Chapter 2 – Listen

by Backseat Devil

Jehovah, my god, I have asked for this temptation to be removed.  I am trusting and leaning on you… calling on your Name to let this transgression, this… thorn in my side to be removed from me. Others may be able to suppress these feelings but I am not strong enough to do it on my own. I have tried countless times and there is no way I can be normal. I want to be normal, get married, and to live a decent life.  Please help me.

Through your son, Jesus Christ I ask these things.

Amen.

James had said his prayers at night.  All Jehovah’s Witnesses do so that Satan doesn’t attack them in their sleep, so they can have peace from the processes of the day, or maybe so they can have a better outlook in the morning.  Although for this particular twenty-year-old, his prayers didn’t seem to be working. After age thirteen when his occasional bedtime playmate left for Bethel service at the World Headquarters in Brooklyn, he had sworn off everything sexual in nature and was leading a relatively clean life.  He wasn’t even masturbating except for one time at fourteen when an obscene phone caller called the house and James curiously engaged him, curling up by the bed with a massive erection, the corded phone pressed against his ear like he’s hearing he just won a million dollar prize.

You AAAARE?

Yeah dude, I got the biggest boner… just stroking it.

When are you going to ejaculate?

Well, it takes… wait, what?  Are you serious?  How old are you?

James stayed by the phone every day around lunch in hopes the guy would call back.  And he did.  His name was Jeff and worked at The Galleria.  He would make random calls while on his lunch break at the phone bank that is inside the mall.  Nice guy really.

That was a growing trend:  everyone seems to open up to James.  It’s endearing to have people depend on him as a friend and confidant, and many people did, James himself never really opened up to people.  The main problem was as he was getting older, guys were getting hotter.  He was pretty sure something had gone awry with the puberty procedure.

And his prayers didn’t work.

(Whistle.)

Tony pokes his head out of the blue curtain on the upstairs loft dividing the volunteer sleeping area from the open drafting and design space occupying the center area of the Rosenberg, Texas Assembly Hall for Jehovah’s Witnesses Maintenance Building.  It was the first structure built on the property and housed a series of offices for administration and designers until the project is completed.  The building would then be converted to a large garage for the upkeep of the grounds, hence it’s name.

James looks up from his drafting station and smiles and gives the typical what up? nod in Tony’s direction.

Tony waves furiously for James to go upstairs.

James saves his work and heads in that direction thinking of the conundrum of the beckoning.  One reason he knew that prayers didn’t work at night is because the person he was about to go visit kept erotically invading his dreams in various, amorously aggressive scenarios usually mixed with angel/demon zoomorphic imagery or whatever raw sexual carnage that happened to have passed James’s mind throughout the day. Plus, there were many good looking men on a large church-based construction site.

It wasn’t that he found Tony particularly sexually attractive.  He was a good looking black man who worked with James’s father, Steve in the welding shop on the opposite end of the property.  Although Tony kept a sculpted body, it was his overt sexual suggestions and physical poking that were the main cause for defense.  However, they always provoked a giggle for the obviousness and blatant nudity of how they were presented.  Tony had been around, he had seen things before coming into The Truth… so he knew how to charm a young gay Mexican.

I got the new White Zombie CD.

Dude, you know better than that.

What?  I know you wanted to hear it.

And if you’re going to invite me up here to listen to devil music, have the damn thing open and ready to play.  I’ve got work to do!

Tony’s laugh is in short bursts and powerfully infectious.  The two listen to a few songs off “Astro-Creep 2000” before James takes off back to work.  The scene is somewhat disproportionate as a young black man is dancing around shirtless with a perfect set of 6-pack abs and a younger Mexican dressed in business attire are linking through the only connection they will ever share… music.  As cute as it was in this particular statement, overt sexual desire on its own was never quite a turn-on to James.

Although the attention was easily played with.

After graduation from high school and enduring many years of exposure to “the world” without participating in their music, entertainment, or general merriment, he was tired.  Absolutely nothing was blessed by means of banishing homosexual thoughts, tendencies, wet dreams, or even dreamscape arousal in the middle of the night.  So after his eighteenth birthday, he went exploring.

Other than the few ‘Witness approved’ dramatic movies of captivating cinematography and song, there really wasn’t an exposure to “films.”  His first forbidden movie was Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992).  He watched the movie three times in two days, uncut and in widescreen.  It was fantasy on a psychotic visceral thunder cloud.

