I went into the Army in 1992 and did my specialty training in Texas. Because it was specialty training (the official term for it in those days was Advanced Individual Training, or AIT, letters pronounced individually), it wasn’t just new recruits in the classes. We also had prior service soldiers who were reclassifying into another specialty. Usually our class leaders, the individuals who would march us to and from the bus, were picked from that prior-service population. It was assumed they had their shit together and were good leadership examples.
Ha ha ha.
I first noticed Eddy when I was still on the strait and narrow. (That’s the proper spelling. Look it up.) We were in formation, probably right before class transport, and he was up front, being the class leader at that time. He was six years older than me (24 to my 18) and his rank was specialist, his pay grade was E-4 (I was E-1), and he had an 82nd Airborne unit patch on his shoulder. He was smiling. He had a bright smile then.
My first thought was, Oh damn, he’s cute.
My second thought, after looking at his left hand, was, Oh, damn. He’s married.
Didn’t give it any more thought then. But one day he showed up to formation with a hickey on his neck, and I hadn’t heard anything about his wife coming to visit.
It soon became apparent he had a thing going on with a young woman from the X-ray tech class. I thought, Well, either way he’s a busy guy and I’m a bit occupied myself. That was that.
I found out later that he was in our class because he’d been in a car accident (he would later show me the open-dislocation scar on his knee — it wasn’t pretty) and couldn’t jump out of planes anymore. As long as he could keep up with the physical fitness standard, though, he could stay in. Hence his reclassification into a desk job. Problem was, one of the requirements for graduation was being able to type 20 words per minute (wpm). He could do that, but only by hunt-and-pecking, and the graduation standard was touch-type only. I had already had typing class in high school and at that point managed around 45wpm, so I sat in back of the class with the advanced typists and sped through my practices and tests and changed people’s ink and correction ribbons when they raised their hands and graded their tests for them. We all did that except for one soldier who was assigned to sit near Eddy and give him extra help. He was directly in my line of sight and was always turning around to ask for help with something, so I got to see him smile a lot.
After the bad incident with a female classmate and a civilian guy that October and a subsequent one-night thing with another classmate (yes, male) not long after, the very next Monday everyone started good-naturedly ribbing me about the fling, usually prefaced with “So how was your WEEKEND, Seilhan?” in a very wink-wink, nudge-nudge tone of voice.
I went outside at break and Eddy was there. “How was your weekend, Seilhan?” he inquired.
“Shut up,” I snapped.
He looked astonished. “What? What’d I say?” he protested in his Long Island accent. It soon emerged that he’d been entirely out of the loop. Probably fucking his X-ray tech trainee girlfriend all weekend. It had been an honest question.
I’m not sure how we got there, but not long afterwards we wound up eating lunch together quite a bit and chatting about random stuff. I remember at one point we got to talking about ancestry, something that has always interested me in a non-racist sort of way, and he looked at me and asked, “What do you think I am?” and at that point I thought my dad was part Native American (turns out Dad isn’t, at least not recently) and Eddy was dark like him so I said that I thought Eddy was Native too. Yes, Eddy said. Sioux Indian. Well, damn. I wouldn’t have guessed with the mustache. Shows what I know. It emerged that he and his brother and sister were all adopted by a Long Island couple. His brother was Korean and his sister was blonde, of Scots-Irish ancestry. (That’s a lot of Americans, but anyway.)
At the same time these lunches were going on, some other drama was going on, some of it concerning Eddy’s wife and which I never got full details about. But also, apparently Eddy had gone to a troop medical clinic thinking he had picked up an infection (guess how) and while he was undergoing the exam, the doctor molested him. So there was a lot of legal hoo-raw going on and our main class instructor knew about it and was involved with sorting that all out somehow. I didn’t know exactly what was up at the time but Eddy told me a couple years later. Despite everything, some of it self-inflicted anyway, he was always nice to me. Like, nice in a way that wouldn’t have had my dad chasing him with a shotgun.
