Chapter 7

When I got my discharge papers first thing I did was to call Bob. He sounded rather distant and preoccupied. I put it off as too much studying, and didn't worry about. We made arrangements for him to meet me at LAX. I had to take a small commuter flight from Myrtle Beach to Atlanta And then Delta to Dallas with a stop in New Orleans. In Dallas I transferred to TWA for the long flight to L. A. In both Dallas and Atlanta I had long layovers. It took two and a half days to get from one side of the continent to the other. That was 1966.

I was worn out and looked like I had slept in my clothes for days. I had slept in my clothes; the gym bag I had pack a change of clothes in along with my cleansing items was stolen in New Orleans. I searched the waiting crowd for Bob as I descended the steps out of the plane. Once on the tarmac I was hidden in a sea of moving bodies. We moved in mass into the building to await our luggage. I searched for Bob and still didn't find him. When I finally got my luggage, I moved it out to the curb and sat on a bench waiting.

I've always been a people watcher. I wasn't bored sitting there waiting. I got so involved in observing a young mother managing four children that I was surprised when Robert said, "There you are. The traffic is horrible around here." There was no hug, no welcome or apology, just that bit of explanation. I turned to look at him. A pretty brunette hung on his arm. She had a vacuous smile plastered on her face. His left arm was around her waist. I wasn't expecting this. My mind froze as I stared at them. I had been looking forward to being wrapped in Robert's embrace and being able to hug him, and here he was offering me his hand. I ignored it as I slowly stood up and nodded. He introduced Sue Ann. She offered her hand with a "Pleased to meet cha. Call me Suzy." I nodded at her, too. Had he hit the skids? I mean how low do you have go to find a sleaze like her? "What's going on, Rob? This is a joke?" I asked.

"Suzy and I are thinking about getting married." Robert said. Something didn't quite ring true, but I couldn't figure it out. I nodded again. I managed to spit out a hoarse "Congratulations." He seemed oblivious to my stunned immobile state. He grabbed up my bags and motioned for Suzy to lead the way with me trailing along carrying my jacket and a small duffle.

Stunned? Yeah, I was stunned. I kept expecting him to turn around and tell me it was all a joke. But he didn't. I followed along behind the two of them watching Robert's backside. I felt like I had just been told someone close had died. I wanted to weep and mourn his passing. I numbly got into the back seat as Suzy slid into the front next to Robert. She sat on the hump close to his side. That's where I wanted to be, with his big warm hand on my thigh.

As we drove up Sepulveda she kept wiggling and whispering in his ear. He put a proprietary arm around her shoulder and glanced into the mirror at me. I ducked my head to prevent him seeing the pain and confusion I was feeling.

"You're still planning on staying with me until you get settled in and find a place, right? He asked. I studied my clinched hands and thought about it. I couldn't imagine even wanting to be in the same room with him after this betrayal.

"Hal?" He said. I raised my eyes and stared at him in the mirror. I studied his reflection. He had dark circles under his eyes. And his eyes---there was no light in them. The joie de vivre was gone.

"No," I cleared my throat. "I've a reservation at the Marriott on Pico." I lied. It was the only hotel whose location I could remember. "I'll be staying there a couple of days before I go home to see my parents."

He raised his eyebrows, knowing it was a lie, but he accepted it without objection. "Oh." He said, staring into the mirror at me. "Well, if that's what you want." His eyes looked a little more dull. I shrugged. I dropped my eyes and mumbled. "Yeah, that's what I want."

He pulled into the hotel portico. He popped the lid on the trunk. I motioned for a bellhop to take the bags before Robert could attempt to help me into the lobby. I stood in front of him and looked him in the eyes; I let him read what I was feeling. I held out my hand. "Thanks for the lift, Rob, but you really could have let me just take a taxi." I felt cold

"I couldn't have done that, you're my buddy." He said. He ignored my hand. I tried to read a false ring of camaraderie in his voice, but he sounded like I had hurt and offended him. I ignored it.

"Am I?" I asked. A taste of bitter bile filled my mouth. "Well, thanks for the ride anyway." My voice sounded flat in my ears; I wondered if it did in his. With a sharp about-face and I walked into the hotel. He must have stood there watching me walk away from him, because I didn't hear him get back into his car before the hotel lobby doors closed behind me. I kept hoping that he would call after me, but he didn't. I felt empty, emotionally destitute. Two hours ago I had been on top of the world. I was going to be with Robert. The world was going to be ours. Now nothing. I checked into the hotel. I was operating on automatic. I tipped the bellhop and closed the door on his heels. I slipped my shoes off and lay down on the bed and stared at the popcorn ceiling. I was exhausted from the long flight. I eventually fell into a fitful asleep.

When I awoke it was dark. I had no idea what time it was; I never wore a watch in those days. I watched the light patterns on the walls and wondered what had gone awry with Robert. He had always been so sensitive to other's feelings because of the way he could pick up on their emotional output. I thought back over the time we spent together in Myrtle Beach.

