You Look Familiar
by Jack Scribe
The play opening went off without a hitch with an explosive, positive reaction that was repeated each night of the previews. The cast, director and playwright were ecstatic, and I was still in the clouds about the reaction to my performance. The Playbill and marquee had been changed to announce me under the starring cast. It now read in large bold type, AND INTRODUCING BRAD WILLIAMS.
True to Sam's prediction, my headshot ran with the review in the San Diego Union-Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, along with a publicity still of a play scene that included the two principals and myself. The New York Times, in its usual condescending fashion concerning anything west of the Hudson River, would run the review the following Wednesday. When the producer requested that we all sign on for an extended run until mid-October, he was disappointed when I declined and explained the TV bookings. He was not aware of the Friends shooting commitments in September. I did agree to return the final two weeks in October, after being generously offered an additional four grand.
The USS Stennis had just returned from another training cruise. With Dave back from a week of maneuvers and sea exercises, and Doug down from L.A., I'd bought three now-scarce house seats for all the guys to see the play. Mike had cleared his Saturday night for theater and late dinner afterwards at Croce's in the Gaslamp Quarter for an official 'Fab Four' outing. Croce's was one of the first restaurants and nightspots to open in this entertainment district that had formerly been a down-at-the-heels, old, downtown section populated primarily by street people, prostitutes, and sailors looking for action. Many local gays would cruise the area looking for 'seafood' - a tongue-in-cheek nickname for sailors.
Just before noon, my desk phone rang. "Williams speaking. How may I direct your call?"
"I want to speak with the hot looking actor I saw in this morning's Calendar section of the L.A. Times. Brad...ah...what's his name?"
"Naw. The Brad who madly loves this new Hollywood director...to be."
"Oh, that Brad. He's not here today. But, I am. Hi, baby. Wassup, Mr. Director?"
"Babe, what a great review and picture in today's paper. Have you seen the Times yet?"
"Yes. Mike went out early this morning and picked up the San Diego and L.A. papers. We read them before he left for North Island. Dave's ship got in about two hours ago. The Union-Tribune devoted almost a page to the play and opening. I saved it in my bedroom."
"Great. I'll read it when I get in this evening," Doug replied.
"You'll be in around ten?"
"Yeah, and I can hardly wait until you're in my arms."
"Final curtain is 2148. I'll be home at 2230 and in your arms at 2231."
"And fucking at 2232."
"No foreplay? You must be one horny dude," I said with a laugh.
"Make that 'foreplay at 2232'. There's no hurry when I'm with you, lover."
"See ya then." In a lower tone, I concluded, "Love you."
"Me, too. Later."
Just then, the intercom rang. From the light, I knew it was the Admiral. "Yes, Sir. What may I do for you?"
"Williams, come into my office."
"Yes, Sir." I grabbed a note pad, left the desk and approached the office door, knocking before entering.
"Brent, or should I say 'Brad,' that's quite a review you've received. Congratulations. It feels a little strange knowing that my Yeoman is also the newest star at the Playhouse."
"A big thanks to you and the Chief of Staff for allowing me to do this in my spare time, Sir."
"A 'well done' is in order. Would you have any objection if I had PR set up some interviews for the local TV channels? From what I've seen, you don't need it, but it'll be great for the Navy."
"No problem. I'll be available any time during the day, and I'll wear dress whites."
"Great. PR will be in touch with you."
"May I ask you a question, Admiral?"
"What's on your mind, son?"
"I've got my hands on six house seats for next Wednesday's performance. I'd like to invite you, the Chief of Staff, and your ladies, to be my guests. The other two other tickets are for anyone else you'd like to include."
"Williams, I accept with pleasure. These are the hottest tickets in town, and I'll probably include my Aide and his wife."
"Part of the family, Sir. I'll be able to get four more tickets for the Senior Chiefs and their wives in a couple of weeks." 'Nothing like a little sucking up,' I concluded as I shifted my feet.
"Outstanding. Thanks for thinking of the 'family'."
