WARNING

 

This story details explicit gay sex between men, teens and boys. If you find this kind of thing distasteful, or if you are underage wherever you live, then stop reading this now, and delete this file. The story is completely fictional; the author does not condone or encourage any of the acts contained herein.

 

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Craigslist

Chapter 79

By: Tim Keppler (nemoami@yahoo.com)

 Edited by: Bob Leahy

 

The next thirty days are agony for poor Nathan. Just when he'd gotten used to his chemotherapy drug regimen, Dr. Chan changed it. He is so sick, and for some reason so depressed. Is it the drugs or the protracted nature of the treatment that throws him into depression? I've no idea, but during this second month I spend hours and hours cuddling with him in bed, just holding him, stroking his back, and telling him that he's loved. And he is. I'm not in love with Nathan, I have to confess, but I do love him like a very good friend. And, I have the feeling that he finds that more comforting right now than if my love were passionate, than if it were sexual. Fag-hags will tell you that the reason they feel so close to gay men is because they feel "safe" with them, they don't feel any...expectations. A close friend of mine came by this weekend to chat, and in the course of half an hour, she was in tears, bemoaning the state of her love-life. "Why can't straight men be like you?" she wailed.

 

"Because they want you, and are willing to tell you anything to get into your pants. I don't want you. I just love you. I'm not pursuing the pussy."

 

She nodded. "I know," she said. "I hate straight men. Should I become a carpet muncher?" This question is completely out of the blue. It had me so wracked with laughter that I nearly spit my tea across the table.

 

"Somehow I don't think that'd help, sweetie," I said, giggling. "Even if you could `become' a lesbian, which I doubt, you'd just create another group of people to betray you. We're back to the Buddhists. Give up all desires, and your desires will come find you. Abandon your pursuit of the perfect man, and he'll come to you."

 

She nodded ruefully. It's a tall order. Faith in the mechanisms of the universe is a tall order. But...

 

...I think that's sort of what Nathan and I have done. Ours is not a sexual relationship. I don't feel the same way about him as I feel about Kenny, Dinh or Jason. He doesn't make my dick hard. Well...sometimes he does, but not as quickly. With my guys, I can walk into a room, and the spark is always there. With other guys, even if they're objectively more attractive (whatever that means), I just don't feel the heat. What I feel for Nathan is...love, a non-sexual love. I feel the need to take care of him, and to nurture him. It's sort of what I feel for Kev and Kai. I'm not saying that I feel "fatherly" toward Nathan. I just feel...protective. I love him, but I don't want to fuck him. With Dinh, Jason and Kenny, it's a...different story.

 

So, Nathan and I cuddle, and I try to make him feel loved, and he is much loved in our home. I think he knows that. Our boys adore him, and Kenny, Jason, Dinh and I all adore him. Ian adores him, and Ian's kids are pretty close to adoration. When Feng, Tan and Quan first meet Nathan, they're initially a little taken aback. I mean, Nathan is very exuberant. I don't think Ian's boys had ever met anyone quite like him. But Ian is clearly so fond of him, that his boys gave Nathan the benefit of the doubt. And then they fell in love with his cooking, his playfulness, and his natural tendency to...nurture. "How was school?" he asked Feng one day. Feng was apparently looking a little pensive.

 

"I don't know," Feng responded.

 

"What don't you know?" Nathan asked.

 

"This one group of kids makes fun of me."

 

"Why?"

 

"'Cuz I look different." Feng's pre-school is very white.

 

"How do you look different?"

 

"They say my eyes are `slitty,' and my hair is black."

 

"That's because you're Asian, sweetie. Next time, you tell them that. Tell them that's because you're Asian, and there are a lot more Asians in this world than Caucasians. Be proud, Feng."

 

"Really? There are more of us than there are of them?"

 

"Yup. A lot more."

 

He smiled, and hugged Nathan. It was a moment of bonding. They were fast friends.

 

"So, what are you going to do when you're fully recovered?" I ask Nathan one day. "When you're through the chemo, and the radiation. When you're well and truly cancer free. What are your plans?"

 

He looks at me glassy-eyed. "I don't know. I don't know what to do. I haven't thought about it." He pauses, sniffing back tears. "No, that's not true. I have thought about it. I've thought about it endlessly, but I don't know what to do."

 

I hug him. "Well, I hope you'll stay here with us. I know that's what Jason and Dinh want, and I'm pretty sure that's what Kenny wants. And it's what I want. We'd all love for you to stay with us."

