Notice: The following account depicts homosexual acts between consenting persons and is intended for mature readers only. Exercise your own judgment in consultation with the appropriate laws and moral standards of your community in deciding whether or not to read this work. While this story depicts significant events in the lives of certain individuals readers are cautioned not to assume that their experiences are in any way representative of those of most homosexuals. Any connection between persons named herein and real persons living or dead is vigorously denied. Comments may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. This story may not be copied or distributed without the express written consent of the author. Copyright 2001 All Rights Reserved.
Chapter Nine. Confessions
Visions of a perfect world.
Matts words rang in my ears for weeks. I guess they still do in fact. In this part of the story my memory is clear and unclouded. My grasp of meaning is the same: what Matt had done was put me in my place tell me exactly what my position in the world was. Youre a goddamn faggot Elliot spoken as if to say Dont you ever ever forget it. At the time it seemed I would never forget it and it took meeting someone very very special during my first year in college to begin to do so.
Despite what you may want though you cant help being who you are. I guess Matt Paul and I had all shown ourselves that. And the thing that really stuck out was how much a combination of my own desire yearning and lack of self-respect seemed to blind one eye and focus the other. So much Id assumed about Paul was totally wrong yet as much as I had misjudged certain things about him I had accurately assessed Matt. So it seemed that afternoon anyway. As they say though hindsight is twenty-twenty and I understand things now that I didnt then. And yet I can still imagine something different a world in which we were not our flawed fucked-up selves prone to make mistakes to hurt ourselves and others but were instead more harmonious creatures living so as to love ourselves and one another. But it is a world I have imagined and not yet anywhere seen.
Now that The Forbidden Fruit has closed maybe we should step back into the theatre we were in just a moment ago. Thats the only place I can think of where this imaginary world might be. I mean what if Id been able to write the kind of life story that begins with Matt and me just hanging out maybe watching a video or something but shortly after it begins Paul comes in and starts to watch it with us. Instead of paying attention to the movie though Im watching Paul. He doesnt notice but Matt does and after the movie ends we go up to his room and he asks me what I think of a particular scene one he knows I didnt really see. I try to give some fake answer afraid Ill get caught for having not paid attention to the movie but Matt calls me on it and says he noticed I have a thing for Paul. Embarrassed I try to deny it but Matt tells me hes cool with it and that he thinks Paul and I could really hit it off. Im so surprised by what he says but he explains that Pauls gay and that hes suspected for a long time that Im gay. Then he drops a real shocker: Pauls kind of been asking Matt about me and Matts been doing what he can to encourage him! Who would have thought it? Matts had it in his head all along to set us up and has been patiently waiting for the right moment to guide me and Paul to the same idea. Then it all makes sense to me why hes been dropping casual comments about Paul over the past couple of months and why recently we will happen to run into Paul at our usual hangouts around town. Matt is such a great friend I dont know what Id do without his love and support. Life can be so hard sometimes but its the devotion of really great friends that carries you through it. In fact Matt tells me I love you and Paul more than anyone else in the world and I couldnt imagine anything better than seeing my best friend and my little brother make each other happy. So after talking it over with Paul Matt sets us up on our first date and were both so taken with a mix of excitement and schoolgirl embarrassment that when Matt sends us out the door together he has to make us hold hands. Then he gets an idea and runs inside to get a camera. Now were really embarrassed but he snaps a photo anyway of two guys feeling very awkward but looking incredibly cute together and obviously happy. We go on our date which is pretty plain vanilla dinner and a movie and were both kind of nervous because neither of us really knows what hes doing. But we have a good conversation and I find out how smart and funny Paul is and hope he thinks the same about me. We avoid talking about Matt and the whole reason were on this date together because everything is still so new and awkward. But when we get home we sit on the porch in the dark warm air of this midsummer night. It seems like magic to me and something about the mood the place the moonlight or the soft shadows draws Paul and me together. When we kiss its like a shower of meteors raining down overhead and for a long time we sit together arms around one another enjoying the togetherness and the silence. Then the door opens and Matt steps out with this big goofy grin and says All right you guys Ive given you forty-five minutes out here but Im just dying inside and I cant take it anymore! So howd it go? Matts so giddy that Paul and I burst out laughing which is all the answer Matt needs. He comes over and sits with us and the three of us hang out together over the next few hours so free easy and comfortable enjoying the mysterious variety of human love. Before I go home I thank Matt for everything and Paul for such a wonderful evening. Matt takes his cue and goes back inside and after kissing Paul one more time I tell him how great I think he is and that Id like to do this again soon. He takes my hands and squeezing them tells me Youre everything Matt said you were Elliot and even a little morebut that can be our secret! I get lost in the deep blue pools of his eyes and think Oh Paul Im yours forever and ever. End of scene. Fade to black.
