Chapter 33

I'd like to say that after Brian and I got together, we all lived happily ever after. Happily-ever-after, though, doesn't just fall out of the sky. A person's own life teaches him about what's real and what's possible, and shapes the way he lives and the way he loves.

I'd needed to get to the point where I just didn't have a choice in the matter before I would finally start letting Brian in. My recent bad flashback got me to take those first tentative steps. The year that followed was good; it was the best I'd had in my life, in fact. We grew closer than we'd ever been, deeper in love with each other than we'd ever been. Making love to him was the closest thing to heaven I'd ever experienced. But even so, I couldn't seem to stop waiting for the other shoe to drop. I was ready to make an intimate life with him, but part of me couldn't seem to keep from holding back.

It came out in little ways; ways that showed him I didn't fully trust him. The main way, I guess, was that I'd clam up when things were bothering me: I'd keep my feelings to myself. When he noticed me feeling down--which he did almost every time I felt that way--he'd always ask me about it; and I'd always deny that there was a problem. If he ever cornered me into admitting that I was in a bad mood, I'd act as if I was trying to keep from imposing on him, never quite sharing myself fully with him. He always allowed me to have that space; he never wanted to force me to do anything. But I knew it frustrated him. I understood that I was fighting a lifetime of conditioning telling me that I needed to protect myself from him. I also understood that I was doing the same thing with him, in a way, that I'd done with Jonah. But I wasn't entirely successful in overcoming that conditioning, though I really did try.


* * * * * * * * *

One early Saturday morning almost a year after we'd become a "couple," we were snuggling in bed, when Brian said, "Hey, let's get away for the weekend next Friday through Sunday."

I thought that was a great idea; in the previous year, Mary had gone through a bad divorce and after a series of questionable moves, she and her kids had moved in with us. It was great having them around, and Chris loved having younger "siblings," but they added to the stresses Brian and I were experiencing in trying to make a life together.

"Sounds like a great plan," I said. "Where did you have in mind?"

"Let's go to Mom and Dad's cabin on the lake," he said.

"Perfect," I replied. "Wonder what the weather's gonna be like?"

"I'm sure it'll be fine," he said. "In fact, you prolly won't need any clothes at all." He put his hand lightly over my crotch, grinned, and stroked me gently through the cloth of my boxers.

I felt my face flush. "I'm not hanging out naked all weekend just to satisfy your horny ass," I said. "And anyway, get your hand off me if you don't mean business."

"The kids'll be up soon, so I don't think we have time for 'business.' "  He moved his hand away from me and frowned, then added, "But c'mon, Sammy, be a sport, I want you naked all next weekend. Tell you what, you can take some clothes if you promise you'll let me get you naked at least some time."

I laughed. "I think I can make that deal."

"Outside, I mean," he said, smirking.

"Naked outside?" I asked.

"Hell, yeah," he said. "Just you and me, a blanket, the evening stars, and your butt mooning the moon while you're drillin' me out in the middle of Mother Nature."

"Well, let's see how the weather turns out," I told him, "But I can probably accommodate your perverted request."

"Excellent," he said. He scooted in closer and kissed me on the lips. I rolled us over until I was on top of him, and as I kissed him, I rubbed my rigid cock against his. He moaned and put his hands on my ass, pulling me into him even harder. After a minute or so of grinding against each other, he pushed my boxers down around my legs. I shucked them off with my feet and thrust my naked cock against him, saying, "Okay, you started this, so get naked, and fast. We don't have much time."

About that time there was a knock on the door, and I heard a voice I loved.


"Dad," I heard Chris say, "I'm hungry. Let me in."

Brian scowled. "Fuck," he said.

"We can't," I replied, grinning. "Now let me go, so I can put some pants on over...over this," I said, pointing at my erect cock. He let go and I sat up.

"Lemme take care of it real fast," he said. "You wouldn't wanna bust a zipper." He sat up with me, leaned toward me and kissed the tip of my cock.

"Stop that," I whispered. "He's right outside the door." I grabbed my boxers and pulled them on, then went to the closet for a pair of jeans.

"Okay, but I gotta get you away from all these people," he told me. "Next weekend, we're fuckin' like rabbits."

"Would you be quiet with that?" I said quietly but firmly. "Hang on, Chris, I'm coming," I shouted at the door.

"Yeah, I wish," Brian grumbled, as he dressed.


* * * * * * * * *


The day we left for our weekend away was the one-year anniversary of all hell breaking loose with Duane and his wife. Brian's brother Dave and his wife came to give Mary some help with Chris and the kids while we were away, and we definitely needed the time away, but I wasn't in the best place emotionally. I was feeling a little raw and tender.

For the first few miles of the trip, we weren't saying much of anything. On the surface, things seemed relaxed and comfortable; the silences weren't awkward. But things were churning around in my head and heart. We eased into some conversation after a while, and during one of the lapses, I said, "Wow, I can't believe it's been a whole year since Duane dropped the bomb on me."

He turned his head to look at me. I couldn't really read his expression, but it had changed from the relaxed, comfortable one he'd worn just a moment before. Finally he said, "Yeah," and then turned his attention back to his driving.

