Tim and the Guys
The author retains all rights. No reproductions or links to other sites are allowed without the author's consent.
Thanks to Tom for doing the editing chores here, and to my Nifty Six colleagues.
Chaz was driving, but neither one of us had a clue where University Hospital was. Oh, we supposed it was in the University Circle area somewhere, but that wasn't good enough since we were urgently trying to get to where Ced and Tim were. Fortunately, Max had been there recently visiting a parishioner, so he was able to direct us.
When we got to the waiting room a little after 4:00 AM, we spotted Tim sitting with Cedric's parents, Angel and Jake, whom Chaz and I had known and loved since our freshman year. They all looked pretty whipped. Angel spotted us first and stood when she saw us coming. The others stood, too. I hugged her, Max hugged Tim, and Chaz shook hands with Jake.
For a moment everyone talked at once, and then we quieted down because Angel was talking.
"Boys, it's good to have you here. Thanks for coming. Now, please introduce me to your friend."
"Oh, Angel, I'm sorry," Tim said, "this is my old friend, Max Hewitt."
"It's Father Max, isn't it?" She held out her arms, and he hugged her.
"Yes, Mrs. Jones. I'm sorry we have to meet under such unhappy circumstances. Do you feel like telling us what happened?"
Her eyes filled with tears, and she looked at Jake. Tim looked pale, worried, tense. Max put his arm around Tim's waist, and we all turned to Ced's dad.
"Cedric worked late at my office, finishing up a report I needed. He stopped by a bar to meet a friend for a beer. Then he started walking to his car. As he was crossing Cedar, he was struck by a pickup. There were several witnesses, all of whom agreed that Ced was crossing with the light, that the truck ran the light and kept going. But we have a good description of the vehicle, though no one got the plate number."
"How is Ced?" I asked.
Jake bit his lower lip and looked across the room.
It was Tim who spoke. "He's got a broken clavicle. He has at least a serious concussion. There may be internal injuries, but they don't know the extent of them yet. And he's been unconscious ever since they brought him in."
"It's too early for a prognosis, I suppose," Max said.
"Well, let's all sit together over here." At that hour the waiting room wasn't crowded and we pulled some chairs together.
Max asked Angel and Jake if he could say a prayer for Ced. They nodded their approval, and he did.
After that we sat there, occasionally making a comment, but mostly all six of us lost in our own thoughts. Ced had been one of my brothers since freshman year. I love my younger brother, Robbie, with all my heart. But I have to admit that I felt closer to Ced, Mark, and Chaz. We'd been brothers in the closest sense of the term for nearly four years. Thus I simply couldn't fathom what it would be like if I lost Ced. And then, of course, I thought of his parents and Tim. Ced was such a bright spirit, a son any parents would be thrilled to have, a lover Tim was absolutely besotted with, and a wonderful big brother to Keesha. Keesha! Where was she?
I asked and was told that she was staying with a friend. Her parents had decided that she didn't need to be here and had promised they'd call as soon as there was any news. She had protested, but her friend had persuaded Keesha to come to her house.
I knew that Tim was just barely holding it together. Tim's strength had shown itself in many ways since I had first come to know him, and I, more than anyone, could sense that strength. I also knew that at the moment he was on the verge of losing it. I suspected he was keeping a tight grip on himself for Ced's parents' sake. I noted that, when we sat down, Max had seated himself beside Tim. He wasn't touching Tim or anything, but he was right there by his side.
About 6:00 the hospital began to come to life. The early morning routine began, shifts changed, there was more activity. A short, dark-haired doctor wearing a white coat and a yarmulke came over to us. We all stood up.
"Boys," Angel said, "this is Doctor Berman." She introduced us individually to the doctor.
"Mr. and Mrs. Jones, Cedric's condition is stable. He seems to have a hairline fracture of the skull, but at this point that's not the most serious problem. There is some buildup of fluid, however, and we may have to operate to relieve the pressure if it doesn't subside."
"What about the internal damage, doctor?" Jake asked.
The doctor gave him a sympathetic smile. "If the pressure on the brain can be alleviated, other indications are good that your son will recover with no permanent damage. There may have been some bruising of the internal organs, but it doesn't look at this point as if there's any serious trauma there. I don't even think we'll have to remove his spleen, which worried us when he was first brought in."
