Sequoyah A Special Place--Part Forty-seven--Eugene
I was somewhat startled when an unfamiliar voice called "Little Brother, we better get moving or our Mama will have our asses". It took me a while to realize what was going on. It was Jason standing over me in a robe, smiling, who spoke.
"Oh, how right you are. Damn! I was supposed to be up and go with Larry and Jacob--a friend--to Lexington this morning. Shit!"
"Maybe that note on his pillow will help," Jason said as he sat on the edge of the bed.
I picked up the note and read, "My wonderful Sleeping Beauty, I know you and Jason were up most of the night, so I got up and Jacob and I are going to Lexington. I'm taking your car since you have Millie's. Gene, I am so pleased that you and Jason talked the night away. I'm sure you both feel better about each other and can become good friends--no, close brothers. I love you now and always, Lar."
I handed the note to Jason and when he read it, he said, "I have so much I want to learn about you and your friends. If I hadn't been such as ass, I could have been a part of so much that I have missed."
"Jason, Larry and I have been in therapy since your mom..."
"Mom, our mom..."
"Our mom... took me in. It has helped a lot and we both have learned so much, but I think the most important thing we have learned is to let go of the past, especially the guilt and anger. It's been hard for Larry--letting go of guilt, I mean--and letting go of rage and anger is hard, still hard, for me. But the past is the past--can't be changed, but sure can fuck up the present and the future."
"Maybe after we get ready and see Mom, we can talk about all that's been going on."
"Well, shower and get dressed. Anthony has breakfast almost ready. Then we're all off to see Millie of the Skipping Stones."
Mom was delighted to see us, of course. "Where have you three been? It's almost noon. I even got out of bed for you and you weren't here."
"I'm afraid I couldn't get those two out of bed for anything," Anthony laughed. "Don't think they ever actually went to bed last night."
"Actually we didn't," I said. "It was this morning before we called it a night."
"What about Larry and Jacob? Eugene, I hope you didn't screw them up. And, Jason, did you find out what a pouty, childish ass you have been by not coming sooner?" Millie was on a roll.
"Larry took Eugene's car to get himself and Jacob to Lexington," Jason said, "and, yes, I had already decided I have been a jerk--and Anthony made sure I meant it when I told him that. That's why Eugene and I were up all night."
"Good. I hope you don't think you had me fooled with your lame excuses. How long are you staying?"
"Anthony and I talked before Eugene got up, and called the office. Edith assured us she could keep the office going a month if necessary, so we'll be here until you're home and settled. I will stay until Eugene's ordeal with the trial is over. To tell the truth, Edith can run the office very well without me--or Anthony."
"Fine. I'll be leaving day after tomorrow. Started walking a bit this morning. Amazing what new parts can do."
We stayed about an hour, at one point guarding Millie while she used a walker to move around the room a bit, then started back home. On the way, Jason commented on what had been done to the "dump" on the street where Millie lived and I suggested we take a closer look, knowing Uncle Michael would welcome a visit. After the grand tour--the renovations were almost complete--Uncle Michael suggested we also go to the hospitality house, especially to see Luke's sculpture. When we finished, it was mid-afternoon so we had lunch at a Greek place Michael had told us about, then went back to spend some time with Millie. By the time we got home, it was five and Larry was back. Mr. Greentree insisted he leave early after he heard what had happened.
I suggested we pack a picnic and go to the falls and talk. After the picnic was ready, we drove out to the country, stopped at the Greywolf's to thank them for picking up Jason and Anthony and tell them we were going to the falls to talk. "Not a better place in the world for that," Yong Jin said, then asked if I had read Luke's and Matt's e-mails. I hadn't even thought to check, so she handed me copies of both and I took them to the falls.
While Larry and I read the letters, Jason and Anthony got the picnic ready. As we sat down to eat, Larry said, "It doesn't take much reading between the lines to see that Matt and Luke have their hands full. Both worried about being unfaithful, and Luke has a woman with the hots for him and Matt is sharing a suite with a Luke look-alike and almost-namesake. Wow!"
"Do you think a woman would be tempting to you?" Anthony asked. "I mean you're gay and know you're gay and are very much out."
"You know, at first thought I would say no, but as hard as I tried to deny being gay for so long, I wonder if I might start thinking something like, 'Well, I know I like Eugene and that makes me gay, but am I really? Maybe I need to try being with a woman and see.' But, no, I have never thought about it--don't think I could ever really think about it. Then, when I recall what I did trying to prove I wasn't gay, and if I were separated from Eugene for six weeks and was as horny as hell, I honestly don't know. Don't think I'd follow through, but then I've never had a woman all over me. Then, too, knowing Luke, I'm sure that what he has written is only part of the story. If he says she's after his bod, you can believe she is really after it."
"Matt's a different case--I don't mean about being interested in a woman, but ... Well," I said, "Matt has always worried he would cheat on Luke. As we all know--in the words of Michael--Matt is hot to trot and makes no bones about it--boner yes, bones no. I know one thing, they have talked about being tempted and it sure looks as if someone has taken them at their word."
"Well, let's eat. Nothing we can do about their struggle," Jason said. We dug in while Larry talked about what he had done his first day as a audio/video intern. "You must be proud your video was played at the music conference at Sewanee. Now you get credit for doing it because you can bet it will be talked about all over the country."
"I must confess, I wasn't made to feel humble when I was asked about it by Dr. Camp or by Matt's description of its reception--not at all. Since all the copyright stuff--there was little--was cleared before it was broadcast, the tapes can be sold and Mr. Greentree told me today I have all rights to their sale and can use the duplication equipment at the studio. Now if the people of Sewanee will just get carried away and order tapes...."
"To receive your video, just call the toll-free number at the bottom of your screen. Have your credit card ready and the tape will be rushed to you for not $59.99, not $49.99, but only $39.99. And if you call in the next five minutes, we'll include, absolutely free, a CD of the two original compositions from the concert. But hurry, this offer will not be repeated more than a zillion times!" We were all actually rolling on the ground at Anthony's imitation of all those special TV offers. "Actually, I have a guy in the business who could handle that for you--I don't mean the TV ads, but the orders and shipping, credit card transactions and all. I'll give him a call if you like."
