Not the Only One
DISCLAIMER: Yada yada yada. This story is pure fiction, all names and characters are made up and any similarity to real persons is not only a coincidence, it's damn eerie! Of course, I make no claims about the sexuality or opinions of the real athletes who are mentioned in this story. You'd have to ask them yourself.
Cincinatti, Ohio - November 4th, 2000
"To Nick, and his finally being able to buy tobacco legally!" my teammate, Byron, toasted me. Everyone raised their beers and clinked. We had just gotten out of an afternoon practice and the guys had taken me to one of their hangout's, "O'Mulligan's." It was every bit as Irish as it sounded.
"And being able to vote!" another of the guys yelled.
"And being able to drink legally... in Canada!" another added, with a think French Canadian accent.
"Thanks guys," I said, tipping my glass to them all. I forced a smile out. The past week I had been more upset than usual. I had been terrified that that bastard reporter might run a story. But so far, nothing had happened. Obviously some of the guys had noticed this. Byron came over to where I was standing watching a pool match.
"Nick, can I talk to you?"
"Yeah, go ahead."
He nodded towards a corner away from the rest of the team. "Let's make it a little more private."
My heart briefly sunk. Had he heard something? "What's up?" I asked when we had reached the corner.
"That's what I'm asking you," he said.
"What do you mean?"
"If you were a cartoon character there'd be a black storm cloud above your head right now. Something's got your bra all tied up and I'd like to know what's going on."
I shook my head. "I'm not sure you'd understand, Byron," I sighed.
"Try me," he said.
For the briefest of moments I thought about how funny it would be to spill my guts and watch his mouth drop to the floor. "Ah, I just don't think fit in here."
"Maybe so, but you're not trying too hard to get to know us, you know. How would you know you don't fit in?"
"It's just... well, I'm so far from home, and I know everyone else is too, but I'm still just a kid. Shit isn't going well between me and my friends back home and I hardly know anyone here..."
"Nick, you think you're the first one to feel that way? Tons of guys younger than you get shipped off to play in junior leagues. They don't have it any easier than you."
"Well I guess you're right, but the whole thing is a bit overwhelming."
Byron looked down at the floor for a moment before answering. "Look, so maybe coming out drinking with us and chasing after women isn't your thing. Why don't me and you go out somewhere on an off day and just hang out. We'll go boating, or to an amusement park, something easy-going."
I forced out a smile. "Yeah, that sounds all right."
"Sometimes this life can get a bit hectic," he continued. "Just remember man, you're here to get better. You're never in one place too long in the minor leagues. You don't like where you are, stick around, you'll be somewhere new in a jiffy." He started to head back over to the group but then turned around. "But that's not always a good thing, you know what I mean?" I thought I did.
Cincinatti, Ohio - December 12th, 2000
I couldn't blame people for staring, I must have looked like a monster. During practice, I had been hit by a slapshot right where the nose meets the eye socket. It broke my nose and required stitches as well. The team doctor had stitched me up and then I had headed to the hospital for X-rays. On the way over, the wound had opened back up and now I was shirtless using my practice tee shirt to soak up the blood. So either people were staring at my bloody face and the two black eyes beginning to form, or maybe the women were staring at this shirtless, ripped, athlete. Nah, probably at my bloody face.
I waited in the waiting room with one of the assistants as people cast glances at me, wondering if I had been stabbed or something. Finally my name was called. The assistant walked me over to the waiting room and got me onto the examination table. "I'm going to wait outside, okay?" he asked.
"Yeah sure," I said. The nerves around the eye had been stunned, but now they had recovered and there was a constant throbbing. I needed a new ice pack, my old one was warmer than gonads by now.
I waited in there for another five minutes for someone to come and see me. Finally the door opened.
"Hi, there, sorry for the wait. Let's see what we got here," a male voice said. I removed the ice pack and bloodied tee-shirt. Staring me in the face was Verde from the month before. We both did a double-take.
"It's Nick, right?"
I nodded. "Verde," I hesitated. My face was bright red by now.
He broke the awkward moment by stepping up to me and saying, "Well, let's see what we got here." He started to examine me. "Hmm, this looks deep. Are these stitches I'm already seeing?"
"Yeah, the team doctor put those in. It opened back up though."
"What happened? I'm guessing a puck or a stick did this?"
