What’s that piece of shit you’re driving?
Hey, it gets good gas mileage when you’re a broke bethelite.
Did you wreck it?
Yeah. Tire blew out on the bridge in Corpus. Closed down the entire highway.
Geez. Way to keep me up to date.
James and David sit opposite each other in a booth at Bennigans, the only two people in the restaurant. The mid-afternoon sun is shining on their half eaten plates against the dark wooden tables. Both men rarely look at each other in the hour that they have been talking, instead remaining slumped, slouched, picking at their plates in avoidance.
So what’s up with the knee?
James lets out a sigh.
Earlier that morning, he made it back to John Sealy Hospital in Galveston. After checking in, he was instructed to wait in a small hallway with a row of chairs. Eventually a doctor came out of one of the offices to retrieve James. He was young with glasses and nervous but still maintained his professionalism. James entered the tiny doctor’s office and sits in one of the chairs against the back wall. Next to him on the counter is a model of the human knee.
So, James. Um, you have two things going on. Okay… uh, first, you have some dislocated cartilage and it has lodged itself here (he points on the model) and it looks like it did some damage at some point, I’m not sure how… but anyway, it may not do anything to you now, but you might have issues as you get older. It’s not something that is an immediate concern, but you will eventually have problems. Um…
The doctor turns the model around to show James the back side of the knee. and adjusts his glasses.
The bigger issue, um… I feel, is that your tendon here (points on the model) was severed from the bone.
The snap we heard when it happened.
Yes! exactly. It would’ve sounded like loud snap, and very painful.
I’m sorry. He gives James a comforting sympathetic look. Um… so… what has happened is that this tendon has rotated completely and reattached itself to the bone… uh, but backwards or flipped. We call this a lax tendon. Uh… I’m not sure how this happened, I guess with movement and such although I don’t know how you would move it that much, it’s a very painful injury, but anyway… however it happened it’s now backward.
So what are my options?
Your best option, in my opinion, is to… um, have surgery. What they will do is strip the tendon from the bone, flip it around, straighten it out, and then screw it back in place. At the same time they can get that cartilage out. Otherwise, you can just live with it, but that knee is always going to be susceptible to displacement because of the way the tendons are pulling. You should keep a metal hinged knee brace on at all times. I mean… um, you’re young now, and it probably doesn’t mean much to you as you start to feel better, but this will only get worse as you get older. Your knee is weak and your chances of it dislocating are pretty high. You’re going to have this for the rest of your life. So…
So basically, you do nothing, David says, throwing down a limp French fry.
Yeah, unless I want to lay up in the hospital, freshly disfellowhipped with no one coming to see me.
I still can’t believe that, dude.
Getting DF’ed. It’s just… Not you. The twins are going to freak out.
Do what you can to soften the blow.
Well, I’m glad something finally caught up to your arrogant ass.
(Laughing.) You’re one to talk.
Hey, I wasn’t the one making sacrifices to Satan at the World Headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
You have no idea how difficult it is to get dove’s blood out of cheap carpet.
James, I honestly don’t know how you’re handling all this.
I’m not handling it. Because I don’t have to. I don’t have to fucking stand there and listen to a bunch of shit from a bloated faced, incompetent, ‘I have my own agenda,’ too blind to be a decent human being so let me over-compensate for my small dick Bethel elder.
I’m still a little pissed…
Ya think? (Pause.) This religion is fucked up some times.
If you think it’s fucked up in the little areas of the local congregations, it’s diabolical at the World Headquarters.
When do they make the announcement?
Are you going to be okay?
After the knee, Aaron, Brother Bechman, the pain it’s causing my parents, not having you and the twins around, being in the middle of bumfuck Texas with no job… how could I possibly not be okay?
I have something personal to ask you about Aaron.
(James smiles as he looks at his sandwich). Yeah?
You two seemed… pretty close.
I didn’t have a David, so I found an Aaron.
Don’t get me wrong, I can imagine life without me can be devastating. But you two were… close close.
Are you trying to ask if we…
James laughs to himself. The simplicity of the answer will dwarf the beauty of the reality. Yes.
You realize you’re going to hell, right?
We don’t believe in hell, David.
I’m pretty sure Jehovah is going to create a hell just for you.
