Journey to Love
edited by Cole, Peter and Scott
Preface warnings apply.
“Are we what?”
“Wolf, are we friends?”
“I don't understand.”
“That's just it. I don't know you. We were sex partners, maybe even lovers, but we were not friends. We don't know each other. This is wide open country. You can see for miles. You can drive for miles and see no one. Once I leave the clinic, I may spend eight hours and see less than eight people. I have a lot of time to think, a lot of time to reflect on my life, on what I'm doing or not doing. Tonight I got to thinking. I can talk for hours with Jeremy, about his childhood, the things he likes and doesn't like, his heartaches and successes, his dreams for the future. We can be together for an hour without speaking because we don't need to. I know he would give his right arm if I needed it. I know I would for him.
“Then there's Levi. We were sex partners, but we were and are also friends. We know each other's secrets, our strengths and weaknesses. I'm not as close to Levi as I am Jeremy, but he's a close second, a very close second. Then there's Philip. He's a distant third to Jeremy, but he's still a very good friend. Do you understand? We are friends, but you and I have never become friends. We were too intent on being lovers. When I listened to you talking about your internship, I realized I did not know you. I do not know the man who parties until 4:00 in the morning. I do not know the man who spends the night with first one man, then another. Can you understand that?”
“What I can't understand is how you can go to some god-forsaken place where there's no civilization and think it's the right and good thing to do. We are young. We are supposed to be having fun. We are supposed to be enjoying life, not stuck in Bumfuck Gulch. Don't tell me you are having fun and enjoying life.”
“You won't believe it, but I am. Wolf, yesterday on my way into town, I stopped by a couple's home and saw two healthy twin boys that I delivered. How can you enjoy life more than being part of bringing new life into the world? Fun? What can be more fun than finally reaching the point where you can give your horse her rein and gallop across the ever-changing desert? Good drugs? I deal everyday with good drugs. Drugs that save lives, improve the quality of life, give a brief time free of pain. Yes, Wolf, I am enjoying life and having fun.”
“I'll never understand you,” Wolf said.
“My point, Wolf. Had we taken the time to become friends, a part of us would always be a mystery to the other, but we would also understand each other and you know, Wolf, I'll take that over a good fuck by a stranger any day.”
“Well, I hadn't planned on telling you this way and at this time, but I moved in with David last week. Sorry it had to be this way, but after what you have said, I see it was not a mistake.”
“Wolf, the only mistake is that you are doing it again. You are hopping into bed before you know each other. I hope it works out. I'll call Louis and tell him you'll be getting your things in case you want them before I get back. I do wish you luck, Wolf and I don't regret a moment we spent together.”
I closed the phone and lay back on the bed. No tears, no feeling of emptiness. Just a great feeling of relief. Wolf and I might have had a great life together, but it would have had to be built on a better foundation than our relationship was. I was sorry that it had not been and realized that our relationship was over. I think I had known that almost since I arrived, but dreaded admitting it to myself and telling Wolf. Now I had a great sense of relief. Sadness as well. Sadness for what might have been. I know that I loved the man--well, the man I’d thought he was. I had sadness because I’d lost what we might have had together. I was also sad for Wolf who was, I was afraid, headed down a road to disaster.
In the morning at breakfast, Kathryn said, “You must have had a wonderful talk with Wolf, Derek. You seem a lot . . . well, I was going to say happier, but that doesn't seem to fit.”
“Relieved, maybe?” I suggested.
“Relieved and sad.” I then told her about our conversation. “I only hope he's careful with the sex, the drugs and alcohol,” I concluded. “I really wish the best for him, I do.”
“But you’re relieved.”
“I am. I was afraid he’d be deeply hurt when I talked to him and he was not. Does make me wonder if I can ever have a real relationship, ever really be in love and be loved.”
“I wouldn’t worry too much about that,” Kathryn smiled and that made me feel better.
On the way back, we stopped by the gasoline storage tank and filled the five hundred gallon trailer tank we had left on our way out, making our trip do double duty. Back at the clinic, all seemed in order and we unloaded the Land Rover and parked the tank trailer at the generator before going to the garden to gather what produce was ready. We picked sweet corn, tomatoes and several kinds of peppers as well as green onions and a few other things. Back at the house, Kathryn set me to preparing meat for tacos while she mixed the meal to make them with. While she was cooking them, I chopped vegetables for salsa. She had not been successful in finding a lettuce that would do well in the canyon, so we had bought some and sour cream. When all was done, we took our food outside under a cottonwood tree and had tacos and beers. After this summer, I knew that any taco I had would taste like cardboard in comparison.
We had just finished eating when Richard drove up. I quickly opened a beer for him while he put together a taco, covering the filling with chili sauce which was so hot it barely needed cooking. After he finished his first mouthful, he asked, “Good trip?”
“Very good, especially the half hour showers,” I laughed.
“Understand. All well in the East?”
“All's well, had a long talk with my dads . . . ”
I realized that I had been around Richard for a month and neither of us had talked very much about ourselves. “Yeah, but before we get into that, I understand you are courting a young lady in Canyon De Chelly.”
Richard actually blushed and said, “Yeah. I am.”
“Tell me it's none of my friggin' business if it's too personal, but are you friends?”
“With Lupe? The woman I'm courting?”
“Yeah, with Lupe.”
“Very good friends. We have known each other since high school. We both lived with relatives in Chinle and went to high school there. She came to escape an abusive alcoholic father and I came to escape drugs and depression which had driven one of my brothers and a good friend to suicide. Neither of us were into sports, but got very involved in studying our own culture. We had the usual problems high school kids have and helped each other overcome them whether it was a broken heart, the death of someone we loved or simply a zit before a dance. We told each other secrets we told no one else. Were we good friends? Strange, I suppose, but I never had a male friend I was as close to as I was to Lupe.”
“Were you ever girlfriend/boyfriend?”
“In high school?” I nodded.
“No, never. I don't think it crossed our minds. I never looked at Lupe as a potential girlfriend. She was my friend, my buddy.”
“So what happened?”
“After high school, I joined the Army and Lupe went on to college. We kept in touch for a couple years, but gradually lost touch. She became a therapist specializing in addiction and related problems. She was working in Colorado when her husband was hit head on by a drunk driver and killed. That was five years ago. After a year of grieving and depression, a fellow therapist got her interested in the success some were having with Native American children who had lost their way by bringing them back to their culture, usually on a reservation.
“She had ancestral land not too far from Chinle,” Richard said, and then laughed. “I forgot that you Easterners get upset when we talk about 'not too far' when it’s means twenty or so miles. Anyway, she took half the money from the settlement she got from her husband's death and established the Pueblo, a camp for Dinè, our real name. She intended to make it co-ed, but after research, decided to make it for males, young men between fourteen and twenty who have been in trouble with the law. The place and the program are both simply called the Pueblo.
“We reconnected when I sought an elder to work with concerning my heritage and ended up with one who works with Lupe at the Pueblo. We spent hours talking about what had happened since high school and then about our hopes and dreams for the future. Then one night we had been sitting and talking for a couple hours when I looked at Lupe and saw a beautiful woman I had not noticed before. On impulse, I leaned over and kissed her. Well, we've been working on what that means for a few months now and this weekend I kinda asked her to marry me.”
“You kinda asked her?” Kathryn asked.
“Well, I was afraid she'd say 'No,' so I just asked her, 'Lupe, would it be okay if I asked you to marry me?' and she nodded and laughed. I asked, 'Would you say yes?' and she nodded. So I said, 'I take that to mean we're getting married,' and she nodded.” Kathryn and I were laughing like mad which made Richard blush even more.
“Happy for you, Richard, but does that mean I'll be alone out here?”
“Lupe suggested I operate out of her place. Old Doc Andrews, who is about eighty now, can no longer run around, but he can be my supervising physician so my PA status will be protected. We have to find someone to come here. ”
“Sounds like you are serious not only about getting married, but also your work. Okay you have less than eight weeks to get someone for Kathryn and get a wedding organized because you have to get married while I am here.”
Richard nodded then said, “So back to your dads, Derek.”
I then told Richard my story, much of which Kathryn had not heard.
When I finished, Richard asked, “So you're gay and have just broken up with a boyfriend in order to be out here?”
“I guess you could say that although I don't feel like I have broken up with anyone. It's more like someone I kinda knew just moved out of my life.”
“'Kinda knew?' That have anything to do with the question about whether or not Lupe and I were friends?”
“Sure, I got to thinking while I was in Page about my friends and realized my boyfriend and I were never friends. I guess that was the reason why who I thought he was and who he is aren't the same.” Richard and Kathryn both nodded.
I had been at the clinic over a month and was doing routine calls on my own. Tuesday Kathryn asked me to make a call several miles from the clinic. “You'll need to take Sundancer because you'll have to ride horseback the last five or six miles.” I hooked up a single horse trailer, got Sundancer loaded, checked my supplies, especially water, and was ready to leave as soon as I set the GPS to the coordinates Kathryn gave me and had her check them. “You might check on as many of the others on this list as you can, but get back before dark.”
I drove to the where the GPS indicated I should park the Land Rover and take Sundancer. I reset the GPS for the next leg of my trip. My life depended on the GPS as I could never have found my way in the desert without it. It was like a maze. I finally arrived at the floor of a small canyon where an old man sat outside a hogan, sunning himself. He and his wife lived in the traditional manner depending on the small plot of arable land and a few sheep. All else they needed was purchased with rugs the old woman wove which, nowadays, were few and far between, but still commanded top dollar. They were sparing with the few supplies they had to buy and managed.
The old woman was recovering from an ulcer on her leg, the results of her diabetic condition. I checked it and it was healing well. I had brought her next supply of insulin. While insulin could be stored at ordinary room temperature for four weeks, the days out here often got much hotter and in the winter it got too cold, Kathryn had told me. The old man had dug a hole near the small water hole and lined it with stone. It maintained a temperature acceptable for storing insulin for four weeks, but they couldn’t depend on someone from the clinic getting by every four weeks. As a result, a tiny refrigerator which used thermoelectric modules maintained a temperature for longer storage as well. All it required was sunlight for the solar cell.
I was on my way back to the Land Rover when I spied what looked like a bundle of clothes to one side of the trail. I rode toward it and got off of Sundancer to investigate. The bundle of clothes turned out to be a young man about my age, Indian or mostly Indian, who was in bad shape. He looked as if he had been severely beaten. One arm was at a strange angle and had to be broken as was one leg. I checked for a pulse and found his was weak, but steady. He was unconscious and I was sure I was beyond my depth here, the clinic was miles away and probably no one was there as I knew Kathryn and Richard were going to be gone most, if not all, of the day. I called Richard first and got no response, then Kathryn. She answered promptly. By the time I reached her, I had managed to get the young man's vital signs and did what examination I could without moving him.
After giving her his vital signs, I was surprised at her first question, “Derek, do you see any signs of a struggle?”
“None,” I replied, puzzled.
“Any indication he might have walked to where he is?”
“No, but there are drag marks with footprints beside them. I would guess he was dragged to where he is. Both disappear not too far from him as he is sheltered from the wind, but a short distance away, the wind had blown away any tracks.”
“Okay, we can assume his neck and spine are intact since had they been damaged, dragging him would have done more damage. How far are you from the Land Rover?”
“About a mile.”
“Can you get it closer?”
“I'll have to unhook the trailer and back in, but I can get within a couple hundred feet, I think.”
“Be careful. I don't want you stuck out there. That would help no one. Get as close as you can, get him in the Land Rover and head for the clinic. We should arrive about the same time.”
