Skip – Part 11
February went by as expected. Sometimes February weather got to me because there were many dull, gray days. I was happiest when it snowed. Bostonian's grumbled because driving was harder. I had no sympathy. With public transit in great quantity, why would a sane man or woman want to drive the old cow paths of the city and pay $12 a day for parking? That's nuts.
Skip and Billy both stayed busy with school. Billy had a harder time of it because his headaches tortured him sometimes. His roommate was a good man named Stephen. He and Billy had the same major and similar schedule of classes, so if Billy missed classes, he could use Stephen's notes. Stephen said that, if nothing else, his note taking skills improved greatly. He made sure Billy ate at least one decent meal a day, whether he wanted to or not. I understood Billy's sentiment; illness and injury often made food unappealing. Billy did not have to eat a lot, but he did have to eat well. One did not insult one who cares.
"Stephen is my conscience," Billy told me on the phone one night. "He's not into coddling, but he's into caring just right. I think his fiancé is a good influence on him. His folks are also very nice. He thinks, rightly, that mine are as cool as parents can be. I'm glad to be back at school. Do you worry about me?"
"Nope. But I do miss you. That's a good feeling, though, because it means I love you, too."
"I love you, too, bro. You're the best. I'll see you a week from Friday, okay?"
"Before I forget, Edward and Nate called me this morning. The guy who attacked you was found guilty of assault with a deadly weapon and aggravated assault. His prints were quite clear, as was your blood and hair. That alone sealed his fate. Edward and Nate testified against him, saying they saw the incident first hand. They quoted him exactly, when he spit on you."
"Damn, he spit on me? While I was down?"
"Yeah. He hocked up a loogie and spit on your face. He said, and I quote, `Pretty little fag boy ain't so pretty, is he now?'"
"Christ. I can't see you standing for that."
"Nope, I stood up and I punched him in his face with my right fist, before he could blink. I broke his nose."
"Rah, rah! Go Aaron. I bet it took even you by surprise."
"Yeah. Swift and furious. His prison term is eight years. He could have gotten up to twenty years. My sentence for assaulting him is to love you very much, every day."
"I don't know how I feel about that. Well okay, I know it's a stiff sentence for you, but you're resilient. Seriously, he gets eight years; I could have gotten death. At least it wasn't murder. I don't feel sorry for the bastard though. It's a hate crime, but there's not much legislation for that yet. Maybe someday. All because I love you."
"No, not because you love me, or because I love you; because he is intolerant. The crowd around you was very concerned, especially when the blood flowed from your ear. Only two people were intolerant that day, out of a crowd of many, and on top of hospital staff who cared for you, and me, too."
"My doctor, who has a gay son. My night doctor, who brought you a bed. He told me not to be a troublemaker. People, now friends, who came in, nearly strangers then, the lot, who kissed me, held my hand, and told me to come back to you. Jimmy, Marissa, both who said they loved me. Edward, straight, held my hand and kissed my cheek. Nate, who loves as we do, who also held my hand and kissed my cheek. Need I go on?"
"How do you know all that? I never told you because I want you to move forward."
"I don't know, exactly. I've been reading about comas, because I've heard voices in my head, at night usually. I hear them only when I have headaches."
"You're spot on, love. Everyone who came in your room held your hand and kissed your cheek. I do mean everyone."
"I think your doctor told them how to treat you. A medical man with a heart, just like Andrew. I told Andrew once that I don't want a doctor who won't feel. Too many don't, and I understand why, but not from Andrew. A doctor who is distant has patients who are apathetic, or who die."
"True enough. I'm glad you care for me the way you do. I'm tired enough to sleep now, love. Stephen just came in. He looks beat, so I'm going to bed, too."
"Good night, Billy. I love you very much."
"I love you, too, Aaron."
I sat back, wondering what Stephen makes of Billy. Surely he heard Billy say he loves me, and calling me by name. He knows about Billy and me. He seems accepting, but I do not know. I'll ask Billy someday.
I, of course, was happier when I was busy. I was still doing chemo twice a week, but Andrew would be dropping it to once a week in March. I kept polling the whole crew, including Andrew and Claire, who loved every person in our `inner circle'. We would bring Michael, our young testicular cancer buddy, into the group over the summer. He was only four years younger than Billy. He would know how the youth feel. Whom do we network with, and how? Cancer patients were first priority, of course. Trauma patients like Billy, but not just physical trauma. He would know who and how. Victims of hate crimes, for sure.
"I hate this," I said to Andrew as he hooked me up to my chemo IV.
"You hate this? Or you're restless and want it done?"
"You being done with treatments means you won't see me again, or for a long while."
"You should be in Washington with your two kids."
"Yes. Eventually. Louisa and Andy know that you are very important. We're doing pioneer work here. I could win an Oscar or a Grammy."
I gave him a face.
"I would miss you, love. You're brilliant."
"No," I said.
"Yes. I say so, and so does Claire. I was open-minded before meeting you, but seeing you and Skip, and then you and Billy, is more eye opening. I know more about love than I ever thought I would."
"You're Brits. What do you know?"
He accepted my shy humor. "I know that you, Aaron, have touched my heart."