Wouldnt that make for a happy little drama? A nice romance to make us all feel good? Id like it just as much as you believe me but the thing is life happens out in the street not up on the stage. Later the same night Matt yelled at memaybe cursed would be a better wordI remember waking up with this incredible pain that seems to be coursing through my whole body. Its worse in my head almost like theres something stuck through it. I try to reach up to see whats the matter but my arms dont respond. I cant even open my eyes really though it seems I can see a sliver of red light in my left eye. Theres something warm and salty clogging up my mouth and I try to spit it out. But with each breath the pain increases sharp and stabbing on my right side. The effort is too much and I slip back into a comfortable unconsciousness.
I see myself from the outside as if in a dream and the more I look the more I realize I am in a dream. Then there are two of me the watcher and the watched a mind that is aware and a body that seems unaware. And though the perspicuity of the experience is almost palpable for the mind-self all it can do is watch the body-self and at first it begins to doubt that its really me its seeing but then it decides it is me. Its my body. My shape. My arms my legs my head my face. But Im not in my body. I cant feel it cant get back into it and I dont know why. The body-self is lying there in the grass at night in an open space between the trees. Theres darkness all around stars and moonlight and a gentle breeze. I cant tell if its asleep or just lying there and I wish I could call to it get it to come over to me if I cant go over to it. But Im just the mind-self. I dont have a mouth and I cant speak. I cant say where I am or if I really exist but only that I have a center of consciousness and a point of view. But if that is the case why am I seeing myself lying there? Why am I not in the body-self looking out from there. But then I remember Im not seeing Im only dreaming. Its not real none of it is real. Im only dreaming and I wish I could wake up. It seems urgent suddenly that I wake up. I dont want to be this way I dont want to be there away from my body-self. I want to be in it at home and I think that only if it were awake then I would be awake. And Id be in it. At home together and whole. Mind and body with one another awake alive and whole. Bound together so they cant come apart. I begin to realize thats what I want to be together and whole but Im not together and whole and I dont know why. I understand that I am broken. Then I begin to feel something else there something approaching through the shadows.
When I wake up again I can see this blazing light that hurts my eyes even though theyre not open so I decide to keep them shut. Something someone seems busy about my body like Im being pulled or jostled about. Slowly the pain starts to disappear so pretty soon I cant feel anything and like the volume on a stereo being turned up my ears come online and I start to hear things voices and noises I dont recognize. I sense the words as indicating something serious though I dont know what exactly is being said and even today they are just on the edge of my memory of this moment. Then Im aware that Im also hearing a siren and I seem to be in motion. I dont know how long the moment lasts but eventually the effort is again too much and I let myself gently slide away into the darkness.
The body-self is still there in the grass and at first I dont quite realize it but Im in it now. Mind-self and body-self are together. I can feel the bulk of the earth under my back and the grass under my fingers. When I look out there are stars and trees and the cool night air. I try to sit up but find that I cant. Im stuck on my back and cant move. As much as the mind-self tries to lead tries to get the body to stand it wont follow. Get up! I think. Weve got to go. Its not safe here! It doesnt listen doesnt hear doesnt obey I dont know which. The frustration I feel is about as much as I can tolerate and then Im outside again the same position I was in before two of me watcher and watched dreaming. The body is naked now unlike before and I see it with new eyes. Theres a hole in it then two holes like two mouths one where it should be and one where it shouldnt. Something or someone is getting close I can feel it. Im afraid and dont know what to do. Get up. Get up! My body has two holes in it both of them open and gaping and empty. Im hungry I think. I want food something to eat. I am so hungry I have two mouths one where it should be and one somewhere else lower down. The awareness of my hunger draws me back and Im in my body again aware only of the two empty holes and the approach of something or someone through the trees. Get up! Please! We cant stay here!
There is someone there a figure with arms and legs and face. Its over me now a presence that is simply there covering me and I feel hungry painfully so. I look up to see who it is hoping only that hes brought food. Im so hungry. Its Matt. The face is Matt. There is no food and hes telling me Im not hungry that I dont need to eat. But I know thats not true. Hes lying. I am hungry and there is food. Theres plenty of food. But again he insists that Im not hungry and there is no food. Why do I have two mouths then if Im not hungry? If I have two mouths I must be hungry. I am hungry and I can feel it. Theres food too and Im hungry enough to take it. Please I think. Im hungry. I want something to eat. Then its Paul. The face is Paul. I feel better now content in the promise of something to eat. He will feed me. He always feeds me. Paul will give me food. But when I look again its not Paul but someone else. The face has changed into someone that looks familiar but I dont know for sure. Ive seen him before but when where? Im hungry I say two mouths speaking for me. Please. But he laughs. He only laughs at me. Wicked sinister hissing laughter. Mocking me. Then why dont you eat? he says. Eat if youre hungry! Hes standing on top of me now laughing. I can feel him the weight of him pressing me into the earth holding me down. I cant eat I say theres no food and I cant move! But he laughs and laughs and laughs and then Im laughing too even though I dont want to. Im laughing with him and then Im laughing by myself. I look up. Hes gone. Im still empty and broken and Im not laughing anymore but screaming.
