Deployed, Tattooed, Transformed Ch. 02bysophist801©
It was almost four weeks before my new orders came through. The US Army was sending me to Germany. I really didn't care where they sent me; I just wanted to get as far away from my wife and daughter as possible. I know it sounds cold and harsh to not want anything to do with what should be the most important people in your life but I did not feel personally equipped or trained to deal with the emotional "stuff". I was trained to destroy an enemy with minimum casualties and adept at military science. But most importantly I am accustomed to being in command and giving orders.
My short-notice re-assignment was a verbal request made to a close friend in Washington who held due influence and could make it happen. I didn't really care where I was sent, so long as it was someplace outside of the Continental United States. Heidelberg was a cushy assignment that allowed me (as an officer) to live on the economy (not on Base).
When I left West Sacramento I knew it would be difficult, but not impossible, for Jane to get in touch with me. Hell, the military always knew where I was and knew any correspondence would be forwarded to wherever I happened to be. I could tell family I was back in Iraq and would still receive mail in Germany. I really had nothing to hide I just wanted to hide, to escape the personal sense of shame and humiliation.
I was a proud man and would not talk to anyone about my discovery, about the child Jane had brought into this world. The only thing I did was work, exercise and suck-down warm German beer to help me sleep at night. It did occur to me that Janice and Jane were probably struggling as well but I was too caught up in my own pain to think of them.
So I'd been in Heidelberg a little more than a month when the letter arrived from Jane. It was a long letter and included divorce papers. At first I was a little angry she would have the gall to actually serve me with divorce papers then realized that it probably was the only way for us to move on with our lives. We had stopped being a family and I'd made it almost impossible for us to sit down and "talk".
Jane was citing irreconcilable differences and asked for nothing except support for Janice until she was 18. Her letter explained, in detail, her very brief affair with a man she worked with. Yes, she was sorry and regretted the affair especially since she became pregnant. She was in a quandary because she could not be sure who the father was. Either way she had the child and gave him my name at birth. If I had not been deployed Jane would never have been able to conceal the pregnancy.
When she learned the baby was not mine, she gave the child up for adoption and had herself tattooed with my initials for everyone to see. She'd gotten tattooed to reinforce her commitment to me? I guess there is logic there but when I first read this it was hard for me to understand or accept.
Getting my initials tattooed to her body was, as Jane explained it, a constant reminder of who she loved and belonged to. But now that she was asking for a divorce would she now let her hair grow long to cover the tattoo (which was on the back of her neck)? Would she have the tattoo removed rather than face the shame that now would follow? Why was I ruminating about her shame and guilt inspired tattoo? Being in Germany did not make it possible for me to talk to her (something I had avoided by putting and ocean and continent between us) about anything, let alone her tattoo. So why should I even care what she did or didn't do about her tattoo?!
These were rhetorical questions more than anything else. I was, after all, trying to convince myself I no longer cared what Jane did.
I read her letter wondering how someone could, out of guilt and love; mark their bodies in such a manner. Then again I would never have expected her to have an affair, even if it was an in-the-moment-giving-in to some sense of weakness. I reasoned with myself I have a couple of tattoos that were reminders of fallen friends and military conflicts. I would never be able to forget, nor did I want to forget. Was there really any difference between her tattoo and mine?
She'd marked herself making sure, as things turned out with a permanency (more than the magic marker tirade). Now both of us would never forget what she had done! But now that I knew why she'd gotten the tattoo there was no reason to hide anything. God, this was a mind-fuck situation I could not fully get my head around. Give me the regimen of command and combat! Give me an enemy who carried an AK47 that I could stop with deadly force and I would be able to retreat and sleep that night.
As a mother who cared about Janice and something called family, her motivation to get the tattoo was not much different than a combat veteran's tattoo. The big difference was that Jane's tattoo was motivated by shame. My tattoos were motivated by a desire to remember the dead. Yes, something between us had died! Was her tattoo nothing more than a way to remember what had died?