"Sounds good to me. Just in case there are requests, Mr. Greentree showed me how to operate the duplication equipment and we turned out ten copies today."
"Well, you know the fine print at the bottom of those ads: 'Please allow six to eight weeks for delivery'. Looks like we may have something here."
"I don't want to be pushy or prying, but Eugene got on my case about carrying guilt around this morning..." Jason started.
"He would. He's very good at that," Larry said as he smiled, leaned over and kissed me.
"You two seem to be much into kissing," Anthony laughed.
"Recommend it highly," I said. "Actually, it seems to be a major habit among the Fellowship which I, for one, have no intention of breaking!"
"The Fellowship?" Jason asked.
"Another thing you need to know about," I said. "And why I had problems with anger and rage and a whole lot of stuff. Where to start?" Well, for the next couple hours--the sun was setting when we left--we told Jason and Anthony about the Fellowship, how the concert came to be, what was going on this summer--with all that led up to my having to be in Lexington--without really talking about Larry and me. Yea, if you work at it, you can skate past the bad part.
Finally Larry said, "Ok, you can see why Eugene has a problem controlling his anger and rage at times, but it has seldom been focused in the wrong place as Danny's, Jake's and Buddy's has. You need to know about my guilt--which I usually manage to put behind me--because it's why I love Eugene more than I can ever tell him." He then told about how he had raped me trying to prove he wasn't gay.
"Larry, if a man loves you enough to forgive that, you better hang on to him. He's a very special guy. I don't care how much you love him now, it would sure take something to forgive that. I'm not sure I would have been able to forgive Jason. No wonder the two of you are in therapy and, thank God, it's apparently working. It's amazing," Anthony said.
"I'm not sure I would be man enough to ever forgive someone who raped me, Jason added."
"You would if you loved someone as much as I loved Larry and if he had returned that love and made your hellish life complete the way he had made mine," I replied.
"I see what Yong Jin meant about this being a special place for talking. Thanks, Brother, I'll never call you little again," Jason said. "Now I suspect we better get our things together and tuck Mom in or she'll beat our be-hinds!"
We did just that and when Larry and I went to bed, we made beautiful, gentle love. "Eugene," he said as he lay in my arms in the afterglow of perfect love making, "see why I have difficulty with guilt? Anthony, who has been Jason's soulmate for years, says he would have a hard time forgiving that kind of attack from Jason. And, to be honest, I would too--if I ever could. You are special, Gene, my very special soulmate." He kissed me gently--I'm sure glad the Fellowship and, most of all, Larry and I--is into kissing, I love it! Soon we were asleep in each other's arms--after the very unromantic task of setting the alarm clock so Larry could drive to Lexington in the morning. He said he would drive back and forth until I had to go and stay--which, so far as I knew, was still Wednesday. I noticed on the news that the day had been spent selecting a jury and the defense team had said it would have an important announcement Tuesday noon, after the morning session of court recessed.
Well! The announcement got the defense lawyer a dressing down by the judge! He announced that the defense would show that, as a gay man, I had willingly submitted to McBride's advances and that I had been purchased as a "boy sex toy" by a prominent Concord matron for her gay son. The judge was furious. He made it very clear that even if both statements were true, they had nothing to do with the case. "This case is about producing and distributing child pornography," he had fairly shouted when court resumed in the afternoon. "Fortunately you made this statement before the jury has been selected and I will personally question each juror concerning what you have said publicly. Even if Mr. Willingham had submitted to advances, he was underage and could not give consent. And even if he had been purchased as a sex toy in the last year, it would have nothing to do with this case. I ask you why these issues weren't brought up when the defendant was charged with child sexual abuse? Not that it would have made any difference, but it would have, maybe, seemed to have some connection with that case. If you so much as breathe a word like this again to the press, or in this courtroom, I'll hold you in contempt and charge you before the ethics committee. Do you understand me?" The lawyer, it was reported, only nodded.
When Jason saw the news, he called his and Millie's lawyers and asked them to file lawsuits against the lawyer immediately. "Eugene, you have been libeled and I intend to make the bastard pay," he said.
Needless to say, when we went to the hospital Tuesday night, Millie was fit to be tied. "I want that lying bastard to realize he has raised the ire of a mother over her sons."
I packed for a few days' stay in Lexington, and Larry and I planned to get to bed a bit early. He was pretty tired from having to get up and drive to Lexington the last two mornings and not getting to bed until late. When I was packed, I fixed Anthony and Jason a JD and branch, grabbed a couple sodas for me and Larry, and the four of us went upstairs and talked about the events of the day. Jason explained that the defense lawyer had risked making untrue public statements in the hope of swaying a jury and it had backfired. "Millie says all three of us need to file suits and that is being done."
"More time in court," Eugene sighed.
"I doubt it," Anthony said. "If the lawyer is as smart as I think he is--although he was a perfect damn fool in what he did--he'll settle out of court. Anything Millie gets goes to the hospice, and anything Jason might get we have decided goes to a home for abused boys that he and I have been supporting for years. You, of course, will probably want to keep yours."
"Actually, I have scholarships to Oberlin and Millie has settled an allowance on me, so I don't really need it. Damn, I can't believe those words. For years my father gave me as little as possible--and that usually after a beating--and now I have more than I need. But I would like to help take care of my sister." I had to tell Anthony and Jason that story. "And while he'll fuss, I'll take the rest and put it in a fund to help Larry." Larry started to fuss when Anthony asked, "Larry, just how long do you plan to stay with Eugene?"
"At least until I am dead," Larry answered.
"Then you need to realize that his good times and his bad times are yours as well. You'll help him over rough spots with what you have, he happens to have money to help you over one. You're in this thing called life together or you're not." That ended that discussion.
We all finished our drinks and Larry and I had a time in the jacuzzi and then went to bed, snuggled together, and he was asleep in minutes. It took me a while longer to escape into dream time.
