Backseat Devil

Tag: David

Epilogue

He finds himself fidgeting with his black Reeboks in the elevator.  It seems so pointless as he realizes he wore long shorts and athletic socks thus exposing the snake eating its tail tattoo around his right ankle.  At no time would this be a problem, but no doubt there are countless waves of Witnesses huddled in the private ‘friends and family’ waiting room of the intensive care unit.  He didn’t want to give them any more reason to gossip and peck like chickens at the seeds he would be throwing via tattoos and earrings.

That still happens.  But that is not the worst.  He fishes the paper from his pocket where instructions were written.  He turns the corner and approaches the glass wall on the right past the room of moist slithering vipers on the left.  Through the transparent divider he sees in the distance a flesh-colored ghost of a once 215-pound former Green Beret who served eight years in the United States Army.

When the cancer started to creep back into his father’s life, Steve made several resolutions.  Among them, he never wanted a colostomy bag, he didn’t want to waste away in an undignified manner, he wanted his ashes to be spread at the Rosenberg, Texas Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses where he had worked hard for 5 years or so, and he didn’t want to leave his family penniless.  Steve was the smartest person James knew, and a wise man in his late 50s.  James trusted his father knew what was best for himself.

His mother insisted that her husband forgo the normal treatment of chemotherapy and/or radiation for a homeopathic course, a growing and profitable trend among the faithful followers of Jehovah since the early 90s.  The December 15th, 1994 Watchtower had an article written about the subject, paragraph after paragraph of hazy nothing explaining little than it’s “basically an area for personal decision.”  Per the Watchtower’s normal glazing, the warning was more about the preoccupation with the subject than the physical health of its readers.  For this, it seemed perfectly suitable to make the ‘decision’ to truck his father from Colorado to California with massive expense to keep him alive on a ridiculous diet while his body still systematically failed.  It started innocently with aching legs and ends four years later in a single bed room on the fourth floor ICU section of Spohn Hospital on Elisabeth Street in Corpus Christi, Texas.

A year earlier James had visited his father while Steve was undergoing evaluation at the beautifully situated and well-equipped MD Anderson Hospital in Houston across from the Houston Zoo.  He thought about Brit and Derrick, and the other people he had lost touched with after moving to New York… Ollie too, of course.  What a different life I would have had if I could have just stayed here and come out on my own terms.

If only.

His father was in good spirits but thinner then he had ever been.  I really hate for you to seem me like this, he said.

Well dad, look at it this way… at least now you’re at your ideal weight.

His father made a ‘model’ pose from the hospital bed.  The air was broken and goodness was flowing throughout the room, the building, their hearts.  The only person who was immune to this was Blanche.  The Perez family (sans an older brother) were a popular family in the religion.  They had moved around almost yearly, worked at the assembly hall construction site, and performed enough circus tricks at the conventions that their name and faces were recognizable.  Because of that, news of Steve’s returning cancer and preferable nontraditional un-Western medicine path to health was known.  People loved him, they prayed for him, they talked about him amongst themselves at their meetings and out in field service.

For the entire time he was in the hospital, and over the next year (between the home in Refugio and various hospitals) Steve would be forced to endure a parade of people with a convivial mutation plastered in frozen ersatzic excitement across their face.

Heyyy, Brother Perez!  How’s it going?

How well can a slow death go?  His father would smile as his mother would stage the next couple or group of people who arrived, engaging them and escorting the current cluster away if they stayed too long.  Steve needs his rest or Is it possible for Brother/Sister so-and-so to get in a quick word with Steve?

It was all a farce as his father would rather battle this alone in quiet, silent, militaristic even.  The only reason why the procession existed was so his mother could soak in the sympathy of the entire known religious catalog.  The show was more about her than the condition of her husband.  If this was something that irked him when his father was first diagnosed, it was torturous to watch by the visit in Houston.  All this changed when James enters the hospital.  As he was disfellowshipped and chose to remain such, this tattooed and body pierced pariah had to be shunned per the organization’s requirements.  With his presence, the parade came to a screeching halt after a father and son in a hospital room burst into laughter.

Ten minutes into the stay Blanche interrupts.  Steve, the Hasdorffs are here.

They can wait, Blanche.  I’m talking to my son.

Steve.  They drove all this way from Victoria.

James flew in from farther.  They can wait.  How often do I get a chance to see my son?

What a question.  It sat honest and innocent, but the weight of its truth harbored a guilt that James hadn’t felt before.  It was he who cut off all communication from his family so as to establish himself in the world without the burden of their menacing disapproval and injection.  It worked.  James was a fully functioning human being wading his way through the world safely on the other side of the United States with success.  But what his father asked was equally as important as it showed respect without meaning harm.

Dad, it’s okay.  I’m going to be here a while.  Let me run out or something and you visit with them.

Blanche, give me 5 minutes.  Send everyone who drove in at once, but no more, okay?

Steve, I can’t control if people show up.

Get off the phone and quick calling people.  5 minutes.    

Okay, but make it quick.  Blanche fusses out of the room.

James was still exhaling from the concrete humility.  Dad, it’s really my fault that you don’t see me.

It’s okay, son.  I understand why.  You look good.

Thank you.

I have just one question for you and then we can visit more later.

Okay.

How is your heart?

It’s such an odd question.  He doesn’t immediately remember it was the same question the brothers asked him at Bethel… a question about a metaphoric muscle angry and bleeding in front of them.  He didn’t remember because he ignited into a smile – a full, open, teeth apart grin just shy of chortle.

It’s fine.  I’m still working on parts of it, but overall… it’s just fine.

His father returned the smile.  That’s good to hear.  I just had to ask.

It’s okay.  I’m going to go to grab a bite to eat.

Thank you, son.  I’m sorry for this.  Your mother has people lined up out the door.  I’ve been trying to watch the news for an hour now.

Why not just tell her to stop?

It makes her feel better.  Just, give me enough time to deal with this and be back.

Of course.

Don’t take too long. 

James walks out the room with the best of faces.  He  passes a line of people waiting to see his father.  The older vague vintage memories of his childhood nod gently and look away.  Those of middle-age and younger hiss like wretched reptiles at the dirty, filthy clog that had dammed up this fluid cavalcade of pious spirituality they were gifting his father.

James returned later and the hall was empty.  His mother was inside arguing with his father.  He pauses at the door before going in.  They had probably been going at it for an hour by the sound of his father’s frustration.

But he is disfellowshipped.

He is also my son.  I don’t have long in this world, I get to spend it with whoever I want.  I want to spend it with James.

Steve.  Don’t talk like you’re dying.  And no one is saying you can’t spend it with James, but not at the expense of the brothers.  They’re going to be in the New System.  He is not.

Then I can socialize with them in the New System.  But James is for now.

He stares blankly at the slightly ajar wooden door’s obnoxious stainless handle trying not to cry.  When news of the child abuse had broke in 1994, Steve told the molester he would never be forgiven, ever, not caring if that meant Jehovah God kept him out of the New System.  Blanche accused James of making the story up to get attention.  The molester was handled “internally” through the congregation… something that bothered his father for years.  No matter what, Steve stood up for his son and in his chest he understood the true definition of the word “beautiful” as his dad encompassed all aspects of it if by no other reason but the purity and solidity of the heart.  He knocks at the door and opens it to intrude.

Hey.

His mother looks at him blankly.  I’ll give you two an hour or so, then I’ll be back.

An hour or so?  James was a little confused.

Well, okay.  If you want then until visiting hours are over.

He was obviously missing something.  If visiting hours are over, why will you be back?

So I can stay with him, she said frustrated.

James looked at his father in an effort to help translate the parts of the conversation missing between the parts of the conversation.

She stays with me at night in case anything happens.

What’s going to happen?  You’re up, alert, you look fine.  Are you dying tomorrow?

I wasn’t planning on it.

I don’t think dad needs a baby sitter.

Her feathers were getting ruffled.  I’m not babysitting.  I’m just here in case something happens.

Like… spontaneous death? 

James!  Don’t be morbid.  In case he takes a turn for the worse, that’s all.  These doctors are all trying to pump him full of pills.  I can’t have that.  I’m allowed to worry about my husband.

He’s in a hospital!  Just… go home, mom.  I’ll stay with him tonight.

What?  James!  You can’t do that.

It must be insufferable for you to live with the tension, get some rest.  I have clothes in the car.  I think I can manage this for the night.

Let him stay, Blanche.  I could use the company.

She turned a mean eye to him, I’m not company?

Steve gave a breath and stared her down.  That’s not what I meant, Blanche.

James didn’t want this to go much further so he said the magic words, Mom, get some rest.  You look tired.

With that cave of vanity she was convinced to go home, sent packing with her overnight bag to go back to the house they were renting so Steve can stay close to the Houston hospital.  He was distant with her, only giving her a half hug.  Even her It is good to see you, son was barely audible and entirely unregistered.  It was heartbreaking on some levels, refreshing confirmation on others.

James retrieved his clothes and settled in for the evening.  The nurses came, introductions were made, praises were sung, and vitals were checked.  Throughout the afternoon his father spoke as if for the first time.  With the absence of the parade and his mother’s exhaustive consumption of attention his father had time to be him.  So Steve opened his mouth and talked.  He talked a lot as he had much to say.

Obvious was the spoiler alert that homeopathic treatments does not cure cancer.  In the five to six years he was attempting resolution from the disease with herbal remedies he could have gone through chemotherapy and/or radiation and recovered.  Now it’s different.  The doctors had pretty much told him they were past the point of no return.  Steve spoke openly, honestly, and with a calm understanding of reality.

To tell you the truth, I’m ready to go now. 

You mean like Hospice… or did you want me to slip you something?

His father chuckles.  Hospice… I suppose.  I don’t have any other choice.  I’m ready to go… while I still have some life in me, you know?

There can be immense dignity in death.  There is absolutely no dignity in dying.  His father was a good man and had much to be proud about, but showing such pride was not in his character.  This made the good man even better.  James notices a bag next to the lounge chair.  He opens it.  It’s filled with pills.  He reads the first bottle’s name: Oxycodone.

Uh, dad.  You have a bottle full of one of the hottest drugs on the black market right now.

I know!  Who knows what all that’s worth on the streets.  Take it.  You could pay for your whole trip.

They both laugh at the idea.  I’m not taking your drugs, dad.  The question is why aren’t YOU taking your drugs?

Steve began to explain why the drugs were out of reach from the hospital bed.  His wife would not allow him to have any pain medication as she still holding on to the less-than-shadowy remnants of genuine belief that homeopathic treatment would still save his life.  Her all-encompassing denial prevented the man from having any peace either from the outside world of constant footsteps of people shining with smiles to mask the shock of seeing a formidable man fade from existence or from soothing his own nervous system from the ache that came with cancer’s unquenchable hunger.

So Steve sat in wait… in pain… smiling and joking.

He had to digest this.  So he diverted over to asking about David.  Katy had passed away in a unexpected and unavoidable car wreck in Dallas a few years earlier.  He wanted to know the condition of her twin sister and of David as he and Katy tried to date on a few occasions.  There was little update to the rebel’s whereabouts, the only link would be occasional visits from David’s father.  In return he was asked about Aaron.  It was a subject he didn’t want to discuss but since they were being cathartically brutal in their honesty, James bullet-pointed the events about six months after his departure from his parents.  Yes, he had seen Aaron.  He flew up to Oregon and surprised him at his house.  It didn’t go well. He had the police called on him.

Don’t worry.  He’ll come around one day.  (Pause.)  And if he doesn’t, are you okay with that?

Yeah.  I mean I’m not okay with it, but I made peace with the situation, he said while smiling.

Decent people facing death tend to become somewhat “zen” about the world, his father was no exception.  Behind his perky hazel eyes James held a mountain of unsteady un-sedimentary rock.  He had made the trip because he needed to know that Aaron was okay.  He was not.  James was screamed at, yelled at, and verbally beaten.  He stood there and took it because he thought it was deserved.  He had ruined the young man’s life, he wished he had never heard the name “James Perez”, leave him and his family alone, and he wished James was dead.  Then the police were called finding James in tears in his hotel room off Interstate 5.

The light in Aaron was gone.  The shining yellow gold of sun that beamed from his brown eyes ceased production.   It had not only stopped producing light, it was absorbing and demolishing neighboring light within his vicinity through a  hovering vacuous cloud of black and venom.  The force of Aaron’s damnation was probably the only release of steam this battered bruised body could muster and it came with such a force that years later James will tear at the mention of the name.  His knee stopped hurting after that trip.  It’s amazing how physical pain can so easily be overshadowed when the heart breaks at such a volume.  But he couldn’t tell his father all that.

The truth was that he didn’t need to say a single word, his father already knew.  He could see it in his son’s scared and immobile eyes.  Steve changes the subject as dinner arrives.  The two men continue talking, laughing.  The nurse bringing the second plate for James mentions that she hadn’t seen Steve in such a good mood and winks at his son in the lounge chair.

Trying to sleep brought a startling layer of revelation.  Even though his father can hold his own during the day and enact normalcy with only passing clinches, his body was of its own accord come the fall of night.  James sat in the shaded dark away from the hall lights staring at his father clinching and grimacing, his face contorting to reactionary shapes while his hands buckled in a motorized interpretation of screams.

Is there anything you can do for this?  He asked a nurse on her mid-night circuit.

His body is in pain.  Doctors prescribe medication, but they can’t force someone to take it.

How does this not wake him up?

