Shelly began to stir in the bed beside me, her body felt soft and warm, as I lied next to her. I thought to myself, `hell, this is what is expected of me, I'm supposed to like girls, it's really not that bad.' Yet on the other hand, I dreamt of being with Buddy, I'd have preferred to be lying in his arms. I wondered if he felt the same torment that I did, but was too afraid to admit it to himself. `Maybe he forced himself to like Debbie,' I surmised, and it seemed to comfort me as I relished in the idea.
His confession of love and admission of maybe some day we could be together; I mean he didn't say never, he said he didn't know if he could ever like me the same way, as I liked him. Was it just hopes, or was it the closest he could come to saying he was like me? I churned the questions in my mind. `I don't think I could ever be with you like that. But who knows maybe', those words he had whispered to me just the night before kept ringing in my ears. I kept hearing his soft, sweet voice saying, `I do love you. You know?'
"Morning, Sunshine," Shelly said, her face beaming with delight as she woke next to me.
"You wanna go see if we can go visit Buddy? I think my dad will take us. I was supposed to go shopping this morning, but I bet he'd rather take me with you to the hospital." She kind of laughed a little as she said it; I guess from the knowledge her dad didn't like taking her shopping.
"Sure, I'm really worried Shels."
She leaned her head into the crook of my neck and shoulder; it felt comforting. I closed my eyes and listened to her breathing, and felt her warm breath as it tickled my skin. I pulled her body a little close with my arms in a hug. I could have remained like that, in her arms, her lips kissing my neck gently, for the rest of the day. The feelings of being so close to another were what I ached for, I reasoned to myself. I was so down, that the closeness we shared filled my void. I felt her hands as they rubbed and groped gently at my back. I kissed her forehead.
I called Buddy's house, and got my usual cold reception, and no information.
I hated his step mom, and all the things she'd done to him. Buddy told
me so many horror stories about his family, I felt as if I knew them. He
had told me how he and his sister, Betty, were constantly treated like
some sort of parasites. Most of his stories were heart wrenching. The worst
I remember, was how after he'd dislocated his left collarbone and shoulder,
in school sports. His stepmother complained to Buddy's dad, that Buddy
was good for nothing and lazy. His dad made him go out and dig a garden,
when he'd finished, he was told to clean out the garage. The thing was,
he was under doctor's orders not to use his shoulder, and it caused him
great pain, and never healed correctly. Buddy always felt it didn't heal
because of all the things his father made him do to show his mother he
For some reason his stepmother didn't like Buddy having any friends, it was like she wanted him kept in a prison of sorts. So whenever I called his house, I got a chill so frigid I swear to God, it actually came through the phone lines. You know the kind, one-word answers, and never committal. I'd hang up and wonder if I'd talked to a live person. All I seemed to get out of her when I called; was that Buddy was indeed in a car wreck, and was in the hospital. I asked how he was, and what room he was in, but she rebuffed me by telling me only family members were allowed. Certainly not, he's in Mayfield General Hospital; you can send him a card. No that would have been too much for her; she'd rather keep Buddy under her thumb, and be able to tell him he really didn't have any friends. How could he? The way she controlled everything.
I was dumbfounded when I hung up the phone, but I was a man filled with determination. I called Gerard, I didn't know Bill's last name, but knew he would. I'd decided to call Bill's home, after all he was in the car, and I hoped his parents would be more receptive to friends inquiring about their son.
I didn't have to call Bill's home. Gerard knew the whole story; his boss had called him, to fill in for Buddy at work. He gave me the information, and seemed a little put out, doing it. Gerard seemed to feel as if I'd left him in the dust, so to speak, since I'd been hanging out with Carl. He didn't really come right out and say it, but I could tell he was feeling hurt. I kind of got upset, I mean Gerard wasn't my best friend, Buddy was.
