Skip – Part 40
I lifted Skip from his wheelchair onto his bed. I made sure his arms, legs, back, and hips were straight. I took off his t-shirt.
"Shorts too?" I asked.
"Yeah." Blink. "Make—love?"
"If you're okay. Would you rather sleep?"
"No. Love m—me."
"I do love you, every day. Can I be inside you?"
"I know you love me when you work so hard to make me laugh. But I'm afraid. If you can't feel me ..."
"I wi-will." Blink. "Lie Vin—Vincent?"
"Did I lie to Vincent? No, of course not."
I know he meant about telling Vincent that I would feel him inside of me, back when we made love the first time.
I knew what Vincent felt back then. What is the use of making love when your lover cannot feel you inside of him? Skip could have sensation there, as he did in his cock. But what if he did not. I risked making him very sad.
"You make it very hard for me to have these internal discussions with myself, love."
"I have to. I'm afraid."
This time it was not a question.
"Maybe," I said, sad.
I lay beside him, holding him in my arms. I looked at him for a few minutes.
"You did—not lie."
"You know I'll never hurt you, Skip. But I'm thinking about when I tickled your foot. It made you so sad. You've had such a good day. I don't want to spoil it."
He looked inside of me. "Love y—you so mm—much."
"Enough to risk some of what we are?"
I kissed him very deeply for long minutes, holding his head with my hand, watching his eyes. It was not about sex. We had both said we could love each other forever if we could never make love again. I meant it, and he did too. Truth and sincerity ruled, always.
I got off his bed and took my t-shirt and shorts off. I showed him how hard I really was. I do not know at what point I got hard, while we were talking but apparently it was meant to be.
"Will you tell me whether you feel me or not?"
"You already know, don't you?"
"Care to share?"
"Well, it just means that you are prepared, one way or the other."
His eyes were so sweet, so longing for me to trust him. I cannot resist him when he asks me so sweetly. Okay, okay, I cannot resist him period. He did know whether he was going to feel me or not. I had no clue how he knew.
I took some Wet out of my duffle. He raised an eyebrow at me.
"Life without hope is no life, bro," I said in my defense.
I got back into bed with him and raised his leg and hip carefully. His spine needed to stay straight, which is what Mark meant when he told me to be careful. I put some lube on one finger and pushed it into his hole. He moaned.
I looked into ... wait. He moaned!
"Skip, love, why can't I just stop worrying? You knew all along."
"I feel like an idiot."
I smiled despite the little dig. I continued to lube his hole. I leaned down and took his testicle into my mouth. If he could get erect, I had little difficulty believing that he could feel his testicle.
I grabbed his cock, taking it from almost hard to fully hard.
"Do you want to come?"
I went back down on his ball while I kept poking my finger into his hole. He moaned again. For now, that was the greatest sound in the world, even better than a Yanni concert. I licked his shaft and went down on his cock. I sucked him all the way to the base and then pulled up in a tight suction. He unloaded in my mouth. I swallowed all of it greedily. I looked up at him while I kept his cock in my mouth. He smiled at me and half-winked. When I opened my mouth to show him there was no cum for him, he rolled his eyes.
"Sorry bro. Greed."
I poured a bit of Wet on my palm and rubbed it into my dick.
"Ready for exercise plus?"
"No way am I going to hurt you, ever. If you feel antsy, tell me."
I put his leg over my shoulder. This was the easy part. I slid inside of him smoothly. Oh God. After a few minutes, I felt like a young schoolboy, because I felt like I had never done this before. I was in danger of coming too soon. I had to stay put, getting used to his soft moist tight hole.
"Like my first time with you, love. It's too much, in a good way. You can feel me?"
"I can. I kn—knew I wou—would."
"If I move, I'll come."
Do it and get it over with, schoolboy. Then come back for more. You know how to love me.
I did know how to love him. I gently slid inside of him a few times and then unloaded so hard. I panted, holding him lovingly, kissing his lips with more gratitude and love than I ever have. I stayed inside of him.
"Are you okay for now, bro? I can do more in a little while."
"I am. No matter what else happens, how much progress you make, I really want just one thing to happen eventually."
