After all the good-byes had been said, and all the tears that could possible be cried had dried and the boys left for London I headed home alone on the empty streets of San Fransico at night. I was getting home later than I had expected, and it suddenly occured to me that Bob might be worried about my whereabouts. I hopped in my car as fast as I could and sped off towards home where I half-expected Bob to be sitting on the living room couch, waiting anxiously for me to get home and tell him all about the concert, after, of course, him lecturing me about coming home late and not calling. He was the worrying type, and I was sure that he was on the brink of being sick by now.
I pulled into our driveway and lept out of the car and darted inside our warm, stable house. "Bob!" I yelled out into the eriely silent house, "Bob? Honey? Where are you?" I removed my sweater and purse and carelessly discarded them onto the kitchen table and peered into the living room, where I expected Bob to be sitting waiting. But no one was there. I thought he might have wandered off into the bedroom and had fallen asleep, so I checked our room quickly and quietly, not wanting to wake him if indeed he was sleeping. "Bob?" I called out softly, turning the lights on in the room. Again, no one. I was beginning to worry. Where would he possible go at this hour? I flicked the light off and began to yell his name out, louder and louder until I heard something like a grunt from the backyard. I opened the glass sliding door that led to the patio in our backyard and found Bob, lounging heavily in a lawn chair, empty beer cans sprawled out around him.
"Rach! You're home! Come here, hear what I found out today!" he said in a drunken haze half-way between giddy and depressed, slurring his words as they spewed out.
"Bob, why are you drunk? Why'd you do this to yourself?" I asked, closing the door quietly behind me and pulling up a chair next to his.
"Drunk?" he asked, sitting up in his chair. "Drunk? Nah, I'm not drunk - you know what I am?" he asked, leaning in towards me, pointing at me with his beer in hand. It was a good thing that I knew how to deal with drunk people - one of the only good things I gained from working at that horrible bar.
"No, what are you Bob?" I asked, sighing, wishing that I didn't have to deal with this.
"I," he said, barely whispering at this point, "am drafted."
I caught my breath and paused, caught completely off gaurd. Did he really say that he was drafted? Drafted as in "I-have-to-serve-in-the-army" kind of drafted? Could that really happen to him, to me, to us? The thought of Bob getting drafted had never crossed my mind - never. Not once did I think that he could possibly be taken away from me like that and thrown into combat, thrown into war! It just didn't seem like that could ever happen.
"What?" I asked, stunned from the news.
"That's right," he said, rising from his seat and waving his beer can around in the air like it was a tool to help him speak, "I've been drafted. I, Robert Gregory Smith II of San Fransico, California, have been drafted. Thanks a lot mom and dad, thanks for letting me be born on July 20! That's it! Some man I'll never know or meet pulls my birthdate out of a hat on the news and that's it! My life is over! I'm either sent to a prision cell here, or a coffin there! Those are some great choices, aren't they, Rachel?"
I remained silent still. I couldn't speak, no, it wasn't that I couldn't sleep, it was that I couldn't think of anything to say that wouldn't sound redundant or stupid. So, instead of saying anything I rose up from my seat and walked to the edge of the concrete patio and stood there, silent, staring at the stars, my left hand on my hip and my right covering my mouth, holding back tears. Drafted. Just like that. I go out and when I get back my boyfriend, the love of my life, has been drafted to go off to Vietnam. Wow.
"Yep. Out of the blue, eh?" Bob yelled from behind me, rising up from his seat in the lawnchair. He threw the empty beer can across the yard where it landed in the grass off in the dark where the light from the house failed to reach. "Life's funny that way, ain't it Rach?"
"When do you leave?" I asked, trying to remain calm in the situation.
Bob sighed, "I leave in two days." His voice suddenly dropped and the joking was gone from his voice. A look of fear and seriousness overcame his face and I couldn't hold back my tears any longer. I burst out crying and sobbing, trying to hide my face from Bob, hoping for some odd reason that he wouldn't see, but I couldn't hide them or the pain behind them. "Aw, now come on sweetheart, everything's going to be just fine, I'll be just fine and you're going to be just fine? Okay?" he said, taking me in his arms and holding me close to his chest. I could feel his heart beating rapidly, he was so afraid. So was I.
