The second John Gladstone finished saying the press conference was over, the reporters all started shouting questions again, but I was so relieved he had ended it that I didn't even look back at them. I simply could not believe that I had said all those things to the media! I was kicking myself and yelling `What were you thinking?!' in my head as John led me away from the fray. Where had all that come from? I had not intended to make a bunch of statements about my sexuality and all those issues. I certainly hadn't intended to get, like, philosophical or anything. I had just wanted to let them know I regretted the fight and all that. I had a gut feeling that I had just complicated my life-- and Danny's, Dave's and Tyson's-- even more, and that was not easy to do, given how fucked up things already were... mostly because of me.
I was sitting here hours later, holding Danny's hand as he slept, thinking over all these things, my mind jumping around from one thing to another, then coming back to this or that topic. One moment that kept popping up was John's words as he led me away from the podium. When we'd gotten far enough away, he shook his head and whistled low, saying, "Whew! That was powerful stuff, Jerry. I'm glad you're on our side." He gave me a friendly grin and asked, "Would you like to become our spokesperson?" He chuckled, but I almost think he was serious. "You handled them so well, for not having any experience with that sort of thing, and it certainly doesn't hurt that you're so darn good looking. And most of the press loves you so far, aside from jerks like George and a couple other homophobes. But in general, they love articulate and photogenic people like you."
I thought, `Articulate?! Hah!' I said, "Uhhh... I don't think so." I leaned down to whisper in his ear, "I almost peed my pants when they started in on me." We both laughed.
He said, "Hey, it was your first time! Here I had all this stuff prepared, points to make that I hoped would influence even more positive press on this if you weren't handling it too well, but you just blew all that out of the water! Everything you said, the way you said it, had impact. I have never seen anyone cause a whole group of reporters to become speechless, for even a moment! It was like you had them hypnotized or something, Jerry. It was something to see, and I'll remember it for a long time to come. I just hope they all air the whole thing unedited. I worry they'll just piece together clips out of context and dilute the power of what you said."
About then, Ben and Lydia caught up with us. A reporter had caught Ben and grilled him with a few more questions. He had answered a couple of them and then managed to get away. We all went back inside, where John tried to talk me into addressing the Houston Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus meeting next month at a fundraising dinner. I wouldn't commit, but I didn't outright refuse. I couldn't imagine myself giving speeches and operating in the spotlight when I wasn't forced into it like tonight, but the more it sank in just how big this had gotten, the more I felt like I should do what I could if it might actually help bring about any kind of changes, even if it only changed a couple of minds, and I felt guilty that I didn't want to give more to `the cause' because I knew it would only complicate mine and Danny's life that much more every time I spoke up.
As we parted in the lobby, I noticed that Dr. Reitberg kept giving me these strange contemplative looks. I couldn't read them, but I did sense that they weren't the hostile looks he'd given me before. John, Lydia and Ben talked about politics and the growing clout of gays in the Houston political scene, discussing how a single event like this one could affect the whole discourse for a while. Lydia expressed some satisfaction that at least something good seemed to be coming from all the suffering of Danny and the other boys, and both she and Ben told me how proud they were of how I handled myself.
I told Ben and Lydia that if we waited until the press left and went back out there, that the candlelight vigil members would love to talk with them. So we waited until Dave reported that they were all gone and we went back out. The ones from the night before greeted me like an old friend with hugs and kisses and gave Dave the same treatment. None of us made any speeches; we just mingled and talked. I was touched when I overheard Dave talking with a small group of people at one point and he told them I was like a big brother to him and Danny was his best friend and that Tyson was his boyfriend. That was good to hear. I was happy for Dave. Two of the guys he was talking to oohed and aahed about how sexy Tyson was, from his picture in the paper, and how hot a couple they made, which made Dave blush and glow.
They treated Ben and Lydia like celebrities or royalty. Parents who loved and publicly supported their gay sons and daughters were a rare enough phenomenon, and the whole group just showered them with love and encouragement. I was amazed that several people actually offered to come down to Friendswood and help out with Danny's recovery, help out around the house and fix meals and such-- and you could tell their offers were genuine. Amazing people. They made me think, made me wonder what I could give, how I might be able to help people. I mean, I could see in their eyes how good it made them feel to offer their help and support. Like I said, it made me think.
And apparently meeting these people made Ben think, too. As we rode back up in the elevator after saying thank you and goodnight to all our vigil friends, he mumbled, "Man, I had no idea..."
Lydia looked up at him and asked, "About what?"
He shook his head and said, "About how many kids are rejected and thrown out, beaten, even killed, by their parents for being gay. I mean, I knew it happened some, but... And like, I had a prime example with Tyson, up close and personal. Seeing what his father did to him just... just killed me to see..." His eyes got a bit watery. "This little guy out there... couldn't be more than eighteen or nineteen now..." I knew which one he was talking about. The guy was small like Danny and cute too. "It's like, I could still see the effects of what he's been through... in his eyes and his voice, as he talked to me, y'know? He told me how his dad caught him and his boyfriend just kissing, when they were sixteen. His dad beat him up, broke his jaw, stripped him naked and drove him to Memorial Park and dumped him there, naked, in front of hundreds of people in the middle of the afternoon on a Saturday! His dad spat on him and told him he didn't exist anymore." He shook his head as he pictured it. "But, he told me he was lucky; his boyfriend died a week later from the injuries his own dad gave him after this boy's dad told him about catching them together." He looked at Lydia and asked rhetorically as we exited the elevator, "How can people hurt their own children like that? I just don't understand! I can't even imagine being able to beat your child... and to death even." Lydia ran her hand up and down his arm to comfort him as we walked.
He cocked his head as he thought about it, then said, "And even worse, I would think that... that the rejection, for those who live through it... The rejection has to hurt even more, in the long run, than the beating ever could... Way more. Can you imagine being told by your father, by your parents, that you no longer exist to them?" He shook his head sadly and then his eyes shot up to mine as it hit him that that is what had just happened to me.