When Rob appeared on the beach that foggy September day back in 1965, I knew he was there for me. I could feel the tie between us, even before he turned and looked into my eyes. My heart was in my throat as he walked towards me. When he sat down beside me and our sides touched it wasn't like a bolt of electricity or such. No, it wasn't a like a bolt at all, more like a feeling a warmth, like a goose down comforter had been wrapped around me, soft, airy, but so secure. Where I had never felt vulnerable before, suddenly I was, yet in his nearness I was secure.

Still with the knowing, there was no way in the beginning either of us dared to speak of wanting the other sexually. Therefore, we could only become the closest of friends. The unspoken tension caused us to bond in a way that if we had been able to be open with each other, we would otherwise never achieved.

We were the best of buddies, spending nearly all of our free time together. We touched. We touched a lot, but never in a sexual way. Shoulders, arms, necks and an occasional knee, but that was all. Booth of us fearful of the military wrath toward men who love each other physically.

Then came that fateful day that Miki came between us. The day I blurted out to Rob how I felt about him. That changed the whole picture. If we hadn't been the closest of friends and mature adults we might have parted ways for fear of being outed. But it only changed the aspects of our deep abiding love for each other.

From that day on we openly discussed how we felt. We did not act on. I was most willing to do so, but Rob was adamant that as long as we were in the military we would play it straight. As I look back on those times I see that he was absolutely right. We both had less than a year to finish our obligation and it would have been foolish to have indulged ourselves and taken the chance of being caught.

We spent the night before he left Myrtle Beach at Murrel's Inlet, amongst the dunes, talking, making plans for the future. One thing we were thankful for was that we were both from Southern California. We would be near each other when we home. Our plans for finishing our educations were set. He was going to USC, which is near downtown L.A., and I was going to UCLA in Westwood. We would be separated by only a few miles.

As dawn drew near, my resolve broke down and I begged him to make love to me before he left. Something, I told him, to remember him by. We were standing in the gentle wash of the surf, fully clothed, but barefooted. He took me in his arms crushing my body to his. He kissed me. It was a deep passion filled kissed. I could feel his hardness against my belly. I knew he could feel mine against his thigh; the head of my cock pressing against his balls.

When we broke the kiss and came up for air, he held me at arms length and gazed into my eyes.

"I love you so much, Hal. But if we are meant to be together, then sex will wait until the right time. Besides," He grinned at me. "if it doesn't happen you'll never forget me. I'll be the one who you didn't succeed in seducing."

I was frustrated. I pulled away and turned my back to him.

"Fuck you, Rob. You're playing a mind game."

He wrapped me in his arms, and kissed the top of my head.

"You're going to do it, Hal. You're going to fuck the living daylights out of me. And I promise, I'll do the same to you, but not here, not now."

I drove him to the airport and watched him board the small commuter plane to Atlanta. I knew that if I never saw him again I would never forget him.

Being that I seem t o be a broadcaster of my emotional state, he had even been more sensitive to me. How could he have managed to close me out, to be so insensitive to me? I couldn't understand it. I got up and shed the clothes I had been wearing for the last two days, and got into a hot shower. I was revived somewhat by the strong torrent beating on my tired muscles.

I dressed in 501s and a pullover shirt and went down to the lobby to see what I could find to eat. I had no appetite, but I needed some food in my stomach. There was a restaurant in the hotel. It didn't appeal to me. I walk out on to the street and looked both directions. There was a Taco Bell a block to the east. Just the thing I wanted, good ol' California cuisine. I strolled down to it and ordered myself a Mexican Pizza and a large Coke. I had eaten about half of it when a good looking young fellow said something to me.

"Get away from me, you damned faggot." I growled at him.

I was immediately ashamed of myself and turned to apologize. He had disappeared. I had lost what bit of appetite I had; I tossed the rest. Carrying the Coke, I wandered back up to my room and turned on the TV. I stared at the screen for a couple of hours. I couldn't tell you what I watched. My mind was lost in a fog of abandonment.

About eleven the phone rang. I picked it up.

"Yes?" I asked. It was Robert.

"Hal? Are you okay?"

"Why do you ask?"

"You were just so abrupt. I thought you would be glad to see me. I was looking forward to spending some time with you."


"What do you mean?"

"Why would you want to waste your time with me? You've got Suzy."

"Ah, I do have Suzy." There was silence for a few moments and then he said, "You're jealous?"

"No, Rob, I am not jealous. I'm disappointed. That's all."

"I thought you'd be happy for me, Hal."

"What's happened to you, Rob? What happened to your sensitivity?"

"What are you talking about?"

"Look, there is no sense in continuing this conversation. You're not the person I knew. And I don't think I want to know you now. So long, Rob."

I laid the phone back into its cradle. I sat there. Numb. I replayed the conversation in my head. Robert's speech had been slightly slurred, I realized. Apparently it was alcohol or drugs that shut down his ability to pick up on others emotions. But even realizing that made me feel no better. I eventually picked up the phone and called my dad in Santa Barbara.