- Found At Last by Joe Cosentino
Found At Last by Joe Cosentino
The name seemed familiar to me, but I couldn’t place it.
“Armando had jet-black wavy hair and a wide, strong build. Though we never spoke, he and I stole furtive glances at each other during drills, meals, and before bed. I wondered who he was, what he was thinking, and if he liked me.” He took in a shaky breath. “A bunch of the other guys in boot camp weren’t thrilled about me being Jewish.”
I asked, “How did you know?”
“They called me Christ-killer, Jew-boy, kike.”
“That would do it.”
“One night after lights out, they dragged me from my bed into the latrine.” A look of terror filled his face. “One guy held my hands behind my back. Another pressed down on my feet. Three others pummeled my face and stomach. I’d never been so afraid in my life. I screamed, thinking my life was over and wondering what my parents would do when the Navy shipped home my dead body. Like an angel of mercy, Armando appeared and threw them off me. I had never seen anyone fight like that. As if a windmill in motion, he landed punch after punch until they fled back to their beds. When Armando and I were alone, he rested my head on his shoulder, and he asked me if I was all right. I told him, ‘I’m all right for the first time in my life.’ Then he took a clean cloth, washed the blood off my face, and ran his fingers through my hair. Finally, he held me in his strong arms and rocked me back and forth. After that night, the others left me alone.”
“Armando was a true hero,” I said.
Asher nodded. “After boot camp, I couldn’t believe my good fortune when Armando and I were stationed on the same ship in the Middle East. One night after chow, he slid a piece of paper into my pocket. It read, ‘Meet me in the storage room near the forecastle at 0200.’ When I arrived, without saying a word, Armando took off his uniform and skivvies. Then he removed my clothes, and he gently rested me on top of some old blankets. Covering me with his powerful mass, he kissed me softly and tenderly. And I started to cry.”
“I had never felt anything so wonderful.”
“What happened next?”
“Armando taught me how to make love. I’m not talking only about the mechanics. I mean love itself.” He rubbed his forehead. “My parents proved their love to me by working hard—my father as a salesman and my mother as a bookkeeper and homemaker. As a kid, I heard a lot about the importance of making ends meet, owning a presentable home, wearing clean clothing, and having good manners. But my folks were never affectionate to each other… or to me.”
“And Armando was different?”
“That’s an understatement. He hugged and kissed me continuously throughout our lovemaking. Afterward, he pressed my back against his strong chest, wrapped his arms around me, and whispered of his love in my ear. Armando opened a whole new world for me, but it existed solely in that storage room. I never wanted to leave it.”
“But you had to.”
Asher made eye contact with us again. “Armando and I met in our secret place whenever we could get away, going mad when we were apart and living for those precious hours together. We not only made love, we shared our hopes and dreams for the future, and our fears too. I told him about my family life and my goal to enter the business world. Armando was from a poor neighborhood, and his family was very Catholic. His father was a car mechanic. Armando was a champion boxer in high school, and he wanted to have his own gymnasium someday. I told him I’d like to manage it. We both studied and worked hard in the Navy. Like the other gay couples onboard ship, we kept that side of our lives hidden, and nobody bothered us. Eventually Armando and I were each promoted to chief petty officer.” His face hardened. “That’s when the trouble started.”
“The trouble?” I asked.
Jamison was a step ahead of me. “You were in the military during the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.”