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    Mac Rountree
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Discovering Home - 18. Outre

I hope that everyone is well. It has been a challenging week and I am still rattled by everything that has occurred. I send love and peace to you.

Mac

 

Sidney gently shook Clay’s shoulder and told him it was time to dress and go home. Clay had worn himself out by running around the studio and was now sleeping in the bed of reeds that Sean had made for him. He loved the bed.

“Where Eli?”

“Eli had to leave for work. We’ll go home and have a sandwich. Okay?”

“I want Eli.”

“Well, Claymonster, Eli had to go to work and isn’t here. Let’s go home.”

Clay crawled out of bed and unwound his body. He started shaking out his arms and legs and then rolled his head around. Finally, Clay shook his entire body and giggled when his penis flopped up and down. Sidney couldn’t remember if his penis ever flopped when he was at that age, thinking it probably hadn’t. Of course, he had felt shame about his body from an early age and thought his penis was only something to use when he had to do a number one.

Once they arrived at the rectory, Sidney made himself busy fixing their meal before reviewing his sermon for the next day. It was a tad academic. Actually, more than a tad; it was totally from “Sermons for Dummies: 101.” Homiletics had been his most challenging class in seminary. His professor had told Sidney that while he knew the scriptures inside out and could write beautiful academic papers, his sermons required more. Sermons required that he take ideas and make them human to himself and his parishioners. He needed to put flesh and bones on them, and blood, and misery, and joy…the list of ands seemed to go on forever. Essentially, he needed to connect.

That was his problem: connection.

He had always had been challenged by being close and honest with others. He was probably closer to Sean than almost anyone he had ever met except for his friend, Eddie, and that had turned out horribly. Even with Sean, he disclosed little dribs and drabs of his life and rarely what he really thought. He knew that the close connection would lead to vulnerability. He refused to make himself vulnerable to others. Wasn’t that the problem his clinical supervisor cautioned him about during his clinical practice rotation? He always created this clinical distance that patients picked up on, and that translated into them shutting down. They didn’t feel comfortable sharing their innermost issues. It was as if his Roman Collar was like a doctor’s white coat. It screamed, ‘tell me something but not too much; I can deal with surface issues today, but please don’t tell me about your deeper pain.’ Sidney became good at taking the barest of conversations and conflating them into something meaningful for his papers in the class. He had read enough textbooks about chaplaincy that he could fake it. He was the master faker.

Thus far, his short stint in ministry had not led him to the point where he had those difficult conversations with parishioners. He wished the Episcopal Church had confession boxes where he could sit on one side of a wall and listen to the stories from parishioners before giving penance. “Say three Hail Mary’s and sin no more.” Yep, he could do that. Fully engaging with someone and allowing himself to be completely empathetic was something else. He knew he had empathy. He kept it in a box that was locked in his heart.

When Eli touched him, it was like his heart broke apart and exploded into a million pieces. He desired nothing more than for Eli to touch him. He wanted more, but he didn’t trust himself. Sidney, the perfect student, was afraid he would fail at love. Fail at connecting. Fail at being a partner. Worst, fail at sex.

He loved Sean. He loved Clay. He knew he loved Eli. Neither Sean nor Clay wanted anything physical though other than a good night kiss, or to be held safely. They didn’t want the sex thing. Sidney had only once been with another man, yet he knew with certainty that he was gay, and while he had surreptitiously looked at porn, he had barely put theory into practice. He had not even jerked-off with other boys when he was growing up.

He was sure that he was like many other people his age who were waiting until marriage to have sex. He would think that, yet know that he was lying to himself, and then he would feel even worse. He was no better than a eunuch. His equipment was fully functional, and it was obvious that Eli liked it. The first time he and Eli had modeled, he almost fainted when he felt that hot poker at his rear. At one point, Eli slid it up and down his back. Sidney had to fight the urge to fill Eli’s hand with his essence. Eli had cuddled Sidney’s penis, chuckled in his ear, and then bit his lobe. That was when Sidney called for a bathroom break and ran to the toilet. He barely made it into the bathroom before he exploded. He spent a few minutes cleaning the floor, wiping down his cock, and gathering his senses before returning to the modeling platform. Eli was waiting and looked as luscious as ever.

Sidney’s look gave him away. Eli could see the terror in Sidney’s eyes. Eli then gently held him and no longer teased him sexually. The man’s hold was filled with gentleness and love. Sidney felt safe in a way he never had before.

Feeling safe. That had always been a challenge for Sidney. His mother was not maternal when he was a child. Sidney’s mother had told him at some point that he was bottle fed from the time he was about one month old because she couldn’t understand his constant need to suck her nipples. She said he was voracious and wanted feeding all of the time. She claimed it was because he was too sexual from birth. Sidney thought it a ridiculous idea that a newborn baby would be seeking sexual satisfaction from feeding at a mother’s breast. His mother then blamed Sidney’s father, who refused to have his son circumcised. Portia claimed that Sidney loved rubbing his foreskin against her stomach while nursing.