 

Nathan smiles through his tears, and hugs me.

 

I'm sneaking up on an idea I've had for a while. Nathan has done many things in his life. He's been a house cleaner, a bus boy, a chef, and a restaurant manager. None of those things (except chef) really capitalized on his intrinsic skills. So, the question is, who is Nathan? What has he got that makes him unique? First, he's very empathetic. He's very good at intuiting the feelings of others. On the Myers-Briggs personality spectrum, I'd guess he's an INFP, like me, and like Homer, Virgil and Shakespeare. He's Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Perceiving (as opposed to Extroverted, Sensory, Thinking and Judging). He's a healer, a nurturer, yet nothing he's ever done has fit his personality type. Maybe it's time to match him to a career.

 

"Nathan, I'd like you to consider coming to work for me."

 

He's stunned. "You mean at your gay center?"

 

"Yeah."

 

He pauses for a long, long moment. Then he looks up at me. "Why?"

 

I could try to explain this in Myers-Briggs terms, or in terms of other personality theorists like Erich Fromm, Abraham Maslow, or even Karl Jung. But that's not going to be productive. "Because you're perfect for the job. The kids we deal with are outsiders, and feel profoundly outside. We need someone who can empathize with those feelings. You're Asian, you're a cancer survivor, and you're a faggot. You're the most out faggot I know. I need someone who can take those outsider feelings and explain them to kids who are depressed and in despair, who in some cases are suicidal. I need someone who can explain to the kids how to deal with those feelings productively. That's something you do every day deal with being an outsider productively, and you do it with grace and with charm. Please, Nathan, I need you to come work at the Center."

 

He's glassy-eyed again. "But...I...umm...don't know how to be a...counselor."

 

"Of course you do. You've done it for Jason and Dinh, and you've done it for the boys, ours and Ian's. You know exactly how to be a counselor. That's why I want you. But, we'll also train you. We have to train you. You can't work with clients if we don't train you. And...umm...Stanford has a really-good counseling program as part of their Psychology Department. I think you should enroll."

 

Now he's very confused. "I can't afford to go to Stanford."

 

"Maybe not," I say, slowly, "but we can afford it."

 

He's glassy-eyed again, and starts crying. "I can't... I couldn't..."

 

"Of course you could. That's why our `education fund' is there. This is what we've all worked for. You are what we've worked for, you, and Dinh, and the kids. We don't really spend much, Nathan. We're all mostly homebodies, so we don't travel that much. Our cars are old. They work fine, but it's not like we replace them regularly. Dinh and Kenny have a fucking Cray supercomputer up in the attic," I say, tongue in cheek "but that's about our only expense. We have the `education fund' for investments, and we invest in ourselves rather than in stuff. We've all talked about this and...we'd...umm...like to invest in...you."

 

By the end of the month, we've reached the end of the cycle of chemotherapy, and Dr. Chan does another series of tests. She does a total of three MRI scans, and still can't find a tumor. She meets with us on a Thursday, and she looks awestruck. "I do not know what to say. I expected some residual indication of your cancer, but I cannot find any. My instincts tell me to irradiate, but I can't find anything to irradiate. I have no idea why this treatment has worked so well for you. If I had something definitive, some better understanding of why we've been so successful in treating your tumor, it would make quite a good paper for the Journal of the American Medical Association. I could make a name for myself. But I have nothing specific I can point to." Then she pauses and looks at Nathan...fondly. "I do have a theory, though. There's a body of work that says that patients with a bright outlook recover much more effectively than those waiting for the worst. I think it was you who killed this cancer. The chemo helped, but it was your irrepressibly-positive attitude that overcame it. Congratulations!" she says, and moves to Nathan, hugging him. "I want to see you once a month for the next six months, and, assuming everything is fine, once every three months after that. If you feel bad for any reason, please call and make an appointment."

 

"What about the radiation?" Nathan asks.

 

"No radiation. Not yet. If we find a recurrence, we will consider it."

 

"You mean I'm done?" he says, gleefully.

 

"For the moment, you are done."

 

Nathan hugs her again and kisses her on the cheek. She giggles. "Thank you so much!" he says.

 

As we drive back to San Jose, Nathan looks over at me. He leans in and kisses my cheek. "Yes," he says.

 

"Yes, what?" I'm confused.

