Click on the link below to read Chapter 26 of Homo! in the pdf format (better formatting).
Or just read it below online in the html format.
SUMMARY: What if you were homosexual but refused to admit it to anyone, especially yourself? The year is 1971 and fourteen year old Jimmy Barnes has discovered growing up in a small town can be boring in a way not even the solitary masturbation sessions he enjoys so much can relieve. When his best friend takes a job at the local newspaper, Jimmy finds himself on his own for the summer. What follows is a decade long saga with numerous twists and turns, a tale that’ll reveal the best and the worst of the nineteen-seventies and beyond.
WARNING: This story is a work of adult fiction and intended for mature audiences only. Unless otherwise noted, all of the characters in the story are fictional; any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. While some of the places described or mentioned in the story are fictional as well, others may be real. However, some liberties may have been taken with the truth to enhance the story. Please note that the story may describe, depict or otherwise include graphic portrayals of relationships between men and/or adolescent boys that are homosexual in nature. If you do not like For approve of such discussions or it is illegal for you to read such material, consider yourself warned. If you continue to read this story, you are asserting you are fully capable of understanding and legally consenting to reading a work of adult fiction.
NOTICE: This story is my property and protected by the copyright laws of the United States and other countries. It may not be reproduced in any form without my written permission. You may download a single copy to read offline and to share with others as long as you credit me as the author. However, you may not use this work for commercial purposes or to profit from it in any way. You may not use any of the characters or fictional places in the story in your own work without my explicit permission. Nor may you use, alter, transform, or build upon the story in any way. If you share this story with others, you must make clear the terms under which it is licensed to them. The best way to do that is by linking to this web page.
NOTES: Please check these notes every week. If there’s something I want to alert you to as I post each chapter, this is where I will I do so.
Summer seemed to pass more quickly than usual that year. Although I was busier than ever because of my new responsibilities with the AIDS Task Force, I often worked from home so I could spend more time with Jimmy.
Usually Jimmy just sat there quietly while I worked, occasionally rousing himself when I took a break and the two of us chatted about whatever happened to be on our minds at the moment. How Mark and Leo were doing was a favorite topic of conversation as Jimmy had become quite close to Leo over the summer.
There were even times when the presence of death disappeared momentarily; and yet it never disappeared entirely. I sensed Jimmy pulling away from me with each passing month. He would disappear into his room for hours without explanation. Sensing he needed privacy, I tried not to pry.
August arrived soon enough. Knowing Congress would be in recess, I had decided months earlier to rent a place down on the shore for two weeks to get away from the oppressive heat that made living in the city unbearable. I had even arranged things so Leo and Mark could join us.
The four of us had a terrific time together; and yet even at the beach there was one occasion when Jimmy disappeared into our room for hours without explanation. Frustrated, I finally raised the issue with Leo.
“Do you know why he does that?” I asked.
“Does what?” Leo replied.
“Why Jimmy goes off to his room for hours on end? It seems to be happening more often. I don’t have a clue why he does it.”
“He’s thinking about stuff,” Leo replied, nonchalantly. “And, uh, he’s probably praying too.”
“Praying?” I asked, surprised. “Why would Jimmy be praying? He was never very religious as I recall.”
“Uh, well, he is now and I think he’s praying for us,” Leo responded; “for you, me and Mark.”
“He’s never told me that, Leo,” I said.
“That’s because he knows you don’t believe in God, Jeff,” Leo continued. “He doesn’t want you to get upset with him for praying for you.”
“But he talks to you about it?”
“He does; and sometimes we go over to that church on 2nd Street and pray together.”
“Really?” I asked. “You pray too? What do you pray for, Leo?”
“At first I prayed for Jimmy to get better,” he responded. “But Jimmy says you should never get too specific in what you ask God for. He thinks you should pray for whatever God thinks is best and for the people you love. He prays for you, me and Mark; and, uh, I do the same.”
“Why?” I asked, surprised still again.