Your dad doesn’t rest during the day, he has so many visitors.  So he knocks out pretty easily, especially when we can get him to take a sleeping pill.  I’m guessing he took one tonight?

He did.  It was probably the most sleep Steve had had since being in the hospital.  James curled up on the mauve overstuffed chair and watched his father move in ways he has never seen another human being move.  How could his mother sit there nightly and watch this and not feel some compassion for the man?  How could she sleep while her husband’s body tormented itself without alleviation?  It was inhumane.  It was less than inhumane.  It was a deceptive selfish fantasy and it was killing his father in the most grotesque manner just because she had faith in a absolutism that doesn’t actually exist.

With the morning he confronted her about it.  She defended her stance as she felt the brothers were praying on their behalf and Jehovah will provide a way for her husband to make a full recovery without the use of drugs.  He called her delusional.  She called him demonic.  He purposefully stayed all day with his father to prevent any more of Jehovah’s Witnesses from visiting.  He couldn’t give his father life, but he could give his father peace.  So they watched television, it was the first time they ever watched a baseball game together.  They ate lunch, talked about the tattoo his father accidentally noticed, and made the nurses laugh when they came to check in. By the evening Blanche was literally pushing him out the door to reclaim her spot as caretaker.

When he conceded she stepped out for a moment to return to making phone calls.  Dad, this is crazy.  I don’t want  you suffering.

I know, son.  But I gotta be faithful to your mother.

One thing that he learned from his father is the true understanding of what being “faithful” means.  It wasn’t just something sexual, it was also faithful in heart, mind, and word.  His father would not break his word even if it meant death.  If he promised anything to Blanche, including not taking pain medication, it was going to be upheld in all aspects. It was his prism of honor.  James took a bottle of pills and stuck it in the side table’s top drawer within arm’s reach of the hospital bed in case the pain became too much.  He left his father in his mother’s hands.

A year later he stares at the glass wall at the result of her god-fearing work and failed prayers, creeping whispers of disapproval floating from behind his shoulders from the patriarch of the house James refused to stay at as a child because he would beat his children.  The tyrant sits with a group as they recoil to the corners in hopes the demons saturating the young man’s soul will not infect them.  James opens the glass door across the hall from the pit of judgment.

There is a body laying on a mattress.  His older brother is in the room, his mother walking about on a cell phone.  His uncle, and elder in the Victoria, Texas Riverside Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses clomps back and forth between praying at the bedside and the room of collected Christians.  The person on the mattress is being fed through the nose, IV in hand in a vein practically sitting on top of the skin, machines pumping and beeping providing a soft medicinal background hum.  Over the year people stood over his bed in a circle so much the perception of feeling metaphorically buried in one’s own grave eventually gives way to reality as one is forcibly suffocated into the actual grave.  His father was beyond that point, now at half the size he was just a year before.  He retreated to the safety of a coma.

Approaching the bed finds a skeleton projecting itself through the leathery skin and presenting a non-working visual display of how the joints of the body function, if these had functioned.  They are motionless except for the rotating cushion of air underneath.  His veins and arteries are barely concealed as his all-white hair atop his crown and around his face stand with wiry weariness through holes of the skin, now elliptical in shape instead of round, pulled sagging by the weight of itself.  The body’s heart beats through the chest, visibly noticeable through the skin.  It was shockingly gruesome, yet not near as gruesome as his mother standing among the gaggle of Jehovah’s Witnesses proclaiming “They’re trying to kill Steve!” before returning to her phone call and the room.  No one was trying to kill him.  The doctors were begging his mother to be a decent human being.

According to the Witnesses, removing life support would be tantamount to murder, especially if there was a chance for survival.  In the mind of Steve’s wife, there was not only still a chance of survival, but a chance of full recovery, so Steve Perez was kept alive month after month without acknowledgement of the obvious.  James doesn’t know his older brother at all, he was not raised around him… but even at this point the two estranged blood relatives saw eye-to-eye without words.

He grabs what was once his father’s hand.  There is movement from the body as it lifted its eyelids to reveal faded green eyes glossed with cloudy white.  The body looks straight at James.  There he is – there is his father.  James smiles.  They silently converse.  The eyes close and never open again.  His mother runs about the hospital screaming that her husband had miraculously awakened from a coma.  He had not.  There is arguing, there is attempt at reason.  There is his uncle approaching to say with the most untimely inappropriateness, You know, what your father would want is for you to come back to the Truth.

The entire spectacle is profusely dense with emotion and empty of sensibility.  Logic is in catastrophic failure.  He cannot support this.  He does not support this.  He will not support this.  The hideous devil in the room is not his own.  It is a monster of unified prayers and desire for importance on a godlike scale allowed to run freely since proper truth in observation fails the followers and their religion.  He is hesitant to voice as there is nothing to say to those of such devoted daydream.  The most powerful truth in the world is the lie one believes in their own mind.  There is no arguing with that.

So he walks away.  Within 24 hours he flies out of the Corpus Christi Airport, the last location he saw Aaron’s smiling face.

When the cancer started to creep back into his father’s life, Steve made several resolutions.  For two years he had a colostomy bag, and for most of a year he wasted away in a hospital in the most undignified manner.  When the brother finally pulled the plug at noon on a Friday, the heart continued to beat on it’s own for 43 additional minutes.  His father indeed had a strong heart.  He knew that before he received a phone call from Texas telling him it was over, the story had ended.  Steve’s ashes are buried in San Antonio instead of being scattered per his wishes, bank account empty for continual herbal treatments that didn’t work.

James didn’t care.  It was not his family anymore.  It was a gross misrepresentation of what a family should look like, papier-mâché sculpture using pages of the bible as strips and lines of the Watchtower as glue.  There is nothing of worth, heart, or value within the sociopathic diorama created to give the illusion of ‘family’ and ‘spirituality’ without ever providing the love of a family or viable spirituality.  It is wrecked with false hope, spiritually superior but only through denunciation of all other paths, censured much like a schoolyard bully would attack a classmate.  He didn’t blame a “god” for his father’s death.  People die, it’s part of an undeniable necessity of every life cycle on the planet.  But what kind of god warrants such excuses to validate the faithful for such cowardly acts of conceit against death?  How can any god allow an inevitability, then bless those who march so disrespectfully over the body of a good man against it?  He was right the first time he left.  He only returned at the health of his father.  That is no longer going to be an issue.

He grips his chest when he puts down the phone.  Does he have a heart as strong as his father’s?  He doesn’t know.  But the answer is not found in his past.  He did not go to the memorial service so as not to take focus from a man who deserved to be honored, however they chose to honor him.  He has no desire to pick up the phone in that direction ever again.  That life perished with his father, fell silent with David, was tied with twine by his mother, and sucked into oblivion by Aaron.  All this in the name of ‘God.’  He loved life, he loved living.  There is no need to fear death when one is celebrating life.

Because of that none of them were never contacted again… including God.

James P. Perez © 2014

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Chapter 29 – The Departed

What’s that piece of shit you’re driving?

Hey, it gets good gas mileage when you’re a broke bethelite.

Did you wreck it?

Yeah.  Tire blew out on the bridge in Corpus.  Closed down the entire highway.

Geez.  Way to keep me up to date.

James and David sit opposite each other in a booth at Bennigans, the only two people in the restaurant.  The mid-afternoon sun is shining on their half eaten plates against the dark wooden tables.  Both men rarely look at each other in the hour that they have been talking, instead remaining slumped, slouched, picking at their plates in avoidance.

Sorry.

So what’s up with the knee?

James lets out a sigh.

Earlier that morning, he made it back to John Sealy Hospital in Galveston.  After checking in, he was instructed to wait in a small hallway with a row of chairs.  Eventually a doctor came out of one of the offices to retrieve James.  He was young with glasses and nervous but still maintained his professionalism.  James entered the tiny doctor’s office and sits in one of the chairs against the back wall.  Next to him on the counter is a model of the human knee.

So, James.  Um, you have two things going on.  Okay… uh, first, you have some dislocated cartilage and it has lodged itself here (he points on the model) and it looks like it did some damage at some point, I’m not sure how… but anyway, it may not do anything to you now, but you might have issues as you get older.  It’s not something that is an immediate concern, but you will eventually have problems.  Um… 

The doctor turns the model around to show James the back side of the knee. and adjusts his glasses.

The bigger issue, um… I feel, is that your tendon here (points on the model) was severed from the bone. 

The snap we heard when it happened.

Yes! exactly.  It would’ve sounded like loud snap, and very painful.

It was.

I’m sorry.  He gives James a comforting sympathetic look.  Um… so… what has happened is that this tendon has rotated completely and reattached itself to the bone… uh, but backwards or flipped.  We call this a lax tendon.  Uh…  I’m not sure how this happened, I guess with movement and such although I don’t know how you would move it that much, it’s a very painful injury, but anyway… however it happened it’s now backward.  

So what are my options?

Your best option, in my opinion, is to… um, have surgery.  What they will do is strip the tendon from the bone, flip it around, straighten it out, and then screw it back in place.  At the same time they can get that cartilage out.  Otherwise, you can just live with it, but that knee is always going to be susceptible to displacement because of the way the tendons are pulling.  You should keep a metal hinged knee brace on at all times.  I mean… um, you’re young now, and it probably doesn’t mean much to you as you start to feel better, but this will only get worse as you get older.  Your knee is weak and your chances of it dislocating are pretty high. You’re going to have this for the rest of  your life.  So…

So basically, you do nothing, David says, throwing down a limp French fry.

Yeah, unless I want to lay up in the hospital, freshly disfellowhipped with no one coming to see me.

I still can’t believe that, dude.

What?

Getting DF’ed.  It’s just… Not you.  The twins are going to freak out.

Do what you can to soften the blow.

Well, I’m glad something finally caught up to your arrogant ass.

(Laughing.)  You’re one to talk.

Hey, I wasn’t the one making sacrifices to Satan at the World Headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

You have no idea how difficult it is to get dove’s blood out of cheap carpet.

James, I honestly don’t know how you’re handling all this.

I’m not handling it.  Because I don’t have to.  I don’t have to fucking stand there and listen to a bunch of shit from a bloated faced, incompetent, ‘I have my own agenda,’ too blind to be a decent human being so let me over-compensate for my small dick Bethel elder. 

Damn James.

I’m still a little pissed…

Ya think?  (Pause.)  This religion is fucked up some times.

If you think it’s fucked up in the little areas of the local congregations, it’s diabolical at the World Headquarters.

When do they make the announcement?

Tuesday.

Are you going to be okay?

After the knee, Aaron, Brother Bechman, the pain it’s causing my parents, not having you and the twins around, being in the middle of bumfuck Texas with no job… how could I possibly not be okay?

I have something personal to ask you about Aaron.

(James smiles as he looks at his sandwich).  Yeah?

You two seemed… pretty close.

I didn’t have a David, so I found an Aaron.

Don’t get me wrong, I can imagine life without me can be devastating.  But you two were… close close.

Are you trying to ask if we…

(Interrupting.)  Yes.

James laughs to himself.  The simplicity of the answer will dwarf the beauty of the reality.  Yes.

At Bethel?

Yes.

You realize you’re going to hell, right?

We don’t believe in hell, David.

I’m pretty sure Jehovah is going to create a hell just for you.

Should I save you a seat?

Yeah, probably.  

Where is our waitress?  I’m thirsty. 

David starts picking at his straw.  Who knows.

James can read the disheartening conflict in his friend.  It reminds him of that evening on the futon almost two years prior.  David, look…

David interrupts, I will still talk with you, you know.

Thank you.  

But we can’t do this… here.  We know too many people in Houston.

Yeah.  I know.

David pauses for a second.  Someone will see us.

But that’s not what’s bothering you.

(Long pause.) I… I just can’t handle the gay shit.

David, it’s okay.  I understand.

You being DF’ed is one thing and if it was a one time deal, I would be okay with that but if you go all out gay, I can’t talk to you.

Okay.  I won’t ask  you to.

David fidgets with his food a bit more.  I just don’t see how a guy could like it up the ass.

Don’t do that.  

What?  I’m serious.

Don’t make it about sex.  It’s about so much more than that, and you cheapen it by reducing it down to just fucking. (Long pause.)  And not everyone likes it up the ass.

Dude, whatever.  I’m just saying it’s something I can’t deal with.  Don’t talk to me if you’re going to do the gay shit.

And I’m telling you that’s okay.  I’m not going to ask you to handle it.  And I won’t talk to you.

So you’re not going to try to come back to the Truth in a year?

No, I’m not.

You made up your mind.

Yeah.  About everything.  I’m sorry.  

So I guess this is it.   Our goodbye.

I guess so.

The two guys bathed under the tinted sunlight in silence for a while.  There isn’t anything more to say, but neither want to leave the table.  Once again, there exists two energies that feel comfortable near each other, even when they disagree in the most fundamental ways.  The waitress finally appears, presumptuously with the bill.

David sits up.  I got this.

You don’t have to pay for me.

James, I want to.  I mean… we’re never going to do this again.  So let me get it.

Okay.  And thank you.

As they walk out, David puts on his sunglasses.  They shake hands and James heads to his car.

Hey, David says, if you ever decided to be not gay, you know where to find me.

James smiles and nods his head, David.  I love you.  Tell the twins I said goodbye.

He feels like he’s driving down highway 59 without legs in silent tears, mentally hyperventilating.  He needs someone, anyone.  It is all just so… empty, a vast nothingness of destitute and exhaustion.  James decides to make a detour.

A left.  A right.  A faded blue building behind a flickering 7-Eleven.  He parks in the grass next to the dumpster.

