Backseat Devil

Month: April, 2013

Chapter 18 – Theater

We have to do something, his favorite musical is Cats, for goodness sake.

In his defense, it’s the only musical he’s seen… and he saw it when he was a child.

ON TOUR.  And he hasn’t seen a single thing since.  

They don’t get a lot of Broadway in Oregon.

But he can see Smashing Pumpkins fifty times. Look.  He’s you’re friend.  I’m only doing this for you.

Hey, I can hear you, you know, Aaron calls from behind the small group of brothers walking the streets of the City. I’m sorry, but I liked Cats.  It was a good play.

Neil is perambulating at a New Yorker’s speed in his penny loafers and jeans, knitted stripe scarf wrapped around his neck but manages to turn his short-combed black hair with slight hints of grey toward James to give a direct stare.  See what I mean?  He needs help.

James and Aaron are almost in tears laughing at Neil’s exuberance in his desperateness to get Aaron out of his Nirvana and into Cameron Mackintosh as they turned the corner on West 45th Street and headed to the light bulb-intensive Imperial Theater marquee to see the staple production of Les Miserables.

He felt bad for letting Neil pick on Aaron so much, but it was all in good fun.  Again, so much is accomplished when things are not taken too serious.  Aaron had just moved into A314 and since then the two had been inseparable.  The first week began a rhythm that worked:  James was creative and slightly OCD in keeping things clean while Aaron was a clean freak who expressed himself in creatively organizing (and reorganizing) the furniture in functional formats.  The two kept each other laughing and thinking.  Music was always playing and opinions with debate were encouraged.  It almost seems like the exact opposite of what Bethel wanted from it’s volunteers, but it worked for the two of them, and both of them became harder workers because of the refreshment.

Then it took a slight turn the next week, causing the trip to the city for the weekend.  Aaron comes and sits down at dinner time from work quiet, deflated.  The two walk back to the A building slowly.

So Kelly called me into his office and talked to me about my hair.

You’re kidding.

He said they can’t have me looking so different from the other Bethelites, especially when y station is on the tour route. 

But your hair looks fine when it’s slicked down like it is now.

I told him that.  But at the end of the day, it’s all in my face and it looks “worldly”.  He wanted to know why I didn’t get my hair cut on rotation like everyone else.

Because we get ours cut by a professional.

Yeah, who didn’t come here twenty years ago as an electrical engineer and then thrown into the barber shop as his assignment and butchered everyone’s hair until he perfected the art of clippers.

James laughs at the joke, So true.

I was told to be mindful of the responsibility of being a Bethel family member and the need to conform to the group.

He said “conform”?

He said “united in standards.

So “conform”.

Exactly.

But our hair isn’t any different.  How is it that you can be talked to and I’0ve only been complemented on my performance?  I mean how is your actual work?

He said I was doing a good job, but a good job isn’t enough when you’re on the tour route, I suppose.  He made me feel like it was something that would get me kicked out of Bethel.

We have the same length.  I’m going to have to ask my overseer about this.

James, don’t get yourself in trouble because of me.

The next day he decided to make sure he wasn’t breaking any rules of his own.  He had just been transferred over to Computer Programming to learn FoxPro and SQL Server to help with the transfer of all the custom programming at Bethel, changing the dates from two numeral years to four numeral years to prevent any Y2K issues.

Ralph is a short old man, bald with bushy white eyebrows and grey eyes that seemed to sparkle from across the room.  He is kind in a way that made one believe that the world would be a better place simply by him uttering a sentence.  They had become friendly since James wanted to be transferred to the drafting department, but Ralph insisted that he stay in computer programming and learn something new.  James is also a very hard worker, and with the computers needing constant updating, there was a need for good workers.

James catches up to him when Ralph walks past the cubicle.

Hey, can I ask you a quick question?

Certainly, if you can walk and talk.  I’m headed to a meeting.

James gets up and starts walking at the quick pace of the gnomic gentleman everybody wants as a grandfather.

My roommate was recently talked to about his hair.  His and ine are about the same length, so I was worried that may be a problem for me as well.

Absolutely not.  I can see your hair has a little length, something some of us don’t have to worry about.  (Laughter.)  But no, you part it on the side and it looks very clean and presentable

Okay, thank you.  I really like this length because it keeps my head warm, but if it’s going to be a problem…

It’s not a problem at all.  I’m sure your friend is just not wearing it like you, or not paying as much attention to it as you do.  

Well, I try.  Sometimes, at the end of the day, especially if it’s been a long day, my hair is less together and falling in my face and such.  I know that I have to maintain unity with the Bethel family, but I wanted to check with you just in case.

Don’t worry about it.  However, I appreciate your courage to ask about the subject.  I really like that initiative.

Thanks.  I do plan on being here for a long time, I just didn’t want to get started off on the wrong foot.

James, we are really glad to have you.  You are a great thinker, and we hope you are here for a long time as well.  

