Backseat Devil

Chapter 5 – Confronting the Devil

It was late… past 2:00 am late.  David had dropped him off and didn’t want to stay the night, obviously.  The air was unusually crisp for the city which made walking around in downtown that much more stimulating in appreciation.  James was quiet not to disturb the house.

Six months.  Tick, tock.  It’s all about to rock.

Or maybe not.  He thought it might take him that long to permanently find a way to silence the gay inside him screaming like a horny beast to get out.  It seemed so fucking unfair that straight guys in their teens raging with hormones and overexcited levels of testosterone were allowed an ‘occasionally slip-up’ and it will be forgiven with nothing more than a reprimand or even a publicly announced reproval.

In Victoria, his best friend as a child was Donald whose father used to hit or in other ways physically abuse everyone in the large household.  It didn’t matter if there was company present or not.  On two occasions where James spent the night he remembers cowering under the covers of the top bunk of the boy’s bedroom because Donald’s father had to scream and yell at Dawn in a method that justified the shaking of the house.  The next time it was something his brothers Efrain and Chauncey were up to that would be considered ‘typical boy behavior’ by running through the house tracking mud everywhere and for that they were not only physically attacked, but were assigned the chore of washing every car in the parking lot of vehicles that evening as the mother had already cleaned the floors which they so superficially damaged.

James refused to go back over to that house again.  How is that level of anger acceptable and even promoted (as the father was a well respected elder) but desiring the touch of another male is sinful?  Donald had an older friend named Stephan who fucked every girl in school.  Then he fucked every girl in the neighboring school.  Each time he got caught he would be talked to by the elders… repent and get a small announcement that he had been talked to, and off he went to fuck the next girl and after a few weeks was back with responsibilities in the congregation running microphones or at the helm of the sound system at the Victoria Kingdom Hall until several months went by and he was caught again.

That went on for years.

But Tony, in the past year, get’s caught fucking a guy and he is disfellowshipped immediately because it was unnatural.  As it was a recent event James could close his eyes and remember his father, Steve stepping into the RV camper the family had on site in his welding gear and visibly distraught.  James and his mother were in the dining bench/living room area waiting.  All they knew what that something happened to Tony and an emergency elder’s meeting was called.  So emergency, his father didn’t even have time to change.

Tony is being disfellowshipped and being escorted off the property.

You know, he doesn’t really have family to speak of, where is he going?

It doesn’t matter.  He was caught… (collects himself) … he was caught having sex.  With another man.  He… is a homosexual.

James’s thoughts were then consumed with a hybrid of relief and despair.  All those times Tony flirted with him and patted him on the ass… he thought the assistant welder was just trying to test him, but come to find out it was real… very very real.  Not only that, had he decided to pursue any of the dreamlike fantasies to the slightest degree, he would likewise be in an elder’s meeting with no where to live as Tony would be required to reveal everyone he has ever had sex with, on and off the construction site.

A homosexual.  In MY welding shop.  I shook his hand.  I ate with him.  I took him in.  I thought of him as a son.  (Distraught.)  Who knows what he could have done to James if given the chance.

Steve turns his attention to his son and approaches with the force of a billowing wind.

Did Tony touch you in any way?

No, dad.  I am as shocked as you are.  But no.  I am fine.  Our friendship is… was normal.  I promise.

If you hear anything or find out about anyone else, you let me or one of the elders know immediately.

Of course.

It appears being a homosexual and acting on homosexual desires is tantamount to “roving rapist lurking in the corners ejaculating fantastical whims at unsuspecting closeted gay passers-by.”  James feels suddenly overwhelmed with grief at the missed opportunity but is then brought back to reality that in a witch hunt, he would have been the next person hoisted up to the stake.

