Backseat Devil

Tag: Kingdom Hall


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

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

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

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

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

If only.

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

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

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

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

Heyyy, Brother Perez!  How’s it going?

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

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

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

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

Steve.  They drove all this way from Victoria.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

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


How is your heart?

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

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

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

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

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

Why not just tell her to stop?

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

Of course.

Don’t take too long. 

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

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

But he is disfellowshipped.

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

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

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

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


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

An hour or so?  James was a little confused.

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

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

So I can stay with him, she said frustrated.

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

She stays with me at night in case anything happens.

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

I wasn’t planning on it.

I don’t think dad needs a baby sitter.

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

Like… spontaneous death? 

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

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

What?  James!  You can’t do that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How does this not wake him up?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James P. Perez © 2014

Chapter 30 – A Beginning

He is nervous.  He has the house to himself on this bright sunny Sunday.  He will not go to the meetings with his parents.  Already the elders have delayed the announcement of his excommunication because of his lack of attendance.  It seems to be important to them, but James doesn’t care.  And he tells them that.

Today is different, however.  He is in a better mood.  His father has a talk to give out of town so his parents left earlier in the morning.  James smiled at the information and retreated back to his room.  Once they have been gone for 30 minutes, he begins to quietly pack his clothes into two duffle bags, emptying one side of the closet.  His mom had crammed his entire childhood into the other side without a sense of historical sentimentality.  He then remembers… he doesn’t have a mom anymore.  So he continues packing his clothes, all of which are marked with a small tag reading his Bethel number of “594”, used to keep everyone’s laundry separate.  He knows how the numbers function.  He worked on the computer program that monitors them.

He thinks about taking his computer.  No.

His heart is pounding so hard he fears it’s going to knock the wind out of him.  He loads the two bags into his car and goes back inside to sit on the bed, trying to calm down.  He eventually gets himself moving again to start packing everything else in the room into his closet.  He looks at his childhood memories loosely packed in boxes filled with his graduation cap, diploma, pictures of his first trip to New York, awards and honors he achieved in school.  The boxes told a story of a child who had so much talent and potential… a suppressed dreamer unable to pursue any of it because of an organization that praises structure over truth and promotes the ignorance of separation over the empowerment of knowledge.  He remembers the scholarship he was offered.  He remembers Henry, the first boy he kissed in high school.  He briefly skims through some of his artwork.  He sees the plans and pictures of the assembly hall and decides to take the binder of architectural drawings with him… it’s the only resume he has.  He remembers being given a small baseball bat with his name engraved in it.  He remembers his baptism.

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

No, not anymore.   Jehovah and I have two very different definitions of “sin” and I will not repent from any of mine.  I am proud of them, I honor them.  I respect their existence and acknowledge the good and the bad that they have, can, and will do. 

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, and I wish it is something I could retract.

He was a child, he didn’t know what he was doing.  As an adult now, he knows more, feels more, understands human nature with more clarity.  He regrets that he has been so blind in sticking with the organization that allows such brutality.  Being distracted with kingdom hall and assembly hall buildings made it easier to tolerate, work with, and support the religion.  But the organization allows people, imperfect mortals, to control others and wield power that no human should have over another human.

He’s not resentful of the time he spent with them.  He learned much that he will carry with him for the rest of his life.  But there is a good and decent human being whose light has been extinguished from the planet and he feels an increased level of responsibility to replace that light.  He doesn’t know how just yet… but he’s going to find out.  The anticipation makes him pause for reassurance that he is doing the right thing.

He closes the door to the closet.

He walks next door to see his grandmother.  He just wants to say “hi”, give her a hug.  She appreciates it.  He walks back.

He enters his room and looks at his phone.  There was one number of one guy he met one time way back before the shit storm started.  On Friday he called and asked if he could crash at his place a few days…

Sure man!  Come stay as long as you need.

Relief.  One small thread poking out after the rains, the winds, lightening, and the torrential display of engorged authority bloated with self righteousness there stands this one thread sicking out after the storm.  The biggest smile comes over his face.  Years of his life melted from his body.  Relief.

The dynamic in the house began to shift in the past week.  His parents were talking, moving, and conversing differently.  They will help him.  They will fix him.  They will make him better for with Jehovah, all things are possible.  He can stay in the house, get a job, and they will nurse him back to health.  It’s the best possible maternal mending held fast by a paternal powerhouse drenched in the glory of God’s love.  His mother is already telling stories of how her son was salvaged from the grips of Satan’s claws and redeemed through the power of the one true organization of Jehovah.   There is a need to control, to reconstruct, to infuse a new bible battery to power the shining example of the golden boy he once was… the ultimate story of redemption and salvation.  For his parents, it is not only possible, it has already happened in their minds.

James just needs to catch up.

He couldn’t take any more intervention.  Some things people just need to do on their own and this time he needs to walk on his own feet, his own way, and be honest about who he is as a human being.  He is not a Jehovah’s Witness.  He was a gay man trying to play a straight role in a religion that considers his natural biology worthy of condemnation.  And for 23 years, he went along with it, he worked for this organization, dedicated his life to it’s growth, and promoted it from door to door.  And every year the light of truth inside his soul dimmed… until he met someone who turned the volume up… way up… to the point where publishers, elders, and bethelites took notice and feared the beam that shot forth, for the brilliance of it’s honesty was too much for them to comprehend.

He likes that light.  He doesn’t fear that light.  In the grand scheme of things it’s positive energy being put out into the universe… something far more beneficial than any energy someone like Bechman produces or extracts out of others by beating them with the bible.  James sighs at the concept.  The bible is a book with no original documents written by people who thought the world was flat… and the copies of the translations that do exist are then translated into English… English, a language confusing in its spelling but so oversimplified in it’s lexicography it only has one word for “love”.  And somehow a group of people, any group of people, will provide a specific interpretation of precise wording and use it to to impose discipline and banishment in grandiloquent arrogance tantamount to that of the Crusades.  That is arrogance on a level even James fears to tread.  And yet, Jehovah’s Witnesses are told they must accept whatever comes through the organization, the good and the bad.  We are all just humans, after all.