He walks through the screen door and knocks at the first apartment.  No answer.

He knocks again.

The door opens.  It is pitch back inside.  He cannot tell if the person answering was a man or a woman.  Yeah?

Hey.  I’m looking for Ollie.  Does he still live here?

No, man.  I don’t know who that is.

Okay.  Sorry to bother you.

No problem, man.

He spends an hour driving around Montrose, retracing areas they visited, looking at every face on the street begging for the chance to see his eyes.  Nothing.  He was gone.

His drive back to his parent’s home is in depletion, his face flushed with silent disappointment.  There is no more atmosphere in the world, the air conditioning in his car is hurling chunks of failure at his flesh, cutting him and leaving bloodless scars, reminders of everything he is not.  There are no more tears to tear, there is no more breath to breathe.  The end result is a world without air.

He is officially all alone.  It doesn’t hit him right away.  It doesn’t hit him until he enters the now silent house with parents walking around in low volume trying to avoid talking to him.  His mother is in conflict.  1 Corinthians 5:11 says “‘you must not associate with anyone who… is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.”  Their son is… most of those things.  But does she still make dinner for him or let him fend for himself?  Maybe she will just make him a plate and he can eat it later?

His father cannot look at him in the face.  He is so saddened, disheartened, and discouraged, hurt and humiliated.  He knows his son, he knows most of what was written about him is false.  He knows there was an elder with an agenda who went after his son without mercy.  But he knows his son is gay… and he knows he had sex with his roommate.

He also knows his son loved Aaron, he could see the pain in his eyes during the judicial committee when the questions turned intimate.  But he is a faithful elder in the Sinton Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses and he must follow the procedural ruling as if his son were any other publisher in any other congregation in any other part of the world.  He handles it with quiet reverence and a higher level of decorum than when Tony was disfellowshipped at the Rosenberg Assembly Hall.

James sits on his bed, crushed in deflation from the weight of his own emptiness, waiting for nothing to happen.  Nothing happens.

Then something happens.

James P. Perez © 2013

Chapter 14 – Fly Away

His last day in Houston and he sat at the first leg of Terminal C hearing his parents and the twins chattering about the upcoming Kingdom Hall building plans.  It all faded into a low grumble of nonexistent emotion about a nonexistent future in his soon to be nonexistent present, as many of the conversations had become in the past month with the absence of David.

In the subsequent weeks after the party he saw Ollie a few more times.  New Orleans was a blast.  He first showed up with a whole new set of clothes and a new cap, looking stunningly dapper with his freshly shaved angular jaw and ready-to-rape piercing blue eyes.  After their third encounter, he told the young escort that he was leaving to New York.

Ollie took it hard, and gave James a remarkably simple and sentimental gift that James kept private… and was currently on his person as he is a nervous flyer.  Being with him was the closest I’ve ever been to flying, so if the plane goes down, maybe I will have a chance?  He isn’t superstitious, but all kinds of rules are bent when it comes to air travel.  For a young escort who had absolutely nothing to his name, he gave the only thing he had to spare, and to James it was the most important gift he received during his entire departure tour.

The workers at Feathers (and later at the Gold Room) gave him a fantastic farewell party.  Ozzy was particularly concerned about the situation but was  supportive, giving him a scarf sure to spruce up any ‘dull church outfit’.  Billy occupied the night with last minute lighting design changes to his almost finished play, what looked to be a rather dark masterpiece of this young, straight, muscle jock theater director.  Brit and Derrick sat with him the next day at House of Pies, and even China Doll sitting a few tables over in her thick Chinese accent had to scream her goodbye to the entire restaurant… ending in grand applause for someone everyone eating didn’t know.

He spends a month with his ‘nose to the grindstone’ in order to prep himself for the goody godly goodiness that lays ahead.  He thinks he has everything out of his system, except Ollie, or… even worse… what Ollie represented.   He comes to grips with the fact that this was a luxury that straight people go through and this was not something he, as a homosexual was ever going to experience while serving in the Organization.  This was a fact that cuts him deeply.

He is at his core soft and sensitive.  The hard-working douche exterior is a facade used to keep people at bay and prevent anyone from asking too many questions.  Even if questions are asked, he has no problem taking the lie down to the very core of his sole in order to keep up the appearance of the Golden Child he was bred to be.  But the reality was that he is skinless and exposed at all times causing him to cry often at night, and he finally found strength in other people… people who are just like him… people who didn’t think he was better than them, people who humble him because of their strength and next to them he feels the ‘completeness’ that everyone on the straight side keeps talking about… sometimes sexually, sometimes in a bar fight, sometimes just sitting around with a straight friend watching gay porn trying to design lighting cues for a staged production he will never see.  All these people are condemned by Jehovah (or at least by his servants) and they were the same people that made his soul leap from the weak comfortableness in lying to everyone he knows to the integrity and honesty of a structure like is seen in his father that he so often admired.

Maybe we all need to take different paths to be the best people we can be?

It was conversation that doesn’t lead anywhere with David.  There is only one path.  The path is through Jehovah.  If you get there through another way, that mean’s you’ve got Satan’s “angel of light” shit going for you.  You know this.

I know this, but I’ve never… FELT… it… this… whatever.

It is easier to change the subject than to discuss it as neither person knew what it is there was to discuss.  Feeling everything the Organization told them to be as ‘good Christians’ by stepping away from their dogma and surrounding oneself with the energy of the world isn’t exactly an easy discussion to have, much less justify.

The grand time of enjoying the world is now over and everything he learned would be put to good use… even if he wasn’t sure what ‘good’ was anymore.  It seemed absurd that a person like his molester can continually rape him and still progress in the organization without admitting anything to the elders (of which, he eventually became), and yet those that embrace who they are as sexual beings are considered so ugly in the face of Jehovah that they are only listened to through a thick spiritual demon-proof plexiglass cylinder that surrounds the Witness but keeps out the heavenly-offensive sinner.

The time is gone.  With each page from Ollie… His time is gone.

This will never be repeated.

The heartbreak comes from saying farewell to ‘Honest James’ and the people who helped him understand his own psychology through their gracious sharing of their sociology and style.  His Witness  going-away party is about as emotionless as struggling through a heavily one-sided and disconnected surreal foreign  movie.  The effects are nice, but the lack of interest is not going to be compensated with shredded meat tacos or Tejano music.  Everyone is there from all over Texas – the history of James until now – a happy and lighthearted “This is Your Life” muted and in black and white.  And with each new attendee, he only sees the blind and the innocent.

There is such legitimate honesty in their truth but their truth is less than 1/1000th of what the world actually was as a composite entity.  The laughter and congratulations, the emotional outpouring of support and happiness are misplaced against the real loss of what is lost in the longing that he had to just stay stationary and learn… learn everything there was to learn about people in the deepest corners of the world making their way through the day with addiction and tolerance, substance and coping skills, or blissful avoidance and smiles.  He wants to walk where others walked and run in paths unclaimed, run so hard that the arrogant condescension of the religion he was attached to would drown in the backdraft and dissipate it’s judgmental flames into it’s own honest consistency of thin smoke and ash.

The plane is boarding… or so he is told.  Suddenly all eyes are on him.

He tries to be witty.

He tries to play it off.

Waaait!

Loud clumping footsteps of overused Doc Martins are coming closer with a very out-of-breath white boy dressed in blue polo shirt running to catch everyone at the gate.  He slows down to catch his breath as the other guy in a blue polo shirt meets him out of earshot of the others, speaking only into the pupils of the other.

I can’t believe  you came.

I know.  Normally I wouldn’t.  You know… not the cool thing to do.

Well this is the nicest not-cool thing ever.

I know.  

They embrace in a way that speaks a conversation of loss and pain, hellfire of loneliness and confusion, abandonment, and paths slightly turning into different, seemingly opposite directions.  It was a touch which teared up in the heart and snaked its way into the eyes meaning that this one person will have to be the last person he embraces with any reality as the countdown from now until full weeping was a minimal five minutes, maybe six at best.

Don’t… go crazy up there.

I promise nothing.

Well, at least don’t die.

Least of all, I cannot remotely promise that.

I know.

The soft whispers release the embrace and the two similarly dressed guys separated and were careful not to look each other in the eyes.

Half-hugs to the twins under the guise of needed to get to the parents.

Half-hugs to the family under the guise of being late to board the plane.

Where is David going?  You girls want to go eat?

Yeah, we could use the company.

Call David.

Don’t.  

You sure?

Yeah. 

Goodbye, Son.  Call us when you get there.

I will.

He boards his plane.  Window seat.  He sees a big green truck in the parking lot just sitting there.

When the captain gives the signal, James leaves his window seat for the laboratory.

He screams in pain.  It is a pain he has never felt before.

From the tiny toilet in the back of a 757, he immediately begins construction on a structure to avoid ever feeling such loss ever again.  Loss as a whole… people, life, sex, love, hope, honestly, and faith… it was all so fragile and beautiful.  Most of all it’s all integrated together in a finely woven silk sheet of energy threads and if one anchor fails, the entire fabric unravels… and with one lift off, it was all unraveling.  It is impossible to cope with on the flight without causing more scars than were already going to be carried with him for the rest of his life.

I guess I had a heart after all.

Back at the seat he broke out the fake ID he had purchased in his last trip to New York while 42nd street was still in its seedy state. He is legally over 21 now, so he doesn’t need it anymore, but… still… for old time’s sake.

Jack and Coke, please. 

I.D. please?

Certainly.

Oh. You’re heading home.

So I am told.

Here you go. Let me know if you need another.

Thank you.

He places a bracelet on his seat tray.

He toasts a goodbye, a thank you, appreciation for what was, and for what will never be. He thinks he can barely see the lights of Houston dying in the background haze and he wanted to thank each bulb… the collection of them, the wires linking them, the designers and the engineers who created the visual, the installers, and the maintenence people who flip the switch to light the night for those like himself, sailors on the dark rivers of asphalt and mischief. For the nicity of everyone, the function of their society… above and underground… working together, Thank you. To the gay brothers and sisters who have the courage to be themselves, out, and humane to each other, Thank you. For taking on a stray cat and keeping him safe while he learned void of scars or trauma (except those left on his clients), Thank you.

For allowing him to see the true nature of who he is, Thank you for the rest of my life.

He places the bracelet back in his pocket. It was too much to get to specific people just yet.

Ma’am? I’m going to need one more.

Of course,

When exercising the muscle of hope, one must always be prepared when hitting “the wall”.  It was one of the last lessons he was learning… how forcing something not ready to manifest itself could be made worse with the lubrication of drugs and alcohol.

Did you want me to make it a double, sir?

No. Just the one. And a water. I have a long evening ahead still.

A long evening tonight, the rest if his life tomorrow.

James P. Perez © 2013

Chapter 11 – Bright Blue Sparks

He is laying between Brit and Derrick in a king size bed staring at the sloped popcorn ceiling of her townhouse loft trying to talk out the world in real time.

Your religion sounds like a joke.

His religion does not!  I mean there are some areas I personally I don’t understand.  But look, you have done all this hard work for God and your church over the years… and you wanted to spend this small section of time to find out about yourself.  You are dedicating the rest of your life to working at the Watchtower factories.  It doesn’t sound like it’s in God’s best interest to punish you via your father.

And if he did… time to get a new god.

Brit throws a pillow at Derrick, You’re not helping.

Yes, but he has a point.  And you’re right too.  It’s just… a lot to process.  He goes into surgery tomorrow.

Brit bounces out of bed, Get dressed, boys.   I know exactly what you need.

Don’t say a makeover.

Please… yeah, don’t say a makeover.

We’re going to the zoo.

Four hours of walking around found Brit bounces out of the park with an ice cream in one hand and a stuffed bear in the other looking like the happiest puff of blonde curly hair in the world.  James freed his mind a little bit and was back to making jokes. Even Derrick has left the realms of his normal pouty demeanor to an area that almost resembles goofiness.  As the zoo was mostly empty it felt good to run around like he owned the place and relax among the energy of the wildlife and foliage.  The trio exiting are relaxed, engaging, and more balanced then when they entered.

There is a page that comes in and James talks on the pay phone while the other two make plans for the evening.

I have to over to the hospital.  Dad wants to go over a few things before his surgery tomorrow morning.   

Brit gives him a big hug.  Derrick sandwiches him in.

Keep your chin up.

Thanks, guys.

Let us know if  you need anything.

Will do.

The next two days progress at a pace so slow it seems that each exhalation of the lungs take a full minute to extinguish   One factor he hadn’t counted on is the idea of mortality that looms over a person’s head upon hearing the word “cancer”.  James and his mom didn’t talk through much of this time as his mother becomes an emotional vacuum of sorts in times of trauma so he really isn’t kept informed about the technicalities of the operation.  The surgeon is nice enough to seek out James, and give him updates the morning of the surgery.  He stands with David in the corridor and talks with the doctor about the procedure.  He assured both young men that something like colon cancer was not hereditary, and it is something neither should worry about until they are in their forties.  It is good to have David by his side as he is able to ask questions when James cannot.

When his father comes out of surgery he has the pleasure of hearing something along the lines of “I think we got all of it.”

Relief.

