I seem to have a good-bye theme where this show is concerned. I just always find that moment where Hawkeye and Radar's eyes meet so poignant, and their relationship such an unusually vulnerable one for Hawkeye, I wanted to try to capture Hawkeye's reaction.
Later, it would seem fitting to Hawkeye that his last sight of Radar O'Reilly had been while standing on a bloody floor, surrounded by the wet squelches and noxious smells of surgery. Because he had never been clean, not the way Radar was, and Radar had always been going in a direction far away from this mess.
The first time they'd met, Hawkeye had looked past Radar as though he wasn't there, looking beyond him for someone older, someone dirtier, someone he could have fun with. If he'd noticed the shy clerk with the glasses at all it was to wonder how someone that young and green and cornfed had ever made it all the way to Korea in one piece. Now, as Radar's face disappeared from the window, Hawkeye wondered how someone that innocent and clean and open-hearted had managed to leave Korea in one piece. Hawkeye himself never would—a piece of himself was walking across the compound right now, getting into a jeep, and going home to reside permanently on a farm somewhere in the middle of Iowa.
He turned his attention back to the artery he was repairing, letting the needs of the surgery take over his brain, feeling the surety of his fingers and the solid know-how that made surgery, real surgery, a far better escape than booze any day. There was something terrible about how much he wished each session would last longer ... and then about the crashing guilt and the anger that would take him over when he had time to stop and think about the men—boys—who had lain on the table in front of him.
At last the session was over. Too late to say good-bye to Radar. Too late to do anything but slouch across the compound, complaining as always, and settle onto the cot with the delicate martini glass in hand.
It wasn't until he'd reached the bottom of his third martini that Hawkeye was able to admit to himself what he wouldn't have admitted to anyone else, no matter how drunk he might get: He hadn't wanted to say good-bye to Radar. Something about that competent, practical, wide-eyed kid had dug itself under Hawkeye's skin. He had become little brother, son, alter ego ... all the things Hawkeye knew he would never have, or be. To have tried to put into words what the time they'd spent together had meant would have been like trying to practice surgery on himself, leaving his guts open and gleaming red for anyone to see.
Better this way—without words, without having had to admit what Radar had come to mean to him. Better to pour another glass and think of a nurse to chase, or a prank to play, or ... anything other than the emptiness in the camp where Radar O'Reilly had been that morning. Because a matching emptiness had appeared inside Hawkeye Pierce, and that was more truth than Hawkeye could handle.