"Sir, if there is nothing else, I'll get back to work?"
"Carry on, and Williams, I really do appreciate this," he said with a smile.
Around 1230 my lunch relief took over the office watch. Walking to the mess hall, I was aware that several sailors, CPOs and officers were staring at me a little too long as we passed. 'Gawd,' I thought, 'the whole base hasn't turned queer overnight, has it?'
Approaching an intersection and a young Ensign, I automatically saluted. He returned the salute, stopped and said, "Williams." I stopped in front of him and replied, "What can I do for you, Sir?"
"I recognized you and wanted to pass on a 'well done.' My girlfriend and I saw your performance last night. Your acting was awesome. And Liz...my girl...definitely has a little stage crush on you. Thanks for a terrific evening," he said with a smile as he extended his hand.
"Thank you, Sir. I was a little surprised at the reaction, but real happy that it's a hit." I shook his firm hand.
"Would you mind if I sent the Playbill over where you work for an inscription and autograph? I suppose this is a little hokey, but Liz was really impressed. She thinks you've got a great career ahead."
"No problem. I'm over at the Admiral's office. Put it in an intra-office mail envelope, I'll sign the Playbill, and return it immediately."
"Thanks, Williams...ah...Brad. I'm over in Personnel. If I can ever do anything for you, please call."
"Yes, Sir, Mr. Cramer," I replied, noticing his nametag. "Thanks." We saluted and I went on to lunch. 'That could be a handy contact,' I considered. I filed his name away for future reference.
As I slowly went through the chow line, more than a couple of sailors congratulated me or motioned a thumbs-up. I smiled and nodded, realizing for the first time that I was going to be the property of the public in this next phase of my life. I contemplated Sam's advice about how to conduct myself and where.
I was in no rush to get out of the editing today and kept two Avid 8000's busy until quitting time under the instructive, watchful eye of the editing director. 'Friday rush hour traffic on the 405 will be brutal,' I thought, 'so I won't leave the lot until 7:00 p.m.' With a little luck, I will be at the San Diego University Heights house around 9:30 p.m., and in my lover's arms by eleven.
Heading south on the freeways, my baby Bimmer 325 enjoyed the steady speed of 75 mph once we cleared the dense Orange County interchanges. Leasing this small, maneuverable convertible was the only 'gone Hollywood' status symbol I had acquired. When it was all said and done, you needed a good set of 'wheels' in that town.
Arriving around 9:30 p.m. as planned, I entered the darkened house, flipped on the hall lights, and turned the alarm off with my code. 'Mike must be out to dinner with Dave,' I thought. In Brent's room, I unpacked and stripped down for a quick shower. After slipping on a robe, I padded down to the kitchen, got a beer and returned to the bedroom so I could check out the Union-Tribune reviews.
'Holy crap,' I reacted, 'Brent is into some serious press.' Without the objective filters of the neighboring L.A. Times, the local review expressed hometown pride about a theater production at one of the town's few premiere venues. The write-up was a love letter to the play and Brent. 'Would I have to start calling him Brad?' I wondered, 'and be considered the guy who's always around Brad?' I put these questions out of my mind, preferring to think of the early successes of my fledgling-directing career somewhat on equal footing.
I thought about Sam Barron and how our lives had changed with his influence and guidance. There was no doubt in my mind that Brent was being prepped for an exhilarating professional ride, while the doors that were opened for my chosen career should give me a nudge to be at the top some day - if my work was considered worthy. We would have to figure out living arrangements next summer. With Brent becoming a civilian and rushing off to New York for a four-month play contract, we didn't have to decide on a place to live until then.
Closing my eyes to consider our future, I must have drifted off - at some point in time I became aware of a moist pressure being applied to my hardened dick. Slowly I focused on a blur in front of me. A head of blond hair was bobbing up and down in my crotch area. As I opened my lids fully, the image of Brent, sans clothes, slurping and sucking on my awakening cock, became clear.
"Hi, sailor, you taking advantage of a civilian?"
He raised his head and grinned. "Absolutely. Anything found in my bed is fair game."
