The End of Yesterday

The End of Yesterday

by E. M. Corbin

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781506904771
Publisher: First Edition Design Publishing
Publication date: 07/25/2017
Pages: 276
Sales rank: 899,191
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.58(d)

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CHAPTER 1

1934

Analise wanted to be just like her friends Sarah and Miriam, Connie and Agatha. Their lives were spent in the warm, safe cocoon of matrimony, untouched by the gloom of the Depression or rumors of war or whispers of rape or talk of robbery. Tuesday followed Monday with pleasant regularity. Milk and bread arrived on their door step each morning and later the morning paper; they knew the butcher and the baker and the grocer by name and they in turn knew theirs. Their lives were normal. She wanted that; every girl did. Each of her friends had been rescued from the hovering shame of being left behind – of growing old and unmarried and unwanted and unloved.

Analise was slender with thoughtful green eyes and a young girl's open smile. By nature self-critical and anxious to please, she would seldom argue or raise her voice. Her dark hair was worn in a chignon that kept her slender neck clear and free. She was careful to follow the fashion of pleated skirts and round collared sweaters. Everyone who knew her said she was nice and considerate and inoffensive. And she was. Still, beneath it all was a hidden streak of determination that would later shape her world in a shocking fashion. She was what followed the word "but."

To prepare herself to be like everybody else, she thoughtfully read the "textbooks" concerning matrimony. There was the Ladies' Home Journal's Book on the Business of Housekeeping, and McCall's and Ladies' Companion explaining the intricacies of refrigerators and mattresses and linoleum flooring. The "text books" quietly advised the good wife to know who Babe Ruth was and that FDR was the president and that Communists were bad and – sometimes – one might find an oblique reference to a thing called "family planning."

Girls of her class were often encouraged to attend college, not primarily to get an education, but to find a husband and when she was a sophomore, Analise was thrilled to find herself among the chosen. She became engaged to Jacob Miller. She was ecstatic. She was successful. She would soon be a married lady like everyone she knew!

Yet now, three years later, she felt him slipping away like a soapy, expensive platter. She was making an effort to catch the platter before it shattered on the floor. It seemed she could almost measure the distance growing between them. Then the diamond ring on her finger felt like someone's borrowed jewelry.

Occasionally, to persuade herself that her engagement to Jacob was not in jeopardy, she caressed her engagement ring with her thumb, treasuring what it meant – a culmination of her having grown from a little girl playing with dolls to a young woman experiencing a handsome man saying, "I love you" and making her feel especially chosen.

But she knew he was slipping away and the devastating fear of being left behind seemed more real now that she had had her chance.

* * *

When she was fourteen, in private school in Manhattan, still too young to fully understand the nuances and implications of boy meets girl, she had begun learning the intricate dance of courtship with Saul.

He was a tall, awkward boy who pretended he had friends when he hadn't any. He would stand near groups of popular kids as though he were a part of their group. They resolutely ignored him. Some of it was his own doing because he avoided any activity with the other boys that could cause him a bruise or a bump.

Analise felt he needed looking after.

Saul liked to hike in Central Park searching for odd colored stones that he collected with an air of triumph. One day he finally marshaled the courage to mumble an eye evading invitation. Would she like to hunt rocks with him?

Her first thought was, "Ugh!" It sounded dirty! But she smiled and murmured, "Yes," though it meant going into the woods - that domain of ugly, crawly insects that raced up your legs and over your arms and even down your back! They bit you and flew and beat against your face! She scrunched her shoulders. Still she went. She wore a long sleeve shirt and hugged herself.

Determined to acquire an interest in rocks and stones, she borrowed books from the library that showed pictures of pink and blue and gray stones and she studied their names and shared what he knew with Saul. She even pointed a delicate finger to a stone or two that lay half buried in dirt, refraining from picking them up herself.

When his parents lost their money in the Stock Market crash in 1929, they could no longer keep him in private school. They drifted apart.

The summer she was seventeen, she met Manny while she and her mother were on vacation in Connecticut. He took her canoeing. She went although she was afraid of the water because she could not swim. They spent afternoons on a nearby lake. Since both of them had to paddle, she found the task exhausting and, smiling, had to beg off frequently to rest.

Manny said she would be more comfortable in a swim suit. She sensed a danger in that. Smiling, she demurred. They quarreled about it; it was more a thing of pouting than anything else but she stopped seeing him.

Finally there was Jacob, a medical student at NYU. Almost from the first, she wanted to own him. He was tall, a little stooped and he wore wire rim glasses; his hair was parted in the middle and it made him look like an artist. Jacob had a disarming, boyish smile and he didn't mind in the least that she was a little thin, slender really.