Then one weekend a classmate I was friendly with lent me a matching shorts-and-top outfit because we were allowed to go out in civvies. The shorts were very short. I sort of had the physique for it then.
I walked into the enlisted club in that getup and found myself in the same room as Eddy. The second he saw me, his eyes lit up. Uh-oh, I thought. Before I knew it he was kissing me on the cheek and grab-assing me. I had gone from friendly lunch buddy to his latest potential conquest.
Aw hell. Neither of us were being faithful anyway, and I’d liked him for what seemed like ages. I went along with it.
That first night we tried to find a motel room but they all required credit cards and I had none, and he was almost broke. I remember us stopping at some club or restaurant or something off-post where a lot of Latinos were hanging out and they were grilling meat on skewers outside and somehow (they were nice or he had cash) we got a couple. Then a little later we were walking somewhere else and he saw some tall orange flowers blooming in someone’s landscaping and he picked me one. Eventually we wound up going back to post.
I remember one night ending up in his room (the prior service had a special barracks room that was just theirs) and another night we ended up on the grass behind the public pool because it was nighttime, the pool was closed, and you couldn’t see what was going on from the road, so we were pretty safe from post security. I no longer remember which night was which.
Other classmates started cluing in to what was going on not too far into this. Some of my female classmates started making pointed remarks, naming no names (except for once opining on the size of Eddy’s equipment — I said not a word), making it clear they knew. I also heard that he’d been sexually harassing some of them and was not sure how to feel about that. I was 18, after all. Just barely not a child anymore.
I don’t know when X-Ray Tech found out about us but one day she actually caught us at it. Another weekend, this time sharing a motel room with other partiers, and I was in bed with him when she walked in. I think they broke up after that.
I wasn’t passing my physical fitness test by the time my class graduated but I was able to attend the graduation anyway. I had gotten to design the graduation T-shirt they all wore at the ceremony. They changed into their dress uniforms after that to go to the airport. I took a photo of him in his, long since lost and he was so handsome. He said years later that I’d ridden with him to the airport to say goodbye (a buddy of his from the class who was also not graduating was driving us), but I don’t remember.
I tried writing to him a couple times through his unit and they weren’t returned but he never replied. Well, that’s that, I thought.
Two years later, and by this point I myself am specialist rank (E-4), the phone rings in the clinic records room and a co-worker says it’s for me. I pick up.
“Well hello there, Specialist Seilhan.” 100% Long Island.
You know that feeling like the floor’s dropping out from under you, only it’s your stomach?
We chatted. We caught up. He was still at Fort Bragg in North Carolina and I was at Hunter Army Airfield in Georgia, five hours away. He had looked me up on the troop locator microfiche and it wasn’t much trouble to find my office number from there. Almost exactly two years after the last time I’d seen him. I think he was still married at that point but they were no longer living together, he said, and he really wanted to see me.
I was a little weirded out, but I also wanted to see him, but I wasn’t sure. I went back and forth a bit. He made the drive that Thanksgiving weekend anyway. I answered the door and there he was in that bright smile and a tshirt and sweats and it was quite apparent he was happy to see me.
We went out a little bit around Savannah that weekend. We ended up at this little bar on Abercorn that may not be there now, years later, and we watched the Florida vs. Florida State game. Florida State started catching up in the second half and things got quite exciting and I noticed him out of the corner of my eye smiling at me.
We went to Malone’s downtown and played pool, I very badly, and he taught me a trick for getting a cue ball out of the corner. I was almost 21 but not quite and the door people waived that last two months and stamped me legal. Good times.
On the drive back to my barracks room (which I had to myself then) he told me about what had happened with the TMC doctor molesting him. Said that the whole thing had been a mindfuck and left him traumatized sexually but when he saw me in those shorts (I’m paraphrasing) it was like he suddenly had his manhood back.
I didn’t know what to think about that. I don’t think I said much. Neither of us was exactly sober by that point anyway.
