One of the hardest lessons a gay male who is going through puberty has to learn is the understanding and separation between other males they are attracted to sexually, and those who may be sexually attractive, but they are drawn to in a platonic way. Some relationships are confusing with quixotic intoxication while others are more native and unrefined. As a person who had many good-looking friends, outward attractiveness no longer became the sole bases for which someone would migrate from the ‘friend’ status to ‘sexually attractive’ desire.
The first time James noticed there even existed a delicate balance between the two fields he failed miserably. His heart did at least. It was the senior year in high school he developed an uncontrollable crush on the only male actor in the previously mentioned high school one-act play who also happened to be the current junior varsity quarterback. James tried to keep everything measurable and distant but after ignoring people’s inner energies for years, a slap across the face comes tsunamiing into his life in full force in the form of a muscular six foot statue with golden curly locks, and the most calming blue eyes that made James feel as if he just stepped into the cold ocean from the a hot deserted beach.
He was kind, nice, gentle and tolerant which always makes things worse for someone battling with trying to be not gay in a religiously unaccepting world and carry that principle to those in worldly settings like public schools. It was burdensome, even with the “Ozzie and Harriet” household he had been raised under. The more James dived into the guy’s mind, the more excitably serene and welcoming it became. In short of simplistic description, the guy was pure.
James wanted more, but he wasn’t sure what he wanted more of, and the delicate growth between the extents of I really just like hanging around you and please be my boyfriend now were blurry, cluttered, and incomprehensible in it’s lack of interpretation. What signs meant what were warping the wayward closeted Mexican and it was displayed in ways he was not aware. So much so, it caused a phone call.
James, this is Mrs. Phillips. I know you have a fondness for my son. And that is understandable. We are very proud of him.
James sat down on his waterbed that dominated the small room in the house on Sundown Meadow. He wondered if it was possible to drown in the water and make it look like an accident. In the panicked, short responses she perhaps felt the anticipation on the other end of the phone but still managed to state something that would stop the air and change his life forever.
It’s okay to feel the way you do toward guys. We have all been there. The Lord knows I have.
She gave a half laugh. She was revealing something of herself in order to relate to how James was feeling. It was not a matter of being a disgusting fag with unnatural desires. The desires were natural, simply misplaced with this particular person… but not because of the person’s gender. But as to the feeling itself, it was something of a natural progress.
She continued: Her son, so far as she knew, did not feel the same way as James. But it was okay, and her whole family… husband included, felt it was something that was acceptable, and not something he needed to be ashamed of.
She then stepped over the limits of good (true) Christian boundaries and invited him to their church on Sunday, followed by a large spread at their house afterward where he could socialize with people like the Phillips family and meet other friends who felt the same way they did. As a serious sin to go to other churches, even for weddings and funerals, the conversation had to be stopped there or else the demons would fly from the phone at any moment and give more layers to James’s already growing problems.
Rocking gently on the waterbed wasn’t helping. James needed stillness and he finally moved to sitting on the floor for a while trying to digest the conflict of what had occurred. First, he wasn’t presenting himself as a Jehovah’s Witness should so that no one at any time would ever think to invite him to another, demonic church. Second, his feelings for his school mate were coming across so strong, it was impossible to determine what James’s intentions were… and they needed to be clarified. Third, James had no clue what his intentions were and he had no clarity.
He felt like a failure on many levels but upon reestablishing some walls, he and his friend were able to continue on with the play tour, pretty much as good friends. On the bus ride back home from placing third at State, he and James slept in the back seatless part of the school bus, foot to head, slightly intertwined with each other with the two girls who they spent the night with on either side of them. Those seated in the front were laboriously confused as rumors of the boys were neither confirmed nor dispelled. News of the four-way sleeping situation spread. The four high schoolers laughed at the inside joke, and life moved on. James graduated and moved on to Rosenberg, the guy later made star quarterback.
I bet Mrs. Phillips has quite a few stories she is more than unwilling to share.
James giggles about her often when thinking about the importance of being empathetic rather than sympathetic. Knowing the mental state of someone and reacting accordingly is a far superior humanitarian level of appropriate response than the simplistic, sometimes rote and distantly unhelpful voices that sympathy can portray.
