An image that has haunted me now has a name – she is real – she lived. Her name is Virginia Moore.
Curiously, I have amassed numerous images of Virginia, unlike my photo; each depicts her full of life, wearing a bright smile – exhibiting an exuberant, brilliant demeanor. I shuffle pictures collected from online sites interpreting and inferring meaning from her random sentiments scribbled in the margins.
My emotions overwhelmed- as I continue to locate more artifacts.
Peculiarly, I have acquired her scrapbook; while cannibalized by collectors and resellers of antiquity, it still holds significant information, such as letterhead, greeting cards, and casual correspondence with friends.
How has this offering so conveniently found its way to me – effortlessly?
Our silent interchanges become frequent – unbalanced yet pleasurable.
Although I grow more confused as her images send mixed signals. She introduced herself to me in anguish, calling to me for help. Now she laughs and taunts my bid to do her well.
My questions have not been answered with the knowledge of her name or the acquisition of her personal items – my interest only intensifies.
I know she was a nurse, an RN from Missouri; her license number was 14675.
I know she answered the call of the Cadet Nurses during World War II. I know she traveled from New Orleans, LA, to San Francisco, Ca, on December 16, 1943, via a Pullman car to work at the Marine Hospital. I know she frequented the numerous nightspots in Union Square. I know the names of her friends; Verda, George, Doris, and her niece Sally.
I know her uniform. Gray wool flannel with silver buttons – red shoulder epaulets and insignia displaying the United States Public Health Service. I see the color of her lips, “Rocket Red,” the unique shade the Lentheric Cosmetic Company created to match the bright red trim on the Nurse Corps’ uniforms.
I know her smile, and I perceive her energy. I know her crassness. I know her writing. I know her slang. I know her eyes.
Why were your eyes down when I first met you?
Why have you exposed so much to me?
This obsession has gone too far – I have become a steward of an impossible cause – a situation that cannot be corrected. What is this effort attempting to accomplish? There is nothing to gain. It is probably just all a creation of my own unstable mind.
While her image lingers in my thoughts, I decide to bid farewell. Accept that an unexplained photograph can continue to exist as just that – unexplained.
Virginia will now be just a part of me. A piece of my history, a temporary focus of interest, that, for a moment, entwined too deeply in my thoughts.
I view her as a hobby, a random interest to explore. My heart breaks at this realization. I have removed the pursuit’s emotion and replaced it with a mundane inquiry. She has become a failed conquest.
She is a still-life memory.
Weeks turn to months, she lingers in my mind – I randomly search for clues while lying to myself I have put her to rest.
When life allows, I pursue more information about this elusive woman I know so much about -working through a vast array of mismatched puzzle pieces searching in vain to find connections – in my collection of photos and letters, cocktail napkins, and newspaper clippings.
Without surprise, each pursuit ends the same, nothing of Miss Virginia Moore after 1944.
I feel more of a calling than ever –
I should have never found the photo, I should have never entered the junk store, I should have never even been in that town two years ago. I should have never known her name; I should have never been able to collect so much information about this woman.
Why is this happening?
Is it all just a fabrication of imagination?
The photos are tangible – she did exist?
Was it all random, or is there meaning?
What is the calling?
I examine the San Fransisco Chronicle Virginia had folded in her scrapbook.
Tuesday, June 6, 1944.
The colossal headline “INVASION!” – Allies Pouring Into Northern France.
I imagine her expression, the excitement flowing through her as she held the paper, the paper I now hold, the turning tide as the allies push toward Berlin.
I long to share her emotions as my eyes read the same print on the same paper. I attempt to tune into her emotions- my senses ignorant to her reality – unable to relate – fall short of a reunion with Virginia.
I place the paper on the table, and it comes to me – the newspaper – my answers could be in the newspaper.
I hurriedly begin searching through the San Francisco Chronicles’ online archives.
Searching – Virginia Moore. A slew of Moores and Virginia produce thousands of hits.
Narrowing the search with quotations -“Virginia Moore” – narrowed but still thousand of random words, too many to examine – I scroll down and quickly lose focus – a feeble attempt.
Driven by an emotional passion I search – hours pass. I sense the end.
My emotions swell as I find my answer; how long have I wondered?
My eyes scan the few sentences dedicated to Miss Virginia Moore from the August 15th, 1944 edition.
Miss Virginia Moore was found dead in the stairwell of the Drake Hotel Tuesday night. An autopsy found substantial amounts of Luminal in her system. Miss Moore’s death has been classified as suicide.
I stare through the screen – fonts melt into long horizontal streaks.
Did Virginia Moore call to me, or were our conversations fabricated from my own imagination?
A feeble attempt to produce shallow valor.
To weave a personal hero’s quest?
To create purpose?
I stole her life.
My punishment is to be haunted by the spirit of a woman who is now deeply ingrained into my being.
I open my photo from the Perisian Room with trembling fingers and examine the mood of the photo I know so well.
If your eyes were not down –
I would not now envision your final moments with such horror.
Disgusted – I close the cover and attempt to harness my emotion – running my finger over the image I realize that the Perisian Room was in the Drake Hotel.
Quickly pulling the photo from the sleeve I flip it to the back – the printed date’s ink, aged, faintly expresses – August 12, 1944.