That spring, after graduating from high school, Russ was accepted at Northwestern University as a pre-med student. I, not knowing what I wanted to do in my adult life, ventured not too far away. I was safely bound for Minnesota State University - Mankato.
My freshman year at MSU was fairly uneventful. I established serious study habits at my dorm. My roommate was a decent guy that gave me my personal space. He was studying Computer Sciences with a heavy load. My liberal arts classes gave me a chance to discover where I wanted to direct my future. I made friends with a solid group of straight guys who I hung around with in the dorm and at the gym and pool. I continued to swim for exercise. With the regular gym workout regimen with my buddies, my physique buffed out with good definition of the abs and biceps to compliment a trim body that had been trained to swim. I topped out at 6' and 190#. My light blond body hair was primarily limited to my arms, legs, and pubic area.
Russ and I emailed each other often, discussing our school lives. We both continued to ace our school courses. The high school secrets were never discussed. I was putting my gay sexuality on hold. My other best friend, my left hand, provided all the release I needed.
But, that special friendship I had with Russ would not duplicate itself in Mankato. I'm not talking about the sex. I'm talking about a close bud that I could share my most intimate thoughts with.
In late May, I had just finished my first year exams when I received devastating news. Uncle Trey drove over to Mankato and found me at the dorm. I was surprised when he called my room phone and said, " Dave, this is Trey. I'm in Mankato and need to see you."
I replied, "Sure, Uncle Trey. I'm at the dorm. Do you know how to get here?" "Dave, I'm actually only a block away. I'll be at your room in about five minutes," said Trey as he disconnected his mobile phone.
I was pretty anxious when I heard the knock on my door. Opening it, I saw Trey looking at me with a very somber expression. 'Oh oh, something's going down that I'm not going to like,' I thought.
"Uncle, come in." He walked in, grabbed me in a big hug, and held me closely a little longer than usual, and kicked the door closed. I sat down on my bunk and offered Uncle Trey the desk chair.
"I won't beat around the bush, Dave," he began. "Your Mom and Dad have been involved in a serious accident." Before I could reply, my Uncle continued, "Your Dad and Mom are victims of a senseless, violent auto accident involving some asshole drunk who had a DWI record a mile long. Dave, I wanted to be with you when you got this news." He paused as he looked into his young vulnerable nephew's eyes. "They didn't make it."
I sat in disbelief as my body slowly started shutting down. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Uncle Trey rush over to my side and grab me around shoulders allowing me to lay my head into his chest, letting my shaking body with a now steady flow of tears find comfort with a loving soul. He held me for quite a while. The only blessing is that my parents were killed instantly. The other driver suffered slight injuries. What justice is that?
Finally, I pulled myself together. Uncle Trey helped me gather my toiletries and some clothes, including my dark blue suit, and drove me back to St. Paul a half hour later. I left a note for my roommate. He had my home telephone number.
I will always cherish that I had been part of a very loving and caring family. Dad was an investment vice president working for Merrill Lynch in neighboring Minneapolis. I was comforted by the presence of my grandparents on my mother's, Aunt Betty and Uncle Trey Swenson on father's side, and my best friend, Russ. The funeral mass at St. Bart's Episcopal Church was followed by a two-casket burial in the hillside cemetery near our home. This ended my immediate family journey. As the only child, I was left alone to pick up the pieces. Mom's parents stayed with me for two days before they returned to their Des Moines home. Russ immediately went back to Evanston because his exams were just underway at Northwestern.
Before he left, Russ said, "This is heavy duty shit, Dave," he said as he took my hand and squeezed hard and brought his other hand around and brought our bodies together. "I wish we could be together in my room like old times." He held me, and we stood still, our hearts beating in unison.
"Russ, sometimes you can't go back," I replied. "Thanks for being here for my family and me." With that, I kissed him on the forehead and he departed for his flight.
Talk about foundations crumbling. My parents were the center of my young universe. Russ was no longer in my life on an intimate basis. At this point, we both were moving forward with our lives - he studying to be a doctor, me not having the foggiest...