Not just relief, but movement, freedom to progress past the stagnate state of staring at blurs flying by, unremembered conversations and dump trucks filled with sympathy and well wishes piling up on top of him until he was buried alive with the weight of nicety and compassion.  It was comforting to an extent and it is completely understandable why his mother has a sort of addiction to this level of sentimentality, but he finds it uncomfortable and wanted to focus more on the movement of getting past this.  The influx of human emotions were neither helpful nor harmful as James was void of emotions until there is resolution, so the padded pillows of cards, flowers, and covered dishes are just reminders of how helpless he really was against the situation.  And with one sentence from the doctor, the air in the room begins to flow and he finally feels his own heart beat.

Upon seeing his father awake and cracking jokes, the rest of the internal organs made their appearance in full volume.

Geez, I’m starving.

You haven’t eaten much in two days.

I know.  It’s amazing I was able to cum.

What?

Nothing.  We have a ton of food at the house.

Soggy green bean salad and tuna casserole?  No thanks, scoffs David.

You know I have to eat all of that.

That’s because you’re nice.  I’m not.  So let’s get some real food.  My treat.

You mean your dad’s treat.

Whatever.  

“Real food” to David is the pecan-crusted pork chop at America’s Restaurant to which James answers with the duck tortellini in basil sauce.  A plate of grilled vegetables and potato-battered calamari is split between them.  It feels like the first meal of his lifetime as they eat in silence.  Riding home means new consumed energy is hard at work constructing a better, more peaceful him.

After a week of his father’s recovery he saw something he had never seen before in anyone with such supernatural potency.  Steve was beaming with heartfelt appreciation for everything and everyone he came in contact with.  His smile can be felt from the other side of the construction site and with each “congratulations” and “welcome back” he would return with talking to each person individually with grinning gratitude.

Take life by the horns.

Yes sir.

Again this is good encouragement that James needed at the time but with adverse application.  A few weeks later he finds himself at the front desk of Feathers once again.  Enter a tall, thin man in his mid-forties with dark blonde and slight grey messy hair escorted by a young James-height swimmer-built kid with bright blue eyes, a gorgeous smile, and light blonde hair under a blue tartan Scottish cap.

Hello there.  My name is Jack and this is my friend… for today, umm…

Ollie.

Yes!  Ollie.  This facility, it’s just like a brothel or what?

James tries to contain his annoyance.  This is often a question asked a little later in the conversation not right away, and not with such blatant lack of decorum about the matter even if it was just a preventative measure to keep the cops from busting the place.  Added to the tension was the fact that he really wanted to rip the clothes off Ollie right then, and there and it is slowly turning into animosity that this person… this… Jack… would be fucking Ollie sometime later in the day and he would not.

(Professionally) No.  This is a private modeling and fetish facility where you can get a hot oil back rub or private dance with any of our models.  We have a variety of theme rooms.  You pick a model and a…

I just want to get fucked.

Anything you want you will need to discuss with the model you choose.  We have the best dungeon in Houston.  I’m sure there are more than a few things that can make it up your ass if you were looking for that.  But we are not intending…

But, I mean, “private modeling” is ambiguous at best and you have condoms on the desk.  There has to be someone who can fuck me.

Our point is to offer a safe place for people to explore fetishes.

What if my fetish is to be fucked in the best dungeon in Houston?

James was almost laughing at this point.  If this was a cop, he was good.  I’m not going to discuss sex with you here because we are not selling sex, as prostitution is illegal in the state of Texas.  So if you are going to insist on this particular subject I am forced to respond with “try an escort.”

Jack smiles at the maneuver.  What about you?  Do you escort?

(Pause.)

One night out at the Rich’s an older muscle guy had approached James and asked him to dance.  He said ‘no’ lying by saying he was “working” and waiting for a client.  The man replied by saying he didn’t need to pay for it, but still patted James on the ass as he walked away.  James thought he was in the clear.  As the night went on and the non-existent client failed to show up, the man returned, and this time he was more persistent, so much so… he was willing to pay.  James had no choice but to maintain the lie.  Everyone at Feathers and the Gold Room has clients on the side… it is where the real money was at.

He felt his pager in his pocket as he mulls over the question Jack asked.  No, I do not.

Jack thinks for a second.  Ollie is staring at James with the biggest smile.  Any hardened exasperation somewhat melted into timid nervousness.  This of course, is noticed by Jack.

Okay, here’s the deal.  It’s my birthday today and I’m having a party over at my place all night and I want you to be there.  I know you don’t want to talk sex because of legality reasons, but I am inviting you to my home and I want you to bring someone with a big dick.  I will pay them $100.00 per inch.  You will get $200.00 for every person you bring me.

He takes out a business card holder and removes a card.  On the reverse he writes down “$100.00/inch” and his cell number sliding it through the reception slot.  Okay?  That is for you.  Ollie will be there and he is helping out with party supplies and such, all of which I will share with you.

Billy walks into the reception as Jack shimmers with delight.  Who is this?

This is Billy.  If you would like to see more of Billy, it will be a $40.00 membership fee good for six months, plus a $40.00 entrance fee for today.  That goes for both of you.  Plus whatever you would like to spend on yourself with the model.

You mean a tip?

Oh, for Christ’s sake man!  We just went through this with sex, don’t make me dance around the subject of tips.  

(Laughing) Okay, okay.  I get it.  I want him in the dungeon.  He pulls out a wad of cash and pulls out $80.00 and hands it through the reception slot.  Entrance for one, please.  

James puts the money in the register and pulls out the application fee.  I need you to fill this out.

I don’t have time for this.  Jack takes out his driver’s license and hands it to Ollie.  Fill this out, please.

Okay.

Wait, I need to have the person…

Look.  It’s my birthday, and I’m horny.  I’m going to pay you a lot of money for a lot of dick.  So I think  you can let me grant me this one thing and let my friend here, fill out the paperwork.

Private time with Ollie?  Yes, please.  He buzzes the horny man in and Billy takes off with him down the hall.

You are a strapping man.  How big are you exactly??

Wouldn’t you rather have James? He’s better in the dungeon than…

James is for later.  (Fading.) Right now I want you.

Ollie fills out the paperwork carefully, making sure his handwriting is precise and accurate, which was difficult because he was looking at James and smiling most of the time.

Can you come out here and talk or no?

The door is on a buzzer system, if I go out there, I’m locked out.

Oh.  Too bad.

I can stand at the door though.  

Seeing Ollie’s reaction was something that froze James.  He was safely behind glass, distant, away from whatever he was desiring, but once the door opened he, his energy, his eyes were going to be live and in person in front of him.  It made him nervous to the point where he had to be reminded of what he was doing.

So?

Oh yeah.  Sorry.

He takes off around the corner and the opens the door with trepidation.  Ollie moves in close.  James can smell his Irish Spring… a scent that normally sent him into hives is now something tickling the nose playfully.

Are you going to come over to Jack’s tonight?

I don’t know.  Would you notice if I wasn’t there?

Ollie moves in closer.  Yeah.

James couldn’t focus.  He was smiling.  I… well… 

Am I making you uncomfortable?

Yes… NO!  I mean… I’m nervous.

I’m sorry.  Ollie backs up a little to give James room to breathe.  It worked.

This was the first time where he understood the phrase “when sparks fly”.  He had been noticing intense energies from people who were focused on him, who instantly fell in love or wanted to save him from all… this.  Now, it’s different and he was feeling the same attraction toward someone else and the combination of the two energies made it difficult to inhale at first.  Once he had a little space to breathe he was able to regain composure.

It’s okay.  It’s just that… when you’re close, all I want to do is kiss you.

Ollie’s square jawline transforms into one round grin.  He moves back in closer.  I have no problem with that. 

Audacity, in all it’s forms, is something James is trying to become a master of, but it’s easier when one’s emotions are kept out of the line of fire.  This is completely different.  His heart is pounding with the force of a jackhammer while his dick was throbbing uncontrollably.  He forgets everything he ever knew about the technicalities of kissing – all charts, graphs, instructions, practice sessions and techniques disappeared from reach at this pivotal moment when everything else seemed like a rehearsal for this one performance.  He wants to impress, as he has spent his life impressing people and going above and beyond.  He wants to impress, as he knows this guy has had a lot of sex and somehow he has to compare with history.  He wants to impress so these blue eyes will come back for more.  He wants to impress… but he forgets how.

James has spent his entire life void of this uncomfortable giddiness.  He has already come to the conclusion that it was a myth or at the very least something homosexuals do not have the capacity of knowing.  How does one come face to face with a feeling they didn’t know exists and yet still… function?  He was frozen staring at the scene afraid to attack it with force for fear it may disappear at any moment.  It was blowing up his brain uncontrollably and yet he didn’t give a flying fuck.  He tried to be the top guy in control once more, and with his right hand placed behind Ollie’s head, he pulls him in and kisses him with a softness that surprised both guys standing in the doorway.  He tasted like metal and cigarettes mixed with a soft gummy tongue that took the breath right out from the lungs and replaced it with warm coy saliva.

Ollie leans in and James backs up against the door frame.  As soon as their raging hard-ons touched, James knew he was good to go, and once the trigger is let loose, the soft passionate embrace turned into an animistic cannibalization of this complete stranger by pushing him against the door itself and penning him with a force that seemed to vibrate throughout the building as he held on to the door with one hand and the guy’s head with the other.  James did not know where this was coming from but it was hot, and he felt there would be little control left if this went too far.

He pauses for a moment… and goes back to the soft passionate kissing before releasing Ollie from his grip, his lips, and his eyes.

Whereas James is a little frightened by this force he tries not to show it as Ollie seems very much in control, and smiles with a slight smug glad to see you had that in  you sense of satisfaction.   This kid did not seem as overwhelmed by the lengthy exchange, and this worried him, I am no where near this guy’s league.  He had been experimenting with the boundaries of people both mentally and physically but never really considered testing his own and this… force was something overpowering and exciting.  This guy had boundaries that made it feel as if James was throwing a Nerf ball on the field of the Astrodome… and this of course, makes him a challenge.

He puts their heads together and stare into each other’s eyes.

Dude, that was hot.

Thanks.

What’s your name?

James.

I really want  you to come tonight, James.

Okay, he says like a lost puppy.

They kiss some more, slower, almost lip lovemaking in the music of appreciation.  The more they grind the more erect he becomes.  He didn’t even know this level of erection was possible.  How have I been missing out on this for so long?  WHY have I been missing out on this for so long?

Time had faded into oblivion and is only resurrected due to a noise that comes from the dungeon.  I’m pretty sure that’s Billy’s orgasm. 

Ollie snapped to attention.  The mesmerizing exchange halted and a shift in the room occurred.  Neither person was sure if they were doing something wrong, but there was a realization that they just might be.  Jack was apparently paying Ollie for the day and night so this could be a douche move on James’s part.  The guys kiss each other once more and go to their respective stations, one behind the reception desk and the other on the lobby side of the window.

Well that was well worth it.  You will get another thousand if you come to my party tonight.

The  door to the lobby swings open and Jack looks well stuffed.

Hope you had a good time.

I did, and thank you.  This, is for you.  He takes out the now reduced wad of cash and extracts two $100.00 bills and hands it through the window.  Will I be seeing you this evening?

He’ll be there.  (Wink.)

I MAY show up.  (Smiling at Ollie.)  Where is this place?

I will draw you a map.  Ollie, take my phone and call your guy for the… stuff.  

Ollie takes the phone and dials as he walks to the opposite corner of the lobby.  Jack draws a map and gives verbal directions James doesn’t hear.  The guys leave.  Billy has been standing behind James without his noticing.

What was that all about?

His party tonight.  I don’t know, you going?

No.

How did you get a thousand dollars when you’re nine inches?

I was talking about the exchange between you and his guy friend, escort, boy, whatever.

Billy, I don’t know what you’re talking about.

You could see those sparks from space.

Really?  

James, don’t take this the wrong way, but sometimes you’re the dumbest smart guy I know.

(Laughing.)  I know, I know.  This is the first time I’m letting stuff… I don’t know… emotions just… get some exercise.

 It’s adorable, actually.  Good to know you’re human.

Did you just call me “adorable”?

Shut it.  So you going to see him again?

Yep.  I guess I’m going to a party tonight.

James P. Perez © 2013

Chapter 10 – The Stillness

James walked out of the hospital late that night with the twins close behind. He was angry with his mother or maybe just deflection.  It was a tumor and nothing more so far. She is already killing her husband in her mind, pacing back and forth in an egotistical rant of how she wouldn’t be able to go on.  Her negative projectile energy of her burdensome future pain and suffering stood in rippling contrast to his calm and collected father laid up in the bed trying to make jokes to keep the atmosphere light.

James’ parents worked best as a team – the mother was emotional, and the father was logical.  The balance provided proper incubation for James to develop into a perfect child.  His mother was the perfect homemaker, his father was the perfect breadwinner.  The result by default was James having a perfect life void of conflict or friction.  Boundaries were never tested, and hardships were easily overcome.  James was now seeing how others outside in the world handled hard times… struggle… and some of them had great coping mechanisms in place that he had never seen before.  Others just used the lifelong combination of sex, drugs, and alcohol which seemed to only land everyone back in the same position they were initially trying to cope with.

Assumptions from people he talked to in ‘the world’ always jumped to religious household not accepting of homosexuals?  Your upbringing must have been hell.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  His home life was wonderful, and up until this point he had no complaints whatsoever.

Sometimes his mother would shift focus from father when James felt this really should be ‘dad’s time’ for attention… and this seemed to be one of those times.   David stood by his side until the appropriate “I’ll wait for you in the truck/Get well soon, Brother Perez” was exchanged giving James some time to be alone with his father while his mother talks to the twins in the hall after their visit.

