Backseat Devil

Tag: James Perez

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 16 – Massage

Next round of room bids, we should see if we can be roommates!”

I have seniority!  I can see if I can pull you in.  It’s after your ninety-day review in March we can put in a request

Hey, it’s worth a shot!

Roommates in Bethel are initially assigned.  During the current building of resident buildings C and D, there were many construction workers occupying spaces that would normally be assigned to full-time volunteers at the Wallkill factory, farm, and administration facility.  For such, there are three roommates assigned to each of the small, +/-200 sq. ft. rooms equipped with a six-foot kitchenette, a mini fridge, and one small three-foot by four-foot closet.  The standard particle board desk covered with dark brown veneer, matching chest of drawers, and chair mixed with a standard cot and mattress with linens is all that is provided.  For an efficiency holding three brothers, one of the cots would come as a trundle bed that would be hidden away during non-sleeping hours.

His first roommate was a formidable five-foot-ten African-American work-out freak with the most expensive stereo system he had seen before.  The brother was neurotic and OCD about the usage of his equipment, and fully admitted to going through all of James’s belonging while he was at housekeeping duty just to make sure James was “cool”.  Each Bethelite is given a general key to the complex and a specific “Bethel number” assigned to them for the duration of their stay at the facilities.  The key was used to keep outsiders from wandering into the building system as once in, one could travel anywhere within the compound (this is more of an issue in Brooklyn with their underground tunnel systems and such).  The number is not only used to denote your property, but is how laundry, accounts, monthly allowance of $90.00, and reimbursments are kept a track of.

His roommate insisted on checking James’s key to see if there were any notch differences and tried to figure out an special significance to his Bethel number (#594), and went through all of his new packet and manuals in front of him just to make sure the newbie was on not on some special assignment specifically for the departing Bethelite.  About a week and a half later, James was left by himself void of the loud sleep-talking and the frequent night ventures to check the door and scope out what was happening outside the windows.  The level of paranoia is something James wasn’t used to in general and it seemed like a very odd way to be introduced to his new life in what should be the safest place on the planet for a Jehovah’s Witness.

A few days later enters the luggage of a tall young guy statured like a good-looking Conan O’Brian, age 20, and always hyper with a gigantic smile.  A week later Edgar, an average height Mexican a few years older than James enters following his cousin who entered just a few weeks before… and also excited about his new home.   The temperature in the room changed, but it is still three men crowded in a 14-foot by 15-foot space with two of the guys over the age of 21 watching the same television show, studying together, and trying their best to interrupt each other’s bible reading.

The walking lighthouse that James saw in the lobby of the A Building is named Aaron and he earned the nickname “Bugout” because of it’s hononymous proximity to his last name mixed with the lackadaisical way seasoned volunteers interact and remember newbies.  He is also assigned to the South Saugerties Congregation.  Their first meeting they had was that very night at the bookstudy for the week.  Aaron sat in his thin cotton blend pinstripe shirt, miss-matched tie, and khaki slacks crossed at the knee exposing his white skin over his above-ankle textured black lace up Doc Martins.  He sat with his chin resting in his right hand, index finger pointed toward the ear, intensely listening and nodding to everything being said as if he had just taken a Sylvan course on how to retain more from the classroom.  He is indeed hippie sunshine, and it extended past his excitement for being in a place he had been working to enlist for a year… it is just who he is, naturally as a person.  His serious comments were specifically worded at the start of each participation, then in mid-sentence would turn into heartfelt expressive emotion of free-form earth poetry.

He could tell under that shirt is a body, a real body… workout intensive and lean.  It is everything he could do to not stare, especially the way he nod and look at James while he is trying to give his well rehearsed, insightfully deep, and interconnectedly applicable comments.  Stop looking at me so I can be perfect, god dammit! he wanted to scream. It is annoying how much light this person is shedding, but after a month of sitting around with the best of the monochromatic personalities dressed in white and beige he decided to quietly absorb it without letting anyone in the room know that he is a big homo with birds flying around his head.

After another week, Aaron’s roommate who entered at the same time as James and is also assigned to the same congregation, is getting used to his job assignment at the pig farm and hadn’t had time to socialize with the other brothers in his congregation.  For such he invited several bethelites from South Saugerties to their room at A103 to hang out and maybe watch a movie.  James skips down the two floors and enters the room to find found Aaron shirtless on his cot, back against the wall, playing a bright firetruck red electric guitar on the bed.

James!  My favorite person here at Bethel!

