BY JAN BRIGHT
Copyright is held by the author.
THIS IS my diary.
It should have been a real diary; black or brown leather with a silk ribbon of blue or red to slip between the fine parchment paper to keep your place — to tell you where to begin again and again.
But it’s not. It’s a shoddy old notebook bought at Woolworth’s on the High Street in 1940. I can’t remember how much I paid for it — tu’pence maybe.
In films you see a woman sitting at a softly lit table, most likely in her boudoir, lifting up an expensive fountain pen and writing in an exquisite, calligraphic hand: “Dear Diary.”
Me, I didn’t have a fountain pen. I didn’t have a boudoir. I had a pencil and I would have felt like a real ejjit writing “Dear Diary.” I started with “Hello.”
Jack said there was no fear he would be called up. I believed him. “It’s you and the twins”, he said, “they don’t send married men with families when the young lads are still walking the streets. He left us two days before Christmas.
There’s been no word from Jack. My Da said he’d still be in training as they wouldn’t send someone that green to the front.” What front?
If they changed their minds and sent married men why couldn’t they send anyone, anywhere who didn’t know one end of a rifle from another?
Jack is somewhere but nowhere. His letter home was mostly scratched out writing. Censors they said. One sorry page.
In between the mess, he said he loved us and that he met a lad from when he worked on the buses.
I got tired of writing. I’m just plain tired. I got the threat of a fine for having a hole in my black-out curtains. The warden, him that was once a copper, is full of himself — a little tin-pot dictator running around with his torch scaring us all to death and threatening us with jail. Jail!! We’re all in jail for God’s sake man. Scared to stay in when the sirens go off, hating the air-raid shelters with their mobs of people with their smell of fear.
Jack has been gone for two years now. A few more scratched out letters. Sometimes I forget about him. I have too much to do. They started rationing the food. I never let the ration book out of my sight for you won’t find much charity here if you lost it. I feed the twins as best I can.
My brother Daniel is missing in action. His wife is demented with worry. My mother won’t talk about it.
I miss everything. I miss white soap, cream biscuits, real eggs, sunshine and light. I miss laughing. I miss dancing and walking and running and talking. I miss lipstick and nylons and dresses. God I miss dresses.
Daniel is dead. A telegram came. Jack is coming home. Injured they said.
Jack is home. He walks with a cane because of injuries to his leg. He won’t talk about it. You can’t make him.
He’s thinner. He’s sadder. He doesn’t know what to say to the twins, and they don’t know who he is.
The war is over. We won. I have everything and nothing. I will get on with my life with this man that I married.
I will get on with my life with this sad, empty man and I shall put this diary to the back of the wardrobe.