David is sitting on the tailgate of his Ford truck stationed diagonally at the far end of the parking lot watching the traffic across the street.  How is he?

He says he’s fine, but by the amount of jokes he’s making I think he’s a little worried.

James sits next to David and stares at Highway 59.

The twins come up and stand on either side of them.

James, your mother is so sweet.

Thanks, I know.

I seriously think that is the longest time I’ve talk with her.

Me too. 

I’m so sorry about all this, James.

Thanks.  This, is a very weird feeling, honestly.

Did you want to go eat or something?  It’s late.

I think… I think I just want to go home.

I could eat.  Why don’t you ladies go on ahead, I’ll take James home and catch up with you later?

(In unison) That sounds good. 

Both girls give James a hug and say bye to David.  James doesn’t move.  David doesn’t either.  After a minute David puts his arm around James’s shoulders.  Dude, I cannot even… begin to fathom what you’re going though.  If this was my father I would have fucking lost it… throwing things, smashing windows… who knows.  I know you,  you are containing yourself for everyone, but now it’s just us.  so…?

James didn’t know.  He was gripped with fear and didn’t want to release it via anger and thrust.  In fact, he wasn’t even sure he could move himself off the tailgate to get into the truck.  His emotions were in freeze frame in mid free fall in a free-for-all.  This couldn’t be happening… not to his Dad.  Despite the gay issue, his father is his consulting oracle for all matters of logic and argument.  He is mentally the strongest person he knew and physically formidable in stature.  Being hugged by him is spiritually balancing and works almost like a re-calibration for the soul.  This man… this force couldn’t have a tumor.  His body would have said What the hell is this shit? and kicked it out, which is essentially what Steve found in the toilet.

Like his father, humor is used for a variety of reasons but the effort it takes to breathe at this moment even made constructing a fairly decent c-grade joke an impossibility.  It feels almost disrespectful to not have some sort of wild and violent reaction to the situation at hand.

I want to have a reaction, but everything within me is in dead silence like my insides have been removed and replaced with condensed air.

David takes his arm back and moves closer to lean over, shoulder touching shoulder.  We can sit here all night if you need.  Take your time.

The two young men watch the traffic of the highway silently in the shadow of the parking lot light off to the right of the truck.

***

An unknown amount of time passes before James finally speaks, I think I want to go home.

In the truck David takes a right at the light and heads north on Highway 59.

Are we taking the long way?

Yeah.

Thank you.

James rolls the window down and rests his head against the metal frame of the door and lets the Houston air fan across his closed eyes.  He hopes in desperation that the wind would dislodge the stillness consuming the infrastructure of his mentality, his emotional non-response, and gravity of his physical being.  This cannot be happening.  Not to him.  Please, not to him.

He opens his eyes and sees the passing lights slur across his line of sight.  He remembers riding in the back passenger’s side of mother’s car, going through Houston in the middle of the night after working the late security shift at the Rosenberg Assembly Hall with his father… their first job as volunteers before construction had began.  The city was such a mystery to him at that time.  He thought everyone was asleep and the concrete and glass laid at quiet rest in the dark.

Now he knew different.  The city is vibrant at night.  In some ways it’s even more interesting with a different set of people running about interacting with other people and doing things.  He now knew because he was one of them.  This life, this city… it pulses with life every hour of the day.

He was too.  His veins were pumping with new blood increased in volume with each new and delightful person he met.  And those that were self-consuming or socially vampiric were lax in their effect thanks to the contrivance footwork of new social skills he was learning.  There was so much good out there, so much joy and fun to be had.  He saw the universe burst in the eyes of some people.  The “wicked world” had so much not-wickedness about it.  Being a Jehovah’s Witness wasn’t bad, but it was confining in its boundaries both mentally, and as he’s seeing now, emotionally.  He was giving his brain a new pair of running shoes and stretching his legs trying to take in sociology from every corner he could, and he was loving it.

There still wasn’t much in conflict, and there still weren’t very many excuses to run back to the church with new found vigor.  Maybe that was the point.  He wasn’t finding the horrors and depravity drenched with the frothy mouths of those mad with drugs and disease.  They were there, he passes them nightly.  But upon talking with them he finds out they are really just people, like himself, trying to cope with shit, like himself, and upon discussion he usually found out he has quite a bit in common with them.  Every picture in the Live Forever book or in the Watchtower and Awake! magazines depicting what the world looked like was, basically, wrong.  The pictures he had grow up with were just snapshots of the worst part of humanity… a patchy occurrence sprinkled across mankind as a whole and not a reflection of the expansive spaces of beauty  and stimulation in between.  Some of this could be dangerous and seductively deceiving, others can be provocative and riveting, but all inspired thought and metaphor and the differences between “good” and the “bad” were massive.  He had been living on one small acre of real estate near the “good” side of a spectrum that encompasses the entire globe and under the weight of this realization he felt something he had never really felt before… humility.

Do you think Jehovah is punishing dad?

Why would you say that?  You’re dad is the best Christian I’ve ever met.

Yeah, I know.  But… I’m not.

David didn’t know anything about what James was doing outside the church, and without any knowledge or content he could still skillfully snake his way around James’s landmine mind and deal with questions so precisely, it was sometimes annoying.

James.  I know you may not think of yourself as a good Christian for whatever reason, but you do a lot of good everywhere you go.  If Jehovah as a problem with you, he will punish you, not the best Witness he has playing on his team.  Plus, colon cancer… IF he even has cancer… is a very common disease.  Many people get it, and survive without skipping a beat.  So, frankly,  not to speak for Jehovah, but it would be a very stupid way to punish you for not being a good Christian.

James can verify.  His accuracy was, in fact, annoying.

Thank you.

David’s intense sense of perception could tell that his friend was overthinking.

Ready for some music?  Or too soon?

No, actually  I think I’m ready for something.

“Encomium: A Tribute to Led Zeppelin” is slid into the CD player.  It was just what he needed.

Perfect.

James P. Perez © 2013

Chapter 7 – Tale of Two Pretties

There were fundamental flaws to the Witness perception of living a double life, especially for teenagers and young adults.  Up until this point it never made sense to ‘serve two masters’ and with logical arguments presented by his father, there was nothing he found specifically attractive or enticing in ‘the world’.  Outside he is the same person that he is on the inside with a minor homosexual character flaw that he keeps in check.  Who knows what destruction the world would face if that demon was ever let loose.

For as long as he remembers he had always been the subject of division in the congregation.  In each location there were a select few among the elders who thought he was nothing more than a flamboyant fabrication.  Baptized at ten?  Yeah, right.  What are you, Jesus?

No.  I’m not Jesus.  Just a kid, making his own decisions within the boundaries that his parents set for him, nothing more, nothing less.  Of course he never added that he was a gay male abused as a child who desperately searched for ways to compensate for the Devil inside.  Assumptions from the shadowy corners of the Kingdom Hall sat in counterpoise to those that seemed to drift from the fluorescent lights with ignorant lambency.  Would you spend some time with my sons?  They need better influences in their lives before they go down the wrong path.

Your older teenage son is a delusional narcissist with sociopathic tendencies who is in love with his rather hot best friend and will probably grow up to be an overweight red-faced alcoholic who beats his wife and smokes cigarettes secretly… just like his father.  Your youngest teenage son is a manipulative homo who lures men in the steam room at Bally Total Fitness and then cries “rape” if they get caught… which everyone believes because he’s only 15.  Is there anything else I can do for you Sister Melon?  No?  Okay then, moving on…

Being a family constantly moving from congregation to congregation to “help where the need was greater” came as an added benefit.  He had to learn who people were and their character as soon as possible before the family  moved to another location.  ‘The world,’ as it stood on the outside was kept at bay and was a minute inconvenience at best.  But as a teenager now going into his twenties and staying in stationary locations for more than one year at a time his perception of the ones he judged so harshly underwent a paradigm shift in understanding.

Sometimes kids get bored.  Fuck… even I’m getting bored.

Now with an end of a construction era, he was about to go to the world headquarters, mainly filled with young ‘able-bodied’ single men who (for all intents and purposes) should be horny as hell after an entire adolescence of not masturbating and not fucking.  What normal, red-blooded teenage male thinks that after years of sexual repression, the best thing for him to do after high school is to head to the world’s largest sausage fest and delay fucking a hot wife for a few more years?

Unless Bethel is the Witness equivalent of the Catholic priesthood where young gay men head to seminary in order to avoid getting married.  James is now a little more more encouraged by the move.  Maybe it will be a safe place for people like me. 

Though he was going for avoidance it didn’t mean others were.  Praying for freedom from sexual thought (gay or straight) and the ability to relieve an erection via benedictions may work for everyone else, but he was failing miserably in this regard.

Tick, tock.  This won’t stop.

Each medical and psychological study he read repeatedly stated that a teenager – any teenager – has the inner necessity to test their body as it is developing mentally, emotionally, and physically.  Events like pregnancy can alter the hormone development of a girl while males taking supplements can cause testosterone levels to spike over dramatically in an already unstable environment.   In the mind, a teenager needs to be able to test different cliques, persona, cultures, and counter-cultures in order to find a balance which suits them personally.  Puberty and adolescence is almost a decade long experiment in fluctuating chemicals and growth spurts.  To have a teenager living a ‘double life’ isn’t so much about living a sham or lie as it is trying to find out who they are as a person, and experimenting with who they want to be as a future adult.  It’s not deception, it’s honesty.  If they find honesty and safety within the structure of the Kingdom Hall, then they wouldn’t be like James and venture out.  When that structure begins to fail, they are going to be like James and search for it elsewhere.

The paradox is that due to the cult-like limitations of socialization it is in a young person’s best interest to be one person to their parents and elders while secretly trying to find their place in humanity.  Being excommunicated means being shunned by everyone one knows and unless there is a safe place to land, it’s a lesson in cruel and arrogant torture.  From a human heart, he understood so many people he met over the years.

Tick, tock.

With Houston life coming to a close and a monster who keeps screaming in his ear, he decided to let the Devil out to play a little… on a leash of course in desperate hopes that he will tire himself out and sleep for the next… however many years.

(Ground rules.)

1.  No drugs.  This was an exercise in being a homosexual.  He has never taken any drugs before and wasn’t going to start now.  The last thing he needed was to realize he was gay and a junkie before going to Bethel.

2.  No alcohol.  James hasn’t consumed alcohol in his life except one time when he was house sitting for a brother and sister.  He woke up with a headache from hell… and never drank again.

3.  No bottoming.  This is simply a matter of good sense.  He thought his penis was adequate… everyone seemed to have liked it so far.  The last thing he needed was to be at Bethel and find out he has AIDS.  The assumptions of the religion would spiral into untold realms of nausea.

4.  No falling in love.  He isn’t even sure if this was a rule or not.  He isn’t even sure it’s possible.  In tragic romance he would meet the man of  his dreams and give up everything for travel and cocktails.  But the reality is his inability to lose site of his primary goal of reaching Bethel for a new beginning, instead arriving with a broken-hearted longing for something he should have never touched in the first place.

Observe, understand, find a million insurmountable flaws that strikes your soul with the fear of God (out of love, of course), and get the hell out.

This was all very exciting.

Shaddup!

David smacks James in the face playfully as they walk through the Maintenance Building. The construction was starting to come to an end and many parts of the construction staging areas were being dismantled. The twins and Amber were waiting in the office that will now become the new drafting room for the Kingdom Hall Building Committee, Texas #4.

I mean you have the Vaseline right there in the shower. You don’t even bother putting it away for guests.

You’re not a guest, David said.

Not the point.

Did you use it?

Also not the point.

What are you guys talking about?

(In unison) Nothing.

Did I just hear you say “Vaseline?”

Are you talking about self abuse?

Because we are warned against that.

James smacks David in the shoulder. Yeah, David. You just need to pray more.

Well… old habits die hard.

Hard you say?

Working at night with a staff of openly gay people, and sexually comprehensive straight people has made James more in tune to new levels of innuendo that, for some unexplained reason he has no control over.

Not funny, James.

Soon you will be having premarital sex.

Which will inevitably lead to an abortion.

Yeah, I’m pretty potent.

And wanting more sex will lead you to rape.

All because of masturbation.

Ew! You are talking about abusing your penis.

It’s not really “abuse,” per se.

And who said he was abusing his penis?

(In unison) James!

James had convinced the Building Committee to order kneeling office chairs rather than the standard swivel because after three years of drafting at the building site, his back and wrist began to hurt.  The center part of the Maintenance Building was now empty, the temporary walls and desks against flat files were demolished, sold, relocated, or moved to a storage facility.

It is a sad realization that the Rosenberg, Texas Assembly Hall had the best facilities for full-time volunteer labor.  There were always enough beds, plenty of work to do, a massive food tent serving three meals a day every day (plus snacks), and a row of privately owned RV trailers that could easily be borrowed for a long shower or a power-nap… maybe if one just needed peace and quiet from the constant construction mix of clank and boom.  The building itself was (almost) unimpeachable in its design and everyone who worked on it had something visible that they ware proud of.  The collegial-like family was comforting and basic, unassuming in the midst of flying steel girders and rumbling backhoes, waving hard hats and pointing clipboards.

The young brothers who lived in the loft had shuffled off slowly, teary-eyed, and lost.  Many were trying to get onto other assembly hall projects to keep this emotional attachment going… San Antonio, maybe.  Did you hear about the one in Dallas?  Are they doing that?

