Backseat Devil

Tag: Rosenberg Texas Assembly Hall

Epilogue

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

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

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

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

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

If only.

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

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

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

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

Heyyy, Brother Perez!  How’s it going?

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

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

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

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

Steve.  They drove all this way from Victoria.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

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

Okay.

How is your heart?

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

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

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

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

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

Why not just tell her to stop?

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

Of course.

Don’t take too long. 

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

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

But he is disfellowshipped.

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

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

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

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

Hey.

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

An hour or so?  James was a little confused.

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

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

So I can stay with him, she said frustrated.

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

She stays with me at night in case anything happens.

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

I wasn’t planning on it.

I don’t think dad needs a baby sitter.

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

Like… spontaneous death? 

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

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

What?  James!  You can’t do that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How does this not wake him up?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James P. Perez © 2014

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Chapter 10 – The Stillness

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

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

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

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

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

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

James sits next to David and stares at Highway 59.

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

James, your mother is so sweet.

Thanks, I know.

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

Me too. 

I’m so sorry about all this, James.

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

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

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

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

(In unison) That sounds good. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

Are we taking the long way?

Yeah.

Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

Do you think Jehovah is punishing dad?

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

Yeah, I know.  But… I’m not.

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

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

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

Thank you.

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

Ready for some music?  Or too soon?

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

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

Perfect.

James P. Perez © 2013

Chapter 9 – Cancer

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

Are you ready for this?

Are… are you asking me?

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

(Forcefully slow) Yes… I am… asking.

(Giddy) Yes, Yes sir.

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

(Loudly) Why are you smirking?

Sorry sir.

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

The man obliged while sporting the biggest erection.

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

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

(With anger) Stop smiling!

Yes sir.  Sorry sir.

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

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

(Excited more) Yes sir.

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

(Precumming more) Sorry sir.

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

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

You’re not wearing these home.

The man nods in obedience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, he was a sweetheart. 

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

Dude…

The sound… was…

Everywhere.

We thought… we…

(Pause.)

We thought we needed to call an ambulance.

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

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

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

House of Pies it is.

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

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

It is horrible.  Billy  is still traumatized.

It pays the bills.

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

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

Plus…

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

Oh, GURL! You bad!

Just trying to help.

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

(Laughter.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can I get you boys anything to drink?

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

I know there’s at least one bottle.

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

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

I wouldn’t fuck with James and the dungeon.

I heard.

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

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

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

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

Hey, the pool table’s open.

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

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

Why does she get to fondle you?

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

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

Is that what I think  it is?

Yes.

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

No.  It’s yours.  Enjoy.

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

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

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

Touche.

Where are you getting all these free drugs?

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

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

Really?  

You could be selling it, you know.

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

You are making these girls impossibly addicted to you.

It’s great, isn’t it?

You wanna go out when you’re done?

Sure!

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

Pussy.

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

Sure thing.

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

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

Morning.

Hey, your momma is taking me to the hospital.  

What’s wrong?

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

Okay, well… keep me posted.

Hurry Steve.

Don’t forget about Trish’s party.

That’s today?

Yep.

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

Hurry, Steve.

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

Dad, keep me posted.

Of course, son.

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

This party sucks.

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

I know.

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

He hangs up the phone.

He walks back to the bench.

He sits down.

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

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

James P. Perez © 2013

Chapter 6 – Tickle Me Pink

He had circled the block three times and is sitting in the parking lot of a dark pink building with his hands seemingly glued to the steering wheel.  There was a weeks worth of phone calls, downloaded videos, online stories, and medical chart diagrams laying out the inner workings of the lower gastrointestinal system of the male anatomy.  He had incidental sex a few times in the past year, usually from the Galleria in totally innocent situations.

No wonder the obscene phone caller came from the Galleria.  These people are wanting sex all the time.