It wasn’t his father’s anger that took him by surprise.  In fact he knew that Steve was probably displaying only a fraction of the enmity-fueled exasperation filling the folding corners of the RV trailer.  It was transference from exasperation to heartbreaking disappointment that stunned him – partially because an infestation entered the building site via his welding shop on his watch, and partially because he was so consumed with work he didn’t notice the signs before this happened.  He was doubting everything and everyone by that point.  James hated seeing his father like that and had to leave out the back door to get some air even though the breath of a mile radius was thick in condescending disgust.

Six months. 

The maniacal comparisons of ‘this-sin-is-greater than/less than-that-sin(s)’ would send anyone paying attention to the Organization into a lunacy coma.  Plus, if a year of high school debate had taught him anything, comparison arguing may win the immediate brawl, but it doesn’t make one correct.  What is correct?  He didn’t know.

According to a large red hardcover book entitled “Sex” that he had found at one of the houses his mom cleaned things like masturbation, arousal, erections, ejaculate, precum, etc. were all explained in a fairly straightforward, non-sexual format.  There was a picture of a penis with semen dripping from it what was intensely close, even in the black and white presentation.

He was excited and it was the first time an understanding of his body, chemistry, and the journey through adolescence was explained in a non-naughty way.  The bound collection of Shel Silverstein cartoons from his days at Playboy, not so much.  And it confused him.  Here is an explanation of what he was going through in one hand, and in the other hand was a book of comically erotic drawings and a stack of Hustler  magazines.

I’m not having the response I am suppose to be having.  Wait.  Isn’t that the guy who wrote those poems we would read in elementary school?

By stark contrast every time he would turn to the Live Forever book where one of the collection of pictures showed two guys entangled against a wall in a dark hallway mid-way of disrobing each other, he would get an instant boner.  Could this be Satan or could this just be a natural human response of a teenager… except with boys instead of girls?

The reason why he held so much guilt about his molester and the reason why it took until age 19 for it to come to light, is because it wasn’t the playing around that mattered, it was the holding, being held, the warmth of having someone masculine near.  It was tranquil.  Everything else was just mechanics, especially when one is physically too young to achieve an erection.  As one gets older, they begin to recognize the touch, the closeness of an attractive energy that captivates a person so much it’s impossible not to have an immediate, physical response.  How does one pray against biology?  It is with that empathy toward the country farm boy that James never saw the true danger of what was being done.

Thankfully with David, there is this separation between a regular ‘bromance’, and something more erotic in nature.  That separation was not only possible, but it had worked and is working.  It was something he had to stumble through but it’s success gave him stability, like friends should.  Where is that “so you think you might be a gay” pamphlet that says everything that he is feeling is normal?  If he separates the sex from the companionship he is still required to “not practice”… anything.  Yet, when he combines the two, he achieves unspeakable invigoration and peace.

This is ridiculous.

James throws his pants across the room and picks up The Houston Press.  It’s not something his parents would approve of him reading as outside literature is generally frowned upon.  The Press was how he found out about movies playing, bands, bars, clubs, etc.  It is life going on and in some ways it was the hedonistic display that the Witnesses had instilled into his head, but in other ways it is an expression of life, love, appreciation, and creativity… it is a celebration.  Yes, the gay community is still wrapped in the “eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we will die” mentality because it was only 10 years before they actually were dying.

As a young boy he sat in front of many televisions ending with the one in the corner of the living room at the hand-carved house on Crouch Road watching the world of AIDS unfold with such sadness and connectivity.  It was the first time he understood what “homosexual” was while peering into the television wanting to help each and every lesion-laden man propping up news sensation and save them from this disease, from the unresponsive president, from this news person shoving a microphone in their face and using them as a coat of viewer ratings.

He was so young barely even grasping the remotest concept of sex, and yet he didn’t understand what the political or the sociological impact of the time frame would mean for years to come.  Even as a child his heart would break with the idea of “the wages sin pays is death” that is the graciously polite way of saying “I told you so.”