I knew moving him with his broken limbs was a definite no-no without splints. There were, of course, splints in the vehicle. I rode Sundancer to the Land Rover, took the trailer loose, tied Sundancer to the front bumper and climbed into the Land Rover. I backed it as close to the man as I dared. I got out, got the splints and larger medical kit from the back and walked to the young man.
The bones in the arm seemed to slip in to place easily and I splinted it, hoping I had actually set it. The leg was another question all together. I carefully splinted it and then surveyed the situation. I still had the problem of moving him. Physically I thought I might be able to carry him, but that didn't seem like a good idea. I suddenly had a bright idea and said to myself, 'Okay, so we're not in Plains country, but why not use a Plains Indian device?’
I took the stretcher from the vehicle, carefully got the young man on it. I untied Sundancer from the front bumper and backed her to the stretcher. Sundancer had a lot of smarts. A lot of horses wouldn't tolerate doing something as out of the ordinary as Sundancer did when I rigged the stretcher as a travois. When we reached the Land Rover, I picked up the ends of the stretcher and managed to get Sundancer turned around and backing toward the vehicle. When I could rest the ends of the stretcher poles on the gate of the Land Rover, I did so and climbed inside. Again, I called to Sundancer and gave her instructions to back up. When her butt was against the gate, I hopped out and unfastened the stretcher. It took some effort, but I soon had the stretcher inside and strapped in place. I gave Sundancer a big hug before tying her to the back of the Land Rover and driving back to the trailer. Once I had her loaded, we headed for the clinic as fast as we could, which was not very fast. Kathryn was waiting for us when we arrived.
The two of us got the young man out of the Land Rover, on a gurney and took him to an examining room. “We'll need to save his clothes for the authorities, but keeping them in one piece is not as important as getting them off of him.” Out came our scissors and we started cutting the clothes from our John Doe. When he was undressed, Kathryn examined him and said, “My real fear is internal bleeding. From the looks of the bruises, this happened some time ago. I wonder why he was dumped in sight of the vehicle and trailer?”
“They may well not have seen them,” I said. “I found a spot sheltered from the wind and had they been coming from any direction except the north-northeast, the vehicle and trailer would have been hidden unless they looked back after dumping him.”
While we were talking, Kathryn was continuing her examination. She finally asked me to wheel the portable x-ray around and she did several x-rays. She had recently been given a digital display so x-rays were almost instantly available. “Damn good job on the arm, Derek. I'll put a cast on it, but I couldn't improve on your setting it. The leg, well, I'm not sure it can be set without surgery. He needs to be in a hospital with an orthopedic surgeon, but maybe the two of us can set it. How are his vitals?”
“Good, better than they were.”
“Fine. While I cast his arm, give him a bath so he’ll be clean in case I do have to do any surgery.”
She had finished with the cast when I had washed all of him I could reach. We turned him over and I washed the rest of his body while she studied the x-ray of his leg. After studying it for ten minutes she said, “I don't think he needs to be moved again any more than can be helped. We'll make one attempt to set the leg and if we are lucky, we can set it. If we fail, he'll have to wait until he is in better condition and go to a hospital. Even if the leg has to be re-broken, I don't think he can stand a lot more in his condition.”
Kathryn gave me instructions as I held him and she pulled and manipulated the leg and finally said. “That's it. Derek, we've done it!” Twenty minutes later, the young man was in one of the clinic beds, his leg rigged to a system of pulleys and his vital signs looking good. However, he was till in a coma. Kathryn had wondered about brain swelling. But, she had no real way of measuring it beyond what doctors had been doing for years.
After we had done all we could do, Kathryn called the tribal police and reported the attack, but since they could not question the man, all the evidence they had were his clothes. The officer who came for them also took his fingerprints in the hopes they would be on file. When Richard got back, Kathryn had him do an exam as well since he had dealt with beatings in Iraq. He had no suggestions for additional care.
Late in the afternoon, there was a radio call from the police. “Your patient has been identified as Jayden Marshall Fulton. He has a bit of a record from last year when he was picked up for hustling in Phoenix. We contacted his father who lives in Gallup, New Mexico. He denies the boy’s existence. He said he had a son until a year ago, but he doesn't now. Talked to Lupe up at the Pueblo and she said sounds as though he was a two-spirit, disowned by his father. Anyway, you have a name now. Might do tests for STDs. Guess a drug test would be meaningless since I’m sure you have given him something.” Kathryn thanked the officer and promised she would keep them aware of how he was doing.
One of the three of us sat with the man around the clock until the fourth day when we were all exhausted from keeping the clinic going and spending eight hours with Jayden and doing the chores that had to be done. Kathryn called a halt. “Outreach will have to wait, but then nothing is pressing. One of us can sleep in the room and check on Jayden every couple of hours. We'll do only what is absolutely necessary to keep the clinic going and we'll get some rest.”
“Beginning with you,” I said. She started to argue and I cut her off with, “Kathryn, let's face it. We're young, you're not. Get to bed.” She laughed and left for her bedroom. I got Richard to take the first shift sleeping in the room and I worked around the clinic cleaning and checking supplies. After cleaning up and resupplying as needed, I sat at the desk and worked on a report for Drs. Bailey and Levey. As I was preparing the report about finding the young man, I remembered I had taken a few photos with the point and shoot camera. I found the camera and uploaded them. I radioed the tribal police that I had some photos from the scene and was told someone would pick them us as soon as they could get by.
When I started looking at the photos, I remembered we all had been so busy I had neglected Sundancer. She had been as important a part of the rescue as I was. Unfortunately, the canyon was not a place for growing apples although we did grow beautiful peaches. There was adequate pasture for the horses and any food we grew or hauled in was not for the horses, but Sundancer deserved a special reward, so I swiped a couple of carrots from the garden for her. I gave her a good currying and brushing and then the carrots. She was a happy horse.
As I walked back toward the clinic, I saw a strange car coming down the trail from the rim of the canyon. Something was wrong, very wrong, because it was a luxury automobile, not one for the terrain.
A Jumbo Midget
The car was so out of place that I was immediately suspicious. Anyone with business at the clinic would not be driving a luxury automobile. Even if they owned one, they would pick a better mode of transportation. The fact that even at a distance I could see the car had dense--black--window tinting did not make me feel less nervous. I went into the clinic from the back, to avoid being seen, and shook Richard awake. Thank God, a touch and Richard was immediately awake. I quickly explained my concern and he agreed we best prepare for someone up to no good. “Radio Kathryn and tell her to stay put.” I called Kathryn and she, as Richard had been, was immediately awake. I guess being a soldier and a doctor on call conditioned you to be awake and on your feet in an instant. I quickly explained the situation and told her to stay put. She offered no argument. I had soon learned when someone told you to stop, be quiet, don’t move, etc., you did. Often your life depended on it. The desert could be dangerous as well as beautiful.
Richard said, “This may well be involved with Jayden.” He quickly covered Jayden with a sheet and wheeled him into the surgery. Richard stationed me at the reception desk and disappeared after saying, “I've got you covered.”
The car finally reached the clinic and the driver got out and opened the backdoor. A small man, dressed to the teeth, stepped out. I couldn't help but notice he was wearing cowboy boots with soles and heels which must have added almost an inch to his height, but even at that, I doubted he was five feet tall. He had a swagger like he was John Wayne as he approached the clinic. When he walked in, I said, “Good afternoon, sir. How can I help you?”
“You have Jayden Fulton here,” a statement, not a question.
“I don't believe I know you,” I responded. “I am Derek Wilson.”
“I don't give a fuck who you are. I am here for Jayden Fulton.”
“I'm sorry, sir; whether or not Mr. Fulton is in this clinic is not information I am free to release unless you are a family member. May I see some identification?”
“You can go to hell! Sammy!” he yelled at the top of his lungs.
The driver came rushing into the clinic. “Yes sir?”
“Find Jayden, then come and take care of this smart ass.” With those words, the little man turned and walked out of the clinic.
“Asshole, if you know what's good for you, you'll deliver Jayden now. Show me where he is,” the driver, I guess Sammy, snarled.
I didn't move, so he grabbed me by the arm, yanked me from the chair and shoved me ahead of him through the door to the examining rooms and surgery. After looking in the second examining room and finding it empty, he slapped me across the face, hard, and said, “If you don't want more of that and worse, show me Jayden . . . What the fuck?”
“I suggest you very slowly put your hands on top of your head and get down on the floor.” The driver started to turn around and Richard said, “This is a gun in your back. You turn around and you're dead.” The driver finally did as he was told and Richard had me tape his hands together behind his back. I used almost a whole roll of tape, then did the same with his feet. “Take him into an examining room and start an IV of saline. We'll give it awhile to work, then question him. We get some answers, we'll stop to his IV so he'll recover, otherwise we'll let the chemical do its job. We'll drive the car over a cliff and bury the two of them out in the desert--rid the world of two pieces of trash.”
We rolled him onto a lowered gurney and lifted it up. “Blindfold him, then restrain him.” Richard appeared with an IV bag of saline as I finished. He inserted the needle and set the IV for a slow drip. The bag had not been warmed, so it felt very cold entering the bloodstream. “You'll start to feel something cold entering your bloodstream,” Richard said. “That's the nacl solution. We'll give you fifteen or twenty minutes before we are ready to question you. The chemical will help keep you from lying, but its main result will be to elevate your blood pressure. That gets too high and you'll have a stroke. You'll determine how high it goes. We get answers, you get something to drop the blood pressure. It's up to you.”
“You don't kill me Big Walt will have it done.”
“And just who is Big Walt?”
“The man in the car.”
“Oh,” Richard laughed, “it's like jumbo shrimp. Does Big Walt have a last name? You have one?” The driver did not answer. Richard took the wallet from his jacket and said, “Sammy Davis Junior Akins”
“My mom loved Sammy Davis,” he shrugged.
“I’ll take him away. You man the desk.”
I went back to the front desk and waited. It was twenty minutes before the little man came in. “Where's Sammy?” he demanded. I really expected his voice to crack.
“Sammy?” I asked innocently.
“You know damn well who I'm talking about, Dickhead. Where is he?”
“Your driver went back to the examining rooms, oh, twenty or so minutes ago.”
He immediately started yelling “Sammy, Sammy,” at the top of his lungs. “Fuckface, you better produce Sammy in two minutes or you're dead meat.”
“Fine,” I said, got up and headed to the examining rooms.
“Hold it! You're not going by yourself. Just walk ahead of me very slowly.” Big Walt took a pistol from his jacket and it pointed at me. “Okay, move.”
I did as I was told and as soon as I stepped into the hall, Richard yanked me to one side, gave Big Walt's arm a chop on the wrist of the hand holding the gun. The gun went off and I felt something slam into the side of my head. It hurt like hell. “Richard, I'm shot!”
“Must be a ricochet. You're bleeding, but standing. Let's get this little guy all situated and then I'll look at it. You'll find some children's tape in the cabinet in the next room. Grab some child's restraints as well.” Big Walt was red with rage, blood vessels on his neck and forehead looked ready to burst. “Hey, don't stroke out on us. We're not finished with you. Bring him one of those children's acetylsalicylic acid tablets as well. I'm afraid he may stroke out on us.”
I brought tape and restraints and we soon had Big Walt in the same shape as his driver and placed him in the second examination room. I offered him the children's aspirin and a glass of water. He refused at first, but when I said, “Take it or leave it. It's you're blood pressure.” He took it.
