Private Williams was as unwelcome in the military as a ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ homosexual with bleached blonde hair. He was as cute as an E-2 stripe, but as straight as a Marine’s back in the push-up position.He was a cocky guy who almost everyone wanted to knock down a peg or two.
I saw through his troubles with authority figures and adopted him as a friend– one of the few I had while living a top secret military lifestyle.
“So tell me– do gay guys really fuck each other up the ass or do you just give blow jobs?” He asked when I came out to him over a beer one evening in my barracks room.
I laughed hysterically but didn’t answer his question right away. It was nice to have a friend to be ‘out’ with. Williams was someone who I could confess my passions to. He had an ear to bend and served as a outlet for my own repressed military frustrations. I knew it would be safe to tell him about my hidden sexuality because he hated the military and its officers so much that he would view my lifestyle as a slap in their faces. Besides, Williams was quite the woman’s man. He had a thing for German females and the girls that he picked-up at local pubs gave him the respect that military leaders did not.
When I first arrived at 141 Signal Battalion’s Barton Barracks in Ansbach, I was placed in a room with Williams and another solider, Specialist David Davitch. Our tour as roommates lasted for just two weeks, but while in the top bunk on the other side of the room, I was granted the opportunity to witness what it was that caused Williams to be envied and despised so much by other male soldiers in Charlie Company. I understood why frauleins moaned like generators running in high gear when he was in them. I saw him in the shower every morning and his gun was more like an M-60 than an M-16. Other guys saw his ammunition too. It was hard to ignore. His penis was the reason why other soldiers were threatened by him and gave him a hard time while on duty. “It’s little now,” a pretty young blond girl whispered in broken English shortly after their love-making had ended on the far side of the room.
“Well of course it’s little now,” Williams responded, not aware that I was awake and listening to every moan and thrust. I buried my face in my pillow as I tried not to laugh. They heard me laughing. It was forbidden to have guests of the opposite sex in our rooms after mid-night. He quickly showed the girl back to the fire escape. I didn’t report them which may be why Pvt. Williams accepted me as one of his few friends in the military.
Billy was in my platoon. We worked side-by-side on military maneuvers. He was a skilled generator mechanic and could repair a malfunctioning machine with his eyes closed. As an operator of an Army radio/ teletype rig, I understood the importance of being on good terms with the platoon’s only mechanic while on training exercises. We were often called on ‘alerts’ in the middle of the night.“Alert, Alert, Alert,” our commanders shouted while pounding on our room doors in the barracks. We had to pretend we were going to war with Russia, jump out of bed, grab our M-16 machine guns, load up all of our supplies and travel in convoys to the heart of Southern Bavaria in the dead of winter. Snow was often up to our asses and we slept in tents. We had to dig holes in the drifts just for a place to build our shelters. The tents were warmed with diesel stoves that often ran out of fuel in the middle of the night and it was easier to remain snug inside of thick, down-filled military sleeping bags than to go outside to change the fuel cans. Lower ranking soldiers in squads were the ones who were ordered by their commanders to wake up, get dressed and go outside to place a new can of fuel on a rubber hose that connected to steel heaters that sat in the center of our tents.
“Taylor, get your ass up and change the fuel can,” were the most terrifying orders I have ever received in my life. We were not permitted to use bright flashlights at night. It was part of wartime training. Our green flashlights had red lenses that were as dim as the Cold War itself. By the time I got promoted to Specialist, I could change those cans with my eyes closed and in less than five minutes flat.
Often we were on maneuvers for more than thirty days. We went without bathing. Our generators also ran on diesel fuel. By the time the frigid exercises came to an end, we smelled of diesel fuel from head to toe. I never minded the hard work and training, but not having the opportunity to take a shower and wash the smell of fuel from my body nearly ruined me as a homosexual. Being dirty all the time made me moody and angry. The Army’s strict disciplinary codes did nothing to covert me to being butch and comfortable in filth like Private Williams seemed to be. I found ways of surviving in a civilized manner while in the woods. My secret was a percolating coffee pot, which I could plug in inside my communications rig—as long as my generator kept working. The hot water I made inside that yellow, plastic urn was used not only for cooking dehydrated military meals, but also, I could take bird baths and even wash my hair every day. When my generator went down, Billie gave me priority on his repair list and I rewarded him with cigarettes.
