Two Boys

Rocco Paperiello


This is the final Part IV of a four part story. (See Part I for Index). It is a story about relationships between and among teenagers. This includes intimate relationships between young males. If you don't approve or are offended, then how come you're reading this? Find a different story. Or perhaps read on; you may be persuaded to think differently.

If, for some legal reason, you are not allowed to read this in your area of the world because of illogical laws, again I will not condone (publicly) anyone breaking the law, so either move or read sentence six. I definitely don't want the thought police after either of our butts.

Please, this story is sort of my property, so if you ever want to quote some of it, please e-mail me and also give proper attribution.

Note that an author welcomes any feedback. Constructive criticism is appreciated, and all e-mails will be answered.

Rocco Paperiello

Twenty more chapters to go after this one.

PART IV -- Graduation and College

Chapter 92a -- A Juxtaposition of Events

It was near the end of the school year and time again for our school carnival. Jade and I were enjoying the evening losing our money on games of chance, and spending our money on snacks, pizza slices, and chances on winning a car. I really wanted that new car. Of course a thousands other people did too. And unfortunately for Jade and myself, we weren't the only ones to buy tickets. The drawing for the car was to be tonight. There were nine other prizes in addition, including a set of tires, and a Basket of Cheer. But my eye was on the car.

We were both in quite a good mood. Mom and Dad had actually taken me out to dinner the night before to celebrate my being named Salutatorian for the upcoming high school graduation plus the formal notification in the mail of my Scholarship offer from the Merit Scholarship Committee. Coincidentally Jade had been to a similar dinner but this one given by the Sears Roebuck Foundation for all the city's recipients of their scholarships.

Jade was quite excited as he described the evening`s events. "You can not believe all the complaining Mr. Webster did when he couldn't fit into his old suit. Mrs. Webster then went into their big closet and took out two other suits that belonged to Mr. Webster and we all started laughing at one of them. At first I seriously thought it was part of a clown's outfit. Mr. Webster called it a Zoot Suit. Said he bought it in the 30s right after he got put on by the city full time. It didn't fit Mr. Webster anymore but we were all in hysterics when I put it on."

Jade couldn't stop laughing as he tried to explain just what a Zoot Suit was. He eventually said he'd show the thing to me when I came over the next time.


Modern Reproduction of a Zoot Suit

From Wikipedia:
The Zoot Suit first gained popularity in Harlem jazz culture in the late 1930s where they were initially called "drapes". A zoot suit has high-waisted, wide-legged, tight-cuffed pegged trousers and a long coat with wide lapels and wide padded shoulders. Often zoot suiters wear a felt hat with a long feather and pointy, French-style shoes. A young MalcomX described the zoot suit as: "a killer-diller coat with a drape shape, reet pleats and shoulders padded like a lunatic's cell." Zoot suits usually featured a key chain dangling from the belt to the knee or below, then back to a side pocket.

Jade continued: "Mrs. Webster started commenting on her husband never throwing anything out, saying all his suits were older than Methuselah. She then had him drive them both up to Robert Hall's to `gets a suit that will fit proper.' Mr. Webster complained that it would be another 20 years before he would have occasion to wear it again. We were almost late to the dinner."

"But damn White-boy. It sure felt so good walking up to the podium when my name was called and getting that award. I was the only one going all the way out west to college. The guy at the podium had me explain just where EWSC was and what my major was going to be. And then the poor guy almost dropped the award when I reached for it with my hook. And somehow, for the first time in my life, I WANTED to make sure everyone saw my hooks. Like look what I have accomplished! And you know White-boy, it should have been you there with me accepting that award. If this world had any real fairness to it at all I would have had my life partner at that award ceremony with me."

Jade and I kept describing both our "award dinners." I told Jade that I was quite amazed when my Dad started bragging to the waiter about "his son getting a Merit Scholarship." Jade, I almost started crying. That's the first time in forever where my Dad actually said he was proud of me. I wish I had a recorder so I could play his words over and over."

"Well White-boy, I'm proud of you. And I WILL say it over and over."

Then Jade pulled me into the back door of the gym and to show me exactly how much he was proud of me. We seemed not to be able to stop touching each other. Finally someone coming up the back stairs brought us back to the real world and we resumed our meanderings about the carnival which by now was going strong. Eventually Jade got back to describing his awards dinner as I was pitching nickels trying to make one stay in some fancy bowl which I was trying to win.