James headed back to his cubicle after delivering his overseer to his meeting and parting with a round of handshakes and smiles.

I guess things are really different in the Computer Department, Aaron said.  And you can just leave your desk whenever you want, huh?

Yep.  Walk to the kitchen… see if they have any snacks.

The kitchen has snacks?

Yeah.  James is a little shocked Aaron was not aware of this secret.

I do not even know how to respond to that.

How does one respond to that?  James has no clue how to make Aaron feel better and as Friday approaches he thinks that it would be best to do something fun and out of routine rather than the drowning regular weekend that almost seem more draining than Bethel service on it’s own.  It is time to call in reinforcements.

Neil came in with James and was assigned to one of the printing presses and managed to be the only print worker to not have his fingers stained with ink 24/7.  He lights up at the idea of going to the city and adds many catching a Broadway show.  In fact, he seemed somewhat relieved that there was other people at the Farm who loved the theater as much as much as he does.

Count me in!  And don’t worry about anything.  I have sources.

Saturday morning Aaron, Neil, James, and Jake head into the city to meet Ashley (a guy James and David had met while helping rebuild homes in St. Thomas several years before) and his roommate.  The posse follow Neil who has the agenda planned out to minute-by-minute perfection, arriving outside the Imperial Theater to the small crowd standing in line for the $20.00 day-of tickets for the matinee show.

Lunch at the Fashion Cafe had everyone chiming in on the double standard.

James, you’re not on the tour route.  You can basically show up to work dressed as a clown and no one except your overseer would know.

And the people at my juggling class Friday mornings.

What, the…?

Well, technically it’s a class on how to be more ergonomic.  But juggling is part of it.  Helps connect the two sides of the brain.  It helps with making us better programmers, so we don’t think so one sided.

I don’t even know what that means.

It means they teach him how to sit in a chair, James blurts out with mock frustration.

Everyone laughs at the situation.  It was obvious that Aaron needed a bit of a venting session and to have empathetic people around him to hear his woes, if for no other reason than to make him feel less like a freak among plastics.  His world has been brightened  that afternoon sits and watches three hours of a musical starring that “poor guy from Menudo.”

Aaron determined it was the most pretentious thing he’s heard, but still amazing to watch.  Because of his very well presented discussion points, it was humorously determined by James and Neil on the drive back that Aaron was, indeed, worthy of such effort.  Aaron is all smiles and renewed for the next few weeks.

As those in the congregation noticed how joyous the two became, it twas inevitable that… eventually, Aaron and James receive an offer they couldn’t refuse.

James P. Perez © 2013

Chapter 17 – Technicolor

When about to massage a man, take your time… let him wait for it.  Look at each muscle group separately before you even touch him.  Get a sense of how you’re going to work around the body.  Start with neck and work your way through the shoulder, and down the arm.  Finish one side before going to the other.  Later  you can do the center section to pull everything together.  Pay attention to the direction you rub the muscles… try to massage inward in order to move the sensual energy to the core.  If this was a stress release massage, you would work the muscles outward to get the stress out of the body.  In this case, he wants to fuck, so we want to move the sexual energy toward the penis.

Brit’s strong hands start working on the right side of Derrick’s muscular back using the inside knuckle of the thumbs and the ball of the palm to apply pressure and making sure to keep her nails safely above the skin except at special moments when she would scratch him on purpose, causing his fair skin to redden and his body to react with a slight tensing and a moan.  James would imitate on the left side.

I find it helps to save the base of the scull until you’re ready to travel down the back…

Both of you better be naked by the time I flip over.

Hush, you!

James, focus.

He can barely remember any of his training as Aaron’s back is so different than anyone else he had massaged.  Besides the small factor of actually knowing and liking this person, Aaron had less mass than Derrick, he is leaner, porcelain, each curve of the muscles are perfect in proportion.  Most men he had massaged had some measure of fat or bulk with muscle… something to cushion the imperfections in performance or instability in pressure.  The skinny guys were easy as well… one would barely rub them and get a positive reaction… which had a delightful effort/returns ratio.  He only massaged one woman, and that lead to a marriage proposal.  Aaron’s lean muscles means an execution of a real massage with little margin for error…

…and he had to do this right if this is ever going to be a repeated scenario.

What are you waiting for?

Just relax, god dammit.

Aaron giggles.  James is nervous as hell, but he likes this dynamic… two people with a comfortable sexual history poised about each other, but neither taking it too seriously.  It is tremendously gratifying to work with an equal, now it’s time for James to take it up a notch and show this shirtless hippie a thing or two about how the cosmopolitan city boys do it.

