DEAR PHIL…XXOO DIANA By Diana Alouise
Lots of women come to Hollywood and sleep their way to the top. I came to Hollywood, started at the top and worked my way to the bottom—mega-movie star, television star, producer, head writer of a talk show, rock star, plastic surgeon, down to car salesman, waiter, international bank robber and a born-again bisexual-registered-sex-offender. And it wasn’t for a sociological study or some twisted fantasy either. I did it all in search of love.
My sleep number was 114. And I’m not talking about the foam mattress bed either. It should also be duly noted that this is a rough estimate and I probably rounded down. I mean let’s be real; I don’t want to come off as promiscuous or easy. Okay, all kidding aside, I actually did get very emotional talking about my past relationships. Every single one was special to me for a variety of reasons. Some were fun. Some were troubled, scandalous or both. Some were (what I believed at the time) going to last forever. Apparently in my world, two years is “forever” because that was my record of relationship longevity.
How low could I get? You guessed it. I thought looking sexy and blowjobs were the magic tickets to love. I sought excitement. I sought novelty. So sex on the hood of a Porsche was not out of the question.
At nineteen, after arriving from Nebraska and living in my car, I got a job as a hairdresser in an upscale Beverly Hills salon. I loved it. Over time my career gave fodder for comedy—owner/dog matching haircuts, styling a super-model and her Paleo Diet pet pig—so it was reasonable a stint at the Impov followed. The attention in front of bright lights got me hooked on stand-up. Which lead to a weekend offer to do a gig at the Sands Reno. Desperate for audience appeal, I coaxed a volunteer to come on stage and get a haircut. I’d tell hairdresser stories while wildly cutting the guys hair. Throwing in a few, “Oops!” I assured the brave soul, “What’s the worst that could happen? You’re bald!”
They invited me back.
From Reno I discovered Truckee in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, a taste of another world.
After twenty-five years in the fast lane…changing husbands, changing apartments, changing cars, changing boyfriends and realizing there would always be competition from younger women…I wanted a slow, stable life in a small town where I could hide. Taking the cash-tips from under my mattress, I managed to put a down payment on a house along the Truckee River. I’d walk to historic, downtown Truckee oozing of remnants of the old west. Real people lived here. It even included a rumbling train that stopped at the Truckee Station. Quaint. Charming. And best of all, five hundred eighty-three miles from my old life.
SHAMPOO was an instant success. Everyone in Truckee was curious about this sexy, blonde bombshell dressed in skinny jeans, tight t-shits cutting hair in 4” stilettoes who crash landed a prime piece of property in their quiet, homey, Birkenstock village. But thanks Lto Google my Hollywood reputation followed me. So, I played up the past with framed photos of a front-page scandal published in the National Enquirerand served chilled Pinot Blanc…they got over it! And it didn’t take long for clients to share their secret affairs and sexcapades with me. Yep, in time we bonded.
The house, an almost teardown three story, sunny yellow Victorian required work. I didn’t care that I decorated the interior with a leopard print upholstered love seat smothered with lots of bright fluffy pillows—so unfitting of the Victorian era. And it wasn’t long before I had a hot tub on the deck. Perfect for skinny-dipping. I was home. Sealed by my black and white cocker Spaniel puppy—Truckee—snuggling next to me. But I wasn’t sure I was really excepted until Kent and Monica Bocks, my neighbors, popped in. I loved the thought of having the same house and the same neighbors forever. Roots, that’s what it was. I was planting roots.
At forty-eight, I could not have been happier.
A few months into the installation of a new kitchen, I’d glance across the backyard dismayed to watch Kent and Monica’s marriage crumble. Monica left. Kent was devastated. Worried about him, I’d drag him over for dinner. We’d empty the wine rack, but I stayed arm’s length, a good friend clearly bucking the signals…Kent wanted more. Sensing a clouded judgment, I had to be the adult in the room. I assured him this was only a temporary hick-up, “Kent you’re in your fifties, you’ll meet someone…hey, I’ve been there.” Besides, I cherished my friendship with Monica.
On one summer afternoon, reaching from a ladder much too short, I struggled to change a light bulb in my living room and noticed this good-looking younger guy arrive at Kent’s house. Like a laser, my eyes focused straight through my window, to his body.
“F***! This guy is smoking hot!” His perfect six-foot-two frame standing cool, strong. There was something about him, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Blushing, embarrassed I turned away, but he caught me. I don’t remember counting, but within minutes I opened my front door to this hunk of a guy.
