tutoring jerry



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Hey everyone! Long time no see, huh? I'm going to assume you all read my notice, so I don't have to rehash all that was in it. For those who wonder, the straight guy whose letter I lost did contact me again and everything is going well on that front and I've made a new friend as well. Also, I'm going to keep writing this story in the same style I have been, explicit and all. The edits I will do for the book(s) will be where the changes come for one version, while keeping the original for publication as well. We'll see how it all works out.

I've almost caught up on my backlog of email. I love hearing from you guys and girls! I want to dedicate this chapter to my new friend Joe, his wife, nephew and (gay) best friend. I also want to dedicate this to Matt in Az. Keep taking those little steps into your new `out' life one at a time, Matt. It's all good!

And as always, THANK YOU BILL for your invaluable editing assistance! And as you step into your new life as well, may it be a wonderful journey for you and your guy.

People often ask me for story recommendations, so I'm happy to highly recommend all of Dom Luka's stories: The Log Way (just wrapped up), The Ordinary Us (my favorite of the three, with a new chapter just posted) and Desert Dropping. He's posted some of these on Nifty, but type his name in your search engine to go to his website. Taarob's The Good Doctor is a very warm and beautiful read. I also recommend, Around My Way, by Madasonaysha. And I've mentioned BillyTK's excellent story, Reclaiming Austin before. He's recently posted a new chapter and I highly recommmend this story. The stories by BillyTK and Madasonaysha, as well as my own are on Superdrewby and all of these are on Nifty as well. Superdrewby also has lots of other interesting content, so I recommend you check it out. I need to start a list, cuz there are other very good stories to recommend that I can't think of right now.

And those of you who've found this story from links to it, and/or my website, on Archerland, The Tarheel Writer or Gay Author's Webring... Welcome! Those two sites and the webring offer a whole lot of excellent reading and I recommend you check them out. I think my website is linked from some other sites and rings, but I can't remember any names right now.

Also, as those of you on my mailing list know, I never send anything but notices about chapters, but I've been thinking... I receive email from several political groups, like MoveOn, HRC (Human Rights Campaign-- gay rights group), Democracy For America, Don't Amend, Truthout, etc... I get a lot of letters asking me to sign petitions and forward them. So I decided to create a sub-group mailing list for any of you who would like to add your name to petitions for things like gay rights and fighting rightwing fanatics and court appointments etc. If you'd like to add your voice to the debates in America, then send me an email with "Yes Politics" typed in the subject line. I will forward petitions and action alerts from these political groups to you to sign or act on if you agree with and support their goals. Every single person doing a little something helps in these progressive grassroots organizations. So it's up to you, if you want to get involved.

And another good thing: I get `gay related' news content from syndicated columnist Rex Wockner in my email. This, plus reading 365gay.com, keeps me up to date on gay related news from around the world (I like this site much better than PlanetOut and it doesn't have all those annoying popups). I can send you one of Rex's emails and you can sign up to receive his letters. Very informative stuff and he writes a great commentary column. And one more: Mark Morford, a columnist for the San Francisco Gate. This guy writes an eloquent, hard biting, unflinchingly progressive, twice weekly editorial sent via email, that is entertaining and very enjoyable to read. I could do the same and send you one edition so you can sign up if you want to receive his perceptive and always humorous take on life in America (Think Dennis Miller's biting wit and way with words, before he became a rightwing hypocrite).

Bill (my editor) thinks I should say that Dave is still telling this part of the story (first half of this chapter). I think it's obvious, but now I've said it anyway. Aaaaaaand for the two people who a while back expressed that the character of Dave seemed to appear out of nowhere and too conveniently in the story, I'll remind you that Jerry mentioned Dave all the way back in chapter 6 when he was giving his thoughts and that Dave's later appearance was planned from early on... so there ;-) There is some `design' going on here! LOL

So, let's look in on the boys and see how they're starting to deal with what's happened... (The first paragraph was added to remind you that Dave is still talking, but since I've said it twice now in these notes, I guess it's a bit superfluous, right?)

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I anxiously looked over at Jerry about every ten seconds as we neared the station. I was worried about his state of mind. He just stared out the window silently. I kept thinking I should lean over and quietly say something like, `It's gonna be alright, Jerry.' But I couldn't say it, because I did not know if it was gonna be alright. I had no idea what was next.

We arrived at Houston Police Department headquarters on Riesner Street around 3am, were processed, finger printed and all that jazz. Hell, I say that so casually, but it was a fairly traumatic experience for me. I'd never been arrested and taken to jail in my life. I knew without asking that Jerry hadn't either. Tyson had been through it before though, and I could see he wasn't nearly as nervous or scared as I was. Jerry was still kinda dazed, I guess. He didn't show much reaction at all. I could only imagine how freaked out Danny would have been in this situation, being as easily intimidated as he was.

It was crowded and loud and the cops actually did seem as bored with processing us as they always do on cop shows. To my mild disappointment, not one psycho killer snatched a cop's gun from his holster and had to be tackled or talked back from the edge, like on TV-- not that I really needed any more drama for the night, but you know... you just wanna see some action, heh heh. I mean, when I was home alone so many nights, when I wasn't jacking off, I was watching cop shows-- and jacking to some of them as well. `Cause, like, Starsky and Hutch... oh man, talk about erection inducing! I was convinced those guys were lovers who just couldn't flaunt it. I so wanted to be Hutch and ride in that Torino with Starsky. Well, what I really wanted was to ride on Starsky, forget the car.

They took our statements and questioned us separately. I wanted to tell them exactly how it went down, but Jim, Tyson and Jerry all strongly advised me against saying anything without a lawyer, except to tell them Jim wasn't one of the fighters. I followed their advice-- which I'd also heard enough times on the cop shows-- trembling like a toy poodle the whole time I was in that little room with the big surly cop; a butt-ugly one at that. He didn't seem all that bothered by my refusal to talk and gave up after a few minutes.

Then we were allowed our phone call. We were herded into a room with six phones about ten people deep in line for them. Tyson waited by the far wall with four other guys who had no one to call. I asked him why he didn't call Jet and Celia. He looked at me like I was crazy, laughed and said, "Let's just say, they have a cop phobia. And `sides, I wouldn't even think about asking them to come all the way up here to help me outta my own fuckup."

We were allowed two minutes each and the cops kept an orderly procession going for the busy Friday night rush. My mom and dickhead were still awake, as she didn't usually get home `til around 2:30am on weekend nights. She was shocked, to say the least. I wasn't just in jail; I was in jail in Houston, for assault. She couldn't seem to find many words to say to me, which was just as well. I gave her the address and directions that were printed in six languages on the wall above the phones.

Jerry was in the line next to me and he was trying to explain the situation to his dad and not lose it. He wasn't in a clear state of mind as it was, and trying to explain to his dad why he was in jail for assault without going into the whole story and keep it under two minutes took more brain power than he could seem to summon at the time. He gave the address three times that I heard. I guess his dad just couldn't take it all in either. HIS SON in JAIL?! Jerry Loring, the golden boy all-American jock, in jail for assault?! It was unthinkable.

I thought, `Man, when he finds out what all happened, he's gonna freak! Poor Jerry. He has to deal with Danny's uncertain condition AND his parents finding out why he was there and what happened.'

