Rescue Me! – chapter 5: An Idyll He awoke gently, no suddenness, no abruptness, no surprises, just a gentle coming to consciousness, and a growing awareness of life. He noticed that he wasn’t alone, and memory came floating back. The body gently breathing against his, the tousled head resting on his chest, rising and falling with his own breathing, the warmth all along one side, the rigidity thrusting against his hip – this was Jeremy, sleeping in his own bed beside him. He turned his head slightly and filled his nostrils with Jeremy’s hair and with the warm, intimate scent that was him. He breathed in gently, reveling in that perfume. Gradually he became aware of his own body and its needs. He gently eased himself out from underneath Jeremy and padded off to the bathroom. When he came back, he paused in the doorway and caught his breath at the beauty lying so innocently spread out on his bed. Jeremy had thrown back the blankets and turned over onto his back. He sprawled over the entire bed, unconsciously claiming all the space. The light played over his body putting one side into highlight and the other into deeper shadow, a chiaroscuro of light and shadow caressing his body, serving to emphasize out the early morning tent. Jeremy was a painting by one of the great masters, a young “David” asleep on the bed, innocent yet alluring at the same time. John sighed deeply. He went over to get his robe and left to make coffee, pausing again at the door to look back with an inner yearning. In the kitchen, he went through his morning ritual, pulling out coffee and filters, filling the pot with water. He paused a moment and decided to add more water. Then he put in the coffee and turned it on. He took down two mugs, got out some cream and sweetener, reached in again to get some sugar for Jeremy, just in case. He stood there, waiting, his mind whirling in its early morning fog, trying to figure out what day today was, and what he would do today. It was going to be different. Jeremy was here. He wasn’t alone today. He found he liked that feeling, of having to think about someone else. He smiled wryly; he knew himself. Sure, he’d had guests before, but his feelings for Jeremy were decidedly different. He stood silently, waiting. The coffee maker finally sputtered, letting him know that it was ready. He took a large mug, put in sweetener, added cream, and then poured in the coffee, stirring the whole time. The first sip was fabulous. God he loved that first sip. The dark rich roast filled his nose, caressed his tongue and slowly slid down his throat. Heaven! Maybe he would live for another day. He took the cup into the living room and sat down in the corner chair. This was his private prayer corner, his small sanctuary. There was the one, deep, comfortable chair with an ottoman for his feet. There was a lamp, a small table at his right side with his Bible and Book of Common Prayer sitting on it. He put his coffee mug down on the coaster and settled himself into the chair. When he looked to his left, he could see out the window into the park across the street. Everything was covered with snow, the bare branched trees poking up out of the snow. At the junction of street and sidewalk, there was a huge snow bank, put there by the snow blowers and tractors that had cleared the streets overnight. It had been a good snowfall; the piles were nearly as tall as he was. Sitting there on the second floor, he could see over the banks into the park beyond. It was still early; light was just peeking over the horizon. A few very hardy souls were out walking their dogs, dark bundles of humanity of varied sizes linked by a thin leash to a smaller four-legged blob bouncing around the park. The little dogs bounded through the snow, trying to stay above it. The larger dogs just ran through it. The dwarf dogs with their long bodies plowed through it leaving furrows behind them. He loved dogs but in the winter, he was always thankful that he didn’t have to go out and walk one. Idly he wondered if he could rent a dog for the summer. He shook his head; that was just plain silly. He reached over, took up his Prayer Book and began to read Morning Prayer. It gave him a good start to the day; he could read the Scriptures, pray the Psalms and then spend some time in silent prayer. It shaped the whole day. He truly believed that he wanted to do what was right. He was convinced that his work with the homeless and the poor down at the Shelter was God’s will. Praying for them, individually by name, helped him to focus; praying gave him comfort. When one of “his” people died, or just disappeared, he prayed for them, believing that God’s Spirit would be with each one of them, wherever they were. When he was down and