Len's southern speech was soft and it was very easy to listen to him. "Well, when the Star Bar first opened I was a regular customer and met Mariko, who had just moved here from Sapporo since the possibility of work was better. From the first night we found it easy to talk and be together. We talked in this frightfully strange 'Japenglish' and half of the time neither knew what the other was talking about, but it was fun and we enjoyed each other's company. She's really cute."
He put out the cigarette and suggested some instant coffee or tea. We settled on a pot of green tea and Len jumped up and put a small tea kittle on the hotplate. Back in bed he continued, "Well it was her suggestion that we move in together. You know most of the bar girls live with G.I.'s. I was a little hesitant. In the first place I'd never had sex with a woman and wasn't really sure I wanted to. Unlike most of the guys here I'd never been to any of the whorehouses. And honey, I wasn't exactly keeping tabs, but couldn't help but notice that you hadn't either. Too busy writing letters to Korea is what I surmised." Len's southern drawl had suddenly taken on a campy quality. He jumped up again, fixed the tea and returned to the bed with the pot and two cups. Off in the distance I could hear the sounds of a samisen and someone singing in Japanese.
Still jabbering, Len got back under the futon, "And what is the story on that long tall drink of water, Kurt? Who, by the way, has had the audacity to use my surname, a fine southern name that he claims is pure German. According to my well-documented files he hasn't dipped his wick even once since he got here. Of course I don't know what happened on a recent trip to Noboribetsu with a certain young soldier who shall remain unnamed for the present; although I could poke him right now if I felt so inclined." And he did playfully poke me in the side and asked if I was ready for tea.
"Len, what's this about 'files'? Have you been compiling information on everyone?", I inquired.
"Look sweetie, that's my job. It is my duty to amass as much information as possible about as many interesting people as I can find. And let me tell you that place where we are presently being held hostage is a god damned goldmine! How does anyone write a play unless they can provide some characters to people that play? Did you know that the Shift Leader—you know we do have a Shift Leader—although he's not much in evidence. According to the rules he's supposed to make sure that everyone gets home on time and then tuck us all in. But how, pray tell, can Specialist Burkowitz do that when he's in another room, not his own mind you, doing god only knows what with a certain Specialist Loomis in Building #9? This is not just hearsay, I've almost seen it with my own eyes; and it was of course immediately noted in my Shift Leader's File, 'Little Known Facts.'" Although I didn't verbalize it I noted that Len said he had 'almost seen it'; perhaps he, like my mother and grandmother, was also good at elaboration.
After sipping some tea Len lit another cigarette, a glowing red dot in the semi-darkness. "But we were talking about Mariko. I must admit that even though we've lived together for about two months, her file is still a bit skimpy. Communications problem. God I wish I was as fluent at languages as Miz Innocent." In order to keep everything straight in his mind I had to inquire as to who 'Miz Innocent' might be. "Why you, sweetie, although at first you were Mr. Unknown, but then you had a costume change and soon became Miz Innocent. You know you were the very first file I began when I arrived at the barracks. You and then that bizarre creature that you room with. Now that is a basket case if I ever encountered one. Can you imagine eating all that crap that comes out of those cans when we have perfectly palatable food in the mess hall? I could write a one character play based on Mr. Bizarre, although I'm sure everyone would dismiss it as being too unbelievable. If anyone in our barracks has a cross to bear, it is certainly you. Now my roommate, Mike, is a super sweet kid, straight but not offensive about it. I'm sure he's got my number, or maybe I've managed to keep him confused. But we both respect each other's individual rights and are just as snug as two bugs in a rug; with a proper distance of course, considering that one of the bugs is straight and the, well we all know what the other one is....."
"So Mariko told me that she loved me and wanted to live together. It was a tender story and I sort of wanted to believe it at first. Didn't take long to realize that it was economics, pure and simple. And I can't blame her for wanting to exist and help her family to do the same. Affection, yes, we have lots of affection for each other but that's about where the line is drawn. Sex, oh at first we had sex rather regularly. The first night I was shaking so much she probably thought I was having an epileptic attack or something. Then I learned that I could do it, sort of on automatic pilot. You know, push-pull, grunt, grunt, small squeal or large sigh and its all over 'till the next time. I'm sure by now she's figured out she's rooming with a Southern Belle and not a Southern Gentleman. And let me tell you there is nothing gentle about Southern Gentle-men. Most of them are coarse, vile creatures intent only on self gratification; and as much and as frequently as possible. Now that last bit of inside information is based upon reams of data compiled by interviewing as many Southern Belles with baskets as possible and when necessary, personal experience."