"Anyone can do that."
"No. Not anyone. Few, actually. You three, specifically."
"To some, yes. Pity them. Frankly, fuck the label."
"We're . . ."
"No, you most decidedly are not."
"You've saved my life. I didn't want you to, when dying would have been easier."
"Not easier for us. What would happen to my Oscar?"
"Not to mention your Grammy."
"Okay. I love you, Aaron."
I did not say anything for a few moments. I studied his face, his eyes.
"You know I can't top that."
"YES! I'd like to thank the Academy . . ."
I leaned in to kiss him, but stopped short. He knew what I wanted, and let me. I put my lips on his and gave him a kiss as I would give Skip or Billy. He returned the kiss.
"So this is what it's like to love, and be loved by, Aaron Langille. Skip and Billy ARE truly blessed. You give your heart, my friend, nothing less."
"You saved my life. I agree that dying would have made for sadness. I owe you everything. My heart isn't available, but my deep respect for you is. Will you feel the need to tell anyone what we just did, Claire maybe?"
"No. Doctor/patient privilege. She wouldn't be surprised or shocked, though. I do love you, Aaron. Claire does as well. I don't have a brother, except in you. I saved your life because you let me. And I owed it to the brothers. They would never have forgiven me, rightly so."
I nodded. I understood everything he said.
"I'm not ashamed I kissed you. It's just what I do."
"I'm not ashamed I kissed you back."
He got up, went to his closet, and got me a blanket. He put it over me, put my winter cap back on me, and kissed my forehead.
"You got two hours. Take a nap. I'm right here."
I closed my eyes. I reached out for his hand after a few minutes. He did not lie about being right there. He took mine, intertwining my fingers in his. He kissed the back of my hand. I fell asleep.
Billy arrived the next Friday as promised. He picked me up and took me to the oversized chair. My jeans were history in a heartbeat. He took off shirt, t-shirt, jeans, sneakers, and socks in two heartbeats.
"I repeat from an earlier time, horny much?"
"Yes. I've been dreaming about my cock in your tight ass for three nights in a row. I'll die if I can't fuck you."
"You can fuck me. You may fuck me. You damn well better fuck me."
"You sure know how to sweet talk me."
He pushed my legs up, ate out my hole patiently and lovingly, and lubed up his very hard cock. He pushed the head against my pucker and then slid inside me in one smooth silky motion.
"Mmmm, yeah. I love your ass."
I kissed him. He kissed me. What else is there to do when a hot boy wanted you? He long dicked me. His need was deep, but loving, gentle. I clenched down on his cock whenever he pulled out.
"Man, I love how you do that. I need to do that for you when you fuck me. It feels so good."
"It takes practice. You'll have to do me over and over again, until you get it right."
"I am so glad I love you."
"I am so glad you love me, and I'm equally glad I love you. We are quite the pair, are we not?"
"We are. Actually, I'm missing our bro, though."
"Did someone say my name?" Skip said as he came into my apartment.
I looked at Billy and smiled. "This psychic shit is good. Were you thinking that you needed your bro up your ass?"
"Of course. He should have been here an hour ago, but, close enough."
Skip also stripped out of shirt, t-shirt, jeans, boots, and socks in two heartbeats. He ate out Billy's tight asshole, licking it and probing inside. He massaged Billy's joy buzzer a couple of times with two fingers. He lubed his cock and slid inside. Billy moved aside a little so Skip could lean in and kiss me.
"Man, I've missed my bros. You got no weekend plans, right? Good. We'll fuck. Maybe we'll have a pizza. But we'll fuck a lot."
"We do have Saturday breakfast. Then we'll fuck."
"Okay, we can do that. Especially the fucking."
"One track mind, much?"
"Oh yeah. Focused. Fucking is good. We love fucking."
I had to laugh. He was not even a bit serious. We would be sated within the next half hour, but I loved his humor. In the meantime, Skip fucked Billy while Billy fucked me. I squeezed Billy's cock tight with my ass. It made him moan. Billy did the same to Skip. Skip also moaned.
"Damn, what's our bud teaching you anyhow?" asked Skip.
"How to be an excellent bottom."
"I'm about to come, so he taught you well. I can't hold off, Billy."
"Fill me full, bro. I'm about to come inside of . . . uhhhhh . . . Aaron."
"Lucky me," I said, kissing both boys.
"Lucky us. We got to come. You're up next. Who's the bottom now?"
"Both of you."
"Oh yeah, I forgot about the greed thing."
"On your backs, boys. I'm hard enough for both of you."
They lay side by side in the oversized chair. Billy would have a fresh load of cum in his ass, Skip's cum. I entered him slowly and smoothly, in one stroke as usual. I pulled all the way out a few times. Nothing like natural lube to keep the entry nice and easy. I long dicked him for a few minutes. I was probing Skip's hole with two fingers. My cock was slick with his own cum, from Billy's ass, so I entered him. I gave him equal attention, fucking long and smooth, kissing him the whole time. He squeezed my cock just right each time I pulled out.
"You learn quick, love. Damn that feels sooo good."
I got up on the balls of my feet to fuck him deeper. I was not ready to come yet, so I pulled out and entered Billy again. I took it slower so I would last longer.
