We Could Be Heroes

by Bensiamin

Chapter 2

It was a pretty far out weekend! Great sex and great kayaking, how much better can it get than that? I've missed a couple of weeks in this journal with recovering from the Harvest Fair and trying to keep up with school. School! It's a lot more fun than it ever used to be, but it's also a lot of work. Like tons of reading, and regular reports and quizzes, but I'm committed to doing the work this year and getting the best grades I can.

I've got to get some of this written down before I forget it. I don't know which was more mind blowing, doing the identity charts for David or the sex we had last weekend, The old Me would have said the sex for sure, and the sex was good…great in fact, but in a way completely different and new.

I mean it started out as that kind of weird Psych homework assignment where David challenged the teacher about what she was doing and if the info would be private, and then we talked about it and decided to fill out before and after versions for each other. I did mine first. The before one was the Invisible Kid version, and the after version was the David's Boyfriend version. They were kind of hard to do because in the last few months I've lived through all this shit and had to go back and revisit it all. David and I have talked about a lot of it, so I knew I didn't have to be too embarrassed about it.

What was hard was walking David through them and explaining what each one meant, I mean like being totally honest about me and all my problems and how for so long I was a lonely and dorky kid. Like, who wants to admit and talk about all that shit. But I realized something new, at least new for me. I wasn't doing this for some teacher at school, I wasn't even really doing it for me. I was doing it for David, for our relationship. I never thought that way before. I was pretty much always depressed or angry, and thinking about me. Now, it's weird, but I'm mainly thinking about him. I don't mean in the "I'm all hung up about him because I have a crush on him" kind of way, but in a new and I guess you'd say, more mature, kind of way.

Me mature! Gary would laugh his ass off at that. But somehow, it's happening. Between the way David has treated and cared for me, the way Susan and Ellen have been there for me and Gary, the way David and I love each other—even if he won't let me get it on with him—something is changing inside me. I can talk about being happy and feeling good about myself, and I do. It's not just talk! Not just something I wrote on a chart. I do feel good about myself, because, I guess, I feel good about us. I sure hope so. This feels a lot better than I felt a few months ago!

Anyway, the other new discovery is that if you're happy, you want to make other people happy. Pretty basic, huh? But something that's only clicked in my brain recently. David's happy and he makes me feel good. He says I'm happy and make him feel good. Not something I ever expected the Invisible Kid to be part of. But anyway, the part about happy people making other people feel good is sure cool, especially when the feeling good is sex and the guy you're in love with is happy and wants you to be happy too.

I'm not pushing him all the time about getting it on, as in fucking each other, cause we agreed that we wouldn't till my birthday. That was just a line in the sand he drew, and I hated it, but he's right. I'm still underage, and it'd be bad enough if we got caught even if there was no fucking. But the mind-blowing thing is that we're having sex different ways, and practicing and making each other feel good, and I had no idea it would be like this. I mean, now I think I was so ignorant, all I could think about was getting laid, and now I know you don't even have to do that to get off and feel totally happy. Friday night was amazing, as in like magic. David make love to me slowly, as in way slowly, so it was driving me crazy. And he barely touched my cock, just licking me and blowing on me and stuff, and finally he slipped his finger in my ass, and then two and was working my prostate when he started to suck my cock, and I didn't know it could feel like that. Pretty dumb, huh?

I did the same for David on Saturday, and it was a mind blower for him too. And he knows we're "practicing" for my birthday, but we're going to go slow and it's peaceful and each time builds on the last one and makes me love him more and more. I hope I'm not still being a sex pest like I was back in the summer. I know that drove him nuts, me always talking about getting it on with him. But, he's out of his shell now, and becoming a great lover! We've got a plan, and we're in love and we're both learning and that's Okay too!

And between the great sex was the king salmon! I mean I've lived here all my life and never seen one, and David rents the kayaks and hauls me down to the river at Ash Island, and there they are. Big and beautiful and resting as they make their run upriver. That was another mind blower! So that's three in a week. Identity charts, great sex and king salmon!

Now I've got to go do homework! There's a quiz in World History tomorrow, and a report due on Frankenstein!

As I was eating breakfast on Monday, I recalled Jackson's comment after he'd taken me through his two personal Identity Charts, when he said, "You're smarter than me, so this should be no worry at all."

Again, I was troubled by the fact that in the chart I'd replaced his father! And that's why I had called Prof. Higgins and was fortunate enough to be invited to attend another lecture and have lunch with him. I was troubled about a few pieces of my own story and knew one thing for sure was different than Jackson's, and that was the religion piece and how I'd ended up being an ordained minister when there was no precedent in our family.

Now it was the following Thursday, I was in Portland, easily found the campus again, and parked near the building where I knew the lecture was held. I got to the classroom a few minutes before the class began and so was able to say hello to Prof. Higgins before he started. He was friendly and said hello and was chatting with other students, in what seemed to be an open and amicable setting. He finally waved everyone to their seats, and to my pleasure, spared me the mortification of an introduction.

He started his lecture talking about the need to understand mythology if this comparative religion class was going to accomplish anything except scoring one religion against another, and usually that means scoring all the others against your own. That got a loud chuckle from the class. He then took the approach that he did in the Star Wars lecture, that he wasn't trying to demean any religion or talk anyone out of theirs, but to create a larger context in which to understand them all better. With that he started discussing mythology as Joseph Campbell described it in A Hero With A Thousand Faces , and for the purposes of today's lecture especially focused on how Campbell characterized the short summary of what mythology does, namely provide the answer to the existential questions: Who Am I? Where Did I Come From? Where Am I Going?