Even though I was sure Lydia had told him much of what I told her, I think that up to this point, he had thought of it more or less as them just kicking me out of the house and rejecting me-- which was bad enough, but I don't think he had fully appreciated that my mother had more or less told me I no longer existed for her, and my dad had not challenged her on this, so he might as well have said the words too. Ben stepped over and hugged me tightly, then we silently walked on towards Trauma, lost in our thoughts.
Nurse Stanley reminded us that the news was about to start at ten, so we went down to the main lobby and watched it. Seeing yourself on camera, on TV, is a very strange experience. My voice sounded so different than what I heard when I talked, and I looked different than what I saw in the mirror every day-- not like, way different, but just... different-- besides looking like I hadn't slept in days. Anyway, everyone else was pleased that Eyewitness News 13 aired over half of it. They showed Dr. Reitberg's update, but didn't show John Gladstone at all. They left out the question about whether I had done anything with young boys, thank God, and John's reply, as well as some of the early questions, but they did show Ben saying how they supported Danny and me, which sent pleasant chills down my spine again. They ran most of the exchanges about the legality of gay sex and us `flaunting' our lifestyle stuff, and they ran my `finale' in its entirety.
As it finished, the anchor commented, "An emotional news conference for a story that has gripped the Houston area since it happened Friday night. Participants in the candlelight vigil for Daniel Dresden say they will be there every evening until he is released from the hospital. We'll keep you updated as this story develops. A four car pile up on the I-59 caused..." he went into the next story without missing a beat.
Everyone else seemed pleased with what they showed. I was just embarrassed. I felt so exposed. I wasn't the type to put my heart on my sleeve and share my most personal feelings with everyone-- literally-- and just the fact that I was talking about mine and our sexuality to the world (it felt like it was the entire world) just made me cringe with embarrassment. As we watched it in the lobby, I kept my eyes glued to the screen, but it felt like every eye of the hundred or so people in there were on me. I wanted to shrink and disappear when maybe ten people around the room kind of cheered at the end. At least none of them came over and said anything to any of us, but in my peripheral vision as we left the room, I could see all eyes were in fact on me.
I had insisted Ben and Lydia be the first to go rest up at Bill and David's house, and they did, along with Tyson and Dave. There was no need to have anyone else stay through the night, since Danny would be asleep and I wouldn't be leaving his side, except to use the bathroom or something like that.
As I sat there thinking back on the evening and everything leading up to it, I started getting more down on myself. John, Ben and Lydia, and the whole vigil group had all praised me for how I handled the press conference, but I still saw it as a disaster. The look in that last reporter's eyes was what had really stuck with me, and he showed nothing but contempt and undiluted hatred, so I saw my whole tirade as a failure.
I seemed to be fucking everything up, lately. What was it about me that just got everything twisted up into knots that I couldn't seem to undo? I was trying so damn hard to do the right things and be a good person, but I kept doing stupid shit like losing control Friday night. I had almost killed three people! That was more than just a little transgression, a little slip-up. I felt like I had no control over anything in my life, not even myself. It was depressing. I couldn't even protect Danny, which I saw as my biggest responsibility. I wasn't even out of high school and I felt like a failure in so many ways already... but not in every way; I was a success in the one most important thing: Danny loved me, and that meant there was something good enough about me to love. I had to always keep that in mind. No matter how bad things got, I had that-- and Ben and Lydia's love, another wonderful thing in my life.
I sat there and contemplated how meeting Danny had been a wakeup call for me, how meeting him had forced me to look at myself and take stock-- and I had done that more than once since meeting him, before this weekend, but one night in particular last week after that weekend in Galveston, lying in my bed at `home', I had decided that I didn't like where I was headed before Danny came into my life, sexuality aside, as a person. I recognized that before him, I'd been kind of on autopilot, pretty damn superficial and dishonest in my feelings and my dealings with people. I realized that I had been getting colder and colder, shutting everyone out in the most important ways. It took Danny coming into my life to see how cold and closed off I had become.
And in the months before I met Danny, I had been sensing that big changes were coming. I had no clue as to what they might be, but I remember that I kept getting this kind of tightening in the gut, this kind of feeling that something big was about to happen. I had no idea what form it would take, and even during that first weekend with Danny, as I started realizing that I was falling in love with a guy, even then, I didn't connect what was happening to those feelings I had been getting because those feelings had been a bit like a restlessness, vaguely feeling like I was the one who was going to seek the changes in some undefined way-- and since I was going to be off to college come fall, I had assumed that that was the big change I was sensing.
And even though I knew from the very start that falling in love with Danny would dramatically change my life, I didn't connect that to those pre-Danny feelings, until that night in my room. And of course, that night, I connected everything to that dream with Celia and that's one of those times when I just lay there in my bed and tingled, feeling like it was all bigger than just me, like we were destined for something. I had no idea what, and that night as I lay there about to fall asleep after thinking all these things, my last thought was, `Maybe it's our destiny just to be in love and quietly live our lives together. Maybe we'll never affect anyone but ourselves in any way, but that's enough. That's important enough.' Hah! We'd barely been together a month and look how many people we were intensely involved with already, affecting theirs as well as our own lives.
But as I sat there holding Danny's hand and looking back on the whole weekend, dwelling on the negatives about myself, I realized that I definitely still had some of that coldness I'd had before Danny. It was where my temper came from, where my violent reactions to people and situations sprang from. I had always been prone to acting physically first and thinking second. I had realized that a long time ago and had tried to work on it. That was one of the main reasons I had studied martial arts, after a friend told me how the real focus-- if you really get into it, beyond just learning how to kick ass-- is on self control, on centering your mind and reactions, on balance. And it had helped a lot, but obviously, as Friday night showed, it had not eradicated my violent tendencies.
I argued with myself, tried to talk myself down from some kind of ledge, or threshold, where I felt my heart hardening against the world, against all those people who hated me, us, just for being gay. I felt myself hating them because they hated me, and they didn't have any real justification, and that was an outrage! It was so wrong, and it infuriated me and made my blood pressure rise and made me want to strike out at them before they could strike out at me.