What were these people’s crime?  James didn’t know at the time.  Slumping in the same location David was sitting the night before he could feel his friend’s lingering depression.  He knew what their crime was, now.  It was acting on their biological responses in the same way their straight counterparts are allowed to do.  Sociological growth eventuality means this paradigm shift would suffer some disruption.  Maybe it is on purpose, maybe it is just evolution.

There in The Press they were advertising films like JEFFERY playing at a normal theater, out in the open for anyone to see.  Gay clubs were advertising right next to straight clubs.  Witnesses going to straight clubs were reproved for putting themselves in danger, but Witnesses going to gay clubs were disfellowshipped for taking the first steps on acting on a vile sin.

Why?  It’s the same exact emotion?

So much didn’t make sense because he didn’t know the other side of the argument.  He recognized the eyes of those men cruising restrooms and such, men starving themselves of that which they emotionally and mentally crave to the point where they go mad with suffocation.  At that point any passing stranger, the scent of any man, the touch of any hairy arm throws one into the bingo cage of justification to have any male-to-male contact no matter what the cost, location, or level of appropriateness.

Is that what I’m going to be at Bethel? Where the preoccupation of sex, whether having it or not having it becomes a more substantial weight then the rest of the world around me?

Six months. 

If he can justify one uncomfortable adventure, then he can certainly justify another.  On the back of The Press there was an ad for a new, gay male fetish facility.

No.

However, if it’s a legal business, they cannot be selling sex.  So, no sex and a glimpse into the gay sex world?  Maybe.  More research is needed as he tends to be meticulously pragmatic in his planning, and there are few immediate decisions made unless one has time to sleep on it.

He curls into the still folded up futon and covers himself with a blanket while adjusting his pillow.

Five months, 29 days.

James P. Perez © 2013

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Chapter 4 – Nights of the Round Table

There they are.

How is it possible that they could get so far behind?  The theater is only like five minutes away.

You never knew with those two.

Hi! Sorry we’re late.  We had to stop for some gum for Kristy.

You wanted some too.

Yes, I know.  But it’s in the middle of the night and we are about to eat.  I could have waited.

Maybe you could have waited, but you are not on the receiving end of your breath. I was just trying to help before we met up with the boys.

Oh yeah. You were being polite.  It wasn’t because those sticky Twizzlers with their fake flavors and preservatives are rotting your mouth from the inside out, leaving a trail of stench along the way.

Katy, we did not need that visual. We’re about to eat.

David looks at the man standing near them, watching the scene.  They will be dining with us.

The obviously gay waiter is disappointed that the two similarly dressed young men would not be alone for him to flirt with and takes off to gather two more place settings.

Are you two going to sit down, or what?

Yes, David.  Don’t be inpatient. 

I know.  Plus, I’m still traumatized from the thing.

James and David look at each other and then to the twins.  The waiter returns with two place settings for the girls and grabs his pad.

Diet Coke.

Regular Coke.

Hot tea.

Make that two.

The twins first made their appearance when a young local girl with a crown eclipsed with thick golden blonde (sometimes reddish brown) curls and a dominate force which was perfectly scaled by her incredible observant sense of sweetness.  Amber’s father worked with the building committee and she liked to visit James, so passing through the Maintenance Building was a regular occurrence for her.  After work was filled with talking with him about the various teenage consternations James lovingly referred to as “like scrubber base through the pump truck, so are the daze of our lives.”  And it was true, and a large building project after working hours can be a therapeutic place to talk out one’s problems.

Amber talked about James often, and one day she brought in two identical twins named Kristy and Katy, who only slightly swayed from the ‘perky blonde’ stereotype, but in complete opposite directions.  They, like Amber, were sweet, honest, and excelled in poised diplomacy.  Unlike Amber, they maintained a rather spotless appearance while working on the construction site which speaks more about Amber’s work ethic than anything else. The twins were often quiet at first, but once their engine was started, they were nothing short of heartfelt refreshment.

