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The Book of Love

"First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain. Then there is."
There is a Mountain...Donovon Leitch

"When you come to a fork in the road, take it."
Yogi Berra

It's his eyelashes Keith notices first. Thick and brown, and when he closes his eyes in order to concentrate more fully on the sermon (or perhaps he is just tired), they lay on his cheeks like little brooms, Keith thinks. Like the little brooms umpires use to brush off home plate.

Keith doesn't know this man who has only recently started going to his church. The man sits in the back, and doesn't mingle with the parishioners after the service - in fact, he disappears so fast that Keith has finally figured out that he leaves before the service is over.

The man's eyes, shelved deep beneath his prominent brow, give him a brooding look. His lips, when not squeezed shut in a tight, mirthless smile, are almost bow-shaped. Keith is so enamoured of those eyelashes that he doesn't even realize that what he is really thinking is: I wonder if this man's lips are a little too pouty for his face. It gives him a petulant look. Keith is hoping the man is not petulant, because he is sick to death of self-centered, narcissistic, immature, crafty, manipulative all-flesh and no-substance bitches, like his last boyfriend of several moons ago.

The man's face is a shape-shifting mask. It shows its emotions in sync with the rest of the congregation, reacting automatically to the highs and lows of the pastor's sermon - so much so that Keith realizes this man has orchestrated his behavior. Keith doesn't know why - how can he? - but he suspects it's because the man is feeling profoundly out of place in this West Hollywood haven of peace, love, tolerance and - Hallelujah Thank You Jesus! - a kind of Christianity that celebrates gay beingness, rather than shrinks from it in horror.

Now and then the man tilts his head in a certain way and his face relaxes, framed from above so prettily by those lushly full eyelashes, and below by a wistful Mona Lisa half-smile.

When Keith notices the man looking just this way, he wants to tell him: I have felt these things too; regret, fear, denial, self-doubt. I have sat in a room full of people completely alone and wondered why I'd even bothered to get out of bed that day, or dared to think that someday I might be happy, out, breathing the same air as everyone else.

But the thought doesn't articulate itself in quite so many words. The actual thought that occurs to Keith when the man tilts his head, and the shadows slide away for the tiniest moment, revealing the real face beneath the mask, the lips pressed hard in an unfathomably sad smile, is: Prince Charming kissed the Sleeping Beauty, and they lived happily ever after.

For Keith wants to rescue this man, and is not just intrigued by him - quite possibly he is already madly in love.

And the man has likewise noticed Keith, (although not many people don't notice him eventually, for he is quite handsome, and, apart from just looks and physique, has a commanding presence).

In fact, the man, whose name is David, has noticed Keith far earlier than the first time he attended St. Stephens. David noticed Keith for the first time when he had gone to a convalescent home with his father's assistant Federico to pick up a body for transport to Fisher and Sons. A police car had pulled up alongside the delivery van, parked in the convalescent home's service driveway. He saw Keith exit the driver's side of the police car, and watched him as he walked up the stairs, knocked on the door, and waited to be let in. David couldn't hear the conversation Keith was having with whomever opened the door. He never took his eyes away, and felt a twinge of disappointment when Keith entered the room and was lost from sight.

David couldn't tell you why he was so attracted at first sight to Keith. He was handsome, to be sure, but so was every other man, woman, child and domesticated animal in Los Angeles. David wasn't particularly turned on by men in uniform, not so far as he knew. Lately, he'd been so distracted by his general unhappiness and frustration about where his life was going professionally, that he'd barely given his equally unhappy and frustrating personal life a thought, so it wasn't like he'd been looking.

But he sure noticed the powerfully built, black policeman.

David even went over to the patrol car and glanced into the open window of the driver's side. There was a water bottle placed between the two front seats. It had a piece of tape on it, and on the tape was written: K. Charles.

So, at that moment, looking into the police car, David knew more about Keith than Keith would know about David, even after observing him in church several times.

But back to the first time David saw Keith.

Federico came out of the convalescent home's office, the same one K. Charles had gone in, and, although David hadn't asked, explained that someone inside had told him the cop was there because the silent burglar alarm had accidentally gone off.

David wanted to hang around the convalescent home, and wait for the cop to return to his car. He knew that he would never be able to initiate a conversation with him, but there was always the hope that some kinetic discharge would happen between the two if only proximity could be achieved, and then the rest would be history - the kind romance novels are made of!

But he could come up with no plausible excuse to Federico to stay, once the body had been loaded into the van and the paperwork handled. So they rode in silence back to Fisher & Sons, where David helped bring the body to the basement, and finished up the day by doing some paperwork and bookkeeping. He spent the rest of the night in his room, and when he was sure every one in the house was asleep, he lay in bed with his pants down around his knees, and pulled on himself until those 5 or 6 seconds of joy when he could fully imagine in every way that K. Charles was lying atop him, pounding into him, and screaming I....LOVE....YOU over and over again, as the bed sprouted wings and carried them away, smashing through the security bars of David's bedroom window.

Over the next several days he imagined himself and K. Charles making love in all the ways his body suggested that men made love, with his favorite masturbatory fantasy beginning in the police car and ending in David's bedroom. Sometimes, helping out in the basement, but mostly trying to stay out of the way, he would begin to daydream about what it would be like to wake up every morning looking into K. Charles' face (as he remembered it, though admittedly some detail was beginning to slip away). Or stand in front of the medicine cabinet brushing your teeth next to K. Charles' ample physique. His father had never seen such a goofy look on his grown son's face, and he wondered if David had begun filching his pot.

One day, while driving around downtown L.A. searching for a parking space near the farmer's market, David noticed a pair of men, one black, one white, sitting at a table in a sidewalk cafe. He slowed the car down so he could get a better look, and imagined his own image superimposed on the face of the white man. The two were talking intimately, their faces close together. One man took the other's hand in his, leaned forward and kissed him. That burst David's bubble, for he knew that there was no way he would ever be involved in such a scenario.

He felt sad, and a little silly, and for days couldn't even touch himself, let alone fantasize that there would be a morning when he would wake up and look directly into the face of a sleeping K. Charles, or hold his hand, or be seen in public with him, sharing a private joke.

Some time later, his father had read a classified ad announcing that a large, theatrical make-up whole-saler based in Hollywood was going out of business. He dispatched David to search the stock for a certain kind of industrial strength makeup that might be had at a better discount than was provided by their usual vendor.

David drove 'round and 'round, hoping that he would recognize the place by sight, because he had neglected to write down the address. Not wanting to waste any more time, and definitely not wanting to call his father for directions, he decided to find a newspaper, and, he hoped, the classified ad that his father had noticed. He was lucky enough to find a parking space in front of a rack of newspaper vending machines, and as he was digging into his pockets for change, he was stunned to see K. Charles coming out of a nearby coffee shop.

Every inch of him. In living color. Dressed in street clothes, his shaved head bare and gleaming in the late morning heat wave like an ebony beacon lighting the way for all of David's dreams to come true. He had no choice but to follow this dark apparition around the block and all the way up the steps and through the door of St. Stephens.

Continue to Part 2

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