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When Joe had ridden off in the taxicab, leaving him standing alone
on the street, Larry had continued stomping his foot saying "Please!"
over and over again until the cab was out of sight. Then he ran into
the apartment they had shared and threw himself down on Joe's bed,
sobbing and thrashing about, like a toddler throwing a temper
tantrum. Eventually the thrashing slowed, then stopped, and he slept.
Waking after a few hours' rest he looked at his watch and realized
that Joe would be returning before long. Always self-disciplined, Joe
would not rest until the car had been retrieved, in spite of the
exhaustion he too must have felt after the long ordeal.
Quickly, Larry gathered up what few belongings he wanted to take:
primarily clothing, the outfits he felt he looked best in. The shelves of
Watchtower books could stay put; they would be of no further use to
him where he was going. After all, this would be an entirely new life
totally unconnected with the past.
Never one to worry much about the future, Larry had not engaged
in what would be considered formal contingency planning. But, at
times when his mind had wandered in that direction, he had
occasionally imagined what he might do if circumstances ever
terminated his relationship with Joe. No matter what those
circumstances might be -- Joe's accidental death, his possible
infatuation with a woman, exposure of their secret relationship,
anything at all that would make it impossible for them to continue
living together as they had -- Larry knew that he would have to find
another lover or lovers. He could not live unloved.
And finding another lover would necessitate leaving the world of
the Watchtower. Not that he thought his situation with Joe to be
unique among Jehovah's Witnesses; Larry knew there were other
couples like themselves living together at Brooklyn headquarters and
outside in various congregations. But establishing such a secret
relationship was difficult and by no means assured. It could take
years for the right combination of people, events, and circumstances to
come along. And Larry could not wait years, nor even months.
If Joe had died or had become infatuated with a woman or had
broken up with him for any other reason, Larry might have lingered
awhile in the world they had shared: the North Bridgewater
Congregation, the apartment in brother Peterson's building, the office-
cleaning work subcontracted through brother Haselip, and the social
circle of pioneers and other young singles in nearby congregations.
But, as things turned out, Joe had now made that impossible. His
confession to brother Brainard and brother Sturgis would implicate
Larry, of course. There would be a knock at the door, and a couple of
elders would want to meet with him. Then would come the judicial
committee meeting, then the public announcement that he had been
removed from the ranks of pioneers and disfellowshipped from the
organization, then he would be evicted from his apartment and
discharged from his job. His parents would be informed of his
disfellowshipping, and they would no longer open their door to him.
Nor would any of the other brothers and sisters in the congregation.
Within days he would lose family, friends, home, job -- his whole
world. And it would all begin within minutes when Joe returned from
picking up his car in New Hampshire.
Not wanting to wait around for all this to happen, Larry left that
world behind. With a packed suitcase in either hand he walked to the
corner and caught a bus heading downtown. After a short wait there
he boarded the bus to Boston. Happily the timing was right and this
was the Express, not the one that stops at every street corner and
fence post along the way. As the bus passed the North Bridgewater
city limits Larry pictured himself in a rocket escaping the atmosphere
of a doomed planet. Within moments the planet would blow up,
destroying all life on the surface, but he would be out of reach of the
explosion, well on his way to another world.
When the bus reached Ashmont Station and unloaded its
passengers in the dismal dungeon of a subway stop, Larry looked
around and found what he had been expecting: some inhabitants of
the new world he was about to enter. The unshaven man on the
opposite side of the tracks had not taken his eyes off Larry since he
arrived. And then there was this muscular guy in the Gold's Gym tee
shirt. Sauntering up the platform he conspicuously made eye contact
with Larry, and prolonged it. Then they both looked each other up
and down. Larry even gave him a broad smile accompanied by a toss
of his blond bangs, but then looked away. No, this wasn't the time nor
the place, nor the class of people Larry had in mind. It was fun
flirting without Joe jabbing an elbow in his side to make him quit. But
Charles Street Station was only twenty-five minutes away by train.
Charles Street, Beacon Hill, the Back Bay -- these were all places Larry
had daydreamed about but never experienced. Along the grassy
banks of the Charles River where yachts and sailboats tied up
downtown and joggers outnumbered pedestrians he would have no
problem making new friends. In fact, the boyish good looks that had
been going to waste all these years would draw so many admirers that
limiting friends would be the problem. And Larry planned to limit
them -- not to just one, of course, as he had done with Joe out of
necessity, but perhaps to one congressman, and one corporate
executive, one celebrity tennis player, and one Beacon Hill socialite --
no more than that.
And, oh yes, he mused, now on a half-empty subway car hurtling
toward his destination, he would have to summer in Provincetown, of
course, so he would add one artist and perhaps even one poet to his
list of intimate friends.
After emerging from the tunnel and running for a while on a
section of elevated track the train once again plunged into blackness
with the roar of ricocheting thunder. Larry closed his eyes and
pictured North Bridgewater exploding in a thermonuclear
armageddon. Gone now was any reason to remember the people or
the city or the God he had left behind. They had all vanished. How
long would this new world last? Was it too a volatile place, subject to
terminal explosion? Perhaps, but it would definitely be more exciting
in the meantime.
And it would be home. He had always felt like an alien among the
Witnesses -- an illegal alien forced to hide the facts about who he
really was. Now he would be free to be himself, among his own
people, on his own turf. It felt good! Why, he wondered had he
waited so long?
A few monsters loomed on the horizon of Larry's new world, but
he refused to look at them. AIDS snarled and growled and showed its
teeth a few miles down the road, and it did make Larry shiver when
he glanced that way. But the road itself led to old age and death
anyway -- it was a dead end street -- and even middle age was
repulsive to one whose soul resided in his boyish grin. So the AIDS
dragon that might devour him in five or ten years would, at the same
time, be rescuing him from decades in the torture chamber of
wrinkled skin and rejection. And wasn't a battle with AIDS an
honorable way to go now in the gay community?
The stop at crowded Park Street Station to change trains afforded
opportunity for a couple more brief flirtations -- one encounter with a
bespectacled businessman on the platform who tripped and nearly fell
as he watched Larry instead of his step, and another after the trolley
to Charles Street pulled out and the black tunnel converted its window
to a mirror, revealing a passenger who, though turning pages of the
Boston Globe he held before him, kept his eyes locked onto Larry's
reflection. All this attention gave him a new rush of enthusiasm, like
an addict receiving an overdue injection.
Emerging at Charles Street Station and crossing the intersection via
the overhead pedestrian ramp Larry felt freedom such as he had
never felt before. But at some level of consciousness he also knew
that it was the freedom of a condemned man who, because he is
already condemned, is free to do anything at all without fear of
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