He went on from there that the first element is the identity question, who am I, and then started discussing the elements of personal identity. Most of this part I was familiar with, and a good bit of it was what I'd shared with Jackson as we discussed his homework assignment. He talked about core elements of identity and how we selectively share or present parts to those we know and interact with. He also spent a little time on how personal identity interacted with a separate but equally important subject, worldview.

Then he spent time on the area he'd hinted at in our phone conversation and that I was most interested in. He began by discussing how personal identity develops over time, as a person grows through childhood to youth to young adult and onto the adult stages of life. The point here was that identity forms or develops over a lifetime. It begins with the physical aspects that are present at birth, and onto those the non-physical elements are applied. Then he switched to the major different categories through which a person moves as their identity develops.

For this part he had transparencies that he projected on a screen, and the first simply had three categories in place above a timeline that said Childhood – Youth – Young Adult – Adult. The boxes with the three categories were labeled, left to right, Familial then Familial + Educational and finally Familial + Educational + Vocational. The point he was making was that these were the three macro categories in which identity forms. The Familial box was in the timeline for Childhood. The Familial + Educational was in the timeline for Youth, and then the last box, Familial + Educational + Vocational spanned the timelines for Young Adult and Adult.

To illustrate the point, he asked three questions. If you ask a child 'who are you?" you are most likely to get an answer that refers to their parents of family—such as I'm the Smith's son or something like that. When you ask a youth that same question, you are most likely to get an answer that refers to their school—I'm a student at Edison High School. Likewise, when you ask an adult, you are most likely to get an answer that is tied to their vocation—I'm an engineer.

He'd clearly given this lecture before, because here he paused and acknowledged the furrowed brows and looks of disbelief on some of the students. "You don't believe me, do you? You think this is another academic exercise separated from reality, don't you?" He was smiling widely, and some of the students were chuckling and shifting in their seats.

"Okay," he went on, "let me give you some real-life examples. I give a number of lectures on similar subjects outside the classroom here at college. A recent attendee of one of those lectures on mythology and Star Wars is with us today at my invitation, Rev. Ayers from Newberg." He pointed at me and I nodded.

"Most of those lectures are more informal and not in a classroom setting, and I start out going around the group and asking everyone to give their name and introduce themselves or tell us a little about themselves. Now this is important. I only specifically ask for their name, and then the second part is open ended: introduce yourself or tell us a little about yourself. The point is that each person can interpret that as they please and respond accordingly. Are you with me so far?"

Most of the students were nodding their heads. Prof. Higgins went on, "So what do you suppose almost all adults, and by 'almost all' I mean more than 95% say when it gets around to them in the group and they respond to my query?"

He paused, and of course no one said anything, so he went on. "Almost all of them say something like 'I'm Bob Smith and I'm an engineer.' Or, 'I'm Mary Wilson, and I'm a housewife," Or, 'I'm Betty Johnson and I'm a teacher." Are you hearing what I'm saying? They have been asked to share their name and some things about themselves, that is to share a part of their identity, and almost all of them give their name and their vocation. Why? Because they are in that phase of life where vocation dominates. It is also the least risky thing to state because it is external and objective, rather than internal and personal. Are you following me?"

More nods, but by far not all of the class. "Now, what do you suppose the answers are like when I do the same thing with college students—at other colleges, of course!—or occasionally with high school students? It's essentially the same thing, except they say, 'I'm Bob Smith and I'm a student here at Edison High." At that phase of their life the major element is educational."

"Now, this is not to fault them, those developmental stages are very important and very formative. But the point here, is simply this: our identity is much more than the school we attend or the vocation we trained for. And that is a critical thing to understand as we explore the role of personal identity. Now, I want to stop here for a minute and take any questions you might have and make sure we're all understanding this."

There were a couple of questions clarifying things he'd said earlier, but nothing that elicited any new information. He clarified, then continued his lecture. "Now we come to the piece of the puzzle that is very important in how we understand personal identity and how it relates to religion, and to our task to compare religions. And that piece is tribalism. We're all familiar with tribalism in one form or another, but for most of us it is third world behavior practiced by less developed peoples, right?"

That got a mix of chuckles and nods. He pressed right on. "Well, let me disabuse you of that notion. The standard dictionary definition is something like: 'the behavior and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one's own tribe or social group.' So, notice, it isn't restricted to tribes, as in the Masai in Africa, or the Maori in the South Pacific. It is equally present in social groups. I expect that will be a new concept for many of you. The point is that it is behavior and attitudes tied to loyalty and affinity for that tribe or social group. Conversely, in the other direction, the tribe or group to which we belong exerts forces on us that require loyalty and affinity, and ultimately result in specific behavior and attitudes."

He put up a second transparency and said that he expected most of the students didn't believe his last statements and figured that if tribalism existed or worked like he had just said, that it had an occasional or indirect effect.

This slide had the same three boxes with Familial then Familial + Educational and finally Familial + Educational + Vocational. On this slide Tribalism was a separate arrow running below and apart from them, and just occasionally shooting up to influence them.

"I expect this is how most of you think about it, namely that Tribalism is an occasional or indirect influence on these three major phases of elements of identity." He didn't pause at all after that statement. "Because we're intelligent and independent people, this is how we want it to be. That is, we want to think it has less influence over the course of our lives and we can manage it or control it, or maybe even outgrow it."

Rather he turned to the class and said, "I am here to show you that isn't the case at all, and that, in fact, Tribalism is likely an equally important and influential force in all of those phases. Here's the proposition I want you to think about, in the form of a question: what are the constituent parts of a tribe?"

With that he put up a new version of the last slide except the three boxes had changed. They now said: Tribalism + Familial and Tribalism + Familial + Educational and finally, Tribalism + Familiar + Educational. He had my attention before, but now it was like he'd turned on a magnet or something.