Holding her letter and the divorce papers in my hand I quickly located another black magic marker in the bottom of my ruck sac (same magic marker?) and wrote across the divorce papers. "June 16, 2009. Can't hide from it but can't live with something I don't understand. No divorce until resolved. Paul." Then I sent the papers back to Jane. It was my first real attempt to understand and seek a solution.
For a moment I thought returning the papers might give her hope . . . frustrate her . . . leave her in a state of purgatory . . .or send the message that you can't go through life shrugging your responsibility and covering up the dog shit. Dog shit stinks too much, especially since you've walked in it. Figuratively I'd stepped in it and had not cleaned off my boots. It also occurred to me that there really was little hope for us, for our marriage, for our family. I still needed resolution and divorce was not the only resolution. I also needed more information and felt ready to hear it.
Besides, refusing to sign the divorce papers would further punish Jane. I was not going to do things on her terms. I needed to think I was, somehow, in control. After all I had not been able to control Jane sleeping with someone else but I could control what I did or didn't do
Yes, yes I gave her my current address but said little else. I was keeping busy on Base, doing insignificant shuffling of paper behind a giant oak desk. I had evenings and weekends free to explore Heidelberg. At night I found refuge working out or cruising the red light district. I learned that I was more of a voyeur and was too paranoid about catching a disease, even with condom use, to "sleep" with a prostitute. No one sleeps with a prostitute. Prostitutes are there to relieve tension, to fuck, to walk away from without any need to feel or be responsible to anyone. I also realized I was still married and had not agreed to a divorce. There was no way to rationalize the reality other than to remain faithful to Jane.
So, I found substitute affection in bars and coffee shops, always staying true to who I was and maintained values that went beyond one night stands. Occasionally, after working out at the base gym I would indulge myself with a wonderful massage letting myself get lost in the anonymous hands and fingers of a pretty Frauline. For a few extra Euros the Frauline would use her hands to give me much needed sexual release. When that happened I'd leave the massage parlor feeling anything but satisfied or relieved. Hand jobs have only one goal, ejaculation.
I also discovered the on-line world of German pornography. On line surfing of German web sites was like being in a candy store and not able to make any choices (because the availability of candy was too diverse and plentiful!) There was also the fact I'd never used a computer for prurient reasons or for some sad sense of personal gratification, which wasn't gratifying at all! For several lonely hours at a time I'd find myself rubbing the skin off of my foreskin while developing an ache in my right hand as I'd continual click-and-scroll the wireless mouse, my guide to a world that seemed limitless. Eventually I would find a site that was free and featured mature woman in various stages of masturbation or carnal coupling, sometimes this site was a live webcam that allowed me to feed my voyeuristic need.
The internet became nothing more than a way to find stimulus for late evening periods of masturbation. I would find myself unable to remain with one particular flash video or image to allow me to concentrate long enough to cum. I usually ended up going to sleep out of sheer exhaustion rather than from the release of endorphins that were supposed to ease my male brain into sleep.
What was the bottom line? I missed Jane and the comfort of her loving arms, her sensuous mouth and the way she would warm her cold feet on my legs as we'd go to sleep at night. The thought of how she once comforted me evaporated when I pictured her with another man and then giving birth to a child not mine. When these thoughts invaded my regimented mind I'd quickly lose interest in even the best of the German porn sites.
It was almost three weeks since I'd sent back the unsigned divorce papers, my brief note scribbled across the letter she'd sent me. It was late in the evening and I was on my way back to my flat after working out late into the evening then stopping for dinner at the Base Officer's Club. Usually I stopped at the Club for lunch but had decided to splurge and have a State-side style steak with a bake potato smothered in sour cream and butter. It was a cold night and I was feeling especially lonely. The Club provided me with the illusion of being in the States and I would be surrounded by like Americans.
Don't get me wrong, GIs know loneliness comes with the job and that this isolation places strains on loved ones as well. It was the sense that there is someone waiting for them, a girlfriend, wife, mother or father who waited for them, sent those emails and letters and gave them hope for the day they returned. Take away the hope and you have a soldier who has nothing to live for except that very moment. What riled me most about Jane's indiscretion was the fact I was stateside when she conceived.
