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Three names and a haircut : part 2 by thadeusz
When I was 22 years and 5 months old, my parents died in a car accident. My uncle helped me to solve all legal problems and made me his only heir. A little bit less than 4 years later, my uncle died. I discovered that he had lots of money and a bigger company than I thought. I worked hard and let my hair grow. I had now a long mane coming down to my collar, which did not inhibit me to make business through my company with the Navy and the Marine Corps. For practical reasons I moved my firm from San Diego to San Francisco. There I met Miranda. I had now a beautiful house with a huge bedroom with an even bigger bathroom. Miranda loved it.
Miranda was the most adorable woman I had ever met, in fact I had not met many during my Legion years and none while I was super busy working for my firm. But now, I felt that I deserved some rest and I did what I could to meet nice girls. Miranda was the best of them all and she loved me too. So we got married. I was 32 years old and 1 month. I had deserted the Legion a little bit less than 10 years ago !!!
Miranda chose Paris as honeymoon trip. I tried to explain her that it could be dangerous for me and I told her, what I had never told to anybody except my parents, that in fact I was a deserter from the Legion. But Miranda convinced me that after nearly 10 years, the Legion had better things to do than to annoy me. So we left by plane one sunny morning, flying 1st class. When we arrived, at the passport control, Miranda went first and passed without problem. When it was my turn, the Gendarmes looked at my passport and took me to a small room. An officer came in the room and told me:
"Mister Portiletto, you are apparently a Legion deserter. I have no way to treat this problem here and you are going to be transported to Fort de Nogent. Don’t make any fuss, it would only embarrass you."
They handcuffed me before I was able to say anything and pushed me in a little car. They then brought me to Fort de Nogent where the Gendarme handed my passport to a Legion officer and said:
"We have reasons to believe that this Mister Portiletto is in fact a Legion deserter, so we leave him with you to enable you to decide what to do with him."
The Legion officer was a young Lieutenant who did not really know what to do. He chose the easy solution and said to a Sergeant:
"Bring this man to the brig and let him stay there in isolation in order to give us time to investigate."
I reacted immediately:
"Sir, you cannot do that. I am a well known US citizen on honeymoon in Paris and I want to speak to my wife and to a lawyer."
"You are here because you are under suspicion of desertion. You will have an opportunity to see the lady you claim is your wife, but there will be no lawyer before the Legion has decided what should be done with you."
I had not been really questioned, nor did I have an opportunity to really object. I was still handcuffed and it is so that I was conducted to the brig of Fort de Nogent.
They brought me to the brig, gave a message from the Lieutenant to the brig Sergeant who happened to be a huge Legionnaire. This Sergeant took hold of me and said:
"I don’t care what you claim you are, for me you are a deserter. I got orders to place you in isolation, but I am not going to tolerate that you stay in civvies while you are in MY brig. Take your clothes off."
"But I am a civilian", did I object.
"That’s none of my business. If you don’t take your clothes voluntarily off, than I will have two of my Legionnaires stripping you naked."
I realized that I better obeyed that order, despite the fact that I kept insisting that I was a civilian who had never been in the Legion.
The big Sergeant threw a filthy prisoner's uniform to me and I put it on, with rage showing on my face.
"That’s not a nice face," continued the Sergeant, "but that’s probably due to that stupid haircut of yours. Now sit down on this chair and don’t move".
"But you are not going to cut my hair, my wife loves me that way."
"That’s not my problem. In any case, if you are a deserter as they told me, you have no wife. SIT DOWN or I’ll have my men holding you there by force."
"You are not going to do that to an innocent civilian."
Before I was done with my talking, that’s exactly what the huge Sergeant did. He told two of his men to hold me, one of them holding my head and the other holding my shoulders. The Sergeant then took clippers and started to savagely shear my beautiful mane. The result left me with short hair in all possible directions, not all of the same length. I felt very uncomfortable because of that. The Sergeant handcuffed me then with my hands in my back and led me to one the cells where he finally locked me in. It was the evening in France, I had been stripped of my civilian clothes and of my identity. I was now locked in a cell, hands attached in my back, without food and without any possibility to call for help, so I chose to lay down on the plank fixed to wall.
The next morning, the huge Sergeant let me out of my cell and changed the position of the handcuffs during about an hour: I had no way to know exactly since my watch had been confiscated, with my wallet and all my personal belongings. After that he placed again the handcuffs in my back, pushed me brutally back into the same cell and told me that I was not allowed to lay down before sunset.
I waited there doing nothing and wondering what was going to happen to me. I knew too well how Legionnaires treat one of them who has deserted and I expected no pity if they really found out all about me. I also wondered what was happening to Miranda. The fact that my hands were handcuffed in my back really bothered me because it was very uncomfortable.
After a certain time, the huge Sergeant came and told me to get out of the cell. He brought me to a little room where Miranda was waiting for me. We had to sit on opposite sides of a table and the Sergeant took the handcuffs off.
