To Be Loved, the story of the tragic chain of events that occur after Jericho Diggs,the son of a well known, black preacher in Vicksburg, MS, a small town, finds himself more than intrigued by a boy named Jordan Rivers, an introverted, attractive boy whom Jericho quickly finds himself risking everything to protect, after they make eye contact on the first day of jr. high school. It is the story of two boy's closeted love made plagued by the restaints of society, family and religion.
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Even in early adolescence, Jordan Rivers knew he was different. An early sexual encounter with his cousin Tanya complicated matters further, and his early attempts to pursue other girls ended in embarrassment and misery. When he meets Jericho Diggs, their friendship appears normal enough but is laced with feelings neither can yet fully understand. And when Jericho's father, a well-known minister in small town Mississippi, discovers the many letters the two boys have sent to each other, “all hell breaks loose,” the backlash, from church to family to society, threatens to destroy everyone’s life involved, and eventually Jericho and Jordan find themselves on two different life paths.
For Jericho, his path is to a picket-fenced dream in Atlanta Georgia with a wife, and child—and a few men on the side as well—while Jordan’s path leads him on a lifelong search for a love like the one he was never able to grasp in Jericho. And then, years later, with Jericho’s marriage all but over, fate crosses their paths again. The question now is, will they let love walk away twice? Will they let love walk away forever?
Actions Louder than Words
It wasn’t an aggressive feeling. He wouldn’t allow that, but Jordan was a consistent thought—one that always seemed to be there when there was nothing else to think about. After that first day in Mrs. Reagan’s class, over a year had passed, and Jordan and Jericho had become friends—if you could call it that. They never ate together, never sat near one another in class, never joked together in the hall, never did anything that would have indicated that they were friends. Though Jericho found it increasingly harder to pretend to laugh at the jokes his other friends made about Jordan, and almost cringed when he heard the name Shantaye, he still hadn’t found the courage to defend him. Whatever they said to one another was reserved for privacy, after they both were home, away from everyone, and it was mostly always on paper. Jericho felt it; it was that thing that made him check to see if he were being watched, made him move quickly, made his heart throb in his chest when he heard footsteps. It was why Jericho always rushed to locker 341 immediately after the last bell rang and snuck his letter in only when he knew no one was around. He didn’t allow himself to labor on why he snuck, but he did. It was the same reason Jordan rushed from his last class, oftentimes forgetting to write down his homework assignment, to sneak the letter from his locker into his pocket before anyone saw him. They didn’t acknowledge it then, but even at their young age, they knew why they had to sneak.
April 8, 1994
Something seemed all wrong as Jericho approached the house. He saw that his father’s truck was outside, which was awkward because he usually didn’t get home from work until long after Jericho was there. Equally awkward, it was completely silent as he walked through the front door into the dim house. No lights, no voices, no anything except the natural light that snuck in and laid itself in random places around the room. His mother was sitting on the sofa, not asleep, reading, or anything, but seemed to look away as he passed through. Slightly confused and not sure why, he walked down the dark hall toward his bedroom, and then suddenly, as he turned into his room, like the sight of a dead body, it became shockingly clear. On his bed, sprawled out, unfolded, lay all the letters Jordan had written, and, beside them, shaded by the lack of light, straight faced, rigid framed, in a tailored suit, dress shoes, with a cross hanging from his neck and an extension cord hanging from his hand, stood his father, Pastor Diggs.
Jericho knew that there was nothing vulgar in the letters—nothing but what they had done during the day; silly, pointless, innocents things; friendly questions like what are you doing after school … this weekend … tomorrow? He was aware, however, that the fact that they were from Jordan made them vulgar, and aware of the absurdity of every explanation that swam through his mind. He just exhaled.
“Take off your clothes,” his father demanded calmly.
Jericho heard him. “Sir?”