Special Place--Part Forty-seven--Michael
If I wondered what I had gotten myself into last night, my wondering was doubled when at 5:30 someone knocked on my cell door. "Praise the Lord, Christ is risen!" a voice outside the door called.
Fortunately, I remembered and responded, "He is risen indeed!" and, under my breath, said, "But I'm not!" I wanted to pull the covers over my head and go back to sleep. After all, I had slept less than six hours and I never got up before God unless I had school or something, and Millie was sure God didn't get up until 10:00. Nonetheless, I dragged myself out of bed, went down the hall to the bathroom and washed my face, brushed my teeth and combed my hair.
I went back to my room, slipped into my cassock and headed for the chapel. I must confess, I was half asleep throughout Mass and heard little that was said. Breakfast was eaten in silence, of course, while a monk read. I didn't hear him either. After breakfast, I returned to my cell, got my toiletries and went to the bathroom to shower and shave. After I lathered my face, I thought better of it and decided I'd not shave while I was here.
I had just dressed when a monk came and said Father Abbot would see me. We talked for an hour. He wanted to know exactly why I had decided to spend a month with monks, what I expected to accomplish while I was with them, that sort of thing. I explained the best I could, admitting my own confusion. At one point he asked, "You say you are considering the priesthood, but not the religious life?" I really didn't know what he meant and said so. "You are not considering becoming a monk."
"Hardly! I'm having enough trouble with the woman I intend to marry without that!"
Father Abbot laughed. "Well, Michael, I think you are a bit young to be talking about marriage."
The "you're too young" song and dance had gotten old, very old, and I told Father Abbot so--in no uncertain terms. "I see you have a bit of a temper," he said.
"Only when things I hold sacred are trampled on," I responded, still hot under the collar. "And this 'you're too young' bit tramples on a love and a commitment I hold very sacred."
"Sorry, I didn't mean to offend, but you are talking about a life-long commitment and you're only sixteen. I am over four times as old as you and know that things look very different at 65 than at 16."
"I find it interesting that you are perfectly willing to have me spend a month considering whether or not to become a priest and think that's perfectly all right--and I think I am correct that becoming a priest involves a life-time commitment--but a decision about marriage is out of the question because I'm too young."
The Abbot laughed and said, "You nailed me on that one! I think we'll have an interesting month together. Well, about your stay here. You know the drill, right?" I nodded. "Then I needn't go into it. Our life revolves around work, study and prayer. The times of corporate prayer--services--you already know. You have time for private prayer..."
"I'm not sure I know how you want me to pray," I said. "I have never been one to do the 'kneel beside your bed' kind of praying, if you know what I mean."
"I think I do. You pray any way you find fits. I was never one to put much stock in teaching people how to pray. For me, it's just kind of natural and I think it is for most people, even those who don't think they are praying. I once knew a Methodist cleric who said all of life is about meditation, contemplation and prayer. Now his definitions of those were not what you'd find in a book on spirituality or what you'd hear from most monks. But I think he was right."
"Contemplation, for him, answered the question, 'Who am I?' I suspect that's one of the things you'll be sorting out while you are here. I hope it is. As you answer that question--it's the hardest and the one which has a different answer just about every day unless you are dead, and I'm not talking about in-the-grave dead but walking-around dead--you are faced with 'What do I?' Call it lifestyle if you find that helpful. That's doing. If I am who I am, what do I do? You still with me?"
"I think so."
"Well, before you do, you do a lot of praying--I don't mean the usual. You think and evaluate and think again about how you do what you are; how you be an authentic person. That's prayer. And in that thinking and evaluating and struggling with how you be an authentic person, you just naturally express gratitude and repentance. Just naturally. I'm convinced that the religious person is concerned with only one thing and that is how to be fully, authentically human. Earning heaven and avoiding hell is, for me at least, a matter of no concern whatsoever. I don't even care if they exist or not. I just want to be the most fully human, most authentic, person I can be. Make sense?"
"Yea. It's about what Matt does before he goes to sleep--he thinks over the day, giving thanks for all the things which have made his life full, and expressing sorrow for all the things he has done or left undone which have made it less full and for the times he has hurt others. Yea, it makes sense. I like that."
"Well, if you'd like to work with someone who does believe in a more formal approach, I'll arrange it."
"Not where I think I need to spend time."
"Where do you think you need to spend time?"
"Can I be honest?"
"Well, you'll do no good spending time here unless you are."
"Not long ago I asked my brother if he thought I was a religious person. We talked about that and he finally said, 'No, I don't think you are a religious person. Are you a spirit man? Definitely.' Well, what he said made a lot of sense. I think at this point, that's where I'm stuck in deciding about the priesthood. I mean, if a priest has to be a religious person, then I may as well go home now. If it requires a spirit person, then I have to struggle with whether or not that's how I want to be a spirit man."
"Not a spiritual man?"
"Not if being spiritual means living outside the real world." I smiled and said, "I think I'm right that some Jewish guy said something about living in the world, but not being of it. That's what I think I am about and need to understand."
"I understand. And when you think about being a spirit man, you can forget I used the term religious person because when I use it I mean what you call a spirit man. I like that. Are you sure you're just sixteen?" the Abbot asked and, when I looked up, he had a smile on his face and that made me smile. "Michael, I think you're going to be a breath of fresh air around here this month. Brother Gregory will take you in tow and show you the ropes, but I want to spend time with you. Right now it's time to do morning work and I think you have been assigned to the kitchen for the present. When you get back to your cell, I want you to do some writing--whatever you wish and need to write, but also write out what you would call your spirit journey. Start where you wish and end with your decision to come here. No one will read it--unless you ask--but I want you to put it on paper so it will be fresh in your mind. Beginning tomorrow, we'll spend an hour a day together and you tell me about your spirit journey."
"Thanks, Father," I said as I stood.
"That's why I'm here," he said as he laid a hand on my head. "Michael, you're special. I hope you know that and I wish I could say your time on earth will be easy, but I'm afraid not. But, my son, you will lead an exciting life."