"The case I want to make is that Tribalism is present from start to finish, because individuals and families and communities are part of the Tribe. The grow up in it, live in it, contribute to it and learn from it. There's no separating them, regardless of how we might prefer to think about it. Unlike our hunter-gatherer forebearers for whom the tribe and conformity to the tribe were essential for survival, in our day and age, tribalism is viewed as something practiced by primitive peoples or something that is elective for us in the advanced societies."

"Just as was the case in the distant past, Tribalism has to do with lifestyles, shared interests, behaviors and habits, and from those things come the social connections and networks that are part of the tribe. I hope when I use terms like shared interests, behaviors and habits you can see that the concept is relevant to us today."

"The point for this class and our studies together is that Tribalism is still a fundamental human dynamic, and from it comes not only social connections and networks, but also behavioral conformity and traditional practices. That is why in pre-modern times there was often a direct one-to-one connection between a tribe and its belief system or religion. As these belief systems and tribes because successful over time, they developed social foundations and traditional practices. Those became the major and minor religions. And now I am speaking of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism and the others."

I sat in my seat just a little short of stunned, as I heard him wrap up the class. "So, the point I want you to take from today's lecture is that if we aim to successfully understand and compare different religions across history, we need to understand the relationship of identity to tribalism and of both to the religion, and vice versa. Now, thinking about our next class on Tuesday of next week, you have the reading assignments. Are there any questions about them?"

One hand went up, and a girl asked, "Is there a reason that in each of those elements you have Tribalism listed first?"

"Very perceptive question," he replied. "In a word, yes, because there are times in life, for most people early in life, when tribalism dominates. For many people it lessens as they age. It often move from a conscious force to an unconscious one. For others, tribalism dominates throughout their life. The point is just to make sure we realized it's always there, that it never goes away, and it can have greater or lesser influences across our lives."

With that he dismissed the class. I stayed in my seat till all the students had left, and when Prof. Higgins looked my way and waved, I joined him, and we walked out into the hall. "I hope you enjoyed the lecture and found something of value in it. Let me drop my lecture notes in my office and we'll go to lunch."

We decided on the faculty lounge since it would be a ten-minute drive to the nearest restaurant. I protested that the choice would make it hard for me to pay, and he laughed it off and we walked across campus. It was a pleasant building and the lounge was well furnished, and we had a pleasant lunch and even more pleasant conversation.

We started off with general talk, and I told him I was struck by the examples he gave of asking people to introduce themselves and say something about themselves and how it almost always came out vocational. He smiled widely, "It is amazing," he said. I volunteered how I'd seen similar things in ministry and leadership classes I'd taken when Christians and even seminarians did the same thing. I'd never once any of them say something like "My name is Bob Wilson and I'm a Child of God."

He smiled again and said, "It just proves the point, doesn't it? Now tell me your thoughts after the lecture and how it comports with what you called me about last week."

Basically, I told him that his lecture had answered the questions that had prompted me to call him, and that I was very thankful. He smoothly asked again what those questions were and what prompted them. I told him about the Identity Chart assignment that a teenage boy in one of our church families had received and asked me about, and the questions that surfaced when I got thinking about how to complete it, the tradeoffs between being honest and selective, and then the deeper question about what influenced the things that form our personal identity.

"We really have a very shallow understanding, don't we, even – and maybe especially – we clergy?"

He smiled softly, looking at me, calculating while he did so, almost as if he was assessing if this was for real or some kind of set up.

"David. May I call you David?" I nodded.

He continued, "My sense is that this is a serious question on your part, and an important thing you are working with at present. So, first, let me commend you for that, in as much as most people never do or only get to it late in life or when circumstances force them to."

Of course, I was thinking "Yes, you're right, circumstances are forcing me to do this!"

"I don't know the motivation behind this for you, and it isn't my business unless you wish to share it. I'm pleased enough that you're interested and reached out to me. Very few clergy do because religious creed and doctrine seems to instill a view that not only are they correct, but anything outside their realm is wrong, or worse yet heretical."

I took the bait and made the leap. "I found the homework assignment very interesting, but what I'm struggling with is personal, and though I think I know a bit about identity formation, the shocker for me is defining religion as closely aligned with tribalism. I must tell you that comes on top of the implication from your Star Wars lecture that Christianity is but another cosmic mythology."

He was looking directly at me now. "So, you're struggling with your faith?" He asked it softly and kindly, like a favorite uncle might ask what the problem is after you tell him you need to talk about something important.

"In a word, yes. Like I've never had to. Because, well…because I've never had to! Like I told you, I graduated from seminary in June, I'm in my first pastorate, have been there since July 4 th , and it's been a whirlwind, and the last thing I would have predicted on July 3 rd is that I'd be struggling with things like this three months later. One of my problems is intellectualizing, and the need to understand all the connections and how one thing influences the other and all that stuff."

He was still smiling. "Are you struggling with the question of why you believe what you believe? Or is the question more fundamental, as in, why do you believe it at all?"

I was stunned and sat quietly for a few seconds. "You have an affinity for cutting to the heart of the matter, don't you?"

"I do. I learned early on that we have a finite existence and limited amount of time to spend on various subjects and we need to make the most of it and avoid as much bullshit as possible. Excuse my language."

I grinned. "No excuse necessary. I appreciate the candor. You're right. The circumstances I've had recently have me questioning the whole proposition. I'm ordained and I have a church and I have responsibilities and I have relationships and I can't just throw it all over and walk away. But I have to understand how I got where I am if I'm going to sanely sort this out."