One could apply the same philosophy to the supposed “wicked world” – one must accept the good and the bad, the evil and the angelic, the “blessings and the maledictions”.  There are evils of society, government, people who are obsessed to the point of causing harm, bombers, and mass shooters.  But in such debris comes the good.  Fred Rodgers is quoted as saying “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”

For every tragedy, there are always people running to the problem.  James loves these people, he is inspired by these people.  They do not act out of religion or faith, their instinctual response isn’t because of their love of god.  They act out of a sense of global humanity and honest concern for their fellow man, something his former church failed to teach him.  Any religion that adamantly believes they are the one and true path to salvation is a lesson in a cloaked sense of superiority.  In the back of their mind, running at all times is their “reality”… they have the truth, you do not.  They have the answer, you do not.  They will survive the last days and the coming judgement of god at Armageddon, and you will not.  The colors of the ties and dresses may be different, but the smiling display of warmth and “humility” is exactly the same.  They are not concerned for humanity, they are only concerned for themselves.  If every religion who separates themselves off with such dramatic enthusiasm were to tear down the walls they have erected, they would be shocked to see at how similar they are to each other… and many times, they are indistinguishable.

So when it comes to this particular cult-like religion cowering behind imaginary plastic facades trying to protect themselves from the Devil and his demons, he doesn’t want to be fixed or healed.  He wants to move on and grow up, think globally and respect humanity as a whole.  That is where he finds himself when he sits at the dining room table, writing a brief note to his parents.

I’m sorry, but I have to do this on my own.  Goodbye.

He signs it.

The release of one’s mask brings a freedom from tunnel vision, the ability to view the periphery previously obstructed by the limitations of the eye holes.  In his naked exposure, he his proud of who he is.  And for being such, he has been beaten with lies and absurdity.  Even more painful, the man he loved was beaten to the point of being unrecognizable.  He chooses to not stand for this behavior.  He is better than this.  And if he’s not better than this… he’s going spend all the time he needs to make himself better than this.  He will never reach the same level of brightness that Aaron or people like him can produce, but he can try.  He would rather give it an honest attempt then muzzle his heart.

There is a place he has seen and visited where there are people just like him living honest and openly.  It is a world filled with orphans and rejects kicked out and discarded by their families,  some with physical violence and disgust.  They welcome everyone, the poets and the idealists, the artist and the philosophers.  They welcome those broken down from the ravishes of religion, homophobia, and hate.  And their response is to have a big fucking party.  But they also fight, organize, and care for each other, they tend to the sick and the ailing, the lonely and the depressed.  They volunteer their time and money to better themselves and the world around them.  The community is not perfect, from what he has experienced it has its faults and those who overindulge… But I gotta take the good with the bad, right?  It certainly couldn’t be any worse than what he just went through.

He looks around one last time.  He smiles to himself.  He can’t believe he’s doing this.  He can’t believe it took him this long to do it.  Thank you Aaron.  Thank  you for the kick in the ass I needed.

He walks outside and locks the front door.  He tears up a little, he’s not sure why, he wasn’t expecting that.

He gets in the car and starts driving quickly, before any of the neighbors see him.  Once he gets on the highway he puts in White Zombie’s “Astro Creep: 2000”, a CD he has purchased four times since first listening to it with Tony, and cranks it up.  He is officially moving the devil from the backseat to the front.  And come to find out, he’s not that much of a devil after all – certainly not the worst one he’s encountered.  James rolls down the windows and screams with joy to the open Texas landscape.  People passing him think he’s insane.  He is insane, and he just escaped from the institution.  He’s free.  He’s finally fucking free.  He can’t stop smiling from joy of nothingness on his shoulders.  The light in his chest is getting brighter and brighter the farther he drives, pulsing with a stronger sense of morality, integrity, and humanitarianism.

It feels so fucking good to taste the molecules of air on the back of his throat.  Nothing scares him anymore.  He’s not invincible, in fact, he now knows exactly how fragile he is.  He respects it.  It’s beautiful to him.   Everything is beautiful, even the burned flat Texas fields of dead grass and falling fences look beautiful.  And now, he can be whoever the hell he wants to be.  His choice.  Because he is free to make that choice.

He is… FREE.

His cell phone rings.  It’s his parents.

He happens to be coming up on a body of water.  He stops at the lake and stands on the edge of the grass.  He looks at his Motorola StarTac phone.  Eight missed messages.  He breathes in the fresh air and throws his cell phone has hard as he can.  It makes a tiny splash in the distance, barely any ripples.  He smiles and gets back in his car.

Okay.  NOW he’s free.


James P. Perez © 2013

Chapter 28 – Let’s Talk

James.  I’m Beth.  I’m going to be talking with  you for a little bit.  Hopefully we can find out what’s going on, she says with her hands clasped in front of her and her cutest, default smile.

He already cannot stand this woman.  He would much rather talk to Strawberry Shortcake from the Bethel infirmary than this overdose of Mary Sunshine.  Okay.  So what’s going on?

Well, I’m a licensed therapist that works with Witnesses like you.

Did she mean young, closeted Witnesses who moved to New York, fucked their roommate, fell in love, and got kicked out of Bethel?  She hardly seemed equipped to handle one of these issues, much less any combination thereof.  Maybe she wanted to talk about his time in Houston?  Okay.

But before we can start. I need you to sign this first.  They are sitting in a small office in her home in Rockport, nicely decorated…calming, nothing too loud or boisterous so as to excite instability of the mind or cause the demons to pop out of one’s mouth.  She slides a sheet of paper across the painted wooden coffee table.

Yeah.  More paperwork.  As if he wasn’t already drowning in it from the hospital.  What is it?  A confidentiality agreement?

Yes, kind of.  It’s my confidentiality agreement.  It says that everything that you say will be kept between you and me, unless you say anything that I personally feel that the elders of your congregation need to know, then I will tell them.

He is pretty sure this is illegal and void of the actual definition of “confidentiality”, something she could lose her license over.  It annoys him.  He’s not even sure why… but he asks, What?  Are you serious?  

