Backseat Devil

Tag: Jehovah’s Witness

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 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 8 – Master Lolita

This is the rack, I built it all by hand.  It’s made so you have to crank three times as much as it pulls apart and that clicking sound is more for audio effect, so don’t grease the mechanism… it’s suppose to be that loud.  I haven’t finished it so for now only use it with the person facing up.  Until I add more bracing, don’t use it for sexual situations… it cannot hold two people.  And try to keep the one person under three-hundred pounds.

This is the Saint Andrew’s cross.  It is very stable, you can hang a person off of each beam and it still won’t move.  You notice I used the same hooks that I have at the rack, so once you get a slave into the restraints you can move them from station to station without a problem.  With this, you can face the slave however you see fit although back toward you builds greater anticipation faster in a shorter amount of time.

The whipping post is just as it sounds.  I don’t have any restraint hooks on it, but there are these attached to the wall here… and here.  I will go through the whips in a second.

The stockade is on a raised platform and lower so the slave has to hunch over, but their ass is still at a good striking height.  There is no lock on it, but it doesn’t matter, the top is heavy and if the slave has restraints on their wrists they cannot pull them out.

The spider web isn’t tied down.  It’s more for feel… nylon rope against the skin type thing, very sensual.

Different is the chain link fence.  It looks weak and typical, which is the point.  But it’s tied a lot stronger than it looks.  It’s away from the wall so you can tie the slave on that side there, and hoist from the bottom.  The pully and wrench are tested for six-hundred pounds, so don’t worry.  

Over here we have whips and butt plugs.  Let’s start with the pewter and work our way across.  Please be mindful not to disrupt the order…

James tries to not look like a cat caught on the highway.  This is a lot of information for him to take in and rapid-fire format is not necessarily the best way for memory to harbor anchors.  James tried to use visual memorization to keep track, and the slave in his mind was already crushed under the weight of leather and pewter before making it half-way through the room.

Cattail whips are all in the wrist.  Don’t do a simple thrust… pop your wrist at the end…

This was not the day he had planned.

James, wake up, dear.  I don’t want you to be late for your meeting.

Yes, mom.  I’m awake.  What’s for breakfast?

What would  you like?

French toast, eggs… scrambled.  A little cheese on top.

You got in very late last night.

I know, I’m sorry.  I just had a lot to do.

I’m taking these to the laundry.  And why do they smell like smoke?  Are you smoking?

James was now fully awake and sitting up calmly.

Don’t worry about the clothes.  I will take them with some other things.  I have to separate.

You?  Doing your own laundry?  It’s good to hear you’re being responsible.

And I’m sorry about the smoke smell.  Everyone at work smokes in the break room, it just comes with the job.  

Who needs computer help in the middle of the night?

It’s Houston, mom.  People get off work at all hours, you know.

Well I don’t like it.  And you better get everyone at work to quit smoking.

I will try.

Well hurry up, mister.  Breakfast will be ready in 30.

Thanks, mom.

As soon as the door is closed and he hears commotion in the kitchen he retrieves his jeans from the floor.  The contents of the pockets replays the early morning hours:   Two baggies of white presumably cocaine, $200.00 in cash, two matchbooks with phone numbers written on them, and what seems to be a corner of a cigarette pack with a third phone number. One of the numbers was the cute raver kid he fucked in the parking lot of Rich’s, but he had no clue which one.  I have got to stop going out with those crazy girls after work.

He heads into the bathroom and starts the shower.  Throwing the phone numbers and bags of coke in the toilet.  I feel someday this is going to be a painful memory.  

After breakfast he drives into the office and prepares for a design meeting for next Kingdom Hall to be ‘quick-built’ in Caldwell, Texas.  He had spent the previous day making the necessary changes to the package the elders in Caldwell had chosen and personalized the information to make it site-specific.  Several sets of 11×17 prints had been made but yet to be bound.  Preliminary financial ledgers will be coming with the committee members when they arrive.

James is starting the binding process when Brother Sherwood enters.

Here you go, James.  And we have made a small change to the restroom area.  It’s not much.  Is it possible to get that reprinted before the meeting or no?

Consider it done.

