Backseat Devil

Chapter 23 – Snap!

Outside the inner turmoils troubling James, there was still an incredible amount of happiness in the air around him.  The young teenagers of the congregation saw the bethelites happy and joyful, sometimes pleasantly boisterous.  James never much cared for children or teenagers in or out of the Organization, despite his argument with Brother Kelly, but Aaron did and he would hang out with them, play the guitar, and encourage them in the most heartfelt, endearing, and honest of ways.

The two roommates began to spend more and more weekends apart from each other.  Already from the beginning James would feel lonely and missed Aaron when he was not around.  There are those moments when Oh, Aaron would like that or Aaron would think that was funny would run across his mind.  But it seemed to be a necessary evil to separate his longing heart from the situation, and maybe everyone would stop looking at them like a couple.  The energy that people place on them sometimes far outweighs the reality – it was more draining to present themselves as individuals than it is to simply live as a couple.  James found a solution in talking with the head of the drafting department at the Watchtower Farms.

He was invited, and he accepted, to work at the third location of the World Headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Patterson, New Jersey to be part of the drafting team for an Assembly Hall that was going to be built further down I-84 in Newburgh.  Brother Bechman did not like this idea and talked it over with James on at least two occasions about missing the Sunday meetings at the South Saugerties Congregation.  James understood the problem, but his heart was in drafting and the brothers at Patterson gave him the okay to work over the weekends.  He would drive up on Saturday, and drive back.  Sunday go up again, catch the talk given at the Patterson congregation, and then skip the Watchtower study since bethelites already have the Watchtower study on Mondays.  That allows for about 14 or so hours of drafting on the assembly hall for the weekend.  He was meeting new people, making new friends, and having a real enjoyable time in a very relaxing atmosphere.

The other thing that Brother Bechman frowns upon  is that volunteer work in construction (in this case, the Assembly Hall) counts as field service hours.  From the time James first started to work on the Rosenberg, Texas Assembly Hall, there has never been any consistent answer as to how much a construction worker can use as part of their field service work.

All Jehovah’s Witnesses are required to spend at least 10 hours a month performing preaching work in some facet (usually in door-to-door service).  If one has the time then one could be an Auxiliary Pioneer on a month to month bases and dedicate 60 hours to ‘field service’.  The truly ambitious became Regular Pioneers giving 90 hours a month for a year, after which they are given the privilege of attending a private two-week school on how to become better preachers of the word (or “Illuminators of the World” as their training book calls them).  All time spent in all aspects of the Organization is recorded and each publisher has a “time sheet” that is turned in every month and reviewed by the elders.  The elders can then judge how a person is doing based on the time they are recording in field service.

The general, unwritten rule is construction work could count as fifty percent of one’s field service time, so that would be 5 hours going door-to-door and 5 hours+ helping out with the construction of a Kingdom Hall Building, for example.  Together, those 10 hours would fulfill the minimum time requirement for that particular Witness for that month.   For full time construction workers and committee members, the tally becomes disproportional, where they will spend 5 hours out in field service, but have 160 hours because of a construction projects the are on – so their time sheets would read “165 hours” which is all recorded as “field service”, thus giving an inflated accounting  of how much preaching work is being accomplished when the yearly reports for Jehovah’s Witnesses come out.  But there is an inconsistency based off one’s rank and importance in the Organization.  A framer who is just a regular publisher would still be required to make the ten hour minimum average while an organizational committee member and elder might count 100% of his volunteer work as ‘field service’.  It varied from location to location and body of elders to body of elders.

James decides to work five hours in field service in Saugerties one Saturday a month, then spend the rest of the Saturdays working on the Newburgh Assembly Hall.   He alternates Sundays so that there is always a consistent exhibit of congregational interest, something the local brothers sincerely appreciate.  The overseers with the Assembly Hall Committee thought this was a great solution.  Brother Bechman, did not and his disdain for the situation was even more noticeable when James would turn in his time sheet with “38 hours” or “42 hours” and he would get a look of annoyance, sometimes a question And how many of these are in actual field service?

At least five, of course, James would smile.