"And there was even another black kid there too. There were eight people sitting around our big table including this kid and his parents and Mrs. Webster talked his Mom's ears off. Then Mr. Webster remarked to the entire table that I'd inherited all my brains from his side of the family. You should have seen their faces when this kid exclaimed: `But I thought Jade said he was your foster son.' We all had a big laugh."

To say that we were both about as happy as we could possibly get couldn't fairly describe us. It was as if we were composing our own love story and needed somebody like Shakespeare following us to adequately describe it. And nothing could possibly have brought even the slightest sadness into our hearts that night. I even started wondering if people could notice just how amazingly happy we were as we meandered about bouncing from booth to booth.

There was a guy there at the carnival guessing people's age and weight. You paid a quarter, and if he was off by more than a year for age, or by five pounds for weight, you win a prize. And better prizes the further off he was. And they were not cheap shabby things. I was going to get Jade a big stuffed animal. So I paid my quarter and he told me my age. No stuffed animal.

As we were walking away I remarked to Jade: "Everyone thinks I'm at least two or three years younger than I am. How the heck did he get it right on? I already had my prize picked out."

Jade laughed. "There you go thinking again, but not far enough. He does that for a living. He sure can't be wrong too often. Did you think about that as you paid your quarter?"

I grumbled something as we made our way to the over and under table. I proceeded to lose another dollar. But Jade won a dollar. So I guess we broke even.

"Hey Rocco, how about I get you a slice of pizza. I've seen you looking at the table over there all evening."

I let myself be pulled over. (OK, it didn't take much pulling). Jade got us both a slice and I watched as he was able to eat it from a paper plate. But again I should have paid more attention at just what he'd been doing at the booth. One and a half bites later I screamed. Jade was in hysterics. HOT! "My god Jade what did you do to this pizza?!"

I didn't wait for his answer. I went back to the booth and bought a bottle of soda. And another. And a third. My mouth was finally starting to cool down.

Jade followed me laughing all the way.

"Damn Jade ,what did you do?"

"Well, see that shaker of hot pepper seeds? I just put a bit under the layer of cheese."

"How much was `a bit'"?

"Enough so the sauce was no longer visible. You said you liked hot things."

I smiled and said in his ear: "I think what I actually said was that I liked you because I thought you were hot."

Jade laughed with me. "Well, that's for dunking me two years ago at Summer Camp."

I replied: "Just remember, I get even, and when I do, I make sure I get a whole lot evener."

I was already devising special torments, but kept rejecting them as not being `tormenty' enough.

My sister Dolores wound up winning the Basket of Cheer and since my folks rarely drank alcohol, we wound up giving much of it away. And I didn't win the car either.

But right at that very moment, when Jade and I couldn't believe that anything could possibly disturb our nearly perfect section of the universe, other events, past and present, were conspiring against me.

Now here is something I need to explain. My Dad has been helping out at these carnivals since my brother Carl started at Father Judge. And tonight he was manning the Bacon and Ham booth. Place a quarter on a number, and if that number comes up you win a pound of bacon; and if it hits the middle notch of the number you win a ham instead.

And Father Brand was also making the rounds, and as I've noted before, he and my Dad knew each other pretty well. So this was number five of a series of events that would cause me a lot of grief. Events one through four had taken place a good while ago. They included number one, my going to Jade's house that Sunday morning when I was supposed to be home for my visiting relatives. Number two was my brother noting I probably didn't go to Catholic Mass that morning. Number three was my disagreeing with Father Irons in class quite a while back, and four was my explaining to Father Brand what had happened. And that I was questioning some of what the Church was teaching.

So, unknown to me and Jade, as we walked home that night, my partial undoing was well under way. At that very moment my Dad and Father Brand were talking. But since my Dad got home well after I had gone to bed, it was during Sunday breakfast (or brunch, as it was near 11:30) the next morning when I found out just how whimsical fate can be. I had just returned from church with Jade, Tim (we had to `drag' him), and Mrs. Webster. (Mr. Webster of course was `undragable').

Everyone but Mariann was there and my Dad started asking me about what had happened in Religion Class. With Father Irons. I was momentarily both surprised and puzzled. After all, what Dad was talking about happened many weeks ago.

"I'm not sure what you mean?" I said.