They were in Aaron’s room as his roommates were gone for the evening, but they were not sure for how long.  He managed to grab the Delirium ENCHANTED CD before leaving the crowd of guys visiting his roommate in A314 and followed Aaron to room A103 for an impromptu massage session after there had been hinting for one for over a week.  Aaron ripped off his shirt and laid down instinctively.  James repositions him so the pillow is under the chest and shoulders giving the neck the ability to lay straight.  He turns off the radiator and opens the window to allow the January air to slide in and cool the room.  There is no massage oil, but there is a water based body lotion from Bath and Bodyworks.  Impressive.  He zaps the sample bottle in the microwave for a few seconds, all the while smiling at the ritual he thought he would never repeat once leaving Feathers.

Goosebumps from the cold started to appear among the freckles on the back and sides of the pale skinned man on the bed.  He’s ready.  James started the music and let the first song take his course and started attacking the neck with the warm lotion, to a low moan reception.  He becomes very serious about the venture, taking care to rub each muscle separately, feeling for knots and rubbing them out before moving on, careful to release the energy outward as this is a STRESS-RELEASE MASSAGE ONLY… and nothing more.

Nothing more.  Stop looking at his ass.

James works one side if the upper back and shoulder, shoulder blades progressing down one arm slowly and methodically, then continues to the other side, making sure everything is professional and therapeutic as possible while enjoying the soft touch of the skin and the low humming warmth pulsating from the inner core.

Before he knows it, over thirty minutes passes, and this needs to wrap up quickly.

Not too quickly, maybe.  This poor guy has to work at the subscription mailing packing end of the the factory.  He is on his feet all day and lifting and twisting postal crates for endless hours.  His lower back must be… I should concentrate on the lower back.

Oh my god… right there.

Not helping.  But the man is in real pain so let me just lower these pants and underwear just a little to get into that lower back curve… right… above the… um… James’s mind shut down as he became dazed at the gentle way the back tapered into the twenty-nine inch waist before rising perfectly to the Pacific Northwest tanless curve of the ass.  Baseball.  Women.  Grandma. Dammit. Brother Bechman!

That did the trick.

Okay, I’m stopping there because… we don’t know when your roommates will be back.

Good idea because… he rolls over to reveal a rather sizable erection.

At this point, it seemed things were going to be cool no matter what happened.  James reaches down an grabs it through the jeans and holds on for a second.  Aaron doesn’t even so much as flinch or react.

Maybe next time, he says with a slightly upturned straight face.

Aaron’s response is blank with intrigue.  James gets up and turns off the CD player while closing the window… turning the radiator back on, and ends at the kitchenette rinsing lotion off his hands right as there is an attempt to enter the door, and then an actual entrance to the room.

The door isn’t locked.

Aaron is already getting his shirt on, and somehow uses his guitar to cover his hard on before the two brothers entering the dorm notices.

Hey guys!  What’s up?

Nothing.  Welcome back.   How was your evening?

Great.  Just great.

Good gravy.  Why is it so cold in here?

What mischievousness have you two been up to?

You haven’t been wrestling in your underwear, have you?

Both James and Aaron are still in a state of shock with each of them looking at the other from opposite sides of the room in a slight ‘deer-in-headlights’/’oh my god’ exchange until the last question… then the true nature of the insanity of where they were located sets in.  James started to get comically defensive, mockingly.

It says no wrestling in your underwear… with your roommate.  We’re not roommates.  So, ha!

(Laughter.)

We’re not roommates… yet, Aaron chimed in.

Aaron, if we become roommates, no more wrestling in our underwear.  Rules are rules.

Shucks.

You two are too crazy.  

I’m almost afraid of both of you, but I have no clue why.

During the conversation, Aaron is slowly buttoning up his shirt behind his guitar and smiling in relief the joke worked.

There is a massive exhale on the part of James.  In his head he was already in front of the elders lying about how Aaron came onto him… throwing this innocent guy under the bus just to maintain his golden reputation.  And for what?  There was nothing he did that was wrong… it was James that is making this more than it is.  Plus, Aaron not only kept calm and cool in composure, he is able to keep up with the cover, and knows exactly when to shut-up so the joke doesn’t reveal too much.  Also the massive weight that the entire time the door being unlocked is not a sand pit James could easily remove himself from, but Aaron seemed to just glide along it in stride.  Partially out of respect, but mostly out of guilt, he knew from that moment that there was Aaron could ever do in  his life to cause James to betray him.  He had a reason to be a loyal person again.

In the following days, there is no weirdness between the massage mates.  In fact, it almost seems to draw them closer, calmer, more relaxed with each other, other brothers and sisters, and with the work assignments they had been given… and it all started with Aaron’s initial ice breaker after the massage of, James, we can never do that again.

Okay, I agree.

We have to double check the door and make sure it’s locked.

Uhh… that’s not what I was reading from…  Are you sure?  I don’t want any weirdness.

Weirdness?  Dude, that massage was awesome.

Really?  Um… Thanks.

You can go harder next time.

(Pause.)  I intended to.

Aaron shakes his head, smiling and bounces off to work.

James is left with a frozen half dumbfounded smile on his face and starry glossed eyes with the “Tonight, Tonight” strumming somewhere in his head.

