The prelude to this short story begins at this post:
Although I missed the military and the comforts of having everything put in order for me in life, the rains and biting cold of European winters were tough, especially when on training exercises. Training to be a soldier during the Cold War involved learning survival skills for the most brutal of winter climates. The Russians were accustomed to Siberian winters. We had to learn to stay alive in a land what could one day become a battlefield. There were suspicions that Communists would invade the West and come over the Berlin Wall like an arctic cold front. We had to be ready for them so we were taught to sleep in tents in the woods. I hated the cold of Germany.
For weeks on end it seemed like our toes and fingers would never thaw out. The damp air cut straight through my freckled skin into my bones as I headed out of my room towards the entrance to the building. Winters never seemed so cold in Pennsylvania. My pale, hairy legs were sticking out from under a brown bathrobe. I made a flopping sound in a pair of rubber shower shoes as I approached the C.Q. desk where Lisa was waiting for me.
Members of the platoon were headed in and out of the door just behind the guard station. Those coming inside carried six packs of beer from a nearby PX and others heading out were dolled- up in civilian clothes, likely on their way to the nearby officer’s club. I doubted that anyone leaving the barracks had enough German Marks to afford a taxi into Frankfurt for a night of bar hopping. Because Fliegerhorst was also a base for several aviation units, we were far from the heart of any major town and walking to a nearby German pub was out of the question during winter months. Very few soldiers had cars. It was the 28th of the month. I assumed almost everyone dressed up was headed to the NCO bar on base.
There were slot machines on military installations in Europe. Those who did not become alcoholics fell prey to the grips of gambling via slot machines. Lisa and I had each other, and didn’t get sucked into the casino training as deeply as others had. We liked dancing and that became our addiction. We could go all night.
We had our moments of weakness to the bottle though. We spent many drunken nights together in Ansabach. We were still friends back then and I considered her the most entertaining person I had ever known. We danced to techno music until they closed the Liberty Bell at 3 a.m. The long, cold nights were a blast with her. She was so crazy when she drank and after I had a few, I became just like her–willing to try anything once and afraid of nothing. We exploited a European law that permits anyone over sixteen to be served alcohol. We’d return to post only to get one or two hours of sleep before being awoken sharply at 5 a.m. for physical fitness training and a full day’s work. For a while it didn’t seem like we were even in the military. We felt like club kids. Those runs in the morning nearly killed us, but the fun we had together at the Liberty Bell was worth every mouthful of vomit that poured out of our throats when they made us do push ups.
The frigid January air felt fresh off the Alps as it brushed across my shins. The cold air from outside gave me goose bumps all over. The coldness reminded me of the nights when Lisa and I were mere kids, running the town, looking for nothing but another beer and another floor to dance on.
“What are you doing at my new duty station, Lisa?”
“What do you mean– what am I doing here? What are you doing here, Taylor?” Lisa asked, dressed in a pair of BDU’s and combat boots, appearing as though she had been working all day in a military motor pool.
It was good sleeping weather. I would much rather have gone to bed early than take her back to my room for small talk and to pretend that I was so happy to have crossed paths with her again. I was extremely tired and my muscles ached from a return to the military’s rigid exercise regimens.
I didn’t want to invite her back to my room immediately. My roommates were in their underwear, spit shining boots, fighting over what to listen to on one of three stereos in the room and drinking heavily.
“Wait here a minute,” I said to her as I headed back to 204 to ask the guys to get dressed.
“We have company, guys.”
“Alright,” Ventura replied. “Did he bring some beer?”
“Get dressed. It’s a girl.”
Lisa waited patiently as I walked away to make things clear for her. She studied a wall covered with large picture frames. Inside were individual head shots of men from 1st of the 32nd Field Artillery Battalion. Company commanders arranged for soldiers to have their pictures taken for various reasons: society pages of small town newspapers, grandparents, and other loved ones were mailed these professional portraits. It was still a time when letter writing was considered a reasonable means of communication. Friends and family stateside appreciated the glossy images, often tucked neatly inside of handwritten letters that described the beauty of Germany and the thrills of life in the military, overseas. At least that’s how I wrote people from the Army– always positive, always something uplifting in my poetry, despite the incredible sadness and loneliness I experienced from time to time. I loved writing letters to folks back home– the ones that I still missed. Replies were often handwritten beautifully. My cousin Sally corresponded with me the most over the years– telling me all about her wedding engagement to Ronnie and other gossip from back home in Three Springs. Mom always put Celestial Seasoning Herbal tea bags in her letters to me. Writing home to her felt like having English tea with a good friend.