I went back to the emergency room and Richard took care of my wound. “A ricochet creased your head. I need to shave it and probably put in a few stitches. Our guests can wait.” Richard worked quickly and fifteen minutes later was finished.
We both headed for the first examining room where we greeted Sammy again. Before we went in, Richard radioed the tribal police and described the situation to them. He left the radio on when we entered the room and flipped on the tape recorder used to record Kathryn’s or Richard’s comments as they attended to a patient. “How're you feeling, Sammy?”
“Take his blood pressure,” Richard said and when I did it was, of course high since the IV was adding volume and salt to his system. To make things seem worse, I added ten points when I spoke after giving Richard the numbers by hand signal. “He's at one sixty-five over a hundred and rising.”
“Normal is one twenty over eighty. Stroke level one seventy over a hundred and five. Pushing the limits here, but, hey, a stroke is death by natural causes. Are you ready to talk, Sammy?”
“Who's going to protect me from Big Walt?”
“You need protection from that shrimp?” I asked.
“You saw what he did to Jayden. Had you not fucked up the plan by finding him, he would be just bones out there on the desert.”
“That midget beat Jayden like that? I don't believe it.”
“Of course he didn't do it personally, but he was there and instructed one of his boys to do it.”
“How do you know?”
“I was there.”
“Tell us about it.”
Sammy described in great detail how Jayden had told Big Walt he was no longer hustling for him. He said Jayden, and most of those in Big Walt's stable, were throw-away kids he picked up off the streets of Phoenix. For awhile, all Big Walt asked Jayden to do was kiddie porno. Jayden looked younger than his seventeen years especially after liberal application of hair remover. Coupled with a hairy 'daddy', he became a kiddie porn favorite. After he had done that for almost a year, Big Walt had Jayden working as a prostitute, sucking guys and being sucked. Jayden had refused to get involved in the freely offered drugs and told Big Walt he'd not be fucked nor fuck anyone. One of Big Walt's best paying customers--a high ranking policeman who also protected him and his business--was at a condo on Lake Powell and called Big Walt and told him he wanted 'a piece of that boy ass.' Big Walt brought him up. He also had a couple of his enforcers to come us as well. “We were all staying in a motel in Page until the policeman had finished with Jayden.”
When Mr. Policeman tried to fuck Jayden he got a tooth knocked out. He called Big Walt who realized Jayden had created a major threat to his empire. We picked up Jayden, an enforcer beat him up and we dumped him in the desert to die. “I drove them all back to Phoenix. The policeman heard Jayden was still alive and Big Walt came here to see that the job was done right.”
When Richard questioned him, Sammy was free with naming names and providing a way for other evidence to be found. As soon as the tribal police heard child porn was involved, the FBI was called and a raid in Phoenix produced DVDs, catalogs, mailing lists and a list of national distributors. Perhaps most shocking to me was Brother Fitzsimmons’ Ministries was one of the distributors. Sammy had finished his tale long before the tribal police showed up, ready to hang Big Walt, and the FBI was not far behind, an agent having helicoptered in. The police took the two away and I didn't think influence in the Phoenix police department would be a lot of help.
With the excitement over, I hoped, I went back to check on Jayden. “Jayden, Big Walt has just been arrested by the FBI and the tribal police. Don't know if you can hear me, but if you can, I know you'll be glad.” Jayden stirred and I reached for his hand and gave it a light squeeze and he squeezed in return. “Hang in there, Jayden. I'll get the doctor.” I ran to find Kathryn and found her and Richard still talking with an FBI agent and the head of the tribal police. “Excuse me, but Jayden is waking up.”
“Is he speaking?” the FBI agent asked. I shook my head.
“And you'll not speak to him when he is until I give the okay. I hope we are clear on that.” Kathryn glared at him.
“Doctor, I wouldn't think of crossing any one of you three,” he laughed. “Besides, we have enough on Big Walt and at least a hundred others to fill a few cells. We have plenty to do, but we will want to speak to Jayden. By the way, do you know his last name?”
“Jayden Marshall Fulton,” the tribal policeman said.
“No numbers after the name?”
“Yeah, I think IV, the fourth.”
“Holy shit, man. Pardon the French, but do you know who Jaden Marshall Fulton the third is? The 'Y' was added to the name for the fourth, but otherwise the same name.”
“Afraid not,” Officer Whitehorse said.
“He's a big shot from the Gallup area. Running for Congress next year. Presently he's a state senator and the darling of the right wing.”
“So why did he throw away a kid and how will he explain that to voters?” I asked.
“So far no one's asked.”
Kathryn came back in and said, “Derek, I think you are the one to talk to Jayden. He's still weak and shaky. Special Agent Blackstone, I think it’d be wise if you'd come back tomorrow afternoon or the next day.”
"Is this the new FBI?” Officer Whitehorse asked, puzzled.
Special Agent Blackstone grinned and said, “I wish. No, this is me and my belief that we're in the same boat and can accomplish more together.” He and Officer Whitehorse said goodbye and I went in to see Jayden.
I soon learned Kathryn asked me to talk to Jayden because I was gay. In slow and halting speech with a lot of stops to rest, he talked for half an hour before I suggested he rest and we'd talk more later. In the half hour, I learned his father had found a gay magazine in his bedroom and some gay files on his computer and had given him a pretty good beating and then driven him to Phoenix and put him on the street, just as some do unwanted cats and dogs--take them far from home and dump them. He had a few dollars, but when those were gone, he panhandled, but got beat up for invading another panhandler's territory. He was standing on a corner when a guy pulled up and offered to give him twenty bucks to let him blow him. He did and although he liked it, felt dirty afterward. His third day on the streets, a guy offered him fifty dollars for a blow job and he decided to take it. When he got in the car and unzipped the guy's pants, he showed him his badge and hauled him in for hustling. He stayed in jail less than two hours before the charges were dropped and he was picked up by Sammy and taken to Big Walt's place. It was at that point I suggested he rest and he was asleep in a couple of minutes.
Over the next three days, Jayden was my responsibility. I fed him, gave him his bath, changed his dressings, checked his vitals. I also had him up and walking on crutches. He had difficulty on the crutches and couldn't walk far, but any distance was great according to Kathryn. I cared for him and I listened. Jayden still spent a great deal of time in bed, but he also spent most of the day sitting in a chair. A few days later, Kathryn changed his cast and really started him working to learn how to use his crutches.
One afternoon after he had exhausted himself walking, he was sitting in a chair. I was sitting on his bed and Kathryn on a stool and we were talking. Actually, they were talking about their background. Kathryn was Hopi and Navajo and Jayden was mostly Navajo. His mother was a pure blood Navajo and his father was three quarters. Turns out, Jayden's mother secretly taught him about his heritage and the language because his father thought he should be 'one hundred percent American.' “I never figured out what that was,” Jayden laughed, something he was doing more of.
“Know about two-spirited ones?” Kathryn asked. Jayden said he didn't and Kathryn dropped it when Richard came buzzing in. He had gone to Chinle to the Pueblo for the weekend with the idea of getting the wedding planned. He really did want it to happen before I left.
He came in all excited and said, “Things are heating up in Gallup and Phoenix,” and tossed a couple of newspapers in Jayden's lap. One from Gallup had a headline reading, 'Would-be Congressman's Son Beaten by Pimp.' A quarter of the front page was devoted to Jayden being left for dead, the clinic's finding him and our part in breaking up a child porn ring, a gay prostitution ring and corruption in the Phoenix police department. Two stories inside told how Jayden had been put on the street by his father and a second one was about throw away kids. A Phoenix newspaper focused more on the corruption in the police department and the child porn ring including a lengthy account of some surprising distributors such as Brother Fitzsimmons. Both newspapers predicted Fulton the third would drop out of the race for Congress soon.
Jayden had been in good shape. “You have to stay in shape if you want customers,” he said sadly when I commented on his physical condition. It was a definite asset in his healing. He was handling crutches well in less than a week and we spent a lot of time together as he rode with me to make calls on people. Where possible, he came along on crutches, otherwise he sat in the Land Rover or in a nice spot outside and read.
He had missed a year of school and so had not graduated in June. I guessed that made him a couple years younger than I was. “I'll be twenty my next birthday,” I said one day, “You're eighteen?”
“Next birthday,” he said, got a stricken look on his face and said, “Yeah, not eighteen and a boy whore.” I didn't know what to say. “No surprise to you, so why the silence?”
I sat in silence for awhile longer, looking at the ground. Finally I turned to him and said, “Jayden, you got paid for sex so you could eat and have a roof over your head, then not just to eat, but to stay alive. Don't tell me you didn't have some idea what would happen when you cold-cocked that policeman. Maybe technically it wasn't rape, I'm no lawyer, but to me being forced to have sex is rape and that's what happened to you. You can hate that. You do hate that, but by damn, you don't have permission to hate yourself.”
That opened the floodgates and we talked for over an hour about what had happened to him, how much he hated it and how he now thought of himself as worthless and dirty. We both did a lot of weeping that afternoon. As a result of our spending that time, I was late making my last call and very late getting home. Kathryn and Richard were both very worried about us and after I told them why, both said helping Jayden heal was part of my job. “But remember you do have a radio,” Kathryn said. I was relieved she was not angry.
Jayden's leg was still in a cast, of course, but Richard insisted he could still ride. It was an awkward process, but he was finally able to ride short distances. I noticed he was often assigned to go with me when I had short rides to do. When long rides in a vehicle were involved, he was assigned to Richard. I commented on that to Kathryn and she told me Richard was teaching him about his culture and heritage. Before his mother died, she was teaching him Dinè. He was recovering much of what he had learned as he and Richard carried on their conversation in Dinè on the longer trips.
The cast on Jayden's arm came off and he began exercising it after four weeks. I had been at the clinic for just over eight weeks. Kathryn suggested we all go to Chinle for the weekend to meet Lupe, check out the Pueblo--the home of her program for young men and the name of the program--visit and relax. Richard said we had reservations at the Holiday Inn. Lupe had managed that for us. She also booked us on a tour of Canyon De Chelly although she or Richard could have taken us since they were Navajo, but we thought a tour would be good and would leave them free to spend time together.
When we arrived, I quickly changed into Speedos and hit the pool. I swam for an hour without stopping and found what I had done for a month had not cut my endurance or speed--at least I hoped not. Jayden was impressed as were Richard and Lupe They arrived early for dinner and sat by the pool with Jayden and Kathryn.
After dinner, the two left for the Pueblo and Kathryn invited Jayden and me to her room for refreshment and to watch a movie. Since Chinle is on the reservation, there is no alcohol available, but Kathryn had brought a cooler. “Want a beer, Jayden?” She asked as she handed me one.
“I guess,” Jayden replied. “I never had beer. My johns were always into liquor.” Kathryn handed him a beer and I put out snacks she had brought.
We fell to talking and Jayden and I talked about when we realized we were gay and how we had coped with it. We both had buried ourselves in the closet until something happened. For me it had been good. I had been rescued by my dads and given a dream life; Jayden had been sent into a living hell by his father.
After we had talked about that for awhile Kathryn said, “Jayden, I have been thinking about your future. I called a lawyer in Phoenix and he thinks he can get some money for all of your abuse by Big Walt. He's working on it. Whether or not he comes through with money, Richard, Lupe and I have talked and we think a year at the Pueblo would serve you well. You could catch up with school and graduate as well as learn about your culture and heritage and have time to heal physically and emotionally. Money will be no problem. If you get anything from Big Walt, you can pay your way, otherwise, the three of us will take care of it. Think about that.”