“Take your clothes off,” he said again calmly, but forcefully. Jericho wanted to explain that the letters were nothing, that he and Jordan were just friends, that they just wrote letters because they couldn’t talk at school, and because people would think things if they talked in public, but he quickly realized how even his thoughts sounded ridiculous, how written all over this situation and embedded deeply in his thoughts was exactly why his father was in his room. Again he could find no words. He knew that his father, too, had heard of Jordan—of Shantaye. In a daze, too ashamed to be scared, yet too scared to think, he peeled off his shirt, then his pants then stopped.
“Take them all off!” Anger had now arrived in his father’s voice, and, sensing it, fear quickly leapt on Jericho. He looked up at his father as a baby would as he pulled of his underwear. Shame now swallowed him, and he tried covering himself. His father’s face rearranged itself into a snarl, and, before Jericho could respond to his father advancing across the room, the extension cord ripped around his back causing him to uncover his privates, let loose a squeal, and stand up straight. The next blow wrapped around his body and hit him in his privates, causing him to scream throwing his body over on the floor. His father said nothing—arms still pumping out blows, maneuvering around Jericho’s flailing, naked body.
Jericho balled up on the floor. It felt like his skin was being ripped off. More blows came, and they continued to come. The blades—as they felt—were endless, and Jericho squirmed on the floor, trying desperately to hide his naked body from them, but his father was relentless. Jericho could take it no more, and let out one long scream, as high pitched as he could, then lost his breath, not daring to look at his father, who said nothing. Jericho grabbed the wall and floor, and squealed repeatedly, clawing at the wall.
The blades would not stop, catching him across his back, wrapping around his legs, slicing his side … his chest … his neck, and again they ripped the skin from his privates. He screamed again, and then his bladder released itself and the warm wetness stung the raw places and the welts on his legs and privates.
“Jesus!” he screamed. He prayed his mother would come help him, but he knew she wouldn’t. “Please, Daddy. I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry! Please stop, Daddy!” he pleaded, but the blows would not stop.
Again, he let out a gutsy, gargling scream—his mouth wet with slob—then gasped deeply for air. Pastor Diggs still said nothing, his face emotionless. Another blow wrapped around Jericho’s leg setting his privates ablaze again. He felt as if he had been kicked in the guts, and screamed again. Wet, tired, and on fire, he finally noticed that the blows—the blades—had stopped. Facing the floor, against the wall, trash from the garbage can that usually sat by his door scattered beneath him, knees in the wetness of his tears, urine, and what he would later discover was blood, he felt his father step over him and heard his footsteps down the hall.
He lay catching his breath. He could feel the welts growing on his skin, stinging, and, soon thereafter, he heard his father’s footsteps coming back toward his room. Still too afraid and ashamed to look up, Jericho remained facing the floor in a ball when, suddenly, a cold wetness hit his back and immediately erupted into a blinding red fire all over his body. He leapt wildly to his feet screaming, attempting to run toward his bed to wrap himself with the blanket, but his father grabbed him roughly by the arm and threw him back on the floor, pouring the rest of the alcohol on his welted, raw skin sending another wave of fire over his body. Jericho writhed to free himself from his father’s grip, and screamed until he had no more breath. When his father finally released him, he wanted to grab his blanket and dry himself, but he couldn’t move, paralyzed by his father’s dark eyes. The burning finally decreased to a point where exhausted, wet, and wrapped up in his school clothes, he heard his father finally say something. “When I get back, have all this mess cleaned up.” That was it—no fussing, no lecture, no acknowledging why he had beaten him.
“Yes, sir,” Jericho barely whispered with his face still down. Shortly thereafter, he heard his father’s footsteps down the hall, the slamming of the front door, and then the decrescendo of the engine of his truck as it traveled down the road. It wasn’t until then that he pulled himself from the floor. He caught a glimpse of his mother as she went into her room and closed the door behind her. Though his father had spoken no words, that day he said many things. That unspoken message was painfully clear, and Jericho had heard it, and wouldn’t forget it.
Sky Blue February 18, 2002
“Girl, the club be off the chain! You and Justin really should go.”
