“Can we see him?”
My face was bright red as my mother laughed at the other end. We were video chatting, and she was sitting at the dining table. I could hear movements off the screen, and I knew my father was there too. A lump had formed in my throat a while ago, but it was mostly gone now. If he was uncomfortable with talking to me I guess that was okay. I won’t hold it against him. I was in the study room of Nath’s apartment while Nat was working on a car he had brought home with him from work. It seemed it had to be done asap.
“Well, why can’t I see him? I should know who my son is living with,” she rationalized, and I just stared at her as the slightest of smiles touched my lips. It was nice to see that she was bubbly and happy. I had been a little afraid she was just acting brave. Her face showed no signs of lost sleep or tears, and I was very happy about that. The last thing I ever wanted to do was cause my mother pain.
“He’s out in the backyard working,” I said. “He’s a mechanic I’m not sure if I’ve told you before,” I added, and she shook her head before humming.
“What about you? What are you doing now?” my mother asked, making my eyes widen a bit. I hadn’t been expecting that question.
“I’m working full time at the library here no, until...” I trailed, not knowing what to add. I bit my bottom lip, watching my mother. I hadn’t really thought of anything to do after graduating high school. I was supposed to do my missionary service for two years, and now I was suddenly free.
“I don’t know,” I ended up sighing, telling my mother the truth.
“Have you thought about college?” she asked, and I shook my head.
“Not really.” After my words, the conversation fell flat. I could hear Nathaniel working in the backyard. He should be done soon. He’s been out there for more than three hours.
“I don’t want to put pressure on you, but when you do figure things out please let us know,” she said. I smiled a bit. I liked how she kept talking with plural pronouns, but my father was off-screen.
“Are you eating alright? What about your prayers?” she asked, and I hummed before looking straight at her.
“Nathaniel cooks, so don’t worry about me starving,” I laughed, and she just smiled. “About praying... Well, I don’t know. I just feel ‘dirty’ while doing it if that makes sense?” I said, and she nodded.
“You’re still God’s child.”
An imperfect one. The speck of milk in the glass of water. I said in my head, remembering what Nath had told me about his Christian camp experience. I opted to just smile at my mother’s words. We were talking about random things when I heard the door so the study creak open. I paused mid-sentence, turning to find Nath standing at the door.
“Is that him?” my mother said as loud as she could. Maybe she was trying to gain his attention, and if that was what she had wanted she succeeded because he turned over to my computer at the sound of her voice.
“It’s him,” I said with a small smile before turning over to Nath again. “I’m in a video chat with my mother.”
“Oh,” he said, turning.
“No, it’s alright she wants to see you!” I said, making him pause before turning over to me.
“Yes, I want to see you!” My mum’s voice was unnecessarily loud, and it made me laugh a bit to see Nath in such a stunned look on his face. He let go of the doors handle before he walked over to stand by my seat.
“Good evening ma’am,” Nath said in his neutral voice. I knew that voice. It was the one he used to talk to random people while creating a distance. He used to talk to me like that before.
“How are you?” my mother asked him, and Nath smiled, pushing back the loose strands of his hair.
“I’m doing fine,” he said before looking over at me. “Don’t worry, he’s doing alright.” My cheeks warmed up at that and I could hear my mother laugh. I rose a brow, noticing that I could see a bit of my father now. It was like he was trying to peek and see Nath without getting caught. My smile widened, grateful that he was at least paying attention to the conversation.
When we were done talking to my mother I put my computer to sleep before leaving the study room with Nath. He had let the dog in, and it was the first thing we saw when we walked into the bedroom.
“This dog is practically your child,” I said, and Nath laughed as the brown dog hurried over to him, pouncing about until Nath took a sit at the study desk.
“Your mother seems nice,” he said, making me smile a bit as I sat down at the edge of the bed. The mattress sunk a bit with my weight, and the room soon went quiet apart from the sound of the dog panting in the corner. Eventually, the dog left the room, and Nath got up to close the door before returning to the study desk.
“Yeah, she’s great,” I said, moving into the bed more so that I could draw my feet up.
“What that your dad?” My laugh rang through the room at Nath’s question. So, he had noticed the man at the side of the screen.
“Yeah,” I said with a sigh, biting my bottom lip as I looked at nothing in particular. The room had gradually changed over the last few weeks. My stuff was littered about the place for one thing, and Nath had made some compromises to make me feel comfortable, like shifting the location of his ashtray, and adding curtains to the windows.
