Lost & Found Ch. 02byDWSimon©
I left Simon’s house in a mixture of shock, remorse, and despair. I made it about two blocks before the images of his scars and the nightmare flashes of him lying on the gym floor, covered in blood, had me on my knees, retching. I had thought it was just a nightmare, brought on by my guilt over not being able to accept that I was gay. I thought the nightmares were my punishment for pushing away the best thing that ever happened to me. Only they weren’t nightmares, they were real. Then the memories came flooding back to me. I remembered lying on his bed, with him kissing and caressing my body. He had made love to me with his mouth, moving over me, taking me places I had never been before. I remembered each moment of it, including the guilt and the overwhelming feeling that I had done something dirty, wrong. I had gotten up and ran out of there so fast. But that night I relived it over and over. In my heart I knew that what had happened wasn’t wrong.
Simon had come to my house the next day. When I opened the door, I saw how much he cared for me. We had been best friends from the time we were little. This was Simon. He was my friend and I loved him. But all the talk my dad kept pounding into my head kept coming back to me, over and over. So I pushed him away when all I wanted to do was invite him inside and tell my parents that I was in love. Fear kept me from doing it so I sent him away.
Monday at school, I kept thinking about him, all day long. When we got to PE I was a wreck. I was so hard, remembering Friday night. I was doing some work on the weight machines and I needed a drink of water. When I got out onto the gym floor, I saw the basketball team practicing. I was mesmerized, watching Simon play. I saw the smooth skin and bunching muscles of his arms and chest move while he played. His chest was covered in a bunch of springy, golden hair. I didn’t have any hair on my chest. He was truly unique; no one else had that much hair on his body in school. I was lost to the sight of him. I felt myself get hard, just staring at him. The other team was throwing free throws and he was standing guard when he saw me. He just sort of stared at me, then turned away to the game. I needed to see him. I needed to talk to him.
I waited for him in the locker room, but he didn’t show up with the rest of the team. I got angry; so very, very angry and I waited for him. I saw him shower, watching the play of water pour over his shoulders and form trails through the hair on his chest. He was so beautiful. And all I could hear was the sound of my father’s voice pounding in my head. This was wrong. What I was feeling was bad. I was wrong. I was bad. And if I am wrong, Simon is too. I watched as he approached me, not seeing me until he was almost on top of me. He went to move beyond and I lost it. I pushed him back and hit him. I didn’t want to hit him, but I couldn’t stop. When I pushed him against the wall, the mirror broke and he fell to the ground. He wasn’t waking up. I needed to talk to him and he wouldn’t wake up. Why wasn’t he waking up? I shook him. But he didn’t wake up. I kicked him because he wouldn’t wake up. I don’t remember picking up the mirror. I still don’t. I can see it in my mind, but I don’t remember doing it. It was as if someone else’s hand was holding the mirror, cutting into his flesh. The next thing I remember is being pinned down by one of the coaches. The next couple of hours are a blur. I was arrested and taken to the police station. The rest I remembered from before.
I was still sitting on the ground, kneeling in front of the bush I had thrown up in. I was shaking. I hadn’t remembered that Monday before. I only remember from my arraignment and my mother holding my hand and telling me that I needed to take the plea bargain. Before I knew it, I was in jail. It was more like a hospital than a jail, but I was still in prison. Even after all the therapy, I still didn’t remember until I saw the damage I had done to Simon. I knew I was crying as I stood up and walked the last block home. I found my mother in the kitchen. She took one look at me and gasped.
Anger, confusion and hurt poured through me, slicing my heart anew. “Why didn’t you tell me?” My mother tried to hug me. I couldn’t face her comfort so I pulled away. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Tears were streaming down her cheeks. The sight of my mother crying always tore me up inside, but I was too lost to my grief to face hers. “I couldn’t. When you didn’t remember, I thought it was a blessing.” Her sobbing hiccups tore at me, but I still could do nothing for her. “I knew it would hurt you so much to know what had happened.”
Anger and incredulity filled me. “You must have known that I would want to see Simon after I got out. Why didn’t you warn me?” The fear in his face, the absolute terror and pain showed so clearly, haunting me. “He looked at me as if I was evil. He was terrified of me. I would never have gone if I had known.”
