'Come on, let me at least look at it. I have a bet going. I've declared it can't be true.'
'No,' John said. But he was smiling. He knew the British bomber jockeys were a boisterous and randy lot, and most were too good-natured to raise his dander. And there was a heart-wrenching war on. And, mostly, he was too embarrassed that he was chained to a desk and, this not being his war, at least not yet, locked into a nothing, thinly symbolic liaison job while they were up there laying their lives on the line.
'Come on, then, John. Just a peek. I'll be dead next month. Would you want me to go without knowing?'
Trevor Chelton was being morbid, of course, but they had to be that way, the British war pilots. And they had to grasp at any humor in it that they could...or else none of them could have made it this far. Six months. That was the life expectancy of a British bomber pilot in this second world war. And no one had known anyone who had retired from this. At least not yet.
When John Silverman had just arrived at RAF Mildenhall air base in September 1939 as a nominal American liaison officer to the British war effort, a twenty-one-year-old, fresh-out-of-college U.S. Army Air Corps lieutenant, the best sign of support the Americans could offer to the British at this point in their war against Adolph Hitler, he had 'gotten' it the moment he had arrived. His welcome escort had taken him to a barracks building and told him to pick out the billet he wanted.
'But all of the bunks are taken,' he had said, after his eyes had scanned the long room and seen the unmistakable sign of primitive, yet determined domestication around each one of the neatly spaced cots.
'No, they are all available,' his British counterpart had said quietly. 'None of these lads are coming home.' It wasn't until much later, at war's end that John would learn that only 10 percent of the British bomber pilots who ever flew off over the channel survived the war. But just the image of that seeming full, but empty barracks that day was all he ever needed to see to believe the horror of that reality. And that was enough to make him vulnerable.
Which was why, in the end, John had given the young and tragically dashing Trevor Chelton the look he wanted...and why he had softened to the young man when his eyes went wide as saucers when he got that look.
And it was why in late November he let Trevor come to his cot in the ghostly empty barracks and had sat on the edge of the cot and let Trevor lower his naked body into his lap, facing him. Why John had sat quietly and docilely and let Trevor rise and fall rhythmically on John's manhood, nipples rubbing nipples, hands encasing John's head so that their lips met and they kissed while Trevor sighed a satisfied sigh of fulfillment and peace...and momentary escape from the reality of the times and expectations.
For three weeks that late fall they were lovers, John progressively being won over to Trevor's desires and needs so that by that last afternoon, Trevor was laying on his back on the cot, buttocks at the edge, and John was holding Trevor's trembling legs spread wide and was actively entering and entering and entering Trevor to the tune of Trevor's cries of passion and pleasure at the depth of the never-ending, mutually engaged taking.
That had been on the 16th of December. The legendary Wilhelshaven Raids over Germany had started two days earlier. No one knew then when they would end. All suspected it would be when the last British bomber pilot was dead.
There was a frenetic, 'forget the world,' element to John and Trevor's lovemaking. John had never lain with a man before, but he felt so helpless and superfluous to the brave defense these young men were putting up for their homeland, their great sacrifice in the face of sure death and probably futility. He could deny Trevor nothing in these circumstances. And for these days of impending horror, he let himself go. They fucked like there was no tomorrow, for, indeed, there probably wasn't going to be a tomorrow for Trevor and his compatriots. Again and again and again, Trevor in the deepest throes of passion at what John was willingly and completely giving him now, feeding deep inside him. No need for condoms. Skin on skin. Trevor arching his back and his eyes rolling back in his head, his cries of joys lifted to the ceiling of the eerily deserted barracks room as John sank in, in, in. No thought of tomorrow. Only today, and the frenzy of the deep fuck.
And on that day, John believed that it was Trevor who held his love. No other. Trevor was his whole life. And he was no longer even thinking he was doing this because of the unusual circumstances they were in. Trevor needed him in order to get through the days, to motivate him to climb into that Wellington bomber in the twilight and take his next dark-of-the-moon run into the German, flak- and Luftwaffe night fighter-filled skies. But that was passed them now. They were fucking because they were lovers.
The Wellington Raids ended on the 18th of December 1939, the British force exhausted but having made a decisive, staving off impact on the German war-making capability.
