Journey to Love
Home to Alexander County
edited by Cole, Peter and Scott
Preface warnings apply.
Wolf was staring at me, opened mouthed. Dr. Mom Lancaster was trying hard to stifle a chuckle. Dr. Lancaster just looked gobsmacked. Once she got herself under control, Dr. Mom Lancaster said, with a smile, “Walter, I believe you have met your match and in this round, lost.”
Dr. Lancaster made a harrumph and finally said, again with a sheepish grin, “Derek, I don’t know what kind of diver you are, but if you are as good at that as you are at presenting an argument, you must have a roomful of medals.”
“Oh, it’s not quite full yet, Dad. Anyway, Derek is too shy to display them.”
“Sir, how good an argument is, is judged by the outcome and I haven’t heard the results of my excellent, logical and rational argument against your rather narrow defense,” I said. I was perfectly serious.
“Well, I could say I’m deliberating on my decision, Derek, but that would not be truthful. Belle and I were delighted when we were finally given a child after long since giving up hope of that happening. He was a delight the day he was born and we have always been proud of him. Do I wish he weren’t gay? Well, I know he will have struggles in life he would not have if he were straight. We would like grandchildren, one of the usual things parents think about when they learn a child is gay. Do I wish he were not gay? No, because if he were not gay, he would not be Wolf and we are proud of him, love him and want, above all, for him to be happy. Everything Wolf has ever tackled, he has done well. He has fallen in love and, to be honest, once again I think he did well. Derek, I am proud of my son, Wolf, and I am delighted by his choice of a mate.” Dr. Lancaster extended his hand.
Before I took his hand, I asked, “Does that mean Wolf will be at OCU this fall.”
“Anyway I could prevent that?”
“Yes, sir, if you forbid it. Mr. Lancaster, you don’t know how fortunate you and Wolf are having the relationship you do. Many of those of us who are gay do not.”
“He has my approval to be at OCU this fall, Derek. Love him and take care of him.”
I shook his hand and said, “I’ll love him always.” I didn’t add I’d take care of him because Wolf didn’t need someone taking care of him.
What I’d expected to be a long, drawn out session in Elizabethton was behind us. However, the Drs. Lancaster did quiz me at length: about my family, especially how I ended up with two white dads, what I was planning on doing, how I ended up with the fantastic apartment and a whole lot more.
Wolf had called Justin on the way down. Justin had asked, “Why don’t you come by our place for coffee and dessert. Marc and I don’t get off work until after 5:00. Come by around 8:00. That will give us time to shower and have dinner. I’ll call Marc and he can tell Adam as they work together. I’ll try to talk to Michael. I know he’d love to see you, but may not get to come as he is still in hiding. Mr. Thurman, Sandy’s dad, is still working on protecting him from his family. Legally they can’t do anything with him since he is eighteen, but Michael--and all of us--fear he will be kidnapped.”
After a wonderful dinner--both the food and conversation were excellent--Wolf drove us to Marc’s place. Inside, Wolf got a hug from Clarisa, the African-American woman who had actually raised Marc. “So,” Clarisa said, as she reached for me, “you must be the man who captured our Sissy’s . . . Wolf’s heart.”
“Derek Wilson, Ms. Clarisa.”
“Just Clarisa, Derek.”
“Call you plain Clarisa and have my mama skin me alive? No, thanks!” We both laughed. “I sure hope I have captured his heart as he has mine.”
“Well, he really went for a looker and I hear you have good sense. Wolf, your friends are waiting for you two upstairs. You and Derek take the trays up as you go and save me a trip.”
Upstairs, we barely managed to set the trays down before being embraced by Marc and Justin. A few minutes later a young woman in loose overalls with a baseball cap pulled low over her eyes came up the stairs. “Michael! Good you could come!” Marc said as the ‘young woman’ took off the cap and overalls and pulled a T shirt with falsies off over his head.
“Glad to be here,” he laughed, then hugged Wolf and me. “Good to see you two. How’re things going?”
“Michael, good to see you. Still running around in drag, I see. Things couldn’t be greater,” Wolf said, a huge grin on his face.
We had just greeted Michael when Adam came up the stairs. “Okay, what’s going on?” he asked.
We exchanged hugs and Wolf and I told them about our time in Florida after they left, Wolf’s interviews and offers at OCU and our conversation with Wolf’s parents.
“Mom said Dad had met his match in Derek, but she was just being nice. Derek took Dad’s ‘I want him to have the black experience, to be where he can be who he is’ argument and turned right back on him. Dad didn’t stand a chance.”
“So you will be leaving us?” Marc asked.
“Sorry guys, but as much as I love you, you can’t hold a candle to what I have with Derek. We have this beautiful apartment--well, it’s Derek’s, but I’ll be sharing it with him.”
“Photos, Wolf, photos,” Michael said.
“I just happen to have a few here,” Wolf laughed and popped a CD into the computer and we narrated photos of the apartment--our apartment.
“Wow! Some place, Derek,” Michael said.
“Yeah, it has become that thanks to Auntie.”
“Auntie’s house, money and your hard work,” Wolf said.
“So there’ll be Marc, Justin and me at ESU this fall. You doing summer school here or at OCU, Wolf?” Adam asked.
“I signed up for a couple courses at ESU, but if Dad will swing it, I’ll do two courses at OCU instead.” How about you, Michael? What are you up to this summer?”
“I wish I knew. Mr. Thurmond made arrangements for me to stay with an older couple out in the country and when I’m outside, I wear what you saw tonight. It wouldn’t bear close inspection, but I think it’s enough to get by. I am working to pay for my room and board. This is the first time I have been out other than doing chores around the farm. The guys have come out to keep me company when they can.
“There’s another court hearing next week and in the meantime, there is a restraining order against my parents and members of the church and anyone associated with Brother Fitzsimmons, but of course if I am kidnapped, it would be by the staff of another one of those places. I have an implant so I can be traced anywhere in the world, but still, I’d like for it all to end. Until then, I don’t know.”
Michael beamed. “This past weekend the school opened an exhibition entitled ‘Five Young Artists.’ Sandy was one of the five and had six paintings on exhibit. The others were spending their third or fourth summer in Sarasota. He was very happy and excited especially when one a professor priced at $2,500 sold within an hour after the exhibit opened.”
“I’m surprised the whole state of Florida wasn’t bouncing up and down from his excitement,” Wolf said.
No one had heard from John or Susan, but the Elizabethton crew agreed that was as expected. Adam said he heard from Bobbie occasionally and seemed unconcerned about that. There were more questions about Wolf’s experience at OCU, my apartment, study groups and other things--just talk and enjoying being together. Michael left at 11:00 since he had to get up early to help with milking. “Never thought I’d be so intimate with a bovine,” he laughed. Wolf, Adam and I left a few minutes later after being admonished to keep in touch.
It was quickly evident the things Wolf needed--and wanted--to take to Norfolk wouldn’t fit in the car. We discussed a trailer from U-Haul, but Dr. Lancaster advised against it, suggesting we rent a small truck instead. The truck was much larger than we needed, but we had to take what was available.
By noon we had made progress packing boxes to go to Norfolk, sorting clothing to take, discards for the dump and good and serviceable things for Goodwill. Wolf sorted and I packed. When we finished with the clothing, the hard part began: deciding what personal items would go and what would stay. His mom reminded him that the room was his and he need take only what he wanted and leave the rest in place. We debated taking his computer and finally decided we could use it and taking it would save the tedious process of copying files.
We finally finished packing and showered and dressed in fresh clothes. We had started at 7:00 and were finished by 1:30. When we were ready to take things to the dump and Goodwill, Dr. Lancaster told us he would take care of that. The truck was packed and we were ready to leave at 3:00 after having had a leisurely lunch.
Wolf had no experience driving a truck and I had very little, but very little was more than none, so I drove the truck and Wolf drove the car. We took it a bit slower than we might have, especially until I got used to the truck, so it took an extra fifteen minutes to get back to my place and start unloading . That job would have taken awhile had not Levi, Jeremy and Telvin helped. “Philip sent his regrets,” Jeremy said. “He’s in Richmond with you know who.” With the five of us working, we had the truck and car unloaded and Wolf’s stuff upstairs quickly, ready to be put away.
“So tell us, Derek, is Wolf also a neat freak or will a divorce be in the offing shortly?” Levi asked. He had made fun of my ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’ attitude as he called it.
“I am not a neat freak,” I retorted, “just neat.”
“Well, you must have trained Levi well,” Telvin said, “because he is a borderline neat freak. My mom would have loved to know his secret for getting me in shape.”
I left Wolf with them and took the truck back to U-Haul in Norfolk. Jeremy drove the car to pick me up after I turned in the truck. On the way back I asked Jeremy how he was enjoying OCU.
“Very much. I like the freedom I have and enjoy living at the house. Levi and Telvin did a splendid job selecting tenants. There is a good mixture, just no available women.”
“In your classes?”
“I have my eye on a couple, but I wanted to get settled in before I got involved in the dating scene. I enjoy the freedom, but it is going to be hard to get used to being my own disciplinarian. There is no universal study time and no one to remind you that you need to study, but discipline will come, I’m sure.”
“Best thing to do is get in study groups. There will be one here for all my classes and you, of course, will be welcome. For each class I don’t have with you, start one of your own. I guess Levi will post a schedule for the library at your place.”
“I’m sure. So Wolf is the one?”
“Wolf is the one. I can’t imagine life without him. Jeremy, when I saw him for the first time, it was like I was struck by lightning. I couldn’t move; I couldn’t speak for several seconds. I felt as though my heart had stopped and I couldn’t breathe. He is a fantastic guy--kind, gentle, loving, smart. Well, I said it, he’s fantastic and I love him so very, very much and more everyday we’re alive. Yeah, he’s the one.”
“I’m glad,” Jeremy said as we pulled into the garage at the house.
Levi’s house quickly became known as Levi’s Place and unlike the previous year when my place was called various names, it became Derek’s Place. When I complained that it was Auntie’s house, she said she thought it should be called Derek’s Place and that settled that.
There was a session with Louis open to undergrads at my place to make sure we had the good classes for the fall. Summer school was pretty hit or miss because of the visiting professors and the professors not teaching in summer school, but since the classes were pretty relaxed, no one had a really terrible one. We all advised Jeremy and Wolf to get Western Civ out of the way and they did. I took an anatomy class and Spanish. I wanted to keep up my Spanish which was much improved from my having spoken it while Levi was with me. Wolf was almost as good. He also spoke and, for heaven’s sake, wrote, Japanese. That I could wait on forever.