sorrowing, or deeply frustrated, he prayed and God filled him peace. In that peace, he often found answers to his questions. So now, he turned to prayer. What was he going to do with Jeremy? What did God want for Jeremy? As he came to the prayer time of Morning Prayer, he slipped deeper into meditation, letting God’s peace fill him, opening himself up to the holy. His breathing slowed and deepened; his hands relaxed on his thighs, palms turned upwards, fingers open to receive. He let his mind drift on the sea of God. Jeremy found him there as he padded down the hall, bed-head giving him a nimbus of hair, sleepily searching for John – and the sense of peace he found when he was with him. He rubbed the sleep out of his eyes as he leaned against the doorframe, watching John breathe slowly in and out. He didn’t know what John was doing, but it comforted him. Silently, he slipped over and curled up in the sofa, watching John. His own breathing deepened and slowed as he focused on the other man, matching him. Time passed. John came up, stretched out and looked up, surprised to see Jeremy nestled in the corner of the couch. He looked so peaceful there. Jeremy’s eyes opened and looked at John, his intensity freezing John in place for a moment. He smiled, and the sun lit up the room. “Ready for coffee, Jeremy?” “Yes, thank you.” “Come into the kitchen, then.” They both got up and moved into the kitchen. John poured, and then looked at Jeremy, the unspoken “one lump or two” obvious in his eyes. “Just one sugar and a little milk, please.” “Will cream do?” “Oh, yes. That’s a treat.” John poured and stirred, then passed the mug over to Jeremy. Now it was Jeremy’s turn to revel in the dark, deep aroma of really good coffee. They stood there for a moment, one in a loosely tied robe, the other in “tighty-whities,” leaning back against the counter and enjoying the coffee. They both moved back to the living room, Jeremy to the corner of the couch and this time, John joined him. They sipped and sat, gazing out the picture window. “Jeremy, I thought we might go out a little later, maybe go to a movie or just go to one of the malls and window ship. Is there anything special that you might like to do?” John laughed at the expression that had quickly crossed Jeremy’s face. “No, not that; I told you last night, I’m not going to have sex with you.” Jeremy blushed. John had read his mind. He squirmed, not sure of anything right now. He knew that he was attracted to John, and he thought that John was attracted to him. He didn’t understand why John was saying no. Maybe he’d read things wrong. Maybe John wasn’t attracted to him after all. John reached over and took his hand. “Jeremy, yes, I am attracted to you. I am very strongly attracted to you. You are a beautiful young man. But I want you to learn that all of you is beautiful, not just your face and body.” He paused, and then continued, “I’m too young to be your father, so think of me as an older brother. You’re here with your older brother and we’re going to have some fun this weekend together – just not sexual fun. OK?” Jeremy nodded, still blushing a bit and looking down in embarrassment. “Jeremy, look at me.” John reached over lifted Jeremy’s chin, “There’s nothing wrong about what you’re feeling. That’s how you’ve been taught to respond. Let’s just try and work on a relationship between two friends, with no exploitation.” Jeremy nodded again, looking John in the eyes this time. He broke out into his patented smile. “I’d like that.” “OK, then, let’s get dressed and see what we can do.” A short while later, freshly showered and dressed, they met again in the living room, ready to go out. John ushered them out the door, locked it and they went down to the car. He’d turned on the car heater from inside the house before they took their showers. That would warm up the inside of the car, as well as turn on the block heater to warm up the engine oil. They got in, started the car and drove off. John turned to Jeremy as they started, “It’s so much nicer with the heater. I always hated having to turn on the car and then get out into the cold again to scrape off the ice from the windows. This way I can turn it on inside the house and the car is heated up, the ice has begun to melt off the windows and we can get going pretty quickly. So, let’s go downtown, have some brunch and then wander around. Do you want to listen to anything on the radio?” “I’m easy, whatever you’d like.” John turned the radio on and tuned it to his favorite FM station. Classical music began to fill the car, the quick, crisp notes of a Bach piano piece setting an almost mathematical rhythm. “Ah, Glenn Gould, he’s unmistakable. I love him. He’s old, dated even, but his was a unique