January 3 2006
The springtime always brought beautiful weather to Atlanta. The South was like a sauna in the summer, so the warm breezes of March and April were always great before the heat settled in when May arrived. April was also the month of Jim’s birthday. He would be 29 this month. It was a painful age for Jim. He feared turning thirty because like his mother always said, “Forty is just around the corner.” He was still young at heart, but he was also a little wild at heart, at least that was how he felt. Nevertheless, he was trying to approach his birthday with a positive attitude.
Ordinarily Jim would spend a day with his mother for his birthday. She would drive into the city to his small house in midtown and he would tell her where he would like to have lunch that day. She would pay for it, desert and everything. It was always a lot of fun doing that. He did love his mother and enjoyed spending time with her. She and Jim had been doing this birthday ritual for the past few years. Each time she came and asked him where he would like to go, he would wish in his heart that he could tell her he wanted to go to one of midtown’s gay establishments for lunch, one of the restaurants, not one of the many gay bars and clubs in midtown but one of the nice dining establishments. Oh how he would love to do that. He had heard several people talking about them in his neighborhood and even read about some of them in the local cuisine magazines published in the city. He had ridden by a few quite often wishing that he could stop and go in and enjoy a nice meal. He often dreamed of meeting someone there who would show an interest in him and start up a conversation. It would be nice to meet a nice, young, single, gay man with whom he could go out to dinner with, see a movie with, and spend romantic evenings by the fire, warming themselves against the cold North Georgia nights. Whenever he thought about it, his heart began to beat faster. That would be wonderful. Maybe it would even take his mind off Phillip.
Finally, his birthday arrived. He got up even earlier that morning and spent a half hour or so praying. He thanked God for allowing him to see another birthday. After he finished he looked out his bedroom window as he put on his pullover shirt and saw the sun rising against the beautiful Atlanta skyline. He had always said that the Atlanta skyline was the second most beautiful sight in the state. The first being a sunrise in the North Georgia Mountains. He always awoke early and would shower, dress, have a glass of orange juice and watch the early morning news. He did all of that on this morning too, but it had to wait a little longer because of the extra time he spent in prayer. At almost 8:00 as he was about to head out the bedroom door into the kitchen, the phone rang. This was not unusual for him as a pastor. Church members would call at all hours of the day and night to let him know of a sickness or death. On many occasions, they would just call to talk and let him know that they needed someone to listen. He enjoyed that kind of relationship with his membership. He walked quickly to the phone and picked it up. He noticed that the number on the caller i.d. was his mother’s.
“Well you just couldn’t wait to wish me a happy birthday could you?” Jim said immediately as he answered the phone.
“That’s right. This day only comes once a year for you and I wanted to be the first one to say happy birthday,” his mom said. This time her voice was a little different. She did not sound her usual self on the other end. Jim began to sense that something was wrong.
She continued, “But I have a little bad news. I am not gonna be able to make it this morning into the city to see you.”
“Is everything okay?” Jim asked.
“Oh yeah, I’m fine. Its just that your grandmother called and she needs me to come down to Macon and take her to her doctor’s appointment this afternoon at 2:00,” his mother said with the sound of even more disappointment in her voice.
“What happened to Aunt Jacqueline?” Jim asked.
“She and your grandmother are not speaking again, so its up to me to take her and I guess try and sort things out with those two,” his mom said with what Jim could tell was a half-hearted smile on her face even though she was on the other end of the line and he could not see her.
“I understand, mom.”
“Don’t be upset. I have already made plans for your dad and me to come into the city this weekend and take you to dinner. You can still pick the place. Is that gonna be okay?”
“Oh yeah. I think I can manage until then,” Jim said with a smile.
“Okay, I will give you a call on Friday and we can make specific plans then. Are you sure you aren’t upset?”
“I’m livid. I’m gonna go downtown and throw myself off the top of the Peachtree Plaza Hotel,” Jim replied trying to be as humorous as he could with his mother.
“Well, don’t make a mess. I love you son, and happy birthday.”
“I love you too, mama. I will look for your call on Friday. Bye. Bye.”
It wasn’t as huge of a disappointment to Jim. He actually was going to look forward to Friday with both of his parents. His mother was not quite as frightening when she was with his father. He would choose a really great restaurant and make them spend a little on him this year. He would be okay.
Jim arrived at the church that morning and Kathleen, the church secretary met him in the sanctuary as he walked through.
“Happy birthday, Jim,” she said with a great big smile.
“Oh you’re very kind to remember.”
“How could I forget my favorite preacher’s birthday?” Kathleen smiled at him.
Jim liked Kathleen. She was an older lady who had a warm personality. She was very understanding and did not stick her nose in where it did not belong. He had enjoyed working with her these past few years.
“I put some mail on your desk. I think there are some other things in there for you too,” she said.
“Thanks, Kathleen. You’re my favorite. Maybe I will get you a raise.”
“Oh, stop pulling my leg. Just enjoy your birthday preacher man.” Kathleen patted him on the arm as she walked back down the aisle to the doors that led to her office.
