Not a Soldier

February, 1943
Wisnicz Forest


Another winter and I am still alive. We destroyed a bridge two days ago and have brought down around fifty telegraph poles. We have seen no Germans in over a month, and I pray to God you are on another front. I pray that you are still alive, and that you think of me.

I have new boots, although they are only new to me. They came off one of our men, Christoph, who died of sepsis after having been shot in the leg. He liberated the boots from a German soldier. I remember you wearing boots like these. I remember you in your army uniform. You stood straighter without it, Leibling. You were more handsome in your everyday clothes. You were most handsome in your skin.

I dream that you have deserted Hitler's army. I dream that you have stepped out of your uniform and left it behind, that you have left it in a heap on the floor as you did the last time we saw each other, the day I came so you could say goodbye.

October, 1938

It is just autumn in Munich, and while I should be attending classes at the Technische Universität München, instead I am pacing my rented student rooms, testing my stride in my army uniform. In two days I report for training. I would prefer to remain in school, but I have been drafted, and when the army calls, I have to go. But there is no war, only annexation, and I don't believe I will have to wear this uniform for long. In several months, perhaps a year, my service will be done and I will come home and resume my studies, and I can hang the trousers and shirt in my wardrobe and not have to put them back on again.

My mother thinks I look handsome, and perhaps to an untrained eye I do. I am tall and blond and in my army uniform I am nearly a poster boy for Hitler's Master Race. I say "nearly" because my lover, with whom I am expected to produce boys and girls to continue my race, is not a strong, faithful German girl, but rather an intelligent, stubborn Jewish boy.

Oskar's father is a tailor and dressmaker, and so has avoided some of the prohibitions against professional Jews. But Oskar has never been allowed to try for a place in university, and unless he can make his way out of Germany and to Switzerland or perhaps France, his prospects are limited. He always wanted to be a doctor, but for now he has to content himself with what he can learn from my textbooks and whatever books I can borrow from my friends.

He is dark-haired but he can pass as a German, so long as he keeps his pants on. His parents will not leave the country while his grandmother is still alive, and so Oskar and I are reduced to sneaking around. I know it should scare me, what might happen if we are discovered, but we have known each other since we were small and I could never stop seeing him. I think my landlady understands and tries to hide our relationship from others as much as she can, and while I am beyond grateful, circumstances dictate that I can never tell her just how grateful I am.

For now I am reduced to pacing the floor and waiting, wondering if Oskar got my message and if he can come see me. In the meantime, I should at least take the uniform off so it does not wrinkle.

As if that thought has conjured him, there is a knock on the door and a whisper through the keyhole, "The blackbird flies at midnight." Such silly codes we have, like boys playing at being spies. They help us make light of a dark situation. I let him in.

"I got your - " he starts to say, and stops. "Conrad..."

"I have two days. I don't know how long before we will be able to see each other again."

"Take if off."

"I'm sorry?"

"That uniform. Take it off."

"I don't even get a hello? 'Hello, Conrad, so nice to see you.'"

"Conrad, please. You're not a Nazi, or a soldier. You're not... you look like someone else."

"My mother thinks it suits me."

"Your mother is blind."

She is near-sighted, this is true.

"Will you at least kiss me hello?" I ask. I sound whiny to my own ears.

"If you take that uniform off I will kiss you hello all over your skin. I can't look at you." He turns away. He has not even taken off his coat. My poor Oskar.

"I do apologize," I tell him. I have to struggle with the boots which are stiff and new, but once I manage to kick them away I strip off the army shirt and trousers until I am standing in the room wearing my undershirt and shorts. "Turn around, Oskar. See, it's just me. I'm still the same man. They are just clothes, Leibling."

"They are more than just clothes," he says, and turns back to face me. "To a man in that uniform I am a non-citizen, lower even than a rat. I am not 'Oskar,' I am 'Israel,' like my father and my cousin and any other Jewish man in Germany. I am not me."

"You are now. Come here, Oskar." I open my arms to him. I do not want to argue, not tonight. He shrugs out of his coat, leaving it in a heap on the floor, and steps into my embrace. "I was hoping you would come," I whisper in his ear.

"I was hoping I could," he whispers back. "Any day now they will declare a curfew for Jews as if we were children or criminals." He pulls away, a centimeter, two, and kisses me. His lips are warm and his mouth tastes like honey. My arms tighten around him.

"You do not feel like a child." I grin against his lips.

"Nor do you." He grins back, but briefly, and then his face turns serious. "But we are criminals, for what we do as much as for who we are."

"Oskar, shh. This may be our last night together for months. I don't want to hear about politics or laws. I just want to hold you and kiss you and pretend the rest of the world does not exist."

"My ostrich lover, with his head in the sand," he murmurs, but his mouth is smiling. His hands drift down my back to cup my ass. "Is this better?"

"Mmm, yes."

"I suppose I could do this, too." He tugs at my undershirt. I lift my arms so he can pull it off, and my head falls back as he kisses my jaw, my throat, the hollow between my collarbones.

"Oskar," I murmur, my own hands pulling at his shirt. "Take this off. Take everything off."

He pushes me back toward the bed, the two of us dancing some strange waltz where the dancer's mouth is not allowed to leave his partner's, nor are their hands allowed to leave each other's bodies. My legs hit the frame of the bed and Oskar plants a hand on my chest and pushes me down. I sit.

"Someday we will not have to hide," I tell him. "Someday you will be attracted to me in my clothes as much as out of them. Someday - "

"Shut up," he says, finally naked, falling on me and kissing me hard. "You said yourself, after today we may not see each other again for a long time. Tomorrow you will put that back on and you will be a soldier in Hitler's army, and not my Conrad any longer. So be quiet for now and let me fuck you."

All these years we have known each other, and three years we have been lovers, and I am still sometimes taken aback when Oskar uses that word.

