By The Way
Chapter 19

I guess it was pretty unfair of me to say back in chapter 1 that at the time of my surgeries Glen was my best friend.  At least it was inaccurate to say that.  He and I had become really close in the months between my break up with Alan
and the trip up to the cabin.  Don and I'd had our ups and downs, sure.  Alan and I had our ins and outs (heh heh).  But I think that my friendship with Glen was different because I'd never had a crush on him; we were just great friends.  He'd turn to me when things were shitty with Theresa, which was often.  Over time he'd even come to trust me more than anybody else that was in his life, including her; this he told me himself.  I had no grand illusions, though, of having anything more than a friendship with him, and that helped to keep things uncomplicated.

My first surgery, where they removed the enlarged lymph node from my neck, went well.  The following week I went to see Dr. Kahn and he informed me in that not-so-great manner of his that I had cancer.  Then you'll remember the bone marrow aspiration, followed by the lymphangiogram.  I knew that there was some bullshit Latin name to describe the dye injection into my feet.  With all of the c.t. scans that I'd had, however, the only thing that showed up as an abnormality was some tissue in my lungs.  My parents and I met with a thoracic surgeon who explained that the tissue was more than likely some leftover scar tissue from having had] the flu or a really bad cold.  Still, he wanted to take a biopsy of it for examination, again to be sure that it wasn't tissue affected by the Hodgkin's.

The surgery had to wait, though, until I came back from Florida!  Because the lymph removal from my neck was practically non-invasive we didn't have to wait long between that surgery and the upcoming thoracotomy.  I was scheduled to go into the hospital two days after we were to come back from Panama City.  I was psyched!  Not because of the surgery, but because we'd be staying in a high-rise condo on the beach instead of some cheap[-]ass motel on the strip.  Well, that's how it was supposed to be.

You'll remember that George was to be on leave for about a week in the middle of July and we had all planned on going to Panama to celebrate (i.e. get drunk a lot).  That was when the bullshit started to fly.  I'll go ahead and remind you, also, that Blake had offered up his family's condo for us to stay in.  Once the trip had become finalized, he reneged on having George accompany us.  You see, out of the millions of times we'd all been drunk or drinking, Blake witnessed George getting really sloppy drunk one time at another friend's house and puking.  No big shit; we've all done it once or thrice.  Our original invite list included Blake, George, Glen and me.  Alan's family would be at St. George at that time, and he wouldn't be going.  Then one day I got a call from Blake saying that he didn't want George staying in his condo because of the puking incident the previous year.  Previous year, I said.

I thought it was ridiculous, I'd told Blake, because the entire purpose of going to Panama City in the first place was to celebrate George's graduation from the training school.  He said he knew that but he just really didn't want to deal with George possibly puking while at his family's condo.  I told him that I was immovable on the matter; he thought I'd just cool my jets and then accept it.  I never mentioned a word about it to George, and Glen stayed out of it completely.  He thought it was all bullshit, but was friends with Blake and understood what he was saying; but at the same time he was really good friends with me and didn't want to take sides.  Unfortunately, he ended up backing out of the trip entirely.

The whole time this bullshit's going on between Blake and me, and I'm dealing with my own medical issues to boot, and I find out that Scott and Philip have been invited by Blake to go to Panama.  You're fucking kidding, right?  Matt, who was still home on leave, actually had the audacity to get irritated at me and say that I was taking things too far in pushing for George to go with us--I should just chill out and do something with George later if I wanted to celebrate.  Complete and utter bullshit, which I had no qualms about sharing with Matt.  I never understood why he even had an opinion, because his leave was up the week before the planned trip, and he wasn't going to be with us in the first place.

Y'all will remember Kent, my friend from high school who was also in my psychology class at DeKalb College.  In the year since he and I had that class together we didn't really hang out that much, save for a phone call or two.  Well Kent had heard through the grapevine that I'd had cancer and began stopping by to visit or go to the mall with me or whatever.  It was God-sent support that totally surprised me.  Here I was going through some medical issues (and there were to be even more upcoming surgeries) and the people that I'd hung out with were giving me shit about George.  Then out of the blue, here comes Kent offering the kind of support that at least Blake and Scott should have been giving.  I didn't really expect anything from Philip because he'd ended our friendship (albeit rather bizarrely) the year before.  Kent, who was friends with Matt, had gone over to his house to find out why the guys had dropped from the radar in my life.  Matt told him that he was having a hard time dealing with, and didn't like to deal with, the fact that I had cancer.  Kent told him to imagine how I felt actually being the one to have it.