Jayden had made real progress overcoming his emotional trauma from his time on the street and with Big Walt, but I knew he had a long way to go. Physically he was healing well, but again, he still had weeks ahead of him before his leg was fully healed. He seemed deep in thought and finally said, “Thanks, Kathryn, I'll think about it.”
I had asked Richard to try to get two beds in Jayden and my room, but it didn't happen. I helped Jayden get out of his clothes and gave him a bath--he still had the leg cast to deal with--and in bed before I showered and dressed. When I crawled into bed, I made sure I stayed on my side. “Are you afraid of me, Derek,” Jayden asked.
After thinking for a few moments, I replied, “No, Jayden, I am afraid of me. We have talked about just about everything except a biggie, my relationships.” I told him about Levi and I being fuck buddies and then about my relationship with Wolf. “Jayden, I don't want a fuck buddy relationship again and I don’t want to make the same mistake again as I did with Wolf. I find you very attractive and, whether you know it or not, you are a great person. Add to that I am horny as hell and I don't trust myself with you.”
“Derek, I'm a whore. I sucked off and got sucked off by guys for money--not that I ever got any of it--and if you want me to suck you off, I will. If you want to suck me off, that's okay . . . ”
“But it's not okay, Jayden. You are not a whore, you are a wonderful guy and are, I hope, becoming a good friend. That's what counts, that's what's important. I don't want to do anything that will keep us from becoming very good friends.”
“Do you mean that?”
Jayden fell silent and when I turned toward him, I saw tears streaming down his face. My heart went out to him and I threw caution to the wind and reached over and pulled the young man to me, wrapping him in my arms. Jayden wrapped his arms around me and cried his heart out for what seemed like hours, but was probably less than five minutes. I didn't attempt to try to stop him. He was doing what he needed to do. When his sobs stopped, I continued to hold him. Maybe five minutes later, I realized he was asleep.
I moved to a more comfortable position and hoped a more comfortable one for him as well. A light outside illuminated the room like a child's nightlight. I raised myself on an elbow and looked at Jayden sleeping. He looked so peaceful and innocent. In my heart, in spite of his having been a sex toy, he was innocent, a victim, who had to overcome the self-loathing he sometimes expressed. Yes, absolutely, I wanted this man as a friend.
Canyon De Chelly
The next morning, I helped Jayden get dressed and had showered when he called out, “Derek, are you scraping the evil from your face?” and laughed.
I opened the bathroom door after wrapping a towel around my waist. “What?”
“My mom used to laugh about white men who were so evil they had evil growing out of their face and had to scrape it away once a day.”
“Well, I guess she might have a hard time fitting me into the white man category,” and we both laughed. “I do envy your smooth face which allows you to skip the morning face-scraping ritual.”
“You do know you have a magnificent body don't you?” he asked.
“Good genes and swimming and it just happens. I never work on it because I want a magnificent body, but get the body I have doing the things I want to do.”
“You sure can swim, that's for certain. Miss it?”
“You saw me in the pool. What do you think?”
He grinned and asked, “You're on a swim team, right?”
I nodded and said, “Well, the dive team.”
Neither of us had mentioned last night and I had decided it was a closed episode. Obviously it was not. “Derek, thanks for last night. I guess I had not realized how much being put on the street and what I did to survive had done to me until last night. I also never knew what a friend really was until I realized you were not judging me or, I guess you were, but finding me innocent. Then you held me while I cried and expected nothing in return. Derek, I really want to become the person you see me to be. Maybe I am, but that's not the way I see myself; but if you see me that way maybe you are right and I am wrong. I hope that's true.”
I looked at him and felt some of the feelings I had toward Jeremy and Levi. Here was a budding friendship and I was thankful. “Jayden, there are few things in this world I am absolutely sure about, and one of those is I know I am right and you are wrong about who you are.”
After breakfast, Kathryn said we would be leaving on our tour at 9:00. “Richard and Lupe arranged and paid for the tour. Because of your leg, Jayden, they have arranged a really private tour with one of the best teams around. We'll have lunch and get back late afternoon.”
I know young people call everything awesome, but Canyon de Chelly was truly awesome. Once when I looked at Jayden and saw his eyes, I knew he was experiencing a depth of emotion I could never know. These were his people and he was discovering a part of himself which he had been denied, especially after his mother died.
Once when the driver and guide said something to each in Diné, Jayden started laughing uproariously. “What's so funny?” I asked.
Jayden laughed and said in English, “Bluesky said you must be Hopi because you looked like Black Ogre, a Hopi Kachina who deals with bratty children.” I started laughing thinking I knew a brat in Lynchburg, Virginia the real Black Ogre needed to deal with! Maybe he could include the grandmother as well.
After the tour, Kathryn gave the two a very generous tip and as we turned to leave, Bluesky called Jayden over and whispered something to him. Again, I saw that look in Jayden's eyes and didn't miss his wiping away a few tears.
We had checked out of the motel before leaving on the tour because we were spending the night at the Pueblo. It was almost an hour's drive from the motel, so we made use of the restrooms before setting out again. Kathryn suggested I drive and she got in the backseat and was asleep before we left Chinle, which wasn't long since the town was really a small village.
I suspect we were all tired from the day, not only the tour, but also it's emotional impact. Appreciating the emotional impact it had on me, I could only imagine its impact on Jayden. I thought he might have fallen asleep he was so silent, but when I glanced over at him, he was wide awake, I guess, but definitely somewhere else. I started to speak to him, but thought better of it. Instead, I started reflecting on the day, then my time in Arizona. I was a bit sad when I realized I only had four weeks left of my twelve weeks. I knew one thing; I was not the same person now I had been when I’d arrived eight short weeks ago.
I was startled when Jayden said, “Derek, how would you describe our day?”
“Jayden, I cannot even imagine trying that. Of course the scenery was awe inspiring even after having been in Arizona two months. All the cultural stuff will no doubt make me appreciate the fact that we are all different, but all the same in new ways. Emotionally it tugged at me and I felt a connection with the Navajo in some strange way. How would you describe it?”
“A step on my journey home. Amazing, Derek, I wasn't even aware of my first step and I did not take it. You did when you picked me up unconscious and lost--really lost--in the desert. I'm not sure where the journey will lead me, but I will try to honor that first step you made for me. Thanks.”
I had no idea what to expect at the Pueblo and I'll admit I was surprised to find it was actually a pueblo situated on a cliff like one of the ancient ones. “Wow,” I said as I spotted it. “Clearly we'll not be driving to the front door.”
We parked the Land Rover beside the one Richard had driven and put on backpacks and started walking. At the base of the cliff, there was the beginning of a very steep trail with a lot of switchbacks leading to the pueblo. “When there are large and heavy objects to be taken up, there is a rope and pulley system,” Kathryn explained, “but most of what is needed can be carried up.”
At the top, we were greeted by Richard and Lupe. “Welcome,” Lupe said. “We have been expecting you.” She showed us into her space. As soon as we were seated she asked about the tour. After Jayden and I had been talking for twenty minutes, I realized Kathryn had not spoken at all. “Obviously it was an experience you'll not forget soon,” Lupe said when we finally ran down.
“Never in a hundred years,” I said. “I can't begin to imagine what it meant to Jayden, but it was an experience like few others I have known.”
“As I told Derek, it was another step--maybe a giant step--on my journey home. And, as I told him, he was very special because he took the first step for me.”
“He did indeed,” Richard said.
“One of the guides got a surprise when he made a comment about Derek and I started laughing. He said Derek must be Hopi because he looked like a Black Ogre Kachina.”
“You Navajo better watch taking the Kachina lightly,” Kathryn said and it was clear she wasn’t kidding.
After a few moments’ silence, Jayden said, “As we were leaving, Bluesky, one of our guides, said to me in Diné, 'You have been chosen. I can see it.' I haven't the foggiest idea what he was talking about.”
“See, Richard, we are not the only ones who noticed,” Lupe said.
“Well, if you noticed, could you tell me what is going on?” Jayden asked.
“We don't know exactly, Jayden, but you have been chosen to be a blessing to your people. That may mean to the Navajo, it may mean all Indian peoples, who knows, but you are special just as Derek is special,” Richard replied.
“Whoa, wait a minute. This is creeping me out,” I said.
“Nothing creepy about it,” Kathryn said, “and don't think those three have a monopoly on spotting Chosen Ones. I saw it in you, Derek, when I first laid eyes on you at Dr. Bailey's. You had to be out here. Later if necessary, but best this summer so you'd not waste a year. Took some doing, but we found a friend of your Auntie and got them connected, hoping they would exchange visits, but it worked out even better with her coming for the summer.”
“So no free will?”
“Sure there's free will. You chose to come because of who you are. You were not forced, there was no eternal plan which meant you had to come. Being who you are, you wanted to come. Regret it?”
“Hell no. I was just thinking today I had only four weeks left, not how long the last eight weeks have been. It seems as though I arrived only yesterday.”
“Yes, it does,” Richard and Kathryn agreed.
“Now what about the wedding,” I asked. “I have four weeks left and I have been promised a wedding before I leave.”
“We're in a bit of a bind here,” Richard said. “We want a traditional Navajo wedding, but we're lacking some pretty important things. The medicine man I am working with, unlike most, can actually perform a legal wedding since he is a justice of the peace, so that's not a problem.”
“The problem is, we are without family. Traditionally, the families arrange the wedding, but we have none,” Lupe said.
Jayden said, “Whoa, hold on. Maybe not legally or traditionally, but Richard has a family even if one member is a Black Ogre Kachina. Oops,sorry, Kathryn. Won't happen again.”
“Kathryn, would you be my mother?” Lupe asked.
“I'd be honored.”
“So let's set a date,” Jayden demanded.
“Two weeks from today. Richard can have a week off while I am still here and I can spend some of my last week with him,” I said.
“Done,” Kathryn said, “as I believe the bride's mother does set the date.”
“The staff here will prepare the meal and the meal after the ceremony,” Lupe said.
“The meal and the meal?” I asked.
“The ceremony is very simple,” Lupe said. “Essentially the bride and groom eat corn meal--actually mush--uniting them. After the ceremony, there is a traditional meal. I know we could sit up and talk the night away, but it has been a long day for you and we have much to see and talk about tomorrow, so we best be off to bed. Kathryn, you and I will share one room and the men will share the other.”
In the room, Jayden said, “Richard, I don't want you to get any wrong ideas, but I want Derek to hold me while I sleep. I need to tell you about last night.” Jayden then told Richard what had happened last night and how today had added to his feeling and how we were growing as friends.
“Richard,” I said, “you know my feeling about sex and friendship and there is something between the two of us that is far more important than sex, even though we are both as horny as hell.”
“Talk about horny! Lupe and I made out last night until I went to bed with blue balls.”
“Listen to that. I get paid for sex, Derek has had two regular bed partners and I guess you haven't been a virgin. . . .”
“Not for a long time,” Richard laughed.
“And we're talking like middle school virgins saving it for marriage. Well, maybe it is like middle school, but I am going to jack off!” Jayden said.
No one said anything, but by silent agreement, we ignored each other as we jerked off. I was surprised that I couldn't tell who it was I was imagining as I started shooting, and man, did I shoot! Only after my spasms stopped did I remember I had nothing to clean up with and was thankful when Richard pressed a wet wipe into my hand. How he found it in the dark, I did not know. After we cleaned up, Jayden lay beside me and I held him and we both were soon asleep.