“I pray for Jimmy the most because he’s sick,” Leo said, “but I also pray for Mark and you. I pray for Mark because I love him so much and want to be a good boyfriend; and I pray for you to thank God you were there that night I visited the Center. If you hadn’t helped Mark and me and brought Jimmy into our lives, I think maybe we might have ended up getting AIDS as well.”
“I don’t think we would have had the strength to avoid having sex, but now that we’ve learned about AIDS we’ve decided not to do anything sexually for a year at least. We want to be sure neither of us is infected before we do something like that.”
“That’s smart, Leo,” I replied.
“It was Mark’s idea mostly,” he said, “and sometimes I wonder if I can hold out for a year. I mean, I know I don’t have AIDS because I’ve never had sex. But Mark’s less certain about himself and he doesn’t want me to get infected; and, uh, honestly, when I talk to Jimmy and see what he goes through every day, I don’t want to get infected either.”
“That’s the main thing that keeps me from having sex with Mark,” he added, “but it’s getting harder all the time because I love him so much.”
Back from vacation, I decided to pursue the issue with Jimmy. I waited until he made one of his trips to the room by himself. When he finally emerged, I tried to get him to open up.
“Are you okay?” I asked in bed that evening. “I’m not trying to pry, but you were in your room by yourself a long time today and I was beginning to get a little concerned.”
“I’m okay,” he responded, laconically.
“Can I help?” I asked, pushing a little harder.
“Not really,” he replied.
“Why not?” I asked.
“You wouldn’t understand.”
“Maybe you’re right, Jimmy,” I said; “but why not give me a chance? If I can’t help, I’ll be honest about it. But who knows? Maybe I’ll have something to offer.”
“I’m not trying to put you down, Jeff, but I don’t really think you can help. You’re not religious at all for one thing.”
“Why do you say that?” I asked.
“Because you never go to church,” he replied. “In all the years I’ve known you, you never have.”
“You don’t go to church either,” I countered.
“That’s true, but there’s a difference,” he said. “Even though both of us were raised Catholic, you don’t go to church because you don’t believe in God. I used to think the same way. But lately I’ve changed my mind. I remembered how Tommy and I used to be altar boys when we were growing up and that made me realize there was a time when I believed in God and was happier because I did.”
Jimmy was right about all of this. I didn’t believe in God. If I had, I would have been angry for all the suffering he was putting Jimmy and others through. At the same time, realizing Jimmy was dying, I wanted to be as supportive as possible.
“That’s great,” I said. “I didn’t know that about the two of you; that you and Tommy were altar boys. As for God, everyone has to decide things like that personally. You’re the only one who can do that for yourself, Jimmy, and I respect where you’re coming from.”
“If you want to go to church or something, I’d be happy to drive you there,” I added. “I’ll even go with you if you want. I’m here to help, Jimmy, not to make fun of your beliefs or disagree with you.”
“No,” Jimmy said, looking at me. “I can’t go to church, at least not to Mass on Sunday.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“Because it would be hypocritical,” he replied. “I mean, I know I’m going to Hell for going against the way God wants things to be. I’m going to burn forever. I know it.”
Hearing this I finally realized just how heavy a burden Jimmy was carrying. In addition to dying, he was afraid of what was going to happen after he did.
“What sins, Jimmy?” I asked.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” he said, averting his eyes.
“Do you think having sex with me and others is offensive to God?” I asked.
“Uh, well, yeah,” he replied. “I mean, I don’t think you’re a bad person, Jeff. Believe me, I don’t. I appreciate everything you’re doing for me. But, uh, the Bible says God destroyed Sodom because of their ways; and, uh, I know you don’t believe it, but I was the one who seduced you, not the other way around.”
“What does that have to do with anything?” I asked, confused.
“I’m thinking maybe God will be less harsh on you because it was my fault,” Jimmy replied; “at least I hope He’ll be. But He’s going to judge me for what I’ve done all these years and I don’t really have much of a defense. I mean, what do I say to God, Jeff, when I stand before Him and He asks me to account for my life?”
“You tell him the truth, Jimmy,” I said. “You tell him you’re human and made some mistakes in life, but that being homosexual isn’t something you had any control over. It was the way God made you; and while you weren’t always perfect, you never tried to deliberately hurt anyone or do anything bad.”