I weighed those feelings, that line of thinking, against my conscience and my conscious effort to open up and be less judgmental of people, to be a better person. It was a struggle that I knew wouldn't be settled in one night sitting beside a hospital bed and trying to figure out where I stood on these things, but I felt that hardening in my heart happening and tried to balance it with the opening of my heart, the softening of my heart to the people I now loved so much, and I began to realize that for now I would have to live with the co-existence, the détente, if you will, of cold in some ways and warm in others. I would just have to learn more self control and keep my temper down.
I was so happy that I could feel so much love so deeply for Danny, so much love for Ben and Lydia, and to other degrees the others, the friends in our lives now. I had not been able to feel like this before, and I knew that a whole lot of people out there never got to feel love like this in their lives, so I knew how incredibly lucky I was. I knew this, and I was profoundly grateful to Danny for showing me how to feel love.
But I knew that I still had the capacity for intense anger at ignorant, hateful people. I knew my sense of pride and my violent tendencies could get me in trouble, like they had. I knew my outrage at injustice, my actions and reactions-- face it: my tendency to want to exact revenge, to `get their attention' and make them see how wrong they were-- had to be controlled and channeled into positive challenges or I would continually fuck things up like I had Friday night.
Sometimes I secretly wished I was like Superman, so I could confront hateful people and, like, just immobilize them, or be like some super ghost and do a kind of Dickens' Christmas Carol thing where I took them on a journey and showed them the results of their hateful and violent hearts. I smirked and shook my head at myself, having just been thinking about my own hateful and violent tendencies, however I justified them. `But hey,' I thought, `At least my little `justice fantasies' are about doing something good! At least my fantasies aren't about, like, killing or maiming, or taking over the world!' I chuckled and was really glad no one could read my thoughts.
Then I laughed out loud at how my mind works as it quickly took me from all those heavy, deep thoughts right off into this whole other thought sequence, `Well, maybe not be Superman. Maybe be some other superhero. But then, I could pull off the Superman thing, I think. I wonder what wearing those tights and cape would feel like? I kinda think I have the body to pull it off. Danny would cream his jeans! Oh man, I bet he would! I would be such a stud for him!-- well, even more than I already am to him. I would stand there in that pose Superman does, feet spread, fists on my hips, looking at him, and I'd flex my arms and pecs for him and let him feel them and I'd cup his hard and soft little bubble butt in my hands and... I'd take him flying with me. I'd fly him to outer space and take him on a tour of the stars. I'd take him to the moon and we'd walk in Neil Armstrong's footsteps. If I were Superman, or like Superman, I would have the ability to make our own little heaven somewhere, like on another planet or something. That would be so cool! Our own heaven, all to ourselves. I'd fuck him for like, twenty-four hours a day, `cause he'd want that and it would feel so good to both of us, making love, all the time...'
I looked down at my raging boner in my jeans and squeezed it. `Damn! Better jack off soon; my horny thoughts are crowding out these other heavy-duty thoughts. I need some relief!'
My erection would not go down, so after a while, I rubbed and squeezed myself through my jeans and checked the time; almost 1am. I knew the routine by now and was sure no one would be coming in. The other bed was empty. I debated, `Do it? Nah. Why not? Risky. Need to cum, though, badly. It would be kinda different, right here in a hopsital room. Danny's medicated; he won't wake up. That's a little bit kinky, or just plain perverted, Jerry. Fuck it! Do it!'
I stood up and pulled the white curtain around Danny's area, stood with my back to the door and fished my dick out of my fly. I pulled Danny's blanket down to his knees and gently spread them a little, then pushed his hospital gown up to his chest. I cautiously put my hand down between his thighs and very slowly worked my fingers toward his ass. My heart raced as I just touched his tiny little hairless pucker, just ever so gently rubbed it with my index finger, and I had to suppress a loud moan as I jacked off with my other hand. How did my big ol' dick ever get into that tiny little opening?!
Oh man, he was so hot down there! Scorching hot and oh my god, the thought of what was inside, just beyond that little muscle, the liquid heat and tightness on my tongue, my fingers or my cock whenever I was in there... OH FUCK! Touching his asshole sent jolts of electricity through me-- I mean, real jolts that made me jerk and shudder. Just the thought of Danny's ass could bring me off, let alone touching it! Doing this in a hospital room, with people all around us, with him asleep, which made it like I was molesting him or something, was all a real adrenaline trip, too, just daring and kinky enough to add an extra zing to the excitement I always got when touching his ass.
Danny's cock went hard as I rubbed his ass! Fuck yeah! But he didn't wake up. Oh man, I couldn't resist. His cock was so beautiful, his whole groin, his hips and thighs, hell, his whole body, absolutely perfect. I leaned down and just took his cock in my mouth and held it there, tasting him, swirling my tongue around just a little. So good, so tasty. Mine. All mine, all mine, I'm so fucking lucky, all mine all mine all mine...
I didn't move up and down on it, `cause I didn't want to risk waking him, but just touching his ass and having him in my mouth was enough to blast me over the edge in less than a minute, even though I was trying to take it slow, barely jacking myself with a loose grip. I tried not to let my forehead bounce on his stomach as my body jerked and twitched around with my climax. My breath was too forceful for just my nose so I had to open my mouth around his cock to gasp while I came and my eyes rolled back in my head and I whimpered and tried not to collapse to my knees.
I felt like such a perv as I listened to my jizz plop plop plop on the floor beneath his bed! Such a perv! But it was a bad boy thrill, too. I gently removed my hand from the warm embrace of his tender, hot inner thighs-- oh man, I could just rub my face in that whole area and lick and nibble and suck for hours-- and brought my index finger to my mouth, stuck it in and sucked it as I looked up to his angelic face from down at his crotch and I grinned like a nasty little devil as I caught my breath a little. Then I carefully lapped up my drool off his cock and pubic hair while still looking up at his peacefully sleeping, smiling face.
I so loved that I had a dirty mind. I loved the thought of all the things we could do, things we could try, and how willing Danny was to try new things. Anytime I thought of how eager he was to please me and turn me on, I just tingled-- and boned up instantly. On those afternoons alone at his house in the last few weeks, when we'd had plenty of stress-free time to explore each other, I was constantly amazed that such a cute, shy little guy could have such a voracious sexual appetite.