In addition to doing well in summer school, we had some grand times on the beach, staying in training, having picnics in our backyard. After they had gotten Levi’s yard in shape, the residents put up a volleyball net and marked off a court and we played some spirited games.
Summer school was finally over and we had a two week break before the fall semester started. Again, visiting relatives would take over my duties in regard to Auntie and I was free for the full two weeks. Since Wolf’s parents were only an hour away and we had spent a weekend with them at the midpoint of summer school, we decided we’d spend the two weeks with my parents. As soon as our grades were posted--we both did well--we two, and Jeremy, headed for Alexander County.
My dads were home and Mom was at Grace House when we arrived. All had taken off the afternoon to make sure we didn’t arrive to an empty house. After much hugging, I introduced Wolf. “Dads, Mom, this is Wolf Lancaster, the man who owns my heart. Wolf, my mom, my dad Brad and my dad Sam.”
Wolf shook hands with the three and said, “It’s nice to see flesh and blood versions of people I feel I know like old friends. I hope you know your son loves you to pieces and never fails to let people know that.”
“Seems he’s kinda stuck on you as well, Wolf,” Brad laughed.
“He’d better be!”
We all were soon sitting around the kitchen table having a late lunch and bringing each other up to date with our lives.
It was now Wolf’s time to be on the hot seat and he handled it well. Mom was amazed that his parents had been so accepting of his being gay and asked a lot of questions about that. Brad was interested in his knowledge of martial arts.” You should see him and Jeremy going at it,” I said. “Should we ever need to draw a crowd, all we have to do is have them start. I want Sergeant Major to see him.” Wolf was blushing. “By the way, Mom, learned a real advantage of being dark. Look at Wolf blush! You have to be really close to see I’m blushing.” Wolf punched me on the arm.
“So you have two weeks before you have to go back,” Sam said. “What’s on the agenda?”
“Showing Wolf around town, time at the Center, seeing Mr. Manning, time with my mom and dads and definitely skinny-dipping.”
“After sitting in the car for three hours, skinny-dipping would sound good to me,” Brad said.
“What are we waiting for?” I asked.
“Maybe cleaning up the table and kitchen?” Wolf said.
“Go on,” Mom said. “I’ll take care of that.”
Wolf liked the pond and did dive off the low practice board once, but that was the extent of his diving. He was a passable swimmer, but definitely not swim team material just as I was not martial arts material. In fact, I couldn’t even dog-paddle in the martial arts.
While resting after series of dives, I was watching Sam and Wolf play together when Brad swam up to me. “Never in a hundred years would I have picked Wolf as someone you would be attracted to,” he said. “You love him?”
“Maybe not as mature as my dads’ love, but yes, I love him so much it hurts at times. I know now why, when I asked you how I’d know I was in love, you’d say, ‘Oh, you’ll know it.’ Funny thing is, as much as I loved him yesterday, I love him more today.”
“I guess this is more your dad Sam’s area, but how about sex?”
“I think we’ve done all the usual except anal. We keep putting that off . . . ”
“Whoa! There is no law that says, ‘You’re gay. You have to have anal sex’. Some couples never do.”
“We both want to at least try it. We decided we’d wait until we could talk with you and Sam, having assumed, I see now, that you two have anal sex.”
“I’ll affirm we have and let it go at that. We’ll be happy, of course, to talk with you when you are ready.”
“Speaking of sex, how’s DeAngelo doing? I have heard nothing from him since I left.”
“Your wayward brother and his friend must have been struck by lightning in Florida. With the short time they had left in the semester after spring break, both managed to bring their grades up from Cs and Ds to Bs and Cs. Unless Angelica and Katrina are sleeping with them, they are being celibate.”
“Or bringing each other off while moaning ‘Angelica’ and ‘Katrina’.”
“They can moan ‘Hail Marys’ while jerking off if it keeps their cocks under control and their grades above C level!” Brad laughed. “They should be getting here this afternoon. They did early exams and left a couple weeks ago for Joe’s dad’s place. After he and Joe’s mom split, his dad moved to Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. Apparently he has a really nice place there.”
While we were talking, Sam and Wolf swam over to us. Wolf grabbed me and planted a hot kiss on my lips which I returned. Soon we were in an intense make out session standing in the pond. At first, Sam and Brad just looked at us and grinned, but then they too, started making out.
Breaking a kiss, Brad said, “How about we move this to our rooms?” We took his suggestion.
Wolf and I had played around enough in the pond to assure quick release when we reached our room. Later, after our second climax--each--I lay beside Wolf and said, “I asked Brad about fucking . . . . ”
“Derek, you know I don’t like to hear what they do or what we may do called fucking and you know it.”
“Bet you end up like one of those porn movies shouting ‘Fuck me, Derek. Fuck me,’” I laughed.
Wolf got one of the Lancaster trademarked sheepish grins on his face and said, “Likely.”
“Anyway, Brad said he and Sam would talk with us. He also said some gay men do not have anal sex.”
“Misled by porn again, I guess.”
exercise in the pond and the bed was enough to tire us a bit and
had been up since 6:00 getting ready, checking grades and all,
was no surprise that we pretty quickly drifted off to sleep.
We slept two hours and were awakened by DeAngelo and Joe. “Derek, get your ass out of bed and bring your pet with you!” DeAngelo shouted. As Wolf and I stepped out of my room Sam and Brad came out of theirs, Brad buttoning his jeans.
DeAngelo said, “Little Bro, see you picked a small one.”
“Depends where you look, oh not-so-large-one,” I responded. I knew that got to DeAngelo because he had never liked having the fact that I was a quarter-inch longer than he pointed out.
DeAngelo reached for me and as he did, Wolf said, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
“You and whose army are stopping me?” DeAngelo laughed.
“You’ve been warned, DeAngelo,” I said.
He just laughed, made a grab for me and landed on the floor. Now everyone except DeAngelo was laughing. Gradually a grin spread across his face. “Fuck, Man, I’d like to be able to do that.”
“Sign up with Sergeant Major and maybe in ten years you will be,” I laughed. Wolf extended his hand to DeAngelo and helped him to his feet. DeAngelo embraced him and said, “DeAngelo Wilson, that one’s older brother and one just cut down to size.”
“Wolf Lancaster, and I’m always happy to ground someone in reality. So how was Lake of the Ozarks?”
“Beautiful and great fun. Learned to water ski and all sorts of things.”
“Sorry we’re neglecting you, Joe. This is Wolf. I had to make a second trip to Florida to find a man equal to your woman and I outdid you. Wolf, my brother DeAngelo and his friend Joe. ”
The four of us sat in my room and talked for the next hour. DeAngelo and Joe were very interested in Levi’s place and the fact that such good housing was available to students. “Any off-campus housing we can afford is really pretty bad,” DeAngelo said. I had seen their place and agreed.
Both were interested in all that had gone on in Florida, how we had met and how Wolf had been able to move to OCU. “I may be in that part of the world in a couple years,” DeAngelo said. “There’s a good physical therapist program at the Eastern Medical School and that’s where Angelica hopes to be accepted. Unless things change, I’ll go where she gets accepted as it’s not as hard to get into a physical therapist program as to get into medical school.”
“Sounds serious,” Wolf said.
it does, doesn’t it. Oh, and more good news. Joe and I got a six
months negative HIV/AIDS test. One more and we can really
sigh of relief. You two been tested?”
“Antwon and Sharky insisted we get tested while we were in Florida. Both negative,” I reported.
“Still condoms until you pass six months,” Joe said. “No exceptions.”
“Look who’s lecturing whom on safe sex.” I laughed.
“Hey, we are co-chairs of Students for Safe Sex at Monroe,” Joe said. “You have the scare DeAngelo and I did, you want to do all you can to prevent it happening to someone else.”
I realized Wolf was looking puzzled; he didn’t know what we were talking about. DeAngelo noticed too and told the whole sordid story, leaving out nothing.
Since Angelica and Katrina were not in town, the next two weeks were pretty much male playtime for the four of us and Jeremy. We swam, played some basketball and went biking. Wolf, Jeremy and Sergeant Major started us in the basics of martial arts and I knew that was something I wanted to continue. A couple days before we had to leave for Norfolk, Wolf and Jeremy put on an exhibition at the Center which Brad and Sergeant Major had promoted well and a large crowd showed up and was not disappointed.
The fall semester of my junior year and Wolf’s freshman one had been underway a couple weeks when we got an email from Marc telling Wolf he was lucky that I’d taken him out of Bigot State University. Seems the good Senator Porcher and the Anointed Word Church, which was across from ESU, had mounted a campaign to rid ESU of perverts and deviants. They were maintaining a twenty-four/seven demonstration across the street from the entrance to ESU. The university had made the usual statements about nondiscrimination and diversity and let it go at that. Nothing could be proven, but it was generally known that there were a number of faculty members and a larger percentage of the staff who supported the demonstration. Without naming names, the good senator held up Justin as an example of how a pervert and deviate could turn a good Christian into a queer. He would weep crocodile tears as he talked about how is own son, his only child, had been led down the path to perdition. Fortunately, none of that touched us directly although Wolf’s dad did email Wolf that while he couldn’t have known it at the time, he was glad Wolf had chosen to go to OCU and that I had effectively argued for it.
Wolf’s weekly radio show became a hit on campus and he was asked to add another hour, the new one to be a talk show. Wolf said he would think about it, but he was carrying a pretty heavy load and didn’t know that he wanted to add more. He brought it up at a round table gathering--we had added a beer and pizza round table on Wednesday at 10:00. That gave everyone time to study beforehand and still gave us an hour or two to shoot the bull. If there was a concern or problem, we handled those in a serious manner; otherwise it was the usual college bull session. Anyway, I suggested Wolf bring up the talk show request and he did.
“Wolf, there’re a variety of talk shows. There are those in which a know-it-all spouts his ignorance, there are call in shows which still depend on a know-it-all, then there are interview shows,” said Colin, a political science major.
“Well, you’re a good guy, Wolf, but I don’t place a great deal of confidence in your ability to tell me what to do. An interview show? With guests that students would like to hear with maybe you and a couple other students asking decent, probing questions? That I think might be a hit,” Ashley offered.
“Another idea,” Levi offered. “Our Wednesday nights are not organized at all . . . ”
“And that’s the way I like it,” Telvin said, quickly and emphatically.
“So do I,” Levi said. “However, if we had another night and a definite theme and had four experts and two of us and Wolf doing the questioning, that could be interesting.”
Beverly, who was also a mass communications major, said, “Look, we have been talking radio, but this sounds like TV or a podcast to me.”