The congregation was weak and fragile, it was emaciated and hungry and the amount of bethelites flooding the place was suffocating them.  They needed brothers like Aaron, Jake, and Kyle to be there, smile with them, and care.  They needed brothers like Neil to broaden their minds and make them laugh.  James didn’t need to be there.  He was worker, a performer, a production coordinator.  He did best with organization and sequencing… not with human interaction and fellowship.  His job working with FoxPRO programming was nice, but it was hardly challenging.  Working on the assembly hall helped him maintain some stability in his head by doing what he loved while making sure he and Aaron spent some noticeable time apart.  The brothers and sisters at Patterson were nice, and friendly, they were relaxed and refreshing.  Of all the people and overseers he met there wasn’t a single overbearing Bechman among them.  It seemed Utopian in a way.  And it was a rejuvenating venture to escape everything weighing him down while still doing something productive in Jehovah’s Organization.

On Sundays, James, Aaron and Jake would meet back at the room and wind down, maybe have a few drinks, watch a movie or… on this particular evening… simply horse around.  Aaron is at the kitchen counter making drinks and cleaning up from dinner while James and Jake were facing off in the living room on top of the futon mattress laid on the floor.  They have already tackled each other twice and Jake has pinned James both times.

Am I the only one who thinks you should wait an hour after eating before  doing this? asks Aaron.

Jake looks intent at his opponent, Okay evil James, you have yet to defeat me.

James is not daunted, You’re ass is mine, bitch.

The two attack each other.  Jake tries to flip James.  James punches Jake in the stomach repeatedly.

I guess so, Aaron says sarcastically to himself. (Louder) So I guess no one wants drinks then?

James straightens himself up, Drinks?

Jake makes a full hit wrapping his arms around James, tackling him to the mattress.  Gotcha!

That’s not fair!  I was distracted with alcohol!  James muffles from  his face buried in the fabric.  

Jake releases James from the floor and both get up.  James is fake smoldering.  Jake is smiling big, feeling confident in himself.

Wait, James.  Hold still.  I want to try something.

What?

Just stand right there.  He takes a spread leg position and counts to himself, one, two, three.  Jake jumps.

What Jake is attempting to do is jump in the air and scissor-kick James at the leg, hitting him behind the knee so that the knee gives out, causing him to collapse on his ass.

What actually happens is Jake’s lower legs get caught on either side of James’s right leg and the “scissor” maneuver causes James’s femur bone and all the thigh muscles to go in one direction, while the fibula and tibia bones and related muscles go in the opposite direction.  The patella and all interlocking tendons and ligaments are then stretched to the extent of the two opposite motions until the kneecap is dislodged from it’s socket, the whole of which sounds like a loud and very deep, but extremely distinctive “snap.”  Then James collapses on his ass.

The room turns definitively still where even the dust particles in the air remain motionless.  Aaron is at the microwave in mid wiping with his eyes shocked open, unblinking, not breathing.  Jake is looking back from the other side of the mattress, eyes focused on James and caught with a deathly horror upon his face. There is no movement.  There is no sound.  It is complete suspension of space and time.

Then it hits.

The pain from the knee stabs like a molten knife.  James grabs his leg and feels the kneecap clumsily slump back into place as he pulls it toward his chest… which is more unnerving than the pain.

The pain.

It is coming from all over, the front, the back, from the inside, it comes from the bone, the light, even the walls.  It is just one solid wave of agony on a level he has never experienced before in his life.

FUCKING SHIT.

The air proceeds upon it’s movement.  Aaron runs closer.  What the hell was that?

Jake is on his feet at James’s side.  Are you okay?  Please tell me you’re okay.

James was not okay.  FUCK.  FUCK.  FUCK.  He rocks back and forth holding his knee.  FUCK.  FUCK.  FUCKIDY FUCK FUCK.  FUCK.

Aaron is trying not to panic.  Okay James, I need you to stop saying “fuck” so loud.  Please.  Talk to me.

James glares at Aaron and attempts to get up onto the bed.  His leg has no function and the movement makes the pain worse.  James is starting to get a headache that is making him dizzy and nauseous.  He cannot form any other word besides “fuck”.  On the bed.  He props his knee up bringing lift and elevation to the already excruciating experience.  The entire leg is starting to throb by this point.  He holds his index finger up to his two friends to keep them quiet, until he can finally form sentences.

Jake.  Get two bags from under the sink and fill them with ice.  

It’s a mini-fridge.  We used what little ice we had for drinks, Aaron observed.

Okay, then  go next door to Brian, and get what he has, then across the hall to Jason.  Fill one bag with a lot, and the other with about half as much.  Go!

