Conscience plays upon me now… Cuckoos call, pendulum swings… Lift my hands and make the cross…


The floor is hard beneath your knees; hard and cold. You don't really know why you kneel before a God you thought you'd lost hope in, but you do. Perhaps it is habit; old habits that still haunt you from the dark, confusing seminary school days. Or perhaps it's because even though you no longer have hope in Him, you still have a shred of faith. In what, you don't know. You just don't know, but you're kneeling before Him -- whoever He is -- with your hands clasped against your chest and your head bowed in reverence, and you're praying. The Lords Prayer.

Our Father, who art in Heaven…

Your fingers feel naked without Rosary beads wrapped around them, and in the middle of your prayerful utterances -- …Hallowed be Thy name… -- you realize how naked you feel on your knees. Like you're being judged. Like every wrong thing you'd ever thought and done is etched plain to see on your skin. It's stupid, because there's no one else in the room except for you. Only you. And a God you say you no longer believe in. Yet, you're praying to Him. And you don't know why.

Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done…

You say you no longer believe in Him. But really, you do. Your guilt tells you so. That intricate, heavy burden that hangs dark in the recesses of your mind and weighs down in the pit of your stomach, that very same guilt you'd had instilled in you from as early as you can remember. That very same guilt that never went away, even after you'd said your penance, even after you'd spent hours of prayer upon your knees.

…on Earth as it is in Heaven.

It's that same guilt. It's never left you. Maybe that's why you're on your knees. Because you want nothing more than to be free of guilt. Guilt for being who you are. Guilt for every move you make. Guilt for every sinful thought, every gluttonous mouthful of food, every glance at a woman, every time anger stirs deep in your gut.

Guilt for every thought of him. How much you want him. Good Catholic boys don't lust after other men.

Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses…

Except for you.

Your knees ache and you clasp your hands tighter against your chest, eyes squeezed closed tighter. Good Catholic boys don't lust after other men. The guilt is eating deep into you. Like claws sinking into your flesh. You find yourself wishing you had your Rosary beads; those deep red-stained ones that your father gave you upon being accepted into seminary school. The ones that went everywhere with you and heard each and every penance you'd ever delivered before the Lord, upon your knees. You threw them away along with your faith and hope long ago.

…as we forgive those who trespass against us…

Pity you couldn't throw your guilt away with it.

Because, you realize, if you didn't have guilt, then you wouldn't be on your knees. Praying to a God whom you no longer believe in. Praying a prayer that had lost all meaning to you from all the countless times you'd recited it. Yet, you're reciting it again -- and again and again -- because it's the only way you know how to deal with this guilt. Of wanting another man. Of having another man. Of wanting to taste his skin and his lips, feel his cock against you, in your hand, in you.

…and lead us not into temptation…

Your knees ache and you try to focus on that. Pain is suffering. Suffering is penance. Penance is cleansing. Supposedly. You clench your fingers hard against each other until your knuckles are white and you feel the guilt rippling through your veins like poison as your mind strays from your meaningless prayer to the thought of his cock, how beautiful it looks. How deep it goes in you. How he moans your name when he's coming inside you.

If you had your Rosary beads with you, it would be a distraction. You could count the prayers as you deliver them, one by one, to keep you in your place and in your frame of mind. Away from sinful thoughts. Closer to a God you don't believe in. Except you do believe in him. You just know He won't take away your guilt. And your guilt -- your conscience -- tells you that you wouldn't deserve that mercy if He did take it away.

…but deliver us from evil.

You don't know how many hours have passed but when you finally open your eyes, make the sign of the cross and rise from your knees -- the pain is excruciating -- you're hard.

And the guilt is as thick and condemning as ever.




Where's my faith, is it lost?


He's never struck you as the religious kind. Considering he's Jewish, he never seems to observe any customs, apart from Channukah. Not that you care -- you don't. You hate religion. You hate the guilt it comes with, the stigma it imposes, the way it can either control a person's life, or strip a person of their purpose in life by making them grounded with rules and guilt that never washes away.

You don't think he's religious.

But he is.

He prays when he thinks about you. The Shema, the most important of all Jewish prayers -- he recites it to himself as he takes his cock in his hand and strokes it.

Sh'ma Yisrael Adonai Elohaynu Adonai Echad.

He doesn't even believe in God. Just like you. But he prays -- in the Jewish tongue he was taught as a child -- to a God he has no faith in because he wants to wash the shame away of thinking about you. Of wanting you.

Yet, it's such a contradiction because he runs his fingers up and down his cock, feeling vein for vein, his head bowed and eyes closed as his lips barely move; the prayer uttered under his breath like a man talking in his sleep. He thinks about how degrading this is to Yahweh, touching himself while praying to the God of the Most High.

It's like a confession of what he is, of his transgressions, of his deepest carnal desires.

It says in the Torah that God loves all people, regardless. Just like in the Bible. That God can forgive all sin.

That God can wash away all guilt and shame.

Barukh Shem k'vod malkhuto l'olam va-ed v-ahavta et Adonai Elohecha b-chol l'vavcha u-v-chol naf'sh'cha u-v-chol m'odecha.

He tries to focus his mind on the God he doesn't believe in. Tries to push you from his thoughts, but he can't because you're always there, just like his guilt and the more he prays, his hand gliding faster and more urgently over his cock, the greater his guilt and shame become. Like a mezuzah affixed upon his skin.

If only you knew. Perhaps you'd never fall to your knees again.

Or maybe you would.

And maybe he'd watch you. Take your face in his hands as your lips move over his cock.