"Well, this is it hun," Bob said, pulling me close to him for one final embrace. The two days had passed by fast, and weren't much more than a blur to me. They were spent crying, calling relatives, crying some more, and making last minute promises to each other, and now, here we were, two days later saying good-bye to each other for what might be the last time. Thoughts of being alone in the house worrying filled my mind, thoughts of Bob in combat, coming home and amputee, or possibly not coming home at all. Thoughts of eating dinner at that big table by myself and having the doorbell ring and finding a man in uniform with a letter pronouncing Bob dead flooded my mind and I began to cry. I tried not to - that was the last thing that Bob needed to see before he left, but I couldn't help it. "Aww, honey, don't cry - please, Rachel baby, don't cry!" he said, holding me closer to his chest.
"I'm sorry," I choked. The image of the letter came back to me for a moment, and I began to panic. What if Bob never came home? What would I have to remember him by? I loved this man with all of my heart and if he died, all I would have left would be the memories, the house, the items carelessly strewn about the house that he left behind. I wanted something more, something solid.
"Bob?" I said, getting his attetion.
"Yes?" he asked, pulling me away enough to look me in the eye.
"Let's get married," I said bluntly. He laughed a little and gave me a strange look.
"What?" he asked, "now?
I laughed a little myself realizing how dumb it sounded, but if felt so right that it didn't matter that I sounded like a fool. "Not now, we can't now, but, well, maybe we can..." I said, looking around the busy bus station. "Look, over there!" I said, pointing at a man in a black robe and white collar with a cross and Bible in hand saying prayers with soilders and their families for a safe return home. I pulled Bob's hand and we ran across the station towards the priest, who was finishing up his prayers and speaking a few words with some people around him. Bob and I burst into their crowd, breathless from sprinting, and stood in front of the priest. "Father, is it possible, can you marry us before he leaves?" I asked. The poor priest must have thought that I was crazy, because his initial response was one that reminded me of the absurdity of the question, but just as quickly, his face fell and a gentle, understanding smile warmed his face.
"You know, it won't be legal," he said, raising an eyebrow at us. I grasped Bob's hand and smiled and looked into his eyes.
"We don't care," Bob said, returning the smile and squeeze. The priest smiled a gentle smile and turned to the lady he had been speaking with,
"If you'll excuse me," he said as he led us away towards a clearing in the crowd. Bob squeezed my hand even tighter and leaned and whispered in my ear as we followed the priest,
"I don't have a ring."
I whispered back, "I don't care."
"Now," began the priest, "if you two would give me your full names I could begin the ceremony."
"Robert Gregory Smith," said Bob, who was shaking just the tiniest bit as a result from the combonation of fear of war and excitement for marrige.
"Rachel Alexis Layne," I said, rubbing his hand to calm him down and remind him that I was there.
"All right. I'll do a quick ceremony because of the time restraint, okay?" the priest asked. We both nodded our heads and he began. "Do you, Robert Gregory Smith, take this woman to be your lawfully weded wife, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, until death do you part?"
Bob looked deep into my eyes, his lips parted and held a tiny simle, "I do."
"And do you, Rachel Alexis Layne, take this man to be your lawfully weded husband, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer," and he paused momentarily, "in times of peace or in times of war, until death do you part?"
My eyes filled with tears as I thought about war, but I answered strongly nonetheless. "I do."
"Then, by the powers given to me by the will and state of God, I pronounce you husband and wife. You, my son, may kiss the bride."
I looked up at Bob and saw not only love, but something like a shadow covering his face, a painful reminder of the difficulties that were just directly ahead of us.
"I love you," he whispered to me.
"I love you, too," I whispered back. Bob moved closer and we kissed our last bittersweet kiss before the PA announcer called his bus over the system.
He pulled away and sighed, "I have to go." I knew that if I said anything that I would burst into tears, and so I just nodded.
"Remember, I love you - Mrs. Smith," he smiled and laughed lightly. I grasped him one last time, clutching him close to me.
"Come home to me Bob, please hurry home to me," I cried in his ear. I could feel him lose it, his tears began to fall silently, and there was no way I was letting him go, war or no war, he wasn't leaving me. It couldn't happen, this couldn't happen to me, to us, it wasn't his time.