"Hold y—you," he said immediately, not thinking about it.
"Yeah. I know that walking again is your end-point, and it's the most important one. But ..."
"Hold you." Blink. "I told Deb." Blink. "Told m—Mark ... Done wh—when" Blink. "hol—hold you."
"How about almost done."
"It's not fair to you."
"Becau—se I love—you Aar—Aaron." Blink. "I want—to hold y—you so bad." Blink. "Sooo—bad. I don't—care abo—about wal—walking."
"Awww, bro, you just broke my heart. You can have both, you know. It might take a lot of work for you to hold me like you want to."
"At worst, a sporty wheelchair like I have at home."
"I do n—not lie bro."
"Look what you did to me," I said, showing him my very hard cock.
I had to laugh. We used `duh' to say `don't be dense'. I lubed up again and slid carefully into him, but with one push as usual. I slid in and out of him as I always did, loving him so much more than fucking him. Fucking is purely physical. Loving him was as good as it will ever get, and I did not need my dick inside of him to feel that way. His only wish was to hold me in his arms. Me putting his arms around me was never going to cut it. Him putting his arms around me is what he would work very hard to do over the coming weeks. Though unusual, it would be 50% of Skip's daily workouts. He can have almost anything he wants, but he wants only me, even more than walking again. I do not know how I really feel about that.
"I do—want you. For—ever."
"You're going to make me come again. I gotta stop for a few minutes."
He gave me wiggly eyebrows. I loved that much more than even hearing him say `kiss me.' His expressions are wonderful. I took his left hand and put it to my cheek.
I kissed the palm of his hand. I moved his hand over my baldness, down to my nose, and across my cheek again, just the way he always does when he is enjoying me.
"Any sensation? Hand or fingers?"
"Have you had feeling in your fingertips from the beginning?"
"No. Few days."
"May I tell you that I love you?"
"I love you as much as you love me. I still know that you love me more because I fall short by one heartbeat. I don't want to be better than you at anything. I know I can't love you more, because you told me that your only wish is to hold me. A different man than you would want to walk more than anything."
"I'm glad. I don't ever want to let you go."
"Only to you, love. But I know that your standards are very high."
"Nothing b—better than—loving y—you."
"Later. You are mm—my world."
"Only because I'm here."
"No. Don't—sell your—yourself short." Blink. "You're—here fo—for me. You are ho—homesick too. You ... are ... my ... world."
"I can't top that. I believe you, love. Really. I am homesick, but I've been away from home for long periods before. It does not matter where you and I are, as long as it's together. Anywhere for you. Does it seem like we'll be here forever?"
"No. Won't—be. Few mo—months. Like Ch—Chris."
"Chris Lowell. You work out next to each other?"
"You see his progress and know you'll be where he is. He can't walk either, but that's not the pre-req for graduating from here. You have to understand though, love, that I'm not going anywhere, ever. It doesn't frighten me that you might not walk again. Nothing is a slam-dunk, except me with you."
"I miss Billy so much when you say that. It's the perfect word for you though."
"For us. Every—thing is ab—bout you—and me."
"I can't take anything away from you. It's you who struggles."
"And y—you don't?"
"Aaron. Ans—answer me."
"Yes, I do. You struggle more."
"Only to—hold you in—my arms. Noth—nothing else m—matters."
I had been making love to him the whole time we talked. It was not weird or awkward to be inside of him, pleasing him sexually and in heart, and talking so deeply about things. I was getting close again.
"Some tas—taste of your—cum pl—please."
I put two good ribbons of cum inside of Skip and then pulled out. I got up on one knee while holding his leg and shot four more ribbons on his belly. I lie down beside him again and put some cum on my finger. I put my finger to his lips. He stuck his tongue out and licked it up.
"Same amount or bigger amount?"
"Careful bro, no choking."
I gave him the bigger amount in smaller amounts. Choking on a respirator would be bad news.
"Mmmm. Love—your cum. Love y—you more tho—though."