The Sunday evening when we got back to the clinic, a man was lying by the clinic door, his horse standing patiently at the rail even though it was not tied. Kathryn and I got the man inside and I started an IV while she tried to find out what was wrong with him. When she pulled off his left boot, she said, “Snakebite. Not too long ago. Get the antivenom, Derek”. Once she had started the antivenom, she said, “He's in pretty bad shape. Any damage done can't be reversed, but I think we can save his life. I will start antibiotics since there's a high risk of infection.” She selected drugs from the cabinet and injected them into the IV line. “He's very dehydrated, but the IV will take care of that. Derek, if you'll get him undressed and bathe him, and check him for anything else, I'll take care of the horse.”
The man was about Richard's age and sinewy. It was pretty obvious he spent most of his time out of doors. Navajo? Hopi? ’Breed? I couldn't tell. I almost missed a second bite on the same leg, but all I could do was cleanse the wound and hope his body could fight off the poison with the help of the antivenom. He had not cut the fang marks as old first aid books suggested, but which only made matters worse.
When Kathryn got back, she examined the man and we got him dressed in a hospital gown and in bed. “Nothing we can do now but wait. Jayden, you've had that cast on for seven weeks now. Let's do an x-ray and see what progress you've made.” She was very pleased with the x-ray and gave Jayden permission to walk without crutches, something he had already been doing a great deal of the time for about a week.
The man with the snakebite was lucky. There was tissue damage and his leg would always show that, but he didn't lose it. His family came and got him a week after we found him.
The wedding went off perfectly and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. After the wedding meal, we all left, leaving Richard and Lupe in their apartment in the Pueblo. Before we left for home, Jayden asked one of the young men in the Pueblo program if he could see where they lived. The young men had private rooms. They were small, but quite nice. The younger boys often shared a room which was the same size as the private rooms with bunked beds and under bed chests.
“Derek, I have a feeling I'm going to like it here.”
“I hope so, Jayden. I hope it all works for you. I'll think about you often, but I guess it's like being at the clinic, we'll have to depend on snail mail and I don't know how often you'll receive or be able to send mail, but we must stay in touch.”
When my last week began, Kathryn had Jayden and me in the clinic for what she had said was a coming out party. She x-rayed Jayden's leg and removed the cast. It had healed very quickly and she was very satisfied with the result.
Friday morning Kathryn suggested Jayden and I take the horses out and make the rounds of the houses near enough for us to be back by mid-afternoon. We were in no rush and talked as we allowed the horses to proceed at their own pace. When they stopped to graze a bit, we let them. At noon, we stopped under a cottonwood tree and ate lunch. “Derek, are you going to be embarrassed to death when I cry when we say goodbye tomorrow?”
“No, are you when I cry?”
“No. Will I ever see you again?”
“You will and you can take that to the bank. I don't know where or how, but we will see each other again before a year passes. Promise.”
“I know you know you saved my life when you picked me up in the desert. No argument about that. And you and Richard saved my life when Big Walt came to have me killed. No argument there either, but I'm not sure the life you saved those two times was worth a great deal. You really saved my life the weekend we spent in Canyon De Chelly. That life has a lot of growing to do and I'm determined to do it, but you saved me that weekend.”
“Jayden, I guess you didn't know it, but you also saved my life that weekend. We could have easily ended up having sex and it would have been good sex, but we both would have died in a way. You? You would have found proof that you were nothing but a whore and I would have destroyed a friendship which is very much a part of the new life I have discovered this summer. Yeah, we both discovered friendship and unconditional love this summer because we worked at loving instead of fucking.”
We sat in silence for a good long time before we mounted up and road back to the clinic.
Richard and Lupe drove up as Jayden and I were coming from the corral after caring for the horses. After hugs all around we all sat outside under a cottonwood drinking beer and eating fresh salsa with home-made chips. “Man, I am going to miss this,” I said. “Maybe you can FedEx it overnight to me once a week.”
“Yeah, I'll just schedule a weekly pick up,” Kathryn laughed. “Derek, you'll not know how to behave with broadband internet and email, even messaging and chatting.”
“I know one thing, I know I can do without that and a lot of other ‘necessities of life’ after this summer. I'll not have a lot of time for such anyway,” I added. “My schedule will be loaded with chemistry and biology this year and both have labs. I am itching to get through those and then through medical school. I definitely will forgo the huge salary of a big city specialist for an underserved area, of which there are many across this country and not all of them are underserved because the people are scattered like here.”
“So, let's talk about your summer here,” Kathryn said.
“Better yet, how about our summer here?” I asked.
“How do we start?”
“How about naming five events that hold the summer’s experience for us?”
“Fine. You go first.”
I had to think a minute and finally said, “I'm going to cheat a little since I'm combining some things and calling them one.”
“Okay,” Richard said. “What's number one?”
“Number one has to be finding Jayden and getting him well. Number two, Kathryn faith’s and trust in me evidenced by her gently pushing my self-imposed limits and showing-by-doing. Number three, it's really cheating, but it's Richard teaching me to ride and about friendship. Number four, delivering the twins, who, by the way, are healthy and growing like weeds. Number five, seeing and learning in so many ways and from so many people that love and caring heals.”
“Wow,” Lupe said. “I guess you young ones are what this is all about, so Jayden, how about you?”
“Number one is easy. There's sex and there's love. Sex without love does not help us grow, heal, be more human. Love without sex can do all of that and I can only imagine what sex with love would be like. Number two, having my life saved three times in one summer: when Derek found me, when he and Richard saved me from Big Walt and when I discovered I was not worthless and dirty the weekend we spent at Chinle. Number three, Richard helping me rediscover my Navajo heritage and Canyon De Chelly. Number four, Kathryn pushing me in so many ways, usually without my realizing it, but also the one time she got very direct when I was kinda poking fun at Hopi Kachina. Number five, last, but only because I've already kinda said it, experiencing nonjudgmental, unconditional love for the first time since my mom died when I as twelve.”
“Gee, I feel like I have missed out on so much,” Lupe said, “and I don't mean just because I haven't been part of the clinic crew. I guess since I said that about the young ones, I'm next. Number one is obviously Richard. Our courtship, learning I could love again and our marriage. Number two: discovering that in helping troubled young men find themselves through their heritage, I am finding myself in the same way. Number three: twelve graduates out of twelve high school seniors. Number four: realizing that discovering yourself through your heritage is important but not enough to enable those who choose to live in the modern world. Number five: and you all have helped me see this, it's not an evil world that leads youth astray. The world, traditional or modern, is not evil. Evil people with evil spirits lead others astray.”
“I appreciate that, Lupe,” I said, “Unfortunately, I did not get to know as much about the Pueblo as I'd like because maybe there is a way the idea can be used for troubled African-American youth. I'm afraid the pseudo-African programs do little good. So, Richard, you are on the hot seat.”
“Guess I don't have to name number one, but for the record, that's Lupe and I include all of that from meeting again to right now. Number two: watching Derek grow. His growth reminds me of Jack and the Beanstalk. He has grown so much in so short a time. Number three: helping rescue Jayden and all that came out of that. Number four: watching and learning from Kathryn. I am not only a better medical practitioner for having been with her, but also a better man. Number five: teaching two young men to ride and seeing how caring for their horses transferred to caring for people--or maybe it's the other way around.”
Kathryn came last. “Some heavy stuff children and I'll not lighten it up. Number one is Derek. As I said, I recognized something special in him the first time I saw him, but I could never have imagined the man he now is in that very young man's body. Number two is Richard and how the broken man who came here has been healed and become a superb healer; Lupe, you have to take a lot of credit for that. Number three is the team that developed here. Often when someone new comes, things fall apart, jealousy rears its ugly head, but Richard welcomed Derek with open arms and both welcomed Jayden as a lost brother. Number four: I'll have to go along with the weekend at Chinle. I wasn't privy to what was going on, but I saw it happening and it was a high point for me. Number five: Lupe and Richard's wedding and all that came before and all that followed and will follow.”
We were all silent for almost five minutes when Kathryn said, “Let's render the summer up to history and move ahead stronger because of it.”
“So, Kathryn, I leave tomorrow. Jayden leaves for the Pueblo Sunday. Richard is with Lupe. What about you?”
Before Kathryn could answer, Richard said, “Lupe and I had a long talk yesterday. She will be getting this year's group off the ground and that is a time and a half job. Remember, many of these showing up are addicts of one kind or another, some are street hustlers, some are just throwaway kids. Very few are like Jayden--and you'll need to remember that, Jayden. In short, it's not a good time to have a husband to think about. In four weeks, those who simply cannot or will not accept the Pueblo and its rules will be back with the authorities and things will begin to settle down. For those four weeks, I'll be here as usual, spending the weekends at the Pueblo. In the meantime, I am interviewing possible replacements. When I go back to the Pueblo, I will handle the work on that side of our territory.”
“I'm also interviewing,” Kathryn said. “The clinic was chosen for it's work by a foundation and awarded a ten year grant which will be used to open a second one and provide scholarships for people who want to spend a year working with the clinic as nurse practitioners, PAs or doctors. There will also be a scholarship fund for summer interns. As a matter of fact, you and Jayden are recipients of the first ones, retroactively. Jayden, your year at the Pueblo is paid for and there will be a pocket money allowance. If and when there is any money from suing Big Walt, it can go into your college fund. Derek, you have the option of keeping your diving scholarship and putting the money toward graduate school or dropping diving.”
“Kathryn, the only complaint I have about the summer is the shortage of water. I am itching to dive for hours.”
We finally had dinner and the evening ended. Lupe and Richard said goodbye as they would not see me in the morning. All three of us held a hug for a long while.
Kathryn said nothing when Jayden and I both went to my room. Once in bed he said, “Derek, I think I love you.”
I whispered in return, “Jayden, I think I love you too.”
“Maybe when we meet again, we'll know for sure.” We wrapped our arms about each other and, eventually, we slept.
Since 'early to bed; early to rise' was SOP for us, getting up and ready for the trip to Flagstaff was no problem. My flight left at 8:45, so I needed to be at the airport not later than 7:15. Everything was packed in the Land Rover ready to roll before we went to bed. We were up, had breakfast and headed for the Land Rover before 3:30. As we walked arm in arm Jayden said he would drive for awhile, but he doubted he could make the whole trip because his leg was still weak. “You may be needed to help drive back since Kathryn wants to get back today. I'll drive because all I'll do the rest of the day is sit on my ass.”
“And a nice ass it is,” Jayden said, slapping me on the butt.
“Pretty nice one you have as well,” I grinned. I guess after our statements last night and the fact that we would not be alone again, we felt free to joke around a bit.
Kathryn again climbed into the back seat and went to sleep or appeared to do so.
We had been driving for half an hour just talking about nothing at all when we fell silent. Finally, Jayden said, “Derek, I meant what I said last night,” and rested his hand on my thigh.
“So did I,” I responded. “If I stayed . . . ”
“But you're not. Maybe that's good. We'll have time to get acquainted with the people we are, not who we used to be. I had thought that would be easy for you since you are going back into the environment you left, but I woke up last night and thought about that for awhile. Sure, I'll be going into an environment I do not know and some assumptions and expectations will be placed on me. It'll be like going to a new school, I guess. You, on the other hand, are returning to an environment in which you are, all will assume, known. Unconscious expectations and assumptions abound. You'll be struggling with being who you have become, not only having to deal with the assumptions of others, but questioning your sense of who you have become. Derek, I know it's true for you, but maybe it's more so for me: I don't want to blow this. I have too much to lose.”
