ASP--The Oberlin Five--Chapter Six--Matt
I couldn't understand why I was as tense and angry as I was over the incident at Waterside. I knew that my love for Luke and his for me was seen as wrong, even wicked, by some, but it was more than that. I think the fact that our being gay was seen as reason by some to abuse us, not only verbally but also physically, was just more than I could take. From the time we were arrested until Luke and I went to bed, I was holding in a lot of stuff--anger, rage and fear. I had been holding it so long my body reacted. As I slipped into bed with Luke, I tried to relax, but couldn't. Instead, I was so tense I started trembling and, needless to say, Luke sensed it at once and did something about it.
He left the room without an explanation and when he brought the bottle of warm massage oil into the room I knew he had realized how tense I was. As he started massaging my body, I could feel his strong, gentle hands and fingers moving over muscles tight with tension and anger. As he continued to massage my back, I could feel myself and my muscles gradually relaxing. He turned me over gently and started massaging my neck and chest. I expected to have the session end with me massaging Luke and then us making mad, passionate love. Instead, as I relaxed, I drifted off to sleep. One minute I was conscious of Luke's presence and his fingers on my body, and the next I was in dreamland.
Luke's massage worked wonders, because my sleep was peaceful. I was, again, conscious of Luke's comforting presence, even in my sleep, and it made me feel safe and secure.
For some reason, I woke up as the clouds over the lake were just being colored by the fingers of dawn. The dawning light cast a rosy glow through the widows and on our bed. I rose up on an elbow and looked at Luke lying beside me. His hair was very long but still curled tightly, so it was just a crown of light gold covering his head. In spite of his time at Sarasota and outdoors here, his skin was still very fair, not ghostly pale but fair, radiating life. His blue, blue eyes were closed and his long eyelashes resting on his cheeks were blond like his hair. When the sun or room light would catch them, they were enough to make you catch your breath they were so striking.
The sheet covered Luke's body but, as I watched, he stretched out a leg, pulling the sheet to his waist--revealing his hard, sculptured, smooth chest which rose and fell in a slow rhythm. I couldn't resist, so I leaned over him and kissed a nipple. As I did, Luke opened his eyes, smiled and said, "Good morning, Dark Angel. Sleep well?"
"Sure did, thanks to you, Bright Angel."
"How about we take a piss then play around a little?"
Having taken care of the urgent business, we got rid of dragon mouth and Luke then took me into his arms and brought his lips to mine for a sensational Luke kiss. His tongue invaded my mouth, bringing with it a mint-flavored taste of Luke. Our kiss became more and more passionate and, without breaking it, Luke lifted me off my feet and took me back to our bed. As he lay me down, his body covered mine. He half-raised himself, looked into my eyes and smiled, "Babe, I am so glad you are happy this morning. I was worried about you last night."
His words brought back some of my feeling of anger and hurt. "Luke, I just can't get over the hatred some people have for us simply because we love each other." My romantic mood was gone in an instant. "How could the love we share be wicked or wrong? How could anyone think it is anything but pure love for each other?"
"Matt," Luke said, and I could see the pain in his eyes, "people who don't understand us are ok. There are a lot of things about some people I don't understand, but don't condemn. But people who hate us or would hurt us because we love, are beyond me. What business is it of theirs? What are they afraid of?"
Luke and I talked quietly for half an hour I guess, solving nothing, but it gave me time to get over my rage. Luke was holding me as I felt the last of my anger drain away, at least for the time being. But I had certainly done a good job of killing a romantic moment. Luke finally said, "Babe, I think it might help for us to run for a while. Then, maybe, we can start where we left off?" He gave me a wicked Luke smile and I melted.
"Ok, sounds reasonable, I guess." The sun was just above the horizon as we hit the beach. We ran, flat out, for a couple miles. On the way back, we ran a bit slower and finally slowed to a brisk walk, slow enough so we could hold hands. Occasionally, Luke pulled me to himself for a quick kiss, so our walking became slower and slower as we approached our place.
When we reached the house, I started toward the outdoor shower but Luke pulled me back, pressed his lips to mine and, as he broke the kiss, said, "No, I want the good clean smell of a sweaty Matt in bed with me". When we walked inside, no-one was in evidence downstairs. From the hall upstairs, we could hear both showers as Luke, again, swept me into his arms, walked into our room, kicked the door closed and put me on the bed.
This time there was no holding back, no ruining the moment as I pulled Luke onto the bed and covered his body with mine. My hair, which I had left free for the run, cascaded over us, shutting out the world which would deny our love or call it wrong. Our kisses became more and more passionate until I was breathing through Luke's mouth, drawing into myself the very breath of my love.
Minutes later, I was united with Luke, bound not only physically, but also by his great love for me. Long before I wanted, I gave Luke my final offering which he knew carried with it my love as well.