Living on the economy also meant I usually did not get back to my flat until quite late in the evening, which suited me. After all there was no one I needed to go home to, right? My cell phone was turned off, something I'd gotten in the habit of doing so military-related contacts could not interrupt my evenings.
If I'd left my cell phone on one Thursday evening I would have gotten the message Jane was in Heidelberg and on her way to my flat. Not being in any hurry to get back to my flat I walked in the chilly January night thinking, reminiscing, and basically wondering how this was going to "play out".
It was dark on the doorstep to my flat. It was very dark and very cold. Only distant light from the Helga Strasse (not the actual street in Heidelberg) gave me guidance. It was so dark that, unless you knew the flat number, it would be very difficult to find but was possible with the aid of a flashlight, a little luck or the guidance of a friendly citizen who knew I was the only American living in the neighborhood.
"Paul?" To say I was startled by the voice in the dark is an understatement. I almost stepped on her as I keyed the door lock. "Paul, is that you?" If I'd lost my eyesight I would have recognized Jane's voice anyplace. And if she hadn't said a word I would have recognized the way she smelled . . . and at that moment she smelled like she needed a bath' as well. I'd also gotten used to the European practice of not using deodorant, the way many obsessive Americans do, so it was not an odor that was un-appealing.
"Jane?" Dumb question, I knew it was her immediately.
"Yes . . . I tried calling . . ."
"But my cell phone was off, I know. Come in, you must be cold." It was awkward having her suddenly show up on my doorstep. I wasn't sure I was ready to talk to her, to hear what she had to say. But then there was probably no good time for such a conversation and no way to ever be fully prepared.
I put water on to boil to make, took her coat and took a minute to look at her, to really look at Jane. She'd lost weight, probably 15-20 pounds and looked exhausted. Her hair was matted on one side as if she'd slept on it. She wore a black turtle neck that clung to her skinny (skinny, for me is less desirable than slender) frame like a glove. She also wore a long scarf to cover her ears and neck. Her black jeans hung loose on her body, jeans that, at one time clung to shapely hips and ass. The overall impression was of a woman who was lost and in mourning. It also occurred to me she might have worked extra hard at getting her pre-baby body back to where it was before I was deployed and had lost more weight than intended.
"It is good to see you Paul." I just smiled in response. It was a sad smile, as was hers. "There is so much I need to talk to you about. So much. And I'm afraid you will . . . "
"Jane, we can talk tomorrow. For now, relax, enjoy the tea and get warm. OK?" I think I was trying to reassure her but realized that was not going to be an easy thing to do. I also needed a little time to regroup and make sure I was, so-to-speak, in command. I needed to be in control of my lived-in world.
"Tomorrow is Friday and I need to work but will be home after 1600 hours. We will have the weekend to get caught up and figure out where we go from here. Sound OK?" I really did not want to engage in an emotionally charged discussion until I'd slept. I was more afraid of saying something I'd regret later.
"Yes, that will work. Sorry . . . "After drinking half of the cup of tea I insisted she sleep in the only bed, a twin bed, in the only bedroom. I tried sleeping on the lumpy soft couch that came with the flat and ended tossing a sleeping bag down to sleep on the living room floor.
During the night something unexpected happened as I tossed and turned on the floor. Loving hands and a hungry mouth told me Jane had pulled back the wool blanket and was proceeding to lovingly kiss and lick me to life. It was fellatio at its best, even if the lights were out and we were concealed by the black silence of the night. It did not take much for me to orgasm, something I had not been able to accomplish through internet-stimulated sessions of masturbation.
I did not reciprocate or return any kind of affection. Until there was some sense of resolution I was not going to convey the message that things were "all right". I must have quickly fallen back to sleep, letting the endorphins engulf my being. I did not remember dreaming or feel Jane's return to the single twin bed. But for the first time in several months I fell into a deep restful sleep, on the floor.
I was gone long before Jane was up Friday morning.
She had just gotten out of bed and showered when I got home at 1620 hours. Seeing her with a towel wrapped around her only confirmed how much weight Jane had lost. What had happened to the love we once had or was it just lurking there, waiting for the door to be re-opened?
