Backseat Devil

Tag: Aaron

Chapter 21 – Another First

The next evening Aaron and James are sitting side by side on the rooftop of the A Building with their backs against the exterior stairwell wall looking at the speckle of lights nestled in the wooded darkness under a remarkable starry sky.  No one is allowed on the roof, but on occasion the door would be left open and tonight they decide to take advantage of situation as it is the most quiet and soothing spot on the Watchtower Farms property.

Aaron was relieved and already moved on past the situation of the previous day, but James had not.  I don’t understand why things have to be so unfair.  There’s no consistency.

Every department is different and they have their own stresses.  You work in a brain-intensive job so they trust you to use your brain.  I do not, so we have to work more like machines.  You can’t enforce the same rules to everybody equally.

I couldn’t imagine working as fast as you do constantly.

It’s not constant, there are ups and downs… sometimes it’s slower on Tuesdays, but Friday there’s always a big push.

On Fridays we have juggling class.

What?  Don’t tell me that.

It’s suppose to help link the right and left sides of the brain so it functions as one.

Okay, well I don’t have anything positive to say about that.  

James gives a half laugh and bows his head between his knees.  I’m so sorry.  I don’t mean to sound like a prick.  I do work hard and I get things done. And reading lines and lines of code can sometimes make one a little batty.  So for longevity sake we take walks and juggle and other things.  Keeps us sane.

Aaron leans over an butts James with his shoulder.  I know.  I get it.  And hey, it helps to have friends in the computer department to come fight for you in case you’re getting kicked out of Bethel!

Both guys laugh James starts to react docilely, Well, you’re a great human and an awesome friend.  I love you because you’re such a non-conformist.

That I am.  You are too, though.

I will fight for you no matter what or to who.  I love you that much… to argue with the factory overseer!

I know, right?  You’re nuts.  Everyone around here says “that’s crazy” or “he’s crazy” but here you are… the genuine article.  (Laughter.) I love your head and everything that goes on in it. 

Thank you.

And you know how to make me feel better.

Good to know.

And you know what would feel even better than better…

No, James responds half laughing.

I want to give YOU a massage this time.

James is a little dumbstruck.  Because of Aaron’s work, he had always gotten the massages and even though James would perform it shirtless or in his underwear, it still was a pretty one-sided venture.  However, the massage itself was always deemed a physical necessity.  What Aaron is offering is a massage for sheer pleasure and this is a game-changer, one that he hadn’t anticipated but is certainly welcoming.

You’re going to give me the massage?

Full body, totally naked.  Aaron’s big closed-lipped smile is beaming with excitement.

I’ll run down to the car if you refresh the drinks.

Deal.

In the room the door is locked and the music is turned on.  James is nervous as hell.  He didn’t like being naked in front of people in non-sexual situations, and he isn’t sure if this was going to end up as a sexual situation or not.  As Aaron took of his shirt to reveal his hairless muscular chest and arms, James thought, I’ll be fine.  Time to get over my fears, and he stripped naked and laid face down on the mattress which was put on the floor.

The massage stars with Aaron straddling James.  He can feel Aaron’s breath on the back of his neck as he moves the fingers sensually across with his face close to the skin, the gentle rocking of the hips adding another level of eroticism.  When he pauses to take a drink, he rubs the glass down the spine to a vibrantly lascivious moan James had no intention of letting out.

Aaron giggled.  The lower half of the body is next and he could feel Aaron’s erection on the back of his leg.  He himself has been hard as a rock since he laid down.  James suddenly became even more nervous about everything.  This is obviously levels of sensuality the two of them hadn’t reached yet, and… sex changes everything.  There is a mixture of excitement because James loved Aaron so much and has been craving the touch of his skin for many months and dread over the fact there is a huge mental leap between the area of “playing around” and “fucking” that he’s not confident Aaron is aware of.

A massage is a massage.  If there is a hard on as a result of the massage, there are two ways to deal with it:  either ignore it or handle it.  James liked to handle it.  But when it is all said and done, it is simply a play in biological mechanics, nothing more.  To move the bodies in close, to feel each other’s breath, to tease sensory boundaries goes beyond the realms of ejaculating from biological mechanics and thrusts it to the domain of real sensual arousal and pleasure, which is exactly where Aaron is taking this.

It is time for James to flip over, and so he does.

Humm… what have we here?  Aaron snickers as he gets more oil and straddles James yet again, pinning down his penis.

James keeps his hands spread apart just so that they didn’t grab and rub Aaron’s thighs the way he really wants to.  Aaron is meticulous and slow on the front, which is almost torturous to James.  He finally gets it, This must be what all those people I beat felt.  

But again, how far is this going to go?  James knew what he is wishing but tonight, he relinquished direction of the ship to his partner in crime.  Aaron did not seem as nervous, but would stop on occasion and ask, Is this okay? to which James would reply, Tonight, you’re in complete control. and smile.

Still, in the back of his mind it is still ringing “sex changes everything”.  But at a certain point, there is no turning back either way.  With the bodies grinding in closeness, the pure spectacle is a grand simulation of sex.  This is fine, this is erotic.  But the actual “sex” part is where people go all over the map from “oh I don’t want to go that far” to “I’m just into doing what we’re doing here.”  Every guy has been on a date with someone who gave all the signals, but at the very last moment is thrown, “Oh no. I’m not going to do THAT.”

Not that Aaron is a date or a tease.  It is that he is fragile and soft, goodness and understanding wrapped in a very easily stimulated package.  He had sex with a woman… twice.  To hear him describe it is just sex.  Whatever happens now will be his third sexual experience and so far the intimacy of what is happening is exceeding the basic definition of “sex”, which James is more than confident he could handle… but had no clue if it’s something Aaron could digest.

Can I ask you a question?

Aaron, I’m naked with hard on, you’re in your underwear on top of me.  You can ask anything you want.

Promise you won’t freak out.

It’s you’re night.  Ask away. 

Can I kiss you?

Of course.  Why wait till now to ask?

