Monday, May 17, 2010

More Than Just a Letter

A map of the Imperial Powers of the Pacific, 1...
For the past few weeks, I've been following the HBO series, The Pacific, a drama similar to Band of Brothers, dealing with the 1st Marine Division in the Pacific War from 1942-45. Last night was the final episode and it depicted some of the difficulties three of the main characters experienced, trying to reintegrate themselves into peacetime.

One of them I found particularly appealing on several levels, and that is the story of Robert Leckie. For one thing, he was a writer and his memoir, Helmet for My Pillow was one of the primary sources for the series. He was also thoughtful and reflective, an intellectual in many ways, caught up in a war that didn't make distinctions between educated or not. Before shipping out overseas, he made contact with a young woman he'd grown up across the street from, and told her he'd write. It's not entirely clear why he chose her and we're left to assume he must have carried a torch privately for a long time.

In any case, he composes letters whose content is surprising. They don't shield her from the things he sees and the brutality he witnesses. They are frank and honest, revealing his inner self in ways one would scarcely expect. I wondered about that and how she might respond, reading a soul unfold she'd barely known previously.

It turns out she never read a single one -- he never mailed them and finally, they were lost in the rain on an island whose name would mean little to her but a great deal to him. His character explains this over dinner upon his return. There is a silence, he looks away and we get the impression their conversation would be much easier if he had a pencil and paper and simply wrote and passed notes to her on the other side of the table. Then she asks, "Tell me what was in them."

When talking about ways of meeting the opposite sex and trying to be more interesting than anyone else who might be standing in the wings, awaiting their chance at whomever we're with, I found the interaction between Leckie and Vera really quite moving. She wasn't willing to let him get away with not revealing himself to her. Whoever he was, or had become, she wanted to know.

It isn't that he was mysterious or tall, dark, and handsome so much as he was genuine and had found a way of getting through hell by telling her about it. And now, she wanted to know, perhaps not so much the content of the letters themselves, but the person who wrote them. The scene changes, the story moves on, and yes, at some point she says, "I do." Watching the two at dinner, however, all I could think was, did he ever find the right one. I guess you could say, he did, too.


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