Part 3 - Dave's Navy life expands:
For me, it was moving day. Now that I had become permanent enlisted staff for the base, I would live in housing that offered a little more privacy. I wouldn't miss living with 50 horny guys in the same room. As I stood outside the students' barracks, personal possessions at my feet, I discovered that I didn't know how to find my new home, 3-D. Being confined as a student, I hadn't had time to be a part of the real world on base.
I noticed the Officer of the Day, driving by in the OOD Navy pickup. I was a little concerned when the pickup stopped next to me, as I stood on the curbside with all my personal belongings, looking a little forlorn. The Ltjg., spotlessly dressed in summer whites and shoulder boards with 1 1/2 gold stripes, rolled down the window and asked if there was something he could do to help. After my customary salute to the officer, I explained that this was moving day to my new permanent barracks as I had been assigned to the Naval Air Station. I didn't have the foggiest idea where the barracks 3-D could be found.
"Well, this is your lucky day, Son," came back the reply from the officer. "Throw your gear in the back bed and jump in with me. I'll take you there." Whew! What a godsend. I put everything into the rear of the pickup in got in the cab. I smiled at the Ltjg. and noticed that his nametag stated "Di Marco." I said, "Thanks for the help, Mr. Di Marco. I want to get squared away at my new barracks as soon as possible. I'm a little embarrassed that I don't know where it is. Oh, my name is Airman Apprentice David Swenson."
"Well, Swenson, I would have been driving by your barracks anyway. And, since you are now assigned to the Naval Air Station, you're family. We look out for each other." Ltjg. Di Marco said with a wink in his eye. "Where will you be assigned to work?"
As cheerfully as I could muster, but not too convincingly, "Special Services as a lifeguard at the Officer's Club pool. So much for seeing the world," I said, with a wistful expression on my light-tanned face. Looking at the lean officer, probably somewhere in his mid-20's, I was taken back by his classic Mediterranean features contrasted against his crisp, white uniform. Christ, is there anything sexier than a hot looking Naval officer in his "whites?" My thoughts drifted to Kevin Costner and Richard Gere in their earlier Navy movie roles.
I couldn't tell much more about him because he had been sitting in the cab since we met. But it appeared that his summer white uniform was expertly tailored to fit his physique. Muscles were faintly outlined beneath his pant legs. And, there didn't appear to be any extra fat in his mid-section. Looking at his biceps, I noticed that this man had serious "guns." Thankfully, the sunglasses hid my roaming, inspecting eyes.
"Special Services is not the end of the world. Think of it as summer camp, Navy-style," Mr. Di Marco replied. Yikes, a smile and a wink!
"Oh, no sir. I just had my heart set on my first cruise on a ship as part of the crew."
"Swenson, or David, if that's ok, I advise you to make the best of this situation. Four months will fly by. And, now that you are out of school, you'll have time to discover the delights of the Memphis area," he said, as he turned the corner and stopped in front of my new home, barracks 3-D. "By the way, we'll get to know each other very well. When I don't pull OOD duty, I'm officially the Special Services Officer for the base." He turned on that killer smile and extended his hand. "Welcome aboard, David."
As my face brightened to a sunrise red, I replied, "Sir, no disrespect. I'm sure that I'll enjoy the tour of duty here." I looked nervously into his eyes.
As I got out of the pickup, he added, "Be sure and pick up a map of the base and bus schedule so you can find your way around. Monday is your first day. This weekend, I suggest you take the time to get your bearings and the layout of the Naval Air Station. If you want to, I can arrange for you to shadow the lifeguard you are replacing this Sunday. Is that convenient?"
Without any hesitation, I said, "Sir, I would appreciate it very much. I want to get off on the right foot Monday. What shall I wear?"