He didn’t know how to respond to the complement.  He certainly didn’t know how to respond to the imagery from which the complement is given.  Aaron’s personality is naturally lush with passion and empathy, and in subtle ways he displays that more to James.  Objectively, it looked like a more touchy-feely version of David.  But lustfully there is an obvious chemistry that others noticed, placing him in the dangerous category of Ollie.  Which is it?  David or Ollie.  It can’t be both.

He feels like he is back in high school.  There is no way anything like this would be allowed at this particular venue, but energies in sync are so rare for him that it is difficult not to grab an emotional surf board and ride the wave – regardless of that the structure around him dictates.  Some things are more important than rules.  People are more important than rules.  This is such unique situation and there is so much he is feeling, and wants to feel, but mostly he’s just glad this person is here at this place, shedding color on the drab surroundings.  He’s glad this person… is in the world, in existence.  Rules… fuck, rules suck. 

This is a person that is on his level… someone with his understanding of the delicate balance between the religion to which he is tied, and the appreciation for the world around him, people, and energies around him… although it is difficult to concentrate on the deeper meaning of life, the world, and human relationships when he had his shirt off.

In the days that followed it seemed there is a perpetuation by the other to maintain the idea that nether non-clone will ever be anything other than a non-clone.  Put to the test, James is suddenly appreciative of the fact that he had been listening to everything from classic rock to ska for the past two years as Aaron came with an encyclopedia of information regarding music.  He grew up in Salem, Oregon around the height of the grunge era, but is knowledgeable in the ways of The Doors, The Who, Nirvana, the Cranberries, Hole, Tool, Janis and Jimi.  He is an avid Nine Inch Nails fan while still holding on to his Pink Floyd roots while having an immovable reverence to Led Zeppelin.

Oh my god, you have Poe!

You’ve heard of her?

I’m in love with her!  She’s awesome!

As often as possible they would find one of their two rooms to have for an evening of sitting on the floor, listening to what would be considered ‘devil’ music although had this been a heterosexual situation in the 1950s it would probably be considered “dating”.  James received a crash course in everything Smashing Pumpkins, and Aaron received some general information on ska and the Houston music scene among an orchard of puppy-dog attention and silent interest in whatever it was he was listing to.

The beauty of Aaron came in two parts before even looking at his physical features.  First, standing still he emanates a quiet cool glow vibrating with a gentle hum that is barely noticeable in a room full of people, but somehow made everyone in the room feel slightly more comfortable, although no one knew why.  Second, when he got excited about something, the quiet cool glow would instantly ignite into a loud, in-your-face explosive star, beaming heat to every square inch of the room in which he is standing as if the earth had a volcano of love and compassion and the crust of the tectonic plates split directly under his feet.  Being only 19, he is still gaining control of the extents of his power, but his personal spectrum is magnificent to witness and is impossible for James… wrapped in the dull monotonous monophonic metronome of the lifestyle he had committed himself… to not be attracted to such a force.

The subject of sex eventually come up with the song “Closer”.  Aaron admits to sexual situations, hand jobs, and being reprimanded for fucking a girl in the house next door when it was empty.  James admits to nothing more than make-believe distant opposite sex scenarios, but eventually throws in a three-way with another guy to test the waters.  In fact, the idea that his new friend is sexually experienced is a bit of a refreshment as it takes the tension out of the air.  It separated them from the majority of the group of young single brothers who inherently have sex always on the brain (as per their biology) and the longer working Bethelites, some of who are their thirties and forties without knowing the touch of another human being in the most intimate way.  James wonders how one recovers from years of building up walls and separation to the most intense levels of humanity and yet maintain some connection with the world around them for which to guide people into “the truth”.

It is then he realizes, there is no connection to the world around them.

And that seems to be the crux of the problem.  He is surrounded by young men in their prime, separated at the height of their final development and secluded into a ‘Branch Davidian’-type complex to do nothing but work in their place, smile for the tours, and forget about the spinning globe around them that is speeding by while they create magazines and books that are suppose to relate to the problems and concerns of the common man with common problems and offer a solution for the wicked world they have no connection with.

Lead by President Milton Henschel, the Governing Body is a group of men who lived in Brooklyn who handles (at the time) both the Organization’s business aspects as well as the beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide, the religious collective direction and what is acceptable and  not as “true Christians”.  Many of the Governing Body were of “this generation” mentioned in Matthew 24:34 and Luke 21:32 that was not going to ‘pass away until all these things have happened.’  Already, in the short time James had been a Witness paying attention to his beliefs, the definition of “this generation” had changed several times.  Now being near those with such in depth knowledge of the words of Jehovah, he was hoping to gain some energetic kick-in-the-ass in order to regain focus on his true mission in life.