“Jason, baby, I didn’t know what else to do. You didn’t remember it at all after you were arrested. I didn’t know what else to do. We were able to do so little for you. We thought it was best.”
My eyebrows arched high. “We?”
She looked uncomfortable, but the truth is the only thing I could handle, she must have known that. “Yes. Your father and I thought it would be best if you never remembered.”
The one question I had always wanted to know, but was unafraid to ask until now came out before I could stop myself. “Why did you divorce him?”
“I could never forgive him for what he did to you.”
I just walked away. I went upstairs and sat on my bed. I must have been in there for hours, because my mother tried to talk to me several times. My chest ached with the guilt and remorse I felt. I seriously considered taking my own life, ending the pain and torment. But that would be the coward’s way. Or maybe I was the coward in not being able to take my own life. I packed a bag and headed out, grabbing my coat and car keys. I crawled behind the wheel and left. I drove for hours until I reached Portland. I couldn’t leave the state because of my parole, but I could put myself as far away as possible from where it had happened. I found a job, a woodworker’s assistant to a carpenter craftsman. He didn’t like that I was an ex-con, but he gave me a chance, telling me to be at work on time and not to screw up. I didn’t. I made sure I was at work early every day. I stayed late. I worked through my lunch hour. I worked as long as I could each day, trying to stay busy, but I couldn’t work all the time. I wish I could have though, with every fiber in my being.
I wasn’t really sleeping. I would only sleep when exhausted and nightmares always woke me. I think I was losing my mind. I stayed in a room in a boarding house. It was big enough for a bed and small closet with a bathroom and hot plate. It was more than I deserved.
Across the street from the boarding house was a church. Whenever I saw people leaving, they always looked so peaceful. There was serenity on some of their faces. I wanted to have some of that. I would give anything for a minute of peace. It was a long time, months, before I forced myself to cross the street. The church was well tended. The trees were lush and full; the garden nicely planted. The woodwork well oiled and cared for. It was a catholic church. After almost six months watching people come and go, seeking peace and most of them finding it, I found myself pushing open the door and walking inside.
I walked through the church, noticing the dark woodwork, lovingly cared for and well maintained. I saw the stained glass windows that let in some light but didn’t take away from the somber atmosphere. To the side of the church, I saw the confessionals. A couple of people were sitting in pews, kneeled in prayer. I looked at the altar then I saw some flickering lights. I walked towards them. It was a small vestibule in which I watched as a woman lit a candle and then crossed herself before leaving. There were benches to the side; I sat in one of them. I didn’t know where these people found their peace. I wasn’t finding any.
I noticed a man walk into the vestibule out of the corner of my eyes. He had on black pants, shoes and shirt. His hair was cut short and it was a dark color. Then he turned to me and saw that he was younger by a couple of years. He looked at me for a couple of minutes before he walked over and sat beside me. I realized he was a priest.
Trying to make light of my discomfort, I tried for flippancy. “Are you here to listen to my confession?”
“No, I just thought you looked sort of lost and came to see if I could help.” His voice was deep but soft and mellow. The kindness and gentleness of him evident in every word was like a balm on my battered senses.
I felt shame at my attitude, the church served its purpose, but its secrets were obviously forbidden to me. With a sad voice I responded, “it’s okay, I’m not catholic.”
His eyes sparkled with warmth and mirth. “Then why are you in a catholic church?”
The answer seemed so pathetic now, so unattainable. “I watch people come out of here day after day, for the past few months. They always look so peaceful. I was hoping…” My voice broke. “I was hoping that I would find some peace in here.”
I felt a tear slide down my cheek, followed quickly by others. I hadn’t even realized I was near to crying. But my words were true. I was desperate to find a little break from my thoughts, a moment of hope. But I guess not. “It’s so quiet in here. It just makes my thoughts louder.” I sniffed and wanted to get up and leave. I felt edgy and wanted out of there, figuring I had made a huge mistake. But I didn’t go. He reached his hand out and turned my face to look at his. He was taller than I. His hair wasn’t a dark brown like I thought, but a deep red. He had the most amazing green eyes. The compassion in his gaze was my undoing and the tears I thought I had under control continued to slip out.