Newspapers across America often reported on the troops. We were ordered to complete official Army press kits and submit one of our pictures to our commanders who handed the paperwork up the chain of command. The Army mailed pre-written narratives relating to our ‘military experience’ and one of our mugshots to our hometown newspapers. Information relating to our home towns and its newspapers was conveniently on file in our personnel jackets. The data was collected when we first entered the service in local recruiting stations. On enlistment contracts, there was a question relating to hometown media venues. Recruiters often filled in the blanks for recruits and made signing up easy– “Just place your signature here, please.”
Our smiles served as an excellent marketing tool for the Army and its recruiting efforts. Our handsome faces and cheesy grins lured other young people who read newspapers into military service. I did my best to look like a corn ball every time I had an official military photograph taken, hoping to send an encoded signal to innocent minds that may be foolish like I had been by voluntarily entering a world of toilet cleaning and spit shines.
I absolutely hated being put up on the wall in the barracks or to have my image used for marketing purposes. We had to pay for the photographs ourselves anyway. We should have had a choice about having the shots taken. Usually once a year, near the holidays, a photographer came to the barracks and we were ordered into our dress green uniforms for an inspection by the commander and then we would smile and pretend that we loved our country.
Troops were required to buy copies of the portraits. Civilian photographers often took our pictures on a pay day at the end of the month when there were no excuses for not having the cash to buy them. Our commanders were intelligent leaders who knew how to milk the cow dry. They took our portraits before anyone had the chance to cash their checks and spend it on booze and cigarettes. It was a time before direct deposit, when we received checks directly from Uncle Sam. The Army even made arrangement to have our checks cashed in exchange for a huge pile of greenbacks. It felt good to hold all that money in our hands with no rent to pay or food to buy– just drinking money, and of course, the little things like pictures that had to be taken.
While returning down the hallway to greet Lisa, I realized that eventually I would find my place behind the glass at Fliegerhorst barracks with the images of other American G.I.’s who had served their country within the Division which I was now a part of. In a sense, it was like getting into the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I hoped that Lisa wasn’t returning into my life to try to ruin my military career again. I deserved to be on that wall too!
Lisa stood next to the C.Q. desk with her back to me and studied the photographs as if there may be someone hanging on the wall that she had met before– maybe someone from Harlem, like her, or perhaps she was just curious about the new unit I was in.
I noticed she had gotten terribly fat.
She thought deeply about those photographs as I often had, I imagined. They were of people who had all lived in the barracks at one time or another– remnants of souls that had come and gone. Most had likely been shipped off to new duty assignments where they would have their picture taken again. The rows of picture-framed photographs stretched down the hallway, past the office of the commander and into a section of the barracks where the ceiling lights had been turned off because it was evening and most business of the Army had ended.
“I can’t believe you found me here.” I said, still in my bathrobe.
A devilish smile crossed her greyish-red lips as she looked deep into my wide, surprised eyes. She studied my appearance, as if she was not really sure that it was me. I felt like a picture behind the glass. She knew I had gone through with it. I had slept with a man. I lost my glow, or so she said later that evening over beers on my side of the room where we tried to talk in code just in case anyone was listening.
She glared at me briefly then relaxed her eyelids, trying to show a bit of sexiness. She was more masculine than I had remembered.
“Lisa, how did you find me?” I asked almost angrily, trying not to make a scene in front of Sgt Greer who pretended to be reading a copy of the “Stars and Stripes” newspaper at the C.Q. desk. I wrote my initials in the log book next to her name, taking full responsibility for any actions or trouble that my guest might get into during off-hours. Greer gave me a look of ‘no fucking in the barracks while I’m in charge” as I placed a pen attached to a chain back on a clipboard.
“I was stationed here first! You didn’t even notice me yesterday, did you? You little fucker! You flashed your ID card in my face at the guard booth when you came stumbling in on Sunday evening around ten o’clock. I was on guard duty at the front gate when you checked onto Fliegerhorst. I didn’t say a fucking word after I read that name on your I.D. card. How did this man show up in my life again? I asked myself. How did this skinny white-mother-fucker find me here? I watched you get out of a cab and thought– damn, he looks just like Chals. I thought I was imagining things.” She said, taking off her BDU cap because it was a requirement while standing inside a military building.
We walked down the hall towards my room.
“What are you talking about? This wasn’t my idea. Lisa,” I said before opening the door to the room. “I’m sorry I missed noticing you, but you’ve changed a lot. This is too much of a coincidence that we are stationed together again. What does God want from us?” I asked.
