“I’m too old to be doing something this silly,” I thought to myself while in the taxi. The taxi was heading toward Union Station, where I would meet John Blanchard for the first time.
My interest in John first started when I received a letter from him, approximately four months after the death of my husband. It was April, 1944. The war had claimed my husband. Perhaps that led me find the hope in John’s writings, wishing for a new love.
He claimed to have found a book of mine; one that I had only marked notes in. I honestly don’t remember ever doing it, but I was willing to accept it. I wrote back. We exchanged several letters. He had been called to fight in the war, and he kept imploring me to write. During the next thirteen months, we grew to know each other through the
mail. I couldn’t help but hope that a new romance was budding. Even my friends teased me about him.
About ten months into our correspondence, he requested a photograph. Now, for a 37-year old woman with two children, I didn’t look half bad. But I would never compare to the
young women that threw themselves at sailors. And I knew it. I made some excuse that if he really cared, it wouldn’t matter what I looked like. I knew it was wrong, but I couldn’t help but hope.
Three months later, John Blanchard came home. We arranged a meeting in Union Station at 7:00. Since I didn’t want to give him a picture, I told him that he would recognize me by the rose in my lapel. As the taxi pulled up to the curb, I placed the rose in my lapel, paid the driver, and left the cab. My first impulse was to turn around, right here and now, and forget this crazy thing. But I pressed on.
It was 7:03 when I first saw John. I recognized him instantly; if the uniform wasn’t a giveaway, then the book he was carrying was enough. He was a handsome man, cleancut and fresh from his tour of duty. He reminded me of my husband, and a tear formed in my eye. But he had not yet seen me.
As I began to approach him, a remarkably beautiful girl dressed in an elegant emerald suit passed in front of him and smiled. John looked at her, obvious in his desire. As she walked past, he took a step in her direction, and then finally he saw me. I stood still, looked back at him and smiled. He looked longingly at the young girl as she left the station, and stared for a good three seconds.
Then, finally, he approached me.
“I’m Lieutenant John Blanchard,” he said, taking my hand and shaking it, “and you must be Miss Maynell. I am so glad you could meet me; may I take you to dinner?”
He tried. He really tried to hide the disappointment in his voice, but I could hear it only too well. All of my fears had been realized, and I recognized that it would never work. Holding back my tears, I replied.
“I don’t know what this is about,” I answered, “but the young lady in the green suit who just went by, she asked me to wear this rose on my coat. And she said if you were to ask me out to dinner, I should tell you that she’s waiting on the street corner for you. She said it was some kind of test.”
That was all the convincing he needed. He thanked me and walked away. After three steps he started to run. After a few seconds, I called out to him.
“John, wait,” I said, but it was too late.
I turned around and walked away, crying.
Looking back on it, I sometimes fantasize that I was the young lady. Or that John wasn’t so quick to believe that I was. Or that I handled it differently. I wonder where John is; I wonder whether he found the young lady, and what he did when he found out that she wasn’t me. Sometimes, I sit and look at the stars, and wonder what might have been.