Brent continued to give me a blowjob that felt very familiar and comfortable. "I'm not complaining. It's just that waking up like this is not part of the norm," I replied. 'Oh, Christ,' I thought, 'this is what the doc ordered.'
"Norm? Do I know him?" asked Brent, as he momentarily interrupted the fellatio of my needy penis.
"Asshole. Just drop the jokes and do the job. I may reward you later with a little trip up memory lane." I always enjoyed Brent making love to me. Each time it happened, I thought about Memphis over two years earlier.
With initial digital stimulation, he had me flailing in moments with his oral expertise. Later in the evening, with a lot of experienced 'finger action,' I was thoroughly loved and fucked by the love of my life.
I was at the dock for Dave's coming ashore. Although the USS Stennis arrived promptly at 0800, the crew would not commence shore leave until 1000. I told the club secretary that I needed to take care of some personal business and would be back around noon.
Since the ship had only been out for a week, not many family members were waiting. Of the 3,000-crew members, only 300 would be part of weekend skeleton watch. Dave had to return before 1500 Sunday for his turn at the watch. As the sailors came down the gangplank - actually a very sophisticated structure designed to handle volumes of weight and traffic - I spotted my favorite blue jacketed sailor with his standard, squared-away look. He broke into a smile when he saw me.
He walked up and saluted me with a small wink. "Good morning, Mr. Cole. Permission to kiss you?"
I returned his salute and walked closer for a handshake and said, "I think a hearty handshake will do just fine...for now, sailor."
"Hi, Mike. Missed you," he said in a low voice.
"Me too. And 'Davey'?" I asked.
As we walked to the car, no one really gave the two of us a second glance. In that he had no gear to carry, we blended into the base scenery as an officer and enlisted man going about their business.
"Babe, I'm going to take you home, then I've got to get back to the club."
"When will you be able to break away?"
"Fortunately for us, there is nothing really happening tonight. I plan on getting back around five. I thought I'd officially welcome you then," I suggested with a subtle leer.
"Okay, I can wait...barely. I want you to make love to me hard," Dave said with emphasis on the last word.
"Sounds like I've got one horny 'squid' on my hands?"
"And you're not, Lover?"
"You obviously haven't been watching my crotch carefully. I'd jump your bones right now if I could," I answered with a suggestive smile, but I'll be a good boy. I thought after fucking our brains out, we could go out for some dinner later. How does that sound?"
"Fucking or dinner?" Dave said with a laugh.
"Both, doofus. I made reservations at Laurel on Fifth Avenue for 2030 p.m. That should give us plenty of time to blow off a little steam."
"That's great, but I'm blowing more than steam," he replied.
"All in due time." We arrived at my car and proceeded to leave the base and go home. I gave him the rundown about Brent's critical success this week and the plans for Saturday night. Getting to the house at 1100, I knew I'd have to leave within a half hour to get back to the base.
After turning off the alarm, I turned and gave Dave a big wet kiss in the hallway. "Love you, love you, love you," I repeated in his ear.
"Every time I'm near you, I feel warm and safe, Mike. Love you, big time." I followed him upstairs to the master bedroom.
"Lose the uniform. I need to check the cargo for any damage." I tossed my 'cover' over to the desk and playfully grabbed his bubble butt while he pulled off his jumper and tee. While I reached around to undo his trousers, Dave toed off his shoes.
"I need to hang up the uniform so it's presentable Sunday," he said, stepping out of his trousers and walking over to the closet with just his white briefs and black socks.
I never got tired of seeing my partner's broad, muscled, shoulders, back and narrow waist. Add the hardened buttocks and developed swimmer's legs, and I could get hard in a nano-second.
After taking off his socks and CK's, Dave turned around and seductively licked his lips while stroking 'Davey'. "See any damage?"
"Just your cock that appears to be getting bigger, so I'd better inspect it at a closer range." In full khaki officer's uniform, I got down on my knees and started licking his expanded cock head while I rolled his balls tenderly in my fingers.