He continued to look directly at me, and I felt like a student sitting for a counseling session. "So, tell me the major things you're struggling with."

"Well, the core question is why I became more and more involved in religion and pursued ordination, especially given who I am."

"And who are you David?"

This was IT!

This was the identity question coming full circle to hit me right in the middle of my forehead. I was stunned and could feel the fear making me suddenly sweat in my armpits. I could feel panic rising just like when Susan and Ellen confronted us a few weeks back. I also remembered what Jackson had said to me a few days ago when he walked me through his identity chart. "In love with David" and "Proud boyfriend." I told him then that I'd felt the same way. I couldn't betray him now.

"Among other things, I, I'm…I'm gay."

He didn't say anything for some seconds, just continued to look directly at me, smiling softly, his eyes showing compassion and empathy.

Finally, after what seemed like minutes of silence, he said, "You show a great deal of courage to tell me that given how short a time we've known each other, and I commend you for that. I also commend you for the struggle. Most people, and I don't just mean clergy, avoid the struggle, whether it's about sexual orientation or any number of other things. You, my friend, are to be commended. And I will do whatever I can to help."

He reached out his hand then and I took it in a handshake. "Thank you. You don't know how much that means to me." I felt like it came out in a choked whisper.

He asked me to tell me a little about my background and family life, and I filled him in on the overseas part, moving often, the estranged father, the distant mother, and the cold brother, and then getting involved in youth fellowship, then more so in college, and then on to seminary.

He listened to me answer his questions and sat quietly and then reflected on what I'd said. The feeling of being in front of a teacher had passed. I felt like I was now in front of a friend, maybe in front of a mentor, one who had my best interests at heart. I didn't mind sitting quietly and waiting.

At one point he asked about the distant parents and if there had been any family problems. I shared with him that my sophomore year in high school in Egypt I had been, what my parents termed, acting out. That summer when we were back in Philadelphia my Mom had taken me to a psychiatrist for some counseling sessions.

"And how did that go, or what was the result?"

"Well, I remember the counseling sessions went well, meaning I answered all the questions and I guess they were acceptable. I don't remember him telling me anything about my acting out. But a few years later, when I was in college, I asked my mother about it and she told me what the psychiatrist had said to her."

He raised his eyebrows. "Well, I guess she thought I was old enough then to understand the analysis, or whatever you call it. He told her 'what this kid needs is a father.' That was a stunner."

As soon as I said it, I felt goosebumps and then cold, as if for the first time the meaning of the statement was processing in my brain. I looked at Prof. Higgins blankly.

"Can I be absolutely candid?"

I nodded.

"What I'm going to say comes from a college professor, not a clergy person or a therapist. Still, you have a seminary degree, quite a life experience and are well read and quite intelligent. That leads me to the conclusion that you already know the answers to the questions you are struggling with. You just need someone to point them out to you and then you'll go do the work to understand them. In some respects, it's just like that psychiatrist. Is that a fair assessment?"

I suddenly felt a little weak but nodded.

"Here's my take. It's probably not completely accurate, but you can work out the incomplete parts in the thesis. Leaving the place in which you grew up to move overseas and then moving from location to location every few years meant you lost connection with your extended family and with your original community. That is a very large hole in one's life that needs to be filled. You unconsciously filled it by getting more and more involved in a new replacement community, the church. I'm sure it was filled with warm and caring people, and I'm not casting aspersions on them or their motivations, but we're talking here about your needs, the needs you had to fill. On top of that, as you'll recall from the mythology lecture, Atonement with the Father is a very powerful element not just in mythology but in each person's life. An estranged father creates the need for a replacement. If one isn't fortunate enough to find a physical replacement, a surrogate father, then it is quite easy to seek a metaphysical replacement. In other words, to pursue a relationship with the 'ultimate Father,' i.e. God. If you combine those two, then David Ayers goes to seminary and becomes an ordained minister."

I should have felt stunned, or chagrined, or offended. But I wasn't. I felt at peace. Finally, someone had told me what I had been unable to tell myself. I knew this was the direction my therapist friend Paul Gallagher was going, but as a therapist he was all about enabling me to get to the point of figuring it out and saying it for myself. This was different. Now I'd been told, and my task was to confirm or deny what I'd heard.

We were both quiet for a minute or so. He could see the proverbial wheels turning in my head, and the emotions undoubtedly flowing across my face. Finally, I took a deep breath and said, "I can't thank you enough for telling me what I needed to hear. And, you're right, I should have been able to tell myself, but I'm still emotionally disconnected enough I couldn't do it. But what I will promise you is that you just gave me a thesis, and my job now is to prove or disprove it, and to proceed accordingly."

I smiled as I finished. He smiled back and extended his hand, and graciously avoided any emotional embarrassment by saying, "This has been one of the most enjoyable and productive lunch conversations I've had in years. I want you to know you have an open invitation to call or visit any time. I want us to stay in touch, David, and I hope you do too."

I nodded. "I certainly do, and I intend to. Thank you for being so gracious."

We walked back to his office and said our goodbyes and I found the El Camino and started the drive home. Once I got on Highway 99 and didn't have to worry about wrong turns, I started seriously thinking about what we'd discussed and what he'd said, and I found myself in tears most of the way home. It was a mix of tears of sorrow for the boy that went through what he did, and tears of joy for the resolution that was under way, but it was still tears. And with tears can come resolution.

The next morning, I called Prof. Higgins to thank him for inviting me and especially for the lunch and heart to heart conversation. We chatted briefly and then he said, "I have a proposal for you. Actually, it's more like an invitation. I lead a monthly study group with a mix of people in the subject area we've been discussing. There's a couple of faculty members, some senior students, a couple of clergy, and occasionally some friends who are just interested in the subject. I'd like to invite you to join us. It's built around reading and discussing a book, but the discussions are wide ranging. What do you think?"