That was when she began to think of the glorious state of marriage and was surprised to feel twinges of jealousy when other girls were around. It made her feel a little ashamed; they were her friends, but still she monitored the distance between him and them.

He cared deeply for people and wondered when the Depression would end and why no one cared enough about the people who suffered and went hungry or stood in block-long soup lines and couldn't afford medical care. He almost shouted that it was obscene. She treasured that about him and adopted his pure, clean outrage as her own.

So it surprised her when he unexpectedly sneered at the victims of the German Zeppelin, Hindenburg. The newspapers were filled with pictures showing the huge dirigible descending in flames to the ground at Lakehurst, New Jersey.

It was all anyone talked about. To be burned alive like that, falling from the sky with no way to escape - it was horrible. She scrunched her shoulders just thinking about it.

Jacob was unmoved. "Serves them right. They're all Nazis and they're doing worse than that to Jews in Germany!" His eyes were harder than she had ever seen them. For a moment it unnerved her. Arm in arm they were on their way to see Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He paused on the sidewalk to scold her for showing sympathy for the people on the Hindenburg.

"I'm surprised you don't know about the Nuremburg Laws, Ana, and what those Nazis do to Jews! Hundreds, thousands brutalized every single day, children even!"

"I know about the Nuremburg Laws, Jacob," she replied quietly, "but they weren't all Germans on the Hindenburg."

"Then they shouldn't have been on it!" He was livid. "They should never have set foot in Germany. The whole damn crew was German."

It was their first argument. She strongly disagreed but did not pursue it. Would anyone say the same thing about a ship at sea? The Hindenburg was a ship of the air which was supposed to be the future of transatlantic passenger travel; they said that it was only a matter of time before ocean liners disappeared altogether. In the days that followed, she chastised herself for not having spoken up and defended her beliefs. He even declared that the only good German was Bruno Hauptmann because he was dead - executed last year for kidnapping the Lindbergh baby.

But mostly they laughed and did silly things at sporting events and parties to call attention to themselves. They kissed passionately in dark places and wrote letters back and forth. He told her the things he wanted to do with his life and she said encouraging things to send forth her knight in shining armor.

Once when they were parked in his father's car behind Maxwell's gas station, kissing passionately, his fingers, like an advancing army, captured her knee and then part of her thigh. Emboldened he sent troops sliding between her thighs headed for the Golden City. Alarmed, she caught her breath, snatched his hand away, pressed her knees together and crossed her ankles.

"Aw, come on, honey," he pleaded softly in her ear, caressing her face with kisses, "– we're already engaged."

"But we're not married, Jacob. We're not married. - Why can't we wait?"

"- That's old fashioned," he murmured with a chuckle. "Nobody cares about that 'virgin' stuff anymore. It's 1936, honey, not 1836. Everybody does it. We're going to get married, aren't we, so what difference does it make? We're practically married already. You're going to be my wife, Ana."

"- I won't feel right about it, Jacob!" she pleaded. "I'll feel like ... like a whore. I can't help it; it's how I was raised. And suppose I got pregnant! That's not 'old fashioned.' I know a girl who got pregnant. Her parents won't even speak to her anymore and another girl tried to get rid of it and died. - I'm sorry, Jacob. It's all my fault. I should have stopped letting you do things a long time ago...."

Disgusted, he blew his breath out and sat back and hit the steering wheel with the heel of his hands. Silence took a seat between them. Several minutes squirmed by.

"- I know you're disappointed, Jacob, but so am I. What makes you think that I'm that sort of girl?" "I don't want to talk about this anymore! It's asinine. You sound like somebody's grandmother. 'That-sort-of-girl!' You should hear how you sound."

Silence nudged them farther apart. He was on the verge of starting the car up when she held out her palm. Her engagement ring was in the middle of it. For a second he stared dumbly at the ring before lifting his eyes to hers. There were no tears. Maybe there was anger; her eyes were steady. He tried to gauge her resolve.

"I want to marry you, Jacob. I love you and I want to give you children, and ... and I'll give you the most precious thing I have – my body. When you give me the most precious thing you have – your name."

He shook his head as though to clear it. He stared at her in mild disbelief. After a count of three, he reached out and closed her slender fingers around the ring. "I'm sorry," he said. It was then that she cried and he took her in his arms and let her cry and then he took her home and kissed her on her forehead and on her face.

* * *

The first inkling that he was slipping away presented itself around the time that the Hindenburg exploded. But was it because of sex or socialism? Maybe it was both. By then he was finishing medical school and socialism had become important to him. When had she first noticed the slippage? Was it that time he had called during one of his rare breaks from his studies? "We're meeting again this Saturday. Want to come?"

"- The Student Socialists?"

"Yeah. It's going to be really swell. You ought to come and hear what they have to say."