Miranda first asked me why I was not wearing my own clothes and what had happened to my hair. I had to explain about the brutal Sergeant who had probably been told that there was a suspicion concerning my past. Miranda told me that she had been told by an officer that, in case there was a proof that I had deserted, they could send me to court and I could be sent me to prison for 5 years or more since France was at war when I left. So she suggested she would get for me an excellent lawyer. She also said that if I had to be detained, even for a few weeks, it would be better if she had a proxy so that my business could go on. I looked in her eyes, she loved me and I loved her. My hands were free and I signed all the documents she wanted me to sign. She now had an absolute proxy for all my business and bank accounts. The huge Sergeant came back and told Miranda that the session was over. He handcuffed me again and took me back to my cell.
I was kept there during five days, handcuffed in total isolation except for a short period every morning. On the sixth day, another Sergeant entered the cell and told me to stand up and get ready for transportation: the General commanding the Legion had given orders and I was to take the train with a group of new candidates Legionnaires and go to Aubagne, in the South of France. This Sergeant put a green beret on my head, the legion beret, but left my hands chained in my back. I had to stay in the train, one row of seats behind the new candidates, in this stupid position until we reached Marseille, and then by bus, Aubagne. There I was again led to the brig.
In the Aubagne brig, I was again received by a big Sergeant, but this one seemed less brutal. I tried, with very little hope, the same story: "I am a US citizen, an innocent and my name is Robert Portiletto". But the Sergeant reacted immediately:
"You are here in uniform and in detention. I know what that mean, your name might be Robert Portiletto, but in fact you are a deserter and you must be treated as such."
This time I remained silent and the Sergeant considered that this was a form of admission of guilt. He then said:
"I don’t know your Legion name, you will remain Portiletto until the General decides otherwise. They gave you a s**tty uniform. Now you are here for a longer period, put this one on." And he threw another uniform to me, after freeing my hands. I immediately did as he had said since my first uniform was really dirty. The Sergeant told me to take off my beret, because as deserter I did not deserve to have one. He looked at my hair and said that it had been "savagely cut", so he told me to sit on a stool and told another prisoner to shave me "but without exaggeration". This left me with short hair, about 2 mm long, not a really very regular haircut. I was then led to a cell, where I was told I would have to stay in isolation "until the General decides otherwise", but I was no longer handcuffed while in my cell. Every morning I was allowed to go out for about an hour, and during that time, I was again handcuffed in my back. This was dreadfully humiliating.
After 20 days in the brig as "prisoner Portiletto", I was led to the office of a Colonel. There I was told to stand still, in the position of attention until told to do something else. The brig Sergeant remained behind me but he took off my handcuffs. In front of me, two officers were seated : a Colonel and a Lieutenant who looked old enough to be a Legionnaire who had become officer through the ranks. The Colonel spoke first:
"Portiletto, we know all there is to know about you, at least as far as the Legion is concerned. We knew it as soon as we had your full identity, while you were still in Fort de Nogent. We kept you here during 20 days in isolation as major punishment of your wrong doings. The time you have spent in the brig does not count as time of service for the Legion since you deserted after three years and eight months of service. Lieutenant Kingslow will now explain you what could happen."
The Lieutenant, speaking French with a heavy American accent, told me that normally I should be tried and that I could be sentenced to 5 or even 10 years of prison. He added that the court would probably decide that I would only have to serve part of the sentence behind bars, the rest being probation time. But he said that in any case, after the sentence, I would be a felon and once out of prison I would be an ex-con. That information would be communicated to Interpol and thus to the US, which could mean the ruin for my business since the Legion knew that I had an important business which has as main clients the US Navy and the US Marines. In any case he added:
"After you get out of prison, you will be brought back here to serve the 3 years and 4 months you still owe to the Legion, but you will serve as simple Legionnaire without hope to get any promotion."
The Colonel took over and simply said:
"The General does not want to destroy you, especially since you had been considered worthy enough to become Sergeant. He decided thus to make you a special favor. Here is his offer: you sign here and now a new five year contract with the Legion and if you serve well, with Honor and Fidelity during these five years, the fact that you once deserted will be forgotten and erased from your file. But you must sign here and now."
I realized immediately that accepting this offer was the only way I could get out of my predicament. I would give the Legion five years of highly regimented and strictly supervised life instead of having to spend the rest of my life as a felon, an ex-con ! Moreover I might hope to get some promotion during these five years, which would make my life easier. So my decision was easy and I replied:
"Colonel, I accept this offer and will sign this new contract."
The Lieutenant produced a piece of paper which I recognized and the Colonel went on:
"Your name is now Joshua Pissaro, born in Denver and aged 28. Pissaro, step forward and sign the contract NOW."
I moved and signed using my new name. Saluted militarily the Colonel and said:
"Legionnaire Pissaro at your command Colonel. You will not be disappointed" but I did not go back to the position of attention.
