Reb returned from R&R in Sydney on the Admin Run. He appeared to be fresh and revitalized. A leather bag, which looked like an art portfolio carrying case, was over his shoulder. He said he wanted to clean up and take a nap during the Steak BBQ, and I assured him we had things under control. After the mess hall was secured, Sumo and I joined Reb in the hooch. We listened as he recounted his R&R activities.
He arrived in Sydney late Saturday night after a 12-hour flight and checked into a small hotel, close to the downtown area. After sleeping a few hours, he went to the front desk and asked if there was a place to have breakfast. The clerk directed him to a “Coffee Lounge” a block away.
The cafe wasn’t open yet so he waited out front for the 6:00 am opening. A woman came to the door, invited him inside and locked the door behind him. She was stocking a bakery case with an array of fancy fresh-baked pastries (doughnuts, cinnamon rolls and eclairs). Reb asked her, “Who is your baker?” and she answered, “I am the pastry chef.”
She was older (early 30’s) and had dark red hair which was tied back in a hairnet. More workers started showing up, and the place began buzzing with activity as they opened for business. Reb’s order was filled, and he sat at a corner table, sampling the pastry and fresh coffee.
The woman pastry chef approached his table, introduced herself as Margaret and joined him with her breakfast. Following some small talk she told Reb, “You need to get out of that uniform.” The Vietnam War was not popular in Sydney, and there were increasing protests against it. The University wasn’t far away, and this area was a hotbed of anti-war demonstrations.
The conversation continued, and Reb asked Margaret if he could get permission from the manager to observe the pastries being made. She answered, “I am the manager, and why should I trust you alone at night in my bakery?” He explained that he was a baker too and he just wanted to learn more.
Margaret challenged, “If you go to the market with me and get into some civilian clothes, I will let you observe the baking.” Reb hesitated and said, “I suppose if I’m expecting you to trust me . . . then I should trust you regarding the uniform.” They finished breakfast and went off to shop.
Several blocks away there was an open market with street vendors who sold clothing and shoes. Margaret outfitted Reb with two tie-dyed T-shirts, a pair of Wrangler jeans and sneakers. She wanted him to fit in as a “surfer/college student.” She also purchased a pair of white flowered Wranglers for herself. They ate lunch at a noodle stand before heading back.
While making plans to meet at the bakery that night, Margaret didn’t like the hotel where Reb was staying, telling him “it’s a bad place.” She offered him a sofa in her flat to sleep, before going to work, and Reb accepted. The arrangements were sparse, and the sofa was short. They slept until 8:00 pm and walked to the bakery together.
Margaret was an expert baker, and Reb commented on her artistry. She said baking had nothing to do with art . . . “It is a craft.” The conversation then turned to art which opened a new topic of discussion. She liked photography, and he liked sketching. The subjects of composition, light and shadows, crossed over into each media, and the excitement spilled out as they communicated.
Margaret talked Reb into leaving the hotel. “You can spend the week with me for free, and we can see all the galleries together.” It was Tuesday morning when Reb checked out of the hotel, and he carried his hand bag as they walked to her flat. The plan was to shower, change into walking clothes and tour a few galleries before lunch.
Reb had a stiff neck from sleeping on the small sofa and Margaret said, “Take a hot shower, and I will massage the kink in your neck. Just wrap the towel around you and lay on the bed.”
Reb followed Margaret’s instructions and lay face down on the bed. She had a bottle of “Zen Herbal Liniment” and massaged it into his neck and shoulders. The soreness went away as she rubbed it in.
The massage session then turned into passion . . . they went beyond the point of no return, and their relationship instantly changed. They didn’t make it to the art galleries that day.
Sumo said, “What do you mean, it changed? Did you have sex?” Reb turned red in the face, and his story ended. He was a shy kid and in over his head with this conversation. He said, “I better get to work; we can talk more about it later . . . “