"Me too," I said, licking up some of it for myself. I cleaned up his belly and then went back to kiss him. I showed him that I had the rest of my cum for him, on my tongue. I kissed him and passed the rest to him. I kept kissing him because it was just too hard to stop. He loves me. (Who couldn't?) But I tried to love him more, because of pity and just because.
"Sorry bro, live with it."
"I will—make pi—pity go aw—away for good."
He would. He just needed a challenge, like being told he would not walk again. The `downtrodden' love to prove the naysayers wrong. Been there / done that.
Skip's wheelchair arrived on a Monday afternoon in early August while he was in his therapy session. It was ten weeks from our arrival in Atlanta. He had worked so hard at his physical therapy. The wheelchair was not an incentive or a reward, but a necessity. It would either be a transition bridge to a wheelchair like mine, or a permanent fixture in his life. Even though it was quite awesome, we both knew what Skip wanted it to be.
It was custom fit for his height, weight, and mobility needs, controlled with head movements. His arms and hands were still improving a bit each day, but not enough to allow for hand control. Moving his head to the right would move him forward, to the left would let him back up. He was so eager to try it that he wanted a more sustained workout on his neck. Deb worked him longer but not harder.
By the time I arrived at 4:00, he was like a kid at Christmas. If he could go out the front door and down the street, he would have done just that.
"So what else happened today? This was the high point of your day obviously, but I know there's more."
"On tabl—table please," he said.
Mark and I lifted him out of his wheelchair and gently laid him on the exercise table. I started to put a pillow carefully under his head. As I was doing so, he lifted his head off the table for a few seconds.
"You can lift your head?"
I looked up at Mark, who winked at me.
"A little." Blink. "Can't ho—hold it long. I saw t—the pillow."
"That's pretty amazing since you're moving your head side to side for your wheelchair. Pain? Or tiredness?"
"Tired. Good ... kind."
Poor bud, he was still having trouble with his speech and breathing. If he paused (represented here by three dots), it did not bother him much. If he tried to talk `normally', the respirator cut his speech off (represented by the dash). He still had a rhythm. With so much time on his hands, he practiced everything. I could understand him just fine and the speech issue seemed to bug me more than him.
"And you'll be glad to be rid of the respirator?"
"Yeah. Hate ... it!"
"I know. It just irritates the hell out of one's throat. I've done enough trach tubes to know"
"More than I am."
"Even better, I love you."
"Awww, that makes you happy?"
Happy wiggly eyebrows.
I kissed him just right. Pavlov has nothing on Skip. He wiggles his eyebrows, I kiss him. Life is good!
"Okay bro," said Mark. "I'm not going to do more than sit back and watch. Show your love what you've learned in ten weeks."
Skip went from head to toes for about twenty minutes. He lifted his head and turned his head to the right, back to center, back to the pillow for a moment, up, to the left, and back to center, and then down. That alone would have impressed me, and anyone else. He shrugged his right shoulder.
"Can't do l—left one yet," he said matter of factly, knowing it will happen soon enough. "Hand pl--please," he said, meaning for me to move my hand close to him.
He picked his right hand up and touched my hand. He closed his fingers around my palm. He looked up at my eyes. I looked from his hand into his eyes as well.
"Not y—yet," he said.
He turned to Mark. Mark gave him his hand. Skip held it and squeezed it, same as he had done for me. He could not hold the squeeze very long, but who cared? Mark smiled at him, obviously pleased and happy.
Skip then looked down his legs. He moved both feet inward at the same time, touching big toe to big toe, and then back to the starting point. He moved both feet outward a couple of inches and then back to center. He bent his right knee ever so slightly, his heel moving about two inches toward him. He tried the same with his left.
"Not y—yet. Working—on it. Tickle m—my feet l—love."
I sat down at his feet, putting them both into my lap. I tickled his left foot. It twitched. I looked at him, surprised. It tickled his right foot. It too twitched. I went from tickling to massaging each foot.
"How much of that can you feel?"
"So your hands and feet are what, 60% of normal?"
"About that," said Mark. "But 60% today is 70% tomorrow or the day after."
"You are my hero, love. Not because of any of this—but because you put your heart into every day."
"You're in—my day. What el—else would—I do?"