I wake up and theres a cool wipe on my face and a womans voice that says Shhh honey its only a nightmare. Go back to sleep. Youre going to be all right you just need to rest and then Im asleep again and mercifully I dont dream.
I dont remember what happened after Matt hit me. So what exactly happened afterward I dont know for sure. But from what evidence was available I am able to piece together this account: After my confrontation with Matt apparently I went back to my house but decided not to stick around there. I wanted to be alone somewhere so I got in my car and drove around for a while eventually ending up in a park near my house. Thats not unusual as I sometimes went there when I wanted to be alone preferring to sit in the grass between the trees when I needed to clear my head and think things out. I was probably there for quite a while watching the sun go down. Andbig surpriseI had been drinking so maybe I fell asleep. Anyway a few hours later this girl who lives near the park was walking with her boyfriend and they found me unconscious and bloody and called an ambulance. Someone attacked me and left me there in pretty bad shape. Initially I was able to face whoever it was standing up but my ability to defend myself didnt go very far. My left arm was broken as I fell on it. Once I was down then my face and right side were kicked in leaving a broken nose a cracked cheekbone some bad cuts a few chipped teeth bruised ribs. Some of the bones in my right hand were crushed as though with the heel of a shoe. Its kind of a good thing too that I had no memory of the event because the police ended up being satisfied that it was a random attack and thus let the matter drop but more importantly because my mom thought the same thing and never found out the real motivation behind it. That was really something to be thankful for. Only a handful of people ever knew the truth and I never talked about it again with her after I moved away for college. Even while in college I only told two other people about these events.
I was in the hospital a few days mostly just for observation but I did have to have surgery on my right hand and my face which needed some minor reconstruction. Amazingly I didnt suffer any nerve damage and the only really permanent physical effect aside from a few scars was that I lost one tooth but a falsie took care of that. Needless to say I missed the graduation ceremony for which I was kind of relieved actually because after what happened with Matt I pretty much just wanted to disappear.
My second-to-last day in the hospital turned out to be on my birthday. So much for a party that year. In fact since that day Ive never really celebrated my birthday much at all partly because once I was in college few people were around for summer break and partly because theres no reason to hash through the memories of that particular day every year. What I mean is that theyre with me all the time anyway so I dont really feel the need to mark the occasion. Id really prefer to forget about it all yet here I am writing it out if only to try to assign my memories the proper meaning in the events narrated so far. I guess theres a certain kind of irony in that in wanting to forget but needing to remember. If youve ever tried to think about your life to write things down and get them accurate you know how hard this can be. And if youve read this account up to here I guess you might be curious enough to see how it ends so Ill continue to do my best to be consistent honest and true. Ive discovered so far that by writing about my experiences I can in fact forget about them though. That is to say I can leave them behind consign them to the past and hopefully step into the future without the burden of always and everywhere feeling the weight of what Ive been through falling down on top of me.
When I woke up that morning I was eighteen years old. Technically an adult but in many respects still a kid my experience more advanced than what it should have been and my ability to cope not always up to the task. My mom was the first to see me that day and had been the only person to see me in fact so far. I do have fond memories of our being together then. It was the last time she ever really took care of me the last time I admitted that I needed it and let her do it. At the hospital she had pretty much been living in the same room with me and it was only the day before that I finally convinced her that she should go home that I would be all right that the nurses were also taking good care of me. She took a lot of convincing but finally left after promising me that shed be back later on to keep me company. I really love my mom and I knew what a sacrifice she was making for all of this. How she got the time off work Ill never know. If theres anything I wish I could change about what happened it would be to save her from all the anguish and suffering she went through. Youd have thought I was dying the way she worried about me. I dont mean to say that she overreacted but I would have been just fine without her dropping everything to be with me. When she visited me that morning she brought me some flowers which were really nice in fact. No one ever gave me flowers before or since. What was really cool though was that she brought a cupcake with a candle on it which was totally not allowed but she snuck it in anyway. She lit the candle sang happy birthday to me and then fed it to me in small bits since I couldnt use either of my arms. We talked for a while and she told me all the latest news. She hadnt seen Matt but talked to his mom the day before. Apparently the graduation was beautiful and they were sorry that I wasnt able to attend. I got the feeling from the way she told it that there was more to the story than she realized but I wasnt going to ask. She also told me the latest news about her friends at the church and passed along their well wishes as well as those of some of my teachers at school.
My room had a TV and VCR in it so just before mom left she pulled out the Star Wars trilogy for me to watch. I knew all three backwards and forwards but I didnt own them on tape so it was a great present for her to give me. I was ready for a midmorning nap but she put the first one in so I could watch it as I fell asleep. I think I got as far as the destruction of Alderaan.
