“If your church won’t let you participate, you could just look for one in the next town to pop into every now and again,” Nath said, working with screws and some spare parts on the small kitchen island. I shrugged at his suggestion, sighing before I rested my head on the cool surface of the dining table in front of me. It was late noon on a weekday. Nath and I were hanging out. Well, I think you could call it that. I was reading one of the many books from his library, and he was kind enough to bring his work inside with him so that we could see each other. There was something about just being in each other’s presence that made me happy.
For the past week, I’ve been trying to look for a way to still take part in the church. The thing is, I’m not allowed to if I don’t agree to meet with a counselor. At this point, there was no difference between me and a none believer. If people knew what — who — I was if I decided to go to a temple, I probably wouldn’t be let in.
I closed my eyes at the ‘what’ part of my thought process. I’m trying my best to get rid of the internalized shit I’ve been fed for most of my life. If I had to be with Nath, I had to be out and proud. Nath joking about closet cases and insecure gay people being annoying was just a joke, but it hit home for me, maybe a little too hard.
The sound of Nath drumming on the kitchen island with the plastic end of his screw made me force my mind go back to the discussion at hand — attending church.
“It’s not because you’re gay,” Sam had said to me the other day when I pulled him aside to ask about not being able to attend service or Sunday classes. He had been in his missionary uniform that day. I saw that he had a new partner that day and looked kind of worried to be seen around with me. I had pushed his behavior aside, pressing him on about it.
“Then what is it?” I asked, raising my voice a bit. His partner had coughed, probably trying to signal to Sam that he wanted to leave.
“It’s because...” he never finished that sentence, he just bit down on his bottom lip before looking down at the ground. “Look, why are you asking me this? I’m working now, can’t you talk to another elder or the counselor?”
Counselor. That word made me nervous, and I hadn’t been sure if Sam had been acting in good fate. My mouth opened, but I didn’t say anything, so I just looked away and sighed before leaving him to walk back to the library for my shift that morning.
It was annoying because I couldn’t even attend service with them even though missionaries brought in people they were talking to all the time. What was the difference between me and them? Before I actively started to inquire about this, I thought I could shoehorn myself into the church while keeping my distance. Despite my decision to practice Christianity from my understanding and not in accordance to the doctrines of a specific church, growing up Mormon was all I knew, and of course, most of my understanding of what Christianity was from being Mormon.
“Mathew?” I blinked, realizing that I had spaced out again. I let out a sigh, sitting up and covering my face with my hands before sighing.
“It’s okay,” Nath said with a small smile.
“It’s just...” I started, trailing off when I wasn’t sure what to say. “I don’t know. I’m not sure about another church,” I said, biting my bottom lip. Nath gave me a small smile before getting out of his seat and heading to stand behind me.
“I’ll follow you into the next town a few times to go to church, so don’t worry about that.” He was running a hand through my hair now, and the mix of him touching me and speaking to me softly calmed me down.
I leaned back a bit so that I was resting my head on his midsection. We stayed like that for a bit, not saying anything.
Nath let out a small hum as he let go of my hair and headed back to the kitchen island to continue working with the spare parts.
“In a few days your mum will be here,” he said, making me smile as I nodded. I’ve been counting down the days to the day my mum said she would get here. I couldn’t wait to see her -- I couldn’t wait for her to see Nath.
“What?” I asked, noticing that Nathaniel had gone a bit quiet. “Is my mum coming going to be a problem?” I asked, starting to feel a bit nervous. I had just realized that although I had told Nath about her coming, I hadn’t really asked him if she could come.
“No,” he said in a firm tone shaking his head in a way that made his twists bounce with the action. “I’m just nervous, that’s all,” he laughed, and I raised a brow at him, leaning to the side so that I could look at him properly.
“Nervous?” I asked, not sure what to say to that.
“Yeah,” he replied with a smile, dropping the screwdriver he had in his hand. “Nervous… You know? That thing you are when you’re not sure what will happen,” he said, and I rolled my eyes before leaning back on the wooden seat.
“Why?” I asked, and Nath shrugged.
“Maybe she won’t like me,” he said before looking around the small kitchen. “Maybe she won’t like this house, who knows,” he said waving his hands before looking back at his tools. I rested my head on my hands watching him with a look of interest plastered on my face.
