tagGay MaleJono's Journey Home Ch. 02

Jono's Journey Home Ch. 02


Chapter 2 - A Need For Education

Oh, how I hated that alarm. After one year of sleeping on Government Issue sheets, this bed was heaven! The silk pajamas where so soft and cool on my skin, coupled with the at least 2000 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets. I really didn't want to get up. The phone rang, "Jono, you outta that rack yet?"

"Nessa, Puhleeeeeease can I get 5 more minutes...." I whined.

"Right there with you slut puppy. But, we gotta get moving if we want breakfast Taz."

"Breakfast is overrated. But gimme 10 minutes and I'll meet you at the elevator, and Nessa, stop calling me slut puppy." I went to the door to see if my laundry returned. When I saw it was, I stowed it away quickly. I looked at the clock and went into panic mode. I took a 3 minute shower, squared away a fresh short-sleeve shirt. Dressed and checked my gig line as I dashed to the elevator. As usual Vanessa was 5 minutes late. I looked at my watch and mockingly scowled as she approached.

"Jono my sweet little 'SP' not one word. Let's get some chow. You have got to be starving." I pleaded with her to please stop calling me that. "Jono, sweetie, we have to meet with the quartermaster and requisition a sense of humor for you." She playfully pecked my cheek, "Thanks again for the 'food' save last night hun." We had a good meal and headed down to the parking garage to catch the bus to the site.

We entered the briefing room, and grabbed our cups of crew life's blood, aka coffee. Given last night was so short I would be living on this stuff today. We settled into our seats. Captain Nelson approach the podium and began, "The grip and grins are over it's time to get to work. Before we begin there are two assignment changes. A1C Banks, the host nation has requested you be reposted to Riyadh. Their folks are having trouble with manual load times on the 407L system. Your DO confirmed you have 'wicked awesome' training skills in that regard. I need to get them near the standard 30 minutes they are currently averaging 60 to 90 minutes. I know you're not an AST, maybe we can fix that while you are here." I responded yes sir, and sat down. "Tech Sergeant Sasquamo, sorry to say that means I need you in Al Kharj. I understand you are a master of manual operations, I could really use your skills there."

For all his bluster about knowing all "my tells," Sasquatch really sucks at poker. He shouted out in mock disappointment, "Whatever the Air Force needs sir!" Then he turned and shot me a happy grin.

Vanessa was so happy; her nails were actually digging into my arm.

Then we got down to the meat and potatoes of why we were there. The tech briefings went on for a couple of hours and then our good Captain returned to the podium with the safety briefing.

"Ladies under no circumstances do you go out in public without an escort, long sleeves and full length skirt. While the burqa that was issued is not mandatory, it is highly encouraged. A1C Banks stand-up" I stood "Anyone who looks like him does not go out in public without an escort, trousers, shirt with long sleeves and a tie or band collar." Vanessa saw the confused look on my face in addition to the blush filling my cheeks and mouthed the words 'slut puppy!'

Apparently my blush then turned into a deep maroon against my light blue shirt.

At that point the good Captain said, "Outstanding, I see some tactless fool has informed Jono why. It's a different culture people and there are some here who would prize an attractive American woman, or a skinny pale blonde kid as a trophy. Covering exposed skin will protect you from two things; skin cancer and those who would prey on you. Sit down Jono before the blood loss from that blush gets you dizzy and you fall down!" The room erupted in laughter as I sunk back into my chair. "Those of you who have food allergies that can cause anaphylaxis raise your hand. I will encourage you before you leave today to get with Jono about local foods you may want to avoid. When in doubt ask before you eat. Jono, can you do some restaurant order flash cards for each of them saying 'Severe Allergies, does this contain _____.'" I replied yes sir. He then went after Nessa, "Those of you who have allergies that can cause anaphylaxis and have forgotten their epi-pens at their primary duty station keep your hands up." Vanessa's hand was the only one that stayed up. "AH, my favorite tactless fool... You Sarge have earned a trip to the dispensary. There you will be issued two epi-pens and a handy carrier. The rest of you go get some lunch across the way at the combined mess."

