September 1, 1942
Nate decided that the only way the only possible way that he can get his letter to Isabeth was to give it to one of his patients on their way back home on the ship. He knew that the fastest way was through the telegram. But Nate felt that his letter would have more significance and meaning. Isabeth would read it and see his handwriting and would know that a simple piece of paper written by him in ink came all that way from across the seas. She would also understand that he must have stolen some time just so that he can write this letter. Only Isabeth would appreciate something so sentimental. Nate, on the other hand, had always felt that it was in his best interest to ensure that Isabeth’s happiness was his priority. He could never seem to explain just why that was so. He just knew that it was his duty to make sure that Isabeth was always pleased with the choices he made.
There was a time when Nate wasn’t always this way. He led a reckless life of irresponsibility and he knew that there was always a safety net available being that he came from a family whose legacy was considered to be one filled with endless money. Nate knew his boundaries when it comes to this privilege, yet he never really thought of practicing it conservatively. He lived his life filled with nights that took him into the morning. And, he slept his days away recovering from his drunken stupor.
This was his routine. This was his ritual.
His parents never once gave Nate the pressure to slow down, or even for that matter, settle down. As the second born son, he did not to fulfill his filial duties; such responsibility fell solely on his older brother. Nate believed that the pressure of such responsibility was the reason Nate’s older brother disappeared. Nate’s father, unlike the many cold fathers of Nate circle of friends, indeed felt a tremendous amount of guilt after the search for Nate’s brother came up empty. All the money in the world could not buy the resources to find him. This was the pinnacle and the shift in Nate’s life. Just as a person wakes up from a dream, Nate woke up from his stupor. Nate never found an explanation and was never quite sure whether it was the idea that his older brother disappeared on purpose, or not. This responsibility had now fallen on his shoulders.
As soon as he woke up from his stupor, he decided to finish college and went on to medical school. As he entered his first year of residency, his life settled on the same routine as it would have when he went through his wasteful stupor. Instead of being drunk each night, he delved into nights spent at the emergency room, making rounds with patients and whether or not Nate saved a life that day that experience did not affect his overall being.
He did not realize that he fell into the same routine of nothingness until he came upon a patient who died under his care when they brought him in from a car accident. The man simply stopped breathing. His lungs crushed from the impact barely sustained the few minutes he needed from the ambulance trip. There were two people in the car that day. When Nate checked on the other patient from the accident, he once again woke up from his nothingness.
Nate became aware of Isabeth’s presence before he touched the curtain that separated her from the other patients in the room. He had to tell her that he did all he can to save, whom the police informed him, was her father. In Nate’s hands was one pair of ballet pointe shoes that fell from her father’s hand, while he attempted to resuscitate him. In the madness of resuscitating her father, Nate failed to notice that the man was holding on to the pointe shoes. Nate believed that her father was holding on to it before the impact of the other vehicle as he and his daughter were in the middle of a conversation.
When Nate finally decided to slide the curtain, he saw a young woman who he knew right away he had been with before, and yet he knew that he had never met her in his life. She would not have been the kind of woman he pursued. She was sitting up when he approached, hands bandaged from the scratches that must have been from the windshield that broke into a million pieces. She was twisting her hands nervously with the news he was about to descend upon her.
Nate had a sense just by looking at her that he was meant to trigger an awakening within this woman, but he did not understand what he was supposed to do.
What Nate didn’t expect was the way Isabeth dealt with her grief. When one life ended, it was only then that Isabeth’s life began. It was that night that changed it all, he merely only wanted to tell her of her father’s death, instead he sat with her and talked to her for hours until she finally slept. The next day when he checked on her, she told him that she was going to dance again. She will dance for her and not for anyone else.
He became her husband and the man who watched her dance. She became a prima ballerina for the New York City Ballet. He watched as she pirouetted and plied on stage, her body a fluid in motion, moving and caressing every inch of the wooden platform. Her body became the work of art, every muscle and fiber Nate would identify while she moved. He asked her one time how she kept her focus and she told him that all she had to do was imagine him on the other side of the hospital curtain that night, his face filled with profound confusion as he looked down on the ballet shoes that were in his hand. And, all she could think of was how much of that confusion turned into sadness which permeated her blood soaked ballet shoes. This image in her mind resonated in her dancing.
Nate held on to the letter that he desperately needed to get to Isabeth, as he navigated through the medic ward he had decided to be meticulous about how he would get his letter to her. His every move was always based on Isabeth’s thoughts and feelings. Nate felt that it is as if he had been compensating for something that he had done wrong to Isabeth and yet, he knew that he has never done anything that would be deemed hurtful or disrespectful to his wife. This is just how it must be, Nate would always told himself. And, this was enough.
He walked at fast pace to get to the ward and he saw that his fellow soldier and patient getting his leg dressed with new bandages. Nate was able to stop the bleeding in the mud pit and once they got back to camp, he was able to prevent any infection that may have caused more damaged to the leg. As for the soldier’s mental state, Nate knew that there are no bandages that will prevent the bleeding of thoughts that will never find its way to heal. Nate approached the young soldier and handed him his letter, “Private Bolton, I ask only that you give this to my wife and walk away. Do not hesitate to stop and answer her questions. Just give her the letter and she will know from there,” Nate looked at the young man knowing full well that his letter will get to Isabeth. Private First Class Bolton looked up at Nate and simply said, “yes, Sir…” the young man thought to ask questions, but decided he better not and simply said “I will.” Nate nodded and walked away. There were no need for words of gratitude and no words to solidify some camaraderie.