I found the structure and schedule of the abbey comforting. I didn't have to worry about anything, which freed my mind and my spirit to think and search. My sessions with the Abbot started with me talking about my life--the first session I just talked, but then asked that he read what I had written before I came to see him so he'd better understand me and my struggle. We talked about everything--my mother's illness and death, Luke's attempted suicide, discovering Mary Kathryn loved me, the books Fr. Tom had suggested I read--everything. I worked in the kitchen and in the garden, loved the services and spent a lot of time thinking and, in my version, praying.
Toward the end of the second week, I was talking with the Abbot about my relationship with Mary Kathryn, and before I knew it I had told him about our love-making and the difficulty we had not crossing the line we had, to that point, set for ourselves. "Doesn't sound very priestly, does it?"
"Michael, a man I loved and respected very much is now, I fear, a neglected theologian. He died at an early age--45--and because what he wrote was controversial, it was just ignored after his death. Too many people--and far too many priests--think theology is something you learn, that it's all in books. You know some of those books, Fr. Tom had you reading them--and you do need to know the thinking of the church in the past--but theology is living and breathing or it kills. Anyway, Terry was a great theologian. Since he often wrote about sex, a little old lady came up to him once and said, 'Father, I think you are a dirty old man!' and--this is true--whopped him with her umbrella. He looked her straight in the eye and said, 'Madam, every theologian is a dirty old man, even if she's a young woman!' His point, as I am sure you know, was that theology had to deal with the nitty-gritty issues of human life. So your lustiness sounds as though you have made a start toward becoming a theologian. And, as an aside, I guess I just took away another excuse for why you should not consider the priesthood."
I wrote the Fellowship every third day what was going on in some detail--what I was doing, but mostly what I was thinking. Of course, I wrote Mary Kathryn a special letter each time, telling her how I missed and loved her. I had written her about the Abbot's talking about prayer, and the definition of a theologian as a dirty old man.
I was well into the third week when I lay on my bed--it didn't seem as hard any more--thinking about my time at the Abbey when I realized the question of going into the priesthood had not been raised by the Abbot, and I hadn't given it any thought after our first conversation. Interesting!
A Special Place--Part Forty-seven--Matt
I got up before Lucas and showered, and was sitting in my room braiding my hair when he came from the bathroom, a towel around his neck and nothing else. I took one look and said to myself, "He's definitely not Luke." Luke was absolutely smooth and this guy was covered with blond hair--I was to learn to hate it because he never cleaned the shower and shed like a dog.
"Last night was great," he said, standing in the door. "You sure put some old farts on alert as to what they have to do."
"I had nothing to do with it," I answered. "I was as surprised as you."
He was looking around the room and spotted the picture by my bed, walked over and picked it up. "Interesting photo. Who's the guy?"
"Luke, my best friend," I responded.
"Great picture he's standing beside. He must think you're special."
"I hope so. He's special."
Lucas raised an eyebrow, but I said nothing more. "Well, I better get dressed if we are to make breakfast."
"Getting dressed might be a good idea. It's Sewanee you know," I said and laughed.
After breakfast, we had a gathering to talk about what we wanted to do during the program. There were many offerings and we were told that, so long as the leaders were willing to hold one, there was no minimum number for a workshop. As I was looking over the offerings, Dr. Camp came by and said, "Matt, Woody would like to talk with you about what he thinks you should do, kinda be your mentor since you are new to the program".
I walked across the room to where Mr. Woods was seated. "Good morning, Mr. Woods," I said.
"Please call me Woody. I know I'm one of the old farts, but I'd like for us just to be friends. Equals, although at my best I was never your equal as an organist. I told Edward I'd like to take you under my wing if you are willing. I think I can help you get the maximum out of the program, but what did you have in mind?"
I told him I expected just to have organ lessons and hadn't realized there were other possibilities.
"Why do you think you need lessons?" he asked.
"Mainly I need someone who can help me with my footwork. I am not satisfied with it. Also, now that I see they are available, I'd like to get into one of the composition workshops. I know I have a very long way to go there."
"Pretty weak there, too."
"I'd like you to do a workshop dealing with church music--especially one dealing with some new thinking about liturgical music--playing, looking at some of the newer stuff and composing."
"Wow! I hadn't expected so much--so many possibilities I mean." We looked over the offered workshops and laid out a plan for the four weeks. We also picked out other options should a workshop not be given. With Woody's help, I had my plan done long before the others and got what I wanted--four sessions: organ lessons, composition, improvisation, and organ history and building. Since we were finished, we sat and talked. I asked Woody about his career.
"I'm a priest," he said. "When I was ordained, a large parish took me on as an assistant with the understanding I would also serve part-time as an organist. They had an organist who wanted to be part-time as well so it worked out fine. I preached and celebrated every other week and was organist on the other Sundays. I was wearing two hats and loved it. I met and married a wonderful woman while I was in that parish and we stayed for six years after we were married. We expected to start our family there, but that was not to be--there or anywhere else."
"In my new position, I was rector of a middle-sized parish--like St. Mary's I guess--and the organ went by the wayside. Although when I had had it with some bull going on in the parish, I'd go into the church and play. I also played every chance I got, but it was not often enough. I really missed the organ and longed for another position like my first but once you've been a rector, places assume there's something wrong with you if you want to be an assistant. In the meantime, Alexandria, my wife, decided she would study for the priesthood and, when she was ordained, we found a parish in Ohio that was happy to have a priest and organist package. Didn't learn to like the weather, loved the parish. I took on students and, when I was asked to supply in parishes, always had someone good enough to play for a service or two. It was an ideal situation."
"We were there for ten wonderful years then Alexandria became very ill. I had an opportunity to take early retirement and did, because we knew she wouldn't live very long. Got a motor home and traveled, stopping when she needed to. A year after we started our trip, I found her dead beside me when I woke up one morning. I moped around awhile and then realized I was wasting precious life, and looked around for something to do. Found a small parish which was about to close because it didn't have a priest or money to pay one. I took it on for use of the rectory. Been there ever since. Am here for the summer program while a priest who wants a break takes over the parish, play when I get a chance, and hold down the parish with the help of the laity. Also have students still. They play for most of the services but, if not, I priest awhile and play awhile. Kinda one man band. Still hate Ohio winters, but being near Oberlin for concerts helps make up for it."
