Tom sat at his desk looking out the window as the planes made their descent towards LAX. It had been a difficult day. Hell, it had been a horrendous year. In a country torn apart with falling housing values, rising unemployment and too much debt; it was not easy being a small businessmen. Half of his former clients, whom he had serviced as an accountant, were now out of business. California and especially Los Angeles had been hard hit by the economic downturn.
He knew he should head home up I-10 towards the four-bedroom house that his wife kept immaculately clean despite having three young children to care for and ferry about to school, soccer and scouts. But he felt the tension rising inside. He loved his wife; he always had since they met during their freshman orientation at the University of Southern California. He adored his nine year old son and two precious little girls.
But Tom had a secret: a deep dark secret that could destroy it all. No, he did not gamble. And despite the current financial crisis, his family would weather the storm; probably better than most. He did not even have a mistress. Tom's secret was his obsession with gay porn. Although he had not actually been with another man, his strict Catholic upbringing had long ago drummed into him the mortal danger of this particular sin; Tom spent hours each day and week watching YouPorn, Red Tube and a couple of discrete pay sites. He was fascinated by the lithe young male bodies locked in carnal embraces that the church condemned as unholy.
He had heard all the condemnations when he had sought forgiveness from Father John during his weekly confessional. But after a single admission and the horrid silence that had filled the tiny booth and spoke far louder than the penance he was given of the church's disgust as this weakness of his flesh; he had simply stopped going. He now had a ready made excuse each time his wife inquired about mass. The safest was always that he had work to catch up on; that she should take the children alone. Of course, the moment he heard the SUV leave the garage he was logging into one of his favourite websites. He would stare at the screen and rub his hardening cock straining against his track suit bottoms until he once again heard the engine of his wife's car.
The irony of course was that he tried very hard not to actually cum. He knew his thinking was highly flawed, but somehow he justified that if he did not orgasm then his sin was not complete: that perhaps he was not gay. Instead he would seek the sexual satisfaction that the church endorsed in the arms of his wife, even though it always left him wanting. In truth, he only managed to function as a husband by closing his eyes and fantasizing of other things: other men. He shivered at the thought even as he remembered that his earliest crushes were always on male heart throbs such as Scott Baio and Shawn Cassidy rather than the beautiful women that his school friends had taped to their lockers: Farrah Fawcett and Linda Carter chief among them.
Tom dropped his head into his hands as the computer screen continued to flash with images of hard, muscular bodies wrestling towards their orgasmic release. He wondered how much longer he could actually battle these demons that he had kept at bay for so long. Was he doomed to act upon these feelings that he had secretly held for so long? Was as Father John insisted he doomed for the eternal fires of hell?
His reverie was interrupted by a low cough from the door way. Tom looked up to see the young cleaner, Antonio, even as he hit the minimise button on the computer. H e never actually turned the volume up anyway; always certain that someone in the neighboring office would overhear the loud cries of ecstasy and mistake them for his own. He fumbled about; toppling the pens in the ceramic cup that his oldest daughter had made him for Father's Day last year. He was more nervous than he had ever been; he did not know how long the man had stood in the doorway before clearing his throat. This was the closest that Tom had come to discovery and he was mortified.
Stammering in embarrassment, he began, 'I'll be out of your way in a minute. I just need to shut down my computer and the office is all yours.' He finished with a weak smile then, hoping it covered his nervousness.
Antonio nodded, but made no effort to leave the room as Tom had hoped he might. Instead he simply stepped inside the organised office with its neat rows of filing cabinets against one wall, a couch and table against another, and Tom's desk facing the window with its view of the downtown sky and planes on their final descent; just as he was perhaps on his final descent into the depravity he had fought almost his whole life.
The young man fingered the statue of St Thomas of Aquinas that his mother had given him upon his confirmation into the faith: his patron saint and his four cardinal virtues of prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude. Then slowly he picked up the picture of Tom's family that had been taken just before Christmas; the smiling faces of his wife and children. His own face too wore a smile, but it did not reach his blue-grey eyes that were clouded with an invisible weight.
'Your family? They are very nice,' the younger man asserted in his accented English.
