The Marine

Semper Fi

Allen came to San Francisco to live with me in 1979 and after a honeymoon right here for a couple of months, answered a want ad for a commercial artist placed by a large plastics company down the peninsula in Redwood City. The job was just temporary to help the art department through a backlog, but at the end of the interview they offered it to him and he took it. He was so talented and so charismatic that the the other five artists (and later their spouses/girlfriends since they were all straight) were so enraptured with him that they started organizing events after work and on weekends as an excuse to see more of him out of the office. Have you ever had a job in which you met after work with almost all of your colleagues?

I felt quite lucky to be caught up in the whirlwind with these fun-loving people, outrageous and given to elaborate practical jokes.Allen and i were almost miraculously compatible, and the longer we were together the better it became. Case in point: when our first Halloween together came, i was trying to figure out what to do as a costume for a party and hit upon just wearing my Army dress blues that i’d not yet got around to selling. So i put them on and pranced into Allen’s room to show him. Wow! Turned out that Allen had a bit of a uniform fetish. Actually, quite a bit, and i had to call him off to keep from messing up the uniform before the party. After that, he sometimes prevailed upon me to wear them at home.

At that time Allen and i were living in the upper unit of a two-flat Victorian on 18th Street. It was over a garage at ground level, and to reach the upper flat you had to climb almost two floors of stairs to a landing and then turn left for a few more steps into the flat. Fortunately, the flat was equipped with one of those door release levers at the landing so that if someone rang your doorbell, you could just step down to the landing and push the lever to open the front door so you could see who was there and either invite them in or tell them to go away and lift the lever to close the door. Sure did beat running up and down two floors of stairs every time someone was at the door.

Early one evening when i’d beat Allen home from work, the doorbell rang. I stepped to the landing and flung the door open to reveal, resplendent in crisply tailored class A’s, a handsome young Marine. My jaw dropped. He inquired whether Allen were home, and i told him no. Then he said that he was a recruiter who’d been given Allen’s name.

Even way back then i couldn’t think fast enough. What i should have done was tell him to come back tomorrow after 6:30 when Allen would be here (and could enjoy the visit). I’d let him tell the Marine that he was a veteran of the Army, forty years old, and not Marine material, being gay.

What i in fact did was tell the Marine was that i didn’t think Allen was interested, whereupon the Marine inquired, “Are you his father?”

I just kept being fed opportunities for excellent lines and muffing them. The obvious reply was, “No, i’m his lover, and aren’t you a handsome one.”

But i just said i was his roommate and that he was an Army veteran and forty, so there had to be some kind of mistake, when in fact i’d figured out that one of the artists had doubtless given the Marines Allen’s name. And that was that for the marine.

Meanwhile, yeah yeah, they’re common as dirt, but i just love it that Aloe nobilis blooms in the late winter…in its dress reds.

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