The rest of the morning was uneventful and in the afternoon I got one of the nurses to start Empire. This one I stayed awake for mainly because its the best one and my favorite. Id just gotten past the part where Han Solo is put in the carbon freeze (Leia: I love you! Han: I know!) and into the fighting sequences between Luke and Vader as the rest of the group makes their escape when I heard a knock at the door. In walked Paul.
I dont know who was more surprised me or Paul but since I couldnt see myself Id have to say that he was. Its hard to describe the look on his face. It was kind of like fear but also like horror as though he were staring into the face of something monstrous. Its kind of funny thinking about it now because I have this picture in my mind of Pauls shocked face and just over his head to the right theres Luke dangling by one arm from the catwalk and Vader is reaching out saying Search your feelings. You know it to be true...
Is it really that bad? I said finally breaking the trance he was in.
What? No not at all.
Dont bother Paul. Its obvious youre lying and Im not in the mood.
Im sorry he said looking down. Then he looked at me again long and hard. I could see him steeling himself against the churning in his gut the mix of shock and surprise. Slowly he was able to compose himself and wipe the emotion from his face. I just... I just wasnt ready for it. I didnt know what to expect. I felt wretched. Stared at. Now Luke Skywalker was dangling like a twit from the antenna beneath the Cloud City station. Look do you mind if I turn that off?
No. Go ahead.
Paul shut off the TV and pulled a chair over beside my bed. Im sorry Elliot. I didnt mean to be an ass.
Its all right. I havent seen myself yet but I know it must look pretty bad. Nobody will give me a mirror. My mom had flat refused in fact even though I asked her repeatedly. I didnt believe that it could be so bad. I was on my back the whole time but propped up so I could see that most of my upper body was covered in casts bandages or straps of some kind. My left arm was completely encased leaving my fingers sticking out the end. My right forearm and hand were in another cast and my torso was wrapped up in this strange girdle kind of thing to help the ribs. But my head probably looked the worst. The right side was pretty much still covered in bandages. They had reset my nose and put tiny metal staples into my right cheekbone and eye socket and my jaw was immobile wired almost shut open enough that I could speak quietly and slowly. My left eye and the left side of my face were free and the top of my head was free. And my legs were free. But then there were all the tubes and hoses of various sorts all going into one orifice or another or barring that a hole they punch in you. One thing I learned is that they had a special tube for more places than I realized they could stick them. It seems like everythings liquid in a hospital what goes in and what goes out. I was hungry all the time but they claimed they were feeding me through one of the tubes which was partly true I guess because I was pissing all the time. They had a tube for that too of course.
Do you want to talk about it?
What the tubes?
No. What happened. The attack.
I dont know what happened. They tell me it was an attack. I guess theyre right. I couldnt have done this all by myself. I think I would have been much faster and cleaner about it.
Dont say that please he said. His response only made me angry.
Fuck off Paul. My words cut him and he started to lose his stoic mold. He was quiet for several seconds.
Do you want me to leave?
No. We were both quiet then for a minute or two.
Do you remember any of it?
No. There was another long pause. The moment was awkward for both of us and each of us was thinking What the fuck do you say at a time like this? Paul decided to be persistent in his questions about what had happened.
Do you know who did it?
So you remember.
No. I just know who did it. Paul said nothing so I continued. Ive had a long time to sit here and think so I figured it out. I know.
I do too. Otherwise Paul was quiet.
Matt told you?
Well Matt knows anyway.
Of course he does.
But I found out. Thats all that matters.
I trust you didnt do anything heroic and go out and return him the favor. Man I was being such an asshole.
No Paul said either not understanding my intent or else being incredibly patient with me. He looked down at his feet. No I didnt. Id like to though. I might even do it if you asked me to.
I let his words sink in wondering where he thought all thisme and him I meanwas going. I guess I should want you to but truthfully I dont really see the point. As soon as Im out of here Im leaving this place and never coming back again. He can just go to hell for all I care and this whole shit hole with him. That too was meant to score. And it did.
I looked down at Paul with my good eye. He was still looking at his feet but now he was visibly shaking. He buried his face in his hands refusing to look at me or let me see him. As terrible as it is to admit I took pleasure at seeing him in pain. I felt entitled to it as though he owed me for some of the burden of what had happened as if I guess I thought he was responsible for it. I am ashamed for having felt so but something in me wanted to hurt him.
And then Paul looked at me. Just lifted up his face and looked at me tears streaming down his face his eyes swollen and red. Then I realized what anguish he was in. I could see it written in his face. A dreadful pain a kind of vacancy in his eyes that signifiedwhat I didnt know. A hollowness inside. A suffering soul. Maybe a broken heart.
Im sorry! Oh god I am so sorry! Ive hurt you so much and then this! It never would have happened if not for me. Ive failed you terribly and if theres anything in this world I hope for its that youll some day forgive me Elliot. Please please say youll forgive me. Ill do anything you want anything at all to make this better. Just say youll forgive me. Oh god Im sorry! Im so sorry!