As the twins and David lived in the same area of east Houston and knew each other from the same congregation, the three of them associated with each other often with a group that included others from various circles of the Organization whether construction, congregation, or relatives.  As James and David hung around more it was only a matter of time before the twins made their way into the story, and around the table.

David still has a look of concern on his face.  Are you going to explain what you were talking about?

Yeah, I’m desperate to find out if you made it out alive.

Well, obviously I made it out alive.

He’s joking, Katy.

I know he’s joking. I’m just saying he didn’t have to worry.

I’m sure he’s not that worried if he’s making a joke.

James and David speak in unison, What happened??

A homeless man walked up to Katy at the gas station.

He was big and ugly. He smelled like pee.

And?

And that was it.

No, it wasn’t it.  He popped out of nowhere and grabbed my arm and didn’t let go.

Where were you?

I was on the other side of the Jeep on the passenger’s side.

What?

Well, he approached the driver’s side.  I thought he wanted to just talk to Katy.

David is beside himself, What man comes out of nowhere in the middle of the night and just wants to talk?

He wasn’t that big.  I thought she could handle it.

James tries to be comforting.  I have no doubt that you can handle yourself.  But it is a bit creepy.

Thank you, James.  It wasn’t a big deal but I appreciate saying that.

We will walk you your Jeep after we eat.

To the well lit parking lot off the street.

The sentiment is nice.

I think she’s being dramatic.

I think you’re being naive.

Have either of you two considered taking a self defense class?

We looked into it before but we got conflicting information.

Dad thinks it’s a good idea…

Yeah, because he’s a father and wants to protect his girls.

But an elder in our congregation said that taking a violent class would be contrary to what we are as Christians.

He said that in a talk, Kristy.  He wasn’t talking about this particular situation.

And generally speaking the consensus is that everyone, brother or sister should stay away from any kind program that teaches a person to be violent. James had heard the argument many times.

Wait.  I’m not going to go against the elders here.  But there is a stark difference between taking jujitsu lessons and self defense classes.  One is an offensive method of aggression while the other is a protection mechanism in case someone is aggressive to you.

Yeah, but both are violent in nature and gives you knowledge on how to harm another individual by using violent-based maneuvers.

Which is what you need whenever someone with violent intent is coming up to you.  It’s not demonstrated in this case because the guy didn’t have violent intent, but seriously… especially for young women.  I would like it if you took a self defense class because, seriously, I wouldn’t know what to do if anything were to happen to either one of you.

James turns to the twins, I agree with him.  I mean, I am trying to make the elder’s argument, and violence is not the way to solve anything, but I honestly agree.  But I will add, talk it over with your dad again and make a decision as a family.

Yeah, but don’t mention this incident because then you’ll get the…

‘Why were you out so late in the middle of Houston’ speech. Yeah I know.

We’ve already gotten that when we got the flat tire.

It’s just an opinion but, you may get shit from the elders, but at least you will be alive.

…and not violently raped, bloody, and left for dead on the side of the road.

David looks blankly at the waiter who is bringing the drinks.

Sorry for the delay.  Is everyone ready to order?

Kristy and Katy both sip from their drinks and almost instinctively trade the glasses without looking at each other.

Did I switch them?  I’m so sorry.

It’s okay.

It happens all the time.

David starts, I’ll have the personal with pepperoni.

Can I have a slice of that?  I love their pepperoni.

Yeah, moocher.  Make it the fourteen inch.

I’ll take the chicken Casar salad.

I’m not sure yet. Go to James.

Twelve inch mushroom pan, please.

Twelve inches, got it.  That leaves you.

I think I want the Italian sub with the dressing on the side.  You’re going to split that with me, right?

Oh my god, I got the freakin’ huge salad.

James and David in unison, It’s a salad.

We good?

Yeah, that works.

Okay, I will get this right out.

David, would you really lose it if something ever happened to one of us?

Katy, I don’t even want to discuss it.  I would… I don’t know, kill myself.

Awe.  That’s sweet.

