Chapter 17: Hank

After leaving Tim's house, I sat in his driveway in my truck crying like a bitch. I hope someday Tim will forgive me, because I don't know if I will ever forgive myself. The look on his face just about killed me. I don't think I will ever forget it for as long as I live. I promised him I would never hurt him and tonight I did just that.

I took a deep breath and headed home. I went up to my room sat on my bed in a daze. A knock on the door startled me.

"Come in," I croaked.

Dad walked in and sat on the bed next to me.

"You okay, son?"

I let out a sigh. "Yeah. I guess so. I told Tim tonight. I broke his heart, Dad. He was crying so hard. I wanted to make it better, but I didn't know what to do. I didn't want to hurt him."

"Tim will be okay. You're a man now, son. Tim is still a boy. One day he'll understand."

"I love him, Dad. I'll always love him."

I closed my eyes and drew in a ragged breath. I wiped at the tears and wiped my nose with my sleeve.

"Why don't you get some sleep, Hank? You've a busy day tomorrow."

"Yeah. Night, Dad."

"Good night, son."

I got up and hugged Dad. I got ready for bed, then laid down. I laid there awake for a long time. I couldn't stop thinking and worrying about Tim. Dad said that he'd be okay and that he'd understand some day. I just had to believe that Dad was right. Tim would be okay.


The next afternoon, friends and family started arriving for the graduation/goodbye party, which was set up in our back yard. When, Jeff, Tim and their parents showed up, I saw the pain in Tim's eyes when he looked at me. He turned his head away and wouldn't look me in the eyes. I decided to give him some space for now, but I wouldn't let him go without at least talking to him.

I put on a smile for my friends and my family. They were all very supportive, but my mind was on Tim. I needed to know he would be okay when I left.

After I made the first rounds, I got a Coke and snuck some Jack into it. I walked off by myself and pulled my smokes out. I lit one and took a drag. I absentmindedly flicked the ashes with my thumb as I stared into space.


So quiet, I barely heard it. I turned around and Timmy was standing next to me. "Can I talk to you for a minute?" he asked quietly.

I nodded and we walked off to the back of the yard where we could have a little more privacy away from everyone. I took a deep drag of my cigarette and nervously exhaled.

"H--," Tim started, but he had something caught in his throat and he cleared it before continuing. "Hank, I'm sorry. I was selfish last night. I wasn't thinking of your feelings. I just wanted to tell you how proud I am of you, and..."

Tim paused to wipe his tears and sniffle.

"...and I wish you all the best."

He then added so quietly I could barely hear him, "And I love you."

Tim hugged me really quick and hurried back to stand with his parents. His dad put his arm around him and whispered something in Tim's ear. Tim nodded and wiped his eyes. Silent tears poured down his cheeks and he just stood there looking at the ground, wiping his face over and over.

The whole situation had my nerves frazzled. I had another smoke and downed my drink before returning to the guests.

After everyone had their fill of grilled burgers and hot dogs, people started calling for speeches.

Jeff went first. "I wanted to thank all of you for coming out here today and showing me support. I will do my best to make all of you proud of me. I'll miss all of you and I'll be thinking of you every day. Um... I guess that's all I have to say. Thanks."

I took a deep breath. "Um... well, I guess Jeff said everything that I wanted to say, um..."

I looked up to see Tim's eyes locked onto me. I had to take a deep breath and clear my throat to continue.

"I'm doing something important with my life. I'm going to make all of you proud of me. I hope you keep us both in your thoughts and prayers. And, um... keep an eye on Tim for me. He likes to get himself into trouble and I won't be around to keep him on the straight and narrow."

Everyone laughed at my joke and even Tim smiled for the first time today.

"And, um... I guess I'll see you all in a few years. Thanks."

After the speeches, people shook my hand and patted me on the back and the party started to thin out. Jeff and I wandered off to smoke and talk.

"You ready, dude?" he asked.

"Yeah, ready as I can be. Will Tim be okay? Really?"

"He'll be fine. He apologized to me this morning and said he was proud of me, so I think he at least understands why we're doing this."

"He said the same thing to me."

"Hi, guys," Tim said as he walked up to us.

"Hey, Timmy," I said.

"I'm gonna miss you guys so much. Promise me you'll be safe."

Jeff hugged Tim and I did the same.

"Maybe I can join the Marines next year and then we can all be together again," Tim said with a hopeful look in his eyes.

"No fucking way," I said, louder than I should have. "Absolutely not."


"Tim, you are not joining the Marines," I emphatically insisted. "No fucking way. You promise me."

"But if you guys can, why can't I?"

"Because you're going to college. You're gonna get a good job and move to a big city. That's what you're supposed to do."

"Tim, Hank's right," Jeff said. "Following us is not a reason to join the military."

"You promise me right now that you won't do it," I asked again.

"I promise."

Tim took a deep breath and then wandered off and sat by himself at the picnic table.

"He'll be alright," Jeff said. "He just needs some time."

"Yeah. I hope so. But I don't think all the time in the world will help me get over him."

"You really do love my brother, don't you?"

I nodded. "More than anything."

Jeff and I continued to talk about the flight and boot camp.

I heard Tim's voice shouting and everyone looked up to see him snapping at Gina, "I'm fine! I wish people would stop asking me that and just leave me alone!"

I stepped forward to go to Tim, but Jeff grabbed my arm and pulled me back. He shook his head 'no'. I watched my Dad walk up to Tim and put his hand on Tim's shoulder and whisper something to him. Tim looked up at my dad and started sobbing. Dad lifted Tim up to his feet and held him in his arms. I had to turn away and close my eyes because I was about to fucking lose it just watching Dad and Tim. When I turned back, I saw Dad escorting Tim into the house. Tim was sobbing so hard he could barely walk.

I shook my head and wiped the tears from my cheeks.

A while later Dad pulled me aside.

"Son, I put Tim down in your bed. He's asleep now. We thought it might be best if he just stayed the night here. He can go with us to the airport in the morning to see you and Jeff off."

After everyone left, I went to my room and closed the door. Tim was curled up in the fetal position in my bed under the sheet. He was moving around like he was having a bad dream. I took care of my bathroom needs and then stripped down to my boxers. I crawled into bed behind Tim and wrapped my arms around him. He sunk back into me and quickly calmed down. I fell asleep with Tim in my arms.