"Oh, fuck, babe...suck it...I've got a week's worth of cum."
With Dave's encouragement, I started deep-throating his hard, hot dick, burying my nose in his pubes on the first pass to inhale his masculine odors. With a wet finger, I slowly moved behind his scrotum and played with his asshole. Increasing the strokes with my mouth, I entered his willing pucker and gently probed in search of his love nut. 'On target,' I thought, as I stroked his hardened prostate.
"Ahhh...I'm cummm...ah shit...uhhh...cumming," he yelled as he held my head with both hands.
I vigorously received several volleys of his hot seed, and quickly swallowed, so his rich, copious semen wouldn't spill onto my uniform - somewhere in the back of my mind, I was aware that I needed to get back to work. When Dave slowed down, I kept the final mouthful and slowly rose to give him a cum-laced kiss.
"Babe, I hate using the trite expression that I've got to kiss and run, but that's what I have to do," I said with a snicker.
"Well, Sir...or old cum breath, I might say...why don't you try a little Listerine first. One whiff of you and the Admirals wives lunching today will go into cardiac arrest." Dave grinned and licked his lips.
"Good idea." I immediately went to the head and camouflaged our recent activity with a good brushing and rinse.
'Jeez, what a high to see Mike again,' I thought after he left. A long, hot shower perked up my body. In that potable water is a premium on a ship, our at-sea bathing was an express in-out method. 'Takes the fun out of checking out the other guys,' I concluded. After dressing in cargo shorts, a Navy tee, and flip-flops, I poked my head into Brent's room. Mike said that Brent had left the newspapers containing the reviews of the play on his bed. I grabbed them and went down to the kitchen for a light lunch and reading catch up. I'd return the papers later.
Heating up a can of Campbell's finest, I settled down with chicken soup, cottage cheese, and an apple, knowing that Mike and I would put on the feedbag at Laurel tonight. 'The reviews were amazing,' I thought, as I scanned through both papers, 'Brent's come a long way since we first met.' I had no doubt that my friend was on his way to a highlighted career, where his face would be part of the American landscape. I wondered if his past might be a problem? 'Naw, probably not,' I decided, 'his clients were usually very high-profile in their own way. Everyone involved had nothing to gain and much to lose if their secrets were exposed.
After going through the mail and paying a few bills, I grabbed my gym bag and went over to 24 Hour Fitness for a workout. There was a 1400 - 2:00 p.m. - step aerobic class I enjoyed, in addition to the machines and weights. The gym, in the heart of Hillcrest, was always very 'cruisy', and there were also lots of gorgeous women using the facilities. I had been told that the women enjoyed working out there because most of the guys were gay and they didn't have to worry about being hit on.
After the step class, I was working on my biceps with 35-pound hand weights, when I heard someone to my right say, "Dave? Dave Swenson, is that you?"
I turned and came face to face with Mark Connelly, my early Navy friend and steam room J.O. buddy from the base gym in Memphis last year. "Holy shit, Mark. What a surprise." I set down the weights and grabbed him into a big hug. He warmly followed my lead, although we were both pretty sweaty and hot - at the Hillcrest gym, the embrace did not draw a second glance.
"Dave, I thought we'd never see each other again. It seems that our ships are always on different maneuver schedules. You're still on the Stennis?"
"The very same. I thought about you when we came into port this morning and saw the JFK next to us."
"Good timing. Listen, are you about finished with your workout? My schedule is a little tight, but maybe we could go over to Starbuck's for a while and catch up?"
"Let's shower and do it. It's about four and I've got an hour to spare. Shame there's no steam room here," I added with a smirk.
"Yeah," Mark replied and wiggled his eyebrows. We went back to the locker room and stripped. I noticed that he still had a great, muscular, compact build. Out of the corner of my eye, I felt his subtle stare. 'Hell,' I thought, 'just like old times.' We felt very comfortable together and casually chatted while we showered. After dressing, we left the gym and strolled across the building courtyard to Starbuck's.