I don’t know.  I’m shy sometimes.

Shy?  Please, you’re hot as fuck.

Look.  I love the way your mind works, and what comes out of your mouth is always so much fun.  And your nose is so cute… and your eyes that change color… they’re like sometimes green and sometimes gold and sometimes this crystal brown  But when I look at your mouth, your lips… soft beautiful lips… I just want to taste them.  I’ve wanted to taste them since I first met you.

James smiles in astonishment at the uncharacteristic expression of affection.  Thank you.  He had to take a breath to digest it.  Come here.

He reaches up and cradles Aaron’s face with one hand and pulls him down to his face and James kisses him.  He kisses him like he had been wanting to kiss him from the day he first laid eyes on him.  He kissed him with months of longing and frustration, happiness and excitement.

James puts his arm around Aaron’s shoulders and gently rotates him to the right and lays Aaron down on his back while he positions himself on top all without breaking lips.  One arm cradled the head while the other reached down the underwear and took a firm grip on his ass.  He continues to kiss him, like every moment of happiness in his future life depended on it, and like every moment of sadness of the past was washed away with the saliva.  He kissed him with the passion of every drop of heart

After a minute, James releases Aaron.  How was that?

Oh my god.  That is how you kiss?

One of the ways, he said laughing.

That was like an orgasm in my mouth.  I… he was slightly out of breath, I want to do that with you all night.

I have no problem with that.  But you gotta loose the underwear.

In one coordinated effort between the two, the underwear is lost and James lays his entire body on Aaron and kisses him again.  The movement between the two is gentle and soft, almost electric, but smooth like cream.  James decides to get a little more aggressive and leaves his mouth to focus on the nipples.  That is apparently the sweet spot,  James could actually feel Aaron getting harder.

The intensity is growing at such a rate both men feel like they are going to explode.  And then Aaron asks the most dreaded welcomed question of the night.

Will you fuck me?

Are you sure.  Once we fuck there’s no going back.

Yeah.  You’ve done this before, right?

James pauses.  Once or twice.

Then I’m in good hands.

You sure?

Yeah.  I want to know what it feels like.  And I trust you.

Okay… I’ll fuck you.  But not just yet, he said with a menacing grin.

Now that it was obvious,  James took back control of the situation.  Aaron tonight, this particular night, is frisky and playful.  He is thankful and relieved.  It is almost like facing death and having a new appreciation of life afterward.  But tomorrow, or the next night he will return to his sensitive innocence.  The sexual intensity may not be too much or him to handle tonight especially if he’s had a few drinks in him, but it may be too much for him to handle tomorrow if a wave of guilt comes flooding in.

With that in mind there is a conscious effort that this will have to be respectful and mindful while still being strong and dominate.  Part of being respectful and mindful is making sure this isn’t a “just stick it in” reply to Aaron’s request.  He wasn’t that kind of guy.  Once permission was given, James was going to make sure Aaron will enjoy everything he is doing from start to finish.  However, James’s mind is all over the place and it is difficult to concentrate.  There is so much he wants to do to Aaron’s body, but he knows he should just keep to the basics and let the energy of the room do the rest.

The next morning the two work up, still naked.  Aaron stretches and yawns.  My head hurts and my ass hurts. He looks around the room in disgust.  He goes to the closet and gets out underwear and puts on his robe, and gathers his shower toiletries.  I have got to go wash all this… sin… off of me.

I’m sorry your ass hurts.

Aaron throws back a big smile, Oh don’t worry.  It’s a good hurt.

James lays back on the bed.  He doesn’t know what to think.  This was everything he wanted just not where he wanted.  He had become fond of Aaron, then attached, then dependent, attracted to, and happy with him for months.  But somewhere around all that he skipped romantic love and he is pretty sure what they did the night before was what people call “making love”, or at least it was the homosexual equivalent.

Things were so much easier with Ollie, simpler and unrefined.  That was an instant carnal captivation based off the chemistry of attraction.  It just so happened that he was also a great guy to hang out with, talk to, laugh with, and brought a really strong energy wherever he went.  They could instantly tell what the other wanted just by looking at each others face and then jump to it, whether it was intelligent dinner conversation or unrestrained licentious sex.  Aaron is so much different, and on a completely different field. He could already tell, Aaron likes it rough, and he likes a bit of masochism, so sexually this could be all over the place.  The problem is that was a slow brewing sensuality by it’s core definition with a multi-month build up and now James has all these layers of emotions and attractions on top of the desires and wants.  He already had such an intense love for Aaron before it ever reached this point, the natural organic path of sexual combustion was an inevitability and it was, to be honest, fantastic.  But by the time it got to that point there are so many other levels of love it almost seems like a surprise they hadn’t done this sooner.

One thing is for sure:  Aaron is far more touchy-feely when he’s drinking than when he’s sober.  This means that James couldn’t take what is happening in one context and apply it to the other.  Intense connection with each other on one evening doesn’t mean that every morning he’s going to wake up to a kiss, and there will be no things like cuddle time, or make out sessions.  They didn’t have the desire to do that.  They weren’t a couple and they were not in love.   Were they?

It was confusing.  It’s hard to take the love out of lovemaking.   James made a serious vow that this would just be a one time thing.

This has to be a one time thing. James thinks.  This is way too much reality for my heart to handle.  And it scared the hell out of him.

Aaron returns from the shower.  You better get cleaned up, mister.  I’m dying for some pancakes.

Yes sir, James smiles.

He gets up and gathers his things for getting cleaned up and passes Aaron freshly showered looking cute with his hair a mess and pauses to look at him.  Aaron stands there looking back.

What? 

James just smiles, pats Aaron on the back and walks away.

No, they were not a couple.  No, they were not in love.

James P. Perez © 2013

Chapter 20 – The Palisade

The dynamic between the two roommates became noticeable everywhere they went.  Aaron’s musician softness is balanced by James’s sharp wit and outside-the-box thinking, while James’s categorical mind is balanced by Aaron’s appreciation of the world as a whole and in its individual elements.  There is a vibrancy in the air around them because it seems everything in the world was more vivid when looking at the spaces in between the obvious with new eyes and unique perspectives.