As soon as the Captain cleared the door with Nessa, I was ambushed by four very nervous eaters. Taking each, one at a time through the serving line, I pointed out foods they should avoid based on their specific allergy. I also told them how to ask if food contained their allergen, I wrote it down on cards for each of them to show restaurant staff while ordering. I told them keep the cards close and use them whenever ordering because some foods can vary between regions. For example, Kabsa most of the time contains pine nuts, but on occasion cashews or almonds are substituted. Once that was done, I was about to put myself through the line. I performed a brisk 'about face' slamming straight into the chest of the person standing behind me. The mess hall erupted in laughter. Based on the smell alone I knew who it was. "I am so sorry Captain Hassan. I am running out of feet," I then looked up. I loved the confused look on his face. "I keep trying to start off on the right foot with you and I keep screwing it up."

He smiled, "My fault entirely I was standing too close. I wanted to watch you teach your betters. Is that your technique?"

"Not quite, for operations I prefer using the tried-and-true demonstration performance method. In this case it boils down to I have knowledge they need to survive. I knew I had their absolute attention. Still, I can't imagine going through life with that constant thought that the next bite of food could kill me, especially since I have to eat so often."

"I agree. Jono, would you mind if I dined with you. I have questions on your training style and if we can help get our peoples load times up towards yours."

I laughed, "This is gonna sound like a boast, and it isn't. Even Vanessa can't get to my level. I have several unfair advantages. I have nimble fingers, I am rated at typing 175 to 200 words per minute, and I commit the software load to memory." He smiled and we loaded our trays. As we walked to the table, I felt like I such a child next to him. His first name Tamam meant "generous" or "perfection" clearly he was the latter. His butt cheeks looked like two hams wiggling in the same gunny sack. Wait that was a weird thought. Why am I calling another dude's physique perfection? Why do I keep losing myself into his eyes? Why the hell does he look so familiar? It must be the lack of sleep.

As we ate he asked how we could improve his people's load times. I told him that was probably a matter of motivation, not intelligence. I went on, "When our unit started using me to help train the ASOs and ASTs manual loading 6 months ago the load times improved. No one likes being shown up by an E-2, with only 6 months on active duty. Especially one looks like me." I chuckled "Now that I'm a 'mighty' E-3 that may change but, I doubt it. We also chose to deviate from the technical order and make manual load a two person job to eliminate single point failures. One person enters the data and the other must verify it. That may be something you might want to try in the future. In addition once everyone is sure of their own jobs you might want to look at cross certifying them. It will give you increased operational flexibility."

The Captain thanked me for my insights. At that point Vanessa and Captain Nelson returned from the dispensary. They brought their trays over to our table. I must admit I was a little disappointed that I was losing this alone time. Was that a weird thought? Nope chalk it up to being introverted and the group growing.

Captain Nelson thanked me for assisting the other allergy sufferers. "It worked out for the best." I replied, "It gave the Captain Hassan an opportunity to see my training style with superiors and a chance to test some of my boasts." I looked at Nessa "I think we may want to take the approach we took in Basdahl. I glanced at a few of the training files the Captain has been flipping through. I assumed you were testing my eidetic memory claim?" OH MY GOODNESS HE BLUSHED, with the blood rushing into his cheeks he was either embarrassed about getting caught or getting pissed that I overstepped my bounds, again.

"You could read those files, in Arabic, upside down, and from across the table?" He asked.

"Please forgive me sir, I could read it upside down and from across the table if it was written in ancient Persian or Semitic cuneiform. If I went too far I am sorry."

"Well Jono, I will have to tell my fellow Saudi's to remember their coversheets. There is nothing to forgive you did warn me about your memory."

Vanessa chimed in, "Jono's security clearance had to be raised almost as soon as he got to the squadron. The wing commander forgot to use his cover sheets. Jono only saw the document for a second or two, and read back the entire report to him. He then went on to point out flaws in their plans and outdated information. Now he serves in the intelligence section of the unit's battle staff. He is very likely to become our squadron's Airspace Management Coordinator or work in the MPC when he makes E-4 Senior Airman.

I blushed and continued my assessment. "I would like to bruise their egos a bit. Create a little friendly competition among the Saudi trainees and I. Once they see how fast the load should be done by someone, they already look upon as a child. It will prick their machismo and drive them harder. I have no doubt most, if not all, will hit the twenty minute mark. This approach does tend to ruffle feathers Captain; I might need someone running interference."

Captain Hassan replied, "I believe your Senior Director can do that with ease."

I responded with a traditional "Yes sir."

