Backseat Devil

Tag: gay

Chapter 21 – Another First

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

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

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

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

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

On Fridays we have juggling class.

What?  Don’t tell me that.

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

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

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

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

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

That I am.  You are too, though.

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

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

Thank you.

And you know how to make me feel better.

Good to know.

And you know what would feel even better than better…

No, James responds half laughing.

I want to give YOU a massage this time.

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

You’re going to give me the massage?

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

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

Deal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can I ask you a question?

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

Promise you won’t freak out.

It’s you’re night.  Ask away. 

Can I kiss you?

Of course.  Why wait till now to ask?

I don’t know.  I’m shy sometimes.

Shy?  Please, you’re hot as fuck.

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

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

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

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

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

Oh my god.  That is how you kiss?

One of the ways, he said laughing.

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

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

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

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

Will you fuck me?

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

Yeah.  You’ve done this before, right?

James pauses.  Once or twice.

Then I’m in good hands.

You sure?

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

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

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

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

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

I’m sorry your ass hurts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes sir, James smiles.

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

What? 

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

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

James P. Perez © 2013

Chapter 20 – The Palisade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am.  Can we talk?

Yeah, come walk with me.

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

You should get your eyes checked, Aaron said.

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

Wow.  I didn’t know that.

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

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

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

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

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

Yep.

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

Thanks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s like the thing with the tours…

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

And you did like 20 in one month.

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

Whatever.

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

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

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

What happened?

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

I think I got talked to about that today.

You think?

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

That was it?  You got talked to in passing?

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

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

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

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

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

What can you do?

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

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

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

But James, the room.  We have…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Relief.

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

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

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

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

Yeah, I could use some work.

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

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

Hey bro, what’s up?

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

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

He laughed?

Yeah.  He thought it was funny.  Why?

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

Woah, dude.  Sucks to be him.

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

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

That was it?

Yeah.  Sorry to bother you.

No biggie.  Later.

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

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

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

Will do, James answered with a half laugh.

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

I’ll get on it.

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

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

Hello?

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

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

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

You know about the event?

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

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

Sure thing, Brother Kelly.  And thank you. 

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

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

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

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

Brother Perez, is it?

Yes sir.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This party was at their home?

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

He is the association with such people.

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

Feeling the pressure?

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

And…?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good, I’m glad to hear you say that.

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

You said that was Bechman’s hall?

Yes.

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

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

I understand that.

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

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

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

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

Is this really a dismissible offense?

Most certainly.

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

I didn’t say we were sending anyone home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James.

Yes?

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

He really does.

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

Thank you Brother Kelly.

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

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

Am I staying? 

Yes, Aaron.  You’re staying.

Thank you.  Thank you so much.

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

You bet I will, Aaron says with relief.

See you at home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

I’m glad, Aaron.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But tomorrow is Friday.

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

You’re right.

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

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

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

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

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

James P. Perez © 2013

Chapter 19 – Meet the Family

He’s not a brother, you know.

What do you mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Precisely

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

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

As I am learning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kyle fits in your car?

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

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

Even though we are all here now?

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

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

For example, a vehicle.

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

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

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

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

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

Before she begins, she waves Aaron over a well.

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

Oh, you mean…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whoa Chief.  Hey guys.  What’s up?

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

Oh, cool.  Where is the little bro?

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

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

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

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

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

Awesome! I’ll be there at 12:45!

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

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

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

That early?  Okay, bro. No biggie.

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

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

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

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

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

(Laughter.)

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

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

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

Shut up!

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

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

Don’t make assumptions, James broke in.

About who?

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

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

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

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

Aaron tuned his head to the driver, James!

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

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

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

You two are going to hell, Jake said.

Jesus!  Two heathens and an apostate.

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

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

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

Little Brian?

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

That’s right, until…

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

(Pause.)

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

Wow.

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

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

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

Oh my god.

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

You’re dad talks like that?

We have very similar voices.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everything you say, can be reported.

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

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

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

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

Sister ______ was extremely grateful and said so many times.

James P. Perez © 2013

Chapter 15 – Attack of the Clones

No, mom… I’m fine, really.  It’s just been a strange adjustment but everything is going well.

It was unnerving how his mother could take the smallest bit of trepidation in his voice and turn it into the biggest crisis of contemporary history.  This time she may actually be correct, but he wasn’t sure. There is too much to absorb and too little time to digest before he gives any fluttery thoughts of “oh fuck this was a mistake” any credence, and he didn’t want his mother jumping the gun on this just yet.

He stands at the red brick with white column ‘A Building’, the oldest constructed dorm building at 900 Red Mills Road, Wallkill, New York among the desk slots of requisitions and time slips decorated in the best 1970’s ‘upscale farm cottage’ cream with splashes of barn red decor using one of the two pay phones next to the staircase looking at a row of young men waiting to call their own families about their own well being in most militaristic compound outside the military.

First month heading into the winter of 1995 it is difficult to get used to the schedule and the drones’ cadenced movements in constant force.  Mondays were the private Watchtower study meeting onsite for only Bethelites that took over an hour and a half.  It was kept private because application of the information found in the Watchtower sometimes have structural application to the organization that common publishers attending the Kingdom Halls across the United States should know or need to know.  Tuesday was the two-hour normal congregation meetings in a town 45 minutes up the I-87 tollroad to a struggling congregation in Saugertiese, New York.  It was recently formed when the original, larger church was divided into two smaller and unequipped groups without having a proper balance between local publishers, local elders, and Bethel volunteers due to the overbearing persistence of a tall, balding force of a Bethel elder and constant form of friction known as Brother Bechman. Currently the Congregation of South Saugerties, New York was taking one out of every three newly inducted volunteers meaning the congregation had no mid-week support and a large number of untrained green newbies flooding the few native families on the weekend in a disproportionate convergence.

Wednesday was relatively free (usually spend as studying time), Thursday was the hour bookstudy at the compound in the room of Brother and Sister Bechman in the ‘B Building’ on the opposite side of complex, and Friday the young brothers were encouraged to stay with a family from their local congregation for the weekend.  Saturdays was spent going door to door in field service, Sunday mornings had the two hour meetings of bible discourse (called a “Talk”) and the public Watchtower study that the Bethelites had prepared for the Monday prior.  Sunday evening were the hour to two hour orientation meetings for new volunteers.

It is certainly difficult for the natural night owl to get use to the morning routine: Up at 6:00 am to fight for the communal showers; Dress in button-up shirt and tie with slacks; Walk 1/2 a mile to the main complex to one’s assigned seat in the dining room for breakast and morning text; 15 minutes of discussion and assigned comments about a bible verse (known as the “daily text”); prayer; food is served; 30 minutes to eat; announcements; final prayer; be ready to work by 8:00 am.

For the first two weeks the new Bethelites are in housekeeping duty for the day until they are given their permanent assignment. This is to give them a sense of appreciation and respect to the care of their dorm rooms and the women who maintenance them daily. They are housekeepers… not maids.

For the afternoon, 12:00 pm the bell rings and at 12:15 pm prayer and food is served with announcements and pleasantries. If the volunteer is a ‘grunt worker’ they have 15 minutes to shower and change back into shirt-and-tie before walking to the dining hall. 1:00 pm is back to work until 5:00 pm with dinner prayer at 5:15 pm.