All the patterns and cycles that James had learned in Houston finds remarkable duplication at the Watchtower Farms.  Aaron shows the softer, gentler, more humanitarian application of James’s knowledge in ways never before understood – James could be understanding about situations, but he didn’t know how to be empathetic to the individual people in those situations, and Aaron was teaching him that.  It was almost as if patterns in human behavior worked as fractals and looked the same whether in a small individual setting or in a larger group dynamic.  James was fascinated by Aaron’s take on the world and Aaron couldn’t get enough of James’s warped perspective and skewed view of reality… and the wit between them kept them both on their toes.

Their comfort with each other extended physically as well.  On Friday nights when Jake would leave for the weekend it was finally “their” time.  All week long there was a constant pressure of being a good volunteer worker and finally, for just one evening, it could be the two of them alone, saying whatever the fuck they wanted to say without filter or judgement.  Of course the massages had become slowly more intimate, but the evenings as a whole would be ordering Chinese food, watching a movie, having a few drinks, massage, and ending with listening to something soft in the dark while laughing and analyzing, throwing about absurd ideas and honest hopes.

And it worked.  In the first few months at The Farm Aaron was talked to on several occasions on his performance, and recently he seemed like the happiest factory worker on the line.  There was a balance between what was being demanded as bethelites and what they needed as human beings and for a long time, the balanced the two roommates had found worked.

Per the nature of such organic development, the two of them became very protective of each other, almost as if each one was the only other person on the planet that they trusted.  That friendship, the bond between them had been tested several times and it did not quiver in the slightest, thus instilling a very real and dependable trust between the two.

From James’s cubicle he could see the side door entering to his section of the computer department.  On occasion, he would look up and see Aaron’s eyes and thick head of hair bouncing in over the tops of the cubicles near the door before making the corner, arriving at James’s station.  They would talk for a second, Aaron would get some air conditioning, and then he would disappear back into the factory.

Today was different, Aaron walks into the computer department.  James can see his eyes.  It’s not good.

Aaron, man, what’s up?  you look like you’re going to fall apart.

I am.  Can we talk?

Yeah, come walk with me.

James gets up and the two walk over to the next line of cubicles and stops at the desk of Oscar, James’s team leader who is squinting at the computer screen in front of him.

You should get your eyes checked, Aaron said.

Oscar puts his glasses back on and laughs.  Everyone in the computer department gets an eye exam every year.  I think you guys downstairs have to schedule them.  

Wow.  I didn’t know that.

Yeah.  They make lenses here too, and frames for next to nothing.  So what’s up?

James steps into the conversation, I was wondering if I can just walk with Aaron for a few minutes. 

Yeah, of course.  How are you coming with testing the new RMS program?

Pretty good.  The freeze up is happening in the date entry.

Let me guess.  One is two digit year and the other is four.

Yep.

Uugh.  Well, that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing.  Okay.  Go walk.

Thanks.

James and Aaron go down the cubicle corridor to the opposite entrance of the computer department.

Aaron kept looking at James with a face of confusion that almost bordered on disbelief.  Is that all you have to do to take a break?

James didn’t think before he answered.  Oh this isn’t a break, I’m just away from my desk, he says with a half laugh.

The two men reach the opposite door to the computer room and exit, entering on the second floor of the factory where rumble and noise could be heard but it was still quiet enough to talk.

Well we are allowed one five minute break every hour, but if you take a break every hour, you get talked to.

Wow.  I didn’t know that.  But all the times you come up here and we talk and stuff…

I thought it was the same for all bethelites and you were taking a break at the same time as me.

Oh.  I’m sorry.  We just work differently up here.  You show up, I talk.  My work will be waiting for me when I return.

It’s like the thing with the tours…

Where you were talked to for already giving three personal tours for the year…

And you did like 20 in one month.

I did 5.  And one of them was a personal tour for my overseer so that didn’t count.

Whatever.

I made $150 on those tours, and we ate out a lot that month.  So… what did you want to talk about?

Aaron’s face froze, petrified and trying to form the words from his quivering red lips.  I think they’re kicking me out of Bethel.  

It was spoken with more than just hopelessness, the finality of it had already played out in Aaron’s head.  He was in the packing and flying back to Oregon stage when he seemed to freeze-frame long enough to talk to James.  James zeros in his eyes.  The normal chocolate spheres displaying a profound feeling of infinite depth were missing and were replaced with brick wall of fear and an overflowing moat.

What happened?

The mafia party.  I mentioned it, you know as a joke.  So someone reported me and my overseer called me in and chewed me  new one.

I think I got talked to about that today.

You think?

Ralph caught me in hall and told me to be careful of my association outside of Bethel, going to worldly parties and such.  I told him that it was funny he mentioned that because we were just at a worldly party but it was to occupy a sister’s young son.  He said it was okay, but in the future it would be better if we selected to help young ones in more appropriate settings.  That was it.

That was it?  You got talked to in passing?

In the hallway we’re walking down, in fact.  Please… what did they tell you?

James, I explained it all.  They still said that I went to a party to associate with known killers and criminals and that was not the place for a bethelite to be… no different than a strip club or a casino.

First off that’s being a little pre-judgmental of people whose profession was implied, not known for a fact.  Second, did you tell them we were there for ____ and to support him at the request of his mother?

Yes, yes… I told them all that.  I said there were two other bethelites and they told me that other brothers are the responsibility of their own overseers, but for me and my part, I fall under the factory overseer and he considers this a dismissible offense.  They are going to do a room search to see if there is anything else that I might own that promotes that kind of lifestyle.

They had reached the stairway to go downstairs to the factory.  James pauses at the door.  No.  This isn’t fair.  I’m not going to let you go home for something I get talked to in passing.

What can you do?

Something.  I don’t know.  Whatever it is, I can’t make matters any worse, right?

Don’t get yourself kicked out of here as well.