Jake dashes off and gets his bags and goes on an ice hunt down the hall.

Aaron, get me that pillow and some Advil.  Aaron is moving and delivering while James is talking.  Don’t forget my drink.

Do you think you should…

Aaron.  I don’t want to hear it.  Now get the trash can, and empty it in the bin and bring it here next to me.

The trash can?  Why?

Because I’m about to throw up all over the fucking place.  Just hurry.

James takes the Advil and takes a drink.  He sets it down and closes his eyes trying to keep his stomach calm.  His body is pulsing, and the pain causing his leg to tremor is sending palpitations throughout the body, causing an almost sea-sickness type rocking and making nausea a very real possibility.

Aaron returns with the trash can and looks straight at James with so much love and concern.  Here you go.  He pauses.  I am so sorry.  What else can I do?

James breathes for a little bit… trying to keep whatever is in his stomach down.  When Jake returns, I’m going to ask you to do something.  Please do it for me, and do it quickly.

You’re scaring me.

No it’s okay.  When Jake returns I want you to lift my knee from here, and shove the smaller bag underneath.  Put my leg back down and put the larger bag on top.  Can you do that?

Yes, I think.

Let’s practice.  Lift from here.  

I’m afraid to touch it… it will hurt you.

It’s going to hurt me a lot.  That’s why I’m going to have a pillow over my face screaming at the top of my lungs.

Aaron pauses.  I can’t do this.

Please Aaron.  Just lift from here…

You don’t understand.  I can not ever do anything to hurt  you.  Ever.  And this… will make your pain worse.

For a moment, but I cannot move it myself and I need to get ice under my knee.

I still… I….

Come on Aaron.  Look at me.  Please.  Just lift up from here and take the ice and…

And shove the ice in there.  It finally hits him.  You’re trying to get to the top part of the back of the knee.  Aaron stands up to demonstrate where the ice needs to go on the back of his own leg.

Yes!  Exactly!  James finally understands what Anne Sullivan must have felt like with Helen Keller.  And there is no gentle way around this, just fast.  So… do it fast.

Jake returns with two bags of ice, one half as full as the other.  I had to knock on four doors, but I got enough.

Thank you Jake.  Give them to Aaron.

Aaron takes the bags and places the larger one on the floor and lays the smaller one next to the knee.  He is focused and he is ready.  He looks James in the eye.  James gives him a nod and covers his face with a pillow.

Aaron lifts the leg and positions the ice under the upper back part of the knee, arranges the pillow for support, and puts the leg back down… all the while James is screaming into the pillow.  Aaron puts the other ice bag on the top of the knee.  After few seconds the waves of pain begin to subside to just the nausea and nothing more.  James removes the pillow.  Jake retrieves a towel and drapes it over the knee to keep the ice in place.

James, I am so sorry. 

Jake… there will honestly be a lot of time to apologize later.  but not now.  Okay?  Put it out of your mind.

But I…

Listen, anytime the words “hold still I want to try something” are spoken, something bad is going to happen.  We all know this.

True.

Just, apologize to me tomorrow or the next day.  Tonight, let’s just figure this out.

Should we take you to the infirmary? Aaron asked.

The infirmary is closed on the weekends except for a nurse to pass out Band-Aids.  I can go in the morning I just need help getting over there.

Because Jake was a waiter, he was required to be at work an hour early to prep for breakfast for the rest of the Bethel family.  I have to be at work before the infirmary opens up.  

I can take him.  Are you going to be able to get to sleep tonight?

Yeah, sure.

The boys talk for a bit more… then nestle themselves into bed.  James stays very still to make sure not to make the intensity of the pain any worse.  The ice is soothing and painful at the same time.  The heat from the knee seemed to be kept at bay, but nothing could stop the continual twisting of the knitting needle that seems to be stemming from right behind the the top of the knee.

James didn’t sleep much… doses off once or twice.  He cannot wait to see a doctor.

James P. Perez © 2013

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Chapter 22 – They Are But They Aren’t

Late one night he gets  up and stares at Aaron sleeping in the bed next to him.  They do not sleep close, they never sleep close, even when Jake is gone.  Watching him sleep is like watching a sunflower gently rock gently in a moonlit breeze.  He is so beautiful in his features and style… even for a hippy.