"When Mariko first suggested living together I thought it was a great idea since it would give me an opportunity to see which way the road forked, so to speak. Maybe I could learn to be straight and have a wife and fulfill my parents' fondest dreams by presenting them with a flock of squealing, snotty nosed kids. You know the Southern scene, sitting on the verandah slugging down booze every night, bellowing an endless string of prohibitions at the kids, telling your wife not to cry, that your little flirtation with MaryLou was over, and all the while wondering how in the hell you were going to be able to keep the payments on that shiny big new automobile to date. It's the big American dream and part and parcel of every parent's heritage to their children."
"But wouldn't they just shit bricks if they knew their little Lenny was going steady with Roger, planned to make it a completely monogamous arrangement, they actually loved each other, were working at responsible, well paying jobs, had no outstanding debts, and were genuinely happy? Well, it just couldn't be. Illogical. And if they just happened to consider the fact that little Lenny and Roger were sleeping in the same bed, and all that might entail, well papa would snort, start to rant and rave and probably go on a search for his pistols in order to do both of them in. Mama of course would have one of her swooning spells; that or take to the bottle, swilling down Southern Comfort until she reached oblivion. Now I love fantasy scenarios, but this is not one of them. That is life in the south. Both events exist, side by side, but never the twain shall meet. Not in the south."
"So I discovered that while I was having sex with Mariko I began to fantasize about Roger, more about Roger in a moment, or one of the guys on the base. Even little Miz Innocent snuck in there one night. Am I shocking you? I still don't know if you're as innocent as you seem. Maybe I should revise your character file and give you a new title, Miz Questionably Innocent. That has a real nice ring to it. Yes, I do like the way that sounds."
"So I have stayed with Mariko because it is financially helping her. I pay the rent, give her expenses for the house and that way she gets to keep all her earnings from the bar. She goes home every couple of weeks to be with her family and give them money, and I know that a portion of the house money also goes to them. Most important it also gives me a nice cover. I've always been sort of paranoid that everyone was going to find out which side of the tree I was swinging on. That is also part and parcel of a nice southern upbringing; for god sakes don't let anyone know who you really are. I think that in southern maternity wards they give all new babies a mask, something to help hide and conceal the real identity inside the body. I have had to adopt mannerisms that weren't mine, watching the way I smiled, laughed, walked or talked, moved my hands, everything; and honey that is difficult when your wrists are as delicately hinged as mine." It was time for some more tea, which was now sort of lukewarm.
It was becoming increasing difficult for me to believe that this was the same person that I had had almost daily contact with for the last few months. The non-stop nature of Len's dialogue was almost a release mechanism, he had found someone he could share with; take off his mask and be himself. The quiet was now complete and even the music of the samisen in the distance could no longer be heard.
I began to outline how Gregg and I had first met. A few details about his personality and family. How we had blissfully had over a year and a half together, first in Boston and then in California, sharing and being with each other as much as possible. About how my mother had 'adopted' Gregg and even completely accepted our relationship. In the semi-darkness I pointed out my ring and explained how each of us had one, gifts from Bozhena. I explained that now the one thing that sustained me was receiving Gregg's letters and counting the days until we would be together again.
Len sighed a large sigh, and then said, "It would never sell." I was a bit confused and then Len continued, "If something is written that is too beautiful, too perfect, and sweetie, it appears the relationship you two have is straight from heaven, well, people just can't accept it. Almost the same thing if it's too weird; like that fucked up room mate of yours. Just not believable. Have you got a picture of this Grecian God from Boston....well of course you have, that's like asking if fairies like fruits. What I mean is do you have it with you, in your wallet?"
I said that I had, and felt around on the floor for my pants. Just then Len pulled out a small flashlight from somewhere. He hadn't used it before and had spent the night padding around in the semi-darkness. I didn't really understand why he didn't just turn on the light. Maybe like Gregg, Len's eyes were sensitive to light after midnight. The small photo was well concealed in my wallet, and was one of my favorites with Gregg on his bunk, clad only in his BVDs and with a book in his hand. It had been taken during that second week in Boston.
Len examined it carefully for what seemed like a long time and then said, "Jesus, you let this gorgeous creature go off to Korea all alone? Even little ole paranoid me would have told the military that I was a raging queen and wanted to spend my days with my handsome king and if they didn't like it they could just go to hell. No wonder you write all those letters. Honey, I am speechless. Well, this warrants an immediate costume change and a new name. But it has to be perfect, let me think just a bit.....How about the Czechoslovakian Cinderella? No, won't work, just too many syllables. Let me think. Names are very important and sometimes it takes a while to find the perfect one....."
He then asked if I had had many other relationships. I briefly related the story about George and mentioned Stevie. Len seemed surprised. "You mean you've only had sexual encounters with three people in your entire life?" I smiled in the darkness and replied, "Well, three and a half." Len understood the illusion to the proceedings earlier in the night and began to chuckle. He grabbed me, then held me close for a few seconds. It was obvious that we had gone beyond the sexual to another level of friendship, more like brothers, or sisters as the case might be. Relationships of this kind were always difficult to sort out. Len mentioned that he liked my allusion to having had three and a half sexual encounters and was going to file it away for possible future use. I began to wonder about the size of Len's files.
