Gentle Reader, the day that the ban on gay folks openly serving in the armed forces was lifted was momentous. I was watching history being made, history that directly affected me – Ex-Husband is ex-military, you see. I was proud of the country that I live in for the first time in ages, briefly; while still flawed, I had a glimmer, a glimpse, of hope.
I knew that iconic images were going to be made that night. I wanted to find myself a soldier or sailor , and recreate this:
Dressed all in white, I grabbed Auntie R. and Miss K., and insisted that we had to go the Mix that night. I wanted to be around my people to celebrate, and surely – despite being a Tuesday – there would be plenty of celebration going on*. K. agreed to drive, and off we went – to a near-empty bar. Frustrated but determined, I downed my G&T, and we walked the block down to Club Silverstone, another local gay bar. Here, there were a few more people, but not many.
We ended up talking to a man in his sixties, who was a veteran. While not as dashing as I’d hoped, and not in uniform (or still in the service), he was the best lead we’d had yet. However, once I explained how desperately I wanted that photograph, he advised us to go to an ostensibly straight bar, quite a bit closer to the base. Given the night that it was, he assured us, there would be plenty of soldiers; I’d have my pick. Up the stairs, to the door, and back into the car – we were going to capture that image if we had to drive all over the damn city.
I was getting awfully frustrated by this point, Gentle Reader. Not that we weren’t having an acceptable night – I was trying to live through a Significant Moment in History, though, and have something significant to show for it, and I was being thwarted. My temper was not improved when we got lost twice looking for the pub that the old man had sent us to.
The evening dragged on; we found the pub. Considering that it was next to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, it was a trifle tacky to go with a nautical theme, but no worries. As we waited for another friend to arrive, R. and K. played pool, and I scanned the crowd. From what the old gentleman had said, I would have to approach carefully, make small talk, and then broach the subject. He had also warned that if I found someone willing to take the photograph with me, to “be prepared for the fella to want something more.” I wasn’t prepared to offer anything more, mind you, but the warning was uppermost in my mind.
Naturally, in any bar that’s close to a military installation, most of the young men there are going to have ridiculous amounts of muscle. I’m a little weedy, myself, and as a heavy smoker, I wheeze. Few and far were the gents I was willing to approach without fear of getting a fist to the face. I nursed my drink – an amaretto sour, perfect for kissing with – watching the soldiers mill about.
Auntie R saw that I was growing more and more agitated; in aid of this, he invited two soldiers to join the pool game, and led the conversation – encouraging me to interact with them. I did until their girlfriends arrived; I stormed outside for a cigarette. K joined me, realizing what was the matter, and suggested that we call it a night. I agreed, and went to use the restroom before we left.
After finishing, I went to wash my hands, next to a young soldier, in uniform. As I turned the tap, he turned to me, telling me that he’d overheard a little of my conversation earlier, about DADT‘s repeal and the historic picture, and how I desperately wanted a serviceman to kiss that night. Though he declined a photograph, Gentle Reader, thus it was that I found myself kissing a soldier at midnight in the bathroom of a strange bar.
* As I later learned, Gentle Reader, the soldiers and sailors were all
partying celebrating on base that night. If I’d waited until the Mix’s Military Appreciation Wednesday – which is every Wednesday – I would have had much better luck†.
†Even though it would have completely defeated the point, being a day late.