Mainly he sees that many of these brothers simply do not have any other place to go.  The first time he walks through the building after the keys of the Assembly Hall were handed over to the overseer and his assistant who will be living onsite in two of the four apartments built into the design, James stood motionless in reverence.  This is not my building anymore.  This is not our building anymore.   He smiled.  We did a damn good job.

Now onto new and better things, into the box in the corner of the Maintenance Building to set up Kingdom Hall Regional Building Committee’s servers and computers for the standard packages of windowless Kingdom Halls that had been sent down a few months prior, but where put on hold until the completion of the Assembly Hall.

It’s not that I don’t love social hour around here, but if you all don’t mind, I need to get these new packages arranged on the new servers and print out… everything.  Three times.

No one was listening to him, and David had already taken the short, black scissor-shaped sitting stations out onto the empty and freshly coated main floor for racing.  

David won 3 to 2.

Later that evening James finds himself at his other work laying in the couple’s room with Billy eating Pop Tarts on the side-by-side massage tables.  Ozzy in watching the front desk and RJ is finishing up with a client in the next room.

So who do you think is going to bottom first?  It seemed like Billy’s favorite question.

I think the short one.  It just seems…

Proportional?

Yeah. 

But he has the bigger dick.  I mean look at that thing.

I didn’t say it wasn’t a missed opportunity.

I say the tall one.  Whoever wins buys dinner. 

RJ appears at the door.  The tall one gets it.

That’s what I think, Billy says.

The two straight guys are going to tell me which one bottoms.

Yeah, dude.  Trust us.  It’s in the eyes.  Look at the way he’s attacking that cock.  RJ could be remarkably perceptive when it came to gay sex.

But doesn’t everyone attack a dick like that?

In any moment he’s going to…

(Unison) There he goes!

James was impressed by his straight counterparts.  I honestly feel I have learned something today.

Ozzy appears at the door.  When you two said you were going to come back here and watch porn, this was not what I was imagining.

James is excited about sharing the porn.  You missed it.  This guy who is… (blank).

Chasing art thieves.

Chasing art thieves was having a cigarette and tried to light it from the filter side.

Is that what you were laughing at so loudly?

If he’s catching art thieves he seems to be hot on their tail.  Billy, your guy is here.

Oh man. 

Sorry, dude.  No more gay porn for the straight guy.

Nor this one.  I’m out of here.

How was your client?

Very touchy feely.  But tipped well.  He tried to finger me.

Look, RJ. I’m sorry.  But your ass is just…so… you know.

I’m gonna go home and fuck my girl so hard right now.

Can… we…

(Laughing) No!

The blushing and oddly flattered RJ heads into the break room to clean himself and retrieve supplies to wipe down the room.  James turns off the projector and gathers up the crumbs of dried pastry thrown at the screen slightly earlier during a particularly poorly acted moment of passion.  Billy appears at the door with a distressed look on his face.

Don’t ask.

James didn’t.

Up at the front desk he sits with Ozzy until they both realize they have been staring at RJ’s ass as he walked out the building.

Anyway.

Yes, anyway.  I am suddenly hungry.  Do you mind manning the front desk while I go grab something from Burger King?

I thought you were a vegetarian?

I am.  I get a Whopper and just discard the meat.

I’m learning all kinds of things this evening.

Did you want anything?

No, my mom made dinner.

Girl, I cannot believe you.  What you are doing is crazy.

I know.

But at least your mom makes you eat all your vegetables.  That helps when people suck you off.

Does it?

Does she make your dad eat all his…

Ew!  Go get your food!

From the lobby, Ozzy turns back around.  Speaking of home, when are you leaving for that thing you’re doing for your church?

I’m heading to New York after my birthday.

And you will be back…?

Not sure.  Maybe never.

It’s not like the Mormon two year thing?

No.  It’s volunteer work where they produce all the magazines and books that we bring to your door every weekend.

Sounds… different.

I know. 

Are you sure it’s not going to be like a gay rehabilitation thing?

No, no.  Nothing like that.  Just a different job in a clean atmosphere.  A different life, I think. 

Well, I hope you know what you’re doing, my dear.  Cults can be tricky.

I hope I do too.

Ozzy walks out the door and James whispers to himself and it’s not a cult.  The honest concern for him was something that James had felt frequently but the thankfulness he showed in return was an illusive rarity.  He was surprised at how thankful he was feeling to have someone he just met be so… genuinely uplifting.  And there was no subject off limits. No matter what topic or scenario he brought up, Ozzy perpetually remained… unshocked. After a few minutes of thinking on the subject,  Billy appears in the hallway in his underwear with a large hard-on holding oiled hands in the air like a doctor who had just scrubbed before an operation.

Dude, this is the grossest thing I’ve ever done.  The guy is nothing but hair.

You have an erection.

Well he’s very sweet, you know… with all the movement and rubbing… things happen.

Not that I’m complaining about the visual, but… why are you here?

Can you heat up some more massage oil in the microwave?  The guys body hair is literally soaking everything up.

James smile and gives Billy a half hug.  Sure thing.  And massage in place rather than across the skin.  It will be more enjoyable for him.  He demonstrates on Billy’s arm.

Thanks dude.  Honestly, I don’t know what I would do in this place without you.

Glad to help.

James P. Perez © 2013

Chapter 5 – Confronting the Devil

It was late… past 2:00 am late.  David had dropped him off and didn’t want to stay the night, obviously.  The air was unusually crisp for the city which made walking around in downtown that much more stimulating in appreciation.  James was quiet not to disturb the house.

Six months.  Tick, tock.  It’s all about to rock.

Or maybe not.  He thought it might take him that long to permanently find a way to silence the gay inside him screaming like a horny beast to get out.  It seemed so fucking unfair that straight guys in their teens raging with hormones and overexcited levels of testosterone were allowed an ‘occasionally slip-up’ and it will be forgiven with nothing more than a reprimand or even a publicly announced reproval.

In Victoria, his best friend as a child was Donald whose father used to hit or in other ways physically abuse everyone in the large household.  It didn’t matter if there was company present or not.  On two occasions where James spent the night he remembers cowering under the covers of the top bunk of the boy’s bedroom because Donald’s father had to scream and yell at Dawn in a method that justified the shaking of the house.  The next time it was something his brothers Efrain and Chauncey were up to that would be considered ‘typical boy behavior’ by running through the house tracking mud everywhere and for that they were not only physically attacked, but were assigned the chore of washing every car in the parking lot of vehicles that evening as the mother had already cleaned the floors which they so superficially damaged.

James refused to go back over to that house again.  How is that level of anger acceptable and even promoted (as the father was a well respected elder) but desiring the touch of another male is sinful?  Donald had an older friend named Stephan who fucked every girl in school.  Then he fucked every girl in the neighboring school.  Each time he got caught he would be talked to by the elders… repent and get a small announcement that he had been talked to, and off he went to fuck the next girl and after a few weeks was back with responsibilities in the congregation running microphones or at the helm of the sound system at the Victoria Kingdom Hall until several months went by and he was caught again.

That went on for years.

But Tony, in the past year, get’s caught fucking a guy and he is disfellowshipped immediately because it was unnatural.  As it was a recent event James could close his eyes and remember his father, Steve stepping into the RV camper the family had on site in his welding gear and visibly distraught.  James and his mother were in the dining bench/living room area waiting.  All they knew what that something happened to Tony and an emergency elder’s meeting was called.  So emergency, his father didn’t even have time to change.

Tony is being disfellowshipped and being escorted off the property.

You know, he doesn’t really have family to speak of, where is he going?

It doesn’t matter.  He was caught… (collects himself) … he was caught having sex.  With another man.  He… is a homosexual.

James’s thoughts were then consumed with a hybrid of relief and despair.  All those times Tony flirted with him and patted him on the ass… he thought the assistant welder was just trying to test him, but come to find out it was real… very very real.  Not only that, had he decided to pursue any of the dreamlike fantasies to the slightest degree, he would likewise be in an elder’s meeting with no where to live as Tony would be required to reveal everyone he has ever had sex with, on and off the construction site.

A homosexual.  In MY welding shop.  I shook his hand.  I ate with him.  I took him in.  I thought of him as a son.  (Distraught.)  Who knows what he could have done to James if given the chance.

Steve turns his attention to his son and approaches with the force of a billowing wind.

Did Tony touch you in any way?

No, dad.  I am as shocked as you are.  But no.  I am fine.  Our friendship is… was normal.  I promise.

If you hear anything or find out about anyone else, you let me or one of the elders know immediately.

Of course.

It appears being a homosexual and acting on homosexual desires is tantamount to “roving rapist lurking in the corners ejaculating fantastical whims at unsuspecting closeted gay passers-by.”  James feels suddenly overwhelmed with grief at the missed opportunity but is then brought back to reality that in a witch hunt, he would have been the next person hoisted up to the stake.

It wasn’t his father’s anger that took him by surprise.  In fact he knew that Steve was probably displaying only a fraction of the enmity-fueled exasperation filling the folding corners of the RV trailer.  It was transference from exasperation to heartbreaking disappointment that stunned him – partially because an infestation entered the building site via his welding shop on his watch, and partially because he was so consumed with work he didn’t notice the signs before this happened.  He was doubting everything and everyone by that point.  James hated seeing his father like that and had to leave out the back door to get some air even though the breath of a mile radius was thick in condescending disgust.

Six months. 

The maniacal comparisons of ‘this-sin-is-greater than/less than-that-sin(s)’ would send anyone paying attention to the Organization into a lunacy coma.  Plus, if a year of high school debate had taught him anything, comparison arguing may win the immediate brawl, but it doesn’t make one correct.  What is correct?  He didn’t know.

According to a large red hardcover book entitled “Sex” that he had found at one of the houses his mom cleaned things like masturbation, arousal, erections, ejaculate, precum, etc. were all explained in a fairly straightforward, non-sexual format.  There was a picture of a penis with semen dripping from it what was intensely close, even in the black and white presentation.

He was excited and it was the first time an understanding of his body, chemistry, and the journey through adolescence was explained in a non-naughty way.  The bound collection of Shel Silverstein cartoons from his days at Playboy, not so much.  And it confused him.  Here is an explanation of what he was going through in one hand, and in the other hand was a book of comically erotic drawings and a stack of Hustler  magazines.

I’m not having the response I am suppose to be having.  Wait.  Isn’t that the guy who wrote those poems we would read in elementary school?

By stark contrast every time he would turn to the Live Forever book where one of the collection of pictures showed two guys entangled against a wall in a dark hallway mid-way of disrobing each other, he would get an instant boner.  Could this be Satan or could this just be a natural human response of a teenager… except with boys instead of girls?

The reason why he held so much guilt about his molester and the reason why it took until age 19 for it to come to light, is because it wasn’t the playing around that mattered, it was the holding, being held, the warmth of having someone masculine near.  It was tranquil.  Everything else was just mechanics, especially when one is physically too young to achieve an erection.  As one gets older, they begin to recognize the touch, the closeness of an attractive energy that captivates a person so much it’s impossible not to have an immediate, physical response.  How does one pray against biology?  It is with that empathy toward the country farm boy that James never saw the true danger of what was being done.

Thankfully with David, there is this separation between a regular ‘bromance’, and something more erotic in nature.  That separation was not only possible, but it had worked and is working.  It was something he had to stumble through but it’s success gave him stability, like friends should.  Where is that “so you think you might be a gay” pamphlet that says everything that he is feeling is normal?  If he separates the sex from the companionship he is still required to “not practice”… anything.  Yet, when he combines the two, he achieves unspeakable invigoration and peace.

This is ridiculous.

James throws his pants across the room and picks up The Houston Press.  It’s not something his parents would approve of him reading as outside literature is generally frowned upon.  The Press was how he found out about movies playing, bands, bars, clubs, etc.  It is life going on and in some ways it was the hedonistic display that the Witnesses had instilled into his head, but in other ways it is an expression of life, love, appreciation, and creativity… it is a celebration.  Yes, the gay community is still wrapped in the “eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we will die” mentality because it was only 10 years before they actually were dying.

As a young boy he sat in front of many televisions ending with the one in the corner of the living room at the hand-carved house on Crouch Road watching the world of AIDS unfold with such sadness and connectivity.  It was the first time he understood what “homosexual” was while peering into the television wanting to help each and every lesion-laden man propping up news sensation and save them from this disease, from the unresponsive president, from this news person shoving a microphone in their face and using them as a coat of viewer ratings.

He was so young barely even grasping the remotest concept of sex, and yet he didn’t understand what the political or the sociological impact of the time frame would mean for years to come.  Even as a child his heart would break with the idea of “the wages sin pays is death” that is the graciously polite way of saying “I told you so.”

What were these people’s crime?  James didn’t know at the time.  Slumping in the same location David was sitting the night before he could feel his friend’s lingering depression.  He knew what their crime was, now.  It was acting on their biological responses in the same way their straight counterparts are allowed to do.  Sociological growth eventuality means this paradigm shift would suffer some disruption.  Maybe it is on purpose, maybe it is just evolution.

There in The Press they were advertising films like JEFFERY playing at a normal theater, out in the open for anyone to see.  Gay clubs were advertising right next to straight clubs.  Witnesses going to straight clubs were reproved for putting themselves in danger, but Witnesses going to gay clubs were disfellowshipped for taking the first steps on acting on a vile sin.

Why?  It’s the same exact emotion?

So much didn’t make sense because he didn’t know the other side of the argument.  He recognized the eyes of those men cruising restrooms and such, men starving themselves of that which they emotionally and mentally crave to the point where they go mad with suffocation.  At that point any passing stranger, the scent of any man, the touch of any hairy arm throws one into the bingo cage of justification to have any male-to-male contact no matter what the cost, location, or level of appropriateness.