"You're near Oberlin?" I asked excitedly. "I'll be there next year. In fact Paula and Eugene are going as well. Two of our other friends are going also." I then told Woody about how we got the scholarships without explaining all the details. In other words, I didn't explain the relationships among the five.
"I'll keep that in mind. Think I might find a place for you to play if you're interested. Maybe a place for the other two as well. Well, back to your program. I just thought of something. I've got you signed up for an excellent teacher so far as your footwork is concerned, but I'd like to spend some time with you while you practice. He can show you things I can't because of my damn gimpy leg, but I can observe and correct while you're practicing. I mean, if you'd like.
"I'd appreciate it, Woody," I said and I meant it.
When all the plans were turned in, it was lunch time and we were told the committee would go over them and have any changes ready by 2:00--but since mine were turned in early, they were already approved. "Meet back here then and we'll get started."
Lucas and an older fellow joined us for lunch. "Matt, like you to meet Stinky Mason," Woody said. "Stinky and I were students together at St. Luke's--as the seminary was called back in the Dark Ages."
"Matt, glad to meet you. See old Woody grabbed you right off the bat. Hoped I might get a chance at corrupting you."
"Stinky is the best foot man in the organ business," Woody laughed. "Unfortunately, his hand work leaves a lot to be desired. Actually, to be honest, Stinky, I signed him up to work with you because he wanted help with his feet. Told him you were the best and I'd coach him at practice."
"You've got the best," Lucas said. "Stinky is the best man I know at teaching the pedal clavier and Woody is a damn hard taskmaster. If you learn nothing else these four weeks, you'll be able to dance on the pedals."
"What else did you get him into, Woody?" Stinky asked. He insisted I call him Stinky and, when I said it made me feel disrespectful, he laughed and said that was my problem, not his.
We talked about what Woody and I had decided and Lucas said, "Hey, the kid came here to have fun. You guys intend to work him all the time."
"If he can't find a way to have fun in spite of us, I guess he's not really a Sewanee man," Stinky laughed. "What does next year look like, Matt?" he asked.
I again repeated the story of how I ended up at Oberlin and Stinky kept nodding. "And the two we saw conducting last night will be there?"
I assured him they would be. "Along with my best friend who is an artist and another who is studying mass communications, the one responsible for the tape sprung on me last night," I added.
"I wondered if you really didn't know about that," Stinky said.
After lunch, I went to the workshop on composition. It was not easy as I was just about completely self-taught and what was being worked on and discussed was not something I knew. I caught on fairly quickly but knew this was going to require real work. The same was true of the second afternoon session, liturgical music. I had played most of what was talked about but never really thought about it much beyond that.
When the session ended, it was nearly five and dinner was at seven each evening. I started walking back toward the dorm when I heard Lucas call, "Hold up, Matt". When he caught up with me, he asked about the sessions and I told him they were not going to be easy. "Sure they will. It'll just take a bit of time. You swim?" I nodded and he said, "Great. Pool or lake?" I told him river and he asked if I'd like to take a short trip to where he knew a great place to swim--"You'll love it if you love swimming in rivers," he said. "Grab a towel--you skinny dip?" Again I nodded and, as we were coming out of the dorm, he said, "You have a Jeep, right?" I indicated I did and he suggested we take it.
Sewanee sits atop what is fondly called "God's Holy Mountain". It's not like the mountains I knew at home, but a plateau. The top where the university sits is flat, but go in any direction and soon you encounter a cliff several hundred feet above the valley floor. We drove down a paved road which became a gravel road and then a narrow dirt road. I could see why Lucas suggested the Jeep. When I thought the road could get no worse, Lucas indicated a barely visible trail and we drove down it--slowly--for half a mile. We had been descending the entire way and when he said, "Ok, we stop here," I could see, through the trees, a broad valley stretching out before us and could hear a waterfall.
We walked a few hundred feet, following a trail barely wide enough for one person, then suddenly walked into a clearing by a waterfall. It was not as beautiful as THE falls but it was nice, and there was a small basin the water spilled into from the falls. "This is it," Lucas said. "Not too many people know about it. My best friend showed it to me when I came up to visit him when he was a student in the college. Well, last one in's a rotten egg!" We both stripped and I was about to dive in when Lucas yelled, "Stop! No diving. There are rocks on the bottom and you don't want a broken neck." We waded in. The water was a lot colder than I expected and, when I commented on it, Lucas told me it came from a cave on the side of the mountain above us. It was cold and so refreshing it reminded me of all the good times I had had at THE falls.
After half an hour or so, Lucas was completely blue. "You're looking like a Druid, all blue," I laughed. "You blonds get like that. I've seen Luke so blue I wondered if he'd live." I shouldn't have said that because I suddenly had that awful image of Luke after I had dragged him to the waiting hands of the EMS.
I sat silent for a while and, finally, Lucas said, "You have the strangest, pained look on your face. Something wrong?"
"Just an unpleasant memory which popped up unexpectedly. I'll be ok."
We had waded out of the water and were sitting on the bank when I said that. Lucas reached out and put his arm around my shoulder. "Want to talk about it?"
I shook my head and then after second thoughts said, "Alright," and told him about Luke's attempted suicide--but not the reason. Thank goodness, he didn't ask.
"This Luke is very important to you," he mused.
"Yea, he's my brother."
"Well, yes and no." I then told him about the families and how we all looked at ourselves as a family.
"So you have two brothers and a sister and three mothers and three fathers. WOW!"
He kept encouraging me until I had told him the story of the families and what the kids were doing this summer. When I finished, he picked up his watch and said, "We better get a move on or we'll miss dinner."