Pauls outburst surprised me shocked me even and I didnt know what to say. More out of surprise than anything I blurted out All right I forgive you! but for what I didnt know and why I didnt understand. No matter though. Paul immediately jumped up and threw his arms around my trunk as my own arms were kind of braced up and outward on either side of me. He buried his face into my chest.
Thank you! Thank you!
Paul it hurts! I gasped.
Oh shit I forgot I forgot! Im sorry Im so sorry! He let me go and instead just grabbed on to my waist the only place he could really embrace me without touching bandage cast or tube. But then he just let go as if afraid to cause me further pain. As though all of me might somehow be fragile and he didnt want to make things any worse. I realized that this was probably the first time I looked at him without any feeling whatsoever of desire. I had tried to conquer it before but now the blank feeling came easily probably in part because of the drugs. Whats more though this was the first time I was in Pauls presence that I didnt immediately feel inferior to him subservient to him. I dont know if it was the situation or the painkillers but as much as Id felt his strength before I was aware of his lack of strength now. It surprised me more than anything I guess but part of me was a little embarrassed by his hysterical display of weakness as though he wasnt living up to expectations.
Paul get a hold of yourself. Everythings okay. Ill be all right! I said but he didnt seem to hear me. I began to realize that now more than ever I needed to feel his strength. But it didnt seem to be there. Theres some Kleenex over there on the shelf.
He got up to get some then came back over and sat down beside me. I realize this is the last thing you need to see right now but I feel terrible about whats happened like its my fault in some way. Paul held on to my left hand gently squeezing the fingers poking out of the end of the cast. I wish it had been me and not you.
I wish it hadnt been either one of us I said and in a perfect world it wouldnt have been. But thinking that way doesnt really matter because its happened and theres nothing either one of us can do about it now but survive. Just because its happened to me doesnt mean it wont happen to you too. Well have to be careful. I said we in order to test his reaction.
Ill be okay dont worry he said in a way that made me think he knew something. Before I could ask he said Youre right though. In a perfect world this wouldnt have happened at all. You wouldnt be lying here and I wouldnt be such a wreck feeling so guilty. Neither one of us would be in this mess.
I almost asked Paul what exactly he meant by that but I didnt need to. I already knew. We had our moment and our moment was destroyed. Matt had unwittingly seen to that. Mark who beat me up had purposefully seen to it. And Paul by folding under the pressure had seen to it too. There was simply no way something lasting would come out of this if Paul was feeling guilty if he was beginning to wish that neither one of us was in this mess if he was forgetting that it was because of both of us because of the dangerous love wed shared that we were in this mess to begin with. It seemed to me I had nothing left to do but get out of this place and out of this town.
Paul Im feeling tired. Thanks for coming but Ill talk to you later okay? They say Im supposed to get out in a few days. Ill call you if you want.
Oh okay he said sounding disappointed. Look give me just a sec all right. Ill be right back. I didnt know what he was up to but Paul got up and left the room. Im sitting there maybe thirty seconds when the door opens and he comes back in followed by his dad. Fuck.
Mr. Clements came over and sat in the chair Paul had used. Paul followed and stood at the foot of the bed. I was tense and Paul clearly looked so too.
Hi Elliot. How you doing?
Okay I guess.
They treating you all right?
Youll be out soon?
Look I know this is a little unannounced but I wanted to talk to you. I didnt know what to think and looked over at Paul. He tried to be reassuring.
Its okay he said. Dad knows about everything. He knows about us.
You do? I asked with surprise. And then Oh god...
Yes. Paul told me. And Matt told me. Do you know who did this to you?
You remember it then?
Paul told you?
I figured it out on my own. I didnt know what this was but it felt a little like an interrogation. Paul remained silent and kept his eyes from meeting mine.
Who was it then?
Well Mark of course.
Mr. Clements looked over at Paul. Is this true?
You mean you dont know? I asked.
No Mr. Clements said. Paul and Matt wont tell me.
Is this true Paul?
Yes Paul said.
I tried to make them but they were adamant Mr. Clements said. Apparently its part of some deal they made with each other.
Yes it was part of our deal he said. Matt confronted him and convinced him... not to talk about what he saw. In return you and I dont turn him in... for this... Paul was embarrassed and he wouldnt look at me or his father as he spoke. Im sorry Elliot. It just happened. When Matt told me what was what I didnt feel like I had a choice and with you here I couldnt exactly talk to you about it you know. Im really sorry. I hope youre not mad.
I dont know what to think I said. I was quiet for a few moments. There was too much going through my mind too much to take in all at once. I was flooded with questions like What interest does Matt have in all of this? Why doesnt he want anyone pointing the finger at Mark? and Why would you or I accuse him anyway? That would be the same as publicly admitting... well you know... The way I understood it Matt had gone to Mark and made sure that he wouldnt tell people that Paul and I were a couple of fags. In return for Matts doing so Paul and I were not to say that Mark had attacked me. But the obvious flaw was that neither Paul nor I would talk about it because that would only confirm Marks reason for attacking me in the first place. Besides we had no proof. Something else was going on here. Mark was getting off easy and Matt seemed to be protecting someone or something that he didnt want anyone else to know about.