Oh my god.  That song suddenly makes sense.  Dammit Aaron and your “Smashing Pumpkins describe everything in life perfectly” bullshit!  He wanted to clinch his fist toward heaven but he thought that would look a little weird in the hallway of the dining corridor.  Plus, he didn’t need the situation to get any gayer than it already is.

There were no more incidents for a while.  James cannot get his head around almost getting caught… had timing progressed the way he wanted to, they would have been in mid-something sexual when the brothers entered the room.  It was his own minute version of self-control is what prevented anything from being seen.  Meanwhile Aaron is trying to make a good impression with his work overseers as he gets the distinct feeling there is this “who is this punk kid with his long hair and sunny disposition” hurricane forming, and he is in the eye.  Outside the computer department, it is rare that anyone enjoys their work as much as Aaron does.  His part of the subscription mail packing process is directly on the tour next to the freight elevator that leads up to the computer department, which is the next stop on the tour.  Aside from the occasional interruptions by someone who may know the worker, a volunteer is not to break from the ‘grunt worker working at his work all workday’ machina.

Therefore, Aaron’s smiling and waving to the tours, stops to proffer personal information about the subscription mailing process, and dressing in bright colors… so different than those around him… causes people, strangers, tourists, girls and their fathers to be attracted to this individual in an unusual way.  Bethel was no longer a place for hard working brothers to do hard work… it is a place where good brothers do good work and have good fun doing it.

The other new bethelites in the South Saugertiese group are as diverse and infected by the thrill of life and the appreciation of where they are in a non-drudge way, and for such there is always smiles and encouragement to be found in the crowd.  Not a single one of them naturally took to the ‘pinion and gear’ opinionless toiling that is expected all newcomers to eventually be shaped into.  We all come from different backgrounds, but from the same school of free thought, he would say to himself, and we are all having fun living while serving Jehovah.

It is light at the end of the tunnel.

Most impressive is Jake, a 19-year-old from Waco, Texas who entered the same time James did and sports a talent as an amazing illustrator and cartoonist.  James calls him “Tigger” because of his likeliness to the Winnie the Pooh character to leap into the room and tackle James to the ground without warning.  The three guys developed their own sense of relaxation and excitement as none of them are inherently the type of young men Bethel is looking for.  James was groomed to work at the world headquarters, but in no way wanted to be there.  Aaron was not made to thrive in such an environment, but he desperately wanted to live there.  Jake is his own artistic free spirit, and Bethel was something he thought he’s ‘just try to keep from getting into trouble’.  The one that had the most dedication was the one that Bethel didn’t want.  The one that couldn’t stand the situation was the one Bethel wanted the most.  Jake was in the middle, so he was made a waiter on the kitchen staff.

There is a special level of appreciation that is given to words and phrases that go beyond the limited mindset of those stuck in the machine.  Each of the three brothers refused to use the worlds “bro” and “chief” saturating volunteer jargon because of the cheesy comradeship it instantly implies without the effort it takes to get to know someone to the point of assigning nicknames.  “Awesome” is acceptable, but used sparingly and with emphasis. People, all people were looked at as individuals… not entities that were either “inside” or “outside”, nor was anybody positioned in attractiveness by what they could provide materially or excursions on the weekends.  Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in an eternal hell fire, this is a given especially in the location where they were currently housed and working.  Still, they would use “going to hell” in a manner to represent anything displeasing to Jehovah… or any god in any religion regardless of location or culture.  No, they weren’t going to literal hell, they were just going to be in hell… with their god.

They would sometimes shrug off meeting or gathering with the other brothers to go hiking in the Minnewaska State Park and sit by the lake at Castle Point or watch the sun set over New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut at Hamilton Point.  They wold take off to Manhattan on the weekend to absorb culture and space, people and life, music and food.  There is nothing that isn’t appreciated and all within the confines of what a ‘good Christian’ should be… with very few exceptions.

Whether it is quiet nights sitting watching television diving into combination fried rice or training into the city to sit and listen to hours of new music at the Times Square Tower Records, it was all beautiful again.  They would walk down the main street of Saugertiese and get hot tea at a local shop or walk through the college town of New Paltz checking out the local artwork and crafts, bookstores and coffee shops with open mike night.  There is a life that came back to the flesh of James and a color that reignited in his soul.  He doesn’t have to fuck people to connect to the world around him, but the deeper the layers, the more he could see on the outside of his world and the beauty in the earth around him.  He was no longer driving a psychotic vehicle with the devil in the backseat.  He was a person who is enjoying is geographic location in order to create the best worker he could offer to the Watchtower Farms in Wallkill, New York.

As a person who was once destined for work in the theater, he could not be this close to the city and absorb the grandeur that is Broadway.

Enter Neil Bradley.

James P. Perez © 2013

Chapter 16 – Massage

Next round of room bids, we should see if we can be roommates!”