At that point I realized that I was at the major crossroad in my life, so far. At 19, I didn't have a clue to the direction I was headed, or, what the future might bring. Dad had left me a comfortable inheritance, not super-rich, but respectable if the investments kept growing. I could count on a minimum of $150,000 per year in dividend income. My Dad's partner at Merrill Lynch offered to be my financial advisor. Not really needing any additional income, I asked that the bulk of the dividends be automatically re-invested. He would deposit $3,000 monthly into my checking account. I gave him full authority to manage my assets.
I knew that the family house no longer held any significance for me. I grew up with a loving family. But, with Mom and Dad gone, it wasn't' home any longer. I retrieved all of my personal possessions and placed into storage the valuable antique Biedermeier furniture, antiques, and artwork that Mom had accumulated. It was a house that I wanted to sell. With the housing market as strong as it was, my childhood home was sold and off the market in two days at full list price. I gave the $650,000 to Merrill Lynch for more investment opportunities. My Dad's partner suggested that I invest in annuities to balance the portfolio. 'Fine,' I thought. 'Whatever.'
The only other physical asset that I inherited was a summer cabin in the beautiful Brainerd Lakes area in central Minnesota. This "cabin" was really a 2,500 square foot three-bedroom vacation home, completely winterized, on the shores of a beautiful lake. I wouldn't part with this retreat fully furnished in upscale Ralph Lauren "rustic." I placed the cabin under the management of a local firm that rented only to qualified vacationers who would respect the home; they would rent it at a premium price for no less than a two-week period. They assured me that they would install a locked closet that would store all of our personal possessions. In that I wouldn't get a chance to get up there soon, I had to trust their management and selectivity.
I plotted my next course of action. I didn't want to go back to college...right now. I wanted to get out and see the world. That in mind, what better course than joining the military. Somewhere in the back of my head the song "In the Navy" by the Village People kept playing. How gay is that? But, it did stimulate me to seek out the St. Paul U.S. Navy recruiting office. Fortunately, it was located in the mall not too far from my soon-to-be former home.
Admittedly, I was vulnerable. The Chief in charge promised me an education and a chance to become a well-rounded sailor and man. With stars in my eyes, I signed up on the spot and accepted an August slot at the boot camp at Great Lakes, Illinois.
Great Lakes boot camp was very transitional. I accepted my plebe status and worked hard to be a good sailor in the eyes of my fellow minnows and the Chiefs and Petty Officers that handled our training. While I saw several cute guys that I would love to have known personally, I put my sexual orientation in the background as I had done in college. "Don't ask, don't tell." What I couldn't hide was my aptitude and college transcripts. I was considered to have an IQ capability to advance rapidly in the ranks. Jeez, I just wanted to see the world.
For whatever reason, the BuPers computer in Washington D.C. decided that I would be a terrific candidate for Naval Air as a technician. With that confirmed by "Hal," my orders directed me to the Naval Air Training Facility In Memphis. I had advanced to the next rate of E-2. Airman Apprentice.
With all my affairs in St. Paul concluded and boot camp behind me, I boarded a United Airlines 727 in Chicago for the 11/2-hour trip to Memphis. There, after retrieving my duffle bag, along with dozens of other sailors, also fresh from boot camp, we waited for the bus to the base in Millington, 21 miles north of Memphis. Aside from the initial nervousness in my new surroundings, I felt positive about the direction my life was taking.
I had signed up for four years with the Navy. I wasn't sure what was to happen in that time. I knew that I would be trained in some discipline that would be beneficial to the Navy and to me. At Mankato, I had studied introductory mathematics in addition to liberal arts. Here in Memphis, I would explore the world of Naval Air technical support.
The bus trip to the base was a good chance to take a few nods of rest. Most of the guys were of no interest to me. They were mostly one to two years my junior with not a lot of social grace. I'm not holding my nose high. The fact is that most of these newly minted sailors were from an intellectual level with which I could not identify.
After being assigned a barracks billet designed for student sailors, we stowed our gear and headed to the mess hall for some dinner. Meeting my new mates, I mused about the direction my life was taking. I had purposely escaped from my very predictable life in Minnesota. Without Mom and Dad, life in that area of the world was without much meaning any longer. I would keep in contact with my aunt and uncles plus the various cousins in the Minnesota heartland. With two living grandparents in Des Moines, I would always have a special place in my heart for them. Russ was taking his life in new directions. I hoped that we would not drift away from each other. Clearly, any more moments of intimacy had passed.
