When Donny was twenty-one, he went bowling one night in Los Angeles and met an arrogant, showy little Cuban with incredible bowling skills and no actual self-confidence.
It only took two games for him to match Donny’s unbroken perfect bowling record, and Donny hated him for it.
A week later, the Cuban – christened with the rather ridiculous moniker of Jesus Quintana – pulled Donny aside after the League match and shyly and stutteringly asked him to dinner and a movie.
They are together for seven years – and then, one day, Jesus gets arrested (for “some mild misdemeanour, don’t worry about it, Donny”) and then lands himself in jail up in Chino for six months.
While Jesus is inside, something happens to him, and when he emerges, he’s a changed man. He leaves Donny and their life behind, and runs. Donny can’t find him, nor can the private detectives he hires. The police won’t even tell him what Jesus was arrested for.
Finally, Donny stops looking, sells their house, and moves to Hollywood, where an old college buddy, Jeff Lebowski – known universally as ‘the Dude’ for some ridiculous reason that Donny can never remember – has taken up residence.
Donny has a job and a house and a bowling team, and sometimes, he even has a few dates – life should be good. But without Jesus – sweet, flashy, messed-up Jesus with his melodic accent and his dysfunctional family – Donny feels like he’s always one step behind everyone else.
And then, one day, quite without warning, Donny is bowling with the Dude and the Dude’s newest whacked-out addition to the team, motor-mouth Vietnam veteran Walter, and Jesus is there, several lanes over. Startled, Donny totally fucks up his shot, and rolls a gutter ball.
Dully, Donny can hear Walter screeching obscenities at him in the background, and the Dude telling Walter to shut the fuck up, but all Donny can see is Jesus, and his tall, slim form as he gracefully lines up his shot.
As if feeling Donny’s gaze, Jesus looks up. His jaw drops, his ball rolls into the gutter, and his team mates scream at him in irritation.
But, like in some old movie, all they can see is each other. And Donny – for one, wonderful moment – thinks that from now on, everything will be perfect.
He’s never been so wrong in his life.
Sometimes, Jesus really confuses Donny.
It’s not that Donny doesn’t know the drill; in private, when they are alone, Jesus is sweet and loving…and sometimes, he even approaches being something resembling normal. Instead of flashy, one-piece polyester bowling outfits that would not look out of place on an aerobics instructor, or a prostitute who specialised in bodystocking kink, Jesus wears jeans and a shirt and he and Donny go to a diner and a movie and Donny feels like a normal person who is dating another normal person. He feels even better later, when he and Jesus are naked in his bed, and clothes are no longer necessary.
Donny often thinks that if you strip everyone of their clothes – their brands and their fancy materials and their bright colours – you’d also strip most of them of their bullshit. He’d never tell Walter this, but sometimes he thinks that those Communists, in their identical clothes, have the right idea.
But what did Donny know, apart from how to bowl a perfect strike every time, and that Walter is shell-shocked, and the Dude was sweet-natured towards him like few were, and that the touch of Jesus’ warm, calloused hands on his skin ignited his senses and his blood to the point where he felt like he was on fire. And that felt better to Donny than any League Championship win ever would. Of this, Donny was sure. He liked that sense of security. He depended upon it.
So when Jesus would show up at the bowling alley, decked out in a hairnet and one of his numerous brightly-coloured, one-piece monstrosities, hips swinging as he licked his bright pink bowling ball before throwing it down the lane with a lazy grace that made Donny’s breath catch…and then proceeded to completely ignore Donny…well, that was just a real kick in the guts to Donny.
A kick in the guts only made worse as Jesus bowled a strike, launches his long, lanky body into a victory dance. Cursing himself for being the weak-willed pussy that Walter is constantly berating him for being, Donny looks away, wondering why he keeps letting Jesus do this to him.
“Fucking Quintana,” the Dude drawls. “That creep can roll, man,”
Obscene images of exactly what a naked Jesus can do with body parts shaped like bowling balls and pins when he has Donny spread out before him chase each other across Donny’s mind, and Donny finds himself looking up, unable to help himself.
Jesus, still smirking in victory, catches Donny looking at him, and purses his lips, blowing him a kiss.
Donny just sits there, dumbfounded, until the waves of Walter and the Dude’s conversation reaches his ears.
“Yeah, but he’s a fucking pervert, Dude,” Walter says irritably.
