Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Civic Duty

"I but use you a minute, then I resign you, stallion,
Why do I need your paces when I myself out-gallop them?
Even as I stand or sit passing faster than you. "
--Walt Whitman *

Interestingly enough, as soon as I began writing and thinking quite a bit about Jonathan Knight in his unbearably handsome and sensitive youth, I randomly met a tall, sweet, 21-year old Marine who looks quite a bit like him, although his skin is slightly darker-- a luscious combination of honey and olives. Like myself, said Marine (let's call him Alessandro) is also from Chicago, with grandparents who emigrated from Italy. He was here in NY for Fleet Week, aptly named because he is due back in North Carolina by the 28th...

On Saturday night we spent the most sweetly romantic four or five hours I have, perhaps, ever shared with another human being, appreciated by me even more because he risked quite a lot of punishment to sneak off and be (relatively) alone with me (it is mandatory for Marines to travel in groups of no less than four). Unfortunately, due to other restrictions he had to stay near the Times Square area, but we sat quietly together and held hands in Bryant Park, ate Korean barbecue, and went to my favorite candy shop. He utterly refused to eat anything there. Barring the times when my brother and his friends (who are professional athletes) were in training for a big competition, I have rarely been in the presence of another human being in such sparkling good health, and so disciplined in terms of his physical well-being. He was also innocent and sweet-- even angelic and ethereal, despite his two long tours of Iraq.

Indeed, I never met a person who was so tabula rasa. I felt I had nothing to fear from him, ulterior motive-wise. We were simply attracted to one another and feeling the romance of spring stirring in our young hearts. It was delicious.

Upon leaving Bryant Park we passed the building which clandestinely houses the old dungeon where I used to work I saw a zaftig girl with punk-rock highlights coming down the stairs. It was very obvious to me what she was, although I didn't know her personally. I paused, smiling, and told him to look at her as she passed.

"She's a dominatrix." I said, and explained my six month stint as a domme. When I shared some of the gory details of the medical torture sessions I had often conducted, he replied:

"I suppose you wouldn't have much trouble killing someone, then."

"No." I admitted, remembering the blood that had spattered my vinyl naughty nurse's outfit and the rush of dopamine I'd often felt pulling large-gauge needles out of a willing victim's flesh.

However, to satisfy my conscience, I added:

"Although it would have to be in the name of a worthy cause, not that I can think of one..."

"It's the same for me. I don't enjoy killing, but I'm not afraid to do it in the name of the greater good." he said without bravado. He'd put a bayonet through someone's throat before, he then mentioned in passing.

It's a funny thing. I do not believe in war, or murder, yet I have joyfully engaged in many acts of violence. Really, all such acts are equal in concept; the only difference is in the degree of expression. So who am I to judge a Marine, or any other soldier, for the sin of murder? Perhaps I am little better, though I fancy myself to be so because I made such choices at my own discretion, rather than at the behest of a commanding officer.

Outwardly angelic, yet both capable of bloody deeds, we had so much common, did Alessandro and I. I suppose it's a far from unheard-of combination of traits, although I rarely seem to encounter it in a man.

"Why did you join the Marines?" I asked him, suddenly curious.

"My mother has an incurable disease. So I wanted to fight alongside her..." he answered. My heart stirred. What a sweetheart.

"Why do so many men in the military get married at such a young age?" I wanted to know next.

"I'm not sure. It's so difficult to see your girlfriend any other way, sometimes the only way to maintain a relationship is getting married. And some guys do it for the bump in pay, although I can't imagine making a promise that big for a reason like that."

I hugged him about a dozen times for that one.

He told me when he's out of the Marines, he expects to join the SWAT team in Chicago, for he's never been "book smart" and doesn't feel college is right for him.

We met up with a warm acquaintance of mine to watch the Matt Serra/Matt Hughes UFC fight at the Playwright's Tavern in Times Square. I was introduced to his girlfriend, who seemed nice. This acquaintance is a brilliant actor, comedian and improviser I'd like to know better, although I felt a little strange when, after we parted so I could walk my date back to his friends, thereby to depart for their ship, I received a text, referencing my virginity, that said:

"For God's sake, don't lose it to a serviceman." which I thought was funny at first, if only it hadn't been eventually followed, despite my lack of response, by:

"I'm serious. Kiss him if you need to but don't be silly."

Wow. How weird and bossy!!! Not even a best friend would send me something like that. I wondered if he was being overprotective or had some other motivation. I never understand men.

Anyway, I walked my Marine down seven crowded, glittering, neon-lit blocks back to his meet-up spot, parting in front of the subway with an unavoidable sense of finality that indicated the Universe had somehow declared we wouldn't see one another again in New York, despite his most ardent wishes or mine. A little girl snuggled in the arms of her father passed by as we began our good-byes.

"She looks so sleepy and adorable!" I gushed.

"Like someone else I know" he said, surrounding me protectively in his strong arms. I was so overwhelmed with joy and gratitude at having met him that I kissed him a hundred times or so and bounced down the subway stairs, sending him off with a wave and, characteristic of me, no backward glances.

He couldn't get liberty to spend any more time hanging out over the holiday weekend, but I did get a text that said:

"On a serious note, I think I may be having serious feelings for you".


He hardly ever even sees women, so I can't take it to heart. The life of an active-duty Marine is often lonely, and I'm sure I could have been almost anyone...

I believe we'll keep in touch, but I don't think we're meant to settle down together, although having an unbelievably handsome and loving husband who is gone for all but major holidays would be a perfect arrangement for me.

Ciao, Alessandro... maybe I'll see you in Chicago on the Fourth of July.

PS I'm convinced we had the most innocent date a Marine and stripper ever had. Ever.

PS2 He'll be off to Afghanistan by the end of the year. I hope he comes back.

* This quote seems kind of mean, but I'm feeling very unattached personally toward all men just now. In my mind they are turning from a seething, unmanageable, problematic mass into a harmless collective vessel for experiments of Virtue and experience.