Saturday, October 12, 2013

Story Time: Italy

We anchored off of Naples, Italy on a Thursday. Liberty was given to mostly officers, and higher ranking non commissioned officers, but that was okay, I was still a lowly E-3 (Seaman Apprentice) so even if it weren't for the fact that I had fire watch, I still wouldn't have been allowed liberty. Friday though, was a different story.

We were released at 4Pm, port hours, and by six o'clock, we were walking towards the bars. We being Torok, Glen, Shorty, Neil, Cannonball, and two new members of S-3 division who showed up about a week before we pulled out, a young man by the name of Sanoki, and a young man who requested we call him, Taco. (No kidding, when I first introduced myself to him, he asked me to call him that.) I know, it sounds a bit racist as he was a Mexican American but hey, that's what he wanted. Apparently, that was what they called him in high school.

Since Shorty and Cannonball had been to Naples before, they led us newbies right to their favorite night club. It wasn't very crowded at first, just us and another table of about 4 or 5 guys. The good news was, we were celebrating my birthday that evening. They were buying me drinks for the next few hours. Torok was hitting on the waitress, but she was ignoring him ... and looking at me. I was looking back. Torok was a little more aggressive and forward with his advances, that must have turned her off. I was more laid back, and being more respectful. I owe that to my debacle that first night I met Lorraine and gave her the 'your place or mine' line. Yeah, we all know how that turned out.

It was right around 9PM when the waitress showed up to give us our latest beer order. She handed them out, holding back with mine as it stood on her tray. She leaned over to me and whispered in my ear. "My shift is over, you can take this beer or you can take me out for a late dinner."

While this was a bit unexpected, it wasn't a total shock. We did eye ball each other ever since me and the boys entered the place. Not to mention, after my Fort Lauderdale experience, I was getting pretty used to this kind of thing. It may have also helped that everyone was buying me drinks, wishing me happy birthday, and telling stories about my Florida adventures. I think the guys really helped me out by showing me the attention and love. She knew it was my birthday because she bought me my first beer. (On the house)

I stood up and announced my leave. The guys knew what was going on. They all held that 'here we go again' look in their eyes. I took the beer she brought me and handed it to Shorty. "I'll catch up with you guys on the ship."

She and I left the bar arm in arm and started heading down the street towards a restaurant. We introduced ourselves. Her name was Irene. She was about 5-9, 5-10, long black hair, and 20 years old. She had a sister, of which I can't remember her name. Her sister had medium length blond hair and was standing outside with another sailor, at the restaurant she led me too. He, like me, was dressed in his dress whites, which was required for all non petty officer personnel on the first night of a foreign port. I can't recall his name either.

The four of us sat down and had a meal. We each took turns talking a little about ourselves more or less and we were done by about 10 or 10:30, after which the four of us took a walk on the streets. We ended up standing in front of a hotel about thirty minutes later.

The other guy and I bought a couple of rooms for the night, however, he showed some concern regarding our liberty status. You see, for the first night in a foreign port, all non petty officers had a midnight curfew. We had to be back at the liberty boats by midnight. Petty officers had to be back by 1AM, and everyone else had to be back by 2AM, unless you had an overnight chit that allowed you to stay out later. He nor I had such a chit.

I more or less disregarded the curfew. Irene and I went to our room while the guy and her sister took a room across from ours. Irene and I started to drink some wine I had purchased on our walk to the hotel and unfortunately, I had spilled on the pants leg of my dress whites. I didn't care. We romanced ourselves with quiet conversation, slow dancing to the radio and some wet kisses. By midnight, we were both seduced into a frenzy. Three hours later, she was worn out and fell asleep. I got up and got dressed, with intentions on heading to the liberty boats. I knew I missed my curfew, but figured I would deal with it and take whatever punishment as it was my own fault. I gave Irene a gentle kiss on the cheek then exited the room. I gently knocked on the door where her sister and the other guy were but no one answered. I wanted to make sure he got to the liberty boats so I tried the door knob and it opened.

It was dark, with the exception of the street lights from the open curtains and window. I could see Irene's sister laying on the bed, on top of the blankets, and completely nude. I sat down and gently woke her. "Where's the guy? He leave already?"