I lay atop Luke, my face cradled in the curve of his neck as he whispered of his love to me. I needed nothing at that moment to make my world perfect, full, because Luke held me and told me of his love.
We lay together for a short while, and then I kissed Luke and said, "Yonghon Tongmu, I would love to stay here all day, feeling your body against mine, awash with the fragrance of our bodies and of our love making, but I think we are expected downstairs."
"Hey, you're off kitchen duty, so what's the rush?"
"Remember there's a second thing on a teenager's mind? Well, one had been satisfied--at least for the moment--and now my body craves food."
"Hate to admit it, but so does mine. But not before a shower."
We took our time washing each others body, pausing for kisses, but finally had to get out of the shower--the water was getting cold! We dried each other, dressed in clean shorts and T-shirts and went downstairs.
Kent and Larry were in the kitchen when we walked in. "Grab a cup of coffee," Larry said, "I think breakfast will be ready in a few minutes." As we sat down with our coffee, Paula walked in. She had brushed her hair, but was still dressed in her pajamas and a short robe.
"Hi, Guys. Sleep well?" she asked, looking at Matt.
"Finally," I answered, "after a Luke special massage. I was really wound up last night. This morning it doesn't seem as important, but last night I was really angry and enraged that anyone thought Luke and my love or Larry's and Eugene's was wrong and even worse, that they thought our love gave them permission to attack us--even Kent who's straight--and damage Eugene's car."
"I felt the same way," Paula said. "What if someone felt my loving Jacob and his loving me was wrong? It doesn't make sense."
"Seems to me there are those who think your and Jacob's love is wrong," Luke said.
"Yea," Paula said, pensively. "I guess I just forgot."
"Damn, I just thought of something," Larry said. "You don't suppose any of us will be identified on any newscast coming out of the arrests today do you? I mean I guess naming names would be ok, but what if they identify us as being gay? Not only could that make trouble for us, but think what it will do to you, Kent."
"Don't worry about me so far as people knowing I live with four gay guys. I can handle that. What I worry about is some of those idiots from Waterside finding out where we live and making trouble for us. Especially since the house is empty all day."
"I was worried about your dad's reaction," Larry said, "and hadn't thought about anyone coming out here to make trouble."
"Dad will have to find out sooner or later and I don't know what difference it will make. But think about those ass holes who painted Eugene's car. There have to be more of them in town and with no-one here all day...."
"We definitely need to give some thought to that," Larry said. "One of you call Agent Haines and ask her what we should do. She gave me her card with a local number written on it. Call now, maybe she's not busy yet."
Eugene picked up the card Larry put on the table and made the call. While he was talking, Kent and Larry put breakfast on the kitchen table. Eugene hung up the phone, Kent said grace, and we waited.
"Not hungry?" Eugene asked, helping his plate.
"Sure we're hungry," Larry said, "but we want to know what Agent Haines suggested."
"She said she didn't think we would be identified in any news cast, but word might get around anyway. She even knew where we lived and all about our buying the place. Seems the whole town has talked about it. She also said when the trial comes up, we'd likely be called as witnesses and she supposed everything would come out then. As soon as tonight's raid is over, she and Agent Perkins are assigning agents to protect a number of people, 'like you and the Metcalfs', she said. Sooner or later they will be withdrawn, but in the meantime, we can look into some kind of protective service. I guess that means we really do have to start locking the doors, which we haven't done," Eugene concluded. "I guess we were thinking we were still in Concord."
Luke, Eugene, Larry and I got dressed and took the Jeep to church. Eugene's car really was a mess. Kent had gotten some of the paint off, but it was still a mess. Kent took the truck. We had gotten an early start and arrived at St. Anne's twenty minutes before Mass. We decided to walk around the church yard a bit, just taking in the beauty of a small memorial garden and other features. We went into the church about ten minutes before time for the service.
As we walked in, Fr. Manville, vestments flying, came running down the center aisle. He stopped in front of us and said, "I know this is very sudden and I can understand if you don't wish to do it, but Matt--you are Matt?" he paused, looking a bit lost.
"Yes, I'm Matt," I answered.
"Matt, our organist was just taken to the hospital. She tripped coming out of her house and it appears she may have broken an arm. Could you possibly play for the Eucharist? Hate to put you on the spot, but I can't think of anything else to do except not have music."
"Father, I'm not at all prepared...."
"He'll do it," Luke said. "Matt, 'Sheep' and 'Jesu'. You know you can do it."
"I'll try," I said, not at all sure of myself, "but I can't promise much."
"Thanks, Matt. If you will come with me, I'll mark a bulletin for you. I suspect you're used to playing more service music than we use."
I followed the priest to the sacristy where he marked a bulletin for me while a member of the Altar Guild found a cassock and the organist's surplice. By the time I had vested and reached the organ, it was almost time to start. I looked over the organ's registration and prayed I'd not do too poor a job of selecting stops. I thought to myself, "Well, here goes nothing," and launched into "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring." I had said I could play it in my sleep and hoped I was not wrong because I didn't have the music.