Is that what I’m going to be at Bethel? Where the preoccupation of sex, whether having it or not having it becomes a more substantial weight then the rest of the world around me?

Six months. 

If he can justify one uncomfortable adventure, then he can certainly justify another.  On the back of The Press there was an ad for a new, gay male fetish facility.

No.

However, if it’s a legal business, they cannot be selling sex.  So, no sex and a glimpse into the gay sex world?  Maybe.  More research is needed as he tends to be meticulously pragmatic in his planning, and there are few immediate decisions made unless one has time to sleep on it.

He curls into the still folded up futon and covers himself with a blanket while adjusting his pillow.

Five months, 29 days.

James P. Perez © 2013

Chapter 4 – Nights of the Round Table

There they are.

How is it possible that they could get so far behind?  The theater is only like five minutes away.

You never knew with those two.

Hi! Sorry we’re late.  We had to stop for some gum for Kristy.

You wanted some too.

Yes, I know.  But it’s in the middle of the night and we are about to eat.  I could have waited.

Maybe you could have waited, but you are not on the receiving end of your breath. I was just trying to help before we met up with the boys.

Oh yeah. You were being polite.  It wasn’t because those sticky Twizzlers with their fake flavors and preservatives are rotting your mouth from the inside out, leaving a trail of stench along the way.

Katy, we did not need that visual. We’re about to eat.

David looks at the man standing near them, watching the scene.  They will be dining with us.

The obviously gay waiter is disappointed that the two similarly dressed young men would not be alone for him to flirt with and takes off to gather two more place settings.

Are you two going to sit down, or what?

Yes, David.  Don’t be inpatient. 

I know.  Plus, I’m still traumatized from the thing.

James and David look at each other and then to the twins.  The waiter returns with two place settings for the girls and grabs his pad.

Diet Coke.

Regular Coke.

Hot tea.

Make that two.

The twins first made their appearance when a young local girl with a crown eclipsed with thick golden blonde (sometimes reddish brown) curls and a dominate force which was perfectly scaled by her incredible observant sense of sweetness.  Amber’s father worked with the building committee and she liked to visit James, so passing through the Maintenance Building was a regular occurrence for her.  After work was filled with talking with him about the various teenage consternations James lovingly referred to as “like scrubber base through the pump truck, so are the daze of our lives.”  And it was true, and a large building project after working hours can be a therapeutic place to talk out one’s problems.

Amber talked about James often, and one day she brought in two identical twins named Kristy and Katy, who only slightly swayed from the ‘perky blonde’ stereotype, but in complete opposite directions.  They, like Amber, were sweet, honest, and excelled in poised diplomacy.  Unlike Amber, they maintained a rather spotless appearance while working on the construction site which speaks more about Amber’s work ethic than anything else. The twins were often quiet at first, but once their engine was started, they were nothing short of heartfelt refreshment.

As the twins and David lived in the same area of east Houston and knew each other from the same congregation, the three of them associated with each other often with a group that included others from various circles of the Organization whether construction, congregation, or relatives.  As James and David hung around more it was only a matter of time before the twins made their way into the story, and around the table.

David still has a look of concern on his face.  Are you going to explain what you were talking about?

Yeah, I’m desperate to find out if you made it out alive.

Well, obviously I made it out alive.

He’s joking, Katy.

I know he’s joking. I’m just saying he didn’t have to worry.

I’m sure he’s not that worried if he’s making a joke.

James and David speak in unison, What happened??

A homeless man walked up to Katy at the gas station.

He was big and ugly. He smelled like pee.

And?

And that was it.

No, it wasn’t it.  He popped out of nowhere and grabbed my arm and didn’t let go.

Where were you?

I was on the other side of the Jeep on the passenger’s side.

What?

Well, he approached the driver’s side.  I thought he wanted to just talk to Katy.

David is beside himself, What man comes out of nowhere in the middle of the night and just wants to talk?

He wasn’t that big.  I thought she could handle it.

James tries to be comforting.  I have no doubt that you can handle yourself.  But it is a bit creepy.

Thank you, James.  It wasn’t a big deal but I appreciate saying that.

We will walk you your Jeep after we eat.

To the well lit parking lot off the street.

The sentiment is nice.

I think she’s being dramatic.

I think you’re being naive.

Have either of you two considered taking a self defense class?

We looked into it before but we got conflicting information.

Dad thinks it’s a good idea…

Yeah, because he’s a father and wants to protect his girls.

But an elder in our congregation said that taking a violent class would be contrary to what we are as Christians.

He said that in a talk, Kristy.  He wasn’t talking about this particular situation.

And generally speaking the consensus is that everyone, brother or sister should stay away from any kind program that teaches a person to be violent. James had heard the argument many times.

Wait.  I’m not going to go against the elders here.  But there is a stark difference between taking jujitsu lessons and self defense classes.  One is an offensive method of aggression while the other is a protection mechanism in case someone is aggressive to you.

Yeah, but both are violent in nature and gives you knowledge on how to harm another individual by using violent-based maneuvers.

Which is what you need whenever someone with violent intent is coming up to you.  It’s not demonstrated in this case because the guy didn’t have violent intent, but seriously… especially for young women.  I would like it if you took a self defense class because, seriously, I wouldn’t know what to do if anything were to happen to either one of you.

James turns to the twins, I agree with him.  I mean, I am trying to make the elder’s argument, and violence is not the way to solve anything, but I honestly agree.  But I will add, talk it over with your dad again and make a decision as a family.

Yeah, but don’t mention this incident because then you’ll get the…

‘Why were you out so late in the middle of Houston’ speech. Yeah I know.

We’ve already gotten that when we got the flat tire.

It’s just an opinion but, you may get shit from the elders, but at least you will be alive.

…and not violently raped, bloody, and left for dead on the side of the road.

David looks blankly at the waiter who is bringing the drinks.

Sorry for the delay.  Is everyone ready to order?

Kristy and Katy both sip from their drinks and almost instinctively trade the glasses without looking at each other.

Did I switch them?  I’m so sorry.

It’s okay.

It happens all the time.

David starts, I’ll have the personal with pepperoni.

Can I have a slice of that?  I love their pepperoni.

Yeah, moocher.  Make it the fourteen inch.

I’ll take the chicken Casar salad.

I’m not sure yet. Go to James.

Twelve inch mushroom pan, please.

Twelve inches, got it.  That leaves you.

I think I want the Italian sub with the dressing on the side.  You’re going to split that with me, right?

Oh my god, I got the freakin’ huge salad.

James and David in unison, It’s a salad.

We good?

Yeah, that works.

Okay, I will get this right out.

David, would you really lose it if something ever happened to one of us?

Katy, I don’t even want to discuss it.  I would… I don’t know, kill myself.

Awe.  That’s sweet.

I personally cannot say the same.  We’ve only been hanging out for a year or so, so I’m less attached…

(Laughter)

James tries to redeem the joke.  But, I know how much you mean to David and on his behalf I have to say I would probably be pretty upset. 

Thank you for that sentimentality.

Both of you now… with the sentiments.

In its reality, the round table discussions were a source of energy for James, fuel for his soul.  He had to pay it some respect.  Honestly, a world without you two is like a world without flowers or sunshine.  You would definitely be missed in a very noticeable way… and moving on would be a very dark and dreary path for anyone who knows you, and recovery would be something I can’t even imagine…

Wow James, that is…

I don’t know what to say.

Yeah James, way to show me up.

It’s true though.

Thank you for that.

I was just going to kill myself, not be some whiny… bitch.

Killing yourself is just as poetic, don’t sell yourself short. 

Do you write poetry?

I bet you would be good at poetry.

I haven’t in a long time.  I kinda go through phases.  Poetry to me is like clearing a brain clog after some event or adventure.

I would like to read some of your poetry.

David sits back in his chair right arm over the chair back and left arm on the table fidgeting the swizzle straw brought with the hot tea.  Speaking of adventure… are you going to tell them?

Tell us what?

David smiles his best douchy “ha-ha fuck you” grin and gets up from the table.

I’m going to go ask the waiter for some waters and pee.

Ew.

James gives a reasonable sheepish avoidance pause in order to give David enough time to get out of earshot.

I’m going to Bethel.

Oh my god that’s great.

You already told us that.

I did?

Yeah, a few weeks back you told us you were going to Bethel.

Yeah, and although we would be sad to see you go, we are going to try to be very supportive.

We will be very supportive.

A lot more supportive than David, that’s for sure.

James laughs and shakes his head.  I’m going to try this again.  A few weeks ago, I applied to Bethel.  This evening, I received my letter of acceptance to Watchtower Farms at Wallkill.

Oh my god!  I’m so sorry I didn’t catch that.

Yeah Katy.

You didn’t catch it either.

Wait, is that why he…

Yes.  So… let’s speed this up before he gets back. 

(In unison) Congratulations.

When do you leave?

In six months.

Wow, that long? 

They are allowing me time to finish up at the Assembly Hall and get the Kingdom Hall Building Committee settled in their new offices, especially since we now have the new standardized Kingdom Hall packages.  They are giving me time to get all that up and running before leaving.

That is very cool.

I bet your parents are so excited.

They are.  My dad couldn’t stop smiling and my mom immediately started calling everyone.  It was almost too much.  I was kind of glad to get away tonight.  It just so happened David was there, I don’t know how I would have told him otherwise.

You just found out tonight?

Kristy, he just said that in his re… announcement.

I’m sorry, it’s just all now sinking in.

Yes tonight.

And David was there? 

How did he react?

He was naked and holding a pork chop.

The waiter is standing with two waters, and places each down carefully.

I don’t even want to know what that means.

Seriously, how did he take it? 

Subtle graciousness.

Wow.

Are you exited? 

Of course he’s excited, Katy.  Why wouldn’t he be?

You just don’t seem that excited, that’s all.

True, usually when people have news like this they would say it right away.

Not wait so long in the evening after a movie, you know.

James smiles.  I’m excited.  It’s just a lot to take in.

If you weren’t that excited you could tell us.

We wouldn’t judge you.

But this has been a goal of  yours, right?

Since birth, it seems like.

It’s a big move. 

Of course he’s excited.  You can see it in his face.  David slides past James and pats the right cheek twice with his palm of his hand before slumping down in his chair, same position as before.

To wrap this up…

Please, don’t change the subject on my behalf.

… For the benefit of those who brought up the subject in the first place, yes, I am very excited, but it is six months away and I have a lot of work to do between now and then.

Plus he’s going to the farm and not the city.

You’re going to the farm?

Oh my god, Kristy, are you not listening to anything he says?

That’s right, you said the farm.  I’m sorry.  It’s a lot to take in, Katy.

Which honestly, I’m not thrilled about the farm itself, but would probably be the healthiest thing for me.

You would get in trouble in the city?

You would sooo get in trouble in the city.

And honestly, now that’s it’s official, it feels a little bit different then when it was just ambient suggestion.  Everyone is always talking about Bethel service and when you’re preoccupied with the Assembly Hall and Kingdom Hall building, Bethel service seems a little limiting at times.  And once you have the letter in front of  you, it makes it… real.

I think I know what you mean.

Because your lifelong goal is to go to Bethel and you got accepted?

No, but like the courses we’re taking or something.  You know.  Getting what was once an idea, official.

I don’t know what she’s talking about,  but I’m proud of you.

I was trying to relate to your emotions, but I’m proud of you too.

David sits up and places his hand firmly on James’s shoulder but does not squeeze.  We are all proud of Brother Perez.  (Pause.)  And now we can change the subject. 

James says “thank you” in his head and looks over at David.  He got it.

David slouches back in his chair.  And both you girls need to stop saying “oh my god” all the time.

I know.  We’re working on it.

Why are you bringing that up?  You’re the one with the dirty mouth…

You too James.

And you’re going to Bethel.

Nobody realizes this, at all, but David in all his… “gotta do the cool thing”-ness really tries hard to make me a better Witness.  He bitches at me when I curse, sends me home when it’s late, even with his “oh my god” suggestion to you…

Stop.

What?  It’s true.

No.  Don’t do that.

What?

Totally fuck up my image like that.  Not to these two.

They’re probably going to tell everyone, now, you know.

Exactly.

You will be a Ministerial Servant soon.

I don’t have the ties for that. 

You have to give up the Doc Martins.

I’m not giving up my Docs.

The twins butt in.  Wait, what?

Tell people that David is actually a good person on the inside.

Who would we tell?

And who would believe us?

Are you actually worried, because we really won’t tell.

Are you two doing the fake conversation thing again? 

On the way here David ran over a basket full of puppies and laughed.

(In unison) Ew!

Nice save, James.

You guys say the worst things.

What is this “you guys” crap?  He’s the one who said it!

Yes, well… we know where he gets it from.

They can’t spread gossip about something they don’t even believe, I suppose.

Thanks guys.

David, we know you’re a good person, it’s why we love you, and we would never do anything to tarnish your bad boy image.

Thank you, ladies.

We were actually really surprised you two hang out so much.  I mean… it’s like…

The bad boy and the golden child being friends…

… a little surprising. 

No offense to either of you.

It’s honestly seems like a odd yin-yang thing going on.

That’s an interesting way of putting it.

All I know is that with your “oh my god’s” and his foul language, I have the best mouth at the table.

The waiter is standing with their food, not sure how to take what he just heard.

Here you go.  Chicken Caesar.  Italian sub.  And here are the two pizzas. 

