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