Of course.  I’m bound by Jehovah’s law above the law of the land.  And by Jehovah’s law, the elders need to know if you reveal anything or admit anything that I feel they should be aware of.  It’s for your own protection.

The person that came out of the car wreck is a very different person than who went in.  He is now docile, quiet, blank.  He has no emotions left to show, and so no emotions are displayed.  Everyone kept talking to him and it all seemed like each person was trapped in a bag of water yapping endlessly.  He couldn’t hear them clearly and the mass of people were colliding and pressing against each other causing unbreathable intrusive bubbles of asphyxiation upon his chest and face.  His zen-like state is a way of handling the now, preparing for what’s coming, and dealing with the disappointment of his failure.  He tells everyone he doesn’t remember anything about the wreck.  He claims ignorance and amnesia.

He remembers opening his eyes, seeing blood… not a lot, but enough to startle him.  He was facing oncoming traffic.  His head was splitting in two, throbbing like he was struck by a gigantic bell.  He kept blacking out.  Someone opened the car door, a woman.  She tries to keep him awake by shaking his shoulders.  Stay with me, sir.  He can’t seem to focus, his eyes seem to be vibrating side to side.  He sees the concrete barrier.

He closes his eyes again. Off in the distant blackness of the sea wind whipping over the Harbor Bridge he hears a faint sentence, From where I was driving it looked like his tire blew out.

Yes.  My tire blew out.  Let’s go with that.

It fades off until he wakes up at Spohn Hospital’s emergency room, signing papers he doesn’t even know he’s signing.  He goes back asleep, sort of.  In his semi-conscious reverie he can hear the footsteps of Brother Bechman jaunting off with paperwork and files in hand, wrapped in an inner schadenfreuden sense of glee.  James knew Aaron put up as much of a fight as he could.  Unfortunately, Aaron doesn’t have the tactical experience to fight like that, and more importantly… it wasn’t Aaron’s fight to fight.  In the end, Bechman got what he wanted.

With his excommunication, there will be no discussion.  Aaron’s name would be announced to all three Bethel locations… Brooklyn, Patterson, and the Farm.  He would be escorted off property immediately.  His family would bar all communication from James, blame him, accuse him, and Aaron himself will slowly become angry and bitter.  It’s how his process works.  It’s how everyone’s process works.  Aaron was lost.  James just had to learn to deal with that… and he could. What he couldn’t deal with is the guilt.

And for James, he would rather die than to think any more about what Aaron had to endure.

Your mother brought in some pictures of your time in New York.  Now, who are these people?

These are the guys I hung out with.  That picture was taken in Albany.

And who is this?

That’s Aaron.

Do you want to talk about Aaron?

Was she referring to his best friend who showed him new levels of love and appreciation, taught him about the softness of humanity who was repaid by enduring a gauntlet of berating torture all because of James?   No.  There’s really not much to say.

While his parents thought it was important for James to experience the joys of Jehovah’s Witness non-confidential “confidential” therapy, he knew in the background, behind the scenes letters were being mailed, phone calls were being made, and resolutions being drafted.  He knew the final piece of the Bechman puzzle had been placed.  That was the point… that is what he was after and he achieved it by whatever means necessary.

His father managed to get the car fixed.  It was banged up quite a bit, but not totaled.  The frame is still in tact and with a new fender and work on the hood and door, the car is once again driveable.  But James doesn’t drive.  He is afraid to drive, he doesn’t trust himself.  He is angry and upset and he wants to finish the job.  Mostly he hated that car.  It reminds him of Aaron.

Eventually, brain injury or not, placid emotions or not, he has to face his own judicial committee, this time with more serious albeit accurate information.  One night after the Tuesday evening meeting, the body of elders stay behind in the small Kingdom Hall in Sinton to discuss the matter of young Brother Perez.

James walks into the library and is faced by a circle of eight brothers, one of which is his father being on the far right side in the back.  They asked if it is okay if his father stays, he agrees.  For some reason James isn’t nervous.  His nerves are so callous by this point, nothing would shock him.  The worst offense to humanity wasn’t gay sex, and that James honestly believed in his heart.  He still finds it difficult to breathe, oxygen unable to reach the brain from the lack of air circulating in the claustrophobic horseshoe closing in on him.  He worries the signs of physical weakness in the stifling room filled with eyes and questions may come across as mental weakness.

James, in a follow up letter from your congregation we received… a ton of allegations on top of the ones from the first letter.  These are all very serious and we have to go through them one by one.

I’m ready.

James, did you make threats that you were going to kill your parents?

Okay, that shocked him.  This was not what he was expecting.  He snapped out without the benefit of air, What?

Did you or did you not make a threat of killing your parents?

I don’t understand where this question comes from.

Well, from Aaron we have that in conversation you wanted to kill your parents, dead.  

A dagger, a spear, a lance, and a sword all flew from the back of the room and landed in his chest, one after the other until there is no more skin to pierce.  He realizes that all his words and conversations are going to be twisted and misaligned to fit an agenda contrary to reality.  It is a deplorable maneuver on Bechman’s part and one that is impossible to fight against.  I do not recall such a conversation.

Okay, you may not remember, but we need to know if we should be concerned with your parent’s well being.

No, I’m not going to kill my parents.

While at Bethel, did you practice the occult or witchcraft?

 He is not prepared for this level of nonsensical ludicrousness.  Excuse me?  I really need to you repeat that.

Practice the occult.  A celebration of Satan.  Burning of incense and candles are often linked to that.  Aaron said you two burned incense and candles and did other things that give the implication of practicing the occult.

He had no more heart to break, there was no more blood to drain from his body. At this point… with a mentality of distance and perspective this is horror of the absurd.   I do not know how to even respond to that.

James, this is a serious matter you have facing you.

Then ask serious questions.

These are serious questions because these are very serious allegations.  If you deny them, that is fine.  But we must continue. 

