People set store in their beliefs for many different reasons. Some people do it because it's just what's expected of them. Too many people, in fact, nowadays, go to church because society tells them to do so. Others use it to justify any negative actions they take against others, because placing their hand on a Bible and calling it the law is the only way they can alleviate their guilt. There are some people who cling to their religion because it's all they have left in the world. And then there are those who really, truly believe to the deepest corners of their souls that God is the only tried and true power there is in the universe, and humans' feelings and ideas come far second to His.
I've lived in the same place all my life, and I never really came into close contact with men of faith. There was a small Catholic church about ten minutes from my home in the upper east side of New York City, but I never really went there. The whole idea just seemed strange to me.
Now, you may say that religion and New York City mix about as well as fire and oil, and have the same explosive tendencies. And a few years ago, I would have agreed with you, wholeheartedly.
But that was before I met Liam Jamison.
I can't say what it was that drove me to attend the new church on the Sunday when it first opened. I just felt that there was something there I needed to learn. I haven't yet figured out what that something is, but I will keep striving to discover it.
But….that's a different story.
Liam was the priest at that little church. He wasn't an overly large man, but he held a commanding presence that one could not ignore if one tried. And, let me tell you, he could talk. That man "could lift a congregation so high they had to look down to see Heaven." He was a good priest and overall a decent man. But sometimes, when it came to separating simple following of one's faith from blind obsession with it, he got a little lost.
Faith can drive a man to do drastic things, and it drove Liam Jamison to make a dire and irreparable mistake, although he never was able to admit it.
I wasn't there the day Liam's life changed forever. I never was able to decide whose fault it was, or whose side I should take, having only heard the story through the congregation's word of mouth, and from the wronged party itself.
Maybe you should just decide for yourself.
It all started, as so many things do, on a blustery, unforgiving New York winter day. Connor Jamison, known to many at his school as "that church dude's kid", entered his and his father's small apartment and called out the same greeting he did every afternoon. Brushing his semi-long black hair out of his eyes and dropping his backpack on the floor, he yelled, "I'm home!"
Silence met the words.
"Dad? You home?"
"Guess he's gone," Connor informed, turning back towards the door. He chuckled lightly. "It's okay, you can come in. It's not like the carpet's gonna eat you alive for stepping on it." He hurried forward and tugged against the hand of the redheaded teenager who stood awkwardly in the doorway. "Kyle, come on."
These two boys were as different as night and day. Connor wore a good deal of dark colors—they simply fit his personality. He felt comfortable in them. His piercing, expressive eyes were so often sorrowful and lonely, but when he heard a simple "I love you" from anyone, or a simple expression of friendship, they seemed to glow from within with a soft, warm light. His small, hunched posture told of a shy, withdrawn nature, but this likewise disappeared when the right person was around.
Kyle, on the other hand, had a colorful appearance and a colorful personality. His hair was the dark reddish-brown that he had died it to get rid of the plain brown that kept him from standing out, and it was cut short, spiked, and held in place with a good deal of gel. He preferred to wear tattered old blue jeans and colorful tee shirts—green, blue, red, and the like. His soft blue eyes laughed even when he was not, and they seemed to burst with life and humor. It only took one smile from him to bring women to a state of weakness and shaky knees that always went unnoticed by the cause.
Looking back now, Connor couldn't put his finger on which of these traits it was that drew him towards Kyle like a magnetic force. Perhaps it had been all of them rolled into one. Or perhaps it was because Kyle saw something in him that he had never been able to see inside himself. All he knew was that the moment he had met Kyle, from the minute he walked into the band room after school and found the once-brunette-now-redhead playing away at the piano with a brilliance and passion that thrilled him even as it frightened him….they had been inseparable.
Better not to question it, Connor had decided.
"You want a soda or something?" the black-haired boy asked now, as he headed towards the kitchen.
"Yeah, if you have any," Kyle replied, dropping onto the couch and letting his backpack hit the floor next to Connors.
"Kay." As Connor replied, he hit the button on the answering machine and walked past the little table that the phone stood on into the kitchen.
Beep. "You have one message."
Connor's father's voice rang out into the empty apartment. "Hey, Connor, it's Dad. I had to go to the church for an emergency counseling session, so you're on your own for dinner tonight. There's money on the table if you want to order out for something, and I should be back no later than eight. Love you, don't stay up too late."
The machine beeped again. "End of messages."
Connor had never known any other life besides his adoptive father. His mother had died when he was only two years old, taken by cancer before she saw her son grow up, and his biological father had followed not long thereafter.
Liam Jamison, though he did love his adopted son very much, served first and foremost his faith, and as a result, was absent a great deal of the time as he devoted his life to his church and the people who needed him there. It had bothered Connor somewhat growing up, but now it simply gave him something else to be relieved about. It certainly wouldn't do to have his father and Kyle in the apartment at the same time.
"Here ya go."
Kyle caught the can of soda that was tossed in his direction as Connor plopped down on the couch next to him and grabbed his backpack, throwing it lightly into Kyle's lap and standing again. "It should be somewhere in there. I'm gonna go grab my guitar."
