Young Love

I first encountered him on the playground, on the domed top of the convoluted steel grid of monkey bars. This was back in the day when all playground equipment was steel, and the middle of the bars were polished like mirrors from so many hands over the years.

The sky was gray and overcast, it was late in the afternoon. It must have been near winter, for it was almost twilight but there was no snow. I remember a crescent moon rising in the gray skies – glimpsed between the clouds somewhere between fifteen and thirty degrees. I paid attention to things like that; my training had already begun, though I didn’t know it. Things, as always, seemed normal. As normal as they could be considering I was an abused country kid from the sticks come to live in West Germany – living the the military apartments – big buildings with thick bombproof walls, and narrow windows.

The playground sat adjacent to the airport. It was a military one – a small one, but so was the base we were on. A lot of the bases we were on were small – little installations given over to the properties of spying, like the planes and electronic gear that my dad worked on. Twin turbo-propped Mohawks took off, but they were rare; mostly it was the UH-1’s – the big Bell Huey helicopters with their distinctive “Whomp! Whomp!” sound.

We had been forbidden to go to any country in which the “Red Flag” was flying. That meant no Warsaw, Poland, no East German or Hungarian trips. That meant we often had to stay behind while our dad went on some “TDY” mission. Sometimes he would be gone for days, weeks at a time. If it wasn’t a NATO nation – we weren’t supposed to go in. We weren’t supposed to go to Berlin, though eventually we did. They said it was because we would have to cross East German soil, and there was some concern ‘the enemy’ might kidnap a child as leverage against my anyone who held a high security clearance, forcing them to become a spy against the US military or giving up all their electronics secrets – or against the US Government as a source of ransom and/or trade for their own spies. It was very ‘normal’ to ‘me’, the kid I was developing into, but in some ways I was still that sexually groomed kid from deep down South . . . trying to figure out things – where in the hell he was, who ‘we’ were, where we were living (it changed all the time – we moved more than a dozen times in a few years), and what we were doing there.

There were about seven or eight boys playing on the playground, and a half dozen of us were on the monkey bars. None of us knew the other; not really. None of us had been around long enough to know anyone, and chances are, no one did. Everyone was moving around too much – us kids just sliding past each other – a quick hello, some desperate attempts to form friendships, and then a few weeks later, goodbye – maybe.  Sometimes they just disappeared.  Sometimes we did.  We got to know this kind of life too well; so well it affected all our lives for the rest of our life. No “life long friends” – people who we are still friends with that you know from your early childhood.   I mean the good kind – the kind you see every few days or so – never a week goes by without one of them calling you. I don’t have that; we moved too much. Neither does my brother. Ditto my parents to a lesser degree – they lost touch with their families (and thus we with ours) by their late teens.  “Family” to me is just a weird joke, one I don’t get.   My mom once said she vowed to stop documenting moves after her fiftieth; we were still just babes when she stopped. I think it was during this particular trip overseas that broke that barrier. We moved so much! Even she can’t tell me where we were when. It was a kaleidoscope of landscapes; a blur of apartments and streets; German towns changing (but all the same) like drops of water sliding down a window pane. Fountains and fortresses, castles grand . . . castles in ruins, tanks in the woods. I don’t know as we settled down in one particular place for more than two, three months before the Army would uproot us and send us on to some other base where my dad’s skills were needed and we were not.

“Who will suck my dick?” one boy cried out. He was an older one, and I shot him a contemptuous glance.  I had experience, I missed my friend – my lover (or lovers) back home – but I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t do it so casually – I had to love (or at least like a lot) the person.  It didn’t matter if it was girl or boy – I was bisexual before I was four – and I found this type of sexual innuendo deeply disturbing. Scalding memories of what the teenager had done to me – his touch, then the ultimate betrayal – were still fresh in me and hurt. I didn’t trust anyone not to betray me the way he had done, so I hung back when it came to making relationships – especially sexual ones. I had been burnt – and burnt BAD – I wasn’t going to open myself to that flame again! And yet the phrase caught my attention (the boy was just coarsely joking around – half-serious, half not, as young boys sometimes do). I looked at him from beneath hooded eyebrows – I can still see him, my head dropped to some degree, looking up at him both cautiously and with anger, though he had not done anything to me; he was just a ‘normal’ kid, crude, but normal.