I have seniority!  I can see if I can pull you in.  It’s after your ninety-day review in March we can put in a request

Hey, it’s worth a shot!

Roommates in Bethel are initially assigned.  During the current building of resident buildings C and D, there were many construction workers occupying spaces that would normally be assigned to full-time volunteers at the Wallkill factory, farm, and administration facility.  For such, there are three roommates assigned to each of the small, +/-200 sq. ft. rooms equipped with a six-foot kitchenette, a mini fridge, and one small three-foot by four-foot closet.  The standard particle board desk covered with dark brown veneer, matching chest of drawers, and chair mixed with a standard cot and mattress with linens is all that is provided.  For an efficiency holding three brothers, one of the cots would come as a trundle bed that would be hidden away during non-sleeping hours.

His first roommate was a formidable five-foot-ten African-American work-out freak with the most expensive stereo system he had seen before.  The brother was neurotic and OCD about the usage of his equipment, and fully admitted to going through all of James’s belonging while he was at housekeeping duty just to make sure James was “cool”.  Each Bethelite is given a general key to the complex and a specific “Bethel number” assigned to them for the duration of their stay at the facilities.  The key was used to keep outsiders from wandering into the building system as once in, one could travel anywhere within the compound (this is more of an issue in Brooklyn with their underground tunnel systems and such).  The number is not only used to denote your property, but is how laundry, accounts, monthly allowance of $90.00, and reimbursments are kept a track of.

His roommate insisted on checking James’s key to see if there were any notch differences and tried to figure out an special significance to his Bethel number (#594), and went through all of his new packet and manuals in front of him just to make sure the newbie was on not on some special assignment specifically for the departing Bethelite.  About a week and a half later, James was left by himself void of the loud sleep-talking and the frequent night ventures to check the door and scope out what was happening outside the windows.  The level of paranoia is something James wasn’t used to in general and it seemed like a very odd way to be introduced to his new life in what should be the safest place on the planet for a Jehovah’s Witness.

A few days later enters the luggage of a tall young guy statured like a good-looking Conan O’Brian, age 20, and always hyper with a gigantic smile.  A week later Edgar, an average height Mexican a few years older than James enters following his cousin who entered just a few weeks before… and also excited about his new home.   The temperature in the room changed, but it is still three men crowded in a 14-foot by 15-foot space with two of the guys over the age of 21 watching the same television show, studying together, and trying their best to interrupt each other’s bible reading.

The walking lighthouse that James saw in the lobby of the A Building is named Aaron and he earned the nickname “Bugout” because of it’s hononymous proximity to his last name mixed with the lackadaisical way seasoned volunteers interact and remember newbies.  He is also assigned to the South Saugerties Congregation.  Their first meeting they had was that very night at the bookstudy for the week.  Aaron sat in his thin cotton blend pinstripe shirt, miss-matched tie, and khaki slacks crossed at the knee exposing his white skin over his above-ankle textured black lace up Doc Martins.  He sat with his chin resting in his right hand, index finger pointed toward the ear, intensely listening and nodding to everything being said as if he had just taken a Sylvan course on how to retain more from the classroom.  He is indeed hippie sunshine, and it extended past his excitement for being in a place he had been working to enlist for a year… it is just who he is, naturally as a person.  His serious comments were specifically worded at the start of each participation, then in mid-sentence would turn into heartfelt expressive emotion of free-form earth poetry.

He could tell under that shirt is a body, a real body… workout intensive and lean.  It is everything he could do to not stare, especially the way he nod and look at James while he is trying to give his well rehearsed, insightfully deep, and interconnectedly applicable comments.  Stop looking at me so I can be perfect, god dammit! he wanted to scream. It is annoying how much light this person is shedding, but after a month of sitting around with the best of the monochromatic personalities dressed in white and beige he decided to quietly absorb it without letting anyone in the room know that he is a big homo with birds flying around his head.

After another week, Aaron’s roommate who entered at the same time as James and is also assigned to the same congregation, is getting used to his job assignment at the pig farm and hadn’t had time to socialize with the other brothers in his congregation.  For such he invited several bethelites from South Saugerties to their room at A103 to hang out and maybe watch a movie.  James skips down the two floors and enters the room to find found Aaron shirtless on his cot, back against the wall, playing a bright firetruck red electric guitar on the bed.

James!  My favorite person here at Bethel!

He didn’t know how to respond to the complement.  He certainly didn’t know how to respond to the imagery from which the complement is given.  Aaron’s personality is naturally lush with passion and empathy, and in subtle ways he displays that more to James.  Objectively, it looked like a more touchy-feely version of David.  But lustfully there is an obvious chemistry that others noticed, placing him in the dangerous category of Ollie.  Which is it?  David or Ollie.  It can’t be both.