Tom thought it funny that he had never really noticed this person that had for over a year skirted the edges of his world. Other than of course the customary Christmas basket of wine and cheese that was obligatory to all of his customers and contractors. He was small framed with olive skin that bespoke his Latino heritage as much as his accent. His hair was wavy and a dark brown, but he had dyed the ends a white-blonde. He wore a diamond stud in one ear that glinted a bit in the bright fluorescent lights of the office.
Tom merely nodded nervously as he pretended to straighten papers on his desk. He cursed his ancient computer that took too long to shut down, but he was determined to make certain that it was completely powered down and his secret safe before making his escape.
The man looked over at him once again as if considering something. 'I was like you,' he began before turning back towards the picture. 'I spent my whole life trying not to be this way...afraid and ashamed because of the church,' he continued as he fingered the mahogany frame. 'But then I realised that God made me this way. So how can he condemn me for it?'
Tom knew that the young man was baring his soul; offering him what hope and forgiveness he could. It was more than Father John or anyone else had ever offered. But he was not ready to hear it. As the screen went black with a click and a tiny green dot in its center, he stood quickly. 'Well, it is home for me,' he stammered as if he had not heard the younger man's words at all.
Turning back towards the older man, Tom would have sworn he saw moisture in the dark, intelligent eyes of the cleaner. Antonio nodded his head in acceptance of Tom's boundaries. 'Buenas nochas, senior Tom,' he said as he reached for the garbage can to empty it.
Tom rushed from his office as if it were a burning building. He walked briskly until he reached his dark blue American sedan in the underground garage. Once safely inside the quiet retreat of his vehicle, he gripped the wheel tightly as the young man's words played over and over in his head. It was not that he had never considered that particular view; he had. But a lifetime of teaching is a hard thing to overcome. Tom wondered for a moment what might have given a young man almost half his years the wisdom and the strength to accept in himself what he could not.
In the end, it was yet another of life's mysteries for which Tom did not have an adequate answer. So instead, he simply turned the key in the ignition and the dial on his radio until loud music from the eighties filled the confines with choruses that made sane thought impossible due to the volume. He turned towards the freeway and the security of his home in the valley.
But the night only got worse. The drive that usually took a little over an hour took over two and a half this night, because of a fatal accident. Of course being human, he found it impossible to look away as he passed. It was yet another mistake as his eyes took in the mangled body of a man about his own age. He once again considered the ironies of life. What had been this man's demons? Had he won the battle against them? In his death, would he have thought the war a victory?
When at last he pulled into his garage, it was nine o'clock. Walking through the kitchen he paused outside the family room; he watched as his wife laughed at some sitcom playing on their big screen television. He wondered if she ever thought his behaviour odd. What would she think if he were to walk in and confess his secret desires to her? Would she like Father John condemn him with silence and thinly veiled disgust? She most likely would kick him out of their family home, divorce him and take their children from him forever. It was not that he did not love her. He did. More than she would ever know.
This night he was not in the mood for her sweet wifely enquiries about his day. Instead he slipped quietly up the stairs. He cracked open his son's door to discover him sitting in the dark with the faint glow of his computer casting shadows on his young face. Tom knew that he should be tucked safely in bed by now, but he empathised with his son about the precious stolen moments of forbidden computer time. For a moment, he was tempted to peer closer; fearfully that somehow he had infected his son with his secret sin. Instead he turned away, pulling the door closed without saying a word.
He stopped too at the room that his daughters shared with its pink and purple hearts and Barbie dolls. They were both asleep in their matching white canopy beds. He smiled as he watched them sleep. He tried very hard to remember a time when he had been so care-free. But even then it seemed his childhood was shadowed with secrets.
Finally, Tom stepped beneath the cool, cleansing spray of the shower. He let the water wash over him. He wished that it could wash the stains of his tormented fantasies down the drain as easily as it did the accumulated sweat of his day.
Running the loofah over his toned but aging body, he did not notice that his wife had slipped into the room and divested herself of her clothes. It was not until she slipped into the shower and wrapped her arms about his waist that he realised anyone was with him. She laid her blonde head against his back as her fingers kneaded the tight muscles of his neck.
'How was your day?' she innocently inquired.
'Fine,' Tom lied as he turned towards her brushing a kiss across her sweet lips.
Fine was the lie that held his world together. Perhaps if he said it enough, then everything actually would be...fine.