Our cycling club’s name was definitely not my idea. But Pedalphiles has some of the best riders in the state, and even more important, it has Jenny Porter, so when they invited me to join I didn’t think twice.
That’s a total lie. I’ve thought about it so many times I’m sick.
I was molested for two years as an altar boy. I’m one of the damaged kids finally paid off by the Church (somehow I still have to use that capital “C”) after years of stonewalling in court, but no amount of money can erase the taste of that man of God from my life.
I’ve broken the ice with Jenny, though it’s melting slowly. Being on the same team is a start, not a solution. After all, of the dozen altar boys at Saint Succotash’s, Father Creepysmile only targeted me. Creepysmile said I was special, and through him Jesus loved me even more than my parents did. Since my parents didn’t love each other at all that sort of made sense, no weirder than some of the gospel stories Creepysmile read during Mass.
Creepysmile always closed his eyes as he lifted the Host toward heaven. Ringing the altar bell after the words “This is my body, which will be given up for you,” I’d think of other times he’d close his eyes, panting and groaning until he croaked a choking sound like he was being strangled. He’d give me a few dollars afterward from the collection basket. He’d remind me how much Jesus loved me, and that I shouldn’t share our special secret with anyone but God.
Of course, God already knew.
I debate about telling Jenny. Could I share my life with a woman who doesn’t know? Crazy question, maybe, considering I’ve shared nothing with Jenny so far except teammate-style pleasantries, and smiles and high-fives after races. Yesterday’s high-five, though…I swear she maintained skin contact longer than usual, longer than for anyone else on the team. Or was that just me holding on to something that wasn’t there, holding on to nothing?
It’s not small talk material, that’s certain. Starbucks (which I’ll suggest for our first date, once I raise the courage) isn’t the place for that sort of revelation. I should probably wait until after we’ve had sex, until we’ve made that commitment to each other. I’ve heard the third date is when that usually happens, but I’ll be careful not to rush things. If it takes till the fourth or even fifth date, that’s fine with me.
I wonder if she’s had many partners. “Partners” sounds like a business transaction, but saying “lovers” makes my heart hurt.
I do love to pedal, though, joyfully pumping with Jenny as we climb together, breathing hard, feeling the whole bad world fade as her face, contorted with lovely effort, smiles for me as we hit the finish line. I’ve never felt so close to anyone, and I’d pray, if only I still could, that words will be my savior and someday come to rescue us.
Tom Hazuka has published three novels, and his short stories have appeared in Chariton Review, Florida Review, Quarterly West, Puerto del Sol, and other fine places. He has edited or co-edited six short story anthologies, including Flash Fiction, Flash Fiction Funny and A Celestial Omnibus: Short Fiction on Faith. He teaches literature and fiction writing at Central Connecticut State University.