“At least that’s what I can think of off the top of my head,” I continued. “I’ll think about it some more and see if I can come up with a better answer for you.”
“Thanks, Jeff,” he said. “I know you love me and I’ve realized too late I love you as well. But that’s part of the problem, don’t you see? I’m not going to deny I love you if God asks me how I feel about you. And He’s going to think I don’t repent my sins when I tell Him that; and I’m going to burn in Hell forever for not repenting. It’s scary actually.”
“I can understand why it would be scary,” I replied. “But I don’t think God would condemn you to Hell for loving someone.”
“But you’re not a priest, are you, Jeff? You can’t forgive my sins; only a priest can do that. But none of them will because they’ll say I’m not genuinely sorry for my sins if I tell them I love you.”
Suddenly I recall feeling helpless.
Later, after Jimmy had fallen asleep, I looked over at him. To me he was still the most beautiful young man in the world. It made me angry to think he was spending what little remained of his time on earth worrying about burning in Hell.
Living with AIDS is hell, Jimmy. How much crueler could this God of yours be for making you go through something like this?
Having vented my anger, I made a bunch of calls the next morning to friends who were still practicing Catholics. I wanted to see whether any of them knew a priest who might be sympathetic to someone like Jimmy. It was Randy who suggested the guy.
“Father Damien,” he said, in response to my inquiry. “That’s the guy you’re looking for. He runs the Newman Center at American University. Fantastic guy; very progressive and one of the few remaining priests I know who isn’t afraid to admit it. These days it’s getting harder to find priests like him. But he’s definitely your man. Outgoing, friendly, and connects easily with young people. He’s young himself.”
“Do you have a telephone number for him?” I asked.
“I do,” Randy said, rattling it off to me.
“Can I use you as a reference?”
“Sure,” Randy replied. “Just try to restrain your anti-clericalism a bit, Jeff. I don’t want the guy to know I hang out with atheists like you.”
“Agnostic, Randy,” I said. “I’m an agnostic, not an atheist.”
“Same difference,” he replied.
“Thanks, Randy,” I said, deciding not to argue the point. “You’re a sweetheart.”
“If only,” he said, hanging up.
I immediately put in a call to the number Randy had given me. Expecting an answering machine, I was surprised when someone actually answered the phone.
“This is Damien,” the sunny voice on the other end of the receiver replied. “What’s happening?”
I remember rolling my eyes in response to that greeting.
“Uh, hi, my name is Jeff, Jeff Landry, and I, uh . . . I work on Capitol Hill. A friend of mine, Randy Clark, recommended you. I need to talk to someone about a problem a friend of mine has. He’s Catholic.”
“He’s not a student at American University if that matters,” I added, expecting the guy to say he wouldn’t be able to help.
“No problem,” the priest responded. “Do you want to talk over the phone or get together to discuss this?”
“I think it’d be better if we talked in person,” I said. “When could we do that? And where would be a good place for you?”
“I have a few appointments later in the day,” he said, “but I’m free now if that works. If not, I could do it this evening. Where is up to you. We could do it at my office on campus or over a cup of coffee off campus if you prefer.”
“How about somewhere off campus in about an hour, around 11:30 a.m.?” I asked.
“Sure,” I said, having eaten at the place north of Georgetown on more than one occasion. “We could do it there.”
“See you around 11:30 then,” he replied. “I’ll be wearing jeans and a purple t-shirt; and you?”
“I’ll be the adult wearing a suit and tie,” I replied.
“See you then, Jeff,” he said, oblivious to my effort at sarcasm.
Oh, Christ, why did you do that, Jeff? What kind of priest wears jeans and a purple t-shirt?
An hour later I told Annie I had an appointment uptown, hurried down to the Rayburn garage, and headed off. It didn’t take long; Independence to Rock Creek Parkway, exiting on to Massachusetts Avenue and then up to a right on Wisconsin. After locating a parking spot, I walked to the place.
As I approached, I could see a younger guy in jeans and a purple t-shirt sipping coffee at one of the outside tables. He was a good looking guy. If I hadn’t known he was a priest, I would have been attracted to him.