Donny tries not to laugh. Oh, Walter, you have no idea.
The Dude looks at Walter, disbelievingly.
“The man is a sex offender,” Walter adds. “With a record. Spent six months in Chino for exposing himself to an eight-year-old.”
“Huh,” the Dude says, obviously intrigued.
The blood in Donny’s veins freezes. He can’t believe it. It can’t be true…Jesus isn’t like that. He isn’t…he can’t be.
"When he moved to Hollywood he had to go door-to-door to tell everyone he's a pederast,” Walter continues.
“What’s a pederast, Walter?” Donny asks. He doesn’t really want to know; he’s afraid of the answer.
Walter doesn’t let him down. “Shut the fuck up, Donny,” Walter replies, distracted now, his mind focusing back upon the disjointed tale of the Dude, his living room rug and the thugs who urinated on it. Donny still didn’t get it, and neither Walter nor the Dude have seen fit to explain the whole mysterious, ridiculous tale to him.
What either Vietnam or John Lennon’s missing Russian twin has to do with a trophy wife kidnapping herself is beyond Donny, but then again, his mind – and his eyes – are locked on Jesus, resting his bowling ball against his crotch as his vigoursly rubs it clean using its carry-sack. The movement entrances Donny, leaving him slack-jawed and glad that Walter and the Dude are too busy arguing to notice him.
Noticing his expression, Jesus smirks again and saunters over, his fat little lap dog in tow. Donny can’t help himself, and shoots cheerful, worshipful little Seamus the kind of dirty look that would make most men crumble. But Seamus, too busy reverently glancing upon Jesus’ holy form, doesn’t even notice.
Donny’s blood boils.
“Are you ready to be fucked, man?” Jesus’ voice, speaking the kind of words that would get him kicked out of Donny’s bed if he ever spoke them in their private moments, reaches Donny’s ears. “I see you rolled your way into the semis. Deos mio, man. Seamus and me, we're gonna fuck you up.”
Donny looks at Jesus from behind the bend of the Dude’s arm. He can’t believe it. He just can’t fucking believe it. An eight-year-old? Wasn’t Jesus getting enough exposure with Donny? When Jesus made love to him – then and now – was he thinking about little children instead? Is that where his passion came from? Is that why he was attracted to weedy, pale little Donny when no one else was?
“Yeah, well, that's just, you know, like, your opinion, man,” the Dude tells Jesus irritably.
Jesus looks at Walter. “Let me tell you something, bendeco. You pull any your crazy shit with us, you flash a piece out on the lanes, I'll take it away from you and stick it up your ass and pull the fucking trigger ‘til it goes ‘click’.”
“Jesus,” the Dude exclaims after a moment. Donny can think of some far dirtier words to throw at Jesus.
“You said it, man. Nobody fucks with the Jesus.”
Donny can only raise his eyebrows as Jesus walks away. Don’t I count? He thinks to himself.
“Eight-year-olds, Dude,” Walter says after a moment.
The Dude nods, disgusted.
Donny’s stomach turns.
On the outside, Jesus has the fiery Cuban temper one should stereotypically expect of him. But it has always been said that it is the quiet ones that should be watched, and Donny is nothing if he isn’t quiet.
Donny and Jesus don’t do anything by halves, and the recriminations are ugly and angry and loud.
“I was set up!” Jesus cries tearfully. “I’m not into little kids! I’m not into that sort of shit! Only sick fucks are into that! You know that goddamn cops hate ‘Spics; I’m not the first they’ve locked up for no fuckin’ reason, and I won’t be the last!”
Donny looks at Jesus, and it’s like seeing him for the first time. In jeans and a t-shirt, his curls loose and untamed, he looks like the young kid Donny first laid eyes on in that bowling alley, so many years ago. He looks into Jesus’ eyes, and knows that he is desperate for Donny to believe him.
“Donny, please, I wouldn’t lie to you, not about this.” Jesus gets down on his knees in front of Donny, cradles Donny’s hands in his own and presses his face into them. “It was so awful in there, Donny. So awful.”
“You wouldn’t let me visit you,” Donny accuses.
“I didn’t want you to see me like that.”
“Like what?” Donny asks, although he is afraid of the answer. Donny almost hopes that Jesus will do a Walter and dismiss the question with a absent-minded “shut the fuck up, Donny!”
No such luck.