We were all then put in one of the holding cells together with about twenty other guys, not including Blondie, the driver of the pickup truck, whose name was Richard Drinker-- or, Dick Drinker. I asked Tyson if he had given Dick a drink from his dick. We laughed long and hard about that! It was what brought Jerry fully back to the present. I almost felt sorry for poor ol' Dickie boy. But hey, at least we didn't put him in the fucking hospital like all his buds. Anyway, he got put in another cell. Jim was let go after it was finally established from our statements that he was actually a witness instead of a participant. We all thanked him sincerely for all his help and apologized for getting him arrested. He was just such a nice guy, and he assured us that he would be a witness in court and help in any way he could with all of this.

It was kind of interesting to me that we were sharing a large holding cell with some pretty rough looking dudes and what I assumed were gang members of several races, but I wasn't afraid. If I'd been alone, I would definitely have been afraid. I saw the predatory looks in some of the badass dudes' eyes in the cell with us and knew that they would have at least enjoyed scaring the shit out of me, had I been alone. But `cause I was with Jerry and Tyson, they instead turned their attention to a couple of small (for being eighteen at least) and scared looking black kids who didn't look like they belonged with this bunch. Something about these boys just said they came from a middle class neighborhood, and it was obvious by their nervousness that this was their first time in jail. They were probably just as worried about their parents' wrath as they were about being in jail. A heavily tattooed, grungy looking but big, black dude asked them what they got busted for, and one of them said it was for having two ounces of pot each on them.

Grungy Dude hooked his arm around his shoulder and teasingly said, "Well, if dey send us to county, you bunk wit me `n we be partyin', yeah baby?"

The kid shrugged out of his embrace and looked angrily at him, ready to fight, even though Grungy Dude was much bigger and looked like he was in his mid twenties. "I ain't goin' to county jail. I'll be outta here in a couple of hours," was all he said, which was smart of him.

Grungy Dude laughed and left him alone after that, turning his attention to us, being the only white guys in the cell besides an old homeless drunk guy who was passed out on the floor while a couple of guys used his hip and shoulder for a footrest.

"So, what y'all white boys be doin'? Dat's a lotta blood you got dere on ya," he said, pointing to Jerry's shirt. He sounded more curious than confrontational or anything, so I told him an abbreviated version of the night's events, just saying that Danny was our close friend and that was why Jerry went after them, leaving out the gay angle altogether and trying to be vague about where it had happened.

Everyone awake in the cell listened to the story, some of them even cheering us with `Hell yeah!' and `Stomp da bitches!'. I saw just about every guy in there study Jerry with an appraising eye, sizing him up as guys just naturally do. Grungy Dude, who seemed to be the kingpin of the cell for the time being, obviously decided Jerry wasn't someone he wanted to start anything with as he watched him fret and worry, wringing his hands and grinding his jaw. Jerry wasn't paying attention to my telling of the story most of the time, but would occasionally cut his eyes at me with a `cool it' look at my enthusiasm when I was giving blow-by-blow descriptions of him in action.

When I finished, Grungy Dude nodded his head and gave a thumbs up to Jerry. "Hey bro, I be doin' da same shit if dey busted up my brutha. Gotta respect dat." He more or less saluted Jerry and turned his attention elsewhere.

As several conversations started up, I quietly asked Jerry, "You ok?"

His shoulders sagged and he looked at me tiredly, sadly. He sighed heavily and said, "I need to know how he is. I can't stand not knowin'. It's killin' me." He wrung his hands together and the veins in his temples flared. I noticed the skin on most of his right hand knuckles was scraped off or peeled back a bit and new blood had seeped out and dried after they had let him wash up. "I need to know... and I need to know those guys are all alive, too."

Tyson spoke up from Jerry's left side on the steel bench, "Well, if any of them dudes was dead, they woulda used that big time to scare ya an get you to talk before your lawyer gets here. They woulda really came down on ya if any of them was dead." We both stared at him, taking in that information, which made sense. Jerry covered his face in his hands and rubbed his eyes tiredly. We were all quiet for a few seconds, then Tyson shook his head and muttered, "Man, this is all my fault."

"Why you keep sayin' that?" I asked with a little too much irritation in my tone.

He looked at me and solemnly said, "Cuz Celia told me she had a bad feelin' about tonight. She couldn't get anything specific; she just had a feelin' things could get crazy." He smirked and added, "I guess her thing has mileage limits, heh heh." He closed in on himself and mumbled, "You'd think I woulda learned to listen to her by now." He looked back up at me and justified, "I just ain't been to Houston in so long, y'know? An' I got all into it... an' goin' in with you..."

"Oh man, dude, this is so not your fault," I assured him. "Don't go blamin' yourself for this shit, Tyson. We all woulda gone anyway if you'd backed out, since we had it planned out, y'know? So just cuz you came didn't change anything except maybe we wouldn've gone to all those other bars. But we woulda ended up at... Numbers," I whispered the name, then went back to my quiet regular voice, "No matter what though, cuz me `n Danny saw the ads for it, and Rachel's brother Robert told Danny it was the coolest disco in Houston, so this woulda happened no matter what."

He shook his head slowly, "Nah, man, I coulda talked y'all out of it if I'd of tried. And the thing is, I had a real strong urge to leave, like thirty minutes before we did." He gave me a quick lopsided grin, "But I thought it was just cuz I was horny. I didn't wanna cut anyone's fun short. Maaaan, I can't believe all this..." he trailed off, shaking his head.

Jerry watched him intently while he spoke. He put his hand on Tyson's shoulder and squeezed. "Dude, thank you for bein' there for me." He turned back to me and said, "And you too, Dave." He looked back to Tyson and added, "I wish we handna come here tonight, sure, but what happened wasn't your fault, Ty. And I'm glad you were there when I needed the help."

Tyson `hmphed' and glanced up with a smirk at Jerry, "She-it dude, you didn't need no help." He shook his head. "Duuude, all I know is, I'm damn sure glad I didn't fight you like I was about to that day at school." We all three chuckled and Jerry squeezed his shoulder again before letting his hand fall away. Then Tyson said, "But yeah, that's the only thing now, is not knowin' how Danny is. And bein' charged with assault, I won't be able to get out `n go see him."

"Why not?"

He looked at me and spread his empty hands, "Got no money for bail."

"Oh. Shit, I didn't think about that. I wonder if my mom's got enough for bail."

I got worried. My mom and I were pretty much just living on her tips-- I'd quit my last job as a fry cook in a cafe about a week before I met Danny-- and I had no idea how high my bail would be. I knew Jerry would get out as soon as his lawyer got here, so our protection would be gone if we had to stay for days or something. My heart started racing and I broke out in a cold sweat in a matter of seconds.

I was scared, looking around that cell at all those gang members. Violence was their way of life. I was worried about getting beat to shit, mostly, but then Tyson's talk about Juvenile Hall and the rape-- along with what Grungy Dude had said to that boy-- played around in my mind too. It was pretty unnerving to think about any of it. From what had been said, I understood that after we talked to our lawyers, if we didn't get released fairly soon, then we would be sent to general population cells on the fifth floor and that's when things would get scary.

Jerry had kinda focused back in on his own thoughts, but then snapped his head up and said, "Hey, we're all in this together, right? We'll all get outta here together. My parent's lawyer is good. He'll work somethin' out." He saw the fear in my eyes and added, "Guys, don't worry; I won't leave y'all in here. I've got money of my own. If I have to, I'll post your bail and get y'all out, don't worry." He nodded with determination at me, then Tyson.