After each incident James would run home and analyze everything like a football play book.  He would go minute by minute in furious scrutiny trying to understand the physical aspects as well as the mentality of those using intentional online “looking for now” rushness or the incidental mid-shopping “I wouldn’t mind some of the sex this afternoon, let me just purchase these jeans, grab a latte and… are we going to your place or mine?”

Who has a life so leisure that they can just haphazardly reassign an hour of the day for spontaneous sex and coffee?

He does, apparently while trying to mind his own business shopping for clothes.  But for what he is trying to achieve, he’d rather be a little more scheduled than random.  Being a perfect child meant his life is compartmentalized into equitable groupings so as to accommodate everyone’s expectations adequately, and then to exceed them with minimal effort.  He is much more comfortable with the idea of working at a place where anything of a sexual-type nature is in a rhadamanthine setting in the reserved rooms of a fetish facility recently converted from a dentist office.

The old large intricately carved wood panel door with a horizontal spiral handle is less of an issue since the front of the establishment faced Westheimer Road, meaning someone is going to see me, move your fucking ass inside.  Entering the Tickle Me Pink box of a waiting room meant sanctuary… a sanctuary with an overstuffed love seat, a wood occasional chair, fake banana tree, a pepper of small tables salted with magazines, a hidden camera bubble, and a receptionist sliding glass window with a ledge.  Behind the window sat Ozzy.

Hello.  Welcome to Feathers.  How can I help you?

(Cast of Characters.)

Ozzy: A 26-year-old six-foot tall slightly goth thin-frame obviously out guy with medium length brown hair sometimes combed close to the head and sometimes slightly awry, but always with a bleached streak of bangs running across his face and behind his ear.   He is a costume designer wearing various hand-constructed clothes and unique alterations to store bought apparel accompanied with deconstructed accessories.  His smile is as captivating as his poise.  Even the way he eats his sandwich is in distinct grace.   He has opinions about everything from Madonna’s recently famous Gaultier cone corset to the suits and hair in the Nine Inch Nails “Closer” video James is currently obsessed with.

The eloquence of his current persona is somewhat of an achievement.  As a young child his mother had killed his father with an ax for cheating on her.  She was still a free woman by reason of insanity as she made a pitcher of iced tea before calling the police on herself.  In high school he and his best friend ditched the band trip they were suppose to go on and instead took a bus to New Orleans.  After enduring a hideous stench in the room for two days and countless complaints to the hotel staff, it was discovered there was a dead body under the bed.  He didn’t see the body, but he did notice her red patent leather high heels that were nice, but entirely too cliche for the situation.  The police were called and news cameras followed.  They left New Orleans thinking their parents had seen the story on television.  They had not.

William: (Called “Billy” most often) A 24-year-old six-foot-two thick but muscular straight frat boy from Rice university with dark wavy hair dangerously close to the “mullet” direction.  His big brown eyes sparkle with amusement and bewilderment as everything in life excites him.  He is going to school for theater and often brings his books to work.  He is currently trying to produce and direct a one-act version of Blood Wedding.  Although his ‘jock’ appearance and presentation would suggest he is of limited depth, reality states he is insightful of the world around him and is captivated by the symbolism and metaphor used in this particular play.

Though he is straight, he understands the idea of mechanics in sexual situations and is usually mystified by the gay culture as culture.  He enjoys a boyish eagerness to experiment without crossing the boundaries of being “too gay.”  He is hardworking and paying his own way through college.  His loyalty and determination are matched by his compassionate sense of unyielding ethics.  For such, he often engages in moralistic right/wrong discussions when it comes to the gay men, culture, the community, and etiquette.

RJ:  A very straight five-foot-eight 33-year-old impeccably well defined man with dark brown hair, deep grey/green eyes that beams glimpses that something naughty is going on in his mind all the time.  He is ruggedly beautiful in almost a model fashion and scruff that makes him look as if he just walked in from a orgy with all the Playboy playmates for that year every time he enters the room.  He is furry, but trimmed perfectly… not too smooth, just enough to give off a very down to earth sexual charisma.  He is quite intelligent and well-spoken making him an engaging person to talk to regardless of the subject.  This natural quality helps in his line of work as an escort for women, and a non-sexual escort for men.