Some twenty years later I was walking by the television in my living room in California when it was announced that the following week Kraft Theater would be presenting 'A Love Almost As Big As Everest' by the noted playwright, Leonard Stroud. I hadn't heard from Len for a number of years. Hardly believing my ears I tuned in the next week. Yes, it was the same type of dialogue — it had to be the same person, though somehow I had never known that Lenny's name was Leonard. The dialogue was more polished, but definitely the same individual whom I had come to know and love in a very special way, in a darkened six tatami mat room, long ago and far way. It was even more surprising when Arthur, one of the protagonists in this strange, bizarre comedy, remarked to a companion that he had had two and a half extramarital affairs. The companion looked puzzled and Arthur explained. "You know about Martha and you know about my affair with your wife Jenny. Well, I was in bed with Sally and was having what was an exquisitely passionate experience, until I discovered she was sound asleep; I had thought she was sighing with pleasure, but no, she was just snoring." Not only had it been filed away, but utilized. I was hoping they'd present more plays by Len, but then some of them probably weren't suitable for television.
I still hadn't found out about the mysterious Roger, but the panels on the shoji door were beginning to show light from the eastern sky. Len suggested that perhaps it was time for a little shut eye. "Good night, or morning or whatever, Plum Blossom." Plum Blossom? I smiled and was content knowing I had a friend with whom I could share that multitude of personal things that previously had been concealed, veiled and carefully guarded. It was obvious from Len's night of chattering that he felt the same.
Those in the barracks who had been there for a year or more warned the newcomers of the length and severity of the winter. Temperatures down to -20° F. were not uncommon. There was something invigorating about the feel of the cold as it entered your lungs. As long as you didn't have to stay in it too long. Secure within our cozily warm buildings it was a time of rest and reflection. Fortunately the base had a library which was well stocked with both books and records, even some opera. There were near daily letters to write. I continued in my study of the Japanese language, both there in the barracks and with Kinji. I had also begun spending a lot of time with Len, although primarily talking to him in his room on the base. The severity of the winter precluded spending much time at the house. Len's 'girl friend' Mariko had found another 'job' and moved back to her home near Sapporo.
Patrick's tour of duty was coming to an end. He would be flying out in three days and I began to wonder exactly when he would begin to pack and do something with the vast collection of things that he had amassed during the last three years. Most guys began packing, mailing or selling their stuff weeks before their actual departure date. He had one well-used, grimy hot plate, pots and other cooking utensils, a stereo, radio, a mass of books, records, and god only knew what stashed under his bed and in his closet. I was also wondering who would take his place, both as a roommate and working partner at operations. The night before he was to leave Patrick packed his duffel bag with all of his military issue clothing and one pair of baggy trousers and a particularly ugly faded blue shirt. The army clothing had to turned in and accounted for before discharge, which is probably the only reason he took it. I felt that now was as good a time as any to ask what he planned to do with all the rest of his stuff. He, in characteristic Patrick fashion, replied, "I'm out of here. Call in the garbage truck. This whole place never happened." The next morning he walked out of the barracks carrying his duffel bag and one book. He said no formal good-byes to anyone, not even me, his long suffering roommate, just waved and sort of grunted.
That evening Len and I began sorting through what Patrick had left. We decided to take those things that could be used to the house. The next evening we got one of the taxis waiting outside the base and filled it up. I just sort of unofficially moved in, though of course with Len's smiling blessing. We were currently working days and several evenings were spent hauling boxes and bags of things to the house. It took the entire week to completely clean out all of the stuff that Patrick had been squirreling away. There was an entire set of expensive Noritake China, setting for eight; an electric portable typewriter still in its box and never opened, brand new tape recorder. Most of the stuff had been purchased at the PX since Patrick had rarely ventured into town. There wasn't much food; he seemed to have eaten all the food, probably in a final gastronomic banquet of canned delights for one.
I had worked for several days by myself in the section and attempting to do the entire workload had been staggering, almost impossible. I complained to Major Zimmer, the operations officer. Zimmer brought in one of the linguists from the 3rd shift to temporarily help me out. Randy was quiet, very efficient and with the longest eyelashes I had ever seen. It looked like he had pulled the antennae off a flock of butterflies and pasted them on his eyelids. Every time he blinked his eyes I expected him to go fluttering off into space, looking for some new place to alight. I mentioned to Randy that he could utilize the extra bed in my room since I knew that living in a barracks with guys on a different shift was probably difficult. Randy explained that he had been rooming with Tom (blink, blink, flutter, flutter) for nearly two years and they were just (blink, flutter, flutter) like two peas in a pod. No, he would stay where he was until some final decision was made. Hum, two peas in a pod were they? Strange, but the guys on one shift knew very little about the crews on the other shifts. Their personal lives rarely coincided.