Was I confused?  Hell no.  I knew exactly what to do.  I was going to go to Florida with my friend George, to celebrate, hang out, lay out and do whatever else we felt like.  I ended up telling Blake and Scott that I wouldn't dick my friend over like that.  That hand just wasn't in my deck of cards.  Instead I asked Kent to come down with us, which he did, and the three of us had a great time.  We drank, laid out, played putt-putt, drank a bit more, ate cheap food and got good and sunburned.  One afternoon when I was drunk by the pool, I poured a whole bottle of "Sun In" into my hair.  Note to self:  Paul doesn't look good with orange-ish hair.  

To this day I haven't seen Matt, Blake, Scott or Philip.  I never got a call from them expressing concern over any of my medical issues.  That hurt a lot because I would've never tossed a friendship aside, especially if my friend was going through some really tough times.  But what are ya gonna do.

We returned on a Monday and my surgery was scheduled for Wednesday.  Tuesday evening Alan called to check in on me.  He and his parents had just come back from Florida as well.  I gave him the low down on what all had transpired with the other guys, and that George, Kent and I had ended up staying at a motel on the strip instead of in a plush condo.

"Are you nervous about tomorrow?" he asked.

"Eh.  Not really.  I'll just be glad when all of this shit's done.  I'm ready to get on with my life."

He chuckled a bit.  "I'll bet.  How long will you be in the hospital?"

"I'own know.  They said I might be coming home either Saturday or Sunday, depending on how I heal up."

"What all are they doin' tomorrow?"

"They're goin' in to take a biopsy of some tissue they've found in my lung, just to see if it's regular scar tissue or cancer-affected."

"Sounds 'big-time'."

"It is.  The doctor said when they cut into the lung that it'll more'n likely collapse, and I'll end up in i.c.u. for observation while it re-pressurizes or de-pressurizes or whatever.  Should be in there a day or two before going to a regular room."


"Yeah," I laughed.  "Tell me about it.  Say, when do you head back up to Athens?"

"Last weekend of the month.  I got a call from the coach who said that with some extra hard training I may be able to move up to first string this coming year."

"I know I'm retarded when it comes to football, but isn't that good?"

Alan laughed.  "Yeah, it's damn good.  Most first string running backs are juniors and seniors."

"Huh.  Maybe he likes how your tights fit ya."

He laughed again.  "I doubt it, moron."

"Well, I'm glad for ya then.  Hope it all works out.  Does this mean that you'll be hitting that two hundred pound mark?"

"Uh, Eunice, I'm at that already."

"Well shit, I didn't know."

"You mean you didn't notice how much bigger I'd gotten when we were in the mountains?"  He chuckled a bit, being a braggart.

"Actually Alan, I could feel the difference when you were asleep...after the nightmare."  That was followed by a few moments of silence.  I'm not sure what he was thinking, but I was enjoying the memory of his arm holding on to me.  "Well," I said, ending the silence, "I'd better hit the dusty trail.  Gotta get up early tomorrow."

"Alright buddy.  I guess I'll see ya sometime tomorrow."

"You comin' up?"

"Uh....yeah.  Am I not supposed to?" he asked, being a goof.

"No, it's just that...I don't know how they do the i.c.u. and visiting...whatever.  We'll see ya tomorrow."

"Good night."

"  'Night," I said.

*   *   *   *   *   *

I'm not really sure how to describe what happened after the surgery was finished.  The only way to describe what happened was a sudden awareness on my part.  I felt his presence in the room.  I kid you not, and it was as tangible as the smell of a flower or the warmth of a bath.  The last thing I recalled before the surgery was that mask[‘S] being lowered onto my face.  Then I knew, I fuckin' knew that he was in the room with me.  I could feel his presence before I even started to become conscious.  Have you ever been asleep, but your sleep was light enough that you could hear what was going on around you?  You're not awake but one of your senses is, and then the rest of you wakes up.  I felt Alan in the room, and not just in the room, but I could feel that he was across the room from my bed.  Something inside me told me to open my eyes.  I did and then I smiled.  Sure enough, I could faintly make out his shape standing at the sliding glass door of the room.