 

"Yes, I'll come work for you. And...umm...if the offer's still good...yes, I'll enroll at Stanford. I've thought about this a lot. I think I'd make a good counselor."

 

"The job's not going to pay much," I warn.

 

He gives me an are-you-out-of-your-fucking-mind look. "So, let's see. I get to live with you guys, and I get tuition to go to Stanford, and you've paid how much to beat my illness? All that is probably good for ten years worth of work."

 

"Really, Nathan, I'm glad we could help. We all love you so."

 

He leans over and kisses me again. "And, I love you all, and would love to work with you at the Center."

 

-------------------------------------------

 

And, my god, Nathan is a natural. You'd think that a guy like this, a guy this happy-go-lucky, would be a pushover. But he isn't. He can be really fierce with the kids. His office is right next to mine, so I get to hear some of his sessions, and some of them are not easy. But the kids love him. I start to send him our most damaged kids, and he handles them really well...but he doesn't give an inch. "Goddamn it, you know you're better than that. Why would you take that from him? I know he's a teacher, but he's also an asshole, and if he calls you a loser, you need to talk with the principal, and if he doesn't take action, come back to me, and I'll make sure that he does." What I like to see in one of these jobs is someone who can mix counseling and compassion with advocacy. I need someone who can empathize with the kids, but someone who can also show them how to survive, and can throw his weight around when needed. I never had any doubt about the empathy part, but the throwing-his-weight-around part truly surprises me. He takes on teachers, principals, even parents, and comes out victorious. The kids love him, and the staff and administrators of the local middle schools and high schools don't know what hit them. I had lunch with the principal of Lincoln High recently because Nathan asked me to mend this bridge and he wasn't really sure what to say.

 

"I met with Mr. Tran last week about one of our kids. This is a kid that's been in trouble before. He's rather...girlish. I expressed that...concern to Mr. Tran. That wasn't, probably, the best way to start our meeting. He started to quote me statutes from San Jose Unified's own education code, which didn't really faze me, but the way he presented that information, and himself, frankly, made clear to me that he'd probably been through this kind of confrontation himself at some point in his own life. It gave him...credibility."

 

I nodded stoically, but inside I was laughing hysterically. Nathan is the gayest guy I've ever met. You can't miss him. And he just doesn't give a damn who knows it or what they think of it. I can just picture him in that meeting. I can see the principal's swagger, and Nathan's gentle response, a response that initially gives the principal room to swagger some more. And then Nathan will have clamped down, outlining how he planned to get the principal fired if he didn't protect the kid in question. I can picture this, and it makes me giggle inside.

 

"So, how is that kid doing? It's Jose, isn't it? How is Jose doing?"

 

"His teachers and I met last week to lay out a plan for insuring that he's treated well in class. And, I've moved him to a different English class, somewhere I think he'll be more...comfortable." Yes, Nathan, as sweet as he is, can kick some serious ass. I think this is why Gary loved him so. He's submissive if he feels you're benevolent, but if you're not, he can take care of himself. In many ways he took care of Gary, protecting him from those aspects of the world that Gary wasn't prepared to meet head-on, much as Jason and Kenny take care of me. He's quite remarkable. In some ways he reminds me of Thao Ng, a former priest we hired a year or so ago to work with us. Thao has the same nurturing quality as Nathan, but also the strength of character and will to make things happen. Just as I'm reflecting on their similarities one afternoon as I sit in my office talking to Nathan, Thao walks by.

 

"Wait," I say to Nathan, holding up my index finger. I run out of the office, and catch up with Thao. "Thao, there's someone I'd like you to meet." I lead him back to my office. "This is Nathan Tran. He's a very good friend of mine, the husband of my best friend before he died a couple of years ago. I've managed to convince him to come and work with us. He's doing one-on-one counseling with some of our most-troubled kids, like Joey Weston who you were working with after his suicide attempt. He's also working on a degree in psychology." Thao smiles broadly.

 

"I am Thao. Thao Ng. I'm so happy we found someone to do the one-on-one stuff. We've needed it so badly, and were having trouble covering that with the existing staff."

 

"Can you join us for dinner?" I ask Thao.

 

"Yes. I am free tonight. I would love to. Umm...who is cooking?" he asks with a giggle.

 

"As it turns out, it's Nathan's turn. Nathan lives with us, and was Jason's cooking teacher. He's a master, and I think he's planning a Vietnamese meal, right?"

