This is actually my story. However, I have written it as fiction rather than a memoir.
Linda spent all day cleaning. The house looked perfect, she thought. “I wonder if he’ll notice.” Tommy would be home soon. She had pot roast cooking just the way he liked it.
She took her honey blonde hair out of its ponytail and brushed it so it fell down around her shoulders, the way Tommy liked it. She used just a little mascara, the way Tommy liked it. Once trying to get that special “Bardot” look, she used half a strip of light brown false eyelashes. Tommy noticed and ripped them off her eyes telling her she looked like a whore.
She smoothed pale pink lipstick over her soft lips. Her paisley hip-huggers and bright yellow sleeveless turtleneck hugged her young figure, the way Tommy liked it. Stopping at the hallway mirror, she posed. “Linda Jo, you look pretty good.”
The pot roast cooking filled the air with onions and garlic and memories. She was really hoping this would all lead to a quiet evening maybe even a little romance.
Tommy burst through the door of the tiny apartment. Threw his white hat on the telephone stand, took of his jumper and let it fall.
“I need you to pick up my uniform at 7-Seas.”
“You just drove right by there – why didn’t you get it?”
“Look Linda, I worked all day. What did you do?”
“What did I do? What do you mean what did I do?”
“The keys are on the table, just go.
Tommy opened the newspaper, the headlines repeating the same bad news. Viet Cong capture six American soldiers. “I sure as hell am glad I’m not there anymore.”
Although he had been home for three weeks, Linda wasn’t so sure she was glad.
“I hate to interrupt your reading, but which one?”
“I mean which 7-Seas?”
Without looking up he said, “Broadway, by Union.”
Linda grabbed her purse, the keys and her jacket. She was happy to be leaving.
It was Friday night. Another ship had just returned from Viet Nam that week. The streets were swarming with anxious servicemen, laughing too loud, drinking too much and desperate for companionship.
The “7-Seas” was a locker club where servicemen could rent a locker on a monthly basis. They kept their civilian clothes in them since they could only leave the base in their uniforms. There were showers were they could get a towel for a quarter and a hotel-size bar of soap. The first floor had a first-rate dry cleaners, laundry and seamstress available. Sailors could wait while the uniform was cleaned and pressed. Behind the cleaners was a gift shop with San Diego souvenirs, post cards, and other trinkets. The retail area in front carried stripes and patches that could be sewed on “while you wait.”
The old guy that polished shoes was always there when Linda was. He remembered her and nodded. She smiled.
Linda never told Tommy that sometimes she would go downtown to the 7-Seas just to hear the sailors and marines whistle at her. The guys in the store and on the street would flirt and offer to buy her a drink. Linda’s fear kept her from flirting back.
She parked a few blocks away so she could walk up to Broadway getting as many appreciative looks and cat-calls as possible. This was almost a weekly “fix” that she kept from Tommy.
Linda showed the cleaning claim check to the Japanese lady at counter.
“30 minute, you wait. We busy- ship come in yesterday.”
“Oh, well, thank you. Where are the pay phones? She was already fumbling for a dime.
“Straight back by restroom.”
Linda went to the phone and called Tommy to tell him his blues weren’t ready.
“I’m watching the game. Just wait till they are.” He hung up before she could tell him dinner was on the stove.
Trying not to cry, Linda left the club replaying all the events of the last two hours. She thought Tommy would like dinner. She thought Tommy would notice how she looked. She thought he might say something, or kiss her, or …
“My, my, ain’t you pretty.”
Linda glanced up to see who was speaking. She was walking toward dozens of faces in various uniforms. She couldn’t tell who said it. But she smiled knowing someone thought she was pretty. She looked straight ahead as she heard several more wolf whistles.
The sun had disappeared leaving a ribbon of orange above the skyscrapers. The street lamps were on and the light seemed to draw every hawker from every bar and photo shop on Broadway. They were on the sidewalk selling their bargains offering anything to get the customer inside. Most hawkers were shouting at the servicemen.
Every corner was a sea of white hats. Every open bar was blasting Beatles music. The only thing that kept it from looking like a carnival was the lack of rides.
Couples holding each other up as they crossed the streets caused Linda to long for someone who would want to be close to her. She passed “Painless Nell’s” tattoo parlor and peeked into see a young sailor gritting his teeth as the burly tattooist, obviously not Nell, complete his art. There was a weird smell of hot metal and burning hair that seemed to flow out on to the sidewalk. It mixed with the “English Leather” smell of the freshly scrubbed sailors and burgers and fries.
The two blocks took her past Horton Plaza, where everything from Marines fighting to street evangelists preaching was competing with the B movies and other adult entertainment. She walked in and out of clouds of stale beer and whiskey odors. Anxious for that good cup of coffee, she began to walk faster. The rolls of fog began to snake across the narrow street and Linda breathed in the fresh sea smell. She threw her jacket over her shoulders.
Linda pushed the thick glass doors open at the Home Tower building. . Her favorite seat at the counter was open. It was at the end where only one person could sit next to her. She didn’t like the feel of being between two strangers.
“Just coffee, please.”
Linda added just enough cream until the coffee was dark tan. She lifted the familiar white cup and breathed in the fresh nutty aroma. Holding the warm cup in her hands she sighed, and thought “it might be another hour or two before the uniform is ready.”