That boy should be behind bars for a very long time for this Mr. Clements said.
Maybe so but I just think it was him. I dont have any real proof unless somebody saw it.
No. Nobody saw it unfortunately.
I was quiet again. Why did he do it Paul? I asked wondering why Matt would go to such lengths. I mean Matt hit me himself because of this... But Paul wouldnt look at me even though I waited for him to answer. Then I realized the reason why. It was so obvious. It was for you wasnt it? He wanted to protect you.
Paul still wouldnt look at me. I could see tears slowly lining his cheek. I continued down the path my own thoughts were going. How did Matt know right off that it was Mark? But Mr. Clements had already gotten there.
Did he know Paul? Did Matt know beforehand that this was going to happen? he asked. Paul was slowly shaking his head and wiping his face. At his dads questions he turned to look directly at him.
I dont know Dad! Please! I couldnt ask him. I didnt want to ask him! I told you everything I know everything except who did it! Paul looked like he was about to crack.
All right son its okay! Look why dont you go down the hall and get something from the Coke machine. I want to talk to Elliot anyway Mr. Clements said.
Paul stood up and looked at me. The torture in his face was evident but try as he might he couldnt speak to me anymore. Instead his eyes told me everything he wanted to say but couldnt. Then he turned and walked out of the room the door slowly swinging closed behind him with a metallic click.
Mr. Clements turned to look at me. Ive put them both through the ringer many times over this Matt more than Paul. But each day it seems like Im getting more information.
I was in a daze. The very idea that Matt would have known beforehand what Mark might do and yet do nothing to stop it made my stomach turn. Surely this was the secret he was trying to hide. I felt like our friendship hadnt merely ended. It had been obliterated like it was never there at all. Like we were mortal enemies and always had been. And it wasnt as if he was satisfied with merely stabbing me in the back. He had to twist the dagger once it was in: Matts deal protected himself Paul and as a consequence Mark. It left me hanging out to dry.
Did Matt really hit you? Mr. Clements asked.
Yes sir he did. Earlier in the day. No need to remain loyal I thought so I might as well tell the truth. He punched me. In fact thats the last clear thing I remember before waking up here.
I guess thats another talk he and I are going to have...
Nothing. Look Elliot this is all very hard. For you obviously but for us as well. I realize now Ive been too much in the background not checking up on the three of you. Not figuring out whats going on in your lives and not making myself available to you all. I had no fucking clue where Mr. Clements was going with all of this let alone why he was saying it. The thing that perplexed me the most was why he was even talking to me why he didnt seem to automatically hate me for being his sons lover.
When Paul said you know about `everything what exactly did he mean?
Well yes I guess its obvious he didnt tell me all the details of what happened over the past year but he did tell me enough so that I could get the general picture.
Being together? Yes he said. I waited for a moment before asking the really difficult question.
Youre not angry about it?
Mr. Clements took a deep breath and exhaled. This was what hed come to talk about I think. This was the moment of truth and we were treading on dangerous ground. I had almost nothing more to lose but as for him... I wasnt sure. It seemed like he was trying to figure out what hed lost what he still had and if he could maybe get anything back.
Honestly Elliot I cant say Im happy about it. Its not something I ever planned for or thought about. Its not something Im really sure how to deal with.
I understand I said though I didnt really. The whole conversation was making me tense. I mean here I was openly talking about being a fag with Pauls dad. I hope you can realize though that I never planned for it either. And I didnt choose to be this way. I am this way.
Mr. Clements looked at me deep in thought. I expected that at any moment he would jump up and just strangle me right there. I mean both he and his wife were lifelong loyal Catholics. They had seen me Matt and Paul raised in the faith yet what should come of it but that I was corrupt and had dragged their sons down with me turning one into a pervert like me and dragging the other into a plot to destroy me. My own sin or so it could be argued had caused them to sin as welleach one mortally so. On one level it seemed Mr. Clements would only be doing the reasonable thing by preventing any of this from ever happening again.
Instead though Mr. Clements said something astonishing: Elliot its not my place to judge you and Im not going to. If you want your secret is safe with me and for Pauls sake since hes got another year in school I hope youll keep it that way too. Understand that I utterly abhor what this boy Mark did and think that his actions can never be justified or ever excused but without proof theres not much we can do. I know thats a very hard thing to say but making accusations will only end up hurting you guys more. But my point is that your being gay is all right with me. Im not saying I approve. Im just not upset about it. I dont understand it but Ive had a lot of time recently to think about things and realize that your struggle must be far more difficult than mine. What I am upset about is that you two are far too young to be doing what you didtoo young to appreciate the long-term consequences it might have. And unfortunately you guys found out the hard way the danger youre confronting.