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in two classes of Christians.  The majority will live forever here on earth after Armageddon, and there are the 144,000 “anointed” ones who go to heaven (based off Revelation 7:4, 14:1, and 14:3).  There are no new anointed appointees, all the positions have been filled.  How does one know that they are anointed?  Just like you know if you’re a man or a woman, you know when Jehovah has anointed you. Those of the Governing Body and their president were all of this anointed class, thereby giving them a different air about the way they moved, responded to questions, looked upon life, and were treated.

They talk about Brother Henschel’s recent visit during the Bethelite-only Watchtower study the previous Monday.  James gives a mandatory gush of how amazing it was to see Brother Henschel up close and is still trying to figure out the depth of how ‘David’ he can go (while simultaneously trying to root out exactly how ‘Ollie’ he wanted to go).   Brother Henschel is a rather tall man, bald, sharp features, thin, and partially blind.  He had memorized the bible and could give bible discourses and quote scripture… his most challenging effort during talks is waiting to give the audience enough time to look up the verses in their own bibles before “reading” the quoted text.  It is humorous at times because the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures is slightly altered from time to time to make sure that the brothers and sisters involved in the Organization are current publishers and not using out-of-date publications with out-of-date dogma, so on occasion Brother Henschel’s “reading” differed from those listeners with newer bibles… and sight.  It’s an endearing feature and forgiven with the respect someone who has been preaching with the Organization since 1934 deserves.

What James will not say is that meeting Brother Henschel did not feel like anything special.  The energy around him following his post-Watchtower discourse is that of a half-blind man with handlers making sure he wasn’t crushed by the sea of starry-eyed fans and manic workers feeling the holy spirit of greatness just by gazing on his presence.  James felt none of this.  It is a disconcerting disappointment that he keeps to himself and only let out one sliver when Aaron made his comment.

Don’t get me wrong, it was awesome to see him.  But in some aspects he’s just… you know… celebrity.

James’s jaw drops with a half smile.  That’s it.  He couldn’t pinpoint what about the situation was wrong, but Aaron had been to many concerts, seen famous people, hung out with the mourners outside Kurt Cobain’s house, and experienced music in small venues where fanatic and artist were in close proximity to each other.  He knew what the basic dynamic was, and James did not.

What?  Why are you smiling?

I just… love your point of view.

Well, I love your brain.  It’s warped as hell.  If you knew how to give a good massage I think I’d be set in this place.

James’s eyes got big, with a coy half smile trying to contain everything he had learned in the past year.

It’s funny you should mention…

James P. Perez © 2013

Chapter 15 – Attack of the Clones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James almost drops the phone.

Air.

Sanctuary.

A no-drone.

Please don’t be a clone…

What? Who’s a clone?

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

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

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

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

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

Baseball. Women. Grandma…

James P. Perez © 2013

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 11 – Bright Blue Sparks

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

Your religion sounds like a joke.

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

And if he did… time to get a new god.

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

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

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

Don’t say a makeover.

Please… yeah, don’t say a makeover.

We’re going to the zoo.

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

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

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

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

Keep your chin up.

Thanks, guys.

Let us know if  you need anything.

Will do.

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

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

Relief.

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

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

Geez, I’m starving.

You haven’t eaten much in two days.

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

What?

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

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

You know I have to eat all of that.

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

You mean your dad’s treat.

Whatever.  

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

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

Take life by the horns.

Yes sir.

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

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

Ollie.

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

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

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

I just want to get fucked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Pause.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You mean a tip?

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

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

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

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

Okay.

Wait, I need to have the person…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can you come out here and talk or no?

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

Oh.  Too bad.

I can stand at the door though.  

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

So?

Oh yeah.  Sorry.

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

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

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

Ollie moves in closer.  Yeah.

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

Am I making you uncomfortable?

Yes… NO!  I mean… I’m nervous.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dude, that was hot.

Thanks.

What’s your name?

James.

I really want  you to come tonight, James.

Okay, he says like a lost puppy.

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

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

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

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

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

Hope you had a good time.

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

He’ll be there.  (Wink.)

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

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

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

What was that all about?

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

No.

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

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

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

You could see those sparks from space.

Really?  

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

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

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

Did you just call me “adorable”?

Shut it.  So you going to see him again?

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

James P. Perez © 2013

Chapter 10 – The Stillness

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

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

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

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

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

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

James sits next to David and stares at Highway 59.

