I was on my way back to the barracks, to get ready for the weekend. It was a normal Friday routine, and I wasnt alone. Lots of troops were raring to head out Friday nights right after final formation. Even those staying in for the evening were headed to get their 12 packs and ice for the weekend barracks shindigs that semi quietly went on every weekend, in direct violation of orders, both implied and explicit. ‘Bout the only place the military encouraged the blatant disregard for its own regulations, but I digress.
Along that path, you would find gaggles of guys, here and there, planning the night, talking about the previous night, etc. Ya walked thru, exchanged greetings, or stopped to join briefly. Just normal, barracks life stuff.
But this time was more memorable than most, obviously, I am writing this, right? No, this walk ended up being paradigm shifting, really, looking back.
I remember, It was late Spring, 1987. I had only been there at Ft Stewart a couple months. This was a hot and sunny Spring, that this Oregon boy was blown away by, and being near the Coast in Georgia, you can believe that this beach bum was bronzed and dark. So dark, that a number of the African American soldiers in my unit had been known to comment on how I needed to stay out of the sun, that I was already darker than many of them.
On more than one occasion I was called on to compare arm darkness with someone, only to have them jump away, exclaiming in some fashion how they were embarrased to be out-tanned by me, who had absolutely zero knowledge of any African genealogy in his makeup…. they didnt call me white boy, necessarily, but it was that level of embarrassment.
Anyhow, on this particular day I had stopped to jab with my friend JD. JD was cool, and not just because he tolerated a newbie privates(e-1’s)like me(he was an e-4). No he was just cool, and big motherfucker too, let me say… picture Warren Sapp in his leaner playing days, but better lookin'(sorry Warren, yer welcome, JD)
He was boisterous, loud and fun to be around, and generally drew a crowd if he was joking about. That was the circumstance that day. 3or 4 other African American troops were there, pretty sure Corporal Calamese(sp?) was one of them, and it seemed his ride had just arrived in the adjacent parking lot as I walked up.
So the gab session continued, as I listened, and Corporal Calamease’s attractive ride came up the path to join us. She embraced and greeted Calamease, with clutch a kiss and a “hey baby”, as you would expect. She then leaned into JD for a friendly hug, and a “what’s up JD”, again, as you would expect. Then a “hey what’s up”, but no hug, more casual, to another fellow. Followed, I shit you not, by a cold, arms crossed , disapproving tone to another fellow, a fellow she obviously knew, and disliked.
“Murray… hmpf”, and turned away, in that head snap, “off with you peasant”, kind of body english.
Then…. then, the unthinkable happened. She approached me, reaching out to run her not so regulation nails along my collar….
Now I had never met her before this moment. She was however, obviously a soldier as well, not a civilian, and yes she was African American, and a higher rank than I. She was also sexxy as hell… military women can get that flojo glow quick, if you know what I mean. If you like athletic strong women …. maybe start trolling yer bait at the National Guard Armory, lol.
Anyhow, I was shocked, frozen in place, and unable to protest, even had I wanted to… I didnt…
Instead, looking me over, she asked, more to the crowd than to me, “Who’s this new fine Al B Sure looking brothers right here?” And continued her nails caress up my neck as she sauntered back to wrap herself back around her man….
“How come I aint met this fine young brother before, Calamease? You afraid I’m gonna stray?”teasing him, obviously, “Oh baby, I’m all yours!” Planting a big kiss on his cheek..
Then looking back at me, and winking… “my friends though, I got some friends that gon’eat you alive young man, you better watch out!”
Now everybody is laughing, and kinda teasing me, and I am turning purple with embarassment, when Murray pipes up, “Shit Shurl, he aint even black!”, flipping his cigarette disdainfully.
Oh my, did she, ‘Cheryl’, flip on a dime, as she made it abundantly clear, she too was a soldier,” First, It’s Corporal to you, Murray, and what you mean, he aint black? He’s blacker than you!”
“Still, he aint, are you Madden, you aint black, are you?”He mewled….. followed with a “Corporal”, after she eye fucked it iut of him.
I sputtered thru my explanation, that I didnt think I was, that my dad never knew his father, so we had no idea, really, though the rumors were Spanish, or Mexican, maybe Italian.
Somebody piped in, ” yeah, black Mexican maybe!” Everybody started laughing at the idea of black Mexicans, claiming there was no such thing, and commenting on how much that would suck, to be both black and Mexican, when again, ‘Corporal Cheryl’ came to my defense. “What you mean, aint no black Mexicans? I am from Texas you fools, damn right there are black Mexicans!”
She continued, “The Underground Railroad didnt just run north fools, learn your history! Don’t listen to them baby, you fine no matter what you are…. ”
Laughter, as the whole group new they had been schooled.
Referring back to me, she opined, “Hell, fine, brown, and not African American? Hell, probably ‘lot less chance you be triflin’ like Murray over there!”
Now everybody was laughin, straight at Murray, who’s answer was a snarl of “shit, whatever”, as he slunk away.
“Stay away from Murray over there, you hear me private…,” pausing for me to tell her my name….
“It’s Madden, Corporal”,I replied
“You hear me Private Madden?”she reiterated.
“Yes Corporal” I said.
“Good. Now you hurray up and make Corporal, so I can introduce you to some of my friends down at the NCO Club, you hear me?” Playfully stroking my collar again.
“Yes maam, er Corporal….. yes Corporal” I stammered, Adding to my embarrassment.
She laughed, took Calamease by the hand, and headed toward her car with him, as they both said goodbyes to the crowd over their shoulders.
I stood there slack jawed, seriously. I know the guys continued to razz me, tease me. I just have no memory of it…
I was just mind blown….. Little more than 6 months before, I had been a chubby punk rock teenager. Now a 20 something, beautiful, combat fit woman,(nice little sports car too) was telling me I was sexxy, that I was desirable….
So….. looked like the Army wasn’t gonna suck entirely.
Never made it to Corporal though, sigh. Just think what coulda happened.