The priest, still standing there watching tearfully, placed his hand on Bob's shoulder, "My son," he said, "it's time to go." Unwillingly, I let him go and watched as a recruiter walked with him away towards the bus. I tried to compose myself, I tried not to cry, I tried not to let everyone see how watching him walk away from my life was killing me. The priest placed his hand on my shoulder,
"War is amazing," he said. "It tears families apart so that it can have it's brothers kill brothers, and yet," he said, "and yet somehow, love is still stronger than the deepest hate." He shook his head and walked away to comfort other families and say prayers for other soilers heading off to battle, leaving me numb at the station.
I'm not quite sure how I got home that evening, but somehow, I wound up lying in bed, wondering what to do with myself. Normally, I'd be spending another wonderfully quiet evening at home with Bob, playing scrabble, or looking through old photo albums, but it seemed that if I were to try to do anything of that sort I'd find myself missing him terribly and crying. I tried to sleep, but that was impossible. As I lay there I could think of only one thing that could potentially make me feel better.
I picked up the phone and dialed Paul's home number in his new house in London. He had moved out of the Asher's apartment and had bought his own house, and a lovely one from what I had heard from him.
The phone rang, and rang, and rang, and just when I was about to hang up, thinking that he wasn't home, someone picked up the phone.
"Hello?" the voice asked. It wasn't Paul, but was instead, a woman, but not Jane. I was confused, but asked for Paul anyways. "One moment," the voice said. I could hear her walking away, and just slightly in the background I could hear her yelling, "Mr. McCartney! Mr. McCartney, telephone!" A few moments later I heard someone else pick up the phone.
"Hello?" This voice was definetly male, and was definetly Paul's.
"Hi Paul, it's me," I said, trying to hide my emoitions for jsut a moment to greet my best friend happily.
"Rachel! Hello love! What brings you to call? Couldn't go three days without talking with me, eh?" he joked. I could feel the sparkle in his voice, which was contagious, and before I knew it, I felt my spirits lifting just from the catalyst of his voice.
"No, Paul," I laughed, "but aren't we arrogant?"
"Arrogant? I'm offended Rachel!"
"Oh, come off it! So, Paul, tell me, who was that woman that answered the telephone?"
"Oh, that's my maid, Rose," he said matter-of-factly, like it was an everyday thing.
I couldn't help but laugh, "Your maid? What do you need a maid for?" I asked.
"Well, I'm never home, and I need someone to take care of things around the house, like Martha and the cleaning and such."
"Martha? I thought you said her name was Rose?"
"Oh, it is, Martha is my dog, she's just a puppy but she's huge! She's a sheepdog, you'd love her," he said. As if by some magical force, in the background at that same moment I could hear Martha barking. I smiled silently to myself - just to think, a few years back he couldn't stand dogs.
"Wow, so you've got a whole new life back home, don't you? New house, new dog, new start with the band - what's next?" I asked.
"Well, I guess so," he said, "but I'm still the same old me."
"Yeah," I said. There was no better opportunity to tell him about Bob than now, so I gathered up my courage and strength and let it go. "But there's a new me," I said.
On the other end I could just imagine the look on Paul's face - confused as hell I'm sure. "What do you mean "new you"? Have you changed that much in three days?" he asked laughing.
I bit my lip, "Well, yeah." The line was silent, and I could sense the anticipation Paul was feeling, scared I'm sure.
After a moment of silence he spoke, "what?"
I took in a deep breath, "Bob's been drafted."
"What do you mean, drafted? He's going to Vietnam?" Paul asked, well, more like yelled. His initial surprise reopened the wound like it was new, and I felt the same fears all over again.
"Yes. He left today." Plain and simple, keep it plain and simple, that way there's no chance for me to cry.
"Oh, Rach, I'm so sorry! I'm-I'm shocked, I'm, oh God, I'm so sorry Rachel!" Paul said gravely on the other end.
I gathered my strength again, "There's more," I said. More silence. This time I just came right out and said it. "We got married."
"WHAT?" Paul yelled, "what do you mean you got married? When? Where? Why?"
