Chapter 6 by dabeagle
I'll try to explain.
When he's around I can't walk right, I knock things over and generally turn in to this huge dork. And all he does is smile! Who's the real dork then? The dork who can't help being a dork, or the one that loves him? It drives me nuts how calm and collected he can be. I hope one day when his feathers get ruffled I am there just to see that it can be done, cause I don't make him a bundle of nerves like he does me.
But on the other hand, I also think more clearly, the future becomes more full of possibilities than I ever imagined. In fact, I can now see a future, one that always includes Greg. We have spent the whole summer goofing off so far, and our circle of friends has grown very nicely. We all seem to compliment and feed one off the other and keep the laughs going. In fact, Tommy says it's because of me there are so many good folks around. Greg tells him to shut up before I get a swelled head, but it's true in a way.
Rich, Mickey and Nick all made friends with me first, I just wanted the rest of them to see that they were good guys and had something unique to offer our group. Mickey is slowly learning to relax with us, he's still a little nervous over the g-a-y stuff, and Rich enjoys tormenting him to no end about it. We'll be out somewhere and Rich'll start telling Mick that some guy was checking him out or something, and Mick will just come unglued at him.
Rich makes you wonder a bit. He dated once or twice but not much really, and he makes soo many references to Mickey that I have to wonder if he harbors some guarded feelings there. Hey, I'd never ask, not that I could, but I am gonna wonder about it. He fits our group real well though; he's the guy always joking in the background. You know, if you say something dumb you better be ready to get your ass busted about it because he's right there, lurking in the corners. Good thing he takes as well as he gives, in fact most times he laughs harder when he gets zinged than when he zings you.
Nick is a real puzzler though. If I thought Rich sat the fence, Nick rides it like a cowboy going for some rodeo record or something. He makes odd smiles, always into touching on small levels, you know always bumping or scraping by you. Or maybe its just cause he's cute and my imagination is running rampant? Nah! He started dating this girl and she's not half bad. I don't know if I'd call the other half of her good but...
And then there was Jesse Cantarme, the only other guy to be out in our group. There were no doubts about him, and even though Greg was a bit jealous that Jesse liked me, Jesse never made a move or anything past innocent flirting. At least nothing that I can tell. He was welcomed into our circle and was as integral to us for his sense of reason, plus his parent's were idiots. They were sending him to counseling to try and cure his being gay, if you can dig that!
And of course you got Mark and Tommy to round out the crew, and we went everywhere together. And get this! I can speak to Greg sometimes, small phrases that have nothing to do with any music I ever heard! I just hope they aren't dog food commercials or something. My therapist says this is a breakthrough, and he has brought Greg in once or twice to give some guidance on that, to try and help me do it more often. So this day was going like any other with us this summer, we were all hanging out at Greg's house eating his mom out of all the baked goods she could muster when Nick busts in all excited and stuff and he looks at Jesse mostly while telling us the news.
"Guys, there's this new kid moving in and I think he's just Jesse's type!" Nick expelled breathlessly.
"But Nicky, YOU are my type," Jesse giggled.
"Yeah, but this time, my little fairy friend, you might have a chance," Nick said with an innocent smile.
"Drat, foiled again," Jesse muttered, and we chuckled.
"So who's this new guy, Nick?" Greg asked, and I noted Jesse was doing his best to act natural.
"His name's Trevor, his parents are mad cool, and his mom may as well have said her son is queer. She was askin' me questions like she would have if she were interviewing someone for a date!" Nick said breathlessly.
"So?" Jessie said, "She was just suspicious of you, you DO look kinda seedy you know." He smiled.
"Yeah, I'd wanna see ID before letting my kid go anywhere with you," Rich said from the shadows. See? Never know he's there till you say the wrong thing!
"Ok, ok never mind, forget I said anything at all!" Nick said as he threw up his hands in surrender and fell into a chair. We sat in silence for a moment and Jessie started to squirm a bit. Nick had his head tilted back and his eyes closed as he relaxed into the chair, shorts having ridden up to expose some of his muscular thigh. I looked at Greg and he nodded at Jessie who was having a hard time containing his curiosity it would appear.
Either that or something was wiggling though his pants.
Tommy and Mark barreled in, one was never far from the other, and they were arguing baseball again, what a shock. I think chalk lines ran in their veins. They were debating various relievers and were totally oblivious to us as they swiped cookies from the tray Greg's mom had brought in. She was a genuine stay at home mom, and for some reason loved having us around. Tommy and Mark seemed to become aware that no one else was talking as they slowly took in the room.
"Um, what's up?" Tommy asked through his cookie.
"Nick was out husband hunting for Jessie," Greg said, and we all broke up, except Jessie who threw a cushion at us. I say us because Greg and I were always near one another.
