Sleeping Arrangements in
the Garden of Gethsemane
He kept saying this thing
to me, “Be a kid, Will.” Well, I was trying but it seemed to me he didn’t
want a kid, didn’t know what to do with one.
Anyway he told me Jesse
sounded like a good person to hang out with. So I did.
We played basketball a
few times a week and I’d go over to his place and we’d goof around. He
wanted me to sleep over but my mom said no.
So I was pissed off that
day, and I went to the heads, and I found this guy, he was a little older
than most of the other Marines, and he had a room of his own at NCO
Quarters. He snuck me in and fucked me all night right there in the
barracks. It was hot.
And then I figured I was
in for it anyway, I wouldn’t get to see Paul again so I took off for L. A. I
was gone for a long time.
It did not look good. In the past when he was
gone, he had at least called his parents. This time after a week with no
word they decided to file a missing persons report on him.
I was surprised at my own
reaction. I expected to be a little relieved at not having so much direct
obligation, but instead I was much more concerned; he wasn’t quite the child
he had been, he was more likely to get into serious situations.
I began making rounds of
some of the more likely places for him to be, though I didn’t expect much.
There were several chicken bars, notorious places most of them, and I was
very uncomfortable going into them and looking for him, but I did and showed
his photo around. I got some very strange looks, and no one was quite sure
of my motives; perhaps they wouldn’t tell me anything as result. One was a
more respectable place, a hang out for teens, but the vultures were there
too. I talked to the management, which was surprisingly sympathetic and they
put his photo up at the card check booth by the door.
But L. A. is a big place,
and I couldn’t begin to count the tearooms and parks and beaches that I’d
need to visit to even have a chance of seeing him.
It was more than a month
before I heard from him again. He called me at home. He was very high on
drugs, and not really coherent. But in lucid moments he asked difficult
“Do you love me?”
I didn’t know what to say
that wouldn’t hurt him.
“I have a lot of love for
you, and I’m very concerned about your situation.”
“But do you love me?”
“Why don’t you come home,
then we can talk about it.”
He hung up.
It was discouraging but
encouraging at the same time. At least he had called, and I expected he
would call again.
His father had orders for
overseas, Spain. He got them delayed on compassionate grounds.
Another night, another
call, his voice hollow, his thoughts impenetrable, he was on LSD, was
calling me from someone’s bedroom while he was getting fucked.
“Will, please go home.
Your family loves you, we all miss you, and this is not good for you.”
“I’m not such a kid
anymore am I?”
“You are in way over your
head, Will, please do this for me, go home.”
There was a sudden change
in his voice. “For you? For you?”
“Yes, for me. Because I
want to see you again.” That was the truth, anyway.
“Nah, if I go home they
won’t let me see you.”
“Yes, I’m sure they
“No.” A long pause with
sexual sounds in the background. “I’ll come see you if you won’t rat me
I had to think about it,
but I figured that nothing would be lost if I agreed.
“All right, come and see
me, when can you come? Can I pick you up?”
“You won’t rat me out?
I’m not going home.”
“You have my word.”
“Maybe I’ll come. I
dunno. Oh, wow . . .” and he hung up.
I heard nothing from him
then one Wednesday evening there he was, at my front door. He was dressed
well, had a leather jacket, very fashionable clothing, but his cheeks were
hollow, his eyes were glazed and sunken. He staggered when he stepped back
for me to open the screen door.
“Hey Paul, I told you I’d
come. I’m looking good, huh?”
“Nice clothes, Will. Come
on in, sit down.”
He sat on the couch, he
was drunk and on something, I couldn’t tell what. He babbled on and on not
making much sense, but I gathered he was turning tricks as well as living
with some guy. Mostly he wanted to talk about drugs, then he just nodded off
on the couch while I was getting him some food.
I pulled off his shoes,
tucked a blanket around him, and called Dennis. I wanted someone else there
just in case. That night as we lay together, the boy still out cold on the
couch, I cried a little. It was such a waste; I didn’t see how to save him.
That didn’t make it not hurt.