I personally cannot say the same.  We’ve only been hanging out for a year or so, so I’m less attached…

(Laughter)

James tries to redeem the joke.  But, I know how much you mean to David and on his behalf I have to say I would probably be pretty upset. 

Thank you for that sentimentality.

Both of you now… with the sentiments.

In its reality, the round table discussions were a source of energy for James, fuel for his soul.  He had to pay it some respect.  Honestly, a world without you two is like a world without flowers or sunshine.  You would definitely be missed in a very noticeable way… and moving on would be a very dark and dreary path for anyone who knows you, and recovery would be something I can’t even imagine…

Wow James, that is…

I don’t know what to say.

Yeah James, way to show me up.

It’s true though.

Thank you for that.

I was just going to kill myself, not be some whiny… bitch.

Killing yourself is just as poetic, don’t sell yourself short. 

Do you write poetry?

I bet you would be good at poetry.

I haven’t in a long time.  I kinda go through phases.  Poetry to me is like clearing a brain clog after some event or adventure.

I would like to read some of your poetry.

David sits back in his chair right arm over the chair back and left arm on the table fidgeting the swizzle straw brought with the hot tea.  Speaking of adventure… are you going to tell them?

Tell us what?

David smiles his best douchy “ha-ha fuck you” grin and gets up from the table.

I’m going to go ask the waiter for some waters and pee.

Ew.

James gives a reasonable sheepish avoidance pause in order to give David enough time to get out of earshot.

I’m going to Bethel.

Oh my god that’s great.

You already told us that.

I did?

Yeah, a few weeks back you told us you were going to Bethel.

Yeah, and although we would be sad to see you go, we are going to try to be very supportive.

We will be very supportive.

A lot more supportive than David, that’s for sure.

James laughs and shakes his head.  I’m going to try this again.  A few weeks ago, I applied to Bethel.  This evening, I received my letter of acceptance to Watchtower Farms at Wallkill.

Oh my god!  I’m so sorry I didn’t catch that.

Yeah Katy.

You didn’t catch it either.

Wait, is that why he…

Yes.  So… let’s speed this up before he gets back. 

(In unison) Congratulations.

When do you leave?

In six months.

Wow, that long? 

They are allowing me time to finish up at the Assembly Hall and get the Kingdom Hall Building Committee settled in their new offices, especially since we now have the new standardized Kingdom Hall packages.  They are giving me time to get all that up and running before leaving.

That is very cool.

I bet your parents are so excited.

They are.  My dad couldn’t stop smiling and my mom immediately started calling everyone.  It was almost too much.  I was kind of glad to get away tonight.  It just so happened David was there, I don’t know how I would have told him otherwise.

You just found out tonight?

Kristy, he just said that in his re… announcement.

I’m sorry, it’s just all now sinking in.

Yes tonight.

And David was there? 

How did he react?

He was naked and holding a pork chop.

The waiter is standing with two waters, and places each down carefully.

I don’t even want to know what that means.

Seriously, how did he take it? 

Subtle graciousness.

Wow.

Are you exited? 

Of course he’s excited, Katy.  Why wouldn’t he be?

You just don’t seem that excited, that’s all.

True, usually when people have news like this they would say it right away.

Not wait so long in the evening after a movie, you know.

James smiles.  I’m excited.  It’s just a lot to take in.

If you weren’t that excited you could tell us.

We wouldn’t judge you.

But this has been a goal of  yours, right?

Since birth, it seems like.

It’s a big move. 

Of course he’s excited.  You can see it in his face.  David slides past James and pats the right cheek twice with his palm of his hand before slumping down in his chair, same position as before.

To wrap this up…

Please, don’t change the subject on my behalf.

… For the benefit of those who brought up the subject in the first place, yes, I am very excited, but it is six months away and I have a lot of work to do between now and then.

Plus he’s going to the farm and not the city.

You’re going to the farm?

Oh my god, Kristy, are you not listening to anything he says?

