WHAT LIES WITHIN, Part II:
"The heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing."
I sat up in my bed, and rubbed my face slowly with my hands. I hate it when I can't sleep like this. I've hardly slept at all this weekend, and I'm totally exhausted. Yet, I can't manage to go to sleep, and I have to get up for school in the morning...just 5 freakin' hours from now!
I flopped back down on the bed in frustration. I just can't get him out of my mind. When I finally left the hospital tonight, he was still so heartbroken and depressed it was just killing me. The doctor explained to all of us...Ian, his parents and myself...that any of the problems he might be having would probably just be temporary. But, the chance that he could have some kind of permanent damage totally freaked him out. I guess I would feel the same way if it was my brain they were talking about...
He still had no idea what actually happened to him, to the detective's visible disappointment. He can't even remember a single event from that day. I sure wished I knew what happened...the pain...his pain, really...that I felt for him was lurking in the back of my mind constantly. Just the thought that someone may have done this to him on purpose sent my blood boiling in an instant. If I ever find out who's responsible for this (if indeed it wasn't an accident), I'm honestly not sure what I'll do.
But, it won't be pretty, I'm afraid.
I hauled myself out of bed, and wandered into my bathroom to take a piss. I fished my snake out of the fly of my boxer briefs, and let it just hang there until the seemingly unending flow stopped mercifully on it's own...as I sighed in relief. As I stood there in front of the bowl, Ian's first adventure out of his bed this afternoon flooded my memory...
Wisely, Nurse Verna had anticipated that it would be better to get him detached from his little pee tube and off to the bathroom before the larger audience of his doctor and parents arrived a little while later.
She obviously knew what she was doing, because she didn't even give him a second to think about it...and apparently, she didn't mind doing it with me there, either (I think she viewed me as a welcome distraction for him...). Quickly, she pulled up his sheets, and pulled up his hospital gown. She wrapped one hand around his fat little pecker, and gently (but quickly) pulled that little piss tube right out with the other.
I watched in fascination (and a little bit of sympathetic shock) as she performed the brief procedure. As soon as she was done, Ian looked at me in shock. His eyes were as big as pale-blue dinner plates, and his mouth was open in a large silent "O."
I could practically read his mind..."She just wrapped her hand right around my dick, and then she...Oh my God!"
Instinctively, we both turned at the same time and looked at her in surprise.
"Don't look so shocked, boys..." she chuckled. "I seen a million of 'em in my day, and ain't none of y'all got anything special. I seen it all before..." she finished with a laugh, as she headed for the door. "If you need to go, Rusty can help you to the bathroom, or I can get a nurse's assistant to help you. Your choice," she said, pausing at the door.
I think Ian knew that all the nurse's assistants on duty at the time were females (although I had seen a couple of men doing that job at different times...), because he replied instantly, "Uh...Thanks Miss Verna, but I think Rusty can d-do it for now."
"Suit yourself," she chuckled again.
After he had rested for a while, Ian decided he was finally ready to tackle the bathroom. Thankfully, they had removed all of his IV tubing and stuff (although they left the little connector part where it goes into his veins so they could hook it up again quickly in an emergency).
Carefully, and with my help, he sat up and swung his legs over the edge of the bed, then gave me a nervous look.
"Just take it slow, dude...I got ya all the way. Don't worry..." I said with an encouraging smile.
We managed to get him standing, but he had to lean heavily on me for balance. It was obvious to me that he would never have made it on his own. But, eventually we made it to the bathroom, and found ourselves standing in front of the toilet. I reached down and lifted the lid for him. With one hand holding my arm, he lifted up his hospital gown with the other. He stood there silently for a moment, exposed from the waist down.
I was immediately transfixed by the sight of his dick. I realized that I had never really seen it before in a completely non-erotic, non-sexual kind of setting. I was fascinated. Although his was a couple inches shorter than mine, it looked at least twice as thick...with a very fat, prominent circumcised head. Interestingly, I noticed that his dick was the about the same length when he was soft...it just rolled softly downward instead of standing rigidly upright. I sighed inwardly to myself as I surveyed the soft, silky, gently curly nest of light brown hair around it, which made it look so...well, the only word I could think of was ...cute. Yes, I decided, his dick was very cute. Is that gay, or what? I chuckled to myself.