"Thanks for a wonderful afternoon, Lucas," I said after we were in the Jeep and headed back up the mountain.
At dinner, Woody and Stinky joined us again. We were in a smaller dining room than last night and the tables only seated four. "Lucas show you a good time this afternoon?" Stinky asked.
"Sure did. We drove down the mountain to..."
"To the river, I bet," Woody finished my sentence. "That's where Stinky got his name. We ditched class one afternoon and walked down there. I had been told about it by a friend who had finished Sewanee the year before. As we were walking back, Stinky encountered a black and white pussy cat and got too close. Took a week before anyone wanted to be around him. Finally a professor told him tomato juice would get rid of the skunk scent. It at least helped. I'm sure the college store thought we were having a tremendous Bloody Mary party!" Both men were dying laughing. "It's a beautiful spot. Few people know about it and I haven't been in years. Can't handle the walk down the mountain."
"I have a Jeep so we drove to within a few hundred feet or so. Think you could handle that?"
"Sure would like to try."
"First chance we get to go back, you're on!"
After dinner, Stinky asked if I would like to play some for him. "Want to see just how bad you really are," he said. Soon Woody, Stinky and I were in All Saints Chapel. It was huge compared to St. Mary's, and I expected some organ. Man was I ever disappointed. After playing for a few minutes I said to Stinky, "This organ sucks!"
"You are not the first to say that. It's a good organ, but the heat means it is out of tune most of the time in the summer. Don't know why they haven't gotten around to air-conditioning the place--if not for the people, at least for the organ. Doesn't make sense."
After I had played awhile, Woody said, "Matt, you are an organ whore. Know what that is?" I shook my head. "An organ whore is someone who can't keep his knees together. When you reach for the end of the pedals, you spread your knees."
"My organ teacher started by tying my knees together," Stinky said, "but when he released them again, apart they came. When I was twelve or thirteen, he'd place a dollar bill between my knees. If I finished a lesson and still had the bill, it was mine. There was an ice cream parlor on the way home and I loved chocolate malts, so I'd hang on to that bill and get my malted. Don't know what we can do for you, but we'll work on it."
When I walked back to the dorm, Lucas was in our common room watching some movie which he stopped when I came in. "You brought a VCR?" I asked.
"I'm a movie nut. Where I go, the VCR goes," he said. "Wanta watch? It's hot!"
"Thanks, I don't think so. I need to write some e-mails and work on composition before I go to bed." When I finished the e-mails telling everyone about my day, I reviewed my notes from the liturgical music group and the those from composition. I also had some exercises in composition to do.
I was so involved in what I was doing that I didn't know when Lucas came down the hall and stopped at my open door. "Hi, how's it going?" he asked.
"Oh, sorry, didn't know you were there. Not easy, but it's starting to make sense. Come in."
Lucas walked in and asked, "Can I take a close look at that photograph again?"
"Sure." He looked at the photo and then at me several times and finally said, "Great painting. Good-looking brother you have too." Then he asked, "Want to take a break for a cold one?"
"If it's Coke," I said. "I'm not into beer, at least not yet." I stood up, stretched and followed him to the common room. He got a beer and a Coke out of the frig and we sat down.
"Tell me about that photo. It's fascinating." I told Lucas about the exhibition and that Luke was inspired to do the painting when he saw my hair blowing in the wind as we came from the falls one day. He didn't ask any more questions about it, but did ask, "Was all the exhibition as good as this painting?"
"I guess that is in the eye of the beholder," I laughed. "One piece, a montage Luke thought was nothing, sold for a hefty price but, basically, it was all as good as the painting, I think, but I'm prejudiced. He is my brother and best friend."
"I sure would like to have seen it," Lucas said.
"Maybe I have the second best thing. I have a video of the exhibition with Michael and Mary Kathryn, another brother and my sister, as docents. Maybe we can watch it one night, but tonight I'm ready to hit the sack."
I had forgotten our conversation until Thursday, when Stinky and Woody agreed to go to the river with us. After swimming until we were half-frozen, we were all four sitting on the bank in our altogether when Lucas said, "Stinky, Woody, this kid is from a really great family. Talented as shit too. Tell them about the family, Matt."
I did and, when I finished, Lucas said, "He has a brother--well, not his blood brother--who is an artist. Matt has a photo of him and a painting of Matt he did in his room that is a knockout. Tells me he has a video of an exhibition that was held at the same time as the concert. His other brother and sister are the docents. You old codgers interested?"
"Sure," Woody answered immediately. "How about we bring a couple bottles of good wine up tomorrow night and have a look?"
"Think Dr. Camp would be interested?" I asked. "He should have to sit through another video after making you all sit through one."
"Call him Edward," Stinky said, "but never Ed. He hates that. Actually, he's more into art than either of us--not that I'm not interested, but he will just eat it up. You want to ask him?"
"In that case, Woody, better make it three bottles of the good stuff."
"Not so long as I have JD," Lucas laughed.
"Well, you're right about that," Stinky said. "Friday night after dinner at your common room."
"Why not use the big screen?" Woody asked. "It'll not be in use Friday night--you can depend on it. There'll be parties all over the place."
"Suits me. I'll make arrangements for that," Stinky responded.
After dinner, Lucas started another movie and I hit the desk to do my work. I was working as hard or harder than I had ever done in school and was loving every minute of it--except when I got stuck and got frustrated, which I was at the moment. I yelled for Lucas, who came running, I suspect thinking I was being attacked or something. When I showed him what I was doing, he laughed and said, "Matt, I couldn't compose a variation on 'Mary Had a Little Lamb'. You passed me composing when you were still in diapers, I'm sure. Why don't you hang it up for the night? The world will continue spinning."
He was right, and I smiled and said, "Thanks for reminding me". I went to the frig and got a Coke and brought him another beer. His movie was just over and, as it finished, he asked about the family again. I went to the room and brought back a small photo album I had put together for the summer. We looked at the pictures and talked for an hour or so. When we had finished, he said, "Four good-looking kids. I mean all four of you are knockouts, and that Mary Kathryn is a real beauty. Bet she has boys all over her."