Brother Sherwood was a tall, older brother with a soft ‘gentle-giant’ quality about him set against the kind bright eyes of a steady demeanor.  He may seem ‘soft’ in ways but somehow powerful enough to be a pleasant grounding force in any room he entered.  For such, there wasn’t much James wouldn’t do for him, so a small drafting change and replacing two sheets in a dozen sets in under an hour seems as inconvenient as low mumbling background noise.

James takes apart the binding strips of the sets he started and slides in his knee chair to the drafting station to make the changes.  The brothers are beginning to arrive, he hears.

Print.  Print.

Copy.

Double check.

He removes the old sheets from each set just as Amber walks into the door.  This looks a mess.

Great!  I need an assistant.  

You don’t have to be manic.  They will wait on  you.

I know, I just don’t want them waiting on me.

The two finished the packages and delivered to the conference with minutes to spare, meaning he had to go for the extra dramatic flair of delivering each set to each elder personally while greeting them.  Brother Sherwood always noticed the extra effort.  It was something James was honestly very appreciative of.

Thank you, James.  I don’t know what we’d do without you.

He smiles and bows a slight you’re welcome/no problem in the brother’s direction before exiting the conference room and subjecting Amber to the torturous OCD-laden operation of cleaning up the office they (he) had just jumbled.

Four hours and a change in wardrobe later he enters Feathers with Billy in tow after the two had dinner together outside on the lawn at Rice University.  Ozzy and Sterling are sitting behind the desk and the boys are buzzed in.

Ozzy approaches the duo in the hallway.

We have a problem.

You’re hair looks fine, James blurts out.

Hush you.  Master Don has an appointment for this evening and he can’t make it due to an emergency at work.  Real work.

I’m still not understanding the “we” part of the problem.  

Just have Don cancel.

He is the master after all.

“Master Don commands you to reschedule…”

“… Or you’ll get a beating.”

“… Or you… won’t… get a beating.”

I’m not sure how that works.

I’m not either.

Ollie waits until the two are finished.  I’m going to slap both of you. 

It is explained that this was a once-a-month event for the client while he is in town.  Master Don is not a full time Master, but rather a manager at a large retail store up 290.  Master will be coming by in 30 minutes to explain to someone how the dungeon operates and (Master’s main concern) how it all gets cleaned.

I’ll do it!  Brittney appears from break room and kisses James on the mouth.  Sorry, just had a sandwich.

Tastes so much better than before.  (To Billy) The other day she ate out a girl… to orgasm… and then kissed me on the mouth.

Billy is nervous around Brittney as a norm, but this information has him motionless as he stares at her eyes for the first time since they met.

You mean you…

I’m bisexual, yes.

Billy is almost frozen with joy, and says quietly, I would love to eat out a woman with you, someday.

I’m certain that can be arranged.  (Back to the conversation) So what are we doing with the dungeon guy?  I love spankin’ a little ass.

Ozzy is not longer paying attention.  He is stuck on what James said and is now green in color, obvious even in a low-lighting and pink walls.  His expression is stuck in mid-gag with eyes fixed off into unknown space.

You need to go get some water, I will fill her in.

As everyone files into the reception area they notice Sterling’s reaction to the conversation wasn’t much better than Ozzy’s.

Do you need some water as well?

(Half-laugh) I’ll be fine, just don’t look at me.  

It is explained to Brittney what the situation was with the dungeon rental and how the combination of her lack of penis and over compensating (albeit lovely) breasts would prevent her from adding solution to this particular problem.  Billy doesn’t want to confuse his sexuality any more than what he’s already toiling with.  Ozzy doesn’t even like passing the room and insists the door remains closed so as to avoid visual offense while entering the break room.

Sterling finally broke his silence.  Look, I haven’t done shit like that since Carter left office.  James, you should do it.  You’re the one wanting to learn about all this.  

What better way than from the master himself?

Plus I think you’ll look cute in leather.

No.

Broaden your horizons!

You will make twice as much in tips.

And it’s only for 30 minutes.

Oh my god. THIS is the peer pressure they always talked about in school.  How am I getting this after I graduate?

Encouraged by his giggling everyone begins to chime in at the same time, Do it James/You know you want to/All the cool kids are doing it/The first step is always the hardest.

Look, Ozzy finally said with finality, it’s your decision… but I think you will find it a lot more educational then sexual because that is just the way your mind works.