"Today before he left, a priest married us on the platform at the bus station."
"But - but why?" He sounded devestated for some reason. I felt horrible for not having him there, but, what could I do?
"Because I love him, and he loves me too Paul, and if he never comes back than I want something to remember him by besides the fact that we were dating or living together. Someday I want to be able to look back on my life and say that I was married to this great guy that was taken away from me by a horrible war. I just want to be able to say that we were more than just a couple, we were married, we loved each other. Can you understand that Paul?" I asked, filled with a sudden passion. He didn't answer right away, instead he was dead silent thinking about what I had just said.
"I suppose those are valid reasons...."
"Valid reasons? I think that they're damn good reasons Paul! Just the fact that we love each other is enough reason to get married, but I will never see him again Paul! How else am I supposed to hang onto what we had?" Suddenly I found myself getting angry and raising my voice, even yelling at Paul, which I've only done a handful of times in my life. He was silent again, thinking things over in his mind. The silence was killing me. I don't know what I wanted him to say, but I think that I wanted to hear him say that he gave me his blessings and hopes and wishes and all those good things that you say to married couples, and that he was praying for Bob to come home safely to San Fransico, but he was still silent.
"You're right Rachel, those are valid reasons, but it's just that it seems like you've rushed things, you've forced yourself into it. I don't know, maybe I think that because I'm still surprised about the whole thing. I'm sorry, really I am, I hope he comes home in one piece and that you live long happy lives together." Paul sounded sincere, but there was something in his voice that seemed to hint that he still thought that there was something wrong, but I ignored it.
"Thank you Paul, I appreciate it. I love you."
I could feel the smile returning to his face, "I love you too Rachel. So, what are you going to do in the meantime?" he asked, and honestly, I had no answer for him. I hadn't even thought about it for the most part. All I had thought about was Bob and the war and how I was going to be alone without him, but I never even considered what would happen when he left, or what I would do!
"You know, I have no clue!" I laughed. I had to laugh, there was nothing else I could possibly do at that moment than laugh because things were getting entirely too serious, the past three days had been serious, and I desperately needed a good laugh. My laugh was contagious, and soon Paul and I were laughing so hard we were crying. Eventually the laughter caused the floodgates of memories from Liverpool to crash open, and we spent the majority of the night laughing about olden times as kids. We laughed about the time that we got caught stealing apples from Old Man Dearwood's property, and about all the tricks and pranks we used to play on Mike, and about times we would cut school and hide in the woods just because. It was refreshing to let go and laugh after so much stress, and it was so wonderful to be talking to Paul like we used to.
Eventually the conversation swayed back to what I was going to do now that Bob was gone.
"Hey, Rach, don't you still have that article to write about the concert?" Paul asked. I had completely forgotten about the review, and it was due in two days in order to meet the August issue deadline for the magazine. We chatted some more about old times and made plans to get together for Christmas in Liverpool and spend the holiday with both of our familes back on old Forthlin Road. After talking on the phone for several hours, we deemed it time for me to get some well-needed sleep and for him to get to work in the studio, so we said our good-byes and hung up the phone.
I lay again in bed, but this time I tried to concentrate on positive things rather than the pain of sending Bob off to Vietnam. I fell asleep that night to the sea-air scent of Liverpool in the summer and late nights watching the stars and singing out of tune with Paul, my best friend, by my side late into the night. And I never slept better in my life.
As strange as it was at first, things
"Do you have any hobbies?" he had asked, to which I replied that I wrote. "Well, then there you go! Write! Write 'till your fingers are blue and bruised and you can't even look at a pen, and then write some more." Who knew that Bob Dylan could give such great advice? Writing that Beatles article had set me free from my worries, and I hadn't devoted any realy solid time to writing anything in such a long time that I ached for a pen and paper to just pour our my ideas. I thanked him and nearly sprinted up from my seat and headed home, and just as I was leaving, Dylan yelled out:
"Hey! Aren't you the gal that's friends with, eh, Paul McCartney?"
"Yeah," I yelled back, "why?"
"Oh, nothing - he just really thinks wonders of you, you know? I've talked with him before."
"Yeah," I smiled, brushing my hair out of my face from the blowing wind, "I know."