Where this particular situation happened to be saved from the binds of obsessive attention, James was not really willing to go through that insanely dangerous path again. Where he is most proud of this succeeding is with his best friend, David. Initially the conflict came with the idea that this somewhat typical brooding young man who was work-out conscious, five-o’clock shadow bearing ‘cool guy’ also happened to be four years younger than James and was only 15 when he started working on the Rosenberg, Texas Assembly Hall project, 16 when they started hanging out. From the beginning this was a no-brainer for James – David was going to be a friend only. Both guys were easily bored with the world around them. This could be wickedly fun. True, David wasn’t bad on the eyes, but there was no way this was ever going to be an “iffy” situation.
And it wasn’t for all the years they would hang out, go out, trash Houston, and victimize countless waiters with their off-color banter and sexual innuendo. David was bit of a douche and kept everyone at a distance. But even though it seemed like he was aloof regarding the world around him it was actually more of a running presentation of calculated times and sequences. All of which, always fell in place for him.
Arrive too early, people will talk with you. Arrive on time, people will have expectations in you. Arrive slightly late, people will notice your arrival. Arrive late, you can sneak in without being noticed, scope out the crowed and read everyone. Arrive too late, and people think you’re a jerk and you’re just in time to hit the next event. The goal was always to make it somewhere in between the last two time frames unnoticed. David’s silent shuffling and out-of-reach presence made him somewhat of a powerhouse wherever he went. For James who was more sensitive to people and the world around him, David made a very good shield so that James was able to see so many aspects of the world, people, crowds, pedestrians, horrified waiters, and old ladies helped with their groceries without being overwhelmed by the energy each of these people produced thanks to this odd mix of Abercrombie prick and southern boy showing respect for his elders.
And he was good at everything he touched – piano, guitar, creative writing, math, science, engineering… anything anyone threw at him. He even knew a bit of AutoCAD and sat down at James’s station one time to successfully fuck up everything in record time. It was all genius, all the time.
What made this less of a delicate balance was that there was no sustainability in the conflict mentally. Once the “friend” switch was pulled it was there for a lifetime and if there is anything James learned from his father is that loyalty is a man’s second best attribute right after integrity and before chivalry.
These are three principles James has never struggled with, they came naturally.
But in his gay mind he had finally achieved perfect symbiotic success. Here was a person who by all intents and purposes on paper (or in picture) should be someone sexually attractive and in reality he was not… not to James. He was a friend and for that deserved respect and protection like any other friend. After all, this is a person who is reserved and did not let a lot of people inside his head, and when James got a glimpse of the party, he… they decided to have some fun within the confines of a typical “bromance”. It was comfort on obscurity snapped into close clarity. It was intensity of persiflage set against the soft pillow of knowledge that someone of consistency and strength would always, without question be there when you dive bomb uncontrollably.
And there wasn’t any weirdness.
This is it. This is what normal guys are suppose to feel like with each other.
James admits to himself it seems a little limiting, but he went with it. He was amazed that it didn’t take more than six months of hanging out before he realized that aside from the high school crush-gone-crazy, David was the first guy he ever loved, truly loved, but not with the heart so much. He loved him like he did his father and for such James world regularly refer to the love he had for each of them synonymously. He was family. He was best friend. He was the person who took his side in a fight before asking what the fight was about. He would come to help before even knowing what help was needed.
Differences would include James and David showing up to the same events continually, accidentally dressed similarly as opposed to Steve’s either in welding gear or a suit and tie. Also, James didn’t curse in front of his father.
The night James receives his ‘good news’ starts like any other typical evening. On the construction site at 5 o’clock p.m. the announcement is made that dinner or supper is being served. The announcement was inconsistent depending on who was making the announcement, what part of the country they were from, and what their individual family customs involved. James always anticipates the revelation of whether they are serving the hearty “dinner” or the more elegant “supper” for the evening.
David swaggers near the maintenance building still dirty from whatever concrete production was being poured that day.
Hey. Wanna go to a movie tonight?
Good. Can I change over at your house?