“So do I, Jayden, so do I.” I rested my hand on his and glanced at him. He was smiling. For the rest of our trip, the conversation was casual and light.
We had no trouble getting to the airport and getting me checked in on time. We had a cup of very bad coffee, prolonging the time before the three of us were separated. Finally, almost simultaneously we sighed and stood. “Son, you are special and I love you dearly,” Kathryn said as she hugged me.
“So are you, Mom, and I love you. Be well.” I knew Kathryn would wait there for Jayden so we could say goodbye.
We walked, hand in hand, to security. When we reached it, we both reached for the other and embraced in a hug, then as we started to break the hug, looked into each other’s eyes and our lips slowly came together in a tender kiss. We finally broke it, and as we looked into each others eyes, Jayden gave me a quick kiss, turned and ran. I walked through the scanner and as I did, someone called out, “Faggot!” I ignored him. I knew who I was and wished he had been able to say the same.
I had the window seat and a young woman, dressed for business, took the seat beside me. As she seated herself, she said, “You're a lucky dog. You have very kissable lips and a real handsome dude to kiss them.”
I chuckled, “Thanks, but that was our first kiss and maybe our last, but certainly the last one for months.”
“Don't know you or him, but you sure make an interesting couple.”
“Well, we're not exactly a couple, just very close friends.”
“Maybe in the future we'll be more than friends, only time will tell.”
“If I may ask, how did you meet him?”
I had to laugh and had a hard time getting my laughter under control. When I did, I said, “Well, to tell the truth, he was thrown away in the desert and I picked him up and brought him home.”
“This I have to hear!” For the next several minutes I gave her a very shortened account of finding Jayden.
“He's not Jayden Fulton is he?”
“Wow, then you are the hero who saved him and brought down Big Walt, started the process of cleaning up the Phoenix Police Department and exposing a kiddie porn business. You are famous.”
“Hardly,” I replied.
“Hardly? Have you been in the boonies all summer.”
Then I did laugh and said, “As a matter of fact I have--no phone, no TV, no newspapers and miles from anything.”
“Well, take it from me, you're famous.” If I was, no one in Phoenix had seemed to know or care.
I had a three hour layover in the airport in DC and could almost have rented a car and driven to Norfolk in that length of time, but didn't. I had called Levi when I got to Phoenix and he would pick me up when I got to Norfolk. He said Louis and Caroline had moved back into their place the day before so my place was waiting for me.
When I finally landed in Norfolk I was ready for a long shower and bed. I let Levi drive and asked how things were going.
“Well, your place is ready for you. Louis and Caroline spent Thursday moving back into the house and Friday and Saturday cleaning and making sure they left everything at your place in perfect condition. He swears this is his last year, but he keeps dragging his feet on his dissertation.
“ Louis, Drs. Bailey and Levey worked out your schedule. Looks like hell on earth to me. Classes start Tuesday, so you'll have one day to get acclimated after a summer among the savages,” Levi chuckled.
“Levi, I know you are just kidding and mean no harm, but what you just said is the same as someone calling you a faggot. I spent a summer among wonderful people who are far from savage and, in fact, the only savages I saw were white men who did kiddie porn, attempted murder and forced young boys and men into prostitution. So, please, never use that word again, at least in my presence.”
“Sorry, Derek, I meant no harm.”
“Neither do most of those telling faggot jokes, but they hurt just the same, right?”
“Right. So when are we going to hear about your summer?”
I said, “I suspect for the next nine months,” and laughed. “But I'll get some photos together and talk about it one evening. Levi, I think I grew up this summer and I know the person who flew into Flagstaff three months ago and the one who flew out are, in many ways, two different people.”
We pulled into the garage and Levi helped me take my things in. When we finished, I asked, “Know when Auntie is arriving?”
“I left you a note. You're to pick her up Tuesday.”
“Up to pizza and beer? Well, if there's beer here.”
“There is. Louis said he put a case in the fridge.”
I ordered pizza and while we waited, we had a beer. “So how's your love life? Telvin still the one?”
“Telvin is the one, Derek. We decided we needed a break from each other . . . ”
“Excellent idea,” I interjected.
Levi looked a bit puzzled, but continued, “I went home to the estate for four weeks, making sure it was being maintained. I realized it was foolish to have it sitting there costing money when I could not see using it for at least two and probably more years. Luckily, a real estate agent knew a company that was looking for a place for headquarters, but wanted a house away from large cities, not an office park situation. They are storing most of the furniture and have moved in upscale office furnishing and done some much needed rewiring and are paying a bundle in rent. I leased it for five years. If I need it before then, I can buy out the rest of the lease. That settled, I flew to Japan for three weeks. Telvin went home for the month, but left after a week when his mom kept shoving women at him and his dad chose to refer to him as his faggot son. He went to the outer banks of North Carolina and was a beach bum for three weeks. When the month was over, we met in a beach house near Kitty Hawk and talked about what we had found out about ourselves, about each other and our relationship. Recommend such for any couple.”
“I agree. Jeremy's back?”
“Arriving tomorrow at some unholy hour like 6:30am. Telvin's picking him up. I think he had what he thought was a growing relationship which turned out to be a summer romance when the boyfriend returned from Europe. The kid needs to learn to take things slowly.”
The pizza arrived and we opened another beer. “So what about your love life? When's Wolf to arrive?”
I knew the moment was coming, but I had pushed it to the back of my mind, but there were two people in the world that I wanted to share the whole story with; Levi and Jeremy. I took a deep breath and said, “He's not coming back to my place and probably will not be coming back to OCU. It's a long story which started when he refused to allow--and I choose the words advisedly--refused to allow me to go to the clinic because we'd be separated for twelve weeks.” I then told Levi the whole story and finished by saying, “I'll not go into my twelve weeks in Arizona, but I will say after four weeks I had a chance and called Wolf. The call went to voice mail even though it was 2:00 in the morning in Atlanta. He finally called back at 4:00. He had been partying all night, which seemed to be usual, especially on weekends. He and his gay buddies were playing musical beds and he hinted he was experimenting with drugs—‘just a little coke’. Before the call was over, I realized I didn't know him. I did a lot of thinking about that.
“Jeremy and I are extremely close friends, I can't imagine being closer to anyone. Our sexuality imposed a boundary on our becoming more, but had we both been gay, we would have had a solid foundation for our relationship; our friendship, not our sex life. I realized that Wolf and I had never given each other time and distance to really become friends. You are next closest to me as a friend. We did have a sexual relationship, but we were friends first. We remained friends when the sexual relationship ended because the friendship came first. You and Jeremy are mysteries in that no human being can completely know another, but I do know you and Jeremy. I know your core values, I know your likes and dislikes, I can sense your moods. I could never do that with Wolf because I didn't know him. We were too busy in bed or elsewhere to get to know the person behind the cock, to be blunt about it.”
“Wow, no wonder you thought Telvin and I taking time to be apart was important. I'd say you learned a hell of a lot this summer even if that is all you learned. I think Telvin and I are in the process of learning that, of working on growing our friendship and just haven't been conscious of it, but tell me, did you meet a friend?”
I laughed and said, “You'll never believe this, but I picked one up out in the desert.”
“You picked one up?”
“Literally, but I'll tell you the whole story later. Found out today it kinda made a big splash in the Southwest and even had a bit of a ripple here as it drove a few more nails in Brother Fitzsimmons’ coffin.”
“Guess I missed it while I was in Japan. Derek, I know you're exhausted, so I'll leave and let you hit the bed, but thanks for being my friend. I am deeply honored to be called friend by you, but now, straight to bed.”
“Not until I have been in the Jacuzzi and the shower until I am prune skinned. Tomorrow I plan to dive until I can't climb to the platform.” We embraced and he gave me a brief kiss on the lips.
I began to stir at 6:15, Norfolk time, but realized I didn't have to get up and went back to sleep only to be awakened by a god-awful noise of the living room sound system playing something no one could call music, at full volume. I staggered to the bathroom, pissed and staggered on into the living room. As I did, the CD changed and 'Hail to the Chief' poured from the speakers. I didn't have to open an eye or guess: Jeremy had arrived. He turned down the volume and grabbed me in a bear hug and for the first time in a long while kissed me and I mean really kissed me. Since I’d still had the remains of my morning woody, in a nanosecond my hard cock was pressing against Jeremy's leg. He put his hands on my shoulders and held me away from himself, looked down and said, “Glad to know it didn't get mistaken for a snake and shot off. Welcome home, Brother. Damn, Derek, its only 5:00 where you've been. Sorry to wake you.”
“Jeremy, my brother, when I got to sleep in, it meant sleeping until 5:00. Damn, it's good to see you!”
“Likewise, Derek, and for what it's worth coming from a straight man, you are looking great. The summer has done you good.”
“In many more ways than one and for what it's worth from a gay man, you look hot as ever.”
“Yeah, well, maybe some straight woman will discover that one day. So where's Wolf?”
“Not sure. So far as I know, he's in New York or Atlanta.”
“Trouble in the playhouse?”
“No playhouse.” I then told Jeremy much the same thing I had told Levi.
“Don't get me wrong, Derek, Wolf is a great guy, but he definitely was not for you. For all the flighty drama queen he projects, Wolf knows what he wants and he had always gotten it. Of course you agreed not to go to Arizona when he objected. That's who you are . . . “
“Jeremy, I hope you can put that in the past tense now.”
“I hope so too. Anyway, when Wolf was offered the internship, of course he took it without asking you. It was what Wolf wanted and therefore there was no reason to discuss it. Bottom line, you two could never have been friends.”
I thought about that a great deal over the next few days.
“Look, Louis, Philip, Levi and Telvin are downstairs fixing breakfast. Peter wanted to be here, but he started classes today. Caroline missed a flight and won't be in until tonight. Throw on some shorts and a T and come down. Bring pictures.”
“Later on the pictures,” I replied.
After breakfast, I suggested we take our coffee upstairs and I'd show a few pictures. I had prepared a disk of the people, the clinic, the horses and a few of the places we had patients and some scenery. What I had forgotten was there was also a folder of me and Jayden.
I had shown all those I intended to show and had turned away from the screen when Levi asked, “Is that what you picked up in the desert? Damn! Derek, Baby. He's hot!”
I turned and saw a photo taken at the Pueblo the day of Richard and Lupe's wedding. I guess for the first time I saw him through the same eyes Levi was looking through and I agreed, he was damn hot. “Yeah, Levi, I picked that up in the desert.” As the photos of Jayden and me, separately and a few together, flashed on the large flat screen, I told his story which, I realized was also my story.
When I had finished, Telvin said, “So you have a new boyfriend.”
“No, neither of us would agree to that.”
Philip asked. “So when will you see him again?”
“Maybe over the holidays, or maybe not be until spring break and maybe not until next summer.”
“Man, I’d hate to see your phone bills!” Louis laughed.
“No phones where he is.”
“Well, email is free.”
“And equally unavailable. We can write as he gets snail mail once a week, but we both are going to be very involved where we are.”
“Don't know about Jayden, but guys, Derek's schedule for next semester looks like one of those nightmares where the Registrar gets pissed off and just keeps punching keys and adding nastier and nastier classes. The guy's a rising junior already as soon as he gets his credit for the summer,” Louis said.
“And you're entering your third year writing a dissertation for which you have done the research, which, by the way, will be outdated soon,” Philip said.
“I know, I know. Done and submitted by New Years.”
Talk turned to the aquatics team. Levi had observed the new arrivals and thought there was potential there. “Well, I got to swim twice this summer, both times in a motel pool. No diving.”