I asked hesitantly, "W-what if it's like, a thousand dollars each?"

Jerry gave one firm nod and said, "Don't sweat it. Got it covered."

I saw a look of wonder in Tyson's eyes as he stared at Jerry. I could tell he'd had to completely re-evaluate Jerry over the course of this night and morning. From seeing him take on those guys, to him assuring us he wouldn't leave us behind, Jerry was just throwing all of Tyson's assumptions out the window, sending him off-kilter, but in a good way. I saw the look in Ty's eyes, that he had to admit he was beginning to like the guy, that he couldn't lump him in with all the jocks in his experience. He mumbled "Thanks." to Jerry, and we all fell into our own thoughts for a while, jerked out of them whenever they brought in someone new or called someone back out.

Sometime that morning-- all possessions like watches and wallets had been taken away from us-- everyone was eventually called out to meet with their lawyers then brought back. When I met with my appointed lawyer, Mr. Jaworzcyck, I immediately disliked him. He was like a caricature of the slimeball attorney you pictured when people talked about the worst of the lot, in his tacky light blue polyester suit, bad haircut, drooping jowls, tobacco stained eyes, teeth and fingers, and his incredibly bad smoke breath with a hint of alcohol in it even at this time of morning.

After brusquely introducing himself from across the table as we sat down, the very first fucking thing that came out of his mouth as he held a long draw of smoke in his lungs was: "So, you're homosexual, huh?" He said the word like it was a deadly disease and pulled his hands in closer to himself as he let the smoke waft out his nostrils.

I was caught so off guard that all I could do was blush furiously and lower my eyes. I was ashamed of myself for feeling so ashamed of myself. It was such an automatic reaction, and that really shook me up. Aside from my mother, I had never had anyone confront me about it, especially out of the blue like that. After my initial reaction, I wanted to say something like, `Yeah, so what? What's it to you? This is an assault case. Defend me, asshole.' But of course I didn't. I just nodded my head and glanced at him, then trained my eyes on the steel-lined masonite table that bore the stains and scars of many a tense meeting in the dingy, smoky room.

He studied me as I squirmed in my seat. I felt like he was memorizing my face as a template to spot queers in the future, like, if a guy has this particular shape of nose or eyeset or something, then he'd know to be wary, I dunno. Anyway, he prompted me to tell him what happened, and I told him everything, including what Officer Hernandez had said and done to me-- which he more or less dismissed as a non-issue, like, boys will be boys type thing, forget it. I was a bit stunned at that. I knew it was police brutality, and there were plenty of witnesses, but he simply would not go there.

He told me what to say and not say to the cops, and he told me vaguely what to expect from a court appearance. By that time, I got a sense that he had relaxed enough with me to do his job. How well he did his job in general, I had my doubts, but I had no choice but to put my fate in his hands-- which left me feeling even more vulnerable.

Mr. Jaworzcyck said he would find out how much my bail was, but said he wouldn't be able to get to a judge to ask that I be let out on my own recognizance until Monday morning, so if I couldn't come up with it, I would have to sit it out until at least then. I was so thankful for Jerry and his promise.

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We were all called back out together around 10:30am and given our personal effects back. My mom and Jerry's parents were all out there waiting for us to be processed out. No one was waiting for Tyson, of course. We were let out on our own recognizance-- thanks to Jerry's lawyer, Dan Strickland. He managed to get us all bundled together for the process.

The three of us were charged with assault and battery. There had been talk of adding use of a deadly weapon to Jerry's charge, since he was a certified Black Belt, but Strickland got that left off. I was surprised that all three of us had tested under the legal limit for intoxication. All five of the others were charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, felony mischief, vandalism, drunk in public, contributing to the delinquency of a minor-- since the one I had fought, was under eighteen and drunk-- and Dickie boy had being legally drunk while driving added to his charges. I thought they should have had attempted murder on their list of charges.

I looked out past the long counter and saw my mom looking worried and pissed off. She didn't see us yet. I saw Jerry's folks and instantly got all that had been said about his mother. She looked... impatient, intimidating. Everyone gave her a wide berth without even realizing they were doing so. She was pretty, looked like a celebrity, a pissed off celebrity, and they were treating her like one. Jerry's dad was a very handsome and distinguished looking man in a tailored suit, with brown hair graying at the temples, and the same deep brown eyes Jerry had, but he wasn't nearly as big as Jerry. I actually thought, `Well, it looks like Jerry will age well, if he looks as handsome as his dad by the time he's that age.' He didn't look as put out as she did-- but he certainly didn't look happy about it all either.

They released twelve of us at the same time, including Dickie boy. His folks looked... average, like any other parents that age. Maybe I had expected his dad to look like an asshole who encouraged his behavior, but he looked like a peaceful type of guy. Ya never know. They looked just as upset as our parents did. Maybe Dick was a dick all on his own. With a name like that, I suppose he had to be. What were his parents thinking when they chose that name? Even if they only called him Richard, they had to know other people would call him Dick! But parents do some crazy shit. I'd heard of Ima Hogg, the socialite philanthropist in Houston, daughter of former Texas Governor Jim Hogg, so Richard didn't have it that bad, I guess.

They had let Jerry wash the blood off his skin, but his shirt was still splattered and smeared with a lot of it, so he looked like he'd been through hell. Aside from a bruise on his cheek and the skin scraped off of his knuckles, he didn't show any real damage, but he looked exhausted, worried and kinda... I dunno, defeated or worn down. We stepped out from behind the counter and my mom came over to me, looking evenly mixed between pissed off and concerned, asking me what the hell happened and was I ok? She touched my cheek, where I assumed I had a bruise from that pig smashing my face into the hood, but I was more interested in Jerry and his folks. I motioned for my mom to be quiet and watch with me. Tyson stood to the side of us.

Mrs. Loring aimed herself at Jerry, and any man would have cowered under her glare as she marched at him, eyes darting between his face and his bloody shirt. She spoke low, with a barely controlled anger that threatened to explode and eviscerate everything for a block radius at any second.

I knew this was going to be intense when she grabbed his arm and the first thing she said was, "How could you!" Her eyes burned into him and he cast his eyes to the floor. "If that one boy dies, you will be charged with at least manslaughter! He's barely hanging on in surgery. They had to do a tracheotomy on the other one and..." She started losing her composure word by word, "What HAPPENED, Jerry?! Why did you DO this?!" She was firing it all at him too fast for him to have a chance to respond to any of it. "Your instructors have told you what you're capable of and you have a responsibility to keep control! You KNOW this! If any of them dies..." She shuddered and left that thought to jump to, "Why were you there? Why were you with THAT BOY?! AT A..." She lowered her voice to just above a gasp, "Gay bar?" She grabbed his arm and shook him, "Have you lost your mind?! How could you DO this?! You almost killed THREE BOYS! They're all in Intensive Care! All over that boy!"