Meetings at the congregation start at 7:30 pm with the orientation meetings on Sunday starting at 6:30 pm. If Saugerties was 45 minutes away and it is encouraged for all publishers to be there at least 30 minutes before every meeting, it was necessary to leave the Farm by 6:15 pm which was difficult for those on a long day or filthy from working on a production line. Construction workers were a near impossibility.

It was also required for all new volunteers to read several manuals for which there were tests, memorize the list of rules (‘no wrestling in underwear or back massages between roommates’ was rule #5), keep up with congregation meeting preparation and participation, read the entire bible (The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures) in the first year, and maintain a publisher’s average hours in door to door field service (10 hours a month, although only maintaining the minimum was overbearingly frowned upon).

Everything was provided for onsite… so much so that the general term for anything not Witness was considered “outside” and spoken with a air of hesitation and disdain. Haircuts were on a three week schedule, laundry was once a week, the commissary provided outside luxuries like Pop Tarts or frozen foods alongside necessities like toothpaste and deodorant all at cost. If one needed clothes, there is always something available in the ‘grab bin’. Also included was basketball court, small weight room, and pay phones found at each building.

None of this was particularly overwhelming, but in a compound of 2000-or-so young men all trying to out-Disney Disney… it was difficult to wade through the “bro’s” and “chief’s”, winks and finger guns, and find any genuine emotion outside the drone worker bee with a shrink-wrap thrillness to be doing Jehovah’s work in a specialized avenue expressed with perfectly maintained glossed-over smiles and vacant expressions of sight where their biggest highlight of the week was ice cream being served at lunch. Everyone was just playing their cog and any sincerity as a human being was pushed out via overworking an under-appreciating and a redundant weary lifestyle, once again under the weight of humility in Jehovah’s service. He had already noticed immediately that having any in depth discussion of opinions was a struggle in tugboatting a ground battleship. Young men across the compound seemed almost afraid to have a personal opinion… about anything… at all.

The Farm is referred to as such because in 1963 upon its purchase, is initial responsibility of the self-reliant religion was to be an actual functioning farm for the main production work of printing Watchtowers and Awake! magazine, bibles, tracts, and various other publications found at Myrtle and Adams streets in Brooklyn, New York. The Farm raised pigs, produce, fully functional dairy, slaughterhouse, and processing facilities which then trucked the foods to Brooklyn. Beginning in 1973 the function of the farm began to change when production of the magazines for the United States outside New York City was moved to the farm while printing for the local witnesses, books, bibles, and tracts remained in Brooklyn. Shipping via United States Postal Service became more cost effective than private shipping through the New York harbor. In fact, the Watchtower Farms is located outside New Paltz, New York, but use Wallkill as their address since the towns postal station is better equipped to handle the amount of mail the Jehovah’s Witness compound than the small SUNY college town of New Paltz. Shortly afterward, there was an increased need for organized computers and databases, and the Farm seemed safer than in the big city, so the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society Computer Department was formed at the Wallkill location while the administration of the Witnesses and the Governing Body who makes the decisions for the religion and it’s beliefs remained at the created complex collectively known as 124 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn, New York (1+2+4=7, a biblical number of all things Godly).

James has worked with computers for most of his life, and this finds himself labeled as one with a “special skill” and was assigned to the computer department’s receiving desk to get to know the department through the stockroom… a first step of every computer department worker.

Mom, please don’t worry. Look… I’m just going to look at it like the challenge it is, no big deal. I’ll get over it.

From the entry he sees someone out of the corner of his eye… pale skin, sharp features, long-by-Disney-standards black hair parted in the middle, radiating with the sunlight shooting from his half smile, big chocolate eyes trying to absorb his surroundings with a childlike wonderment while still maintaining the smooth cool hippie vibe in the bounce of his black textured Doc Martins grounding his laid-back stride. They briefly lock eyes… and smile cordially.

James almost drops the phone.

Air.

Sanctuary.

A no-drone.

Please don’t be a clone…

What? Who’s a clone?

Everyone is a clone!  He seems to exhale the sentence with unusual force. Only then he realizes there is a group of men still waiting to use one of the two phones, all with wide eyes. The neighboring phone user throws an annoyed look.

…which is a good thing… it keeps us unified in this… spiritual warfare … against… the world… Look, mom, I’ve got to go.

He isn’t sure whether everyone was looking at him because of the burst out or because he just seemingly eye-banged the new Seattle-grungish newbie, but either way he felt it was time to exit.

Love you too.  Tell dad I miss him.  (Click.)

He hangs up the phone and dashes up to A314 on the third story while the new guy turned the corner to the right on the first floor. He sits on this bed and turns on the television to something pointless.

Baseball. Women. Grandma…

James P. Perez © 2013

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 13 – The First

Through the years of puberty and adolescence he felt he was missing out on a greater emotional consciousness. Guys would talk about women with such longing that seemed to border on seasickness-like continuity.  If they were Witnesses they couldn’t wait for the day of their marriage for what the evening will bring.  The world is different in many ways, but all religious fundamentalists across the platform think straight sex before marriage is a grievous (albeit natural and thus forgivable) sin.  The “wicked” world assigned many generalities to sex, but the two most common were either yet another distraction of  avoidance, or a spiritual-like reverence.

The straight guys at Feathers talked about their women with substantial and weighty fragility and honor as if sex is one of the most delicate dance interactions between two humans that could lead to new levels of appreciation, or spin the dynamic into treachery.  The payback of such a strong return originating from something so delicate means going into a sexual situation requires an adult application of forethought.  This is different than the almost disrespectful eagerness that comes from some men who wait until their wedding night.  Any person with a strong sexual maturity in the straight world came with a remarkable knowledge-base of humanity in general.  There is a noticeable pattern that straight men who had sex regularly have no real objection to gay couples getting married.

He previously assumed all worldly men were ravishing hard-ons of discrepancies, the opposite of those who were blessed by having Jehovah God in their lives making them strong enough to wipe every evil thought from one’s being.  As he is a miserable failure on this, he then developed a two-prong problem:  Not only does Jehovah not love him enough to make his path of coping easier, he did not love Jehovah enough in order to properly convince his God to help.

1 Corinthians chapter 7:9 says, “But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” (ESV, 2001).  It was a scripture that never made sense to him.  Who would burn with so much passion that Paul… anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-fun, big-stick-carrying possible friend of Dorothy Paul, would even have to admit that sometimes two people’s energy are so intertwined, getting married would be LESS of a distraction?  He had never found anyone of this sort of arousal, especially not in women.

He had been having sex within the boundaries of his set rules, with a few minor exceptions due to the idea that the situation just ‘aesthetically’ called for alteration in the plan to take advantage of… opportunities.  He is having fun and learning, but at no time has he been so inflamed with passion the result would be a burning sensation in the chest or a longing to have a person closer to him than was physically possible.  He had certainly seen more than enough people burn with passion for him, but it was hardly anything he would return in feeling or desire.  Some people he had a fondness for, but mostly there was an aesthetic additive to the mix and less from-the-gut-to-the-heart-and-by-pass-the-mind electrical explosion, the path of which… some people have described as “a fire in the chest”.

His passion is art.  Art is his only creative indulgence-driven outlet he had for his emotions.  It is never going to amount to anything… it is ART.  No one in Jehovah’s Organization makes money on ART.  It is an argument he couldn’t win, and it is true, all the good art made Witnesses think too much… and one cannot spend brain energy on the opinions of a non-Witness artistic expression and their point of view on a world that is going to be destroyed at Armageddon.  Any stray from the End of Days “reality” is a moment where Satan can hijack one’s mind and heart, so what is the point in paying attention?  There is no point.  Painting will always be nothing more than an expensive hobby for him.

