Chapter 16 – Massage

by Backseat Devil

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

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