I guess we’ll call him “Dee.”  D.B. for short.  Something like that.

During my last year in Germany he became my best friend.

We met at a party my parents were hosting in our third floor apartment with its rectangular concrete balcony – thick walled, meant to withstand bomb blasts.  There were basements and tall concrete stairwells going up for five floors, built by our German hosts for their war and troops back in the 1940’s or so.  It was our enemies housing, meant to withstand our attack, with hidden bunkers beneath.  The most massive one was out at the airport – it was rumored to be seven levels deep, with only the first three open.  The others, it was rumored, were flooded and filled with German booby-traps and gear – including airplanes!  Imagine that – someone going down there now with an ROV, finding those old treasures of war.  The Germans were famous for their devotion to the Third Reich – and the idea of a Fourth so much they may have successfully sealed up those gasketed rooms, making them watertight for generations later . . . putting the airplanes (and their ammo, parts, and gear) with them . . . who knows?  I wish I did.  I wish I could attend an exploration there.  But you’d need the German government’s permission . . . and I doubt their going to give it.  They are for burying the past and that sort of thing.

But I’ll always wonder if those rumors were true.  It’s very hard to find out information regarding that airport – or what’s underneath.  But I know what I saw – and D.B., did too – he often accompanied me.

I first met him at that party – we were careful friends, cautiously extending our hands and shaking one another’s – three firm shakes (like you are supposed to) and releasing your grip.  He was half-Japanese and stood about half a head taller than I; narrow framed, narrow face, black framed military glasses just like his dad.  He wore his hair short, as I did mine – not too short!, mind you – for in the winter we tried to grow it long to cover our ears and the back of our neck to ward off the cold.  But he was different . . . smart, lithe, intelligent, sharp – I admired him.  And I think he must have found something to like about me.

My mom and dad had insisted we meet him and his sister.  Their parents were our ‘friend’s’ parents, and apparently we were going to become friends, too.  Whether we liked it or not.  That’s the way it went with these things.  Sometimes you had to play with a child when you did not want to – always proposed to do with something about somebodies rank and social standing.  Sometimes we just played with them because we felt sorry for them, as we did one kid in Germany.  Nobody liked him but me – and I didn’t even like him much, but I befriended him and tolerated him because he was one of the most disliked friends in Germany, and his name was Jeremy (I think).  The kids at school could not stand him because he was half-German, – but I could stand him, so I took him in.  He had to be my friend.  He had no other.  So we took him in under our wing.

He had been born in Germany (like ‘I’ was) but he had lived there a long time – up until his momma had met his dad, some G.I. down at the local bar.  He’d been taken in like a third shoe – one that didn’t fit the mold and the pattern of the family his dad was demanding at home.  He was a bit like me.

So we took him in and took him ‘home’ every once and awhile, this ‘friend’ of ours – feeling sorry for him though he was cocky as hell and wouldn’t hesitate to ask my mom for a sandwich or two from the fridge – though she kinda felt sorry for him, too, so she helped him: feeding him, tolerating him for my sake.

I didn’t like him, too, but I hung onto him for awhile . . . and then we moved and I met this other ‘friend’, the one I told you about.

D.B.

I guess I became that kind of friend to him in some ways – his best friend, but an inferior one in some ways, though he never said anything to make me feel inferior.  I know he liked me.  Perhaps it was my rough & ready attitude.  Perhaps it was because he also had been abused some by an anxious and expectant Japanese mother and a demanding fatherhood figure.  He dad certainly smacked him around some, including his mom and daughter I heard – but those were only rumors.  I know my friend sometimes came with bruises on his face . . . something I understood (although later it would break my heart to see them.)

He was smart and he was tall and he taught me a lot of things about “being human” – I, a child from the swamps and woods of the deep south – though a lot of that had disappeared as I ‘hid’ myself even further . . .

To this day I wear button up shirts because of him.  Odd the effect a friend can have all your life.  I learned to love him.  He was an athlete – agile, able to jump, whereas I had earned the nickname “Tank” because of my way through the woods and countryside when we had to get moving, or were attacking someone . . .

We hung out a LOT together; went on missions, diverted tanks, road bikes, explored hill, dale, countryside, German villages, midnight raids – you name it.  He delved into the more elegant tactics and taught me some more; I was elegant in my own way, though, and much bolder . . .

I would have done anything for him, man.  Really and absolutely.  I loved him.

And then . . .

He stopped coming over . . . stopped coming out at the owl’s hoot in the morning (something he’d shown me how to do) . . . passing me by without a word on the way to classrooms . . . team meetings, that sort of thing . . .

And then he moved.  I went over there one day, knocked on the door, and a stranger appeared.

It was done.

And the beginning of winter . . .

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* ~ an addition to this ‘story’ . . . obviously ‘switching’ from various “points-of-view” . . . last year I found out via a story my brother told me that I lost this friend due to my dad – my dad had betrayed HIS dad (my friend’s) at work, and when asked “Why?” my dad simply said: “Because I could.”   Yeah – he’s that kind of man, really . . .
     but the thing is – in those last few months, he became suddenly much more ‘distant’ – no longer coming out in the early morning to meet me, no longer answering my call.  Not a word from him during their last few weeks there – he shed me like an old skin, moving on without me – and I loved him more than earth itself.  Such is one’s fate when in the Army, and quite young . . . I was only 12 going on 13 and it hurt . . . and it wouldn’t be long before we would be moving, too – coming back here and to the neighborhood I both missed . . . and yet now feared in some dismal way, suspecting my nightmares would soon be coming true . . .

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