I laughed, “I was in the desert, remember? After the first three weeks, we were using more water than we were collecting, so showers were like a minute to get wet, soap up and two minutes to rinse off. Today I see if I can still swim, much less dive.”
“What if you can't keep your scholarship?” Jeremy asked.
“The only way I can lose it this year is by dropping the dive team. I got so little to sign on, this year was promised. Besides, the night before I left, Kathryn told Jayden and me the clinic had gotten a large ongoing grant which included money for summer interns. We were given one retroactively. I'll do okay.”
After breakfast, Levi, Jeremy and I went to the pool where we were greeted warmly by Coach Rowe. “Lot of practice this summer guys? Ready to take some medals?”
Levi laughed, “Coach, Derek told us a short time ago he was in a pool twice--a motel pool.”
“Yeah, the desert is kinda dry.”
“Well, let's see if you have still got it.”
I decided I’d best start on the lower platform and, I'll admit, any dive I made after my first year diving could not have been much worse. I could see the pained expression on Coach's face. I climbed the platform again, collected myself and dived: Not perfect, but not the worst I had done from this platform. After half a dozen dives, I climbed to the upper platform and executed a near perfect dive.
I swam over to Coach and said, “I think I'll get the hang of it again.” He had a smile on his face as he extended a hand and pulled me from the water.
We went to the student center for lunch and several women from one study group or another joined us. Louis and Caroline came over to the table and Louis handed me my schedule. “As soon as you're settled in your classes, call Dr. Bailey and he will get back to you for an appointment for the two of you and Dr. Levey to work out the two hour independent study. Man, eighteen hours and diving. Good luck!” After he left, my schedule became a topic of discussion and we all agreed study groups would be formed quickly.
After lunch, I went home to an empty house. Strange, I had spent hours and hours alone all summer, but never felt the same emptiness I felt when I got home. I’d never felt something was missing, now I did. Part of it was the strangeness of my place without someone sharing it, I was sure. I had decided I'd not call Wolf until he called, but rethought that decision and decided that was being petty. I dialed his number and just before the call went to voice mail, a sleepy voice said, “This is Wolf.”
“Wolf, Derek. Not a good time?”
“Honestly, it's not, but I do want to talk. Can you call back at six or seven this evening?”
“Thanks.” I guess Wolf was still partying.
I spent the next couple hours sorting photos. Some I wanted to work into various slide shows, some I wanted to print, some I wanted to include in my final paper for the summer's independent study final report. I copied those I wanted printed onto a flash drive and decided to see about getting them printed today. I recalled the shop where I purchased the camera had a custom printing service and that was what I wanted. I put the photos into folders according to the size print I wanted and drove to the shop.
As I walked in, a voice said, “I was right, wasn't I? You took more photos with the point and shoot than with the other camera.”
“You remember me?”
“Sure, Derek, I don't sell that fine an outfit everyday.”
“Well, you were correct, Mr. Campbellton, but I also took a few hundred with the expensive camera as well.”
“So how many?”
“How many did I take or want printed?”
“I took about a thousand, many of which were deleted immediately, but I think I have about seven or eight hundred to work with. I have twenty-five I want printed.”
“All the same size?”
“No. I want to do several sizes. Would like to do a hundred or so but I haven't had time and from the looks of my schedule after today I'll have to schedule time to breathe.”
“I'm not busy, so let's take a look.”
The next hour we manipulated the photos, mostly cropping. As we finished each photo, it was sent to the printer. I had poster prints of Jayden, the two of us together and of us on Sundancer and Skywalker. I selected photos of Kathryn, Richard, Lupe and Jayden for eight by tens. Others I selected for other sizes including a panorama shot of the canyon with the clinic. When they were all printed, I noticed they were printed on very high quality art paper and there were several eleven by fourteens. This was going to take a real bite out of my wallet.
“Make you a deal, Derek,” Mr. Campbellton, said. “Printing's free if I can display the eleven by fourteens and you'll spend the same amount as the printing would cost on matting and frames.”
“You got a deal.” I left with black metal frames for the posters, nice plain wood frames for the eight by tens and loads of mats and ‘no frame’ mounts.
Back home, I got to work matting and framing photos. The first ones I did were two poster-sized prints of Jayden. One was of him dressed for the wedding. He was Navajo and a very proud and beautiful one. The second one was made when we found a tiny trickle of water spilling over a cliff. We had been riding for a couple hours, it was very hot and the water was sure inviting. Jayden started stripping and running toward the water. Naked as the day he was born, he stood with his back to the camera, arms apart and stretched above his head, the very picture of being alive. I loved it. Those went in my bedroom as did some eight by tens of my summer family. In the library I placed photos mostly of the country, including the panorama. The living room also had scenic photos, but also photos of the people I met and hoped I had served.
At 4:00 Levi called and said he had reservations for a private room at a nice but inexpensive place if I wanted to go. I leapt at the chance. I knew everyone except Patsy, Casey’s date. Casey was renting a place at Levi's. We had been there less than twenty minutes when I thought to myself, ‘There's Marissa in another eight or so years.’ Not only was she an airhead, she was rude, whiny and obviously ready to fuck as she had her hand down the front of Casey’s pants most of the time, clearly embarrassing him.
We had finished dinner and Casey reached down to pull Patsy's hand from his pants yet again. She gave him a grin, and stuck out her tongue to lick her lips. In a grade school teacher voice, Casey said, “Derek, I understand your 'What I did on my Summer Vacation' is pretty interesting and comes complete with photos. Would you share with the class?”
“Well, I discovered today there are over seven hundred of them, but I do have a disk of selected ones. You want to see them and listen to boring me, why not?” As soon as I answered, cell phones came out and before I knew it, we were back at my place with twenty-five or so people packed in the living room.
Dance of Head and Heart
I started the slide show which focused on the clinic--its environment, people it served and Kathryn and Richard. There were pictures of the garden, the trickle of water the canyon depended on, and the horses. There were no pictures of me which Levi pointed out and Jeremy did as well. “Maybe later,” I said quietly, hoping they wouldn't mention it again.
“No cell phone and no TV,” Patsy whined, “I'd be bored.”
“Remember Poor Richard's Almanac, 'Early to bed early to rise'? Took awhile to get used to, but since the only electricity available was from our gasoline powered generator and gasoline had to be hauled fifteen miles to get to the canyon, it made sense to go to bed at dark and get up at sunrise. I think I saw more sunrises this summer than in the rest of my life. I took a photo of each sunrise and sunset for a week. They make an interesting group of photographs. There was no time to get bored during the day. Most days we left the canyon by 6:30 or 7:00 and weren't back until 5:30 or 6:00. If we were there, we were working in the garden where we grew much of the food we ate, or doing household chores or working at the clinic. Food had to be preserved for winter. You learn to enjoy the solitude or I guess you'd go nuts.”
“What about sex?” Patsy asked. “I didn't see any girls, just that old woman. Bet you weren't thinking of her when you jacked off. Who did you think of when you jacked off?” I tried to ignore her, but she really was getting under my skin. That was at least the fifth or sixth such question of that ilk the airhead had asked.
When I showed the pictures of the twins, there was a lot of oohing and ahing. “I had been at the clinic for about three weeks when the mother's husband brought her to the clinic. They were headed to a midwife, but knew she couldn't make it and came to the clinic. I was there alone as Kathryn and Richard were out making rounds. I had seen Kathryn deliver a few babies, but I realized I hadn’t thought about doing it on my own. I had the husband use the radio and called Richard, but lost contact, but he got Kathryn to call me. From what I had been able to tell Richard, Kathryn said she thought the woman was having twins. She said that complicated things, but to keep calm. 'Women have been having babies for years,' she said. So, I helped deliver them and there they are, healthy and happy and growing like weeds.”
“Good reason to make sure you take your pills, girls.” It was Patsy again.
“Here's a photo of a man who we found at the clinic door when we came back from a weekend away. He had been bitten by a rattlesnake. He would probably have lived had he not made it to the clinic, but would have lost a leg. As it was, he had been bitten long enough before we found him that some tissue died and his leg will be disfigured, but he will be able to do what he had done before. Here are just some photos of people the clinic serves.” I just let the slide show run.
Patsy said she needed to piss and someone told her where the bathroom was since we were in the living room.
“Okay, Derek, we need to hear about your big adventure,” said Evans who was in one of last year's study groups. “I know that Brother Fitzsimmons was involved in kiddie porn and my aunt who lives in Phoenix said an OCU student named Derek Wilson had helped take him out.”
“Yeah, Derek, tell them what you brought home from the desert.” Levi grinned.
I had photos of Jayden beginning with him lying in the desert to his standing in the trickle of water. As the photos played, I realized that there was no way I could avoid the whole story since many of them had at least read about Brother Fitzsimmons. I started by telling them how Jayden had been beaten and put on the street by his own father miles from anything and anyone he knew. I said he had been picked up and forced into kiddie porn and prostitution just as Patsy came back, “Well, I know who you were fucking now.” The photo of Jayden standing under the water trickle was on the screen. “Hell yeah, that's who he was fucking. You should see the faggot's bedroom.”
I was livid. There were very few rules at my place, but one of them which had always been respected was that my bedroom was off limits. No one was ever to enter it unless I invited them. Besides, this slut had just made a claim that was not only untrue, but insulting to me and Jayden as well as implying he was a slut. I had tried ignoring her and Casey should have had sense to take her away before, but now I was beyond angry. Before Arizona, I might have been polite and pretended nothing had been said, but this was after Arizona and what she had said was filth I would not let stand.
“Patsy, I have watched you play with Casey's cock all night in a restaurant and here with twenty or more people present. Jayden would never do that. I think I am safe in saying you are not a virgin because if you are, you set a new standard for prick teasing. Jayden had sex with men and did kiddie porn to stay alive. First, simply to have something to eat and a place to sleep, then because--well, if you saw the rest of the photos and heard the whole story, you would know what else. Instead of that you have abused my hospitality by invading my privacy. Jayden Fulton has more dignity, more moral integrity, more humanness and more respect for other people in his big toe than you have in your whole being. I have never fucked him and he has never fucked me. He is one of the finest human beings I have ever met and he is, at this moment, starting a year-long program to heal the damage done to him. Now I don't know what Casey wants to do, but I want you out of my house now and you are never to show up here again. Now get the fuck out!”
“Well, get on your high horse, but you are still a fucking faggot.”
That did it. Casey had started to get up, but didn't make it before Levi and Telvin had her by her shoulders and ankles and carried her downstairs and dropped her on the curb. I was shaking all over. Why were people so cruel?
“Folks, I think we all need to leave,” Casey said. “Derek, I am so sorry. No excuse, but the little head was in control.”
“Casey, sit down,” Jeremy said. “If you want to leave later, you can, but I'd like a few minutes. First off, I want to thank Derek for what he has given us, not just tonight, but most of you have benefited from knowing Derek Wilson over the past year. But beyond that, one of the things Derek has said he learned over the summer is about friendship. Derek, Levi, stop me if you need to, but otherwise I want to talk about the man we love.”
I had no idea where this was going, but I trusted Jeremy. I guess Levi did as well, because he nodded, giving Jeremy the go ahead. Jeremy proceeded to lay it out in plain English. He talked about our relationships, mine and Levi's and mine and Wolf's. “For some slut--sorry Casey, but some of us tried to tell you--to call Derek a faggot and suggest--no, state--he was fucking someone is more than slander. Derek Wilson is a friend. I have never met Jayden, but because Derek calls him friend, that makes him more than alright in my book.”