I still felt the smile on my face but I couldn't hold my eyes open any longer.  The voices were becoming clearer, though they still sounded a million miles away.

"Alan, he knows you're here," I heard my dad say.  Then I felt his hand holding my wrist and I turned my head toward him - as much as I could in my drugged state.

"Hey bud, you're doin' great," he said softly.  I barely nodded....

*   *   *   *   *

I slowly became aware of a couple of people in the room.  The sunlight was different so I knew it was later in the day.  That's when the pain and discomfort started settling in.  My parents and the nurse were explaining to me about the morphine drip, and how I could activate it by pushing a button.

Ding!  I loved that trigger.

*   *   *   *   *

Some time later I became aware of a presence in my ribs.  It turned out to be two tubes that had been inserted between two ribs and into my lung in order to restabilize its pressure.  The tubes ran into a glass jug that sat on the floor and contained some kind of fluid from my insides.  Kinda gross, really.  The incision started beneath my right shoulder blade, went around the side of my chest and ended a few inches below my right nipple.  (In later years I'd tell people that I was attacked by a shark, just to see their expressions.)  The nurses weren't thrilled about anybody but family visiting i.c.u. and I wasn't able to see Alan until I was moved to a regular hospital room.  That first day and a half I was really out of it, and I slept a lot.  When I wasn't sleeping I was in quite a bit of pain, and the meds were only doing so much to help.  Even the morphine was on a timer, regardless of how many times I hit the button.  That sucked.

By Friday morning I was hobbling very slowly around the room.  What made it really difficult was the damn lung crap bottle.  Not only did I have to wheel the i.v. around, but someone had to carry my jar if I had to go to the bathroom.  Later that day it was removed (I'll spare you the details of how it feels when they pull two tubes from your chest cavity) and I felt like a new man.  Sort of.

The weekend was coming up and I was dreading more golf on television.  I think I'd rather reinsert the tubes myself than watch more golf.  But it gave me a lot of time to think.  Sure I'd had visitors.  Kent and Glen came up once.  My parents and grandmother visiting was a given.  Don popped up a couple of times, as did Alan.  It seems like there was a revolving door at my room and I wished that everyone would've just left me alone.  I was exhausted physically, and all of the mental tightrope that I'd been walking was weighing down on me as well.  I mean hell, we hadn't even gotten to the treatment phase of the disease and I still had one more surgery to go.  It would have to wait about six weeks so my body would have a chance to heal from the thoracotomy.

I'd learned to love demoral and always knew right when to ask so that they'd give it to me every four hours.  Only thing is it makes you sleepy almost immediately.  Then you're out for twenty minutes or so.  When you wake up you start counting down the rest of the three hours and forty minutes until the next shot.  Don't worry - I didn't get hooked.  But it sure made dealing with the pain much easier.

One day--it must've been Sunday because my parents had gone to church that morning--there was a knock on the door.

"Come in," I said.

It was Don.  "I heard that they finally took away that nasty-ass jar," he smiled.  I didn't fail to notice the killer dimples.

"You again," I smiled.

He crossed the room and plopped down in a chair that also folded out into a bed, slouching down with his legs stuck out and crossed at the ankles.  It was a good thing I was still feeling like crap, because it was one of those out-of-the-blue moments that I just wanted to jump his bones.  That flash of horniness passed quickly, however, as the aching in my side reminded me why I was there in the first place.  I'd figured out long ago that Don and I wouldn't ever really be more than just friends and had pretty much resigned myself to ignoring him in a sexual way.  But there were times when sexual feelings were practically overpowering and I had to keep my brain in check so I wouldn't say anything untoward.  At the very least drooling was out of the question.

"When ya gettin' outta this joint."

"What's today?"


I sighed.  "It's looking more like Tuesday."

"Hey, look at it this way.  At least you'll get some sleep, right?"

"Achh.  Sleep.  I can get plenty of it watching this crap."  I pointed to the television.  Golf.

"Get up," he said, rising to his feet.


"You walked yet this morning?"


"Get up.  You ready to bust outta here?"