And they do continue, one by one.  He was creating factions in a congregation he barely attended. He was leading the children of the congregation astray… children he couldn’t even name.  James was seducing Aaron by getting him drunk and taking advantage of him, manipulating him, and threatening him and his family with their lives.  He is accused of trying to seduce other members of the Bethel family and members of the congregation.  Specific names of who these brothers were are not given, neither is their testimony included. 

If any brother or sister has ever been before a body of elders for a sex-related sin, they can confirm the amount of intimate detail the elders want to know about the sex is disturbingly creepy.  James sits with seven straight older men and his father on the side as they ask him questions in rapid fire format.

With oral sex Aaron reports “more times than he can count”.  Is this you performing oral on him or he performing on you?

How many times did anal sex occur?

Were you the one doing the penetrating or were you the one being entered?

Did you ejaculate each time you were involved in sexual activity?

Did you ever ejaculate inside Aaron’s rectum? 

Did you ever have sex with Aaron while he was unconscious?

The last question hit like a gong so loud there was physical air displacement in the small room at the disrespectfulness and perversion of the idea causing his lips to shake at the mere suggestion.  There was a tear that formed, he didn’t bother wiping it.  He let it drop.  This was so wrong on so many different levels.

And it kept going.  And going.  He was getting nauseous.

I’m not admitting to any of this… in total.  This is ridiculous.

James didn’t know what the fuck Bechman did to Aaron, but whatever he did… the light he loved so much was gone and the backlash that snapped from New York to Texas was devastating.  Whatever technique or method of interrogation that was used, Aaron didn’t stand a chance and would literally admit to anything and everything.  It is bizarre and illogical… but mostly it is offensive in its malevolence.  They have taken everything he had experienced in his heart, in his soul, the loving pure energy of happiness and contentment, trust and comfort and have reduced it down to a series of creepily sterile worded sex acts, and it disgusted him.

He couldn’t take anymore.  Stop.  I’m done.  I won’t admit to anything… across the board.  Whatever is on that list I will deny it all.  Disfellowship me if you want.  

Are you going to refute all these allegations?

I’m saying I’m not admitting to anything.  Killing my parents?  The occult?  Rape?  No.  Everything… this entire everything… no.  I’m not going along with this, any of this.   

There is no way he is going to stand up against insane charges that were beaten out of someone at the world headquarters of the religion.  James finally sat in his chair with seven very simple and confused men staring at him, looking at his father… and it struck him.  I don’t deserve any of this shit.  Nobody on this planet deserves any of this shit.  He has read the bible twice and nowhere in it does it say that men can weld such power over another human being that they can pummel them with threats and lies until their soul is dark with desolation and vacuum.  No where does it say the creation of ten lies justifies getting to one truth.  People, as human beings on this planet, as individual entities and energies do not deserve to have someone else judge them, condemn their present, or dictate their future with this much authority.  It is a contemptible and despicable concept in slavery.

He has fucked crackheads and experienced far more genuine spirituality than what is being displayed with this scenario, and there is nothing the Organization can offer him that remotely compares.   He isn’t going to suppress that glorious creation of energy between two people… whatever gender they may be… just because a dishonest and unfair Organization deems it so.

He reaffirms that he is not admitting to anything.  The elders say they recommend disfellowshipping.  James completely agrees.  He gets up and leaves the library and goes outside to sit with his mother who was waiting in the car.

So what happened?

I’m going to be disfellowshipped.

Oh James.  Is there nothing we can do?  

No.  It’s stupid and ridiculous.

James.  Don’t say that about the elders.

I’m not.  The elders are just doing their job.  I mean the situation in general.

And the situation was fucked up.  James gets excommunicated.  Aaron gets excommunicated.  Then what?  Is the Organization any better off?  Is it now more “clean”?  The imbalance comes that the greater offense to humanity far exceeds the anything James and Aaron were doing.  They may have been selfish and immoral, but at least they were honest with themselves and were producing a very decent, pure light, unmatched by anyone they met.  How is destroying that of benefit to anyone in the Truth unless the Organization…

And then it hits him.

The Organization, the religion of his childhood and his young adulthood as it stands is not about joy or happiness, it’s not about spiritual well being or garnering the best goodness there is out of people.  It’s about control and fear… it is about binders and blinders, making sure the ‘flock’, the ‘sheep’ do not see too much, learn too much, or experience too much.  Just like with Bethel, the less one is exposed to, the easier it is to manipulate them…

… just like every other religion on the planet since the beginning of modern civilization.

There was nothing dishonest about what he feels in his heart.  He is no different than his straight counterparts.  He is, in fact, a normal person feeling normal emotions and normal desires… just gay.  He was happy.  He was content.  Maybe Aaron wasn’t the one, but at least he had a glimpse of what it feels like to look at someone after a year and still be as giddy as the first time he laid eyes on him.  He knew what it meant to be unselfish and think of someone else’s needs ahead of his own – that alone is a tremendous change for James.  He knows the heartbreak of failing that person… letting them down, disappointing them because of screaming at them for no reason.

Now he knows what it’s like to lose them… completely, forever… and the inability to move on with life as he knew it.  He would need to become a poet again to express the cycle and process.  It was enormous in it’s magnificence yet softly respectful in its delicate structure.  It was the true and complete spectrum of life – what a glorious, beautiful bitch.  And in condemning it, his religion is no different than any other religion.

He puts his head on the window and waits for his father.  He has one week to draft a letter to challenge the disfellowshipping, but in that week his attitude would need to change and he wasn’t changing his fucking attitude.  It is requested that the person being disfellowshipped be at the meeting when they read the announcement publicly to the congregation.  He has no plans on ever stepping foot in another Kingdom Hall ever again.

With his head against the window, he cries silently.  Not for himself.  He didn’t give a flying fuck about himself.  He cries for whatever Aaron must have gone through.  The end result of that torture was something appalling and he refused to legitimize it by admitting anything.  He feels at peace with his decision.

His father comes out of the Kingdom Hall and gets in the car.  His mom rubs his arm.  They both look at each other.  Steve presses his lips together and gives a slight nod to Blanche.  They both have a son they are not allowed to talk to anymore.  James had a best friend who has accused him of incomprehensible wrongs, and every person he ever knew, associated with, or socialized with from birth until today is now gone from his life.