"I have no answer for that." I looked at Deb and Mark. "You see? And much of the world hates what we are."
"Their loss," as far as I'm concerned,' said Mark.
He took a couple of steps and got the back board. Deb and I pulled Skip up and then laid him against the board, with the pillow behind his back.
"I woke up early Saturday morning," said Mark "and thought about you two. I started sobbing without really understanding why. I've seen a lot of injuries, and a lot of young men and women with heart, but you two together just rock me. Seven years together, sometimes trudging through Hell itself, and you still hold each other like there's no tomorrow."
"There might not be," I said. "Who cares? When I am gone, finally, I'll know I was loved by THE best."
Skip looked at Deb and Mark.
"Now you s—see why I—work hard. Ple—please help me ho—hold my Aaron."
"We will help you, love," said Deb. "Aaron, go ahead and take Skip's hand and arm. Raise his arm and then draw it to you, like he's doing a one-armed hug."
I did as she asked. I did six reps of the same motion. I put his hand back in his lap when I was done. Skip looked only at me while he raised his arm. Each time it dropped, or started to drop, he waited a moment and lifted it again. His face broke out in a sweat. I reached forward to help him.
"No love," he said. "Has to—be me."
He turned his wrist a bit and put his hand on my side. His effort was extreme, totally fixated on keeping his hand on my side. I put my right hand on his side too. This is the closest that we have been to a hug in 10 weeks.
He beamed immediately after I put my hand on his side.
"Nice," he said. "Oh that's—so nice l—love."
I kissed his forehead. "It's the best hug I've had in way too long."
"For me, too." Blink. "Does this pr—damn!"
Okay, so I was wrong. His speech bothers him too. `Damn' is about the ultimate in frustration for Skip.
"Prove I love y—you?"
"Yes, but you never have to prove it. You are working so hard. What is today is not necessarily tomorrow. Nothing is forever, except us."
"But you—you're greedy."
"Yeah. A character flaw, to be sure. For you to think you love me fully, it's gotta be a two-armed hug, bro."
The middle of August brought more contact from home. Patricia made, by hand, a cotton and wool blanket for Skip's legs, which always felt cold. It was blue and green, his favorite colors. The blanket was mailed from one friend to another, so they could sign it in permanent white marker. Billy paid postage for the whole trip, beginning to end. He put mailing labels in the box along with a route map of where each person should send it next. The package went from Connecticut (including at Yale University and Yale-New Haven hospital) to Maryland, Long Island, New York state, Nova Scotia and PEI, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, back to Billy, and on to Atlanta. Everyone who knew Skip heard of the traveling blanket and wanted to sign it and to add their own personal greeting.
Nothing on Earth made his face brighten up so much, ever. Mark brought his camera from home and took a few pictures of Skip in his wheelchair, happily warm, smiling brightly. I helped him do a `thumbs up' so our friends would know he was pleased with it. Patricia will be beside herself when she sees him. I sent the pictures off to everyone in an email. The return response was amazing. Everyone was so pleased with their young friend.
Billy has been happier than I expected him to be in staying in Connecticut without Skip. He went back to work at Yale two weeks after the accident. Though still in a cast at the time, he did 75% of his regular work. He told us that he felt at home, easily and comfortably, with Patricia and Fred. Peter and Charlie, son 1 and son 2-by-love, took Billy everywhere he wanted to go with them. Billy is not a stay-at-home kinda guy when there are things to do, people to see, and places to go.
One of those places was Atlanta.
Billy arrived on a Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m. in the therapy gym. Skip was flat on his back, going through leg exercises, unable to see anything. The next thing he heard was "Okay okay. Take five!"
Skip lifted his head up and opened his eyes wide.
"BRO!" Skip yelled, as much as he could yell anyway.
Billy went over and sat down beside Skip as I vacated the spot. I gave him a hug, as surprised as Skip to see our bro. However, I wanted this to be totally about them both, so I sneaked away for a while. Mark joined me.
"What an awesome surprise for your bud. The timing is perfect because he's so frustrated. He needs a boost to his morale—one that you and Deb and I can't seem to give him."