“Why are you seeking peace?”
I swallowed hard. “I don’t sleep. I haven’t slept in so long and I was hoping I could find a little serenity.”
His smile was so warm, so full of compassion. “What is your name?”
He reached his hand out to mine and shook it. I felt sparks shoot up my arm, stealing my breath, confusing me even more. “Jason, nice to meet you. My name is Paul.”
“I should go.” I stood up. He stood too. He was about six-two and had broad shoulders. Then he reached out and hugged me. He smoothed his hands up and down my back and whispered in my ear. “Be at peace Jason.”
I pulled away from him and he asked if I would come back tomorrow. I answered honestly that I didn’t know. But I tried to smile at him. He nodded at me and I walked past him. I left the church and actually felt able to breath. I didn’t feel better, but I felt more in control. Having Paul hug me made me realize I hadn’t allowed anyone to comfort me since I left Simon. I went home and crawled into bed and fell asleep. For the first time, I slept through the night and my alarm clock woke me in the morning. It’s the first night I had slept through without having a nightmare. Feeling rested and good, I went to work and actually smiled during the day. I was hoping that maybe I had turned a corner. The hope lasted through the day, but that night it was shattered.
I had a nightmare worse than any other. I was in the gym again, reliving every moment. It started out that I was hurting Simon. Then everything changed and it was no longer Simon, I was hurting Paul. I had noticed him in the church. He was tall and deceptively thin. But when he hugged me, I felt the hard planes of his body. For just a moment, I forgot about everything and just reveled in having someone hold me. He was so kind that for just a moment, I thought I could deserve to have someone in my life. But I was fooling myself. My nightmare proved it. It was my punishment.
After work that day, I found myself contemplating going back to the church. I wanted to see Paul. He had hugged me and for that one night, all had been good. I found myself back in the vestibule, by the candles. It was a beautiful place, secluded and quiet. I felt the reverence of the place, and for one moment, I thought I felt calm. A peace washed over me. I took a deep breath, but the memories returned, never far from my conscious thoughts. I felt more than saw Paul sit next to me. He was a beacon, a lifeline, and I clung to the hope that he could save me; help me through this.
“I’m glad you came back Jason.” I don’t know why those simple words had me tearing up. But no one had been happy to see me in a long, long time.
My voice was scratchy, thick from having to pass the lump in my throat. “I’m glad I came back too.”
“Are you still looking for peace?” Those words had me turning away. My breathing became heavy and troubled. I didn’t want to cry, but I felt so damn lost, and I was also so very, very lonely. Paul reached out and turned me to face him. He brushed his thumb under my eye, wiping away a tear. My breath caught at the simple, caring gesture. He had such a gentle smile. His eyes were a deep green so full of compassion. He was also very beautiful; his dark red hair was cut close to his skull; his complexion was fair, but unblemished by freckles. His lips were full and he had dimples. I got hard, and that embarrassed me. He’s a priest. I can’t be hard over a priest.
His words snapped my attention back to Paul’s face. “Will you tell me what is keeping you from peace Jason? Will you tell me why you look so lost?”
I panicked. He couldn’t know. Ever. If he did, I would never be welcome. All that compassion, all that kindness would be gone. It was too new, too precious. I looked in his eyes. They offered hope. I wanted so badly to tell him, wanted to find forgiveness in his eyes. But I couldn’t stand it if that hope disappeared.
“I can’t. I can’t Paul. If I do, I won’t have any peace at all.”
His eyes were still warm, but troubled by what I said. “I don’t understand. God forgives all Jason.”
“God may, but will you? I can never tell you.” With that his eyes looked stricken. So I backtracked. “I can’t yet. I will. Soon. I promise. Just let me have a few more days of peace. And then…”
He nodded, as if agreeing to my needs. “Okay. I’ll wait. But whatever it is, I can see it eats away at you.” His hand reached out and rested on my shoulder, searing me with heat. “Don’t wait too long, Jason. Please?”
I sat by him for a few more minutes in silence. Having him sit near me helped. For the first time in six months, I felt a moment of serenity. I let the compassion wash over me, feeling cleansed for the first time, and I felt something I hadn’t felt for a long time: hope. I left a few minutes later, promising to return, knowing this time I would.
