We are now reconciled –there were six alarms today– to having an air raid announce breakfast, serve lunch and interrupt dinner. One wonders at the indefatigable newsboys, undismayed by the news they cry, innocent of the meaning of the stuff they sell. Since the war began, there has been wedding after wedding in the city. How many of these marriages, contracted in the heady air of war, will survive the calm, slightly enervating air of peace? Well might you ask the livelong day. Reports of tanks rolling to meet the enemy thousands of miles away, in the Philippines, must now bring comfort to the isolationists. They had done their best to keep those tanks from getting here at all. We must have no hate or bitterness toward anyone –even Lindbergh. Thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season, as the poet says.
The story persists that Filipino soldiers, most of whom came from the farm, just before going over the top inquire of their officers if they may fight in any way they choose.
“Fight any way you like.”
And the Filipino soldiers do –without shoes.
Today, Manila was declared an open city. All military centers have been destroyed and all soldiers withdrawn from the city. It is now armless and harmless. It has earned the right not to be bombed. It is no longer in the war. It has made what Hemingway called a separate peace. It is a little ashamed of it.
Elsewhere the military situation was regarded as completely under control. A military spokesman declared that our forces were not only holding their own but doing better, even, than had been expected. On the northern front, the action consisted mainly of artillery duels between the two forces. The enemy continued to bring up artillery to increase pressure on our line. In the southeast, from Atimonan to Mauban, the enemy continued to effect landings. Our forces advanced to prevent the enemy from using these beach-heads as bases for a blitz drive on Manila, which is entirely open, the spokesman said.
Turning from my desk at the office to look out of the window, I saw a tall column of smoke rising from one part of the city. The thick black smoke billowed into the serene sky, obscuring the morning sun which at moments shot through a rift in the smoke a shaft, such as you see slanting down from the glass window of a cathedral during an early Mass –of light.
One man said it was the National Development Company, which was only a block or two from my home. I thought of my books, which I had acquired, through so many denials, over a period of so many years. As the smoke continued to rise, I told myself my books were gone. I suddenly felt empty but free. I no longer gave a damn.
When, much later, I learned that the fire was across the river and home and my books were safe, I felt I had, by renouncing my goods in my mind, somehow saved them. I felt I had personally outwitted the enemy.
Coming home in the afternoon, I saw the sun like a white-hot coin shining through the smoke.
I am living now very much alone.