“Hello. I’m Phil.”
And within seconds he was on the ladder screwing in the light bulbs. And then the cabinet knobs, the screen on the slider that fell off when I opened the door too fast, the bathroom door that was stuck with paint, the deck railing that wiggled and the gate latch that Truckee managed to unlock with ease. And yes, there were the pine needles in the gutters. I tried to think of stuff just to keep him busy…I felt my face blush again as I watched him repair items on my to-do list. I was drawn to him…yep, at forty-eight, I had this teenage crush. It felt good to feel sexy. To flirt. It’s like I have this hidden sensual nature that pops up when I see a guy I’m attracted to. My brain kept thinking, “Keep him busy, maybe that little hole in his tight T-shirt will rip!” I felt a hot flash run through my body.
But I stopped there. That was the old Diana. I knew I didn’t want trouble in my life, again. No, I was not falling back into old habits…I was old enough to be his mother.
Philip Bocks was warm and friendly. Chatty. Twenty-eight. A Marine. And Kent’s son from a previous marriage. Also in a relationship dilemma, he began spending his time off in Truckee. As they both were going through a divorce their father-son relationship became closer.
We three became buddies.
Phil love to cook. In fact, it was over wonderful dinners in my new kitchen, I learned that Phil married a young woman he met at a strip club after only a few months of dating. Blinded by love, he overlooked her mood swings—depressed popped Zanex like breath mints. But the relationship killer wasn’t her addition to drugs. Phil discovered her cheating on him.
Cooking was Phil’s thing. He wanted to be a professional chef, putting his energies into developing and experimenting with recipes, maybe even a restaurant. Professional culinary school was expensive, he needed to save. But haunting him making full-time employment difficult to find, was a minor felon…some small thing when he was young…the reason Phil joined the Marines, there it didn’t matter.
On his days off from training, he would invade my sparkling new kitchen and cook like crazy. I’m not talking chili here…Chateaubriand, butterflied-boned roasted chicken smothered with Rosemary just for starters. He was a kid in a candy store. I loved to watch him. We flirted and teased all in good fun ending with a cigar out on the deck overlooking the river. During these Truckee summer evenings, I loved listening to Phil as he talked about his teenage pranks and love of the mountains. I think it was here…listening, the chemistry bubbled.
Phil was stationed at the Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, California. Loving the outdoors, he spent much of his childhood skiing, biking, hiking, and climbing the rocky mountain terrain of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. “Ski the rocks, hike the impossible!” It was just this type of activities that prepared him for the rigors of Marine life and years ahead of his fellow soldiers when he first arrived at boot camp. He knew how to dig in and hide. He knew how to survive with nothing. This talent was the asset the US Marines were disparate for. They needed a trainer, a leader. They needed someone to develop those exact skills to hundreds of other young men going into the service completely unprepared. And, Phil had it all. He quickly became a mountain leader and instructor, earning the title Mule Pack Master while training fellow Marines how to use pack mules when fighting in rugged, landscapes. He shared the skills and instincts…so natural to him…with the hundreds of other young men going into the service who were completely unprepared.
To Phil this was an excitement he relished, it wasn’t a job. It was a bank account that he’d save so when he got out, he could go to culinary school. Phil wasn’t upset about the breakup, being divorced meant a loss of a marriage credit. An extra thousand dollars a month in pay. Cooking school just got farther away.
I thought I moved to a nice quiet small town, only to find high drama in the house next door with two divorces happening at the same time. Yet, I’ll admit I enjoyed having both wives out of the picture.
We looked forward to the weekends. Phil cooked. Kent and I added inches. When not in the kitchen, Phil was on a ladder fixing gutters, blowing the leaves off my deck, moving the cow sculpture on the front lawn to cut the grass. Were we playing house? He loved being the fixer. We kept it friendly, flirty and fun. I had a crush. OK more than a crush. Phil was a great guy. I had never had a great guy in my life before. No, I would not go there. Yes, I loved being the girl next door.
It was one of those summer nights while Kent was mixing the drinks and Phil chopped away dicing garlic and onions, completely unaware I was watching him. I noticed a tattoo on his perfectly cut, muscular arm as it popped out of a cut off T-shirt. “This guy is smoking hot!” ran through my steaming mind. Maybe I had one drink too many, but it was the first time I lost control of the hidden chemistry. I was so turned on!