Both knew that a simple request was enough.
September 10, 1942
As a young child, Isabeth knew that she was destined to be a wife. Her mother was mostly to be credited for this realization, as she would be the one to continually nurture the notion that a woman’s place must always be that of her home. Her father on the other hand wanted to nurture her talent for ballet. He loved the ballet and he took pleasure in taking Isabeth to the theatre and explaining to her the story behind the beautiful lines the ballet dancers evoke when on stage. Isabeth fell in-love with dancing and at that time decided that she must pursue becoming a primadonna ballerina. She didn’t take into consideration the force of nature that was her mother. Isabeth’s mother allowed her to take ballet lessons and was quite proud of her daughter as she continued to express her artistic talent. However, when Isabeth turned 16, her mother decided that Isabeth’s time has come for her to start thinking about fulfilling her duty of becoming a wife. Thus, Isabeth began her education into the school domesticity. In order to find time to dance, she found an accomplice in her father, who was more than willing to oblige taking an afternoon once a week to take his daughter to the ballet studio. Both never spoke of this sacred secret to Isabeth’s mother.
When her father passed, she decided that she could no longer bear the secret she held from her mother. When she was released from the hospital, she told her mother what had happened and that she will no longer keep this secret. What she did not expect was that her mother blamed her for the death of her father. Her mother’s reaction made Isabeth decided that such secrets will need to remain hidden. There was no sense to reveal such things and hurt those she loved.
She had planned to tell Nate before he left for the pacific of her precious secret. Yet, she was not able to bear the idea that he would feel rather guilty about leaving her behind. She decided that she would rather tuck it away and not explain something that can be explained later on. She thought that there was no need. He had to go, she told him. It was difficult to find good doctors to serve in the war and Nate was one of those few who were more than willing to do his duty. Yet, Isabeth felt profound guilt as she did not want to share him with others. For once, she didn’t want him to share his talent.
But now this secret will remain this way.
Last night, Isabeth decided to sit out on the porch to watch the sunset and since she was not able to take a nap in the Georgia heat, she figured that sitting outside may help. A car had pulled up on the driveway, as Isabeth sat on her porch bench. In the car there were two men who looked as if they were lost and have decided to step out from the car to approach the only house that can provide them with directions. Isabeth watched the two men in their familiar uniform walk up her pathway. Her mind hoped that they were merely lost asking for directions and she would be more than happy to have given them some tea and send them on their way. Just for a second in that moment, Isabeth allowed herself to believe that this was true. Before the older man in his starched Naval uniform said anything, she felt a stabbing pain in her womb and the trickle of loss slowly moved its way down her legs.
The secret she tucked slowly revealed itself to two strangers.
The young man sat in front of her hospital bed when she finally woke up. He looked worn and exhausted. She heard him scramble for a chair before he said, “m’am, I have a letter for you. May I hand it to you?” She slowly raised herself from her bed and leaned on the pillows behind her back. As she looked at him, she wanted to ask him of Nate, but she knew that he had been given instructions not to reveal anything. She thought to offer him something to eat, but she realized where she was. She looked at his crutches and noticed that he had lost his leg. She realized that she didn’t care what Nate told him, “he must have thought that saving the rest of you was far more important than your leg.” Soon after she said this, she realized how rude it must have sounded. She apologized. The young man nodded, “m’am, I’m sorry for your loss,” he said. Isabeth looked away not quite sure whether he meant a single loss or two.
“I was asked to deliver this to you.” He placed a small envelope at the foot of her bed.
Isabeth looked at the envelope and asked, “did he know?” she looked at the young man. He nodded. “He was a Doctor, M’am—said it out of the blue one day that he was looking forward to coming home.”
Even with miles apart, Nate knew.
He must have wanted me to tell him himself, Isabeth thought as she looked out the window.
He must have known then that she would refuse to open the letter until she was ready to accept what it was that he would ask of her. Well, she thought to herself, I will just refuse to be dictated by his instructions. She sat in her bed and blamed Nate for always being too dutiful and always wanting to be this perfect man. She cursed him for wanting to save lives. And as soon as those thoughts permeated her mind, she regretted them. She kept looking at the curtain surrounding her bed. She kept looking for that same sense she once felt when she knew that Nate was just right behind the curtain holding her ballet slippers. She closed her eyes and pictured him just as she always did. Nothing. She could not find this memory. She closed her eyes tight and concentrated on the smell of the hospital and that fateful night that she lost her father and found Nate. Darkness. No Nate standing at the foot of her bed, only the brown envelope she refused to open. She was not sure how long she was by herself. The young man was gone by the time she realized to thank him for his trouble.
Isabeth slowly reached for the brown envelope containing Nate’s letter, which was stained from the miles it has travelled. She noticed Nate’s handwriting on the envelope. She wondered how he must have taken his time to write her name. Unlike the other soldiers who may have found time to scribble some letter to their loved ones, Nate had told her that his letters would be rare and oftentimes would be rushed. His time on the field was often used for other means. She understood. She closed her eyes and imagined how he must have found an area in the medical ward to write and it must have been just seconds before he rushed over to give the envelope to the young man. She opened the letter and read the two lines he wrote in his best handwriting
In death’s despite,
And day and night yield one delight once more?
Isabeth thought despite of such despair, she realized that he has known all along.
And with this realization, she whispered to herself, “till next time when I see you again.”