I realized that while I was lost in my reverie for his cute little sausage, he was just standing there looking confused.
"I don't have enough hands," he said dejectedly.
"What's the matter dude?" I asked softly.
"I don't have enough hands...you know, to hold on to you for balance...to hold this stupid thing up (shaking the hand holding up his hospital gown)...and to, you know, hold myself while I pee. I don't wanna p-pee all over the floor..." he replied.
"Here, let me hold the gown for you...unless you want me to hold the other thing for you. I promise I have excellent aim," I grinned.
He gave me a weak smile.
"Any other time Rusty, I would think I had died and gone to heaven if I felt your hand around me...down there. But right now, I think it's better if I do it, 'kay?" he said apologetically.
"Any time you want, babe," I promised with a sincere smile. "I never realized before how...well, please don't take this the wrong way...but, how cute it is. I'm sorry, but I think you just have such a cute dick," I said, blushing slightly.
"Cute, huh?" he said looking down at himself thoughtfully. "Well, as long as you like it, I won't complain," he said with a little shrug, as his thick stream cascaded heavily into the bowl.
I awoke immediately at the sound of my clock-radio alarm, and swatted at it half-heartedly for a moment until it finally had the good sense to shut off. God, I hate Metallica in the morning!
I just lay there on the bed and groaned to myself. Without looking at the clock, I knew it was now 7:00 am. But, I felt like I had finally gotten to sleep only a few minutes ago. This day was already not shaping up too well, I observed wryly to myself. I drug my tired body into the shower, and stood under the pleasantly hot water for a good ten minutes as my mood and general alertness slowly improved.
By the time I headed out the door, I was feeling more or less functional. I still wasn't very excited about going to school, given what people had been (not too discretely) whispering about us last week. I'm sure whatever happened to Ian last Friday won't help. I bet the rumor-mill has been working overtime on that one...who knows what they'll be saying today...the idiots.
I set my jaw with resignation.
I wasn't gonna let anyone push me around at this point. After everything I've been through the last few weeks, I finally realized something. The old Rusty's bad-ass attitude was still lurking in the back of my consciousness, and I got the sense that it would be there to protect me when I needed it. They can say whatever they want, if it entertains them...as long as they just leave me the fuck alone. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that maybe it wasn't completely a bad thing for Ian not to be here right now. In my gut, I just had this feeling that the shit had actually yet to hit the fan. But, I knew I was ready to do whatever it took, now. I was determined not to let the assholes win. I had no intention of starting anything...but, I promised myself, I would definitely finish it. I may be on the small side, but anyone who's known me since junior high knew better than to mess with me. When my back's to the wall, I fight to the death; and I fight to win. If things got hairy, at least I knew he was safe.
God, I already missed him, though. I knew that it was gonna be a fairly long time before we would be able to share the morning walk to school again. Maybe it was just something about that time of day, but in the 15-20 minutes we got to spend most mornings as we walked, we were able to share some of our most special moments together. A lot of times, it wasn't even a specific conversation...just a pleasant, calm feeling of togetherness and a sense of common purpose. Nope, not today...I reminded myself. I headed off towards school with a feeling of cold resolve.
Bring it on, assholes. I'm ready whenever you are...
"Hey, dude..." Tim said, giving me an appraising look as he approached. "I hear he's doin' ok now...like, he's awake and everything?"
"Ya. He was awake most of the day yesterday. He still doesn't know what happened to him, though...can't remember a thing from the whole day. I sure wish to hell I knew what happened. If one of those assholes hurt him, I swear I'm gonna..." I said through clenched teeth, feeling a surge of anger just below the surface of my emotions.
"Ya...I know what ya mean dude. I'd want a piece of that action myself," he said grimly.
He paused for a second, obviously composing his next words carefully.
"But, you know dude...there's a right way and a wrong way to go about it, if it comes to that. First, we have no idea what actually happened, so you can't blame anyone unless you have solid proof that they did it, right? But, I think we both feel it in our gut...that someone did this," he said, giving me a serious glance.
I nodded angrily at that thought.
"Just promise me that when the time comes you won't do anything stupid, Russ. I got your back on this all the way, so don't be goin' all Lone Ranger on me, ok?" he said sternly.
I gave him a defiant look.