But I am not complaining, not when he turns me onto my stomach and jerks off my shorts and kisses his way down my spine, the warm, damp press of his lips along the vertebrae making my skin shiver.

There is hair cream on the nightstand, and he reaches over me to grab it, his hardening cock rubbing against my ass as he does so. I look over my shoulder to watch him shake some on his fingers and slide first one and then two inside my ass. I push back against his hand as he scissors his fingers inside me, as he pushes and probes and stretches and watches my face.

"Oskar," I whisper. I do not trust myself to say any more. We see each other so infrequently now that when we are together I do not want to wait. I want as much of him as quickly as I can have it.

"Shh," he murmurs. "Shh." He bends over and kisses the back of my neck as his fingers withdraw. "Your skin tastes like aftershave."

"I went to the barber for an army cut this morning."

"We can't escape it, can we...." And then his mouth pulls away from my neck and I can feel the naked head of his cock pressing against me for an instant before he is fully inside.

I bite my lip to keep quiet as he starts to move. He is strong, and his fingers dig into my hips as he thrusts in and out. I push back against him and try not to moan. The landlady may be keeping our secret for us, but she can always change her mind if she can easily hear us, and I do not want to chance it. I do not want the neighbors to know what we do. Above me, behind me, I can almost hear Oskar holding his breath, trying in his own way not to make any noise. The bed rocks under us, but the springs are good and do not squeak.

This is not a position any self-respecting member of the Master Race would let himself be put into - on his hands and knees, being penetrated by a dirty Jew.

Except he is not a dirty Jew. He is my friend. My lover. My Oskar.

This could mean the camps for us. This could mean death. And somehow I do not care.

How can I care about something so trivial as death when Oskar reaches under me and takes my cock in his hand and pumps it in time with his thrusts? How can I care about the army, the Nazi Party, the future of my own country, when the boy I love is moving so deep and strong inside me? How can I care about anything but this as his hand slides up and down my cock, his own cock so hard and fucking me so desperately?

"Conrad," he pants, and then I am shooting between his fingers, my ass tightening around his cock as I empty myself on the sheets.

He finishes after me, his hips snapping and no sound escaping from his lips except a soft sigh.

"Conrad," he says again. He leans over me, his chest warm against my back, and then he pulls out and collapses on the bed next to me. "Leibling."

"Would a voluntary wearer of that uniform let you do such a thing to him?" I ask. I grin. But he does not look as if he shares the joke. "I'm sorry," I say quickly. "Oskar, believe me, if I could escape it I would. I don't want to join the army. I was drafted. I don't have a choice."

"I would not be here with you if I thought you were truly a Nazi," he says softly. "In the uniform or out. But you look different in it."

"I know. I'll hide it until you leave." I try to roll out of bed so I can stuff the army uniform in the wardrobe but he grabs my arm.

"I can't see it from here. All I can see is you, naked and flushed and completely yourself."

"Not a soldier?"

"Not a soldier. Just a student. Just a man."

"A hungry man." I grin. Sex always makes me hungry. "How long can you stay? Can you stay the night? If I run out for food will you wait for me here?"

"I saw a paper bag on your table," he says. "Have you been to the bakery?" He looks sly. I grin wider and kiss him.

"I bought Springerle. But I have nothing to dunk them in. Do you mind?"

"Of course not." He pinches my ass. "We will eat them naked in bed and pretend we are decadent Weimar Berliners, eating our cookies after a wild night of drinking and dancing at the cabaret."

"Where do you get these ideas?" I ask as I climb out of bed. "Who are you talking to about cabarets and decadence?" I can feel him watching my naked ass as I fetch the white paper bag. When I bring it back to the bed, Oskar is smiling like he has a secret.

"You don't have any cigarettes, do you?" I shake my head. He takes a cookie from the bag, puts it between his lips, and pulls me down. "Perhaps that's for the best. I would imagine you want your last taste of me to be something other than smoke."

"Mmm. Yes." I watch him eat. He is quite good-looking, my Oskar, his curly brown hair tousled from sex and his dark eyes sparkling at me. For a minute he is young and careless, and the Germany beyond my windows is not conspiring against him and his. For a minute I can forget that in two days I will have to present myself in my army uniform, to all appearances a good and upstanding soldier for Führer and Fatherland.

For a minute, the length of time it takes Oskar to eat two Springerle and get crumbs in my bed, I can forget everything except that I love him.

Fifteen minutes later I have made him forget everything as well, as my mouth slides up and down his strangely naked cock, my tongue teasing the circumcised head, my teeth very gently nipping at his skin. I look up and watch his chest heaving, his mouth forming words he is too afraid to say, his hands scrabbling for purchase in my newly-trimmed hair.

This may be the last gift I ever give him. This may be the last thing we ever do.

Later, much later, when the sun is long set and we have exhausted ourselves and Oskar is fast asleep next to me, I climb out of bed and hide the army uniform and boots in my wardrobe, so Oskar will not have to see them in the morning.

He is right. I am someone else when I put the uniform on, whether I wish to be or not.

But I want his last look at me to be just myself, just Conrad, architecture student and boyfriend.

Were we ever young, Leibling? Were we ever careless and carefree? It is hard to remember. I believe we were, once, because all men were once boys, and not all boys are sorry and sad.

My hands are cold but my feet are warm in their stolen boots. I hope to see you again when the war is over, but not before. I would never tell a soul, but I am afraid every time one of us kills a German. I would not recognize you in the uniform until it was too late.

I never did like you in the uniform, Leibling. I have less reason to like it now.

When this war is over I will go back home, or to whatever home remains, and I will look for you. With the grace of God I will find you, and we will be happy again.

Yours always.


(originally published in the Torquere Press anthology Men in Uniform)