I laughed at him and flipped my covers back to get up.  "Gimme your arm," I said.  It was really hard for me to sit up and lean forward.  He reached his arm out and I held onto it, standing slowly to maintain my balance.  The i.v. was in the top of my left hand and I rolled its stand while we walked, my right hand up on his shoulder.  "Just for a second," I said after he looked at me when I did that.

"No, you're fine."

We slowly walked towards the door and through it into the hall.  Like all hospitals it was colder than shit.  And the cotton nightie just doesn't cut it when it comes to keeping you warm.  Luckily the halls and rooms were carpeted, which helped a bit.  Walking with my hand high on Don's shoulder hurt the incision site a bit so I dropped my hand to the crook of his arm, which he bent to better accommodate me.  I felt like we were an old couple walking up and down the halls of the hospital.

"So what's next after this?" he asked.

"Man, rest," I said.  "I'm supposed to take it easy for a couple of weeks.  They told me I can't drive for six, but there's no way I can stick to that.  The theater's been pretty cool about all of my time off, and that helps a lot.  Then in August I'll have a laparotomy, for exploratory purposes, and hopefully I'll have the radiation in October."

"What's a laparotomy?"

"They'll go into my belly and check things out."

"Dang, man, more cutting," he said.

'Yeah.  About a six inch incision from here to here," and I pointed from my abdomen to just above my groin.

"Makes doing sit-ups a bitch," he said, and I laughed at that.  "So...."

We were making another turn in the hallway at this point.  "So...?" I said back.

"So how's Alan?" he asked.

"Why.  You interested in 'im?" I smirked.

"Nah.  Just curious."

"Oh really!"

"Ahh, shut the fuck up," he laughed.  "No, just wondering how things are...with him, that's all."

I sighed because I was getting worn out a bit.  "Let's take a seat here," I pointed to the little waiting area at the edge of the hallway.

"You wanna go back to your room?"  He had a concerned look on his face and I winked at him.

"No.  Please.  I'm so sick of that room."  I sat down slowly, feeling my muscles ache as they stretched with the effort.  "He's doing well.  He told me the other night that the coach wants to make him a first string running back, so he's pretty happy about that."

"I'll bet.  The guy's getting pretty big."

"I know," I laughed a bit.  "Hard to imagine he's the same guy from high school.  I bug him about being a 'roid."

"Nahh.  I've seen enough of that and you can tell, he's for real.  I'll tell you what--I wouldn't want the dude running at me any time soon.  So, um..."

"Don.  Somethin' on your mind?"

"Sorry, it's just kinda odd talking about two guys dating and all--"

I laughed out loud.  "You idiot," I jibed.  "So 'um' what?"

"Do you think y'all are gonna...I dunno...get back together?" he asked.

I smiled.  "Dude, didn't we have this conversation a few weeks ago."

He rolled his eyes.  "I've slept since then.  Sorry."

"To answer your question, goober,  We're not getting back together.  It's easier this way."

He turned to look at me.  "Whaddya mean?"

"Well, I've had plenty of time here to think about a lot of stuff, and I've just come to the conclusion that it's better to be friends than to see each other."

"Really."  He looked, I'm not sure how to describe it; not concerned or shocked, or even taken back.  Maybe more like he was thinking about what I'd said.  "And why's that."

"Oh," I said in my less-than-mature thinking, "relationships can just be messy.  You get close to someone, then they're gone.  Having friends...well that's just easier."

"And why's that?" Don asked.

"Well, I guess because you don't get attached as much, so when the person leaves, which they ultimately do, you don't have to get hurt as much."

He turned to look at me.  "That's kinda fucked up," then he looked away again.

I shrugged.  "Maybe."

He snorted.  "No 'maybe' about it, Paul.  Part of life is making friends with people.  Sometimes they're around for a long time, sometimes not.  But you can't close yourself off from them."

"But I'm not," I said simply.  "I just think that for right now I don't need to be getting into any kind of relationship.  And say Alan and I got back together--"  I stopped myself because this was kinda weird to me.  Don noticed and looked over at me.


"Does it not weird you out talking to a gay guy about relationships, and the guy he once dated?" I said quietly.

Don laughed out loud a short burst, causing the nurses to look up from their desk.  "No," he laughed.  "Doesn't bother me at all.  You're such a dork."