There is an incredible serenity that comes over him.  Maybe it is avoidance maybe it a protection measure but he isn’t afraid anymore.  He isn’t scared or arrogant.  He was free.

It felt good.  Lonely, but good.

James P. Perez © 2013

Chapter 24 – Requisitions

The volunteer workers at the World Headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses are given $90.00 a month to help pay for incidental expenses such as soap, toothpaste, shampoo, or supplemental foods they might enjoy.  Three meals a day, a clean room, and a bed are provided for them.  The money is also used to help bethelites get to meetings at their assigned congregations.  Each trip to and from a meeting costs $3 for a passenger. Each passenger gives their money to the driver to help pay for gas and, in the case of the brothers who travel to Saugerties, the toll of the New York State Thruway.  Since 90% of the brothers working at the Watchtower Farms do not have vehicles, this means that of the $90.00 allowance given each month, around $24.00 of that is spent just on travel to the congregations.  That’s not including any other trips to go out in field service on Saturdays or get togethers with their local brothers.

There was also a running account for each Bethel member.  If a person needed glasses, the lenses would be crafted and the frames would be fitted at cost.  James bought his glasses for $15.00 total.  But that amount is put on one’s account.  If a brother or sister wanted to wash their car, or have a headlight replaced, it was all provided for, and then charged to one’s account.  Even small things like notebook paper, pens, bandages, etc. were all charged and at the end of the month there is a bill… and that bill is deducted from one’s allowance.  Some brothers find they are left with no money at all after just one weekend causing the dynamic of people working at the World Headquarters of the one true God, Jehovah to act like more like 18th century London street urchins than the dignified workers they were constantly told they were.

The idea is to seclude the workers off from the extraneous by keeping them unable to experience anything on the outside.  In rare occasions like James and Aaron, parents would provide some sort of supplemental help either through checks or with a credit card.  Care packages like those sent from Amber and the twins would always include goodies to eat, fun things to read, and a check.  Checks could be cashed at Finance department service window during regular business hours.  All the brothers in the computer department were on rotation to give tours to visitors and James eventually became a regular.  At the end of each tour some of the brothers would shake his hand and slip him $40 or $60.  Sometimes it was from one person, sometimes it was from multiple people.  On occasion James would receive a phone number from a young sister’s father which always felt just as pimp/whorish as it sounds.  Little old ladies were sweet, but they would only slip $5 or $10 at most, and somehow that seemed absurd to James.  Still he smiled, and was thankful that each of them could spend all this money to come visit the Watchtower Farms in the middle of fucking no where, and still be generous enough to part with five fucking dollars.

And it is at that point James officially realizes how Bethel changes someone.  He understood the mentality of having nothing and being dependent on a sole provider, allowing them to be your only source of financial support, fun, relaxation, spiritual growth, mental stimulation, and physical well being.  He understood how it made a class of people eager for any handout, gift, or offering of food to the point where it becomes indigent neediness.  There is an entitlement that grows from under the depths of the volunteer worker system at Bethel, and when it finally takes root, and it will take root, it becomes a vicious and demanding bitch.

The only person who didn’t seem affected by this phenomenon is Aaron.

Dependency in all of its forms can sometimes be contrived tricky maneuvering, especially when it comes to the matter of the health care system at Bethel.  Injuries are divided into two categories:  Work-Related Accident, or Non-Work Related Accident.  The difference between the two is demoralizing.

Meeting #1 – The Day After

It looks like a doctor’s office.  It smells like a doctor’s office.  But it’s not a doctor’s office.  Finally making it past the waiting room of people who bumped their head or were green with stomach aches, James now sits on an examination table waiting for the results of his x-rays.  His knee is still hurting, but at least the swelling has subsided by an inch or so.  There is no strength at the joint at all.

The Watchtower Farms do not have a full time doctor on staff.  They have nurses and people who were assigned to the department much the same way James was assigned to computers or Aaron was assigned to mail sorting.  He has already been given a speech about the cost of the x-rays that are now billed on his account.

James puts his head in his hands, This is so messed up, I know.

The medical worker comes in.  She is a robust woman, a little taller than James, with short bobbed hair and a very plain, simple look about her wearing a white coat and holding a clipboard.

James, I have some bad news.

What is it?

The doctor looked at your x-rays and you seem to have loose cartilage floating around in your knee.

That was something James could tell from just trying to bend the damn thing, but he let her continue.

What  happened was your knee cap came off, and popped back in.  With that, it tore up a lot of cartilage and may have even damaged a tendon.  We won’t know unless we get an MRI scan.

Good.  There is a process in place. He feels relieved.  Okay, let’s do it.

Do what?

Get an MRI scan.

Well, because this is a non-work related injury, you are going to have to pay for it yourself.

I understand that.  But I am in a lot of pain right now and would like to get this taken care of promptly.

James, I don’t think you understand.  An MRI at cost is about $500.00.  It may eventually lead to an operation… just to remove loose cartilage.

That’s fine.  When do I schedule? 

The sister looks at James with the most unbelievable face of disbelief and amusement before half laughing, You’re a bethelite.  You can’t afford that.

He couldn’t believe what he was hearing.  There is path to recovery, to freedom from this constant pain.  This sister is suggesting that because bethelites are poor, the best thing is to not know what’s going on in the knee.  It takes a full thirty seconds for him to comprehend that her responses are serious… she really believes this and the end result is that she isn’t going to help him… at all.

Listen, sister… bethelite or not, my health doesn’t work off ninety dollars a month.  I have parents, I can ask them for the money.  I have a credit card in my wallet that has that much on it if we wanted to do this right now just please schedule an MRI.

The sister was a little taken aback by intensity of the plea, but she looked at her clipboard and back up at James.  Well, we have to schedule this with an outside company.  It’s going to take some time.

Please.  I am in a tremendous amount of pain.  

For the pain I have 300mg of Vicodin for you.

Okay, and for the MRI?

For the MRI you are going to have to put in a requisition using the form found in the various lobbies.  I believe we have some in the waiting room, in fact.