That’s right, you said the farm.  I’m sorry.  It’s a lot to take in, Katy.

Which honestly, I’m not thrilled about the farm itself, but would probably be the healthiest thing for me.

You would get in trouble in the city?

You would sooo get in trouble in the city.

And honestly, now that’s it’s official, it feels a little bit different then when it was just ambient suggestion.  Everyone is always talking about Bethel service and when you’re preoccupied with the Assembly Hall and Kingdom Hall building, Bethel service seems a little limiting at times.  And once you have the letter in front of  you, it makes it… real.

I think I know what you mean.

Because your lifelong goal is to go to Bethel and you got accepted?

No, but like the courses we’re taking or something.  You know.  Getting what was once an idea, official.

I don’t know what she’s talking about,  but I’m proud of you.

I was trying to relate to your emotions, but I’m proud of you too.

David sits up and places his hand firmly on James’s shoulder but does not squeeze.  We are all proud of Brother Perez.  (Pause.)  And now we can change the subject. 

James says “thank you” in his head and looks over at David.  He got it.

David slouches back in his chair.  And both you girls need to stop saying “oh my god” all the time.

I know.  We’re working on it.

Why are you bringing that up?  You’re the one with the dirty mouth…

You too James.

And you’re going to Bethel.

Nobody realizes this, at all, but David in all his… “gotta do the cool thing”-ness really tries hard to make me a better Witness.  He bitches at me when I curse, sends me home when it’s late, even with his “oh my god” suggestion to you…

Stop.

What?  It’s true.

No.  Don’t do that.

What?

Totally fuck up my image like that.  Not to these two.

They’re probably going to tell everyone, now, you know.

Exactly.

You will be a Ministerial Servant soon.

I don’t have the ties for that. 

You have to give up the Doc Martins.

I’m not giving up my Docs.

The twins butt in.  Wait, what?

Tell people that David is actually a good person on the inside.

Who would we tell?

And who would believe us?

Are you actually worried, because we really won’t tell.

Are you two doing the fake conversation thing again? 

On the way here David ran over a basket full of puppies and laughed.

(In unison) Ew!

Nice save, James.

You guys say the worst things.

What is this “you guys” crap?  He’s the one who said it!

Yes, well… we know where he gets it from.

They can’t spread gossip about something they don’t even believe, I suppose.

Thanks guys.

David, we know you’re a good person, it’s why we love you, and we would never do anything to tarnish your bad boy image.

Thank you, ladies.

We were actually really surprised you two hang out so much.  I mean… it’s like…

The bad boy and the golden child being friends…

… a little surprising. 

No offense to either of you.

It’s honestly seems like a odd yin-yang thing going on.

That’s an interesting way of putting it.

All I know is that with your “oh my god’s” and his foul language, I have the best mouth at the table.

The waiter is standing with their food, not sure how to take what he just heard.

Here you go.  Chicken Caesar.  Italian sub.  And here are the two pizzas. 

(Sporadic)  Thank you.

Does everything look okay?

(Sporadic) Yes.  Thanks.

Can I get you anything else?

More napkins.

Napkins.  Right away.

The waiter disappears as suddenly as he arrived.

So what’s the deal with Bethelites and free food?

Yeah, I mean… they eat like kings and one person offers to take them out to eat and they get the most expensive thing on the menu.  And when the check comes they expect someone else to pay.  Remember Michael?

You sound like an apostate, Katy.

Okay I’m not trying to sound apostate, it’s just something I notice.

The waiter returns with napkins.

James had already taken many trips to Bethel and seen the same thing.  You don’t sound apostate.  It’s something I notice too.  I have no clue, but I promise once I get there and find out, I will let everyone know.

Thank you.  (Pause.)  James, when you get to Bethel, don’t become weird.

Katy, my dear, I’m already weird.

I mean weirder.

I will try.

I thought we were changing the subject.

(Unison) We are.

James P. Perez © 2013