"Well, Father Brand last night told me that you had been questioning your religion right in front of your class. I can't believe that you'd embarrass your family that way. And he even said that you were critical of what some pope said."

That sure got garbled. "Dad, it was just the opposite. I was the one that talked in class about something a pope had written. In fact I liked it so much I have it on my wall in my bedroom."

Dad seemed inclined to drop the whole thing as I explained what had actually happened. I didn't even have to skew it very much. But then Carl had to jump in. "Well that explains about Rocco's not going to church any more."

Well I went suddenly rigid with dread. I tried to lie my way out of it saying that Carl was full of shit. (I didn't actually use the word shit). But Dad just got angrier and angrier. Mom sat there appalled. How could a son of hers miss Mass on Sundays? Dolores sat there just hoping that there wasn't going to be a big `blow-up.'

I had almost talked my way out of trouble when Carl struck a deathblow. "Well, I was pretty sure that Rocco skipped Mass a while back and Ralph Goren lives near that Unitarian Church on Rhawn Avenue, and he said that he saw a kid he thought might have been Rocco coming out of that church with a colored kid just a few weeks ago, on a Sunday morning."

After a lot of yelling and recriminations (and my failure to lie my way out of trouble this time) my Dad eventually made an ultimatum I simply could not live with. "Well, here's what's going to happen. Rocco, you will be driven to church every Sunday morning. And until further notice, you cannot leave this house, except to go directly to and from school. No playing outside, no doing those TV's, no working for your Uncle Bill, no nothing. And I don't want you ever again to see that colored boy. I think he's had a bad influence especially him not being Catholic. He's put some wrong ideas in your head! I should have stopped it last year when I was of a mind to." Then he looked at Mom as if it were partly her fault.

It was strange, but as my father's demands got more inimical, I got calmer. It wasn't until I realized that I had already made up my mind to not yield to his demands that I understood why. I simply left the room without saying another word. By the time I got to my room I was shaking in rage. At my brother for being a sanctimonious hypocrite, and my Dad for being completely unreasonable, and at the world for its fickled fate.

And mostly at myself for being so imprudent and careless.

There was barely a week of school left counting final exams. We took them a week before the rest of the school. (I never understood quite why. How long does it take to make up a few hundred diplomas)? And I resolved that the very next day after graduation, I was no longer going to be living there. Even if I had to find my own apartment. Jade and I were already signed, sealed, and waiting to be delivered to EWSC next September. Nothing could stop that. But we had counted on our summer's earnings working for my uncle. And that's exactly what I was going to do. I was thinking furiously about how to make sure that's what would happen, when my Mom came into my room.

"Rocco, now what have you done? Are you really not going to Church?"

Instead of answering directly I asked Mom a question instead. "Mom, I know that you've been using birth control, and Dolores said you've been agonizing over it since the Church says it's wrong. Ever think that maybe it's the CHURCH that's wrong? And not yourself and the millions of Catholics who used birth control anyway?"

(I don`t know where I got the nerve to bring up such a subject. We NEVER brought up things like that in our house. It was too close to the forbidden topic -- sex).

Mom went white. "Look, we're not going to talk about that. I just want to know. Have you been missing Church?"

I didn't lie: "No."

"Then how come that Goren kid thought he saw you coming from that other church? That's disturbing."

I was trying to think if there was anything that could fix this. I finally had to realize that this wasn't going to get fixed. "I HAVE been going to Church. My Church. The Holmesburg Unitarian Church. Mom, what IS disturbing is Dad's restrictions. Doesn't he realize how important that summer job is? I need that money for college."

"Look, you are not going to defy your father on this. You should have thought of this when you decided to go to that heretical church. And whatever made you do that? What has that boy done to you?"

There she goes again. I couldn't have decided on my own. I had to have been led astray. I was really tired of this kind of illogic. I was thinking that what Jade DID do was to love me.

"Mom, no one has DONE ANYTHING to me. I have not been led astray. In fact I am NOT astray at all. I have just grown up and made decisions for myself. And yes, I haven't gone to a Catholic Church for months. I'm no longer Catholic." Strange, but it was just then that I admitted it to myself for the first time.

"How can you leave the Church? You can't go against the teachings of the Church."

