A Gay Airman Sleeps with his Best Friend’s Girl
Love and romance before Don’t Ask Don’t Tell
Mykonos, Greece. 1985 —
Hot, salty fingers of air rustled the grape leaves that roofed our little wine garden. I rocked my chair back and forth to the waves of sound they made as they alternately dimmed and brightened our not-quite-sober ramblings.
“Dude, don’t bogart the wine!” Mike was teasing Chad, my sort-of boyfriend.
Chad flipped him a coin. “So, here’s 100 Drachs. Buy another bottle.”
I plunked a couple more toward Mike’s side of the table. “No way. Not drinking any more disgusting retsina. Here, buy a good bottle.”
Kathy laughed as she leaned over and kissed my cheek. “My hero!”
“Gee, all I gotta do for a kiss is spend like, how much was that, a buck fifty?”
“Stop trying to flirt. You’re horrible at it,” she teased into my ear. “Besides,” she deadpanned, “you’re obviously staring at his ass.”
I blush easily so my face caught fire. But Kathy was right. My eyes were fixed on Chad’s tight Ocean Pacific short-shorts as he stumbled up to the bar, threading drunkenly between tightly placed tables.
“We need Ouzo,” ordered Mike. “Lots of Ouzo. And stop letting my girlfriend kiss you.”
“Hah! Like I’m a threat. And we SO do not need any Ouzo. You and Chad are already shitfaced.”
“You need to learn how to party, bro,” slurred Mike as he pushed back his chair and stood, swaying in the Mediterranean breeze. “Three week’s leave. No work, no study, tons of Ouzo. You don’t get a vote, sir.”
I called after him as he traced Chad’s path to the bar. “Shit, I thought we were here to swim naked and have lots of sex!”
Two hours and too much Ouzo later, Kathy and I hung onto each other as we swayed up the narrow, twisting, whitewashed stone steps that led all the way from Mykonos Town to the top of the island and our hotel.
“How come you didn’t wait for the boys?” she asked as we pushed past a sleepy donkey who thought he owned the narrow path.
“Too drunk to be horny. Besides, Chad’s not getting in MY bed tonight. He’ll just puke in it. How come you didn’t?”
“Mike and I had a big fight before dinner. You didn’t know?”
“So? You guys argue all the time.”
She squeezed me tight. “Never mind.”
We pushed on upstairs at the hotel, out of breath, up to the roof to look at the stars and the lights of the fishing village so far down below. Kathy pulled me onto a chaise. We lay down together, cheek to cheek.
“He doesn’t want Travis to live with us, Jim. If we get married.”
“Married! Seriously? Like … wow, for real?”
“Not like next month or anything, but we’re talking about it.”
I swallowed my shock. My best friend, the guy who’s like my big brother, has been for years now. Married? “So what’s he got against Travis?”
“Nothing. He likes him. Just says he doesn’t think he knows how to be a dad to a ten year old.”
“No shit. Mike’s just a big kid.”
“No, he’s not. He’s an officer in the Air Force. A good one.”
“Yeah, and what about that? He can’t marry you. You’re a sergeant. How does that even work?”
“My enlistment’s up in a year,” she whispered.
“I wanna get out. I wanna bring Travis to live with us, and I wanna go back to school.”
All I could think about was losing Mike. We had a place together in downtown Berlin. My first adult place. I loved Mike. Not like that. He didn’t turn me on or make me pine for him physically.
He was the first straight man who ever knew I was gay who didn’t give a shit that I was. He was the first man who ever took me seriously as a man despite everything. I knew all his secrets. He knew all mine.
“Be happy for us, Jim?”
“But the fight?”
She rolled over onto her side and pulled me in close. We fell asleep like that, spooning.
The story above is memoir …
It’s lightly fictionalized for better storytelling, and because, frankly, who remembers all the details after decades?
It’s true, though. It happened.
I first wrote about Chad in a recent piece in which I describe how we got together. Our romance was white hot for a while, perhaps fueled by how forbidden it was in those days. Gay lovers in the military learned fast to keep their heads down.