We would be, say, in the kitchen, naked, getting something to munch on and he'd drip some chocolate sauce on his ass, bend over and say something like, "Oops! I made a mess. Anyone around here ready to lick this off of my ass?" I'd look around and say, "Well, I'm the only one here, so..." I'd get down on my knees and start licking the sauce up and he'd look back at me and ask, "You wanna stick your tongue in there?" I would of course, and after I got him squirming around and riding my tongue in front of the open refrigerator, he'd look back over his shoulder and ask, "You wanna stick that big dick in me? It would feel so good right now if you'd put it in, y'know. Ya think chocolate might be a good lubricant?" As if I needed to be coaxed! But I would play the game and act all unsure. "Uhhh, I dunno. Would it work? Let's see..." And he'd get all breathless and say something like, "Try it! Do it, Stud! Hold me in place, bite my neck and growl for me while you fuck me hard!"
OH SHIT! Oh shit, he turned me on so fucking bad I would nearly pass out from being so revved up! When he gave me total control-- which he always did-- and begged me to do whatever I wanted to him, I actually sometimes thought of it as... a sacred thing, like the trust was spiritual as much as it was about love and lust. He enabled and enhanced my power and I recognized how powerful he was in doing so. In the middle of it, when I'd look into his eyes, I could see the agreement on the power-sharing alongside the love and obvious pleasure, and I would just be bursting with love and energy and lust and I would wonder again and again at how all of it could keep getting better and better every day, and when I thought I loved him as much as I possibly could, I would turn around and realize I loved him even more and that would blow my mind yet again. I swear we levitated on a regular basis.
As for molesting Danny in his sleep in his hospital bed, well, hey, he's my lover! And this just now was a little fantasy that just presented itself and I couldn't pass it up. I knew there was no way he would be mad or upset. In fact, I was positive he would be very turned on by this when I told him about it as soon as he woke up. And in fact, after I came, I brought my hand up to his lips and rubbed just a little of my jizz on them, another little marker of him being mine. No other man's cum would ever again touch those beautiful lips; only mine. He licked his lips and he smiled! I swear to god he smiled in his sleep like he knew it was my cum! I wondered if he was dreaming of me. I hoped so. I couldn't wipe the silly grin off my face the rest of the night.
I stuffed my dick back in my pants and sat down. I almost fell asleep, but jerked right back up when I remembered I had to wipe up my cum off the floor. I blushed as I pictured the morning nurse coming in to check on Danny and stepping in it, looking down and realizing what it was and then looking over at me in horror! Oh shit! Then I laughed out loud and pictured myself looking at her and saying, `Yeah, that's my cum you just stepped in, my baby batter. Ain't that somethin'? Don't slip `n fall. I make a lot of cum, y'know? I have to make a lot more these days `cause Danny loves the taste of my cum so much. He loves to drink it. It's not JUST for breakfast anymore! No, you can't have any-- unless you wanna lick that up off the floor.'
I have such a dirty mind and twisted sense of humor.
Anyway, I cleaned it up and sat back down by Danny's side, took his hand in mine and kissed it. I leaned over and kissed my sleeping lover on his lips, eyes, cheeks and chin. My heart swelled with so much love it took my breath away for a moment there.
Monday morning started for me with being woken up to get kicked out of Danny's room again so they could do their tests and morning stuff. Ben and Lydia showed up with an awesome breakfast from "the girls", Frieda and Lacey -- or, "the slice & dice dykes", as Robert fondly referred to them-- just in time to save me from getting something in the hospital cafeteria, and when Danny was through with his tests, I got to feed him bite by bite like a baby. No, of course he was fully capable of eating on his own, but we all got a few laughs from my doing it and saying all that "Open up for the choo choo twain, whoo, whoo!" type of thing.
Robert, Dave and Tyson came with them to say good morning to Danny and give us a shitload of wonderful baked sweets and pastries from the girls as well, then Robert took Dave and Tyson with him to a theatre workshop thing for the day and they were going to come back to the hospital around six.
Ben and Lydia looked like the rest on a comfortable bed had done them a lot of good, and they were pretty damn bright and perky. As I shaved, I looked at the dark circles under my eyes and had to admit I looked forward to a few hours of uninterrupted sleep on a bed, which Ben was about to take me to.
He intended to, but it wasn't to be; not this morning.
We had just finished getting a very promising, detailed prognosis from Dr. Reitberg-- who actually directed some of what he said to me, which surprised the hell out of me-- and were about to leave, when my dad and Dan Strickland came around the corner. My gut clenched and my breath caught in my throat. Realizing that my first reaction to seeing them was to feel threatened, wondering why they were here and what were they going to try to do to me, I felt such a sense of depression and loss, and I shook my head at the sad irony that I would feel threatened by my own father... or former father, ex-father, whatever-- AND, I remembered back to the day I approached Danny that first time after our breakup to talk, under that tree at school during lunch, how he cringed away from me. I knew in this moment how he had felt, what kind of impulses initially went through his mind to duck away.
Ben put his hand on my shoulder and squeezed supportively. My dad flinched, and the flash in his eyes at Ben was some kind of cross between guilt and indignity, jealousy and insult, or something like that, which I found curious, given that he and Janet had ex-communicated me. I thought he didn't have the right to be offended that this man was being my father, filling that role better by far than he ever had in my lifetime.
Dan closed the distance and shook my hand heartily, smiling even, while "dad" hung back about five feet. "Good morning, Jerry, it's good to see you again." He then shook Ben's hand. "Good morning, Mr. Dresden, Mrs. Dresden. How is Danny doing?" He shook her hand as well.
Lydia was thrown almost as much as I was, and she just cautiously said, "Better." Then she regained her composure enough to add, "He's actually doing good, and will be released Thursday morning if nothing comes up."
I thought I could say, `He's getting horny again, and that's got to be a good sign!' but of course I didn't.
"Excellent!" Dan enthused, then turned his attention back to me. "Jerry, we have a lot to talk about, but I think you should have a talk with your father, first. The receptionist told me there's a conference room-- and it's soundproofed," he threw in for some reason, "back this way and down on the left." He pointed over his shoulder. "Why don't you two go in there and talk, then when you're both ready we can talk about your legal situation. Are you ok with that?"