"Well, first, I'm honored in as much as we only recently met. Second, I'd love it. I've been missing the intellectual stimulation since leaving seminary, and then of course there's the subject area."

"Good, I'm glad you're interested. We were off for the summer, and just started Campbell's Myths To Live By . You've only missed the first session, and it's a series of lecture Campbell gave. We meet the first Wednesday evening of each month at my home. That means the next one is Nov. 2, and you can easily catch up for missing the first. I'll count on you being there! Now may I ask you a personal question?"

I said yes, and he went on. "I don't mean to pry into your personal life by asking this, but it's all of a piece. You told me yesterday that you were gay, but I got the impression that like the other things we discussed, this is new to you as well. Is that the case?"

In for a penny, in for a pound, as they say. "It is. It's been since moving here in July, I met a young man who's a person like I've never met in my life before. That relationship not only started getting me in touch with my own feelings, but also the fact that I'm gay."

"David, that's as much as I need to know. The rest is personal. The only reason I ask is that often in a person's life major things like this are related. When the person has to deal with one of them, it can set off a cascade with the other ones that are related."

"And that is just what I've been living through. Accepting I'm gay and a minister means I have to face the fact that my denomination labels homosexuality a depraved sin. That means I have to accept, or reject, the label that I'm depraved and practicing a sin. That, of course connects to a set of other subjects under the banner of mythology."

"Well, I can see you have had a busy and challenging summer, my friend. Remember, I'm only a phone call away, and we look forward to having you join us in the study group next month. My wife will be happy to meet you as well." We rang off shortly after that. I was pleased and thrilled, and immediately called Powell's and ordered the book.

Spencer Sullivan, the attorney, came by after school that afternoon and had asked me to join Lilly and the boys. He had with him the final court documents declaring them both emancipated. Lilly seemed pleased, as now she had managed to position them outside the direct controlling influence of Bud, and knowing she had limited time ahead of her, at least could be satisfied that both of the boys could no longer be pulled back into his orbit of abuse. There was nothing to sign. Spencer delivered the documents and said simply, "You are now both considered legally of age in the eyes of the legal system. That means you are able to make your own decisions without the undue influence of your father. Many emancipated individuals carry the document with them, just like a driver's license, in case they should be confronted as a minor. I don't think you have to worry about that since the concern was Bud Harris and he's in jail. However, the decision is yours. Any questions?"

There weren't any, and after a few minutes of chatting, Spencer took his leave and drove away. Jackson and I had walked him out to the street, and Jackson was salivating over the BMW.

"Wow, what a cool car!"

I grinned. "You should ride in it. It's got more horsepower than anyone could possible need. But, it sure rides nicely."

"As cool as the El Camino?"

"Well, it's German engineering, don't you know? However, it doesn't have swivel bucket seats, and you can't put a couple of kayaks in the rear!"

He snickered at that.

"How do you feel about the emancipation stuff?"

"Free. I know that SOB can't control me ever again. That's all I care about. The rest of the legal stuff doesn't matter right now. I know the age of consent is eighteen, and the drinking age is twenty-one. But what matters is he can't control me. That gives me control of my life and means no one can take me away from you. You know what I mean?"

"I do, and I know I'm a beneficiary of this indirectly, but I'm so glad for your sake that it's happened so you are now legally your own person."

I had my arm around his shoulder as we walked back to the house. "What are you doing tonight?"

"Will and his band are playing a dance at school and asked me to come by. He wants me to start helping out with his band, they practice on Thursday nights at his house. I'm fine with it, since we're friends again. We're singing together in choir at school now. You know, Miss Albright's music class? Then later I'm coming by to see you." His eyebrows were wiggling.

I smiled. "Will you be ready," he asked conspiratorially?

"I'm always ready for you, Lover Boy. Anytime. Anywhere. Well, almost anywhere. You know what I mean."

I walked in the house long enough to say goodbye to Lilly and Gary, and headed home. Then I called Susan just to check in. I let her know about the emancipation being complete and both boys now being legally free of Bud. She was quite pleased. I reminded her that Lilly's in-home therapy was resuming on Monday now that the chemo sessions were over. We agreed that was positive and would see how it went. I wished she and Ellen a good weekend and told her I'd see her on Sunday.

When I heard Jackson climbing the stairs it was a little after 10:00 PM, and I was in the bedroom reading. He smiled as he walked in, and I blew him a kiss and asked how the band thing went.

"It was a dorky freshman get together dance. The band is actually pretty good, you know, for high school, but none of those freshmen can dance. They all just stand by the walls or jiggle around on the floor like a bunch of worms or something." He snickered. "You know, if you can't dance you should realize it and not do it."

"Can you dance?"

"Well, I took dance lessons in eighth grade. How about you?"

"Yeah me too, but that was way back when for me."

"Do you remember the steps? It's supposed to be like riding a bike, you never forget." He grinned and extended his arm.

I put down my book and let him pull me up. "Who's leading? That should be you, it's your idea."

He led, in a waltz step, and he hummed a basic tune of something or other, but it was pleasant and rhythmic, and moving with him in my arms – or more accurately put, moving with me in his arms — was delightful. We watched each other's eyes. At least we remembered that much, you don't watch your feet, you watch the eyes of your partner.

Finally, he did what I was dying for, he slowly stopped, dropped my arm, wrapped his arms around my waist, and then slowly slid his hands up from by low back to my shoulders and then onto my neck and pulled me down for a kiss. It quickly became passionate and we embraced each other, tongues dancing and hands feeling, breathing coming more heavily as we grasped each other tighter and tighter. How could one be happier?