“I will!” I heard a small voice pipe up. It was a little kid on the opposite side of the monkey bars. We had a game where we were trying to throw each other down through the bars, hurting someone – but we weren’t playing aggressively. The big boys were too rough – they’d win (perhaps), though none had tried their tactics on me of grabbing a boy and holding him over one of the squared opening, punching him down and through – where he’d bounce and jolt through the steel bars – hopefully breaking a bone! – before landing on the tough turf where short sparse grass grew.

“I love sucking dick!” the little boy continued, drawing my attention. This was almost the exact phrase the teenager had used when he outed me: that I loved sucking dick – “He’ll suck anyone!” the teenager had told his friends, stinging me.  While true to a point (which makes a good point about the truth stings the worst, for it stings the heart, mind, and soul). But I had to love or at least like a kid real to have sex with him; this one didn’t. He apparently didn’t even demand they be a friend – though that might have been his way of making one. He was making offers to strangers, which seemed odd and dangerous to me. I can still feel that ‘dark turning’ I felt when looking at him, hearing him make his ‘offer’. It was the same sensation you get when seeing someone dart into a busy street without looking, knowing they might get run down – and wondering whether to shout and stop them or just look away before the disaster happens.  Especially if you know you are probably powerless to prevent it.

The other kids started laughing; ridiculing him and asking questions. Would he really do it? An older kid, one about fourteen, asked him, to which he eagerly agreed. “Yeah! I like it. I love sucking dick.” My eyes narrowed as I took him in and evaluated him.

He was young, a few years younger than me. A big eight, an average nine, or a underdeveloped ten. He was short with a broad beaming face and curly brown hair. My hair was regulation short – a crisp barrage of hair standing on end in a traditional crew cut, with the sides shaved nice and close – a “high and tight”.

But his face – something about his eyes I think it was. They were brown; as I type this I can ‘see’ more and more clearly (and now the next day editing, even clearer.) – and I felt something within me as he and they got to talking about it. A sadness or a sympathy or empathy or pity or feeling sorry for him – and wanting him to be my friend – and I was interested in accepting his offer – open sex night, no strings involved. But maybe it was something about his face and eyes. Yeah – I think it was the eyes. There’s a ‘look’, you know – that ‘thousand yard stare’ kinda thing soldiers are known to get – only in kids it may more hidden, way back in the eyes. Like ghosts or clouds underneath all those emotions they are expressing – happiness, excited joy, running and playing. It makes a kid’s eyes ‘timeless’, and can make them look old. In the eyes of course. Everywhere else they look normal. Except perhaps a few scars.  I had those.  And I had “that look” I suppose.  (I know I did; I can see it in the mirror.)

I could feel it – that he was like me. More than a bit; almost exactly. The sex is what tipped me off. I wanted to go off and have sex with him right then. Let him know I was the same way – and I wouldn’t use him or mock him for doing it or wanting to do it. The other kids would. I just knew that, could sense their attitudes in their behaviors, their play, and what some of them were saying. Something about him spoke to me. I suppose now, looking back, it would have said “I’ve been abused somewhat, shown sex; I’ve learned to love it too early, and now I will do it with anyone – anyone! – simply to recapture that feeling.” Of course, that may have just been me, projecting my feelings upon him.

So I spoke up. Of all those that were there – and the only ones left who were talking to him – I think there were about three – the others having gotten disgusted by him, or repulsed by what he had said – mocking him and deriding him as they climbed down – and one of them was a teenager who I could tell was quite cruel – he’d been sort of picking on us kids, mostly verbally, while the others ran around, and now he was trying to lure the little kid in using some kind of bait.

“Yeah, we can go over to my apartment,” he was saying – but he had been one of the cruelest mockers and deriders when this thing had first started, and the kid was saying no to him; shaking his head, and the teenager suddenly got fed up and disgusted and climbed down by himself while another couple of kids climbed on.