After returning from dinner to the barracks, I introduced myself to a few more of the new arrivals. I was happily surprised to meet a couple a great guys that I had not met earlier. They had attended the other boot camp in San Diego and had also just arrived for Naval Air technical training. Of the two, I initially gravitated towards Mr. Cute... a 5'8" 160# trim dynamo with short black hair, sparsely growing on his body, and the bluest of blue eyes that only a lad of Irish heritage can display. I was not surprised when he introduced himself as Mark Connelly. Irish as Paddy's Pig. Was this my Russ substitute? The other guy was a small, wiry Mexican American introduced to me as John Martinez. I was polite to John but clearly intended to ply my personality skills on Mark.
We compared our "boot" training, They in San Diego, and me at Great Lakes. Other than the weather, the routine was very similar. We agreed that we all had come out of boot camp wiser for the wear.
"I really didn't get a chance to see much of San Diego when I was at the NTC," said Mark wistfully. "I hope we get stationed on a ship there. 'Diego really is a happening place for young guys."
Gazing at Mark, I started to feel the loss of my intimate afternoons with Russ with greater intensity that I had for two years. 'Was his faint resemblance to my childhood lover...err, friend... the reason for this melancholy?' I asked myself.
"I've never been to San Diego. But, I hope to get stationed there," I retorted while still thinking about Russ. 'When it was all said and done, I was just a convenient fuck machine,' I mused.
John added, "Well, San Diego is my home town. I know where all the action is located. We gotta re-group in the Gaslight district at some point. Some real bitchin' bars and serious women around." With that, he smiled. "These gals love a straight guy in uniform."
I asked a clarification. "What do you mean, John, a straight guy in uniform?" I was concerned that I was picking up on a little attitude and homophobia.
"No slur intended. It's just that, in San Diego, there are at least 50,000 sailors and marines in the area between all the military facilities. You do the math. There are probably 5,000 guys who are swinging on the gay side or both ways. Add the male population of all the colleges in the area and the surfing dudes down by the beach to that number, and this makes for a pretty substantial gay population. I have no problem with gay guys. Just makes the competition for the women a little less intense," he said with a sincere smile.
My interest in San Diego jumped up a couple of notches. 'Good odds,' I considered.
Mark said that he was from Seattle and was ready to get his training and ship out to see the world. I asked, "Why are you so intent on doing the 'Navy thing' and travel?"
He pondered this question for a moment and replied, "Because I am literally running away, Dave. I really fucked up my first year at the University of Washington. Got into the SAE fraternity house as a pledge, and never considered the consequences of being intravenously fed draft beer for the two semesters. In my Dad's eyes, I'm an abject failure. Here he is building a dynamite software computer company and I'm blowing it all away."
I sensed that there were several family issues that we shouldn't broach. I asked, "So, Mark, whose decision was it to join the Navy?"
"I just wanted to get out of Seattle. I'm a pretty bright guy. But I didn't like where my life was going. No drugs. Just daily fuck-ups. I decided, on my own, to re-group. Re-grouping is where I'm at. Dad is skeptical but supportive. If I don't shape up, I've got a lot to lose."
"Well, as they say, 'shape up or ship out'," I said in a flip, upbeat manner. "I get the feeling that you can achieve whatever you want to do," looking into Mark's eyes with a questioning look.
He diverted his eyes from mine. "Dave, I hope you're right," he countered.
'Oh, shit,' I thought. 'Not another crush that will go nowhere.'
We were all sporting brand new work dungarees that were uniform of the day for class and general dress while on the base. Civvies were only worn off base on authorized leave to go ashore on weekends. Limited leave certainly cramped the style of energetic young males with testosterone to spare. However, the 10-week training program would allow us to become real sailors/airmen and secure a permanent assignment supporting Naval Air on an aircraft carrier. We could hardly wait.
The school barracks were not designed for comfort or privacy. Each barracks were two-storied with a huge sleeping area with single bunks for 50 guys. Not too convenient to "take care of business."