“I’m not sure I want my place invaded even for an hour,” I said. “There would be time before to set up and a time afterward to break down the setup. We’re talking not an hour but more like three hours.”
“I still like the idea,” Beverly said.
“So do I,” Wolf said. “Very much.”
“In someone else’s backyard,” I said. “I most definitely do not want my space invaded.”
“We need to talk about it,” Wolf said. “It’s really a good idea.” I couldn’t believe he gave the idea a moment’s thought and especially after I made it clear I was much opposed to it. “Say we did it here for a month or so, just to see how it would go, then ‘go on location’ around the campus before coming back here. We could arrange scheduling around our schedule, Derek.”
Wolf talked as if it was a done deal and had not heard my objection. “We’ll talk about this later,” I said.
“Yeah, we’ll need to work out a filming schedule.”
Beverly had certainly heard my objection and, I noticed, kept an eye on me as Wolf laid out his plan. Finally she broke in and said, “There is absolutely no reason why some opening material used each week couldn’t have this actual room as a background. That would involve only one filming session. Why are there people studying set design if they can’t re-create the round table and an interview set based on this room?” Beverly asked.
“Wolf, tell them you’ll accept the project if it will be used for TV with a later podcast rather than radio if you can design the set. They’ll do it,” Philip said, “because the campus TV sucks and you have proven you can attract an audience.”
Before they had finished, they had dawn up a proposal and started making a list of topics and persons students would be interested in seeing interviewed.
Later, when I brought up the fact that Wolf had not listened when I said I didn’t want my space invaded by TV, he said he was sorry, but it was great that I had changed my mind. Somehow or other, I didn’t think I had changed my mind, but I guess I had, but only for a single filming session.
The filming session didn’t take a couple or three hours as had been suggested during the planning session; it took all day. I saw where it was headed and went to the undergrad library to get my work done as nothing could be accomplished at my place. Everything was ready before Christmas break, but the campus radio and TV made a big thing of ‘Coming in the New Year’ and announced the first broadcast would be January third and would be a regular Wednesday night feature.
The Christmas break brought up a problem I guess all couples face, namely, where would we spend Christmas? Wolf’s parents, of course, wanted him home as did Mom and my dads. We discussed it and come came up with several schemes, but found none we liked. Then, we both had the same brainstorm. “Wolf, don’t think I’m trying to get rid of you, but we spend most of our time together. In fact, about the only time we are not together is when we are in class, or when I’m diving or you are doing radio and TV. A break from each other might not be a bad idea.”
“Derek, I was thinking along similar lines.”
“How about you spending the holidays at home and getting back here for New Year’s?” I asked.
“Sounds good on this side of the separation, don’t know about it from the other side. I’ll get to drive my car so getting back is no problem. I’m sure one of the Clan would be happy to pick me up, but what about you?”
“I’ll have to be here with Auntie.”
The holidays were settled until Auntie called us down for tea. “Fellows, you’re on your own for the holidays. Eloise and her fiancé are spending the holidays with his parents in Gulfport, Mississippi. I have an invitation from an old friend who has a condo on Marco Island in Florida. Think you can handle that?” We assured her we could. So the day the holiday began, Sandy and Michael arrived to pick up Wolf and headed south and I picked up Jeremy and headed west.
Jeremy and I talked about Wolf and me being separated for the first time on our way home. “Think you might be surprised,” he said, but didn’t elaborate. Interestingly enough, while I missed Wolf, especially when I crawled into an empty bed, I very much enjoyed the week and a half at home. In case I had any question, it proved to me I really loved the guy and that he was a major part of my life, but not all of it.
One thing special did come about during my time at home. Wolf and I had talked to Brad and Sam about anal intercourse when we visited after Florida, but we had decided we weren’t ready for that. Now with time to think and talk to Brad and Sam again, I called Wolf and found out he'd had time to think and talk to Marc and Justin and we agreed we wanted to take that step. We’d start work toward preparing ourselves for that next, and large, step in our lovemaking.
Well, there was actually a second thing which came out of that holiday except it was awhile before I realized it. Jeremy and I called Mr. Manning and found he was just back from a cruise to the Bahamas he and Stu had planned last summer. He suggested we wait until the following day for a visit and come up and stay over lunch, which we did.
After the usual chit chat, Mr. Manning asked us about school, getting into the particulars and not just the generalities. “I’m sure your majors aren’t cast in concrete at this point,” he said, “but I’d be surprised if you haven’t found yourselves leaning in one direction or another.”
Jeremy laughed and said, “You’re to blame, Mr. Manning--he had long given upon having us drop the Mr.--I was leaning toward the humanities in general even before the Academy. In looking back, I think the fact that it is geared more to engineering and science had a lot to do with why I wasn’t happy there. Because of what you accomplish with high school kids, including the two of us, I have pretty much decided. I want to do a double major in English and psychology with the latter more on the counseling side of psychology.”
“So what would you do with those?” Mr. Manning asked. “Counseling?”
“No, that’s why I’m probably going to do a double major. I hate to say it, but most counselors I have known seem to spend their time doing things other than counseling. No, I plan to take enough education courses--some of the psychology courses will count--to get a teaching certificate and teach high school English. Lots of counseling gets done through the literature, journal writing and class discussions if you are willing to allow that to happen. I know. I’ve seen it in your classes time and again.”
“While that is my aim, I am honored and flattered by your comments,” Mr. Manning said and actually blushed.
“No flattery,” I said. “What Jeremy said is simply a statement of fact.”
“And you, Derek?”
“My inclination is definitely toward the sciences, more specifically biology and chemistry. I will probably major in biology and minor in chemistry.”
“Do you have any application of the two in mind?”
“Actually I did, but I am less sure now. I thought about marine biology and am still interested in it, but after talking with Antwon and Sharky, it has a great deal less appeal. Besides, I’d like something that involves more chemistry.”
“Have you given any thought to medicine?” Mr. Manning asked.
“Well, of course, given my dads I naturally thought about medicine, but only in terms of sports medicine or physical therapy. Not sure those are at all what I am interested in, so I think medicine is out.”
“There are plenty of areas in medicine where your biology and chemistry would be very important. In fact, you might even do a double major rather than a major and a minor.”
“I’ll have to give that some thought,” I responded, and I did and, in fact, while it was not official, Louis and I worked out a program that would result in a double major. It meant an extra year in college, but Auntie and my dads insisted I do it if I had any passion for it and I did.
When the heads of the two departments happened to notice what I as doing they asked for a conference. I explained why I was doing the double major and both were impressed. “There are plenty of ways to use those majors,” Dr. Levey, head of the chemistry department said. Dr. Bailey of biology agreed.
“Dick,” Dr. Bailey said, “we need to pull some strings and get the man an opportunity to see medicine being practiced.” Nothing more was said about it and I became so busy with my classes and diving that I more or less forgot about it.
Wolf also became very busy. As soon as the second semester started, his new TV program was launched with much ballyhoo and was an immediate success. After a one time attempt at sports announcing for a high school basketball team playing at OCU, Wolf was invited to be in the booth for an OCU game. He certainly added spice to the event since he was not a diehard fan and often asked questions or made comments that questioned the school's priorities. That was the end of his sports announcing career, but his following increased tremendously.
We were both looking forward to getting away for spring break. Eloise was getting married in April and had taken a leave of absence from her job with her boss' blessing, so she would be home and urged us to 'go somewhere.' Antwon and Sharky invited us back to Key West and we started planning on making the trip, but it was not to be.
Wednesday night the week before we would be leaving, Wolf got a call from his mom telling him his dad had been rushed to the hospital with what was apparently a fairly severe stroke. We quickly got things together and headed for Elizabethton. We were about half way there when Dr. Mom Lancaster called Wolf and told him his dad was being rushed to the hospital of the medical college in Norfolk, so we turned around. We had no relaxing spring break and the next six weeks were very trying.
Mom, as she insisted she be called, stayed at our place although she was reluctant to do so. She did put her foot down when we insisted she take our bed. “It's your bed and that's where you belong,” she said, refusing to budge on that point. Wolf and I were very careful about showing too much affection in her presence, so she got a real shock one afternoon. Eloise had dropped by the hospital and brought her home unexpectedly. Wolf and I had been hitting books pretty hard and were taking a break in the living room. What started as a few kisses had advanced to heavy making out. We rolled off the couch and were on the floor, shirts and jeans off, arms and legs tangled together, hard cocks pressing between us and tongues seeking the others tonsils when Mom walked in. We had not heard her coming upstairs. When she stepped into the living room, she quickly cut off the shriek which had started escaping her throat. I guess she was so shocked she was paralyzed because she just stood in the doorway, a hand over her mouth.
Wolf started laughing and said, “Mom, I guess you don't need any explanation, but in case you do, Derek and I are lovers and we were moving from simply a kiss and had reached heavy making out. A few minutes later, and you would have seen a beautiful dark chocolate naked body and a golden caramel one twined together.”
Mom blushed and said, “I should have knocked. This is your house, but you'll have to give me time to get used to two men doing more than a kiss on the cheek, much less making out.”
“We'll keep the making out to the bedroom from now on,” I said. “We were not expecting you until later.”
“Obviously,” she chuckled. “Eloise came by and brought me home. Unless something is amiss on his exam, Walter will be going back home tomorrow with a therapy plan. I'll have a home nurse three days a week, but I'm probably going to find someone to help out everyday. Getting Walter bathed and dressed is nearly more than I can do.”
“Mom, I can . . . ”
“You will do what you are here to do. If things are not going well this summer, I may consider your coming home and helping out, but it is foolish for you to come to do a job that someone will do for minimum wage and be glad to have it. You are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing and need to be doing, getting an education. By the way, I do think you have good taste in men. Too bad you two can't make babies.”
Wolf and I had been so occupied with his father in addition to carrying a heavy class load and in my case, diving and in Wolf's, radio and TV that we were pretty exhausted. Also, we were not doing as well in school as we would have liked. Our friends helped all they could and we were very grateful for that, but we still had so much that we had to do. The study groups all decided to spend twenty minutes before starting on the current work finding areas in which Wolf and I needed work and helping us get up to speed. Because of their help, we finished the semester with more Bs than we would have liked, but there was no grade below a B.
We were discussing summer plans the day after the last exam when the phone rang. Since his dad had gone home and things were going well there, we were not expecting any bad news and the news wasn't all bad, but it certainly changed our summer plans in a major way.
I picked up the phone and said, “Derek here.”
“Derek, Dr. Bailey. What are your plans for the summer?”