Connor returned a few minutes later carrying a battered old acoustic guitar, worn from years of gentle abuse at a child's, then a teenager's, hands. "Here we go."
"Dude…how old is that thing?"
"Old," Connor replied with a quiet laugh. "My mother went out and bought it for me right before she died. Said her son would learn to play decent music, no matter what my father said. Then it became about what my adoptive father said."
"And what does he say?"
"That I can play, as long as I play hymns."
Kyle laughed. "Ah."
"Good thing he's never home, huh?" Grinning, Connor dropped back onto the couch. "Find it?"
"Read the lyrics?"
"I thought I'd let you sing them to me."
"Come on, Connor. We're been together for, what, five months now? We've talked about music, we've written music, you've told me you write songs solo, and I've yet to hear you actually sing anything."
"Uh-uh. No excuses. Play."
Connor sighed. "You're a damn insistent bastard, you know that?"
"Your damn insistent bastard," Kyle reminded him. "Now play."
Another sigh, but Connor was smiling now. "You'll pay for this."
"Ooh, I'm scared," Kyle teased, sitting back and folding his hands behind his head.
Connor set the sheet music Kyle had handed him onto the table in front of the couch and focused on it. He didn't really need it anymore, having practiced so long and hard to get the song just perfect, but….anything to avoid looking at the boy sitting on the couch beside him. And the moment the first bars came from the strings, he forgot himself completely, and the rest of the world, as well. Nothing mattered but the music. There was nothing else. There never would be.
This was the first song that Connor had ever managed to finish. The music was slow, passionate, and filled with a deep longing that made anyone who listened to it feel empty at one moment, yet completely and utterly filled and content the next, because as the song progressed, the listener came to understand that the music expressed, not what the singer had, but what might fill the emptiness of what he didn't have. The lyrics spoke of loss and gain, of heartache and fulfillment, of fallen angels and broken wings. It was as though all the ups and downs in life were exposed, not in the words themselves, but in their underlying meaning. Connor had worked on this song off and on for three years, and after he had met Kyle, the inspiration had grabbed him and he hadn't stopped writing since. It was the best sort of magic there was, and he never wanted to lose that.
Connor blinked stupidly, and realized that he had finished the song. "….Oh. Hi…."
Kyle didn't laugh, however, at his temporary lack of senses. "That was….well, I don't know what that was, but I sure as hell could listen to it every night."
A deep blush spread over Connor's face. "Stop it."
"No, I'm serious, Connor. Where did you learn to write like that?"
Connor shrugged. "It's all I've ever had. All I've ever really wanted…." he replied simply.
A small, uncharacteristically gentle smile crossed Kyle's face at that. "Not anymore. Come here."
Then Connor found himself being pulled into a soft, gentle kiss, one of promise, of love, and of understanding. Then the message changed as the kiss did, ever so slowly, growing deeper and more urgent. The levels of passion that were reached by that one kiss defied anything Connor had ever known, and left his head spinning as Kyle finally pulled away. He paused there, resting his head against Kyle's chest, pulling in several deep breaths. He decided then that he didn't want to breathe. He wanted Kyle, and he tilted his head up to get just what he wanted.
And then Liam Jamison walked in, and the world shattered.
"Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It's been a day since my last confession."
It was his sixth confession that week. He found himself hoping that if he kept coming back, if he kept telling himself that he had done something wrong, that he had committed a sin….he would actually believe it.
No luck so far.
Connor had always been the great white hope in his father's eyes. Sure, he wore too much black, he played the wrong music, he read the wrong books, and he watched the wrong movies. But his father never saw that side of him. His father only saw that Connor played the hymn every morning in church. That he could recite any part of the Bible and any Catholic law on the spot whenever he was asked. That he attended church every Sunday without question. That he helped little old ladies across streets and spoke to nuns as though they were lesser goddesses.
The poor man had no idea that his son's act was simply a façade. That while his father was at work, Connor was sneaking Kyle into his home at every opportunity. That Connor listened to and wrote the wrong music, read the wrong books, watched the wrong movies. Liam was always conspicuously absent when any of these events occurred. But they did occur. That fact was brought into harsh light on that cold winter day two months before.
Yes, it had been two months.
Connor and his father were back on speaking terms, although nothing was the same anymore. Liam was always at home when his son returned from school. Connor didn't have a single moment to himself anymore. His father stared at him with distrust, disapproval, and disappointment. Liam had lost a son, and Connor had lost a father. Neither could ever be fully restored. Both knew it.
But Connor had lost something else, as well.
Kyle had tried to see him as much as possible, but in the end, Connor had been the one to break it off. And that was that. Kyle left New York City a month after the breakup, to move to Los Angeles after his mother was transferred to an office there.
And that was the end for Connor. The end of one life, and the beginning of another. The beginning of an endless string of confessionals and emotional detachment. The beginning of being looked down on by his father, and by the two priests who had joined the church to lessen Liam's workload. The beginning of another end, one that would come more swiftly than the first.
These were the things that ran through Connor's mind now, but the words he spoke were completely different. He recited them from a mental script. There was no real meaning in them.
"My God, I am very sorry for all my sins because they displease you, for you are all good and deserving of all my love. With your help, I will sin no more. Amen."
What did that even mean?