He gets up and exits the room and quietly walks across the hall two doors down and opens the door.  This room has been empty for a week and the housekeepers keep the door open until someone is assigned to it with a key.  James closes the door behind him.  It’s a flipped version of his room.  The moonlight is pouring in through the large window onto the grey carpeting providing drastic diagonal lines illuminating the space in the middle, but making the rest of the room that much darker, the scene that much starker.

He takes a spot on the floor under the beam from the window to lie down on his back. spread eagle and closes his eyes to allow his body to absorb as much moonlight as it can.

If he thought anything between he and Aaron was going to change after having sex, he was wrong, it didn’t.  They were still the same rambunctious duo they were before, same caring listeners, same studious congregational participants, and same hard workers they were before.  Over the months things had taken a dirtier twist, a freakier level.  Aaron was indeed a masochist and James had plenty of experience being a sadist, but this was the first time there was sexual pleasure linked with burning someone with hot wax on their nipples or attacking their back with a homemade claw until the skin whelped flushed with red and pain. Aaron felt free to ask any request or suggest whatever he wanted and it made Friday nights feel more like an ‘open mic night’ at the kink club than anything else.  They didn’t paddle or spank because of the noise it would make… a problem James was already familiar with.

In day to day activities Aaron became more confident, especially since he and his overseer developed a better understanding of how to work with each other.  But in the bedroom he was more passive, even when he would suggest things and he liked how James took control and yet… on some nights out of the blue, he would turn the tables and pin James down and whisper “My turn.”

It was all very gratifying but kept in the context of Friday night.  It was their only night of indulgence, drinking, and complete satisfying relaxation.  Every other day and night they were Joe Bethelite doing the Organization’s good work.  Every morning they were in their assigned seats to listen to the morning text and discussion.  Every morning they would socialize with everyone at the table with spiritual exchanges before they were off to work.

Every afternoon they would meet up for lunch and enjoy the company of whoever the visitors might be dining at their randomly picked table, and they were sure to present the perfect Joe Bethelite persona.  They worked at their jobs, and worked well.  In the evenings they studied for the meetings separately, attended the Monday evening Watchtower study for Bethelites, and made the forty-five minute journey twice a week to their congregation, three times if they went out in field service on Saturdays.  They were still crass, they were still insightful, there was nothing evil or manipulative going on.  They were not bad people.  Nothing about anything they were doing felt sinister or destructive.  In fact, they were more coordinated and harmonized with a “two heads are better than one” characteristic.

They still found time to eat out, go to a spring concert festival where Aaron was invited on stage to dance with Iggy Pop, singing with a suspicious nose bleed.  They made it to Albany to see the Garbage/Smashing Pumpkins tour, hike trails, and there were still trips to the city to enjoy musicals with Neil.

James twists on the floor and opens his eyes to stare at the ceiling, blue and barely visible as he is blinded by the radiance of the moon.  That’s not what is bothering him right now.

After the initial ninety days, bethelites are given one day of vacation for every month they serve.  James and Aaron had built up enough to take a long weekend vacation for the summer’s Messengers of Godly Peace District Convention anywhere they wanted.  The choices were either Aaron visits Houston, or James would visit Seattle (where their convention would be held).  James had never been to Seattle in the summer and he desperately wanted to go… and Aaron was very anxious to see his family.

James and the twins would correspond by letter.  James and David did not.  In the first month David received a series of extremely dark and depressing letters written from a James that David was not familiar with.  It cause the one and only phone call between the two guys.

So, are you going to kill yourself?

No.

Okay, good to know.  Gotta go.

James had been writing out his feelings just to get them out of his mind and shipping them off to the safest place he trusted… David’s room.  Even with the most advanced search party, nothing could be found in there.  All that emotion changed once Aaron entered the picture, and James really wanted his two best friends to interact.

James invited David and the twins to Seattle and they agreed.  He was overjoyed.  They get a summer vacation together, Aaron gets to meet David and the twins, and the two bethelites will finally have some decent space away from the compound.  Reservations were made, tickets were purchased, and anticipation was at full discharge.

The reunion started a day late, thanks to one of the twins mis-reading the departure time.  They had to get on a flight the next day, which pissed off David to the point where he almost didn’t show back up.  The following afternoon Aaron’s family and James collected David and the twins from the airport.  James has never been happier to see anyone in his life than the three of them.  David was in full beard and pouting, in the same clothes he was in the day before, throwing out a I’ll hug you later, and barely greeting Aaron’s family.  The twins overcompensate as they get acquainted with Aaron’s mom and sister.  It was a dynamic that James missed dearly.