He related the passion of attacking the canvas with the way a newly married man would attack his new wife’s body for the first time she undressed for him, for them, for the sex they were about to enjoy. Relating it to creating a painting is as much intense zeal as he could give anything.  Art made him happy, but he never felt he had that layer of joy a straight guy has when fucking a woman for the first time.  That level of excitement and anticipation was still evasive to him.

It was evasive to him until the moment Ollie is sitting on his lap.

The entire day of waiting and daydreaming, the nervousness and playfulness, the dances between innocence and mischievousness, so young in their presentation but still carried enough strength so that the room filled with flickering light the moment the blue-eyed escort straddled his legs and relaxed the weight of his body on the thighs.  The world beyond the walls disappeared into frozen nothing, birds stopping in mid-air or the Third Ward stopping in mid-nothingness.  There was a candle-like glow emanating from between them… almost visible between the separation of the pale and tanned skins.

They move in closer but hold still, blue and hazel intensely focused on each other.  There is a foreign thumping coming from… near.  He wasn’t sure… it was…

Ollie’s heart.

He stopped to appreciate the reverberation, as if it was the first time he ever heard a heartbeat before… or even cared.  There is a moment where intelligence shuts off and the primal kicks in.  Then intelligence comes back and say “Hey, why don’t we work together on this?”  He noticed a lot of guys, gay or straight, never really get to the part of the conversation where evolution and the evolved work together in their process.  His mind bouncing between the two aspects of male humanity in a sexual situation was like bouncing between the Tasmanian Devil and a seasoned ballet dancer.

The kiss was known territory and yet it still hit with more punch than it did the first time.  The kisses earlier in the day were the only allowable forms of affection and interest… a tease of what may never happen.  The kiss now is the beginning of sensual discourse, a start, a diving board, a form of balancing and synchronizing the two energies so that they can coordinate and proceed as one.

The decade of the inability to relate to his straight counterparts finally came to an end.  Often he would ask himself Who would put themselves through all that pain? about people who met, fell in love, and got married in the time it takes an Olympian to clear the 100 meter dash. While watching the room’s reflection in the blue ocean of Ollie’s eyes he finally gets it.  If this is what a heart filled with passion felt like, he had two forms of releasing it into the universe:  Artwork, or sex.  Currently there is no canvas to be found, but there was a white inked hottie, and at that moment he attacked his companion in a way he has never attacked a stretched piece of canvas before, causing the lighting in the room to shift from a candle-lit glow to a vividly dramatic spotlight.

Once naked, the primal comes up again, “Don’t worry, I’ve got this” it seems to say.  He doesn’t know how he’s doing the things he’s doing, but he’s doing them… and he’s doing them well.  They roll around, laugh, and increase in momentum.  Brilliant and beautiful, both right there matching movement to movement as if they were longtime dance partners who knew each others steps as if they were his own.  The younger more experienced escort let himself go and would take control just long enough for James to catch his breath.  The power of energy bounced back and forth several times until James took final control.  The home stretch, the feeling of the inevitable.  He had felt it so many times but now it was a mix of awesome and “fucking-hell”.  Sex always had a well plotted story line with a beginning, middle, and end.  This time he didn’t want it to end.  Why should there even be an end?  He thought about ways to last longer.  Baseball.  Women. Grandma.  Ugh!  Nothing is helping!  For the first time he realized, when one is with someone they find impossibly sexy, the whole world becomes very sexy… even Grandma with her perfectly pressed hair and well moisturized skin and pinched-rouged cheeks.  If the world was sexy, then nothing will prevent what is going manifest according to the way these two incredible energies deem it.  It is an ignited primal instinc out of his control.

And it was beautiful.

For the power of the passion he could not hold it in any longer and completed the intense live performance beyond art inside his companion while simultaneously slamming the blonde head into the wall as James stretched for the slightly-out-of-reach window sill over them in a final act of attempting to leverage stability for the exhaustive release.

Pause.

I’m sorry for that.

Damn.

Are you okay?

I am… just fine.  Thank you.  

Did you cum?

No, man.  I’m not going to cum tonight, but I definitely wanted you to.

You… are so fucking sexy.  I’m sorry I couldn’t last longer.

Man, I’m gonna have to try you out sometime when I’m not on drugs.

James responds with a kiss.  That, is going to be my favorite complement ever.  I promise.

Can we just lay here?  Ollie asks with a remarkably innocent delivery.

Of course.  James lays his head on his white skin covered with nothing more than a few tattoos and a rainbow bracelet on top an exposed mattress drenched in pleasure.  But we’ve been gone for over an hour.

Shit!  We should go.  We will cuddle later.

I’m holding you to that.

James needed to clean up a bit.  Ollie, in ardent joy, decided not to clean up… anything.  Both guys stood in the doorway of the restroom and kissed once more.   It was just as intense, but sad.  This kiss is a ending.

Arriving back at the party started with crossing the pregnant woman once again.

We’re back.

How are you holding up?

I’m fine.  But is it possible to get a glass of water?

Of course.  Is that pillow enough for you? 

If you can spare another that would be great. 

We’ll be right back.

I thought about going up there, but there’s just so much moaning.  So I just drank some from the faucet down here.

Do not go up there.  Jack would freak out if he knew there was a pregnant woman in his home.

At the top of the stairs he was glad to see the cute astronaut has made it free of the confusing perplexities of the kitchen’s diabolical puzzle of mixed drinks is now trying to tackle the inept failed mechanical engineering of the VCR to get the porn back up and running.  There are less people in the living room, but he’s not sure how many as the sight from the bedroom distracted him.

Jack was tied to the bed, right hand to the headboard and the left hand to the foot board, ass facing the hallway, and being tagged-teamed by Derrick, the skinny boy with full erection, Ben, and a cucumber.  Apparently there was a moment when everyone went flaccid and God’s vegetation had to take over.

Ollie was already in the room announcing our successful return.

Oh thank god.  Pack the pipe.  Quick.  It’s right in there with the… no, the other side.

James comes up behind Derrick who was standing beside Ben.  I didn’t spend your money. 

Dude, this is crazy.  He gets on the stuff and nothing is big enough.  And I’ve already came like, three times.  So has he.

It’s wild.  Ben says.  

By the way, your wife is doing fine.  I’m going to get her some water and hopefully find a pillow that doesn’t have lube on it.

Serious?  Thanks man!  Tell her I’m going to check on her in a sec.

It might be a little bit, he’s being reloaded.

Damn.

Wait, she told you we were married?

Yeah.

We’re not married.  We are going to get married.  I’m just… you know… trying to do the right thing.

James had no reaction except he wanted to hug Ben and tell him to run, run far far away.

That’s good of you.  Don’t worry about her, I’ll make sure she’s okay.

Thanks so much, man.

Derrick stops him.  Can you get me some water too?

What am I?  The fucking waitress?

You’re the only one with your clothes on and not covered in lube.

So make yourself useful.

Hey, I just make deliveries.  I’ve made my money for the night.  You two still have to keep working.

Ben gives him a half punch in the arm.  Dammit… and for another two weeks for the amount of shit you brought.

Sorry.  James rubs both guys shoulders and shakes his head.  No one will every believe this.  My first crack orgy and I’m the Mexican help.

Everyone laughs.

Jack perks up.  What are you laughing at?  Are you laughing at me?