She sounded a bit disappointed. "He left quickly after. He didn't want to miss curfew."

"You mean, he left you high and dry?"

"Yes." She softly replied, rolling over onto her back from off her side.

 "You two didn't ...?"

"No." She answered quickly, knowing what I was trying to ask her. "He left me."

I couldn't almost believe it. What a whimp, I thought. I was about to get up and leave when she reached out and touched my arm. "You going to leave me here like this too?"

What was I going to do? Even in the darkness, I could see the longing on her face. I brushed her hair back slightly and leaned down to kiss her. "I'll stay a while with you." I whispered.

It was 6:30 AM when I finally made it to the liberty boats. They stopped running at 3AM and the next one wasn't heading back to the ship until 7AM. As I approached the gate, an officer in charge walked up to me. He studied me up and down, all the while, shaking his head. :Look at you, sailor. Aren't you a sight to behold."

I saluted. Then realized that my hat was crooked. My whole outfit was wrinkled and distorted and trust me, that wine stain on my pants leg didn't help matters either. "Yes Sir." I  blurted.

"At ease, sailor." He commanded. "Do you have an overnight chit?"

"I ... must have lost it Sir." I replied. Pretending to search my pockets for it.

"What's your division?' He asked me.

"S-3 Supply, sir."

He shook his head again. "I should have known."

This was when I discovered the reputation S-3 division had amongst the ship. We were a division of loose cannons. Hell, our division officer, Mr. Booty, a Japanese American, was about the same age as I was. Around 22 or 23. No iron fist from any of our division leaders. "Have a seat over there." he pointed. "The next liberty boat runs in thirty minutes. And for Christ's sake, straighten yourself up. I'll call your sales office to verify your overnight chit."

Man, I was so screwed. I could feel it. I started thinking it was brig time for me. I did try to straighten myself up, but I doubt it mattered any. I soon laid down on a bench.

By the time I boarded the ship, my chief petty officer, Gonzalez, was waiting for me. After the Master at Arms, (MAA) gave me a frisk down, I walked up to him. He had a disappointed look on his face and at the same time, a concerned one. I followed him to the sales office and he quickly closed the door behind me. We were alone and he pointed at a chair for me to sit in. He grabbed one himself and placed it front of me and sat down. He was very sincere. "Okay, please tell me what happened? Did you get mugged or something?"

I struggled slightly in my reply. I didn't know how to break it to him. It did occur to me to maybe lie to him, but that wasn't my style. I did wrong, it was my fault, I broke the rules, I had to man up. "Look Chief, it's like this, you see, I met this girl and ....."

He immediately got to his feet and began waving his arms all about above his head. "No more, no more, no need to know. You go now."

I breathed a sigh of relief. I shrugged my shoulders and got up and left. I couldn't believe it, he covered for me. But why did I feel so bad about it? 

I always felt that the division officers kind of liked me. From Chief Gonzalez, Mr. Booty, to Sr. Chief Berry and Master Chief Johnson. I had a good rapport with them all.

I made it to my berthing area and again, more stories for the rest of guys to yack about in the future. Meanwhile, a couple hours later, Burke approached me. "The Chief informed me that he revoked your liberty status for the rest of our stay."

And there it is! I thought to myself. However, Burke wasn't finished. "But, I informed him about our softball game today and he's going to forget the whole incident provided you give me your word you won't miss anymore curfews. I'm responsible for you for the next 2 weeks. If you get into anymore trouble, my butt is in trouble too."

"Burke," I smiled at him, "I love you. You have my word."

"Good. Now get ready. We have a game to play."

We arrived to the ball field just as another game was wrapping up. We sized up our opponents. "They look pretty good." Burke mentioned. I silently agreed but said, "Eh, it's just for fun, right?"

"Spoken like a real loser." A voice from behind uttered, getting mine and Burke's attention. "How you doing, Burke?" The man continued, shaking hand's with him. It was obvious the two knew each other. He turned to me and offered his hand. "Master Chief Anderson."