“She’s going to like you. She already likes you even,” I said, making Nath hum as he cleared the kitchen island of his tools. He was packing up and would probably lave for the bedroom in a while. Nath had a very strict pattern of doing things but watching him follow his routine over and over again never got boring.
“Yeah, nervousness isn’t always rational,” he said, taking down the small tool books from the surface before walking past me and out of the kitchen. After giving it some thought, I got up from my seat at the dining table before walking out of the kitchen as well. I noticed that Nath had gone into the bedroom we now shared. A sigh left my lips as I followed him in, wondering what he was up to. Was he going to take a nap or have a smoke? Somehow, I’ve managed in his place without caving into taking a cigarette, alcohol, or coffee, but then again, it wasn’t like Nath was trying to get me to try them. Of course, he thought some of my beliefs were silly, sometimes he was outright rude about them (which is something he was trying to change) but he never pressed me over mundane things.
“What?” he asked, after turning and noticing me at the door. I shrugged my shoulders, not saying anything. I just liked being around him, and maybe this wasn’t the time for that since he seemed agitated by our small discussion in the kitchen.
He rolled his eyes at my response before taking off his shirt and jeans so that he was only in his boxers. He then climbed into the bed. It sank with his weight, and he shifted a bit until he was rested against the pillow he propped up.
“Are you still worried about my mother coming?” I asked from the front door, breaking the silence.
Nath stayed silent. He opened his mouth, then he closed it before folding his hands. “I’m sure you think it’s ridiculous, but I just want her to like me. I don’t know…” he said as I walked over to the bed, before taking a seat on the edge and looking out into the room. The place was getting a lot more crowded with my belongings, and it made me happy. I just felt at home here. It was my home.
“Don’t want to be the person that led her son astray,” Nath whispered, making my eyes go wide as I turned to face him. I reached out to give his shoulder a light shove. He was laughing now, and I was laughing too, and although we were joking about it there was a sinking feeling in my gut because I knew people went through that. It was a privilege to joke about it.
“Really though,” he muttered, making me look over at him again. His smile was reaching his eyes, and I loved the way he was looking at me. He leaned in a bit, pecking my lips, and I pulled him back for a full-on kiss when he made to get away. We kissed for a bit, and when we pulled away I was red-faced and he was grinning.
“I like that you’re initiating stuff more,” he said.
“Me too.” He raised a brow at my reply, and I just shrugged, picking up the book I had been reading in the kitchen from the bedside table. I liked that Nath was trying to give me space to think about my faith, but like I only knew about Mormonism at a personal level, he only knew about Catholicism at a personal level. I’ve been reading a lot about his childhood faith, but it was — different. There’s no other way to describe how different the two denominations were.
“Have you spoken to Olivia recently?” Nath asked, making me shrug. Yeah, we talk when we bump into each other from time to time, but apart from the random small talk and light smiles, we didn’t talk all that much. Samuel outright avoided me unless I went up to him. The fact that I was slowly losing my friends was a bit heartbreaking. After all the effort I put in. I thought to myself as a sad frown made its way to my face.
Nath sighed, leaning on me. “You don’t have to keep friends, you know? People move apart, it happens. And you know, you’re trying, so if that happens you know you’ve tried.” I felt the tip of his thumb rub against my palm. It was calming.
“I guess,” I answered taking my hand away from him. I pulled my legs up from the carpet so that I was sitting with my legs folded on the bed.
“And you’ll make new ones,” Nath said to me, raising his head from my shoulder. “I have a lot of friends. You’ve even met some of them.”
I laughed, shaking my head. Nath’s friends were... something. Also, it felt a lot being introduced as his boyfriend to the people he used to sleep around with. Nath rose a brow at my laughter, but he just smiled, reaching out to hold my hand.
“Suit yourself,” he said in a teasing tone. My smile just widened as I looked down at him. He had somehow snuggled his head into my lap. I reached out to turn his twists between my fingers. I liked this. I liked being with him, and I hoped my mum was just as enthusiastic about him when she got here as well. My mum liked good people. Nath was a good person, and maybe she’ll see past the awkward clothing and tattoos unlike me when I had first looked at him through the bus window.