When I was ready to come, I shot two ribbons inside of Billy, quickly pulled out, and pushed into Skip's hole, filling him with the rest of my load. I lay there for a few minutes, kissing the brothers, letting them touch me. My cock slid out of Skip's ass slowly.
Emotions often ran high after we came down from our orgasms. The love among us was intense, and fulfilling. Skip looked into Billy's right eye, knowing that the injury had been awful, had been very painful, and had caused his brother to be half-blind. He put his thumb on one side of Billy's ear, his fingers wrapping behind his neck. He kissed Billy's eyelids. Tears flowed out of his own eyes, dropping like rain on Billy's naked chest. He put his head into Billy's neck and cried hard for a few minutes. We both held on to Skip. There were no words to ease his pain. He would have to cry it out to be relieved.
Skip and Billy sat together in the oversized chair for the rest of the evening. I had pulled down the Murphy bed and sat back quietly. The brothers held on tightly. I do not know when they last spent time alone, but it was obvious it had been a long while. Skip was very sad. Billy was not—he fully believed he would be just fine, half-blind or not. I was sad for Skip, but not for Billy, for Billy's reasons.
Closer to bedtime, Skip came over and lay beside me. He kissed me warmly, for long moments.
"I'm sorry, love, I don't mean to exclude you. I don't know what happened a while ago."
"I do. You needed some quality time with Billy, so you could think about how you really feel about him being attacked, and the aftermath. I didn't come to sit here because I felt excluded. I came over here so you could give Billy your undivided attention. He has to come first, always, and no apologies."
"But I love you as much, not more, and especially not less, than I love Billy."
"I love you both equally. You know that. We've been through a lot, us three, and we're not done yet. Billy and I have had time to talk out how we both feel about his eyesight. You, my love, stay here. Billy, come on and hold on to your brother. Wait, let me finish. Hold on for tonight. I'm sleeping there so you can hold on and not think about me tonight."
I kissed Skip once more for the evening.
"That's not . . ."
"Yes it is. It's acceptable and it's the way it will be."
Billy got up, met me half way, hugged me tight, and kissed me. I kissed him good night. I whispered in his ear. He nodded. Then he got into bed facing Skip, wrapped his arms around his brother, kissed him warmly, and tucked his head into Skip's neck. Skip hugged Billy tightly. He looked over at me, still sad. I shook my head slightly. I pulled my blanket over me, watching Skip love Billy, and fell into a peaceful sleep.
In the early morning, I woke up between the brothers, as usual. I looked at Skip, who was facing me. I turned my head to look at Billy, who was spooning me. He winked at me. I looked back at Skip, who was sleeping peacefully. I gave Billy a raised eyebrow.
"We waited until you were asleep and then brought you to bed. We are three. We are not two," he said.
"You and Skip are two when you need to be. By blood, by heart, by emotion."
"We are three. We are not two. By heart and by emotion, and love until we die, and maybe beyond."
I gave in, for now. I kissed Skip's forehead. He smiled. I should have known he was awake. I lay looking into his closed eyes. He went back to sleep soon after. I did as well. Billy pulled me more tightly into his arms.
My phone rang one early evening on a Thursday in March. I figured it was Skip or Billy, letting me know either, or both, were coming for the weekend.
"Hi Aaron, this is Stephen, Billy's roommate."
"No worries, Aaron, he's okay. He had a bad headache a while ago and passed out for a few minutes. I'm at the hospital with him. He's conscious, but on pain meds. I wanted to make sure you know."
"Should I come? Strike that, I want to come on out."
"I'm glad. He wouldn't want you to. However, what else would the man who loves him do? I'll go back to campus. Take the Green Line out and I'll meet you at the station."
"Thanks for calling, and for understanding. I'll be there inside of 90 minutes."
"I walked to the Charles Street station on the Red Line, transferred at Park Street Station, and took the Riverside Line to Chestnut Hill Station. It took a bit over an hour. Stephen stepped forward.
"Yeah. How'd you know?" There were quite a few riders.
"Cancer warrior," he said, taking off my baseball cap and kissing my baldness.
"Oh. Shoulda known. That's funny. Billy's right."
"You're a cool guy, good sense of humor."
"Billy's addicting in that way. He's taught me a lot, mostly to lighten up. I do wish we were meeting under better circumstances, though."
"These will do. I'm not here because I'm worried. It's just the right thing to do."
"I called Skip too. He's with Billy. They know I'm coming to meet you."
We walked to Stephen's car. He drove to Newton-Wellesley Hospital, about ten minutes away from campus. We walked into Billy's treatment room. Without thinking, I went over and kissed him on his lips. Then I remembered that Stephen was right behind me.
"Oops," I said, blushing.
"Hey, I kissed you. You should kiss Billy."
"What? He kissed you?" said Billy.
"Well, yeah. I are adorable, to many."
He raised his eyebrow. I explained how Stephen, having not met me yet, knew who I was. We laughed.
"So a headache took you down. I'm sorry. What can I do?"