Anne left three days later and I got down to writing. At first, everything I created was just a bunch of garble and garbage, until I tapped into something hidden inside of me: the pain of war. I spent the rest of September writing my unnamed novel about the girlfriend suffering quietly at home, afraid that at any moment htat dreadful letter might come. Around mid-October I got a phone call from Anne telling me that she and Ian were engaged and had set the wedding date for June 18, 1967, the upcoming year. I laughed silently to myself. That was Paul's birthday. I promised her that nothing could keep me from coming in the spring, and I even promised that I would be her maid-of-honor, since Rose hated that kind of responsiblity. After I got off the phone with Anne, I called Paul to reserve myself a date in advance......
"Hey, Rach, how's it going love?" he asked groggily. It had to of been about one o'clock in the afternoon in London, and Paul had just stumbled out of bed after a late night partying at some London-Jack's place.
"Oh, things are looking pretty good actually," I said rather optomistically.
"That's wonderful love - how's the book coming along?"
"Great - it's really starting to gel, you know? Take on a life of its own. I think it's going to be great." And I really did. I was putting my whole heart and soul into it, and not to mention most of my time.
"Be sure to send me my own copy once you've finished!" he laughed. Everytime we tallked on the phone (which was becoming pretty regular) he told me he wanted a copy.
"I'll even autograph it for you - how's that?"
"That," he laughed, "would be the least you could do for you best friend. I mean, everytime we do an album I send you your own special copy.....you need to return the favor!"
"Fine. Oh, by the way, what are you doing June 18, 1967?" I blurted out of the blue, in fear that I would get wrapped up in conversation and forget why I had called in the first place.
I could hear Paul laughing on the other end, "Most likely getting drunk with the boys.... why?"
"Because, Anne is getting married on that day and I was wondering if I could snatch you as my date."
"Oh! Annie's getting married? That's great, and uh, yeah, sure, I suppose I could squeeze you in and all....." Paul yawned in the phone, adding to his apathy gig.
"Well, if that's how you feel, I could always go stag..."
"Sure you would, and embarrass yourself at your friends wedding? No Rach, I'll go, to save you the embarrasment," Paul joked.
I sighed at his teasing antics, he could be so obnoxious at times. "Well, since you've been so kind as to take this poor gal out for an evening - on your birthday of all days - I'll have to owe you one."
"Owe me something? Nah, seriously Rach, you know I was just kidding, right?"
I laughed, "Yes Paul, I know you were kidding, but I'm serious, it's your birthday and I'm stealing you away from your annual drinking night with your mates. Just let me have this one, I owe you, okay?"
Big sigh. "Fine, you owe me, but..."
"No buts," I inturrupted, "whatever I say goes, you get no say in the matter." At the same time, I nonchalantly caught a glance at the clock haning on the wall. "Oh shit!" I said, in one of those really loud whispers.
"What? What's the matter?" Paul asked, sounding slightly worried.
"I'm late! I was supposed to meet Bob fifteen minutes ago!" I said, franticly trying to find my shoes to get going.
"Bob? Bob's home?" said Paul, half excited, half worried.
"Hmm? What? Bob? Bob, no, not that Bob, uh....Dylan...Bob Dylan," I said in strains, trying to reach my shoe without letting go of the telephone.
"Bob Dylan! What're doing with Bob Dylan, no, wait, when did you meet Bob Dylan?!"
"Oh, at some party that Anne dragged me to a while ago. Oh, by the way, he asked me to say hello to you for him, and to ask you when the new album is coming out." By this point I had gotten both of my shoes on and was now applying a little bit of make-up so as not confuse poor Bob with me or a witch.
"Oh. Well, that's, well, nice I suppose! Isn't he great? I haven't seen him in the longest time actually. Tell him I said hello too, and that were just starting to get some ideas for the new album. Tell him I'll invite him into a session when we start, okay?"
"Sure, anything Paul, but I've really got to get going, I'm late," I said, putting the lid on my tube of pink lipstick and throwing it into my purse. "I'll call you later."
"You better. Bye love."
And with that, I was out the door, stepping into the bright, warm San Fransico sea breezing air, racing to meet my lunch date, and anxiously awaiting the news he was carrying.