“Well, I planned to take a couple of courses both sessions. Since I'm doing a double major, I'll be here forever if I don't take advantage of the summer term.”
“Ever think about an independent study?”
“Dr. Bailey, I'm not sure I even know what that is.”
“An independent study is an on-your-own project under the supervision of an approved professional. I think I have something worth your while if you are interested. It would get you away from the campus and into new territory and give you some hands-on experience. I'm afraid a decision has to be made within a few days, so if you think you might be interested, give me a call and we'll set up an appointment.”
“I'm at least interested enough to come in to talk. Let's go ahead and set up an appointment.”
“I believe you finished your exams today; am I correct?”
“So I suppose you will be out celebrating tonight and hung over tomorrow,” he laughed.
“Actually, Wolf, my boyfriend, and I were planning a quiet dinner and enjoying an evening free of school work.”
“You're in a serious relationship?”
“Very serious. We live together.”
“If you're willing to postpone your lovemaking until later, I am free tonight and we could talk after dinner. Check with your partner and give me a call if you two can come to dinner.”
Wolf and I saw no reason not to at least check out whatever Dr. Bailey had in mind, so I called him and accepted his invitation to dinner. I guess he knew students well and wanted to make sure we didn't show up in holey jeans and ratty Ts since he said, “Glad you can make it. Nothing formal, nice casual will do.”
We arrived at 6:30 and were met at the door by Dr. Bailey. “Dr. Bailey, my partner Wolf Lancaster. Wolf, Dr. Bailey, my biology mentor.”
“Nice to meet you, Wolf. You look . . . of course; you do the TV show. I have enjoyed it several times. Please come in.” When we entered the living room, Dr. Bailey said, “Derek, Wolf, this is my wife, Maria, and Dr. Joseph, a practicing physician. Maria, Dr. Joseph, this is Derek Wilson, the student we were discussing earlier, and his partner Wolf Lancaster, a campus personality.”
“Two handsome young men,” Dr. Joseph said. “I know it's almost sacrilege and blasphemy on a college campus, but please drop the doctor and call me Kathryn,” Dr. Joseph grinned as she shook our hands. I noticed Dr. Bailey didn't make a similar suggestion.
Dr. Bailey served drinks--Wolf and I had a non-alcoholic daiquiri which was quite nice. As we chatted, Kathryn kept asking questions about each of us and, I think, carefully avoiding asking questions about us as a couple. “So you are a diver, Derek. Do you swim, Wolf?”
“Only for pleasure. In fact, given my druthers, I'd seldom get in a pool. I grew up on the coast and pools are not very pleasant to one who is used to salt water.”
She finally worked her way around to the 'us' questions. “So I take it you two didn't meet at a pool.”
“Hardly,” Wolf said and told her how we met and how he came to be at OCU.
“So you are a radio and TV personality here on campus ?” Kathryn asked.
“He is, very much so,” Mrs. Bailey said. “I wouldn't miss one of Wolf's programs for the world. He is especially good at puncturing some of the academic hot air balloons around here and takes on the college-is-about-sports crowd frequently.”
The conversation continued in generalities through dinner and when coffee was served, Mrs. Bailey excused herself and Dr. Bailey led us into the study. “Derek, Dr. Levey and I have been searching for a program which will put you in touch with the medical world so you can make a sound decision about your future. We were thinking about something here in Norfolk or Newport News. A hospital or clinic situation seemed the best bet. Then Mrs. Bailey mentioned her college classmate, Dr. Joseph, was coming for a visit and that she might be able to help. So, Kathryn, the floor is yours.”
“Well, Derek, I'll tell you right off there'll not be a lot of water around since I live and work on the Navajo reservation. My mother was Navajo and my father Hopi, an unlikely marriage given the history of the two peoples. Anyway, shortly after they married, they moved away from the res. She lived most of her life in Las Vegas where my father worked in a casino. She never liked it and longed to get back to the desert. When my father died seven years ago, she went back. I had never spent any time on the reservation until she moved back. When I visited her, I got to know the people and loved them and the country.
“I had a thriving practice in Denver and was doing very well. My partner, Patricia, a nurse practitioner, and I had not taken a vacation in five or six years, so I found a young doctor and a nurse practitioner to take over the practice for three months and we traveled in Asia. Somewhere on the trip, Patricia picked up a bug, still unidentified, which attacked her lungs. Within six months she was dead. I was devastated. The practice was doing very, very well, but after losing Patricia and not being able to share the success of it, I was getting little satisfaction from it.
“Mom got very ill because there was not a doctor close by and I went down to visit and take care of her until she recovered. As soon as word got around that I was a doctor, I had patients. After I had been there a few weeks, I found I was happier than I had been since Patricia died. I decided I'd sell the practice in Denver and move to the reservation and work. Little did I know the red tape that would involve. I finally cut through it and renovated a house and built a clinic on a plot my mom had inherited.
“A few months after the clinic was opened, I was swamped and saw no relief in sight until a young man brought in a teen with a badly infected foot. He had done a great job of caring for the kid when he found him and when I asked, he said he had been an army medic and the army paid for his training as a PA, a physician's assistant. I offered him a job on the spot and he accepted.
“He had toyed with the idea of going back to medical school, but when he was honest with himself, he knew he could do just about as much with the training he already had as he‘d be able to do after he became an MD. Given the time it would take, he has decided we could manage the clinic with one MD and one PA.
“All of that is to let you know the background of what I'm offering. Dr. Bailey vouches for you as a learner and person and that's good enough for me. I'm inviting you to spend the summer working at the clinic. The pay is pretty pitiful, there's no water for swimming and the hours are likely to be long and tiring. I can guarantee you will see more and do more in the weeks you'll be with me than you would in a hospital here in a year. A lot of it will be hands on. Training will mostly be on the job, but by the end of the summer you should have a damn good idea of whether or not medicine is for you. I don't want to rush you and I know you and Wolf will have to do a lot of talking, but I really need to know by the time I leave next Thursday, a week from today.”
“Wow!” was all I could say. “What about Wolf? He's kinda important to me and has to figure into any decision I make.”
“Honestly? Unless he's interested in medicine to some degree, he would probably be bored to death. He'd see little of you and there is very little for someone who doesn't know the country to do. He might get an internship with a TV or radio station in Flagstaff, but that's over two hours away. The long and the short of it is, realistically you would be separated for the summer. Definitely something to think about.”
“If you're interested, Dr. Joseph has photos of the area and the clinic,” Dr. Bailey said.
“Of course we're interested,” I said.
We spent the next hour looking at photos on Dr. Bailey's large screen TV in the study and discussing what we were seeing. I have to be honest, I was intrigued and excited.
We finally said goodnight and Wolf and I went home. We were both silent the entire trip. When we got home, Wolf said, “Lover, I think we need to talk.” He went to the fridge and brought back a couple of beers. “I think the opportunity offered you tonight is a dream, but the idea of being separated for twelve weeks certainly does not appeal.”
“It certainly does not, but I agree the idea of really being involved in medicine for a summer certainly is like a dream. Anyway, it’s likely to be a moot question as I’ll be here with Auntie. That’s my first obligation. If I’m free, you could get an internship in Flagstaff, we could see each other every couple of weeks or so. We haven't talked about your plans. Have you applied for internships?”
“The department had me send out some audition tapes, but, of course, none was sent to Flagstaff. I'll see about that tomorrow. I suppose anywhere I get an internship will have clinics and hospitals so you might be able to work in one even if you don't have an internship.”
“Wolf, that makes it sound as though I have to wait until you get an internship and then try to find something.” To be honest, I thought Wolf was being more than a little selfish.
“Derek, let's face it. Any worthwhile internship I get will be in a larger city where there will be ample opportunities for you to do something in medicine. There aren't as many opportunities for me. Well, maybe in some tiny TV station or radio station, but that's not going to advance my career. To pass up a good internship would be too large a sacrifice.”
“Would being separated for twelve weeks or so be too big a sacrifice?”
“It would since we don't have to make it. You know you could find something anywhere I end up.” That pretty much concluded the discussion and I went to bed depressed wishing we had a kitchen table because so far as I was concerned, nothing had been resolved.
Friday morning Wolf got a call from his mom. His dad was doing ok, but she wanted him home for a family conference. He asked me to go, but I begged off. I was still upset over our discussion the night before and more than a little depressed at not even being allowed the possibility of going to Kathryn's clinic.
Wolf left after his 11:00 class and I went home and had lunch with Auntie. I needed to talk with her about the summer since I was obligated to be there for her and no other arrangements had been made. I also wanted to talk with her about the situation with Wolf.
As soon as we sat down to lunch, Auntie asked my plans for the summer. I told her they were up in the air. “Well, you don't have to worry about me. I have very few friends left--at my age you don't--but one who lives in the mountains of New Mexico has invited me to come for the summer. She thinks the air will do me good and I'm going. I'll be gone all summer, so you are free.”
I then told her about the clinic in Arizona and what it offered and she asked why I hadn't signed on before I left Dr. Bailey's. I tried to put as good a face on it as possible, saying I’d been sure I would be in Norfolk for the summer. “But you didn’t even discuss the possibility with me. Seems it would have been the first thing out of your mouth when you came down.” She saw through my fog. I told her it would involve being separated from Wolf for twelve weeks and she just looked me in the eye and asked, “So?”
I quit trying to avoid the issue and told Auntie the problem. She, as usual, went straight to the heart of the matter. “Derek, I know you love the guy. You have spent little time apart since the day you met. I think a time out would do you both good. Having said that, Wolf is being a selfish brat and you know it.” I didn't admit it to Auntie, but I did know it. “Derek, you need to talk to your daddies. Call Louis and ask him and Caroline to spend the weekend in your place and go home.”
I did as Auntie asked and Louis was delighted to have the apartment for the weekend. I packed quickly and was on the road by three, arriving as Sam was pouring wine. After hugs, Brad poured me a glass of wine, raised his glass and said, “Here's to surprise visits by our youngest child. Welcome home, beloved child.”
We settled down with our wine and I said, “Dads, I need to talk.”
“Something that needs to wait until after dinner?” Brad asked.
One unspoken rule was unpleasant topics waited until after the meal so as not to spoil it. Of course the anxiety usually did anyway, at least for the person needing to talk. “I'm not sure. It's about Wolf and my relationship. I think it's under a strain right now and maybe he doesn't know it.”
“Baby Boy”--Sam had started calling me Baby Boy at times as a joke and it had stuck. No one else would have been allowed to call me boy--“dinner can be placed on hold with no damage to it. Let's talk,” Sam said as he refilled our glasses.