“Stop it!” I told my brain and turned away. Accidently spilling wine on my shirt, I grabbed a paper towel and caught Kent watching me. Uncomfortable, I went to change my shirt.
Pausing in the mirror, I could still see the long red scar fresh on my arm, and the swollen limp glands. I changed, again. My extroverted personality over shadowed my inner private fear—a few months prior I had a mole removed from my upper right arm, a melanoma—my secret. After a lymph node biopsy and a huge chunk of flesh removed my right upper arm I was left with a thick, seven-inch nasty scar. But I was cancer-free…that is for now. There were no guarantees.
Good news—I had medical insurance. Bad news—it didn’t cover much. Co-paying over $17,000 for the surgery, I was on my own for any future treatments, skin checks, blood work every few months. The doctors were adamant that I keep on top of this. I was only out of danger, now. The cancer could spread to other parts of my body. It was 2007 and the chances of my provider dropping me were high. The financial responsibility would have ruined me…could lose my house, salon, everything. The medical bills would leave me with nothing. Nothing.
The thought flooded my brain destroying my good mood. Over the course of more wine, I couldn’t help but express my fears to Phil and Kent. I had to tell someone. The stress was killing me.
A few weeks later during one of our routine dinners Phil stood up, raised his wine glass and delivered a message that no parent would ever want to hear. In two weeks, he’d be leaving to fight in Afghanistan. Phil was upbeat, excited and positive. In peak physical shape, at the top of his game, he was ready to go, and most of all wanted to serve our country. Kent and I were stunned. But that wasn’t all. With a gigantic smile, Phil dropped another bombshell.
“Dad, I’m going to marry Diana.” Then he turned to me, “With your permission, of course.”
“You’re joking?” Kent and I responded simultaneously.
“Not in the least bit!”
I was speechless. Kent turned pale. Then this weird silence. After what seemed like a million years, Phil spoke. “Okay I know this sounds crazy…but hear me out. It’s purely a business decision. My divorce means a monthly loss of a thousand bucks…I need that money for culinary school. Diana has a pre-existing cancer condition. As long as we’re married, she’ll be covered under my medical plan. AndI get to keep the spousal payments. It’s a win/win!”
Tears flooded my face. This was the most caring gesture anyone had ever offered. I knew Phil was sincere. But…I wasn’t so sure this was legal. Phil turned to his father, “Dad, maybe you should go home. I want to discuss this with my fiancée.”
Kent wasn’t happy. He knew Phil would be off to Afghanistan. He was blown away, “I can’t believe you’re going to be my daughter-in-law!” he said as he closed the door. In that fleeting moment it became clear, Kent wanted a deeper connection. All this time, he harbored romantic affections. He was out right jealous.
Yes, I always had a crush on Phil. OK more than a crush. But marriage as a business deal? It sounded like a great idea. Phil and I sat on the couch by the fire. He apologized for his abrupt approach and tried to make it seem strictly a business arrangement. But his voice couldn’t hide his emotions. The chemistry was there.
Honestly, I had sexual feelings at, “Hello.” It was difficult, but I had to remain detached. I needed to keep this a business arrangement. The twenty-year difference wasn’t the only problem. Even with all the medical help possible, I could never have children. There’s no question…this had to be strictly a business arrangement.
The conversation shifted to a wedding plan, his return from Afghanistan—Christmas. As we planned, of course the menu…out of the clear blue…Phil asked, “Can I ask you a personal question? Can I touch your breasts?”
Laughing, my top came flying off. And that was only the beginning. We ripped each other’s clothes off and made love in front of the fire. After all, he was about to become my husband! And what great sex we enjoyed in the days before he left for war. The best kind…Marine sex. Phil teased, “I’m doing it for my country. Semper Fi!”
There was a going away party the day before leaving for his first tour in Afghanistan. Several of Phil’s Marine buddies joined our backyard barbeque on the river. It was the first time I hung out with any military people. I assumed they were tough guys with a military attitude, but quite the opposite. They were nice guys who loved their country. So close-knit they had their own private language. I had to admit I was totally lost when they spoke about Afghanistan. We had troops over there, but I wasn’t clear exactly what they were doing…some kind of policing action to capture Al Qaeda members…Phil spoke like it was a vacation. “Don’t worry. I’ll be fine and back before you know it. Until then, keep smiling!”