And, Brittney had to add, you’re not going to be part of the gang unless you beat some old man ass.

Both, are strong arguments.

Master Don enters with dark hair and a dark mustache, initially unassuming but upon standing still garners a rather inelastic energy without being overbearing or obvious.

So who’s our guy?

All heads pointed in the direction of the glass slowly turn toward James.

That would be me.  

Good.  Let’s get started.  As he is buzzed in he fishes out a small leather mask from his pocket.  Here, you’re definitely going to need this.

Why?

Because you look like you’re fucking twelve.

James P. Perez © 2013

Chapter 7 – Tale of Two Pretties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tick, tock.  This won’t stop.

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

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

Tick, tock.

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

(Ground rules.)

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

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

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

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

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

This was all very exciting.

Shaddup!

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

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

You’re not a guest, David said.

Not the point.

Did you use it?

Also not the point.

What are you guys talking about?

(In unison) Nothing.

Did I just hear you say “Vaseline?”

Are you talking about self abuse?

Because we are warned against that.

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

Well… old habits die hard.

Hard you say?

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

Not funny, James.

Soon you will be having premarital sex.

Which will inevitably lead to an abortion.

Yeah, I’m pretty potent.

And wanting more sex will lead you to rape.

All because of masturbation.

Ew! You are talking about abusing your penis.

It’s not really “abuse,” per se.

And who said he was abusing his penis?

(In unison) James!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David won 3 to 2.

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

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

I think the short one.  It just seems…

Proportional?

Yeah. 

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

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

I say the tall one.  Whoever wins buys dinner. 

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

That’s what I think, Billy says.

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

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

But doesn’t everyone attack a dick like that?

In any moment he’s going to…

(Unison) There he goes!

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

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

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

Chasing art thieves.

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

Is that what you were laughing at so loudly?

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

Oh man. 

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

Nor this one.  I’m out of here.

How was your client?

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

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

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

Can… we…

(Laughing) No!

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

Don’t ask.

James didn’t.

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

Anyway.

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

I thought you were a vegetarian?

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

I’m learning all kinds of things this evening.

Did you want anything?

No, my mom made dinner.

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

I know.

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

Does it?

Does she make your dad eat all his…

Ew!  Go get your food!

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

I’m heading to New York after my birthday.

And you will be back…?

Not sure.  Maybe never.

It’s not like the Mormon two year thing?

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

Sounds… different.

I know. 

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

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

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

I hope I do too.

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

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

You have an erection.

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

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

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

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

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

Glad to help.

James P. Perez © 2013

Chapter 5 – Confronting the Devil

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

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

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

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

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

That went on for years.

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

Tony is being disfellowshipped and being escorted off the property.

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

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

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

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

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

Did Tony touch you in any way?

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

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

Of course.

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

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

Six months. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is ridiculous.

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

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

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

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

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

Why?  It’s the same exact emotion?

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

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

Six months. 

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

No.

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

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

Five months, 29 days.

James P. Perez © 2013

Chapter 4 – Nights of the Round Table

There they are.

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

You never knew with those two.

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

You wanted some too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you two going to sit down, or what?

Yes, David.  Don’t be inpatient. 

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

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

Diet Coke.

Regular Coke.

Hot tea.

Make that two.

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

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

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

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

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

Well, obviously I made it out alive.

He’s joking, Katy.

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

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

James and David speak in unison, What happened??

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

He was big and ugly. He smelled like pee.

And?

And that was it.

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

Where were you?

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

What?

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

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

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

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

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

We will walk you your Jeep after we eat.

To the well lit parking lot off the street.

The sentiment is nice.

I think she’s being dramatic.

I think you’re being naive.

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

We looked into it before but we got conflicting information.

Dad thinks it’s a good idea…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sorry for the delay.  Is everyone ready to order?

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

Did I switch them?  I’m so sorry.

It’s okay.

It happens all the time.

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

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

Yeah, moocher.  Make it the fourteen inch.

I’ll take the chicken Casar salad.

I’m not sure yet. Go to James.

Twelve inch mushroom pan, please.

Twelve inches, got it.  That leaves you.

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

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

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

We good?

Yeah, that works.

Okay, I will get this right out.

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

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

Awe.  That’s sweet.