In this last sortie across the channel in the Wilhelshaven Raids, Trevor Chelton's Wellington bomber was shot down by a German ME-109E as it had the English channel in its sights after a successful run over Wilhelshaven, with the plane ditching in the North Sea.
Three weeks later, John Silverman was reassigned to Claire Chennault's fledgling Flying Tiger 'support' aid force unit that was forming in Kunming, China, to help bolster the Chiang Kai-shek government's resistance to the Japanese invasion in the east. And it wasn't long before John was fully occupied with an entirely different sort of war and without the time or luxury of private mourning for his lost lover. Young men were dying at every turning. There was no time to think on the senseless wasting of them individually any more.
It was late in the November of 1963 in a quiet Cleveland, Ohio, suburb, when a distraught and drained John Silverman answered the ringing at his door. If he hadn't been distracted, he might have just let the doorbell ring and ring until whoever was there gave up and went away. But he had been watching the television coverage of the assassination and burial ceremonies for the U.S. president for days, and he was confused and drained and just went to the door without really even thinking about it.
The man was young and sad looking. John immediately started forming in his mind whatever he could say to get rid of a door-to-door salesman as quickly as possible. He was in no mood for anyone else's hard-luck story or personal tragedy at this time. He had all of that he could manage himself now. He was worn out by life.
But he was wrong in thinking there was no more of this to face.
'Did he suffer?' John asked, sitting there in the dimly lit silence of his living room in the long shadows of the late afternoon, the television set turned off for the first time in a week.
'No, not really. He went quickly, once we knew for sure that he was that ill.' The young man, Raymond Bock, as he had introduced himself, dragged up a swelling of old, bittersweet memories for John. It probably was his English accent.
'I had no idea that Trevor had even survived the war,' John said in a halting voice. The shock that Trevor Chelton had recently died was magnified by John's assumption that he had been dead for twenty-four years already.
'He didn't want you to know,' young Raymond said. Bock was a strikingly handsome young man. Lithe and blond. Fine, expressive hands. Probably an artist of some sort. Certainly artistic, sensitive. He had shown as much sensitivity as possible in letting John know that John's old lover...Raymond's most recent lover...had both lived and died in a completely separate dimension from John's postwar life.
'He didn't want me to know?' John was still stunned and a little confused. This wasn't his sharpest week. He was vulnerable.
'No,' Raymond answered in a low, throaty voice. It sounded like he was a bit on edge himself, barely holding in his emotions. 'By the time he found you after the war, you were married and had children. How many was it?'
'Six. Six boys. In seven years.'
'But your wife?'
'Mary died in having that sixth child. I raised the boys on my own. The last of them...Phil...is off at naval training now.'
'Six children in seven years. What took her? A difficult childbirth?'
'She was just worn out. I tried to get her to slow down. But she always . . . she just wanted...'
'Can I see it?' Raymond's voice was hoarse. John sensed a thickness in it. A familiar tone. He looked up sharply at the young man. As if seeing him for the first time now.
'Trevor talked of you . . . of it . . . often. In the throes of passion, he would cry out your name. I was jealous for ever so long. Not that he cried out your name. But jealous of what he had to say about it. I wasn't sure I ever believed it. But he was so sincere. He was fixated, and I'm afraid I've become fixated too. I've come all the way from London. Please, can I see it?'
Perhaps if John had not been at such a low point, his life would not have taken this jolting turn to the past. But the last of his boys gone. No one to care for. The tragedy of Dallas. The shock of learning that Trevor had survived the war but now, just as suddenly as he had been regained, was gone. Here and gone on the breath of a handsome young, vibrant man, in a silent, lonely room in a quiet Cleveland suburb as the whole world collectively mourned the irretrievable loss of innocence. A man with an English accent just like Trevor's. A need just like Trevor's.
They fucked right there in the living room as the late afternoon progressed into dark night. Raymond straddling John's lap once they both were naked, sinking down, down, down as he arched his back and lifted his gaze to the darkening ceiling and warbled in ecstasy at the long, long journey down into John's nestling pubic thatch.
Later, as Raymond was bent over the arm of the sofa, John hunched over and behind him, and Raymond felt the renewed throbbing moving ever more impossibly deep into the quick of him, the young man thought of that suitcase he had set down out of sight of the front door on John's front porch and wondered how soon there would be an opportunity to suggest that he bring it inside.