Gen. David Petraeus (Virginia Mayo/AP, file)
It’s just tragic. This has the elements in some ways of a Hollywood movie or a trashy novel.
– Rep. Peter King (R-NY)
Our love was a forbidden one — we both knew it from the start!
My people were anxious suburban Jews committed to pacifism and recycling. His people were Rockefeller Republicans committed to drone warfare. He was a four-star general operating at the highest echelons of government. I was the author of occasionally publishable pornographic short stories. We were both married to other women. It made no sense. But how could we stop ourselves?
I met Petraeus in a manner that seemed innocent enough: I was assigned to write a profile of him for Top Brass, a glossy magazine devoted to celebrating the achievements of our elite military leaders. Honestly, I didn’t think much of the general at first. He seemed kind of like a stuffed shirt.
That was before he invited me to work out with him in his private Pentagon gym. I found myself curiously roused as he stripped down to a skin-tight camouflage bodysuit and proceeded to grunt out 120 push-ups and 120 sit-ups. By the time he got started on the flutter kicks (250 in less than three minutes) I was breathing heavily.
We retired to his office, where he asked me — in that husky monotone of his — whether I wanted to check out some of his “classified material.” I know it sounds like a line, something he probably said to a dozen other starry-eyed reporters. But somehow, with the man himself staring at you, those piercing blue eyes, the soft jingle of all those medals … let’s just put it this way: I’m not made of stone.
And like the fools we were, we both told ourselves we were being subtle. There were other generals out there taking their wives on shopping sprees in military vehicles, or hobnobbing with buxom socialites. Heck, we never even attended any of the four-star pajama parties down in Tampa.
Still, I could tell that certain others were beginning to grow suspicious of all the time we were spending together. His wife wanted to know about all the late hours we were logging at the office, and why I felt it necessary to interview him in the sauna. And I started receiving strange, angry text messages from someone who identified herself only as “AlmondKilla.”
Soon, Petraeus himself was cutting short interviews, and claiming he had to travel overseas to “fight terrorism.” If I’m honest with myself, I could see the writing on the wall.
The last time I saw him was on the tarmac of a small military airport in an undisclosed location. I leaned in to embrace him, but felt his body tense.
“What is it?” I implored. “Are you afraid that our affair will be discovered and exploited by a craven Fourth Estate ravenous for a profitably salacious story, even though your admittedly troubled personal life is very likely irrelevant to your professional duties?”
Petraeus winced in anguish. “Let’s not make a scene,” he murmured.
“Will you at least e-mail me?” I asked. “I can set up a Yahoo! account. It’ll go straight to spam. Nobody will ever find out.”
He shook his head and looked at the ground.
“Please don’t go and fall in love with a hot biographer and forget all about me.”
“Don’t be silly,” he said stoically.
“This is goodbye then, isn’t it?”
He smiled that goofy smile that I had come to know so well. “Here’s looking at you, kid,” he said.
“Why the hell are we breaking up on a runway?” I said.
“Shhhhh,” he said. “No more dumb questions.” Then he kissed me for the last time and walked off into what was either darkness, or really bad lighting.
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