This is the forty-first of 87 letters exchanged during World War II between Nicholas Salvatore and Elizabeth Galloway. For more see Nicholas and Elizabeth.

Securing a mountain road in Italy

August 20, 1944

Everything is closing in

Dear Elizabeth,

The line between reality and fantasy continually wavers these days. I am having more and more trouble telling the difference. At times all signs indicate reality but this mindless destruction is mad. Unimaginable. How can it be real? I woke the other morning to the sound of a mortar barrage. Like fireworks. The men said I started cheering and waving my hands like a child. I don’t know what to believe. Please tell me of home. Tell me it exists. Tell me you exist. What’s the latest gossip? Who’s dating who these days? Tell me anything. Just tell me you’re real and I’m real and this war isn’t. Please.

Do you know how many kinds of dirt there are? Dry dirt, wet dirt (no, I know what you’re thinking, but it’s different than mud), frozen dirt, red dirt, orange dirt, living dirt, dead dirt, black dirt, sandy dirt, whole dirt, empty dirt, revolting dirt, delicious dirt, satisfying dirt, disapproving dirt, comfortable dirt, endless dirt, beginning dirt and ending dirt.

In case you’re wondering, boredom continues here. It’s endless waiting followed by the entire world exploding – feast or famine, nothing in between. But we’ll find that balance won’t we? If anyone can I know it’s us. Have you been reading lately? Nothing new around here.

There’s no silence anymore. When the guns are silent I can’t turn off the ringing and the screams. I long for silence. I’m a better gravedigger than a medic.



Next letter – August 21, 1944