As I had noted the Sunday before, the organ was an old one, but had a beautiful sound. It was small, so the number of stops were limited but I found them adequate. I was actually quite pleased with the sound and my playing of the prelude. I saw a note about registration for hymns and service music on the organ and pulled the stops, thinking the organist knew the best registration. As I started the opening hymn, I remembered the one fault I had found the previous Sunday: the organ's sound during hymns had been muddy and thick. As I ended the first verse, I looked over the stops, closed one and opened another. The sound was much brighter and definitely more suited to playing hymns.
The service music was sparse compared to St. Mary's and sounded ok, but just ok, and a couple changes in registration helped, making it better. During the second hymn, I made a couple more changes in the registration. After one change, I knew it was wrong and quickly closed the stop I had opened. The next one was an improvement. I suddenly realized the congregation must be wondering what was going on and decided not to change anything more until I had a chance to test it.
I realized the offertory was coming up and it was to be without the choir. I decided it was a good time to play around with the stops. I picked a hymn I knew well, but which was not widely known in congregations, and started with a single stop, adding stops one at at time. Sometimes I made a good choice, other times a poor one, but by the end of the offertory, I had what I thought was a good registration for hymns. After I made my communion, I returned to the organ bench and noticed the choir was to sing communion hymns. Good, I could hear how my registration sounded and if it supported singing which, after all, is the purpose of the organ during hymns. The choir seemed to come alive and the singing was great.
I had, of course, expected to play "Sheep May Safely Graze" as a postlude, but the sermon was a really good version of "Get off your ass, on your feet and do what you are here to do". Fr. Manville quoted a poem by Dag Hammarskjold:
Tired And lonely, So tired The heart aches. Meltwater trickles Down the rocks, The fingers are numb, The knees tremble. It is now, Now, that you must not give in.
On the path of the others Are resting places, Places in the sun Where they can meet. But this Is your path And it is now, Now, that you must not fail.
Weep If you can, Weep, But do not complain. The way has chosen you-- And you must be thankful.
Dad frequently quoted the poem, but I guess I had just liked the sound of the words and had never heard their meaning. Maybe it was the context in which I heard them--in the sermon, I mean--but, suddenly, the words were alive to me. Suddenly the "When will it end? Why me?" questions had been answered. I didn't exactly like the answer. These were not "comfortable words". They did not promise if I was a good little boy I'd get pie in the sky by and by, but they were words calling for strength and courage, for steadfastness in being and becoming who I was created to be. A call? I guess you could say that, but I didn't like the word. Chosen for service, that made sense out of what I had experienced in my short eighteen years and held the promise of a meaning-filled life IF I accepted being chosen.
As I thought about the postlude, "Sheep" just didn't seem to fit. Then I noticed the last hymn. It was also a favorite of Dad's and fit the sermon perfectly, "Come Labor On".
The recessional ended and Fr. Manville spoke the dismissal in a booming voice, "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord," with a definite emphasis on "serve". I had changed the registration and let the organ rip as I improvised on the hymn tune for "Come Labor On". The organ was small, but gutsy, and it was really shining. I was having an absolute blast. As I played, I thought, "Damn right, come labor on. Who dares stand idle? That's what yesterday was about: laboring to bring love and justice to a world where others had sought to sow hatred and injustice. That's why Luke, Larry, Eugene and I are caught up in a battle. It is not just about us, it is about us and all others who are objects of hate. YES! Come labor on!"
Luke, Larry and Eugene came back to the sacristy and all had huge grins but I noticed what I thought were moist eyes. "Matt, did you think the sermon was directed at us, preached for us?" Luke asked.
"You too?" was all I could say. All three nodded.
As I was hanging the vestments, Fr Manville came to the sacristy and asked, "Join me at coffee hour?" We all nodded and followed the priest to the parish hall.
"Matt, I'll hear no more excuses out of you about being unprepared. Never in my ten years at St. Anne's has the organ sounded better. And how you came up with that postlude I don't understand. I have never heard it before. Where did you find the music? It was such a perfect ending."
"Father, there was no music. After your sermon, I knew what I was planning to play just wasn't right and the hymn was so perfect, I just improvised on the hymn tune."
"Amazing. By the way, the sexton left a note in my vesting room and the organist did break her arm--a very serious break which will require surgery to repair. She will not be able to play again for months. Would you consider the organist's position, at least until she can play again? I don't know anyone else who could do it and certainly no-one as capable as you."
"I don't know, Father. I have just started to school, I have to spend all day Tuesday and Thursday in Cleveland at Holtkamp and I have responsibilities to my housemates. I don't think I could ask them to take on some of my responsibilities. I assume there's a mid-week choir practice I would have to attend and that would add a third night I am away."