His girlfriend works at the Gold Room which is the long-established ‘mother club’ of Feathers and she suggested this particular job to him.  He is not attracted to other guys at all, but has no problem with them in sexual situations since he and his girlfriend were swingers and male-to-male contact is something of a regularity, but not boner-inspiring.  He is a good hearted being and lacks spurious intent both to himself, and those around him.  To complete the picture, he rides a Harley motorcycle that he takes as much care with as he does his body and his woman, and often enters work with a leather jacket over a tight button up shirt.

Sterling:  A six-foot-two-inch 42-year-old skinny greying mustached out-and-proud gay man, and the largest penis in the building.  At first glance he seems like the typical smoking homo-left-over-from-the-80s, possibly a background extra for Marlboro Country one would find drinking his grievances away in the corner of a gay dive bar in the middle of the day.  As a human being, he is the antithesis of the first perception although he had been known to slip into the stereotype on occasion.

He is beyond kind and gracious, he is knowledgeable with humility.  He has lost many friends while others were barely in grade school watching the first waves of AIDS on television.  He gains charitable delight in his volunteering and helps the community in various aspects.  His sharp, keen sense of perception combined with his observation skills makes him fun to be around whether in private talking about the news, or people watching at a sandwich shop.  There was not a part of the gay community he does not have an intimate understanding of, and a warm appreciation for.

Derrick:  A five-foot-nine-inch well-built muscular broad-shouldered and freshly out 19-year-old with reddish-brown hair in a buzz-cut that is about the same length as his chin-strap beard.  He has limited experience with men and still likes women thus putting him in the ‘transitional bisexual’ phase many questioning teens go through.  He is quiet, soft, gentle, and with his deep set brown eyes tries to absorb everything faster than he is able to digest it.  He carries a lot of worry and secrets with his walk, presumably with his family.  The result is that he is a man of few words who always seems to be pouting in a relatively cute manner.

He doesn’t drink or do drugs.  He works out, eats well, and always protects himself, even so much as bringing his own bottled water from home.  There seems to be a troubled past that was beaten out of him and his reclaiming some foundation after such exhaustion makes his steps and movements purposeful and assured.  Though he is still working with matters of morality and justice, matters of heart and romance are kept under lock and key.

Brittany:  (is not her real name) Is a transplant from the Gold Room and stands somewhere between five-foot-ten and six-foot-two, depending on the heels she was sporting.  She has a massive head of blonde curly hair and the largest natural breasts most people will ever encounter in their lifetime.  In high school she was a large girl, and everyone made fun of her.  She usually kept a jovial attitude about the situation never showing how much it cut her.  By the time she was 24 years old, she had lost a considerable amount of weight and flaunting a rock-hard, albeit still curvaceous body.  The one place where she didn’t lose any weight… her tits.

As a person on the outside, she is a confident, hot, blonde bisexual bombshell who purchased her own town home, drove a new Mustang convertible, filled her life with fun and adventure from fine dining to evenings at the theater.  She is insistent on being honest on her income tax.  On the inside she was pure effervescence on a sub-atomic level.  She is observant of the world around here, and is eager to help strangers should they need assistance.  In high school she was listless and passive.  Once she started a work out regimen,  the neurotic scheduling became part of every aspect of her life, including how she was saving to pay for college.  She doesn’t drink or do drugs.  She finds the good in everyone and a silver lining is always to be seen no matter what situation is thrown at her.

Feathers is a fantasy and fetish establishment that caters to gay men.  We have a variety of themed rooms you can choose from, you pick your model, and you have a good time.

So… is there sex involved?

We are not a brothel or in the business of selling sex.  We just provide the fantasy or fetish, and any particulars you would like can be discussed between you and  your model.

Are you hiring?

James P. Perez © 2013