No, we’re laughing at James.

Oh.  Then carry on.  Did you take any for yourself?

No, we had to go to a few places because of the amount, then we came straight back here.

Well take some for yourself.  There’s plenty.

James leaves the room, finds a discarded pillow in the corners of the living room, and retrieves a plastic cup of water for the lying whore downstairs.  He doesn’t talk with her because of a non-existent pressing matter he must tend to.  Then he takes the time to straighten out the single-occupant living room, ending with starting the VCR for the young man so he can not focus on it and not stroke his not erect penis.  Might as well check the kitchen.

The kitchen wasn’t bad.  The cooler was left open.  Some tops to a few bottles were missing.  Nothing tragic.  Ollie comes in and gives him a kiss.  Stop being the maid!

James smiles.  I really want to see you again.

I really want to see you, too.

They did a hurried exchange of pager numbers using whatever scraps of paper they could find.  They talk for a bit more.  James doesn’t hear a single word or even knows what is coming out of his mouth.  There is a sharp, wonderful monotone constant in the ears that warmly numbs the skin and the brightness of the kitchen has been lowered in volume so that it is nothing more than a shadowy moot point.  Eventually they stop talking and just hug.  Enjoying the them.

I have a fantastic idea, is heard from the other room.  Ollie!

The two guys join the gathering crowd around a tall naked Jack freshly tweaked.

I am moving this party… to New Orleans. 

That’s my cue to go, James says.

I will pay for everyone’s ticket.  You don’t need to pack anything, we’re only going to be there for about two or three days.  We will get you new stuff there.  Who’s in?  You?  You?  James?  New Orleans. 

I can’t.  I have work.  Real work.  Not Feathers.

Real real work? 

Yes.  I have actual responsibility beyond all… this.

Good.  I’m not going to compete with real work.  Anyone else?  It better be legit.

I as well.  Derrick raises his hand.  I work with James.

So you both work at Feathers and you both do real work as well.

Derrick was making himself a Jehovah’s Witness and an Assembly Hall volunteer in one fragmented sentence.  It was hardly believable.  Jack doesn’t know the back story, but there was no way Derrick is going to pass for an office worker at a religious-based construction hierarchy.

I work in computer drafting, and he works with my father in the welding shop.  We all work for the same construction company.

You work… in a real welding shop?  HOT.  Okay, real work people must stay here in the real world.  Ollie, gather up… whats-his-name and the other guy.  Ben.  You coming?

Let me go ask my girl.

You have to ask permission?

Well, she’s pregnant and really far along. 

Okay, well if you need to use the phone, go ahead.

No, she’s just downstairs.

Wait.  WHAT?  There’s a pregnant woman… in my house??  Oh my… GOD!!

It was more ‘disgust’ than ‘freak out’.

Ollie walks up to James as Derrick gathers his clothes.  Are you sure you can’t come with us?  We will have a lot of time to ourselves.  Maybe even our own room?

I would love nothing more than an all-expense paid vacation with you.  But I cannot, under any circumstances, leave my job and family for three days.  I… am… truly sorry.

It’s okay, man.  I guess now I know just how much I really mean to you, he said in faux sulk.

What Ollie doesn’t know is how the fake nip bites harshly in James’s heart.  It is painful to pass up this opportunity.  What may outwardly seem like a casual easy “no” response to something so exciting actually inflated a tremendous battle between legions of religious foes, raging in violent war for decades… placed in time frame starting with Jack announcing his “wonderful idea” until this point.  The fake twist to how the events are interpreted were seemingly harmless to him, to the world, to reality, but to James it just confirms that the battle to support the religion of his youth came at a cost of his own true emotional understanding and humanity.  Understanding is not a cookie-cutter development, and his had been stunted by the weight of this religion.  Now he is seeing the glorious exquisiteness, and the depths of its pain.

Scriptures like 1 Corinthians 7:9 make sense… not just in male-female passion but in other non-sexual aspects.  The heart is a powerful engine and when it works well it is a juggernaut.  Jeremiah chapter 17: 9 says, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” (NLT, 2007).  The desperation of those wrapped in a religion trying to avoid the powerful emotions of the earth, the electricity of the contents, or the wonderment of its combined evolution seems more deceitful than opening one’s eyes and taking an inventory of the world around them before making such broad and naive decisions using a simplistic “either God or Satan” filing system for something it took the Universe billions of years to develop.

James’s heart wasn’t deceitful.  It had a grip on reality.  It acts more of a compass and the mind navigates according to the direction the heart’s true north is.  A pure heart points one way, a deceptive heart points another, and each mind works in unison in order to create steps to justify the heart’s projection.  A pure heart runs into fewer problems than those of deceptive intent as a pure heart tends to take into account the energy of the surrounding location before rotating into it’s final position.  Ollie was not a deceitful person, though he does do deceitful things.  James cannot judge with the current life he was leading.  So with an immense amount understanding of the young guy in front of him, James took the joke for what it was, and nothing more.

He still starts with a response of heartfelt anguish, Please don’t say… but realizes that is going to lead to tears… tears without context.  So he changes to accepting the joke with the method it was presented and responded with, When you get back, page me.  And if I don’t hear from you, I’m going to go to your apartment and knock on your door every day until you answer. Then you will see how much you mean to me.

Ollie smiles generously.  He doesn’t comprehend were that is coming from, but it was enough pointedly direct emotion that Ollie believed he is being told the truth.  James guesses he is someone who isn’t told the truth often.  It will be good too change that, he feels.

They kiss once more.

Ben heads off downstairs.  Derrick is dressed and is given his money.  Jack is on the phone to his travel agent, who he woke out of bed.  He waves to James and then waves for him to come back.  In a surprise show of human appreciation, he give James a big hug, says Thank you, and releases him to start yelling at the travel agent again.  James was now wearing the most lube he had on him all evening.

I need names and Social Security Numbers.  Write it down.  Ollie…

Getting pen and paper.

Derrick shakes his hand and walks downstairs.  A wave to Ollie.

Downstairs Ben and his girl are arguing.  James descends the final steps waving to both.  Thinks he should help.  Look, it’s a great opportunity.  Everything will be paid for.

Are you going?

No I can’t.  I have real work I have to get back to.

I would feel better if you were going.  

Look baby.  It’s only for two days.

And he got the money from tonight already.

That’s right!  Here.  Take… 900 bucks.

He’s not going to need it.

Yeah, take it all!  Gas, groceries, it’s all here.  Come on.  This guy is loaded.  So let’s cash in while he’s partying.  Plus he’s got some great shit.

Two days?

Baby, he said two or three.

Which is it?  Two or three because we have a doctor’s appointment on Friday.

For the baby?

(In unison) Yes.

He opens the door.  That baby?

(In unison)  Yes.

He pauses and gives his best impersonation of his mother that he could muster.  Don’t you think health and development issues like a doctor’s appointment is something the real father should be involved in?  Ben is already marrying you. Let him make some money to help with after the baby is born.

James quickly disappears out the door and closes it… and walks as fast as he could to the car.  Every mile he drove home brought a bigger and brighter smile.  The theater of the absurd, a very different genre of entertainment, but certainly not without its adventure and relatable information.

The lights on the drive home seem to sing.  There was music in his heart.  There was also pain.

Not pain now.  The pain to come.  But the pleasure now is too grand not to pause in gratitude.

So this is what this feels like?