"I can understand. I would like to do something about the choir practice, but it took years to get the choir to practice and I'm afraid that if it stopped it would take years to get it going again."
"I'll have to give it a lot of thought and take it up with my housemates. Also, there's another consideration. Fr. McCall of St. William's asked if I would consider doing a month's stint there while they search for an organist. I'd hate to pass that up."
"I can understand that as well but, until you are asked by St. William's, would you consider St. Anne's?"
"I'll do this much: I'll take it up with my housemates."
"That's all I am asking. I still find unbelievable what you did with the postlude on the spur of the moment. By the way, Pastor Jensen says you are involved in cleaning up Waterside. We have been friends for years and he has really been concerned about his town. Fortunately we haven't had to deal with that kind of bigotry here, at least not yet. Any support I can offer you, just call on me."
"Thanks. Then I guess you know why we got involved."
"Peter, Pastor Jensen, just said you got caught by a bunch of Waterside's toughs, beat the crap out of them and got arrested."
"That's what happened all right," Luke said.
"I mean it, if I can help, give me a call. And give the organist's job some thought, Matt. Well, I've got to run and check on a broken arm. Thanks again, Matt."
"Glad to do it, Father."
When we got home, Paula and Kent were sitting in the kitchen having a glass of juice. As Larry walked in, Kent said, "Larry, I hope you don't mind, but I went ahead and started Sunday dinner."
"Thanks, I'll never get upset with you starting a meal," Larry laughed. "How did things go this morning?"
"Interesting. When I walked in church, I expected to have to find another pew but, when I looked where my family sat, I saw that Dad was on the inside. Mom and Derrick had made sure there was room on the aisle. I thought about ignoring it but decided, if they had made the effort, I would be a fool not to let them know I appreciated it. Mom and Derrick spoke but Dad looked away. When it came time for the Peace, I wondered what he would do. He worked hard not to acknowledge my existence, but finally had to take my hand and say, 'The peace of the Lord be with you'. I said, 'And also with you, Dad,' and he looked away quickly. He had a hard time ignoring me after church, but managed not to speak. By the way, I planned to invite all of them to dinner next Sunday, but I had forgotten that someone else would be fixing the meal."
"That's ok," Luke said. "I'll be back on meals then."
"Why were you guys so late getting back?" Paula asked.
"Seems Matt may have another job," Eugene said. I then told Kent and Paula what had happened.
"What are you going to do?" Paula asked.
"I really don't know," I said. "I am already late getting home Tuesday and Thursday. If I take the job as organist, I'll be home early enough Wednesday, but will have to drive in to St. Anne's, do choir practice and drive back. That's another night out late. I'm finding it hard to deal with Wednesday and Friday class preparation now. Of course, I can prepare for Thursday classes before I go to choir practice. So far I have not been able to get out of the Saturday morning class. I don't know. It seems I just have so little time to get my share of the house work done."
"Well it won't be forever," Larry said. "I think so long as we're happy with what you're doing, it's ok."
"I've got no problem with it. In fact, I think you should," Kent said. "After all, it connects with what you plan to do with your life."
"Luke, Eugene, Paula, what do you think?"
"If it gets to be a problem, I think we'll feel free to say so. Why not try it?" Paula said.
"Agreed," Eugene said, nodding.
"Well, so far as the house is concerned, I would have to agree, but then there's another part of the question that you and I need to talk about privately," Luke said. I pretty well knew what the issue was.
We all sat around the table after we had finished dinner, talking about how things were going in school. All of us agreed that it was not exactly what we expected. There was more work than high school and we were on our own more. No teacher asked for homework, for example. They just assumed we were doing it because it was for our benefit, not theirs. All of us had some kind of math class and all, except Kent, agreed that subject took more time than other things. "Well, except we are expected to work on our music as hard, but it doesn't seem as much like work as math," Paula observed. "I was also surprised how each class started without beating about the bush the way high school classes did. There was no reading the syllabus and that sort of hand-holding thing." We all nodded at that.
"Before we get busy cleaning up, we need to look at next week," Eugene said. "I don't know how long it will take to get my car fixed, so we only have two vehicles. We may get kinda cramped at times." We looked at transportation for the coming week and saw that we could manage.
"Now that I have some idea how school is going to be," Kent said, "I need to make some serious plans for working. I have as much work as I can handle with school this time of year, but it won't be long until there will be no work. I mean as soon as winter starts, I'll be done until spring, so I need to make as much money now as I can. That may complicate the transportation if it takes too long to get your car fixed, Eugene. Where did you plan to take it?"
"I thought to a dealer."
"I know a guy who does excellent work. He was a couple years ahead of me in school and was accomplished before he graduated. He had worked in his dad's shop practically from the time he could walk. If you like I'll give him a call and see if he can put a rush on your car. As a matter of fact, if you took it to the dealer is town, it would probably end up at his place anyway."
