by Trudy Raven
Speaking of Annabel Lee here’s a copy of a post written ten years ago about an event in a Seattle hotel over seventy years ago. Originally written by Willie and edited by me on orders from the skipper.
I was dozing off when I hear a knock on the door. In my skivvies I opened it and there stood shipmate Archie. “Can we come in” “We, who’s we”. With that the most beautiful woman I think I’d ever seen stepped into view. She was not only gorgeous but class to the max, so much so that I hurried back under the sheet so she wouldn’t see me in my underwear. Archie didn’t have much couth in those days and as has took off his uniform before laying in the bed all he said was; “this is my friend Willie”.
She didn’t say Hi ya, hi guy or hi sailor, she looked at me and said “hello Willie, I’m Annabel Lee” I would only hear two more words from her. I watched Annabel Lee as she took off her dress and folded it neatly on the back of a chair. In her slip now she moved silently and gracefully to the bed. Being very considerate as if not waken anyone, she gently eased herself in and lay on her back, face to the ceiling. With Archie between us and already snoring I knew I wouldn’t sleep anymore this night. After enough time passed, thinking she should be asleep, I lifted my head to look at her and saw her eyes open as she turned her head toward me.
The only thing that kept me from breaking a cardinal rule among brothers was another knock on the door. I opened it to see shipmate Byrdman and his girl looking for a place to sleep. I gave them a spare blanket and shortly they’re on the floor, if not asleep close to it. I checked Annabel Lee and she lay serenely like a goddess never moving from her original position.
Within a few minutes another knock and this time it was my room mate Jimmy and his date. I explained the best I could offer was another blanket and the floor. I locked the door, there was no more room here for tired shipmates. Regardless of how it appeared all of these people were only interested in sleeping.
For some reason, a watch perhaps, I got up early, quietly put on my brand new tailor made uniform and as I unlatched the door I heard the last two words I would ever hear from Annabel Lee. Very softly she said, “goodbye Willie”. Stepping over Jimmy I crept to the bed. She touched my hand but said nothing. This wasn’t the time or place any more conversation and thinking there will be time for another meeting under different circumstances I left.
On the ferry to Bremerton I couldn’t get her out of my mind, I’ve got to see her again. When I saw Archie later he was no help at all. Where did she go, where was she from, did he get an address; all he could say was he put her in a cab and she had told him she was from Carmel CA. I was so outdone with him we were half way across the Pacific before I forgave him like it was his fault.
Edgar Allen Poe wrote a poem about an Annabel Lee but she couldn’t be nearly as beautiful as my Annabel Lee who lived by the sea in Carmel. We kept the room at the Caledonia with Jimmy and I holing up there on our three AOL days checking with Yorktowners everyday for news of when we would leave. I also checked cab drivers in the area for information but none were of any help. Annabel Lee was gone for good and would only be a haunting memory for years to come. And yes I wonder; could it have been only a dream.
Boys and girls, I hate to keep this story hanging around but a few more words of clarification are needed before it disappears from view. First; the words "lust" and "fornication" don't apply here.
In those days when a woman took off a dress she was still more modestly covered in slip (petticoat) and undergarments than women are today in many party dresses. Scenes of women in slips routinely passed strict censorship by the Hays Office of Hollywood. They were definitely not considered prurient or 'a turn on' of any kind.
Women often did this in circumstances like those in the story when they were comfortable with friends and didn't want their clothes to look like they had, "slept in them." There is no way I would have laid down in a bed in my uniform for the same reason. I considered myself decently covered in standard Navy issue skivvies except perhaps when awed by the presence of someone like Annabel and instinctively wanted to look my very best.
Everybody in the room that night went there to sleep. You might say similarities in generations and wars are limited.
Many of our institutions have become corrupt and each younger generation tends to apply their concept of morality to those before. I suppose we of the forties did the same to those before us.
Speaking of conceptions, there were none in that room, that night. Did we on occasion go "all the way"; if we did, I wouldn't be writing about it. Surely not naming names. Was that OK Bea?
I didn't want this story with the main page stories because I'm not totally convinced my Annabel actually existed. Bea wasn't aware anyone else was in the room that night but she and I. When she woke up she was alone. Besides Archie and I only one of the other girls could attest how many people were in the bed and couldn't identify anyone anyway.
Archie later recalled Annabel Lee left a group of four or five and approached him. He never tried to put make on her, he was only sixteen and didn't know diddly about women, nothing like us suave sophisticated eighteen year olds. She just started walking with him and he said yes when she asked if she could tag along.
Even had I drunk all of the half pint myself it wasn't enough to make me hallucinate several hours after the fact. Was she a vision or an apparition, I don't think so. believe she may have been a missionary, there were many about in those days. She could have decided poor innocent Archie had a foot in hell but saw me as a real challenge, not just a foot but a poor wretch hanging on the gates of hell by his finger tips crying for help.
I heard her speak six words to me, I spoke none to her. Damn! Bea and Jimmy's girl stayed with us during our AOL days until we turned ourselves in to enter the second phase of our war as PAL's. As related in another story, We would have one more unexpected night to spend ashore, and what a night it was.
One little bit of info, SP's and MP's had lists of all the men in the area who were AOL or AWOL. Anyone in uniform on the street during daylight hours was suspect and usually stopped for ID. It helped have someone check the landscape before venturing out in the daytime. Good girl Bea. She was small in size but had the giant heart of a pioneer woman.
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