Len seemed pleased with the new living arrangements at the house, and on the first day of our next major break he even bought a small wood burning stove and had it installed. Many of the Japanese used charcoal, but because of carbon monoxide fumes it could be deadly. Now that we were a two-hot-plate family Len and I cooked up a storm that first night; it was cozy warm in the room. Besides the thin shoji doors there were also some thick outer wooden doors that could be slid into place to retain the warmth. We began to play some of the records which Patrick had left. He had bequeathed a nice collection of classical disks and a considerable number that were of Japanese music, so he had obviously gone off the base from time to time. We had been sipping from a new bottle of Chivas Regal scotch, also found in the squirrel's nest, when Len held up an imaginary file by two fingers and said, "And now it's time for Roger." Yes, I had been inquisitive about Roger, but had waited for him to initiate the conversation.
"Well in order to understand the relationship between Len and Roger we had better start with Len, little Lenny. When Lenny was about, let me see, twelve or thirteen years old his very best friend was Buford. Now can you imagine that, I mean what southern parents do to their children. It is absolutely criminal, like calling a child Buford. Be that as it may, Lenny and Buford spent every spare moment together. One evening while we were wrestling and just rolling around on the lawn in back of the house Buford started gabbing me in the crotch. I didn't know what it was all about but decided to do the same to him. Imagine my surprise to discover that he had this hard little rod in his pants and mine was just as soft as putty, and not only that it was so tiny it was difficult to find. Buford just kept rubbing and massaging until I also had a little, and I do mean little, rod in my pants too. At about that moment we heard his mother screeching 'Buford, Buuuuuford'. He got up, said 'see you tomorrow' and left poor little Lenny lying there on the grass with his very first erection and not knowing what to do about it."
"Well Buford and I spent the next few months or so investigating our mutual pleasure centers. He would spend the night over at my house or I would stay at his house and as soon as the lights were out we were at it. Occasionally we would diddle around in my parents garage and then we even made a 'Club House' in the basement of Buford's house. We put one of those folding cots in it so 'we could rest'. It was a Club House for two and with one express purpose, exploration. That was Buford's bright idea. He decided we could be Explorers and he even made a sign for the door, Explor Club. Misspelled of course, Buford may have been sexually precocious, but he wasn't too bright. Basically we explored each other. His mother asked him one time what we explored and he innocently replied, 'oh, things'. Yeah, my thing and his thing. Then one day, it was the beginning of the eighth grade, suddenly Buford had a girl friend and little Lenny was left behind while Buford went on to explore other things."
"Well, little Lenny wasn't about to let this new discovery languish and proceeded to continue with his explorations. First it was John Paul then shortly after it was Paul Edward. Then Randy. Then a number of others. For a while it looked like I was intent on exploring every boy in the eighth grade; had also considered going to work on the ranks of the local high schoolers. Seventh grade was out—too juvenile. Most responded and we would diddle around for a few weeks and then suddenly they'd get a girl friend and leave Lenny diddling by himself. Then there was Johnny Fowler and he seemed to be just about as sex crazed and I was. He lived on the other side of town and our bicycles nearly made ruts in the pavement as we zoomed back and forth across town. I am positive that the muscles in my legs grew considerably during my Johnny Fowler period. Now Johnny was chunky, not fat nor particularly muscled (with the exception his legs which were also showing the effects of our cycling marathons) and he had a dong like a donkey. Johnny also had particularly big feet, I mean he could have gone skiing without the necessity of using skis. It was at this time that I formulated a theory which, in my estimation was equal to anything that Einstein had come up with. In reviewing my past 'explorations' there seemed to be a very definite relationship between 'foot size' (FS) and 'thing size' (TS). It could even be expressed mathematically:
FS = TS
"I am sure it will come as no great surprise to know that I spent the next few months with my eyes glued to the shoes of my classmates. They probably all decided that, among other abnormalities, I had developed a full-blown foot fetish. And I was obsessed with confirming my hypothesis, it had become my duty in the advancement of science to do so. I even had the audacity to confront Billy Joe who was the biggest jock in our school, and, as I had recently observed, had feet even longer than Johnny's."
"One day Billy Joe was sent out of class because he was talking; he had already spent about half the school year in the hall. It was my big opportunity. I started jabbering to everyone around me. Mr. Randall sort of ignored it at first since I had never misbehaved in class. He just frowned at me. I continued, and continued and finally succeeded when Mr. Randall told me go out in the hall and see him after class. Billy Joe was sitting on the floor, legs stretched out and staring off into space. Standing right next to him I said, 'Billy Joe, Mike Burgess told me you got the littlest thing in school.' His reply was typical of his mentality, 'Fuck off, creep'."