His father was a distant man who worked hard to put food on the table. They lived hand to mouth. He was angry that his wife did not want more children, yet she was the realist and knew they could barely afford to feed the three of them. She was a very practical woman. When her sisters would ask why she didn’t have more children, she said there was a problem during delivery that was Sidney’s fault, and therefore she couldn’t bear more children. Sidney never knew if that was true, but he had carried around the guilt that it was his fault that he had no siblings.

His father loved to watch football on television, and when Sidney wanted to crawl into his lap during the games, his father would tell him to go away. Sidney was told he was interrupting his father and to go someplace else. The chasm grew until they practically weren’t speaking to each other by the time Sidney graduated from high school. Academically, he was brilliant and had scholarships to pay for his undergraduate degree. When he wasn’t in class or studying, he was at the local Episcopal church volunteering. His priest grew concerned and told Sidney he should take advantage of some of the social events on campus. Sidney was clear that he wanted to be a priest and didn’t find enjoyment in the social world. He didn’t know how to engage and didn’t have a mentor to help him bridge that gap.

Sidney majored in Russian in undergraduate school. He was the only student in the Russian language program who was not planning to work in the foreign service field in the State Department, CIA, or military. He wanted to learn a language that was only known by a few Americans. He knew he was different and wanted to push the envelope of how different he was. He went to thrift stores and found some Russian military coats and hats and wore those around campus. He found a seamstress who made him tunics that buttoned across the shoulder. In his senior year, when other students would speak with him, he would reply in Russian. He realized that he was an ass, but he didn’t care. He was different: small in stature, intellectual, introverted, and gay.

Sidney had toyed with the idea of joining a monastery after graduation. He longed for solitary days in a library reading his beloved books. He then decided he wasn’t safe being in close quarters with a group of men. He knew that the mental torment of being cloistered with men every day would be more than he could stand. He decided to go into ministry.

The diocese's discernment process for ministry was daunting, and after days of meetings and interviews, Sidney returned to his apartment exhausted. He was elated when he was finally approved to move through the ordination process. It would be a long and arduous process, but Sidney said he felt called to ministry. When it came time to choose a seminary, he decided on General Theological in New York City. Why he chose a school in Manhattan was beyond his own reasoning. He did the mental gymnastics and thought if he was there, he would force himself to go to the museums and shows. He was testing himself in a significant way. He wanted to become part of the larger world but was scared.

During his first year, he started going to shows. He realized he loved the magical world of Off-Broadway. He became the informal critic for the other students at the seminary. They would ask him which shows were worth attending. He had very unorthodox tastes and told them about the newest plays by American playwrights and the new musicals. The more challenging the play or the surreal the musical, the more he liked it. He didn’t want pablum. He wanted something to mentally chew and digest. He avoided Disneyland North as he called the revitalized 42nd Street corridor. Once squalid and filled with porno shops, it was now filled with Mickey, Minnie, and their successors of the kingdom.

It was during his second year at seminary that he fell in love. Eddie was like his twin in many ways. Neurotically genius, inward-focused, and someone who found comfort interacting with those living on the fringe of society. The two found common ground in experiencing the outer bounds of experimental theater, music, and poetry. They were both avid poetry fans. Sidney loved the Russian poets, while Eddie was a freak for Arabian and Near Eastern mystics and poets. He allowed that at one time, he thought he might become a Buddhist.

After watching an Off-Broadway show, they would sit in a café and talk until dawn. Everything was analyzed. No movement or set design was left undiscussed. Each of them would cite obscure references used by the playwrights. They would compete on memorizing the script from the play and reporting it out to the other. They would often hold hands across the table while talking and looking deeply into each other’s eyes. They found delight in the same things and would bolster the other that their thinking was normal and that the rest of the world was truly weird.

Finally, one morning as they were leaving a café after a long night of talking, Eddie looked at Sidney and told his friend that he loved him. Sidney was elated and kissed Eddie, who was completely taken aback. Eddie then smiled and kissed his friend. Sidney cautiously reached out and took Eddie’s hand in his. They walked back to their dorm rooms with their fingers intertwined. Before they separated, Sidney leaned into Eddie, kissed him, and told him that he loved him. Eddie quickly slipped into his room and closed the door. It was a Saturday morning, and Sidney went to his room and fell asleep. It had been a challenging week of school and then an entire night spent at the theater and café. When he awoke, he spent the rest of the day in his room having sexual thoughts about his friend. His body responded in kind, and early that evening, he went to a pharmacy to get some lotion because of his chaffed skin.

The next morning, they showed up for Sunday service, dressed in their cassocks. Their smiles could have lit the entire chapel. After the service, they had lunch together and then headed to the library, where each was working on the end of the semester papers. They also had to write letters to their Bishops during the Ember days to give updates on their academic, spiritual, and personal lives.