"Kiss me here," he said, touching his forehead. I kissed his forehead. "Kiss me here," he said, touching his lips. I kissed his lips, warmly. "Kiss me here," he said, pushing down his Nike shorts. I kissed his ass. "Kiss Stephen, for real." I kissed Stephen, for real.
"Thanks, Aaron, seriously. I really did need that. I don't have the attitude about Billy, yet, that he has."
"Aww, no worries, bud. Billy has attitude for all of us."
I put my arm around Stephen's back, drawing him closer to us.
"Welcome to the inner circle, assuming you want to be here."
"I do. I was coming to breakfast with Billy on Saturday, but I guess he got impatient and wanted us to meet tonight."
"Kids. What are you doing to do?"
"We talked earlier, before I came to get you, when Skip arrived. Billy wants to be transferred back to MGH. His attending physician is working on it. Should we finish the conversation, Billy?" Stephen said.
"I want to talk to my doctor who admitted me last time. He let me know that I might consider surgery as a way to find out the extent of the headaches. They're harsh and, as we discovered tonight, debilitating. Stephen caught me before I crashed to the floor in the library. Apparently, my eyes rolled up again. I don't like that."
"We were laughing, and then, in a heartbeat, he went down. Scared the crap out of me. I yelled `call 911' to anyone who listened. Thankfully, someone heard me."
"I think Boston heard you," said Billy, smiling.
I hugged him again. "Thank you."
"No brainer. I love my bro, here. No joke."
"Another victim of Billy's heart."
"Stephen won't let me sleep alone on a night when I've had a bad headache day. He wants to get help right away."
"I hope that's okay, guys," he said, looking at Skip and me.
"Works for me. Been there, done that. Another reason for me to sleep better," I said.
"It must make for a lousy night's sleep for you, bud," said Skip.
"Nah. I sleep light anyway, but I'm well rested. I automatically wake a couple of times a night but go back to sleep when I know he's okay."
"Again, thank you."
"It's what you'd do," Stephen said. "Like I said, I love my bro."
I looked at him and nodded.
"Stephen's brother died a year ago. Gay bashing."
"Shit," I said.
"So now you know. I think that Mike lives in Billy. Even if he doesn't . . ."
"I'm so sor . . ."
"Sshhhh," he said, putting his fingers on my lips. "It's in the past. Can't live there. Don't want to."
I nodded. Now I could not help but hold on to him. We sat quietly for a few minutes, holding each other.
Billy's attending physician came in a while later.
"Okay, young man, it's been arranged for you to be transferred to Mass General. You'll spend the night here, of course, for observation. An ambulance will transfer you tomorrow morning."
"Thank you. Uh, Skip is going to stay with me tonight."
"Good. I'll be back in later. Ring if you need anything."
"And you, my friend, are coming back to our dorm. We'll meet Billy at MGH tomorrow after he gets there," said Stephen.
I liked that. Decisions, not stumbling for ideas.
"Okay. You two rest, please," I said. I kissed Billy again.
Stephen leaned in and kissed Billy as well. He went over to hug Skip. Skip pulled him close, thanking him for his quick action. Skip and I kissed and hugged.
"Good night, loves. See you at MGH."
Stephen and I walked back to his car, taking our time. There was not much to say, for now. We cleaned a light layer of snow off the windshield. There was a bit of ice on the roads, so he drove carefully. I looked at him and he looked at me, briefly.
"I guess I can stop worrying about what you think of me."
"You can. I think you have a heart for the world. I know that you and the brothers don't consider yourselves gay. I agree. I hate the labels the same way you do. Mother Teresa said, "If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other." We do belong to each other. Billy is my brother because I don't have one anymore. I have a few close friends, but he's the best of them all. You are my brother because we are citizens of the world. Is it any more complicated than that?"
"No, it's not."
"It was again, a no-brainer, when Billy told you to kiss me for real. I knew you would not hesitate a second. He knew I'd accept the kiss. I feel, like you want your doctor to feel. A kiss is not sexual; it's intimate. I like intimate. It has feeling. I made Mike a promise, at his grave."
"Keep it, then, no matter what. The hate has to die. Simple as that."
"It will. I'm a voice of one, but I'm a strong voice. I belong to a raised voice of students on campus. Everyone there knows why. I think someday there will be a Gay/Straight student alliance. I'm not alone in losing someone from hatred. Billy's attack hit me hard, but, like I said, I see Mike in him, in all the good ways."
We were back on campus in short order. Stephen walked me to his and Billy's room.
"Stephen. Is Billy okay?"
Several heads were popped out of open doors.
"Yeah, he is. He's staying at the hospital overnight, and then going back to MGH in the morning. He's decided on the surgery, so they'll work it out."
"Are you Aaron?" said one of the guys a couple doors away.
"Yeah. Uh . . ."
"No worries, Aaron. We know a bit about you. Maybe even more than you do," he said, laughing. The guys joined in.
"We're glad you love Billy. We're not standing up for those kinds of attacks, not in our city anyway. The fourteen of us in this wing, including Billy, are going to make hate die, somehow, someday. He's awesome."
"Yeah. When we're with Billy, life is good. We're worried, of course. A couple of us were at the library too. You should have seen Ste. Talk about a man of action."
"He was impressive, huh?" said another guy.
