Previous Chapter Home Next Chapter

Chapter Twenty-four

Joe Fontaine had mixed feelings about the road ahead. Not the long
drive back from Gossville, New Hampshire -- he welcomed the
opportunity to be alone and to let the implications of the changes in
his life start to sink in. But he had mixed feelings about where those
changes would lead him.

First of all, he would miss Larry. Oh! -- how he would miss him!
Even the realization that the pain of loss was not mutual would not
lessen Joe's pain. After all, he had sobbed two decades earlier when
his childhood teddy bear fell apart and his mother ruled that it was
beyond repair and had to be thrown away. The tears had come in
spite of the fact that he had outgrown teddy bears, in spite of the fact
that he was too old to cry, and in spite of the fact that he knew the
teddy bear to be an inanimate assemblage of cloth, thread, and
stuffings, incapable of either thought or emotion. His constant
companion from crib to kindergarten, that teddy bear had somehow
claimed such a permanent place in his heart that, even though he was
a more mature youngster in grade school when it finally fell apart, the
loss had wrenched his emotions with the strength of the earlier

Remembering this helped Joe deal with his feelings about Larry. It
helped him understand how he could miss Larry so intensely even
though he himself had chosen the separation, even though he had
thoroughly rejected the basis for such an unclean relationship, and
even though he realized full well that Larry would be going merrily on
his way making a new life for himself and seldom giving Joe a second
thought. The past attachment, like a tangible piece of his heart, would
not simply disappear painlessly, regardless of the contrary sentiments
of the present.

Joe was glad that he understood this process of his own emotions;
otherwise the inescapable fact that he did in fact miss Larry would
only have added to his guilt.

What guilt? That was the other strange thing about how he was
feeling. Joe knew that he was guilty of much, yet he did not feel guilt
in the way that he was accustomed to. And this was a surprise. As he
evaluated his new situation on the long drive home, Joe found the
reason for his lack of guilt much more difficult to grasp than his grief
over losing Larry. Hadn't he felt guilty all the while he had been
carrying on with his roommate? Hadn't he felt guilty all that time?
Then, why not now? It was as if God had given a two-fold answer to
his jailhouse prayer, not simply empowering him to give up his
degrading practice, but, as an added bonus, granting him complete

The main reason why Joe found this so hard to comprehend was
that it contradicted everything that God's organization was telling him.
The organization would find him guilty of gross sin, expel him from
the congregation, deny him the fellowship of friends, treat him as a
spiritual leper for many months, and then finally, if he went through
the proper steps to signify repentance, grant him readmission to the
congregation. But he felt that God had already forgiven him and
accepted him back. What a strange paradox: while he was living with
Larry, separated from God by his wilful practice of sin, the
congregation viewed him as a hero; yet, now when he had made his
peace with God and in turn had received God's peace, the congregation
would see him as a villain. Perhaps this was justice for the many
years he had pretended to be holier than he was. But, still, Joe could
not explain why he felt God smiling down on him. It totally
contradicted his theology.

Moving on from his emotions to the real world, Joe contemplated
his future in concrete terms. The apartment would be more difficult
to support without Larry's paycheck, but no one in the congregation
would rent a room to a disfellowshipped person. His days of door-to-
door ministry distributing Watchtower literature and conducting home
Bible studies were over; the congregation would not accept field
service from a disfellowshipped person. And there would be no social
life for him: no place to go but Kingdom Hall meetings, were he would
be required to enter and leave in silence, greeting no one and no one
greeting him. And all this at the time in his life when he most needed
comfort, reassurance, and help to get his feet solidly on the proper

A Witness in good standing would be cautioned against turning to
any "worldly" source of help such as Alcoholics Anonymous. But
perhaps such a group existed for homosexuals. And, since he would
already be disfellowshipped, what further punishment could the
elders add to him for joining such a group? Joe knew that he needed
help. And, that he would find none at Kingdom Hall.

So, he decided to make a short detour from the route home to visit
the Boston Public Library. The possibility of researching the existence
of such a group would be much more promising there than in North
Bridgewater. Leaving the elevated expressway over Boston he got
onto Storrow Drive, heading for the Copley Square exit. Unbeknownst
to Joe, this route caused him to pass within a few hundred yards of
Larry who was in the process of scouting out the environs of Charles
Street at the foot of Beacon Hill.

Entering the Boston Public Library for the first time, Joe was
overwhelmed by the complexity of the facility and the restrictions on
its use. He would not be able, as he had hoped, simply to browse
among the shelves looking for books that might help him on his quest.
He was directed, instead, to the card files. It would be necessary to
request books at the desk, no more than three at a time, by writing on
a slip the title, author, and Dewey Decimal number.

Discouraged at the prospect of a long and possibly fruitless search,
Joe decided to visit the men's room first. But then, as he turned in the
direction indicated by a sign, a colorful bulletin board and pamphlet
rack caught his eye. Could it be that such a group might advertise its
meetings by such means? The notices posted there ranged from
classical music concerts to political forums and the pamphlets covered
the gamut from antivivisectionist arguments to Zen Buddhism. Below
one corner of the rack, almost obscured by a pile of leaflets promoting
last month's Walk for Hunger, Joe spotted some small green handbills
with the heading "Ex-Gays United."

For a tense moment he fought with himself. What if someone sees
me pick this up?, he thought, accustomed to exercising extreme
caution in this area of his life. A quick scan of the surroundings
revealed no one but a flat-topped young athlete in a "Save the Earth"
tee shirt pushing thumb tacks into a new poster at the other end of
the board. After sighing with guilt over having given his bronzed
arms a second look, Joe reminded himself: The elders already know
all about me. What am I afraid of? I have nothing to hide now.
Picking up one of the green folders, Joe examined it nervously, noted
that it had a Quincy address and phone number, then quickly stuffed
it into a pocket. After using the men's room he would pore over its
contents in the privacy of his parked car, he decided.

Blinded by the excitement of this find and his haste to make off
with it, Joe collided head-on with the fellow who had been pushing
tacks into the board but who suddenly turned into his path.

"I'm sorry! I hope I didn't hurt you," the stranger said calmly with
a smile, his hands softly cradling Joe's arms that had shot up by reflex
to avoid the collision. It seemed that Joe was the only one flustered
by the incident. The other party was as unruffled as he was
immaculately clean and bathed in the scent of bubble gum.

"Oh! Excuse me! My fault! I wasn't looking where I was going,"
Joe stammered in confusion, disengaging himself from the younger
man who made no effort to back away.

"Sorry we had to meet by accident, if you know what I mean," the
fellow continued with a friendly smile. "I couldn't help notice the
pamphlet you picked up."

Now Joe was beginning to grasp what was happening. He panicked.

"No! I can't! I mean, I'm sorry!," he mumbled in confusion, turning
from the men's room door and heading instead for the exit.

His knees were still shaking when he reached the car. He turned
and looked back before getting in, half-hoping that he was being
followed. The encounter had been devastating, not only to his nerves
but also to his resolve and to his confidence that he could change.

What's wrong with me?, Joe screamed inside his brain as he turned
the ignition and pulled out into traffic. I finally break off that sick
relationship with Larry, but now I sink lower, lusting after a guy who
hangs out in public places. I need help. I really need help. Oh, God!
Please help me.
His hand went involuntarily to the pocket holding the
green handbill, and then he felt better. Yes, I hope this will give me
the help I need.

Previous Chapter Home Next Chapter