Mama made cream cake tonight. The scent reminded me of your going away party. It tasted as bitter to me now as it did then. When I take a bite I think, “Antonio is living off army rations. I’m despicable eating this.” I pushed it away. Mama looked offended.
“Luci, you no like? You sick?”
“No, Mama. I’m just not hungry.”
She rattled off exasperations in Italian and Papa scolded her, “Marie! We use English in the household!”
She continued speaking in Italian. You know Mama.
Antonio, I despise being the only child without you here. Yes, we fought a lot, but I’d rather put up with your dirty dishes, muddy footprints, and teasing ways then be all alone. You’ve always called me melodramatic. I used to take that as an insult. But that very “flaw” is helping me remember you. I often find myself walking into your bedroom and sitting on the edge of your bed. Nothing has been changed since you left, except a few new wrinkles in your bedspread. I don’t think you’ll mind….you’re not the neatest boy on this earth. Your stinky shoes are still where you kicked them off, a pair of pants lay inside out near your closet, while the cap of your cologne is sitting next to a half used bottle. Your desk is a paper hurricane, and there’s a note next to your bed with a late night scribble (I’m assuming from the poor penmanship) that reads, extra socks. Did you remember to pack extra socks?
It’s lonely at the house, but it’s even lonelier when I go places without you. We went to Mass yesterday and your spot next to me remained empty. You always inspired me to be more holy and faithful. Your example of reverence and trust in our Lord still resonates me with. At least that hasn’t left me. I pour myself out to Him in a mixture of incoherent thoughts and prayers. I pray for you, Antonio. I pray hard.
I went to the movies last week. I felt so deserted walking by myself. Mama and Papa don’t care for movies, and I haven’t many friends in NYC. What a horrible time to move to the city, right when you were shipped off for Europe. Remember how we used to race to the theater? It was entirely unfair. You have longer legs which makes you the victor every single time. I like to recall your laughing brown eyes as you glanced over your shoulder yelling, “Hurry up slow poke!” Then I’d punch you in the stomach when I caught up to you. You haven’t forgotten that have you? I never did tell you thank you for purchasing the popcorn that last movie showing. Remember how you spilled a bit on the theater floor and when I mentioned it to you, you shrugged and said, “That’s what the high school boys working here get paid to do. I ain’t doing their work. Let’s go.” I kept recalling Papa's famous saying, "Leave a place better than you found it." I felt like we were criminals.
I like to think about those days last summer when we sat on the fire escapes – the only cool spot in New York – and licked our melting ice cream cones. That’s when you started to tell me about wanting to join the army. Then a year later we sat in that same spot and you told me you were leaving for sure. I hated how sappy I was, tears trickling down my cheeks as I stared at my shoes.
“You’re dumb,” I told you.
“I know,” you said.
You’re not really dumb, Antonio. I didn’t mean it. I just didn’t know what to say ... my heart hurt so much. I was a real brat to you from then on. I didn’t mean it ... I didn’t mean the words I threw at you – stupid, idiot, dumb – please believe me. I wasn’t able to express my feelings in the right way. But the memory that stings the most is the day you left us. You looked real swell in your uniform. Your face was bright, your eyes filled with adventure, and you wore a mischievous smirk on your face. I glanced around at the other families gathered at the station. All the other men’s sisters were hugging and kissing them with tears in their eyes. I had my arms crossed with a scowl on my face. If I could go back in time, I’d change my attitude and tell that stupid Luci girl to snap out of it. But I can’t. I was as moody as they come. You tousled my hair and peered down into my eyes.
“What’s eatin’ you?” I remember you saying.
“Oh, just quit it.” Did I slap your arm? Sounds like something I would do.
“You’re a real sad sack, you know that?”
You made me angry, for I gritted my teeth and glared some more. “Just go.”
“Glad to be rid of me? Mama didn’t give you my room did she? I’m comin’ back you know!”
“Plannin’ on it.” Then you gave me a tight hug amidst my grumblings and tousled my hair once more. “Love you, Luci.”
That struck something in me, Antonio, for although you’re my big brother and I know you love me, I don’t think I ever heard you say it before. Then you left. I imagined all sorts of adventures you must be having, inspired by newspaper articles on the advancement of the war, and books I’ve been reading. We pray a rosary for you every night. Mama and Papa have made an agreement regarding how we say it. Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays are in Italian. Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday are in English.This letter hasn’t been something to cheer you up. I’m sorry. I just miss you and I want you to know how much. I’ll be a nicer little sister when you come home. Please ... come home soon. Un sacco d'amore.