He put aside Ollie for a moment to quietly pray for forgiveness to the years of straight guys he beat up for being weak of heart in getting over a girl or the scriptural tirades he would give if they decided to get married ‘too soon’.  Each and every level of heart burning made sense, from the cute child-like attempts for attention to the madness and ripping of worry that someone wouldn’t jump at a chance to get out of town and be alone for a few days.  All stations on all levels had all channels blaring different content, but once digested it was understood.  Yes, Ollie is going to hurt as it is a situation needing to be nipped in the butt.

Butt, (giggle).  He has such a cute butt.

Wow.  This is what awesome is.  This is really going to suck.

James P. Perez © 2013

Chapter 12 – Crack

He had a hard time accepting an irksome flaw in the Jehovah’s Witness mentality when it came to the idea that members shouldn’t try new things or experiment with boundaries.  We do not need to touch a burning stove in order to know it’s hot.  This is in direct conflict with the wiring running through the mind of an adventurous artist.  He wanted to travel and experience other cultures without the heavy condescending umbrella his religion wanted him to decorate as humility.  He wanted to meet everyone in the world in every social class and connect with them on their level without feeling the heartbreak of knowing they were all going to die on the Last Day.  If all of this history, the evolution of civil mankind as we know it, is all going to be destroyed at Armageddon, he wanted to see everything he could before it was wiped ‘clean’, as so much of it is philosophically important in the building the of world as he knew it today.  As of now, feeling as a child new to the world, no… he did not know that ‘the stove was hot’.  He was told the stove was hot, he was shown pictures of people with hands on fire, and he was told stories of how the demons force people to put their hands on stoves for doubting the fallibility of the Governing Body, experimenting with drugs and alcohol, or buying something at a thrift shop… but no, he himself had not ever experienced the ‘hot stove’ of the wicked world.

And the illustration didn’t make sense to him.  There are many ways to test to see if a stove is hot besides just placing a hand on it.  One could place a pot of water and see if it boils, throw paper in the general direction and see if it bursts into flames, or get a thermometer and take a scientific reading of the stove to find out its exact temperature in comparison with the ambient tepidness of the room.  The concept that thirteen men who he had never met sat in Brooklyn, New York and deemed that the world’s stove is hot was an absurdity to him.  And so far, nothing he felt was “scalding” in the least bit.  In fact, he was learning an incredible amount about civics and social engineering, people and their psychological dynamic and how to apply it in his personal life to be more socially conscious.

The world as he was told is divided into two parts:  The dangerous evil ruled by Satan and Jehovah’s Organization.  There is no exception, even when it comes to cultural history and humankind before the bible was written or in other parts of the planet where the bible is not the primary book of faith.  Art, literature, music, theater, and everything associated with them were all created under the watchful eye of Satan.  Anything created from inside the organization came with purposeful instruction from Jehovah God.

James felt differently, now more than before.  He noticed that most of life’s situations falls into one of five major categories:

Unengaging (boring) – This seems like the most unhealthy… it is complacent and unnecessary… the “path of least resistance”.

Safe and pleasant – This would be dinner with the twins and working at the assembly hall.

Adventuresome with minimal risk – This includes bungee jumping, sex with strangers you meet in person, nudity in artwork, and rated “R” movies.  Jehovah’s Witnesses stay away from everything in this section.

Dangerous and iffy – Obviously working at Feathers is stationed here… hooking up online, going clubbing, and hanging out with the girls at the Gold Room, and navigating through the sexual tension of people like Billy and having no boundaries with someone like Derrick.

Absurdity – Showing up to a crack orgy for a guy he just met.

Each category has an infinite number of sub-categories based off the people present, state of mind, time of day, level of desperation, upbringing, moral code, life experience, and/or the consumption of drugs and alcohol.  There was nothing particularly disturbing to him so far, and wherever he went he unknowingly commanded a measure of respect and protection.  After a few well-witted wisecracks, everyone wanted to be his friend.  No one thought he was faking or disingenuous because outside the religion, he wasn’t.  It was honesty on all levels at all times.  It is the exact opposite from all the congregations he attended where people thought of him as either a golden boy or hiding a legion of demons.  In the world he just… is.  It is an entire community of people who categorized situations and personalities into more than just the two classes of “Satan” and “Jehovah”, giving them gradient levels beyond the limited ends of the spectrum.

The night brought James closing up shop while Derrick arrives to head over to the party, freshly showered, smelling of eager anticipation at the possible grand he will be making in one night.  Arriving at the two-story town home beamed in paradox as the streets within the gated community were quiet and damp, glowing with the soft yellow of various lights to give it a deceptive peacefulness.  The cool, night air of spring smelled clean.  The boys drove separately since James was just going to deliver Derrick, see Ollie, and go home.

The entrance is at the garage level, a wood and glass door.  “Come in” was screamed from a pantheon of various voiced commotions.  The door was unlocked and opened into a foyer big enough for a small sofa and occasional chair, a hallway with laundry room and powder room, and a garage at the end.  Immediately facing the boys was a long staircase leading up to the second story where vacillating waves of moans and groans seemed to be trickling down the carpeted steps.

Derrick and James look at each other, half smiling at the bizarre bazaar they have yet to see, and try to achieve some sort of confidence for which to ascend the stairs since everything they are about to see will be the first for both young men.  And reaching the top, the sight does not disappoint.

The living room is on one side and is simple in it’s large-prints-of-original-paintings-in-bulky-antique-gold-frame decoration with two long sofas and two swing chairs sitting with the coffee table banished to the far corner of an unfurnished area leaving open space dominated by a large ottoman.  There is an armoire in the corner playing porn from the VCR, and a series of tapes scattered about the floor.  On the other side is the formal dining room cramped into a narrow space, the ornate but veneer wood table covered with various drug paraphernalia and substances he could not yet identify.  The kitchen is behind a wall with two doors, and down the hall sits a bathroom and a second bedroom.  At the very end with the open door was the master bedroom, only the overstuffed puffy blue of the comforter can be seen.

On the ottoman, ass facing the stair, knelt Jack comically trying to be fucked by a young guy with a disproportionally large penis that cannot seem to stay erect, quite possibly due to the drugs on the dining room table.  Three men are on one couch closest to the television pointlessly playing with each other, half in a daze.  Two others were on the other sofa, a muscular guy who is obstructed from view and in direct eyeshot was Ollie, naked.  He looked… much better with his clothes off.  James smiles.

Ollie jumps up and pulls his shorts on and rushes across the living room causing Jack to look.  Can you get a cucumber from… JAMES!!  You made it.  What did you bring me??

James stares at Ollie, smelling his metallic breath and lube that somehow makes him much more naughty.  He nudges Derrick and although he isn’t looking in that direction, he can feel the muscled teenager give James an eyeroll as he unbuttons his jeans and drops them.

And that, gentlemen, is a cock.  Can you keep it hard?

Derrick has more swagger in his voice than James had ever heard.  All night if you want.  Just keep all that shit away from me or I’ll be useless.

Deal, Jack said while lighting his pipe, inhaling, and blowing it respectfully in the opposite direction.  Derrick steps out of his jeans and walks over, pausing for a second to look back at James.  Are you…?

No. No. You go ahead, I’m just the delivery boy.  I will… James doesn’t finish as a faint scent of Irish Spring comes across.

Yeah, I figured, is the response with a cocky smile.

In a moment of southern hospitality, Jack says,  James, no offense but this doesn’t really seem like your scene, but please feel free to try whatever, this is a safe zone.  And there’s tons of alcohol in the kitchen if you’re into that sort of thing.