"Sounds good to me. If he could get it done quickly it would sure help us out."
That settled, we cleaned up the table and kitchen and, when we finished, Luke said, "If no-one needs my truck, I think Matt and I will go for a drive".
"Go ahead," Eugene said. "We can use the Jeep if we need anything."
ASP--The Oberlin Five--Chapter Six--Luke
I wanted to get away from the house and have time to talk with Matt. When we were at the house it seemed we were with the whole crew or in bed most of the time. "Matt, let's go for a ride."
We got in the truck and Matt put a CD in the player. The windows were down and I was enjoying the end-of-summer weather as we drove into the countryside. Neither of us said anything as we just rode and listened to music. After driving a while, I saw the entrance to a state park I had spotted on a map and turned in. I found a parking place and we got out. On a covered bulletin board was a map of the park with hiking trails marked. "How about a hike?" I asked Matt.
"Sounds good to me," he said. I reached out for his hand and, before I could take it, he pulled it away and said, "I think we better not here in this open and public area." Of course he was right, but it didn't go down too well.
As soon as we were well on the wooded trail, Matt reached out and took my hand. "I didn't want another incident, Luke. I'm afraid Ohio is no more accepting of us than Concord. Actually, it's much less accepting from what I have seen."
"Doesn't make me like it," I replied. "But I guess I'd like having to face a bunch like that Waterside crew even less. Matt..." I started to ask a question, but found it wasn't easy. I couldn't understand it, but I was hesitant about talking with Matt about something that had been bugging me. What if he disagreed? What if he thought I was nuts or just a bitching, jealous boyfriend? Well, it had to be said. "Matt, something's really bugging me and I know it will get worse rather than better, and I'd like to have it in the open."
"What's wrong, Luke?"
"It's about us. We have been in school only one month and I feel like something is separating us. Not only that, but I just feel... I don't know, kinda, well, blue or something."
"What do you mean?"
"I guess it's childish," I continued. "Well I know it is but, well, Matt, I see you in bed and, other than that, we're never alone. Don't get me wrong, I love being in bed with you but I want more. I want time for us to be together, to talk, just to be together and it's not happening. I feel like I never have time alone with you any more. I feel left out and cut off, even depressed." As soon as I said 'depressed', I saw Matt's response. To cut him off, I said, "That's the reason I wanted us to go for a ride, but we can't drive off every time we want to be alone and we can't spend all our together time in bed."
"Luke, that's one reason I hesitated about taking the organist's job. If I take it, I'll be out of the house late three nights a week. And, to tell truth, that cuts down on our time in bed together. I mean, we're in bed, but the two nights after I have spent the day at Holtkamp, you are asleep long before I get to bed. If I take the organist's job, that will be another night I'll get home late. But what's this about your being depressed?"
I ignored Matt's question and said, "But you'd like to take the job, wouldn't you? I mean really."
"Yea, I would. But if it's going to come between us, then I won't. Our relationship means a great deal more to me than a job, you know that. And while it would pay something, no job could pay enough if it creates problems for us."
"Matt, I feel jealous of anything that comes between us or might come between us but, at the same time, feel rotten when I even suggest you not do something you want to do--especially since it's related to your future and our future. I'm very undecided and torn."
"I feel the same way. I mean I think that we can manage to balance school, a job and us. We're going to have to do that from now on, I think. Even when school's over--and right now that seems as if it will never happen--we'll still have to balance careers and our life together. You know, it would be hell, but maybe it would have been easier if we were separated the way Paula and Jacob are... I can't believe I said that..."
"I can't believe it either, but I can see what you mean. But the very thought sends chills down my spine."
"Mine too. So what do I do, Luke? Tell me what you want me to do."
"Matt, I think that's a slippery slope. I can't tell you what to do. Once we start that, we're going to be trying to figure out what the other wants us to do all the time and lose who we are, trying to be who the other wants us to be. I can tell you, that would make both of us into monsters. What we have to do is to make sure we have time together to talk--and listen--to each other. We don't want to make the other over into someone who is mindless, doing only what we say or what we think he wants."
"But I don't want to drive a wedge between us, Luke. Never."
"If you do, it's because we refuse to be honest with each other and refuse to find the time to talk things out." We had been walking, slowly, deeper into the woods, following a trail which was clearly well-used, but which grew fainter the further we walked. It was obvious people walked only a certain distance and then turned back. We had now reached the point where few people had walked. "Ready to turn back?" I asked.
"Not yet. I think I hear a stream up ahead." As we walked we were silent, each busy with his own thoughts, and as we went deeper into the forest the sounds of a stream became clearer. Perhaps a hundred yards ahead of where I asked about turning back, the trail ended at a small, but rushing stream, its waters plunging over the edge of a steep cliff to the river far below.
There was a mossy bank that reminded me of thespecial place Matt and I had below the falls at home. We sat down, still silent, then Matt said, "Luke, I guess you thought I didn't hear you, but I did. You said you were depressed."