We all waited, making some quiet conversation, but mostly quiet, worried about Cedric. We were told an hour or so later that he was being taken to surgery to relieve the pressure in his brain.
Max gathered us together and prayed for the success of the operation and for strength for Cedric and for his family, for Tim, and the rest of us who loved him.
Finally, after several hours, Dr. Berman came back and told us that the operation was completed, Ced had come through well. "It helps, of course, that Cedric is in such excellent physical condition. He's a strong young man, and he should begin to mend now."
Then the doctor said, "Why don't you all go home and get some rest? I'm sure you'd like to freshen up and have some breakfast. We'll be sure to call you when he wakes up or if there's any other significant change in his condition."
"Oh, I am going to stay here until he wakes up," Angel said.
The doctor said, "Your son is in post op. Later, we'll move him to ICU. When he gets there, one of you," he looked at Angel and Jake, "may sit with him. I suggest you do it in shifts. If things continue to improve, we may move him into a room after Dr. Huntley has examined him later today. Now, if you'll excuse me . . ."
"Yes, of course," Jake said. "Thank you doctor." He turned to his wife. "Sweetheart, why don't you go home and rest? Get Keesha home and tell her what we know. Then, maybe later, you can come back and bring her. Perhaps by then he'll be awake, or at least by then we may know more."
"No, Jake, dear," Angel said firmly. "I'm not leaving my boy. You go home and get Keesha. Get some breakfast. Rest a while. Then you can come back later. I'll be fine here."
A faint smile crossed Jake's face. "I won't argue with you, Angel. I know better. So I'll go, but I'll be back soon. Meanwhile, if he wakes up, call, you hear?"
She hugged him and gave him a kiss. "Yes, Jake, I'll do that. Oh, and, would you call Rev. Rayburn and tell him what's happened?" Then she looked at Max. "No offense, Father Max."
He smiled and said, "None taken, Mrs. Jones. The more prayers the better."
Angel thanked us for coming. We offered to stay, but she said that wasn't necessary.
Max said, "Tim, why don't I ride home with you? In fact, why don't you let me drive you home in your car?"
Chaz said, "That's a good idea. Tim, you don't look like you should be driving anywhere right now."
"But I'm not going home until he wakes up. I'll stay here, even if I can't be in the room with him. Angel, you will come here and get me if there's any change, won't you?"
"Tim, honey, are you sure you don't want to go home and get some rest? I can call you at home or call your cell phone when he wakes up."
He went to her and put his arm around her. "No, ma'am, I'm staying right here."
"Then I have an idea," Angel said. "Why don't you stay in Ced's apartment over the garage until we bring him home? That would save you running back and forth between here and your place."
"That would be much more convenient, Angel, if you're sure you don't mind."
She put her hand on his face. "Tim, honey, you're family. I think you should be with us. But you'll need to go home and get some things if you're going to be here for a while."
"I can help there," I said. "I'll pack some things and bring them back this afternoon."
"I'll come, too," Chaz said.
"I'd like to come back as well," Max said, looking at Tim.
"Hey, guys, that's generous of you. I know you all love Ced, but you may not be able to see him today, you know. If one of you will bring me some clothes and my razor, I'll be just fine with Angel and Jake." He blushed. "I already have a toothbrush there."
Max said, "Look, if Trey or Chaz will bring you those things later today, I want to stay here. Then I can ride home with whoever it is."
Tim said, "If you're sure you don't mind, Max, I'd be grateful."
"Of course, Tim. I'll call Father John when he gets to the office and tell him what's going on. And," looking at Chaz and me, "I can bum a ride with you later?"
"No problem," Chaz and I said together.
So it was agreed that Chaz and I would go back to campus and that we'd bring Tim's things back to him later. We made them promise to call one of our cells if there was any news about Ced.
* * *
After Angel had gone to sit with Cedric, Chaz and Trey had gone back to campus, and Jake had gone home, I dragged Tim into the hospital cafeteria. He looked dead on his feet, more from shock and worry than from lack of sleep, I suspected.