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

James, your mother is so sweet.

Thanks, I know.

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

Me too. 

I’m so sorry about all this, James.

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

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

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

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

(In unison) That sounds good. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

Are we taking the long way?

Yeah.

Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

Do you think Jehovah is punishing dad?

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

Yeah, I know.  But… I’m not.

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

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

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

Thank you.

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

Ready for some music?  Or too soon?

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

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

Perfect.

James P. Perez © 2013

Chapter 9 – Cancer

He enters the darkened room to the man stripped naked and positioned on the leather kneeling pad with his head lowered, as instructed. He walks over to the wiry-haired balding aging man with two restraints in one hand and puts one on each of the man’s wrists, strapping them tight as was demonstrated to him just hours earlier. Taught from childhood to always be polite, it was something that came as a second nature. Even in this facility it is expected one show some semblance of courteousness.

Are you ready for this?

Are… are you asking me?

James thought to himself, fuck… he’s already in character.  Butch it up.

(Forcefully slow) Yes… I am… asking.

(Giddy) Yes, Yes sir.

James tries his best not to burst into laughter. It is time to embrace the role. He puts on Nine Inch Nails mix on the CD player to try to get into the mood and bring some depth to his voice as his tone is naturally at a level that is often mistaken as female.  He thinks, Let’s test what this man is into, shall we? It seems that years of Jehovah’s Witness training and family relocations are starting to pay their due rewards at $150.00 per thirty minutes sessions.  With such, there is almost a comical level of performance anxiety.

(Loudly) Why are you smirking?

Sorry sir.

You disgust me.  Get your ass over to the cross.

The man obliged while sporting the biggest erection.

Ok, James thought, he likes humiliation. Still, there’s, like, 50 different kinds of humiliations.  Focus.

He grabs the back of the man’s long hair and pushes it against the wood of the Saint Andrew’s cross.  He saw the man’s eyes roll back in his head mouth the world “yes”.  James stations himself in back of the man where he cannot be seen and mouths the words, “oh my god” to no one in particular.  He tries to regain focus.

(With anger) Stop smiling!

Yes sir.  Sorry sir.

The man’s penis is rubbing against one of the beams and is precumming on the wood.  James uses the horse riding crop to smack his dick, resulting in wide eyes and shock, following with warmth in excitement and pleasure.  This is something the young Witness had never seen before – and the energy vibrating off the man was thick and dense with a peaceful serenity, the exact opposite reaction one would think a tied up man being whipped would be non-verbally expressing.  Still, this man was intensely aroused and wanting to make sure this went the way he wanted, Master decided to close one door… at least for this particular man.

(Smacking his dick again)  You will NOT be shooting your load in front of me.  Is that clear?

(Excited more) Yes sir.

In fact, your penis is so disgusting I can’t even LOOK at it.

(Precumming more) Sorry sir.

James walks away amazed at this.  This is kinda fun.  In some ways he always wanted to get back at older men ever since his molester… this seemed like a perfect solution.  Putting down the riding crop and picking up the teasing paddle he wonders how this marvelous circumstance hadn’t been tapped before.  There was nothing about this that wasn’t fantastic.  However, he couldn’t get over the calming relief the man was emanating  from his core.  What the hell happened in this man’s life to cause him to need such force to gain peaceful sexual arousal?  James wasn’t turned on, but in some ways he was… mainly at the novelty of the situation.  He puts that out of his head for the moment, Focus.  He also picks up the club.  My penis isn’t getting anywhere near this guy, but for the kind of money he’s paying I might as well tease him with something.  The man seems to get off on not getting any, so the Master is going to accommodate.  After all, he had been taught to be polite from childhood.

Half and hour later, James is staring at a blush-red, slightly warped ass under a scarred back and above throbbing thighs.  Oops.  Maybe I went a little hard.  It didn’t matter.  Detaching the man and taking off his restraints reveled the largest eyes he had seen on anyone.  He was still in mask and had to keep in character until the slave exited… So again, he resisted to urge to burst into laughter with a child-like snarl.  He took the man’s underwear from the floor and shoved it in his shocked-open mouth.

You’re not wearing these home.

The man nods in obedience.

Get dressed.  Now.  Get out out of my sight.

The man puts on his clothes, still with a large erection, hands shaking out of excitement.  Master resists the impulse to give the man a hug and tell him it will all be okay… but it seems a little late in his psychological development to have any real benefit on his life, Plus it will probably send mixed messages as I am still in a mask.  