By this time, Stephen had opened his door. I was a bit surprised that it was unlocked. The guys wandered in and we all sat on the beds and in beanbags on the floor. Two more guys came in and took the chairs at the desk, sitting in them backward, facing the group. There were now 11 guys in the room.
"Stop it guys. Any one of your would have done exactly the same thing."
"No. Not exactly. I saw Billy's eyes roll and then you grab him. My reactions aren't half that good, and I play basketball."
"He lowered Billy to the floor, gentle as could be. Poor Billy didn't know what hit him. When he came to, Stephen was holding him in his arms. Sweet. Just the way we should all be taking care of each other."
"Just the way Billy deserved to be taken care of. Even my mom never taught me the things our bud teaches me," said another new voice, coming into the room, sitting down on the crowded bed.
We shifted slightly to make room.
"Y'all talking about Billy," said yet another voice, from the doorway. "How is he?"
"He's in good hands," said Stephen, nodding.
"Can't be. Aaron's here," said the same guy.
"Does anyone not know me?"
"No. You're Billy's heart-mate. Well, the first one anyway. It's a growing club. We do not hate, nor are we intolerant. Anyone who did, or was, changed after Billy was attacked. It hit too close to home."
"You guys are . . . I dunno," I said, not finding the right words. Someone else found them.
"Touched by an angel. You started it. We're just a part of it now. Thanks, Aaron, for loving Billy. We know he loves you, too, a lot more than the rest of us ever will, but that's okay. As for me, I'm not jealous, much."
"I'm jealous, a lot, but I'm getting by day to day," said Ste, jokingly.
"We have to capacity to love, Aaron, but we don't use it. Not `we in this room', of course. We as humanity. We suck at showing love unashamedly."
"Funny you say that. Stephen quoted Mother Teresa to me on the way here. `If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.' We," I said, opening my arms to all of us, "belong to each other."
"Amen!" said the guys.
"It's okay that Billy and I are in love? You do know I'm older than him."
"Bros?" said Ste.
The guys talked in turn, not interrupting each other.
"It is more than okay that you and Billy are in love. I do recognized the difference between `in love' and `love each other'," said the young man at the door. "Billy deserves love. We all know that you and Billy isn't the end of it. Skip, who we've all met, makes three. I don't know if I could love two, equally. But you do. Billy does. Skip does. I would only dream about two men loving me so beautifully."
Another boy spoke up.
"9 1/2 years difference in age. He told us. What does age have to do with love? What's gender have to do with love? You're sexual. So what? I will be too, when I find the right person. I know you don't do labels. If I put a label on me, I'd say I could be bi. I will take Miss or Mr. Right. These guys know that. But, like you, love WILL overrule sex."
"You saw Billy go down, hard, when that guy brained him. I'd hold on tightly to anyone that I saw that happen to. I'd be scared out of my mind. In fact I sort of am, because our bro might be partly blind for life. It's not right. All 13 of us will do anything that it takes for that not to be true."
And one more.
"When I saw Billy go down tonight, in the library, I could feel what you felt when he was attacked. Laughing and then down, in one blink of an eye. What Ste did naturally is what I'd want to do for anyone, at any time, when something happened. We, as a group, are not `in love' with Billy. We, as a group, love Billy whole-heartedly. He's our conscience, our life's blood, our cheerleader, and our brother. A couple of us don't have a brother otherwise. Ste's brother was murdered. Anyone who thinks that's anywhere near reasonable should be banned to Pluto. There's no place in Heaven for that crap."
The guys around Ste touched him.
"Sorry, Ste, but it's how I feel."
"Me too," rang out in the room.
"S'okay, guys. I told Aaron earlier that I can't and won't live in the past. Doesn't mean my brother isn't here anyway."
As we talked, a couple of the guys got up to go out briefly, raiding their mini-fridges for sodas to share. Others went and brought back snacks or their monthly care package from mom.
"So what will the surgery do for Billy?" asked one of the guys.
"It might repair the optic nerve, if it's damaged," said the guy beside me. Maybe there's still ICP. Even a small amount would make for the headaches."
"ICP?" asked another.
"Intracranial pressure. Sort of like fluid, or blood, on his brain."
"Nothing too serious, since MGH released him. I know his doctor is keeping an eye on it, but maybe he needs another MRI," said Stephen.
"You'll let us know what happens over the next couple of days, Aaron?"
"Yeah. Stephen will know, if that's okay by you, bud," I said to him.
"Of course. I'll keep you all up to date. Say your prayers, guys, at least tonight."
"Every night, Ste. After all, remember where we are," a guy on a beanbag said, smiling.
"Okay my buds," said the guy next to me. "We need to leave these two alone. Aaron, it's truly our pleasure to meet you. You are the angel that touched me, if only through Billy. My life is good because of you."
"What did Aaron teach us, boys?" asked the guy at the door.
"The future," said two.
"Isn't where my," said two more, immediately.
"Life is," said Stephen, or Ste, not losing the rhythm.
"It's in the," said the boy at the door, smoothly.
"Moments I'm in," said them all.
I was floored.
"Whaaat? Why be so surprised, love? YOU taught us. I, sincerely, put those words into my head every morning."