“Can I we talk for a minute?” She insisted. “I got one thing to say to you, then I’m out of your life for good.”
“Be careful what you say, alright?”
What would stop her from telling everyone at my new unit about my sexuality? She had done it before in Ansbach– blabbed all over the place when I confided in her. I knew her well enough to take drastic action. Despite the smiles on her face, I wasn’t sure how angry she still was at me for running away from her into the arms of a man.
Her last words to me when I saw her last were: “If you’re going to be a fucking fag, be the best at it, Chals. Remember I love you. I wish you well no matter how you ruin your life!”
“We’re never going to meet again. I’m done with you. Just stay away from me, alright?” I insisted.
“Just be a good one, alright?”
I spit on the ground and stormed away from her, angry at myself for making such a foolish mistake of telling her so much.
Our departure was far from civil. I hoped the year apart calmed her anger somewhat. I was happy to be back in the military. I didn’t want to be discharged for being gay. She was the main reason I left the Army in the first place– the rumors– people at 141 Signal Battalion spreading gossip about me as if they were sending Morse Code. Lisa spread my dirt around like fire. I had to keep her quiet in Hanau.
There was no choice but to make her fall in love with me again. I concluded I had no alternative but to cause her lose her mind for me again..
“Just let your mind go free and relax,” she would say as we got undressed and naked together on those cold, druken nights in Ansbach.
“We have to go to formation in two hours. I have to get some sleep.”
I absolutely hated her plot– “No sex, just hold me naked,” she would plead. Then she would continue to take advantage me in her bed, under wool covers.
“Think about whatever you wish,” she offered. So I did. I let my mind go, filling it with images of my true lust– faces likes those of Sgt. Greer the CQ officer who I didn’t even know. I had a photographic memory and stored images of them in my mind to use as pornography later. But with her it was not masturbation with my eyes closed under the sheets. With Lisa, it was a real tongue and finger down there, poking around in me. All I had to do was pull one of those images from the massive database on the left side of my brain and BANG! We were having sex.
The fantasies and stealing glances of others who I secretly lusted for had ranged out of control prior to meeting Lisa. Thank heavens she came into my life and showed me the light. I’ll give her credit for that, otherwise, I may have forever persecuted myself for being a homosexual.
I was still a virgin at 20. I masturbated like a machine gun every chance I had. I went through a three- month affair with Ray Parker, Jr., the singer of “Ghost Busters” when I first learned the trick of jacking off to images in my mind. I was watching Hot Tracks, a video music Channel on television in the early Eighties. I couldn’t get his sexy face out of my mind for weeks. I was hooked. Every night the ghost of Ray was in my bed. When I finally got over him and moved on to other famous men, I promised never to masturbate thinking about the same person more than once. The art can become obsessive to me. Lisa broke me out of the horrible grips of selfish-satisfaction.
I imagined making love with total strangers when she played around with my ass. I though of men who caused my breath to be invisibly sucked from within my chest. There were moments during sex with her that I lost myself and forgot it was really a girl doing tricks down there. She served as a surrogate of sorts. I grew erect and shot all over the place. She’d slap my white ass cheeks like a bitch.
I closed my eyes and let Lisa do whatever the hell it was she wanted to do with me during our ‘love making’. She stole slurps of my urination organ when it finally did get up. The mucus membrane in her mouth had the consistency of honey. She made me cry a little. I whimpered like a pussy when I came, which, if you ask me, is what turned her on the most!
I was prepared to go through with having sex with her again if it would stop her from ruining me. I didn’t want to have to leave the Army for being outed. Her face was so tense as we walked into the room. It was then I realized that she hadn’t made love to anyone since I had first left Germany. Maybe she really was in love with me. She was truly heartbroken over us. I could see it in her face. What had I done to my friend because of my selfish urges? She looked so sad and fat and the tenseness to her face almost made me whimper again. I was sorry for what I had put her through.
Surprisingly the guys left the room to give us time alone. I realized my new roommates were cool.
“I missed you too, Lisa. I never thought I would say that but I do. I miss talking to you the most. I miss our conversations and those long nights we spent together.”
“But I always did all the talking,” she reminded me.
“I know. But you always made me feel comforted and safe when you talked. I loved hearing about your life, growing up in New York.”
“Don’t do this to me again, Chals. Don’t do this…” she pleaded as I tried kissing her.
“Do what? I’m not doing anything. I didn’t ask you to stop by my barracks.”
“Stop looking at me like that. Stop it, Chals…”