Ollie steps in closer, Can I get you a drink?

Ollie, don’t wander too far, we are going to have to restock soon.  Oh my god, this thing is growing.

Okay, he says putting on a t-shirt from nowhere.  He pushes James through the swinging door of the kitchen.

You didn’t have to put your clothes back on just for me.

I put them on in case you wanted to tear them off.

James giggles at the exchange.  He has never found himself so sexually empowered and vulnerable at the same time.  He was trying to be suave and confident, but he feels it’s coming out like a toddler trying to play poker with grown up professionals.  It didn’t really matter how it is coming out, the object of his affection was responding well to it.  In the kitchen they kissed as if one of them was a soldier who returned home from war.

They kissed until, out of the corner of the eye there was movement.  They stop and look.  There is a shirtless guy, no more than 20 years old, tanned and will be good-looking in about five years, standing in the breakfast nook staring at the collection of alcoholic drinks and mixers that cover the yellow kitchen island.  The two kissers relinquish their embrace and look at each other in question before looking back at the cute space cadet on his unknown voyage.

Are you okay?  Can I get you anything?  Ollie asked.

Did you see what I did with my drink?

Scanning the kitchen for loose drinks, James says I’m pretty sure you don’t have one yet.

Oh.  That’s right.  I came in here because I wanted something.

James couldn’t help himself, You know, there is a lot to choose from, alcoholic and non-alcoholic… sodas and juices, whatever you want.

And there’s ice in the cooler there by your feet.

Wow.  So many choices.  I don’t know what I want.

James had to keep going.  You could, now try an keep up here, combine two or more of them together and make… a mixture of sorts.

Woah.

The boy’s head is officially blown.  Ollie nudges James with the biggest ‘you’re such a douche’ grin while again keeping the hint of pride aspect generating.

Come in!

The two guys move closer to the shirtless twink to help.  I tell  you what, why don’t we just get you some water?

Yeah, water.  From… the faucet?

Ollie!!  Someone is at the door!

James just remembered, I locked the door behind me.  I’m sorry.  Habit.

I got to get that.

I know. He gives Ollie another kiss.

Come with me so you don’t traumatize him anymore.

You never let me have any fun, James pouts with a smile.

The two giggled and exited the kitchen and he stopped to absorb the scene while Ollie tended to the new arrival.  The three guys on the far couch were joined by the one who was left alone from Ollie’s exit… now trying to blow someone hard, anyone… it doesn’t matter who at this point.  One thing he has always realized early in the friendship, Derrick could fuck a lamp post and it would be sexy.  Jack’s face was in heaven and he gives a nod of “thank you” over in James’ direction.

James nods back.

Ollie appears at the top of the stairs with a tall, skinny, tattooed and scruffy presumably trailer-park recruit taking in the scene with heterosexual cautiousness.

This is Ben.

Hello, Ben.  Is this the straight guy?  Jack asks.

Yeah.  He has a big dick, Ollie looks over in James’s direction and said softer, almost sheepishly serious, I’ve heard.

The silent response is overwhelming in James.  There is appreciation for the effort, but heartbreak from the idea that there is this concept that the two guys from two very different backgrounds on two rigidly perpendicular roads of life were structured in class so that Ollie feels the need to hide and almost apologize for who he has fucked.  He understand it is respectful to not thrust someone with – as seen as he drops his shorts – a noticeably larger penis in front of the guy he has been making out with in his mind all day, but the default to apologize for who he is made James fill with a staggering desire to just hug him until he realizes It’s okay, I am not any better than you.  And in his mind he thinks, Never apologize for who you are.  I’m the one who should be apologetic, for where I come from… and will be supporting for the rest of my life… is a place that condemns you to Satan and everlasting death.  At least you have the balls to live.

Outwardly he smiles and shakes his head with his eyes closed before opening them, giving the eyebrows a quick rise.  The blonde notices.  He blushes.  He smiles.

At that point, James knew… I got him.  To make someone like Ollie blush is an incredible achievement, he felt.  He cannot wait to tear those clothes off.  Two people who knew what they are doing are about to do it, and are about to do it well.

While Ben is escorted to the central ass-fucking alter, James scopes out the rest of the place quietly.  He isn’t sure what the crack-orgy etiquette is if you only want to fuck one of the participants.  He hasn’t ever been a person drawn to orgies, mainly because there is a lot of energy to work around.  Right now, being on the outskirts of the scenario and having all his clothes on seems like a child’s safety blanket about now.  I guess we could do it in the bathroom, maybe?  That seems rude.  Hey Jack, thanks for all the drugs and alcohol.  I know it’s your birthday but there is nothing on my person that you will be able to sexually enjoy tonight, so if you don’t mind, I’m going to just take your escort for the night, and drug dealer, and fuck him in a… cleaner atmosphere… like on the on the toilet in the powder room.

Just thinking it he realized how patronizing that sounded.  This energy is probably why Ollie felt the need to be shameful about who he’s been fucked by.  There is a room full of people higher than Jesus and three hard penises… and one of them was still in it’s clothes.  It basically comes down to how bad do I want Ollie? (Sigh.)

Jack stands up, Okay, you two… come with me, and he heads into the bedroom.  Once passing James at the dining room he stops and turns around.  Hold on everyone.  Wait here. 

He disappears and returns with a wad of cash.  He stands in front of the table with James and counts out one thousand dollars and hands it to James.  This is for your friend.  He counts out two hundred dollars more.  This is because he so fucking thick and good.  He counts out one thousand, one hundred dollars and puts it on the table.  This is for the straight guy.  He counts out five hundred dollars and hands it to James.  This is for the great find.  Thank you. James flashes Derrick his money and points as he puts it in the left front pocket.  Derrick gives a nod.  James puts his own money in his wallet.  Jack counts out another five hundred dollars and looks around.  Ollie?  Ollie appears beside James.  I am moving this to the bedroom and we’re going to need some more rock.

Can I borrow your car?

Hell no!  You can’t have a Jag riding through the Third Ward!

Ollie gives a slight back hand to James’s stomach. Can you take me?

Sure, James said before realizing what he had been asked.

That is very brave of you.  Jack said.  I’ll give you another hundred.

It all sinks in to James’s brain. No, wait.  How much are you going to get?

I don’t know, what do you think, Ollie?  $500?

Yeah, that should be enough.

So you want me to drive to the Third Ward to pick up $500 of crack while carrying $1,700 in cash?

Jack gives a bent forward head stare while slightly smiling.  Fine.  $200.

I’m in my mom’s car!!

You’re in your mother’s car?  Oh my god, you are ridiculous.  Here.  $300.  You two get out of here.  I need to tend to these gentlemen before they go soft.  James and Ollie begin to bounce off before Jack calls out and gives a remarkably firm, adult sentence.  James, drive carefully.  Do what Ollie says, he knows what he’s doing.

I will.

Ollie gets his shoes and the two bounce down the stairs as the orgy is now divided into two parts… the lackluster living room lounge action and the hard-pounding sex machines of the master bedroom.  At the bottom the two find themselves standing in the foyer staring at a VERY pregnant woman about the same age as James with sticky blonde hair and blue eyeshadow reading a magazine.  The two males look at each other, then back at the woman.

Hey guys.  Everyone having fun up there?

Yeah. I thought you were just…

Oh, if you don’t mind… in my condition… I would just rather wait here, if that’s okay.