He feels like he is back in high school.  There is no way anything like this would be allowed at this particular venue, but energies in sync are so rare for him that it is difficult not to grab an emotional surf board and ride the wave – regardless of that the structure around him dictates.  Some things are more important than rules.  People are more important than rules.  This is such unique situation and there is so much he is feeling, and wants to feel, but mostly he’s just glad this person is here at this place, shedding color on the drab surroundings.  He’s glad this person… is in the world, in existence.  Rules… fuck, rules suck. 

This is a person that is on his level… someone with his understanding of the delicate balance between the religion to which he is tied, and the appreciation for the world around him, people, and energies around him… although it is difficult to concentrate on the deeper meaning of life, the world, and human relationships when he had his shirt off.

In the days that followed it seemed there is a perpetuation by the other to maintain the idea that nether non-clone will ever be anything other than a non-clone.  Put to the test, James is suddenly appreciative of the fact that he had been listening to everything from classic rock to ska for the past two years as Aaron came with an encyclopedia of information regarding music.  He grew up in Salem, Oregon around the height of the grunge era, but is knowledgeable in the ways of The Doors, The Who, Nirvana, the Cranberries, Hole, Tool, Janis and Jimi.  He is an avid Nine Inch Nails fan while still holding on to his Pink Floyd roots while having an immovable reverence to Led Zeppelin.

Oh my god, you have Poe!

You’ve heard of her?

I’m in love with her!  She’s awesome!

As often as possible they would find one of their two rooms to have for an evening of sitting on the floor, listening to what would be considered ‘devil’ music although had this been a heterosexual situation in the 1950s it would probably be considered “dating”.  James received a crash course in everything Smashing Pumpkins, and Aaron received some general information on ska and the Houston music scene among an orchard of puppy-dog attention and silent interest in whatever it was he was listing to.

The beauty of Aaron came in two parts before even looking at his physical features.  First, standing still he emanates a quiet cool glow vibrating with a gentle hum that is barely noticeable in a room full of people, but somehow made everyone in the room feel slightly more comfortable, although no one knew why.  Second, when he got excited about something, the quiet cool glow would instantly ignite into a loud, in-your-face explosive star, beaming heat to every square inch of the room in which he is standing as if the earth had a volcano of love and compassion and the crust of the tectonic plates split directly under his feet.  Being only 19, he is still gaining control of the extents of his power, but his personal spectrum is magnificent to witness and is impossible for James… wrapped in the dull monotonous monophonic metronome of the lifestyle he had committed himself… to not be attracted to such a force.

The subject of sex eventually come up with the song “Closer”.  Aaron admits to sexual situations, hand jobs, and being reprimanded for fucking a girl in the house next door when it was empty.  James admits to nothing more than make-believe distant opposite sex scenarios, but eventually throws in a three-way with another guy to test the waters.  In fact, the idea that his new friend is sexually experienced is a bit of a refreshment as it takes the tension out of the air.  It separated them from the majority of the group of young single brothers who inherently have sex always on the brain (as per their biology) and the longer working Bethelites, some of who are their thirties and forties without knowing the touch of another human being in the most intimate way.  James wonders how one recovers from years of building up walls and separation to the most intense levels of humanity and yet maintain some connection with the world around them for which to guide people into “the truth”.

It is then he realizes, there is no connection to the world around them.

And that seems to be the crux of the problem.  He is surrounded by young men in their prime, separated at the height of their final development and secluded into a ‘Branch Davidian’-type complex to do nothing but work in their place, smile for the tours, and forget about the spinning globe around them that is speeding by while they create magazines and books that are suppose to relate to the problems and concerns of the common man with common problems and offer a solution for the wicked world they have no connection with.

Lead by President Milton Henschel, the Governing Body is a group of men who lived in Brooklyn who handles (at the time) both the Organization’s business aspects as well as the beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide, the religious collective direction and what is acceptable and  not as “true Christians”.  Many of the Governing Body were of “this generation” mentioned in Matthew 24:34 and Luke 21:32 that was not going to ‘pass away until all these things have happened.’  Already, in the short time James had been a Witness paying attention to his beliefs, the definition of “this generation” had changed several times.  Now being near those with such in depth knowledge of the words of Jehovah, he was hoping to gain some energetic kick-in-the-ass in order to regain focus on his true mission in life.

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in two classes of Christians.  The majority will live forever here on earth after Armageddon, and there are the 144,000 “anointed” ones who go to heaven (based off Revelation 7:4, 14:1, and 14:3).  There are no new anointed appointees, all the positions have been filled.  How does one know that they are anointed?  Just like you know if you’re a man or a woman, you know when Jehovah has anointed you. Those of the Governing Body and their president were all of this anointed class, thereby giving them a different air about the way they moved, responded to questions, looked upon life, and were treated.