It takes seconds before a wet spot develops in his jeans.

And you are going to walk in front of all those people with your fucking wet jeans… because that’s how pathetic you are.  GO!

The man again nods quickly and James can tell he wants to smile, but restrains himself.  He left out the door and hurried down the hall.

Clean up was minimal and James was walking down the hall to the reception room to find Ozzy, Brittany, Sterling, and Billy sitting in fearful astonished silence and all eyes were almost in tears as they gazed blankly at the person who dominated the audio atmosphere of the entire building for over thirty minutes.

Well, he was a sweetheart. 

No one knows how to respond.  Ozzy finally breaks the stillness with I can venture to say that was a satisfied customer.  He left with the biggest smile and an even bigger boner.  

Dude…

The sound… was…

Everywhere.

We thought… we…

(Pause.)

We thought we needed to call an ambulance.

He beamed from ear to ear.  It’s not often one can strike fear in the hearts of a diverse group of miscreants.  He decided to ride the wave.  I worked up an appetite.  Who  wants to buy me dinner?

Brittany was the first to chime in, That shit isn’t going to work on me.  I’m still pretty sure I can take you.

Billy was next.  I will buy you whatever you want just as long as I don’t have to hear those sounds… ever again.

House of Pies it is.

Billy took him out to eat and it is there he first meets a local mini-celebrity Chinese drag queen of her own making named China Doll who had taken a liking to James while her performing onstage at Rich’s, but their first meeting was the evening James happens to be downing a full meal while sitting across from a still audio-traumatized Billy.

You beat people? At that little pink place? Oh girl!

It is horrible.  Billy  is still traumatized.

It pays the bills.

You don’t have any bills! You live with your parents!

Wait. Girl. You telling me you beat people in a dungeon… and live at home with parents?

Plus…

(To Billy.) Don’t. (To China Doll.) Yes. And you should send whoever that… Hindenberg was in your opening act last night over to my dungeon so I can beat some rhythm into her.

Oh, GURL! You bad!

Just trying to help.

Try all you want, that poor bitch was dropped on her head one too many times.

(Laughter.)

James’s chivalry requires his rising upon the entrance and exit of a lady… but the air kisses are something new.

It would be two days before he hears the final verdict from the real master himself.  It came in a voice message.  What the hell did you do to him?  He’s totally in love with you, now.  Anyway, good job.  If you want, there will be more to come.  Or… not come, I guess… in Ken’s case.  He told me about that and somehow… it turned him on more.  But, good job.  Glad to have someone at that place I can use and trust.

James puts away the phone very satisfied with himself.  After the evening he and Derrick drive over to the Gold Room to meet up with Brittany as Derrick wanted to go out after she was finished with her work at the mother club.  Initially James agreed, but on the way he remembers work he has to do on a Kingdom Hall.  Shit, I need a pocket calender.

Entering the Gold Room is somewhat of a rap video in real time.  They didn’t have the same protective reception set-up as Feathers – they only had a freestanding desk in the waiting room and open door from the lobby.  All the girls at the ‘private lingerie modeling’ facility knew of the other business venture, but only two had actually been to Feathers, so a visit from workers at the ‘boy’s club’ was always met with a sense  of wonderment and accommodation, especially when it came to the story of James.

Not only was it captivating to the women who worked there, but the customers as well, some of them long-time patrons who had never seen other non-paying males get so much attention from the ladies.  This particular night there are three men waiting in the lobby as the boys walked in, and throw smiles at Kendra, the brunet looks stunning.  James gives her a kiss on the cheek followed by Your breasts look amazing  extracting a blush and chortle while shaking her head and looks back at the stunned men sitting in a row of office chairs confused about what they just saw.

The theme rooms lined the hallway on the right while the left side opens up to a lounge area in two parts, the leather couches and televisions playing ESPN near the front, and a pool table next to a wet bar serving only mixers in the middle with rest rooms and offices beyond.

Can I get you boys anything to drink?

I’m fine, Derrick said, holding his mandatory bottle of water.  Then he thinks for a second.  He’s a 19 year old, “bisexual” in a room filled with gorgeous half naked women with tits pushed to the chin being offered free alcohol from a bottle some customer brought in.  Is there whisky?

I know there’s at least one bottle.

I’ll take a whisky and coke.  (To James)  Why not?

Anything for you?  Maybe take you to the dungeon and fuck the gay out of you?

I wouldn’t fuck with James and the dungeon.

I heard.