"I continued goading him, "Honest, he's telling everyone that you got the smallest prick in town.' At that point he reached down and flattened his Levi's against his leg; there was a roll that went almost to his knee! 'You see this, you little shit? If I was to stick it up your ass your eyeballs would pop out. Now get the fuck away from me you creepy little fairy.'"
"Eureka! I had my confirmation and it also corresponded to the second portion of my equation, Billy Joe was two years older than anyone else in our class, having flunked both the sixth and seventh grades (and his chances for getting through the eighth grade weren't too promising either). Naturally I continued with my investigative research, knowing that as a budding scientist I needed adequate data to substantiate my findings. I also spent considerable time every night pulling on my toes, trying to make my feet, and other related anatomical parts, just a little bit longer."
It was time for a refill on our scotch and though there was no longer any ice, nor soda water, we were content with the chilly bottled water. It also gave me an opportunity to use the 'benjo', the Japanese equivalent of a toilet. I returned knowing that Len was just beginning.
"It was shortly after the second semester in high school began that a new student came to our class, Jerry Miller. I had never been in love before and wasn't in the least attracted to girls. Oh I liked them, but never once considered mooning around with them like Buford and the rest of the ex-explorers. I think Buford was diddling as many as he could by the time he was fourteen. Most southern boys are precocious. Oh I was masturbating all the time. Liked to lay on the bathroom floor and prop my legs up on the counter and look at comic books of Superman, Captain Marvel, anyone that had a sizable basket, and just jerk off by the hour. I think my parents thought I lived in a state of constant constipation considering the time I spent in my bathroom. Fortunately they had their own bathroom, or they would have been constipated."
"Well then Jerry Miller arrived on the scene. He had just moved into town from New Jersey and he had the biggest, roundest eyes I had every seen, sort of looked like an owl. Sweet, cuddly owl. Thick wavy hair, nice muscular body and a smile that could melt icebergs, big ones. Normal sized feet. And can you believe it Miss Scanner, our math teacher put him right next to me and asked if I would help the new student find all his classes on this, his first day. Suddenly it was Christmas in October and the ole witch Miss Scanner had donned a Santa suit. Our next class was down the hall and I took Jerry in tow and introduced him to Mr. Williams, our English teacher. I also explained that I had been instructed to show him around today and so he should probably sit next to me. I pulled that same shit in every class all day long knowing that he would have to sit next to me for the whole semester.
During lunch we ate together in the cafeteria, since neither of us had brought our lunch and I got a chance to know a bit more about him. His father was a chemical engineer and was going to be in charge of the new plant that had been constructed outside town. I discovered that they had moved in the previous week, only two blocks from where I lived. I didn't even know it. I'd probably been flat on my black in the bathroom with my feet in the air. We walked home together that afternoon and found that we had lots of similar interests. That night I wrote in my dairy that 'I had met my best friend. I just know we will be good friends. And he is really cute.' Yes honey, I started writing and keeping my detailed files when I was in the eighth grade. I was want to put in very personal things like, 'I hate Buford's guts and hope that his thing shrivels up and just falls off' so of course I had to hide it from the prying eyes of my mother. It also had my momentous scientific discovery of FS = TS And pages of copious notes concerning my investigative research. It was kept in a shoe box in the bottom of my closet and had all kinds of things on top of it like old stones, coins, shells and just miscellaneous crap I had collected during the years. Even had a dried up snake skin on top so I knew she'd never touch it."
"Before the week was out I invited Jerry over for dinner and he met my weird family. Have I ever mentioned my brother? Well Bender (another of those bizarre southern names and almost as bad as Buford) is two years younger than I am and was a little jock when he was four years old. I've never disliked sports but I certainly never had any intention of devoting my life or precious time to being a slave to them. Bender and I have kept a reasonable distance for the entirety of our lives. I knew it was going to be a disaster the minute I asked Jerry to come over but then couldn't back out. Miracles still happen, even in the south and it was one of the most perfect performances the Stroud family had ever given. They asked normal, reasonable questions and seemed genuinely interested in the responses. Bender got a little weird, but I later explained to Jerry that it was because of his age and limited mental capacity. Jerry and I were together at school, after school and spent half of every night on the phone. I have no idea what we talked about. Then I was asked to dinner at his house and it was perfectly delightful. His parents were educated, cultured, evidently had no idea what a mask was and were absolutely charming. And being an only child he didn’t have to cringe about having a weird sibling."
"Then the incredible. He asked me to spend the night at his house. I didn't know until I arrived that his folks were going to be out of town on both Friday and Saturday night and they felt comfortable leaving him at home. All he had to do was call and check in occasionally with a friend of his mother's who lived on the other side of town. For a fourteen year old he was extremely mature. We pigged out on all the delicious food his mom had left, watched a little TV, looked at some photo albums and then went up to his room. Now I don't want to bore you with all the delicious details but young Jerry knew his way around the adolescent body. Seems he had been diddling around with an older cousin in New Jersey for several years. Sweetie, I don't think we slept a wink that first night. The next day we got up late, and Jerry and I fixed an enormous breakfast that would have choked a hog, and we ate it all. I went home and since my folks were out I just left a message that I would be spending that night at Jerry's also. But first I had to write down all the goings-on down in my diary.