“You must be Jeff,” he said, greeting me even before I could say anything.
“I am; and you’re Father Damien I gather.”
“Just Damien,” he said, motioning for me to sit down. “What with priestly celibacy and all, I kind of doubt I’ll ever be anyone’s father; and I’m certainly not yours, am I?”
“Uh, no,” I replied.
“I was kind of hoping the opening in the Church under Pope John would sweep all that away,” he added, sighing; “celibacy, I mean. But I’m less optimistic these days. If anything, we seem to be headed in the wrong direction.”
I was surprised to hear him talking like that, but didn’t say anything. Having given up on the Church long ago, I didn’t have a clue what was going on inside it currently.
Sitting down, I looked at the guy, but had trouble knowing what to think. He was younger than me, probably in his late twenties. To me he looked like a hippie displaced from San Francisco, with long, curly, brown hair; hair that nicely complimented his eyes and his smile. It was hard to believe such a good looking guy was a priest.
What a waste? I recall thinking.
“I guess this works for you at the college,” I replied, surveying him from head to foot; “the way you’re dressed. I imagine it wouldn’t work so well in a regular parish, at least not the one I grew up in.”
“So you’re Catholic then, Jeff?” he said, ignoring my rebuke.
“No; I used to be Catholic when I was a kid and didn’t have any say in the matter,” I responded. “Now that I’m grown up and don’t believe in Santa Claus anymore, I’m agnostic. I have been ever since college.”
“Good for you,” he said, confusing me. “Every once in a while I think about becoming an agnostic myself what with all the nastiness in the world; but then God reminds me He’ll have to fire me if I do that. And that makes me wonder why I would do something like that when being a priest is so much fun.”
By now I was the one confused. Even my efforts to put him down slid off him like water off the back of a duck.
“Yeah; I could see how being an agnostic would be tough for a priest,” I said. “In any event, I’m not here to talk about myself.”
“I’m here to talk about my boyfriend,” I added, hoping to shock the guy.
“If he’s half as cute as you, Jeff, you’re a very lucky man,” he replied.
What is it with this guy? I recall thinking.
“It doesn’t bother you I’m gay?” I asked.
“Why should it?” he responded.
“Uh, well, because being gay is a sin,” I said; “at least it was a sin for the Catholic Church the last time I checked.”
“That’s not right, Jeff, at least not technically right,” he replied. “Even the most conservative among my priestly colleagues will admit, if pressed, that being a homosexual itself is not a sin. It’s only when you actually engage in homosexual acts that it becomes sinful according to the Church.”
“Not that I’d say that myself because I’ve never heard that directly from God,” he added. “But that’s what my conservative colleagues would say and at least we agree there’s nothing wrong with being a homosexual.”
“Look, Damien . . . Father Damien . . . I’m confused,” I replied. “The last time I checked, Catholic priests weren’t allowed to make up their own doctrine. The Pope and the rest of the big boys decide the doctrine; and then the little guys like you deliver the message to us sinners. That’s the way I recall it. Has something changed while I’ve been away?”
“Nah; nothing’s changed,” he replied. “If anything, the Church is getting more conservative these days, not less. It’s a shame really. More and more Catholics like you are walking away from the Church because of that. But, hey, some of us have to stay and fight, Jeff; at least that’s what I tell myself whenever I think about throwing in the towel.”
“So, no, I don’t make up my own doctrine, but I do preach the gospel as God reveals it to me; and up until now He hasn’t said anything to me personally about gay sex being sinful, at least intrinsically sinful. Like any kind of sex, gay sex can be sinful. If it’s based on violence or deception, for example. But, like I said, that’s true of any kind of sex.”
“In any event, I’m sure you didn’t call me out of the blue because you’re interested in my views on doctrine.”
“I don’t know,” I said, “maybe I did in a way. I mean, the thing is, my boyfriend is dying of AIDS. He contracted the disease after we broke up a long time ago; but now we’re back together and I’m doing my best to help him out.”