Jim made it over to his office and walked in. Kathleen had already unlocked the door and turned on the lights for him. On the corner of his desk he saw the pile of mail that Kathleen had put there. But then, there on the desk in the middle, he noticed a larger blue envelope. The only thing written on the front was his name. He didn’t recognize the handwriting but wasn’t for sure. He put down his briefcase and picked up the envelope. He turned it over and began to tear it open. “It must be from Kathleen,” he thought as he tore open the seal. She was the only one that was in the office before he got there or so he thought. As he tore open the envelope and pulled the card out, he saw that it was a birthday card. He smiled and was certain it was from Kathleen. It was just the handwriting on the front that threw him. He smiled as he opened the card thinking of how wonderful the secretary was to remember him. The card was now open and he could read the inside. He glanced down at the bottom of the card where it had been signed. His heart began to flutter as he read the inscription.
Have a wonderful birthday, Jim.
He closed his eyes as he stood there looking at the card. Phillip had left it on his desk this morning or maybe late yesterday afternoon after he left. Jim felt his breathing get heavier and heavier as his heart began beating a million miles an hour. This is what just the mention of Phillip’s name could do to him. Seeing his handwriting was even more sensual. “Oh why does life treat me this way?” Jim asked himself this question as he stood there looking at the card. He was so touched by the card. He really didn’t expect to get this from Phillip because he had been avoiding him for the past few weeks, only talking to him in staff meetings and during services. He worked hard not to let it show that he was avoiding the hot, young youth minister, but at times he wondered if Phillip noticed. As he stood there looking at the card, he heard a knock on his door.
“Come in,” Jim said as he pushed the card back in the envelope. As the door opened, Jim’s heart began jumping even more. There in the doorway stood the object of his desires. It was Phillip.
“Hey there! I wanted to wish you a happy birthday, Jim. I was wondering if you got the card. I left it here this morning right after Kathleen opened the door to put the mail on your desk.”
Jim cleared his throat and said, “Yeah, this is great, Phillip. It was very nice of you to leave me this card on my birthday.”
“Oh, I just wanted to wish you a good one. Hey, remember that Chinese restaurant that opened up near here a while ago?”
“Yeah. What about it?”
“Remember I asked you if you would like to go one day not too long ago? You said you couldn’t but that we would go soon. Well, it’s soon, and it is your birthday. How about this evening for dinner? It’s a nice place. My treat.”
Jim could feel himself getting nervous. He knew that if he kept putting Phillip off then he would make him feel as if he did not like him nor want anything to do with him. Nothing could have been farther from the truth. The truth was he wanted to go with him to lunch. He wanted to go everyday with him to lunch, then go home with him and lie with him on the couch staring into those gorgeous blue eyes that reminded him of a sparkling Hawaiian beach. Oh how he wanted to take Phillip in his arms and hold him, kiss him and make love to him. Nothing would have pleased him more. But he knew that was never going to happen. The only thing he could hope for with Phillip was a friendship. That would not be enough he felt. He wanted more because he felt more. But things were not going to be easy at work each day with Phillip, so he decided that he needed to try to make as much of this as he could. He decided that he would go.
“Sure thing, Phillip. Let’s say 7:00.”
“That would be great, Jim. I will just come over and get you at your place then. We can go in my car.”
“Okay. That sounds great. Do you know how to get to my house?”
“Yeah. I have the address and have been in the neighborhood before. I will see you around 6:30. That should give us plenty of time to get there by 7:00.”
“I’ll be looking forward to it, Phillip. Thanks for doing this.”
Phillip smiled at Jim with those beautiful eyes and sweet, smooth lips. How could anyone be that beautiful? Jim was a great looking guy himself but he felt like a troll next to Phillip. Phillip was six feet tall with an athletic build. He had short black hair that he gelled and spiked in the front. He had a nice tan with a wonderful facial complexion. To make him even more desirable, he was smart, gentle and sensitive. He was everything that Jim ever wanted in a man. He was the jock type with a brain, and most importantly, he had a heart for God. He was a servant who knew the pains and struggles a soul went through. But he could never imagine what Jim felt inside his heart. No, he could never imagine the hurt that Jim felt each time he saw him, heard his voice, or saw him name. This was pure agony. Things were made worse by the fact that Jim had slowly but surely fallen in love with Phillip over the last few months since his hiring. When Jim envisioned making love to Phillip it was different. It wasn’t the type of man sex that he had read about online at the gay porno sites. It wasn’t the type he’d seen in videos online on his home computer. No, this would be a gentle, tender lovemaking. He would touch Phillip tenderly, kiss him gently, and stare into his eyes as he whispered to him how deep his love was for him. Yes, he imagined waking up with Phillip in his arms. He would caress the young blue-eyed stud in as if he were protecting him. He wanted to protect him. But there was always a thought that entered his mind when he thought of doing this and holding Phillip as if he was protecting him. He felt that maybe Phillip needed protecting from him. Jim decided that he needed to step out into the sanctuary to pray. As he left his office and opened the door to the sanctuary, he looked up at the cross and lowered his head. Was the way he felt about Phillip wrong, or was he just responding to something within him that was created with him. Jim knelt and prayed that God would not forsake him, but would comfort his heart and give him some answers to the many questions he had about his life, his emotions, and his passions.