"The boys all wanted to come, on one hand, but have decided to wait until Skip is stronger and can show them what he can do. They will all be thrilled to see him. When they see him is based on what Billy brings back for news. Yale had bought Billy a plane ticket a few weeks ago. I also have a plan for when Skip can go home, but it's a bit of a secret."
"Knowing you, I already know what you have planned."
He told me what he thought it might be and I confirmed it. He was pleased. This is how it should be. Brother and brother.
[NOTE: The following conversation happens at a slightly later time along the timeline, by a few weeks, but some of you have been asking for details about my "moments we're in" philosophy. Here is a conversation that I had with Mark since he too asked the questions you ask]
The day had been a decent one for Skip, again. Decent meant he got through the day not showing his frustration. I knew he carried it, but he kept working so hard. Mark and I sat quietly together, after he assisted me in the pool for my back muscles and legs. He got us some OJ from the locker room after we toweled off.
"I've been meaning to ask, but then I get busy and forget. How did you come up with those perfectly amazing thirteen words when you were a mere boy of 16? Did something happen in your life?"
"Nothing overly profound happened, nor anything bad. The first bad thing in my life was getting hit by a pickup at 60 miles an hour. That was in the future by twelve more years. Anyway, I was sitting alone in a tree in my dad's pasture one summer day. I grew up on a dairy farm at the Canadian border, and on the Vermont border. Summers were spent mostly outside because the sun was not blazingly hot and there was always a breeze coming from Canada. My hometown is very small in population but very large in area. Downtown was typically New England; a white church with a tall white steeple, very green springs and summers, yellow, red, and orange falls, and pure white winters. The Connecticut River flowed southward past the edge of my dad's farm and past the outer edge of town."
"I can picture it," Mark said. "Nice. Keep going."
"After my morning chores were done, I would go out to a high pasture and climb a 200 year old elm tree. I'd sit in the arm of a large branch, watching a freight train head for Canada, or in the evening, watch the moon rise. My brother always knew where to find me if our mom sent him looking for me. I always carried a small notepad so I could write things down or doodle. The first two words of my mantra started as a doodle, with a rocket ship and stars.
"My favorite time of the day is always the evening. A summer evening downtown was about as good as it got back then—almost no cars on the streets, everyone home for dinner and then staying close to home, nothing to listen to but crickets and bullfrogs. I started walking south on Main Street, until I reached the edge of town. There were two gas stations on opposite ends of Main Street, with large Victorian homes and a couple of small businesses on the west side of the street. At the last house on the south end of town, I would cross to the east side of Main and start walking north. There was three blocks, a mix of the typical small town stores with apartments over them. A light was on at the back of every store, but it was still dark, even with old-style streetlights every few feet.
"I walked the full length of Main on the east side, and then went down my favorite side street. It had large yards and large Victorians. It's called Pleasant Street, and it truly is. Large mature elms and maples held me in their protective arms as I stood under them just listening to the night."
"I feel like I'm there," said Mark, smiling and kind of dreamy eyed. "Shadows and lights from homes, though not just houses, but real homes with real families. Night sounds—your famous night symphony for your ears only. Sweet."
"Sweet for sure. I loved it so much. Sometimes I was afraid. I knew I wanted to see what was beyond my hometown, but leaving the peace and quiet, and comfort, seemed nuts. Back at home on one particular night, sitting on our front porch, I took the picture of the rocket ship and wrote `The Future' under it. I spent many times over that particular summer thinking about my future. Even though we had been to the moon, it was only 1976, so the future was still very much Science Fiction. There was a bit of a message in there for me. My thoughts could be trivial at times, but I thought about a lot of stuff, maybe because I was and I am a reader. I left my notebook open to that page for a few weeks. I doodled on the back side of that page one afternoon. It was a happy face joined to a sad face, circle to circle like a figure eight."
"Creativity runs strong in you. Ying and Yang? Or your version of it?"
"Yes! I'm impressed with how you know me."
"Well I was 16 once, more recently than you old man," he said, grinning at me.
