"Letter from Margaret"
I am so confused. Remember, Dad, I wrote you last month about the Reunion of my old outfit in Korea. At that point I wasn't even sure I wanted to go. Maybe I shouldn't have. Not that it wasn't great seeing my friends again – everyone a little older but not looking all that worse for wear. I was so looking forward to seeing Colonel Potter – I think he was the main reason I decided to go.
I shouldn't have gone. Not that I wanted to miss seeing the Colonel again – he's as wonderful as ever he was. Old School Military mixed with compassion and humor. Why couldn't I pick someone like that to fall in love with? Why?
I saw the one I did pick the second I came into the restaurant. Frank. Frank Burns. Major Frank Burns. All the feelings came rushing back as the years apart from him melted into nothing. I waved, but he was too busy studying his menu to see me. I found myself rushing toward him when I was blocked by someone else rushing toward me. Pierce. Phooey.
"Hi," he said apparently not noticing that I was on my way to somewhere – to someone – else.
"Hi yourself," I replied to be polite. After all Pierce and I had become friends – remember that I wrote you, Dad, that we had become friends? And he was a wonderful doctor. Of course, he and I never could have been more than friends because we were so different.
I was still trying to catch Frank's eye as Pierce guided me to a table for two. "I should just walk over to him," I thought as I sat down. "I could just say hello and we could take it from there." Take it to where? He was probably still married, and even if he was free, could we recapture what we had? And what did we have? Were the same people we were then? Would we want to be?
"The gang's all here," Pierce observed, scanning the room.
"What's that supposed to mean?" I asked sharply, too sharply.
"Have you said Hi yet to Ferret Face?" he inquired.
I made a face. "I hated when you all called him that. You were always so unfair to him."
"Me unfair to him?" Pierce hooted. "How many times did he try to have me court marshaled?"
I was shaking my head. "You never understood him. Frank is a very sensitive – who do I have to kill to get a drink around here?"
Three martinis later, I was ready to drop the subject of Major Frank Burns, who had still not looked up from his stupid menu. "I wonder if he's still married," I wondered, not realizing that I was wondering out loud.
"You wonder if who's still married?" Pierce asked at once.
"You," I sidestepped. "Is there a Mrs. Benjamin Franklin Pierce?" Like I cared. Like I ever cared.
"Not to my knowledge," he told me.
For some reason that surprised me.
"You're not married? Never married? In all these years?"
"See, we finally have something in common," he said, staring at my hair, of all things.
"You're staring. Maybe we should dance."
So we danced.
"You haven't changed," he said, holding me too close for comfort.
"Neither have you!" I gasped pushing him away. "When do you plan on growing up?"
"Certainly not tonight."
We danced on in an uneasy silence until the song ended.
"We should be talking to other people," I realized.
"What other people?" he asked.
"I should be going over to Colonel Potter. He's over eighty – how many more chances will I have to see him?"
"How many more chances will you have to see me?"
"I'll probably never see you again," I hoped.
"Why?" He sounded hurt. Good.
"We're so different," I reminded him.
For the next two hours I did my level best to evade Captain Benjamin Hawkeye Pierce by hugging and hello-ing everybody in sight. Even Klinger. Even Rizzo. But not Frank. I tried not to look at him, sitting there alone, not hugging or hello-ing a single soul. I tried not to feel sorry for him. I tried not to feel. I decided my best course of action was to retreat.
"Where are you going?"
Pierce again. I couldn't seem to shake him.
"Well, it was nice seeing you again," I tried, as we left the restaurant together.
"You can continue to see me," he pointed out.
"Why would I want to do that?
"We can talk, commune, trade innermost secrets, drink what's left of the night away. There's got to be a small café somewhere around here. After all, we're in Toledo, City of Romance."
Sure enough, there was a small café on the very next block. But romance seemed to be the last thing on Pierce's mind. Guilt came in first.
"I should at least have spoken to Radar. He was practically my child."
I shrugged. "Well, he looks all grown up now. He's probably married with children of his own. Do you regret never having children, Pierce?"
"I'm not dead yet." "
I sighed in spite of myself. "I'm getting to the age where children are no longer an option."
"You could always adopt me. I'm available."
I shook my head. "No, I can't. We're so different."
I found myself wondering if he remembered his saying that to me once upon a time. And then I found myself wondering about Frank. Why had seeing him again hit me so damn hard? I couldn't imagine that seeing Donald again would have made such an awful impact. And he had been my husband.
Pierce was whispering something to me. "I think that waitress wants us to order something. Either that or she's waiting for a bus."
"Ice cream!" I cried out with all my aching heart.
"What flavor?" Pierce asked as if it mattered to him.
"Pistachio," I told the waitress.
Pistachio. Frank's favorite flavor.