"Yeah, a puck hit me. My eye socket is killing me, we're thinking it might have broken my orbital as well."
"How's your vision?"
Verde got out a light and leaned in close to get a better look at my eye and put his hand on my bare shoulder to steady himself. "Nothings blurry at all? Or spotty?" he asked, shining the light in my iris.
"Nope," I replied.
He flicked off the light and then patted me on the shoulder. "Work out a lot?" he asked, slipping his hand down around my bicep.
I had to laugh. "Yeah, you kind of have to in this sport."
Verde smiled broadly and then patted my shoulder again. He looked at my nose. "Well, we know this is broken. Think of Brad Pitt naked," he said.
"Huh?" I asked confused. SNAP!!! I yelped in pain as he reset my nose. "Ow, that fucking really hurt!"
Verde chuckled as he walked over to a table to get some supplies. "Come on you're a hockey player. Suck it up." He came back over and began to clean my wound and wipe away some of the blood to get a closer look. "We'll have to take an X-ray to see about your orbital, and as for the cut, I think we can just stitch it back up. It's not too deep."
"What if my eye socket is broken?" I asked.
"You'll be out of action for a couple of weeks. Other than that, there's nothing we can do but wait for it to heal."
Fifteen minutes later a nurse was taking my x-ray. Verde had gone off to some other patients and I was kicking myself for not saying more. I kind of felt bad about never calling him.
I hoped I would see him again but in the usual shuffle of the ER you never saw the same person twice. But luck was on my side while waiting in the original examination room, Verde came back with the x-rays. "You're not in too bad shape, Mr. Brewer," he said, pinning them up to the lightboard. He flicked on the switch and then pointed towards a small blemish. "There's a small hairline fracture on your right orbital, but its so miniscule we could hardly see it. Still, best to avoid any contact for 2 weeks." He looked at me sternly, but in a comical kind of way. "And I'd think about getting a face shield for the rest of the season. Heck, for the rest of your career. It's just better that way."
I nodded to him. "Hey you guys don't have an extra shirt I can borrow?"
He glanced down at my naked chest and faintly smiled, taking in the view again. "We probably have some stuff in the lost and found, check on the way out." He extended his hand, "It was nice to see you again, Nick, although I wish it were on better terms."
I nodded. "Good to see you too, Doc."
He laughed. "You can't call me Dr, yet, maybe in a few years."
I sheepishly smiled. "Okay, see you around." I started to walk out of the room and glanced back at him. He was writing down stuff on his clipboard. He looked so damn hot , especially in those green hospital scrubs for some reason. I thought about asking for his number again. As I was contemplating he looked up at me.
He smiled and asked "Anything else I can do for you?"
I shook my head and walked out of the room.
Cincinatti - December 24th, 2000
My bags were all packed and I was ready to head over to the rink for the morning skate. Even though I was injured I still went to all the skates and all the games, even the away ones. After the skate there was a home game at 7:00. After that, we'd be flying home to our families for Christmas. The night of the 26th I had to then fly to Cleveland. We didn't get much of a break.
The morning skate went well and after it the team headed out for a Christmas brunch. Everyone was in a pretty good mood as we would be seeing friends and family soon plus have a couple of days of rest. I was really looking forward to getting home. I wanted to see how Ron was doing. He had been strong and had not reacted too poorly to the chemotherapy treatments. He was tough. But I had already known he was going to fight this tooth and nail.
After brunch there was a small party and then we headed back over to the rink. The game went bad quickly. After the first five minutes we were down 3-0. I was starting to squirm in my seat, feeling desperate since there was nothing I could do. My flight wasn't until 11:30 pm. I looked at my watch. It was 7:15. I got up to go and get something to eat. It was more an excuse to just get up and get away from the miserable game. While waiting in line I noticed one of the EMT's waiting around. He was hispanic and it made me think of Verde. Jumping out of line I got a bold idea. I had regretted not asking for his number again but I was hoping luck would be on my side.
I walked to a pay phone and dialed the hospital where he worked. I was praying he'd be on duty. After the operator I got through to the emergency room. "Could I please speak to, um... Julio?"
"One minute," said the monotone voice on the other end. Finally I heard the other end picked up. I prayed it would be him.
"Julio Marquez speaking," a man hurriedly said. I thought I recognized the voice but couldn't be sure.