This came from one of the guys sitting backwards in a desk chair, facing the group.
"One more thing," said Ste, standing up, taking my hand, and pulling me to my feet. "Gentlemen, if you will, for our honored guest."
Each guy, one by one, told me his name, kissed me gently on my lips, hugged me, kissed and hugged Ste, and then left. I would remember each boy.
"We don't go to bed assuming that every one of us is going to be living tomorrow night at this time," Ste said. "Billy made us close. He came to know every guy. He shared his life equally, sometimes more, to draw the guys out. Two of the guys have boyfriends. We live in times of diversity, thanks in part to the college. Billy makes us happy. He keeps us that way. What you saw tonight—it's not ritual. It's respect for our lives and for each other."
"God love you, every one of you," I said.
"He does," said the last guy to leave.
"I'm overwhelmed," I said.
"Welcome to our world, Aaron. See what you do?"
"I never knew."
"Now you know," he said, hugging me close. "I owe you my good life. I will never forget you. Billy says that you needed to be convinced that you are a `special somebody'. Believe it."
Kenny came back in.
"Aaron, I assume you did not come prepared to stay overnight. We wondered if Ste would bring you back. As you can see, I'm about your size. It pays to be the runt, finally! Here, for tomorrow, clean t-shirt, boxers, socks, thermal shirt, and polo shirt. Towel and washcloth for the shower. Spare bar of soap, donated from Jerry. Travel size shampoo, from Henry. His mom sends them to us. Here's a small duffle for your current clothes. Return any or not, your choice."
"I will, bud. Thanks loads. It gives me a reason to come back to visit you all."
"Hear that, guys?" he said, aloud, on his way out.
"You rock, Aaron!!" said the chorus, all up and down the hall, from their doorways.
"There's lots of hot water," Ste told me. "Feel free tonight or tomorrow morning."
Over the next two hours, the dorm quieted down. Ste did some homework while I read. When he was done, he turned on his music at a low volume. Respect through this dorm floor was obvious. Quiet hours began at 10:00 p.m.
"I know I'm not Billy, but . . ."
"You don't have to ask," I told him.
We stripped down. Ste had on boxers. I, however, wearing jeans, was commando. I realized this as I undressed. I was also half hard.
"Duh. I've seen naked butt before, and more. Are you going to apologize, or are you going to let me hold you?"
I lay down beside Ste, facing him. I remained naked, even though Kenny gave me his boxers. He smiled at me, kissed me on my forehead, and pulled me into his arms.
"You really do rock, Aaron. You okay with, you know, this?"
"You taking care of me, while Billy's safe? Yes. I'm honored, as you said."
I returned his kiss. I was at home here, welcomed, and loved. It was not strange to be held by my love's roommate. It is as if we had known each other a long time. There was a brotherhood here that lived the rule of tolerance, love, and sharing.
`We do not hate,' they said.
Indeed. I held Ste as well, the same way he held me.
"I see that Kenny took care of you, love," said Billy, smiling.
"I'm surprised you ever want to leave the dorm."
"You got smooched and hugged?"
"Thirteen times, each as good as the previous. They said my mantra, together, and floored me."
"YOU taught them that, through me, but still . . ."
"That's what they said. I'm humbled beyond measure."
"Aaron's word. Almost as good as the Bible to us."
"Do you know that I rock?"
"I heard that, along the way. Of course, you rock. You rock the world of 14 of us in my dorm. We are the blessed. We will be entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, politicians, fathers, sociologists, teachers, and writers. The future is us, and we will not hate, ever."
"Henry said that last night."
Ste looked at me. "You know who's who, all 13?"
"Yeah. A name and a face become one with a little memory trick I adapted. I can't explain it, but I can do it."
Later in the day, Billy's doctors came in. Billy wanted Skip and me to be part of the plan, which was surgery, no question. Billy wanted the headaches to end, and soon. He could have surgery and be back to school in a few weeks, with his friends. The surgeon took him through the pros and cons, and the risks. There were two be concerned with. He did not care; he was done with having seizures in public and worrying overnight about anything happening.
Ste had gone back to classes. He would tell the dorm mates that Billy was better today. Prayers and love floated eastward toward Boston for the man loved by many.
The surgery was scheduled for March 9.
He looked at me. "Your birthday, love."
"Sounds like a nice birthday gift to me, to have you well."
"But what about the party we've planned?" he asked.
"We've move it back week, maybe two. Remember what you told me, we are three. Nobody would come to a party without you anyway."
March 9—Billy was in surgery at 6:30 a.m. The MRI news from a couple weeks ago was grim, hence the risks. Average stats said that there was a 2% chance of serious complications, or death. Billy cared only about the 98%.
A lead pipe, half-inch in diameter like that used in Billy's attack, wields a lot of power. The young man who brained him was no 98 pound weakling either. The MRI confirmed that young Billy had been badly hurt, and the headaches only reinforced it.
Skip and I sat in a waiting area. Betsy and JD had arrived at 5:15 to see Billy before his head was shaved and other surgical prep. It was going to be a very long morning, but none of us had anywhere better to be today.
