Although I had reached out for companionship in a church run by a Baptist missionary and his wife, I found myself incredibly bored on the weekends and needed to make a friend my own age. Lisa, who cursed like a sailor, made me smile, and unlike male friends, there was no pressure to chase women around her. Lisa’s mouth, although quite foul, was a joy to listen to; unlike Rev. Davenport’s lengthy sermons that took place in an apartment in downtown Ansbach.
I started smoking those evenings while chatting with Lisa in her room—
“Can I have one of those?” I asked, as I watched her gracefully hold a cigarette in her lips while she ironed her uniform. Her hair, cut short so that it would not fall upon her Army uniform, was greased back. I took off my BDU’s and rested upon her bed while she starting ironing my uniform for the next day–
–“May you have one of these,” she corrected.
“Yes, may I have one? My mother would kill me if she saw me smoking, but who cares? Right? I mean, she is halfway around the world.”
Lisa rested the iron before she responded—“You can’t be serious. Think about it dude, you are in the Army now. You may be able to fool others with that innocent face, but not me, you only break my heart.” Lisa laughed and opened a third can of American beer and sprayed a can of spray starch over the cargo pants she was ironing. “You are making me sick with these Christian ways. There is nothing sinful about smoking.”
“What do you mean, Christian ways?” I asked.
“Oh, don’t get me wrong. I find you so charming, but in this man’s Army, it’s a waste of time to go to church on your free weekends. We are in Europe. Don’t you want to see the world, Chals? Will you convert to Catholicism for me? ”
“That’s crazy,” I replied.
“Crazy my ass,” she rebuffed, “From my mouth to God’s ears, I swear, this shy boy routine of yours drives me mad. Look at those fucking lips. MMMMwa!” Lisa blew a kiss my way and continued, “My mother would fucking die if she knew what I was chasing a born-again white boy from bum-fuck Pennsylvania.”
I didn’t like when Lisa pressed the boyfriend and girlfriend issue with me, especially since I knew that I had no desire, whatsoever, to have sex with a woman. I hid behind the church for as long as possible. Lisa looked too much like a little man anyway. Spending time with her helped to ease my fear of being labeled as gay while in the Army. I think she knew that. Lisa told everyone she thought I was hot. In our platoon, it was assumed that the two of us were a couple. Her company was never boring and at least with her, unlike in church, I laughed, almost nonstop.
A Puerto Rican family who attended the Baptist Church had invited me to their home for dinner, one cold Saturday in early January. I asked Lisa to come with me. She said she did not feel safe hanging out with non-Catholics, especially Puerto Ricans, because in New York, where Lisa was from, Puerto Ricans were “Sneaky mother fuckers.”
Master Sergeant Jose Rodriguez insisted that I spend the night at their home following a Bible study on the crucifixion that Saturday night. We ate a heavy meal of rice, beans and an unusually spicy piece of pork. “Get out of the barracks more and spend your free time with your family in God,” he offered. “You can stay overnight every Saturday and come to church with us on Sunday mornings. Come stay with us, my family likes you. I will not have to pick you up at the barracks. I don’t like going into the barracks. I do inspections of barracks. That’s my job. Commanders hate to see my name on a sign-in roster. Just come over on Fridays when you get off of work.”
Lisa and I had plans to go to the Liberty Bell that Saturday night. There was no way for me to call her, so I spent the evening with the Rodriguez family and learned about the Master Sergeant’s job with the inspector general’s office. Rodriguez had been stationed at an undisclosed duty station, somewhere in southern Arizona before arriving in Germany to help fight communist Russia. While in the desert, Rodriguez worked closely with members of the air force in a program that he explained was top secret, and thus, he was unable to share more details about it with me over coffee following a reading of the book of John. I couldn’t wait to get back to the barracks. I didn’t want to be rude and just leave. I missed Lisa. The Rodriguez family, although hospitable, were somewhat annoying. The two young children wanted to play with Playdough all evening while the wife remained intent on teaching me Spanish words.
Lisa was very angry when she learned that the Master Sergeant held me hostage on Saturday night—
“You need to learn to tell people ‘no’,” Lisa insisted, “I’m hurt that you didn’t at least tell me you were going to be busy in church. You are my friend and I like to dance with you. Don’t worry, I’m not going to rape you. I missed you at the Liberty Bell, Chals. Those mother fuckers were all over me, wanting to rub their nuts up against me without you there.”
I avoided the Master Sergeant every Saturday evening for the next month. Like clockwork, the powerful and mysterious inspector general showed up at Barton Barracks to invite me to his place, and to church on Sunday. I came up with numerous excuses, but never flat-out told him I was no longer interested in the church or UFO’s for that matter.
Often, I hid in Lisa’s room when I knew it was time for him to come by on Saturday night. Rodriguez was working on saving another soul in Charlie Company—PFC David Davitch who lived across the hall from me, so his trips to pick me up were not a total waste of time.
There was a guy at the Liberty Bell bar who had been dancing with Lisa and I on Saturday nights, and I desperately needed to see him again. I wanted to get back to the Liberty Bell to flirt with him again. The stranger was also a service member; it was obvious due to his short haircut. The man had grinded on my ass on several occasions—starting out with a little accidental bump and ending in full thrusts to my buttocks. Lisa danced in front of me, and for a while, I didn’t think she noticed what was happening behind my back. We all three smiled and danced like fools, pretending none of us knew what was happening, yet Lisa seemed to get a kick out of my enormous erection, and used the stranger as much as he thought he was using her. We bought more beers with little grains of rice at the bottom and drank until the music caused my hips to move in a circular motion to Cher melodies.
It was so exciting. The stranger was all I could think about. I lost faith in God.
We watched the sun rise in Ansbach that Sunday morning as we walked up a cobblestone road on the way to our home to in Barton barracks. The stranger was left stranded when the lights came on in the bar. Lisa quickly snatched our coats and we ran outside. We had not been to bed. Church was certainly out of the question and Lisa seemed intent on finally having sex with me.
“You want to go with him?” She asked.
“There you go again, playing innocent little white boy.”
I said good-bye to Lisa and left her at the door to her room on the first floor. I headed up two flights to my own bed. I was too intoxicated to object to Lisa sneaking into my room, shortly after 8 a.m. that morning. She made it past a guard on the first floor and cuddled with me under a green Army blanket. We had done this often, but never did we have sex.
“What the hell!” Someone yelled. Lisa jumped in my Arms. We tossed back the wool blanket and sheets to find our section sergeant standing above my bed—“Get downstairs now!” He yelled at Lisa. She quickly ran out of the room, her black nappy hair matted to her neck. “There was an E-8 here in your room while you were sleeping,” the sergeant yelled. “He said he came to get you for church. He had an I.G. tag. Do you know what that means? Do you know you can be put out of the Army for having sex in the barracks, especially if the Inspector General finds out? He is very pissed, Taylor. He said you are to call him this evening, otherwise, he said he will call our commander and have charges brought up on you.”
I called Master Sergeant Rodriguez that evening. He came by my room and demanded an explanation.
“We were not having sex,” I insisted. “We were only holding each other. We are friends. I don’t like her like that.”
“Do you really expect me to believe that?” He asked.
“Yes, I do. That’s the God’s honest truth.”
“I don’t believe you. I’m a man. You’re a man. I know what you were doing. This is so hard for me. It’s my job to report this…”
“It’s not your job to save souls,” I shouted at Rodriguez. “We’re already saved. He gave his life on the cross. Now forgive me like you are supposed to.”
Rodriguez looked at me in disbelief, as if a demon had entered me and there was not hope to restore the innocence that Lisa had taken from me.