Chapter Four

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 questions.

“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 will.”

“No.”  A long pause with sexual sounds in the background. “I’ll come see you if you won’t rat me out.”

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 him.

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 case.

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 arguing.

“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 on you?”

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 uneasy start.

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 expected it.

I woke up about two a.m. and he was sliding under the sheet.

“Will, you should not be here.”


“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.

Another difficult decision.

“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 stopped.

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 so.

“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. “Two things.”

“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.

“More importantly, 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 to us.”

The Colonel as a man of action, understood action. As a man of duty, he recognized a man doing his duty.

“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 darkness.

 “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 holy.”

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.