In the boys hotel room, Aaron goes and spends time with his family and David excuses himself to shower and shave.  When he comes back out, he is fresh and clean-shaven and goes Now I’ll give you a hug, and gives James the biggest hug of his life.

I am so glad you came.

I almost didn’t.  I was so pissed.

I don’t believe that.  You wanted to see me too much.

Ahh!  Don’t test that theory.  So he is the new me?

He’s not the new you.  No one can replace you.

Damn right. 

He and I have a very different relationship than you and I have.

Are you a couple? He asked jokingly.

We are not a couple.

You act like a couple.

We do not!

There is a knock at the door and the twins come in for more hugs and chatting, constant apologizes for not showing up the day before.  Everyone is hungry… it’s time to eat.

James closes his eyes and breaths in the silence of the empty room.  He holds his breath… then releases it.  He does this again.  He does it once more.  They act like a couple, they feel like a couple, they fuck like a couple, they work around each other and take care of each other like a couple… but they are not a couple.  Something is missing that is impossible to have, namely, the small displays of intimacy and affection.  It is missing because that is something couples would do, and externally it is something that couldn’t exist because if anyone, anyone at all would have seen it… even the slightest peck on the cheek or wink, it would be instant tribunal in a judicial committee and a trip back home.

But it was heavily missed.  James loved Aaron so much and the time they are having together is mindblowing, but he would give it all up for a kiss on the cheek after a hard day at work, or to hug him from behind if he is unusually depressed.  He so desperately just wants to hold him in his arms as they watch a movie or snuggle up together when the nights were cold.  He missed how Ollie would stare at his eyes no matter what they were doing, whether they were at the store, walking along the streets of Houston, fucking, or if the world was crumbling to ash around them, Ollie would still be staring at James’s eyes the whole time… still with a half smile, and still beaming with his bright blue eyes while paying attention to the environment around them so as to give a slight brush of the hand when nobody was looking.  That was what was missing… the cohesive cement that says You are on my mind as much as I am on yours.

And it was that electricity he craved so badly.

In Seattle it took less than 24 hours and David and James were back in sync.  The convention was great.  David managed to sit still through most of it, mainly because their seats were near the arena floor, brightly lit and open for to everyone and he wasn’t hiding in his normal spot of the grey level of the Astrodome that was dark and cold, perfect for napping or wandering around.

During the final Sunday Aaron’s parents headed back to Oregon and the boys and the twins were left in Seattle on their own on a bright and sunny day.  After walking down Alaskan Way they decide to eat at Fisherman’s on pier 57.  They were given a round table right on the water with a expansive view of Puget Sound.  James and David ordered seafood life by the bucket to split.  Aaron and the twins ordered meals from the menu.  Then… James, David, Kristy, and Katy picked up and started talking like nothing had ever changed.  Aaron sat back and enjoyed the show respectfully, but eventually his opinions were dragged out of him. Aaron made everyone laugh.  He did good, he fit well.  He was comfortable holding his own at round table, and everyone liked him… a lot.  James looked at him with with his head tossed back, laughing with the water and the clear sky, the greenery of the hills beyond.  He so wanted to be in love with him.

Part way through dinner there was a excitement that erupted in the restaurant.  Two wales were seen in the distance on the opposite end of of the sound.  All five at the table looked, and sure enough… there was a spray of water off on the other side near the island.  It made for a good sign, although probably not for the wales who are somehow trapped in Puget Sound.  Toward the end even Aaron had to admit, this banter was something unique.

Do you four always talk like this?

Katy answered.  Yeah, but it’s usually only with James and David.  They bring it out of us.

Aaron paused for a moment.  Seriously… I can tell you two apart (pointing at the twins) better than I can tell you two apart (pointing at James and David).

Everyone laughs.  James desperately missed the sound of the twins and David laughing – the strange mixture of two soft chuckles in stereo with one harden hackle piercing in the middle.  After dinner the five walked around the park and even listened to some live music before calling it a night, as they had to get up early in the morning and the girls did not want to miss the departing flight yet again.

Aaron went ahead with the girls to give James and David some time to talk.