When I got up in the
morning he was still there, fast asleep, curled up like a baby. He slept for
eighteen hours. He stayed for two days and I took a chance, let him stay in
the apartment while I went off to work but when I called Friday evening he
was gone, Dennis had checked, he told me the apartment was spotless. Will
had cleaned up and bought food and put it in the refrigerator, but there was
no further sign of the boy.
He came by again every
week or two, almost always stoned sometimes so wired he couldn’t sit still,
sometimes so wasted he slumped into oblivion within minutes of arrival.
Finally we had a real
argument. The innocence was fading fast, the hard edge was taking root. I
told him he was killing himself, that I hated seeing what was happening to
And he flared back.
How dare I criticize? He
was worth $100 an hour and I wasn’t even smart enough to take it for free!
He’d had a thousand cocks, why did I think mine so fucking special? He had
everything he wanted, everything he needed: men, money, clothes, sex,
attention. He was too old to be treated like a kid.
And I was ready to reply
and realized he had stopped me cold. He was not a kid. Whatever he was, he
was no child any more.
At one point I actually
thought whether I should take him to bed, to give him what he wanted from
me, to see if he wanted it enough to save his soul. Perhaps I could make a
bargain with him.
But I realized that it
would be just another soul-deadening experience for him, that he wanted what
I was giving him now, despite his protests. Once he had that from me, he
would not value the relationship, I would just be another man who had used
him, albeit with his cooperation.
Finally he ended up in an
emergency room, unconscious from drugs and general bad health, and his
parents were called. He was arrested as incorrigible, and spent a month in
custody before he was released to home. It was a good thing, it got the
drugs out of him. But I had no illusions that he would stay.
I found myself at a
crossroads. By rights I should walk away. People shape their lives, make
their choices, he was making his; I needed to make mine. He was a hopeless
Karma is karma, I had no
good reason for it, but he was in my life, I was obligated to him, bound to
him by no definable cause, no real reason; it just was. I asked his parents
to meet with me.
I don’t really want to
talk about what happened while I was gone that time. It wasn’t hard to find
a place to stay, but I guess things were just different this time. Before I
always knew I could go home, but now I knew I couldn’t. So I had to grow up
and that was OK.
I got a lot of good
drugs, I tried pretty much everything. Acid, reds, black beauties, poppers,
coke, shrooms, speedballs, goofballs, lighter fluid, peyote, horse. I liked
the psychedelics best. You can’t get bored tripping. Lots of stuff. I was
drunk a lot but then after a while I had too much in me and I couldn’t get
hard and that got some of my customers pissed off, so I had to cut back.
I met some more guys who
were pretty mean, learned how to handle that better though. I stayed with
about five different guys in this time, they were buying me clothes and
stuff, giving me money and drugs, and all I had to do was suck their cocks
or get fucked, or put out for their friends, which is what I wanted to do
anyway. I didn’t even have to clean house for them.
Then one night I passed
out in this guy’s car and I guess he freaked, he should of just let me sleep
it off, maybe he was afraid I’d puke in his car or something, any way he
dropped me off at an emergency room and scrammed out of there. So I got put
in jail for a while.
I was OK, I got almost as
much sex from the other kids as I did on the outside, and I didn’t need
money for anything. And I was tired of the drugs.
We were all surprised at
how simple this decision was. He was going to live with me; or rather I was
going to live with him.
During the workweek I’d
move out of the BOQ and into his brother’s room, as Tom was now off to Camp
LeJeune. On my weekends, he’d come with me to my place in the city. It took
some doing to get him in line, but he loved the idea.
“Will, I’ve been thinking
about this a lot. You are right that you aren’t a kid anymore. You are a
young man, and you have to learn to behave like one.”
“What? Is this the same
shit as before?”
“Yes and no. There have
to be rules, Will, people who live together have to treat each other with
respect, and you have to realize that the things you’ve been doing have hurt
your parents a lot.”
I’d picked the timing
just right, that one got through to him, he hung his head instead of
“And it’s hurt me too.
Hurts me to see how you are being hurt and used.” I continued, “so I’m going
to try to be very flexible with you about rules, and give you as much
freedom as possible. But you have to be willing to do your part too. You
have to try to stay away from things that are dangerous and not do things
that will hurt your parents or me.”