"Oh yeah? Is he hot like Jess?" Mark asked as he placed an arm around Jessie.
"Yeah, is he?" Tommy asked, "A real stud muffin?" he said as he placed his arm around Jessie's other side. Jess went all red but made no move to displace their arms.
"I think he's Jessie's type," Nick said with a small frown. "Jessie's being a pussy though, the kid needs help to get his room unpacked so he can come over tonight for a date ... I mean movie ... with Jess."
"You invited him to your house? You didn't say anything about me did you?" Jessie asked worriedly.
"Well, I just said from a guy who had a queer friend, I know someone that would be interested in him," Nick said slyly.
Jessie goggled. "Liar!" He said leaning back, but he didn't sound entirely convinced.
Nick shrugged, "Hey, I'm just saying, he was definitely your type. Especially if Jake is your type," he finished with a wiggle of his eyebrows.
"Oh yeah? I have to see this!" Greg said. I elbowed him in the ribs.
"What? I just want to see!" he said, spreading his arms in innocence. I raised an eyebrow at him and he smiled. "What?" he asked, that little grin playing on his face. "If he'd said the guy looked like me, you'd want to see, wouldn't you?" he asked. "Oh, now we were going to try and use reason, huh?" I arched the brow a little further and slouched to one side.
"Man, talk about jealousy!" Greg muttered as he threw himself back against the couch. His mother strode in and took stock of the room.
"Boy, what brought all of you here? Food I'll bet, you all are like bottomless pits!" she said shaking her head.
"Mom, I have a question," Greg said jumping to his feet.
"Ok, what is it?" she asked, giving him her attention.
"Ok, if someone said they saw someone that looked just like dad, wouldn't you want to see for yourself?" he asked.
"I said he looked like him, not a copy," Nick muttered.
Greg's Mom was pretty swift; she looked around Greg at me and saw my look of consternation. She was sure it was directed at Greg. "Have you slugged him yet, Jake?" she asked, and Greg danced away from her reach before she could swipe at him.
"Jeez, I think it's a compliment! If my boyfriend is so damn good looking that I want to see someone that looks like him when it gets brought upů Man, you guys are tough!" he complained.
"Or you're not getting any and are hoping this guy's easier than Jake," Rich said before looking at Greg's mom. "Sorry." We were rolling though, and Greg threw his hands up in defeat. She left the room shaking her head at us in general and we continued to chuckle as Greg resumed his spot next to me.
We sat in a companionable silence until Jessie's curiosity got the best of him.
"Ok, so where does this kid live?"
* * * * * * * *
Well, after meeting Trevor and his folks, who were pretty damn cool, and they owned the biggest god damned dog I have ever seen, we helped him unpack his room. Well, helping is a relative term, you know? I mean, once the computer was set up interest really waned! Besides the dog was knocking stuff off the shelf with his tail and eventually he had to be escorted form the room.
He was back momentarily to whine at the window.
We got the bookcase up and the books put away, good stuff on his shelves too, and the computer desk was put together and assembled, about two hours worth of work. He had this small window up near the ceiling of his room because his room was in the basement, which was kinda cool, looked just big enough to slip a body through.
Tommy ended up doing this little dance after some one accused him of being a fat ass, not one drop there though, he had a tight stomach that was the envy of the room, I am sure.
At least for me, anyways. I thought Nick blew it for a second after he made a remark about Tommy trying to steal me away from Greg, and I was pretty sure Trevor picked up on it, but made no reaction other than to look at us a moment longer than was strictly necessary.
Trevor's dad called through the window that we were going to grill some food for dinner, but we needed a few things from the store. So we all piled into his dad's car and took Trevor to the store. I sat on Greg's lap and spent the whole ride wiggling in his lap, just for fun. Jesse did his best to stick with Trevor but ended up coming to us downcast and dejected that he wasn't able to ascertain a sexual orientation.
After we got back and ate we sat out back having iced tea and talking to his folks. They had a conversation with us just like they fit in almost, music, pop shit, you name it, and they could yak for a minute or two about it.
It wasn't normal.
Nick went to make a phone call about all of us sleeping over at his place, which would be a first for me, and directly afterward Trevor got up and beckoned his mother inside, probably to ask if he could go too. I get the feeling Althea, that's Trevor's mom, has a wicked sense of humor and would use a slip to get a few points on him. So with them gone and Trevor's dad engaging Tommy and Mark in a baseball debate, I stole a glance at Greg. He sat next to me, seemingly listening in on the debate. He felt my eyes on him, I think, and turned to look at me. I leaned in close to his ear and whispered.
"Man in the mirror?" I asked. He looked at me for a minute while he figured it out, and then shook his head.