At 4:30 p.m., JD and Betsy woke Skip and me from a nap. "Billy is out of surgery and in recovery. Please go and get something to eat. Better yet, go home. We'll join you shortly, make dinner, and come back this later."
It made sense, of course. What was there to do? We were just nearby through surgery so Billy would know. Skip had been close by when I had mine. However, I had not known, nor does Billy. It was about making the family feel better, because the patient was out in space somewhere and could not care less.
Betsy had made lasagna the night before in NH. I put it in the oven to warm up. Skip sliced up the bread, and I made salad. The folks sat together in my oversized chair, put their feet up on the oversized ottoman, and enjoying Enya on my stereo. It was their turn to doze a bit. We could relax because JD had given the surgical nurse his pager number in case we needed to return sooner than early evening.
We went for a walk around the neighborhood after dinner. JD had brought along a small shopping bag. Jimmy saw us from across the street. I heard him call my name. He waited for a couple of cars to go by and then ran over. I introduced him to Skip's folks.
"Jimmy, and Marissa, his girlfriend, were with us in the restaurant the morning that Billy was attacked. They took that Billy and I are a couple like grown adults. Jimmy comforted Billy until he discovered blood running from his ear, then took off and called 911."
"So how is Billy?"
"He's in recovery. We're going back over this evening," said Betsy.
"How about you? Is today a treatment day?"
"Yeah. I just finished a radiation session. I'm going to get home before I crash and burn."
"You okay?" asked Skip.
"Headache, but nothing worse yet. I'll lay low tonight. Can I come see Billy tomorrow, in his room?"
"Not in ICU, sadly. Please do come when he's moved to a room. It could be up to a week. I'm sorry," said Betsy. "Thank for your caring, Jimmy. It makes being a long-distance parent so much easier."
"Will you give something to Billy for me, Skip?"
Skip knew what Jimmy wanted. He and Jimmy embraced. Jimmy planted a kiss on Skip's cheek.
"He's got head bandages, so make sure he gets it on his cheek."
"How about another?" he said looking at me.
We embraced and he kissed me on my cheek as well.
"Consider it given, love. See you tomorrow. Call us at Aaron's place if you need company tonight, or anything for that matter."
JD and Betsy both shook his hand and wished him well.
"How will Jimmy feel, after radiation?"
"Extra tired. He'll probably sleep most of the night when he gets home. Marissa will make him eat something, and then she'll tuck him in to sleep all night."
"What kind of cancer?"
"Hodgkin's Disease, stage two. There are four stages. He's done chemo, so he's recovering. He also has a great business sense. His ideas for our future business are awesome."
"I forgot. One of my tenants is a nurse. She'd like to be part of the business as well. Her husband is a contractor. He lost a sister to cancer. He knows how beneficial support is to the grieving. He wants to help with any construction or remodeling when it's time to look at office space."
"Sweet. I'm pleased how people want to be involved."
Snow was falling again. Since we are New Englanders, snowfall just means that the streets will quiet down a bit. We continued walking the neighborhoods, enjoying the peace. We walked into a restaurant for hot cocoa. As we sat there being warmed, a young woman brought out a cake with three candles on it. She smiled at me and gave me a kiss on my cheek. She planted one on Skip as well.
"Happy Birthday Aaron and Skip. Save a slice for Billy now," she said. "I hope he recovers very soon." She went to wait on a new patron.
"She knows you boys, huh?" asked JD.
"Yeah. This is our favorite neighborhood hangout. She's Jillian."
"Happy Birthday, love," said Skip, giving my other cheek a kiss.
"And Happy Birthday to you, love," I said, returning the kiss.
"Many happy returns, loves," said Betsy. She kissed us both.
"And this from me," said JD, handing me a wrapped package.
I un-wrapped my gift. It was a new winter cap, with a new Dean Koontz novel tucked inside it. I took my old cap off and put the new one on. It was navy blue with a white stripe around the rim.
"You're aces, Jason. I see you took inventory of my bookshelf. Thank you."
"And for you, my awesome son," he said, handing Skip a wrapped package.
Skip un-wrapped two new Champion sweatshirts, the good heavyweight kind.
"Thanks Pop. The bad news is my winter-weight sweatshirt color collection is now complete. Better start thinking about my `spring fashions' again," he said, laughing.
JD leaned in to kiss each of our cheeks as well. Skip cut the cake into slices, making mine a bit larger than theirs. I was still haunted by a scrawny ass.
We were given a cake cover for the rest of the cake. We headed for home.
Skip sat behind me in front of the fire. He wrapped his arms around me. The folks settled into the big chair again. There was a look of contentment on their faces as Skip held me. I blushed again, brightly.
"Aaron. Do we need another discussion?" Betsy asked.
I shrugged. I was okay with Skip holding me, the same way he did when we were here alone. I had a little difficulty doing it in front of his parents.
Skip kissed my neck. He turned my head and kissed me on my lips as he does when we are alone. I blushed harder when I looked back at mom.
"Now, what's so wrong with that?" she said.
"Uh, two guys, one of them being your son," I said.
"And?" she asked.
"And why would we feel that our son cannot express his love, even with us here?" said JD.
"This is what we do when nobody is around. This is what we both do with Billy. And much more."