Yeah, that’s fine.  Can I get you something to drink or anything?

I just need to know if there is a bathroom on this floor.  I have to pee every ten minutes it seems.

There’s a half-bath there at the first door.

So, is Ben your boyfriend?  James had to confirm some connection to what he is seeing.

Husband.

Ollie added, She drove him, but I didn’t know…

Oh, I’m sorry.  I don’t want to ruin anything, but the car doesn’t have a lot of gas and we really need the money.

I can see.  How far along are you?

Seven months.

Goodness.  Well we’ll be back. 

Okay.  I hope everyone is enjoying his dick.

James responded the best he could, I personally haven’t experienced it, but it seems like Jack is getting his money’s worth.  And apparently Ben seeds well.  He points at her stomach.

(Laughing) Oh this isn’t his!  But I tell you, in times when the hormones go crazy his dick can get up in there…

We need to get, Ollie interrupted.

Yeah, we will check on  you on the way back.

Thanks.  You guys are so sweet.  Are you two ….

No, no. (Nervous laughter.)

Well you two look cute together.

James felt embolden, Thank you, and he leans in and gives Ollie cute kiss on the lips.

Oh gross!!  She laughs and jerks the magazine in front of her face to block the view.  I’m so sorry, I’m not homophobic it’s just weird to see.

I know you’re not homophobic.  And it’s amazingly generous for you to share your husband.  Thank you very much for that.

James, we need to go.

Thank you guys.  You two drive safe.

Of course.

In the car, Ollie gives instructions to the Days Inn on the Southwest Freeway, almost a direct shot from the River Oaks area and on the way to the Third Ward.  They drove under the raised building standing guard on the complex and he is told to park in the main parking lot.  Let me try here first, maybe we can avoid going to the Third Ward.

While James turns off the car, Ollie digs in his pockets and finds sixty dollars.  Look, I know we’ve just met but… could you lend me…

It’s okay, how much?

Forty bucks?

Of course, he says and fishes $40 out of his wallet.

Thank you… so fucking much.  Ollie gives him a peck on the cheek and jets out of the car and disappears out of the far corner of the building.

Ten minutes pass.

Ten more minutes pass.

He finally appears out of the corner of James’s eye and enters the car smelling more metallic than before.

Everything okay?

Yeah, he didn’t have enough of what Jack wants, so we’re going to have to go into the Third Ward.

Okay, he said without fear.  It’s difficult to fear something one doesn’t know anything about.

Driving instructions were given again.

The Third Ward in Houston is predominately black in demographic, but the area they were entering couldn’t constitute the description of “black” in the artistic sense.  It was more a vacuum of light.  The street lights had been shot silent, the houses were ghosts, and the street seemed to disappear five feet in front of the car.  There is an absence of existence and nothing to see, no matter where the headlights pointed.  The energy of the area is currently calm but it is impossible to ignore the ease in which it could all turn to chaos.

Let me off here.  Go up to the corner and take a left.  Take another left at the first street and pick me up.  If I’m not there… drive all the way back to the highway and come back around. 

So circle the block and if  you’re not there… circle the block again?

Exactly.  Whatever you do, don’t stop for anyone and don’t drive too fast cuz you might hit someone, and don’t drive so slow that someone can come up and carjack you..  If I’m not on the other side of the block in three passes, head back to the party.

Are you fucking kidding?

No.  This is a lot of cash.  So it may take some conversation.  Just trust me.

James slows the car and Ollie jumps out, slamming the door.

He felt the emotion he didn’t usually feel with someone he just met… protectiveness.  If anything were to happen to his new friend he would honestly want to park the car and retrace the steps like a madman.  But that didn’t mean he should.  It would probably end up in getting them both killed.

He does as instructed, don’t drive to fast, don’t drive too slow… and Ollie was not around on the first pass.  He drove to the highway waited a minute, and tried it again.

Nothing.  He goes and parks the car.  He waits five minutes.

Third time. Driving slower in the anti-light vastness of nothing.  He makes a turn.

He makes another turn.

Ollie appears from the distance.  He didn’t even know how he saw him.  He stops, and Ollie jumps in the car.  Drive.  Drive now.

Okay.

This place makes me nervous.

Uhhh…. me too.

Take a left up here on the other side of 59.

He does as instructed.  A left.  A right.  What is  this?

My place.

The apartment complex is simple as a fading blue block nestled between a standard low-income apartment complex and a flickering 7-Eleven.

Park anywhere.

He moved the car next to the dumpster on the left front of the building. The two get out of the car and enter the screened door opening that enters the crumbling edifice.

Inside there is a long, narrow hallway with at-one-point off-white (?) walls and three 60-watt light bulbs spaced so as to “light” the hallway, the slight flickers making it feel more like an institution from a horror movie rather than an apartment complex where people lived.  Stairs were at the immediate left, Ollie’s apartment was at the immediately right.  He locks the door behind them after entering, turns on the light, and immediately draws the blanket-for-curtain drapery across the window.

Make yourself comfortable.  Do you want some?

No I’m fine.  Thanks though, he says as he heads over and sits on the disheveled mattress sitting on the far corner of the efficiency with a faint hint of was once baby blue walls.  There is an old laminate kitchen table and chairs from three decades ago, a kitchenette area along the hall wall, and a bathroom straight from one of the elementary schools he had attended over the years.  James straightens the blankets and watches.

Ollie opens the closet and digs through a pile of clothes on the floor until he finds a shoe.  He reaches into the opening and pulls out a small cloth, towel maybe.  He unrolls it and finds two baggies.  He removes the contents of his pocket and takes out a few rocks and places it into one of his own baggies.

This is so much fucking rock it’s insane.  

He seals the baggies before rolling them back up and replacing them in the shoe from where they came.  The shoe then disappeared into the clothing quagmire.  He turns around and tosses the larger baggie to James.  Have you ever seen that much crack before?

I have not.  He decides not to tell the young guy it is because up until this point, he had never seen crack before… at all.  It was light, rock-like, unassuming.  Ollie takes the bag and places it on the kitchen table.  He comes up to James and straddles him on the mattress, laying him back and penning him to the bed.  The blue eyes smile with a remarkable menace of sexuality.

What?  James says, smiling.

I’ve been waiting for this all day.

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

Chapter 2 – Listen

Jehovah, my god, I have asked for this temptation to be removed.  I am trusting and leaning on you… calling on your Name to let this transgression, this… thorn in my side to be removed from me. Others may be able to suppress these feelings but I am not strong enough to do it on my own. I have tried countless times and there is no way I can be normal. I want to be normal, get married, and to live a decent life.  Please help me.

Through your son, Jesus Christ I ask these things.

Amen.

James had said his prayers at night.  All Jehovah’s Witnesses do so that Satan doesn’t attack them in their sleep, so they can have peace from the processes of the day, or maybe so they can have a better outlook in the morning.  Although for this particular twenty-year-old, his prayers didn’t seem to be working. After age thirteen when his occasional bedtime playmate left for Bethel service at the World Headquarters in Brooklyn, he had sworn off everything sexual in nature and was leading a relatively clean life.  He wasn’t even masturbating except for one time at fourteen when an obscene phone caller called the house and James curiously engaged him, curling up by the bed with a massive erection, the corded phone pressed against his ear like he’s hearing he just won a million dollar prize.

You AAAARE?

Yeah dude, I got the biggest boner… just stroking it.

When are you going to ejaculate?