"Wise guy. I think creativity is a pre-req to being 16. Mark Twain showed up in my summer reading list of 11th grade American Authors. I came across a quote that said, "Drag your thoughts away from your troubles ... by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it."
"My only `troubles' were that I knew someday I would miss my little town so much. Version one of my words became `No need to worry about the future. Today is good enough.' It was lame, even for me, so I just kept writing down words. By September, just before school, a jumble of words on a couple pieces of paper magically lifted themselves off the pages and lined themselves up. My mantra was born."
"Bravo. It took, what, three months?"
"Almost four. And today, it's how I live."
Skip was trying very hard to live in his moments, but it was so difficult.
Trapped in a body that would not respond to commands from his brain, because the commands died at his brain stem. He began to practice putting every ounce of his being into his fingers moving mere centimeters, then getting his hand to go from flat at his side to on edge, then getting muscles in his lower arm to respond, then upper arm, then shoulder. Doing it all over again on the left side of his body, fingertips to shoulders, taking hours ... and then finally trying to reach forward to me, wanting to put those arms around me, actually feel me inside that hug, keeping the hug alive—and weakening ... breaking down into tears of frustration every time ... and starting all over again. He would not let me help him, and he would not let me sit closer to make it easier on him.
Skip could do absolutely nothing at will. It was like being bound by ropes or chains, and no way to shrug them away. I have used the term 'useless body'. Dreadful expression, but absolutely true. When I lay in my bed at night, at my apartment, I did not see the useless body. I saw the eyes—eyes that cried when I was not there at night. Eyes that found new joy at every muscle contraction or finger or toe movement, the wiggly eyebrows that I talk so much about in our "Eyes" language. Eyes that willed his arms to become something besides useless. Weakness only meant trying harder. To hold me and to feel me was his only need. The simplest things for a mere mortal to do, but absolutely profoundly impossible and maddening for Skip.
I woke early, with Skip on my mind. It was still very dark. I looked left to check the time—2:10 a.m. I felt him. That little one-way connection was not so one-way lately.
"I knew you w—would come," he said, looking up into my eyes as I leaned in to kiss him.
It was light enough in his room without turning on the light because of the city lights.
"Did you wake me, love?"
I set my fully packed duffle bag on the floor under his bed. I had called Mike's voicemail at work and left a message. I wanted to take the next couple of days off. I knew it would be okay if I did. The project was flexible and Mike never made work a priority, even with deadlines. Deadlines could be adjusted; family time would not be. Family first. Skip is my only real family, so I would be understood.
"Yes. Sorry." Blink. "Miss y—you."
He cried. I got into his bed, and held him very tightly. I kissed the tears off his cheeks.
"I'm going to start staying with you every night. I have been so torn about wanting to stay and letting you be strong."
"Not st—strong." Blink. "Tired. Fe—fed up. Hate—the night."
"I'm ... I don't know what to say. I hate `sorry'."
"No. Don't ne—need sorry. No pi—pity. Just hol—hold me."
I held him. It is why he woke me up a half hour ago. I kissed him and told him I love him so much. I tucked his face, ever so carefully, into my neck. I brushed his hair off his forehead. He sighed and went to sleep. I checked his pulse, suddenly a bit afraid. He had never sighed like that before. He was okay.
"You are not weak, my love," I whispered into the night. "You just need a bit more good news. If I can give even a little ..."
"You alw—ays give me y—your heart," he said into my neck. "Need you—for now. Just—for awhile."
"Forever," I said, moving enough so I could see his eyes, and he could see mine.
I kissed him and then put his face back into my neck. It is not pity he wants. I put what pity I found in my apartment into a garbage bag and left it at the curb. He wants strength. I brought strength with me. It was not in my duffle bag. It was in my heart, for him to tap anytime he ran low.
I went to sleep, too. It was easier to sleep here than at home anyway. Nice apartment, but only an apartment. The Shepherd Center is easy to call home because it is where the man that I love deeply is. THAT is the definition of `at home'. And `at peace', too.
"I love ... you ... so much," he said to me slowly as I looked into his eyes.
I had been lying quietly, watching him sleep. I did not sleep long, but enough.
"By one heartbeat more than I can possibly love you."
