It rained in Ansbach on Christmas Eve 1986. The climate enhanced my depression. It was my first Christmas away from home. I wished I had never joined the military and I found Germany dark, like its bitter beer. It didn’t feel like Christmas in my hometown of Three Springs. Most soldiers passed their time getting drunk. It still was the Cold War. The Berlin Wall had yet to come down and the rain should have been snow.
I could not relate to the party lifestyles of most soldiers. I chose not to hang out with them during off- duty hours. With the exception of a weekend trip to the Dachau Concentration Camp in mid December, rarely did I run off to explore the culture of West Germany. I wanted to be different and not lose my senses to the bottle. I tried hard to be righteous and I didn’t want to become an alcoholic like my father.
The weekend getaway to explore the Nazi Concentration Camp included an intoxicating night in a hotel room and a guided tour through what made World War II so ungodly and unfathomable. Just two female soldiers traveled in our group of about a dozen– Cheryl Masano and Lisa Payne. We stayed in three rooms in a tiny guesthouse in the town of Schwabhausen.I had never been so intoxicated. Tequila with salt and lime changed me. One of the guys, Brian McManus, cuddled up close to me as we shared a large German bed. It was made like a bird’s nest– one that was filled with tons of down feathers and covers to match. I permitted my hand to gently glide along the soft cotton briefs that he was wearing. Despite his snores, I sensed that he was enjoying what my intoxicated hand was doing to him in dream land.
Thankfully I didn’t permit my hidden lust to overtake me. I kept the gentle strokes as light as the feathers we were laying in. My body trembled with nervousness but there was nothing I could do to stop myself. During our tour of the Concentration Camp the next day, all I could think of was how McManus took my hand and held it in place even after the snoring had stopped. I should have pressed the matter a little further, but it was I who chickened out. He was holding hands with Cheryl the next day when we toured the ruins. I prayed for strength and wished I would have had just one more shot before going to bed the night before.
I made friends with Baptist missionaries from Nebraska when I first arrived at my duty station. I spent most of my sober time with them. I was only eighteen and felt a need to remain involved in the church. They were American but not affiliated with the military. They had so much faith in their ‘mission’ of serving the troops. They had a small congregation that met in their living room. I took the couple to the PX and bought them groceries with my ration card as a Christmas present. They were so happy. They insisted that I stay at their place for the holiday weekend. I wanted to go back to the barracks and relax for a while and think about my trip to Dachau. I grew tired of the talk of God with the old man and his old wife. I thought there was a chance that McManus was still hanging around the barracks, but he, like almost everyone else, had gone away skiing in the Alps over the long holiday weekend.
My roommate James Starek was away for the holiday too. He didn’t bother making up his bunk. Beer cans were everywhere and cigarette butts overflowed from ashtrays constructed of empty chip dip containers. I should have gone along with the gang I went to Dauchau with, but I promised the Preacher and his wife that I would attend a Christmas bible study that Friday night.
It was the saddest Christmas ever. The rain only made it worse. I was alone on Christmas for the first time in my life and wanted to do more than just carol. I was so tired of pretending that I was not attracted to men. Those feelings were not going to go away.
I decided that a nice hot shower would brighten my spirits, so I grabbed my boom box and headed down the hallway in my blue terrycloth robe. I was surprised to hear showers in the latrine. Someone else was in Barton Barracks on Christmas Eve. It was Taylor D., a generator mechanic whose name I knew well because there were three of us—Taylor D., Taylor C. and Taylor A. The company commander referred to us by our last names and first initials.
“Wassup T?” He asked.
“Nothing. Merry Christmas,” I said while plugging in the radio in an 220 volt outlet located in tiled changing room just outside of the showers.
We had to constantly push a button on the wall to keep the water flowing. Showers were not like they were in America. They were on timers of sorts and it was an inconvenience to constantly have to push a button to keep water flowing, especially when one got soap in his eyes.
Taylor D. said he was surprised at my music—Tina Turner—and told me to turn it up. “Break Every Rule” was the cassette. I remember dancing to the song ‘Typical Male’ before noticing Taylor D.’s erection. He didn’t try to hide it.
I stood in the steam and permitted him to watch me. I thought I was sinless because I didn’t touch him or take the matter further. He got what he needed by just looking at me. When he was done and he pushed his shower button for the last time, the husky Black soldier grabbed a shaving kit and left the showers as if nothing had happened.
I decided at that moment never to let another one slip out of my hands.