"Airman Banks, Captain Hassan is your SD. You, Sgt Gilmore, and I are his day shift Air Surveillance training team. We have certified Saudi Search Scope Operators already available here. That is why I had you slated for Al Kharj. I hate to admit that would have been a waste. Now, you can focus on training for your own AST qualifications while you co-instruct the Saudi ASOs and ASTs with Vanessa and I. Once you are certified, Captain Hassan has approved Vanessa to start training to be a Senior Director Technician." I was doing an internal happy dance. Do to your security clearance I'm going to be using use you as my acting Intel NCO and classified runner. Add to that with your linguistic skills, I will likely be using you heavily for diplomatic encounters. We will be going to Embassy row quite a lot. You will find among the various embassies the famous 'day that ends in y party' is quite common. For these events you will be required to have a mess dress."

I quickly replied, "That might be an issue sir, junior enlisted people are not issued mess dress. I do have my semi-formal, will that be sufficient?" He nodded.

Several days passed and training was going along well. I had read and committed the local software package to memory, to the amazement of the civilian contractors. I failed to share that information with my fellow trainees, thus ensuring that I was always a step ahead of them. I was right; it was risky to bruise their egos, but nothing that couldn't be controlled. Captain Hassan and Captain Nelson had no trouble stepping in when tempers started to get a little out of control. By the end of the first week even the slowest trainee got his time down to 40 minutes, and the rest hit the 30 minute mark. My AST training was going well as well. Vanessa said I was ready for my eval (evaluation). However recommended I sit on it for a week or so. Get the host nation trainees out first.

Each day had become the same routine. Breakfast, the bus ride to the base, two training sessions in the morning, a third after lunch (or evals), 2 hours for paperwork, and we ended the day with a group meeting of the instructors. We discussed the status, strengths, and weaknesses of each trainee. We also discussed problems that we had to get around. Then we would get back on the bus ride back to the hotel, get dinner, go to bed and start it all over again. I had accompanied Captain Nelson to several Embassy functions, and was becoming quite popular amongst the various allied embassies respective staffs. The highlight of my days however, seemed to center around lunch times. It was almost as if Captain Hassan was going out of his way to dine with me.

I was so grateful every weekend was a three-day weekend. Because we were a hybrid crews we had every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday off to accommodate both cultures. The tradeoff was the need for longer workdays during the week.

Thursday, morning training went long, and I was one of the last people seated in the instructor's lunchroom. Fortunately for me Captain Hassan continued what had become a daily ritual as he sat down at my table. He wanted to let me know there were in fact some Saudi troops complaining about a tiny child teaching them. He smiled, "Your plan is working well. After just two weeks everyone was under 30 minutes. On top of that impressive fact, a few of the primary crew is certified. The Command and NATO staffs are very pleased. Oh, and I have this for you from our supply sergeant." As the last instructor departed, he slid a new star headset package to me. "You shouldn't have to be pulling a headset out of the equipment locker. They so rarely work the first time." The headset was the same type used by the weapons cell. Everyone in the surveillance cell coveted them.

I smiled, "Thank you for the headset. As for the trainees, my goal was to get them under 20 before their evals. With the next group I'll start doing a little more praise and make it more of a positive game. The complaints should fade from here on. Instead of competing with me they will start competing with each other."

"I would like to know more of this game play, Jono. Perhaps we could discuss it over dinner."

"I would like that sir." His first middle name, Aza meant 'comfort' how appropriate. Whenever I talked to him I wasn't nervous like other senior officers made me, it was odd. It was as if we connected, it was very comfortable and pleasant. "When would you like to meet in the hotel restaurant?"

He smiled, "Jono, since you have arrived in my city you have seen the hotel, a few stuffy embassies, and this base. I think it is time you see my city. Do you have any civilian clothes with you?" I told him just a couple pairs of 501 jeans and a couple dress shirts. He shook his head then smiled and touched my hand, "We can fix that. I will collect you at 6 for a bit of shopping and a late supper." He put his fist under my chin and raised my head up. Without warning he leaned in and tenderly kissed my forehead. I know kisses could mean many things and a kiss on the forehead was normally showing that you were cared for. I was confused by hid action. I blushed a deep red and dropped my head. All I could think of was finished conversation.

"Sorry about the clothes, sir." Sight unseen what I had was not acceptable. I should have been angry but I wasn't.

The eval team had the ops center for the afternoon. The unaffected trainees were released for the weekend. Vanessa and I got a jump on our paperwork and I used the extra time to prepare for my eval by rereading manuals, regulations, and orders I had read a dozen times already. In other words, I was wasting time. I was enjoying the silence alone with mamma bear. She broke the silence playfully, "Baby bear, what's going on. It's been an hour and a half; we are so far behind on gossip."

"Jus thinkin Nessa."