James moves in close to Aaron and grabs his shoulder.  If I do get kicked out, then at least it would be fair.  Get back to work and I’ll see you at home.

But James, the room.  We have…

I got, Aaron.  I promise.  Focus on your work.

The look on Aaron’s face was that of blank exhaustion.  Unlike James, he really wanted to be there and the fact that his overseers constantly used the possibility of going home as motivation for him to do better weighed thin after the first month.  Once they started having moments to themselves and having time to relax as human beings, Aaron finally learned how to play the game and work with the system rather than against it.

But this was different.  Because of a side joke the network of communication extended simultaneously in three directions within the day with three very different results.  Sometimes it was difficult to remember the fragility of the worker bees around them.  Aaron, James, Jake, Neil, and everyone that came in around the same time had just left the world less than a year ago.  This means that they still have knowledge of what is happening on the outside up until the current year.  The workers around them were removed from the world four, five, maybe ten years ago, and their knowledge of the outside world stopped at that very point.

The same applies to the Organization itself.  One congregation near or in a major city would have sisters wear slightly shorter skirts just above the knee and allow their publishers to use words like “crap” and “freak’n”, but another congregation in a more rural part of the country may insist the skirts on their sisters fall below the knee and “crap” was still considered a curse world while “freak’n” was considered a simulated curse word… just as bad as the word it was meant to replace.

Because the growth in sociology within Bethel did not match the growth in sociology of the general populous… or even their own organization, long-term bethelites were often shocked and appalled at the words and phrases used by the newbies.  And no where was this more prevalent than with the subject of music, and the main reason one would have a room search.

The bethel guidebook was kept up to date.  It had compiled a sheet of popular albums at the time including White Zombie’s “Astro Creep 2000” and TLC’s “CrazySexyCool”, anything by Metallica and a long list of artist and albums, most of which James and Aaron loved.  Where it got confusing was with artists like Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin that had clearly lost their shock over the years and were now considered classics.  However, because of the sexual and drug implications surrounding the artists, some would avoid these completely.  Part of the elders would consider The Doors to be vintage poetry while other part would consider it a promotion of extravagant hedonism.  It was so hit or miss and one never knew what the brothers doing a room search would consider demonic or offensive because it was purely based off their personal taste in music, what year they entered bethel service (exited the world), and whether or not they took the art as its own entity or they considered the lifestyle of the artist who created it.

And it had a lot to do with how suspicious the brothers doing the search wanted to be.  Technically speaking every CD cover and content has SOMETHING demonic about it.

Back at his desk, he went through and changed what he needed on the computer, saved it, and sent it off for review.  He had made it a habit to tell everyone he was actually further behind in his work then he actually was just in case he wanted to take an extra long break.  He and Aaron would drive to breakfast every morning to avoid the walk.  Good thing.  He hopped in his car and drove back to the dorm.

He parks off to the side where there are no windows heads through the back, pausing to wait until he heard two housekeepers pass.  There was NO WAY they could see it.  When a room search is done, it is loud and known and the housekeepers are kept nearby to report on any tendencies they noticed about the room in question, so they cannot see anything that is going on.  Once inside and up the back stairway he can hear vacuuming on the second floor.

Relief.

He dashes to the third story and enters his open room.  The CDs that were in question were kept separate than the other music that was ‘safe’ to listen to like Delirium, Jeff Buckley, Poe, etc.  In one sweep he grabbed his bookbag and placed the CDs inside.  On the opposite end of the room was the massage oil, the incense, and candles.  Done.

James goes back to the door.  Voices of laughter can be heard, then a door open and closed.  He dashes for the stairway and passes the now silent second floor, makes it out the back door and places his bookbag in the trunk next to the spare tire.  He closes everything up, drives back to the office, parks, and enters next to the lobby.  He takes the stairs, and enters computer room from the same door he and Aaron previously exited so he can pass Oscar’s cubicle.

Hey Oscar.  Did you get that email I sent you?

Yeah chief, but I haven’t had time to look at it.  You out of stuff to do?

Yeah, I could use some work.

I’m glad you work fast. Okay, hold tight.  I’ll find you something.

James sits down at his desk and with his heart suddenly pounding harder than it had in the previous 20 minutes.  He looks up Brian’s department and gives him a ring.  It takes about two minutes of the brother on the other end searching for him, but he finally get’s Brian on the phone.

Hey bro, what’s up?

Did your overseer talk to you about the party we went to?

Oh, uh no.  I mentioned it to him though.  He laughed.

He laughed?

Yeah.  He thought it was funny.  Why?

I got talked to about it briefly, but Aaron really got chewed out, they say it’s a  dismissible offense.

Woah, dude.  Sucks to be him.

James doesn’t know how to respond to this.  Construction was obviously going on in the background and there was nothing else to garner from the exchange.

Yes it does.  Thanks Brian.  Get back to work.

That was it?

Yeah.  Sorry to bother you.

No biggie.  Later.

He hung up the phone with disgust.  What a jerk.

Aaron’s overseer’s name was Brother Kelly.  He scrolls through the online directory and finds his extension.  Before he could call, Oscar showed up with a stack of papers.

Hey chief, here’s something you can do to help Leo’s team.  It’s the basic two-digit to four-digit date change over.  None of these have any bugs with this, so when you change it over, don’t create any!  (Chuckle.)

Will do, James answered with a half laugh.

There’s no rush on this, so take your time, but you’ll be doing his team a huge favor if you help out with this.

I’ll get on it.

With the tap on the top of the cubicle wall Oscar was off.

James returned to his mission by picking up the phone and dialing Brother Kelly’s office.

Hello?

Yes, Brother Kelly.  This is James Perez from Systems Integration and I was wondering if you had any free time to meet with me this afternoon.

I have some time right now.  What is this regarding?

Well, it’s about the trouble Aaron seems to be in.

You know about the event?

I was actually there.  I would like to meet with  you to discuss it.

That sounds like a good idea.  Like I said I have some times now if you’d like to drop down.