In the meantime, I’m going to pass you off to Sister Wallace in Physical Therapy.  Hopefully she can help you with some exercises that will reduce the swelling and help keep that knee flexible.  She might fit you up with some rubber bands for stretching.  You’re going to have to pay for those but they’re pretty inexpensive.

He could not grasp what he was hearing.  I’m confused.  Physical Therapy?  You just said I may need to get this operated on.

Again, you would need an MRI before even thinking about surgery.

Which I am okay with.  So let’s get the MRI.

And I’m trying to tell you, you need to put in a requisition first, and if they approve you, you can get an MRI scheduled.  It will be at least six weeks.

It is like being caught underwater five inches from the surface, unable to reach fresh air.  The seriousness of the situation was turning to mud sliding down the crevices of what was once structure and strength.  She really didn’t understand the extent of the injury and now she is trying to move things along so she can give more faulty medical advice to the next victim.

Six weeks?  I’m kind of in an emergency situation here.

Oh, come on.  I wouldn’t call it an emergency.  But listen, I will put in my own recommendation that you get that knee scanned.  We will get you an appointment with an orthopedic specialist we refer bethelites to… and you have the Vicodin.

How long will I be out of work?

She is again amused by him.  Out of work?  As soon as we get that thing wrapped up and get you some crutches, you can get back to work today, hopefully. 

Meeting #2 – Physical Therapy

The physical therapy area looks like a first grade classroom.  There are brightly colored balls and bands, different kinds of rubber and plastic instruments of mobility all set around a large, round wood veneer table and small wooden chairs with very little cushion.  Sister Wallace is a peppy middle-aged woman with shoulder-length reddish-blond hair and is pseudo-charming, somewhere on the annoyance level of Strawberry Shortcake.

James swallows a Vicodin without any water.

Good news!  She says as she enters the room.  I got you approved for these… She reaches into the closet and pulls out a pair of crutches. That way, you can get back to work for this afternoon.  Now, these are just borrowed.  If you want to purchase them you have to put in a request.  But you won’t be needing them for that long, and this way it doesn’t cost you any money.

What about the MRI to see what’s going on with my knee?

Sister Wallace tried to be as comforting as possible in her limited version of genuine sweetness.  We know what’s going on with your knee.  You have some loose cartilage   It will settle.  So  as long as we keep that knee moving, you won’t get any of that loose cartilage stuck in some crevice that would prevent your knee from moving smoothly. 

Wait, sister.  That makes sense with the the front and side, but you can’t tell me that the pain I’m feeling in the back of my leg is just a bit of loose cartilage.

Well, it might be worse.  But with the therapy we’ll be able to see what happens once the swelling goes down and the cartilage settles, okay?

Not really.  I would prefer to have my injury scanned in full color and checked out by an orthopedic specialist.  Today, if possible.

The sister moves closer to James and puts her hand on his back and tries to talk softly.  James, and MRI is expensive, as is the specialist visit.  We are talking anywhere in the area of $700.00 for the consultation, the scan… and you will have to pay for a taxi ride to get there if you don’t have your own car.  The price can add up.

The sincerity in her voice was almost too much and he couldn’t have this argument anymore, with anyone.  It was a trap and it was pointless.  Money isn’t as much of an issue as walking around with my knee like this.

I will let my overseers know you are interested in the scan, but you still need to fill out a requisition.  Now, in the meantime I have gotten you approved for these rubber bands, you will have to pay for them of course.  There are three of them in three bright colors for three different levels of resistance…

Sister Wallace then proceeded to demonstrate using the exercise bands tied around the middle of an office chair and wrapped around the ankle.  From this position one could do several leg exercises, both extension to the front, and off to the side.  One could also stand up and pull one’s leg backward.  It was suggested James starts with the lowest resistance (yellow) and work his way up.

He didn’t go to work that day.  He made the trek across the road back to the room on his new used crutches.  He didn’t know how to respond to any of this and emotionally he felt helpless and lost.  He called his parents.  Like everything else regarding the Jehovah’s Witnesses, their solution is “listen to what the Organization tells you.”  No matter what the problem is, the solution is always “listen to what the Organization tells you.”  James knows that phrase makes everyone feel warm and fuzzy because it frees the burden of responsibility to someone else for your spiritual well being…  but in this case there is a physical injury being made worse with neglect and “listen to what the Organization tells you” isn’t the advice he needed because the Organization was wrong.

The next morning he wakes up to excruciating pain.  He takes a Vicodin and wraps his leg tight.  He barely makes it to the required breakfast.  A little later on he is trying to do stretching exercises at his desk.  It is almost unbearable but he tries to the point of tears.  He puts his elbows on the desk and places his face in his hands.  He wants to cry.  He wants to weep.  He wants to scream in frustration until everyone in the complex stops what they are doing so he can find one… just one person to stand up and say “Hey, I think this guy needs to see a real doctor!”

But instead he just breathes quietly.

Oscar comes up to the cubicle.  Hey chief, what’s going on?

James lifts his head and realizes he probably looks like a red-faced mess with a large exercise rubber band tied around his right ankle almost in tears… instead of the cool, collected computer programmer who normally sits at this desk.   Not much, Oscar.  I’m just doing what the doctor prescribed… popping pain pills and making my knee worse.

I don’t get it.

James explained the situation as calmly as he could, starting with the accident itself the day before.

You said this happened yesterday?


Ah, that’s why.  It wasn’t a work-related accident.  Any additional medical services will have to be requested with a requisition.

So I keep being told.

Well, I hope  you feel better soon.  I know it’s hard to focus when you’re in pain.

That’s why I have these.  James shakes the bottle of Vicodin.

Oscar laughs and goes back to his desk.  James continues to attempt to do the exercises, but it finally becomes too much.  Instead he just moves his knee around to make sure none of the cartilage lands where it shouldn’t.  It still didn’t explain the inability to stand on the leg itself from the stabbing pain in the back of the knee.