“For all of you ready to run with the gossip, Derek is a virgin and likely to remain so until he knows he is in love with a friend, a lesson we might all take to heart even though we are not virgins.”
There was as close to absolute silence in the room as was possible with so many people packed in. Finally, Casey said. “Derek, we'd like to know the whole story behind Jayden. I know some of it, enough to know he is a brave man as are you. Again, I apologize for Patsy.”
“Nothing for you to apologize for,” I said. “This will take awhile, so if you need to go, I guess now is the time.” No one stirred. “Well, Patsy and I have one thing in common. I need to piss. Levi, if you'd direct traffic for the guest bathroom, there’s a bathroom through that door where Patsy went and some of you can follow me to the restroom off the library, but I'm first!” There was a quiet chuckle through the room, and I sensed lightening of the mood which had become pretty heavy.
For another hour I talked about the whole episode surrounding finding Jayden. When I finished, a woman reminded me I’d said he was in a year-long program and asked about it so I described it briefly. I guess if your culture was the dominant one the idea on which the Pueblo was based didn't make a lot of sense.
When everyone except Jeremy had left, he asked about spending the night and I said I wished he would. He said he had to get his toiletries and clean clothes and would be back. “I have calls to make so just lock up and come on up when you return.” When he left, I realized the difference between alone and solitude was really becoming clear to me.
I sat down in the library, welcoming the quiet after being with the crowd in the living room and I remembered I was going to call Wolf earlier. On the off chance he was still home, I called. “Hi, Derek. When did you get back?”
“Hard to believe, but I left Arizona yesterday morning. Where are you?”
“In the Big Apple. I came last week. Well, I had been here, but was home for a week and came back. I'll be living here and going to Columbia. I’m getting a small stipend from CNN, and with my college fund Dad and Mom think we can swing it. I started classes today. You at OCU?”
“Yeah, back in the house, by myself. Auntie spent the summer with a friend in New Mexico and won't be back until later. Got my schedule today and it is going to work my buns off. How did your internship go?”
Wolf said nothing for several minutes and finally said, “Derek, you could have told me how it would go. When you called me and we said goodbye, I was on a road to hell. Fortunately, one of the CNN anchors saw what was happening and we had a ‘come-to-Jesus’ session. He did everything but physically kick my ass. He told me I was the most self-centered, selfish asshole he had met in a long time and read me chapter and verse. He gave me two weeks to shape up or he'd talk to the head of the interns. The same day, two of the three I was running with got sent home. I turned myself around with a lot of help and am still struggling, but making progress.” He was quiet, I’m sure, thinking back on the summer. I waited.
“Hey,” he said suddenly, “I ran across the story of you and your boy lost in the desert. I want to hear the whole thing. I'll see what we have in the archives, but maybe we can get together for a Coke and you can tell me about it. I did see Brother Fitzsimmons was involved in it.”
“Yeah, and by the way, the boy in the desert is not a boy. He is a man in every sense of the word.”
“Never the latter and not the former yet, but I think that's a definite maybe, but we are very, very close friends.”
“As close as Jeremy?”
“In a different way, but, yeah, as close as Jeremy.”
“I was always jealous of you and Jeremy. You had something we never had.”
“Bingo,” I said. “I figured that out this summer. We were taking things slow and easy, but that only applied to specific ways of having sex. We never gave ourselves time to become friends. Wolf, friends can become lovers. I'm not sure the other way around is possible and I know it's not when you are together practically twenty-four/seven. I'm convinced without a foundation of friendship a relationship cannot last.”
“Maybe you're right. Well, keep in touch.”
“You too.” As I closed the phone I knew that if I didn't call, I'd not hear from Wolf again. That was okay now that I knew he hadn't fallen down the rabbit hole the past summer because someone yanked him out.
I called my dads and we talked for almost an hour. Jeremy came in while I was talking with them and yelled, “Hi Derek's dads.” I told them it would probably be a couple or three weeks before I got up. I hadn't looked at the aquatic meet schedule yet and I was still getting acclimated. I told Mom the same thing when I called her.
When Jeremy and I went into the bedroom, he looked at the posters of Jayden and said, “Derek, you keep those there and your willy will be so sore from overuse it'll have to be bandaged. Babe, he is one fine looking dude.”
“Jeremy, he is ten times as beautiful inside as he is outside. In spite of all he's been through he is kind, gentle, caring, loving. I'm sure there is resentment and bitterness somewhere in him, but I have never seen it. He has a year to heal and I know he will.”
“You're in love with him,” Jeremy said simply.
“I think maybe you're right,” I said with a grin as I felt a blush wash over my face. I then told Jeremy of our 'I think I love you' confessions the night before I came home.
“It's going to be a long rough year, Beloved Friend,” Jeremy said.
“I know, but if that's what it takes for Jayden to be whole, I'll wait. I'll wait no matter how long it takes.”
“Yeah, Derek, you're in love.”
I decided I'd write Jayden ’most every day in a kind of journal style, but only mail it once a week since, after all, he’d only receive mail once a week. I knew one of the staff went into Chinle on Saturday to pick up needed supplies and the mail. I mailed the week's letter on Monday to make sure it arrived in time to be picked up Saturday. Jayden's letter was mailed on Saturday and I was always eager to get home Thursdays for lunch when his weekly letter would be waiting for me. We were both afraid he’d not be able to write every week, but neither of us missed one.
I was dreading art history since it was well outside anything I knew, but was told it was a crip course, just a lot of memorizing. When I showed up the first day, I was told the course had changed and if we needed art history for our major, the registrar's office would be open to us during the class period. “If you signed up for art history as a humanities elective, what is being offered qualifies. I will be teaching a hands-on art appreciation course. Frankly, it's an experiment. We will do a survey of art history, admittedly just skimming the surface. That will be half the class. The second half will involve actually working with various media to explore the characteristics of a medium and how the artist works with it. There will be no final examination so you'll not be among those carrying a packet of postcards memorizing the artist, piece's name, date, medium, all that. Instead you will select a medium or media and create a piece of art for exhibition. It’ll be pretty much pass or fail and I will take into account your talent and skill level. Questions?” Professor Tredinik asked. There were many, but none of consequence.
I loved the course and enjoyed playing with the various media. Well, I only called it playing once and the professor corrected me saying I was creating.
The biology class required a lot of memorizing, but the labs could usually be accomplished in a little more extra time--maybe an hour--than the two hours allotted to them. Chemistry was another question all together. The scheduled two hour lab always took at least three and a half and usually four. Math was a breeze, especially with our study group.
It was four weeks into the semester before I had a free weekend. Jeremy was free as well and we packed Thursday night and loaded the car Friday morning. I made sure Auntie had everything she needed and that Louis and Caroline were staying at my place to be with her. She’d had a wonderful summer, but I could tell she was not the woman she had been a year ago. When I finally prevailed on her to get a thorough physical, the doctor changed some of her medicine and she seemed more alert, but when I went by to chat with the doctor, she said, “Derek, her body is wearing out. To be honest, I hope she goes to bed one night and doesn’t wake up rather than reaching the point where she can't do anything for herself.” I agreed.
Jeremy and I met at the car after our 10:00 class and hit the road for Stanton.
My mom and dads would have spent the whole weekend looking at photos and talking about the summer had I been willing. Mom left about ten. She drove herself, something I never expected to see. Brad had insisted she learn to drive and he and Sam helped her pick out a car.
After she left, Sam, Brad and I were sitting around the kitchen table having a beer when I noticed my dads glancing at each other. When they both got huge grins on their faces, I had had enough. “Okay, what gives with you two jokers?” I asked.
They burst out laughing and Sam said, “You don't know, do you?”
“What were you just talking about?”
“I was answering your questions about the clinic.”
“What do you think I was doing?”
The two were having a hard time controlling their laughter. “Baby Boy,” Sam said, “you have been talking for the last five minutes and haven't mentioned the clinic. You have a far away look in your eyes. You simply were not with us.”
“What do you mean? Of course I'm with you. I was answering your questions.”
“Derek, you can't fool your old dads. I bet you can't tell us the last thing we asked you or more to the point, what you were talking about,” Brad said.
“Of course I can. You asked . . . well, I was saying . . . ” I blushed. I could remember neither.
“Derek, Son, nothing seriously wrong with you. If we're lucky, it happens to all of us. Baby Boy, you are in love.”
I was thunderstruck. “Sure, Jayden and I said we thought we might be in love, but we never speak of it in our letters. We agreed what was going to develop would develop and I just never stopped to ask myself if I was in love with him,” I said. “I mean I have talked about it and the possibility, but I mean I never really . . . ”
“You didn't need to,” Sam said. “Your head hasn't kept up with your heart. You heart knows you’re head over heels in love with him, but hasn't gotten around to telling your head.”
I looked at the two of them as if they had gone nuts then felt a smile spreading across my face. I jumped up and waltzed around the room and sang, “Yes! Yes! Yes! I am in love with Jayden Marshall Fulton the fourth!”
When I finally came back to earth I asked, “How did you know?”
“Son, when you talk about Jayden, you glow. You are sure this time and it shows,” Brad said.
“What if he has decided he doesn't love me?” I asked in near panic.
“First of all, don't start the ‘what if’ crap. You are in love with him. That's what counts right now. Enjoy it.”
I went to bed and lulled myself to sleep with, ‘Jayden, I love you. I love you, Jayden.’ I was happy.
To squeeze in as much as possible, Sam planned a dinner for Saturday night. He invited Mr. Manning and Stu along with the Sergeant Major--Mrs. Willoughby was practically bed-ridden and couldn’t come--Ms. Bianchi and Mr. Malik. DeAngelo, Joe and Jeremy would, of course be there. It seemed DeAngelo and Joe now came as a set which included Angelica and Katrina. Mom and Sam spent most of Saturday in the kitchen.
Ms. Bianchi and Mr. Malik came early and they, Brad, Jeremy and I went to the pond. Missing out on swimming and diving all summer showed when I’d first started fall practice, but Jeremy and I thought I was back up to speed. I was pleased when my high school coaches and Dad Brad agreed.
Sunday for the first time in months I was in church. I had missed the Eucharist and vowed I'd get involved in a parish in Norfolk or the campus Episcopal group. Jeremy agreed with me.
We left for Norfolk at 9:00 Sunday evening since we could sleep in Monday as neither of us had a class until 10:00. Thank God for Louis!
When we got back to Norfolk, Louis and Caroline were watching TV, cuddled on the couch in the living room. “You two are welcome to spend the night if you like. I have a letter to write then it's bed for me. There are linens . . . well, you know where they are.”
“Thanks, we'll take you up on the offer,” Caroline said.
“Good weekend?” Louis asked.
“The best. Well, goodnight,” I said and went to the library and instead of sitting down at the computer, I found a sheet of nice paper and wrote Jayden a letter, opening with, 'I'm sure. Derek Edward Wilson loves his best friend Jayden Marshall Fulton, IV.' I signed the letter, folded it, and put it in an envelope by itself. I then went to the computer and wrote about the trip home, about diving for my former coaches and Saturday's dinner. I described how the dads knew I was in love before my head had gotten the message. I wrote about going to the Eucharist and how much it meant to say thanks for him. I finished the week's letter, then wrote across the bottom in pen, 'Derek Edward Wilson loves his best friend Jayden Marshall Fulton, IV,' put it in the envelope ready to mail in the morning.
I slid into bed, looked at the poster of my beloved standing, arms raised, under life-giving water. Soon afterward I was in dreamless sleep.
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