Jerry had stood contritely with his eyes on the floor until that last statement. Suddenly, he recoiled from her hold and shook himself free, stepping back about three feet. He yelled at her in his hoarse deep bass voice, causing every eye in the place that wasn't already trained on them to look their way and silence to fall, "THAT `BOY' HAS A DAMN NAME! Stop talking about him like he's not even a person!" He ratcheted down a few decibels, but still spoke loudly, "They tried to kill him! I haven't forgotten what I did to them. I did lose control, and I'm sorry! I pray to God they all live. But I'M THE ONE WHO DID IT, not Danny." He paused, studying her shocked expression and continued quietly, pleading for her to understand, "I didn't know if Danny was gonna live. They drove away laughing! I wasn't trying to kill them all... They had to pay. I just had to..." He waved his hands, trying to find words for it all, "hurt them back." He gestured pleadingly, cocking his head at an angle to appeal to his mom, "I had to do something. They tried to kill him, Mom." He was blinking rapidly, fighting back tears and holding his hands out to her, asking for her understanding and maybe a little comfort.

Mrs. Loring was standing there in a state of shock from his initial outburst, her eyes like saucers and mouth gaping open. I don't know if she even heard any of the last half of what he said. Mr. Loring had stepped up to put himself between them if it got too out of hand. He was listening to Jerry, watching him intently, but almost as shocked as she was at his initial outburst. Mrs. Loring was speechless. The whole huge room was still quiet except for the phones, and a couple of officers had stepped out from behind the counter to intervene if necessary, just as Dan Strickland came out from the offices in back. I guess I was getting the tense standoff I had been waiting for. It just wasn't between the cops and some criminal.

Then Jerry repeated quietly, sadly actually, knowing how his mother felt, "They tried to kill him. I don't even know if he's alive right now." Dan Strickland was a few feet behind Mrs. Loring and he nodded and mouthed to Jerry that Danny was alive, but he didn't want to speak up at that moment to tell Jerry what his status was, if he even knew.

As Mrs. Loring recovered from her shock, her eyes narrowed and her expression became one of enraged disgust. She pointed her finger, shook her head and snarled at Jerry, her voice unnaturally deep and guttural sounding for a woman, "No you don't! Oh, no, you, don't! I told you to stay away from him and you goddamn sure will!" She moved toward him menacingly, speaking in measured tones, "I will NOT let you ruin your life and ours over that little..." she couldn't come up with a word for Danny at that moment that would convey all she felt. "Do you HEAR ME?! You are NOT like him! YOU--ARE--NORMAL!"

They were right back in each other's faces now and I could see the anger in his eyes matching hers, "GO TO HELL! YOU TAKE YOUR `NORMAL' and GO--TO--HELL!" he yelled, pointing his finger right back at her. I almost let out a cheer for him, but caught myself. "I AM just like him!"

Mr. Loring finally spoke up, sounding every bit the military commander in a voice every bit as deep as Jerry's. He barked, "JERRY! JANET! BOTH OF YOU, SHUT THE HELL UP! This is neither the time nor place to have this discussion! Let's get out of here, right now!"

He grabbed their elbows and started them toward the exit, both of them fuming and breathing hard, anger, hurt and confusion etched equally in their features. I had never seen Jerry's face so red. Dan Strickland followed, looking very uncomfortable.

As soon as they turned the corner and got out the door, the usual noise of the busy room erupted. Most of the people went back to what they were doing, but many in the large room started talking about the big scene. They were buzzing about it like high school girls, laughing and quoting both Jerry and Mrs. Loring's statements. I wished Danny could have seen this. After all he'd told me about her and their confrontation, I wished like hell he could have watched Jerry stand her down.

"Whoee!" My mom finally uttered as she shook her head and looked at me with wide eyes. I could see the wheels turning in her head, correlating all she had just witnessed to our scene at the 7-11 back in San Antonio. I felt, I dunno, stronger because of this for some reason. I guess it gave me strength to see Jerry defy his mother for the same reason in much the same way, like it told me I had been justified in defying my mom on this subject-- of course, that's not touching on the subject of stealing her boyfriend. No comment, guilty as charged. But I had felt so guilty for so long because I knew being gay was so shameful and wrong in everyone's eyes. All this time I had felt I was way out of line in standing up to Mom and saying this is who I am and you have to deal with that. Seeing a friend stand there and shout it in the middle of the Houston Police Department for all to hear was... fucking fantastic, electrifying! It sent chills up and down my spine and gave me some courage-- and a little peace of mind.

As we stood staring unblinking at each other, I could see in Mom's eyes, something like, she realized she had to come to grips with what she had been refusing all this time to face about me. She knew I could be just as stubborn as she was, just as stubborn as Jerry, and I realized how lucky we'd been to get along so well all my life until this gay thing came up. It had driven such a huge wedge between us. We didn't communicate anymore and basically lived more like roommates than mother and son.

As defiant and independent as I felt in general, I really missed the closeness we'd had most of my life, when it was us against the world. After Wayne, everything had changed. We had become like strangers who barely acknowledged each other during the little time we were together in the apartment, between her nighttime work hours and my being at school during the day. We never talked anymore and up until I became friends with Danny, Jerry and Tyson, I had been pretty depressed and sullen most of the time.

My heart raced with a surge of happiness and love when I saw a look of... connection, or re-connection, in her eyes, like it was dawning on her that letting go of this `holdout' on our relationship was the sensible thing to do if she wanted to have a relationship with me. She didn't need to say a word. The long look we shared told me our bond could be repaired, that she loved me in spite of all that had happened, in spite of me being `that way' and it was all gonna be alright. I know I communicated to her that I loved her still and missed her. I even thought I would in some way apologize for stealing Wayne from her if the right moment came up, as awkward as that would be. I also realized that I had forgiven her for chasing him off. I mean, her reaction was perfectly understandable really, considering everything at the time, my age, the shock of it all...

It was that fast, standing in the middle of HPD headquarters on a Saturday morning. No, of course everything wasn't all settled and worked out; we would have to talk about it all more, but what her eyes said to me was that we could talk about it now, and that was a real beginning, a fresh start that I planned to pursue.

I smiled at her and she smiled back. We didn't break out in a hug. It just wasn't that way with Mom-- not that we never hugged... it's hard to explain.

Anyway, about that time, I remembered Tyson and looked over at him. He was still kinda stunned from watching Mrs. Loring in action. Danny had told me some of what Tyson had been through with his folks when he was outed, and though I knew it had gone entirely different, it had to have brought back the memories for him.

His shirt was ripped sexily across his tight chest and he had a big bruise on his right cheek and a small cut on his right eyebrow. I realized I had gotten to see him completely `unbattered' for just one day, yesterday, in the time since I'd been introduced to him.

I think that moment, standing there in the cop shop, was the moment I fell in love with him. I had been lusting hot and heavy for him and liking him a lot up to now, but the feelings that flowed through me in that moment were much more than just lust for this scrapper. I wanted to grab him and kiss him full on, hard, right there in the middle of all those redneck cops and assorted criminals, and in front of my mom. I just laughed to myself and let loose a big goofy grin.

I got his attention and said, "I'll give you a ride." Then, without asking my mom for permission, I offered, "Umm, you wanna stay at my place for now?"

He just looked confused and nodded his head yes, looking like he couldn't compute everything just yet. Then he snapped his head up and said, "Danny! We gotta go see Danny!"

I felt like, `duh!' and said, "Yeah! We can go see him, can't we?" I turned to my mom and she was staring at us, assessing both of us in ways I wasn't familiar with.

"Umm, yeah," she said. "But if he's not conscious yet, or in critical condition, they won't let anyone but family in to see him."