“Please don’t call me that,” Jordan said emphasizing the please. He really wanted to go, but was too afraid of who might see him, what they would think, and who they would tell.
“Oh … gir— Ya’ll kill me. Anyway, come on. You gotta go. It be so many—”
“Exactly why I don’t wanna go,” Jordan cut him off. “I ain’t got time for folks staring me all in my face, like ‘ooh, I know your business.’”
“Chile, Boo!” Devaun responded. “That ain’t even what I was about to say. Ain’t nobody thanking ’bout you and your little paranoid ass.”
“I didn’t say nobody was. Hell, I really don’t care,” he lied. “But what were you ’bout to say?” Jordan asked turning his lips up in a patronizing way.
Devaun looked at him as if to say, “All right, girl,” then replied. “Anyways, I was ’bout to get you, girl. You over there throwing yo ponytail and swingin’ yo neck.” He laughed to himself. “I was ’bout to say, it be so many fine-ass niggas in there. I’m talking ’bout thug-ass niggas—boys.” He deepened his voice on the word boys, and Jordan wondered to himself why he didn’t always sound like that. When he remembered that Devaun had sounded like that when he’d first met him, he was immediately more convinced of why he shouldn’t go. “You need to bring yo ole nervous ass on to this club wit us!” Devaun sang the last word. Jordan didn’t have to say a word because his face screamed in response. “Chile, ya’ll girls kill me with this mess, come on and go.” Jordan didn’t respond, and Justin, Devaun’s friend, sat on the bed looking back and forth from Jordan, Devaun, and his phone silently as if the conversation did not include him.
Dudes were everywhere, and Devaun had not lied; it was hot … illegally hot. Just beyond the ticket window, right inside the entrance, was a long bar that ran almost the distance of the wall. A small hallway to the right of it led to another room. Just beyond the front entrance, there was a large, open dance floor with a bar along one side. A stage stood at the far side of the dance floor. A second dance floor in the form of wide, second-story balcony circled the entire room. Two open staircases led to the balcony, one from each side of the stage. The entire interior of the club was hidden in a light haze, a mixture of cigarette and weed smoke, body-heat-induced man-fog, and two smoke machines that pumped puffs of smoke during parts of songs where the bass was heavy. There were lights flashing like cameras, documenting every intense second of the action—bodies swiveling, rolling, popping; dry-humping asses and dicks; men posted against the walls like magazine clips. Between the dancing lights and the explosive bass, it was hard for Jordan to keep his hips from gyrating, and his eyes from raping the men he passed—many of whom he recognized from someplace or another on campus. Some of them he had watched and fantasized about from Adrian’s window, some of them he had seen walking across the yard on his way to or from class, and some of them had played eye-tag with him for a while in the caff, and then left him wondering and confused. It was as though he was in a forbidden land of lust, learning a secret that only a select few were privileged enough to know. The rush that came from knowing made his heart pound, and spread a smile across his face.
“I just don’t understand,” Justin shouted at Jordan through the music. He was shaking his head.
“What you talking ’bout?” Jordan shouted back.
“Why dudes wanna be women. I mean who want that shit? Hell, if I wanted to be wit a female, I would go getta female.” He shook his head in disgust. Justin was Devaun’s friend. Jordan really didn’t know him, but they always seemed to end up hanging out because of Devaun.
“Right!” Jordan agreed just when someone covered his eyes from behind, pulled his head back, and whispered real sexy in his ear.
“Damn shawty, you sexy as fuck.” Jordan wanted to pull back slightly, but the way he was grabbed turned him on so much that he couldn’t move at first—didn’t really want to. The mystery man pressed his body against Jordan’s so that Jordan could feel his sex resting in the small of his back, and a soft involuntary moan pushed itself from his lips. Turning, Jordan all but screamed; no words came out. Before him, standing against the smoke-swathed neon lights, slightly hidden behind a hood was … Sky? he asked himself, trying to keep his composure though unable to keep a smile from spreading across his face. He remained mute. Sky flashed him a sexy, possibly intoxicated smile, and bit his lip.