interpretation of Bach. Some people hated it; they said he played far too fast. And his incredibly annoying habit of humming while he played really got to some. But the crispness, the sheer mathematical clarity of his playing was just incredible. I really love it. It just sings to me.” Jeremy listened quietly, not sure he had any idea what John was talking about, but pretty certain that John was passionate about it – whatever “it” was. He turned and looked at John, noting his fingers tapping along in rhythm to this Glenn Gould person on the radio, his head bobbing gently. Yep, he was sure excited about it. Jeremy enjoyed watching John, enjoyed his obvious love of the music. He smiled, feeling that sense of peace that he so often got from being with John. They arrived at the subway station and parked the car. They quickly ran from the car-park to the station, entering Montreal’s famous underground city. With a little bit of planning, they wouldn’t have to come up again into the cold until they returned to this subway station to go home this evening. This was so much more civilized than fighting their way through the snow, ice and cold. They stamped the snow and sand off their boots, paid their fare and went downstairs. They waited on the underground platform for the next train to arrive. A short blast of the horn and it came whooshing into the station. The doors slid open and they got on. A short ride later and they arrived at their destination, the large underground shopping center near the center of town right underneath the Anglican Cathedral. They go out, went upstairs and began window-shopping. There were lots and lots of other people doing exactly the same thing, French and English chattering back and forth to each other, with a smattering of other languages from all over the world interrupting the flow as people hurried back and forth. It was Christmas-shopping time, and everyone was looking for just the right gift for that someone special. They found one of the restaurants and stepped inside the little fence, taking one of the “outside” tables and watching the crowds hurry back and forth. “Jeremy, this is one of the famous Crepe Bretonne restaurants. I love their very thin, very French pancakes. I’m sure you will, too. So, look at the menu and we’ll get something to eat now.” He started perusing his menu, trying to pick between several of his favorite crepes. He noticed that Jeremy looked a little lost as he held his big, pancake shaped menu open in front of him. His eyes were going back and forth, yet not as if they were scanning, more as if he didn’t know what to look for. John watched him for a moment, and then reached over his hand. “Jeremy, can I suggest a pancake or two for you to pick from? There are so many that it’s difficult to make a choice, isn’t it?” Jeremy nodded quickly, looking relieved. “What kinds of things do you prefer? The pancakes are divided into two sections – there’s the sweet pancakes with fillings like apples or other fruit and ice-cream, and then there are the savory ones with chicken or eggs or vegetables. It’s still early enough that we could get a breakfast style of pancake, if you like. I’ve always enjoyed the very traditional eggs and ham with some maple syrup topping.” “That sounds really good, John. Could I have that one?” “Sure. Do you like chocolate?” Jeremy nodded. “How about a dessert pancake with chocolate and ice-cream?” “Oh, that sounds good, too. But I don’t know if I can eat that much.” “OK, how about we split the two pancakes half and half?” Jeremy nodded again, somewhat overwhelmed by all the decisions. “Do you like tea? I love the Brittany Tea, it’s made with chamomile. How does that sound?” “Great.” The water bustled over and John ordered in rapid fire French, asking that both pancakes be split in two for them to share. The waiter nodded, repeated the order back, and then scurried off. He was back in a flash with a big pot of chamomile tea, two cups, and two glasses of water. “Personally, I don’t like this kind of tea with milk, but it’s pretty good sweetened, either with sugar or honey. See, it’s here on the table.” He poured two cups. Jeremy poured some honey into his tea and stirred, then tasted carefully, not sure what he was getting into. John prepared his own tea and watched Jeremy. “Oh, this is good.” “Glad you like it. Would you like to watch them make the crepes?” Jeremy nodded. John took him by the arm and they wandered over to the large griddle in the middle of the room. The cook, wearing her ornate costume with its lace cap, carefully poured a small cup of batter into the middle of the grill, and then taking a small wooden tool adroitly maneuvered it into a large circle, pulling the batter into a paper thing