I turned and bolted for the door, yelling back over my shoulder, "I gotta find out what Jerry's gonna do!"

I barreled through the doors into the hot, muggy Houston morning, only to come to a screeching halt in the eye stinging, polluted sunshine. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the Lorings and their lawyer pushing their way through a mob of reporters.

TOO FUCKING MUCH! There were two TV station crews there as well as the Chronicle and Post reporters. Chills went all over my body and I could barely make myself walk on my rubbery legs. All the times I'd seen this sort of thing on news alerts between commercials during shows I was watching (I hardly ever watched the news itself) hadn't prepared me for the real thing-- and definitely hadn't prepared me for being a part of what they were reporting about. They were shouting over each other, filming and snapping pictures, shoving microphones at them, asking Jerry why he tried to kill the boys; what was his relationship to Daniel Dresden, David Hansard and Tyson Harmon; did he really take all three of the other boys on at the same time; had they been to a gay disco; was he homosexual and still in high school, etc...

Dan Strickland was pushing ahead through the throng, continually repeating that the Lorings had nothing to say about the unfortunate incident at this time. The Chronicle reporter asked Mr. Loring if it was true that they both worked for NASA, and I could see Mrs. Loring go crimson, duck her head even lower into Strickland's back and shield her eyes as she pushed to get him to move faster.

I ran around the throng and faced them, walking backwards to keep about five feet between me and them. I yelled at Jerry, "We're going to see him! Can you come too?"

Ok, yes, I knew that was probably a bad thing to do at that moment, that it would fuel the reporters even more, but I was overwhelmed by the scene and not thinking clearly. I knew it was bad timing, but I had the thought in my mind that once the Lorings left, I wouldn't be able to talk to Jerry for at least a while, days maybe. I knew Jerry was confused, scared and angry, but I guess I wanted-- needed-- to shift his focus back to what was still most important to all of us, and especially him: Danny.

Jerry stopped abruptly and looked at me. Everybody stopped like a freeze-frame and cameras clicked-- all eyes were on Jerry. He stood there and his bloodshot eyes got glassy for a moment, then he looked at his dad. A police helicopter was approaching and landing on the roof on the other side of the building; still, it barely dented the silence.

He spoke softly but clearly, "I need to see him."

His dad sputtered, cleared his throat and glanced around nervously at the reporters then back to Jerry. "Ummm, maybe... Maybe you should wait until later, son, perhaps tomorrow. Now's not a good time."

Jerry leveled his dad with a steely glare and gritted his jaw, but his voice was remarkably calm, "Now is a good time."

Mr. Loring blanched and gave in with a grunt and a nod as he turned. Mrs. Loring looked up at him like he'd gone insane, but said nothing. A reporter sidled up to me and asked if I was David Hansard or Tyson Harmon, but I didn't answer her. She could access the mug shots if she wanted to know so bad.

Part of me wanted to stand there and give them a press conference defending Jerry and the rest of us, describing the vicious, unprovoked attack on Danny and why we had to kick their asses, and even say something about how hard it was to be gay and how cruel most people were and stuff like that. But the part of me that controlled my ability to speak-- and my legs-- was scared shitless in this situation and just wanted to run like hell.

Just as I said, "We'll see you there," the gaggle of reporters started back up firing questions at them and several aimed their microphones at me. I ran on wobbly legs back to the station doors to meet up with Mom and Tyson. Of course they were awed by the mob scene as well.

I mean, it was exciting as hell to be caught up in a newsworthy event, ya know? And really, no matter how much none of us wanted to be the focus of this kind of attention, there was no denying it was the most exciting thing any of us had ever been involved in.

Naturally, I wondered if I would be seeing my face on the news and I definitely planned on watching each broadcast to see, and to see Jerry and how the whole story was presented. I was so afraid of how they would portray us. Would Ron Stone, on KPRC channel 2, lead off with, "A gang of three homosexuals attacked five young men in a pickup truck late last night..." or, "Three homosexual high school seniors from Friendswood tried to murder five normal high school boys..." or, if it got really crazy, the Chronicle headline would be: "Homicidal Homos Go On Rampage, Try To Kill Boys!" I guess you could say I didn't expect the best of treatment from the press.

We all headed the other way from the group and decided to go straight to the hospital. Mom would drive us to the hotel to pick up my car later. She drove us toward the huge Texas Medical Center off Main Street, next to Herman Park, museums and the Warwick Hotel, from which Bob Hope would say was the most beautiful view he'd ever seen from a hotel room in all his worldly travels-- not Paris, Rome, Venice or some tropical beach, no, Houston, go figure. The Texas Medical Center was world renowned, a mini city in itself and had a number of different hospital complexes within it. We had been told Danny and the others were all in Ben Taub General Hospital. We eventually found out what floor he was on and were told only family could visit him at this time and they would not tell us what his condition was.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****



My mind was reeling out of control when Dad led Mom and me out of the police station. I had known it was coming, but on top of everything else, this was just too much to deal with. I was mad as hell and I was more scared than I'd ever been in my life; scared for Danny, scared of any of those guys dying, scared of doing jail time or going to prison for it all, scared of what my mom would do, scared of everyone I knew finding out what had happened and all about Danny and me, and scared of things I hadn't even thought of yet. I was confused, unsure of everything-- and then we walked out the door of HPD to be mobbed by reporters.

Could this nightmare get any more insane?

My knees were so rubbery I was afraid I looked drunk when I walked. I had to concentrate on every step I took. I felt my face go flush and my ears burned. I had never in my life imagined that I would be the object of news cameras and I had no clue how to deal with it. I just wanted to disappear. My adrenaline was pumping almost as fast as it had last night when I jumped up into that pickup. They were firing questions at me from every direction at once and every question went straight to my gut, adding to the twisting, knotting sensation of my empty stomach eating itself. If it hadn't have been empty, I'm sure I would have thrown up.

Danny was lying in a hospital bed, in who knows what condition, and my whole life was now unraveling in front of cameras, up close and personal for all of metropolitan Houston to witness. It was just supposed to have been a fun night out.

"Did you really fight three at one time and is it true they had weapons but you fought with your bare hands?"

"What will you do if Steven Castilar dies? Do you have anything to say to his parents?"

"Which gay nightclub were you leaving from?"

"How long have you been a homosexual?"

"Are you and Daniel Dresden homosexual lovers? Is that why you tried to kill those boys after they attacked him?"

I guess none of them realized that if I had actually intended to kill them, they would be dead; but it didn't seem like a good time to point that out.

They kept firing questions at me and asking my parents about their jobs. When I saw Mom and Dad ducking the questions about NASA, it struck me that my being gay somehow just might end up having an effect on their positions after all, and I felt even worse. At least we didn't have to answer any of their questions.

I just kept my eyes trained on my mom's heels until I heard Dave's voice cutting through the noise, instantly refocusing me. After that tense moment when my dad agreed to go see Danny, I kinda blanked out until we got in the car. The news crews didn't follow us that far, as they all stopped to pose and give their wrap-up for the anchor desk. The second the doors were closed, Mom was already telling Dad to just drive us straight home. I opened my door and stepped back out.

"What are you doing?! Get back in here!" Mom snapped her fingers as she glared back at me from the front passenger seat.

