This is Part 2 of Chapter 41 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Confessions -- Part 1", the previous chapter.
Eventually, Father Rossi gave me an ultimatum. I would either take Retreat voluntarily or he'd order me to take it. John agreed to cover the weekends -- at least until I got some more help at St. Lawrence. And the Trustees promised that they were looking for another young priest to bring in as an assistant. I didn't hold out a lot of hope for that assistant -- spare priests are a rare commodity these days -- but at least they were aware of my situation and trying to do something about it.
And I admit, going to the Retreat House was helping me. I was able to focus better, to pray better, and -- I think -- deal with the boys better after coming back, refreshed and recharged, on Monday.
I was usually gone to the Retreat House from Friday night to early Monday morning, but that night I came back late Sunday. John was asleep downstairs on the fold-out couch. I didn't wake him up, but went right up to the dorm. I don't know why -- I just had the sense of something wrong.
I found out soon enough.
Ten minutes later, after the initial uproar, I had the two boys in my office. John was standing by, still half-asleep, wringing his hands and apologizing. I was burning with suppressed fury.
One boy -- Miller, of course -- was defiant and defensive.
The other was ominously quiet.
"Come ON, Father! I mean, look at him! He's askin' for it! I just gave it to him."
Right. That's what Miller was doing all right -- giving it to him. Jesus Christ!
I looked at the other's boy's face. It was like a sleepwalker's -- blank, but also too dangerous to wake up suddenly. I was so angry I could feel my cheeks getting hotter and redder. Before I was able to stop myself I slapped Miller hard right across the face.
"Shit!" Miller recoiled and put his hand to his stinging face. I wanted to hit him again, but I stepped back to try and take hold of myself.
"This is all YOUR fault, you little fucking BITCH!" And before I could stop him, Miller hit the other boy over the head. He barely flinched.
John and I both grabbed Miller and pushed him onto the floor, face down. I twisted his arm behind him to hold him down. "And what YOU are asking for, Mr. Miller, is a ticket to the Boys' Reformatory. Not only have you taken shameless advantage of someone weaker than yourself, but you've brought drugs into the house...."
"It was only pot!"
"Drugs. That violates your parole. We're going to pack your shit and call your parole officer, because I want you OUT of here by morning. Sooner, if possible."
"That's not fair! What about the others?" The others. Of course, there were others.
"Give me their names, Miller. Now."
He hemmed and hawed, but finally named two more -- Spassky and Reynolds. It figured. The other two bullies. The other two thugs.
"Right. I am going to have to lock you up, Mr. Miller, until your parole officer can get here. I don't want to take the chance that you'll get away before he can take you away."
"Lock me up? Where?"
I tried to consider. The only secure place I could think of was the big bathroom in the rectory. It had a strong door and a window too small to crawl out of -- at least for the bulky Miller to crawl out of. It also locked from the outside with a key.
I hauled Miller up by his collar and John and I frog-marched him out to the rectory. It was a small building, an old carriage house, set a little apart from the old main house. I unceremoniously tossed Miller into the bathroom and locked the massive door with the key. Thank God for those Victorians and their heavy-duty architecture. Miller cursed and pounded on the door for some time, but he eventually gave it up and shut up.
John and I walked back to the house. He was devastated -- there's no other word for it. "I didn't KNOW! How could I even guess?" he kept saying. "I swear to God, Tim! I trusted those kids -- I thought I could handle it...."
"They conned you, John. Miller especially. That's what they do. Some of these kids are like animals -- they learn early who is the predator and who is the prey. And the ones they prey upon...."
We stopped and stood outside the door.
"What are you going to do? I mean, about the other kid? Does he have to go, too?"
I shook my head. "I just don't know, John. I don't know."
"You can't blame him -- I mean, talk about blaming the victim!"
John was beating himself up about this, but I felt just as responsible.
"What CAN I do, John? I can't put him back in there with the other boys. Who knows what will happen now?"
"Are you going to send him back to Kensington-Welsh? Isn't he the one whose parents won't take him back home?"
"Yeah." I truly had no idea. I needed to think about this long and hard.
The dorm was completely silent. I did a bed-check and both Spassky and Reynolds were there, pretending to be asleep. I'd deal with them in the morning, but it was better now if they didn't suspect that I knew what had been going on.
I went back to the kitchen and called Frank, my parole officer friend. We'd hooked up when we were both in the Corps together. We had Pittsburgh in common -- among other things. I told him the situation and he said he'd be over first thing in the morning. He also promised to take Spassky and Reynolds with him and check out their situations. But I wanted all three of them out immediately.