I told them about meeting Dr. Bailey and what taking her up on her offer would entail and how Wolf seemed to think I should bypass that and do catch as catch can for the summer near where he got an internship.
“Ok, let's agree, Wolf is being a selfish brat, but that's not the whole problem,” Brad said. “A part of it is the feeling you can't be separated for twelve weeks. I know you have heard Sam and I have never been separated, but maybe you didn't hear the rest, we have never spent a night apart except for work and education. We have spent a lot of time separated. At times it has been very hard . . . ” Sam and I both giggled. “Well, it was.” Brad actually blushed. “But at other times, we needed to be separated to have time to be a person without the other.”
Sam said, “Derek, you and Wolf have been together constantly since the day you met. Regardless of what else happens, I think a summer apart would be wise. You may find that you really do want to be together the rest of your lives, but you might find that you are together because you fell for each other and have never looked closely at your relationship.
“Putting all that aside, Derek, I know something about isolated areas and poor and/or unavailable medical care. Dr. Joseph is right. You spend twelve weeks with her and you'll come back knowing what medicine is about. No doubt you will be alone with someone dying, you'll birth babies, you'll see a child who had appeared hopeless running and playing. You'll not be on the sidelines, but on the field and maybe the only player.”
“Then I should go regardless of what Wolf says or does? I don't know that I can do that.”
“Surely he will understand when you talk about it again,” Sam said. “Think about it this weekend. You still have a few days before you have to make a decision.”
I was surprised when I went to bed and fell asleep almost at once. During the night I dreamed about working in the clinic. I birthed a baby whose mother had been in labor too long and would have lost the baby and probably her life as well if I hadn’t been there for her. I talked to a teenager about AIDS, helped an old fellow through the DTs. It was as though I was watching a movie of myself and I was happy, very, very happy. I even thought about Wolf in the dream and hoped he was as happy as I was, but other than that, I couldn't get a feel for our relationship.
The next morning, I went to see Mom. She looked great and was doing very well. She had completed another series of contracts for the Adult Degree Program at Martha Baldwin and was well on her way to her degree. We talked about school and how much she was enjoying it. Several times in the conversation she mentioned a fellow named Tim and I finally asked, “Mom, are you getting it on with Tim?”
Mom blushed and said, “Well, I'm not sure what ‘getting it on means,’ but we are dating.”
“Good for you. DeAngelo know this? Has he met Tim? What does he think of him?”
“Actually, your brother introduced us. Tim is in the ADP as well and works at Monroe. DeAngelo heard him talking about the program and told him his mom was in it and invited us to dinner. He likes Tim a lot as do Sam and Brad.”
“Couldn't ask for better references.”
“So where's Wolf? Why isn't he here?”
“He went home for some kind of family conference and I decided to come home for the weekend.”
“Derek Wilson, you have never been able to pull the wool over my eyes. There's more going on than just a weekend trip home.” There was no getting around it, so I told Mom what was going on with me.
She listened to the whole story without interrupting, and then thought about it before she spoke, then said, “Derek, I allowed your father to bend my life to his. He made the decisions and I followed. You see where I ended up. Once he could no longer dictate my life, see what has happened? Sure, a couple has to make compromises and sacrifices, but the couple does, not one does and the other doesn't. I can't tell you what to do, but I can tell you, you have a decision to make about what kind of partnership you and Wolf will have. That, son, is one of the most important decisions you will ever make.”
I was being torn by the decision I had to make or at least thought I had to make. How was I to know that was far from the case?
Mom and I talked about other things for an hour, then as I was leaving, she said, “Derek, Son, you are a kind, generous, loving man. I don't want that to ever change. You are you, but if you decide to allow someone else to determine who, what and how you are, you are no longer that man.” I thought about all she had said as I drove aimlessly.
I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when I realized I was headed down Mr. Manning's drive. Fortunately it was Saturday or he would have been in school. I saw him working in a small field halfway down the drive, pulled over and stopped. “Ah, just what I need, help,” he laughed as I walked up. “Every year I tell Stu I'll not do a garden and by February I have ordered seed and started plants. So what are you up to out here in the boonies?”
“I needed to talk to my third dad, I guess.”
“Trouble in paradise?”
“It seems that way.” I then told him what had by now become old hat.
When I finished, he did not speak for several minutes. “Derek, one of the hardest things for us to understand is how someone we know and love can change suddenly. What we often fail to understand is that no one has changed. The other is simply not who we made him out to be, imagined him to be.
“It occurs to me that you have been told stories which have led you to believe things are not as they were. You know the story of Stu and me. We fell in love seemingly at first glance and you know us, know me very well, so love at first sight seems perfectly reasonable. Two people you love, verging on worship, Sam and Brad fell in love at first sight. Why wouldn't you think it was not only possible, but probable?
“Let's be honest, at least fifty percent and likely closer to ninety of that love at first sight was lust, desire, whatever you want to call it. For some reason, the other is compellingly attractive and arouses a mixture of feelings. Then, as a couple lives together, works together, struggles together, love deepens, but at the same time, they become more and more real, more and more who they are and less and less who they imagined each other to be. Sometimes the love has not deepened enough to sustain a relationship when the imagined other fades away as the real other is revealed. Sure it hurts. Sure you wish it didn't happen, but how much more tragic is it when the relationship continues based, not on love, but on an imagined lover in an imagined world. Does that make sense?”
I nodded and said, “Yeah!,” grinned and added, “Seems we’ve had this conversation before. Why did I keep being deluded?”
Mr. Manning grinned, “Because you are a romantic and see people and the world in the best possible light. Hope that doesn’t change, but you have to learn as well to face evidence to the contrary.”
“You’re saying I should go to Arizona?”
“No, I am not saying that. If you want my best honest opinion, I'd say go, but that's not what I am saying. Let's look at it this way. You and Wolf met. You were immediately attracted to each other. Wisely, you decided to take sex slowly, but you also took developing your relationship slowly while living as though it was full grown, mature. Part of that came about because you were never far enough away from the relationship and each other to see it as it was and as it should be and work on it. I don't like to tell someone what to do. I don't know all the ins and outs of your life, much less Wolf's, but in this case I think I know enough about relationships to say, ‘Go to Arizona. The future and health of your relationship depends on it’.”
“You know you just told me to end my relationship with Wolf,” I said as tears started forming in my eyes.
“No, I told you your relationship with Wolf has to grow or die. It cannot be static.” Mr. Manning hugged me tightly and held me as the tears poured. When I had finally stopped crying, he said, “Remember, Derek, you are standing on unknown ground. Do not make rash assumptions.”
Half an hour later I was thinking about what all the important people in my life had told me concerning my relationship with Wolf. It would require work and I was determined to work very hard at making it solid. However, I was certain that it would not be easy since I was positive that the future of that relationship and of me as my own person depended on my going to Arizona.
I was headed down the drive to Grace House when my phone rang. When I picked it up, I saw it was Wolf. Since I was on our drive and not the road, I flipped the phone open and said, “Hi, Babe.”
Words tumbled out of the mouth of a very excited Wolf. “Derek, we are going to Atlanta. I am there now. I got a call from CNN yesterday offering me a twelve week internship, half in Atlanta and half in New York. We'll only be separated six weeks while I am in New York. CNN is providing a nice apartment and Grady Hospital is not very far away and I've been assured there would be something you could do there. I am so excited. Do you realize what this means for my future career?”
“Whoa! You're in Atlanta?”
“Yeah. CNN called shortly before noon and I was able to get a flight out of Norfolk--Louis said you had gone to Stanton when I called from the airport--and got here before 9:00 last night. I have been meeting people all day and it is all so great and exciting. I can hardly wait to start. I'll finish up here tomorrow and fly back, we'll get things together, pack up the car and I'll start here Monday week.
When I was finally able to get a word in edgewise, I asked, “So, Wolf, exactly when are we going to discuss this?”
“What do you mean? What's to discuss? I mean there's nothing to discuss.
“We need to talk about it since it impacts both of us. How soon do you have to make a decision?”
“You don't understand, Derek. I have signed the agreement. I start Monday week.”
“Wolf, this is not the way a relationship works. You are acting as though you are single and free to make any decision you care to make and I am supposed to go along with it. No way would you consider being separated when it involved my going to Arizona, but when your internship requires a six weeks separation, that's okay. Take it or leave it.”
“This is different, Derek. You can do medicine anywhere. I can't do TV just anywhere and now I have been selected to intern with the best. We'll only be separated six weeks. You could fly up to New York for a couple days during that time. I don't see what your problem is. I'll be back Wednesday, so get your things ready. I've got to run now. Bye!”
'A crisis of faith occurs when the other is not as you believed him to be’; I’m not sure who said that, but he sure as hell knew what he was talking about. My dads were at home, but their bedroom door was closed. I guess to most anyone, my situation was not an emergency. Still, I only hesitated briefly before knocking softly on the closed door. There was no answer and I was turning away when the door opened and Brad grabbed me in a hug and the tears started.
Nudity was a given at Grace House, especially upstairs. Downstairs we generally were dressed at least in shorts, but upstairs? A nude Brad held me until I regained some control, then led me to the bed where Sam flipped back the sheet and I crawled in beside him and Brad lay down on my other side. Both wrapped an arm around me and held me close. No one spoke until I had cried myself out.
“Bad news, Baby Boy?” Sam asked.
“Depends entirely on whom you ask. To me, bad news, to Wolf, the best possible news.” I then told them about the phone call.
“Can you understand how important this is to Wolf? I'm sure he has dreamed of a similar situation for years,” Brad said. “Sure, he's being self-centered and wrapped up in his world right now. Later? Who can tell. When will you get a chance to talk?”
“What's to talk about?” I asked. “Wolf has signed an agreement. He is going to Atlanta. After talking with you, Mom and Mr. Manning, I am going to Arizona.”
“Derek, just because of this disagreement, have you decided it is all over. You and Wolf can decide to work on your relationship. Mr. Manning told you, a separation can be a time to grow, personally and in a relationship. Baby Boy, give it a moment's thought. You are being as rash as Wolf. He makes a decision without talking with you and you decide your relationship is all over. Wouldn't it be better to agree to go you separate ways this summer, stay in contact and make a decision as a result of your experience? After all, you both have decided on an internship for the summer, but you don't have to make a decision about your relationship now.”
“You're right, Sam, but I'll wait until Wednesday to talk with Wolf. Right now he won't let me get a word in edgewise. I do need, however, to call Kathryn and tell her I'll be in Arizona this summer.”
