When we made love, you always called me Ben. As a matter of fact, it was you that always called it 'making love'. I called it sex, or a quick fuck, or hey Beej, you know how Frank's not coming back for a couple of days … But you called it lovemaking, and you called me Ben like no one else in the world has since my mother died, and she certainly never said it like that. I almost didn't mind having a real first name underneath the layers of Hawkeyeness when you yelped it like that, half wanting to scream my name and half not wanting anyone else to hear it.
So I guess those should have been the first two clues. The third clue should have been that eventually I was calling it 'hey Beej, you know how Charles isn't coming back for a couple of days…' and the fourth clue should have been the way you kissed me when you had no intention of fucking me right there. That's always a dead give away when love's involved. Kissing: when, where and why. Generally I use kissing as a prelude to sex, but you had some strange notion in your skull that it could be used as a compassionate reassurance of caring and devotion between two people in an adult relationship. And by 'adult' I mean fucking each other's brains out at every given opportunity, and by 'some strange notion' I mean a soft kiss in the dark outside post-op isn't the sort of thing exchanged between two guys who are – okay – very good friends, but ultimately using each other for sex and nothing much more.
Before long you were calling me Ben any time we were alone together. That had become my Intense Homosexual Encounter With Best Friend name (Hawkeye being my Free For All name, and Dr Benjamin Franklin Pierce being my formal or I Don't Respect You name), and you had no right to suggest sitting alone in the swamp while I played join the dots with the flies on the ceiling and you darned your socks was an intense homosexual – or any sexual – encounter. As soon as someone else walked in it was back to Hawkeye, as if someone had flipped a switch and suddenly we were colleagues and hard-core drinking buddies once more, where twelve seconds before we were hard-core anything but.
But I don't think that was my biggest problem. After all, we're all in the closet. Of course, some of us still have the price label on, and others smell far too strongly of mothballs, but there isn't a lot of choice. Maybe one day things will be different, and god bless that day should he turn out to exist after all the controversy, but until then I can forgive your Jekyll-Hyde impression.
No. What really got me was the way you got me. The way you could wink at me across a teeming OR and I could do nothing but wink back and giggle silently under my mask. The way some visiting general would look me in the eye and call me Captain Benjamin Franklin Pierce, and as he pronounced the 'Ben' I'd glance at you and start drooling. I'd gone gooey for you. Gooey like a great big girl at a high school prom (assuming high schools are holding proms in war zones these days).
You even dared to call me Ben in public a few times towards the end, but I think that was a rather nasty practical joke. You knew how I lost control of my knees when you called me that. And not just my knees either. If kissing could be used as intimate but unsexual interaction, Bens were strictly a bedroom thing. Some couples have code words for certain sexual situations, and to us, Ben was synonymous with 'take me now you wonderful hunk of man-flesh'. Calling me that in public was just below the belt.
I couldn't resist you, and I think it scared me a little. It's alright to go round not resisting nurses with their squishy curvy figures and pert little breasts and big soppy eyes, but not resisting a six-foot-four, goofy moustache wearing lump (who happens to have a wife and baby) is frowned upon in this man's army. Or that man's. Or whoever the damn thing belongs to. I was a little scared of getting found out, but at the same time I was more scared of you realising I was scared and I was absolutely terrified that you would stop calling me Ben. Your feet smelled and your moustache was atrocious, and at times you annoyed the hell out of me, but I think in the end loving someone comes down to an equal balance between the things you adore and the things you despise. Too much adoration and they run for the hills. Too much hate and … well it's not really a relationship, is it?
To balance the smell of your feet after a two-day OR session, there was the smell of your hair at midnight on those rare times Frank or Charles were on leave. For that nasty hairy caterpillar on your lip there was that wonderful sensation of longing and anticipation just before we kissed. For every time you annoyed me there was a time I swore to myself somewhere so deep inside my head there was no chance of it ever escaping, that one day I'd stop pretending not to love you back.
I miss you, Beej. I miss your lips and your fingers all over me. I miss your daft grin and that face you make when you think you're right and I'm wrong. I miss the moustache (not how it looks, but how it tickles), and your narrow hips, and that damn firm little tush of yours. I miss how you taste. How you feel. How you sound. How you smell. (How you look is a given).
But most of all, I miss how you called me Ben.