Crazy teen as I was; I didn't really know what a `real' friend was at the time. Gerard, while he was my friend, he just wasn't cool enough to be my best friend. Buddy; was by far better known in school, and much more accepted by a lot more kids. Buddy was popular, and his popularity brought me all those other friends of his. So, what was Gerard's problem? Didn't he see where he stood in the social pecking order of the high school clicks? I mean, after all being his best friend would have meant being bored. It would have been more of the same, just Gerard and I playing basketball in our driveways, or doing homework together. With Buddy in my life, it opened my doors to so much more.
"Yeah, Mr. Bollings called me this morning. Buddy is pretty bad. From what Mr. Bollings said, Carl's car flipped over, and he's lucky to be alive." Gerard rattled off into the phone.
"Where did it happen?" I asked.
"Well, Bill's all right, I guess he got a few bumps and a couple of bruises, but he'll be in work tonight," Gerard said, ignoring my question.
"Well that's cool. Where did it happen?" I repeated my question.
"From what Mr. Bollings said, it happened on Route 6. You know where it goes into four lanes heading into Longview? Right there where the grassy island starts. I guess some old lady was in front of them and took a left turn right in front of them, cut `em off. Carl's car spun around and flipped over, and landed on that big sign in the middle of the grassy spot. You know where I mean?"
I could picture the place perfectly in my mind. Route 6 was a two lane road, one lane in each direction, until about a mile from the town line. There is where it spread, and opened into four lanes, with a grass meridian separating it and two lanes then ran in both directions; two lanes ran south, and two north. I remembered the large red farm house on the right side, and the intersection of Parson's Road, that's where the shoulder began to widen out before Route 6 opened into the four lanes. I visualized a car to the extreme right side of the road, just at the farmhouse; suddenly cutting across the road to turn left right in front of Buddy's car. I could even see the huge white sign with the black arrow directing traffic to the correct lane and indicating the separation in the small highway, in my mind as Gerard described the place where the accident happened.
"Yeah, right there at the intersection of Parson's Road. Where it splits?" I asked.
"Yeah, I guess he was going pretty fast, he left almost three hundred feet of skid marks. Luckily Bill had his belt on, I guess Carl didn't. Carl ended up going through the windshield."
My mind raced, I saw his broken up mangled body sprawled out on the side of the road, all bloody and battered. I shuddered. I didn't want to imagine him like this, I wanted to see him smiling as I approached him, the way he always did, and I wanted to hear his sweet voice in my ears. The last thing I wanted to do was picture him was in pieces.
Gerard almost seemed to be reveling in telling me the details; his voice held a certain `holier than thou' tone. It was contemptuous, and filled with sarcasm, it let me know he was jealous of Buddy and I, and our friendship. I remember thinking I'd have to have a little chat with Gerard; I'd have to set him straight. If he wanted to remain my friend, he'd just have to back off. I was too worried about Buddy to put up with any of his bullshit. If I didn't know better, I'd have thought he might have been a little happy about Buddy's accident.
What really got to me was when he finally said, "You know, if he and Bill weren't always smoking that damn pot all the time, and Carl wasn't always driving like some kind of maniac this probably would never have happened."
I went numb. I couldn't believe what he'd said. It was a revelation of sorts, all at once the joking and the laughing about butter and the anchovies Bill and Buddy had done flashed through my mind. I felt betrayed again, I felt like everyone knew something, some secret about Buddy, everyone but me. I was angry, I wanted to scream out for Gerard to fuck off, but I didn't. His statement was fact, I knew Gerard well enough to know he wouldn't make something like that up. Why hadn't I known? Why, in all the candid conversations had Buddy never told me about him and Bill smoking pot? He barely ever mentioned Bill to me. There was a side to the guy I loved that I didn't even know, and apparently wasn't welcome to know. We'd been friends for three months, he knew all my secrets, and he'd kept things from me. It hurt, it cut right into me, it was the first time I began to truly doubt our friendship, and Buddy's word.
"Hey Griz, I got to jet. I'll see you around. Peace." I hung the phone up.