What about Pauls being gay? Youre not upset about that?
Well Mr. Clements said taking a deep breath he may or may not be. Weve talked about it and I dont think hes as sure as you are. Hes a year and a half younger than you and hasnt had as long to sort things out. And I understand his relationship with Kelly is important to him and that he intends to continue with her when her family returns from their summer vacation and I will support him in that. I can see that you have reason to think hes gay of course. Im sorry to say so but Id personally prefer that he werent. But no matter what hes my son. It may not be easy but Ill be there for him and help him in any way I can. Mr. Clements paused for a bit then continued. In a perfect world maybe I could have done the same for you.
When Mr. Clements said that my heart broke wide open and I felt in a way I never had before the pain of what it means to grow up without a father without someone to guide me through the long difficult process of becoming a man. I saw the source of so much of my pain with a harsh clarity and realized that my depression and lack of self-esteem were symptomatic of this greater problem. For the first time since Id been in the hospital I cried. Maybe bawled is more accurate. For a good ten or fifteen minutes the agony of so many years came pouring out. I was finally able to express the profound isolation and loneliness that sometimes only boys like me can know. What a blessing it was that here at the low point of my life was someone to listen and understand someone to hold my hand and wipe away my tears.
Eventually Mr. Clements was able to calm me down and I regained some semblance of composure and normality. I felt lousy but good too like the way you feel after throwing up. We talked for several minutes Mr. Clements helping me to work through my feelings of anguish. We talked about Matt too. About how much his friendship had meant to me over the years and how much I was going to miss it now that it was gone.
Are you going to be all right? Mr. Clements finally asked.
Yes I think so in time. Thanks for putting up with me I said.
Not a problem.
As I settled down the absurdity of this moment caught up with me. I mean here I was trussed up in this freaking hospital room having a moment with my gay lovers dad. How fucking weird was that! I started to chuckle a bit.
Nothing I said continuing to laugh. Its all so strange. I mean is this what you had in mind when you said you wanted to talk to me? Mr. Clements started to laugh a little too.
No... not really. But I am glad we talked.
Yeah me too I said. We were quiet a few seconds each of us alone with his thoughts. Then Mr. Clements got a serious look on his face.
Really I only had one question I wanted to be sure to ask you.
Yeah? I said still a little bemused. What is it?
Are you in love with my son?
Blown away doesnt even begin to describe the effect his question had on me. It was so unexpected and so direct that I would rather have been anywhere at that moment than in that room. Mr. Clements looked me right in the eyes in a way that demanded an answer but I was in somewhat of a dilemma. I could say no and basically suggest that all of this mess had been the result of an enormously irresponsible lust or I could say yes and basically point out that to my mind Paul and I were not over even if I wasnt so sure about that. Either way I was going to give an answer he probably wouldnt like each one for vastly different reasons. What could I do but speak from the heart and hope for the best.
Yes sir. I am.
Okay he said patting me on the leg. I just wanted to know.
When I got home from the hospital I stayed there because I wanted to avoid contact with other people as much as possible. I had only a few weeks before I would leave for college and my only real goal was to get myself ready to go. They had removed all but a few bandages from my head and face as well as the wiring on my jaw but I still had the casts on both arms and the rib brace to wear when I wanted it around my torso. And I had to get used to letting my mom help me dress eat bathe and go to the toilet. She also helped me every night with simple exercises that would help me maintain some flexibility and the doctors hoped lessen the time Id be spending in physical therapy.
There was one exception to my self-imposed cloistering though. When he had come to visit me I mentioned to Mr. Clements how angry I was with God for making me the way I am. He then told me that he had ordered both Paul and Mattespecially Mattto go to confession. Though he couldnt order me he suggested I think about going as well. You dont think Im doing penance enough? I asked him but he only said Yes you are indeed. But it may help you unburden yourself and come out of this with a clear conscience. In Catholic-speak this made sense to me so I asked my mom to drive me one afternoon before the Saturday mass.
I hadnt been to confession for well over a year long before my seventeenth birthday when I first served Paul. I had been attending mass regularly as had Paul and Matt. Both his parents and my mom went every week so skipping out wasnt really an option unless you wanted to start a big row over it. Confession was another matter though as each of us were old enough to regulate that on our own. We never talked about it though so I dont even know if Matt made a habit of going or if he did how often. I assumed it wasnt much since I saw him most every Saturday. And I never knew if Paul went that much either though I suspected not. I didnt go because for one the big sin on my plate was explicitly condemned so I already knew what the response from the priest would be and two I had no intention of mending my wicked ways. Without that theres no point in confessing anything.