I waited for a while in the ensuing silence.  After a few minutes, I said, "The whole episode was so strange," hoping my overture would let him know I needed to talk about it a little.

"I guess it must have been," he said, his voice expressionless, his eyes glued to the road.

Stonewalled, I decided to fill the silence with small talk; the lack of conversation wasn't comfortable anymore. We talked about his upcoming new job for awhile, then about Chris. As those topics spent themselves and we drifted back toward silence, I said, "You know, with the...I mean, with him and me falling apart a year ago today, I've just been thinking about it a lot today."

"Thinking about it?" he said. It sounded like a question, but I didn't see a question on his face. I didn't see anything.

"Well...thinking about him," I admitted.

Brian didn't reply.

"We never really talked about all that after you and I...after we got together," I said, tentatively.

"Nope," he said, his eyes set on the road with determination.

"He...I mean..."

"He bailed," Brian interrupted, "and I didn't. He's not here. I am." The tone of his reply startled me. It was curt; dismissive. Defensive, almost.

"I know you are," I said quickly. "It's what I want; it's just..."

He interrupted me again. "Then why are you thinking about him?" He turned his head to look at me, and when I his eyes met mine I saw accusation in them.

"I don't know," I said defensively.

"Is that what you're thinking about when you clam up on me? Thinking about Duane?"

"I don't mean to clam up on you," I said, "and in fact that's the opposite of what I'm doing right now, isn't it? So why are you getting upset? Look: I...I don't think about him much. It's just, you know, it was a year ago today, and..."

"So you keep reminding me," he said, not letting me finish.

Fear began to pull me further into myself. I didn't understand what was happening; I only wanted to process some of my feelings with Brian, to try and get a perspective on the last overwhelming year. The last months had been the best of my entire life, and I loved Brian with everything I had, but I needed to get my head straight, and I thought in our time alone, I could at least talk about it, but Brian seemed to be getting angrier with every mile we traveled. In response, I went deep into "protect" mode, and stopped talking.

Finally, he said, "What's the deal with Duane today anyway?"

I was too frightened to get into it; all I could say was, "I miss him. I..."

"Great," he said, breaking in on my attempt to explain with a bitterness that felt like a fist to my gut.

* * * * * * * * *

The cabin is on a lake. There are a few other cabins, but they aren't very close to each other, so it was an ideal place to go for a couple looking for some privacy and some alone-time.  We unloaded the car amiably enough, but when we'd finished, he looked at me and said, "Well, is there any point in staying?"

"You wanted us to come," I said. "Why would we not stay?"

"Seems like it's not just the two of us," he said.  "I came here for us to be alone, and ever since we got in the car, all I'm hearing is Duane this and Duane that, how he's been gone a year and how much you miss him."

"I do miss him,"  I said, but I was assaulted by a sickening mix of emotions. I was scared; this was the first time that tension between us had ever erupted into a full-blown fight; the first time ever. I was also grief-stricken; I didn't want us to be doing this.

But part of me was angry, too. I was simply being honest with him. I didn't get it; he and I were together, he knew how much I loved him, and Duane was gone. What was the problem? Why was he acting like I was some kind of villain in all this?

I'd hardly had a chance to roll that over in my head, when he began yelling at me. "So what the fuck are we doing here, then? Why are we alone together like some kind of goddam honeymoon, when you wanna be with him?"

I was shocked. That's what he thought? That I'd rather be with Duane than with him? I hadn't meant that at all. I thought he understood that it was only because I loved him so much that I could even bring up the subject of Duane.

"I miss him, that's all I said. It's been a year and it happened so fast, and I never really had the opportunity to deal with it with you," I said.

"The fuck you didn't. Haven't I been with you every single minute I could since all that? Didn't I make a life with you? Didn't I make promises to you, and didn't you take the ring I gave you?"

"Yes, you did, but that isn't what this is about. I have feelings for him, and I was trying to tell you that..."

"So the last few months, I was like some kind of consolation prize? Fuck that," he snarled.

"No," I said..."You...I just, I mean you don't stop loving someone.."

I looked up at him--looked into his eyes--but I couldn't say a word more. It was as if my vocal cords were paralyzed. I could feel myself shutting down, and I knew I shouldn't, but I couldn't stop myself.

"Well?" he demanded.

I said nothing.

"Will you please fuckin' say something?" he shouted. "What am I supposed to do? Do you want to be here or not?"

I stared at him blankly.

After several minutes of silence, he said, "If you want Duane and not me, I don't get what we're doing here."

I couldn't answer.

He shook his head, took in a deep breath, and exhaled forcefully.  "I'm done with this," he shouted, and walked out the door.


* * * * * * * * *

When I heard the door slam, my brain shut down. If breathing had required conscious thought, I would have suffocated.

It wasn't a break from reality like the flashbacks I'd had; it was more an experience of total shock. Just like that, my worse fears had come true. I'd loved Brian and given my heart to him, and my craziness had now caused him to leave me. I couldn't believe how suddenly things had ended for us.