"I'm going to the hospital," I stated bluntly. "If you're not, then I'll find a way." I vaguely recalled being told my car was impounded as evidence and it would be several days at least before I could get it back. I would take a cab.

She glared at me for a moment then rolled her eyes. "Ok, goddammit! We'll go to the damn hospital."

***** ***** *****

We rode in deafening silence, each of us stewing in our own thoughts. I have no idea why Dad chose not to take the freeway. Every stoplight took all fucking day long to change and every car in front of us seemed to be driving five miles an hour. It was the longest ride of my life. My palms were sweaty and my heart just never quite slowed down to a normal rate. Each thunderous beat echoed in my head, making it impossible to concentrate on much of anything.

The images just kept swirling around; of Danny collapsing, the blood, holding his limp body in my arms and that bottomless feeling of hopelessness. Running after the pickup and diving in, feeling the white-hot rage consuming me; the look of terror in that last guy's eyes before I jerked him down and started in on him, like I was avenging every senseless act of brutality ever committed-- by being brutal myself. Staring down the barrel of the gun pointed right between my eyes with the cop's finger on the trigger while his other hand steadied it, knowing that with the slight flex of a finger, even an accidental twitch, it would all be over. Getting handcuffed and read my rights in front of all those people. Being fingerprinted and questioned, then sitting in a jail cell with all those thugs. Talking to my freaked out Dad on the phone, then trying to calmly tell the whole story to Dan Strickland. Getting blasted by Mom in front of the entire HPD and hitting right back with a boldness I never thought I had in me. Having news cameras and reporters grilling us like I'd only ever seen on TV... Everything just completely overwhelmed me.

I seriously thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown any moment. My hands were shaking something fierce and I couldn't stop them even when I clenched my sore fists. Everything was falling apart. My life was racing headlong into oblivion and I knew there was just no stopping this train.

I stared blankly at the back of Mom's head, watching her hair sway back and forth when we turned corners. I would glance at Dad every once in a while, grim, staring intently ahead, his gray suit jacket folded vertically in half on the seat beside me.

Sitting within my reach in the front seats, I felt so disconnected from them. I felt like I didn't know these people, really. I knew they didn't really know me. I wondered why I didn't feel sad about that. I thought I should. It just left me feeling empty. I mean, I was bothered by it, but I wasn't sad-- though I sensed that I would be at some point in the future. I was jerked out of my zone when Dad turned into the parking lot over a rough driveway entrance. I began to sweat in the cool AC of the car as he drove around looking for an open space. Mom pointed one out and he maneuvered into it. I reached for the door handle when he put it in park.

Mom barked, "Leave it running, Larry."

Dad's hand hovered at the key ring for a moment as he looked warily at her out of the corner of his eye. He glanced over his shoulder at me with a strange look. I think it was to signal, `Get ready.'

I pulled the door handle and as it clicked, Mom rather calmly said, "Wait a minute, Jerry."

My heart raced like I'd run a mile. I was almost hyperventilating. I mumbled, "We-- I... need to get in there an' see him."

She turned in her seat and said, "In a minute. Sit over there so I can see you better," pointing to the seat behind Dad.

I reluctantly, with attitude, traded places with Dad's jacket and stared at my left knee.

"Janet, now's not a good..." my dad began.

Pay no attention to the man in the driver seat. She grabbed me by the eyes and spoke as if he'd never said a word, "You don't want anything more to do with him, Jerry." She was now so calm and professional sounding, like she was stating the obvious truth, the only truth worth considering. "He's caused you nothing but trouble. He's potentially ruined all of our lives already. We need to stick together from now on and project a unified, normal family. We'll get past this somehow... as a family, Jerry."

I was dumbfounded. This was the last thing I expected to hear from her. I thought she was going to throw me out after the scene at HPD. Everything she was saying was all wrong and I was rejecting it word for word as she said it, but I was so thrown off by this approach that I couldn't find a response, and she apparently took my lack of reaction and blank expression as agreement, since she continued.

"You have to put this `phase' behind you now. You'll lose everything if you don't. We'll lose everything. That boy would destroy your future, if you let him." She still refused to say his name, and she still put every ounce of `blame' on Danny, ignoring that I was the one who beat those guys and refusing to believe that I wanted and loved him.

"I know that's not what you want, Jerry. You know how much we love you." She reached between the seats and put her hand on my knee. It scalded my skin through my jeans. "I'll help you get through this, son." In a familiar psychological maneuver, she nodded her head slowly as she talked, with the most sincere look in her eyes. She was projecting vulnerability, telling me I had the power to hurt her but she was counting on me being a good son.

"You have such a bright future ahead of you. This stain on your life will fade away eventually, and I'll help you every step of the way to be strong. I know you've always wanted to do the right thing, Jerry. It's going to be rough, with the charges against you and with the media focused on our family like this, but I think it can be defused, I hope." She shuddered and gave me a pleading look, trying to convey to me that if I went against her on all this, she would just die or something.

And what I felt was... insulted.

I saw a lot of cracks in her delivery. I had always known she was a good actress-- and I had seen her give some primo performances-- but when I realized how little effort she had put into coming up with a strategy to use on me, how almost childishly transparent her chosen tack was... I was insulted. She thought I was THAT stupid, THAT easy to manipulate, that she didn't even bother getting more sophisticated with her approach than this. I mean, no doubt that, had she put her skills to work, she could have had me wavering, confused, at least guilty for my feelings, like `that Sunday morning'. But she wasn't bothering-- and I knew that was some kind of sign; I just didn't know what.

She had made it so crystal clear to me that I was just another ornament in her life, a possession to be managed, brandished along with the other perquisites of her position, the houses, the cars, the boat, the perfect Ken doll successful husband, the perfect jock son, and that incorrigible daughter. Well, everybody has to have flaws. Like the faux mole she painted on her cheek every day, her flaws were just as budgeted and averaged out as her smile was.

But a glaring, blatant flaw like a gay son could not be tolerated. This must be fixed-- at least cosmetically glossed over. If this `condition' were deeply buried, not flaunted about in polite society; if I were to return to the straight and narrow, get married and have kids, then well, every family has their past skeletons, and the whispers behind the back are to be borne with dignity. Did she really assume she could still manipulate me into this mindset as easily as she had all my life?

Okay, I couldn't fault her for a lot of the manipulation in the past. A lot of it was called `parenting', I guess, and I didn't think I had turned out too bad-- as long as you didn't consider being gay bad. It's just that lately I tended to see every little thing she did as a calculated move. She had always encouraged me to do the right thing, for propriety, for image, not because it was the right thing to do. The few times `doing the right thing' conflicted with image, she had put much more effort and skill into convincing me her way was the right thing to do even if it felt wrong, because sometimes in life, image (she rarely actually used that word and she had a bunch of charged substitutes, like `family', `obligation', `happiness', `position', and so on, that all meant the same thing) trumps integrity. The world according to Janet Loring.

All this raced through my head while I heard and understood every word she said. It startled me, the sudden clarity on so many things that I hadn't had before. I wondered if this was anything like what Danny had tried to describe, an epiphany or something. But I wasn't like, brimming with confidence or anything; I was still extremely nervous-- hell, scared-- about where this was all going, because I was about to buck her like she'd never been bucked. I knew that what was happening in this car at this moment was a major turning point in my life-- in all of our lives, and the train was screaming down the track in the pitch black tunnel.