He protested that he didn't want anything to eat, but I made him take some orange juice, some black coffee, and a danish. I figured some carbs wouldn't hurt at a time like that. He finished everything, but I thought he was doing it to satisfy me rather than because he wanted it. He didn't say anything as he ate, and, thinking chatter wouldn't help, I didn't say anything either. He knew I was there. He'd talk when he felt like it.
After we ate, we found a restroom and used it. Then we went back to the ICU waiting room. Just as we were ready to sit down, he put his arms around me, pinning my arms to my side.
"Max, what am I going to do if he doesn't make it?"
"Hey, easy, Tim! You heard what the doctor said. No serious internal injuries, a concussion, slight fracture of the skull. All of that is stuff modern medicine can deal with. He's going to have a killer headache (I was sorry about the word choice there, but it was too late to take it back) when he wakes up, but he'll be fine."
He didn't let go. His head was on my shoulder. "Oh, God, Max, I've been so scared."
"I know, babe. I know."
Then he floored me. "Max."
"I'm sure there's a chapel here in the hospital somewhere. Could we perhaps go there and could you pray for him?"
"I know where the chapel is. Let's go."
It was a longish walk, through several corridors, around corners, and down a level. When we got there, we went inside. Tim had been to enough services with me over the years that he knelt in a pew as soon as we got there. But I had never seen him do that before.
He looked at me, obviously waiting for me to pray. I put one arm around his shoulder and said, "Dear God, we pray for your servant Cedric, that you will bring him back to full health. We pray as well for his family that you would strengthen their bodies and their faith at this frightening time. And we pray that you will surround Tim with your love as he fears for the wellbeing of the man he loves. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."
"Now, Tim, do you want to pray?"
He gave me a weak smile. "Thanks, Max. That was eloquent and succinct. I don't want to add anything. I'm afraid God wouldn't know who was sending him the prayer."
"Whatever you feel like doing, Timmy. But don't think for a minute God doesn't know who you are. And he loves you, babe. Count on it."
I had never said anything like that to Tim before, and I was immediately afraid I had overstepped a line of some sort. But he just put his arm around my waist and said, "Thanks, Maxie."
It was a long day in the waiting room. Jake came in with Keesha mid-morning. Tim introduced us. She was a beautiful girl, obviously Cedric's sister. When she talked I could see many facial expressions that I associated with Ced. And even though she was clearly worried about her brother, she had the same sort of radiance that he did. Although she looked worried, she managed a big smile and said, "Hey, Cedric's going to be okay. I just know it!"
Jake went in to see Ced, and Angel came out. After a while, Keesha insisted on going in, so Angel went with her. I don't know what they said to the nurses on duty, but all three of them were allowed to be together with Ced briefly.
Then Angel and Keesha went home while Jake waited with us. Shortly before lunch a tall, white-haired, distinguished-looking black man came into the waiting room. He spotted Jake and came over to us. Jake introduced him as their pastor, Reverend Rayburn. He introduced us as Ced's friends, Tim Mead and Max Hewitt.
The pastor beamed. "Oh, yes, Dr. Mead and Father Hewitt. Cedric has told me about both of you. It's good of you to be here. Now, how is Cedric?"
Tim and I excused ourselves so that Jake and his minister could talk. A few minutes later, Jake took him to the cubicle where Ced was. I understood that the pastor was going to doing some praying for Ced and family.
The day dragged on. Just before noon a balding man with a huge walrus mustache came up to us. He was wearing a doctor's coat. Otherwise I would have thought it was Wilfred Brimley who had somehow wandered into University Hospital. He took Jake aside and they talked for a while. I saw Jake nodding. Then he asked the doctor several questions. The doctor seemed to respond in detail. Then they shook hands and the doctor left.
About that time Angel and Keesha came back, so Jake was able to tell all of us what the doctor had said.
"That was the neurologist, Dr. Huntley. He says there isn't as much brain swelling as they had originally thought, and that there are indications that it's receded slightly. Ced's vitals remain stable."
"All that's good, isn't it?" Angel asked.
Jake nodded. "Yes, dear. They've taken care of the broken collarbone. So," he breathed deeply, "now we just have to wait for him to wake up."
"Jake," Tim asked, "is it cause for concern that he hasn't waked up yet?"