“I know you care about
me, Will. I know you want more from me than I think I can give you. But even
so, I hope you will respect me enough to try to make this work. Can I count
Suddenly he was a little
kid again, tears in his eyes, sobbing, he said yes.
I held him a bit, wiped
his eyes, asked him if he could tell me what had happened to make him run
away, when he had been doing so well.
“I fucked up. I went out
all night with a guy then I knew I’d be in trouble and you wouldn’t want to
see me any more.”
I was in silent thought
for a moment.
“Will. I’m sorry if you
thought that. I would not have been happy about what you did, but I would
still want to see you.”
“It’s just – just that
it’s so hard to do what you want me to. I don’t think I can do it. And I
hate when you get disappointed in me.” He was bawling again.
“OK, guy. Listen up. I
may be disappointed at times, and I’m sorry because I underestimated how
difficult all this was for you. It’s just that you are doing things that
would be very scary even for an adult. I’ll try to make some allowances. I
don’t want you to run away, no matter what.”
“But I want you to start
thinking about being adult, because you are getting there pretty quickly.
And I want to talk with you as we go along about what kinds of adults you
know and what kind of adult you want to be.”
“Adults get education.
You may not think you need it now, but you do need it, and you will feel
better about yourself. You need friends, friends your own age, who don’t use
you for sex. You need to be away from drugs.”
Once more we had an
The Colonel had the
toughest role. He had to let me live in his house and mentor his own son. I
wasn’t surprised that he was a rare sight.
He went back to school.
He had a fairly quick mind, picked up things quickly and made progress.
After two weeks, he came
into my bed one night.
I suppose I should have
I woke up about two a.m.
and he was sliding under the sheet.
“Will, you should not be
“Please talk to me about
this, Will, I’m not comfortable with this.”
“I just don’t want to be
alone.” A long pause. “Can’t I just sleep here?”
“What would your mother
say if she found you here, Will? Would I still be able to live here?”
“She’d say she was
glad.” He said it with conviction, and I wasn’t sure he was wrong.
“Rules. You just sleep,
you don’t touch me. Do you have any clothes on?”
“Yes, I got boxers on.”
“Tomorrow we tell your
mom about this. Go to sleep.”
When I woke at six he was
curled up against me, his arm over my chest.
I must say that I was
more than a little confused myself. I eventually accepted that the
conventional rules just could not completely apply to this very
unconventional situation. If we were to save his life, his heart, his
innocence, his soul, we had to bend too.
His mother just smiled
and said, “Whatever you can do for him, Paul, do it. If he isn’t with you
he’s going to go out and find some other man to do it with.”
“Eleanor, I’m not
absolutely NOT going to have sex with that boy.”
“Whatever you can do for
him. I trust you to find the right way.”
“What about the Colonel?
I should tell him.”
“Leave the Colonel to me,
Paul. He won’t be a problem.”
Night after night he
crawled in with me. I insisted that he wear clothes, that he not touch me.
Some nights I would wake up as he climbed in, sometimes I just woke up and
he was there. Once or twice he was waiting in my bed when I came to my room.
There were times when he
strayed into forbidden territory, I overlooked one night when he was nude,
but sent him to his own bed when he tried it the second night. I woke up at
three a.m. to find him fondling me, reminded him of the rule, he reluctantly
I should have known that
progress would be slow. There was a lot of backtracking.
I surmised that he was
sneaking out to be with men, God knows how he found them. But if he was down
to one or two a week I considered it a big improvement.
Despite all that
preceded, the first time I was entirely sure about Paul was when he came to
me about Will getting into his bed. Our prejudices so rule us. I didn’t
realize it consciously, but I had assumed if he wasn’t being sexual with the
boy it was a matter of time, of convenience, or of fear of consequences.
This convinced me
otherwise. I spoke to the Colonel about it, with quite some trepidation. I
wondered just how far his newfound tolerance would stretch.
“Paul isn’t having sex
with Will, you know.”