As a mechanic, he had no rig to work in. He spent most of his time outside in the cold German winter, changing belts, jumping batteries and reconnecting loose wires inside of the massive generators. Working inside teletype communications rigs was an easy job compared to the duties of a generator mechanic. There wasn’t a lot to do once communications had been established with other battalions scattered throughout southern Germany. Every so often, we were required to test the lines of communication by sending typed messages over radio waves. That’s about all there was to do, with the exception of brushing snow from our tents and equipment. We worked in 12 hour shifts and I spent most of my time reading and masturbating. One cold January night in the middle of a European blizzard, Billy knocked on the door of my radio teletype rig. Without waiting for him to speak while standing outside in pelting snow, I asked, “If you know you smoke, why do you come to the field without a supply of Marlboros?”
“Can I come inside and get warm? I thought I was going to quit smoking, but it’s too stressful out here in the woods, Taylor,” my half Italian, half Irish friend stated while standing outside of my camper-like rig which was decorated almost perfectly with nets of camouflage netting that I draped over my machinery like a window display for bedding at Macy’s. I heated up some hot water and made him some instant coffee which I served to him in my own canteen cup. It was so cold outside. I wondered why the tear drops covering his face did not freeze upon his freckled cheeks.He was crying uncontrollably. He said his section chief, Sergeant Greer was fucking with him and he had enough. He claimed he was going to take a screw driver and kill the ‘black bastard’ that night. I believed him and had to do something to stop the impending murder. I leaned against a typewriter encryption machine as he sipped his coffee. The steel machine with a seemingly endless supply of ticker-tape paper made a few clicking sounds because I had accidentally pressed a few of the keys with my back while resting myself. I listened to my friend intently. He was visibly upset and red in the face.
“I don’t think you should let them get to you, Billy. It’s not that serious.”
“I’m going to run this fucking screw driver up his big fat nose and stab that fucker in the brain.”
“And what will that solve, Bill? You’ll end up in a military prison somewhere and spend your life rotting away over someone who really does not matter anyway. Choose life,” I said while handing him a pack of Newport’s.
“I’m tired of them saying I’m a stupid mechanic, Taylor. I’m tired of it! Thanks for giving me another pack of smokes,” he said while unwrapping them while looking through his battle dress uniform for a lighter or match. “Here you go.” I said while flicking my Bic. “It’s no big deal. You can buy me a carton when we get back to base. You should let me heat up another pot of water so that you can wash yourself. That will cheer you up a little and being clean will make you feel a little better. We’ve been out here for three weeks. Cleanliness is next to godliness,” I reminded him.
He calmed down a little and wiped off the tears from his eyes with his greasy hand.
“Stop that! Your hands are dirty. Don’t rub your eyes with them. Use this,” I offered while handing him a clean brown t-shirt from my duffle bag. “Take off that greasy uniform and relax a little. It’s nice and warm in here.”
He rubbed my crew-cut hair– his way of showing me affection without being gay. “Mother fucker, get your filthy hands out of my hair. I just washed it!”
He laughed. “Taylor, you are such a big pussy, do you know that?” “Fuck you, ass wipe! Stop messin’ up my hair!”I poured him a little hot water to freshen up the coffee he had cried tears into before refilling the coffee carafe with more water from a ten gallon jug that sat on the floor next to a small space heater. We spent the next few hours talking about life back home in Pennsylvania and preparing for his bath. He seemed a little hesitant at taking off his clothing. He said he didn’t want me to have to smell his stinky feet. “Do you think I’m queer or something?” I asked. “I know your feet smell. So do mine. We’ve been working like animals for weeks. Take them off and wash them. I can deal with the smell.” My bar of Dove soap seemed to ease his worries as he carefully wiped between each toe, dipping a cloth in a bowl of water made from a helmet turned upside down.
“Has anyone seen Williams? My generator just went down,” our platoon leader yelled over the intercom.
“See what I mean?” He asked.
“You’re just being paranoid. They’re not making you run around for nothing.” “How is his intercom working if his generator is down?” Billy asked.“Just stay calm, Billy. Stay calm. He’s probably calling you from someone else’s rig. You can crash out in here with me tonight. They’re too lazy to walk up here to look for you.”“Are you sure?”
“No problem. Your feet don’t smell all that bad,” I whispered.
“Just relax,” I said while turning off the florescent lights.
“Do you remember that girl you banged out in the room on my first night on Barton Barracks?”
“Not really, why?.”
“Well I do.” I said. “I want you to pretend I’m her, alright?”
“What the fuck are you talkin’ about Taylor?”
“Then put out that cigarette!” I ordered.
He rubbed my head again while lighting another one of my cigarettes and said, “You’re a good soldier, Taylor.”
“No, I’m just being all I can be,” I said.
“Me too, me too,” he moaned.
“Taylor, is Williams with you?” The platoon leader shouted over the intercom system.
“Don’t stop,” Billy begged.
“I didn’t have the chance to respond to the intercom.”