‘MASH!’ says Joe as he enters, making me jump a little. ‘My favourite. How is Miss Hotlips anyway? Have you spoken to her much?’
I shake my head. I don’t want to talk about Lucy just yet, and she’s all I want to talk about.
‘Oh... Ok. So, what was it about MASH that you particularly liked?’
I sit and think for a while. My mind is blank. Why does he want me to talk about MASH? Was it something he learned in counselling classes or something? I don’t want to talk about MASH. I want to talk about Lucy. Why on earth did I tell him I didn’t?
‘Erm... I don’t know’ I begin vaguely. He gives me that look. ‘I mean it. I can’t think...’
‘Take your time...’
I sit and think for quite a while. Lucy comes into my mind – I can’t get rid of her. She’s nothing like bloody Hotlips. Hotlips was sort of thick, and she was with that stupid guy – what’s his name? Major Burns. I really didn’t like him. Lucy does have nice lips though. There’s just the faintest trace of a moustache along her top lip – just a very fine shading. You’d think that would be fairly off-putting but somehow it just makes her even sexier.
‘What are you thinking?’ he prompts.
‘Major Burns and Hotlips’ I say, fairly hurriedly. ‘Why did she like him so much? He was a complete wanker.’
‘I don’t know.’ He thinks about it for a while with me. ‘Do you think it was bad writing – unrealistic – that a woman like her would be interested in a man like him?’
I consider it – it doesn’t seem unrealistic now I come to think about it.
‘I don’t really understand what women see in men to be honest’ I say. ‘I always think they just sort of tolerate us.’
‘That’s fairly harsh’ he says. ‘You don’t think much of men then?’
‘Well, look at them...’
‘Who exactly are we talking about? Me? You?’
‘No. I don’t know. No, not you, not a lot of men I suppose. Some men.’
‘Ray and Harry?’ he suggests. I nod. Absolutely. ‘Women seem to really like men like Ray. I have no idea why.’
‘What about Hawkeye Pearce?’ he says, grinning at me. ‘What about Trapper – what about Radar?’
I have to grin. I remember them. They feel like old friends. ‘What about Klinger?’ I say and we both nod and laugh.
‘It’s weird,’ I continue ‘because they were in the middle of a war, and there was all blood and guts, and yet...’
‘They were together. It felt like they were really close.’
‘Like a family?’ he suggests.
I pointedly ignore that. ‘They were all in it together’ I say.
‘You feel like you’d have been comfortable with them there?’
‘Maybe. Apart for all the shelling and so on.’
‘Oh I don’t know though. Maybe not. Usually, sooner or later. I suppose... I make people feel...’ I cast around for the right word.
‘Uncomfortable?’ he says.
I nod. ‘Sort of’ I say. ‘They feel...’ I shrug. I can’t think of the word – pissed off? embarrassed? frustrated? ‘Awkward’ I say finally. ‘Not relaxed anyway, with me around.’ I sit and look into space for a while. I know it’d be exactly the same as it always is. And there’d be nowhere to go. I’d be trapped with them, at MASH 4077.
‘I always wanted to be like Hawkeye’ I say after a while ‘you know, sort of cool and witty, and sarcastic, but not nasty – d’you know what I mean?’
‘I preferred BJ’ he says.
‘B.J. Honeycut. You remember – I’m not sure if he replaced Trapper or Trapper replaced him. They were both cute’ he muses. ‘But enough about me - tell me more about why you liked Hawkeye.’
I think about it a bit more. ‘Women liked him’ I say. ‘He always had women around.’
‘He rather used them though didn’t he?’
I feel slightly affronted. ‘How do you mean?’
‘Well, different nurse every night – BJ wasn’t like that.’
‘Maybe he had something going on with Radar.’
‘No, Radar had a thing with the colonel. Definitely. I think maybe BJ just went with out the helicopter boys.’
‘I think – getting back to the subject (ahem) – I wanted to be Hawkeye because he was in the middle of everything – everybody liked him, or respected him anyhow, but he didn’t try too hard – he didn’t try to impress anyone. In fact he just said what he thought didn’t he – people respected him for that – even if it wasn’t what they wanted to hear – he got away with it. I guess he was a good surgeon too, which helped...’
‘Plus he had the war to be sarcastic about, which everybody agreed...’
‘Do you remember the episode where he’s cracking up and he remembers seeing a Korean woman kill a chicken to keep it quiet so the enemy won’t hear it? They were on a wrecked bus – but it turns out it wasn’t a chicken, it was actually her baby she smothered, and that’s why he’s so messed up.’
‘I remember that episode.’ He nods slowly. We take a moment to think about that.
‘But they all still looked after him when he got back’ I say, ‘and helped him, even though he was seriously losing it, even though he was a real mess...’
Joe looks at me for a while – frowning a little. ‘Well of course. Why wouldn’t they?’ he says.
‘I don’t know’ I shrug. But I do know and it makes me feel very sorry for myself. I can’t imagine what that’s like – to have people care that much, to try that hard. They’d have just told me to pull myself together and got on with what they were doing.
But I wasn’t in a war. I didn’t see a woman smother her baby so the enemy wouldn’t catch her and rape her. All that happened to me was I couldn’t keep up at school and I got dumped. Boohoo. Poor old me.
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