"WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU?!?!?"
I sat bolt upright in bed, momentarily unaware of my surroundings, and
feeling rather disoriented. The room was dark, with the only light
coming from the doorway, where a boy stood staring at me. At first I
thought it was Ryan, they both had the same color hair and were about
the same height, but this one looked a little younger and thinner, but
not scrawny like me.
Suddenly, with the shock of being awakened like that, and unaware of
say or how to react, I started to have a panic
attack. It started off feeling like there was a large rodent running
around in my stomach, trying to claw its way out, and my whole body
started to shake. I felt like I wanted to either throw up or pass out,
but my mind couldn't decide which, so I just scooted myself over to
the farthest corner of the bed, bringing my knees up to my chest,
wrapping my arms around them, and shaking uncontrollably. At that
point, I wasn't that concerned with the boy standing there glaring at
me. All I could concentrate on was my own erratic breathing and the way
my body seemed to be reacting beyond my control.
GOD I HATE IT WHEN THIS HAPPENS!
SHIT! SHIT! SHIT!
The next thing I knew, I felt a strong pair of arms around me, holding
me tightly, and there was the smell of Ryan that was now starting to
strangely familiar to me, kind of like a combination of Irish Spring
soap and strawberries. I also heard him call out for his mom, and
the other boy asking, "What did I do? What the hell is going on
All I was aware of was my own shaking, the sensation of my stomach
doing somersaults, an indescribable fear, and Ryan's arms around me. I
heard more footsteps rushing into the room, and then the sound of Dr.
"What's wrong? Ryan? What happened?" she asked, sounding a bit
alarmed, which unnerved me even more.
"I don't know mom! I heard Toby shouting, and ran in here to find
Connor just shaking and looking as white as a sheet."
"It looks like he's having a panic attack. Hold on to him while I go
get something. I'll be right back," she said, more calmly this time.
DAMMIT! NOW THEY KNOW WHAT A FREAK I
REALLY AM! THERE GOES MY ONE CHANCE AT A REAL FRIENDSHIP!
I heard Dr. McCormack coming back into the room and sitting next to us
on the bed. She had a glass of water and a couple of pills she was
holding up in front of my face.
"Connor, sweetie, you need to take these right now," she ordered me.
I was shaking too much to hold the glass, let alone those small pills,
so she and Ryan managed to feed them to me. After I managed to swallow
them, Ryan kept holding on to me, gently rocking me, while Dr.
McCormack rubbed my head and massaged my neck. Then I heard the other
boy's voice again.
"When is someone gonna tell me what's going on here? I come home, walk
into my room, and there's some kid I don't know lying on my bed?" He
was sounding rather annoyed at this point, and I can't say that I
"Toby, go downstairs and watch TV or something. I'll be down in a few
minutes and let you know what's going on," Dr. McCormack said to her
Ryan's mom kept rubbing my head and neck gently as Ryan continued to
hold me. After a few minutes, my breathing slowly started to return to
normal and my stomach began to calm down. I was still shaking, but I
was starting to feel better. Dr. McCormack must have noticed, because
she started talking to me.
"Hon, are you okay now?" she asked softly.
"Yeah ... I ... uhhhh ... I think so," I replied. I was still trembling
a little but feeling much more relaxed. I don't know if it
was those pills she gave me, or Ryan's arms around me.
"Conner, you were having a panic attack. I gave you two milligrams of
Klonopin. It's an anti-anxiety medication. It will help you relax," Dr.
McCormack said to me in a soothing tone, her voice filled with care and
concern. "Has this ever happened to you
"Yes, ma'am ... I'm really, really sorry about this," I replied. "My
doctor told me a while back that I have somethin' called 'Generalized
Anxiety Disorder'. It happens sometimes ... I'm really sorry, I just
freaked out there for a minute."
"Hon, there's nothing to be sorry about. I suppose you had a bit of a
shock there. Toby sometimes has that effect on people." I could hear
Ryan chuckle when she said that. "But you'll be fine in a few more
minutes. Are you taking any other medications for
"No, ma'am. My mother couldn't afford it ... we're not too well-off," I
"This kind of thing needs to be treated. If your family doesn't have
enough money, you should be able to qualify for Medicaid."
"I don't know, ma'am ... my mom's really busy and stuff ... I guess she
didn't think it was a big deal." I was trying my best to not let any
details slip about what my mom was really like. I didn't want them to
take pity on me; at this point, I just wanted to go home, even if my
mother was there with one of her boyfriends, I was just too embarrassed
to stay here any longer.
She gave me a measured look, as though she wasn't really buying my
"Well, I'm going to go talk to Toby and get him something to eat. When
I've gotten him taken care of, I'll come get the two of you, ok, boys?"
"Yes, mom," answered Ryan. After just witnessing me wigging out, he
definitely must have been thinking I was
a total freak ... but his arms were still wrapped firmly around me, and
the first time, I noticed my arms were wrapped around him, too.
And with that, Dr. McCormack walked out of the room, and Ryan and I
remained practically glued together on the bed. Despite my total
embarrassment, I liked the feeling of being held, and in spite of my
anguish, I was starting to feel better physically. Ryan's embrace
just felt so ... safe.
