The C. Q. desk is the command station after duty hours in the barracks. It is manned by a N.C.O. (Non Commissioned Officer) and a junior enlisted soldier. Both soldiers are on duty for their tour of C.Q. and are relieved from duty at 0900 the following day. Their duties include answering the phone, barracks security checks and they are responsible for the safety of all personnel living in the barracks. They record all activity in a log book and hand in the log book to the C.O. the following morning.
Our barracks had a pay phone right next to the C.Q. desk. Any phone call made to or received from our barracks were within listening distance of the C.Q. desk. Big brother was always listening.
Calling long distance was routine to any and all soldiers. We all had calling cards which acted like ATM cards. Money was put on the card and the account would cover the cost of the phone call. In Annetta’s barracks, my home just a few days ago, there was no pay phone. I would have to call the C.Q. desk. I had so much that I wanted to say to her; confess my feelings, update her on my new unit, etc.. However, I knew our conversation would not be private. I didn’t want to put her in an awkward position in front of her C.Q. so I would have to keep the conversation brief.
I’ve never been good at reading women. I knew only the basics when dealing with them. The basics, in my experience, were that they were different then men. Men know when they like or dislike each other. I couldn’t recall any conversation i had with any man, over the course of my life, where i felt compelled to tell them how much i liked him. If I called a man in Germany it would be for a specific reason. It would be to get or give information. I had some information to give Annetta, however, i felt weak calling to tell her about day one in my new unit. Giving her information about my feelings and intentions would leave me exposed and vulnerable. I felt uncertain and questioned myself. I decided to play the phone call by ear. I would give information based on her tones and replies.
When I reached the C.Q. desk I noticed the line at the payphone. Someone was on the phone and there was a sign in sheet to use it. In front of where I signed my name, there were two names waiting for their turn. This was going to require patience and determination. A simple phone call was turning into an ordeal.
I waited for my turn to use the phone the dayroom. There is a lot of activity in a barracks dayroom after duty hours. Wrestling matches, dancing, singing, swearing, card playing and drinking always seemed to just happen spontaneously. This was adding to my loneliness because I knew no one and no one knew me. I must have changed my mind about the phone call a hundred times before my slot opened up. When my turn arrived the C.Q. informed me I have five minutes due to the waiting list. I had to speak fast apparently.
I knew the on duty C.Q. in Annetta barracks who answered the phone. Sgt. Strickland was a friend of mine and it was so good to hear his voice. He did a tour through Ft. Benning and he informed me that the chow hall at the base hospital was one of the best in the whole Army. Hospital chow halls usually were the best. He passed the phone to a couple of soldiers nearby, while he searched for Annetta, and it was like I hadn’t spoke to them in years. I knew my time on the phone was being monitored but it was just so nice to hear their voices. Annetta finally got on the phone.
As I heard her say hello my heart began to race. I could smell her. I closed my eyes and I could see her face. A lump began to swell in my throat and my hands got sweaty. I swallowed and returned her hello. Their was an awkward silence for what seemed to be an eternity. My mouth uttered some words that I couldn’t take back nor did I want them back.
I told her, “I miss you very much”.
I was out of time on the phone. I told her I would write a letter to her every day and call as often as I could.
As she hung up the phone I could hear her crying.
I walked back to my barracks room as fast as I could. I had no paper or pen nor did I have envelopes or stamps. My mind was racing so fast that I couldn’t think of a plan of action. As I opened the door to my room I noticed I hadn’t showered and was beginning to smell. My mind grabbed onto that and I was relieved to have a starting point: I would shower.
My roommate C.J. asked me how my phone call went. He was drinking a Budweiser and writing on a note pad. I didn’t know if he was ” a friendly” or not. After our conversation about my combat patch I wasn’t sure where I stood with him. He sat on the bottom bunk of the bunk bed looking at me waiting for an answer. So, I gave him one.
As I undressed for my shower I told him about Annetta. How we met, what had happened and why I called her. I told him of the line at the C.Q. desk and the soldiers in my old unit who answered the phone. I informed him of loosing track of the time with them and only being able to mutter out a weak sentence before ending the conversation. I grabbed my shower stuff and left the room.
I took an extremely long hot shower. I shut my eyes and imagined all these feelings I had running off my body with the soapy suds onto the floor and down the drain. I washed every part of my body three times yet I still felt dirty. I didn’t fully understand how I came to this exact moment feeling the way I did. What could I have done different? What do I do now? Will she wait for me? Can I wait for her? Should I try to make this work? Could this work?
I just kept washing. I don’t remember the exact number of times I washed myself, however when I eventually turned the shower off my skin was bright red. I looked like I had been sun burned while laying on a beach somewhere.
When I got back to the room C.J. was asleep. On my rack was a Budweiser, a pad of paper, an envelope and a pen.