"Well???  Anyway, if he and I got back together...shit, he's got three more years of school and I don't want to go through on-off stuff.  He's a great friend, and I love 'im."

"Well, hopefully you can think some more about your position on dating people.  I mean, I know where you're coming from, and all.  I've been there...back when Elizabeth and I broke up."

"So you know what I'm talking about," I said to him.

"Paul, I was a kid back then."

"I'm not a kid, Don."

"Yeah?  And you're not fifty, either.  You don't know everything, Paul.  I say this because looking back I realize I was this close," and he pressed his finger and thumb to nearly touching each other, "this close to the beginning of a relationship.  But I was stupid.  I let it slip by.  I was scared, I guess."

"You're a big boy," I joked.  "What could you be scared about."

He snorted then leaned forward to put his elbows on his knees, a hand beneath his chin.  I laughed inside as I had a mental image of The Thinker.

"You're talkin' about Elizabeth right?  I mean, you haven't mentioned anyone else to me that you've been interested in..."

Don looked at me sideways a bit.  He smiled into his curled-up hand, snorted a bit again, shook his head, then turned away from me.  He sat back again and was about to speak when a voice spoke, rather loudly, down the hallway.  "Don't y'all just look like an old couple, sittin' there."  See, I told you I felt like an old couple.  We both looked up to see Alan walking down the hall, mimicking a crooked old man wobbling on his cane.  I couldn't help but laugh, and Don smiled.  "What'chall doin'?" he asked.

"We're planting corn," I said sarcastically.  "What does it look like, 'roid."

"Don't make me kick your ass right here, Lyons," Alan smiled.  I smiled back.

"I'm beat.  Time to get back to my comfy bed, y'all."

"Want me to come back later?" Alan asked.

"Shut up, dude," I replied.  He smiled really big.  Don stood up and I grabbed one arm on each guy to pull myself off of the chair.  I steadied myself and held onto the i.v. holder, then Alan and I did our "hand thing" which had become second nature to us.  Alan took the holder from my hand and rolled it ahead of us.  I hooked each of my hands into the cooks of their arms.  I probably didn't need to do it but I felt better.  The three of us walked down the hallway to my room, where I dropped their arms and took the i.v. from Alan.  After I got back onto the bed and adjusted the blankets, Don said that he had to take off.  He told Alan goodbye and wished him luck at training camp this fall, then said goodbye to me.

"Man, I'm bushed!" I said, pressing my head back into the pillows.

Alan picked up the remote.  "Want me to turn this down?" he asked.

"You for real?  It's friggin' golf, it couldn't get any quieter."

Alan laughed and put the remote back onto my tray, then took a seat in the chair where Don had been sitting.  I looked at him and grinned.

"What?" he chuckled.

"Nothin'," I smiled back.

"You're horny, aren't'cha."

I busted out laughing.  "Whatever," I looked away.

"So what'd he say to put you into that mood?"

I rolled my eyes and said, "You dope.  It's you I'm looking at."

"Wanna ball each other?" he asked.  I died laughing at that and my side hurt.  He had a serious look on his face but I knew he was kidding.  "I'm serious man.  I'll bang him right out of your head."  I laughed so hard tears were coming down and my side was fuckin' killing me by then.  He started laughing, too.  Finally he said, "Just thought I'd offer."

"Fuckin' tease," I mumbled.  Thankfully, we were able to kid with each other like that.  If there were any two people at that moment who were like an old couple, it was he and I.

"Man.  So what's up with him?"  Alan asked.

"Oh, same-ol', same-ol'.  In fact he asked me the same about you."

"Oh yeah?"

"Mm hmm."  I gave him the general rundown of Don's and my conversation.  Then Alan sat there quietly for a minute before speaking again.

"He wants you."

"Shut up, dick," and I threw a box of Kleenex at him.  It bounced off of his chest as he sat unflinching.

"He does.  Anyone can tell that."


"I'm serious Paul.  At least from that conversation.  Plus he hangs out with a gay guy, or is friends with one."

"So do you," I said, at which he gave me a "dip shit" look.

"No.  I'm thinkin' that deep down...he wants a crack at'cha."