"Carroll Bryant. Nice to meet you, sir."

He was a distinguished looking man. He quickly addressed Burke again. Your team ready for a beat down, Burke?" he half laughing asked.

"About as ready as can be. It should be a lot of fun."

"Care to make it interesting?" He ventured.

"Oh no, I don't think ..."

I quickly intervened. "How so?" I asked him, always on the lookout to make a few extra bucks, that or make a fool of myself. Either way.

"Fifty bucks a man?" He suggested.

I shook it off. "Our guys can't afford that." I told him, then coming up with an alternative. "How about a straight hundred dollars? You and me?"

Anderson grinned. "Make it 200 and you're on sailor." And with that, we sealed the bet with a handshake. As he walked away like the cat that swallowed the canary, Burke sighed heavily while standing next to me. "You don't have a whole lot of restraint, do you?"

I grinned. "Nope."

Game on! And what a game it was. Surprisingly, the bleachers were full. Some of them filled by some hotties. One in particular caught my eye around the third inning. She was sitting with two other girls on the other teams side of the dugout. It was a good thing I was a lefty, I got to glance at her every time I went up to bat. Lucky me, she was looking back .... and smiling!

Before I knew it, it was our last turn at bat. We were trailing 13 - 3. We made a late run, putting up five runs in the top of the ninth. It wasn't enough. We lost 13-8. But we gave them a run for it. During the game, Burke was cooking up the food on a grill. Afterwards, Anderson came to collect, smiling the entire time. "You got some hustle in you, Carroll, I'll give you credit for that."

I dug out his winnings. "Maybe next time, sir. Hey," I invited, "you and your team are welcome to join us for the cook out and beer if you're hungry."

"Thanks," he said, "I think we will join you." He waved to his team to join us as we started to make our way. "You never did give me your rank."

"Seaman Apprentice. I'm a seaman apprentice."

"No kidding? You're an E-3?"

"Transferred over from the Army Reserves and reported to my Naval command three months before our tour." I quickly explained. He stopped and once again, extended his hand. "I would have thought you were a 2nd class petty officer. Nice to have met you SA Carroll Bryant."

And just like that, I made a new friend. And just in time too, that girl I was checking out? She showed up, approaching from behind. "Good game there, sport."

"Thanks." I said. "Carroll Bryant." As I put out my hand.

"Sevina." She countered, taking my hand for the formals, her two friends right behind her.

"We're you cheering for my team?" I got right down to it. She giggled and took a quick peek at her friends. "No. I was rooting for the other team. Sorry."

"Well, at least you were rooting for someone." I said. "You girls hungry? We have steak and beer. You're welcomed to join us."

The girls giggled again. "Sure." She said.

Sevina and I got to know each other a little better, but not quite as much as I should have gotten to know her. She was 19 years old. She was born in Italy, however, while her mother was from Italy, her father was American. That's all I got out of her that day. Oh, and her phone number and address. Eventually, Burke pulled me away. "Come on hotshot, we have to get back to the ship. I'm still responsible for you."

I said my goodbye's to Sevina, with a promise to call her, which I did the next morning. I got all dressed up in my civilian clothing and she met me at the liberty boat docks. She took me out shopping for Italian fashion, and we had lunch. She took me on a tour of Italy, and we had a pretty good time.

One day during the week, I signed her in to take a tour of the ship. She never been on a carrier before. I was the envy of all the guys. I have to admit, I envied myself. (Haha) Even though she and I had even yet to kiss, I wasn't going to tell the guys that. I just allowed their imaginations to roam. (Or Rome?) Ha! I made a funny. Did you catch that one?

Before leaving the ship, she invited me to spend the weekend with her at her Uncle's house on Capri, Island. It sounded good to me. "Great." She smiled. "I'll meet you Friday at five o'clock on the liberty docks."

"It's a date." I finalized. We parted with a gentle hug. I was beginning to love Italy. Oh, who am I kidding? ... I was loving Italy! And that cute little long black haired girl who was as lovely as the country itself. And believe me, Italy is amazing. A very beautiful country to visit. I recommend it highly to everyone who wishes to visit beautiful places.

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