Hishamru lachem, pen yifteh l'vavchem, v-sartem va-avadtem elohim achayrim, v-hishtachavitem lahem.

And you'd look up at him. Watch his face. See the sweat beading upon his forehead and trickling down his temples, as stark as Jesus sweating blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. Except he doesn't believe in Jesus. He doesn't believe He's the King of the Jews.

Just like you no longer believe Jesus is the Saviour of mankind, the Redeemer from all sin. The Jews are still waiting for their Redeemer.

Just like he's waiting for his guilt to wash away. Through prayer. Through ritual. He shouldn't make an idol of you like this. Shouldn't want to bask in worshipping you, your body, your mouth. Shouldn't be thinking of being deep inside you.

But he is.

L'ma-an tiz'k'ru v-asitem et kol mitzvotai, vi-h'yiytem k'doshim laylohaychem.

He comes with his eyes still closed and his lips still murmuring the prayer. A deep groan escaping from the back of his throat. You in his mind. Always in his mind. Just like the guilt that eats at his conscience and makes his skin crawl.

And the guilt is as thick and condemning as ever.

Ani Adonai Elohaychem, asher hotzaytiy etchem mayeretz Mitzrayim, li-h'yot lahem laylohim. Ani Adonai Elohaychem.



Today I am still disconnected to the face that I saw in the clouds, and the closest I get to contentment is when all of the barriers come down…



The floor is hard beneath your knees; hard and cold. How many times have you been down on your knees now? How many times have you cast your eyes up to the air and prayed for forgiveness? Prayed for the chains of guilt to be stripped from your bones and the smoldering embers of shame to be doused upon your skin? You don't know. You just don't know. But you're upon your knees again and you're not looking up at thin air but up at him. Him looking down at you. His hands on your face. Guiding you. Watching your adoring lips that had uttered so many faithless prayers glide over his cock.

And he's uttering your name under his breath, his lips barely moving, just like a man deep in prayer.

Robert. Robert. Oh, god, Robert.

Funny how he says God and your name in one sentence. Like idolatry.

Guilt prickles at your skin again and you want to close your eyes, just like you do when you're down on your knees and praying to a God you don't believe in, but you want to watch. You can't look away.

Neither can he.

What would God say to you, seeing you like this? What does He think every time you lie prostrate -- just like you did when you were in seminary school, taking your vows of commitment -- before this man as he takes you from behind? What does he think every time you get back down on your knees and confess your transgressions, the Lord's Prayer tumbling empty from your mouth?

Robert. Oh, god, Robert.

The shame is smoldering, just like your lust. Simmering, burning, guilt making your pulse hammer through your veins and your skin is crawling, and if your hands weren't gripping his hips, they'd be clasped together in prayer. Feeling naked where the Rosary beads should be.

And you know you shouldn't be doing this. Because good Catholic boys don't lust after other men. But you can't help it, because over and over again, because of who you are, you retrace that fatal line. Of slipping into transgression. Of never being free from guilt.

Your lips keeps moving, gliding, sucking, tasting, your eyes trained upon him like he's a beacon. He's staring back down at you with sweat inked across his forehead, his lips still uttering your name and God's name again and again like a prayer, and you're so hard. Just like he is. Hard. Aroused. So full of shame.

Robert. Robert. Oh, god, Robert. Oh, fuck.

Your knees are aching, throbbing, and pain is good. Pain is suffering. Suffering is penance. Penance is cleansing. Except this isn't penance. This is idolatry. This is sin.

You retrace that fatal line again and again.

He grips your face as you suck faster, harder, him moving his hips in time with your mouth and you can't look away. You're mesmerized. Always mesmerized when he has you on your knees like this.

Robert. Robert. Jesus, Robert.

He doesn't believe in the King of the Jews. But he says His name alongside yours with such conviction.

And you worship him with your mouth, with such conviction. Like this is what you believe in, because this is what you are -- a Catholic boy who lusts after other men.

Your fingers feel so naked without the Rosary beads around them.

Robert. Oh, god, Robert.

James, you want to groan back.

He comes upon your tongue, deep into your throat, into your mouth that has spoken so many faithless, unbelieving and habitual prayers. And you swallow back every drop. The taste is going to linger on your tongue for hours to come, and the guilt is going to eat into you for days on end.

He pulls back from you, breathing heavily, hands still on your face and his fingers lightly map across the shape of your jaw. You remain staring up at him, your hands still gripping his hips and you watch the beads of sweat run down his flushed face. You watch him sink to his knees, kneeling before you and when he closes his lips over yours, you let your eyes close slowly and you kiss. Deeply. Slowly. Tongues tasting tongues, hot breath against hot breath.

When he breaks the kiss, he leaves you on your knees as he stands and dresses. You watch him leave. Still upon your knees and your knees are aching. But you don't get up. You stay upon them.

And make the sign of the cross and draw your hands together, clasped tightly against your chest. The guilt is so heavy, like the burden of a cross, and as you bow your head and close your eyes, you begin to recite a faithless prayer. To a God you don't believe in. To a God that won't take away your guilt, no matter how hard you pray, no matter how much you beg for forgiveness.

Our Father, who art in Heaven…

You retrace that fatal line. The guilt will never let you go.

…hallowed by Thy name…

You don't know how many hours have passed but when you finally open your eyes, make the sign of the cross and rise from your knees -- the pain is excruciating -- you're still hard.

And the guilt is as thick and condemning as ever.



Sinner, I have never learned, beginner, I cannot return; forever, I must walk this earth like some forgotten soldier...


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A/N: (All song lyrics from Sinner by Neil Finn.)