The colors were in dense saturation, the costumes where thick and heavy with design, and the lighting beamed as a character all it’s own.  It was impossible to absorb the elements of the art piece. It wasn’t until the third viewing he even noticed the warped and simple distortion of the storyline or the fundamental metronomic rhythm of the main character, and the genius in which it was played.

It was grit in art, grit and art.  It was strikingly elegant in the understanding of the human condition known as ‘love’… something that James had not experienced personally as he had been distant to people for many years trying to keep everyone from thinking he was gay.  The portrayal of this affection was explained with painful historical passion.  The end result of a betrayal from the church one once fought so hard for is harrowing in itself, but stretched over several lifetimes it would be diabolical in its mania, until they see…

…that one face that reminds them of the person they lost.

It was an understanding of human psychology torn to shreds and put back together.  If that wasn’t brilliance,  he didn’t know what was.

Other movies followed.  Music that always danced on the frightfully uplifting pop made it’s way out of the closet and everything else that had been avoided flooded in.  And in an odd twist contrary to what the Organization had taught him, he never took away anything more than the question, what is this person feeling?

In the plastic smiles and the responsibility toward the greater peace, it was just assumed that everyone in the Organization had the ability to call Jehovah up, ask for a favor with a pure heart, and all evil in the form of anger, hate, hard-ons, and sex would be turned into sunshine flowers and cute bible verses written on gumdrops.  That never happened.

So much of the human heart and the soul for which its engine is caked with subtleties that are ignorable, but pernicious in nature when left without recognition or understanding.  For the first time James saw it was okay to be angry.  But not just angry… all the aspects of anger.  There was a difference between wrathful and indignation, although the outcome could possibly be viewed from the outside as the exact same emotion with the exact same display.

And it was okay to have both.

Love is such a simple word, but on screen one can see the elation of companionship, the blushing of sexual arousal, the dominance of unrelenting hope, the madness of compulsive obsession, or the slow bleeding of a heart beaten in deflation as they indulge themselves with mourning in avoidance.

This, this is what James wanted to do with his life.  Computer drafting was fun, passive, mentally bridging the links between structural math and artistic presentation.  It was decided that this was a good direction to go as a career as drafters would be needed in the New System after Armageddon to help rebuild the planet… although James was a computer drafter.  By all accounts of what the end of the world would entail it didn’t seem likely that there would be stable electrical grid structure in place.  He was all thumbs when it came to hand drafting.  This worried him.

The conversation had already taken place a few years earlier.  Every aptitude test that he took in school said he needed to be a movie director or producer.  Other possibilities were actor/actress, art director, or costume designer – each time, every time.  What he really wanted to do was be a theatrical lighting designer.  It was something his heart was set on for the last two years of high school.  He was offered a partial scholarship with his “Outstanding Technician” award for being Crosby High School’s One-Act production of QUILTERS’ student director and lighting designer when he pulled off 112 verbally orchestrated lighting cues for the 38 minute 45 second play after cue #1 was incorrectly programmed into the University of Texas lighting board.

It was the only technical theater award given in years.  Only one was given at the end of the final round of competition.  Unfortunately pursuing this natural-born talent was nixed on the several occasions the subject was addressed, usually by Steve.

You’re not going to work in the theater. There are too many homosexuals.

That discouragement did not have the intended effect.  After the competition it all seemed rather pointless.  Everything in his present was in the piece of paper bearing his honor and everything in his future was in the handshake of an old man with a big smile at the University of Texas.  James could make it out.  He could be off on his own and actually learn.  As the visual arts became louder in it’s drum line, more and more art began to flow out of him in deeper and more progressive levels of, what some would later describe as ‘weirdness.’

James didn’t care.  In his most frustrated stagnicity he found movement in artistically experimenting, and it was joyous.

By the time Tony calls James up into the loft, he had already realized Jehovah was not listening.  James thought it was time to shut up and instead of talking so much, listen… listen with the vigor and excitement short of screaming from the top of the The Transco Tower I WANT TO HEAR EVERYTHING EVER RECORDED!

James wasn’t sure if Jehovah approved of what he was listening to, watching, and learning, but if God created these people and these are their expressions of art with emotions screaming into film, grinding into recordings, plastered into books, and smeared across canvas, then James thought it was worth paying attention to.

Listening to everything was the easy part.  What to do with what he was learning about humanity… a bit trickier.

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