I was a bit stunned, so the best I could manage was a nod of my head and wary darting of my eyes between my dad and Dan. I was tempted to say, `But he's not my father anymore,' but held my tongue. Lawrence Loring gave me a sheepish, tentative little smile and motioned for us to walk that way. I walked stiffly, facing straight ahead, wondering what the hell they were doing here and what he could possibly have to say to me. As I saw it, my birth mother wasn't with them, so he was not here to tell me anything good, but then Dan had said we were going to talk about the case, as if nothing had changed about him representing me. I was confused, but angry as hell at my ex-dad. My anger built with every step we took.
When we found the room and closed ourselves inside with a bare table and a dozen chairs, we were both very nervous, unsure of what to do or what to say to each other. He sat haltingly in a chair and motioned for me to sit across from him at the end of the long thin oak table.
I sat down and tried like hell to keep looking him in the eye, but my gaze automatically lowered every couple of seconds and I had to force myself to look up again. He was obviously having the same difficulty. After an extremely tense minute of silence, he cleared his throat and said, "You look good."
I looked at him like he was crazy and retorted more harshly than I even intended, "No I don't. I look like shit right now."
He squirmed and stared down at the tabletop. After another long silence, he said, "I saw you on the news last night. You were... very impressive. Very." When I didn't reply, he looked at his hands and said, "I'm sorry, Jerry." He shook his head sadly. "I'm really sorry."
I retorted, "For what? Which thing are you sorry for? For not standing up for me? For not being a father?" His cheek twitched and his eyes narrowed. I was shaking and my heart was pounding in my chest. I was so hurt, so angry, and since I couldn't even imagine physically hitting my dad-- I was slightly bigger than he was, and I knew I was in better shape, but I just couldn't imagine hitting him-- I was lashing out verbally as harshly as I could. I wanted to inflict as much hurt as I could for what he'd done to me, or not done for me. My breath was coming out raspy and I was astonished at the words coming out of my mouth, at the acid in my tone. I heard myself actually ask my own father, "For being a pussy?"
Oh my god! Oh my god I could not believe I had said that to my dad!!! He cringed and clenched his eyes shut as his face contorted. I was heaving, trying to gulp in some air, trying to stop my hands from shaking violently and my jaw from quivering so bad and tears from falling. I felt like I was about to throw up. I wanted to bolt from the room. I wanted to scream and I wanted to curl up into a little ball and cry and I wanted to hit myself and tell myself to stop crying and...
He put his elbow on the table, leaned and cupped his forehead in the palm of his hand and slowly shook his head back and forth for a moment. All we could hear was each other's heavy breathing in the frigid air of the barren and impersonal room. We sat there for at least a minute like that, which of course seemed like hours.
I managed to get my breathing somewhat under control, but it was still rough and uneven. I gripped the armrests with white knuckles so my hands wouldn't shake, but I simply could not stop the damn tears from rolling down my cheeks. Every few seconds I would sniffle, release my grip and jerk my hand up to angrily swat the tears away then grab back onto the armrest to stop the shaking.
Finally, he raised his head and looked at me, with tears running down his cheeks too, and the most painful expression I had ever seen on his face and in his eyes. He just looked at me for a long time, and I tried to stare right back, but couldn't, so I ended up looking away and back every couple of seconds, guilty, ashamed, embarrassed, angry, sad, everything.
He finally spoke, barely more than a mumble, "I... deserved that, I guess."
I sobbed out, "You guess?"
His eyes flinched again and I didn't want to admit that it hurt me to inflict this on him. I didn't want to admit it to myself at all, but it did. I yelled in my head that I would NOT apologize! I would NOT! He DID deserve it, goddammit! I didn't know what the hell he was here for, but whatever it was, it was too damn little too damn late. I told myself that I was perfectly capable of carrying on without him or her in my life from now on and I did not need them or their lawyer. I would not let them hurt me any more. I couldn't. I could not take that kind of hurt. I couldn't deal with it at all.
I started to stand as I mumbled, "Fuck this. I've gotta go see..."
He grabbed my arm and half stood to stop me. "Jerry!" I looked down at his hand on my bicep and up into his eyes. I was blinking the tears away so I could focus, but I just couldn't, and it hurt so fucking bad I just couldn't deal with it and I was sobbing openly now and I jerked my arm away from him but he grabbed it again and then he stepped around, reached out and pulled me into a fierce hug that I fought for a second or two but gave up and then I lost it.
I just fucking lost it and he did too. All my strength drained away and my legs wouldn't support me anymore and we ended up sinking to our knees on the dark blue carpet in a seizure-like embrace, crying on each other's shoulders, with him saying through his sobs, "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm so sorry, son! I love you! I love you. I'm so sorry I didn't stand up for you. I'm ashamed of myself for... I just... I'm so sorry." He squeezed me hard to him and ground his face into my shoulder and neck. "You're my son. You are my son. I love you and I always will. I let you down, and I'm sorry."
I squeezed him back frantically and cried into his shoulder harder and louder than I had to Lydia Saturday night. Oh god it hurt. Oh god it hurt so bad. And what he was saying-- what he was saying hurt and healed and hurt just as much all at the same time and I needed him to keep his arms around me like this and not let go, so I squeezed him so tight I think I was cracking his ribs, but he returned the force and we just cried into each other.
I was needing the re-connection so bad, but I was so raw from being burned by him that I was alternating in split second pulses between hugging him tighter and pushing him away and I was confused and relieved and angry and needing and I couldn't separate or distinguish any of the feelings and impulses so this was all still hurting like hell but I needed to think it would stop the hurt soon.
At some point I sobbed out painfully, angrily, but pleading for a justification from him, any excuse, "You drove away and left me standing there! You didn't say anything! You didn't tell her no! You just drove away, Dad!"