I thought about it, and it stung me. I had never liked people that smoked pot; it wasn't anything I was ever going to do. I know we'd talked about, Buddy and I, and I know he knew how I felt. So why hadn't he been honest with me? And what did Griz mean, `always driving like a maniac?' Buddy always drove his car with such care when I was in it. Now I knew why he dumped me off first, so he could go out with Bill and smoke pot. I wasn't going to loose him, nor was I gonna give up on our friendship.
I decided to make a few other calls, and let others of our friends know about Buddy. I'd make sure Buddy and all his friends knew how much I cared for him and how close we were. After all, I'd met most of them; we all hung out together. First I decided I'd call Debbie, I knew Mrs. Maynard would have rebuffed her, if she had called looking for him, and probably not even told her he was in the hospital. This would be my chance to get to know her, and see for myself why Buddy found her so attractive. That's what I did, I began a campaign of sorts, calling Debbie first and then all of our other mutual friends, to let them know about Carl, and his condition.
Over the next few weeks I got closer to Debbie, I never really cared for her, and always felt tension when I was with her. I did like her mom, and would spend time over the Dunster's house as much as my free time permitted. We'd spend hours at a time talking about Buddy, and when he'd come home from the hospital how we'd throw him a big welcome home party. Debbie's mom didn't seem to care much for Buddy, she had confided in me on more than one occasion she thought he was a user of sorts. I also got closer to Shelly, and often she'd accompany me over to the Dunsters'. A lot of people assumed Shelly and I were a couple, and I did nothing to discourage it. It felt good; for the first time in my life to be accepted by so many people, and I didn't want to give that up.
I don't know, was I just using everyone myself? I often wondered when I'd talk with Deb's mother. Was I just doing all this acting to get closer to Buddy? I know a lot of the time I felt sincere, and really believed I was acting as a best friend would act. So I didn't let it bother me too much.
On one of our visits to the hospital, Buddy told me how much he liked me helping Debbie through, and he told me often that he loved me. Every time he'd tell me, I'd get all excited, and hopeful that perhaps we could have some kind of secret relationship when he got out of the hospital. But the time he told me how happy he was I stood by Debbie hurt me, it was like he was saying he loved me for being there for her. Didn't he see I was trying to be there for him? I never complained to him, I never said a bad word again to Buddy about Debbie.
We finally got word he'd be coming home. I began working on a welcome home party with Debbie. We decided to have it at her house. Even Mrs. Dunster helped in the planning of the shindig. We invited all of our friends; I even invited Griz. I wanted so much for his homecoming to be a real special event; I so much wanted him to know how very much I loved him.
It was going to be a Friday night, the first week in February; it was going to be a total surprise. He was coming home on Wednesday, and we only had three days to plan. I called Bill, as much as I didn't really want him around, I invited him personally. I figured if Buddy liked him, he should be there. No matter what I thought, it was just one more way to prove my love.
The day before he got out of the hospital, I skipped the last half of the school day, and went to visit him, hoping to be with him alone. It was perfect, just him and I. Without telling him about the party I asked if he'd sleep over my house Friday. I told him I wanted to have some time alone with him and I, so we could have a `C-C.' He smiled and agreed, he did say he'd have to get permission, but that his parents had been treating him a lot better since the accident, and didn't think there'd be a problem. I was ecstatic.
"Joe, I love you man. I really do, you're the best friend a guy could have. All you've done for me, with Debbie and all. I appreciate it." His sweet voice sounded so sincere as he said it.
"I love you to Buddy."
"Hey maybe Friday, we can do something. I've been doing some thinking, about a lot. I might even let you mess around with me." He laughed as he said it, but I knew he was serious, and it was something he wanted to try.
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, I should try it at least once, how will I ever know if I don't really like it or not?"
When I left the hospital room that day I was on cloud fucking nine, or ten. Whatever cloud I was on, it was the best. I had won him over, and finally felt he loved me as much as I loved him. I'd wait until later, after he came home, and after Friday, before I'd ask him about the pot. No sense in spoiling the moment. I could hardly wait.
To Be: Continued
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