"We know. Believe it or not, we `old folks' have good imaginations. You express love. Love overrules sex. However, when there is sex, sex is healthy, good for your heart, good for your soul. If you did not love Skip, somebody else would. That would be a terrible loss."
"But only for me."
"No," said JD.
"No. You lost your Kate," JD continued. "Even after 24 years of loving only one person, you then had the amazing capacity to show that very same love to our sons. And they, through fear or obligation, need, whatever, or just love for you, let you. I, we, love that you can love anyone after such a loss, and especially that you can love our sons. Skip survived his cancer because of his medical care, and more, because Billy loved him more than just in heart. If Skip had died, we would be inconsolable. And worse for Billy. You don't know, but Betsy almost miscarried. It was a very difficult decision to get pregnant again after Skip was born. We were blessed with Billy. We blame our genes on Skip getting cancer. There is cancer on Jason's side of the family. Anything our sons want, our sons should have. Any need you have should have fulfilled."
I had tears in my eyes when I heard that Skip had almost never been born. He, psychically or otherwise, knew what I was feeling. He kissed me again. He held me, and kissed me for a minute. I let him, and I kissed him without shame.
"There are many reasons that I love you, Aaron. One of them is because my parents love you, too. I would love you without their approval. Billy and I would have still had sex had we been thrown out of the house. People do that, but it's insane. Love is unconditional in our family."
"We also thought we could lose you last year," JD said. "That would have also left us inconsolable, for a very long time. Skip survived so he could love Billy back in return. Billy deserved at least that. You survived, so you could love both. They deserve to be loved by you. You deserve it more than anyone does. Billy is alive because of you. No, let me finish. Billy told 13 fellow dorm mates, at great social risk, about you, him, and Skip. It wasn't overnight, but all 13 have found new life because of him and because of you. I know you saw that recently at school."
"I did. They treated me like one of them. I could easily fit in on that campus, and in that particular dorm."
"You bring them hope, Aaron. They know it is okay to love deeply, unashamedly. Do you see that?"
"Yeah. They want me to go back to visit. One of the guys even gave me a change of clothes for the next day."
"Kenny, right?" asked Betsy. She smiled.
"The runt," I said, laughing. "They even quoted my mantra, as a group, 13 voices finishing it up."
"You rock, Aaron, truly. We are so very blessed to have you in our lives. Many people feel that way, too. Please, believe that," said JD.
I nodded. If I had said anything else, I'd choke up.
Skip held me until he dozed off, and then I held him instead. At 7:30, we headed back to MGH. Billy was in his room in ICU, but not awake yet. He would not be for at least two days because of pain management meds. There was a foldaway bed beside his. His night doctor, who is a neurologist, was with him, the same young doctor from a few weeks ago.
"Hi Aaron. We're ready for you, or for Skip," he said, indicating the bed. Hi Skip."
"Hi Doc. Aaron on board tonight, then we'll swap out until Billy came come home. How is he?"
"Post-op tests showed good results. No blood, swollen tissues, or fluid. The surgeon did some repair to the optic nerve, as you see. The bandage on his eye will stay longer than the head bandages. It's going to be quite a recovery process, though. He'll be here in ICU for up to one week. In-patient rehab and PT will be at least two weeks, depending on how he heals and responds. We'll be watching specifically for seizures and complaints of headache. He may have to learn certain things again. The biggest deal is to get rid of his headaches, and to keep him from passing out. We won't know anything until we can bring him back to us though."
He looked at each of us in turn, talking frankly and honestly, which was welcomed. He went over to Billy and gave him a little lecture, as before.
"You know not to cause any trouble tonight, young man. Your family is here, so rest easy."
He kissed Billy's cheek this time. His head was bandaged. One does not waste a kiss on a bandage, unless it's for a little kid's boo-boo.
"What can I do for you folks?"
"You just did."
We each agreed that we were fine. I thanked him for the accommodation.
"See you later?" I asked.
"I'm here for the evening. See you later."
Skip went over to Billy first. "I love you, my bro. Rest, okay? You got some healing to do." He kissed him on his lips. "And here's a kiss from Jimmy." He kissed Billy's cheek.
"Hi son. Just dad checking in. What Skip said." He kissed Billy's cheek.
"Hello little man. Mom checking in, too. Yeah, what Skip said." She kissed Billy's cheek as well.
"My turn, love. I'm staying overnight tonight. You know I need my beauty sleep, so you're going to be a good boy, right?"
I kissed him on his lips. I passed on Jimmy's kiss. I touched his cheek. "I love you, Billy."
Skip and his parents stayed for an hour. It was enough, since it was stormy outside, and being home was better. I had JD's pager number.
I held his hand and sat quietly. No TV—I did not need it. No music—I did not need that either. I needed Billy to know I was here for him.
Billy woke, slowly, over the course of a couple days. It was evident he was in pain, so every need he had was taken care of. ICU means intensive care, and he received all that there was to give, and more. Initial tests showed that there was work to be done. His vision was blurred, as expected. Headaches made him sad, but that was usual, both the pain and the mood. His speech was less than half his usual.
Above all that, he did not know who I was. He knew Skip and his parents. But not me.
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