“Beaten. Broken,” Jesus shakes his head; his tears fall into Donny’s hands. “I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to think about it. Please, believe me…”
Donny frowns, looking down at the man kneeling in front of him, this stranger with his lover’s face, whose shoulders shake with silent tears.
Whether he was guilty or not – and really, why would a corrupt cop not lay the blame on a Cuban immigrant; a nice, easy target – Donny knew that the last thing Jesus needed was another person laying the blame on him for everything that had ever gone wrong.
At the end of the day, Donny had to believe in Jesus’ innocence: Jesus was the love of Donny’s life. Plenty of people, blinded by love, had suffered for their stupidity. But Donny didn’t really believe that he would be one of them.
So he takes Jesus to bed and makes love to him, and tries to forget all about it. But he can’t, not really.
Not now that the long, thin, almost-invisible scars that run down Jesus’ back and buttocks make a horrible kind of sense that they never did before.
Jesus sleeps by Donny’s side, calmed by his touch and soft, murmured words.
Donny doesn’t sleep at all, his eyes flicking between the lengthening shadows that fall across the ceiling and onto his lover’s face as night turns into day.
Donny is standing at the top of the lane, readying himself for the shot. He and the team are playing Jesus next week in the league match; there is one thing Donny is great at, and that’s bowling, and Donny can’t wait to rub Seamus’ face in it. Behind him, Walter is blathering on about dominos and oil prices – how the fuck they have anything to do with each other escapes Donny, but whatever – and Donny releases the ball, watching it as it sails down the lane. He opens his mouth to shout in triumph…only to feel his jaw drop as one stubborn pin remains standing.
Defeated, Donny sits down, flexing his bowling hand while confusion reigns in his head and his chest aches. Christ, if one thing isn’t falling to shit in his life lately, then something else is…but his bowling?! Donny though that he’d always be able to count on that one, singular skill!
“What’s this ‘Day of Rest’ shit, man?!”
Donny looks up, startled at the interruption from his own thoughts and Walter and the Dude’s confusing conversation about Soviet tanks and some guy in pyjamas.
“What is this bullshit!” Seamus tries to hold Jesus back by patting him on the stomach, and Donny feels jealously surge up. “I don't fucking care! It don't matter to Jesus!” Jesus is hyped, like he’s on something. He’s really pissed; Donny wished he knew what the fuck went on inside the heads of the people he loved. He never understands a fucking word that the Dude and Walter have been saying lately, and now Jesus – after their big absolution session – has gone off his fucking rocker. And worse, he’s letting Seamus touch him. It makes Donny’s chest ache worse than it already is.
“But you're not fooling me! You might fool the fucks in the league office, but you don't fool Jesus! It's bush league psych-out stuff! Laughable, man!” Jesus breaks into hysterical laughter that bruises Donny’s ears. Christ, what that hell is going on here? “I would've fucked you in the ass Saturday, I'll fuck you in the ass next Wednesday instead!” Jesus grinds his hips in mid-air, and Donny can’t help but react.
Jesus prances off, finished with his tirade, but Donny is sure Jesus will be ranting about Walter’s latest prank for years to come.
As long as Jesus keeps moving like that, Donny has to say that he really doesn’t mind.
And, when it comes down to it, at the end of it all, Jesus is that last thing that Donny sees – not the prancing, arrogant bowler; nor the damaged, broken man who kneeled at his feet and begged for forgiveness; but the timid young man who shyly asked Donny to dinner and a movie, all those years before.
And Donny smiles.
When Jesus doesn’t hear from Donny that night, there is something in his gut that tells him to be worried, some sort of primal instinct that tells him that something is wrong.
He goes to Donny’s house and waits, and waits, and waits.
And the next morning, as he is sitting at Donny’s table, eating Donny’s cereal and watching Donny’s TV, Jesus gets his answer.
“After a vicious physical confrontation with foreign criminals outside a Hollywood bowling alley last night, local man Donald Kerabatsos died of a heart attack. His ashes are to be scattered at Point Dume.”
Jesus cannot believe it. He cannot fucking believe it.
He’s never felt so alone in his life. He’s never been so alone in his life.
Jesus rings the League office, and pulls out of the matches for the week.
Then he climbs into Donny’s bed – their bed – and pulls the covers up over his head, surrounding himself in Donny’s scent, and cries until he feels like his body and heart will split in two.