I smiled and said, "Only one. She's not called wild woman for nothing. Not only can she put most men in the dirt--and has done so to several--but they would also have to deal with Michael and few want to take him on. Gentle as a lamb except when it comes to fighting injustice and protecting his wild woman."
"They're a pair?"
"Last time I heard. They are having a real struggle right now. Michael is giving serious thought to becoming a priest and she wants no part of it. Of course he says he'll never leave her for any reason and she would probably never leave him, but it's a struggle."
"And they're only sixteen?"
"Just barely, but you'd never know it listening to them talk. Theirs is definitely not just highschool puppy love." I turned the page and said, "And here's the rest of the gang--The Fellowship of the Rings. You saw Paula and Eugene. That's Larry who did the video. That's Jacob. He and Paula are an item now. This is Bill and Linda. They are in church camp this week along with Mary Kathryn. Michael is in a Benedictine monastery testing his vocation. Larry's doing an internship with the PBS station in Lexington where Jacob is doing construction work this summer. Paula's doing music in a camp for Jewish children with problems. Eugene's involved in a court case as a witness. We're scattered all over the place. And, of course, Luke. Luke's in Sarasota at the Ringling School of Art."
"The Fellowship of the Rings?" Lucas looked puzzled so I told him about how the Fellowship came to be, except I just said some posters were vandalized. Then he said, "Seems you good-looking guys can't attract women. Seems a bit lopsided in that department."
"I guess we're all just so close that's never seemed to be a problem." The answer seemed to satisfy him. "Well, I'm off to bed. Just about exhausted myself fretting over those composition exercises. Goodnight."
"Goodnight, see you in the morning."
The week which followed had pretty much the same pattern as the previous one. Sessions in the morning and afternoon and then Lucas and I--sometimes with Woody and Stinky--would do something before dinner. One day we tried all the organs we could find, another we drove down the mountain to pick up some things we needed, but mostly just to get away. We swam. After dinner, I worked. I really worked on composition. Lucas kept telling me this was just a summer program and I needed to have fun. In a strange way, wrestling with composition was fun, but I never convinced him.
Wednesday of the first week, I had begun to have thoughts that Lucas was gay. Thursday morning he came into the bathroom as I finished showering and, while he was pissing, said, "Nice set of equipment you have there. Uncut too. You said that and your hair was because of your father?" I told him Dad was Lakota and wouldn't cut his hair except to trim the ends when they needed it, and refused to allow me to be circumcised. "Good dad," he had said, then added, "You must drive the girls wild." I just gave him a wicked grin and went to my room.
It didn't matter to me whether Lucas was gay or not, except by Thursday I was missing Luke like crazy and the lust meter was registering pretty near full. I had had a wet dream the night before, one of several I had had if the truth be known, and that in spite of the fact that I had gotten myself off a few times. I learned right away that having had Luke's hand on my man's tool, my own was a piss-poor second best, but it was all I had.
Friday morning Lucas said he was going home to Nashville for the weekend. "I'm leaving early tomorrow morning. My roommate and I are going to party! Of course, I have to play Sunday, but that's no big deal. I've gotten in more practice here than I probably would have at home. Want to come? I promise you a good time."
"Sounds good," I said but, by the time I got back to the room, I was having second thoughts. What if I had gotten in over my head?
After dinner Friday night, we went into the room where the opening dinner had been held. Woody had said at dinner he had invited a bunch of people to see the video of Luke's exhibition. "Hope you don't mind."
"Of course not," I had said, "but I don't expect anyone else to show up". I was proven wrong because there were twenty or thirty people in the room when we entered.
Man, the big screen made a huge difference! Everyone was life-size and the sound was perfect. I almost forgot where I was as I watched. Michael and Mary Kathryn were superb. Of course I had thought that before, but I was impressed all over again with the job they did. When Michael started the interview with Luke, I could hardly stand to watch but, at the same time, couldn't take my eyes off my Yonghon Tongmu. I missed him so much!
When the tape had finished, people were asking all sorts of questions of Woody and he finally said, "You know just about as much as I know. The exhibition was held in conjunction with Matt's concert you heard Monday night. Matt, would you answer questions?"
"Sure, if I can."
The first question I had anticipated: "Tell us about the artist and the young man and woman who were docents."
"They are my brothers and sister. Well, not blood kin, but our three families are so close we called ourselves the family and consider ourselves brothers and sister. The woman is Mary Kathryn Larsen, the artist's--Luke Larsen's--sister. The man is Michael Andrews. And don't get your hopes up, ladies. He belongs to Mary Kathryn and a mother tiger is tame compared to wild woman."
One older woman laughed and said, "I can surely see why".
There were few other questions because Michael and Mary Kathryn had done such a great job. Finally a man asked, "What happened to the works not designated. I heard that the sculpture was given to a hospice hospitality house and some of the others were given to individuals, but what of the rest?"
"Most were sold. Michael's uncle, Michael Sanders, is Luke's agent. I might add, the montage which we all thought was just a fun project, fetched a handsome sum."
"How about that fantastic painting of you as an Indian? I'd love to get my hands on that," a lady said.
"Well, first off, it was not entirely me AS an Indian. I am, at least half. My dad is Lakota. Mom, by the way, is half Korean and half American. But the painting was not for sale. However, when the school went to the exhibition the day following its official opening, it was slashed. In an attempt to defend it and the artist from attack, Michael was also slashed and was given up for dead at one point. He did recover and the painting was shipped to New York and restored. It is back with the artist." There were a few more questions and, when it was over, Woody handed me the tape and said, "Like to come to my apartment for a nightcap? I have the wine we didn't have since we came here."
Lucas, Stinky, Edward and I went to Woody's apartment--he had a really nice one--and he fixed a JD and branch for Edward, then broke open the wine. Just after he had handed us our glasses, the phone rang. He listened for a few minutes and said, "Think that's no problem". He turned toward me and asked, "Matt, got anything against an electronic organ?"
"That all depends on the organ," I replied.