I had nothing pressing in Norfolk and Louis and Caroline were enjoying hell out of the apartment and Louis told me to take as long as needed. I told him I'd be back Tuesday since Wolf was returning Wednesday. Sam and Brad had me call Kathryn about what I'd need and she gave them a list of clothing as well as other things. They told her to order everything and have it ready to pick up when I got into Flagstaff.
Wednesday Wolf blew in, which is the best way to describe his arrival. It took him fifteen minutes of excited chatter before he’d run down enough to realize I had said nothing. “So, isn't it wonderful? You'll love Atlanta. It is an exciting town and Grady and Emory's medical school are connected. I met Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He said he'd help you find a situation. Aren't you excited?” Wolf finally came to a semi-halt.
“Wolf, we need to do some serious talking about our relationship. For starters, I will not be in Atlanta with you. I'm going to Arizona.”
“Now, Derek, we agreed we didn't want to be separated and that you'd find a place where I got a good internship and I got one of the best.”
“No, Wolf, we did not agree. You decided. Not only did you make that decision, but you did it without asking me and in fact, you did it without even letting me know you had been offered the internship.”
Wolf picked up a pillow from the couch and threw it across the room and started shouting about how selfish I was and how I knew what a feather in his cap the internship was. He then started poking fun at my wanting to 'ride the range, the wonder working medicine man.' He was completely out of control, hysterical.
I finally grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him. “Wolf, sit down, calm down and give me a chance to say something,” I said in a calm and I'm sure icy voice. I guess that got through to him. I then explained my view of the situation and he half listened, but mostly he was thinking about what he was going to say in response to what he was sure I would say. Finally I said, “Wolf, we'll both be very busy this summer. We'll be experiencing and learning a great deal, not least of which, I hope, will be about ourselves. We'll need to keep each other aware of what is going on with us. As everyone pointed out to me, we haven't had an opportunity to be apart and look at our relationship and the place of each of us in it. We have this summer. Let's meet half way and spend a weekend talking about our summer's experience and our relationship the last of August unless there is no need because of our experience.”
“Then we're breaking up?” he asked. “Is that your decision?”
“Not at all. We are going our separate ways this summer because we need to be in two different places. You certainly need to be with CNN, it is an excellent opportunity for you. I certainly will not be responsible for you missing it. No way are you turning that opportunity down if I have anything to say about it, but I don't need to be in Atlanta. Maybe I'd get to watch surgery. Maybe I'd get to see doctors doing rounds. Maybe I'd do something other than empty bed pans, but I certainly would not have the experience I'll have as you said 'riding the range,' not as a wonder-working medicine man, but in some cases closest someone will come to really doing the job of a doctor.
“Wolf, as Sam, Brad, Mom and Mr. Manning pointed out, we have never been separated and had an opportunity to really look at our relationship and where it needs--must--change and grow. We have now been given that opportunity. Does that mean we are breaking up? I hope not. Does it mean we might breakup? That's possible, but we have time to think and see where we are. I can tell you this, I cannot live in a one way relationship where decisions are made unilaterally. To be honest, you decided what I needed to do and where I needed to do it was secondary to what you needed to do. Even worse, you essentially said our relationship wasn't important to you or as important as what you planned to do this summer. You made a decision without even telling me about the offer. That said to me I didn't count. Well, maybe not in your book, but I do count in mine.”
“Sounds selfish and self-centered to me,” Wolf said.
“Yeah, like deciding we'd be in Atlanta and separated for six weeks after saying I couldn't go to Arizona and us be separated.”
“Well, fuck you!” Wolf shouted, walked out of living room and slammed the door.
I wanted to shout back, “Not likely,” but repressed the impulse.
Wolf quickly got together what he needed, packed and loaded the car, ready to leave. He had planned to spend the night and leave for Elizabethton early Thursday, but when he was packed, he said, “Derek, keep in touch,” kissed me on the cheek and left. I was in tears before he was out of the drive. I wondered what Wolf was thinking and realized I had no idea because the fact was I didn't know Wolf.
Auntie and I went out for dinner since she was leaving in the morning. We had a nice dinner and I was surprised that I enjoyed it. We talked about a lot of things, but Wolf and our relationship was not one of them. After dinner, I went back to an empty apartment and later to an empty bed. I'll admit I felt pretty empty myself.
Thursday morning I took Auntie to the airport at the crack of dawn and saw her through the security gate. On the way back, I had breakfast at an IHOP and, this time, returned to an empty house.
After I had sat with a blank mind, staring at nothing for fifteen minutes, I shook myself and decided to call Sharky and Antwon, little expecting an answer, but they were only a couple miles offshore so had cell service. We talked for about an hour, my explaining the situation and both encouraging me to make the best of the summer. “It will be one you'll remember in your old age,” Antwon assured me.
“Keep in touch with Wolf as best you can. Since you have dialup, you'll be pretty much limited to text, but take pictures. At the end of the summer, you'll have a good idea of whether you had a relationship or just a serious, but limited, time together,” Sharky said. “And, Dude, you did the right thing,” he said just before hanging up.
Auntie gave me money for a good camera with interchangeable lenses and I went shopping for one. I went to several shops and finally found one near the naval base where the salesman knew he had a sale, so he really did spend time determining what was best for me and helping me make a selection. After I purchased the camera and equipment, he gave me a small point and shoot camera. “This is a discontinued model and marked way down, but still hasn't sold. People want the latest. The card in this will hold several hundred pictures and the camera is small enough to keep in a pocket. Do so. You'll be surprised at the number of pictures you will take with it compared with the larger one.”
I had finished packing by 3:00 and had my bags in the car. I was taking very little as I'd be outfitted in Flagstaff. I had just finished when Louis and Caroline came by. They would be in the house for the summer in exchange for caring for the yard and house. I showed them where things were--again--and they moved in everything except themselves. They would be back early Friday to take me to the airport.
My flight didn't leave Norfolk until 9:15 and because of the time difference, I'd arrive in Flagstaff at 4:00. Since I had to change planes twice, I knew the nine hour trip would exhaust me, and it did. I took a shuttle to a hotel where Kathryn would pick me up at 8:00 the next morning.
When I had checked in, I went to the room and took a long, hot shower. Already I missed my shower and chuckled when I realized it might well be twelve weeks before my next one. After my shower, I lay across the bed just to relax a few minutes and woke up two hours later. I decided to check out a local restaurant and asked the desk clerk for a recommendation. She recommended a brew pub and told me where to sit if I didn't want to have the waiter take too close a look at my ID. I did and had a great meal and some really nice beers. The waiter added to my enjoyment as he was a real hottie and we flirted outrageously.
Back at the hotel, I thought about calling Wolf to see how he was doing, then decided not to, but finally broke down and called. There was no answer.
I slept well and awoke refreshed. I was surprised that I had been able to sleep without Wolf beside me and maybe I did because the trip had been tiring. I showered, shaved, dressed and had breakfast all before 7:30. I repacked as necessary and was ready to go when Kathryn called.
When she came up, she asked, “How’s Wolf? What’s he doing this summer?”
I told her all.
“I'm sorry for the cost to your relationship. Wolf seemed a nice guy.”
“He is, it's just that our goals for the moment are in conflict. We needed to realize that and have time to do some serious thinking about our goals and our relationship.”
“I can think of no better place to do that than where you will be. I am so glad you decided to come. I can't promise you'll be a brain surgeon by the end of the summer, but you'll have had more actual experience practicing medicine than most first year medical students. Well, let's get you outfitted.”
I expected a couple pairs of jeans and a few Ts. What I got was half a dozen pairs of really rugged jeans, as many long sleeved shirts, two pair of boots, a couple of hats and assorted other items. When I questioned her selection of a heavy jacket, she said, “You are going into some pretty rugged country. You'll be in the desert. It can get cold at night.”
Kathryn had some other shopping to do and we were finally ready to head to her place shortly after lunch. The trip from Flagstaff would take over three hours and was through country unlike any I had ever known. Everything seemed so big and open. The air was clear and sometimes you could see for miles. What I did not see were people. The small towns we saw were few and far apart, and between it was all wild, uninhabited space . “Easterners often feel lost in such places as we are passing through. They feel it is desolate and, in a way, I suppose it is, but I love it. After all it is home to me and my people and has been for hundreds and hundreds of years. I hope you'll come to love it as well, Derek.”
She talked about her work, about the country and the people. After we had been driving for over two hours, we stopped in Page and picked up a few things and were back on the road. Half an hour out of Page, Kathryn turned down a trail which was barely visible tracks. Soon even the faint tracks seemed to disappear. I realized we were descending and Kathryn explained we were going into a canyon. I was surprised when I suddenly saw a few trees and a patch of green. Kathryn pulled up in front of an adobe house. Behind the house, I saw a tiny trickle of water spilling over the rocks of the canyon wall.
“You have water!” I exclaimed.
“We do for some of the year, but we also have underground tanks which hold a six-month supply if we are careful. Right now the tanks are full and we are pretty free with our water, but still recycle much of it.
“This place has been in my family for many, many years. It has been cared for and has provided well for us. You grow things, Derek?”
“I have been learning since I started living with Auntie; mostly flowers.”
“We grow what my people have always grown, beans, corn, squash and have added things they did not know. We experiment with new things every year seeking plants that we can grow here.”
“Kathryn, you speak of 'we' and 'my people’.”
“'We' are Richard and myself. Richard is the physician's assistant I told you about. He was an army medic as I told you and earned his PA certification while he was in the army. He saw things in Iraq that left him pretty broken. In fact, no one would hire him and he was headed down a road a lot of Native Americans travel--drugs and alcohol--when an elderly uncle pretty much kidnapped him and brought him to the reservation. It took a year, but when I met him, he was in fine shape and determined to spend the rest of his life here.
“'My people’ are the Hopi and Navajo. They are traditional enemies, but like Romeo and Juliet, my mom and dad overcame that. As I told you in Norfolk, Mom was Navajo, Dad Hopi. My place was my mother's and her mother's before her and that goes back more generations than I know.”
Inside we had a glass of cold water before Kathryn showed me to my room. It was large and surprisingly cool since the outside temperature was in the nineties. “You have a closet, chest, dresser and bed. We share the bathroom. Right now, a decent shower--like fifteen minutes--is okay and will be so long as we have water. When we switch to the tanks, it'll be wet down, soap up, rinse off. You need anything, ask. If we have it, it's yours. If not, we'll get it in a week or two when someone has to go into town. By the way, I should have asked before, but do you ride?”
“Yeah, as on a horse.”
“No, I don't and don't plan to,” I laughed.