“Nath, can I ask you something?”
“Sure,” he said, making me smile a bit as I looked down at my hands.
“Do you ever feel guilty when you pray?”
“I feel kind of dead — numb really. There’s this constant battle in my head of; God doesn’t love you, this is stupid’, and ‘that motherfucker probably doesn’t exist’,” Nath said, and I looked over at him. His expression was void of any emotions I could read. “I don’t know. Maybe I’m messed up because religion has always been a part of my life. Praying’s more or less a habit. A habit that makes me feel angry, but more or less it’s still a habit,” he said.
I opened my mouth, then closed it when I realized I didn’t know how to frame what I wanted to say next. A small frown formed on my face as I thought about it, and I decided to try again. “Do you ever feel like praying makes things worse because you’re gay? Like, you’re going to get punished because you’re gay and you dared to pray?” I knew my words sounded stupid, but that has what’s been going through my mind for a long time. Nath chuckled, sighing as he turned in his chair in a way that allowed him to look straight at me.
“No, but then again I’m not as religious as you. I don’t think I’m a walking sin like you seem to believe you are,” Nath said. I opened my mouth to object but closed it when I realized he was right. I did see myself that way know, and it as confusing.
“If I thought I’d get punished for doing something as simple as daring to pray because of who I am I wouldn’t visit the church so regularly, or sit down for confession, or...” he trailed. “Receive holy communion when I feel like it,” he added before shrugging.
“Isn’t that blasphemy against the holy spirit?” I asked, remembering a bit of what I read from the book on Catholicism Nath had in his study.
“My existence is already a blasphemy. I might as well just do something worth going to hell for,” he chuckled. His laughed died out almost immediately, and soon the room went silent again. I didn’t have anything to say. Nath’s self-depreciating jokes broke my heart, but I didn’t want to confront him and make him upset.
“Hmm?” I muttered, blinking when I realized I had zoned out.
“Things will sort themselves out,” he said, making me smile before letting out a sigh. He got up from his seat before walking over to me. He was in regular joggers and one of his many tank tops. He joined me on the bed, making me lie down as he hovered over me. He smelt clean like he just got out from the shower. He must have gone to the bathroom immediately after working on the car.
“Nath,” I called out, getting his attention. I reached out my hands, holding on to his shoulders and pulling him down until he was resting on me. “I know you’re trying to be considerate and all, but I think I want to go all the way now,” I said, running my hands over his shoulders as he rested his head over mine. “Please?”
“I’m just worried—” he paused, letting out a sigh before rolling over. He was now lying down next to me, his dark eyes staring at my deep brown ones. “I don’t want you to get agitated over it. You’ll panic, and not because it’s your first time,” he said, reaching out to brush the strands of hair that had gotten stuck to my forehead.
“I won’t get worked up after,” I said, reaching out to cup his face before kissing him. We kissed for a bit, and he pulled away from me when I started getting a bit insistent.
“Tell me the truth, do you really believe what you’re saying?” he asked. “You already think somethings wrong with you, aren’t you scared you’ll feel like more of a sinner if you actually went that far?” Nath asked, letting his hand move between us so that he could move his hand under my shirt.
“It’s not that I don’t want to do it. God do I want to, but—” Nath paused, sighing. “I really don’t want to scare you. I don’t want to make you feel like you’ve ‘sealed the deal.’ If you wake up this morning thinking you want to go back, I don’t want you to feel like you have to stay here—”
“I don’t want to go back,” I said in a firm voice, cutting him off. Nath’s eyes widened a bit, and I think he saw that I was taking offense to what he was saying. Sure, I was still a little confused, and I was still navigating my sense of self in connection to my religion, but I didn’t want to leave him. Why would he think that?
After a while, Nath looked away, but he was still touching my abdomen. I felt it heat up, and my toes curl when his hand moved lover. He smiled at that, pressing against me as his lips found mine. When things got a bit heated he became a little hesitant, but I held on to him, showing him that I wasn’t afraid at all and I wanted it.
I had him. He had me, and I’m not sure if I could explain the whirlwind of emotions that came with connecting with him in such a way. If this was sin, I wanted nothing else but it. I’ll take whatever bitterness that comes with it.