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

(Laughter)

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

Thank you for that sentimentality.

Both of you now… with the sentiments.

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

Wow James, that is…

I don’t know what to say.

Yeah James, way to show me up.

It’s true though.

Thank you for that.

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

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

Do you write poetry?

I bet you would be good at poetry.

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

I would like to read some of your poetry.

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

Tell us what?

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

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

Ew.

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

I’m going to Bethel.

Oh my god that’s great.

You already told us that.

I did?

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

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

We will be very supportive.

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

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

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

Yeah Katy.

You didn’t catch it either.

Wait, is that why he…

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

(In unison) Congratulations.

When do you leave?

In six months.

Wow, that long? 

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

That is very cool.

I bet your parents are so excited.

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

You just found out tonight?

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

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

Yes tonight.

And David was there? 

How did he react?

He was naked and holding a pork chop.

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

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

Seriously, how did he take it? 

Subtle graciousness.

Wow.

Are you exited? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

We wouldn’t judge you.

But this has been a goal of  yours, right?

Since birth, it seems like.

It’s a big move. 

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

To wrap this up…

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

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

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

You’re going to the farm?

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

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

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

You would get in trouble in the city?

You would sooo get in trouble in the city.

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

I think I know what you mean.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know.  We’re working on it.

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

You too James.

And you’re going to Bethel.

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

Stop.

What?  It’s true.

No.  Don’t do that.

What?

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

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

Exactly.

You will be a Ministerial Servant soon.

I don’t have the ties for that. 

You have to give up the Doc Martins.

I’m not giving up my Docs.

The twins butt in.  Wait, what?

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

Who would we tell?

And who would believe us?

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

Are you two doing the fake conversation thing again? 

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

(In unison) Ew!

Nice save, James.

You guys say the worst things.

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

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

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

Thanks guys.

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

Thank you, ladies.

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

The bad boy and the golden child being friends…

… a little surprising. 

No offense to either of you.

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

That’s an interesting way of putting it.

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

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

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

(Sporadic)  Thank you.

Does everything look okay?

(Sporadic) Yes.  Thanks.

Can I get you anything else?

More napkins.

Napkins.  Right away.

The waiter disappears as suddenly as he arrived.

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

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

You sound like an apostate, Katy.

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

The waiter returns with napkins.

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

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

Katy, my dear, I’m already weird.

I mean weirder.

I will try.

I thought we were changing the subject.

(Unison) We are.

James P. Perez © 2013

Chapter 3 – David

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And there wasn’t any weirdness.

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

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

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

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

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

Hey. Wanna go to a movie tonight?

Yeah.

Good.  Can I change over at your house?

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

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

Hi, mom.

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

Just fine Sister Perez.

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

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

We’re going to a movie later.

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

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

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

David, have you eaten?

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

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

Please Sister Perez.  That is not necessary.

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

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

Because he’s company. 

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

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

There is a knock at the door.

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

Thank you.

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

I will and thank you, again.

Technically we are not in public, mom.

It’s still indecent.

Steve enters the room and kisses Blanche on the lips.

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

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

Hi Dad.  Welcome home.

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

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

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

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

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

He opens it and starts smiling.

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

Six months.

Congratulations son.

Oh James!  I’m so proud of you!

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

We can hug later.

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

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

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

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

I take it that went well.  

Yeah.  Mom’s calling people now.

Did you  need to…

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

Indecent?

Exactly.

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

Yeah.  I know.

James P. Perez © 2013

Chapter 2 – Listen

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

Through your son, Jesus Christ I ask these things.

Amen.

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

You AAAARE?

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

When are you going to ejaculate?

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

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

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

And his prayers didn’t work.

(Whistle.)

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

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

Tony waves furiously for James to go upstairs.

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

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

I got the new White Zombie CD.

Dude, you know better than that.

What?  I know you wanted to hear it.

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

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

Although the attention was easily played with.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it was okay to have both.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 1 – Total Immersion

On the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, have you repented of your sins and dedicated yourself to Jehovah to do his will?

The small crowd sitting in front of the stage responds with Yes!

Do you understand that your dedication and baptism identify you as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in association with God’s spirit-directed organization?

Yes!