"Nah, he doesn't look like you. I like you better, so I'll keep you for a while," he whispered. I snorted.
"You don't own me," I said mischievously.
"You'd leave me?" he asked, mouth pouting downward.
"You can make decisions too," I said petulantly.
"Yeah, but what's your decision?" he asked. He was doing it not from any real feeling that we were breaking, but because my therapist told him the more he pushed my conversation the more I'd slip and not use lyrics and such.
"Never will I roam, for I know my place is home," I replied. He grinned. That was the hard part, getting me to a place where I was comfortable enough and I didn't have something I could plug into the conversation.
"Ok, it's all set at my place, even though I had to lay down the law for my folks," Nick said, returning from making his phone call. We nodded sagely, translating in our heads that his folks were ready to kill him for even thinking it. Oh well, not everyone liked kids as well as Greg's mom. Nick's place was cool; they had a finished basement that was outfitted as a home theater thingy, so it was always the place of choice to watch a movie.
Trevor came back out and sat next to Jessie, who had those big doe eyes going. It was a riot, actually, cause Jessie had gotten us into this situation by telling Trevor we were staying at Nick's tonight instead of just watching a movie, and if it wasn't that Nick was a nice guy what with trying to help Jess outů Well, lets say Nick could have hung him out to dry. As it was, I am sure that Nick had to grovel quite a bit to get us in.
"Jake, what do you want to watch?" Nick asked. Did I forget to mention that Greg told everyone about the doctor's instructions? So far my favorite non-lyrical statement was blow me.
"Freddy?" Asked Greg. I shook my head.
"Jason?" Tommy chimed in.
"I've seen that movie too." I said.
"Hellraiser!" Nick offered.
"I don't wanna know!" I said. Greg sighed.
"Jake, you're not helping. Doc said you have to try and talk more."
I felt Trevor and his parent's eyes on me, as if I were some new creature under glass they hadn't seen before. I half expected them to approach and begin poking and prodding to see what I was made of. I glared at Greg and waved my hand at the group.
"I don't want the world to see me," I growled.
"They're ok, Jake," Greg said as I stood to leave.
"I don't think that they'd understand." I said, a small amount of fear entering my voice as I felt a little too much pressure.
"Calm down, chill out. Relax!" Mark said as he placed his hands on my shoulders from behind, putting a slight pressure on me to sit.
"Hey those kids are looking at me, I told my friend myself," I said with what I was sure was a wild look in my eyes, "Those kids are looking at me, they're laughing and they're running over here."
"Why are you so edgy, man?" Greg asked softly.
"Don't ask me why," I said, more out of reaction than sense.
"Ok, just don't go, ok?" Trevor said suddenly. I eyed him warily. "Dude, whatever the problem is, it's no big deal. A movie is a movie right? Please, don't go?" He said, obviously trying to make peace. I fidgeted and felt very on edge, but Trevor's look was very earnest and in the end it won out.
"I'm not supposed to be like this," I muttered mournfully, "But it's okay."
After a moment I sat, albeit uncomfortably. I could tell Greg was displeased, he always is if I don't make an effort in these situations, but the doctor said it would happen when I was comfortable, not under pressure with strangers. I brooded while they allowed me to fade into the background.
I had no call to act that way, I don't know why I got so irritated with them. After all, they were only trying to help. At the same time, they shouldn't push so damn hard either. How do I fix this one? I began listening to the conversation and the teasing that was going on. Jessie was practically beaming with Trevor next to him, and Trevor looked like he knew something. Don't ask me what; he just had that air of knowledge, that being comfortable, what my grandma used to call being in the catbird seat. Whatever that means.
"Jake, will you come tonight?" Nick asked. I looked up at him, caught a little off guard before realizing what he was asking.
"I will be there," I said resolutely.
"Jake, I'm just curious. I find your speech pattern is fascinating and if I'm not mistaken it seems to be based on lyrics, is that right?" Trevor's dad asked as he leaned back in his chair and sipped from his iced tea.
"That's right," I said coolly.
"Aphasia is a very intricate condition, I have met several people that use various forms of speech as you do, but you seem to have adapted so well. I have seen people totally cut themselves off because they talk in commercials or rhymes, really outstanding effort your making," His dad said, filling his voice with sincerity. I had to admit, his approach to broaching the subject was unique, and it worked too.
"Doctor, doctor?" I asked.
"Clinical Psychologist, but I have worked very closely with several neurosurgeons in head injury and trauma cases," He replied smoothly. I nodded and sat back in my chair with my glass of tea as well.
"Recover?" I asked.
"To a degree, yes. You are starting to if I am not mistaken, instead of saying the whole line form a song, and you are becoming able to say singular words, like recover. I'll bet there is more to the line, yes?" He asked. I nodded.