"Well, I didn't mean that. Let's forget it."
"We will not forget it. Have you been taking your medicine?"
"What do you mean, 'kinda'?"
"Well, since I have been here, I have felt good most of the time and it does make me sleepy sometimes..."
"Luke, you are trying to tell me you're not taking it without lying. You're not going to get away with that."
"Matt, I feel like I should be able to handle things without a pill to help out. I guess I'm just weak or something."
"Luke, Margaret and Dr. Walker both told you it's not lack of will or anything else except a chemical imbalance. If you were diabetic, you'd not think taking insulin was because you lacked will. Luke, you are going to take your medicine or else. I'm not sure what 'else' is, but I will not have you run the risk of doing something foolish because you aren't doing everything you can for yourself. Promise me you'll get back on it today."
"I'll think some more about it."
"No, Luke, you won't think some more about it. You either promise me you'll get back on the antidepressants today or you'll sleep alone. I will not allow you to destroy our relationship because you are stubborn. I'll end it right now."
"I told you I'd think about it."
"You hadn't been taking it when you had the nightmare, had you."
"Well, no, not for a couple of weeks I guess."
"That does it, Luke. I will put up with a lot, and I know that we will have our difficulties brought about by our carelessness, the pressures of school and so on, but this? No way. Promise me Luke."
"Didn't I just hear us talking about not trying to make the other over into what we wanted? Isn't that what you are doing? Why do I have to answer to you concerning my own body?" I was angry and Matt knew it.
"Because we have made a commitment to each other. We have spoken vows in front of our family and friends, and those vows included something about our bodies as I recall, and because I have seen what your stubbornness can do. I'm not trying to make you over, Luke, I'm trying to have you be yourself, happy with yourself, free from nightmares--and there have been dark thoughts again, right?"
I didn't answer. I sat with my head down, trying to make sense out of what I had done. It didn't make sense but I still felt like having to take medicine, when I was healthy as a horse, was a sign of weakness, of failure
"I'm waiting for an answer, Luke." Matt was clearly pissed off. His voice was hard and icy. I don't ever remember Matt sounding so cold talking to me.
I felt hot tears running down my face and I still could not look up. I could not look at Matt.
"Luke, I am still waiting," Matt's tone seemed even colder.
Finally I looked up and saw Matt's face. It was not hard and angry but hurt, full of pain. I reached out to him and he pulled away. "No, Luke, that's not going to work. I love you more than my own life and I long, always, to feel your arms around me. But I will give all that up if that's what it takes to get you where you need to be."
I looked at Matt and saw the hurt and pain I had caused him but, more than that, I also saw his determination. The tears were running down his face as well. Finally I could stand it no longer. "I promise, Matt. I promise."
This time when I reached out, he didn't pull away but enfolded me in his arms. "Luke, I feel like shit. I feel I have bribed you into doing what I want you to do and it doesn't feel good. But I don't regret it, Babe, not at all. I will not allow you to risk your life and the reason I have for living."
"Matt, I feel worse for bringing you to the point of having to force me to do what I know I should be doing. I am sure not wanting to take the medicine I know I need is a part of the condition. And after all, Babe, you only did what I made you promise to do. Remember? I made you promise to do something if I got off the track, whether I wanted to or not. Remember?"
Matt had buried his face in the crook of my neck and I could feel him nodding. We held each other for a long time and, in that embrace, pledged our love anew.
As we walked back to the truck, we talked some more about Matt taking the organist's job at St. Anne's and decided he would, and that we would give serious attention to making time to be together. Having reached that decision, Matt said, "You know, Luke, our bedroom, as all the bedrooms, is really huge. We have used it just as a bedroom and tossed clothes all over the place, but there is no reason we cannot make it into a bed-sitting room were we can be together without being in bed. That would be an improvement in our time together both in and out of bed."
"Sounds good, but when are we going to find time to pick out furniture and all that stuff?"
"We'll make time, Luke. We'll have to."
On the way home, Luke and I talked about ways we could make time for ourselves, and how the house schedule could be rearranged to make make it easier on all of us. "You know, we agreed to have a house meeting weekly," Matt said, "and we haven't been doing that. I think we need to do so. We need to see how things stand now that we are settled into a weekly routine." I couldn't have agreed more.
When we reached the house, Kent and Larry were busy getting supper ready. Since we'd had a big Sunday dinner, supper would be pretty simple and plain. When we walked in, Kent said, "Supper is in twenty minutes. We wanted to have it over before the news at 6:00."
During supper, Matt and I talked about the things we had discussed concerning the house, and I reminded everyone we needed a house meeting because we hadn't really had one since school started.
"How about after the news?" Eugene suggested. "There may well be something there that we need to discuss."