I had early on discovered that the human mind is tricky and if material is not put down immediately, while it's still fresh, it becomes subject to distortion, or little bits are forgotten. That particular entry also stands out as perhaps the first time that I had been completely truthful and didn't play our southern game of illusions; calling things by something they're not. I distinctly remember writing that 'his cock was silky smooth, firm and burning hot, pulsing with life'. Now that was big stuff for a fourteen year old. And it wasn't just the sex, although it was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me. Something else had been happening, and during the those two weeks of knowing Jerry I had, for the first time, fallen in love. Well, maybe is was just adolescent lust, but I had the biggest infatuation imaginable. I knew that Guinevere had found her Lancelot. This little 'affaire d'amour' went on for nearly two years! I remember that when we were juniors in high school and both tried out for the part of Romeo in the school production. Jerry got the part and there was a real desire to tell the English teacher, who served as drama coach, that I could be Juliet. I knew that I could do it, and probably better that any of those twats with boobs."
"Then came the summer between our junior and senior years and Consolidated Chemicals decided to send Jerry's father to France to supervise a new plant there. When Jerry told me the news I just knew I was going to die. Do you know the immolation scene from Wagner's Tristan and Isolde, where Isolde actually dies from pangs of love for her lost Tristan? Well I just knew that this little ole southern Isolde was on her way out." While Len was talking I thought back to that magical day when Gregg first talked about Wagner and then later when he had first played that particular selection from Tristan und Isolde for me. It was so incredibly beautiful; someone actually willing herself to die because of lost love. More unbelievable was that Wagner had actually captured it in the most exquisite music imaginable. God, how I missed Gregg. Len, seeing the expression on my face, commented, "Well honey you don't have to get all misty eyed, I eventually recovered." I explained that it was because of something else and then continued to tell him the entire story about how Gregg had introduced me to the music of Wagner. As I finished Len observed, "Well Gregg is obviously one those cultured Italians, you know many of them think that music begins with Perry Como and ends with Paul Anka."
Now Len had pushed my 'on' button and I went on to tell him about how on that morning long ago you I had awaken to find Gregg playing the lute and singing Troubadour songs in their original language. About the countless enchanting nights of Greek music and.... but by now I was really almost crying from the ache of estrangement, which just wouldn't go away. Len put his arm around my shoulder, "Poor baby. I know it hurts, yes I know only too well." Then he suggested that maybe it was time to spread out the futon and go to bed.
As Len turned out the light I commented that I still hadn't heard about Roger. "Oh, Roger, Roger. Now sweetie, imagine, if you can, a combination of all the most handsome men in the world, the most charming people you have ever met, the most suave, the most intelligent and sexy. Sex that just oozes out of every pore in their body. If you can put all of that together you have a small idea of my Roger. My Roger, hell's bells, that marvelous creature belongs to no one. Although I like to fantasize that he's going to be mine forever."
"Well I had spent my senior year of high school mooning around and in a state of mild, but near continual depression, missing my cuddly Jerry something awful. My parents had decided it was just a stage, an adolescent thing. As the year passed the letters from France became less frequent and then suddenly Jerry was writing page after page about Louis. Louis this and Louis that. It didn't take a mathematician to figure out what was going on. Now I was in the midst of a full blown identity crisis. I found that I had two release valves, writing and playing tennis. I had completely given up my scientific research. In writing I could release all of the torment and frustration by putting it on paper. Also in playing a good game of tennis. No thinking, just reacting to the action involved. And I was very good, guess I just put all the energy I had into that single concentrated action. I graduated from school and had made plans to enter college in the fall. It was on a Friday afternoon, June 18th to be exact, and I had made plans to play a couple sets with my school chum, Jimmy, who was also very good. I got to the club, my parents of course belonged to an exclusive golf and tennis club, and waited for Jimmy. He was a little flaky about keeping dates. There was this other fellow there, also waiting for a partner who hadn't shown up."
"Now here is young Len, just having turned 18 and in front of this incredibly handsome, mature man. I later discovered he was an ancient 25 years old. He was tall, 6' 2" with skin the color of deep, rich honey, light brown hair with flecks and streaks of gold, penetrating steel blue eyes, lean, well muscled body. Serious looking with a soft, half smile. I accepted his offer and we played a bit, probably the worst I had ever played. It was one of those super sticky humid southern afternoons and while showering in the club Roger asked where I went to school. I mentioned that I was attending the local college. That was just a little exaggeration since I was enrolled to begin in the fall term. It appeared that having determined that I wasn't jail bait, he then invited me out for a hamburger. I felt that he had been sort of assessing my body while we were showering. Little did he know that I was already lusting after his. Incredibly well proportioned frame — and he had probably seen me sneaking peeks at him.