Now came the real problem. The other kid. John was right -- he couldn't go home. They didn't want him there. At least, not yet. The only other alternative was going back to the Kensington-Welsh Center. And since he really didn't need medical care and definitely wasn't the least bit crazy -- he was certainly a lot saner than his victimizers -- I couldn't see that as the place for him.
He was sitting in the same spot I'd left him -- the large chair in my office. Just sitting. I could not even begin to imagine what he was thinking. I would have been praying, but I knew better than to believe that's what he was doing, even if it might help.
He didn't look up.
"Why don't you come with me?"
He let out a heavy sigh and stood up. He was so thin he really did look like he'd break in half. But I knew he must have a vein of pure steel running through him somewhere.
He followed me outside and over to the rectory. On the bottom floor of the old carriage house was the infirmary. There were two beds and a small bathroom. Privacy. I imagined that was what he needed more than anything else now.
"You can get your stuff tomorrow and bring it over here."
He looked up, finally. "You mean you aren't kicking me out?"
He just stared at me. Then he looked around the room. "Why?"
"I think you'll be okay here. Maybe after a while you can go back to the dorm -- if you feel all right about it."
He sat down on one of the beds. "Father?"
"What... Brian?" I usually don't like to use first names. Maybe it's a Corps thing. A discipline thing. But it seemed right to call him by his name. Give him back a little of his identity.
"Those guys... they didn't force me. It was just... easier than fighting with them. Getting beaten up. That's the thing I can't take." He rubbed his eyes. "The other thing... it's... nothing to me. I'm a slut. I'll always just be someone's bitch and that's the truth."
"It IS something to you. No one has that right, no matter what. And NEVER think they do. Never. No matter how 'easy' it may seem. It isn't easy to give up your integrity. Your self-respect."
"What self-respect? I'm just trying to fucking survive!"
"You don't need to give yourself away to survive, Brian."
"But I don't have anything else...."
Jesus -- this one would be the hardest yet. I vowed that I'd go on no more Retreats until I was able to straighten out this whole mess of my own making. IF I was ever able to straighten it out.
In a few days it seemed that things had settled down. The other boys were cowed by the abrupt departures of Miller, Spassky, and Reynolds. And they all avoided Brian like he was contagious -- afraid, perhaps, that the taint of the other boys' transgressions would catch them as well.
And Brian -- he continued on as he did before, separate from the others, living even more in his own world. That safer world he had mentioned. Our conversation of that night seemed so ominous to me now, I wondered how I had missed the danger signals.
He remained in the infirmary for the time being. He had his books in a cardboard box next to his bed and his clothes folded and put away in an old dresser. He was very neat, almost compulsively so, and also obsessively clean. Unlike the other boys, whose personal hygiene often left much to be desired, he was constantly showering and washing his hands and face. His doctor, Max Finer, told me that it was probably residual guilt feelings that he was trying to wash away. I have no idea -- I'm no psychiatrist -- but I imagine there are worse compulsions to have.
But he was also having nightmares and bouts of insomnia. A few times I found him at 4:00 a.m., sitting on the front steps of the rectory, staring out at the darkness.
"Brian, you should be asleep."
He looked up at me. "I'm afraid of the dark. There's a big streetlight out here and I feel better if I can see it. I wish it was shining into my room."
"Have you talked to Dr. Finer about that?"
"He just gives some psychological b.s. and says I have to face my fears. It's all such crap, Father. Such crap."
Either because of our proximity in the rectory or because of his ostracism by the other boys, I noticed that Brian had become like a slender shadow. He followed me around during the day and was always right there at meals and in the evenings. At first it annoyed me, but I eventually got used to it and even began turning some of my paperwork over to him to do -- filing and filling out forms and even opening and answering mail. He actually was able to do it better than I was. He was constantly after me to ask the Trustees for a computer -- which seemed to me to be a ridiculous luxury -- but he insisted that the office would be more efficient and professional if we had one.
One day sometime in May I was making a note in his file when I noticed something.
"Huh?" He was sitting at the desk, typing a letter to a donor. His letters to donors were especially effusive and effective.
"Why didn't you tell me that you had your birthday a few weeks ago?"
He stopped typing. "Why? What difference does it make?"
"Well, for the other boys we always have a cake and a party." The minute I said it I knew the last thing he would want was cake and a party with the boys.
"I'd rather just forget the whole thing, okay?"
"So, you're 17 now."
"Have you thought about college? I mean, if you graduate next year it's something you should think about."
"If you think my old man is paying for college for ME when he doesn't even want me in the house, then you are nutty."
"There are scholarship programs. Grants."
He looked around at me strangely when I said the word 'grant.'
"Just forget it."