I sat there, frozen. As the minutes ticked by, the room seemed to get darker. My vision narrowed; peripheral sight was gone, and I couldn't hear anything except for a buzzing sound in my ears. It was maddening.

I had very little coherent thought going on; all I could think was that I wanted some quiet.  I just wanted the buzzing noise to stop.

I don't remember leaving the cabin and walking out into the lake; I only remember wanting quiet. It's pretty shallow until you get out fifty feet or so, and then it gets deep fast. I couldn't swim, even when I was entirely in control of my faculties.  At some point, I became vaguely aware that I was chest-deep in water, but I was on some kind of weird auto-pilot, just trying to get away from the buzzing sound; most of my mind was still blank. I kept walking, not fully conscious. There was a precipitous dropoff in the middle of the lake, and, unknowing, I was headed right toward it.

Vaguely, another sound began to break through to me.

A voice. From a million miles away.

"Sammy!  What are you doing? Come back, you're almost at...Sam, please!"

There was splashing, and commotion, and the next thing I knew, a strong hand gripped my shoulder; a strong arm wrapped around my chest, and pulled me back. I turned my head and saw, distractedly, that it was Brian. But he's gone, I thought dimly.

He began pulling me toward the shore. "Just let me pull us back; what were you doing?"

"Quiet," was all I could say, all I could think.

"What? he said."

"Quiet," I said. "Needed quiet. Only you, Brian. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, please come back to me, don't leave me, I'm so sorry."

I have vague memories of apologizing right and left as he pulled me to safety, but I don't remember getting out of the lake. The next moment available to my memory is reaching the front door of the cabin, and Brian saying to me, "Don't ever scare me like that again."

Then he wrapped his arms around me, pulled me into him, and burst into tears.

After he'd held me for a few moments, he started undressing me. He got my wet clothes off, then his, and led me into the shower. I was still somewhat zombie-like, but I was recovering. He soaped me tenderly, alternately cleaning me and holding me. "I wasn't leaving you, Sam; god, I'm sorry for scaring you. I just needed to get away and cool down. I knew I was being an asshole and I just had to go for a walk and get control. I came back to talk, and I couldn't find you. I was scared to death. I went outside and looked around, and saw you in the lake. What were you doing?"

"There was buzzing," I said. "I didn't like it. I needed quiet. Didn't know I got in the lake."

"What was buzzing?" he asked.

"I guess inside," I said. "You left me. I knew you would, I'm too messed up."

"Sam," he said, "You had the car keys in your pocket. And there's nothing around for miles. Where would I go and how would I get there?"

I said nothing at first. I still wasn't entirely "in the moment." Then finally I had to chuckle. "Keys. Pocket. Right."

He started crying again, a little. "I wouldn't leave you. I'll never leave you."

"I don't love him more than you," I said, feeling the warm water of the shower cascade over us as he held me close. I was still a little out of it, but I'd regained the ability to voice my thoughts, at least partially. "I only love you. Love you my whole life long. Just too much happened. Needed to talk about it."

"I know," he said. "I'm so sorry for yelling at you and being such a jealous asshole."

"I'm sorry for being a crazy person," I said. "You don't need this."

"Let's get out and dry off and put some dry clothes on," he said.


* * * * * * * * *

Gradually over the next couple of hours, I came back to my senses. We didn't talk about Duane, and we didn't talk much about my crazy walk into the lake. Mainly we both held each other and both apologized.

Before we went to bed, though, Brian said, "I'd never seen you like that before, Sam. What happened? It's like you weren't really there."

"I know," I said. "I'm sorry. I thought you had left me. did something to me."

"Sammy," he said, kissing me, "I'll never leave you. But I think it's time for you to talk to someone. You've been dealing with this shit by yourself for too many years."

"I'll talk to you," I said, misunderstanding. "I'm sorry I've been shutting you out."

"Talking to me is good," he said, "but I meant a professional. A psychologist."

"I don't know," I said. The thought of exposing my messed-up psyche to a stranger made me feel ashamed.

"I do," he replied. "And it's not just you. We need to go in together. He can help us learn how to support each other better in our rough areas."

"Seems scary," I said.

"Yeah, maybe," he replied. "But nothing could be as scary as watching you chest deep and half-conscious, walking towards a dropoff in a lake. So please, please say you'll do this next week, and I promise we won't talk about it any more this weekend."

I knew he was right. Stuff like this couldn't keep happening. I had to learn how to let people into my life. I had to learn how to let the man I loved into my life. Fully.

"Okay," I said. "If you'll find the guy, and make the arrangements."

"Deal," he said. "Now, let's just have a quiet weekend loving each other, okay?"

I thought about it for a moment, took a deep breath, and made a decision.

"Okay," I said.

I smiled and kissed him. I'd worry about next week's challenges next week.


Note to readers: The next chapter will close out the story. Except for some of the introductory paragraphs, Sam wrote it himself some months before he died. I'm honored to have been able to finish this story for him. If you'd like you can write me at I'll post the final chapter within a week's time.

--Adam Phillips