Meeting #3 – Three weeks later

James has been able to get around using only one crutch for about a week.  The leg is tightly wrapped, but there is still no strength in it.  Today  he is sitting at a leg weight machine attempting to make it move… and finds it impossible to extend the foot out while there is any weight resistance.  So he is just staring at the machine… watching nothing happen.

Sister Wallace bounces in and looks surprisingly at James not moving the weights on the machine.

What’s going on here, James?

Sister, it’s been three weeks and it’s getting worse.

That’s impossible.

James was coming down off the Vicodin and was irritable.  No it’s not.  I have not had my knee properly taken care of.  And now it’s getting worse.

James, just breathe for a second.  I know that it seems like it’s getting worse, but it’s actually getting better.  Already you’re moving about with only one crutch.

Sister, I am in more pain then ever.  It takes me two hours of icing down my leg when I get up in the mornings.  I’ve already been talked to twice for missing breakfast but not missing work, and I got talked to by the touring department because I’m parking too close to the building and taking up visitor parking spaces.  And the entire time I just want to scream because I’m in so much pain.

Okay, okay.  I know the healing process can be frustrating.  I’m going to make sure we up your pain medication as well.  But James, if this becomes a problem for you to perform your Bethel service, you might consider going home to take care of this.

The last part of the sentence didn’t sink in right away.  Nothing did much anymore.  With the constant supply of Vicodin James wasn’t really sure what was real and what was implied.  He needed people to speak specifically.  And when the pills wore off, every sadness he had ever felt came crashing on his head in such burdensome layers of misery, it was impossible not to react manically.  And at this moment there was nothing more manic than having to go home and leave Aaron behind.  That was not an option.

What you are telling me, is that with a non-work related accident, even though everyone knows what should be done, even though I agree to pay for everything, Bethel will still drag it’s feet, delaying medical treatment and, if in the process it becomes a problem to my Bethel service, I have to go home?


Does that make sense to  you?

Bethel isn’t suggesting you go home, James.  I’m just saying it may come to that somewhere down the road.  Later.

Well thank you for the warning, but you said I could get a scan and consultation done if I paid for it myself.

Which is impossible.  No bethelite has that amount of money.

Sister, please do not assume anything. 

Okay, Okay.  Next week we will have a brother who lives near Patterson visiting us for the day.  Once a month he makes the rounds to each of the facilities.  He’s a real doctor who works with joints and such, and you can talk with him.  I will put you on his list.  There are other bothers with work-related accidents that come first, however.  

Each time James visits the infirmary it feels like he’s having the same conversation with the same wooden marionettes, all with the memory of goldfish.  It seemed illogical that any one person would put such minimal importance on one’s health, but to have and entire organization working contrary to any productive solution was disheartening.  He doubts this doctor will be any different.

James leaves the physical therapy area and stops at the infirmary to fill out another requisition… for the third time.

Meeting #4 – One Month After

It looks like a doctor’s office.  It smells like a doctor’s office.  And unlike the first time he was in this room it will be functioning like doctor’s office.  The medication has him so confused sometimes.  It isn’t so much that he isn’t aware of what is going on, but that there are vast amounts of emotion that are starting to build and release at unspecified moments without warning.  So far he has yelled at Jake once and Aaron twice, even throwing a crutch in anger.  And for what?  Nothing.  It was emotion that comes out of no where and for no reason… then it disappears.  Afterward, a wave of shame and guilt as if he murdered an innocent child would hit.  These are all feeling he has felt before, but the potency of their volume and their proportion to the situation was completely uncontrollable.

He was yelling at people because no one would do what he wanted them to do.  So the question is asked, what is it that he wanted them to do?   James couldn’t answer.  It was frustrating.  The emotions of everyone around him became intense, as if a magnifying glass had been placed in front of everyone… and he would respond with the magnitude shown by the enlarged projection, NOT the actual level of emotion the person was expressing.  And with each misstep came a constant anger of failure.  He knew he had better control over his emotions than this.  He was able to handle the world of Feathers and the world of Jehovah’s Witnesses simultaneously and still go through the heartbreak with Ollie and now… now he’s going to throw a temper tantrum because Aaron is going to go spend the weekend with a family in Saugerties instead of being stuck in a room all weekend with a bipolar patient who can’t seem to control his emotions.

And James didn’t blame him.  In fact… he was jealous.  James wanted to escape whoever he was himself.  Sometimes he would be in mid-temper tantrum before he even knew what he was temper tantruming about.  Other times he would space out completely and come to, thinking to himself Wait, how did I get here? Other times he would blank out, and when he refocused, he had a full arsenal of emotions ready to go without knowing what he should be emotional about.  The inability to understand sentiment without context and ferocity without motivation is so much worse than the physical pangs of the knee injury.

The doctor enters the room.   He is tall, well built man, looks to be in his 40s.  Hello, James.


I took a look at your x-rays, the ones from a month ago and the ones from today.

I know, I know… I have to pay for them.

He pauses for a second and tries to give James a comforting smile.  I’m guessing that the finances of this situation is not as critical as the situation itself.

James looked at the doctor in the eyes.  It was the most wonderful sentence he had heard in a month.  Finally.  The air in the room deflated and James lowered his head.  That’s what I’ve been trying to say for the past month, and no one seems to be listening to me.

The doctor signs a little and attempts to talk in an empathetic tone.  I am a professional.  I do this for a living.  These brothers and sisters here… they have your best interest at heart.  But they are not always as informed as they need to be.  

For the past month since this happened, I have been hopped up on Vicodin… which I’m now at… what, 750mg twice a day?  Three times a day?  I can’t remember, I just take them when it starts to hurt.  I’ve been icing my knee for two hours every morning.  I have to ice it down again at lunch at my desk.  I keep trying to do these stupid rubber band exercises all day to make sure I keep the knee moving…

 Stop.  What rubber bands?

You know… those stretch bands, they come in different colors and you use them for muscle resistance.  I had to pay for them myself, but the physical therapist gave me these exercises… James demonstrates.

The doctor looks disturbed and shocked.  Oh Jehovah, help me.  He gets up and walks out of the room.