When he left that Sunday, I watched him walk out to his van through my window blinds and I saw him look back toward the building and me as he went.
We stayed in touch for a little bit after that. He had one or more women he was messing around with back in NC — that was Eddy for you — but he still wanted to see me again. Our birthdays were both in January, his a week after mine, so he suggested coming to see me somewhere around that time so we could celebrate together.
But that’s about the time I met Mike, the guy I wound up marrying. I didn’t know yet that we would marry, but I knew I was tired of men dicking me around, and Mike seemed pretty nice so I didn’t want to mess things up with him. So when Eddy called again to solidify a visit date, I told him sorry, but I was seeing someone and didn’t want to mess that up.
Eddy was furious. He didn’t scream at me, but he did raise his voice and complain because he really wanted to see me and he couldn’t believe I was doing this. Then he hung up. I felt terrible, but also sort of relieved, and I thought that was that.
YEARS FUCKING LATER, long after my divorce, after Thea was born and when she was still small, I’m living in Ohio and Thea’s asleep and I’m on my computer and there’s this website, I forget the name, that compiles some of your personal information and makes it easier for people to search for you. Not so much your street address as just general particulars. No, it’s not Spokeo. I can’t remember what it was called. But the site will give you hints on who looks up your info, and I got a ping that someone from Commack, New York had looked for me.
Commack? What the fuck’s Commack? Never heard of it.
Wait. LONG ISLAND???
Huh. Can’t be. Is it? I only know one person from Long Island. How do I check?
To Google! Plugged in his full name and Commack and hit Search. It brought back his Classmates.com listing. HOLY SHIT. Either I already had a paid membership or I paid for a short-term one and I contacted him.
I was right! It was Eddy.
So at that point he was in New York and seeing a woman in Florida who I guess he knew from way back, possibly high school, I don’t remember. They were engaged and the whole bit. Motherfucker was STILL SEARCHING FOR ME and, when I found him, flirting with me and talking about fucking and talking about visiting. Apparently his sister lived in Akron, Ohio and he suggested that next time he visited her, I could go up and see him. You want to hear something sad? If I hadn’t had a child to take care of, and if I’d had a car, I’d have taken him up on it in a heartbeat. I am pathetic.
He still had the graduation t-shirt I had designed. Sent me a photo as proof.
Life’s funny. He did go up and visit… and he met ANOTHER woman. They got hot and heavy and, this still being the days of MySpace, she started leaving lovey-dovey notes on his profile. His fiancée noticed. She was quite unhappy about it. I don’t know when they broke up but it was not long afterward. He ended up knocking up Ohio Woman, who gave birth to a baby boy.
We kept in touch off and on anyway and, true to form, things didn’t work out well between him and Ohio Woman, to the point she sued for custody. (I am not sure why, since single Ohio moms who were never married to the baby’s father automatically have custody, but maybe he contested that.) During all this he ranted at me that she’d gotten thyroid cancer and was successfully treated for it but wouldn’t have sex with him. Really? I thought. I dodged a fucking bullet. No one coming back from cancer treatment feels like fucking like bunnies. His lack of empathy was disgusting but, given his track record, didn’t really surprise me either. In the end I’d liked him for his looks and charisma. And that’s not enough to go on.
One of the last times we talked he told me he’d learned more about his natural mother and how he’d come to be adopted in Long Island and said he was working on a book about it. But it sounded like he was losing the custody battle for his baby boy and he sounded really unhappy about that. And then I got tired of all the whinging and told him off for being mean to his boy’s mother, and I said I was done with him.
Really for sure this time. The next time I got any news about him, it was his sister posting a photo of his gravestone on Facebook in 2012. I did some followup googling. There was a small obituary blurb in some Akron newspaper online. He’d died in Ohio. I have no idea how. The blurb didn’t say.
I could have ordered a copy of his death certificate.
I chickened out.
[Last updated: 27 January 2024]