crepe behind the tool. Within minutes it was done, she then lifted it off the grill over to the side, buttered it quickly and spread the fillings into it. She then folded it into thirds one way and then thirds the other, ending up with a large square crepe that filled a large dinner plate. Then she continued, cooking one crepe after another, taking just a few minutes to do each one. They watched, amazed at her speed and agility, until they noticed that she had just finished their order. They rushed back to their table and just made it before the waiter bustled over with their crepe, neatly cut into two and placed it in front of them. John poured maple syrup liberally over his half, and after watching him, Jeremy did likewise. Then they dug in. They ate greedily, syrup dripping down their chins. John watched happily as Jeremy devoured his half-crepe. Then, just as they had leaned back, pleasantly full, the waiter came back, whisked their empty plates away and put the dessert crepe in front of them, again neatly divided into two. They leaned forward and attacked this one, too, the ice cream and chocolate covered crepe disappearing in moments. “Oh God, that was good. I’ve never eaten anything like that before.” “Good. I’m glad I could introduce you to something new. I love these crepes. Let’s finish our tea and then we can keep wandering.” The rest of the day went just like that. They wandered, looked at lots of windows, wished they were millionaires so they could buy everything. They laughed and carried on, two young men just enjoying themselves out for a day. Sometimes they looked in the window and laughed at some of the fashions they saw. Sometimes they stopped and giggled at the toys, or the decorations for Christmas. Arms came up and hugged shoulders, or went around waists, or just touched as they walked along. You couldn’t tell, were they brothers out together, two good friends having fun, lovers planning for Christmas. In Montreal, it didn’t make much difference. They were just two young men having fun. Their laughter flowed from them to the world around them, infecting others as they saw and felt it. They took the subway home, getting out at their station, bundling up again against the cold. The car was cold. Unlike this morning, they did have to turn on the heaters, and get out and scrape the windows. Even after ten minutes, the car was still cold. They drove home quickly, longing for the warmth. Once home, John quickly laid a fire and got it lit. He bustled around in the kitchen, warming up soup, cutting the French bread they had bought on the way home, and setting out cold cuts for a light evening meal. They sat in front of the fire, eating on the coffee table, leaning back against the couch. They watched the flames leap and quiver, sending out their flickering light throughout the room. It had been a good day. They were content. They leaned against each other, drinking hot chocolate and drifting in the warmth of the fire. “Time to go to bed for me,” said John. “You can stay up if you want.” “No. It’s time for me, too. I’m tired.” Jeremy got up, looking down at John. He offered his hand and brought John up from the floor. Suddenly they found each other standing together, leaning against each other. John’s hand came up and he cupped Jeremy’s cheek, his thumb tracing Jeremy’s lips. Jeremy leaned into the caress, his body fitting into John as his arms came up and hugged him. “Thank you. It was a magical day.” “For me, too, Jeremy. Thanks for the company today.” Neither one seemed to want to let go. “Can I sleep with you again tonight?” John didn’t know what to say. He was torn – he body screamed “yes” and his conscience said “no.” He loved having Jeremy in his arms. His hands stroked Jeremy – hair, arms, back – one hand fitted itself to Jeremy’s neck and he knew that he desperately wanted to kiss him. Yet some little voice inside kept saying, “Don’t do this. You were right; he needs to heal. Give him time.” He shuddered and Jeremy hugged him tighter. “We can just sleep, like last night,” Jeremy whispered into John’s chest. John’s resolve collapsed, “OK, but just sleep. You’ve still got to wear shorts.” “OK.” Within moments, they were tucked into bed. The evening’s ablutions had gone by in a split second, and now they found themselves nestled against each other. Jeremy arranged his body against John, nestling like a puppy, his head on John’s chest, one arm tucked around him, his leg tucked up over John’s. Only thin cotton and a weakening conscience separated them. Jeremy’s breathing deepened and he relaxed completely into John. John law awake, caught between desires, his body betraying him with its rigidity and his heart crying for more. It would be another long night.