`I'm eighteen. I'm an adult now,' I thought as she talked. `I can make it on my own if they can't handle this. I know I can. Danny, me, together. Ben and Lydia are there for us, too. I'm not alone. I'm NOT alone. Be strong. Be a man.'

Then I freaked out as it hit me, `Ben and Lydia! Oh shit! They probably HATE me now! Oh man, lying to them, what I let happen to Danny... God, they're bound to hate me now! Look what they've seen me do! First I drive Danny to almost kill himself, then I almost got him killed last night! That's TWICE they've NEARLY LOST Danny because of ME! If I'd have just parked the car the right fucking way, it would've been me they got...' Depression slammed into me like a ton of bricks, and I sank heavily into the backseat as I tried to think it out while Mom talked on, `Man, the ways I've let them down are unforgivable. How can I even face them? I don't think I could look either of them in the eye now. I've fucked things up so bad... so bad.

Ok, ok, so they'll hate me too and I deserve that; so they won't `be there' for us either. But I know Danny will still love me. At least I KNOW that, without any doubt... if he recovers.

He WILL recover! He HAS to recover. I'm NOT going to think of that alternative.

We'll make it with or without Ben and Lydia on our side. Maybe, over time, I can gain back their trust. I have to. They mean SO much to me, I just gotta. I'll find a way to prove myself again. I'll beg them to forgive me. I'll do whatever it takes.

Damn, it hurts to even hear the shit Mom is saying about Danny, talking about him like he's some mangy stray devil-dog who's infecting me or bewitching me.' I was wishing desperately that Ben and Lydia were my parents right about then. Facing them would be nothing compared to dealing with my actual mother right now. `Stay calm. Don't let her get to you. Try to work this out. She IS your mother. He IS your father...'

Mom was saying, "You should go see him once, right now, as a matter of courtesy, because you have tried to be a friend, a good influence on this boy, but you've come to see that it's not worth it, that he just refuses to even want to be helped." Was she referring to his being gay?! Like I was supposed to have tried to help him NOT be gay, or that I should now try to tell people that I tried to change him?! I couldn't find words to even express my amazement at her words. "You did what you could, Jerry. Now it's time to leave all that nonsense behind and get on with your life. We have a lot to deal with. When we get home, maybe we can kneel down and pray together that all of those boys live." In my peripheral vision, I saw my dad's eyes go wide at this suggestion, as did mine.

PRAY TOGETHER???!!! We had never prayed in front of each other, let alone together! I'd never seen my mother pray in my life, aside from the times we went to church for Easter Sunday. I could count those times on one hand, and they were all when I was little. What bullshit! She wasn't the least bit religious except to `talk' it when the moment called for it. All she was doing was trying to distract me from responding to her saying I should abandon Danny, from talking about me being gay, from confronting her.

"We can have Dan tell the press that you feel terrible about what you did under the influence of alcohol, that we are all praying constantly for their complete recovery. If it comes down to it, I could say it to them myself... and I could even offer to counsel their parents or something..." She always toyed with her left earlobe with one blush colored nail when she plotted, "Hmmm, I think that would look good, even if they refuse."

PRAY TOGETHER?! Yeah, right! Well, while I had sat in that jail cell I had privately prayed that Danny and all of them live. I definitely did not want anyone to die. But actually kneeling down with Mom and Dad and praying together? It would feel so, so unnatural. She stopped talking when she saw my annoyed smirk. She stared at me, waiting for me to give in. I think she was holding her breath.

I looked down at my hands in my lap and shook my head slightly as I tried to decide how to respond. I told myself, `This is it, Jerry. You already started it at the police station, but this-- THIS is the moment you take charge of your life, become your own man. Do it. Tell her she's full of shit and you're tired of feeling like her ventriloquist dummy, moving your mouth while her words come out and her hand is up your ass.' I smiled a crooked smile and almost chuckled at that thought, feeling a little satisfaction at knowing my smile had to be making her very nervous about my reply, my attitude.

"Ummmm..." I looked up at her expectant expression then glanced at Dad, who had turned to face me as well as he could over the headrest. `Do I know these people?' I was inclined to start off saying something about how I loved them too... but I couldn't. I knew I had love for them in me, but I felt at that moment that saying it would feel just as fake as her concern for those guys I had beaten. I looked again into my dad's brown eyes, and he stared back with a worried look. He hadn't expressed an opinion either way about my sexuality so far. I hadn't seen any real negativity in his expressions or eyes. I knew he cared, knew he loved me in his way, but I had no idea where I stood now with him.

"Look, Mom..." I faced her again. "I've..." Knowing what I had to tell her, them, didn't make it any easier. Feeling the distance I felt emotionally from them didn't make it any easier either, like I thought it should. "I hope... I want you to know... I didn't come to... understand this without..." I scrambled for words, trying to appear calm, trying to come up with a way to say it that would make her listen and try to see it from my side. But my frustration came through in my voice, "Mom, I tried like hell to fight this... these feelings. I tried-- I really tried, to see things your way, but..." I glanced at Dad again and his face was impassive. I couldn't read it at all. I spread my hands in a helpless way, "It's just the way it is. It's what I am. I can't fight it. I'm gay."

There, I said it. I said it without hesitation, no stuttering, no shame. I was surprised Mom didn't interrupt me. "It's not... It's not a `phase', Mom. I'm in love with Danny. I mean I'm really, deeply, in love with him. I know that's not what you wanna hear. I know you think I'm too young to know for sure I'm gay, and too young to be totally sure I'm in love and all that. You said all those things that morning, but... It's reality. I don't wanna try `n lie to you anymore. I gotta be honest with you, about me. I know you've gotta know it anyway, after all this."

Since she didn't speak up, I went on. I gestured placatingly, "I know this is not something you ever wanted-- I'm only asking that you try to understand and accept me. I really need your understanding right now, especially with all this goin' on. And... and you know I'm not like the sickos you talked about that day. I'm not a, like, child molester or anything like that-- and neither is Danny." I paused and looked over at Dad and back to Mom with a plea, "You do know that, don't you? You know I'm still the same person I was before you knew this, right? I'm still Jerry, your son... right?" I could hear my voice pleading like I was a little kid, needing that confirmation from her.

I couldn't believe I had gotten all that out without losing it-- and without her interrupting or challenging me on any of it. I was shaking like a leaf.

Nothing in her expression changed as she stared into my eyes. Her face remained frozen in the same look it had when she finished talking-- which at least seemed non-threatening and even conciliatory. I waited-- holding my breath. We stared into each other's eyes in stark silence in the smoothly idling car. In my peripheral vision, I saw people coming and going around us. The side and rear windows were tinted, so most people couldn't see in. I wasn't about to be the first one to blink or look away. My eyes quickly dried out and burned from the AC vent blowing back in my face from between the front seats. But I wouldn't let myself blink.

I waited. Dad waited. I think nobody breathed. It seemed like forever before even one of her facial muscles moved. Finally, her cheek twitched as she withdrew her hand from my knee. Then a pall of what I could only read as pure disgust washed over her, darkening her face, forcing all the sunlight out of the car. The temperature went sub-zero.

"Get out."

I flinched as if I'd been slapped. Wow. Two little words. Two little words that said SO much.

"Mo-om..." I pleaded, my voice cracking as my hands spread pleadingly.