While eating I discovered he had finished law school the previous year and was now working for the best known firm in our city. He was originally from Atlanta. We just talked up a storm and by this time it was starting to get dark. He offered to take me home and then asked if I wanted to call my folks and let them know where I was, before leaving The Hamburger Pit. I explained that they were visiting with my grandmother in Hickory and wouldn't be back until Sunday. I didn't add that I hadn't gone because I wanted to stay home and mope. My 'Camille scene' had become so boring to my folks that they undoubtedly enjoyed the opportunity to get away from me from time to time. Well at least they certainly never insisted that I go anywhere with them." Len decided it was time for some tea, and as usual got up and padded around in the dark, putting on the water, putting the tea in the pot. It was almost as if he had some type of night vision that I lacked. And at that same moment I realized how much I loved Len as a friend, how comfortable it was being with him."
He put some more wood in the stove and then returning with the tea pot and cups he crawled back under the futon. I reached over, kissed him on the forehead and told him how very special his friendship was to me. Even in the semi-darkness I could see the whiteness of his teeth as he smiled and said, "Well sweetie, you know it's a mutual admiration society. I just don't know what I'd do without you either. As you know I make friends easily, but there is no one on base that I can share with, let them know who I really am."
He continued, "Then Roger came up with this brilliant idea. Since both of us were going to be alone, maybe I would like to come to his place and watch some TV, listen to some music or just chat for a while. Well, by this time little Miz Lenny's heart was going pitty-pat, pitty-pitty-pat. He looked awfully masculine and straight, but where there's hope there's always a possibility. While driving to his place he reached over patted my bare thigh, remember we were still in our tennis shorts, and said, "You know Len, I think you are capable of much more than we experienced this afternoon." Then he squeezed my leg before withdrawing his hand. Well it looked like the probability factor for a little koochie had just increased. But then it was also something that any jock would do. I was still unsure; but hopeful.
We arrived at a new section on the outskirts of town where they had constructed some garden condominium units. Beautiful grounds, well landscaped and each unit was tastefully hidden from its neighbors by lush, dense vegetation. The inside of his house was even more tasteful than the outside. Obviously he or his family had some money since I had heard my folks talking about how expensive these units were. All of the furniture was masculine, yet fine, elegant. He had so much original art on the walls that it could have been a gallery. He put on some Tchaikovsky, a Violin Concerto I think, said he hoped I liked classical music and mentioned that he was going to have a scotch and soda and asked if I would like one or that there was soda or fruit juice. I too opted for scotch though I'd only tasted it once and wasn't too fond of the flavor. I was examining the paintings and also admiring his baby grand piano in the corner. In less than ten minutes I had decided that I could stay here for the rest of my life. And when I considered Roger as an integral part of this whole, it was just so comfortable, so exquisite. It was what I had always dreamed of. You know a lot of guys, when they discover that they are probably gay, go through a period of mental gymnastics, flip flopping over whether they are or aren't, wanting a male lover and then the next day wanting to be straight and have a wife and family. I guess it's natural, after all we live in a heterosexual society and every day that is held up to us as the norm. The way everyone lives. Not me. From the time I met Jerry I knew what I wanted in life. A man to live with. I never even considered the other as an alternative."
"I made some comment on the beautiful chess board on his coffee table and almost immediately we were playing. Jerry and I had spent two years playing chess and my maternal grandfather was a master at chess. It was a long, excellent game and Roger was obviously very good, and though he may have creamed me at tennis, this time I beat him. When we finished he was beaming and commented that he hadn't had such good competition in a long time, and said he was looking forward to our next match. During the game I had also discovered that scotch, sipped slowly and not swilled, like my folks did with bourbon, was an excellent drink."
"Roger asked if I wasn't a bit hungry and then went in the kitchen to fix us a couple of sandwiches. Even his kitchen was so neat and tidy with gorgeous copper pots hanging up and a row of electric appliances that any French chef would have been envious of. I asked him who had decorated the house and he smiled and explained that he had done it himself. Oh my god, I thought to myself, a butch husband who's a lawyer, pianist (he had played a little earlier), and an interior decorator. I was ready to walk down the aisle. But not only had he not proposed, he hadn't even touched me since we came in the house. He asked what I wanted to drink, he was going to have a little Rose d'Anjou that he had opened last night and hadn't finished. I had no idea what he was talking about but wanted to sound as mature and cosmopolitan as possible and said that sounded great. And actually it was, as were the sandwiches.