James is startled at how turned on Tiffany is by him.  It wasn’t that he was more attractive than Derrick, he wasn’t… it was that he was an untouchable challenge with a cute, innocent look about him that made it impossible to resist the urge to dirty him.  Now with word of the dungeon scenario spreading, there is now a combination of confusion and eroticism that seems to mystify everyone in the room, he looks like an angel, but we heard he’s as dirty as all of us.

James smiles with his best David impression, I’ll just take water.

Tiffany retreats with an obvious display of cunning disappointment.  Behind the scenes, a business like this is a running lesson of the insecurity of women.  Each one has to compete with the other in order to be chosen for a session, so each one makes themselves look desirable based off what they think men want.  He guesses maybe this is information they were told by guys over the years.  It’s an enigma that covers over the profound truth of the matter:  All these women are fucking gorgeous and then they ruin it with layers of Tammy Faye make-up and combustible hair towered in ways that makes one question the structural integrity of the fiber and follicles rather than noticing the eyes of the beautiful woman underneath.

Or so it would seem.  What do I know?  I’m gay.

Hey, the pool table’s open.

The two boys played pool while waiting.  The deception that is being presented doesn’t stop with the girls’ presentation.  Whatever fantasy they are presenting, the reality is that the girls are the most powerful people in control… at all times.  Each room has a hidden panic button and is video taped.  The panic button alerts a rather large bouncer who remains hidden away so as to give and air of innocence, but he’s there… and he’s fucking huge.  Only three or four guys are allowed in the lounge at one time.  These girls had done it all and seen it all, and they are not going to take any shit from any business man with a gold card.

Brittany was finished with her client and bounced up kissing both boys on the lips, adding hello, daddy in James’s ear while patting him on the ass.  This does not go unnoticed by Tiffany.

Why does she get to fondle you?

Here, if it will make you feel better, I have this for you.

James reaches into his right front jeans pocket and pulls out a baggie of coke.  With his left hand he cups her right breast from below and massages it gently while slyly sliding the baggie into the bra from the top.

Is that what I think  it is?

Yes.

You’re forgiven.  She kisses him on the cheek and scurries off then turns around.  Are you sure you don’t…

No.  It’s yours.  Enjoy.

Thank you!  She continues off to the bathroom almost whiskfully.

Brit is annoyed.  You know this is a drug free work environment.

He gestures with his hand toward Derrick.  And yet you are serving alcohol to minors.

Touche.

Where are you getting all these free drugs?

Everywhere.  People leave them behind in the room, usually in matchbooks with phone numbers.  I don’t know.  Just all over.

They are giving you coke so you will call them.  If you’re not going to do the drugs, you should at least give it back.

Really?  

You could be selling it, you know.

As of now, they are going in the toilet.  So at least this way it goes to good use.

You are making these girls impossibly addicted to you.

It’s great, isn’t it?

You wanna go out when you’re done?

Sure!

I can’t.  I have a whole set of redlines I have to draft.  Plus, I’ve been getting in pretty late, it would be nice to get a decent night’s sleep.

Pussy.

Okay, but leave Saturday open.  We’ll do something.

Sure thing.

He leaves through a barrage of lifted and separated tits and a rainbow of red lipstick kisses and drives into the night back to Parrot Avenue, Rosenberg.

The next morning he is heading into the bathroom when he sees his mom exiting the master bedroom followed closely by his father.

Morning.

Hey, your momma is taking me to the hospital.  

What’s wrong?

Oh nothing.  I just saw something a little strange in the toilet this morning.  It’s probably nothing.  Just wanna get it checked out, that’s all.

Okay, well… keep me posted.

Hurry Steve.

Don’t forget about Trish’s party.

That’s today?

Yep.

Steve points his finger to the air at head height and gives a slight shake of the head with a smile.  Then we’ll be there.

Hurry, Steve.

I’m coming, Blanca!  Just a minute.  Steve turns back at James and gives him another smile and a wink before heading into the living room.  Get to work.  

Dad, keep me posted.

Of course, son.

Five hours later James is sitting on a wooden park bench at the back of Trish’s house with David, Amber, and the twins.

This party sucks.

Katy, look.  Kristy points to David and James wearing similar blue polo shirts.

I know.

James receives a call on his pager and asks to use the house phone.  He listens to his mother’s words intently.

He hangs up the phone.

He walks back to the bench.

He sits down.

He gives a slight lean to the right so his shoulder rests with weight on David’s shoulder.

My dad has been admitted to Memorial Herman Hospital.  They think he has a tumor in his large intestines.

James P. Perez © 2013