“I’ll let you do it,” I finally said, keeping my voice kinda low and hopeful and just between me and him. “I’ll do you, too, if you do it to me,” and then I think I said (even lower): “I like doing it, too.” I had missed that feeling – that feeling of someone ‘doing it’ to me, and me doing it to them – plus this little kid had such an open air about him – open and trusting, and yet guarded in some ways. Like I said – it was kinda like de ja vu’ I was feeling – thing is, it was not. It was merely seeing a kind of reflection of the kid I am/was. And you have to remember: I had been having sex for years, nearly on a daily basis during the summer of the last three of them. Not just with boys, but with girls. You gotta remember my cousin, with whom I had fell in love with.

Just then my momma called me.

“Dinnertime!” she said, calling from the communal door of the apartment building. There were two stairwells, one on each end, and we lived on the second floor; inside one, right hand. Up two turns and you’re in the middle kind of thing. They were four stories tall, in case you were wondering, with 8 to 16 room ‘attic’ apartments above. They called them ‘transits’ because that’s where all the ‘transitory people’ lived – people who were going someplace and the Army needed their apartments because someone new was coming in – or people who were going someplace – like back overseas. We lived in ‘transits’ once that I remember; maybe twice. It was really cool.

And so ended the beginning of my very first friendship over there. The dinner bell was ringing and it was time to ‘go in’ – and eat dinner with my miserable family who never got along.

So I said “bye” to him regretfully and left him alone with two of the others. He had just started to go along with me – following me down the bars. I think he, like me, could sense something of himself in me; that’s why he wanted to be friends. So we parted there on good terms, almost beneath the monkey bars, with the helicopters thundering off and on . . . gray clouds . . . and I grew depressed . . . slogging in instead of at my usual run, head down, sad and thinking of him . . . this boy I had just met.

It was the next summer I met him. We had moved to a different base – to run across a kid you knew from before was very unusual. Unheard of for me. The rotisserie of kids and schools and bases were beginning to become familiar  – and yet not. It seems I kept changing – or something. That might explain some of these holes in my head and my memories from ‘over there’.

I’m not sure if it was at the pool (outdoors) or a playground, but I remember we took off where we had began – at the beginning, with him looking at me and me looking, puzzled at this kid, feeling the faint stirrings of memory.

“You’re him,” I think I said, or something very much like it. “We met at that other base . . .”

“Yeah,” he said, beaming and smiling. “You still want to do it?”

And simple as that, we became friends. Of course we had sex after our first encounter – nothing major, just the oral thing – him doing me, me encouraging him – ‘showing him how’ somewhat because he still needed some skills in his technique – and me ‘doing him’ just for the pleasure of making my new friend feel good, welcome, needed, and happy – which he was doing for me.

We wandered that base during those hot summer months – or at least they felt hot to me. I had acclimated to the German weather, so I felt the heat when they did, and not so much the cold as I had when we first arrived. I’d gotten used to the winter regime of clothing – and even more layers of clothing – and the summer felt so free! I could wander up to the pool in my swim shorts and a towel – flip flops flapping, though for the most part I ran around as I had in the  ‘hood back in the States – barefoot and almost . . . but not nearly enough – carefree. I wasn’t the child I am sometimes inside; I wasn’t ‘he’. I wasn’t the boy who’d left the States – though that part of me seemed to go into hiding sometimes, staring from my eyes in wonder at the castles and the land. In a way I was a jumble of ‘parts’ in me – and I could feel it. I didn’t think in terms of “I” and “me” so much as ‘us’ and ‘them’. I sometimes found myself interjecting the word “we” sometimes – and becoming confused because I meant just one: me. But it wasn’t ‘me’ all the time. There were ‘other parts’ forming – I could ‘feel’ them in my dreams, feel them taking over ‘parts’ of me: certain emotional states and emotions. I could feel myself ‘slipping away’ when one part would ‘take control’ – leading me into some kind of temptation (laughing).

And this boy and I . . .