James barely remembers the questions. He remembers the scene set in the summer of 1985. Coincidentally it was the first year those particular questions were asked as the questions asked to baptism candidates have changed several times over the course of Jehovah’s Witness history. Every time James drafts a pool on AutoCAD he thinks back to that year.

He thinks back to the big day while drafting a concrete detail for the baptism pool permanently imbedding itself stage left. This flashback distraction also means he is probably going to make a few mistakes he’s not going to catch until later… if he catches them at all.

James’s mother, Blanche was talking to Brother Benco in the back of the Kingdom Hall near the literature dispensary in early 1985 in a small town in Texas named Victoria.

Yes, Blanche. Feel free to ask anything.

Brother Benco, James wants to get baptized but I’m afraid he’s just too young.

James, what do you think?

Ten-year old James is sitting between the towering brother and his mother, glancing at the tall beige metal water fountain next to the black-letter-on-gold-background “Men’s” sign set in the signature style of the Kingdom Hall’s aesthetic at the time, carried out in the carpet and the dark stained wall paneling.

It wasn’t that James wasn’t paying attention. He was taking the idea of baptism seriously, but his mind wandered back to a year earlier in a large double-wide mobile home farm-house-type set on several acres of heavily wooded property ten minutes outside the Victoria city limits. The things with the 19-year-old Ministerial Servant who would baby sit James some weekends became intimate after the young man penned James to his mattress face to face, refusing to let him free unless he received a kiss… a French kiss.  Twice.

It was confusing, but James didn’t mind the amorous aspects to the request.  However, from that point forward James would suffer from an intense form of physical and emotional claustrophobia – being trapped in a corner or in a room with no way to move except at the will of someone else’s desires.  After it was apparent that nether of the participating parties were going to go to the elders, the abuser lighted up on his “force” and eventually the intimate nature of the relationship between them grew with a slow progression.  In a confused state after his tenth birthday James woke up in the middle of the night sitting on the edge of the twin sized bed. He could smell the signature mix of potpourri and teenage sweat floating against the fragrance of old wood walls, and its slight hint of moisture of the humidity-drenched structure. Turning to the man in the bed one night, James decided that if he got baptized this… this… everything would have to end.

Jehovah must see to it.

James lifts his hand and slaps the man across the face. He wakes up.

What was that?

Nothing.  Go back to bed.

Are you upset with me?

No. Why would I be upset?

Because we can’t be doing… this.  What we do.

Well, you’re the adult.  You stop it.

He grunts an eye roll and turns over to face away from the boy, the window, and the large longhorn horns that were mounted above it. Arguing with a child can be so difficult sometimes. James wanted to get baptized. Then he would be an adult, an adult who can make adult decisions.

At the Kingdom Hall a year later James stands in front of his mother and Brother Benco and decides how he wants to answer the question.

I want to dedicate my life to Jehovah. Is there any reason why I should wait to tell Jehovah that my life belongs to him? I mean, Samuel was five years old when his mother sent him to live at the house of God. I’m already twice that age!

James was golden.

There are a series of over 120 questions set out in the back of the Organized to Accomplish Our Ministry book, and the answers are given via scriptures. It is up to the student to present the answers well in the three or four settings it takes to answer all the questions. One elder is assigned to each setting.

About two weeks went by and James was approved to start his questioning process with Brother Tylich, a tall statuesque man of impeccable grace and design in his red brick ranch style house with white trim and white sectional sofa. A week later he was sitting in front of Brother Benco in his newly built, modern stucco and brick house with his over stuffed couch and matching Lazy-Boy chair. And a week from that point James found himself at the Hasdorff residence nestled in a 1960’s style home with the best of the era’s interior design of classic green and brown taste, angled legs on all the furniture, and the most beautiful stainless steel starburst clock sitting over the sofa. It was precise and orderly as the TVLand rerun it was lifted from, and comforting as if it were an old friend.

It wasn’t long and James and his mother were waiting in the kitchen of their Crouch Road home built by hand by James’s father, Steve. The large, three foot deep terracotta colored linoleum counter top in the back of the simple 2-story A-frame was the only working phone at the time. James paced back and forth until the phone finally gave its frightening bell scream.