They talk about Brother Henschel’s recent visit during the Bethelite-only Watchtower study the previous Monday.  James gives a mandatory gush of how amazing it was to see Brother Henschel up close and is still trying to figure out the depth of how ‘David’ he can go (while simultaneously trying to root out exactly how ‘Ollie’ he wanted to go).   Brother Henschel is a rather tall man, bald, sharp features, thin, and partially blind.  He had memorized the bible and could give bible discourses and quote scripture… his most challenging effort during talks is waiting to give the audience enough time to look up the verses in their own bibles before “reading” the quoted text.  It is humorous at times because the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures is slightly altered from time to time to make sure that the brothers and sisters involved in the Organization are current publishers and not using out-of-date publications with out-of-date dogma, so on occasion Brother Henschel’s “reading” differed from those listeners with newer bibles… and sight.  It’s an endearing feature and forgiven with the respect someone who has been preaching with the Organization since 1934 deserves.

What James will not say is that meeting Brother Henschel did not feel like anything special.  The energy around him following his post-Watchtower discourse is that of a half-blind man with handlers making sure he wasn’t crushed by the sea of starry-eyed fans and manic workers feeling the holy spirit of greatness just by gazing on his presence.  James felt none of this.  It is a disconcerting disappointment that he keeps to himself and only let out one sliver when Aaron made his comment.

Don’t get me wrong, it was awesome to see him.  But in some aspects he’s just… you know… celebrity.

James’s jaw drops with a half smile.  That’s it.  He couldn’t pinpoint what about the situation was wrong, but Aaron had been to many concerts, seen famous people, hung out with the mourners outside Kurt Cobain’s house, and experienced music in small venues where fanatic and artist were in close proximity to each other.  He knew what the basic dynamic was, and James did not.

What?  Why are you smiling?

I just… love your point of view.

Well, I love your brain.  It’s warped as hell.  If you knew how to give a good massage I think I’d be set in this place.

James’s eyes got big, with a coy half smile trying to contain everything he had learned in the past year.

It’s funny you should mention…

James P. Perez © 2013

Chapter 15 – Attack of the Clones

No, mom… I’m fine, really.  It’s just been a strange adjustment but everything is going well.

It was unnerving how his mother could take the smallest bit of trepidation in his voice and turn it into the biggest crisis of contemporary history.  This time she may actually be correct, but he wasn’t sure. There is too much to absorb and too little time to digest before he gives any fluttery thoughts of “oh fuck this was a mistake” any credence, and he didn’t want his mother jumping the gun on this just yet.

He stands at the red brick with white column ‘A Building’, the oldest constructed dorm building at 900 Red Mills Road, Wallkill, New York among the desk slots of requisitions and time slips decorated in the best 1970’s ‘upscale farm cottage’ cream with splashes of barn red decor using one of the two pay phones next to the staircase looking at a row of young men waiting to call their own families about their own well being in most militaristic compound outside the military.

First month heading into the winter of 1995 it is difficult to get used to the schedule and the drones’ cadenced movements in constant force.  Mondays were the private Watchtower study meeting onsite for only Bethelites that took over an hour and a half.  It was kept private because application of the information found in the Watchtower sometimes have structural application to the organization that common publishers attending the Kingdom Halls across the United States should know or need to know.  Tuesday was the two-hour normal congregation meetings in a town 45 minutes up the I-87 tollroad to a struggling congregation in Saugertiese, New York.  It was recently formed when the original, larger church was divided into two smaller and unequipped groups without having a proper balance between local publishers, local elders, and Bethel volunteers due to the overbearing persistence of a tall, balding force of a Bethel elder and constant form of friction known as Brother Bechman. Currently the Congregation of South Saugerties, New York was taking one out of every three newly inducted volunteers meaning the congregation had no mid-week support and a large number of untrained green newbies flooding the few native families on the weekend in a disproportionate convergence.

Wednesday was relatively free (usually spend as studying time), Thursday was the hour bookstudy at the compound in the room of Brother and Sister Bechman in the ‘B Building’ on the opposite side of complex, and Friday the young brothers were encouraged to stay with a family from their local congregation for the weekend.  Saturdays was spent going door to door in field service, Sunday mornings had the two hour meetings of bible discourse (called a “Talk”) and the public Watchtower study that the Bethelites had prepared for the Monday prior.  Sunday evening were the hour to two hour orientation meetings for new volunteers.

It is certainly difficult for the natural night owl to get use to the morning routine: Up at 6:00 am to fight for the communal showers; Dress in button-up shirt and tie with slacks; Walk 1/2 a mile to the main complex to one’s assigned seat in the dining room for breakast and morning text; 15 minutes of discussion and assigned comments about a bible verse (known as the “daily text”); prayer; food is served; 30 minutes to eat; announcements; final prayer; be ready to work by 8:00 am.

For the first two weeks the new Bethelites are in housekeeping duty for the day until they are given their permanent assignment. This is to give them a sense of appreciation and respect to the care of their dorm rooms and the women who maintenance them daily. They are housekeepers… not maids.