My mom thought I was virtuous merely for wanting to go to confession and she respected my privacy enough not to ask the reason why. I confessed my anger and after asking me to explain the reasons why I was feeling this way the priest behind the screenthank God it wasnt Father Johnlistened to my arguments and told me I was merely rationalizing my behavior in order to excuse my guilt. Homosexual acts are a sin he told me no matter who commits them or what the reason. I was indeed feeling guiltyguilty for not being normaland enormously so. But consider what he told me and put that up against the fact that I didnt choose to be who I am and feel what I did and he seemed to be rationalizing my guilt in order to condemn my behavior. Okay maybe my feelings werent always pure werent always governed by love sacrifice and compassion. Neither were those of straight people. Yet what they did under the right circumstances was considered okay. What I did no matter what the circumstances was not nor ever would be.
It made me more frustrated. I was after all made this way! I mean I might as well confess that my hair was brown as that I was gay. For me the mystery of why I was gayam gay I guess I should sayis the same as that of why I exist. I like men. Its who and what I am as much as any other part of me is. Of course being a fag wasnt really the issue. Being a fag is not technically a sin and in taking this position you understand the Church takes a very forward approach toward modern cognitive and physiological psychology which also discuss homosexuality in terms of biological processes and not lifestyle choices or social conditioning. There are certain things about us that are beyond choice. So in a certain sense we fags were created like this as God intended.
On the other hand acting like a fag is a sin. For this reason the Church teaches that homosexuals are called to be single which is the same as saying they are meant to be celibate. To me that seemed simply cruel and still does. Here the Church seems to ignore an insight of modern behavioral psychology that sex is not just a mechanism for responding to a biological imperative. It is also a means of fulfilling certain psychological motivations and needs which because none of us are alike vary somewhat from individual to individual and even culture to culture and which cant always be addressed by other means. Of course there are certain ways in which were all alike. I mean all of us no matter who we are feel compelled to join ourselves to another person in some way. And we feel this as a consequence of our creation. But how can you say Group A is good to go to form sexual relationships with each other and Group B simply by virtue of the fact that theyre in the Bs isnt?
Well Im not up to a general defense of homosexuality. Nor was I then either. The priest granted me absolution and assigned me a penance which I willingly did. He also gave me this simple advice: Pray and rely on God. Succinct clear and honest. Probably the best advice I ever got. But to me it also had this unavoidable implication: you cant rely on anyone else even the Church. You have to understand that to my mind there really is no moral difference between the action and the feelings in your heart. After all if the action is wrong then the sin has already been committed within. But I knew that my heart from which sexuality emerges wasnt like my head or my body: I couldnt control what it did. Nor was I willing to drive a wedge between it and the rest of my being by embracing celibacy. So if the Church couldnt accept my heart neither did it seem would it ever accept my head or my body. Yes I would pray and rely on God. Thats all I could do because if somebody didnt accept part of me they werent going to accept any of me a lesson I had already learned much too vividly. I loved the Church and still do despite myself but I couldnt find a home there. The way you are we dont want you the priest seemed to be saying so that was the last day I went to mass.
Look for Chapter Ten. Loose Ends.
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Opponents to the sort of hate crime legislation called for by the Human Rights Campaign speciously point out that cases like these are few, especially when compared to figures derived for the total population. They are right, of course, if you consider only murder. Data collected by the FBI, available on its website, suggests that bias crimes against gays nearly doubled from 1990 to 1998 and are still on the rise. According to the Uniform Crime Reports for 1999 the most current yearly assessment available hate crime figures remain astonishingly high considering the report covers a period of only 365 days. Of the 9301 total hate crime offenses reported 6189 (or 66.5%) were attributed to crimes against persons ranging from intimidation to murder. Of the 7871 reported single-bias incidentsa figure which includes crimes against property persons and society as a whole1317 (or 16.7%) were the result of sexual orientation bias. Of these, 915 (or 69.5%) resulted from anti-male homosexual bias and involved a total of 1025 offenses including 2 murders 128 aggravated assaults 308 simple assaults and 329 intimidations. The sad truth is that these figures represent an extremely conservative estimate. The UCRs for any given year are only as reliable as the state and local police agencies that voluntarily participate in the data collection process and those that do represent only 85% of the total population. In addition underreporting especially of incidents of hate crime is common so the majority of hate crime incidents go unidentified and thus unprosecuted every year. (You can read an American Psychological Association position paper on hate crime which addresses this and other issues at www.apa.org/pubinfo/hate/.) While a federal response to this issue is necessary and welcome it is important to demand and support efforts to identify report and prosecute hate crime in our hometowns or local jurisdictions. Many believe that most anti-gay incidents occur in our schools and workplaces. Many do. But consider another surprising finding: in 1999 the highest number (30.6%) of the 1317 incidents involving just sexual orientation bias (and 28.7% of the 7876 total reported bias-motivated incidents) occurred in or on residential property (though we are also at similarly high risk on highways streets roads and alleys). This tends to confirm something many gay men already know from experience: while hate can happen anywhere it often begins at home.