"I asked Dr. Huntley that very question, Tim. He admitted that in many similar cases the patient would be awake by this time, but he said there was no cause for worry yet. Now, I'm going in with Ced. Would you guys take Keesha and her mother to the cafeteria and make them eat some lunch? I'll get mine when you all return."
We took the women to lunch. They seemed heartened, as Tim and I were, that Huntley's report hadn't been worse, and we managed to chat as we ate.
Trey and Chaz were in the waiting room when we got back. They hugged Angel and Keesha and then listened while Angel gave them Dr. Huntley's report.
"Now, Tim, I know I can't talk you into going home, hon, so I won't try. I see the boys have brought you a change of clothes or two in that bag they're toting. Why don't go to our place and get a shower and shave? You need to freshen up a little."
"And," she said, turning to us, "there's no need for you boys to stay around here all day. Go home. Father Max, I am sure you are needed at your church. I promise, as soon as there's any news about Cedric, one of us will call you. We have your cell phone numbers. Now, go!"
Chaz went over to her and hugged her. Then he kissed her on the forehead. "Miz Jones, ya sure you don't want us to stick around? You know, like for moral support? Tiger and I don't have all that much to do this afternoon."
She put a hand on his cheek. "Chaz, you're such a sweet boy. But I want you and Trey and Father Max to run along now. They may be moving Cedric to a room this afternoon, and I know when he wakes up you'll want to see him. So if you want to come back tomorrow, that would be better than you all staying around here now."
The three of us knew when we were being given our marching orders, so we all hugged her. Then we all hugged Tim.
He gave me a tight squeeze and said, "Thanks, Maxie, for being here. Please come back when you can spare the time?"
So, Chaz and I jumped into the Lexus, and Trey drove us back to the University.
I spent the rest of the afternoon at St. Peter's. When 5:30 came and I hadn't heard anything, I called Trey to see if he or Chaz had any news of Cedric. There had been no phone calls. After fixing myself a quick dinner, I called the Jones's house, knowing that people weren't allowed to have their cell phones turned on in the hospital. No one answered. Apparently not even Keesha was home.
I got in my car and drove back to Cleveland. I left my clericals on, knowing that sometimes they helped me get in places I couldn't otherwise. I learned that Cedric had indeed been moved from a cubicle to a room, but still in the ICU area. His room had a huge window that allowed the nurses to watch the patient while at their station.
Angel was in the room with Cedric. I just smiled at the nurses and stepped into the room.
"Any change?" I asked.
"No, Father Max. Not yet." She smiled. "But I just know my boy is going to get better."
"That's the spirit. But, please, call me Max. I'm just one of the guys, you know."
"I know you are Tim's best friend, and I know that Ced thinks the world of you. He's told me that you've become a part of the wonderful brotherhood that is such a special thing in his life. But, young man, you are also a man of God, and I'll call you Father Max sometimes."
I grinned and hugged her. "Yes, ma'am."
Though hospital visits are a big part of my job, it was a shock seeing Ced lying there connected to all the monitoring devices. He had a bandage over part of his head and face, and his shoulder was in some sort of dressing or cast, I couldn't quite tell because it was partly obscured by the bedclothes. I think seeing him there brought home to me the reality of the situation. Here was my beautiful new friend and the center of Tim's world, in serious condition, in a coma for going on 24 hours.
About that time Jake and Tim showed up, and they sent Angel to get some supper. Tim and I went to the ICU waiting room, leaving Jake with his son. I sat with Tim, and we exchanged desultory conversation for a couple of hours. Then he turned to me and said, "You need to go home. You've got to work tomorrow. But before you go, could we make another visit to the chapel?"
Back in our Kenyon days, I'd never have expected that Tim and I would be praying together, much less twice in one day. Life is surely full of surprises.
After our visit to the chapel, I walked Tim back to the waiting room.
"Max, you've always been there for me. You're my rock, man. I don't know what I'd do without you. Now, go home."
"On one condition. Promise you'll call me, no matter what time it is, if his condition changes?"
He hugged me, kissed me lightly on the cheek, and gave me a shove. "Yeah, Max. I will. I promise. Thanks, babe."