"I'll try to find out some information. You'll need to take your SATs. I'll call your guidance counselor at your school and get the necessary material."
He turned around at the desk. "Why are you bothering with all this? You know they don't have any scholarships for someone like me."
"Someone who is very intelligent? Capable? Why not?"
But he just gave me that look and went back to typing.
I woke up very slowly. I was having that dream about Doug again. It was always the same one. I was back in the Seminary in Philadelphia and going off on the weekends to meet him in New York or Atlantic City. This time we were in that hotel just off the Boardwalk. The feel of his body in the darkness. Warm. Firm....
I opened my eyes.
"Get back in your bed. Right now."
"But I didn't do anything."
"No matter -- I've told you before. You CANNOT come in here."
"But I'm afraid of the dark." His voice was very small.
"It's all in your head. There's nothing to be afraid of." Yes, I was telling HIM that! Nothing to be afraid of.
"Yes -- my head. The dark that's in there. That's what I'm afraid of most."
"Please. I'll be quiet. I won't DO anything. Please?"
I sighed. Then I got up and locked the door of my room and latched it from the inside. I should have done that BEFORE, I thought. Talk about closing the barn door after the horse is gone.
"This one time. Only."
I heard him sniffling in the enclosing dark. I put my arm around his waist and heard him sigh. In a few minutes he was asleep and then I was, too.
I woke up sometime later, disoriented. It was very dark and quiet except for a faint sound.
He was facing away from me now. Curled up around a pillow and crying softly, like a cat mewling.
"I think you better go now -- back downstairs to the infirmary."
He wiped his face on the pillow. "You want to get rid of me, too? Why not? Doesn't everybody?"
"Brian, that's not what I mean. I'm not trying to get rid of you -- not at all. But it isn't right that you are in here. You know that and I certainly know that. I'm a priest...."
"I know. I don't want to marry you or anything, so what's the big deal?"
"Plenty! You KNOW that."
"Yeah, everything I do is wrong. That's always the way. I must be wrong."
"Not YOU, Brian...."
"Only ONE person didn't think I am all wrong. Only one person who thought I was okay!"
"I think you are okay."
"Everyone else is... just using me. Fucking with my head... with everything else." He sniffed again. "He would never treat me like that. But it's too late now."
"Brian, someday you'll grow up and you find someone nice and get married. And all these bad things will seem like a different world. They'll be in the past. Gone forever."
He rolled over to face me. "Get married? What, are you kidding?"
"Come on, Tim." He'd been calling me by my first name for a while now and I hadn't stopped him. Maybe I should have at the start. "I'm never going to get married to anyone! I'm a fag. Always have been and always will be. YOU'LL get married before I do!"
"Now, Brian, you're young yet...."
"But not too young to know the truth. Maybe better than YOU know the trut0h about yourself." He rolled back away from me again. "THAT was my one chance. And I blew it. Do you know how that feels? Rotten."
"You mean with... that man? I don't think so, Brian. You'll have many, many more chances in your life to love someone."
"You just don't know. You don't understand."
The next night, I locked the door of my room. In the morning, I found him sleeping on the floor in front of it.
The next night I left it unlocked. I knew that I might as well be saying goodbye to my tenure at St. Lawrence, probably even my life as a priest.
But Brian was wrong -- I DID understand. He was just the one who made me admit to that understanding. I was a fag, too, and all the pretending that I was celibate -- at the times I was and the times I wasn't -- that I was straight, that I was whatever my superiors wanted me to be was, as Brian succinctly put it, 'b.s.' It was b.s. when I was in the Corps, screwing my sergeant, and later my buddy Frank. It was b.s. in the Seminary, when I was meeting Doug on weekends. And it was b.s. now, when I pretended that I didn't look forward to Brian's visits in the dark, which eventually became a permanent feature of my nights at St. Lawrence, until the day he went back home at the end of August and didn't look back.
But in the meantime, I could only listen to him crying in the darkness, calling out for this 'Ron" -- the guy he had been in love with at the lowest point in his life, who he would never see again. And sometimes I felt like crying, too.
"Tim -- I think YOU are WAY more traumatized by that old incident than I ever was."
"I don't think so, Brian. I remember too well...."
"Tim -- stop! Please! It was just a couple of kids fucking around. I barely remember it! Really! I'm NOT suffering any kind of fucking post-traumatic whatever. So, just let it go."
"Tim, it was a couple of times. A couple of stupid kids. I've fucked THOUSANDS of guys since then! Believe me."
I tried to fathom it. Thousands of guys? And he didn't think he was deeply troubled? And me -- I literally could count the number of lovers I'd had on one hand. And I was the one who would probably die before my time of AIDS. The irony was not lost on either of us.