Sure thing, Brother Kelly.  And thank you. 

He arranges his desk to make it look like he was in mid-work, yet another trick he learned.  In this particular case he didn’t have to… it would be days before anyone would check on his progress, but just in case.

James is normally a bit of an uptight person anyway, but give him a moment of injustice or unfairness and his levels shoot up a thousand percent.  He knew he couldn’t make matters worse, but something had to be done.  This was completely unfair and unnecessary.  Aaron had been performing months with good reviews.

One of the things that James lacks whenever he’s angry is humility, and powering down the hallway he realized that he has to being his blood pressure down a bit.  He could not go into the meeting fuming or foaming at the mouth.  James took the stairs nearest the freight elevator, its main purpose was to take tour groups up and down on levels and make them feel like they were participating in the “industrialness” of the factory.

He turns the corner, past Aaron moving and twisting like the machine he is suppose to be, through the pallets of pre-sorted subscriptions on shrink-wrapped pallets ready for the post office, and arrives at a wall of green framed factory windows with a door directly in the middle.  To be polite, James knocks and is waved in by the tall, middle-aged black brother dressed in a shirt and tie.

Brother Perez, is it?

Yes sir.

Please have a seat.  So you were with Aaron this past weekend?

Yes.  And so was a brother from the construction department who has been here for three years.  He talked to his overseer about it and he said his overseer just laughed.

Well, the construction department is a bit more lax than the rest of us.

My overseer, Ralph, told me I should watch my association. I explained that the three of us were not there to associate with the family, but were there to occupy  a young brother at his mother’s request.

I realize that.  Unfortunately, the situation called for you to be in close association with people who are of a caliber not befitting anyone in Jehovah’s Organization, much less a bethelite.

Brother Kelly, I don’t know them.  I wasn’t there to judge them or make assumptions about them.  I certainly wasn’t there to associate with them or be their friend.  A concerned mother asked us to help her son to not be distracted by such people, whoever they are.

This party was at their home?

It was a neighboring home.  They are all close, it’s all very communal.  This sister is very sweet and her daughter is doing well in the truth.  The husband, not so much.

He is the association with such people.

Exactly.  And the mom and daughter, they are strong enough put up put up decent defenses to protect themselves in situations like this, but the son, ____, he needs a little bit of help trying to figure out whether to follow mom or follow dad.  He makes it to all the meetings and now that Brother Bechman has ever third brother coming in going to our congregation, ____ is starting to feel a little overwhelmed about the influx of young brothers he’s starting to feel…

Feeling the pressure?

I don’t know if pressure is the right word or exhausted.  His mother just felt if there were some bethelites that he could find… more relatable, then they can encourage him on his level.

And…?

And so we thought that since he had to go to this function, it’s at his house… area, he is expected to attend and he knows everyone, why not surround him with good influences he can respect to occupy him with something more encouraging then anything they had to offer.

The point here, James is that brothers in the bethel family have to watch every step they take.  Satan is there, ready to snag you and other brothers and sisters are there watching you since you are an example for everyone else.  You knowingly put yourself in spiritual and mental danger, flirting with one of Satan’s organizations.  You are a representative of the one true God, Jehovah and you appeared at a party thrown by the mafia.  Anyone seeing or hearing this will not bee getting all the facts.  Not only are you endangering yourself by possibly getting wrapped up in their ways, you are also posing a scenario that needs to be explained… why was that bethelite at that party?  What is up with that?  Well if he can go over there than I can go over here.  They are not going to get all the facts and without all the facts, this situation is simply you going to a mafia party… nothing more.  You understand where that story can lead once it gets out.

Holy fuck this guy is good, James thinks to himself.  He has spent a lifetime sitting and discussing with older men but this one came with some pretty simple and valid points.  Still, he wasn’t fighting for him, he was fighting for Aaron.

So your suggestion is, in this admittedly dangerous situation as you described it, when faced with a decision of helping a mother trying to keep her son from being distracted, we are to leave him alone to fend for himself just because someone might see us who doesn’t have all the facts?

Of course not.  But there are alternatives to the situation.

Which we discussed.  But in this situation, it would have created more problems if he didn’t go.  His mom asked for help, we didn’t want to leave him out there alone, and so we went and helped.  He’s not that far along in the truth and he’s a teenager.  We went just to be supportive.  We did not socialize with the family.  We did not eat with them.  We didn’t even introduce ourselves.  And when put into play… it worked!  After an hour or so he didn’t want to have anything to do with it and it was his decision to leave.  We went back to his house and hung out by ourselves, away from them for the rest of the afternoon.

Fine.  So it worked this time.  That is still a risky call and you are avoiding the issue which is you minimizing the dangers of the situation.

I’m sorry i it seems like I’m minimizing the dangers.  In my mind I was maximizing all possible dangers, and I felt that when a mom asked, it was at least worth a try.

I understand that, I really do.  But you are going to get a lot of requests from the local congregations to help this young on or that young one.  You cannot help them all.  Your service is to Bethel, not to a youth ministry.  And seeing and avoiding dangers or avoiding the possible rumors that look bad is one of the many many responsibilities a young bethelite has.

I know.  And I know it would be a stronger stance to stand against such activities, regardless of the reason.

Good, I’m glad to hear you say that.

We don’t get asked to help very often, though.  The congregation is so distant and half the publishers are bethelites… most of whom stay the year and go home.

You said that was Bechman’s hall?

Yes.

Oh yeah.  Man.  That split was quite a mess.  It was a big deal, even here at Bethel.  Forty-five minute drive, isn’t it?  And now two congregations, one with hardly any local brothers?  It’s difficult I know.

So if someone can weed through all those bethelites and think enough to come to us two for some help, well… it kind of felt like we were making a bit of a breakthrough.

I understand that.

But please.  We were well aware of the dangers present.  We did not go to have a good time or party it up.  We went for one reason and one reason only, and then we got out.  I understand we should have never taken such a risk, but I assure you our eyes were open the entire time.