"You look like you wear a medium size swim trucks?" I'll have Jim Weiss, the man you are replacing, bring two sets of regulation lifeguard trunks for you Sunday. Meet him at 0800 so that you can qualify to be a NAS lifeguard before the pool opens at 1000. Your successful swimming training at Great Lakes is enough to make the qualification merely a formality. You and Jim will repeat the drills and review potential emergencies you might encounter at the pool." He told me that this Jim guy was being transferred to the main gym and pool. "If you have any problems later on routine, you can call him at his new job."
With that, I popped a smart salute that he returned in a relaxed but correct fashion. With that, Mr. Di Marco, my new mentor and boss, drove off. I gathered my belongings and entered my next navy home.
'What was with those winks?' I questioned. 'Does an officer wink at an enlisted man?'
I walked up the steps of the barracks. Once entering 3-D, I noticed that the barracks was "T" shaped with three wings. At the window segregating the entrance from the rest of the facility sat a dungaree-clad sailor with an E-4 chevron. He appeared to be the security watch detail for the building. He was engrossed reading Ludlum's latest Jason Bourne thriller. 'That's promising. There is an intellectual level here beyond comic books,' I mused.
"Pardon me, my name is Dave Swenson and I've just been assigned to this barracks and would like to find my bunk," I voiced to the blank stare that looked up from the book. Aside from a clean-cut, squared away image, his general features would blend in with a crowd. 'His fair skin, big brown eyes, slight nose, dark hair and light beard suggest some sort of Spanish heritage, but probably not Mexican,' I thought as I stood at the window.
The on-duty sailor, obviously not excited about standing watch this late Friday afternoon, casually looked over his roster and very slowly scanned the manifest. At the last page, he found my name. After discovering that I was going to be a part of his life as a barracks-mate, he slowly lifted himself off the chair at the desk and said with a growing grin, "Well, Swenson, I guess I should officially welcome you aboard. This is your home, as well as mine. I'm Phil Gonzalez."
Phil extended his hand as Dave looked into tired eyes that didn't match his 20-something year-old body. We were about the same height. But Phil was what you would politely call trim and slim. Ah, Hell, he was downright skinny. I shook the hand politely. "Your room is number 11 down the left hall. Darren Rodgers mustered out yesterday. The mattress hasn't been used that much other than Darren's jerk off sessions." He added with a smirk. "You'll find the head and showers at the end of the hall. Later, I'll show you the laundry room and the rec lounge."
"Thanks, Phil, I'll find my space. Who's my roommate, by the way?" 'Jerk off sessions? Hmmm,' I thought as visions of this Darren guy pulling his pud sprung into my head. 'TMI...too much information.'
Laughing, Phil said, "Brent Williams. You'll meet him later this evening. Much later, if he returns to the base tonight. Actually, he's considered our stealth sailor. You hardly ever see him during the week. And almost never on weekends." He volunteered no further information. With his eyes intently studying my face, Phil suggested that we have a beer after he got off watch and I had a chance to move in. Not having a better offer and really curious about this new guy, I accepted. I had the feeling that quiet Phil really knew what was going on around here. He gave me a key to my new digs and we agreed to meet back in the foyer at 1800 hours.
I found room #11 and unlocked the door. Inside were two single bunks in an "L" shape layout, divided by a large, corner bedside table. The rest of the space consisted of two chests of drawers, built-in storage drawers under the bunks, a wash basin with a mirrored medicine cabinet above flanked by two towel racks, a desk with drawers on either side of the leg well, a swivel chair, and one side chair. On the desk sat a Mac PC. The linoleum floor was aged but well buffed.
The lighting, other than the dome light mounted on the ceiling, consisted of a desk lamp and two reading lights for the beds. The roller shades in the window and pale green, Navy-issue paint topped off the standard USN institutional look.
The made bed had enough tension on the taut blanket to bounce quarters off the cover. My bed was stripped, with folded blankets, pillow and bedding lying on the mattress. Looking at the naked mattress, I was relieved to find it free of any telltale pecker tracks left by the last sailor. Finding the closet and drawer space equally divided for two roommates, I commenced to stow my personal effects and make my bed.
