For the next few days, I stopped by at Nathaniel’s place frequently. We would talk, eat, and sometimes kiss. Kissing. Kissing Nathaniel felt great, and every time we did kiss all I wanted was more. His lips were full and soft, and the moist feeling of his tongue made my heart pound. There was something about his body too that made me want to larch on to him for minutes at a time. He was war, broad, and it often felt like I was being engulfed.
It’s not something I can really explain, but all I can say is that it’s definitely exciting.
I learned that Nath was a good cook from his cooking, and I did notice that he prayed. Well, no full-blown well thought out prayers, but small brief mumblings under his breath when he was facing a challenge or the other. The dog he often gave a treat on the street came around from time to time, and Nath gave it food, petting the dog, and sometimes even letting it into the house.
At some point during one of my visits, I had wandered into his bedroom. It was a small plain place with a bed, a study desk, and of course, a bedside table stacked with books. I had sat on the edge, and he had come in looking for me a few minutes afterward. He had sat beside me as I flipped through the books on his desk.
“You read a lot of...” I had trailed, not really sure what religious books and manuals were called.
“Theology,” he had answered, leaning back until he was lying on his back on his bed. “I like reading about religion,” I had heard him say, making me turn back to look down at him. Nath was tall, really tall. Not Sam’s lean lanky tall, but the broad huge kind. I’m not sure if that’s a good descriptor. I keep mentioning his height, but it was really fascinating to me as someone almost a whole foot shorter than him.
“Then how come you’re not religious?” I had asked him, and a smile formed on his lips as he smiled.
“Learning a lot about religion is the reason I’m not religious,” he said. I wasn’t exactly sure what he meant by that, but I didn’t ask him about it.
Another thing that was memorable about my time with him was once, I had wanted to lie next to him on his bed, so I had gotten out of my clothes — well, not everything. He had burst into laughter at the sight of my underwear, and in his own words: “What the fuck is that?” I hadn’t been sure whether to be embarrassed or whether to laugh along with him, because, yes, my temple garments did look confusing.
I think it was that night I decided to stop wearing them. I was committing sacrilege at this point, and the garments themselves clearly weren’t keeping me safe from the pollutions of this world. In fact, I had jumped with both legs into the river of sin, and so far, I wasn’t regretting it.
A sigh left my lips as I looked down at the journal I had brought down with me. I was scribbling my thoughts away, pausing from time to time to read them to myself, wondering if this was really me.
Am I gay?
The words I had scribbled down in a slant cursive stared up at me. Well, am I? I kind of repeated to myself, as if wanting an answer from someone. No one was in the room with me, and I’d be damned if I actually asked anyone up right. I could ask Nathaniel, but he would probably roll his eyes and shake his head. I wanted to google it, but servers and their history were monitored.
What does it mean to be gay?
I know it means you like men, but do I like men, or do I just like Nathaniel?
Does this mean I have to give up God?
For a moment I paused writing and stared down at the last point. Did being gay mean that I had to give up God? It was kind of a scary thought to have. God has been my life up until this moment. Sure, I was in a limbo where I just acted without feelings attached to it for the past month. I felt numb. I felt like I wasn’t allowed to act like I had before I met Nathaniel — I felt like I was tainted somehow — and by all standards of the church, I was. I wondered if that was what happened to Nathaniel, whether he felt like he shouldn’t be religious, and not that he wasn’t actually religious.
My mouth opened a bit like I wanted to say something out loud to myself, but I stopped and kept scribbling in my journal. The clock in the room ticked in the background as time passed. I had come down here at around two in the afternoon, and I wasn’t sure what time it was now. I was so lost in my thoughts that I didn’t realize when the door to the room I was in swung open until Olivia’s voice started yelling at me.
“Mathew. Mathew!” the sound of Olivia’s voice calling me made me blink before looking up at her. She was staring down at me with a frown and a perplexed look on her face. Her red hair was free today, resting on her shoulders, and covering a bit of her round face.
“I’ve been standing right in front of you for like five minutes yelling your name,” she said, folding her hands over her small chest before letting out a sigh. “You’ve been distracted lately,” she added, looking over at the door. We were in one of the many rooms meant for talking and having classes with people interested in converting. I had wandered down here to have some time to myself after lunch, but it seems that Olivia had found me out.
I closed the journal on my lap as subtly as I could so that Olivia wouldn’t notice and ask me what it was. My heart was beating, and I calmed down a bit when her gaze on me didn’t waver to my lap where my book was sitting on.
“Why are you here?” she asked me, and I just looked down at the carpet, not wanting to stare at her, and after a while of staying silent, I heard her sigh.
“Okay, if you’re not going to answer me I might as well leave, just know that everyone’s been looking for you,” she said. I waited for her to move away, but she didn’t. I was still staring at the floor, but I could see her shoes from the corner of my eyes. I eventually looked up, giving her a puzzled gaze. What did she want?
“Mathew,” she said as a look I couldn’t quite read took form on her face. “Everyone’s worried. We know who you’ve been seeing.” My mouth went open, but I closed it, not sure of what to say.
“Maybe you should have Sam follow you when you go and meet Nath. I don’t see why you have to go alone,” she muttered, looking from side to side as if she was afraid someone would overhear what she was about to say. “You know he’s gay, right? He might not be agreeing to see you in good fate. He must want something.”
A frown soon formed on my face when Olivia said that. What did she mean? Did she think Nath was trying to coax me into being alone with him so that he could convince me to... what? I’m not sure what’s she’s getting at? Did she think he was trying to turn me gay? Does that even make sense?
Well, it did in a way if you looked at it from a sin perspective. You have to be tempted in some way to fall into sin. I agreed with that, Nathaniel was pretty tempting.
I coughed, hiding the laugh that had coursed through me at my thoughts. It was the opposite really. I had been the one to make the move. We kiss, but we don’t do anything further. Nath was keeping to his word. He wasn’t going to make a move on me. If I wanted something I had to ask.
“It’s okay,” I said, biting my bottom lip. “He has been doing well. I’m just keeping up with him reading the book of Mormon, nothing much. I just want to help him when he has questions,” I said, quite impressed with how well I was getting at lying. I should feel bad about it, but I didn’t. I watched as Olivia sighed, playing with the baby hairs at her hairline before sighing.
“Fine,” she said, and I smiled at her, watching as she left the room. When the door closed behind her I turned back to face the fireplace, letting my mind wander to what Olivia had told me. She told me people knew, but she didn’t exactly specify ‘who’ they were. Maybe it was just a handful of ministries and not the higher-ups.
A sigh escaped my lips as I looked back down at the brown leather wrapped journal I had on my lap. I opened it up again, scribbling some things into it. After a while I closed it again, checking the time on my watch. I was past six in the evening, and I had to follow Sam to a house to talk to someone at seven. I got up with my book and pen in hand before leaving the room.
I had no plans of distancing myself from Nathaniel, but I had to be more careful about it. I didn’t need people bothering me or getting worried on my behalf.
When I got upstairs Sam was already dressed so I had to change quickly. He didn’t say anything out of the ordinary to me which either meant he didn’t know Olivia had come down to look for me, or he wasn’t the one that told Olivia about Nath being gay. My mind was starting to fuzz over when I tried to think hard about it. How did Olivia know? Did Nath tell her? That’s likely, it’s not like he was keeping it a secret or anything.
When I was done getting dressed I headed downstairs with Sam, trying not to let the little stray fact bother me. I’ll just be more careful from now on.