He was still leading, and eventually broke the kissing and embrace and led me by the hand to the bed. We turned at the foot of the bed and kissed again as we automatically reached to remove the other's clothing. He looked at me expectantly and asked, "Can I undress you slowly, and just appreciate how beautiful you are?"

I wondered what prompted that thought, but still had enough wits about me to say, "Sure, but it's got to be tit for tat. As you take a piece of clothing off of me, I get to take it off of you." We agreed to ditch the shoes and socks right away. The he slowly started unbuttoning my shirt, working his hands all over my front and back as he did it. I reciprocated by pulling off his T-shirt and licking his chest and belly. I made him stop and kiss me. He shivered noticeably and I could see his cock hard in his shorts. He slowly undid the zipper of my shorts and dropped them to the floor, and I followed suit with his. We stepped out of them, then I made him pause and kiss me again. Then he sensuously and slowly slid my boxers down, nuzzling in my pubes and kissing the tops of my thighs as he did so. I was fully hard now, and I did the same to him. As I kissed his thighs and licked up to his pubes and rolled his balls in my hand, I could see him start to pant, he was so hard and so hot. I leaned in and kissed the end of his cock, tasting the beginning of his precum, and licked around his cockhead, and I felt his fingertips in my hair, pressing on my scalp. I knew what he needed, and took his whole cock in my mouth, as I grasped his buttocks and pulled him into me. He moaned out loud and pulled my head toward his belly. My Lover Boy was really horny tonight.

He was horny enough he only lasted a few minutes, but when he came it was loud and glorious and just what he needed. We moved to the bed while he recovered, and we kissed and shared his seed and I stroked his still sensitive belly and thighs. He was almost pulling away from my fingers he was still that sensitive. When he quieted, he began playing with my still hard cock, and slowly started stroking it. "I want you inside me more than anything," he whispered in my ear.

"Soon, soon, Lover Boy."

I felt his lips start to move down my chest and belly, kissing and licking their way to my pubes, as his hand slowly continued to stroke my cock. He was watching my eyes to know how close I was, and after a minute at a languid pace, suddenly his mouth was on my cock and his fingers were on my anus, moist and slippery, and circling, asking to enter. Within seconds he had one finger, then two inside me, massaging my prostate as he continued to move up and down my cock. I only lasted another thirty seconds and came crying louder than he did. I attributed it to the pent-up demand of having to wait a week between having sex with each other.

He came back up the bed and into my arms, and we nuzzled and kissed and held each other. One more blissful night together. Eventually, when he'd recovered, I began stroking his pubes and then playing with his cock, and slowly it became hard again. I wanted to go very slowly for him this second time, and alternated stroking the inside of this thighs with stroking up his cock, then after a while I moved down so I was between his legs and could stroke both hands on his hips and up his waist and then further up to his pecs and down the center of his belly, trying to make it as sensuous for him as possible. I was only occasionally stroking his cock, alternating stroking his torso with stroking the inside of his thighs, over his knees and then up the outside of his legs. Then, as he got more and more stimulated, I changed direction, so I was stroking down the outside of his legs and up the inside of his thighs and ending on his perineum. He spread his legs wider apart to give me access, and after another couple of times he started raising his hips off the bed as I stroked his perineum.

On the third pass his hips rose off the bed, and then dropped back down and he lifted his legs in the air, moving them back toward his shoulders. He was giving me full access to him, and there was his beautiful pink rosebud between his two perfectly formed buttocks, I knew he was clean and had no hesitation, just leaning in to kiss it and his aroma, that musky boy smell hit me. I inhaled deeply; it was much stronger here near its source. I knew what Jackson smelled like, but this was Jackson plus his sex, and it drove me wild. I kissed his anus and began slowly stroking it with my tongue. Then circling it with my tongue, and I felt it relax and open, and I was able to push my tongue into it. It was so hot to feel a part of me begin to move within him, to be part of him, and to hear him whimper and feel him writhing on the bed as I did it. Our love making was so in synch I could barely believe it. I reached around his leg and took his cock in one hand and stroked him as I continued to rim him as deeply as I could. He was really writhing and moaning now, holding his legs in the air with his arms and starting to pant. Finally, he came, shooting up on his chest, and I felt his anus clench on the tip of my tongue, and I slowly pulled out and helped him lower his legs down onto the bed.

He was totally spent. Head lolling, eyes rolled back, arms splayed out on the bed. I slid up between his legs and softly kissed his cock, and then licked some of the cum off his belly. I wanted him to be sure to know that I had taken more of his seed into me, that we were inexorable moving toward the union that was ahead of us.

After I cleaned him up, I lay down next to him and pulled him to me in a tight embrace. He was still breathing a little heavily and wrapped his arms around me. "David, I don't know what to say."

"Don't say anything, Lover Boy. Just know that I love you. That's all. Words aren't necessary."

We lay like that for ten or fifteen minutes, then I felt his fingers stroking my chest. "My god, David, where did you learn to do that? That was more than book learning!"

"That was book learning plus love plus creative license. I'm taking Silverstein seriously about the first gay sex experiences being loving and pleasant and leisurely and not rushed or furtive. And I can now tell you that you have a beautiful rosebud, and I loved kissing it and seeing you react. You actually writhed like a snake when I pushed my tongue into you."

"Don't I know it! Being on the receiving end is beyond words. That's all I can say. I don't know how to describe what you just did to me, the love we have for each other, but that was something else. I never thought…"

"Shh. I think you're trying to say that when two people love each other enough there are no barriers, or something like that, right?"

He nodded. "That's it, no barriers. Two halves joining together and no barriers. Just love and pure joy!"