I came back to the church night after night, just after work. Paul would sit by me and talk to me for a few minutes. It was all I ever asked for. I only spent maybe a half hour there at a time, but it was enough. I found a sense of calm whenever I talked with Paul. The light and compassion in his eyes made me feel good for the first time in months if not years. But I also felt guilty. I still couldn’t bring myself to tell him about Simon. I could tell him other things, easier things. Telling Paul I was gay was a snap. It’s funny, but I couldn’t face telling my father that I was queer and now, I say it to anyone who asks. Because failing my father for something I had no control over is nothing compared to the darkness and evil in my own soul, and like a selfish bastard, I couldn’t face having Paul turn from me, and he would, if he knew the whole truth.
He offered me such hope. Such warmth. Of course it is all based on a lie of omission, but it is still hope. The truth was, I was falling in love with him. I think I had been from the moment he sat down beside me and watched me cry. He didn’t condemn me. He didn’t shun me. He offered me warmth and compassion. He is so beautiful. His red hair and warm, caring green eyes seem to light up a little more when he looks at me. If it weren’t for the fact that he was a priest, I could almost hope for something more. Even with my nightmares, I still dream about him from time to time. Not all of my dreams are scary. Some of them are downright sexual and that makes me feel even guiltier. He is a priest, not an object for my lust.
That night with Simon was the first time I ever had someone hold me, touch me. It was also the last. I spent almost seven years in prison, fighting off a few guys who attempted to take what I wasn’t willing to give. Another inmate offered his own body, but I didn’t want it. There was so little privacy; I even got out of the habit of masturbation. But nothing could stop my dreams. Most of the time they were vague, shapeless images of raw, sexual energy. Every once in a while, an actual face would join with the body, but rarely. In that week, I had had a couple of wet dreams interspersed with the nightmares. Each one had Paul in them. I could feel his hands on my body. I could feel his mouth taking me. I could taste his skin and feel myself pushing into his body. He was so warm and moist. I’d never actually made love to someone, putting myself inside. But I had dreamed of it. If I had met Paul anywhere but the church, I could almost believe we would come together. It was a nice fantasy, one that would keep me warm once I finally told him what I’d done. And I would tell him. I had to, that very night.
I walked across the street and entered the church. I was shaking. Within moments this new feeling I had was going to be over, but I was determined to be honest with myself and all I dealt with once I’d learned the truth. I went to the vestibule, our usual spot. Paul was sitting there, staring at the candles. He looked a little lost. I sat by him, looking at him.
“Now you are the one who looks lost Paul.”
He shook himself out of his reverie, and smiled at me. I watched as his eyes lit up, and my body melted, taking with it some of my resolve. “No, just thinking on something.”
I swallowed hard, so loudly; I could hear it echo in the small room. I raised my hand to smooth back my hair, but it shook too bad and clasped my hands in front of me. “It’s time, Paul. If you want to listen, I’ll tell you.”
He smiled at me and stood. He reached out his hand to me. I hesitated a moment but I took it. This was it. He led me through a door in the main part of the church and we walked down the corridor and led me to a small office. He pushed open the door. Inside, there was a small desk and chair and a sofa. He sat at one side and pulled me down to the other. I was still shaking.
“Before I say anything, I want you to know that your kindness and friendship have been the best thing to happen to me in a long, long time.”
With that confession, I started to tell him everything. I started with the night of the funeral of Simon’s mother and the kiss we shared. I explained how that moment made me realize what was so different, what set me apart. I told him about how I pushed Simon away over and over and how lonely I was with my best friend missing from my life. Then I told him about the night he made love to me with his mouth. Tears rolled down my face when I told Paul about how much I wanted to tell my family about the new love I had found. Then I explained about my cowardice and anger. I was openly sobbing when I told him about that horrible Monday in November, so many years ago. I left out none of the details. I wouldn’t look at Paul’s face, but I heard his breathing beside me. When I got to the part about prison and then going over to Simon’s house to see him when I got paroled, I lost it and started bawling. I wound down when I told him how I hadn’t remembered what I had done until I saw the damage. My last choked words told Paul about my conversation with my mother and moving to Portland.