I get that you and Aaron were well aware of the dangers and you treaded cautiously.  And this time it worked out, but it’s not always going to go so smoothly.  The world is a wicked and deceitful place.  I need to know if you two would ever do again.

I think I can say quite emphatically that we will never go near a gathering like that again.  There is a lot of the world that I’m happy not to see, and I want to keep it that way.

Good.  I want to hear that from Aaron as well.

Is this really a dismissible offense?

Most certainly.

Then if you are going to send anyone home, send me.  It was my decision to go, I was the one who justified it just like I did here.  I even drove.    

I didn’t say we were sending anyone home.

Yes, but that’s the impression you gave.  That is the impression Aaron has.

It is meant to impress the seriousness of the situation.  We don’t want to send you or Aaron home.  I understand the situation better now, thanks to you, I will take it into consideration when I talk to Aaron again after I hear back from the room search.  Unless they find a Ouija board in it or something, I think it’s going to be fine.

Good, because he really really wants to be here..  He was having the hardest time for a while but this is something he’s wants to do and he loves it here at Bethel.  This situation has brought him to tears, he doesn’t know what to do about it.  So I thank you for letting me talk to you.

No problem.  I have a few phone calls to make, and then I will call him in.  I know you need to be getting back to work as well.

James gets up and shakes the brother’s hand, I do.  And I didn’t mean to walk in and wail on you.

(Laughing.)  Don’t worry.  It wasn’t bad.

Thank you.  Have a good afternoon.  James opens the door to leave.

James.

Yes?

We aren’t trying to get rid of him, we’re trying to shape him.  We know he has a good heart.

He really does.

If you would like to walk by and calm him down, that would be okay, but make it brief.

Thank you Brother Kelly.

James closed the door and tried to maintain composure between the passing brothers and the wall of windows.  He walks towards Aaron’s station  and waves at him to come over.  Aaron walks over and takes off the earmuffs.  James leans close to his ear and gently grabs him by the waist.  Even at this close range he still almost has to yell.

When you are asked, apologize, say you have learned your lesson, and you will never do it again.

Am I staying? 

Yes, Aaron.  You’re staying.

Thank you.  Thank you so much.

Next time, keep your mouth shut.  James laughs and pats Aaron on the stomach.

You bet I will, Aaron says with relief.

See you at home.

James turns and walks past the freight elevator and takes the hall to the stairs on the far corner.  Up on the second floor he heads to his desk.  No messages.  No notes on the white board.  Good.

He sits at his desk and decides it might actually be time to do some work, especially as there are only forty-five minutes left to the work day.  It was a Thursday, a meeting night.  Somehow he just wanted to take a sleeping pill and sleep until morning breakfast.

Aaron is an extremely emotional person who doesn’t show it all the time but this particular rollercoaster must be exhausting for him.  James is still unsure of the meeting.  And there was still a question if anyone had seen him drive to the room.  I guess I will find out when I get to the room.  Knowing how hard this was on his roommate, he begins to form an idea.

The dinner bell rings and James heads home, parking in his usual spot.  There is a slight nervousness that occurs when you know your room is being searched… mainly that you are going to turn the corner and large brothers in suits are ready to cart you away.

So far nothing.  Room A314 looks pretty decent.  it was obvious someone went through the CD stack in the closet, but other than that the room didn’t look any different.  Sneaky bastards.

James looks through the mail and sits on the bed.  Aaron comes home, swings the door open, slams it behind him with a smile beaming from his white skin.  Okay.  What the hell did you do?

Why?

He came back after you left and asked if I learned my lesson, and I told him what you told me to say.  Then he started to apologize a million times.  He wanted met to know that he didn’t mean to denounce my future here at Bethel.  He was very complementary and made me feel so much better about working here.  It’s like I have a whole new overseer!

I’m glad, Aaron.

He bounces up to James and straddles him giving him a big hug, knocking them both down on the bed.  Thank you thank you thank you.

It’s not a problem, although the suffocation kind of is…

Both guys laugh and sit up, smiling.  Aaron then thought of something, Wait, what about…

I’m pretty sure they went through the room.  I took out the CDs, massage oil, incense. 

A moment of shock hit Aaron.  Oh my god, I didn’t think of the massage oil and stuff.  Thank you.  And where is it all?

In the car where it will go unacknowledged for at least a week.

But tomorrow is Friday.

Yeah, we just dodged a major bullet with all this.  It might be good if we calm things down a bit.

You’re right.

So look.  I know you had a tremendous day, and I know you need a little fresh air.  So let’s go pick up some sandwiches from the pizza shop and walk a trail and find someplace quiet to eat?

Bechman is going to start getting suspicious if we miss too many meetings together.

So what?  He’s always going to think something and he will always find something to think something about.  Right now, your brain has been through a lot and I’m going to tell you… mine has been too.  The last thing I can do right now is put on a suit and tie and smile for everyone.

It’s true.  And to be honest, I can’t really stand to see Bechman today. Sometimes he makes me want to skip meetings.

James laughs.  It was so good to see Aaron’s face relieved and relaxed, his eyes returning back to their dark brown depth, and there was music to his words.  The small trail nearby had a serene and tranquility that is exactly what the exhausted hippy needed to refuel himself, and James knew it.

James P. Perez © 2013

Chapter 19 – Meet the Family

He’s not a brother, you know.

What do you mean?

You called him “Brother” even though he is not yet baptized.

Brother Bechman’s eyes seemed to glimmer with the most repressed sense of enjoyment from the surprise oversight by James.  His towering presence wasn’t intimidating to the young Bethelite, but the restrained condescension from the Bethel Elder seemed to make him even more patronizing.

I wasn’t paying attention.  I know it’s just a technicality, but I hope he does eventually become baptized.  He seems to be doing well.  I don’t see the harm in extending a greeting as a form of accepting him and in having hope of his future dedication. 

That is good in intent, but it might be confusing on some of our newer publishers.

I have to remember that I’m in a different congregation than where I grew up.  If it’s preferable, I will use “brother” more towards those with such a status in the congregation.