"It's the teachings of the Church going against me. I'm being the best Christian I know how to be. And that means no longer being Catholic. I can no longer accept or believe what they teach. The leaders of the Catholic Church are arrogant, intolerant, and hypocritical. Instead of love they preach hatred, instead of tolerance, they preach bigotry, instead of preaching Christ's message, they preach a religion of avoiding sin. And they're wrong!"

I couldn't believe I just said all that, and neither could my Mom. She was looking at me like I just spat on the bible. Or worse yet, a set of rosary beads. I thought that this was probably too strong an invective, but my emotions were in serious overdrive.

Mom finally got her voice: "Rocco, I can't believe that you can say those things. We've done nothing to warrant this. How can you turn your back on your family this way?"

"Mom, what has our family got to do with this? That just doesn't make sense. I just want to be a good Christian. And I can't be a Catholic at the same time."

Mom was horrified. I had committed the highest treason. "I'm going to have to agree with your father. I'm also going to call Father Dalton at the rectory, and you need to go to confession. This can't go on. You have to be made to listen to reason."

The next week was pure hell. I'm glad that the final grades were next to meaningless, so long as I passed. Jade tried to comfort me but I was like a walking zombie the whole time. I talked to Pastor Burrowes, to Mrs. Webster, and even went to Mrs. Goldstein to get some advice. The one person I didn't talk to was Father Dalton. I refused to see him. And with that came more repercussions. Well, only more recriminations. There was nothing more they could do short of some type of physical punishment.

It was just after dinner on Tuesday, when my mother said that one of the parish priests, Father Dunn, was coming to our house that evening to talk to me. Father Dunn was one of the newer priests in our parish and I figured my Mom or Dad had called the rectory. (My Dad probably had my Mom call). They `explained' things and said I needed some kind of `talking to.' To show me the errors of my ways. They didn't say that, but that was how I translated what they did say. My first reaction was to simply refuse to talk to him. What would be the point? (And I surely wasn't about to discuss the MAIN REASON why I was no longer Catholic).

But after futilely trying to argue the point with my Dad yelling and my Mom near tears, I finally acquiesced.

"All right, I'll talk to Father Dunn." I agreed. "But only if both of you talk to him with me."

Dad was ready to explode. "You are in no position to make any demands. He's coming, you're talking to him, and that's final."

I was strangely calm. (Well, calm for me). That meant that I was neither yelling nor crying. That was quite an accomplishment. "Don't you think that this involves all of us?" I said. "I just thought you might want to hear what Father Dunn has to say. Doesn't that make sense?"

It did to me but not to my Dad.

I added: "And maybe you'd like to hear what I had to say. I'm not ashamed of anything I've done."

I could convince neither of them to be in on the `talk.'

About an hour later, Father Dunn and I were sitting in the kitchen with the connecting door closed. (I can't remember the door ever being closed before). And everyone else was elsewhere -- far elsewhere.

Father Dunn explained he was there at the request of my parents who were "distraught" about the fact I wasn't "going to Church anymore." Etc. Etc.

"Father, that's true. I'm not. Well, actually I am going to church. Every Sunday. I belong to the Holmesburg Unitarian Church over on Rhawn. And I've told my parents why. It's pretty simple -- I'm no longer Catholic."

And that lead to him saying all kinds of things. That (1) I was obviously being mislead by someone. (2) I was required to go to Mass every Sunday by Church law. (3) That I was too young to make decisions like this. (4) I obviously misunderstood the Church's teachings. And there were also numbers (5) through a kazillion. It felt like he went through half the Baltimore Catechism.

"Look, Father, it's not me who doesn't understand, it's both you and my parents. It's real simple. (1) I can't be committing any sin, even according to what the Catholic Church teaches, since I don't believe I'm doing anything wrong. (2) I disagree with a lot of things the Catholic Church teaches. For example, the Church's stand on divorce, birth control, sexual morality, its reliance on the so-called natural law to decide moral issues. And a number of other things. (3) I've simply decided to rely on my own conscience in determining these things. The Church has been SO WRONG in the past, on so many important moral issues, I can't rely on them being correct now on these issues."

I said a lot more but that gives you the picture. I think he was a bit flabbergasted that I was actually taking a stand on real moral issues, and was not merely being a recalcitrant teenager. Especially when I asked him about previous stands by the Church on issues of slavery, usury, democracy, and even the supposed idea that the wife is subordinate to her husband, and that the Church used to state that any sex act that was done without the explicit purpose of procreation was immoral. He couldn't answer me. Except to say that the Church's understanding of these issues was "brought into better focus in later times."