 

Nathan giggles. "Right. Were you born in Vietnam?" Nathan asks Thao.

 

"With this accent?" he says, laughing. "Yes. Where were you born?" Thao asks in Vietnamese.

 

Nathan knows just enough Vietnamese to know what this question means. He answers in Cantonese, and Thao's eyes light up. They begin an animated conversation in Cantonese. Finally, after several minutes, Nathan notices me standing to the side, forgotten. "Don't mind me," I say with a laugh. They both giggle and we agree to leave here at 5 pm. Thao will walk with us back to the house.

 

When 5 pm rolls around, we collect our stuff, and converge downstairs in the lobby and stroll back to our house, which is only a few blocks away. Everyone knows Thao. He's been to our place several times for dinner, and is quite a good cook. When we arrive, we move directly to the kitchen where the boys are doing their homework under the watchful eye of Professor Hsia. Kenny and Jason are quite the taskmasters with these kids. Kevin and Kai get a snack when they get home fruit and a glass of soy milk but then it's homework time. If they finish early, they get extra-credit assignments that we've gotten from their teachers. There's no slacking off.

 

"Hey, guys," Kenny says as we come into the room. "Hi, Thao. You joining us for dinner?"

 

"Yes," he says. "Tim tells me it is Nathan's night and that he is cooking Vietnamese. I could use a good home-cooked meal."

 

Nathan laughs, and moves to the fridge, pulling out bags of veggies. "It's going to be pretty simple tonight. We're having Canh Chua C Bng Lau (Tamarind Soup with Catfish, Tomatoes, Celery, Bean Sprouts, and Herbs) and Bn Thịt Chả Gi (Grilled Pork, Egg Rolls and Mixed Veggies on a bed of Rice Vermicelli). And for dessert, I've made some Three-Bean Drinks with Coconut Milk."

 

"Yes!" Kevin screams from across the room.

 

Nathan laughs. "The Three-Bean Drink is somewhat popular with the children."

 

"Yes!" Kevin screams again.

 

Thao is incredulous. "You made the Three-Bean Drink yourself?"

 

"Yeah," Nathan says, looking curious.

 

"And the gelatin?"

 

"I made it last night."

 

"Oh, my god. This will be amazing. Where did you learn to make this?"

 

"Several years ago, I knew one of the old ladies who used to cook at Vung Tau. She taught me."

"Oh, my god," Thau says again, looking to the heavens. "Theirs is the best. Them and that little dessert place over in the food court..."

 

"...at the Vietnamese shopping mall on Tully," Nathan responds.

 

"Yes!" Thao screams, suddenly sounding just like Kevin. We all laugh. Unlike Americans, the Vietnamese have an actual cuisine. It's complex, and delicious, and often very difficult to prepare. That Nathan has mastered the Three-Bean Drink, and that he makes it all himself, apparently amazes Thao. You need to understand. Asians eat legumes that have been simmered in sugar water. Black-eyed peas, black beans, red kidney beans, all of these are sweet in Asian cuisine. They're not savory as in Mexican and American cooking. They put these sweet beans in a glass with strips of stiff gelatin that's been made with coconut milk, and, sometimes they add gelatinous rice to the dessert as well. Over this mixture of beans, gelatin and rice they pour shaved ice and coconut milk. It's heaven. It has texture, and flavor. It's just the best dessert there is, as Kevin will testify, and apparently those strips of gelatin are hard to get right. Texture is critical, and that Nathan has got it right is hard for Thau to fathom. But when he tastes it, he rolls his eyes and grins. "I'm back in Saigon," he says, simply delighted.

 

The meal is a triumph. The soup is just so sour, and the Bn is delicious. Nathan has made his own Fish Sauce from a recipe he got from his mother that includes lemon grass and ginger. It has a really-nice flavor and is fiercely spicy. Nathan, Thao and Dinh are on one side of the table, chatting a mile and a minute in Cantonese, and Jason, Kenny and I are on the other side, with Kevin and Kai at the two ends. Watching these guys interact is just a joy. We have been very rigid about our language rules at home. Jason will only speak Mandarin to the boys, and Kenny only speaks Cantonese to them. Dinh was initially also speaking Cantonese, but after a while he switched to Vietnamese. I speak to them only in English or occasionally in French. They've become linguistic sponges. Their Cantonese, Mandarin and English are fluent. Their Vietnamese is very good, Dinh says, and even their French isn't bad. The last time our friends Christophe and Vijay came for dinner, Christophe spent the entire evening chatting with Kevin in French. "Bien," he'd said at the end of the evening. "Trs bien!"