(Sporadic)  Thank you.

Does everything look okay?

(Sporadic) Yes.  Thanks.

Can I get you anything else?

More napkins.

Napkins.  Right away.

The waiter disappears as suddenly as he arrived.

So what’s the deal with Bethelites and free food?

Yeah, I mean… they eat like kings and one person offers to take them out to eat and they get the most expensive thing on the menu.  And when the check comes they expect someone else to pay.  Remember Michael?

You sound like an apostate, Katy.

Okay I’m not trying to sound apostate, it’s just something I notice.

The waiter returns with napkins.

James had already taken many trips to Bethel and seen the same thing.  You don’t sound apostate.  It’s something I notice too.  I have no clue, but I promise once I get there and find out, I will let everyone know.

Thank you.  (Pause.)  James, when you get to Bethel, don’t become weird.

Katy, my dear, I’m already weird.

I mean weirder.

I will try.

I thought we were changing the subject.

(Unison) We are.

James P. Perez © 2013

Chapter 3 – David

One of the hardest lessons a gay male who is going through puberty has to learn is the understanding and separation between other males they are attracted to sexually, and those who may be sexually attractive, but they are drawn to in a platonic way.  Some relationships are confusing with quixotic intoxication while others are more native and unrefined.  As a person who had many good-looking friends, outward attractiveness no longer became the sole bases for which someone would migrate from the ‘friend’ status to ‘sexually attractive’ desire.

The first time James noticed there even existed a delicate balance between the two fields he failed miserably.  His heart did at least.  It was the senior year in high school he developed an uncontrollable crush on the only male actor in the previously mentioned high school one-act play who also happened to be the current junior varsity quarterback.  James tried to keep everything measurable and distant but after ignoring people’s inner energies for years, a slap across the face comes tsunamiing into his life in full force in the form of a muscular six foot statue with golden curly locks, and the most calming blue eyes that made James feel as if he just stepped into the cold ocean from the a hot deserted beach.

He was kind, nice, gentle and tolerant which always makes things worse for someone battling with trying to be not gay in a religiously unaccepting world and carry that principle to those in worldly settings like public schools.  It was burdensome, even with the “Ozzie and Harriet” household he had been raised under. The more James dived into the guy’s mind, the more excitably serene and welcoming it became.  In short of simplistic description, the guy was pure.

James wanted more, but he wasn’t sure what he wanted more of, and the delicate growth between the extents of I really just like hanging around you and please be my boyfriend now were blurry, cluttered, and incomprehensible in it’s lack of interpretation.  What signs meant what were warping the wayward closeted Mexican and it was displayed in ways he was not aware.  So much so, it caused a phone call.

James, this is Mrs. Phillips. I know you have a fondness for my son. And that is understandable. We are very proud of him.

James sat down on his waterbed that dominated the small room in the house on Sundown Meadow.  He wondered if it was possible to drown in the water and make it look like an accident.   In the panicked, short responses she perhaps felt the anticipation on the other end of the phone but still managed to state something that would stop the air and change his life forever.

It’s okay to feel the way you do toward guys. We have all been there. The Lord knows I have.

She gave a half laugh.  She was revealing something of herself in order to relate to how James was feeling.  It was not a matter of being a disgusting fag with unnatural desires.  The desires were natural, simply misplaced with this particular person… but not because of the person’s gender.  But as to the feeling itself, it was something of a natural progress.

She continued:  Her son, so far as she knew, did not feel the same way as James. But it was okay, and her whole family… husband included, felt it was something that was acceptable, and not something he needed to be ashamed of.

She then stepped over the limits of good (true) Christian boundaries and invited him to their church on Sunday, followed by a large spread at their house afterward where he could socialize with people like the Phillips family and meet other friends who felt the same way they did.  As a serious sin to go to other churches, even for weddings and funerals, the conversation had to be stopped there or else the demons would fly from the phone at any moment and give more layers to James’s already growing problems.

Rocking gently on the waterbed wasn’t helping.  James needed stillness and he finally moved to sitting on the floor for a while trying to digest the conflict of what had occurred.  First, he wasn’t presenting himself as a Jehovah’s Witness should so that no one at any time would ever think to invite him to another, demonic church.  Second, his feelings for his school mate were coming across so strong, it was impossible to determine what James’s intentions were… and they needed to be clarified.  Third, James had no clue what his intentions were and he had no clarity.

He felt like a failure on many levels but upon reestablishing some walls, he and his friend were able to continue on with the play tour, pretty much as good friends.  On the bus ride back home from placing third at State, he and James slept in the back seatless part of the school bus, foot to head, slightly intertwined with each other with the two girls who they spent the night with on either side of them. Those seated in the front were laboriously confused as rumors of the boys were neither confirmed nor dispelled.  News of the four-way sleeping situation spread. The four high schoolers laughed at the inside joke, and life moved on.  James graduated and moved on to Rosenberg, the guy later made star quarterback.

I bet Mrs. Phillips has quite a few stories she is more than unwilling to share.

James giggles about her often when thinking about the importance of being empathetic rather than sympathetic.  Knowing the mental state of someone and reacting accordingly is a far superior humanitarian level of appropriate response than the simplistic, sometimes rote and distantly unhelpful voices that sympathy can portray.

Where this particular situation happened to be saved from the binds of obsessive attention, James was not really willing to go through that insanely dangerous path again. Where he is most proud of this succeeding is with his best friend, David.  Initially the conflict came with the idea that this somewhat typical brooding young man who was work-out conscious, five-o’clock shadow bearing ‘cool guy’ also happened to be four years younger than James and was only 15 when he started working on the Rosenberg, Texas Assembly Hall project, 16 when they started hanging out.  From the beginning this was a no-brainer for James – David was going to be a friend only.  Both guys were easily bored with the world around them.  This could be wickedly fun.  True, David wasn’t bad on the eyes, but there was no way this was ever going to be an “iffy” situation.

And it wasn’t for all the years they would hang out, go out, trash Houston, and victimize countless waiters with their off-color banter and sexual innuendo.  David was bit of a douche and kept everyone at a distance.  But even though it seemed like he was aloof regarding the world around him it was actually more of a running presentation of calculated times and sequences.  All of which, always fell in place for him.

Arrive too early, people will talk with you.  Arrive on time, people will have expectations in you.  Arrive slightly late, people will notice your arrival.  Arrive late, you can sneak in without being noticed, scope out the crowed and read everyone.  Arrive too late, and people think you’re a jerk and you’re just in time to hit the next event.  The goal was always to make it somewhere in between the last two time frames unnoticed.  David’s silent shuffling and out-of-reach presence made him somewhat of a powerhouse wherever he went.  For James who was more sensitive to people and the world around him, David made a very good shield so that James was able to see so many aspects of the world, people, crowds, pedestrians, horrified waiters, and old ladies helped with their groceries without being overwhelmed by the energy each of these people produced thanks to this odd mix of Abercrombie prick and southern boy showing respect for his elders.

And he was good at everything he touched – piano, guitar, creative writing, math, science, engineering… anything anyone threw at him.  He even knew a bit of AutoCAD and sat down at James’s station one time to successfully fuck up everything in record time.  It was all genius, all the time.

What made this less of a delicate balance was that there was no sustainability in the conflict mentally.  Once the “friend” switch was pulled it was there for a lifetime and if there is anything James learned from his father is that loyalty is a man’s second best attribute right after integrity and before chivalry.

These are three principles James has never struggled with, they came naturally.

But in his gay mind he had finally achieved perfect symbiotic success.  Here was a person who by all intents and purposes on paper (or in picture) should be someone sexually attractive and in reality he was not… not to James.  He was a friend and for that deserved respect and protection like any other friend.  After all, this is a person who is reserved and did not let a lot of people inside his head, and when James got a glimpse of the party, he… they decided to have some fun within the confines of a typical “bromance”.  It was comfort on obscurity snapped into close clarity.  It was intensity of persiflage set against the soft pillow of knowledge that someone of consistency and strength would always, without question be there when you dive bomb uncontrollably.

And there wasn’t any weirdness.

This is it.  This is what normal guys are suppose to feel like with each other.

James admits to himself it seems a little limiting, but he went with it.  He was amazed that it didn’t take more than six months of hanging out before he realized that aside from the high school crush-gone-crazy, David was the first guy he ever loved, truly loved, but not with the heart so much.  He loved him like he did his father and for such James world regularly refer to the love he had for each of them synonymously.  He was family.  He was best friend.  He was the person who took his side in a fight before asking what the fight was about.  He would come to help before even knowing what help was needed.

Differences would include James and David showing up to the same events continually, accidentally dressed similarly as opposed to Steve’s either in welding gear or a suit and tie.  Also, James didn’t curse in front of his father.

The night James receives his ‘good news’ starts like any other typical evening.  On the construction site at 5 o’clock p.m. the announcement is made that dinner or supper is being served.  The announcement was inconsistent depending on who was making the announcement, what part of the country they were from, and what their individual family customs involved.  James always anticipates the revelation of whether they are serving the hearty “dinner” or the more elegant “supper” for the evening.

David swaggers near the maintenance building still dirty from whatever concrete production was being poured that day.

Hey. Wanna go to a movie tonight?

Yeah.

Good.  Can I change over at your house?

It is never the first question that is the issue, it is always the second.  James’s family had moved from Sundown Meadow to Parrot street in Rosenberg in order to devote more time to the Assembly Hall construction.  As  a place with a larger, more permanent bathroom facilities then the temporary trailers on site, one would always prefer the hot water of the house over the RV.

Arriving home at this time means Blanche would be making dinner (supper?) for the family.  James didn’t call to announce David is coming over, but one thing is always true with Blanche:  The less someone wanted her food, the more she insists on feeding them.  Home cooking in endless supply.

Hi, mom.

Oh James!  You scared me half to death.  Hi David.  How are your parents?

Just fine Sister Perez.

I saw your father running around all over the place the other day.  Please tell them I said ‘hi’.

I will.  And listen, don’t let me interrupt your dinner, I am just here for a shower and change.

We’re going to a movie later.

Well James, take your dinner and go eat at the table.

Yes James. Do what you’re mother tells you. Eat at the table.  Evil grin.

Thanks.  Both of you.  Hurry up so we’re not late.

David, have you eaten?

No ma’am, but I’m going to pick something up at the theater.  Please don’t worry about me.

You can’t eat there, it will cost a fortune.  I will make you a plate.

Please Sister Perez.  That is not necessary.

Nonsense.  Go get cleaned up and I’ll bring you a plate.

Wait, how come he gets to eat in my room??

Because he’s company. 

Thank you Sister Perez.  I’ll be waiting… in James’s room.

James and David both laugh to themselves, although it seems Blanche may have gotten the last laugh in this case.  James finishes his food and heads to his room to change as David comes in from the shower, dripping wet, with nothing but a towel on.  In a small gesture of delicate respectfulness, James positions himself so he’s facing the opposite direction toward the window.

There is a knock at the door.

Boys?  David?  Here is your plate.  Blanche opens the door and barely turns the corner.

Thank you.

Oh, David.  I didn’t know there was public nudity in here.  Put some clothes on before you eat.  And try not to make a mess.

I will and thank you, again.

Technically we are not in public, mom.

It’s still indecent.

Steve enters the room and kisses Blanche on the lips.

Steve!  Don’t sneak up on me like that.

Steve looks at the scenario and gives a half smile.  Son. David.

Hi Dad.  Welcome home.

It’s good to see you again, Brother Perez.  I apologize for the… public nudity.

I don’t usually come home to find my wife with a naked man.

Steve!  Let these two get ready. They’re headed to the movies.

Wait.  James.  We had our elder’s meeting tonight.  And, we have this for you.

Steve produces a long envelope from his suit coat pocket and hands it to James.

He opens it and starts smiling.

I was accepted to Bethel.  And my entrance date is on my birthday to give me time to wrap things up here.  That’s in…

Six months.

Congratulations son.

Oh James!  I’m so proud of you!

As everyone hugged James, he stops at David who was holding a plate of pork chops with sides, still wearing nothing more than a towel.

We can hug later.

Yeah, David responded with his lips widely pressed together in a perfect horizontal line causing his cheeks to raise while his eyes moved in two-blinks-at-a-time repetition.

James takes the family away from David’s nondiscriminatory non-attire and into the living room where there was joy and gushing of happiness and future illustriousness via all the blessings of Jehovah.  After a while James realized there was a movie to be seen and broke away back to his room.

He walks in to see his friend sitting on the black futon in a typical white Hanes tee-shirt and black Calvin Klein boxer briefs, crossed legs with the feet under the thighs eating the pork chop with his fingers.  His barrier was down as was his head.  James approached with caution.  David was such a strong shield and a extraordinary mind, and yet so fragile at the same time.  No matter what anyone ever said about him when they started hanging out, there is an incredible amount of goodness found within that mind.  He may not prove it on an individual level, but globally he’s one of the best thinkers in that regard.

Any bad boy image was just that, image.  James found it remarkable that any assumptions placed on his friend were just projection from viewers too busy to take a deeper look, too shallow to care about what they saw, or too ignorant to comprehend him and insisted on judging a substantially decent person even when he just stood still.

I take it that went well.  

Yeah.  Mom’s calling people now.

Did you  need to…

No, we can go.  Here, let me take that for you since you’re still… you know.

Indecent?

Exactly.

Tell your mom thanks.  I couldn’t finish the vegetables because…

Yeah.  I know.

James P. Perez © 2013