Sipping a cappuccino, I looked into his intense, blue, Irish eyes and said, "Mark, I suppose that I should give you a little update on my life."
"Kinda like a verbal 'show me yours 'n' I'll show you mine'?" Mark answered, with a wink. "You first, then me. Okay?"
"Got it. First, I wanna tell you something about me that wasn't shared in Memphis." His eyes got larger with anticipation. "It...um...falls into the category of 'don't ask, don't tell.'
"Dave, you mean...?"
"Yeah, gay. Something I didn't want to reveal at the time, just coming into the Navy. You have any problems with this? 'Cause if so, we can part now and go our separate ways," I said with determination. Mark had been a friend, but I was beyond putting up with bullshit from anyone...or deceiving people I knew in a personal way.
He studied me intently for a few moments as we locked into each other's eyes. Slowly, he placed his hand on mine and gently squeezed it. Smiling softly, he replied, "Buddy, our friendship has really been good. I just can't get over the times we did...well, you know...and you never came on to me."
"Don't think I didn't want to, Mark. But we were friends just doing what two young guys needed to do." His hand continued to hold mine.
"I gotta tell you that if you had tried something, I wouldn't have objected."
I raised an eyebrow as I digested what he just said.
"I guess we were both in the same boat," Mark said with a sigh. He cocked his head and smiled with a wink.
"You're telling me that you're gay?" I asked with a questioning look.
"As long as I can remember. Did the whole gymnast macho thing to cover up my real feelings in high school. In college, I let beer with the fraternity brothers camouflage the same thing. But flunking out wasn't part of the game plan. So, voila, here I am on the rebound. I'm becoming more comfortable with myself."
"Like me. And I've definitely rebounded. I found a marvelous man in my life and we're living together...when I'm not on the ship...in San Diego."
"You met him here?" Mark sat up straighter and took a sip of his coffee.
"Naw, back in Memphis. He's in the Navy too, stationed at North Island. He got transferred a little after I arrived. We're pretty domestic. How about you?"
"I'm fucking happy for you, Dave. Actually, I'm kinda domestic, too. Fell in love this past winter with a guy I met at 24 Hour Fitness. We started talking at the weights and took it from there one-step at a time. His name is Tom Feldman and he'll be a sophomore at UCSD studying pre-law this fall."
"The gym must be a pretty good place to meet people?" I asked.
"Well, we're both 20, with no I.D.'s to get into bars, so it works pretty well. Tom rents a nice, small place over in Kensington and we can have privacy when I'm in port. He's from Pacific Palisades and his folks have some money. His dad has something to do with running one of those big ass studios in Hollywood and Tom's working there this summer...but he comes down here on weekends.
"Dude, Kensington's not too far from where I live when I'm ashore. Let's all get together sometime for a cookout at my place in University Heights. I'm going into pre-law when my hitch is up in two years. Prolly UCSD and I could use a few pointers at school."
"The Kennedy is going to be in for the next three weeks before we deploy. Maybe next weekend?"
"Let's plan on a cookout at my place a week from Sunday. You bring Tom, and I'll introduce you to Mike. If my other roommate is in town, he'll join us also."
"I'm bookin' it now."
"And, Mark? Let's not do much 'Navy talk' - Mike happens to be an officer. I know I can trust you to keep this quiet?"
"An officer? Sounds like you've married well?"
"We're really in love for the long haul, but he gets nervous about the officer-enlisted thing."
"I understand completely. Tom will be cool with it too." Mark went on to say that he and his dad were re-developing a good relationship. If he and Tom remained a couple, Mark was planning on entering college in a couple of years to get a degree in computer sciences before returning to Seattle and his dad's computer software company for training. The ultimate goal was to work in the L.A. sales and marketing office while Tom pursued a legal career after graduating from USC's law school.
We exchanged current San Diego contact numbers and planned on getting together in town, next week. I felt satisfied about running into an old friend when I returned home and prepared for my official reunion with Mike. 'Davey, old buddy,' I thought, 'you're going to get a good workout in about an hour.'