 

The point is, these boys speak four languages very well, and one passably. It was hard to keep them on the straight and narrow as when, early on, Kevin wanted mango, but didn't know how to ask for it in Mandarin. Jason wouldn't give him any, and that frustrated Kevin quite a lot. But he learned. Tonight, everyone is talking and giggling at supersonic speed, everyone except me. I can understand Cantonese, sort of. But I can't speak it. My tones are all messed up. So I listen and interject in English when I have something to add to the conversation. What I gather from listening, though, is that a real rapport is forming between Nathan and Thao. I don't know that Nathan has any Vietnamese friends. His brother, Sean, isn't local, and his nephew, Cliff, was killed in a robbery. I don't know what kind of ties Nathan had to the Vietnamese community before he and Steven moved to San Diego, but I don't think he has any now. So, the opportunity to interact with someone from his own country, someone besides Dinh, is clearly a treat. And go at it they do. It's only after two hours or so that I get a chance to ask the question I've been dying to ask all evening.

 

"So, what happened to the Unitarian minister you were dating?"

 

"Ahhhh." Thao looks wistful. "We were not ideal. It had nothing to do with our religions. We just did not share a lot of common interests. He was very nice, and we are still friends, but...the love I thought that we shared was not mutual. We still keep in touch. We meet occasionally at Peet's over a coffee. There was just no magnetism. And, to think I left the church for him."

 

"Do you regret that?" Nathan asks.

 

"No. My divorce from the catholic church was overdue. I could not live with their strictures any more. I cannot tell you how liberating it was to tell Tim the day after my coming-out sermon that I was no longer a priest. I just cannot tell you."

 

Nathan giggles, and they go back to Cantonese, Cantonese that's too fast for me. Nathan cuffs Thao at one point, giggling furiously, but I have no idea what the conversation was about. Finally, it's time to break up the gathering, and for me to drive Thao back to the Center, where he lives. On the way, he thanks me for the dinner, and for introducing him to Nathan. "He is very nice," he says. "He'll make a good addition to the Center. His recent cancer treatments were...harrowing. I'm very impressed with his courage."

 

"He's a very brave guy in his own way. We all love Nathan. He has the unique ability to be unapologetically himself."

 

"Yes," Thao says as we arrive at the Center. We hug. "See you tomorrow," he says, and then is gone, out of the car and up the steps to his room. He's a very sweet guy.

 

-------------------------------------------


Over the course of the next couple of months we see a lot of Thao. I see him nearly every day, of course, but we also see him for dinner, so often in fact that he begins to cook for us, and that's a treat. He and Nathan have become really-good friends and like to cook together, and god knows I like to eat what they cook. Nathan is, of course, a spectacular cook, and Thao is also very good.

 

After the first couple of months, I realize that they're probably dating. Nathan is still living with us, and Thao is living at the Center, but they're spending a lot of their free time together concerts, dinners, walks, and just lazy evenings at home. One weekend, there's a revival of Three Seasons at the Bijou in Palo Alto, and we all go. Three Seasons was written and directed by a Vietnamese-American, Tony Bui, and the cinematography is just spectacularly beautiful. The story or stories are a bit disjointed, but intersecting. One thread of the story is about a former American soldier in Ho Chi Minh City looking for a daughter he fathered during the war. He meets Woody, a child, a street vendor, and when Woody's case of wares disappears, he thinks the soldier took it. Woody hunts for him. The second thread involves a cyclo driver, Hai, who gives a ride to Lan, a hotel call girl, and starts waiting for her daily. He falls in love with her and tries to break through her tough veneer. In a third thread, Kien An, a young woman, takes a job harvesting lotuses in the ponds of Teacher Dao, a reclusive man who has leprosy. Her singing awakens him from depression, and he asks her to write down poetry he has composed. The characters' paths cross in small ways, around flowers and kindnesses.

 

I love this movie. I've seen it twice before, and it usually makes me cry. The narrative is strange, but the photography is so beautiful, and the vignettes so memorable. It makes Nathan and Thao cry, too. I guess it's memories of their homeland. By the end of it, they're snuggling, having lifted the armrest between their two seats. They're very cute together, and as the credits play, they kiss. It's not a passionate kiss, but a rather warm and loving kiss. It's very sweet.