He reached up and grabbed the back of my head and forced my face even harder into his neck as he yelled out a loud sob of pain and regret right by my ear and ran his other hand up and down my back and he cried, "I know! I know! I'm so sorry, son! Oh god I'm so sorry! I'll live to regret that `til the day I die." He pulled my face away from his neck by a fistful of my hair and looked into my eyes for a moment, then kissed my forehead several times, almost frantically. He mumbled, "I'm so sorry, son," as he pulled my face back down into his shoulder and we both cried some more as we kept the fierce embrace up.
After another minute, he said, "Things have changed. I... I told her things have to change. I told her it's all wrong, that she can't-- that she can't do this to you. You are still a part of this family, as screwed up as it is; you're still our son. It's very tense right now, between her and me, all the way around, but..."
I pulled my head back and looked at him with cautious questions in my eyes, afraid to ask, but I did. "What did she say?"
That pain came over his face again and he looked down to where our chests met without letting up on his hold or me letting up on mine. He said with sad resignation, "She... she... won't back down, yet." He shook his head sadly and grimaced. "I argued with her. I yelled at her, and threatened her with, with leaving, even. Y'know, she's as stubborn as you are, as stubborn as your sister... You're all a bunch of stubborn asses." He tried to force a little chuckle out but it didn't work, and came out as a sob instead.
I felt my heart sink again. I let my arms sag, but he kept his hold on me tight. "So I can't come home."
"Yes you can. I..." He went ahead and released me and we both sat back on our heels, the incongruity of him in his tailored business suit resting on his heels and knees on the floor registering somewhere in my head. He gathered his thoughts and continued, "Y'know, I always let her control the house, you kids, all that. I... I abdicated my responsibilities as a father, really. I see that now." He shook his head back and forth as he looked me in the eye and admitted, "Honestly... I always knew I was doing that. It's what she wanted, and I wasn't very good at it anyway, dealing with kids, so I just left it to her. I knew I should have been taking a more proactive role in your lives-- I knew that, Jerry... especially with you. I failed you as a father. But I can say... I can say that I watched you grow into such a fine young man, such a fine young man, an achiever, strong, smart, handsome as all hell, so, I thought you turned out fine, that my staying out of it was the right thing to do."
He lowered his eyes and bowed his head, then said, "And look what happened. She's such a controlling bitch-- I love her, god knows I love her, but, she is a controlling bitch; anyone can see that. So manipulative... And now... you turned out... like this."
My heart sank to my knees, the lowest point it could fall to, and broke. My mind pretty much imploded. Oh god, implode, explode, crash, fry, I lost all sense of perspective and could only feel shock and pain, yet more pain. I slumped back on my ass and would have fallen flat on my back but the wall or something broke my fall. I was limp in body, but everything was tightly spinning on the inside, churning with the confusion and the pain and the loss again after I had just had my hopes fueled. I saw that he came here to tell me that he loved me and that I was still a part of the family as far as he was concerned, but that he saw me as defective, damaged. He pitied me and blamed himself and her for me being gay, being me, and it hurt all over again in a whole new way. It was rejection in a different package, from a different angle, but it hurt almost as much. And I rejected it. I rejected the rejection, him, them.
I felt so damn defeated.
This was so hopeless.
I was mute. I could think of nothing to say. I stared at him and he couldn't even look me in the eye. I saw the lines on his face, the regret and guilt that etched itself into every little crevice and prevented him from looking me in the eye. He was ashamed of me, ashamed for me, and that was... that was... Fuck that. That hard part of my heart that I was thinking about last night reared its icy head as if to taunt me and say `I told you so! You can't trust anyone to love you for real! You need to hit them back! You need to smack them in the heart before they smack you! Quit giving them a chance to hurt you first!'
I wanted to scream! I needed to scream, shout, yell, to vent my anger and frustration and pain!
All of a sudden I found myself on my knees, with my hand clutching his tie up close to his throat, our noses barely an inch apart and staring into eyes as brown as mine that were wide with shock. His mouth hung open and he didn't even try to put his hands up on mine to get me to let him go.
The fury in my eyes was white hot and I'm amazed at how level and resolute my voice was as I growled at him, "You listen to me, old man: I don't need or want your pity or your forgiveness for being me. I don't need her for anything. There is no blame here because there is nothing wrong with me. There's nothing wrong with me; there's nothing wrong with Danny; there's nothing wrong with Dave or Tyson. No one wrecked us; no one fucked our heads up to make us gay. Yeah, you fucked up in a lot of ways, but the fact that I love a boy is not one of them. What, you think that because you `weren't there for me' you made me this way?" I asked with icy sarcasm. "Sorry, Dad, but you don't get credit for that, and neither does that `controlling bitch' you love so much. You keep your pity, and your guilt. I don't want any of it. I don't want you, her, your money or your lawyer, nothing." With what Ben talked about last night still fresh in my mind, I added, "You don't exist for me. Got that?!"
I released his tie with a slight little shove. He went back on his hands and just barely kept himself from sitting on his ass. He was stunned speechless and his mouth was doing the fish thing but nothing was coming out. I stood up and stepped over to the door. I paused with my hand on the knob and turned back to face him. I was about to tell him to shove it up his ass as a final goodbye, but he found his voice just as I opened the door.
"Jerry! Wait! What are you...? Wha...? I didn't mean... I'm not saying... Wait! Stop! Please!"
I closed the heavy door and gave him a look that said I would give him the last word, but I didn't have much patience, so go ahead and get on with it. I was amazed at how calm I felt inside, even though I was shaking like hell. I was sure that I would fall apart at any moment, and that's why I wanted to get the hell out of there as fast as possible.
He stood up and stepped over to me. He put his hand on my arm like he had before and tried to find words and get past his shock. "I didn't say-- You took it wrong! I don't hate you! I don't pity you! I'm not saying..." he cocked his head and scowled as it dawned on him exactly what he'd said and how I had taken it. He shook his head and said, "Whoa, whoa, whoa! Let's back up here! You're taking it all wrong, Jerry! I guess I said it all wrong or something. I didn't mean that I think you're... sick or, or anything like that. I... Well, I guess... Oh hell." He sagged and sat down on the closest chair, shaking his head. After a moment he said, "I guess you're right. I guess I have been looking at it as..."