"Julio? Is this... Verde?"
"Yes..." he said, unsure of who I was.
There was a pause. "Nick, from the hockey team?"
"Yeah." I didn't know what to say.
"Didn't hurt your eye again did you?"
"No, I, I..."
"I'm kind of busy, Nick," Julio stated.
"I wish I had asked for your number again that day."
Verde chuckled. "Well, if I give it to you can I get back to work? We're pretty slammed right now."
"Well, I was hoping to see you tonight. What time do you get off?"
"I've got a double. I get off at four."
"Shit. My flight leaves at 11:30."
"Well, when do you fly back in?"
I thought about it. "Not for a while. We go on a long road trip starting the 27th. Can you get a break?"
He laughed. "Absolutely not. It's the night before Christmas. I barely have time to breathe."
"I just want to maybe grab a cup of coffee. I mean you get breaks, right?"
"Actually, not a night like this."
"You don't have anyone that could cover for you?" I asked.
"We've had four suicides admitted already tonight, and now we're starting to get all the DUI's. I really don't have any options."
"Are you mad that I didn't call," I asked.
He laughed again. "No of course not, really, I'm just very busy."
"Well, maybe when I get back into town," I sighed.
I heard him pause at the other end of the line. "Was this a spur of the moment decision to call me?"
"Something you normally wouldn't do?"
"Probably not..." I admitted.
He sighed. "Come on over and I can maybe meet you in the caf for five minutes."
"I can be there in 20 minuess," I exclaimed, nearly dropping the phone with exhileration.
"Page me when you get here," he said.
20 minutes later, University of Cincinatti Medical Center
I was already seated with two steaming cups of java by the time Verde arrived. He was wearing his hospital greens and I couldn't help but admire them. They were loose and hung generously around his lean body, and I could catch a glimpse off his smooth tan brown chest underneath.
I handed him a coffee. "Ah thanks, Nick." He took a sip and leaned back and closed his eyes. He rubbed them then sat up straight again. "It's going to be a long night."
"I'm sorry I didn't call earlier. Its just I was a litte nervous after... well, you know."
"After that asshole reporter? I don't blame you. Truthfully, I didn't think you'd call either."
"Well, I apologize all the same." He nodded. And we sat there sipping coffee.
"You're flying home I guess?" he asked. I nodded. "They don't give you much of a break."
"Nope," I shook my head. "You neither."
He laughed. "I looked that word up in all my medical books. Couldn't find it anywhere."
We both sat there sipping our coffee's quietly, unsure of what to say. We had all the inhibitions that the buzz from the alcohol that night had masked
"So would you like to meet up sometime after you finally get back?" he asked me.
"I think so." I hesitated.
"You're not sure?"
"Well... somewhere, you know neutral."
"Don't worry, I'm no sex fiend," he reassured me.
"No, no, of course not," I quicly responded. "I just mean..." I leaned in close to him. "Somewhere non-gay."
He winked at me. "Sure, I get what you mean." He paused, then said sarcastically, "Now let me think, where would a 27 and a 17 year old guy go that wouldn't look weird?"
"I'm 18 now," I reassured him.
He smiled. "Oh, good we can go to a strip club."
"Ha, very funny."
He took a long draught of his coffee and then glanced down at his watch. "Eager to get back to work?" I asked.
"Not really. It's about time to change that catheter I just set."
"Eww," I said grossed out. "Too much information."
Verde drained his cup in one last swig. "I might be able to get tickets to a Reds game," he offered.
"That sounds cool," I said. "But baseball doesn't start until the summer." He looked confused for a second and then laughed.
"I'm not a big sports fan," he admitted.
"It's all right, I'm not one either, except for hockey."
"Well, I'll think of something," he said. He scribbled his number down on a pad of paper. "Until next time," he said, offering his hand.
"Do you want my number too?" I asked.
"No," he shook his head. "I'll leave it up to you. Only call if you're sure."
"Okay," I said. We shook hands and he went flying back up to the ER. This time I folded up the piece of paper and tucked it snuggly into my wallet.
TO BE CONTINUED...
So... here is the next part. Yes there was a long delay. I was taking a vacation I guess. I hope this story continues to please you. Maybe my writing will be a little more refreshed now that I've had a little hiatus. Comments are always welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org.