One weird thing about being in this threatened relationship with a queer soldier: being on Army bases.
Like I mentioned a couple posts ago, I grew up on Army bases. You’d think I’d feel more at home there than anywhere else.
But that’s exactly the problem. I do feel more at home than anywhere else – and I also feel more threatened than anywhere else. The result is a weird dichotomy that makes me wonder what reality is, and if I am sane.
When I used to go on base as a kid, there was a sense of coming home. Even when we moved to strange, faraway places like Ohio (believe me — coming from Germany, it was a shock), one thing was constant: the bases. Ever noticed how all bases pretty much look the same? Sure, they have different architecture and layouts, but the overall FEEL is the same. I knew what was up on base. I knew I was welcome, and that they were gonna take care of my family.
Cut to seven years later. First of all, I’ve turned into a complete commie, a vegetarian, a pan-Africanist, a pothead, a giant dyke, and everything else military people fear and hate. Second of all, whenever I go on base with Captain Awesome, I am putting her in danger every second I am there.
I don’t know why we even took the risk of me going to her officer graduation – other than because I really wanted to see her and she really wanted me there. Love makes you do stupid things.
Just the act of driving through the gate put me seriously on my guard. I imagined everyone was watching us. But the weirdest thing is that I recognized where I was. I was back in an environment where I had once gone to barbecues and Girl Scouts and Christmas parties and Easter egg hunts, where I had sung in the church choir, played soccer, been treated to pizza — and generally lived the carefree life of a kid.
But at the same time I was in an alien place I would never identify with and could never, ever feel at home in, no matter what recognition they might confer on me. I sat in the bleachers at the parade ground as the rest of the families and spouses piled in for the graduation. The more people came, the more out of place I felt. They were typical military families, what some might call “regular Americans” – white, casually dressed in t-shirts with American flags on them and shorts with too-high waists, many wearing religious paraphernalia, the women over-made-up with hairstyles bordering on the mullet, the children complaining about something or other, cameras and tissues out – all with a sense of camaraderie that I was clearly not a part of.
Next to them I looked flagrantly cosmopolitan in my heels, my elegant black-and-turquoise summer dress, and my radiant Afro. People looked at me plenty, but only one person, a Black guy from Tennessee, spoke to me. “Who’ve you got out there?” he asked with a broad smile. “Your brother? Your husband?”
“My cousin,” I said.