It was during that time that the two men first spent the night together - it was after a concert at Lincoln Center. They had taken a taxi back to the seminary and held hands the entire time. When they got to Eddie’s room, Sidney would not release his hand and insisted on coming in. They quickly shed their clothes and were in bed, making love. Long, pent-up desires flowed forth, as they thrashed about all night. Sidney settled into Eddie as the man splayed his legs and said he needed to be taken. Sidney thought making love to Eddie must be what heaven was like. It felt ethereal; the experience had seized all of the molecules in his body and focused them to satisfy Eddie. Sidney had never felt so narrowly focused on pleasure in all of his life. His universe coalesced for the first time. He understood the gift of two becoming one. As dawn approached, Sidney kissed the back of Eddie’s neck, reached out, and pulled Eddie in close while sliding his hand down the slender torso and pelvis, and then realized that his friend was crying. When Sidney tried to comfort him, Eddie said that what they had done was an abomination. He quoted the clobber verses from Leviticus. Sidney was astounded to hear such rebuke from his lover. What followed was an academic argument between the two about the meaning of the Old Testament text. Or at least, Sidney thought it was an academic argument until Eddie told him to get out.

Sidney was devastated. How had such a fantastic night turned into something so wrong?

Instead of going to his room, Sidney bolted the property and wandered the streets of lower Manhattan. He had dressed quickly and haphazardly. He was unshaven, and he hadn’t brushed his hair. He couldn’t stand the taste in his mouth and popped into a coffee shop for an espresso. He thought the strong hot coffee would cleanse his palate.

Sidney’s brain kept replaying the earlier conversation. He gesticulated as he relived the earlier argument while he walked the streets and then spilled the espresso down the front of his shirt. He hadn’t slept all night, and his eyes were bloodshot. Sidney realized that people were moving away from him. He ruefully chuckled and thought that was the opposite of what a priest wanted. The shepherd of a congregation should pull people into his embrace; instead, Sidney repelled people by his appearance and behaviors. He decided that he and Eddie needed to have another conversation. They could work through the language of Leviticus and become lovers.

Sidney returned to his dorm and walked to Eddie’s room, where he knocked on the door. There was no answer. He called out for Eddie to open the door. Again, there was no response. When Sidney turned to walk down the hallway, he saw Eddie in the stairwell. Eddie ran. Sidney chased after the man calling his name. They were outside the building when he caught up with Eddie. Eddie slumped against the building and put his arms across his head to block the impending assault. Tears and snot were running down his face as he cried and begged for Sidney not to hit him.

Sidney stumbled back in horror. Did he look like he was going to assault Eddie? He hadn’t meant to come across that way. He then realized that his years of TaeKwanDo training had automatically kicked in, and he was in an assaultive position. Sidney was disgusted with himself as his shoulders slumped; he left Eddie cowering in the courtyard and trudged to his room. He fell into his bed without bothering to undress. It was nighttime when he finally awoke. He was wracked with pain. The next morning, Sidney barely pulled himself together before heading to the Chapel for the Sunday Eucharist. Eddie wasn’t there. In fact, Sidney never saw Eddie again as his friend was returning from the Dean’s office that Saturday morning, where he had dropped out of seminary.

 

 

 

Copyright © 2020 Mac Rountree; All Rights Reserved.
If you enjoyed what you have read, please leave a reaction and/or comment for the author!

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Chapter Comments

Sometimes we are our own worst enemies...As for Leviticus, for far too long it's been a favorite whipping post for those of a duplicitous nature and the adherents of pick and chose Christianity. Not to belabor the point but...Jesus if I remember correctly, put paid to the Old Testament...I hope Sidney's introspection helps him find his way out of his self-induced confinement. As an adult and with his education he should have the tools to move forward with his life...despite his childhood.

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Sidney is so exemplary of a lot of closet cases in ministry:  surround oneself with academics and live a life that denies one's feelings and desires.  Do a life of penance.  I hope he might finally seek assistance from Thomas and Joe.  Great chapter.

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11 hours ago, drsawzall said:

Sometimes we are our own worst enemies...As for Leviticus, for far too long it's been a favorite whipping post for those of a duplicitous nature and the adherents of pick and chose Christianity. Not to belabor the point but...Jesus if I remember correctly, put paid to the Old Testament...I hope Sidney's introspection helps him find his way out of his self-induced confinement. As an adult and with his education he should have the tools to move forward with his life...despite his childhood.

Drsawell,

We can scare ourselves to the point we don't have the ability to act of love when it comes our way.  Sidney finds the intellectual motivation to move forward in an upcoming chapter.  

Thanks for reading.

Mac

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1 hour ago, pvtguy said:

Sidney is so exemplary of a lot of closet cases in ministry:  surround oneself with academics and live a life that denies one's feelings and desires.  Do a life of penance.  I hope he might finally seek assistance from Thomas and Joe.  Great chapter.

Pvtguy,

I know many clergy who are in the closet and afraid of acknowledging their sexuality.  Of course, I see that in the secular world also.  

Sidney is going to move forward.  He has found the man to help him do that.

Thanks for reading.

Happy New Year.

Mac

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