Suddenly, I heard a strong voice in my back, the Sergeant was shouting:
"Pissaro, ’TENTION ! ‘ILENCE !"
My old reflexes automatically came back. I instinctively straightened my back and placed my hands rigidly along my trousers. I robotically raised my head as if looking far in front of me, not even moving an eyelid. I remained as a post facing the Colonel and the Lieutenant.
The Lieutenant took over:
"Pissaro, you are not a Legionnaire, not yet. You are an EV" (Engagé Volontaire) "and you must still go through instruction. If you fail instruction or if you are unable to fulfill your contract, you will be sent to court and tried."
I remained still as a picket. The Colonel went on:
"Pissaro, you know very well that you are now in the silence zone. You will not be allowed to communicate with the outside world before the end of your instruction. The lady who was with you at the airport has been warned by the Legion that you are detained here for a certain time. "
I was thinking of Miranda and of what would happen to her, but I remained stiff as a pole.
Then came the loud command from the Colonel:
"Sergeant, this EV is yours now. Pissaro, DISMISS"
I saluted, not knowing if I had already the right to do so, then I made a perfect about turn, memory of my cadet years and of my time in the Legion. I started walking in the direction of the Sergeant who made me go out of this office where I received another name and where I signed for 5 years Legion duty.
The Sergeant took me to adjacent room where a tracksuit was waiting for me, the same kind of tracksuit I had been told to wear during selection when I joined the Legion years before, when I was 18 and full of illusions. This reminded me nevertheless good moments when I was with the other candidates waiting to know who would be selected. The Sergeant then gave me an excellent advice:
"Pissaro, you are going to join the other candidates now. Don’t tell them you have already been selected for bad reasons. Tell them you went through selection slightly before but that you were delayed because you were sent to the infirmary. UNDERSTOOD ?"
"Go now and join the others waiting to know whether they are selected."
So started my second career in the Legion, career which I intended to be as short as possible.
Once I had joined the group of candidates EVs, I tried to know them and possibly to make friends: a question of survival. After three days, the names of the selected guys were called: mine was of course in the packet. The assistant corporal who was in charge of our group led all the selected ones to their first stop in their new life: the Legion barber. This assistant corporal was a very young guy, probably 19, looking like me when I had that function "in my previous life". He was Polish, named Pawel Kowalski and he was a true Roman Catholic, considering all EVs had to behave according to his religious principles. He was also a stupid young bully in charge of men coming from different nations and different cultures. Even now, I don’t understand how the Legion could decide to give him this job. Anyway, he had it and was giving orders to us new EVs and we had to keep quiet and obey.
Since I could not avoid this forced stay in the Legion, I had by now decided to behave in a way that would enable me to enjoy it as much as possible. I chose to behave as if I really did it by choice. Unexpectedly, it worked well.
When I arrived at the Legion barber, memories of my first Legion haircut flooded through my head. These were good and even great memories. I started smiling, but the barber was brisk. He got hold of me and pushed me forcibly in an armchair, got hold of my head without saying a word: he did not know what was my language and in his mind, speaking would have taken some precious time. Once I was in the armchair I abandoned myself fully to the brute. In my mind I was going years back and again feeling myself comfortable at being treated like an object, which is what I had become. The barber pulled my head backwards and started to shave it with clippers without guard and the feeling of it was delicious. I was smiling and apparently that made the barber furious. After a first line of hair had been shaved from my forehead to the back of my head, the brute suddenly pushed my head forward to get hold of my neck. I was deliciously feeling again my penis getting hard and I did nothing to stop it. On the contrary, I evoked images which made the rest unavoidable. The barber was still shaving the sides when the erection became total and finally liberated me, but the result was visible through my tracksuit. The barber seemed disgusted and called Kowalski who came, looked and said one word: "Filthy !". He then turned towards the barber and told him to finish me rapidly so "This EV could be punished according to his filthy crime". The barber went on with his work and left me with a head completely shaved, a real baldy as required by Kowalski.
As soon as the barber was done, I stood up and wanted to go and join the comrades who had already been shaved, but Kowalski stopped me and punished me. I had to form a sort of bridge with my back using as only pillars my feet and my shaven head, my hands had to remain crossed in my back. Kowalski kept me, during 5 haircuts by the same barber, in that uncomfortable position known as a Croatian bridge. This position was very painful for the head, especially since it was a completely shaved head on a concrete pavement. I knew that it would be painful: I had had to do it before, as Marc Piletti, but I also knew that I could not do anything else than obey. In any case, that could not erase the big smile I had on my face for being again a shaved Legionnaire. After all, while doing the bridge, I realized that I did not dislike that much being back in the Legion.
The barber did not like what was happening and chose to shave all the following EVs as rapidly as he could. Finally, I was told to stand up and to go further, but Kowalski added:
"You," pointing to me, "I will call you from now on ‘Filthy’," and to this he added "I hate filthy persons. You will feel it during instruction."