I like him.  He’s cool.

Thanks.  I think so too.

I’m glad you found someone.  I thought you were going to… you know…

Yeah well, I… seriously… it’s just not a place for me.

Then leave.  We’d love to have you back.  

Aaron’s made it tolerable. He really saved me in all this.

I can tell.  He’s nice though… like actually nice.  He’s a good person.  Not like us.

He has his wild side but you’re absolutely right.

You need to be careful with that.

I know.

He knows.

Aaron later talked about how it was good to see James’s roots, where he came from… the people that helped create the crazy guy he knows now.  He was shocked at the candor everyone spoke to and about each other.  It was refreshing and raw, honest and unapologetic.

They are what kept me sane.  I had the pressure of drafting a $12 million assembly hall, setting up the Regional Building Committee computer system, cranking out Kingdom Halls, while still trying to maintain publisher’s average in field service and responsibilities of a ministerial servant in the congregation.  Just like you twist your back for work and it sometimes needs massaging, well, my brain needed massaging… and they were it. 

The pressure of Bethel was no different.  Even more so when someone like James is just expected to be a career bethelite and someone like Aaron is constantly threatened with being sent home.  Bechman seems to be looming in the shadowy corners everywhere with his discriminatory forehead and leery eyes.  The segregation between the departments of Bethel is bizarre.  It felt frowned upon that someone from the computer department would be such close friends with someone from the factory.  It was so typical of the real world where the white collar guys eat at one table while the blue collar workers eat at another table, and life at the Watchtower Farms was no different.  Not only were Aaron and James going against the Bethel standard norm, but the typical sociological behavior of the work environments as well.

There’s no time to just be us…

And that’s the point.  They were suppose to be Bethel workers functioning in unison for the Bethel business, not individuals there having the times of the lives.  And there is to be no mistake, The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, New York is a business.  James had access to all kinds of files and programs.  The Organization was bringing in over $2 billion dollars a year worldwide in donations.  The extensive real estate property in Brooklyn has more square feet than the Empire State Building and is valued well over $1 billion dollars.  But each volunteer at all the Bethel facilities only receives $90 a  month for expenses.

The paper they use is cheap and thin, half the cost of regular magazine paper.  The ink they make themselves at a cost next to nothing.  Food is grown and prepared themselves, and there is constant maintenance on the buildings and its infrastructure… all with volunteer labor.  They use the oldest of machines with a team of workers keeping them running.  There is no real cost to the printing of anything and yet there is consistent reminder to the Jehovah’s Witnesses on the outside that production of books and magazines is expensive and costs must be compensated with donations.  The rest of the Organization may be in panic that Armageddon may be arriving at any time, but not at the World Headquarters.  Investments where being made, future projects are being planned and reorganization was taking place for the introduction of the SAP program coming in the next year.  It is 1996 and James was spending most of his time preparing for the 1999 to 2000 year changeover.  Outside the walls of the World Headquarters, Jehovah’s Witnesses are presented as a religion of faith and devotion, but inside the walls of Bethel it is a business dependent on its slave labor.  And somehow two nonconformists that seem to be attached at the hip are maintaining their deviation from conformity and smiling the entire time, and this was not consistent with Bethel as a business.

He turns to his left side and faces the moonlight streaming in through the window and clouds floating still overhead, the sprinkle of stars covering everything like a cool blanket.  He crosses his arms and holds them close to his chest.  That is the problem.  Aaron is legitimately good… too good to be working at Bethel.  James knows he has the ability to pull the best and the worst out of people, it’s a talent and a curse.  He can handle the broken heart.  He can handle the rejection.  He can handle not having any more sex.  What he couldn’t handle is shattering someone who is inherently decent on levels they are not experienced in and that was what was going to happen to Aaron, either at James’s hand or Bethel’s.  Testing boundaries is one thing, even sex is one thing, but harming one’s heart at the core is unforgivable.  James knows he can put sex in its proper place, but some of the sexual suggestions Aaron expresses feels like he was taking it to a level this could not go… a place James wanted it to go… and yet it goes there, but only one night a week.

The end result is a relationship limbo, where the presentation of a brick wall is on display, but lacking mortar in between the bricks to give the wall any real structural integrity.  Aaron and James were presenting the display of a couple, everyone could see that.  They were even presenting it to themselves on Fridays.  But the subtle ethereal delicacies were missing, the tiny slivers of mortar that solidifies a relationship and gives it real structural integrity.