The communal showers, washbasins, and commodes were a real beehive of activity at 0600. Speed was the buzzword. We had to be over at the mess hall by 0645 to wolf down morning mystery food before standing in formation back at the barracks at 0730 to receive the "word of the day" by the lead Chief Petty Officer. School officially commenced at 0800.
Mark, John and I were all in the same classes due to our proficiency in computer skills and high math scores. We became inseparable in study and play.
Mark got me into a routine of going to the gym and pool. "Dave, we're going to go to pot if we don't get our ass in gear and work out."
"OK, if we do this together, you're going to show me some strength-building stuff, and I'll get you in the pool for endurance lap swimming. Deal?"
"Deal." We shook and gave each other a shoulder bump. "Let's get our little brown brother to join us."
In the gym and pool, the three of us seriously toned up. And we had fun. I especially liked the sauna or steam time afterwards. Sitting on the towels, I got a chance to check out my friends. Occasionally, we'd sprout some wood without any embarrassment. Our trio had developed a very natural relationship with each other. 'And shit, at our age, a hard dick in the sauna was pretty common.' I rationalized.
One day, Mark and I worked out alone. I left the weights first to return to the lockers. When I was alone in the steam room, I got hard and started stoking myself. Shortly after, the door opened and Mark came in. I fumbled and froze, gripping my excited dick.
"Hey bro, whatchu doin' down there?" Mark said as he sat down next to me and adjusted his vision for the steamy air, smiling.
"Busted," I replied as I removed my hand from "Davey," exposing my slicked hard dick. "Mark, I gotta tell you that our barracks living arrangements don't give me much opportunity to do what I need to do."
"I hear you." He slowly brought his hands down to his crotch and started rubbing his flaccid cock. In no time it was pointing straight up to his navel. "Mind if I join?"
"Hell, no'" I replied as I started my action down there again.
With that, Mark leaned back and stared dreamily into the hot fog and started a serious stroking action. I matched stroke for stroke.
"Oh, fuck," I murmured, as I felt my balls tighten. I cupped my right hand in front of my pulsing dick head to catch the evidence as it jumped out.
"Dave, I'm right with you." Out the corner of my eye, I saw him arch his back and shoot thick white ropes of cum over his chest and six pack. "Buddy, that was an inspired suggestion." He turned and winked at me as he pulled his towel up to wipe himself off.
During the two months at tech school, Mark and I jacked off together whenever we could, but that's as far as we would venture. We never brought John into these sessions. But, I discovered something about myself. These experiences were merely lustful interludes of self-gratification with a pal. I no longer attached the memory of Russ to sexual exploration.
In the middle of May, the three of us passed the tech school with flying honors and waited for orders telling us where we were to be sent on permanent assignment. Mark and John both were assigned to aircraft carriers - the JFK and the Enterprise - in San Diego. My orders, for some reason, were delayed. The day before we were to be deployed, I finally got my orders - to Special Services at Memphis Naval Air Station. What?? I'm going to see the world in the middle of Tennessee's fucking cotton fields?
When I reported to Personnel Friday afternoon, the answers to my many questions were laid out by a very sympathetic Petty Officer 2nd Class.
"Swenson, you had been assigned to the Coral Sea, he answered. "However, at the last minute, it was determined that the ship would go into dry dock for the summer in Bremerton, Washington, for some routine repair. It will be back at sea by October and you'll set sail with it then. So, I guess this will be your home for a while."
I was assigned to Special Services. Special Services supervised all the recreational facilities including gyms, movie theater, golf course, library, and the swimming pools. I was going to be a lifeguard at the Officer's Club.
I got back to the school barracks just in time to say goodbye to the guys. No doubt Mark, John and I would meet up in San Diego come fall. Mark and I would find our way back to the gym in San Diego, no doubt.
'This short-term friendship thing is part of Navy life,' I surmised. 'It's hard to accept these adjustments.'
We gave each other brotherly hugs as they hopped on the bus to depart the base for the last time. We all had each other's Fleet Post Office and email addresses. I was eager to join them in California. 'Did Mark have any feelings for me?' I queried. 'Nah.' Extending these thoughts, I concluded that we were just good friends.