I think I remember her first name—Jane. It certainly fit. Plain Jane. She showed up in Foggia every couple of weeks with books and 16 mm films from Information & Education (I&E) headquarters in Rome.
We had our own little newspaper, authorized by the US Army's I&E unit (above is our old masthead), got a Speed Graphic camera, film, supplies (very few flashbulbs), had our own jeep, and green patches for our shoulders showing we were Press—the Fourth Estate. We had no movie theater yet got a 16mm projector and Jane brought the latest American films which we showed to all who could squeeze into our office. Home In Indiana was a huge hit. "Is that what America is like?" asked awed Italian staff members.
"Not all of it," I replied.
Jane was a 2nd lieutenant in the WAAC (Women's Auxiliary Army Corp). The books she brought were soft cover newsprint editions calculated to self-destruct in a few years. One week she handed me Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop," said I'd like it and I really did. Jane was smart and very nice, but no beauty. My Aunt Beatrice, a beauty in her youth, would have said, "She's as homely as a mud fence."
Beautiful women have heart-shaped or elfin faces, or if square, like Sigourney Weaver's, with a high brow, firm mouth and deep set luminous eyes. Jane's face was roundish, not much of a chin, small eyes and mouth, a nub of a nose, dull brown hair brushed out of the way, skin unblemished but a bit pasty. She wore no makeup. Her uniform looked like off-the-shelf army issue, no alterations to flatter her quite good body, as if she'd given up trying to look sexy. She was the kind of woman a boy soldier, for that is what all of us were, could be razzed for going out with.
Yet she had a lively mind, a gentle, hopeful personality, and when she showed up with films and books, would spend a couple of days. She and I had dinner in the officer's mess and long conversations, after which I'd walk her to the female billet, occupied mostly by nurses, One night, walking her there under a full moon, she stopped, looked up, said, "Isn't it nice that no matter how foreign a country is, its moon is always exactly like the one back home?" I looked up at the moon, then at Jane, and realized that she wanted me to kiss her. I didn't.
In Zorba. the Greek, the book by Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba has a curious definition of Original Sin: refusing to make love with a woman who wants you. I am guilty of it, and I curse myself for it to this day.