The problem was, though Cedric's physical condition seemed to improve slowly, he didn't wake up. Tim said the doctor told them that there was no reason why Ced shouldn't wake up. But he added that the longer it took, the more worrisome the situation was.
He still hadn't come out of his coma by that Sunday, when Rick and his friend Ned came to church.
The next morning, Rick called and asked me to have lunch with him. Tim was still staying in Ced's apartment behind the Jones house in Shaker. I had to be at St. Peter's all day, and I wouldn't be able to go be with Tim until evening, so I agreed to Rick's invitation. I knew the unhappy story about him and Doug, but I also knew how contrite he was about all of that, and I knew that Tim and Ced liked him. I'd liked him from the time I first met him, too, so I looked forward to spending a little time with him. Besides, I wanted to get to know my new parishioner better.
He invited me to come to his apartment at 12:30, saying he'd fix us something and we could talk without interruption. When I got there, we shook hands.
"Lunch is ready. Want to help me get it on?"
It only took a moment to move things from the kitchen to the table. After we sat, he asked me to say a grace, which I did. When I finished, he added, "And we ask you, Father, to bring Cedric back to us and to comfort those who love him."
We both said "Amen!"
Rick had prepared a heavenly spinach quiche and a great salad. With them he served a chilled pinot grigio that was perfect with the quiche.
"So, now, is there any news about Cedric?"
I explained that there had been no change in his condition since I had talked with him and Ned after the Eucharist the previous day.
As the meal went on, I asked Rick how he had come to know Ned. He explained that they had been good friends since college.
"It's none of my business, Rick, but if I read the body language correctly, you and Ned are pretty comfortable together. Is there any chance that you are becoming more than just good friends?"
"Interesting you should ask that, Max. When I first met Ced and Tim, back when I was here for my interview, I recognized what a lovely relationship they had, and I envied them. I'd be a very happy man if I had what they have. They are lucky to have each other."
Then he went on to tell me about the weekend when Ced and Tim had come to Chicago. I was fascinated to hear his account of it because up to that point I had heard only Tim's version. He told me that Tim had been cold and distant on that occasion and that it was Ced who had been his usual charming self. He said he thought Cedric was actually embarrassed by Tim's behavior.
"Rick, you need to understand that I've never seen Tim in quite the frame of mind he was over learning about you and Doug."
"I do understand that. Tim has since explained it all to me. He told me he liked me when I interviewed here and that it really posed a dilemma for him when he heard that I was the guy who had been so, well, shitty to Doug."
I took a bite of salad and waited for him to continue.
"Then he told me that it was Ced who helped him see, after they got back, what (and I use his term) a horse's ass he'd been. He wasn't very explicit, but I have the impression Ced reminded Tim of something in his own past that helped him understand my predicament back at Cranmer more clearly."
I knew what that episode in Tim's past was, but didn't think it was my place to explain it to Rick.
"So, at any rate, Tim and I are a lot more comfortable with each other, and I dearly love Cedric. I've been looking forward to getting to know them both better. I've been wondering what they'll do when Ced goes off to Ann Arbor in the fall."
So had I, but Tim hadn't talked much about it.
"And," Rick continued, "as I said, I envy them. They so obviously love each other and delight in each other. What single gay guy wouldn't want to have a relationship like that?"
I asked, "Do you think there's any chance you and your friend Ned could develop something like that?"
He reached for his wine glass and took a sip as he apparently formulated his answer. "You know, Max, while he was here this time I was wondering the same thing. Ned's a good friend. And we've been good friends since our fraternity days at Cranmer. Besides that, he's, if you'll forgive me, a wonderful fuck."
Rick laughed. "It's just so hard for me to forget that you're my priest. Or one of them."
"Well," I chuckled, "I don't recommend your talking that way to Father John."
"Yeah, for sure! Anyway, as great a guy as Neddie is, and as much fun as he and I have in the sack, there's something lacking. I just don't see myself wanting to spend the rest of my life with him. The spark is just not there. I know he and I don't have what Tim and Ced obviously have, or, for that matter, what I sensed between Stan and Doug when we saw each other here this spring."
"Well, Rick, maybe what Tim and Cedric have is very rare. But I hope you find yourself a Cedric."