 

On the way back to San Jose, we drop Thao at the Center, and then head home. We haven't said much along the way. When we get home, Kenny makes us a pot of mint tea, and we flop down in the living room before heading off to bed.

 

"How'd you like it?" I ask Nathan, but he thinks I said was, "How do you like him?"

 

"I think I'm falling in love." All of us are surprised before we figure out the disconnect.

 

I giggle. "Umm...that's not what I asked. I was thinking about the movie."

 

Nathan realizes that he's just given up the game, and goes three shades of red. But, then he recovers. "I liked the movie. It was very romantic, very slow-paced. And, of course, it was very beautiful. Some of the shots, especially of the lotus pond, made me want to cry. But...umm..."

 

"About the falling in love thing..." I smile.

 

"Yeah. I think I'm falling in love with Thao," Nathan says softly.

 

"Nathaaaaan," I whine for affect, "I thought you were a confirmed potato queen."

 

"Me, too, but..."

 

"You're falling in love with him."

 

"I think so." He pauses. "Does this have to change anything?" he asks, suddenly.

 

"Anything like what?" I ask him.

 

"Umm...I don't know how to ask this. I'm not even sure what I want. So, hypothetically, if...umm...Thao and I were a couple, would you...umm...make me...leave?"

 

I look at Jason, Kenny and Dinh, and they seem to know what Nathan has just asked. They're shaking their heads. I'm sort of lost. "Leave?"

 

"Could I...uhh...still live here...with you?"

 

I'm still not getting it.

 

Kenny is exasperated with both Nathan and me. "Jeeze, you guys are dancing around each other. Nathan wants to know if Thao could move in with us if he and Nathan became a couple. Nathan wants to know if Thao could share the spare bedroom with him. Nathan wants to stay with us. He doesn't want to leave us."

 

I'm still really confused. "You mean like a boarding house, like a commune?" I ask.

 

"Yeah," Kenny responds. "Sorta."

 

"Is that what you mean?" I ask Nathan.

 

"Umm...yeah...sorta."

 

I glance across at Dinh and Jason, and they're both nodding. They clearly want him to stay. Then I look at Kenny. "And your vote, Professor Hsia?"

 

"Me, too," he says, unreservedly. "I love Nathan. I definitely want him with us."

 

"We know how the boys would vote, and Ian, and Ian's boys. I guess I'm outnumbered," I say with a straight face, gazing at Nathan. He looks stricken. It's as though I've given him a belly-punch. I start to giggle, and then to laugh. "No, Nathan. Of course I want you to stay, too." Nathan smiles, and then giggles. He runs and hugs me.

 

"But, are you in love with Thao?" I say, pushing him back so I can look into his eyes.

 

"I'm not sure, yet. I think so, but I'm not sure. I'm not asking to do this now, but before I let myself fall in love with him, I wanted to be sure that you wouldn't make me leave. I love you guys, too. I want to be with you."

 

You know how they say pregnant women are "radiant"? Well, in the course of the next three months, Thao becomes "radiant". No, I'm not suggesting anything...unnatural. We aren't doing a remake of the 1994 movie Junior, in which Arnold Schwarzenegger is impregnated with Danny DeVito's baby. I guess Thao is just pregnant with joy, and Nathan is in pretty much the same state. They've been dating now for six months, and have grown nearly inseparable, but...umm...not in that way. They haven't made love yet, Nathan tells me. But they want to do that...tonight. "Would it be okay if Thao stays over tonight?"

 

I eye Nathan suspiciously. "Doesn't he have his own bedroom at the Center?" I ask, working oh, so hard to keep from giggling.

 

"Umm...yeah," Nathan replies. "But...we'd like to...be...together."

 

He's so earnest, so serious, that I just can't play out this charade. "Of course he can stay over." I have the feeling at this moment that I'm speaking to my teenage daughter who's just asked to stay at her boyfriend's tonight. "And, if you have trouble luring him over with your obvious charms, tell him it's a Jason night." Thao likes to eat well, and when he cooks for himself at the Center, he lives mostly on canned soup. Nathan laughs and cuffs me.