Damn, like this? Jordan thought to himself. His sex throbbed and his heart pounded, yet the only words he could find were, “What you doing here?” Sky just smiled, put his finger in front of his mouth, quietly hushed him, and nodded to Jordan to follow him. He did—outside into the cool February air. Sky didn’t say anything. They walked in silence, Jordan searching the stars as if they were going to tell him what would happen next. When they rounded the building, Sky finally stopped and turned toward Jordan, who stood still half in shock, half waiting to see what Sky would do. Sky pulled him close … behind a club in the middle of the night.
“Now you know,” he whispered in Jordan’s ear, and Jordan could feel the heat of Sky’s breath in his ear. Sky then pulled back, looked Jordan deep in his eyes, and asked, “Now what you gonna do?” Jordan really didn’t know. He tried to stay cool on the outside, tried to appear unmoved, but Sky looked down and saw Jordan’s print, smirked, then licked his lips. He pulled Jordan close again, and then Jordan felt Sky’s hot tongue on his lips, and then against his tongue before Sky pulled back slightly and smiled. Jordan’s phone rang. He looked down and saw “Devaun” flashing on the screen. Damn, he thought to himself. Sky saw and smiled.
“It’s cool. Go back in there with yo friends. Holla at me when you leave … for real,” he said with his seductive eyes enlarging slightly. “I’m ’bout to get outta here anyway. This ain’t exactly my style. Better yet,” and then he leaned in again, “come spend the night with me. You know you want to.” Jordan heard the chirp of a car unlocking. Sky kissed Jordan’s neck, “Aight?” He searched Jordan’s face briefly for an answer.
“Yeah,” Jordan half said with a nod. Sky winked at him, got in his car, and was pulling out into the street and around the corner by the time the shock of it all started setting in, and Jordan realized he was standing out in the dark alone. He went back into the club.
June 15, 2007
They didn’t leave the party right away. They had been standing outside beside Jericho’s car for about twenty minutes, talking and catching up some, but mostly looking at each other under the smiling sky. After Devaun dragged Darrin away from the car and insisted that they let Jordan and Jericho catch up, Jericho couldn’t help but notice the discomfort in Darrin’s face, but he was too preoccupied with other things to care. For two minutes straight, Jericho gazed at Jordan, shaking his head while Jordan could only smile. Jericho could find no words for how he felt, and instead just grabbed Jordan again and hugged him. Jordan laughed to himself, also speechless.
Finally, Jordan spoke. “You were about to leave?”
“Yeah, but I don’t want to now.” He flashed Jordan a smile, taken aback by himself. He hadn’t realized how much he had missed Jordan until he had seen him standing in front of him.
Jordan forgot to search Jericho for evidence of gun shot wounds, having hoped but not really expected to run into him. Actually, he was unable to believe that he had actually run into him so soon. Excitement ate them both up and left only silence.
“Oh …,” Jordan responded not really knowing what to say.
“Come with me,” Jericho said, again shocking even himself with his lack of restraint.
Jordan was flushed with butterflies, having heard exactly what he wanted to hear, but not quite knowing what to say in order not to sound overly excited. “Where we gon’ go?” he asked, remembering that he had ridden up with Devaun, and not wanting to be rude, but unable to fathom not going with Jericho.
“My place,” said Jericho. “We can jus’ chill. This really ain’t my style.” Then it hit him—Tasha, he thought to himself.
“You sure …,” began Jordan, searching Jericho’s face.
Jericho smiled with a “what?” expression on his face.
Scared to ask, but dying to know, Jordan asked “What about Ta—”
But Jericho was smooth, putting his finger to his lips hushing him. “I’m a grown man,” Jericho said, smiling, puzzling Jordan. Much as it had been one time before, nothing was going to keep him from what he wanted.
