She Hopes Dispatches From Desert Become Love Letters


She knows it’s crazy. She knows she could be setting herself up for a big fall.

But whoever said love had to make sense?

Meet Lois, a 36-year-old professional woman, who as far as I could tell from the 90 minutes I spent with her, seems to have her wits about her. Well-spoken and engaging, she holds down two jobs, is raising a 14-year-old son by herself and has a nice home in Irvine.

As for the rest of it . . . well, decide for yourself.

It started when she decided to write to a serviceman during the Persian Gulf War. Admiring the troops’ courage and wanting to do her part, she wrote five different letters, having no idea who would get them.


Then, on March 4, John wrote back.

Lois’s life hasn’t been the same since.

Something in John’s reply--thoughtful, friendly, responsive, articulate--struck a nerve. She can’t get over the image of him writing back in his tent by flashlight--the mere thought of that makes her giggle like a schoolgirl. She’ll be at work and daydream about John. She wonders what he looks like. Having fought a weight problem for years, she’s lost 10 pounds in the 10 days since hearing from him so she can send him a more flattering photo of herself (“I don’t want this guy to see some blimp.”).

Yes, she thinks she’s fallen for the big lug.

She’s kept John’s letter protected in a plastic sleeve to make sure it isn’t contaminated. “I didn’t want anyone to touch it at work,” she said. “I didn’t want any fingerprints on it, and I didn’t want it to be touched by other hands. It was meant for me.”

She went to Disneyland a few days after hearing from John and saw a postcard of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, with the inscription: “The gateway to Fantasyland, a world of make-believe where fairy-tales come true.” She sent it to John.

“Isn’t that a good one?” she says. “Do you think he’ll catch on to it? I really wanted to underline it, but a friend said he’d get the message.”

She showed me John’s letter. It wasn’t a masher’s note. He said he was a staff sergeant in the U.S. Air Force who had been stationed in England. While writing to her, he said, he’d been listening to tapes of Dire Straits and Lee Greenwood. He didn’t think of himself as brave but said he would do his duty if asked to. He thanked her for caring and asked if she wanted a picture of him.

She couldn’t sleep for days.

“I was on a cloud all week after getting his letter. I still am, kind of. I don’t know what turned me, in my life. It must be something, because I think I’m a dull, boring person. There’s something with this letter. . . . I wanted to take the whole day off to write back. It brought so much happiness to me.”

What if he wants to meet you? I asked.

“Then I will go to England. I am serious. People don’t believe me at work. I will go to England. I don’t care how much it costs.”

Lois realizes her behavior is, um, unusual. But she’s been uncommonly open about it, telling all her friends at work. In fact, she’s told everyone about it--everyone except for her boyfriend of recent years.

“I’m not the type who goes out there looking for guys. I could care less about guys, actually. So I don’t know why I got so excited about this. It’s really just a letter. I haven’t been out there in the world. . . . It’s scary out there, and I’m a scared person. If someone said ‘hi’ to me, I’d probably go into a corner and hide. That’s why this is so weird. This is not me; this is a totally different person coming out in me.”

She wanted to write John every day but decided to play it cool. She’s sent him only a few letters as she awaits a second letter from him. She read me part of one of her letters to him. It wasn’t full of gooey, gushy stuff; in fact, it sounded pretty grown-up.

“Now, here comes the good part,” she says, continuing to read it to me. “ ‘I only wish I could be in the United Kingdom to welcome you back.’ ”

She giggles. “I’m still wondering whether I should have put that in or not. I asked everyone if they thought I was being too forward.” They did, but what’s done is done--she’d already mailed the letter.

That was about as mushy as she got.

“It’s killing me to wait this long for a letter. I don’t know what it is. I like my boyfriend, I’ll always like him, but this is exciting. I never had this happen to me before.”

Uh, what about your boyfriend?

“I’m in a predicament. I’m an honest person. I probably have to tell him. I just don’t want to hurt his feelings, either. It’s really only just a letter--even though it got me so excited and happy. I never expected this to happen. It wasn’t my plan, and why can’t I have two, anyway--one in England and one here?”

She laughs at that, knowing she sounds terrible. Trust me, folks, she isn’t. She gave him plenty of chances to marry her, she said, and he couldn’t pull the trigger. They’ve been living apart for the last 2 1/2 years.

Besides, did he ever write to her by flashlight in a tent from the Arabian desert with Scud missiles flying overhead?

Do you believe in fate? I asked.

“I think a lot of it could be fate. I keep telling friends that something could come out of it. I can just picture this letter being read at the altar. Wouldn’t that be neat?”

Don’t expect me to rain on Lois’ fantasy. I told her to pursue it full-bore and to call me if John wrote again and to let me know if he sent a picture.

“I have no idea what he looks like,” Lois says. “I just hope he has dark hair.”