I woke up with ringing in my ear that drowned out any other sound that tried to reach my ear drums. A light shined bright in my face and it triggered a splitting headache. I braced my forehead against my fingertips as I felt the soft fabric of a gauze wrapped around my head. I felt it all around until I managed to find where the wound was.
The British accent alarmed me.
“Where am I?” I asked.
“Don’t be alarmed,” he said softly, trying to calm me down. “You’re in a hospital on Okinawa. I’m Dr. Lawrence.”
“Virginia Anderson. How did I end up on Okinawa?”
“You were rescued when the United States Army raided the camp on the Bataan Peninsula. They found you lying on the floor and that a bullet had grazed your head, knocking you on conscious. They loaded you onto an airplane and brought you here.”
So many questions came pouring out. I asked about the camp and the women who were held there. I asked about Okinawa and made sure that it was safe. Too many raids have happened, and I could not bear another.
“The Japanese are trying to take Okinawa back, but our allied forces are too strong for them. They’re about to go into battle again and we could sure use more hands here at the hospital.”
“I’ll do what I can.” I said.
Dr. Lawrence checked my vitals and my pupils for dilation. It felt nice to be looked after. He ran through a series of tests to make sure I didn’t suffer any brain damage or memory loss. Unfortunately I remembered everything. Being in the camp was so vivid that I could transport myself there if I just closed my eyes. It haunted me day and night.
“Everything appears to be functioning normally. If you’re hungry they are serving lunch in the mess hall, and you are welcome to take a shower. Just be sure to use a shower cap to protect your bandage.”
“I’m starving,” I said.
It had been a while since I have been able to enjoy a warm ham sandwich, fresh vegetables, and a glass of milk. I took my time devouring every last bite and cherishing every moment as if it may not happen again. Because it might not.
Afterwards I took my shower, washing the dirt and sweat, and tears from my body that had accumulated over the past couple of months. I’d like to think it washed the memory of that place from my mind, but it would take more than soap to do that.
At any rate, I stood beneath the cascading water in my shower stall, as the warm tropical sun of Okinawa beamed down on me. I craned my chin to the sky, shielding the rays with my eyelids as I soaked in the feeling of sunshine and freedom. And although it wasn’t San Francisco, I felt like I was home.