Should I save you a seat?
Where is our waitress? I’m thirsty.
David starts picking at his straw. Who knows.
James can read the disheartening conflict in his friend. It reminds him of that evening on the futon almost two years prior. David, look…
David interrupts, I will still talk with you, you know.
But we can’t do this… here. We know too many people in Houston.
Yeah. I know.
David pauses for a second. Someone will see us.
But that’s not what’s bothering you.
(Long pause.) I… I just can’t handle the gay shit.
David, it’s okay. I understand.
You being DF’ed is one thing and if it was a one time deal, I would be okay with that but if you go all out gay, I can’t talk to you.
Okay. I won’t ask you to.
David fidgets with his food a bit more. I just don’t see how a guy could like it up the ass.
Don’t do that.
What? I’m serious.
Don’t make it about sex. It’s about so much more than that, and you cheapen it by reducing it down to just fucking. (Long pause.) And not everyone likes it up the ass.
Dude, whatever. I’m just saying it’s something I can’t deal with. Don’t talk to me if you’re going to do the gay shit.
And I’m telling you that’s okay. I’m not going to ask you to handle it. And I won’t talk to you.
So you’re not going to try to come back to the Truth in a year?
No, I’m not.
You made up your mind.
Yeah. About everything. I’m sorry.
So I guess this is it. Our goodbye.
I guess so.
The two guys bathed under the tinted sunlight in silence for a while. There isn’t anything more to say, but neither want to leave the table. Once again, there exists two energies that feel comfortable near each other, even when they disagree in the most fundamental ways. The waitress finally appears, presumptuously with the bill.
David sits up. I got this.
You don’t have to pay for me.
James, I want to. I mean… we’re never going to do this again. So let me get it.
Okay. And thank you.
As they walk out, David puts on his sunglasses. They shake hands and James heads to his car.
Hey, David says, if you ever decided to be not gay, you know where to find me.
James smiles and nods his head, David. I love you. Tell the twins I said goodbye.
He feels like he’s driving down highway 59 without legs in silent tears, mentally hyperventilating. He needs someone, anyone. It is all just so… empty, a vast nothingness of destitute and exhaustion. James decides to make a detour.
A left. A right. A faded blue building behind a flickering 7-Eleven. He parks in the grass next to the dumpster.
He walks through the screen door and knocks at the first apartment. No answer.
He knocks again.
The door opens. It is pitch back inside. He cannot tell if the person answering was a man or a woman. Yeah?
Hey. I’m looking for Ollie. Does he still live here?
No, man. I don’t know who that is.
Okay. Sorry to bother you.
No problem, man.
He spends an hour driving around Montrose, retracing areas they visited, looking at every face on the street begging for the chance to see his eyes. Nothing. He was gone.
His drive back to his parent’s home is in depletion, his face flushed with silent disappointment. There is no more atmosphere in the world, the air conditioning in his car is hurling chunks of failure at his flesh, cutting him and leaving bloodless scars, reminders of everything he is not. There are no more tears to tear, there is no more breath to breathe. The end result is a world without air.
He is officially all alone. It doesn’t hit him right away. It doesn’t hit him until he enters the now silent house with parents walking around in low volume trying to avoid talking to him. His mother is in conflict. 1 Corinthians 5:11 says “‘you must not associate with anyone who… is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.” Their son is… most of those things. But does she still make dinner for him or let him fend for himself? Maybe she will just make him a plate and he can eat it later?
His father cannot look at him in the face. He is so saddened, disheartened, and discouraged, hurt and humiliated. He knows his son, he knows most of what was written about him is false. He knows there was an elder with an agenda who went after his son without mercy. But he knows his son is gay… and he knows he had sex with his roommate.
He also knows his son loved Aaron, he could see the pain in his eyes during the judicial committee when the questions turned intimate. But he is a faithful elder in the Sinton Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses and he must follow the procedural ruling as if his son were any other publisher in any other congregation in any other part of the world. He handles it with quiet reverence and a higher level of decorum than when Tony was disfellowshipped at the Rosenberg Assembly Hall.
James sits on his bed, crushed in deflation from the weight of his own emptiness, waiting for nothing to happen. Nothing happens.
Then something happens.
James P. Perez © 2013