Woody talked into the phone, then turned and said, "A Rodgers 950".
"That's like mine. No problems with that."
"Problem solved, Bruce. Probably won't be "Sheep" either. He hung up the phone and said, "Sorry to ruin your party weekend, Matt, but you're playing in Chattanooga Sunday."
"In that case, I better run," Lucas said. "I'm leaving early in the morning 'cause I've been away way too long. Night all."
The rest of us continued drinking and talking. Actually, I did most of the talking and little of the drinking. It seemed the three wanted to know all there was to know about me. They were very interested in the painting slashing and I managed to get through that without ever saying why it had been slashed. Fortunately they were more interested in the whole shaman thing.
Saturday, I slept in and didn't even know when Lucas left. When I had gotten up and dressed, I went to hunt food since breakfast was long passed. When I got back, I wrote a super-long general e-mail about the events of the week and a long one to my Luke. I started to mention that I thought I had a gay suite mate, but decided since I wasn't sure, I wouldn't worry Luke, then changed my mind and did write him of my suspicions. He had a right to know, I thought. I had e-mails from all the Fellowship which I read, and then wrote some individual replies before lunch. Well, actually, I got so busy reading and writing e-mail that I missed lunch as I had breakfast, so I went to the student center and grabbed a snack. When I finished it was after two and I still had to find the organ Woody told me I could use for practice. I found it and practiced for two hours.
Woody had given me the hymns and service music numbers for Sunday and we had selected three pieces for prelude, offertory and postlude. All were familiar, but no "Sheep". When I felt I could handle Sunday, I took a break and walked around the campus a bit, then returned to the organ and started playing the transcription for organ of "Yonghon Tongmu" I had been working on for one of the workshops. I wanted to hear how it sounded. I was so absorbed in what I was doing I didn't hear Woody walk up behind me. I only became aware of him when he started singing "More".
"Beautiful love song," he said when I turned around.
"It's the family theme song," I responded.
He looked at the music on the organ and said, "I see you're taking your time here seriously".
"And I'm loving it."
"Well, it's almost seven and I thought you might like to see another special place here on God's Holy Mountain. If you'll drive, I'll provide the food and drink," he said, showing me a picnic basket.
We drove to a place, pretty remote, where you could sit on the edge of a cliff and overlook the valley below. "Want you to see the sunset from here," Woody said as he unpacked the basket. I told him about Lookout Rock and how you could see both the sunrise and sunset from it.
We had a leisurely meal and talked of many things. Finally Woody asked, "Matt, tell me more about the concert and exhibition--how did it all come about?
I explained that the spring concerts had been canceled and I was obligated to do a recital as my grade for an independent study and asked about the chorus and ensemble joining me.
"Seems to me that was very generous. You could have done the recital and gotten a great ego boost for a good one-man show."
"But look what an ego boost we all got! Actually, I just wanted to help friends who were being deprived of an opportunity to perform--and perform they did!"
"Couldn't agree more. But how did the exhibition come about? I don't see the connection."
"Woody, you're a friend and a priest so I guess I need to tell you the whole story." I told him about Luke's suicide attempt, and why, and all the whole story."
"So you're gay and you and Luke are lovers. I wondered about that when I saw your face while you were watching the video. And that painting didn't look as if someone was inspired just by hair blowing in the wind. So what is your relationship?"
I told Woody about our promise to wait, and how we had finally been physically united. "Our relationship is until we are parted by death. We are having a commitment ceremony when we think the time is right. Right now we are separated and I am worried about being unfaithful. It just keeps gnawing at me because I am always ready, if you know what I mean."
Woody laughed and said, "I think I can remember that far back." He then fell silent and we both just sat, deep in our own thoughts. Finally he said, "Matt, do you know that Lucas is gay?"
"No, I didn't know, but I have been wondering because of some remarks he has made."
"I don't want you to get me wrong here. I took Lucas under my wing when he came here the first time, as I have you. I like him a whole lot. He's a good organist, sharp, and a fun person. As I said, I like him a lot. But I have a real problem with his lifestyle and he knows it."
"You mean his being gay?" I felt my defenses rising.
"No, I don't mean his being gay. Being gay is a part of who he is, just as being gay is a part of who you are. Being gay is not a lifestyle, it's how you live as a gay man that is your lifestyle. Lucas is a playboy. He loves sex and his motto is 'Variety is the spice of life'. He had a narrow escape a little over a year ago when he took up with a new partner. They had been together a month or two when he told Lucas he was HIV%2B. Lucas was scared shitless. Fortunately, since he enjoys variety, he does use condoms but, as he said, a couple nights before his partner told Lucas he was HIV%2B, he had insisted on going 'bareback riding'. Lucas phoned me in Ohio in tears and, as I said, very frightened. Fortunately, when he was tested several months later, he was not positive. That taught him one lesson, but it has not taught him anything else. I know from talking with him that as soon as a partner starts talking about commitment and a long-term monogamous relationship, Lucas skips. He went home today to a new roommate he has been with for a couple months. I think six months with the same guy is his record. And even then he is much into variety and insists on an open relationship. Again, I like the guy and only wish the best for him, but I want you to be warned. He is very seductive, charming, and a playboy. If you were going to be tempted to be unfaithful, you couldn't have been put in a better situation for you to yield. Besides, he sheds like a dog, I am told, and never cleans the shower!" Woody laughed.
"Thanks, Woody. When he invited me to go to Nashville with him this weekend, I got a very strange feeling after I agreed. Glad I didn't go. But as you said, I like him too. It's just that he will have to understand that I am into commitment--very, very much into commitment--but, man, I do get horny."
"You're eighteen, Matt."
When we had finished that conversation, the sunset had started and got more and more beautiful. Both of us just sat in silence enjoying it. At one point I sighed and Woody said, "Wish Luke were here? I wish Alexandria was here. Separation is the pits regardless of its length." When the last rays of the sun disappeared, we went back to the campus and, after I showered, I slipped into bed and dreamed of sharing the sunset with Luke when we were as old as Woody.