Well, it takes… wait, what?  Are you serious?  How old are you?

James stayed by the phone every day around lunch in hopes the guy would call back.  And he did.  His name was Jeff and worked at The Galleria.  He would make random calls while on his lunch break at the phone bank that is inside the mall.  Nice guy really.

That was a growing trend:  everyone seems to open up to James.  It’s endearing to have people depend on him as a friend and confidant, and many people did, James himself never really opened up to people.  The main problem was as he was getting older, guys were getting hotter.  He was pretty sure something had gone awry with the puberty procedure.

And his prayers didn’t work.

(Whistle.)

Tony pokes his head out of the blue curtain on the upstairs loft dividing the volunteer sleeping area from the open drafting and design space occupying the center area of the Rosenberg, Texas Assembly Hall for Jehovah’s Witnesses Maintenance Building.  It was the first structure built on the property and housed a series of offices for administration and designers until the project is completed.  The building would then be converted to a large garage for the upkeep of the grounds, hence it’s name.

James looks up from his drafting station and smiles and gives the typical what up? nod in Tony’s direction.

Tony waves furiously for James to go upstairs.

James saves his work and heads in that direction thinking of the conundrum of the beckoning.  One reason he knew that prayers didn’t work at night is because the person he was about to go visit kept erotically invading his dreams in various, amorously aggressive scenarios usually mixed with angel/demon zoomorphic imagery or whatever raw sexual carnage that happened to have passed James’s mind throughout the day. Plus, there were many good looking men on a large church-based construction site.

It wasn’t that he found Tony particularly sexually attractive.  He was a good looking black man who worked with James’s father, Steve in the welding shop on the opposite end of the property.  Although Tony kept a sculpted body, it was his overt sexual suggestions and physical poking that were the main cause for defense.  However, they always provoked a giggle for the obviousness and blatant nudity of how they were presented.  Tony had been around, he had seen things before coming into The Truth… so he knew how to charm a young gay Mexican.

I got the new White Zombie CD.

Dude, you know better than that.

What?  I know you wanted to hear it.

And if you’re going to invite me up here to listen to devil music, have the damn thing open and ready to play.  I’ve got work to do!

Tony’s laugh is in short bursts and powerfully infectious.  The two listen to a few songs off “Astro-Creep 2000” before James takes off back to work.  The scene is somewhat disproportionate as a young black man is dancing around shirtless with a perfect set of 6-pack abs and a younger Mexican dressed in business attire are linking through the only connection they will ever share… music.  As cute as it was in this particular statement, overt sexual desire on its own was never quite a turn-on to James.

Although the attention was easily played with.

After graduation from high school and enduring many years of exposure to “the world” without participating in their music, entertainment, or general merriment, he was tired.  Absolutely nothing was blessed by means of banishing homosexual thoughts, tendencies, wet dreams, or even dreamscape arousal in the middle of the night.  So after his eighteenth birthday, he went exploring.

Other than the few ‘Witness approved’ dramatic movies of captivating cinematography and song, there really wasn’t an exposure to “films.”  His first forbidden movie was Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992).  He watched the movie three times in two days, uncut and in widescreen.  It was fantasy on a psychotic visceral thunder cloud.

The colors were in dense saturation, the costumes where thick and heavy with design, and the lighting beamed as a character all it’s own.  It was impossible to absorb the elements of the art piece. It wasn’t until the third viewing he even noticed the warped and simple distortion of the storyline or the fundamental metronomic rhythm of the main character, and the genius in which it was played.

It was grit in art, grit and art.  It was strikingly elegant in the understanding of the human condition known as ‘love’… something that James had not experienced personally as he had been distant to people for many years trying to keep everyone from thinking he was gay.  The portrayal of this affection was explained with painful historical passion.  The end result of a betrayal from the church one once fought so hard for is harrowing in itself, but stretched over several lifetimes it would be diabolical in its mania, until they see…

…that one face that reminds them of the person they lost.

It was an understanding of human psychology torn to shreds and put back together.  If that wasn’t brilliance,  he didn’t know what was.

Other movies followed.  Music that always danced on the frightfully uplifting pop made it’s way out of the closet and everything else that had been avoided flooded in.  And in an odd twist contrary to what the Organization had taught him, he never took away anything more than the question, what is this person feeling?

In the plastic smiles and the responsibility toward the greater peace, it was just assumed that everyone in the Organization had the ability to call Jehovah up, ask for a favor with a pure heart, and all evil in the form of anger, hate, hard-ons, and sex would be turned into sunshine flowers and cute bible verses written on gumdrops.  That never happened.

So much of the human heart and the soul for which its engine is caked with subtleties that are ignorable, but pernicious in nature when left without recognition or understanding.  For the first time James saw it was okay to be angry.  But not just angry… all the aspects of anger.  There was a difference between wrathful and indignation, although the outcome could possibly be viewed from the outside as the exact same emotion with the exact same display.

And it was okay to have both.

Love is such a simple word, but on screen one can see the elation of companionship, the blushing of sexual arousal, the dominance of unrelenting hope, the madness of compulsive obsession, or the slow bleeding of a heart beaten in deflation as they indulge themselves with mourning in avoidance.

This, this is what James wanted to do with his life.  Computer drafting was fun, passive, mentally bridging the links between structural math and artistic presentation.  It was decided that this was a good direction to go as a career as drafters would be needed in the New System after Armageddon to help rebuild the planet… although James was a computer drafter.  By all accounts of what the end of the world would entail it didn’t seem likely that there would be stable electrical grid structure in place.  He was all thumbs when it came to hand drafting.  This worried him.

The conversation had already taken place a few years earlier.  Every aptitude test that he took in school said he needed to be a movie director or producer.  Other possibilities were actor/actress, art director, or costume designer – each time, every time.  What he really wanted to do was be a theatrical lighting designer.  It was something his heart was set on for the last two years of high school.  He was offered a partial scholarship with his “Outstanding Technician” award for being Crosby High School’s One-Act production of QUILTERS’ student director and lighting designer when he pulled off 112 verbally orchestrated lighting cues for the 38 minute 45 second play after cue #1 was incorrectly programmed into the University of Texas lighting board.

It was the only technical theater award given in years.  Only one was given at the end of the final round of competition.  Unfortunately pursuing this natural-born talent was nixed on the several occasions the subject was addressed, usually by Steve.

You’re not going to work in the theater. There are too many homosexuals.

That discouragement did not have the intended effect.  After the competition it all seemed rather pointless.  Everything in his present was in the piece of paper bearing his honor and everything in his future was in the handshake of an old man with a big smile at the University of Texas.  James could make it out.  He could be off on his own and actually learn.  As the visual arts became louder in it’s drum line, more and more art began to flow out of him in deeper and more progressive levels of, what some would later describe as ‘weirdness.’

James didn’t care.  In his most frustrated stagnicity he found movement in artistically experimenting, and it was joyous.

By the time Tony calls James up into the loft, he had already realized Jehovah was not listening.  James thought it was time to shut up and instead of talking so much, listen… listen with the vigor and excitement short of screaming from the top of the The Transco Tower I WANT TO HEAR EVERYTHING EVER RECORDED!

James wasn’t sure if Jehovah approved of what he was listening to, watching, and learning, but if God created these people and these are their expressions of art with emotions screaming into film, grinding into recordings, plastered into books, and smeared across canvas, then James thought it was worth paying attention to.

Listening to everything was the easy part.  What to do with what he was learning about humanity… a bit trickier.