'My roommate, Brent, is one neat dude,' I concluded. His side of the closet had all of his trousers, suits, jeans, shirts and jackets lined up and organized by color. He had a variety of shoes ranging from Cole Hahn to Ferragamo to New Balance to Dan Post ostrich skin boots.
OK, I did a bit of snooping in the closet. Judging from his wardrobe, it appeared that Brent was about my size. And judging from the labels I saw, he was a devotee of Ralph Lauren, D & G, and Armani. Curious. Not a sailor's usual civvies wardrobe. 'What's promising is the 32" waist size of his pants and the large shirts. Bingo. My size! Maybe I could get his hand-me-downs?' I thought.
On his side of the desk, next to the computer, I found a picture of a handsome guy I assumed to be Brent standing next to a striking female. She looked to be in the early 20's range. Must be his girl friend. Under the desk on the deck was a set of 25# hand weights.
When I finished my unpacking and had freshened up, dressing in a pair of Lucky jeans, a polo shirt and Doc Martens, I joined Phil back at the front desk. "Did you get yourself squared away?" Phil queried as he checked me out. Phil had changed into similar civvies gear. I did notice that he was 501 button-fly man that matched well with his well-worn brown Fry boots.
"Yes, I replied." In the meantime, I knew that I was hungry. "Phil, what say we go to a local cafe outside the gate for dinner and a beer? Someplace that won't look too hard at my fake ID."
"No problemo. I've got wheels. We'll go to the Spotlight Cafe in Millington. It's nothing fancy but serves home-style Southern food and great burgers. Because it's primarily a restaurant that has a good reputation, the Shore Patrol stays away. You won't have any problem with your ID. How old are you, Dave?" Phil asked.
"I'll be 21 in July. The 4th actually. It's a helluva party I get every year," I threw out, while thinking of happier times celebrating the 4th and my birthday with Mom and Dad.
Phil picked up on the faraway look that came over my face. "If you don't mind me asking, you seem to be experiencing some pretty sad emotions all of a sudden. Is everything OK?" Phil queried.
I snapped out of my distant memories and said, "A year ago, my folks were killed in an auto accident caused by a fucking drunk. I'm pretty much on my own now. This is one reason I joined the Navy. To kind of retreat for a while 'til I get my shit together." I focused on Phil's concerned face and added with a smile, "Hey guy, I'm fine. Let's hit the road. I'm hungry!" I playfully tapped Phil's arm with my fist.
Phil returned my smile and led the way out of the barracks to the enlisted men's parking lot across the street, where we jumped into his very sensible five-year-old Honda Civic with Georgia plates. In no time we were off the base and at The Spotlight. The lot was jammed.
As we entered, a friendly, older woman greeted us. We lucked out with a small table that had just been cleared. Sitting down, I looked around and surveyed the crowd. This was definitely a base hangout. At the large, round table of six in the corner was a family consisting of a guy in his mid-thirties, a woman who was probably his wife, and four curtain climbers ranging from 2 years up to 7. From his haircut and bearing, this was obviously a jarhead marine. Although in civilian clothes, I could tell that this was one fighting machine. I was glad to be on his side.
A young waitress came over to take our drink orders. Phil immediately ordered two Corona Lights. Without hesitation, the waitress smiled and said she would be right back with the beers. In a sugary drawl, she said, "Guys, y'all really are missin' out if y'all don't order momma's meatloaf and the mashed sweet 'taters."
"We'll think it over, Grace," Phil remarked as he noticed her nametag. "My buddy and I will be ready to order food when you return." She nodded and smiled before she turned away. "Although I'm 23, part of the game when ordering a drink is to act confidently," Phil commented as he turned to me.