Lying beside me in bed. I
couldn’t quite see his eyes with the low lamplight behind him. He usually
took his time answering anything I said – a characteristic he never
displayed on duty where he was quite decisive and never at a loss for words.
He certainly took his time for this, gazing thoughtfully, concentrating,
measuring, weighing his thoughts and words.
“Yes, I know.” He was no
longer looking at me.
I was surprised and said
“I told you I had
misjudged him. I realized it quite sometime ago.”
“How did you know?”
He looked at me
quizzically. “You mean to say you didn’t know? Never mind.” A long pause.
“I asked Will, and chose
to believe him.”
Such a direct approach
had not occurred to me. I was massively surprised in any event that the
Colonel would have such a direct discussion on this topic with Will.
actions speak louder than words. He kept bringing him back to us. He kept
shoving him into our arms. He only took him when he saw Will wouldn’t stick
The Colonel as a man of
action, understood action. As a man of duty, he recognized a man doing his
“So,” I said carefully,
judging this the moment, “Paul came to me last week and told me something.”
I paused. “I don’t want you to overreact to it, though.”
It was a sad smile but a
smile. “They’re sleeping together, I know. He told you, I am not surprised.
I told you I had misjudged him.”
“How did you know?”
Again. Would wonders never cease?
He was very quiet, then
turned to me and looked into my eyes.
“I love you.” And he
rolled over, turned off the light.
Moments passed in
“I look for him every
night, to see if he’s safe.”
It was better now that he
let me sleep with him. I thought he was really silly the way he kept
preventing me from doing him. What difference could it make? But sleeping
next to him felt so much better, I almost didn’t need sex from him.
I was getting fucked a
lot by one guy, a Marine who was 22, we just did it in bathrooms and some
nights I would go out just after dark and meet him and we’d go in the bushes
or something. He was hot, but he was too young to love. Still, I got fucked
and sucked and it helped me to not run away.
I was smoking a lot more
pot, but I decided I didn’t want the other drugs so much anymore.
Jesse and I started to
play basketball again. He asked me where I had been, I told him I was on a
Top Secret mission in Russia. He shut up. He’s too fuckin’ smart sometimes,
but this time he was smart enough.
I was almost sixteen and
I wanted to get my license. Something funny happened, the Colonel started to
teach me to drive. Well that was bound to be a disaster. I could never do
things the way he wanted. He finally paid for Driver’s Ed for me.
Those were funny days, I
felt like a fly in amber. Everything was suspended around me. Even the
seasons seemed frozen; well they do in Twentynine Palms anyway. It felt kind
of nice, but I couldn’t move at all.
Paul started giving me
books to read. One I liked a lot, it was A Separate Peace. I thought
the two guys in it, Gene and Finny, really wanted to have sex, at least Gene
wanted to do Finny. And he said maybe I was right but that there was a lot
more to look for in the book. He said his sister gave him that book when he
was fifteen. He said the book was about growing up and facing the fact that
you can hurt people. I liked it anyway.
Then he gave me another
book called The Chosen, I wasn’t sure why he gave me that one. It’s
about being Jewish. He told me it was about different ways fathers could
raise their sons; a person could be like his father and be different; and
about how everyone had to both break away from his father at some time, and
be like his father as an adult. And he said it was about a father who showed
silent love for his son.
“Oh, subtle.” I
said and he laughed.
“Maybe not, you’re
getting smarter as you get older. But read the book anyway. It’s also about
God sending you friends to teach you things; about relationships that are
I liked that.
I started calling Jesse
“Reuven” after the kid in the book who had a nice father.
My relationship with Dennis suffered mightily.
We never had time when we could be alone. The boy still wasn’t happy with
Dennis around, but even setting that aside, it was difficult to sustain the
gentle, pleasant tone we had developed and sustained over time.
Late at night we would
talk, but whispered to keep the boy from overhearing.
Thing is, Dennis did
understand what I was doing and why, but he eventually said, “I don’t want
to be a parent, Paul.”
I didn’t listen well
enough to pick that out until he broke up with me.
Will was delighted of
course, and promptly moved into my bed at the apartment.