"Spill it Taz, what's going on?" she demanded.

"Someone wants to take me to dinner to talk about the Saudi's training plan."

Her eyebrow cocked on one side, "Could that someone be a certain Saudi field officer with a penchant for blonde boys in silk jammies?" I blushed. "I will take that as a yes, continue..."

"It's not like that. Now that the guys have the basic skills down, he is curious about team building." I replied defensively.

"Sweetie, if it was just about training, he would be in here..."

"He is busy supporting the evals."

"You know what I mean. Jono, I love you like a brother, but you are so blissfully naive... If you keep taking everything at face value you're gonna end up alone, or saddled to a pushy jerk who makes all the choices for you. When you grab your headset from the equipment locker almost every pair of Saudi eyes, and a few of the Air Force ones, are on that cute little bubble butt of yours. That includes Hassan. Just be careful I don't want you hurt. The most the Air Force can do is court-martial you and throw you out. Remember here they 'can' and do imprison and occasionally kill people caught in homosexual acts in this city. Riyadh, while beautiful, is the single most conservative city in the whole country." A chill ran down my spine, I nodded and she hugged me. "Trust me this IS a date. He is really digging you. Hell, Jono, he is even pumping me for Intel on you. Sergeant Dennis told me, he pulled YOUR contact sheet from the orderly room. I'll stop by and help you get ready. If I am right, you should find a way to warn him about your little 'issues.' I have to get a few things you will need, be back soon."

I almost asked what things, and then I remembered Vanessa knows everything. I smiled and returned to my reading materials. Ten minutes later she returned with her purse clasp straining. I raised an eyebrow in confusion. "Don't be so nosy, you'll see later. The Operations Director just approved our early departure. Let's catch the bus or the duty driver." We stowed the classified materials, locked the safes, and dashed for the transportation building.

The whole ride back I was lost in thought. Was Vanessa right about Hassan's intentions? I was excited, but nervous and confused at the same time. Was I gay, straight, or something in between. It was true; I was interested in Hassan and eagerly looked forward to seeing him, when he spent time with me my world stopped. Was what I thought I felt with Vanessa just a close friendship, extreme gratitude, fantasy, or infatuation? Sexuality often confused me. In school I was always the little kid who didn't fit in, or dorky big brain in the tiny body. No one ever expressed interest in my physically. I lived most of my life friend-zoned by one person or another. It sucked but I eventually came to accept the fact I would probably have a celibate life.

Nessa came up to my room shortly after we returned to the hotel. I looked at her and shared my concerns. I confessed the fact that when I was tutoring the jocks back in high school, I sometimes had desires. Vanessa always dropped those not so little hints that she questioned my sexuality and I was curious how she knew if I didn't.

Vanessa answered my concerns and questions. "Jono, did I ever tell you about my brothers?" I shook my head; I always thought she was an only child. "Okay, story time sweetie." She patted the mattress next to her for me to sit down. "I come from a family of 5. I'm the baby of my family, just like you. The three of us kids were born a little more than a year apart. My folks were very religious people. You know real bible thumpers. They were constantly dragging us to one church meeting or another. One Sunday afternoon Cal finally snapped. That day, he didn't just come out of the closet; he took a ten pound sledgehammer to that sucker. He told my folks he had enough hearing how his 'lifestyle choice' was a sin and damning him to hell. My dad freaked out, there was shouting, it got ugly, and dad threw him out of the house. I haven't seen or heard from him since. Richie was the middle kid. He was sweet, smart, talented, and so very shy. You remind me of him so much." She hugged on me. "Richie idolized Cal, the way I idolized Richie. When dad threw Cal out, something inside Richie just broke. Richie had been dating a guy for almost a year before Cal started dating guys. He was too terrified to tell anyone he was gay. He hid his secret from everyone but me. His boyfriend was one of Cal's classmates. Alex was out, loud, and proud. Alex hated hiding their love and gave Richie a very 'douchie' ultimatum to come out or he would leave him. Richie saw no way out, so he made his own after taking dad's gun." I put my arms around her. She didn't have to complete that thought. "I love you like my brothers and never want you in the position where you think there is no other option. As to how I know about your sexuality, I don't know if you are gay, but I have learned to trust my gut. This is for you," as she opened her purse and handed me a paper bag from the dispensary. "Go into the bathroom, use this, or don't, it is your choice. If you do, follow the instructions on the boxes. Then shower, try the sandalwood scented soap, I think you will like it. I'll be out here seeing what kind of outfit we can pull together..."

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