He grinned. "Or a Tim. Now, Max, would I be out of line to ask about you? I assume you're alone."
That question brought a stab of pain, but I knew I had to get used to talking about it. "I'm just coming out of a relationship. I had a beautiful lover, David, for about 9 months, from last September until this June."
"I'm sorry, Max. Would you rather not talk about it?"
"No, that's all right. I think I need to, actually."
"He got a transfer and a big promotion in his work. He was in sales."
"He wanted you to come along and you refused?"
"Yeah, that's pretty much it."
"But not the whole story, I'm guessing."
"Look, if this is too painful, forget I asked."
"No. I want to say this. When David asked me to go with him, I pointed out that I had a commitment to the church here and that I couldn't just pick up and go. Also that there was no certainty of getting a job in the San Francisco area if I did. Half the priests in the country, and most of the gay ones, would love to be out there."
"David said that if I loved him, we'd find a way around all that. Then he told me that he knew I really loved someone else. Said he could see it in my eyes when I looked at the other person."
"Damn! Is that true?"
"Does this other person know?"
"I don't think he has a clue. We're just good friends."
Rick put down his fork and leaned toward me, both forearms resting on the table. "Max, that must be hell for you."
"Yeah, maybe that's what hell is like. Loving someone who doesn't feel the same way about you. But I feel so guilty about David. I love David. And he was a fantastic lover. I'd never had sex like that before. But he's right that I'd never be able to love him with the all-out, unconditional love that he deserves. So it's for the best that we've broken up. I could never have been for him what he needed, and I don't want to keep him from finding his perfect mate."
"Damn, Max. You're some hombre, you know that? I really admire you. And I hope you find your perfect mate."
He stood up and began clearing plates, so I helped him. Then he served raspberry sorbet and coffee. "You know, Rick, I hope you find your ideal guy, too. A lot of men would like to live with you just to get this kind of cooking. Not that you aren't a great guy. And hot, too."
Even though he had dark skin, I could see him blushing. "Rick, I didn't mean to embarrass you. And I hope you don't think I was coming on to you!"
"Of course not, Max. And I'm honored that you'd tell me what you just did about you and David. I think we're going to be good friends. And I'm looking forward to that. Just friends, but good ones. Okay?"
"You got it, friend."
That lunch was on Monday. About 8:00 the next night, I got a call from Trey.
"Max, Tim needs you. Can you come to his place?"
"Of course. Are you there? Should I bring my key?"
"Bring your key. I'm standing on the stoop talking on my cell phone."
"I'll be right there." I grabbed Tim's house key and ran out the door. Sure enough, Trey and Chaz were standing on at Tim's front door.
"What's happened? It must be Ced?"
"Yeah. Ced woke up. He's fine, physically. Angel called to tell me that Tim had come home and was in bad shape. She thought he might need us. At least she wanted us to check on him."
"Have you knocked on the door? Do you know he's in there?"
"Yeah," Chaz said. "His car's in its regular slot. But when we knock, he doesn't answer."
"I'm sorry guys, I'm still a step behind here. If Ced's physically okay, what's wrong with Tim?"
"Max, according to Angel, Ced has what's called `selective amnesia'."
"I've heard of that. How much does he not remember?"
"He's lost just about the whole last year of his life. When he saw Tim, he seemed surprised and wanted to know what he was doing there. He was polite to Tim, but puzzled. Angel says he remembers Tim as one of his favorite professors. But that's all. He has no memory whatever of Tim as his lover. She says Tim wished Ced a speedy recovery, hugged her and Jake, and left. They tried to get him to stay, but he just rushed out."
"Oh, Lord! Poor Ced! Poor Tim!"
"Yeah," Chaz said.
"They needed to stay with Ced, so they didn't call Chaz and me right away. But then they worried about how Tim was going to handle all this and thought he might need us."
I took a deep breath.
"Okay, I'm beginning to get the picture. Now, tell me this. Is Ced likely to get his lost memory back, and if so, how long will it take?"
"That's part of the problem. Nobody knows. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe never."
As Drew Filchak says, this is SO not the end. (If you haven't read Drew's "Reservations" series in Beginnings, you've missed one of the very best things on Nifty!)