1999 in 1983

I arrived at Fort Sam Houston, located in near-northeast San Antonio, Texas, on a Friday evening on January 21, 1983 after being stuck in a crippling ice storm that grounded my flight from St. Louis for three days. I was on my way from Basic Training at Fort Knox, Kentucky to my Advanced Individual Training (AIT) at Fort Sam’s US Army Academy of Health Sciences, where I was to embark upon a rigorous, 4-month, 6-day-a week schedule of Chemistry, Microbiology, Hematology, Parasitology, Immunohematology, and all the other fun courses in the Basic Medical Laboratory school. My class was BML3-83.

So I arrive at my new unit’s HQ that Friday night to learn I’d arrived too late to enjoy the weekend pass that was given to the rest of my class that arrived that Wednesday when I too was supposed to arrive, but was delayed. I was confined to the barracks for the weekend because I wouldn’t get properly signed into the unit until that Monday, so I was basically a captive until then. The Sergeant on duty handed me two wool blankets, a pillow, and bedding, then escorted me to my new room, where he handed me my new meal card and gave me a quick but very demanding set of rules for what I could and couldn’t do. I couldn’t leave the barracks compound and especially not the post. I could go to the mess hall, gym, and Post Exchange (PX). That was it. Nice.

Luckily at the St. Louis airport I’d purchased Prince’s new album 1999 on cassette, so I loaded it into my Walkman and headed downstairs to my barracks day room, where there were a couple of TVs, a few pool tables, and some food machines. Sitting in one of the TV lounges was a tall, lithe, utterly gorgeous blonde girl wearing only PT clothes (Army logoed T-shirt and shorts) and flip-flops; since I’d just come from Basic and hadn’t seen a hot girl in ages, I naturally walked over to her and introduced myself. Boldly desperate would be the best description of me at that moment.

She too had arrived late as she was a Reservist from Maine who finished Basic in December and went home on leave for a few weeks before AIT, and, like me, her flight was delayed, although for other reasons than mine, so alas she too was confined to the barracks for the weekend. She had taken a year off from the University of Maine after her sophomore year to join the Army Reserves for the college money, went to Basic Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and here she was at Fort Sam for BML. Late, like me.

She was tall, beautiful, fit, and smart. My kind of girl.

Right away, as if to ward me off, she declared she was engaged to the love of her life, which I duly noted but ignored, as I sensed immediately that this declaration of monogamous intent in her life was a weak attempt at repulsing her own urges, not mine, and of course within thirty minutes of meeting we were in her room making out like maniacs, our clothes coming off with frenetic naughtiness, with my cassette of Prince’s 1999 blasting on her little boombox. Music that, as we all learned while listening to it, was the sonic representation of sex. Perfect for this moment.

It was, I should say, a wildly erotic and fun weekend, the two of us all alone in that huge barracks for those three nights and two full days, taking breaks only to go to the mess hall for food and the PX for beer. We played the fuck out of 1999 as we screwed like a couple of rabid dogs. It should be noted we also played my recently-purchased cassettes of The Psych Furs, The Cure, The Time, Ray Parker, Jr. and Raydio, Depeche Mode, and Stray Cats, but mostly our fuckfest of a weekend was serenaded by Prince. Dance Music Sex Romance, all right.

That Monday, after we had our first formation with our classmates who were all back from a wild weekend pass that they bragged about to us relentlessly, she informed me she really loved her fiancé, although, yes, for sure, she had a great weekend and I was a great guy, and hot, but that was it, we wouldn’t be repeating our weekend’s carnal adventures. And we didn’t.

We remained close friends all through our training, and, oh, man did she make fun of and mock the endless line of insane and slutty girls I caroused with those four months as I experimented with my newly-found confidence with women for the first time in my life. When we parted at the San Antonio airport four months later, as our flights left about the same time, she heading back to Maine and her life there while I was off to Fort Benning for my first duty station as a Regular Army Medic, we kissed for about ten minutes. A great kiss, the best of my life if I may be honest. “I love you, you psychotic, wonderful asshole” she confessed quietly, with tears flowing. I just nodded in agreement, too chickenshit to be as brave as she was at that moment. But, hell yes, I fucking loved her. We realized with that amazing kiss that we probably should have been a couple, but such is life. Choices had been made. Paths were set to follow. Neither included each other.

She married that fiancé a year later as she told me in a letter while I was at Fort Benning, which was the last I ever heard from her. And that was that.

I stalked her on Facebook about 2009 and she looked as amazing as she did back in the day. She was still married to the same guy and had three kids and two grandkids. She’d led a beautiful life and was still gorgeous and cool. My life path had gone well too. We were just not meant to be a couple. But that kiss in 1983 at the San Antonio Airport, holy fuck, it spoke of an alternate universe where I am sure we’re still in love and playing 1999 every night as we frolic in bed like we did that incredible weekend.

Thank you, Prince, you super-cool, nasty, sexy motherfucker.

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