"Recover your soul," I supplied. I wasn't really looking around me while this happened, but I became conscious that the others were watching me as I began to interact with this guy. I became uncomfortable again. I think he sensed it and pulled me back into his conversation.
"So, did you begin trying to converse or did someone have to pry your mouth open?" He asked. I blushed before looking at Greg. "Ah, Greg. Congratulations, it's no small feat to get someone to talk when they have Aphasia or some version of it that impacts their speech. Most people are very introverted and sometimes hostile. They usually begin to drop their own words in when they are completely relaxed with their situation, totally comfortable," he said placing his glass on the table.
"More?" His wife asked and he nodded yes. Greg looked at me with a crooked smile, probably thinking how difficult it had been to get me to talk to begin with.
"In the town we lived in there was a girl that had been heavily into drugs, she fell from a second story window while she was high and had a lot of head injuries." Althea said somberly while shaking her head at the memory, "As it turns out she was very depressed and needed a lot of guidance, she was really a sweet girl. She ended up having Aphasia when she regained consciousness, but she used commercials to communicate." She smiled at Trevor, "Trevor spent months getting her to come out of her shell, but what a prize she was! Precious girl, time well spent," she said handing her husband his iced tea.
"People don't recover completely from it, but they can overcome it for the most part. Once they feel comfortable, it starts to happen. Words pop out of no where, then complete sentences. It gets to the point that the only time they speak in commercials or lyrics is when under stress," he said as he stood. "Fine group of people you have here, Jake, fine group." He stretched, " Well, I think I'm heading in for a shower, enough playing in the dirt for one day. I'll see you guys later." He gave us a short wave and took himself off to the house.
I was kind of stunned, he had taken everything that was going on inside me and praised both my friends and myself, and set those limitations with us as well. He was a smart fellow, it occurred to me.
We walked home from Trevor's, agreeing to meet at Nick's house at around eight o'clock. We walked back to Greg's first, in silence mostly. I honestly wasn't sure if he was still mad at me for not trying harder to talk, if Trevor's dad had gotten through to him, or if he was just lost in thought. Whatever it was he did it in silence, and it was driving me nuts.
"I'm sorry," he said suddenly, not looking at me and not stopping. "I'm sorry I pushed you, I know it's going to take time, I just want to see you beat this thing. I want you to beat it cause I know you get embarrassed about it, I know it makes things tough on you sometimes and I don't like that." He stopped and I stood next to him while he looked in my eyes, studying them it seemed. Strange, I didn't feel nervous under that gaze.
"Jake, you mean the world to me, I love you. I know school is gonna be rough this year, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. This Aphasia really has me stumped though, cause I can't just grab hold and shake some sense in it or talk it into leaving you alone." He cast his eyes downward.
"I said I'm not supposed to be like this." I shrugged, "Let's try to find a happy game to play." He looked up and grinned at me.
"I can think of some games I'd like to play with you," he said.
"In your wildest dreams," I said laughing.
We resumed walking to his house and called Rich while we were there, as he hadn't gone to Trevor's with us. He was golfing, if you can believe that. I get more excited picking out socks. And mine are all white.
After leaving a message about where we'd all be, Greg gathered up his bedroll and we headed to my house. It was only a few blocks away, and a few minutes later we were in my kitchen where Dad was trying to cook lasagna in the George Forman grill. He says you can, I say he's nuts. In any case there had to be some kind of special recipe because you definitely didn't make it the traditional method with that grill.
And the mess was amazing.
"Guess you'll be using some of that stuff to get stains out of your shirt, huh Mr. Tull?" Greg wisecracked.
"Oh, just in time!" my father said, oblivious to the comment, " I want you to try this!" he said exuberantly.
"Um, actually we just ate, thanks Mr. Tull," Greg replied. My father looked so visibly crestfallen it was almost sad. I say almost because I have been forced to sample other failed attempts at lasagna.
"So what's up guys?" he asked.
"Well, we wanted to see if it was okay with you to go to Nick Pedersen's house to watch a movie," Greg began.
"Stay the night," I interjected.
"Um, yeah, that too," Greg said.
"Stay the night huh? Do you guys have condom's or do I need to bring out the banana again?" He asked, face dead serious. After profuse assurances from Greg and my warding him off with my hands he relented and we went up to gather my stuff. I grabbed a sleeping bag from the closet and felt Greg step up behind me and enfold me in his arms. I leaned back onto him luxuriantly.
"Have I told you lately that I love you, Greg?" I purred.
He jerked upright.
"Jake!" he exclaimed. I looked at him in confusion, and a bit of annoyance that he wasn't holding me anymore.
"You said my name!"