He continued to stroke my chest while I held his shoulders to me, and in a minute or two he was asleep. I was overtaken with the same peacefulness and joined him. I felt him slip out of bed at 5:30 and come to the side of the bed. I wasn't settling for a little kiss this morning. I pulled him down into a deep embrace.

Overnight, a low-pressure system moved in, and the rain started around 7:00 AM. It rained all day. This, I thought, may be the beginning of winter in the northwest.

Jackson came by for a quick breakfast, saying he had to get back with Gary to service the mower and change the oil and get it ready for winter. We had no time to talk, which surprised me a little. Gary and Lois went to a matinee movie and then were having dinner with her parents. Jackson came over after lunch with his books and asked if he could do his homework here. He said, "Mom's asleep right now, and I've got to be home before 5:00 to help her with dinner. I just want to be with you. Is that Okay?"

"Okay? Are you kidding me? Best thing in my life is having you here. You do your homework and I'll finish my sermon for tomorrow. It'll be cool working side by side." I was grinning at him, and we worked out how to fit both of us at the desk in the office.

It was peaceful and reassuring to have him here, doing his work, asking an occasional question as I worked on mine. He had a lot of reading to do, especially in English Lit where they were finishing Frankenstein and having to write short reports on each chapter. Psych involved reading case studies on psychological disorders as well as general reading on social psychology. In World History they were now reading and studying Ancient Greece. I didn't' remember having this much reading to do when I was in high school. But the amazing part was that he was enjoying it, and absorbing much of what he read, and becoming conversant with the material. It was great to see. Every once in a while, he'd slip his hand across the desk and either touch my forearm or the back of my hand, resting his fingers there ever so lightly for a few seconds, and then they'd leave. Just enough to maintain contact, but not enough to break the concentration.

I finished my sermon shortly after 3:00, but not wanting to disturb him, moved on to the exegesis for next Sunday's sermon. About 4:00 he closed up his books and looked at me and smiled. "Are you done?" I nodded.

"Can we go in the living room and listen to music and snuggle?"

I put on the Foreigner album he'd given me for my birthday, and we snuggled down on the couch. The album opened with Feels Like The First Time and we sat quietly and listened to the lyrics. We both enjoyed the opening verse and refrain like we had the first time we listened to it together, notwithstanding the verbal gymnastics on the "just the woman in you" line.

I would climb any mountain
Sail across the stormy sea
If that's what it takes me baby
To show how much you mean to me
And I guess that it's just the woman in you
That brings out the man in me
I know I can't help myself
You're all in the world to me

It feels like the first time
Feels like the very first time
It feels like the first time
It feels like the very first time

"I still feel the same way, it hasn't changed a bit," I whispered in his ear. "But for me the line says, 'it's the boy in you that brings out the man in me.'"

"Me too. And for the record, last night was the very first time. At least the very first time you did that to me. You know, my Sexy Man, you have a very athletic tongue!"

"I surprised myself," I replied to him, "but it was just as wonderful for me making you feel that good."

"Oh man, you have no idea. Get ready, because I'm going to do that to you too. You won't believe it."

"For now, I'll take your word on it." The second track had started to play. "Aren't you glad my tongue isn't like this."

He cracked up. The song was Cold As Ice . "For sure, Rev, for sure!"

We sat through the entire album, making small talk like lovers do. When the last track came on, we had an entirely new experience listening to it together, given what had happened in our lives recently.

Selling your soul ain't the right way of givin'
Oh with you I could change
This misguided goal I've been livin'
Anything, anything, you might need or desire
Just call on me, 'cause my heart's on fire
And I need you

Do you need me too?
Yes I need you, yes I need you

Many is the time I've cursed the lord's creations
Ah but you touched my hand
I loved this new sensation
It was very strange, what a change
Of you I did not tire
So call on me, my heart's on fire

Well I need you
Do you need me too? need me too?
Yes I need you, ah

Yes I need you
Oh I need you
And I need you
Say you need me too

The hard rock wasn't my favorite style of music by a long shot, but Jackson dug it, and we both loved the lyrics. We both agreed we needed each other, as the song plainly said, and that was enough.

Watch the YoutuTube video of Foreigner singing I Need You from the 1977 album


It was pushing 5:00 PM and Jackson slowly untangled himself from me on the couch and made to be heading home. "Are you seeing any improvement since the chemo sessions ended," I asked?

"Yeah, she's less tired and has more energy, but not like before. I guess it's still too early to tell if it worked. That's the part that sucks."

"Well, her feeling better is progress in itself. One step at a time. Thanks for coming over. I'm glad you wanted to do your homework here with me. Just being together for stuff like that is a joy."

We walked to the kitchen hand in hand, and I kissed him as he slipped on his coat to head home. "See you tomorrow, Lover Boy. Just remember, I Need You."

He grinned and was gone.

Susan did a magnificent job with hymn selection for Sunday's worship service. I didn't' feel like I did justice to the text in my sermon. The passage in Luke was Chapter 18, verses 1 to 8, about the Persistent Widow who persistently pleas for justice before a judge. In the ancient world, widows were incredibly vulnerable, up there with orphans and aliens, and yet here she is pleading her case and influences his decision.

The message comes in the fact that the judge relents, not before he justifies his actions, but he relents nonetheless, and makes the point for us that standing up for justice, for what is right can result in the desired outcome. Those suffering from injustice need to call for justice, and those of us seeing injustice need to stand up for justice too.

The last hymn of the service was an early 18 th Century hymn by Isaac Watts, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross. I'd always loved the melody, and the rousing style of the early baroque arrangement. I engaged on the first verse with my usual enthusiasm.