"Get out," she repeated, just as coldly, just as calmly. I tried to read her eyes, but they looked cold, emotionless. Only the set of her jaw and tightness of her lips hinted at the core of ice that was her.

I started to pull the door handle and get out of the car, but stopped. She was already turning back to face forward and to the other side a little, completely away from me. "What are you saying, Mom? You saying get out, PERIOD?" I asked, with defiance or a challenge in my tone.

Dad just looked stunned as he stared slack-jawed at her-- but he didn't say a word. She didn't answer me. Fine! Fuck her then! Fine. Just fine.

So I opened the door and the heat gushed in. I put one foot out on the asphalt, but stopped again. I demanded, "Are you telling me to get out of your life? I mean, what are you saying, Mom?" Anger was rising in my voice. I knew what she was saying, but I wanted her to SAY what she meant. She didn't respond, just faced away from me. The pitch of my voice went higher as I talked to her hair, "I'm... You need to... What are you saying, Mom?! I just wanna know. Are you telling me you don't accept me? Are you saying you don't love me anymore, all of a sudden?"

My pitch went even higher, "I just wanna know!" I noted the sob building up in my voice and felt my eyes begin to water and I rejected that I was beginning to feel so hurt and so sad and so lost. I was determined not to let her get to me, not to feel worthless if she didn't love me.

It wasn't working very well. In spite of the emotional distance and all I had realized about how shallow she was, it still hurt so damn much more than I thought it would to be so coldly, brutally rejected by my mother. I was shaking and my voice was very uneven, cracking on practically every other word as I looked to my dad for help.

"So, what, Dad, is this it? Is it that cut and dry?" I pleaded. "What, do I no longer exist for y'all or something now, all of a sudden, because of who I am?" I touched the top of the seat near his headrest, reaching for that connection that I already knew wasn't there. "Is there no discussing this, no working it out?"

His mouth opened and closed, trying to speak, but no words made it out. His eyes darted between Mom and I. He looked a little ashen, unable to jump in. I pleaded to him with a full on sob now in my voice and tears leaking down my cheeks, "It's just over? Eighteen years of raising me to be the person I am-- a good person-- and all that means nothing all of a sudden, just because of who I love? Y'all don't love me anymore? Dad..." I begged his blinking eyes. "You too?"

Dad's eyes just kept darting between Mom and I. He was completely flustered, at a loss for words, and he seemed so... ineffectual, so weak. She had emasculated him so long ago that I didn't know him any other way. Oh, he could be "the Commander" and be loud and authoritative with others, and even with Mom and me, like at the police station, when she let him. But when it came to taking sides when either my sister or I opposed her, he was as spineless as they come, and he showed nothing but frailty now.

He finally managed to speak, stammering, "J-J-Janet... Why don't we talk about this some more? Let's not just cut it off like..."

Mom cut him off with one glacial word, "Drive." Not looking back, she raised the back of her hand to indicate there would be no further discussion and said, yet again, "Get out." But she added to it this time, "You are no longer a member of this family. You are not welcome in our home. Go be with your sick friend." She loaded the word so heavily it fell of its own weight to the floorboard and shattered in a million judgments.

I was just stunned. I couldn't move and couldn't think and couldn't respond. I couldn't yell at her, I couldn't cry, I couldn't reason with her. But I had to move, had to physically exit the car, exit my entire life. My father obediently put the car in reverse, but held his foot on the brake. I couldn't believe this was happening, even though I had anticipated and actually expected it.

I kept thinking, `So this is it?' Chill bumps raced over my whole body again and again as everything just felt so... final.

I reached up, wiped a tear from my cheek and looked at the moisture on my finger, much the way I had looked at Danny's blood on it last night and with at least a small amount of the same disbelief I had then, like it was hard for my mind to accept what it was and why it was there. I looked once more at my dad, who could no longer look me in the eye.

I pitied him, and that realization made me sad on a whole other level. I looked at the back of my mother's head and tried again to stop myself from feeling like I'd just been wiped from existence, scrubbed out without even leaving that stain she had referred to so people might occasionally notice it and remember there once was someone named Jerry Lawrence Loring.

My head was pounding so hard I was afraid I might have an aneurism or something. I felt like a trapped animal. I could hardly breathe, and at the same time I got angry. I got enraged. I wanted to SCREAM at her that she had no right to do this to me and she was a cold hearted bitch and she didn't deserve to have me for a son and she would someday regret everything she had said and to hell with her anyway and I would get along just fine without her and I hope she'll be happy in her miserable little world where no one can really love her cuz she's so fucking cold and distant and I hate her and...and...

My shoulders slumped and I lugged my unbearably heavy body out and stood at the open door, clutching the handle in my trembling hand. Dad waited for me close the door and let go, but I just stood there... I guess giving Mom time to relent, to blink.

It didn't happen.

After a long minute, I shut the door and Dad released the brake. I watched my reflection warp and waver as it traveled in the brilliant black sheen of the sleek Mercedes as it backed up and paused. The harsh sun made the tinted windows like mirrors and I wondered if my dad even looked my way before he abandoned me. The wheels turned and they headed toward the exit. I stood in the parking lot of Ben Taub General Hospital in the middle of Houston, in the middle of over three million people, and felt just so totally alone.

My eyes scanned the parking lot, for what I don't know. People came and went. I just stood there in the noon heat shimmering off the asphalt and cars, unsure if they were out of focus because of the rising vapors or the water in my eyes. I felt... nothing. Nothingness. Emptiness. Mom's words began to drift through my head and I thought again, `So this is it? Is it that easy? Is it that easy to excommunicate your own son whom you claim to love so much? I wondered.

I did feel something besides just emptiness. I felt... small and vulnerable, scared, like the time I got lost in the huge Sears store in Cleveland when I was five years old at Christmas time. I had cried nonstop until Mom came and got me after they paged her over the store PA system. I remembered how she scolded me in front of all those nice people and refused to comfort me afterwards, telling me I had better learn to follow her and not get lost, because she just might not come back and get me next time. I had clung to her so tightly after that. The fear of her not bothering to come get me terrified me to the core at five. The reality of her throwing me away at eighteen just left me empty.

I couldn't say how long I stood there in a daze. I thought of surprisingly little in that time. I guess I just let the emotions battle it out inside me. I mean, I felt that fear in the pit of my stomach; I felt the loss of everything and everyone I had known all my life, but I also felt relieved. I felt a little bit lighter in a strange way, and that feeling grew until the sound of screeching tires yanked my eyes over to the Emergency room door, a couple hundred feet away.

A guy in his twenties was helping a much older man I guessed to be his dad out of their car. The older man's nose was bleeding and he didn't seem to be able to walk on his own. A woman who had to be his wife yelled, "Hurry! Get in there before it's too late!" just as a couple of hospital staff ran out pushing a gurney to help get him inside.

The woman's words jolted me out of my paralysis. DANNY! All that had just happened, my emptiness, my fear, my sense of loss, the image of my mother's cold eyes-- it all just vanished as my mind bore down on one point of concern: I had to find Danny, find out how he was, make it all better. As I looked at the automatic sliding door, it seemed like it was a mile away as I was gripped in a sudden blind panic, feeling like I HAD to get through it before it closed, as though somehow I ONLY had this one chance to get inside to my love, to my life, to all that mattered now.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>MORE TO COME<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

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