We fell in love, we did. With him, even though he was a bit younger than me – he became more like a little brother. He shared his secrets with me and I with him – how our parents beat us (his were much worse some of the time, mine had quit the worst of the abuse – the beatings – when we had arrived in Germany – and those damned apartments where everyone would have to be so damned quiet – even if we WERE getting beaten. You couldn’t let the neighbors know those things – how ‘bad’ us kids had become; how ‘awful’ we are/were (for those were my thoughts in the day.) I knew what me and the boy were doing was ‘wrong’ by some crowd’s notice; but on the other hand – he was my ‘best friend’ at the time, and the only one I had.

I remember us going from here to there – stopping for sex once and awhile, either in the bushes or the PX bathroom one time. (I didn’t like going there; I felt cheap while I ‘did him’ with him standing on the toilet seat.) I treated him to some movies once and awhile – I was earning money from my first job.  And bought us both treats at the PX and club – ice cream perhaps, some chips to eat – nothing fancy, and he asked for nothing, ever. Just for the chance to ‘do me’ sometimes and make me feel good, be my friend.

I don’t recall ever going over to his apartment, nor him coming to mine, though he might of. I remember us mostly meeting in the parking lot by the playground, and then going together to do something. Sometimes that ‘something’ was walking the fence line – the fence that separated us from our outside neighbors, the Germans. We’d pause here and there sometimes – dropping into the grass or near some bushes – and ‘make love’ in our own kind of way, each encouraging the other. We’d hold hands, give hugs – cheek to cheek sometimes, just holding one another, eyes closed, breath coming softly in my ear while I hugged him – feeling that warm body under that skin and enjoying it. Often it would take me back to past times – times with the teenager and/or my friends back home. Then we would rise and dust ourselves off – pulling up our shorts if we needed to – and go wandering on, looking for something to do, something to keep our interests until ‘the next time’.

Like I said: we grew to be close friends, closer than even brothers in some ways. We each commiserated in each others misery and pain; we shared our loneliness by sharing in our ‘game’ – a shameful game to the world, perhaps, but not to us. To us it was a simple thing – a joy. We couldn’t understand why all the other kids and grownups seemed so dead hard set against this sort of thing, but we knew to keep it a secret between us.

Eventually the game came to an end. The time came when I went out to the parking lot looking for him; on the playground, all our usual stomping spots, and then all our usual stopping spots – and then I went to his apartment, heart sinking, sick to heart from suspicion, thinking I knew what happened. Knocking on his door, I braced myself to prepare for his parents. I had heard they were quite mean.

The face that greeted me when the door opened was a younger woman – a short one, almost my height – and she said something that was to change my life.  Bring that sudden realization a little closer to my heart like the sharp knife it was.

“He isn’t here anymore. They moved on.”

And that’s when I began to realize: No one is permanent. Nothing remains the same. My friends would just keep on being yanked away – every time I made one it would happen as sure as night follows day. Time and time and time again – as soon as I would hold out my hands for love, they would get slapped away, or else the people I was craving would turn their backs and reject me. That little boy – he had no friends, none besides me. I think that was because of his sexual orientation and the way he advertised so honestly his willingness. I think now, looking back, that it was only in desperation that he would do those things – offering a blow job first, friendship later. I wasn’t like that – too shy, too self-inhibited, and demanding from my own self that I love them (or at least like them) first.  And even that – that had taken a hit, some damage, from what the teenager had done.  To this day, I find it hard to trust anyone with my love, especially the sexual kind.  They always hurt me.  Always.

But it saddened me – hit me hard, hurt me hard, to see that neighbor open the door and it wasn’t who I had expected. To find your friend – your lover – is gone, yanked right out from under you, and you hadn’t even had a chance to say goodbye. You never saw it coming. And so like a fist in the face, a blow to the head (and heart) . . . I stumbled away, thanking the girl, and trying to stop the tears from coming into my eyes . . .

Lonely again, wandering another base without a friend, I soon made another. He was mean and bullying, older than me – and he simply used me as I used him. Under buildings, behind bushes – it wasn’t even about being friends. It was about a part of me mourning and separating from ‘him’, trying to recapture that hidden feeling, which I never did. Not with him, anyway. And so slowly, a part of me went into hiding and died.

For a long long time afterwards.

And I think that part was ‘little Michael’ or ‘little Mikie’ . . . the boy ‘he’ wanted to be.

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