When I survey the wond'rous Cross
On which the Prince of Glory dy'd,
My richest Gain I count but Loss,
And pour Contempt on all my Pride.

With the congregation I sang the next two verses with gusto, and then found myself struggling as we sang the final verse.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

I found the last six words catching in my throat. I knew full well that the hymn was directed at Jesus Christ, not necessarily the Church, but by extension the Church is the Body of Christ, and how could I continue to give "my soul, my life, my all" to something that defined me as depraved and considered the most beautiful expression of love I'd ever experienced to be a depraved sin? The language in the hymn is poignant and eloquent but becomes dramatically less so when you're on the receiving end.I found myself wondering "if consensual love between non-married adults isn't among the list of sins in the Ten Commandments, then how can it be a depraved sin among men and not among men and women?"

It was hard to get my mind back on the service and conclude. Is this what doubting your faith feels like?

Jackson and Gary left right after the service, and I sat and chatted with Susan and Ellen at the end of the coffee hour. They felt better about my sermon than I did, emphasizing the point about taking a stand in the face of injustice. Susan asked how the first Youth Fellowship had gone the previous Sunday, and I told her Will carried the momentum with his guitar playing and singing, and that Jackson had been singing along with him.

She smiled. "Jackson's come up to speed in music class quickly. It almost feels like he picked up where he left off. He has a good enough voice; he just needs more training and practice. I'm glad to hear he's getting over his hang ups and singing with Will. That will make him perform better in choir. We're going to start out with a glee club approach, male choir and female choir, and then mixed voices, singing sacred and popular songs. The point is to get them singing together and enunciating and projecting. We'll work them into two-part and four-part harmonies. It'll be fun, you watch and see!" She was beaming.

"Wow, that does sound fun and a wide range of musical styles."

"Just you wait, we'll be going from The Beach Boys and The Beatles to Handel and de Lassus."

"That sounds pretty radical, Susan. And you're doing this in Newberg, Oregon! You'll probably be rattling the local rafters." They both chuckled at that. Susan looked at me and said, "Will and Jackson told me you know more about music than you let on. Something about a Renaissance composer and the original wall of sound!"

Now it was my turn to chuckle. "That would be Brumel's Kyrie from the Earthquake Mass. There's a recent recording of it I played for them to disabuse them of the notion that you need a studio or big amps to create a wall of sound. I'll loan it to you if you'd like."

"I would like that very much. Always interested in expanding the repertoire!"

"Would I be out of place making a suggestion for you to consider? It's a contemporary song, but one that should be pretty good for male chorale, though I'm pretty certain there's no arrangement available."

"Certainly. What do you have in mind? We do quite a bit of contemporary music. That's by design to keep people interested."

"Well, one of the reasons I am a Grateful Dead fan is because of the person who wrote most of the lyrics, a guy named Robert Hunter. I'd encourage you to listen to Attics of My Life and see if you don't think it would work. The album was released five or so years ago, so it's hip and relevant, and who knows what's possible. I've got the album if you'd like to listen to it."

"With a recommendation from you, Pastor, I would love to give it a listen. I'm always looking for new contemporary material. Can we stop by on the way home? We'll just follow you to the parsonage."

I sent them on their way with both albums.

The next day Jackson came by on the way home from school, and we spent a few minutes kissing and snuggling, and he filled me in on the school day. "I was going to come back later in the afternoon yesterday. Gary and I went home and helped get lunch together, then we started on our homework, and before I knew it, it was almost 5:00 o'clock. Then there was dinner, and I still had reading assignments. We've only got one phone at home, so it's pretty risky to call you."

I held his head and turned his face up and looked him straight in those beautiful hazel eyes. "You know you don't have to apologize to me, don't you? Especially for doing homework!" He grinned, and we chatted a bit longer, then I said, "You'll have to keep me posted on music class and choir, Miss Albridge told me yesterday about the range of songs you'll be singing this year, and it sounds wild!"

"Wild! What do you mean wild?" He looked a little concerned.

"Relax, lover, she was telling me about it in a good way, like it'll be a lot of fun. She said she really liked your voice."

"I guess I'm getting there. Not like Will though. But it turns out he's a low tenor, and I have a higher tenor voice. I'm getting suspicious that's why he wants me to 'help out' with their band. I have a feeling I'm going to get shanghaied into singing!"

"My Lover Boy, the singing virtuoso. I could get used to that!"

He rolled his eyes and headed for the door. "Love you, David!"

I called Lilly on Monday evening to check in after her in-home therapy sessions began again that afternoon. She sounded fairly energetic, which was hopeful, and described the session as mainly a reset from where they had left off when she received the cancer diagnosis and started the chemo treatments. "I guess next week we'll get down to business, Pastor, then I'll know what's ahead of me. I don't have to continue the alcoholics meetings. She knows it takes a lot out of me to go out to meetings, and I've been too weak and sick for over a month to even think about a drink. I can promise you that's the last thing on my mind."

I assured her things were going in the right direction and that she should start thinking about the in-home therapy less as punitive sessions required by CPS and more like help sessions to assist her in getting through her recovery and putting her family back together. She thought a minute and said, "When you put it like that, Pastor, it makes it much more appealing. I'll think about that, because I'll sure need help putting this family back together, though the boys are doing wonderfully well on their own. You know they're always busy with homework, help me with meal preparation, and that's on top of going to school full time. I'm amazed."

"You have two good boys there. Like flowers, all they needed was the right environment to blossom in." She chuckled at that. I rang off and thought about my call with Paul Gallagher tomorrow afternoon. I'd called his office today to check on his availability, and he was swamped it being his first day back in the office after his vacation in Europe.

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