Autumn is the most poetic season with her wild, ecstatic tendrils blowing through the biting wind, her innocence left in dry piles by the swing-sets. Children dash and jump in her discarded childish ideals while she slowly pulls the cloak of darkness down around the day and celebrates the dances of the night. Halloween is mere child’s play when one is well acquainted with the unnatural passions of the darkness. When the light fades, the urges emerge and I am left helpless.
Nathan is in the mirror. Nathan is behind the door. Nathan is under the blankets. Nathan is in the refrigerator. Nathan is standing behind my mother. Nathan is sitting beside my father.
I have been told that my trust must only rest in God. Trust is not a restful thing. It is a squirmy, wriggly worm, which inches just out of reach. How do I trust God when I cannot trust myself?
The real problem lies in this: I do not want to hold back. This flood pushes against the dam with the force of a mighty wind. I ache to let go. I crave the release.
I look into his eyes: dark and warm and sad. When we are together, time itself stands still. I am at peace with the universe. But the universe is not at peace with me. My father stands in my face, silently condemning me to eternal damnation. My mother stands at my side, head tilted down and away. Where is my sister? My beautiful, little bird…where has she flown to? She stands with Nathan. She stands between me and Nathan.
The nights are so lonely and long. I pour all of my energy into the creation of the Christmas play. The hope of light in the darkness. The hope of innocence in the night of unnatural longing. I do not sleep. I work and write and scheme and sketch. The days turn into nights, which turn into weeks and months. The hour of deliverance is soon upon us. All of creation is in an uproar.
She stands naked and shivering, her innocence lost for another long and lonely season. She stands proud and dark, against the cold snow and ice. She stands as one with the knowledge that all seasons change and pass away. The sun always rises. Life begins anew after death. She, the bearer of God, the womb of man, the holy mother and teacher, stands alone. We merely watch, if we are wise, and learn from her faithfulness.
Nathan plays the angel Gabriel. In the play, we call him Gabe. He wears those worn, tight jeans like a rugged cowboy. His converse shoes are wrapped in duct tape; his concerns are heaven-bound. When he smiles at me, the iron gates at my heart melt like wax. I say one last word of encouragement and the curtain rises. The performance begins.
I say each line with passion and a commitment that never wavers. For over an hour, I believe the Story. I am the faithful fiancé, believing in the miracle of spontaneous conception. I am in love with the mother of God; I am the surrogate father of the Word made flesh.
The curtain falls; applause erupts. I hear my father’s voice calling the lost sheep to salvation. “Come back to the fold,” he says, his deep, quiet voice booming through the microphone. “Jesus is reaching His hand out to you. Won’t you reach back tonight.” Energy pulses through the audience. The choir sings Amazing Grace. The church is packed tonight. Everyone is looking for a miracle. Everyone is reaching upward to the heavens. Everyone is putting aside their doubt and disbelief.
I kiss him.
Beneath the lightly falling snow, in the church parking lot after everyone has gone to their warm homes, I kiss him.
He leans against the van, his coat zipped up, scarf wrapped around his neck. I am hard and aching. I yearn to pull it all off and touch his chocolate skin, but I only kiss him lightly on the lips. Sweet, tangible lips. He says nothing. His eyes are angry. His hands are full of unanswered questions. I only want him. He pushes me away.
“Don’t ever do that again.” Quietly aggressive, he turns his back to me and climbs into the bitter van. I get into the passenger seat. I force my sight towards the window. The houses pass like train cars. I am not moving. Everything is moving past me.
Christmas morning brings sweet smells of cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate. It is just the four of us this morning. The few presents sit on the coffee table. Mom lights a few candles. It is four a.m. Grandma calls and wishes us Merry Christmas. Did we receive her hand-knitted hats and scarves? The phone is passed around. I feel dead inside. The rejection sits in my stomach like a canon ball.
Dad reads the Christmas story. We sing carols. Aunt Mae and Uncle Kurt arrive at noon. Mom and Aunt Mae fix a huge Christmas dinner with turkey and ham and stuffing and greens. Abigail curls up in the window with the new book I gave her: “The Color Purple”. Dad and Uncle Kurt play chess. I pace back and forth. I bother Abigail so she keeps losing her place. I finally help in the kitchen, cutting the turkey. We eat dinner and then play Win, Lose, or Draw. Abigail and I win.
We bundle up and take a walk around the neighborhood. Dad is too cheap to decorate our yard. He declines the invitation to walk with us, making up an excuse that he needs to work on his sermon for Sunday. The neighbors have lights galore, plastic Santas and reindeer that glow, big blow-up snowmen dancing in the wind. The snow from the night before is just a mere dusting. Others are outside, walking off the holiday calorie fest. We greet each other. We even wave to the atheists next door.
I am consumed by the big, bad wolves: hurt, jealousy, rage. My house is shaken by the huffing and puffing. Abigail asks me if something is wrong. I hold her hand and squeeze.
Wise, old nature herself cannot understand this pain. I call up my ex-girlfriend and ask her out on a date. Meredith O’Connor agrees hesitantly. I know that I hurt her last time, giving the excuse of self-imposed monk-dom as reason to break it off. I fake it all week. I fake the laughter and the excited banter over French fries and hamburgers. I fake the coy interest during the sad, holiday movie. I don’t fake the soft kiss on the cheeks. I close my eyes and pretend she is someone else.
The mask falls away on Sunday. I spend all of morning service, searching for his face, longing for his distinctive shuffle, the way his body relaxes against the back wall. He never shows.
He calls two hours before youth group. We meet at his favorite coffee shop. We hide in the back corner, sipping green tea.
He apologizes for the miscommunication between us. I admire how good the forest green sweater looks on him. He confesses his mixed feelings, but that he feels it is against God’s will for there to be any sexual feelings between two people of the same sex. I admire how long his legs are. He assures me that our friendship will make it through this trial by fire. We must die to our fleshly desires. He quotes Saint Paul. I adore his voice. I agree wholeheartedly, but only with my spoken words.