When the Germans surrendered in May of ’45 we knew the war was almost over. Juliana and I went to Times Square to watch the lights come back on. I wore a simple day dress. I couldn’t wear trousers outside my apartment anymore. Everything was going back to the way it used to be, but wearing dresses… I felt funny in them, like they weren’t quite me. I didn’t remember feeling that way before the war, but now... Juliana looked gorgeously feminine as usual, in her white cotton dress with blue flowers splashed across it. She always knew the right thing to wear for looking like herself. We still couldn’t get nylons, but the air felt cool against our bare legs so it was okay.
The square was choking with people. It was an ordinary dark night with all the lights dimmed or off. We, hundreds of us, stood there waiting for them to come back on after they’d been off for more than three years. Juliana and I stood sandwiched between a huge Marine with tattoos on his hands and a broad GI with a smile filled with too many teeth. We couldn’t move, but it didn’t matter. An electric charge ran through the crowd uniting us. It seemed as though we waited forever that night. Then—one by one the lights popped on. There was the Four Roses ad and the Pepsi Cola ad in red, white and blue, and the lights on storefronts, hotels, movie theaters, Broadway theaters. The whole world was suddenly ablaze making the night into day. It was the light Manhattan was famous for, but had been snuffed out for too long a time.
A group of foreign soldiers broke into “God Bless America.” Army hats and cheers flew into the air. Sailors and GIs pulled women into their arms and kissed them. Hitler was dead and his Nazis defeated. The United States of America was the greatest country in the whole world!
The big Marine with tattooed hands grabbed me and kissed me on the lips. I spun out of his arms toward Juliana who’d just been released by her own GI. We ran toward each other filled with love and freedom and … stopped. We couldn’t do that.