James walked out of the hospital late that night with the twins close behind. He was angry with his mother or maybe just deflection. It was a tumor and nothing more so far. She is already killing her husband in her mind, pacing back and forth in an egotistical rant of how she wouldn’t be able to go on. Her negative projectile energy of her burdensome future pain and suffering stood in rippling contrast to his calm and collected father laid up in the bed trying to make jokes to keep the atmosphere light.
James’ parents worked best as a team – the mother was emotional, and the father was logical. The balance provided proper incubation for James to develop into a perfect child. His mother was the perfect homemaker, his father was the perfect breadwinner. The result by default was James having a perfect life void of conflict or friction. Boundaries were never tested, and hardships were easily overcome. James was now seeing how others outside in the world handled hard times… struggle… and some of them had great coping mechanisms in place that he had never seen before. Others just used the lifelong combination of sex, drugs, and alcohol which seemed to only land everyone back in the same position they were initially trying to cope with.
Assumptions from people he talked to in ‘the world’ always jumped to religious household not accepting of homosexuals? Your upbringing must have been hell. Nothing could be further from the truth. His home life was wonderful, and up until this point he had no complaints whatsoever.
Sometimes his mother would shift focus from father when James felt this really should be ‘dad’s time’ for attention… and this seemed to be one of those times. David stood by his side until the appropriate “I’ll wait for you in the truck/Get well soon, Brother Perez” was exchanged giving James some time to be alone with his father while his mother talks to the twins in the hall after their visit.
David is sitting on the tailgate of his Ford truck stationed diagonally at the far end of the parking lot watching the traffic across the street. How is he?
He says he’s fine, but by the amount of jokes he’s making I think he’s a little worried.
James sits next to David and stares at Highway 59.
The twins come up and stand on either side of them.
James, your mother is so sweet.
Thanks, I know.
I seriously think that is the longest time I’ve talk with her.
I’m so sorry about all this, James.
Thanks. This, is a very weird feeling, honestly.
Did you want to go eat or something? It’s late.
I think… I think I just want to go home.
I could eat. Why don’t you ladies go on ahead, I’ll take James home and catch up with you later?
(In unison) That sounds good.
Both girls give James a hug and say bye to David. James doesn’t move. David doesn’t either. After a minute David puts his arm around James’s shoulders. Dude, I cannot even… begin to fathom what you’re going though. If this was my father I would have fucking lost it… throwing things, smashing windows… who knows. I know you, you are containing yourself for everyone, but now it’s just us. so…?
James didn’t know. He was gripped with fear and didn’t want to release it via anger and thrust. In fact, he wasn’t even sure he could move himself off the tailgate to get into the truck. His emotions were in freeze frame in mid free fall in a free-for-all. This couldn’t be happening… not to his Dad. Despite the gay issue, his father is his consulting oracle for all matters of logic and argument. He is mentally the strongest person he knew and physically formidable in stature. Being hugged by him is spiritually balancing and works almost like a re-calibration for the soul. This man… this force couldn’t have a tumor. His body would have said What the hell is this shit? and kicked it out, which is essentially what Steve found in the toilet.
Like his father, humor is used for a variety of reasons but the effort it takes to breathe at this moment even made constructing a fairly decent c-grade joke an impossibility. It feels almost disrespectful to not have some sort of wild and violent reaction to the situation at hand.
I want to have a reaction, but everything within me is in dead silence like my insides have been removed and replaced with condensed air.
David takes his arm back and moves closer to lean over, shoulder touching shoulder. We can sit here all night if you need. Take your time.
The two young men watch the traffic of the highway silently in the shadow of the parking lot light off to the right of the truck.
An unknown amount of time passes before James finally speaks, I think I want to go home.
In the truck David takes a right at the light and heads north on Highway 59.
Are we taking the long way?
James rolls the window down and rests his head against the metal frame of the door and lets the Houston air fan across his closed eyes. He hopes in desperation that the wind would dislodge the stillness consuming the infrastructure of his mentality, his emotional non-response, and gravity of his physical being. This cannot be happening. Not to him. Please, not to him.
He opens his eyes and sees the passing lights slur across his line of sight. He remembers riding in the back passenger’s side of mother’s car, going through Houston in the middle of the night after working the late security shift at the Rosenberg Assembly Hall with his father… their first job as volunteers before construction had began. The city was such a mystery to him at that time. He thought everyone was asleep and the concrete and glass laid at quiet rest in the dark.
Now he knew different. The city is vibrant at night. In some ways it’s even more interesting with a different set of people running about interacting with other people and doing things. He now knew because he was one of them. This life, this city… it pulses with life every hour of the day.
He was too. His veins were pumping with new blood increased in volume with each new and delightful person he met. And those that were self-consuming or socially vampiric were lax in their effect thanks to the contrivance footwork of new social skills he was learning. There was so much good out there, so much joy and fun to be had. He saw the universe burst in the eyes of some people. The “wicked world” had so much not-wickedness about it. Being a Jehovah’s Witness wasn’t bad, but it was confining in its boundaries both mentally, and as he’s seeing now, emotionally. He was giving his brain a new pair of running shoes and stretching his legs trying to take in sociology from every corner he could, and he was loving it.
There still wasn’t much in conflict, and there still weren’t very many excuses to run back to the church with new found vigor. Maybe that was the point. He wasn’t finding the horrors and depravity drenched with the frothy mouths of those mad with drugs and disease. They were there, he passes them nightly. But upon talking with them he finds out they are really just people, like himself, trying to cope with shit, like himself, and upon discussion he usually found out he has quite a bit in common with them. Every picture in the Live Forever book or in the Watchtower and Awake! magazines depicting what the world looked like was, basically, wrong. The pictures he had grow up with were just snapshots of the worst part of humanity… a patchy occurrence sprinkled across mankind as a whole and not a reflection of the expansive spaces of beauty and stimulation in between. Some of this could be dangerous and seductively deceiving, others can be provocative and riveting, but all inspired thought and metaphor and the differences between “good” and the “bad” were massive. He had been living on one small acre of real estate near the “good” side of a spectrum that encompasses the entire globe and under the weight of this realization he felt something he had never really felt before… humility.
Do you think Jehovah is punishing dad?
Why would you say that? You’re dad is the best Christian I’ve ever met.
Yeah, I know. But… I’m not.
David didn’t know anything about what James was doing outside the church, and without any knowledge or content he could still skillfully snake his way around James’s landmine mind and deal with questions so precisely, it was sometimes annoying.
James. I know you may not think of yourself as a good Christian for whatever reason, but you do a lot of good everywhere you go. If Jehovah as a problem with you, he will punish you, not the best Witness he has playing on his team. Plus, colon cancer… IF he even has cancer… is a very common disease. Many people get it, and survive without skipping a beat. So, frankly, not to speak for Jehovah, but it would be a very stupid way to punish you for not being a good Christian.
James can verify. His accuracy was, in fact, annoying.
David’s intense sense of perception could tell that his friend was overthinking.
Ready for some music? Or too soon?
No, actually I think I’m ready for something.
“Encomium: A Tribute to Led Zeppelin” is slid into the CD player. It was just what he needed.
James P. Perez © 2013