"Sick," I filled in for him. "A problem. A disorder." I stepped over and slumped into a chair as well. I sighed very heavily and loudly. We both sat there and thought for a minute. I could see him trying to figure out just what he thought and how he felt about all this, wanting to decide that my being gay didn't matter, but realizing that it did.
Then an approach just kind of hit me and I started talking, in a positive tone of voice, "When it was new, when you and Mom were young and it was all new... Did your heart miss a beat and your dick go rock hard when she just gave you a `look'?" I raised my eyebrows, like he or any guy in love should know exactly what I meant. I had a little shuddering tingle run through me at the thought of Danny, and at the thought of saying something like this to my own father, like we were two buds talking or something. His eyes went wide again and his expression was priceless. I almost laughed. After I had just called him a pussy to his face, I figured what the hell?
This was radical, and I wondered why I didn't feel more nervous about it, but I kept on, figuring I wouldn't say any more that was like, sexual like that one was, but keep going for the emotions, to try and make him see that what I felt was just like what he felt, back then, and maybe still, some. "Did you think about her practically every minute of every day and miss the hell out of her when she wasn't with you?" I paused for just a moment between each question to give it its own weight and quality. "Did you feel kinda lost without her? Did you ever feel like, I dunno, like, like you would just keel over and die if she ever decided she didn't love you anymore? Did you ever worry about that? Back then? Even now? Did you just know that she was everything to you and nothing was more important to you, that nothing else could even come close? Did you just know that you would fight for her, and in fact know that you would kill to protect her, or lay down your life for her? And I don't mean that in some abstract way, some romantic notion, but in cold hard reality. Did you feel that way?"
He watched me intently as I talked, his expressions transiting through the concepts and the emotions I was invoking, the memories of feeling that way, given that he did at any point with my mother. Even if he hadn't felt one or another particular thing I described, he could empathize, could intuit how he would feel like that, because he had obviously felt most of these things, if not all, at some point or another.
I paused long enough to let him ponder the questions for a moment, then I said in a tone that asked him to listen to me, to believe me, to understand the truth in what I was saying, "Well that's how it is with me and Danny. That's how I feel, Dad. That's the kind of things I think of at night when I'm lying in bed and he's at home thinking of me. It's the same for me as it was for you back when it was new, when all you could think of was how much you loved her and wanted her to love you back." I leaned toward him with my elbows on my knees and he unconsciously leaned slightly toward me in response.
"It's every bit as real, every bit as strong, powerful; it's every bit as consuming for me as it was for you when it was all brand new, Dad, and who knows, maybe you still feel this way. I hope you do. I hope you can. I feel so lucky that I feel this way. It's like I'm high all the time, y'know? He's like a drug I'm addicted to and I don't want to quit it. I would lose my mind if I couldn't be with him. Friday night, after they hit him, he was lying there unconscious, blood everywhere, looking like he was dying and I panicked. I thought they had killed him, that he would slip away from me at any moment, so I went after them. I was totally panicked, `cause I would be so lost without him, I'd just... lose it."
I paused again and let it all soak in for a long moment. When I saw he was about to say something, I spoke up first. I made it come out the most intensely I could, urgent, challenging, defiant, "Tell me you think it's wrong. Tell me you think I'm sick. Tell me I'm perverted, disordered. Tell me my love is wrong or evil, that it isn't just as real and just as good as yours or anyone else's. If you can tell me that, then... Then, you and I have nowhere to go from here."
His eyes went wide again and he sat back with a bit of a start, staring at me, taking me in. His eyes went back to normal and he contemplated me earnestly. I sat back and let him do it. I watched the wheels turning in his head, watched him pulling up all his assumptions, his pre-conceived notions, about being gay, about me as a person, me as his son. I noticed that he used many of the same expressions I used as he was doing computer speed calculations and weights and measures in his head, questioning all the assumed rules, all the assumed outcomes. He was analyzing aspects of his upbringing, the indoctrination on so many levels in so many things, the archetypes, the models, the constructs. I figured that since most intelligent and educated adults with enough experience were aware of how many flaws in the system there were-- that we all agree not to point out as long as our boats stay afloat-- then he, being one of those educated and intelligent people, one not brainwashed negatively by religion, would be able to concede that, sure, a lot of people can have a particular aspect of the mosaic fixed wrong in their minds, skewed one way or another for whatever reason.
I knew that little facts like that the American Psychological Association had declassified homosexuality as a disorder just a few years ago and other things like that were challenging him to apply the gradual shift in the paradigm to a personal level here, as close as family, as intimate as his own progeny.
Now, at that moment, I did not think all these things out in those exact terms, nor anywhere near the detail or clarity I have here, but the concepts were all there, some clear and up front, some nebulous and vague but a definite part of what I was thinking. Anyway, we sat there, looking into each other's eyes, for a very long time-- and I mean a very long time, like at least five minutes, which is an eternity in a situation like this.
But I was calm. I was glad that he was taking so long, and I wasn't only thinking or guessing about what he was thinking; I was also thinking about him, thinking over my life with him and Mom and my sister, but mainly him. And I realized that, I had to be more generous about people like I had told myself I would try to be. I had to realize that everyone is occupied with living his or her own life while trying to be a part of their loved ones' lives too, and that we have to weigh the totality of their involvement with us and not focus on just parts or only one thing. And over all, I knew he loved me and always had. He had his shortcomings as a father, but then, I had not tried real hard to get closer to him either, had I? But I did know he loved me, and that he was happy with me, proud of me-- at least up until this whole thing. Over those long minutes, I saw things click into place for him, concerning me, and it was good.
Finally, he drew a deep breath and let it out. He sat forward, put his hand on my knee and squeezed. He smiled, then he decided that's not enough and he leaned closer and pulled me into a hug, with us both still somewhat sitting in our chairs. This time, a gentle but firm one, and I hugged him back.