For the afternoon, 12:00 pm the bell rings and at 12:15 pm prayer and food is served with announcements and pleasantries. If the volunteer is a ‘grunt worker’ they have 15 minutes to shower and change back into shirt-and-tie before walking to the dining hall. 1:00 pm is back to work until 5:00 pm with dinner prayer at 5:15 pm.

Meetings at the congregation start at 7:30 pm with the orientation meetings on Sunday starting at 6:30 pm. If Saugerties was 45 minutes away and it is encouraged for all publishers to be there at least 30 minutes before every meeting, it was necessary to leave the Farm by 6:15 pm which was difficult for those on a long day or filthy from working on a production line. Construction workers were a near impossibility.

It was also required for all new volunteers to read several manuals for which there were tests, memorize the list of rules (‘no wrestling in underwear or back massages between roommates’ was rule #5), keep up with congregation meeting preparation and participation, read the entire bible (The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures) in the first year, and maintain a publisher’s average hours in door to door field service (10 hours a month, although only maintaining the minimum was overbearingly frowned upon).

Everything was provided for onsite… so much so that the general term for anything not Witness was considered “outside” and spoken with a air of hesitation and disdain. Haircuts were on a three week schedule, laundry was once a week, the commissary provided outside luxuries like Pop Tarts or frozen foods alongside necessities like toothpaste and deodorant all at cost. If one needed clothes, there is always something available in the ‘grab bin’. Also included was basketball court, small weight room, and pay phones found at each building.

None of this was particularly overwhelming, but in a compound of 2000-or-so young men all trying to out-Disney Disney… it was difficult to wade through the “bro’s” and “chief’s”, winks and finger guns, and find any genuine emotion outside the drone worker bee with a shrink-wrap thrillness to be doing Jehovah’s work in a specialized avenue expressed with perfectly maintained glossed-over smiles and vacant expressions of sight where their biggest highlight of the week was ice cream being served at lunch. Everyone was just playing their cog and any sincerity as a human being was pushed out via overworking an under-appreciating and a redundant weary lifestyle, once again under the weight of humility in Jehovah’s service. He had already noticed immediately that having any in depth discussion of opinions was a struggle in tugboatting a ground battleship. Young men across the compound seemed almost afraid to have a personal opinion… about anything… at all.

The Farm is referred to as such because in 1963 upon its purchase, is initial responsibility of the self-reliant religion was to be an actual functioning farm for the main production work of printing Watchtowers and Awake! magazine, bibles, tracts, and various other publications found at Myrtle and Adams streets in Brooklyn, New York. The Farm raised pigs, produce, fully functional dairy, slaughterhouse, and processing facilities which then trucked the foods to Brooklyn. Beginning in 1973 the function of the farm began to change when production of the magazines for the United States outside New York City was moved to the farm while printing for the local witnesses, books, bibles, and tracts remained in Brooklyn. Shipping via United States Postal Service became more cost effective than private shipping through the New York harbor. In fact, the Watchtower Farms is located outside New Paltz, New York, but use Wallkill as their address since the towns postal station is better equipped to handle the amount of mail the Jehovah’s Witness compound than the small SUNY college town of New Paltz. Shortly afterward, there was an increased need for organized computers and databases, and the Farm seemed safer than in the big city, so the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society Computer Department was formed at the Wallkill location while the administration of the Witnesses and the Governing Body who makes the decisions for the religion and it’s beliefs remained at the created complex collectively known as 124 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn, New York (1+2+4=7, a biblical number of all things Godly).

James has worked with computers for most of his life, and this finds himself labeled as one with a “special skill” and was assigned to the computer department’s receiving desk to get to know the department through the stockroom… a first step of every computer department worker.

Mom, please don’t worry. Look… I’m just going to look at it like the challenge it is, no big deal. I’ll get over it.

From the entry he sees someone out of the corner of his eye… pale skin, sharp features, long-by-Disney-standards black hair parted in the middle, radiating with the sunlight shooting from his half smile, big chocolate eyes trying to absorb his surroundings with a childlike wonderment while still maintaining the smooth cool hippie vibe in the bounce of his black textured Doc Martins grounding his laid-back stride. They briefly lock eyes… and smile cordially.

James almost drops the phone.

Air.

Sanctuary.

A no-drone.

Please don’t be a clone…

What? Who’s a clone?

Everyone is a clone!  He seems to exhale the sentence with unusual force. Only then he realizes there is a group of men still waiting to use one of the two phones, all with wide eyes. The neighboring phone user throws an annoyed look.

…which is a good thing… it keeps us unified in this… spiritual warfare … against… the world… Look, mom, I’ve got to go.

He isn’t sure whether everyone was looking at him because of the burst out or because he just seemingly eye-banged the new Seattle-grungish newbie, but either way he felt it was time to exit.

Love you too.  Tell dad I miss him.  (Click.)

He hangs up the phone and dashes up to A314 on the third story while the new guy turned the corner to the right on the first floor. He sits on this bed and turns on the television to something pointless.

Baseball. Women. Grandma…

James P. Perez © 2013