, but also you, and even me, on a slightly more civilized level. I’m in this quite unwittingly, but as long as I love you, I’m in it, and the anguish of having to face such a fact could not but have permanent effects. Thank you for being so frank, too, I’d rather know that Nature was helping you to maintain your integrity than that she was making it tough for you. Somehow I am impressed that it is possible for me, in my discouragement, to believe that you can do this; but that belief is based on knowledge and experience, not emotions, because I can remember when I first knew you, and I can remember all the time since, when your conduct showed a natural refinement of emotional expression, and a decency under any condition. Can you not give me credit for realizing what our position would be when you return, tho? Can you not give me understanding enough to concede that I, too, am certainly in a position to need some sort of courtship, some sort of confidence and security before I could enter into any sort of physical surrender or completion? In this case, too, Nature would be on your side, – I am still entirely normal, and not enjoying spending the best years of my life in unwelcome virginity, but I have not ever, and probably never will, enter into any physical relationship that doesn’t have full emotional justification.
I don’t know why this thing evokes in me as much tenderness in proportion to the resentment it arouses, as it does, – it must simply be that love gives one a greater measure of understanding than the clearest reasoning.
Because I do,