"OK?" he asked again, forcefully.
I rolled my eyes and nodded slightly.
"Good. I just wanna be careful, here. For some reason, I've got a real bad feeling about this. I had a really strange dream last night...it felt kinda like a warning or something. I don't remember much about it, but I know it was about you. About today," he said with a somber look.
"Whatever," I said impatiently. "I appreciate your help, Tim...but I'm not stupid. I can handle myself."
"Ya, sure..." he said, with an unbelieving expression. "You and your legendary temper are suddenly under total control now?"
"Fuck you!" I said angrily. Maybe that hit a little too close to the truth, because it sure stung like hell.
"Look Russ, I'm not raggin' on you...I just don't wanna see you get yourself fucked up, ok?" he said tersely, turning to leave at the sound of the first bell. I could barely hear him talking to himself over the din of students as he walked away..."And nobody's gonna get fuckin' killed today, dammit. Not if I can help it."
Phewww. I tossed my backpack and my board on the floor beside my desk as I slumped into my chair. Fifth period had finally arrived. It had been a long day, but in the end it hadn't been too bad. I was totally exhausted from keeping all of my senses on full alert, and looking back over my shoulder all day. After a while, I didn't even pay attention to all the looks. God, some people just can't help it...they can't (or they don't even want to) hide that disgusted look that creeps across their stupid faces when they see me, and it registers in their head. Only a couple of idiots dared to say anything to me. All it took was one deadly glare to shut them up. They knew better than to fuck around with me...at least to my face.
Mr. B called me into his office as soon as he saw me.
"Hey Rusty. How are you doin buddy? You holding up ok? I'm sure things are feeling a lot better now that Ian's awake and all. I hear that he's making good progress," he said sincerely.
"Ya, Mr. B It was such a huge relief when he finally woke up. I've never been so happy...so relieved in my entire life," I answered with a big smile, wiping away a small tear in my eye. "I miss him so much, I can't wait to get outta here today so I can go back to the hospital and see him."
"I sure wish I could have made it back over there on Sunday, but it just wasn't in the cards for me. I promised my sister I would help her move, and she didn't have anyone else to turn to. Hopefully, I can make it over to the hospital today after school...if I can tackle this mountain of paperwork in time," he said, looking at it ruefully.
"Well, Mr. B...if you do go to see him, there are a couple things you should know. First, we're not supposed to tell him anything about the accident...not that anyone knows anything, but they don't want any memories he might have to get influenced by something he hears from one of us-even if it is just a guess. He doesn't remember anything yet, though. The whole day is a blank to him."
"Also," I continued sadly, "The doctor says he has some type of minor brain damage from the accident. Like, he's having a little problem with his speech and stuff...stuttering a little, and having trouble finding the right words sometimes. It's like his mind is working in slow motion right now. But, please don't say anything about it to him. They think it's only temporary, and he's been really upset about it. He was totally depressed all day yesterday. They're supposed to be doing more tests today."
"Hmm. I see...that's too bad. I sure hope everything works out ok. But, he remembers everything before the accident, right? He remembers...you know...about your, uh... 'friendship'?" he asked.
"Ya. That's all good," I smiled. "He just can't remember anything from that day."
The phone rang, and Mr. B gave me an apologetic shrug as he ushered me out of his office. As I returned to my desk, it dawned on me that things were awfully quiet in the Graphics Lab, and I poked my head up and glanced around the room. Immediately, everyone turned their head away, and resumed whatever conversations they were pretending to have. I shook my head in disgust. These idiots didn't have the slightest clue who I really was...they knew hardly anything about me. Yet, they would believe just about anything if it came around as a rumor. Unfortunately, in my case they were basically true, I think. So far, all I think I've been convicted of is being way too friendly what "that gay kid" (wink, wink). I wondered to myself if Ian could ever have a friend around here who wasn't gonna automatically be accused of being gay. Maybe that's why he hasn't really had any friends. I don't think he would intentionally wish that kind of psychological abuse on anyone. Now that I think about it, I really have to respect Tim's courage. He's setting himself up for more trouble than he needs by hanging around me right now. But, that's just always how he's been. If he sees something he thinks isn't right, he won't let anyone pressure him into changing his point of view.
