I was still a smoker, tobacco that is, when I was in the Army. Sure, I might have stopped for the two months or so in Basic Training, but as soon as we exited the bus on the grounds of Fort Gordon, Georgia, right next to Augusta in the north of the state, we were marched to our new company. There were just three of us, I was apart of the Crypto school, and the two women were apart of the Radio school. Both schools were housed in the same company, and that company was located right near the school, in a four story barracks, though it resembled more of what college dorms looked like. All the women, no matter whether Crypto or Radio, were housed on the fourth floor, completely, and if you weren't a woman, you weren't getting all the way up. I was on the third floor, in a room that had a window which faced the courtyard, and in that court yard, there was someone smoking. Hurriedly, I unpacked my ruck, and raced downstairs. Exploding out of the exit doors of the barracks, I must've looked as the most desperate man possible. I came to a sudden halt as the soldier had already had his hand out, and a cigarette between his middle and pointer finger offered directly at me. I took the offer, and once in my mouth, he lit it. A deep inhalation later, where the lack of oxygen and rush of nicotine came over me, I relaxed. An addiction had been satisfied.
"Thank you," I said as I exhaled a thick cloud of smoke.
"Not a problem," said the man who stood several inches taller than me, with a much more slender frame, deep brown eyes, and a rather smooth voice. On his BDU (Battle Dress Uniform was what we called our uniforms then) the name tag read: George. "I'm George." He offered his hand. I took it.
"Poling, but you can call me John, if you like."
"Well, then that's the second thing in common we have, so, okay."
"Excellent. Radio or Crypto?"
"Crypto," then we just stood there in the covered shade of the smoker's patio for a bit.
"So," George started, "do you like D&D?"
I smiled wide and said, "Ever since I was fourteen."
He returned the smile and said: "Excellent, then there's someone you have to meet."
This picture of George is about a year after we fist met, and we'll get there, but for now let's stick to Georgia.
After we finished our smokes, George led me up to the second floor a the opposite end of the barracks from my room, where I'd met his bunkmate, Lee. Lee was just a inch or so shorter than me, lean, and a Georgian from Fayetteville, just of the southwest of Atlanta. His very round BCGs (Birth Control Glasses - a decades long tradition of standard, flat black, and round glasses that would take the sexiest person alive, and still manage to make them look like the stereotypical laughing stock) hid his crafty, and slightly chaotic nature I'd soon discover.
This is such a bad copy of this Polaroid, but it was the same night in the ROK as the one previous of George, but just Lee and me. I think he's wearing Music For The Masses t-shirt, and I'm wearing an old Metallica Black tee.
Back to Fort Gordon, and after George introduced us to one another, he said:
"Oh, and John does D&D."
"Cool." Lee looked at me rather seriously and asked, "What class?"
"Ranger. I like having both range and melee versatility, and I normally play humans."
"Huh..." Lee was clearly mulling over something, and before he could ask a follow up question, I continued talking. Talking was easy. I used it to hide all sorts of worries, nerves and shynesses.
"I prefer Advanced, Second Edition for D&D, though Palladium: Rifts has been my jam the past couple years, along with Vampire: The Masquerade."
"Vampire?" George asked, while he walked over to his PC and turned it on.
"Yeah," I continued, "it's totally different from D&D and only uses d-10s. Think of it like the Anne Rice Vampire novels, but as a roleplaying game."
"That sounds awesome," Lee opined as he walked over to George.
"It's fucking awesome! It's even better as an actual acted out drama play." I joined them at the PC. "Whatcha' loading up?"
"A strategy game. It called Warcraft."
As it's been said many times, this was the start of a beautiful friendship.