When I felt calmed down enough (at this point, I was really
relaxed ... whatever Ryan's
mom gave me was some good stuff
I finally let go of Ryan and sat up on my own, and I actually felt like
talking a bit. Other than the nagging fear that I'd totally freaked
him out and he'd never want to speak to me again, at the same time I
was curious about what he was thinking.
"I'm really sorry for freaking out like that, Ryan," I said. "I've been
nothing but a walking disaster all afternoon. You really don't need to
feel responsible for me anymore, and I don't want anyone feeling sorry
for me. I know I'm weird, and you're probably wondering right now what
you've gotten yourself into. I don't know if your mom will let me
leave, but if not, I'll do my best to just stay out of your way this
weekend and won't bother you."
Ryan just looked at me incredulously. "What are you talking about?
What did I tell you about apologizing? I'm not freaked out by anything
that's happened. I told you before, I'm the one who should be
sorry. I should have remembered what time my brother would be home from
swimming practice and explained to him what was going on before he
on you ... and your panic attack is nothing, so just forget about it.
You actually intrigue me, and I still plan on using this weekend
to get to know you, whether you like it or not."
That last statement was then followed by one of his lop-sided grins and
a pat on my back.
"And besides," he continued, "I'm not perfect either. I've got ADD,
'Attention Deficit Disorder.' It's not the hyperactive kind, but I have
a lot of trouble concentrating on things. I have to take medicine
for it and even see a shrink once a month ...so don't go thinking
you're crazy or anything. I've had it since I was a little kid, and one
of the reasons I play lacrosse is 'cause my shrink said that it would
help me learn to focus. So you definitely don't have the market
cornered on being a 'freak.'"
I just looked at him. I really had no idea what to say to that. He
seemed so easy-going and happy. It was hard to imagine that there
was anything "wrong" with him ... maybe there wasn't anything
wrong. And, at least I started to feel a little less "crazy."
"Tell ya what, Connor. We've got all weekend to get to know each other,
and I'd really like to try. If you
a total freak by
the end of the weekend, then we don't have to be friends. Deal?"
"Ok, deal," I sighed.
With that said, Ryan's mom came back in and asked us if we wanted to
come downstairs to eat. Apparently it was already seven o'clock. I
wasn't hungry, so I told her that I'd just stay here and rest for a
while. She seemed to think that was okay, considering what I'd just
through, and the medicine was making me feel like I really didn't want
to get out of bed. So, she and Ryan left and closed the door. Maybe
this wouldn't turn out to be so bad afterall, I thought to myself.
I'd just barely laid back down and closed my eyes when the
door opened yet again, and in strolled Ryan's brother. For a second, I
thought I might have another panic attack, until he sat down next to me
on the bed and gently placed a hand on my shoulder.
"Hey, dude, I'm really sorry about freaking you out like that earlier,"
he said, sounding quite guilty.
"It's ok ... I'm sorry for taking over your bed."
"I'm Toby," he said. "I'm a freshman at the same school you and my
brother go to, I'm on the swim team, and I'm fourteen. How about you?"
"Uhhh ... I'm Connor," I replied. "I'm a sophomore, fifteen years old
... that's about it ... I'm not really into sports or anything like
"That's cool," he said, smiling at me. I noticed how much his smile was
like Ryan's. They looked very much alike, except that Toby was
smaller and younger, plus he had some freckles that Ryan didn't have.
But the red hair, green eyes, and captivating smile were all the same.
He was actually really, really
cute! This was the second time in one day that I'd actually really
noticed how someone else looked, and as with Ryan, I found that I
felt comfortable sitting here talking to Toby. This day was
definitely full of surprises ... although I still had some serious
reservations as to how it would eventually all turn out.
Later in the evening, after everyone had been fed (I'd even managed to
eat a ham sandwich), we were all sitting in the living room talking.
I'd found out that Dr. McCormack was a single mom, their dad having
passed away only two years ago from a massive heart attack. Having lost
my grandmother, the most important person in my life, I could
definitely sympathize with their loss. They seemed to have dealt with
it pretty well, though. I mean, they didn't get teary-eyed or anything
when they were talking about him.
We talked about all kinds of
things, including school, Ryan's lacrosse, Toby's swimming, and their
mom's work. It seemed like she usually worked a lot, and when she
wasn't at her office, she was often on call. But she seemed to love
it, and based on how she'd treated me that afternoon, she seemed like
the type of person who was really good with kids -- warm,
Fortunately, no one pressed me on the details of my
family life, and the few questions that did come up I managed to evade
quite tactfully. As far as they were concerned, my mom was very busy
with work and wasn't at home very often. I felt bad about keeping the
truth from them, but I preferred to deal with that aspect of my life in
my own way ... I'd done fine for myself since I was nine, and I didn't
need anyone else butting in.
I also told them about my job playing piano and singing at the pub. At
first, Dr. McCormack didn't like the idea of a fifteen-year-old working
in a pub, but I convinced her that I was only the "entertainment," and
wasn't exactly serving drinks or waiting on tables or anything like
that. Ryan seemed particularly interested in my musical abilities, and
told me that he'd like to hear me play something.