“Start changing your plans,” she smiled, but didn't laugh.
[Important, very important note: Some of my earlier stories have characters and situations that involve Native American beliefs, ceremonies, etc. all of which are Lakota and were carefully researched. They are as accurate as I could make them. Much of Journey to Love which follows involve Navajo and Hopi characters. While they made some reference to the beliefs and ceremonies of the two peoples, these have not been as thoroughly researched as the Lakota in other stories. You are strongly advised to exercise a 'willing suspension of disbelief' in regard to those. It is, again, fiction, folks.]
I shook my head and said, with a grin. “You can’t be serious.” Kathryn just looked at me with a cat-who-ate-the-canary smile on her face. “You’re serious.”
“Serious as a rattlesnake,” she said and laughed “Richard will be teaching you. There are places you'll be needed that the Land Rover cannot go, but a horse can.”
“Where is Richard?”
“He is doing a diabetes clinic. That's a disease that plagues Native Americans. There are plenty of other plagues including, as I mentioned, drugs and alcohol. Young men, especially those who live in the city, get hooked. If they can be brought back among their people and learn the old ways, they usually become great young men. There's something to be said about the power of tradition.”
When we had unloaded my things and the supplies for the house, we went to the clinic which was further down the stream. The clinic was as close to the small stream as it could be and still be safe from flash floods which occurred from time to time. It had a reception area, two rooms each with two hospital beds, two examining rooms and an operating room or as Kathryn called it, a surgery. It was bright and airy, but built so that it could be quite cozy when winter came.
When we had stowed the clinic supplies, we walked to a corral where there were three horses. All were beautiful animals, but they were so big! As we stood at the fence, they all looked at us and finally one, the smallest of the lot, walked toward us. “Seems Sundancer likes you,” Kathryn said as the horse started rubbing her head against my hand resting on the fence. “I would not have chosen the paint for you as she can be pretty frisky at times.”
“Horses with the kind of pattern she has--they also come in black and white--are called paints. Well, now is as good a time as any to get you started. Come along.”
We walked to the shelter. I guess properly speaking it was a barn, but was for storage, not for stabling the horses, and Kathryn had me pick up a saddle and a blanket. “I'm just going to learn how to put these on a horse, right?”
“Foolish boy,” Kathryn laughed, acting like what I’d said was really funny.
It took me fifteen minutes to get the saddle on the horse. I had to learn how to tighten the cinch in spite of the horse swelling her belly with air. Kathryn led Sundancer to the fence and held her so I could climb on. Once I was in the saddle, she tied the horse up and adjusted the stirrups to my legs. That done, she led the horse around the corral for almost half an hour. “I'll wait and let Richard actually start teaching you to ride. He's very good at that.”
I was still sitting on the horse when a second Land Rover drove up. “Here's Richard now,” Kathryn said. “He's much earlier than I expected.” When Richard got out of the vehicle, Kathryn called to him, “Richard, come meet Derek and see if you can make a rider out of him. I understand he's incredible in water, but maybe not so good on land.”
Approaching was a man shorter than I was, maybe five-eight, and built like a tank, not fat, muscular. He was dark and wore a red band around his head, his black hair in a kind of pony tail. I had looked at pictures of Navajo on the internet after I met Kathryn and Richard was a perfect example of a young Navajo man. Definitely a handsome man, but in a way different from any man I had ever met. He appeared to be younger than he had to be since he had been in Iraq and earned his PA certification afterward.
“Derek, Richard Singer, pleased to meet you,” he said as he extended his hand.
I leaned down from the saddle, grasped his hand and replied, “Derek Wilson, pleased to meet you, Richard.”
“I can see the way you sit on the horse you're not used to it, but swimming will have served you well when you start riding. Stomach and back muscles get a real work out and if they are not in shape, learning to ride can be pretty painful. You can anticipate a sore ass and legs, but nothing like someone not in the shape you are in. Sundancer is a pretty obedient horse, so, Kathryn, hand him the reins and let him ride around the corral.”
“You're sure?” Kathryn asked.
“Certainly. We know how to set broken bones,” he chuckled.
Kathryn handed me the reins and Richard said, “Derek, gently pull a rein to turn the horse and pull back, gently, on both to stop her. You might say 'whoa, girl' or something like that, but a gentle pull on the reins will generally get the action you want.”
I sat with the reins in my hand waiting for some action. Nothing was happening. I laughed and asked, “Where's the accelerator?”
“Just give her a gentle tap with the reins.”
I did and Sundancer started a very sedate walk around the corral. Halfway around, Richard said, “Turn her around and come back.”
I pulled back on both reins but forgot to say 'whoa,' so I guess Sundancer thought I wanted to back up and went into reverse. I pulled on the reins and said 'whoa' to stop her, but she kept going backwards. I guess we both were confused. I let the reins go slack, then started to pull back on them again and say 'whoa’, but in the process, slapped Sundancer with the reins and that was her signal to take off. I was half in and half out of the saddle, pulling back on the reins and yelling 'whoa’. Sundancer got the message and came to a very sudden stop with me hanging off the saddle.
Richard came, lifted me out of the saddle and put my feet on solid ground. “I see Kathryn wasn't joshing me when she said you've never ridden. I suspect you pulled back too hard when you wanted to stop her and that is her signal to backup. Well, in a couple weeks you'll be riding like a cowboy.” So ended my first riding lesson and before two weeks were up, I had a very sore ass, my legs ached, but I could ride, maybe like a very young cowboy, but I could ride and even walk when I got off a horse.
During those first two weeks, I also traveled with Kathryn or Richard in one of the Land Rovers, visiting clusters of dwellings and occasionally individual homes. I saw a few pregnant women, lots of injuries ranging from simple sprains to broken bones, barbed wire cuts to serious wounds from work and disease.
Almost immediately I learned ‘hands on’ meant ‘hands on’. I’d had two or three first aid courses at the Center and the skills I had learned were put to use immediately. Beyond that, both Kathryn and Richard not only told and showed me how to do things, but had me doing them under their supervision. For example, in spite of earlier efforts to make sure every child had the vaccinations needed, many had been missed and Richard soon taught me how to do them. Soon Kathryn said I was the shot giver preferred among the younger set.
When I wasn't working and one of the two regulars was available--which wasn’t often--I was receiving training in advanced first aid, midwifery, and diseases and their treatment. When I was idle and neither of the two were available, I had my nose buried in a medical text. Both Kathryn and Richard were lavish in their praise for the progress I was making. I was pretty proud of myself as well.
We had no regular phone service, land line or cell, so calling Wolf was out of the question. That was possible only when we went into town and we hadn't done that since I arrived. We absolutely depended on radios. Just how important the radios were became very clear to me when I had been at the clinic for less than a month.
Early one morning, Richard hooked a horse trailer to his Land Rover and loaded his horse. He was driving some forty miles away, then riding the horse to make a circuit among isolated families and clusters of three or four houses. Kathryn was conducting a clinic about twenty miles away. “You're in charge here,” she said as she was ready to leave. “Give me a call if you have a complicated situation, but anything less that removing a leg you can probably handle.” My doing emergency brain surgery or something similar was a running joke among us.
There was no one at the clinic so I decided it was a good time to get some work done in the garden. I had been hoeing and weeding for over an hour when I heard the bell at the clinic. Someone was ringing it furiously. I dropped my hoe and raced toward the clinic. A young man, not much older that I was, was pulling the bell rope as rapidly as he could.
“What's the problem?” I asked.
“It's my wife. She's having a baby.”
“Well, let's get her inside.” I grabbed a stretcher from just inside the clinic door and soon the two of us had the young woman on an examining table. I started washing up and as I did so asked, “What's your wife's name?”
“Sasha, Sasha Claw. I'm Jerry Claw. We're Navajo.”
“Well, let's see about this new Navajo who wants to join the family,” I said, wanting to calm the young man. Back in the examining room, I asked, “Sasha, how are you doing?” I could barely hear her response. She was not well and she knew it.
“Her water broke four hours ago. We were on our way to Shonto where there was supposed to be a midwife, but Sasha thought we better stop here.”
I had witnessed Kathryn deliver a few babies and helped out a bit. It looked easy, but then she was doing it! In the movies, they always send the husband to boil water to get him out of the way, but I needed him. At the same time, he was already pale and looked ready to faint. “Jerry, ever operate a radio?” He nodded. “Well, get on the radio and stay by it. I'm as new at this as you are.” I had him call Kathryn and he got no response. When he called Richard, reception was bad, but better than nothing. He had me examine Sasha and tell him what I saw. He finally said, “Okay, this is more complicated than it might have been, but you can handle it. First . . . ” And then we lost contact.
Before I could panic, I heard Kathryn's voice. “Derek, remain calm. Richard was able to contact me after he lost contact with you and we have a clear signal.” For the next hour she talked me through delivering, not a baby, but twins, two boys. Both looked healthy and had the required number of fingers and toes so far as I could tell. The births would have been straight forward except, as Kathryn said, the two must have been playing 'I'm first! No! I'm first.’ By the time I had them cleaned up and Sasha had cut the cord, they were pink and yelling.
How did I feel? Like a million dollars! Atlanta and Grady certainly couldn't have offered me anything to have made me feel I was being deprived out here in the desert.
The weekend after I had delivered the twins, Kathryn said Richard had left before dawn and would be away all weekend. “He's studying with an elder, at least that's his excuse, but he's also courting a young lady somewhere in the Canyon De Chelly area. I thought it was time we celebrated your first month here and delivering the twins. You might like to talk to some of your friends also. Up to a trip to Page? We'll spend the night and come back tomorrow.”
“Sounds great,” I said.
“Well, the dress code is cowboy dress up.”
“Cowboy dress up?”
“Yeah, clean jeans, your fancy cowboy boots, fancy shirt, vest and your dress hat.”
Turns out there was a third pair of boots involved in outfitting me. When we were buying boots for everyday, there as an awful lot of measuring, much more than seemed indicated. The Thursday before, Richard had come in from his day's travels and handed me a package. He and Kathryn had ordered a pair of custom-made cowboy boots which were splendid. They were ebony leather tooled with silver symbols from both the Hopi and Navajo selected by Kathryn and Richard and worked into an amazing design by the boot maker. The toes and back of the boot were covered in silver. “These are too fancy to wear,” I had commented, but Richard and Kathryn had disagreed and insisted I wear them around the house to get them broken in.
We packed and left before 6:30. On our way, we stopped beside an isolated adobe house where Kathryn said we needed to make a stop and do a check up. She knocked and the door was opened by Jerry Claw. “Derek, Kathryn, please come in!” We walked into the small but immaculate house. Sasha and the boys were in the kitchen. She had a baby in each arm, managing to nurse both, and was not disturbed by our presence.