I turned around and faced my desk, as I booted up my computer. In the corner of my eye, I noticed something sitting off the side. Instantly, my heart sank a little...as I realized what it was.
I just stared at Ian's camera for a moment as it sat there...bearing a few obvious scratches and dents as testimony to the events of last Friday. It was kinda hard not to think of this stupid camera as not being a part of him; it had become such a permanent presence in his life. I carefully picked it up and ran my fingers over the dents and scrapes; I could almost feel the pain as I visualized it crashing to the ground alongside him. Hmmm. It didn't look too promising. I tried turning it on, but nothing happened. Well, I reminded myself, it could just be the batteries...or, it could be completely trashed, I had to admit.
A little spark of insight...or curiosity...or something...struck me, and I opened the small side compartment that held the microdrive cassette. I plucked it out of the camera, and stuck it into the reader on my desk. Automatically, the reader software loaded...and after a short wait, I was presented with a screen full of thumbnail images. Well...at least the microdrive cartridge wasn't damaged, I was pleased to see.
I scanned quickly through the thumbnail images, trying to figure out when and where each one had been taken. I adjusted the screen view to show the dates of each image, and noticed that several of them had been shot last Friday. Right away, my eye was drawn to the last image, because it didn't fit the pattern of the other images. At first glance, it obviously wasn't an intentionally composed, or properly focused image. It seemed to be some kind of a mistake ...an accidental image.
Fuck! Instantly, it dawned on me that this image could have fired accidentally when he fell!
Excitedly, I clicked the thumbnail up to full screen resolution. I studied the image for several moments, but it just didn't make any sense. It was like some kind of out-of-focus abstract art...I couldn't place anything. Was it a super close-up of something? Was it from far away? I just couldn't tell. All I could see were fuzzy shapes...mostly shades of blue, black, and a grayish-silvery color.
I had another thought. Using the software controls, I began rotating the image in ninety-degree increments. After two rotations I stopped. Something looked right about the image now. I was pretty sure the camera had been upside-down when the image was taken, and now I had the right orientation. As I zoomed out, a squinted my eyes a little bit. Yes, some of the darker patterns were clearly shadows; now that they had a natural orientation, it became more obvious. But, the patterns of blue, black and silver still weren't connecting with me...yet, I could feel that familiar itch in the back of my mind that convinced me I knew what it was supposed to mean, but I just couldn't access the right memory.
I just sat there and stared at the image...determined not to give up until I figured out what it was, and what it might tell me. But, eventually my mind began to wander a little, as it became increasingly bored with the futility of my task. I began looking forward to the end of the period, when I could run home and hopefully get Mom to drop me off at the hospital. I missed him so much; I couldn't wait to see him again.
"Rusty? Helloooo....? Excuse me? RUSTY!!!"
Gradually, I became aware of a very frustrated looking Clarissa Engels looking at me in exasperation. Great! Just what I needed right now...the school newspaper editor...who thinks she's only slightly less important than God around here. I'm sure she has something terribly important (ya, right!) for me to do right now. Damn! Just when I was getting so close to figuring it out...
"Yes Clarissa...What can I do for you?" I asked with a sense of dread.
"Well..." she said in a slight huff, "I was just out interviewing some of the football team for an article about homecoming next week. Why didn't you tell me that your brother Mark was the new assistant coach? It's such a great story! I mean, star athlete returns to the school to help coach his old team...I can't believe you didn't even tell me about it!"
"Well Clarissa...I just heard about it Saturday...and Mark and I really don't speak to each other, because...well, we really don't get along that well...and..." I began to explain awkwardly, until it struck me like a lightning bolt.
I jumped back in front of the computer, and stared at the screen for a split second.
"FUCK!!! THAT SON OF A BITCH! I SWEAR, I'M GONNA FUCKING KILL HIM!!!" I screamed at the monitor.
Quickly, I reached down and snatched my backpack and my board. I stood up, and glared at that image one last time. The intense anger boiling through my body surged out of my control.
"FUCK YOU! I'M GONNA KILL YOU!" I screamed, swinging my skateboard as hard as I could, smashing the computer monitor to bits...causing what seemed like a small explosion, sending sparks and debris flying everywhere.
But I didn't really notice. I only had one thing on my mind as I raced out the door of the classroom.
That Fucker is gonna die!