Well, I don’t think it’s about status as it is a way of reminding them that until they make a commitment and a dedication, they are still not our brother.

And where my intent is good, inconsistency could be raking coals in the fire?

Precisely

Please be sure to remind me again if I slip up.  I come from the school of positive reinforcement, and old habits die hard, I suppose.

Well, at Bethel, we hope to create better habits than the ones you would have back home.  

As I am learning.

Good.  Now, if my sources inform me correctly, you have a vehicle checked into Bethel property for a little over a week now.

Yeah, my dad and brother drove it up from Houston.  It’s a little Ford Aspire.  Green.

Oh, I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to meet them. 

I am too.  It was too far of a drive to come here in the short time frame they were here.

Well, I noticed you haven’t met with us in the B building lobby to arrange rides for all the traveling Bethelites who need a ride up here.

With the new car comes some excitement.  I have Aaron, and with me that’s two.  Jake is a waiter and is always running late from the dining room to shower, change.  That’s three, and you insist no more than three per a car.  Tonight I happened to bring Kyle because he was running late from the old press that went down today.

Kyle fits in your car?

(Half laugh.) We keep him in the front.

(Laughing.)  Well okay, you have your alternative arrangements.  But  you know, if you don’t meet with us before the meeting, you are ineligible for the automotive compensation program.  I can’t sign the form if I don’t see the people you are helping out.

Even though we are all here now?

They could have gotten here through any means.  It’s just a way of keeping everyone honest.

My parents do a good job of helping out where they can…

For example, a vehicle.

Exactly.  And if it’s a matter of helping out a few brothers who are on different time frames to make the 45 minute journey up here, well, we are happy to help out. 

Okay then.  Glad I got that information.  Now I know.

James had noticed that Sister ______ was hovering close by and looking at the two brothers talking.  Unlike other most social settings, one didn’t interrupt a conversations Brother Bechman was having.  He was an important man doing important things and in order to converse with him one must first stand in the line of sight and wait to be acknowledged.  James can see the trepidation in her eyes.

After he and Brother Beckman concluded, they were both surprised that she approached him and not Brother Bechman to converse.    James is not only taken aback, but the find he couldn’t help himself in taking the opportunity and excuses himself and Sister ______ from Brother Bechman so they could talk more privately.

Sister ______ lived outside of the town with her unbaptized and disinterested in the Truth husband.  Her eldest daughter was doing well in the Truth, but her teenage son was not.

Before she begins, she waves Aaron over a well.

James.  Aaron.  I’m glad I caught you both before you left.  Well, my husband, as you may not know, works with people who have… certain… reputations.  

Oh, you mean…

Yes, yes.  We don’t have to get into specifics.  My husband grew up with them, he’s like family.  They treat him like family.

Aaron responds with a concerned head-tilt, crunched eyebrows, yet still ambiguous in interpretation look.  Okay…

So they are having a party this weekend, a bit of a spring reunion and our family will be there.  I was wondering if you could come along and keep my son, ____ company.

____?  Oh, of course.  ____ is a cool kid.

Aaron’s very adult and concerned face questions, Considering the environment, does he have to be there?  Did you want us to invite him somewhere else for the day?

No, he doesn’t have to be there, but he would still go.  He knows everyone and the entire family loves him so they would expect him to be around at least some of the time.  I was wondering if you two could come by and just keep him company… keep the conversation going in the right direction?  Keep the party in focus.

Aaron’s concern started to take shape in a direction that was impressively specific.  Does he have the potential to, perhaps… I don’t know… be involved with people like that one day?

I think… I don’t know.  Yes, I do know.  Yes.  The answer is “Yes.”  He sees all these kids that are his age and have new this and new that… and we are well off, so ____ has everything he wants, he’s very spoiled.  But still, I think he has that longing to be as wealthy and free as they are.

Aaron was still being the adult, But they’re not really free, are they?

No they are not, and I want to get that across to him, but it’s not something I can tell him.  Everything always comes out so… motherly.  Oh, and I want Brian to go too.  ____ looks up to him.

Brian is a short surfer third-year Bethelite  in his late twenties with a short thin mustache and thinning hair, and is Jame’s next-door neighbor.  He carries with him big bright eyes and has a constant facial expression of confused happiness and just happens to be walking by.

James reaches over and snags him by the arm.  Brian!

Whoa Chief.  Hey guys.  What’s up?

Sister ______ was just mentioning how much ____ looks up to you.

Oh, cool.  Where is the little bro?

The sister smiled at the three brothers and started to explain, He’s helping his father get ready for this Saturday.  You know the family we work for are having a big party and I would like to invite you to keep ____ company while so many questionable people will be around.

The family family?  Whoa.  Crazy.  In the pause Brian thought about it not really convinced.  I don’t know.

Sister ______ explained once more about the situation. Brian remained hesitant until the sister explained, and it will all be catered… for free.

Free food?  Score! That’s all you had to say!  (Laughter.) What time?

It’s going to start around 11:00 and go until 5:00 with the food being served around 12:45.

Awesome! I’ll be there at 12:45!

James and Aaron look at each other and laugh nervously, trying to digest Brian’s reaction.  There was simply no way any Bethelite would be so… obvious.

Brian kept talking, If you two wanna ride, I’m leaving at noon!

James broke the shock, We will probably leave right after Aaron’s dish duty.

That early?  Okay, bro. No biggie.

James, Kyle looks like he’s ready to go, Aaron announced.

The polite exchanges were given and Aaron and James gathered Jake and Kyle and crawled into the tiny hatchback to head back to the Farm.

On the dark quiet 1-87 tollway Kyle was the first to react, So let me get this straight… you were invited to a Mafia party?

Yes.  And Aaron, you were never attracted to the idea of being in the Mafia because… and I’m quoting… “they aren’t free”?

Big smile, Of course that’s not true!  Come one!  Everyone wants to be in the Mafia.  It’s so attractive that Mafia rejects band together and form street gangs.

(Laughter.)