I laughed again.  "Bullshit.  But thanks for making me laugh."

"Bullshit 'bullshit', you might think I'm nuts but whether he knows it or not, he's got something for you."

"He does, does he.  Well, I ain't interested," I said.



"And how come."

I shook my head a bit.  "Nothin' better once you've had the best!"  Then I winked at him.

Alan stood up and made a "goal" sign with his arms in the air, saying "He scores!!!!" and impersonating a cheering crowd.  He always had a knack for making me laugh.

After a few minutes of flipping through golf and coverage of the original Woodstock (this was its twentieth anniversary year) as well as Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon, Alan asked what I'd be doing for school, whether or not I'd be able to start again in the fall.

"I'm thinking not.  My doctor said that until I start receiving the radiation I won't know how my body will react to it, so he advised waiting until Winter quarter to start back.  I've been thinking about that, too."

"What about it."

"Well, I don't know if I've had one of those life-changing moments or not-"

"It wouldn't surprise me, considering," he chimed in.

"True.  But I'm really thinking about getting into architecture school again."

"I thought you couldn't get into Tech," he said.

"That's right.  But I heard that there's another school up in Marietta, a small one, that also has an architecture department.  If I can get into that, then I can transfer down to Tech."

"What school?"

"Southern Institute of Technology," I said in an official-sounding voice.

"Oh!  Southern Tech."

"I guess."

"I didn't know they had a school of architecture."

"Yep.  It's pretty small, so that's cool."

"Awesome!  You applied yet?"

"No.  I have until October to get my application in."

"Will they take your other credits?"

"I imagine they will.  I haven't looked really deeply into it.  I'll check it out more when I get out of here."

"When's that?"


He nodded.  "Cool."

We shot the shit for a while and watched some crap on the tube.

*   *   *   *   *

Tuesday finally came and my parents and Don were there to help me with gathering all of the flowers and balloons that some friends and family had sent.  My parents carried the stuff while Don pushed my wheel chair.  As we neared the elevator, the doors opened up and Alan was standing inside.

"Perfect timing, Alan," my dad said.

"Hi y'all!  Going down?"  Alan said.

"I thought we were through with you," Don said.  Alan gave us a big Cheshire cat grin and shook his head "no."

I noticed that he kept watching Don with an amused look on his face.  The five of us were on the elevator; my parents at the doors, and Don and I behind them with Alan standing next to me.  I felt a wet finger slide in and out of my ear quickly and looked over at Alan, who stood there looking up at the ceiling whistling a soundless tune.

"I'm gonna kick your ass for that," I said.

"Mrs. Lyons," Alan said, "Paul swore."  My parents chuckled as the doors opened and we headed into the lobby.  I started laughing at the ridiculousness of it and my side hurt.  I put my hand over the incision area.

"Better watch out," Don said.  "You make him bust a stitch and he's libel to make you sew it back up."

My parents were walking ahead of us.  "Oh, Paul knows that I can 'sew', Don.  If you like I could show you how it's done?"  He said this with quite an amused look on his face, and Don and I both caught the double entendre.

Don flipped him a bird, and Alan laughed.  I thought to myself that if these two were always around each other my life could be really interesting.  I doubted that's what I wanted, though.  Alan was nuts for thinking that Don wanted...well, whatever in the hell he thought Don wanted from me.  Don was my friend, plain and simple.

Plain and simple.

Dad pulled the car around then he and Don helped me into the back seat.  As they did I could see Alan standing behind Don.  With one hand he made the shape of an "o" with his fingers, and with the other he slid one finger in and out of it, all the while nodding over to Don.  I shook my head and laughed at his absurdity.  Don and I.  I had no interest in that.

None at all....

*   *   *   *   *

The next time I woke up from a surgery I was already in a hospital room.  This time, though, the doctor had inserted a small tube up through my nose and down into my stomach.  When I opened my eyes I panicked at the intrusion; I was never told that anything like that would happen.  They inserted it as a precaution against vomiting.  If my stomach were to convulse during vomition, then it could bust open the stitches, which the doctors didn't want.  I didn't want that either.