“I’m very sorry to hear that,” he replied, and I could see a genuine look of anguish in his face; “that your boyfriend has AIDS. You have my deepest sympathy, Jeff.”
“Thanks,” I said. “But I’m not really looking for your sympathy. I’m looking for help. Jimmy, he’s my boyfriend, he’s convinced himself that AIDS is God’s punishment for being homosexual and he spends at least some of his time these days thinking he’s going to burn in Hell forever after he dies.”
“That’s a pretty cruel God Jimmy has conjured up, isn’t it, Jeff?” he replied.
“Yeah, it is,” I said, not even trying to hide my bitterness.
“But that’s not the God I know,” he continued. “The God I know is a loving God, a forgiving God.”
“I’m glad to hear that,” I said. “Because as much as I don’t believe in God at all, I do try to respect what Jimmy believes; and I’m looking for someone who can help him overcome all the self-hate he’s experiencing because of the way he was brought up as a kid.”
“I’ve told him that God doesn’t hate him,” I continued; “that God isn’t punishing him and isn’t going to make him burn in Hell forever. But he doesn’t give very much weight to what I say because he knows I’m not a believer. He needs to hear it from someone he trusts more on this.”
“Someone like me; is that it?” Father Damien replied.
“Yeah,” I said; “someone like you. Although I’m not sure he’ll buy it from you given the way you dress and behave. You don’t come across as a typical priest.”
“Trust me, Jeff,” he said, looking into my eyes. “I know exactly what we’re facing here. I’ve seen it before and I think I know what’s required to deal with it.”
“I hope so.”
“Did you have some specific plan in mind for introducing me to Jimmy?” he asked, suddenly focused on all the details that still needed to be worked out.
We spent the next hour or so talking through different scenarios. In the end, we decided I’d ask Jimmy whether he wanted to see a priest to make his confession. If he did, we would take it from there step by step.
Back home that evening, Jimmy retreated into his room again. He didn’t stay as long this time and when he finally emerged I engaged him.
“Were you thinking about things again?” I asked. “I mean, about what happens after you die?”
“Yeah,” Jimmy said quietly.
“I was thinking, too,” I replied. “I was wondering whether you’d want to go to confession. Maybe that would help.”
“I don’t know,” Jimmy responded. “Sometimes I think it would. But then other times I think the priest would be mad at me; or maybe he’d insist I have to make a complete break with you to put myself right with God. That would be hard.”
“I don’t know that a priest would say something like that, Jimmy,” I replied. “I mean, it’s not like we’re having sex or anything. If I recall correctly, being a homosexual isn’t a sin. It’s only sinful if you actually act on your urges.”
“Which I did a lot a long time ago,” he replied. “I wasn’t exactly shy when it came to sinning. And what if the priest said I needed to get out of this place? That I was living in temptation and you were a bad example and I needed to find somewhere else to live?”
“You’re thinking way too far ahead, Jimmy,” I replied. “Why not just take it a step at a time? I could check around and ask a priest to come hear your confession if you want.”
“Oh, I don’t think I could do that, Jeff,” he replied. “I’d be too embarrassed to actually meet face to face with a priest. It would be better to do something like that in a confessional; someplace dark, you know, where I would be more anonymous. I’d still feel guilty, but at least I wouldn’t know the priest.”
“Uh, well, I can check around if you want,” I said. “Maybe a church across town would work better. There would be less chance of you running into the priest that way after making your confession.”
“Sure; I guess that makes sense,” Jimmy responded. “And, uh, Jeff, the sooner the better; I don’t know how much time I have left.”
I called Father Damien the next day and relayed our conversation to him. He gave me the name of a little church off campus where he helped out occasionally and suggested we do it that evening. Jimmy was receptive to the idea when I called him so that’s what we did.
The church was quiet when we arrived. As best I could tell, no one was there. It made me wonder whether I had made a mistake. Taking our places in a pew, the two of us knelt and I pretended to pray.
“Do you think they’re even hearing confessions tonight?” Jimmy whispered to me, after looking around and seeing how empty the place was.