James didn’t know what to think.  This could be good, it could be bad.  It  didn’t matter anymore, it was fucked up and it was going to remain fucked up for the rest of his life.  He started to feel overwhelmed with the magnitude of this weighing on him for decades to come.  He tried to focus.  Come on, James.  Keep it together.  You seem to finally have someone on your side.  Don’t have a mental breakdown now.

The doctor returns with the same robust sister (still sporting the same bobbed hair) that he saw his first day at the infirmity and two sets of x-rays in his hand.  He places the x-rays on the light box and turns it on.  Sister, James tells me that he has been in physical therapy for the past month.

Yes, he has been working with Sister Wallace, as prescribed by the doctor.

The doctor picks up the file he had previously left on the counter.  No where in here does it say anything about rubber band stretching exercises. 

He wrote down “physical therapy”.

Which could mean anything.  I want you to see this.  He motions her over to the light board displaying the x-rays and starts pointing.  This is James’s knee a month ago.  This is James’s knee a few hours ago.  You see that right there?

Yes.  It’s a little notch out.

Exactly.  A notch out, if you will.  That is bone, not cartilage.  James’s knee is getting worse, and no one is doing anything about it.  He turns his attention to James, catching him off guard, but not without its comfort.  Stop all exercises now.  Keep that leg wrapped up tight and ice it down as much as you can.  Cut back on the Vicodin.  James, it’s going to be tough and painful, but it needs to be done.  This is only until the specialist can be scheduled.

Is this something that you can handle while you are here?  The sister asked, nervously.

Sister, I cannot legally practice medicine in the state of New York.  I come here to help out where I can, but he needs a local specialist as soon as possible.  So if you could please do me a favor and go out there and schedule an appointment with whatever specialist you use.  Thank you.

The sister is quite taken aback and nods her head before rushing off, closing the door behind her.

James doesn’t know how to react.  He wants to hug the brother.  He wants to cry.  There was light at the end of this tunnel and it was him walking with full mobility.  Someone with voice, someone with authority finally stood up and made things happen.  It is so refreshing.  Thank you.

I’m sorry James, but this is crazy.  A month of physical therapy?  I’m going to have to talk with these brothers again.  James… Go to the doctor, he will schedule and MRI.  After the scan you’re going to have some choices to make.  I visit here once a month so come by and keep me posted, okay?

Okay.  He says it with smile that he didn’t know he had in him.  It had been a month since he smiled and meant it.  It had been a month since he felt appreciation and thankfulness.  Now he feels it.  And he doesn’t stop smiling.

Meeting #5 – Six Weeks After

Two weeks after the doctor from Patterson visited, Bethel was nice enough to give James transportation to a local orthopedic specialist.  He was a short, loud man, older, spunky.

You mean to tell me you’ve been like this for six weeks?

It took me two weeks just to get this appointment.

James, I hate to tell you this, but you not only still have loose cartilage… I can feel it when I rotate your knee… but there’s something wrong with your tendon.  That’s why you’re having that sharp pain behind your knee.


I’m ordering an MRI immediately and we need to get you into surgery.

Doctor, look.  The people at the Farm will delay and drag their feet.  It will be another month before I even get an MRI.

You don’t have a month.  This needs to be done in a matter of days.

Then please promise me you will let them know the seriousness of this or else I will never get this taken care of.

The doctor looked blankly at James, almost as if he were talking in a different language.  No, no, no, no,no, that can’t happen.

Meeting #6 – Two Months After

One of the brothers who eats breakfast with James in the mornings is Brother Friar, a tall, black,  gentle man with soft eyes and a kind laugh.  He also works in the infirmity administration and has been communicating with James in the mornings about the slowness of the requisition process.

Two weeks after James’s visit to the outside doctor, Brother Friar calls him to the infirmary to talk.  James is walking with a cane at this point, still in pain, trying to live without the Vicodin and without knowing how to deal with the resulting mania that comes from not taking it.  He  knocks on the door and enters the office.

James!  Good morning.  Why don’t we sit on the couch here.

James sits and Brother Friar grabs a file and places himself on the opposite side of the couch.

When can I get my MRI?

Well, James… I’ve been talking with Brooklyn Bethel and other brothers around here trying to see what we can do.  We all feel that since this was not a work-related accident, it would be best if you handled this yourself and just asked for the time off.

You have got to be kidding me.

I wish I was, but it’s not something we want to handle.  There are a few good hospitals in the area.  The Kingston hospital is very good, as is the one in Middletown.

But I have no insurance.  How am I… James  could feel the wave of uncontrollable panic knocking at the gate.  He stops and takes a few deep breaths.  Is everyone wanting me to go home? 

Brother Friar looks at his file and then sympathetically back at James.  There has been some issues with you and your performance in the computer department, and there seems to be an issue with you and your roommate.

I can’t work well, because I’m in pain.

And you said that you haven’t been taking your pain medication.

 Because it’s addictive and the doctor I saw in your office said to cut back.

Still, pain killers are for pain, and if you don’t take them, that is your decision. If the result is you missing breakfast or not able to perform at work because of pain, we cannot help you with that.

I don’t believe this.  What is the issue with my roommate?

They didn’t give me any information about that.  It only says you two miss a lot of meetings together.

He was frustrated.  Well, we’re roommates.  We get sick at the same time.  

I’m just telling you what I found out.  (Pause.)  James, can I offer you a suggestion?

Of course.

I would suggest you handle this at home and not here.

That means I have to write a letter that I’m leaving Bethel and then wait 30 days before I can leave.

It would still be faster than waiting on us and easier than trying to get this taken care of around here.

Brother Friar could see it on his face… the loss, the hopelessness, the empty air that exited his soul through his eyes.  This is it.  He is leaving Bethel.  He is heading back home because he has an injury no one wants to get involved with and  it took them two months to say it.

He has to leave Bethel.

Even worse… he has to leave Aaron.

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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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…



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.


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.


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 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.


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…


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.


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.


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…


What?  It’s true.

No.  Don’t do that.


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

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


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?


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.



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

Yeah.  I know.

James P. Perez © 2013