By now it was mid-August.  This time the surgery wasn't as involved as the previous one, although they ended up removing my spleen because it "wasn't extremely necessary."  A year or two later my doctor would tell me that I should be vigilant about getting a pneumonia shot, as well as annual flu shots -- because I didn't have a spleen. Can I sue for that?  I was out of the hospital after three days that time.  Ever have a tube pulled out of your stomach through your nose?  How about a Foley catheter.  Good stuff!  I was released on Sunday and was surprised that morning by a knock on the door:  it was Alan.  Damn, that made my day.  I wasn't expecting to see him because of football camp.  When I checked his bod, I noted that he was bulking up even more.  Not a huge amount; in fact I was probably the only one who noticed it.

This time he was the one to push my wheel chair out of the hospital as my dad picked up the car.  I was saddened a bit because I felt that I really did belong with him.  I never said a word because sometimes you just need to keep your thoughts to yourself.  But as I sat in the chair he leaned down a bit with his forearms resting on the chair handles just on either side of my head.  It was comfortable.  Damn but it was comfortable.  I quickly shook my head of any romantic notions and marinated in the feeling that I knew he had my back.  It wasn't something that was spoken, but it was surely understood by the both of us.  I wondered if anybody else who saw us that day thought the same thing.

*   *   *   *   *

I went in for my radiation prep at the end of September.  Because the location of the lymph node was high in my neck, the field of radiation was from the tip of my nose down to my sternum.  I have five tattoos, albeit tiny dots:  two at my neck, one near each armpit and one at my sternum.  The reason for this is so that they could line up the machine in the exact same place each time.

It was suggested that I have my dentist make fluoride trays for my teeth.  When they zap you with radiation, over time it could possibly decrease your saliva production and when that happens you're prone to having more cavities.  Every night for five weeks I slept with these plastic trays that were formed to my teeth with a few drops of fluoride in each one.  It was weird but I finally got used to it.

One day in the shower I was shampooing my hair.  Not entirely abnormal, but I noticed that when I would go to rinse out the hair at the base of my neck it was falling out.  A definite reaction to the radiation.  The cool thing about that is that it also prevented any whiskers from growing on my neck and under my chin, so I didn't have to shave there for five weeks.  The bad thing is that I lost all sense of taste for the same five weeks.  Everything I ate and drank tasted like water.  Do you know how hard it is to eat food when you've lost the ability to taste it?  I'm Italian and eating is a big deal to us.  Thankfully, a week or so after the radiation was complete, I was able to taste my first meal:  spaghetti with marinara.  That was the best spaghetti I've ever had in my life.

During my stays in the hospital I cogitated on my life and how I felt that I was being given a second chance at it.  Since music was such a huge part of my life (and it still is) I decided to have a piano recital.  The date was, oddly enough, Beethoven's birthday, which is in December.  My piano teacher had studied and graduated from Julliard in New York City and he helped me refine all of the songs that I wanted to play.  My thinking was that I wanted to celebrate what I considered my rebirth, and I wanted to share that with my family and friends.  A piano recital was the best way for me to do that:  share music.

I played some show tunes (Memory, from "Cats" and "Send In The Clowns"), a couple of Streisand hits, several songs by Scott Joplin.  Those of you unfamiliar with him may know the music from the movie "The Sting."  I also played a couple of Gershwin tunes.  In all, twelve songs plus an encore.  Everybody was there that mattered to me the most.  My two "guys", as I'd come to think of them, were there;  Alan and Don even ended up sitting next to each other.  Sounds a little too "80's-movie" I know, but what can I say.

That year when I woke up on Christmas morning and came downstairs, I saw that it had snowed during the night.  For me, that was the climax of my "rebirth."  And the cool thing was that now everything had come full circle.  You may remember that the night I came out to my parents it had also started snowing; an annual event in Atlanta, but still nice just the same.

Life was great.  I'd just overcome the biggest hurdle so far in my life, and I did so with flying colors.  I couldn't wait for the next "big thing."  I didn't have to wait very long, however, because it was right around the corner......

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Well y'all, that's it for this chapter.  I hope you didn't mind all of the medical stuff, but I just wanted to get all of that crap out of the way.  The story is far, far from over.  If you'll indulge me with a little more of your time, I plan on sharing the rest of it with you.

As usual, let me know if you like it, hate it, want to burn it, etc.  I'm always open to comments, criticisms, advertisements.....

Holler at y'all later!