He ran his hand up and down my back and said into my ear, "My god, son, I only wish I could take credit for making you the man you've become. When a son is teaching his father important things about life and human nature, you know something went right." He pulled back to look into my eyes, grasped the sides of my head in his hands and said firmly, "I'm having to acknowledge to myself that you have grown into the intelligent, grounded, and wise beyond his years young man you are in spite of your mother and I. You can't imagine how immense my sense of pride in you is right now. I love you with all my heart, son." He kissed my forehead and we hugged again, tightly, as more tears leaked out of our eyes, but good ones this time.
Of course I knew that we both had things to work out in our heads and things that we would have to talk out at some point. There was a lot of emotional baggage still hanging around my neck concerning him, and concerning him and my mom-- well, my birth mother-- together, but he had made a big leap just now and had gone a long way toward the healing we both needed. The process was well underway and most importantly, I felt like I could trust him with my love now, trust him not to hurt me anymore, more so than I ever could before, and that was a wonderful feeling.
When we released each other and sat back, we smiled and wiped our tears away. We both kind of chuckled to let off a little of the tension and then we both sighed. I looked at his Itallian leather shoes and said, "But I can't come home."
He sighed again and nodded. "You can if you want-- it's my house too, but I understand why you won't, under the circumstances. Ummm, we need to make arrangements for housing and all of your needs, to finish up with school and get ready for college. I'm no longer worried about you being on your own. I can see that you're plenty mature enough and quite capable. Money is not a problem, and of course, your college fund is still intact and ready. We can discuss all of that later. How soon can you locate an apartment or something? What can I do to help? Do you need money for a hotel until then?"
"As soon as Danny can go home, I'll be staying with the Dresdens until I find a place, or until we graduate-- which is what Ben and Lydia want."
"Oh. Uhh, I can give them some money to offset their costs, like for food and such..."
I said cautiously, "Uhhh, that might be tricky. I don't know how Ben would feel about taking any money from you. Besides, I have money and I was already going to contribute for food." I changed the subject. "So, is Dan still gonna defend me and the others, then?"
"Good. Ben was ready to take out a loan on his house to pay for my defense."
He looked down, embarrassed. "I'm sorry you ever thought I wouldn't cover it. I feel horrible that I ever let you think that, no matter what Janet said. I never even considered for a second not paying for your defense, and for your living arrangements and college." I was pretty sure they couldn't touch my college fund anyway. "And honestly, Jerry, I know Janet said you were cut out, but even then she assumed I would cover all this for you. If she was wanting to cut off the funding, she didn't even try with me. She didn't say anything about it if she did feel that way. She's stubborn, and she's, well, like we said... But, give it time, Jerry. Don't call it a done deal with her, ok? She'll come around in time. I can't imagine her holding out forever."
I smirked and shook my head. My smirk masked the sharp jab of pain that went through my heart. I said, "I doubt it, Dad. I really doubt it." I left it at that.
He sat up and patted my knee. "Well, Dan's costing me a small fortune sitting in the lobby, so why don't we go sort out your legal options? You ready to deal with all that?"
"No, I'm not, but I know I have to."
We stood up to leave and he pulled me into another hug. "Never again doubt that I love you, son. Never again. I don't care who you love as long as he's good enough for you. I... want to meet Danny. He must be something special, to have your heart so completely."
Chills went down my spine. It was like, that was the topper, the sign of acceptance that I needed on top of all that had been said. I hugged him tighter and kissed his cheek.
"You can meet him in a little while-- but of course, he's pretty banged up and his head is half shaved, so he's gonna be real self-conscious about all that, and he's kinda shy anyway. But I want you to meet him, Dad. I want him to see that you accept him, us, the way his mom and dad have accepted us and love me and made me feel a part of the family." I almost automatically added `Like a son.' but stopped myself. I was so proud that Ben and Lydia loved me like they did that it was just something I loved to be able to say aloud, but I knew that it would be pointing out his and Mom's whole trip up to now, and I didn't want to stab him again.
"Oh man, I watched that news conference last night on TV, Jerry. I'll tell ya, when Mr. Dresden stepped up and said what he said, after you tried to not say it but had to admit we had turned our backs on you... I felt like... I felt so deeply, profoundly ashamed of myself. I watched you take control of that whole press conference and show the world what a mature and thoughtful young man should be. I can't tell you how low I felt. I kept seeing your face in the car on Saturday, begging me to speak up; and I will have to live with the scar of my failure as a father right then for the rest of my life." He gave me an ironic little smile and added, "But something good did come of it. Then, and just now, you woke me up to a lot of things-- one of them being that I love you just as you are.
"I love you too, Dad." It felt so good to say that with feeling.
He said into my ear, just above a whisper, "You can't know what it feels like to watch another man, a stranger to me, step in and fill my shoes for my son because I failed him. It hurts so deeply, especially because I know it's my own fault. I may not deserve it, but I want you back. I want to try to be the father I haven't been for you, if you'll let me."
Chills ran up and down my spine the entire time he was saying all of that and more tears leaked out of my eyes. I choked out, "Let's give it a try, Dad."
It was an effort to let him go and open the door; I just wanted to stay there in his arms and wallow in the love and comfort I could never remember getting in this way from him. I couldn't even remember the last time we hugged before today. I may have lost my mother, but I had my father back, and had him back in a much more complete sense than I ever had him before, with full acceptance as well as fully expressed love, and it felt so good. It felt so good to forgive each other and clear the slate. So good.
So now I had two dads, and that was awesome. As we left that little room, I contemplated how I would let Dad know that I did want him back in my life as my father, but that I wasn't in any way going to back away from Ben, emotionally, from the way Ben did fill that role too. I hoped he could accept that. He would have to. Ben had already done so much to deserve my love on so many levels; Dad was just getting started. No, it wasn't going to be a competition, I'm just saying that I wasn't willing to stop thinking of Ben that way. I loved him and Lydia so much, I just couldn't even consider not thinking of them as my parents in these important ways. Dad would just have to accept that because I was not going to `be in the closet' about my love for Ben and Lydia for his sake. I just hoped they would get along.
He put his arm around my shoulder as we walked back to meet up with Dan, Ben and Lydia. I saw a relieved and happy sparkle in Ben's eyes as we approached, and that made me feel so good. It was time to formally introduce my dad to my surrogate mom and dad.
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