It is never the first question that is the issue, it is always the second. James’s family had moved from Sundown Meadow to Parrot street in Rosenberg in order to devote more time to the Assembly Hall construction. As a place with a larger, more permanent bathroom facilities then the temporary trailers on site, one would always prefer the hot water of the house over the RV.
Arriving home at this time means Blanche would be making dinner (supper?) for the family. James didn’t call to announce David is coming over, but one thing is always true with Blanche: The less someone wanted her food, the more she insists on feeding them. Home cooking in endless supply.
Oh James! You scared me half to death. Hi David. How are your parents?
Just fine Sister Perez.
I saw your father running around all over the place the other day. Please tell them I said ‘hi’.
I will. And listen, don’t let me interrupt your dinner, I am just here for a shower and change.
We’re going to a movie later.
Well James, take your dinner and go eat at the table.
Yes James. Do what you’re mother tells you. Eat at the table. Evil grin.
Thanks. Both of you. Hurry up so we’re not late.
David, have you eaten?
No ma’am, but I’m going to pick something up at the theater. Please don’t worry about me.
You can’t eat there, it will cost a fortune. I will make you a plate.
Please Sister Perez. That is not necessary.
Nonsense. Go get cleaned up and I’ll bring you a plate.
Wait, how come he gets to eat in my room??
Because he’s company.
Thank you Sister Perez. I’ll be waiting… in James’s room.
James and David both laugh to themselves, although it seems Blanche may have gotten the last laugh in this case. James finishes his food and heads to his room to change as David comes in from the shower, dripping wet, with nothing but a towel on. In a small gesture of delicate respectfulness, James positions himself so he’s facing the opposite direction toward the window.
There is a knock at the door.
Boys? David? Here is your plate. Blanche opens the door and barely turns the corner.
Oh, David. I didn’t know there was public nudity in here. Put some clothes on before you eat. And try not to make a mess.
I will and thank you, again.
Technically we are not in public, mom.
It’s still indecent.
Steve enters the room and kisses Blanche on the lips.
Steve! Don’t sneak up on me like that.
Steve looks at the scenario and gives a half smile. Son. David.
Hi Dad. Welcome home.
It’s good to see you again, Brother Perez. I apologize for the… public nudity.
I don’t usually come home to find my wife with a naked man.
Steve! Let these two get ready. They’re headed to the movies.
Wait. James. We had our elder’s meeting tonight. And, we have this for you.
Steve produces a long envelope from his suit coat pocket and hands it to James.
He opens it and starts smiling.
I was accepted to Bethel. And my entrance date is on my birthday to give me time to wrap things up here. That’s in…
Oh James! I’m so proud of you!
As everyone hugged James, he stops at David who was holding a plate of pork chops with sides, still wearing nothing more than a towel.
We can hug later.
Yeah, David responded with his lips widely pressed together in a perfect horizontal line causing his cheeks to raise while his eyes moved in two-blinks-at-a-time repetition.
James takes the family away from David’s nondiscriminatory non-attire and into the living room where there was joy and gushing of happiness and future illustriousness via all the blessings of Jehovah. After a while James realized there was a movie to be seen and broke away back to his room.
He walks in to see his friend sitting on the black futon in a typical white Hanes tee-shirt and black Calvin Klein boxer briefs, crossed legs with the feet under the thighs eating the pork chop with his fingers. His barrier was down as was his head. James approached with caution. David was such a strong shield and a extraordinary mind, and yet so fragile at the same time. No matter what anyone ever said about him when they started hanging out, there is an incredible amount of goodness found within that mind. He may not prove it on an individual level, but globally he’s one of the best thinkers in that regard.
Any bad boy image was just that, image. James found it remarkable that any assumptions placed on his friend were just projection from viewers too busy to take a deeper look, too shallow to care about what they saw, or too ignorant to comprehend him and insisted on judging a substantially decent person even when he just stood still.
I take it that went well.
Yeah. Mom’s calling people now.
Did you need to…
No, we can go. Here, let me take that for you since you’re still… you know.
Tell your mom thanks. I couldn’t finish the vegetables because…
Yeah. I know.
James P. Perez © 2013