"Well Father, I don't believe the Church's stand on those issues I've just mentioned, and I'm not waiting for them to be `brought into a better focus'."

When he finally realized that he wasn't going to sway me with all the usual arguments, he resorted to "how about the fourth commandment: Honor thy Father and Mother."

"But what if they ask you to do something you believe is immoral? Do you have to obey them then? They're asking me to do things that go against my own conscience. And how about one's duty to charity? A friend of mine needs my continuing help. Am I not supposed to continue helping him?"

That got us into a whole lot of things concerning what did I consider immoral. And how could I ignore what the Church teaches in forming my conscience. (To me it seemed a totally circular argument). And what was this about a friend who needed my help? I tried to explain, but I was hampered by keeping our relationship a total secret.

"Look Father, I'm not being arbitrary here. I truly believe that helping my friend takes precedence over what my parents are asking me to do." And I explained about our getting money for college and all. Also that going to a Catholic Church would merely be a type of hypocrisy. "I'm going to a Church whose teaching is more in line with what I now believe. All I'm doing here is making up my own mind about moral issues. And maybe even other dogmatic issues too. For example I don't believe that the Catholic Church has any authority to make up any more sins."

"Now you aren't making sense. What sins?"

"The so-called Commandments of the Church. They're bogus. There is no ground on which they can stand."

We went back and forth. (I was actually taking a vicarious pleasure in arguing with him).

He then tried to resort to the usual stand of the Church. A stand that I've come to believe is so typical of what I hated most about current Church teachings. The reliance on `sin-ology.' Everything I'm doing or intending to do is a SIN. In capital letters."

"And that's another thing. The Catholic Church is so hung up on all this fine-tooth-combing of what are sins, and using this to teach us how to live, that they miss the main point of everything. They lose sight of what really matters, of what the Bible is most trying to teach. That the only law now is Christ. That love, real love, is what's important. Caring about people. Loving your neighbor as yourself. Living to help people."

That led to another round of "I'm misunderstanding what the Church is teaching."

"OK, so tell me if I am wrong. The Church has formulated its so-called Commandments of the Church. The Church says that birth control is always wrong. The Church says that any sex outside a man and woman being married, and doesn't involve human coitus is immoral. (I liked that word -- coitus. Just learned it from a recent talk with Allen and Dan). The Church says that divorce and remarrying is immoral. The Church says that if a person isn't baptized they can't go to heaven. The Church says that the Pope can declare certain things to be infallible. OK so far?"

"Well, yes. I believe so. And your point?"

"Well, how can I still be a Catholic when I no longer believe ANY of those things?"

I think it was at that point that he realized any further argument was going to be futile.

"I can't believe that at your age you can understand these things enough to make these critical and serious decisions. This will affect your entire life. How can you be so sure of yourself?"

"Who said I was so sure of myself? And to turn the question back to yourself. How can YOU be so sure that YOU are correct? I'm just doing exactly what you are doing. I'm just making the best decisions I can. And I have one question that's really important. Tell me exactly just what I am doing that's morally wrong?"

He seemed to get exasperated at my questioning him. "Look, all these decisions you're making are morally wrong. And you're too immature and too uninformed to realize it. That's exactly why it's the Church's role to help a person form his conscience correctly."

I was now starting to get emotional, and excited. And not a little angry at his appalling arrogance. "So now you know my conscience? It's YOU who are wrong. What YOU and the Catholic Church are trying to do is usurp a person's freedom to make up his own conscience. It's the leaders of the Catholic Church who are acting immorally. You're distorting Christ's real message, and in your arrogance, you don't seem to realize there are severe consequences. Many people are being seriously hurt. But you can't even conceive of the possibility that you are wrong and seriously hurting all kinds of people by what you're doing."

I think he was a bit angry himself at how I was starting to react. The `talk' didn't last much longer. I looked up at the clock and was shocked. We were at it for almost an hour. And I was starting to get a bit emotionally wrung out myself by now.

"I'm going to have to tell your parents that you seem to be incorrigible. I'm certain you will live to regret your decisions."

"And I'm certain that you won't. And that's where most of the problem lies."

Unfortunately he didn't understand what I was trying to say. I didn't listen to what he and my parents talked about afterwards. I went upstairs to my room. But I could hear a lot of angry words from my father. And I started to think maybe I should have just said something to placate Fr. Dunn and not cause any more problems.