We all agreed and quickly cleared the table and got the things in the dishwasher. When we finished it was almost exactly 6:00. It turned out there really wasn't a great deal on the news. The anchor man said there had been massive arrests in Waterside as a result of FBI and OBI investigations which had been ongoing for several months. "Among those arrested were the chief of police, the mayor and a judge." Then the usual, "More news and video at 11:00".
"So much for that," Larry said. "These days you only get teasers about the news which will be later, and later you get teasers about news coming up later and it seems you never get the news. Guess we can have a house meeting, get some studying done and then see the news at 11:00--if it has anything."
The first thing we discussed was the schedule. For example, when we had made it up, we had teams cooking, rotating on a weekly basis. "With four of us spending all day in Cleveland Tuesday and Thursday, getting dinner is a pain. At the same time, it hardly seems right for Eugene and Paula to have Tuesday and Thursday every week," I said.
"Why not?" Eugene asked. "We could do it those two days, two of you could take Monday and Wednesday and two Friday and Saturday. Then we could rotate Sundays. Makes as much sense as rotating on a weekly basis."
"Any problem with that?" I asked.
"None I can see," Paula said, and everyone nodded agreement. "Of course, you know that you are not likely to have your best meals on Tuesday and Thursday since you have two non-cooks working together, but I think I've picked up enough that, with a decent cookbook and some help meal-planning, we can handle it. While we're at it, I have a problem I want to bring up."
"Shoot," Larry said.
"It has to do with laundry. I know we said we'd all do our own but we are washing small loads, using a lot of hot water and there are times we run out. It's not so bad unless we need to wash dishes and take showers after someone has done laundry..."
"It's worse when someone decides to do laundry when someone's in the shower," Kent said.
"Yea, I have been given the cold shower treatment several times," I said. "And, even worse, the hot shower treatment."
"That's something else we can rotate. We need to get a couple or three laundry hampers and everyone use them, separating your own things. Then someone can do all the laundry, When it comes out of the dryer, put in on the table in the laundry room and each can pick up and fold their own," Paula said.
"Sounds good," Matt said. "I'll take care of the laundry Saturday morning. I can put in a load and practice for almost an hour until it is done, put it in the dryer and reload the washer. That way I can get some house work and my Saturday class done at the same time. I finally got permission to practice at home, so I can do that. The Saturdays when my teacher comes here--she finally decided that was ok too, don't know what took her so long--I can start a load before she arrives and take it out when she leaves. That won't be a problem."
"Matt, would you mind making Friday night linen change night and you doing all the linen Saturday?" Paula asked. "It a big job, but if you could do that, we would be free to do other household duties."
"Sure. Anything else anyone wants to bring up?"
"Hate to be this way," Eugene said, "but Larry and I were used to having the same as an apartment when we were home, and we sure miss having time and space to get together. It's not that I don't like you guys, but we really do need time for just the two of us. Of course we have our bedroom, but it's a bedroom and..."
"And you don't want to spend all your time together in the bed." Matt smiled. "Never thought I'd say that, but Luke and I talked about the same thing this afternoon. We thought about getting furniture and making our bedroom into a bed-sitting room."
"Seems kinda foolish since we have a library and a family room," Kent said.
"But they are for all of us," Larry said. "And, of course, Matt has to have the family room to practice and the library is used as a study hall."
"Actually, the library is used to send and receive e-mail and that's about it so far as necessary work is concerned. If the computers were moved to the family room, then the library could be a place for you two couples to be together--I mean together separately--I mean..." Kent stammered to a stop.
We were all laughing at Kent. "Know what you mean, Kent," I said. "Sounds like a good idea. You have a desk in your room and do your studying there. Paula, we could get a desk for you so you could study in your room, but the nights I have to study late, I'd keep Luke awake and the same is true of Eugene..."
"Not really. You have to study late Tuesday and Thursday because you have been busy all day. I have finished my studying before you pick us up at Case," Eugene said. "If you think about it, by the time you are ready to study, Larry and I have gone upstairs and you could use the library or family room."
"Aren't we making this too complicated? I like the idea of adding a few things to the bedroom--maybe a TV--the cable is already installed--and a CD player, couch, desks and things like that for use during the week. Friday and Saturday nights we could reserve the library or family room if we wanted to stay home. I really think the major problem is one we have created ourselves. We think we have to be together or we are hurting someone's feelings. Isn't that the real problem?" Larry said.
"Damn!" I said, "You are exactly right. Sure, we can just say, 'Matt and I would like the family room or library tonight,' and that should settle it. See, I knew we needed to talk."
"Well, there's something else I want to bring up--no, that's the wrong word--there's something I need to bring up, I hate to bring up. Kent, this will be news to you, I'm sure, but Luke..."
"No, Paula, I haven't been taking my medicine. How did you know?"
"Luke, when you start having nightmares and moping around, we all see it. So what excuse are you going to give Mama Paula?"
