Chapter One Thousand Eight Hundred Twelve
23rd August 1967
Getting back into the swing of things proved to be a bit of a challenge and then Manny had gone on leave pending his appointment to the War Academy. It was hardly surprising that things had played out that way. Sudden changes, followed by periods of adjustment, followed by more changes.
First the culture in New York had been vastly different and what passed for beer in America was an atrocity. Still, they had accomplished both their stated mission and the covert one in Panama. Afterwards, on the long flight back across the Atlantic, Manny had been so bored he had read the articles in the Playboy magazine that he had picked up as a souvenir. The article titled All the Questions you were too Embarrassed to Ask had caught his attention. It included a short history of the Institute for the Science of Sexuality and mentioned Magnus Hirschfeld by name. Manny had been a bit surprised to learn that it was located just a few blocks from the townhouse where his family lived while they were in Berlin.
Manny had heard jokes about that organization since before he had even understood what they had meant, that they catered to Homosexuals and supposedly had the largest collection of pornography in the world. The article had painted a completely different picture from that. About how the embarrassment and shame that people felt resulted in secrecy and a number of unhealthy practices. The article expressly mentioned that everyone was welcome, and the archives were far from the only services they offered. On the airplane, Manny had dismissed the whole concept as ridiculous, at first.
Things had changed when he had gone on leave.
His family had gone on summer holiday to the Baltic and because they had no idea he was coming home, so they had gone ahead without him. Manny’s mother had offered to buy him a train ticket so that he could join them, but he had already promised Suse that they would have the overdue talk that he had been dreading for months. Suse wanted to know where their relationship was going, just how serious he was, and most of all to not join those her treated her like a child. Needing to have answers as well as a desire not to rattle about an empty house had made visiting the site of the world’s largest smut gallery not seem so far-fetched.
That wasn’t what had greeted him though. The nondescript building looked like any other office, only the nameplate revealed the true nature of what it was. Poking his head through the door, the Secretary had just given him a warm smile who had told him to wait until she could get to him.
“Do you need a referral to a clinic that won’t inform your Commander for whatever treatment you need?” The Secretary had asked.
“How…?” Manny had started to ask. He wasn’t wearing a uniform, so how had she figured it out so quickly?
“That haircut gives you away” The Secretary said, and Manny realized that she must see this constantly. A failed a short-arm inspection was the sort of thing that could land a soldier and their CO in hot water. Getting such a matter taken care of confidentially would be priceless.
“No” Manny had said, “I have a different situation.”
He had then paused, and the Secretary looked at him expectantly.
“My girlfriend… is, er… sort of giving me one last chance” Manny said, “When her parents got married, she was kind of already on the way. Her father, who commands Panzers, has said that he will grind me to paste under the tracks of an entire Division if history repeats itself and that is nothing compared to what my Aunt said she will do to me.”
The Secretary had looked amused by that. “So, the referral you need is for family planning?” She asked.
She must have seen the blood rush from Manny’s face as he sputtered for answer. “It’s about not having a family until you are ready for one” The Secretary had said, “Is that all?”
Manny had then tried to think of what else to ask but couldn’t think of the right questions.
“How do I not mess things up?” Manny asked, “Suse already dumped me once, she’ll not hesitate to do it again.”
“Oh, relationship advice” The Secretary said, the tone of her voice suggesting that Manny had brought up something akin to dropping a live snake on her desk.
That was how Manny had found himself talking to one of the Doctors. The conversation had been wide ranging and informative. The sour note had come at the end when the Doctor had loaded Manny up with a dozen pamphlets and informed him that keeping young men like him from becoming public health hazards was a key part of their purpose. Later, when he had gotten together with Suse he had used several suggestions he had been given including one of the alternative examples of intimacy when things had taken an unexpected direction. Suse’s reaction had been one of surprise to say the least and she had left shortly after she had asked him to stop.
Now, a few weeks later Manny had yet to hear back from Suse and he wondered if he had messed something else up this time.