The Violence of Lines

“When people began living in settled agricultural communities, social reality shifted deeply and irrevocably. Suddenly it became crucially important to know where your field ended and your neighbor’s began. — Christopher Ryan, Ph.D. and Cacilda Jethá, M.D. in Sex At Dawn

Whosoever Looketh On A Woman

As we closed our eyes for the congregational prayer, I could feel the closeness of her skin, electricity arcing as from one lead to another. Right hand folded tightly under left arm, index finger extended slightly. A hoped for inadvertent touch.

That act, however innocent it may seem, had the potential to cost me everything.

Three weeks previous, my mission companion and I were shopping at Sears in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. I needed another white short-sleeved shirt, having lost one to bicycle grease.

As I turned to the counter, a moment cliches are made of: Eyes locked, time slowed. She smiled, I blushed.

It was easy to imagine that I had never seen a more beautiful woman.

In the history of pick up lines, this had to be among the worst: “Have you ever heard of the Book of Mormon?” I haltingly stammered, words fighting others I’d have preferred.

In the history of pick up lines, this had to be among the worst: “Have you ever heard of the Book of Mormon?” I haltingly stammered, words fighting others I’d have preferred.

Over the next few weeks she invited us to her home, allowing us to teach her the missionary lessons. According to rules, I was there to teach her the tenets of my religion and nothing more. Her role was to pretend to be interested in the tenets of my religion and nothing more. In between, we conversed using only glances and gestures.

My companion noticed nothing. The prospect of someone, anyone, to teach, was such a prize that there was no benefit questioning underlying motives.

She agreed to attend Church, which is how I found myself next to her in the crowded pew, arms folder, eyes closed, all senses straining toward her.

Following the service, she agreed to be baptized.

The next week, I performed the ceremony. Holding her hands in the baptismal font was a wealth of physical intimacy. I leaned her back into the water, watched it cascade over her cheeks, eyes, lips.

She emerged a new creature, clean before the lord.

My sins, however, remained.

Shortly after, I was transferred to a new area.


Three Degrees of Segregation

On my shoulder a sash. An embroidered fig-leaf apron hung from my waist. A small tag affixed to my robes: groom.

With hushed words, I was escorted through a series of stations. Data collection. Forms to sign. Elderly men and elderly women, some whom I had never met and others who I had known my entire life, but whose expressions simply matched those whom I did not know. A firm hand on my elbow, leading me.

Slippers on thick, expensive carpets. Beige walls of perfect carpentry and precise but plain finish work. White sheer curtains. Bright, polished chandeliers.

Up an escalator. Wait here, quietly. A new escort. Up another escalator. Wait.

It was the final act of obedience, the culmination of a lifetime which pointed to this crowning moment.

The script had little variance: baptism at 8, lower priesthood at 12, higher priesthood at 18, temple endowment and mission at 19. Marriage was supposed to have happened at 21, but I hesitated, missed the moment.

Now at 26, time was urgent. I was withering, aging. Questions were asked.

Just in time: two weeks of dating. Engagement. 6 months of abstinence. Marriage.

A final few moments, seated in a chair outside the marriage room.

This was the representation of heaven. The mormon conception of family; a group chosen by rule and authority.

Ushered in, silence. An altar for kneeling. Facing mirrors for metaphor.

A robed, veiled woman, tag affixed: bride. Face to face; reflections unending. Eternity.

Gathered in this small room were 20 robed individuals. These were they deemed worthy; righteous enough to be in this room. The elite. The faithful. The chosen. This was the representation of heaven. The mormon conception of family; a group chosen by rule and authority.

A quick sermon. A quick ceremony. A quick kiss.

Escorts and escalators. Changing rooms. Robes shed, street clothing returned.

Past the data collection stations. Past the waiting rooms. Past the card readers and guarded doors.

Across the parking lot a lone figure waited.

Brother. Gay. Excluded.


Forever Hold Your Peace

Within the month, she’d be married.

We chose to meet on a sunless day of a summer that wasn’t.

Texts. Time. Place. Permission.

We’d been immediate friends following a chance meeting at a lecture in Seattle. Arundhati Roy was holding forth on the excess of democracy inextricably infused with capitalism, decrying the lines drawn to the benefit of corporations and mergers.

Merger.

Randomly seated. Our arms brushed, words mingled. Her voice and ideas the sound and shape of the goddess of the God of Small Things. Within moments we were dancing through topics of intellect and interest. We both recognized it: foreplay.

Within moments we were dancing through topics of intellect and interest. We both recognized it: foreplay.

Within the week, we shared wine over her too-soon expression of a hoped-for future, with emphasis on required security and long-term expectations.

Wrong timing. Different places. Just friends.

Six months later, she was engaged.

Soon after, we agreed to a movie, then dinner.

Following a quiet stroll through Midnight In Paris and some awkward arguing over trivial matters, we again found the ease of conversation over dinner at Le Pichet.

She was holding forth on her new theory of marriage, talking of future plans that would include me. She’d do it differently this time. Fewer lines.

I understood her to be speaking my ideas, not her own. Our prior discussions of easing boundaries had frightened her. It seemed that in her fear, she sought those boundaries with even greater urgency.

I was almost convinced, almost assured that nothing would change between us. Perhaps induced by the spirits and French food, I felt hope that we might remain, that this dinner might not be our last given her imminent departure into marriage.

Then…

“You understand I can’t invite you to the wedding? He wouldn’t understand.”

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