The following is another excerpt from my father’s unpublished recounting of his homecoming as a wounded vet on a transport from France to New York entitled “Am I A Hero?”. I have added a few historical pictures to enhance his writing…as well as a picture of the woman he was writing about, many years later, after she became a globally famous photographer.
Life on an Army transport has been described as sea sickness.
We were on our way.
The usual shipboard crap game was going on. Money changed hands aimlessly. The players played quietly out of boredom, subdued and disinterestedly. Only one or two watched the gyrations of the galloping dominos with enthusiasm. The rest played deliberately and slowly.
I was one of the latter.
Ahead of me lay America and home. There my wife [Eve] would be waiting for me. I felt that, as the ship sloshed ahead, the very next minute a thin line of shore should become visible. I was yearning for it with pregnant want. We were still thousands of miles from home. Yet I was constantly aware that just beyond the endless green ripples there was America; always just beyond the horizon. I envied the sun every evening because it was going where I wanted to be already.
Well, I was going there too. ..
If only I could get out and help push. I cursed every wave which held the ship back by beating against the bow and cheered on every wave which gave us a boost, rolling under the stern, lifting and pushing us homeward. We were on our way. Home was just around the corner.
I was a little uneasy about home. I had married my wife because I had known and wanted her. No five-day furlough wedding was ours.
But had she remembered me in the way in which I had wanted to be remembered? Had she perhaps met someone who was more perfect than I? Now that she had gotten away from me, did I look as good to her in perspective as in close-up? Of course she had been waiting for me, as I had waited for her. But if she weren’t, I wouldn’t blame her a bit.
It was better not to think about it too much. You couldn’t talk about it to the other fellows, you couldn’t forget it. It was best to try and drown the thought by playing craps, by feigning interest in the most deadly of boring pastimes.
“Say Johnny. Three bucks he don’t five.”
“Bet. Let ‘em go. T’ree and a deuce. Four and a one. Any which way. Come on there dice.”
What was she really like? How did she actually compare with the girl whose photograph I carried in my wallet. That girl had played the part of guardian angel, mother confessor, and pin-up in my mind.
The girl you left behind is an ideal. You have lost touch with reality. The closer I came to home, the more frightening the thought that I might lose that ideal. That it might be smashed or cracked a little.
Marriage by correspondence is a sterile thing. No matter how much or how often we would write, we always ended up telling each other the same thing, by assuring ourselves of one another in different ways and in different words. After some more time, these letters became a mere reassurance of the existence of a relationship. Would we be able to take up the threads of side-by-side marriage without difficulty?
“Next good shooter.”
“Here, it’s my turn. Who’ll fade?”
What will she say to me when we meet again for the first time? How will I greet her? I hope that she won’t make a fuss or cry. I couldn’t stand that. I want things to be the way they were when I left her. I want to speak to her, and I want her to speak to me as calmly as if I had seen her yesterday.
I knew that she would cry. I wished that I could wipe out this entire period of war and separation which stood between us. Whatever would happen, it was going to be alright.
It had to be alright.
“Gimme them bones.”
“Nine’s the point.”
“The odds are three to two, six to four. Any way you want ‘em.”
There was no one to depend on but my wife. If she were not there, just the way I wanted her and expected her to be there, I would have no home-coming. If she wouldn’t understand, no one would understand. If she won’t see what it is like to come back like this, after the waiting and the fighting and the getting hurt, I won’t know where to turn, or whom to turn to.
If only we were already there and I could get it over with.
I told myself that I was creating problems for myself where there were none. But the doubt had been raised, and it was not to be denied. I knew that I was making it difficult for myself. There were just a few more days between her and me. A few more days, and I would find out.
Until then, I had this crap game.
“Hey, wake up. It’s your turn. Don’t you want to play?”
“O.K. Here I go. Five bucks say I’ll six again.”
“Six and a pimple.”
I don’t even have any luck with the dice.
- In Memorium: Arnold F. Arnold (born Schmitz), 1921 – 2012 (greentaxisnow.com)
- Marilyn Monroe photographer Eve Arnold dies at 99 (ctv.ca)
- Eve Arnold dies at 99; pioneering photojournalist – Los Angeles Times (latimes.com)
- Marilyn Monroe by Eve Arnold (fashion-mommy.com)