He first expressed an interest in socialism shortly after she met him. She hurried to the library and researched socialism so she could discuss it intelligently with him. She came away confused. The various philosophical permutations left her convinced socialism was the stuff of dreams, and even if it wasn't, you'd have to virtually stand the world on end to accomplish anything. But she did not tell him that.

"- Nobody said much of anything the last few times we went, Jacob. Remember? We just sat around listening to people arguing and shouting each other down. I still have no idea what anybody was trying to say."

"Yeah, I know, but Norman Thomas is coming! He's the real deal. He ran for president last year and a lot of people voted for him. We need to get more people like him to run for office, not just for president, but mayors, councilmen, congress; it's the only way we can really make a difference!"

"– Gee, I don't know," she said with a smile in her voice. "I didn't want to go the last time; I just wanted to be with you and to be honest, I don't think I have any real interest in that sort of thing. I know you said it's not like Communism, but – I just don't have any interest.

But I'll go if you...."

"No, no, don't do that, Ana. It's all right. Maybe you'll change your mind later...."

Should she have gone anyway? And all of the times after that? Would it have made a difference had she learned to distinguish Eugene Debs from Norman Thomas? Other things played a part. Distance and time now that he was also doing work at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. The future became even murkier when her mother reminded her that she and Jacob might not be able to get married until after he got an internship and then established a practice. Years.

There had to be a way to halt the slippage and she needed to do something to occupy the time until they could get married. He was still in school, growing, while she was finished with college and standing still. That posed other problems - there were few options for a woman with a college degree outside of social work or teaching. Doris Cortland graduated Phi Beta Kappa and was a Marshall Scholar at Oxford yet could not do better than run copy at a magazine. Everyone said it was a disgrace but that didn't change anything. You had to be a wife and a mother. Nothing else.

Then a solution presented itself. - What would be more logical than becoming a nurse?

That way she could be a helpmate to Jacob and have a realistic understanding of the hours and pressures he faced every day. She dreaded the sight of blood and even more the thought of someone in pain, but if he wanted to succor the poor, so would she. She meant to hold on to him, and the sight of blood was not going to stop her.

CHAPTER 2

Olga Stern frowned. "Be a nurse? For that you didn't need college!"

"I know Mama, but it's what I have to do. I'll be helping Jacob in his practice, that's all."

"What does Jacob say?"

"I've only told you so far. He'll be surprised and pleased. I know he will."

Olga's face registered doubt and disapproval.

Analise's friend, Miriam, offered a puzzled expression. "Can't you get a job in some kind of business, Ana? You went to college. That gives you a lot of prestige. Anybody can be a nurse."

Sarah, another friend, also expressed surprise. "Do you think you'll like seeing sick people every day and touching them....?"

Undeterred, during a rare dinner date with Jacob at Alfonso's, eyes glowing with suppressed excitement, she told him that she was going to go to nursing school so that she could be of help to him in his practice, and she'd be able to understand the things he had to go through every day.

He chewed thoughtfully for a long moment, searching for the right words. Failing to do so, he engaged her eyes and suggested she do something other than nursing.

"– But don't you want me to be able to help you?"

"Not if it means tearing yourself apart, Ana. Nurses have to be tough, not kind and gentle. That's crap you see in the movies. Nurses don't go to college; some of the older ones never finished high school. It's a lunch pail kind of job. My God, you went to Smith! That's like me going to Harvard then saying I want to be a carpenter or a plumber.

"This is like that boy you were telling me about who liked rocks. You followed him into the woods worrying the whole time about insects, then you get into a canoe when you can't even swim. Stop trying to please everybody and that includes me.

"You're not cut out to be a nurse. There's no room for sympathy in a hospital. You're so full of sympathy you'd be used up in a week. A nurse has to forget her feelings and her sense of propriety. And sometimes you have to inflict pain to ease pain. You're not that sort of person, Ana."

"... What 'sort of person'?"

"Tough."

They finished the meal in silence. After the waiter cleared the dishes he said, "- I didn't mean to offend you." But that was all he said.

She never mentioned nursing to him again, but she was determined to be a nurse and to help him and to understand the stresses and strains that would attend his being a physician. That was her vision. Let it be a surprise, one she believed he'd appreciate when the time came.

Nevertheless, she resented his belief that she was inadequate and could not do what other women did. Was she supposed to be a frail, perishable creature best kept in the safety of a house sorting laundry and preparing meals? She kept her feelings to herself for fear of endangering their engagement, and once she even thought of sacrificing her virginity to him, but her mother's voice screamed and echoed in her head – KEEP YOUR KNEES TOGETHER!

(Continues…)


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Copyright © 2017 E. M. Corbin.
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