He mentioned there
being a concert grand piano on the stage in the auditorium at school,
and we could go in there some time so he could hear me play. I didn't
think I'd feel comfortable playing for just him ... a nameless crowd
was one thing, but a private concert for one made me a little nervous.
Nevertheless, the opportunity to play on a real concert grand piano
probably help me get over it. I'd always wanted to play one of those!
At around 11:30, Dr. McCormack announced that it was time for bed, and
asked which of the boys I'd be bunking with.
"He can stay with me," both boys announced at the same time, then
glared at each other.
I didn't like the look of that, and I didn't want to have to chose
between Ryan and Toby. They both seemed really cool and had both been
nice to me, despite the little run-in with Toby earlier. Fortunately,
Dr. McCormack decided for us.
"Connor, why don't you sleep in Ryan's room? Toby's room is an absolute
disaster area, possibly even an environmental hazard, and if you had to
get up in the middle of the night to
go to the bathroom or something, you'd probably end of tripping over
some of his garbage and breaking your neck," she said with a wry grin
on her face.
"Mom!!!" Toby groaned.
Ryan perked up and grabbed me by the arm. "Let's go, Connor. I'll show
you my room and then you can take a shower and we can get some sleep."
I had felt the medicine I had taken earlier already wearing off, so Dr.
McCormack gave me one more pill to help me sleep more comfortably, and
sent us on our way. Ryan then proceeded to lead me back upstairs and to
his room, which was right next door to Toby's. Ryan's room was
spotless, which I definitely liked. He had basically the same set-up as
Toby, although his walls were covered with posters of bands rather than
sports figures. Ryan got me a towel, a large t-shirt and clean pair of
boxers, then showed me to the bathroom the he shared with Toby. As soon
as I finished showering and changing, I walked back into Ryan's room,
and he took my place in the bathroom to take his own shower.
I was enjoying the relaxed feeling from the medication and started
looking around Ryan's room.
He had a computer on his desk, and a really nice stereo system. I
started to peruse his collection of CDs and noticed that he liked many
of the same older bands and singers that I did, like the Eagles,
Fleetwood Mac, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones. He even had all of
Elton John's early albums, from the 1970 Elton John album all the way to Blue Moves from 1976.
was absolutely my favorite singer! I sang and played more of his songs
than anyone else. What many people don't know is that Elton John
has written quite a few "country" songs, especially in his early years,
and I often added them to my set list at the pub. No one ever seemed to
realize that they were songs written by "that guy who did The Lion King."
As I finished going through Ryan's CD collection, he walked back into
the room wearing only a pair of boxer briefs, and I noticed again how
nicely he was built and how smooth his skin was. And for the first time
all day, I actually initiated a conversation with him.
"So, you like Elton John?" I asked.
"Yeah, but not his newer stuff. I prefer the stuff he did back in the
seventies. You like him too?"
"Definitely. Elton John's like my idol. I play a lot of his songs at
the pub," I replied.
"That's really cool. Do you play his older stuff?" he asked.
"Yeah, but occasionally I'll do some of his newer songs, too. I mostly
play country songs at the bar - its that kind of place - but
Elton's done a lot of country songs over the years. His last album, Peachtree Road, has a lot of
country and gospel influences. Made
in England and Songs from the
West Coast are also really good. They sound a lot like his
earlier stuff, more of a raw, acoustic sound than his stuff from
the eighties and early nineties."
"Sounds like you really know your stuff." he said.
I blushed and quickly looked down at the floor. I must have sounded
like a total geek. I mean, who is that obsessed with someone like Elton
John, for chrissakes?
"I guess something in his music and the lyrics that Bernie Taupin
writes just connects with me," I shrugged.
He seemed to be contemplating that, and I was just enjoying engaging in
my first significant conversation with another guy my age (well, almost
a year older than me, but you get the point!).
"That's really cool," he said. "Do you mind if I come to the pub with
you one night to hear you play? I'd really like that."
"Uhhh ... yeah ... I guess that would be okay. Other than me, though,
you're supposed to be 21 to get in, but I'll talk to Mr. Bill and see
if he'll let you in for the show," I said.
"Cool, that'd be sweet," he grinned at me ... and I blushed ... AGAIN!
"How about we get some sleep, it's getting pretty late, and I bet
you're tired," he said.
"Should I sleep on the floor, or do you have a sleeping bag or
something?" I asked.
"You can just sleep with me in my bed ... I promise I won't bite!" he
replied, followed by a quick wiggling of his eyebrows.
"Ummm ... okay ..."
I really wanted to talk with him some more, but being the brilliant
conversationalist that I am (NOT!),
I didn't know what to say without sounding like a total dork.
So, we climbed into the bed, with me on the side closest to the wall.
Ryan turned off the light beside his bed, and I turned onto my side,
facing the wall. He turned the opposite way and we laid there
comfortably, back to back. I enjoyed feeling him pressed up against me.
It felt warm and safe, and
I quickly drifted off into the land of dreams, silently praying that
those dreams wouldn't turn into nightmares.