 

What a hoot. Nathan really does look and behave like a teenage girl for the rest of the day, even if it is a 35-year-old teenage girl. He's insecure, and fusses endlessly with his hair, which fortunately had grown back. And...and...he applies a little eyeliner. It looks really good, I have to admit. Jason bought this eyeliner a while back, thinking he'd wear it to the Pride parade in San Francisco, but Jason has single-fold eyes. It's hard to figure out how to apply it. For Nathan, it's easy, and you really don't even know he's wearing it. It just very-subtly highlights his eyes. That, and a little lip gloss, are as far as he goes with the makeup. By the time Thao arrive, Nathan looks really cute. He really does look like my teenage daughter.

 

Dinner, of course, is wonderful. Jason makes the Taiwanese version of Hot and Sour Soup, Stuffed Bitter Melon (one of his favorites), Chicken with Black Mushrooms, Stir-fried Bok Choi with Garlic, and Anchovy Fried Rice. And for dessert, we have a simple black-bean soup which Jason has, uncharacteristically, flavored with anise. It's really good. Thao loves to eat, and the old adage, "the way to a man's heart is through his stomach" really does come to mind. I'm not sure that it's the best idea to make your way to a man's heart with another man's cooking, but Nathan seems unconcerned that this is Jason's bill of fare. After dinner, Kenny makes us a pot of tea, and we adjourn to the living room where the boys romp for an hour or so before we get them bathed and into bed. Then it's back to the living room for more tea.

 

Jason has programmed the music server to deliver a medley of love songs, and to do it very softly, almost subliminally. It starts with Marlene Dietrich. "Failing in love again / Never wanted to / What am I to do? / Can't help it." The songs are sweet, and a little corny, and probably just right for the mood. The tea is mint, an aphrodisiac, Kenny tells me later, as is Bitter Melon, Jason avers. Never has the act of getting laid been more carefully choreographed, musically and chemically, than tonight. And it actually seems to work. Nathan and Thao sit on the couch, their arms interlaced, glancing furtively into each other's eyes. We carefully avoid work as a topic of conversation, talking instead about films Milk, L'Heure d't, Jules et Jim, Wild Reeds, and any number of other love stories. Jason is steering the conversation deftly, and no one but me, and maybe Kenny, knows that we're being steered at all. Finally after maybe an hour's conversation, good tea, and good music, Nathan looks at Thao and smiles. That's the signal. They excuse themselves and make their way to Nathan's bedroom. Mission accomplished.

It takes another two months of courting, though, before we have "a couple". Nathan and Thao catch me in my office at the Center midway through the afternoon one rainy day. "Umm...Tim...can we talk to you?" Nathan asks.

"Yeah. I've got fifteen minutes before I have to leave for a presentation. What's up?"

They sit down on the couch. They're holding hands. They're really cute together. "Umm...you remember we talked a couple of months ago about...umm...living arrangements if Thao and I...became a couple?"

I nod.

"Umm...we sort of...have."

"Sort of?" I say with a snort.

Both Thao and Nathan giggle, glancing at each other. Then Nathan looks back at me. "We have."

I nod, smiling.

"Would it be okay if Thao moved in with me?"

"I dunno Nathan," I say pensively. "I think you're probably too happy by half already. I don't know that any of us are going to be able to stand you if you're regularly consummating your love."

Nathan laughs. Reaching across the table, he cuffs me.

"Yes," I say, smiling, looking at Thao fondly. "Please do join us, Thao. We'd love to have you."

I would never have believed, in my wildest fucking dreams, that I'd be inviting a former catholic priest to live in my home with me and my gay family, but that's what just happened. In truth, though, I don't think Thao was ever cut out for the catholic church anyway. He's too loving, too accepting and too embracing of others. He's entirely too morally upright to have ever been a true catholic, to have ever been cut from the same cloth at Wojtyla or Ratzinger. So, I'm willing to write off his early catholicism as a youthful aberration, a moral stumble for which he has since atoned. It's not like he's running for public office, is it? He's not looking to be president. If he were, his early catholicism would have to be carefully assessed, just like any other character flaw, such as pedophilia, or being an Austrian (although Schwarzenegger's sins extend well beyond his nationality.) I can find it in my heart to forgive Thao his trespasses. But, I will be watching for any relapse in order to insure that this early disease isn't passed along to my children, because christianity is, at best, a disease isn't it? At worst, it's a choice. In either case, it is certainly treatable. The cure is called Apostasy. It works better than Wellbutrin, and provides relief from unwanted religious urges. It delivers a sort of baptism into the rational world. It's very cleansing, I'm told, but is not available at drug counters. You have to make it on your own...from scratch.

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