James tries to anchor the situation, We weren’t invited to the party.  We were invited to keep Sister ______’s son ____ company.

Kyle made a face, ____?  That guy is a punk.  He’s so arrogant and quick to say that he’s better than everyone else.

Well, Kyle, maybe he is better than everyone else, You’re just going to have to accept that.

Shut up!

Jake had to chime in, Wait, why wasn’t I invited?  I know more about gangsters than either of you.

She only wanted people there who were excellent examples and a good influence to keep her son company while the party is going on, Aaron said, barely making it though the sentence in the laughter.

Don’t make assumptions, James broke in.

About who?

We don’t know that they are “gangsters”, okay?

Kyle was in laughter and didn’t know which direction to head to first.  Wait, just hold on.  She wanted people who would be excellent examples for her son.  Aaron I can understand… but James?  You’re insane.

I have to go with Kyle on this one, Jake jumped in.  Some of the things that come out of your mouth are shocking, even for me. 

James looks through the rear view mirror to Jake, I will bitch-slap you from here.

Aaron tuned his head to the driver, James!

James catches himself in worry.  He had been trying hard not to swear anymore, but on occasion some of the lesser swear words occasionally pop out.  I’m so sorry!  I haven’t cursed once since I got here.  I was doing to well.

Dammit James, I told you not to curse anymore!  Aaron laughed.

Kyle throws his hands up in laughter, I am surrounded by heathens.

You two are going to hell, Jake said.

Jesus!  Two heathens and an apostate.

Don’t take the lord’s name in vain, Kyle, James scolded.

Dammit.  Now look what you made me do, Kyle replied in laughter.

Aaron brought the conversation around, I can say this much, foul mouth or not, James is still a much better example then Brian.

Little Brian?

This is no joke, he continued, When Sister ______ invited him, he did not want to go.

That’s right, until…

Until she told him there was going to be free food.

(Pause.)

James lets the pause sit before picking up where Aaron left off.  It’s the truth.  And when she told him the party will start at 11:00 but the food wouldn’t be served until 12:45, he said he would be there at 12:45.

Wow.

Because her son doesn’t need any company for the hour and forty-five minutes before the food is served, Kyle said.

James thinks back of his conversation with the twins, My friends and I had a very similar conversation about how Bethelites are when it comes to food and mooching.

Kyle actually sits up in his seat, My dad came to visit and he was going to take me out to dinner after work and Sean, the guy I work with, jumped in and said, “Got room for one more?”

Oh my god.

I was so upset because we only work together, we’re not friends.  I don’t even know him that well.  I told him that if he had any money he could join, which of course opened the way for my dad who stopped me and said the typical, “Now, he’s a Bethel worker and I can contribute to the Society by helping him out with a good meal.”

You’re dad talks like that?

We have very similar voices.

Jake took offense, Great, now I’m a waiter serving crap meals that visitors feel the need to compensate for.

Oh Jake, you know it’s not like that, James tried to comfort… although it was a good point.

I hear that all the time and I don’t take offense to it, but still.  Anyway, I’m a waiter.  A waiter.  I thought we were going to come to this place, hang out with other brothers, learn some new skills and enjoy a new congregation.  Being a waiter with a congregation over 45 minutes away is getting to me.  The only time I get to hang out with anyone is with you foul-mouth heathens.

James laughs which made Jake feel better, Jake, I’m so sorry.  I didn’t realize.  Maybe put in for a closer congregation?

Still, when I leave here, I’m going to be exactly where I was when I left… Broke with no job.  Waiting tables.

Aaron added, My skill isn’t transferable to the real world either.  Mail room sorting?  I put folded magazines in a box.  That’s it.  All day every day.  It’s murder on the back.  And how in the world do I put that on a resume?

Kyle stepped in, I know I can make money on the outside, but only at one of the 15 companies in the world that still use these old style printing presses.  They need constant upkeep which is okay if you have volunteer labor, but not for a company making money.  None of us have the advantage that you have, computer boy.

James laughed, I’m learning FoxPRO… a dying computer language.  Nothing I will ever learn will be any good for anything but small little programs for keeping your laundry straight.  It’s going to be obsolete soon and I’m going to be nothing but a television repair man when no one gets their television repaired.

There was a sad realization that set in the vehicle as four different people from four different walks of life from four different parts of the country all had the same failed expectation of working at Bethel.

And yet, it wasn’t failure, per se.  It was more a continual work with no reward.  The situation is made for people who find hard work itself the reward.  It seemed that this did not include any of the four brothers driving home that evening.  And of course the comments immediately turned to how honorable the work was and how happy everyone is to be there.  This was safety mechanism that was in place as Bethelites as a whole were encouraged to report any conversations denoting discontent or dissatisfaction with the Organization.  It’s necessary to weed out the impure from Bethel early in order to keep the compound pure, and it is something that is always in the back of the mind.

Everything you say, can be reported.

The conversation took a funnier turn while everyone starts sharing their working conditions.  James stays out of the chatter for a bit except for quick, snide comments and quips.  It was important to keep the laughter going because this was indeed a hard life, but a hard life completely quarantined from all things that makes living worth it.  With Brother Bechman wanting to know how everyone spends all their time, all the time, even walks by the river after work seemed like it needed to be tallied.  To have some fun with anything exciting or different is condemned as “detracting” when the type of work demanded also requires some actual distraction.  There is no one that can be that focused constantly without some manumission to expand the soul before returning to work on whatever assembly line one was assigned.

One week later Aaron and James arrived at the party at 11:30 to hang out with ____ who had just walked over from his house.  They kept him occupied until James was asked if he could help with a computer issue one of the members of the family had, as they heard he worked in the computer department.  James was escorted to a computer. He did what he could, offered some further suggestions, and was escorted back to the party.

At 12:45 Brian showed up, ate, and left.

By 1:30 ____ was getting bored and he, James, and Aaron headed back to the house to play around with some music equipment and other toys he had in the garage.

Sister ______ was extremely grateful and said so many times.

James P. Perez © 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