They could disagree in the most drastic ways:  Upon seeing RENT in the spring Aaron thought is was a gritty tale of love and art.  James thought it was a loud obnoxious story about bums who wouldn’t get a job.  They discussed it all evening at a diner in the City and all the way home.  There was no end to the conversation and the mental stimulation without judgement or condescension, which is a relief from working at a facility where so many thrive off judgement and condescension.   There were no complaints about the physical stimulation.  Aaron was beautiful and handsome.  There was nothing about his body he did not enjoy, but Aaron’s suggesting new things to do in bed annoyed James sometimes.  It wasn’t the kink aspect… Aaron still had a long way to go before he reached James’s boundaries.  It wasn’t that Aaron’s suggestions weren’t good… they were always fun.  But sometimes James had in his mind a simple question of Can’t we just sit here and enjoy each other for a moment?  The energy that the two bodies gave off is so comforting James just wanted to just relax intertwined and appreciate it.  And they didn’t.  That would be too emotional.

Too late, though.  He was already connected to Aaron emotionally.  He loved him, he desired him, he felt fresh air when he entered the room, he would protect him, fight for him, do anything on this earth just to make sure the sunshine he brings to the planet stays lit.  But that very emotional love is also considered one of the worst sins by the Organization.  And that was a problem.

No, sex didn’t change anything.  It just made the obvious more obvious, and because of it, that much more confusing.  This trust, honor, love, excitement was something straight people have all the time, every day.  They are allowed to be smitten with each other, dote on each other, grab each other’s hand from across the table, hug each other on top of a mountain at the sight of a breathtaking view… and over time through tests and turmoil, the bond between them is strengthened and shored from beyond the little moments of affection to honest and true faith and security taut with moorings.  That is exactly what these two bethelites have and the emotion and feeling at the end of it is so rewarding and satisfying.  The benefits of waiting to have sex until you have that perfect mate has certainly become justified in his mind.  It’s all there with bright colored contentment.

But only on Friday night.

James knows sex.  He knows how to handle it in different configurations.  He also knows love… in all its different forms.  Everything about this particular situation is well within his boundaries, but he is in no way convinced they are within Aaron’s nineteen-year-old psychological tool belt.  He doesn’t have the vast array of knowledge spent understanding the difference between sex, love, and intimacy and how to separate the three beyond the typical male “shut down” avoidance technique.  James does.  Ollie did.  Sex is only as complicated as the rules that are placed upon it.  With Ollie the structure was simple, clean, and strong… very little rules allowing for a myriad of fun, appreciation, and adventure.  With Aaron, there is a weight of the person’s mental well being, levels of appropriateness, rules of the religion, attraction, dependency, and all the matters of the heart and of self discovery that are then all tossed aside for the benefit of Bethel, Inc.

He’s a good person.  Not like us.

And although James wants to be with Aaron for the rest of his life, the reality is that he will not as long as they are in this Organization… and it is something he has already come to grips with, mourned, and wept over.  Aaron is a perfect companion, he’s just not allowed to be a perfect mate.  The end result is a constant emotional distance and it was eating James up on the inside.  He grinned and bore it because he seemed to make Aaron more comfortable, and anyone who was captivated by those big brown eyes and half smile would see that the energy that emanates from his core was so blinding it was almost addictive to the point of lunacy.   He heart leaps out of his chest each time he makes a joke that catches Aaron off guard.  He melts every time Aaron enters the door with a big smile, head cocked to one side, arm out, and starts the sentence with “Oh. My. God.”

All of this, James keeps inside.  He has learned to do it countless times before.  He would rather let it out and be free, which is why he still misses Ollie.  But what weighed on his mind was not being sure if Aaron had the ability to understand the depths of what was happening.

The door opens.  James stays motionless.

There you are.  Aaron closes the door gently and comes up behind James and kneels down beside him, rubbing his shoulders.  What are you doing in here?

Thinking about how we’re going to hell.

Aaron gives a half laugh.  I find it best to just put it out of the mind.

James smiles.  That’s what he was afraid of.  It’s hard to do for an overthinker.

Come on back to bed.  Aaron rubs James’s back until he gets up from the floor and they return to room A314 across the hall.

That would be the only physical contact they would have that night.

James P. Perez © 2013