We didn't begin our talk until we'd had a meal and were sitting at a little café I frequented. The coffee and pastries (since Jane had just woken from her own exhausted sleep breakfast food appealed to her more than a heavy evening meal) were very good and I was always left alone to read a paper, think, to let my what-if thoughts to wonder. Now Jane was with me and the what-if what-happened thoughts would surface for mutual discussion and revelation.
"What happened Jane? What went wrong?" I didn't need to say anything else, we both knew it was time to tackle the elephant that occupied all of our conscious moments.
"Remember Stan Cramer? He was the shipping manager who I worked with?" I nodded I did remember him. Nice guy even if he was a little frail and mousey.
"Remember when I worked late a couple of Fridays back in October, 2008? That was when you went on maneuvers, maneuvers that were in preparation for your deployment?" I did remember. They weren't really maneuvers, but Jane never needed to know that. I'd caught a flight to Fort Knox (Kentucky) to be briefed regarding the Afghanistan arena.
I also remember that when I returned before actual deployment Jane was insatiable in the bedroom. Now I understood why she was so insatiable. The sex, as I remembered, was absolutely wonderful! Occasionally she would surprise me, usually after Janice was off with her friends, and provide mind-blowing sex, sex that is possible only when two people love each other. I also remembered she'd done everything possible to make sure I ejaculated inside of her. She would start out providing me with a wonderful blow job then, as if sensing I was about to cum, hurriedly get on top of me to insure my seed was deposited deep within her.
I never complained because I always believed vaginal sex that leads to a mutual orgasm is the most fulfilling and complete form of sharing.
I nodded indicating I remembered when she had worked late.
"Well it happened the second late Friday, when you were in Kentucky and found myself working with Stan. " She could have stopped the story here and I would have had more than enough information. "We went out for a drink after work. Stan, as you remember was going through a divorce, was living alone and frequently gave in to a deep depression." I did not like or respect this form of discussion. To use your depressed state as an excuse to get into someone's pants, married or not, is the act of someone who has the scruples of a puissant. You could almost predict the outcome before she even finished speaking, which did not make hearing her story any easier to hear.
"That evening he began talking about suicide." If he was, in fact responsible for getting Jane pregnant, suicide would have been the honorable thing for him to do. Even if he'd been suicidal there was no respect in what he'd done or what Jane had let happen.
Not knowing much about the medical nature of depression I was momentarily concerned the child, Paul Jr, might be prone to depression at a later date in his life, especially if the child did not have a living structure that was caring. The child could easily go through life feeling abandoned and rejected. Would the child grow up with a poor sense of self-worth?
"He had a plan as to how he would kill himself and it scared me. I did not want him to be alone. I tried to get him to see a psychiatrist, to get help, but he insisted he would be OK if I just stayed with him for awhile. Please understand, this is not an excuse for what I did with Stan it is just a description of what happened, of what was going through my mind at the time . . . the sex itself I cannot even remember, it was so unremarkable." For me, it still did not excuse the fact she'd let another man have access to her body and then impregnated her! After all was it worth all the time carrying another man's baby? I had to admit to myself I understood why she did not abort especially if she thought the child was mine.
"Then you got home from Kentucky two days later, and, well, I did everything possible to make you happy, to have your seed flood my very being. It was also a time I realized I loved you beyond reason. It was odd how that worked; a single transgression was all it took for me to realize there was no one else I wanted in my life and that I would never let another man seduce me."
Jane was looking at the pools within pools of her coffee, not drinking, using the liquid to warm her hands more than anything else. Watching her I realized I still loved her dearly but was grappling with my male pride.
"To formalize my commitment to you, as strange as this may sound, I went out and had your initials tattooed to the back of my neck. It was the tattoo artist who suggested I cut my hair short so everyone could see the tattoo, see my commitment to you. Yes, I know the act was motivated by shame and guilt. But the love made it possible for me to have such a permanent commitment inscribed on my body." I just listened. There would be plenty of time to ask the little inconsequential questions later. I was also a little surprised at how calm I seemed to be.