Jules Krueger

I only touched myself on Sundays, after Mass. There was something about taking a man’s flesh into my mouth, my tongue soft and head bowed, that freed my hand to do what it wished. The kneeling, too. I knew it was perverse, but my knees felt tender on those chapel pews.

After Stephen, I only sought after dangerous men. I would spend a few rough nights with these men until they tired of me, and I felt sufficiently betrayed and manipulated; able to ask God, straight face and marble morals intact, to guard me from victimization, from more men happening to me. These particular men made me feel exposed in a way I could make sense of. I almost felt like Jesus, taking on their filthy sins, lying in the nude before them, arms spread if not by nails, then by force. Mostly, I felt holy. I could haunt their minds; I am the confused man, the sinless one that you hurt, and maybe one day I will come back for you, perhaps not with forgiveness. I enter their lives as an innocent, and re-enter as a judge. These things I know: I cannot act for myself, for my feelings. I need to stay away from men like me. I am called to live a life like Jesus, with no relations. Maybe this makes me holier than others. Maybe this struggle, the struggle with my urges, simply constructs another step on the staircase to sainthood. Saints begin as humans, low like me, hungering like me. My homosexuality is both an obstacle and a greater calling.

These things I hope with a yearning deep within me, so small it is often squashed out and revived: I am wrong.

Stephen was released from prison on a Sunday. Aside from his prison stint, we had a lot in common: we were both twenty-three, from multi-sibling Roman Catholic families, and raised in Orange County, California. We met through my church’s prison outreach, which visited once a week to impart the Bible’s truths and provided homes once inmates were released. Having Stephen move in with me was easy; both charitable and selfish of me. I felt that despite our lack of physical contact during visiting hours in the prison, there was something both unspeakable and urgent between the two of us, waiting and wavering. When I first met him and he smiled his shy “hi” at me, I knew he was like me, and I suspected he knew the same when I sat facing him, my eyes locked on his long fingers folded against one another, his brown eyes and hair that curled sweetly at the ends.  Stephen and I loved to compete. Each week that I visited him in prison, I came ready with stories to tell of my eleven-person family and eventually adventures living in my own apartment for the first time. I chose the stories that would make him laugh the most, endear him to me and my presence. I wanted him addicted; I wanted him to spend his time either talking with me or thinking of our conversations, thinking of what to say, what to remember, what joke to bring up. He loved to bring up my duties as the eldest brother of nine siblings. 

“Did you save the world today?” he would ask, smiling in that handsome, private way. “Not exactly,” I’d reply. “But I saved six children’s lives today.” My household was chaotic, of course, my parents only able to do so much. “Sarah tried to work the stove.” “Sarah is the six-year-old,” he replied, trying to impress me with his knowledge. “Five,” I said. “Then, I reckon you saved eleven lives today, given that all of you would have burned alive along with the house.” We sounded rather flippant, even chipper, about my house disintegrating into ash along with my family. As ash, my family couldn’t even have a proper burial. We’d be damned by the flames themselves.

“You’re correct,” I said. 

“That sounds just as good as saving the world to me,” Stephen said. He tried to instill confidence in me, lift me up like I was meant to lift him in the confines of the prison. It always nearly worked.

When Stephen moved into my apartment, our days would start with these kinds of conversations. I recounted my visits to my family’s house from the previous day, about a ten-minute drive away. I think it made Stephen feel ingrained in family life, something he didn’t have much of himself. Sharing those stories with him, I was never sure if I wanted to convince him of the charm and splendor of traditional family or to expose the stress I was under; make him want to life the weight off my shoulders, to hold me down and comfort me, to really see me. Our relationship evolved quickly after those first few weeks, though. The third week he stayed over, we committed perverse acts in the most loving way we could. Laying on my mattress, light blue walls surrounding me, I felt invigorated and ashamed. It struck me as funny that my bedroom walls were blue, like the sky; this was the false world I created for myself to live in, replicating the real one, but too good to be true. Nothing could feel too good on earth, or else it was a trick. And Stephen felt good. My back on the mattress, too committed to bachelorhood for a bed frame, felt good.


At thirty-four, I came to love my wife very much. We had been married for two years, and after accepting our complete lack of intimacy, I finally discovered the strength to resent myself instead of her. Being same sex attracted people in a heterosexual marriage, we contended with many struggles.