I wasn’t sure what to tell him. But a moment later a solitary figure appeared on the altar. He was dressed in the same colorful vestments I could recall from my youth.
“I will be hearing confessions for the next thirty minutes,” a familiar voice said, softly; then the figure turned and retreated to the rear of the little church.
The moment I heard it, I recognized the voice as that of Father Damien. Dressed as he was, I wouldn’t have recognized him. He looked completely different than the guy I had spoken to; more like the priests I had known in my youth, more authoritative, more spiritual.
“Are you ready?” I asked, whispering into Jimmy’s ear.
“Uh, maybe I’ll wait a minute or two to see if anyone else wants to go first,” he replied, and I could sense just how nervous he was.
But we were alone that evening and finally Jimmy stood up, exited the pew, genuflected, and walked back toward the confessional. I watched as he entered. Once he did so, I pulled myself up and sat down on the bench.
Looking up at the cross above the altar, I remember sighing.
I don’t believe in you, I said to the all too familiar figure of my youth. But if I’m wrong, please help Jimmy.
He’s trying to make himself right with you.
I’m not sure how long I sat there alone in silence, but finally Jimmy reentered the pew. Kneeling down, he bowed his head in prayer. I noticed his cheek streaked with tears.
Oh shit, I recall thinking. It didn’t go well.
I waited for Jimmy to finish his prayer and seat himself next to me.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said, hoarsely. “We can go.”
Exiting the church we walked to my car in silence, a silence that continued for a couple of minutes as we began the drive back to Capitol Hill.
“It was perfect, Jeff,” he finally said. “That priest was so kind, so understanding. He listened to everything I said and then he told me that God understood I was human, understood all of us make mistakes; and that God loved me no matter how many mistakes I made.”
“And he said God would never send me to Hell; that I wasn’t going to burn forever. He said there was no sin God’s mercy couldn’t reach and wipe away; that God had already forgiven me.”
“Then he said God loved me, loved me so much he wanted me to come join Him in Heaven early; that it was a very rare and special thing when God called young people like me home early. And, you know, I didn’t believe him at first, Jeff.”
“I asked him if he was sure; and the priest, his name is Father Damien, he said that ordinarily they didn’t have confession in the church this evening, but that he had been alone in his room and God had told him there was someone waiting in the church to make his confession; and that He wanted Father Damien to go over to the church and hear my confession and to let me know that He loved me.”
“And then after that we talked for a long time and he asked whether I would like him to come see me again. And I didn’t think you would mind if he did that, Jeff, so I said yes; that I would like for him to come by and see me whenever he could. That I was kind of afraid of dying; and that even though you were there to help me and everything, having someone to talk to God for me would be nice.”
“And he said he would come by to see me, Jeff. Is that okay with you?”
“It is,” I said; and then, for no reason at all, I began to cry.
“Why are you crying, Jeff?” Jimmy asked.
“I don’t know,” I said, struggling to get the words out through my sobs. “I don’t know.”
“Maybe you’re crying for the same reason as me,” Jimmy replied. “At first I was crying because I wasn’t going to Hell; and then I was crying because God wanted me to be with Him. And you know, Jeff, when I get to Heaven, I’m going to talk to God about you.”
“I’m going to tell Him you’re a good person no matter what and that He needs to remember that in judging you; because if God loves me enough to let me be in Heaven with Him, you deserve to go to Heaven a lot more. You’re not as big a sinner as me. You’re a good person, Jeff; and thank you for suggesting I go to confession. I’m so glad I did.”
Later, after we had gone to bed, I rolled over, snuggled up behind Jimmy and hugged him.
“This is so great,” he said.
“What’s so great?” I asked.
“I made a new friend tonight and found out God still loves me; and I already knew you loved me, Jeff. And Mark and Leo love me as well. I don’t deserve it, but it’s just so great to be loved so much; and, uh, I know I’ve never said this as much as I should, but I do love you, Jeff. I love you more than anyone else in the world.”
Hearing those words, I struggled to avoid crying.
“That’s the best gift anyone has ever given me, Jimmy,” I said. “Your love is the most precious gift I’ve ever received. Thank you.”