In a few months time the Perez family are entering into the parking lot of the Astrodome in Houston, the same venue that had Judy Garland and the Supremes performing on opening night. At the Saturday morning session the baptismal candidates are asked to sit in front of the stage. Walking into the Astrodome on the field level is the emotional equivalent of seeing the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls for the first time. The expanse is overwhelming in its breath. The curve skylights were so far away it seemed impossible that anything, including sound, could ever reach them. The massive curved trusses seemed to be made of toothpicks painted grey. For the first time in his life, James felt the soft cushion of the world famous AstroTurf installed after the grass kept dying from lack of sunlight in 1966, the same year Jehovah’s Witnesses released the book Life Everlasting – In Freedom of the Sons of God that pointed to 1975 as the implied ‘end of the world’.

The stage was set at second base and the words “1985 Integrity Keepers District Convention” in twelve inch high white letters held up with a double wire prop provided a semi-circle announcement around the pitcher’s mound. The other three bases were decorated with various plants and flowers while next to home plate two above ground swimming pools were being filled with water. A young man who had been studying for a year found James earlier and the two entered into the arena together.

So many years later he cannot remember the guy’s name but he was in his 20’s, reddish blonde hair, ecstatic and joyous. If the young ten year old were overwhelmed, this man provided the excitement James was suppose to be feeling. Both had their bags of swimsuits and their bibles, note pads, pens, and programs. Both had palatable anticipation of the beginning of their new life. Careful to avoid the perfectly placed white lettering, the two found their seats on the left side closest to third base, in the middle just six or seven seats from the one center aisle.

The Saturday morning session starts and the first major wave of bizarre is standing in the center of 48,000 people as he hears the mighty surge of voices in the opening song.  James thought if he was ever going to be a rock star, this feeling would be impossibly addictive.

The talk comes to dedicating oneself to Jehovah and the organizational structure of receiving spiritual knowledge, but the language of the technicalities is always vague enough to mean “general Christian”. The candidates are asked to stand and are asked the two questions.

Having answered “yes” to these questions, candidates are in a right heart condition to undergo Christian baptism.

During the song, they are escorted off the field and into the dressing rooms.

The water was cold. He could tell because the ‘soon-to-be-brother’ who was taking care of him went first in pool #1, and his nipples had an immediate reaction through his tight white tee-shirt. Due to the lack of logos or exposed skin, the normal observer would see very little of the scene other than people dedicating their lives to Jehovah. But up close, it seemed a little less subtle than what was intended.

The setting is exciting and tense. Baptism is a symbol, like a wedding ring (it is explained). It proves to others that you are in dedication to this idea, this concept, this religious blanket of hope and redemption. It has no bearing on whether it’s reality or even at the age of ten what you know or what you are running from. It is a public celebration like a wedding or a funeral whether or not the reality of the inward soul knows what they are doing, it is being done and people in the masses are celebrating its existence.

It’s confusing if you are not confident, and no ten year old is that confident.

The young (now) brother exits the pool, drenched from the total immersion necessity of the process. There were three brothers assigned in each pool and three brothers outside the pool watching to verify that the person being baptized clears the surface of the water like referees at an Olympic event. He has the biggest smile on his face and is beaming from his bright brown eyes. He looks up at James as they pass on the stair into the pool. The brother stops to watch his young friend who is beyond neck deep in the water as he is pointed to a brother who will perform the baptism. James looks at his friend who is waiting for him. The brother has all his wet clothes clinging tightly to him.

James holds his breath and is submerged… then lifted out of the water by a foot so everyone can see the rise from his dramatic plunge for his life before God.  James emerges as someone who can now be called “brother” in the Jehovah’s Witness Organization.

The cheers are lost to water in the ear mixed with the vastness of the building. It was a 16mm film projector stuck in looping brokenness. He couldn’t breathe. There was a lot of energy directed on him and he couldn’t tell which end was up and which way to safety.  With a head rush and so much going on, he couldn’t find his bearings.

A hand came into view and grabbed him. A large arm with reddish blonde hair pulls him up the stair.

I gotcha.

Thank you.

No problem, James. Congratulations!

You too.

James was spitting out water.  Tens of thousands of people and only one person noticed that he was drowning.  He was thankful for his new brother.  When they were safely on the concrete shy of the AstroTurf, they hugged. This was the new James, and he was ready for adult decisions.

 James P. Perez © 2013