My parents called me down after Father Dunn left and "re-read me the riot act." My father reiterated all the things he said a couple of days ago. I could see that he was trying to figure out even more "punishments" but there wasn't any more he could think of. Well, almost anything more. I was now restricted to my room, except for meals, going to school, and going to Church. No TV, no radio, no record player (I didn't use it much anyway), and no nothing. My Mom just sat there listening. I was most upset because she was upset. And not intervening. But I didn't know how to fix things. They were beyond fixing.

And I decided that I could no longer abide by my father's restrictions. That sounds so simple but it wasn't. I was quaking at this decision and its implications.

The next day I went to see Mrs. Goldstein after school. I called up and she said she could "fit me in" about four o'clock. I would be late getting home from school, but what more could my parents do? It was one of the few times I'd actually deliberately defied my parents that didn't involve wanting to help Jade. I couldn't believe how unemotional I was about a lot of this. Maybe I was in some kind of shock. I wasn't sure. I mean, mentally I was shaking all over. But for once in my life I didn't break down crying.

"Well, there are only a couple of things you might do." Mrs. Goldstein was now all business. "Some people in your position have successfully sued the courts to be recognized as an emancipated minor. But this route can be costly and full of pit holes. Especially in your case. You can't lie under oath and I will not suborn perjury."

After some long discussion she said that she would do everything that she could but this would be mostly as a simple advocate.

"If you move out of your house and get an apartment, do you think your uncle will still give you a job, or will he opt to not confront your parents?"

I said that I didn't know. She called my uncle right then and there, and even arranged to meet him. Just like that. I was dumbfounded.

"I will talk with your parents and explain why it would not only be best for you and them that they not interfere with your decision. And I can coerce them by threatening to take them to court. We can't really win, but the threat is real. Most people just want problems to go away. And, in addition, I think I can at least convince your mother that this is the best course for everyone. The threats will only be a last resort. But whatever happens I will represent you pro bono. There will be no fee. I promised you a couple of years ago that I would help you if you ever needed it, and now I will honor that promise. And I'll be glad to do so."

Then we talked about a lot of the practical aspects of my living on my own. It seemed that much of the money I might make this summer will be just to live. But Jade and I still will have more than enough so we should be OK on that score.

I was two hours late coming home. In fact I got there just after dinner was starting. My father was furious that I'd dared to defy him. I was sent to my room without dinner. Mom later brought some dinner up to me, but this was one of those times she didn't say anything -- at least about why I was home late.

Jade was a bulwark. I could not have survived that week without him. He didn't have to say anything. Just be there. And he was. He never once berated me about the dumb things I had done to lead to this predicament.

The day after I got my diploma, I was in my house packing. And I couldn't believe it. My Dad almost refused to allow me to go to the graduation ceremony.

"Good." I handed him the phone. "You call Father McNeil or Father Brand and explain why I won't be there to give the Salutatorian Address."

The air temperature in the car all the way to the convention center was a minus twenty. Nobody spoke a word. My original notes I threw out. My very short introduction of the Valedictorian stressed two things: tolerance and love. I stared at my parents the entire time. But I was sure they never got the message.

My Mom looked at me funny all the way home. When she got me alone she asked the obvious question: "I never saw you look at your notes. That speech was directed at us wasn't it?"

I almost started crying I was suddenly so emotional. "Mom, Christ said it best. Without love, nothing else has any value." My Mom gave me a big hug but said nothing. And suddenly I felt so guilty realizing that at least in part I was a hypocrite. I was quite far from being a model Christian myself.

Late the next morning I was in my room packing. I had already rented an apartment just a few blocks away. Mrs. Goldstein said she had pulled in a big favor and I got it for less than a hundred a month including utilities. That must have been some favor. Even if it was just two rooms, to me it was a palace. And I was to start working for my uncle the next day. Dad didn't know it yet but if he found out, Uncle Bill assured me that he and my Dad had spectacular disagreements in the past (something I'd never known), and one more disagreement wouldn't faze him.

So I was in my room packing, almost in tears. My emotions were now starting to soar and overwhelm me.

Mom walked in when I was about half done. "What are you doing?" She really looked shocked. I realized then that she truly never considered that I'd leave.

"I'm packing. I'm moving out. I'm leaving. So I'm packing." I started repeating myself.