I just knew that I could fit into this lifestyle very easily. He finally got around to asking what I my major was in college and I explained that I wanted to be a writer and I was taking primarily English and literature classes. Roger confessed that he had a real desire to write but that every time he attempted to write something, that upon reading it he felt it was so trite that it always wound up in the wastebasket. I voiced my horror and explained, mocking Mr. Williams, my high school English teacher, that writing was a process and very few successful writers were pleased with their first drafts. And if he really enjoyed it and had a true desire to write, he should do exactly that and have no concern for the results. The result was in having done it. Mr. Williams had said a lot more but I couldn't recall what it was. Roger seemed genuinely pleased with my advice. Can you imagine the gall of a teenager telling a grown man what he should do with his life?. That second glass of wine had loosened up my tongue and inhibitions; in fact I was feeling just a bit dizzy, well dizzier than usual that is."
"Well since it was obvious he wasn't going to do it, and having the fortification of the wine, I just point blank asked, 'Roger would you mind if I stayed over tonight? And quickly added before he could open his mouth, 'I wasn't especially looking forward to staying at home alone tonight.' Now he had a big smile, and he said that it would be a great idea.
But can you believe what he next said? 'Well I’ll get some PJ's for you, I'm sure they'll fit, and I know there are clean sheets on the bed in the guest room. My threshold level of frustration had just about been reached. We cleaned up a bit in the kitchen and he tidily put the glasses and plates in the dishwasher. It was just so strange. He usually acted so butch and masculine and then would be as prim as a little ole spinster. My poor head was spinning from more than the wine, primarily from trying to figure him out."
"He showed me my room and then opened an adjoining door and showed me his study. Beautiful large desk and all three walls were covered with books. And what was really nice was that there were all sizes and descriptions. You know some people buy a library of books, leather bound of course, and then never open a single one. This was obviously not the case since there was a marvelous lack of tidiness."
I couldn't help but think about the dining room at home and Bozhena's comment to Gregg about it being the room where we fed our bodies and our minds. Roger suggested that I if I wanted to read anything that the fiction was primarily on the first wall, nonfiction on this wall in front us and miscellaneous things on the third. I commented on the lack of law books and he explained that he worked in the office and enjoyed himself at home. Well, that set things straight with a minimum of words. He also explained that he liked to read for at least a few minutes before going to sleep.
"It was beginning to look like Roger went to bed to read and sleep and may not have even considered that a bed could be utilized for other activities. I immediately spied a book of Dorothy Parker, ‘After The Pleasure’, and decided that her dialogues were so beautifully satirical that though I might be sleeping alone at least I would go to sleep chuckling. But then something else formulated in my devious little mind. He handed me the PJ's he had been carrying around and apologizing said they were the only type he used. Now honey, they were nothing more than these little baby blue, fancy boxer type shorts and a sleeveless shirt to match. Soft as silk,. As I was entering the guest bedroom he explained that he would be right next door if I needed anything. Like he was talking to a little kid.
Well, the little kid already had a plan in mind, and had had since I saw that Dorothy Parker book. I waited until he had turned off his overhead light, was well settled in bed and heard him turn a couple of pages. I turned to a specific page I liked, I had the same book at home and had read it a zillion times, and I began to softly chuckle. I waited a bit and chuckled a little more, a little louder."
"I got up and went into Roger's room. He had on the same blue PJ's, we sort of looked like Bobsey twins, and he quizzically looked over the top of his reading glasses. 'Roger you've got to hear this.' And I read one of Dorothy's delicious and scathing comments. He laughed and I sat down on his bed and read some more. By now he was really laughing and it was the first time since we had met on the tennis court that he sort of looked relaxed. I continued to pick out especially biting comments and we were both laughing so hard that it hurt. While I was reading I noticed that he had been fixedly staring at my handsome young legs. At that time they were nice and tan and the little blond hairs just glimmered like gold. Now was my chance. 'Roger do you mind if I stay here for a bit?' He said it would be just fine and suggested I get under the sheet. Southern summers preclude using anything other than a single sheet. I had also noticed what appeared to be a bulge under Roger's sheet a couple of minutes earlier. I immediately put down my book and turned out the light on my side of the bed. Roger followed my lead and we were suddenly in semi darkness.—I had left the bedside lamp on in my room. As soon as his light was off I raised up and kissed him. I'd been wanting to do it since that afternoon. He immediately pulled me over next to him and I spent the night teaching that 25 year-old man what physical love was all about. He was a fast and eager learner by the way."
"So now you know how little Lenny violated Roger, with his consent and full fledged participation of course. He also confessed that I was the first person he'd ever had a sexual relationship with, mentioning at the same time that he'd wanted to for years, but just didn't know how to make the first move."
Len later told of how he and Roger had spent the next two years together, well, as frequently as possible. Len's parents evidently were not too concerned that he was spending a lot of time outside the house. Evidently the mere fact that 'Camille' had finally gotten off her death bed was good enough for them. What I didn’t share with Len was that I too had a penchant for amassing information and had been religiously writing in my diary every night since I was 15. And for the last six months it had been written in a script that was accessible to only two people in the entire world.