My wife knew about my past. She knew about Stephen, mostly, and how much I missed him, and how he nearly convinced me to forego eternal life. My present, she was far less aware of. I sought comfort in random men that I would never have to see again, never have to gaze upon their hard-lined faces and will them to not recognize me. It was how I cleansed myself, so I could be pure for my wife. I could be attentive, and satisfied, and maybe think about indulging her deepest desire: having children.

Before marrying Charlotte, I knew few things about her, one being that she wanted children. I could see she was a strong-willed woman. This both comforted and terrified me; I knew she would lead me through the right steps, down the path of a traditional family. She was so perfect for whatever version of me had chosen the family life, rather than a life of no relations. The thing was that I couldn’t stop myself from having relations with men. With Charlotte, it could all balance out. I had another excuse to do what I needed with men, because I needed to be well enough to take care of her.

Today, when I came home from work, white button-down shirt hinting at sweat beneath my neck and down my back, Charlotte was waiting at our kitchen table. It was far larger than the one Stephen and I shared in our apartment, complete with thin red tablecloths and a thin vase of roses in the center. I bought those for Charlotte last week, after an unsettlement between us. 

“Sit down,” she said. She wore her blonde hair in a high ponytail, athleisure wear accentuating her body.

“I just got back from my walk, but I wanted to see you.”

“You just walked outside?” I asked, pushing out the chair across from her.

“It’s so hot. Why didn’t you go in the morning like usual?”

Charlotte’s eyes stayed set on the surface of the table, and she picked at one of the tablecloths with her manicured nails.

“I just need to know your answer to my question.”

“What question?” I asked. I looked pointedly away from the roses, knowing their presence betrayed my façade of cluelessness. 

“Andrew,” she sighed. “Please.” 

Charlotte was talking about children. Before marrying her, the idea seemed good; someone else to take care of, distant, far off. Now, I sat faced with the consequences of my desires, and I had to account for them.

“We can start trying soon.”

“When is soon?” she asked.

“I asked you to be specific. I’m ready for this. I need to know exactly where you are.”

I took a deep breath. I knew I had to get tested, and I would have to schedule a day off work to go to a far-away clinic where no one would recognize me. While I deserved whatever I got, I couldn’t pass anything on to Charlotte. That would be the last cruel act she could put up with.

When I lived with Stephen, we thrived in the nighttime, letting our good feelings carry us through the mornings and days. It was when Stephen started to acknowledge our unique commitment in the daylight that I became troubled. 

“How do you take your eggs in the morning?”

Stephen was grinning like he had made the funniest joke in the world, looking down at me tangled up in our white sheets. The bright sun penetrated the window blinds, stamping a vibrant dot on my vision, remaining no matter where I looked. 

“Stephen,” I groaned unflatteringly. “I don’t like mornings.”

“I thought that actually eating breakfast might change your mind.”

Practically raising my younger siblings, I was never much of a breakfast person because I prioritized their meals over mine, and mornings were the most chaotic. Stephen knew this. He knew all about my past, and he loved me despite of it, even for it. 

I knew about his past, too. The story of Stephen’s past started and ended with Father John. As a child, Stephen killed him in self-defense, stuffing Father John’s body in the confession box after shoving his own beaded rosary down his throat. It all sounded horrid and heretical, but I understood Stephen. Most people did. The things Father John did to him caused unspeakable suffering, suffering that I and many others could not imagine. 

Living with me now as a free man, free from a man’s abuse and free from incarceration, Stephen thrived. I felt so happy for him, but I was beginning to feel left behind. How could Stephen be so relaxed about our relationship? He’d explained to me that what Father John did to him was due to an evil sort of festering repression. That was his take on it. That it was never homosexuality itself, and Stephen had known from a young age that he was gay. In fact, Father John preyed on him because of it. After all Stephen had been through, I was embarrassed that I had a more difficult time accepting our relationship than he did. I felt I should be the well-adjusted one, the encouraging and reliable partner. Instead, he was. When I was finally letting myself feel good, feel the extent of my own humanity, I was still spiraling out of control. I don’t know why I thought it would all change with Stephen. He was so kind, so gentle, the only true lover I’d ever known. 