"None, I guess. I tried them all on Matt this afternoon. None of them worked. So, Mama Paula, I promise I will take my pill."
"I hate to be nosy and if it's none of my business say so, but what are we talking about?" Kent asked.
"Kent, I have been diagnosed with a mild form of clinical depression. It's caused by..."
"A chemical imbalance, I know. Mom has suffered from a pretty severe form and, until one of the newer drugs came on the market, she would have really bad bouts of depression. One time it was so bad she wouldn't get out of bed. Now, with the new drug, she's a different person, a real person. So, Luke, take the pill. I don't want you to have nightmares like the one you had."
"I promise, otherwise Matt has threatened to leave me."
"Anything else?" Matt asked.
"One more thing about the laundry," Paula said. "The detergent I bought last time works in warm or cold water. The most you want to use is warm for wash. I set the machine, but noticed it was changed last time I washed. Just leave it set on warm for wash and cold for the rest. Saves hot water."
"How are we doing so far as spending money is concerned?" Larry asked.
"Paula?" Matt asked
"Fine, I think," Paula said. "The first full month's bill just came and it was a whopper--I'll collect as soon as I get it ready--because we bought a lot of stuff to start housekeeping which we'll not have to buy very often. I think we're ok. Of course, having to pay off the police chief and judge took a hunk, but we might get that back. At least we got back Aldridge's fee and that helped."
We had finished clearing the air and Larry said, "Well, we have three hours before the news. Think I'll catch up on my e-mail." Eugene and Paula joined Larry doing e-mail, Kent said he had some studying to do. Matt went to the family room to practice and I went to the studio. I was working on a series of paintings for the house. I worked a couple hours and when I got back, caught up on my e-mail. Matt had done his earlier and was studying at a desk in the library.
The news at 11:00 did carry a great deal more about what had happened in Waterside. The video showed the arrest of the police chief, judge and mayor. We all burst out laughing when we saw Judge Harrison arrested. The agents walked into his pool area where the judge was sprawled out in a lounge chair, a drink in hand. He was dressed in shorts and, as Eugene said, he looked like a beached whale. "You're insulting whales, Lover," Larry said when he could get control of his laughter.
The reporter said there had been other arrests including several policemen. We really enjoyed seeing Sim Hendrick, his hands behind his back, held by a plastic tie like the ones he had used on us. He was arrested when he pulled his police cruiser into the police station. The reporter said, "There were also civilians arrested as well as officials. A number of convenience store owners were arrested for selling alcohol to minors. Officer Hendrick's brother, Shawn, and several of his friends were arrested for selling marijuana. 'They are small fish,' an arresting officer said, 'but we are out for all size fish in an effort to clean up Waterside.' There were so many arrests that several people had to be transported to the Cleveland jail as the Waterside jail quickly overflowed. The mayor, police chief and Judge Harrison all asked to be transferred to Cleveland, but Ohio Bureau of Investigation Agent Perkins refused, saying they had been responsible for the condition of the jail and it was only right that they take advantage of their work. This reporter was allowed to enter the jail and can only say that it was filthy. I asked Agent Perkins if putting the prisoners there was not cruel and unusual punishment. He replied that he thought not--since the police chief, mayor and judge had found it acceptable for people they had put there."
The four of us who had spent time in the filthy jail were practically rolling on the floor laughing. "Poetic justice, if I have ever heard of it," Luke said through his laugher.
After a commercial break, the reporter had an interview with Agents Perkins and Haines. Of special interest to us was their statement that they knew there were still others who were a part of the corruption in Waterside or who sympathized with those responsible for it. "A number of citizens have been invaluable in our investigation," Agent Haines said. "Anyone who attempts to do them harm is a fool, but there are many fools in the world. We are not giving out any details, but everyone who helped and those who would do them harm both need to know that those who helped are under the protection of both the Federal and Ohio bureaus. So to those who would harm those good citizens, I say think before you act or you will regret it."
That certainly made us feel more at ease. Watching the arrests had, frankly, been fun, but the very fact that we had to be protected sobered us quickly.
ASP--The Oberlin Five--Chapter Six--Matt
After the news, we all went off to bed. As Luke and I snuggled in bed, he whispered in my ear, "Sarang Hanun Pomul, thanks for not giving up on me. I know I was foolish for stopping my medicine, but I wanted to be a whole man for you and every time I thought about taking a pill, I didn't because I thought I wasn't."
"Yonghon Tongmu, in my eyes you are not only a whole man, but a perfect one." I kissed Luke gently and he returned my kiss, placed his head on my chest and was asleep in seconds. I lay, my arm over Luke's back, looking into the dark, thinking about how those who think a relationship just sails along without thought and effort are fools and deserve the broken relationship which is sure to follow. Thankfully, Luke and I worked on ours before it had eroded too much. I offered thanks for that and for all the other things I had been given by life. Then, at peace, I dropped off to sleep.