“So, you’ve been living on your own ever since you left your mum’s place?” I asked, and Nathaniel just nodded as he filled a page of the book in his hand. We were on his bed, laying side by side on our backs. I wasn’t really don’t anything but watching Nathaniel read. I liked to watch him do just about anything.
I hummed, thinking about what he’s been through. To think he started living by himself when he was seventeen and was now twenty-four. I was almost nineteen and I was still a mama’s boy. I’m not sure what fascinated me more; the fact that he started living on his own at such a young age, or the fact that he just shrugged it off like it was just another fact of his life.
“Do you miss your mother?” I asked, and I watched as he bit his bottom lip before closing the hardcover book in his hands and putting it away.
“Sometimes,” he said, turning to his side so that he could look at me. “But mostly, I’m kind of happy she’s getting to sort her life out. I should never have been in it,” he said, and I frowned a bit, wondering what he meant by the last part of his statement.
“I should never have been in it.”
“You’re overthinking things again,” I heard him laughed, and I blinked, realizing that I had zoned out yet again. “If you have questions, ask. I’ll answer the ones I can,” he said, reaching out to run a hand through my hair. He’s been doing that a lot lately — touching my hair that is. I wanted to touch his, but I hadn’t really gone about touching anywhere beyond his face.
I stared into his dark eyes for a bit, wondering if I should ask him what I was bouncing about in my head. After giving it some thought, I decided to go ahead and ask him. “What do you mean by you never should have been in it?” I asked, and he smiled at me like he had been expecting me to ask just that.
“Well,” he started, using his free hand to adjust the pillow under his head. “I’m an illegitimate baby,” he laughed, and I just stared blankly at him. “Someone forced himself on my mother on her way back from school and that’s how I came to be,” he said. The room went silent. I wasn’t sure what to say or how to react to that. The fan blades moved slowly creating a low creaking noise. I didn’t say anything, and Nath stayed quiet too. He sighed, catching my attention again.
“I don’t know where he is.” Nath’s words when talking about his father a while back suddenly made sense. He didn’t just know who he was.
“Well, at least she had you. Aren’t you happy to be alive?” I asked, ending the tense silence. I watched on as he chuckled, shaking his head before pulling his hand away from my hair.
“No, not really,” he said, turning until he was lying on his back again. “I don’t especially think I’m happy to be alive. She should have aborted me. She was only seventeen and afraid.”
“She had me because she felt like she was obligated to, not because she wanted to. Christian and all that moral code rubbish,” he said with his eyes still on the ceiling above. “And look how I turned out. I’m probably a Christian mother’s worst nightmare,” he laughed.
“I don’t understand. You said she was Christian? As in, past tense?” I asked, and I watched him cock his head as he hummed in response.
“Yeah, my coming out was like the last chip at her faith. Oh well,” he said with a chuckle, whistling a bit. The awkward silence returned, and I just stared at him before looking up at the ceiling. It was an old one. You could tell from the tin design you didn’t see in houses very often anymore.
My mind was itching with a question, so I eventually gave in and turned to look at Nathaniel. “Then if she’s no longer religious why did she kick you out?”
“If someone that looked exactly like the person that did that to you was living under the same roof with you, what would you do?” he asked, and I just looked away, not really sure how to answer his question.
“Exactly,” he said, taking my silence as an indication that I agreed with his mother’s choice. “Plus, I’m not that selfish. She pretended to love me for seventeen years, I’m glad she gets to reclaim that lost time.”
“But you should be happy you exist, though. I’m sure a lot of people are happy you’re alive,” I said as he turned over to look at me. By people, I meant me, but he didn’t need to know about that.
I watched as he sighed, moving closer to me before pressing a kiss to my lips. I closed my eyes, moving my lips against his full ones as he reached out to run a hand through my hair. His lips were soft -- they were always soft. And the way he licked my lips made my toes curl. The first few times we kissed I would just stay still or try to mimic his movement without much success, but I could say I was getting a hang of it now. I don’t know, hearing him make that low noise that meant he was enjoying himself made me happy.
We kissed for a while until he pulled away from me, humming a bit as he traced the shape of my jaw.