When Grace returned with the beers, we both ordered Cheeseburgers with Curly Fries, and their homemade slaw. That out of the way, I gave him a brief rundown of my background, hometown, and the sordid family events of last year. As I explained my short-term assignment to Special Services and the lifeguard job, Phil blew a low whistle, and said, "Wow, Dave. You've got it made, dude. It's like you'll be working at the country club for the summer. A lot of the senior officers have some pretty hot daughters that will be home from college. With your looks, it will be like the fox guarding the henhouse." With a shit-eating grin, he patted my shoulder.
The food came and we were silent for a few minutes while we prepped the burgers with ketchup, tomato and lettuce. They were gigantic and juicy. Phil had steered me right. After months of mess hall food, this was a real treat.
As our conversation picked up, Phil volunteered that he was originally from Cleveland but moved to Atlanta when we was 12, because his Dad was transferred to Coca Cola World Headquarters. Mr. Gonzalez started as a Coke route driver in Cleveland while he was attending college and had moved through the ranks from Supervisor to Area Manager, before moving to Atlanta to become a regional sales manager. In Atlanta, as Phil was growing up, his Dad got a Masters Degree from Emory University's Business school, pushing himself to advance his education in late afternoon and night classes. Two years ago, he had been promoted to Vice President of Distribution.
"My Dad was really disappointed in my rotten grades for my first two years of college at Georgia Tech. He forced me to study engineering, which I hated. I wanted to transfer to the University of Georgia. But, I didn't know what I wanted to do. We had a serious impasse. Dad told me that he would not finance my education until I got myself pulled together and figured where I was going in life. He suggested that I join the military and take the four years to get it sorted out. So here I am with one more year to go on my enlistment."
We continued to devour the food. Phil ordered two more beers. The cafe produced its own spicy ketchup that really made the Curly French Fries delicious. I had never experienced that taste. "What is your job on the base, Phil?"
"Nothing glamorous. I'm in the transportation pool as the dispatcher for vehicle and truck requests. I keep track of 150 different rolling stock," he shrugged. "I don't volunteer for anything. Just keep my nose clean, work my shift, and stand that shitty rotating watch." I've been taking night classes at the University of Memphis. And ya know, Dave, I've aced all the English lit classes I've taken so far. By the time I leave the Navy next year, I'll have completed enough credits to almost finish my junior year."
He looked earnestly in my eyes and continued, "My Dad and I have come to an understanding. He is helping me pay for the night classes and has promised that he will fund my further education, including graduate school. I really want to become a college teacher."
"Phil, I'm impressed with your goals. But, all work and books can make Phil a dull boy."
"Don't worry about that, Dave. The by-product of my night classes is that I have met a terrific girl that I've become quite close to. I think that there will be wedding bells next year when I'm out of here," he beamed. "You're obviously going to meet her soon. And if Beth has anything to say about it, I'm sure that she can seek out a little female companionship for you."
I smiled, thinking 'Gads, what a life for a gay man closeted in the Navy.' "Sure, that would be great. I look forward to it. Let me get squared away with my new job. Maybe we can get together in a couple of weekends from now?"
We finished dinner, paid Grace, leaving a generous tip, and drove around, returning to the base around 2130. Phil was living in the right wing. So, we split and promised to touch base with each other Sunday. Turned out to be a nice guy. He was going to study tonight so he could be with Beth tomorrow. His study habits probably explained that expression around his eyes. I was ready to hit the sack.
When I entered the room, it was obvious that Brent had been there. There was a damp bath towel and washcloth on his towel rod. And I noticed that the computer was on and running with a screen saver. I "accidentally" hit the mouse and Brent's AOL email screen came on. Being curious, I read the last message:
I know you wanted to chill tonight, but I've got a last minute job for you. You and your gorgeous ass need to be at the Peabody Hotel at 8:00 pm. Your client is in Suite 2304. You are expected to be a prepped-up college frat man. So, pull out your best Polo. It's all pretty vanilla. But, you're wanted for the entire evening. Upon completion of the gig, I'll transfer $1,000 to your account.