"Brian, let's face it -- I'm as guilty as Miller and the others were. The point is that I should have been strong enough to draw the line and force it to stay drawn. I let you in to 'comfort' you -- but I came to enjoy having you there...."
"Careful! You wouldn't want to enjoy anything! Especially anything having to do with sex!"
"I let you stay because I wanted you. And all through the summer -- and I probably would have continued if you hadn't gone home and back to school. I have to tell you, I was crushed when you were gone.'
"I mean it."
"So, let me get this right? I was depressed and despondent and you let me snuggle up to you a bit. You liked me. Desired me. Were upset when I left. And now you want me to 'forgive' you for that? For your compassion? Your 'love'?"
"But my old man -- who beat me up regularly, who broke my fucking ribs and drove me out of the house and onto the streets -- he's misunderstood and I should forgive HIM?"
"But you, who wanted to make love to me -- you're a pervert and a sinner? Do I have that all correct?"
I sighed. "Yes, Brian, you have that correct."
"The world really IS a fucked up place."
I can't deny that to him.
"Well, I WON'T forgive you, because I'm not sorry it happened. It was what I needed. Probably what you needed, too. And I don't think THAT is a fucking sin! If you DO, then that's your problem, not mine."
"I was feeling guilty because I thought maybe you were another 'victim' of my fatal compulsion to go after supposedly straight guys. Notice that I say 'supposedly' -- that's the key word. But now you tell me you were gay, and knew it and acted on it, long before you ever knew me. You were out fucking guys in the Army...."
"The Marine Corps."
"Excuse me, the Marine Corps, and in the Seminary...."
"Not IN the actual Seminary."
"Okay, on your priest-breaks, then." Brian called the bartender over for another beer. When the man was gone, he continued. "Which means, you wouldn't have continued much longer lying. Faking it. It was inevitable. It wasn't just ME! You were already a big fat queer!"
"Not so loudly, Brian," I said, lowering my voice. "I'm out, but I don't like to broadcast it here."
"But, yes, you are right -- I was a big queer from the start. Does that clear your conscience?"
"Yes, it does." He drank the beer and looked around a bit, casing out the place. "The only thing that bugs me is that we never hooked up after I got sprung officially. I would have liked that."
I stared at him. "Brian, you must be kidding!"
"About sex I NEVER kid. Well, almost never."
"But you were a boy, Brian. I still feel bad about...."
"Jesus, Tim, don't be asinine. I was 17 years old. I started with Justin when HE was 17 -- I didn't know it at the time, but it wouldn't have stopped me if I had. I wanted him, he wanted me. I don't see the difference. Besides, I don't even think we did anything the whole way. I may have touched your dick a few times...."
"It was more than that, Brian. Believe me."
He shrugged. "So, sue me!"
"Brian, which acts were completed and which weren't is not relevant...."
"They are to me -- I never do anything halfway."
"Be serious for a moment. Whether we had actual intercourse or just sexual foreplay isn't the point...."
"Christ! Are you always so fucking clinical? It was fourteen years ago, for chrisake! I can't remember half the guys I fucked six months ago!"
"And THAT is my point. You can't remember. Because you've had so much trauma, you can't remember. Or don't want to remember."
"Everyone is an amateur psychologist, Tim. Believe me, I have my own fucked up analyst who can give me the same bullshit at much higher rates."
"But maybe you'll believe it more if it's free -- and given by someone who cares about you. Who loves you."
"Tim, at this rate it's the people who 'care' about me, who say they 'love' me, who are the ones most likely to destroy me. Give me a few honest, straight-forward enemies and fucking save me from my friends!"
"That's the worst part, Brian. The cynicism. That's almost as bad as despair."
"Well, I'm pretty desperate a lot of the time, too, so I have all the bases covered."
I kept shaking my head. "I can't help but consider my own fault here. My part in all this. In contributing to your attitude. An attitude which is making you very unhappy."
"'Mea culpa,' huh? My 'attitude,' huh? You are obsessing about something over which you have no control at all, Tim. And there's no blame at all." He put his arm around my shoulder and leaned in at me. "Tim, you must realize by now," he was smiling that lazy, sexy smile. "That once I wanted someone, not even a cattle prod would have kept me from getting him? One way or another?"
"Cattle prod, huh? Kinky, Kinney. Very kinky."
"Timothy, you have NO idea."
Continue on to "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue -- Part 1", the next chapter.
©Gaedhal, July 2002
Picture of Gale Harold from PAPER.
Send Gaedhal any comments, critiques, suggestions.
Updated July 4, 2002