“That’s not how it works, Nath. No one misses what they didn’t know existed,” he said before closing his eyes. I took that as an indication that our discussion was over. He went to sleep, and I laid beside him until it was time for me to leave.
I was reading one of Nathaniel’s books on my bed when I heard the door to the room I shared with Sam swing open. Sam walked in, and he gave me a small wave as he headed over to his bed.
“You look excited,” I said, sitting up on my bed as I watched him drop his bag and look through his drawers. “What happened?”
“A few people are getting baptized tomorrow,” he said, and I just cocked my head to the side. “Isn’t that great?” he asked me, and I blinked, realizing that I had zoned out again. I muttered an apology under my breath, before nodding. Sam’s smile widened, and he went on to talk about how happy he was not to have lost those people. Most times people agreed to meet with us, then after a few meetings, they just stopped picking our call or outright told us that they were no longer interested.
“What are you reading?” Sam suddenly asked me, making me look down at the book in my hand before closing it and putting it aside.
“Nothing important,” I said, placing my hands beside either side of me on the bed. Sam rose a brow at me, but he turned, not questioning me any further. I sighed in relief, looking away from him as well. I was reading a book titled Rediscovering Catholicism. It had been hanging around in Nath’s study and I asked him if I could borrow it and he agreed.
As someone who had lived in a tiny Mormon town his entire life the book was fascinating to me It’s content familiar yet foreign. I had never known how different denominations could be from each other, and it was interesting to read about how another denomination practiced Christianity.
“Hmm?” I asked, looking back at Sam’s corner of the room. He was giving me an odd look that I couldn’t quite tell what it meant.
“How are things with Nathaniel going? Is he willing to have some discussions with us now?” Sam asked, and I bit my lip, shaking my head.
“I’m afraid not,” I answered, playing with my fingers. “But he is reading and asking me questions.”
The frown that had started forming on Sam’s acne filled forehead faded and he smiled instead. The lie had been effortless, but I knew that sooner or later I would have to come up with something else. I couldn’t say he was doing that forever.
“Some people are just harder to get to, don’t let his lack of progress discourage you,” Sam said, going into his pep speech mode. “As long as he’s still willing to meet with you, I think you should do it. Olivia was saying it’s a lost cause, but if he’s still reaching out to you that means he must be interested, right?” Sam said, looking over at me. I nodded, not trusting my mouth to say something that wouldn’t give me away.
The fact that I wasn’t really doing what I was supposed to be doing hadn’t hit me this hard until now. I was kissing and touching the man I was supposed to be preaching to about not doing those exact things with other men, and with women, unless he was married to one.
After some time, Sam left the room, leaving me alone in the small space. It was well into the evening now, and the street lights were on. I got up from my bed, heading to stand by my window to look out of it. I smiled when I saw Nathaniel walking past with the stray dog that often stuck around him. He was in a white tank top and faded blue jeans. I smiled, watching as Nath and the dog walked out of sight.
I eventually left the window area and headed for my study desk, pulling out my journal before I started scribbling my thoughts on it again. It made me calm, and I felt less overwhelmed when I could see the words instead of having them move around in my head. I had started writing things about the future, and of course, there were a lot of question marks everywhere.
What happens when I come out?
If I come out.
Should I do it soon or wait out my two-year missionary service?
Will I change before then?
I frowned a bit at the words, using my hand to hold up my cheek as I used the pen in my hand to drum against the wooden desk. I couldn’t help noticing that I was writing like I had options outside the church. If I got excommunicated, and if my parents kicked me out, where would I go? I tried to stop envisioning Nathaniel as my go to. It’s not like he would just let me into his house if something like that happened.
For me, this whole experience was new. It was special. Nathaniel had become the center of my universe very quickly. I adored him, and I’m sure he knew I did but did he feel the same way? probably not. He’d talked to me about past lovers, and he still visited bars around from time to time. I knew I wanted to be with Nathaniel, but did Nathaniel want to be with me?
I knew wasn’t the only one, and I guess I was fine with it. I felt less pressured to commit to something I couldn’t promise, and I got to ‘experiment’ without a fear of attachment.
But I was already attached if I had to be honest with myself. If I pulled back now, it would because I’m a coward and nothing more.