“Okay,” said Jordan, “let me tell Devaun where I’m going.”
“That ain’t your … boy,” Jericho said. Then he stopped and searched Jordan’s face. “Is it?”
“Naw. Hell, naw. Devaun? That’s just my friend.” Jordan laughed.
“Cool.” Jericho responded. “I ain’t tryna start nothing.” He laughed. Jordan looked down to dial Devaun’s number in his phone, and when he looked up, Jericho was staring at him again, smiling and shaking his head.
“What?” Jordan asked, smiling.
“Hello?” Jordan heard Devaun answer. But before he could respond, he felt Jericho’s hands on his face, and his tongue on his lip. Shocked, turned on, and disoriented by it, he didn’t notice Devaun yelling “hello” into the phone. By the time Devaun and Darrin made it to the door to see what the problem was, they only saw Jericho’s taillights shrinking down the dark road. Noticing the trouble in his face, Devaun asked Darrin, “What’s wrong?”
“What? I’m cool,” Darrin lied.
They spent most of the night trying to find words to explain or express what they were feeling, and, because they couldn’t, most of the night was spent in silence.
After entering the dark apartment, Jordan sat on the couch as Jericho disappeared down the dark hall. Shortly thereafter, he heard the trickling of a shower, and then D’angelo’s “Send it On” filled the room.
A few seconds later in the broken darkness of the hall, he saw the silhouette of Jericho’s chiseled, naked, beautiful brown, smooth body, walking toward him down the hall. Stopping where the hall opened into the living room, he held his hand out, and nodded Jordan toward him. Jordan did search his body, but not for scars that looked like bullet wounds. If they had been there, either they were really small or it was too dark to see. As he crossed the room, he couldn’t control his sex pulsing against his jeans, as Jericho watched him with a slight smile on his face. Jericho couldn’t believe what he was doing. He couldn’t understand and he couldn’t stop himself—and he didn’t want to. For the first time, everything seemed perfect and natural.
When Jordan made it to him, Jericho stared deep in his eyes and softly caressed his lips with his fingers. Again Jordan felt Jericho’s tongue before he grabbed his hand and Jericho led him down the hall, wondering what would happen next. As they entered the room, Jordan couldn’t help but notice the large floor-to-ceiling window that opened out onto a balcony, behind which lay downtown Atlanta. He almost held his breath as Jericho unclothed him, kissing each body part he bared. When all Jordan’s clothes lay scattered on the floor, Jericho led him into the shower, sat him on the white granite lazy seat, and bathed him, softly caressing, and kissing each body part, even stopping to massage his feet before bathing himself, after which they both stood under the warm beating water holding one another until a thick fog hung heavily from the ceiling and the shower door was no longer transparent.
After Jericho dried Jordan’s body, he laid Jordan on the bed. Jordan closed his eyes. To his surprise, he felt Jericho’s naked body on his, and then warm breath on his neck. He felt Jericho’s warm flesh on his. He felt the hair on Jericho’s legs, his toes on his. Time seemed to stand still as they lay listening to each other’s breath, feeling each other inhale and exhale, hearing each other’s hearts beat. Finally, Jericho rose and Jordan felt his soft, but strong hands rub what smelled like cocoa butter, and felt like silk all over his body. By this time, Jordan lay with his sex pulsing. His eyes were closed, and he was breathing deeply. Jericho dressed him in a pair of his silk pajama bottoms, kissed his bare chest, and got up from the bed.
Although Jericho didn’t say it, and Jordan didn’t necessarily want to leave the bed, he knew to follow when Jericho left the room. When Jordan made it down the hall into the living room, he saw Jericho on the large leather couch, shrouded by shadows that lay cast by the dim light throughout the room. Jordan joined him without being told. They fell asleep in each other’s arms. Jordan’s head rested over Jericho’s heart, and they slept in the glow of the skyline that crept through the large window into the room with D’angelo on repeat until the morning sun again stole the stars from the sky.