She had bright blue eyes that seemed to sparkle when she looked up at me and smiled, as she often did, and we laughed a lot together. We had met at the celebration of my twenty-first birthday, she was invited by my mother, who was her colleague at work, and we had agreed to go out together afterwards. She was eager to show me her world, her friends, where she hung out, and her excitement was palpable. I was still a late bloomer in some ways, even though I was already sexually active, and she made me a little giddy and unsure of where this would lead me. This was the wrong country for anything serious. I had intended to leave the UK when I joined the army at eighteen and although I wasn’t sure where I was going at the time, it wasn’t the UK.
One evening we had arranged to visit friends of hers, and she picked me up in her bubbly way, eyes bright and smile radiant. When we stopped in front of the house where her friends lived, she became unusually serious, looked me in the eye, and said, “Rob, I have to tell you that these girls are lesbians, so don’t be shocked!” I was more confused than shocked and had no concept of lesbians, no prejudice, and really no opinion. Not knowing what I was in for, I replied, “Okay,” and we rang the doorbell. When the door opened, it was rather an anti-climax, as there was nothing visibly unusual about the two young and attractive young ladies who greeted us effusively. I noticed from the staring eyes that I had been the subject of a conversation before.
After we settled down and had a drink in hand, the conversation got going, and bounced about as it usually does with young women. Occasionally I managed to laugh at the right moment, but I still felt like a stranger in the group, so I held back a bit, listening, and trying to figure out why my friend had made such a point of telling me about her friends’ sexual preferences. Gradually they started drawing me into the conversation and once I had acclimatised, I started talking freely. I was asked to tell one of my stories and, because they were usually adlib and spontaneous, I thought something through and began. It was well received, and we all laughed jovially. At that moment, one of the young ladies sat down at my feet and casually leaned against my shin. At first, I thought this was strange, but I had become accustomed to the conversation and have always been able to participate in conversations that my male friends found problematic. Suddenly, the girl at my feet leaned on my knees and asked, “Why are you in the Army, Rob?” I was taken aback by her demeanour and words and confessed to her that I wanted to go abroad to see other places. She shook her head and said, “No, that’s not what I mean, you’re such a gentle spirit, I can’t imagine you with a gun!”
I made a joke about being a lousy shot and told a story about getting in trouble at the range for firing a shot before I was ordered to, but I could tell by the way my friend was looking at the girl at my feet, who showed no intention of moving, that the mood had tipped. She tried to salvage the conversation by saying suggestively, “I can assure you he’s gentle in a very manly way!” and laughed nervously. We all laughed, but the girl at my feet shook her head and said in a matter-of-fact tone, “No, you’re the spirit of a woman in a man’s body!”
I smiled and said that I didn’t think storytelling was just a woman’s domain, and the second young lady nervously offered to get us something to drink, but my friend said it was time to go. She said we had somewhere else to go, and it was nice to see them again, but we shouldn’t disturb their privacy for too long. It was clear that the conversation had taken a turn she hadn’t expected, and we all got up and headed for the door. She was not quite so cheerful as we got into the car, and at first, I thought she was going to cry, but she reached out and kissed me passionately. That’s when I realized she was staking her claim, and I was expected to accept that.
That was also the turning point in our relationship. The next week became difficult, and I understood her advances more as passionate pleas, but which had the opposite effect of what they intended. I struggled with this for a while, but eventually I had to make it clear to her that I was not coming back to the UK and could not start a serious relationship there. This broke her heart and she realized, I think, that her overzealous attempts to beguile me had had the opposite effect. I also felt bad and blamed myself for not making it clear from the beginning. But then, we had just been having fun, I thought. When we parted, I could see from the living room window that the car hadn’t moved and that the person behind the wheel was slumped over, probably sobbing. I didn’t stay there to watch her drive away, but went to bed, but couldn’t sleep.