"But you can't leave. You're only a child."

Obviously, or so I thought at the time, she was wrong. "Sorry Mom, but what did you and Dad expect me to do? You made it so I can't live here any more."

"But you can't mean that."

I couldn't look directly at her. I just kept packing. Or going through the motions of packing. I was so upset I couldn't plan my actions very coherently. "I'm sorry Mom, I'm not being punished for anything I've done, but for what I believe. And I will not be restricted by Dad's ultimatum." I didn't mention that she had also agreed to it.

"But where will you go? Where will you live? How will you live? And I don't really think your father will put up with you defying him."

"Mom, I'm sorry. But I have to live my own life as best I can. And I can't change my beliefs to suit other people. I honestly believe that I'm being a good Christian and I simply can't believe the way you and Dad think I should."

"I'm really afraid what your father might do. Rocco, you have to listen to me this time."

"Mom, I can't. And haven't you heard a thing I've just said?"

Mom was really upset and this made me even more upset. But what could I do?

"Look Rocco, we're only doing this for your own good."

Now I got angry. I faced my Mom and said as calmly as I could: "No. You're only doing this for YOUR own good. Not mine. And I even went to a lawyer. I know I'm a minor, and technically you and Dad can even have me arrested. But before you do that, think about how that could destroy my life. Do you really want that to happen?"

"But this is crazy. It's you trying to destroy your life."

"Mom, tell me exactly what I've done wrong? All I've done is make up my own mind about my religion and what I believe. And because of that Dad wants to keep me from working and everything else. It's him who's being unreasonable. Not me."

By this time I was shaking so much that I could hardly walk across my room. And Mom obviously saw that. But I kept packing in spite of her trying to dissuade me. This was the hardest thing I'd done up to now my whole life. (Well, except maybe for the time I was going to go with Jade to the group home).

I didn't realize how much stuff I really had. And I didn't want to have to come back. Earlier that day I had purchased a set of luggage and a case to put larger things -- like the blown up photos in my closet. Everything cost almost fifty dollars but I didn't have time to shop around. And Dan had been driving me, and I didn't want to take advantage. In fact he was waiting outside -- Jade was with him.

When I started bringing the suitcases downstairs, my Mom finally realized I was adamant. She was not going to be able to stop me.

I got everything outside and Dan and Jade packed the car. I went back inside and Mom was crying. "Mom, I have to do this. Dad's given me no choice. And here's the card from Twain's Mom, Mrs. Goldstein; she's my lawyer."

"Lawyer? What do you need a lawyer for?"

"Just in case Dad tries to stop me. I have to live my own life now. And you and Dad forced this. It wouldn't have been my own choice."

"But where are you going? Where are you staying?"

"I have an apartment not too far away."

Mom finally hugged me and said to be careful. "Rocco, I don't understand why you think you need to do this, . . . but I love you. You need to know that."

I was almost crying. "I love you too Mom, and I wished you did understand why I have to do this. But you and Dad haven't seemed to understand me much for quite some time." Now I WAS crying.

The next day, Mom called Mrs. Goldstein who then went to my parent's house about an hour later.

The day after that Mrs. Goldstein told me she had earned every penny I'd paid here. The joke went flat. I wasn't in the mood.

"What happened?" I asked.

She explained that Dad had threatened all kinds of things. Including having Jade arrested. I shuddered, but she said he couldn't really do that. But he simply would not listen at first.

"I finally told him I'd have you temporarily awarded a ward of the state under my care, and then we'd battle it out in court. He didn't realize I probably couldn't do that. When he still wouldn't listen to reason I played dirty. I said we could make all kinds of insinuations and imprecations without ever outright lying. We'd keep stretching things out so that you'd turn 18 before anything could be done. And he will have spent thousands in lawyer's fees and court cost and will still not have gained anything. He then simply said then you weren't his son anymore and walked out. I'm sorry."

I sat there crying. I thought he hadn't been my father for years now, but the finality of this hit me hard. I hoped my Mom wasn't hurt too much. And my god, this was just over religion. What was going to happen when they found out about me and Jade? But I couldn't think what else I could have done. I was totally wiped out. I went to Jade's house and collapsed on his bed. He was holding me when I woke up hours later. I was at least now able to function, but was still pretty bad off.

Copyright 2007 by Rocco Paperiello