But he was too good. While I conflated what we did with guilty sin, he saw our love as something to inspire growth. I think, in that moment that he woke me up for breakfast and I rejected the morning, rejected the light and all its pain and vulnerability, he knew that I was truly stuck. I saw fulfilling realization pass behind his eyes as he realized, after a year of living together, sleeping tangled in the same mess, getting acclimated to society: he could leave. He could go. It was like a waiting game, now. I couldn’t bear it. I couldn’t convince myself in time. I failed to transform myself within that year. I let him down, and worse, I let God down, because all this sin was for nothing; all my sin was useless to Stephen. He was ready to live without me. Despite this, Stephen stuck around for another half a year. In the end, he said he felt me pulling away, and he couldn’t stand it. I didn’t tell him that I already knew he was gone.

When scheduling our planned and only sex, I had to take the gamble that I would be clean, and the test would just be a reassurance before consummating my love with Charlotte.

“I’ll be ready in a month,” I said.

Charlotte valiantly tried to smile. She reached across the table to grab my hand.

“Thank you,” she said. “I know this is hard for you. I know you haven’t… since that person.”

She meant Stephen. Charlotte knew I was a homosexual. She had been convinced she was one too, when she was younger. She made a good companion in marriage, but we never talked about that, just let it sit between us. We never talked about anything interesting, or substantial, or anything that made me feel alive like I did with Stephen. But that’s what I needed, and I was grateful for her bland brand of piety.…Instead, I told him that we were wrong. It wasn’t a lie, because I believed it, believed it the whole time. I told him I couldn’t live my life as a homosexual, as an accessory to man’s sin. 

“It’s not who I am,” I said to him.

“It doesn’t have to be who you are either.” 

“To think a person’s identity consists of only their most urgent impulses,” Stephen said, “is dehumanizing.”

I marveled at the fact that he was finally getting it.

“That’s why I have to rise above them. Above my disordered impulses.”

“Then your identity still centers around them,” he said.

“Around conquering them. Or, pushing their heads down and muffling them.”

I looked down.

“I can conquer them, though,” I said quietly.

When I looked back up at Stephen, there was pity in his eyes. I knew he could see the pity in mine, too. If we pitied each other hard enough, maybe we could both be right.

Stephen brought his face close to mine once more and blew directly into my eyes until they stung. I was taken aback.

“What are you doing?” I asked him.

“It’s what people do to actors when they can’t cry on command,” he said, before turning away.

Facing away from me, he bent down from his seated position, back arching like a bridge off the bed. After fumbling for his pants on the ground, he picked them up before stepping into them.

“With what I went through, I thought it was Father John’s fault that I was made this way. But it’s not. He’s at fault for a lot of shit, but not for me being gay.”

“I know,” I said.

“I out of anyone know.”

“You know God made us this way.”


“Why would he make something so dysfunctional?” he asked me.

“To call us closer to God. To sainthood.”

Stephen laughed, voice strained.

“Well, I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in just being a person. In living a way I can sustain.”

I knew this time when he left, it was for good. He’d stayed a few nights recently at his friend’s, and I knew he had a spot there, when he was ready to move on. I watched him secure his pants, gearing himself to walk away. I watched the tears, real ones, form in his eyes. Maybe he really loved me. Maybe he really wanted to stay.

“Goodbye,” he said softly.

“Thank you, Andy. You did a lot for me.”

He hesitated a moment, like he was waiting for me to interject. With nothing in response, he walked to the door, shirt balled up in his hand.

I thought about which commandment compelled someone to cry. The most obvious of the Ten were murder and adultery. Still, there was no definite answer in the Bible. Then, I remembered Jesus wept, so I did too, just for that night.

I was clean, and more pleased with this fact on Charlotte’s behalf than my own. Selfishly, I was glad I had no reason to disclose my ongoing encounters with men to her, and I now had no logical reason preventing me from our consummation of marriage. I told her I was ready the moment I found out, and we started trying that very night, laying in bed with few layers between us. I couldn’t get hard until I thought of Stephen. The process after that went fairly quickly, but I felt immense guilt afterward, even more guilt than I felt after my encounters with random men, more guilty than when I sat with the justifications of my actions. Here I was, relying on my disordered urges to create life, to follow God’s will. What did that mean about me? I felt like a mistake, a blight to the earth. I felt like I was promised the garden of Eden but never allowed in. It made me all the more jealous that Adam and Eve had a chance there, got themselves banished. All I needed was a chance. I was born on dry soil. 

Jules Krueger (she/they) is a writer of fiction and poetry based in Nashville, TN. She recently graduated from Belmont University with a degree in creative writing. Thankfully, she has subverted the English major stereotypes by working as a barista and a bookseller. You can find more of their writing at