Once settled in Afghanistan, Phil emailed daily. He sent funny, crazy photos of himself with his fellow soldiers hanging off tank guns, mooning the camera, sticking cigarettes in the ears, noses, and mouths of his buddy Marines as they slept. They seemed like college freshmen on spring break. I’d write back with the the latest gossip and let him know I was still doing dinners with his dad. He’d brag, “Ya’ know, the meal would’ve been much better if I cooked it!”
“I miss you.” Phil wrote. It was through emails we both got to know each other on a deeper level. I missed him, too. And always closed my emails with, Diana – future wife…XXOO.
Our relationship grew over the next two months. It was not loneliness or a business plan. I felt our souls becoming one. There was no question we were in love. It wasn’t just wanting him inside my body. It was cuddling and playing with his toes and tickling his ribs. I finally got it—love is being with that someone who loves you for just being you. And now, more than ever, couldn’t wait for him to come home.
I was working on a client. Almost noon, I poured her a martini. “It’s five o’clock somewhere!” she said. This Saturday morning, November 9, 2007, the wheels of a SUV drove into Kent’s driveway. Five uniformed Marines got out.
“I’ll be right back.” I said to the client. She lifted the dryer, “Could you hand me my drink before you go?” I handed her the martini then stepped outside the salon just as five uniformed men piled out of three unmarked white SUV vehicles.
“Diana Alouise? Is there someplace we can talk?”
Sergeant Waters was very straight forward: “After dropping off medical supplies and food to a remote Afghan mountain village that would be isolated until next spring, Sergeant Phil Bocks and his band of twenty-six including fourteen Marines were ambushed in a deep, narrow mountainous canyon while hiking back late in the day. Exposed to the above gunfire for four hours, helpless with nowhere to run or hide, six of the Marines were killed in the gunfire. Sergeant Phil Bocks was badly wounded in the leg. Injured, he continued on. Then…Sergeant Phil Bocks was shot a second time. This fatal bullet pierced his heart, killing him instantaneously.” There was a long pause. “Only three troops survived without wounds. It was the deadliest battle our troops have faced since the United States entered Afghanistan. The most fatalities ever in one day.”
I was numb. I saw lips move but didn’t hear words. Or remember how much longer Sergeant Waters continued talking or even when they left my house. I was no longer there. I was in a canyon somewhere in Afghanistan holding Phil in my arms as he slowly bled to death. Sergeant Phil Bocks died right there in my arms.
The Marines lost a hero that day. But I lost my super-hero.
The TV news reports that weekend were painful (including the nephew of New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Helen Clark) and even then the news didn’t tell the full gory story. I realized how little I knew. Marines just don’t kill the bad guys. They help those caught in the middle. Innocent families. Children. Young couples in forbidden love.
Over the days before his funeral, I spoke directly with the men who were with Phil on that fatal mission. Their firsthand experience confirmed Phil put his life on the line for them. Phil loved being a Marine. He loved his buddies. And they admired and respected him. Phil’s body came home. His family and hundreds of fellow Marines attended the funeral. The coffin was open. Wanting one last touch, I reached in and took his hand. I rubbed my cheek against his cheek. It didn’t bother me he wasn’t warm and soft or that he didn’t look the same. I was thankful I had the chance to say goodbye.
Yet, I felt mixed. Standing in front of his coffin, seeing his lifeless body seemed unfair. I was angry. We were going to get married. He would take care of me. I would take care of him. As days passed, I realized how lucky I was to know him and couldn’t help wondering if we ever would have met had I not moved next door? I told myself, I’d be OK.
No, things got tougher. Phil’s belongings were shipped home. Unpacking I came across the uniform he wore when he was killed. It still had dried blood all over it. Worse, it smelled like him. I held the uniform close to me. I could feel Phil inside. I sensed his pulse, his warmth. It was so real, I screamed in pain as I relived the horror. I could not stop crying. The pain pierced my heart. I could feel the bullet going deep into me.
Why did it take his death to understand real love? I know he loved me…just for me being me.
I have become friends with many Marines still serving in Afghanistan. We email. We Skype. I send care packages: socks, gum, cookies, candy, kid’s toys that they can give to Afghani kids…anything to make their day brighter. I do this every month because I don’t want these brave men to be forgotten.
His unwashed uniform hangs in a glass frame in my living room. It’s a reminder how precious life is.
Phil’s sacrifice for our country changed my life.