“Looks like the boys are doing well,” I said.
“They are. They'll finish in a minute and you can take a good look at them.”
When they finished, she and Jerry changed their diapers and handed one to me and one to Kathryn. When we had the babies, Sasha spread a blanket on the kitchen table and Kathryn and I undressed them. Following what she did and said, I examined the baby and then Kathryn and I changed babies. To my eyes, the two were perfect and I asked Kathryn if she found anything amiss.
“Did you?” she asked.
“No, did I miss something?”
“Nothing I saw,” she smiled. “You and Sasha finished up a good job Jerry started.” Both husband and wife beamed and blushed at the same time.
It was a policy of the clinic to make sure any woman who came in contact with it for prenatal, delivery or postnatal care received birth control information. I was afraid Kathryn would abandon me and I'd have to perform the task, but I need not have worried. She sent me and Jerry outside so I could talk with him and she stayed with Sasha. Turned out, Jerry and Sasha were well-versed on the subject. “We’d like another child, but only a year and a half or two years down the road; after we get a whole night's sleep anyway,” Jerry laughed.
We arrived in Page for a late lunch, then went to the motel only to be told our room wouldn't be ready until check-in time which was 3:00. Kathryn suggested I swim and really get wet. When we asked the desk clerk, she was reluctant to allow it, but when Kathryn got the manager and told him the situation, he gave his okay. I changed in the restroom in the lobby and was soon in heaven. Of course, there was no diving, but I did get to swim. When I finally got out of the pool, the manager had found out who Kathryn was and upgraded our rooms to a suite and it was ready for us. When I asked about cell reception, he said the patio by the pool had excellent reception.
Since I hadn't used my cell phone for a month, I had piles of minutes and plenty of people to call. I had been thinking since I’d known we were going to Page who I should call. The first call was easy enough to decide. I dialed the phone and when it was picked up said, “Dad, Derek.”
“Baby Boy! Good to hear your voice. How are you? How's the work? What's living in the desert like?”
In the background I heard Brad say “One question at a time, Sam, and put the phone on speaker.” Sam did. “Hello, Son, how's the young'un? By the way, Mae's here.”
“Hi, Mom,” I said. “Mom, I delivered twins--boys--since I’ve been here. Saw them today and they are healthy and well.” Among the four of us, we talked for an hour. When we finally finished, I called Auntie and we spoke for fifteen minutes or so. She was having a wonderful time and feeling great.
I decided not to call Dr. Bailey or Levey. I would be sending a report to them as I had access to the internet here at the motel. Between the two of them they had come up with independent course plans which would give me fourteen hours credit, more than I could have earned in summer school. Their plans involved keeping a journal, weekly reports--which they would get as I had access to email--a final report and evaluation of the experience.
I called the house and when Louis answered, asked how things were going. “I think you may have a hard time getting us to leave,” he laughed. “You have a grand place and we are enjoying it to the fullest.” We talked for a few more minutes, then I called Levi's place.
Levi put the phone on speaker and he, Jeremy and I had a long conversation. Jeremy was currently without a woman and asked about my bringing him an Indian. “Jeremy, I haven't met a woman you could handle yet,” I laughed. “Saw one earlier today who went into labor on the way to a midwife--that was at least a twenty-five-mile drive with no roads for the first ten--and finally I delivered twin boys without a complaint from her. Well, to be honest, she helped, but I delivered the boys.”
“You delivered a baby!” Jeremy practically shouted.
“No, two babies,” I laughed. “Twins come in pairs.”
After we talked about that, and my learning to ride and all, Levi asked, “Are you using that camera?”
“Both” I said. “I'm planning on sending photos while I am here if I have time as the motel has broadband. We don't even have a telephone at the clinic. Anyone who needs to contact us has to call a volunteer who relays the message by radio.”
Finally we’d pretty much run out of things to talk about when Jeremy said, “Derek, you haven't called Wolf, have you?”
“How did you know?” I asked.
“You haven't mentioned him.”
“Jeremy,” Levi said. “I think this is something Derek needs to talk over with an old friend. I feel like I'm eavesdropping on something I shouldn't, Derek, sounds like you made a wise decision to go West, young man. Send pictures,” and cut off the speaker phone.
“I agree with Levi, Derek. I think you made a wise decision, but I'm surprised you haven't called Wolf.”
“Jeremy, I've been thinking about that and to be honest, I don't know what I have to talk with him about. Since I have been here I have spent more time alone than I have in years--ever. The country is conducive to thinking. I'm spending more and more time on horseback and Sundancer knows more about where we're going than I do, so I can think. I know I loved Wolf and I don't regret a moment I spent with him, but to be honest, I can see no way we can be together. Our aims, our goals, our values are so different. The only thing keeping you and me apart was our sexuality. That's a biggie, but when I am honest, the only thing that held Wolf and me together was our sexuality and as I have said, I am a man who is gay, not a gay who is a man. Make sense?”
“Of course, but I'm sure there was more than that involved in your relationship.”
“You're right, but Jeremy, you and I could talk for several more hours. I can think of little to talk to Wolf about other than his internship.”
“I will,” I said and meant it.
Kathryn suggested we go shopping and we did. I'm not your typical--if such exists--gay shopper, but I did enjoy spending a couple hours looking.
We found a movie we wanted to see and made reservations for dinner at 7:00 to allow us to catch the last showing of the film. Kathryn said she was taking a nap and I spent the time selecting photos and labeling them. Before I finished I had almost a hundred. I posted them on a photo sharing site and sent emails telling people how to find them. It was quarter of six when I finished and I, too, lay down for a nap. Kathryn called me at a 6:30 and I took another shower--I was taking advantage of water while I had an opportunity--and dressed.
Kathryn had picked a really nice restaurant and both the food and the service was exceptional. The only thing missing was a handsome gay waiter to flirt with.
After the movie, we went back to the hotel and Kathryn ordered sandwiches and beer. Both were good and we were pretty relaxed. I should have known the question was coming, but when it did, I was blindsided, “How's Wolf and how's his internship going?” Kathryn asked as she poured us another beer.
I stuttered and stammered before I got out, “I don't know. I haven't talked to him.”
“Kathryn, I can't think of anything we have to talk about. I talked to my dads and Mom for over an hour and to Jeremy and Levi--I'll tell you later--,” I said when she looked puzzled and I realized those were just names to her, “for an hour as well, but they were interested in what I was doing. I'm not sure Wolf will be or that I am ready to learn that.” I then told her who Levi and Jeremy were and how we were friends and really cared about what the others were doing and thinking. I also told her how I thought my relationship with Wolf was the reverse of my relationship with Jeremy.
“Your assumptions may be correct, Derek, but you owe it to Wolf and yourself to resolve any doubt either of you might have. Call him. It's 11:30 here, so it’s 1:30 in Atlanta. It's Saturday night, so I doubt he's been asleep long even if he is in bed.” With those words of advice, she said goodnight and went to her bedroom.
Reluctantly I opened my cell phone, put it down, poured the last beer and drank it before dialing Wolf's number. “Wolf Lancaster, CNN intern, I'm not available now. Please leave your name and number and I'll call back. Ciao.”
“Wolf, Derek. I'm in Page and have cell service. I'll be here until mid-morning tomorrow. You have my number.” As I closed the phone, I laughed. Wolf was likely out living it up at 1:45 in the morning and it was 11:45 in Page and well after my bedtime. I had learned quickly early to bed, early to rise might not do any thing for my physical well-being, financial status or wisdom, but it sure saved hauling in gasoline for the generator which provided electricity for the house and clinic.
I undressed, crawled into bed and thought about the evening. I had talked to friends. That set me to thinking about my relationship to Wolf. Jeremy and I had been and were friends. I was closer to him than anyone else in my life, including my dads. Would that have been true had he been gay and we didn't have our sexuality setting bounds around our relationship? I wondered. Levi and I had gone much further sexually than had Jeremy and I, but that happened only after we were friends. Jeremy was my very best friend, even closer than DeAngelo. Levi and I were not as close as Jeremy and I, but still very, very close. Philip was a good friend, definitely not as close as Levi--even if the sexual part of my and Levi's relationship is ignored--but a good, solid friend. It was in the back of my mind and I was hiding from it, but it finally bit me in the ass. Regardless of what relationship I had with Wolf, we were not friends, not in the sense that Jeremy and Levi were my friends and maybe not even as close friends Philip and I.
I dozed off, only to be awakened by an annoying noise. It took me a minute or two to realize it was my phone. In the month I hadn't heard it, I had forgotten the sound. As I flipped it open, I saw Wolf's name and noticed it was almost 2:00, almost 4:00 in Atlanta. “Wolf, what are you doing up so early?” I asked in amazement.
“Easy, having breakfast before going to bed. We haven't been to bed yet. Derek, this is one partying city. We . . . ”
“Ricky, David, Michael and Skip. Skip is team leader for my team of interns.”
“No women interns?”
“Of course and there are other interns as well, but we five are all family.”
“Yeah, you know, gay. We spend a lot of time together, a lot of time. Anyway we started out at Skip's with drinks and dinner, then went to a gay club and stayed until it got boring, then went to another and so on. I've just got back home. Why haven't you called or emailed me? I feel neglected.”
“Well, it doesn't sound as if you are being neglected, but to answer your question, I do not have access to a phone or the internet. We do have satellite TV, but we go to bed early since we only have electricity from a generator and we have to haul gasoline fifteen miles to run it. Easier just to take advantage of natural light and not worry about phones or the internet. I did upload a pile of photos this afternoon. This is the first time I have been into town where I had access to phone or internet.”
“Sounds boring. Well, I can tell you nothings boring here. I mean, my internship is okay. I'm learning something, but mostly I'm a gofer, but I'm only on duty from 9:00 until 5:00. The evenings and nights are free. I get to rub elbows with famous people and am making some good contacts for the future. I've got two more weeks here before I go to New York. I'm looking into transferring into Columbia School of Journalism and Mass Communications. A couple of important people here think I have what it takes to get in.” Wolf talked non-stop for the next twenty minutes about what he was doing, how many parties he was invited to, how he had spent the night several times with one of the ‘family’. He explained that all they did was suck each other off, but that he was really horny. He more than hinted about some drug experimentation. After another ten minutes, I realized that we had not, indeed, been friends and I hardly knew him if he was who he said he was.
Finally I had heard enough and asked, “Wolf, are we friends?”
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