"You accept that?"
I laughed. "Okay, I'm glad because it's not a lie. You made me love you. It was not a tough task, but it wasn't something I was not going to do with someone else. It would take a better man than I to do that."
"Not be—better than you. Equal." Blink. "One heartbeat—means in—time." Blink. "Not in str—ength."
I could not top that, nor almost anything he said to me so sincerely. I never tried. I kissed his forehead instead, and then rubbed my nose against his.
"I like—that," he said, smiling at me. He gave me eyes.
I did not know which he liked better, so I did both again.
"Yeah. Ju—just right."
"It's only 7:00. Do you want a bath?"
I took off his t-shirt and shorts, and then my t-shirt and boxer briefs. I went into the bathroom to start the water. I added a bit of bath oil. It smells nice but it also helped keep his skin moist. When the tub was ready, I picked him up, kissed him all the way to the bathroom, and got into the tub. I lowered him carefully and then straddled his legs. I washed up a bit and then sat down on his very hard cock. I moved in long smooth strokes as I washed his hair.
"Time for a haircut too, love. I'll ask Lorial for an appointment for tomorrow. I could use one too, so I'll find a barber."
"Amanda will—cut it f—for us."
"She loves—to cut—my hair."
"Okay. That's cool."
"She will—come tomo—rrow or Tues—day."
I rinsed his hair thoroughly. I washed his face and ears, and then his neck and shoulders. I took his arms gently in mine and raised them a bit. He turned his hands, palms facing inward, and raised his arms a bit more. I leaned in and he reached out toward me. His fingers grazed against my sides. I did not lean in more because he would not want me to. He put the palms of his hands on my skin, holding them there.
"Pull me, love. Show me you can."
He pulled me toward him by himself, with only a little bit of help from me. His hands slid further toward the middle of my back, still with palms on my skin. He raised his head and neck and kissed me. He lay back down but kept his hands on my body.
"So nice," I said. "How are you doing inside of me?"
So I kept the rhythm I had going. One hand slid off my back, into the water.
"On my b—belly," he said.
I took his hand and put it on his belly. Under the water, he moved his hand to my cock. He closed his hand around it.
"Mmmm, feels good," I said.
"Love you—love y—your cock."
"Awww, so sweet."
"I will ja—jack you off."
"I would love that."
"Come—when I do."
"I'll try. I think we can do it."
I leaned in and kissed him very deeply, clenching my hole tightly around his cock. I held his head in both of my hands. I kept his cock moving inside of me while he fisted my cock. After a few minutes, I could tell he was about to come. I felt him almost will his hand to hold my cock tighter. It happened because when he came, I came. I shot into the water as he shot into my ass. I shuddered from the intensity of the love that he gave me.
"Love you—sooo mm—much."
A tear ran down his cheek. I wiped it away, knowing that it was from us being together. The cause of tears is easy to read when you love deeply. Smiles have their own tone, as do his awesome dancing eyebrows.
"Proud of m—me?"
"Not pride. You make me feel so blessed. Love me forever."
"Nothing is forever except us," I said.
"Yeah. Thank—you for g—giving up—your l—life for me."
"You gave me my life to begin with, so it's yours. I would take all of this away from you it I could. I want to so badly."
"No. You h—healed. Three ye—ars. I can do—three years." Blink. "I can—do more—if I ha—ve to."
"I will be by your side the whole time. I had to do my healing alone. You will never feel that again, and I will not leave you alone at night."
"You could have told me you wanted me to stay with you. I know I could have asked, too."
"I want—ted to try alone—at night. But it—was too h—hard."
"Now we know. The administrator will just have to accept it."
"She knows I'm staying?"
"You talked to her? Asked her if I could?"
"No. Told her—I need y—you. She s—says okay. Why I w—woke you."
"You saw her yesterday afternoon?"
"No. Eve—ning. After—you went—home."
"I forget she checks in on patients. She's pretty nice, huh?"
"Very--nice. Cares a lot. No ki—kissy kissy."
He meant no false smiles and patronizing little gestures. She apparently has a good heart.
"Kelly could have called me at home to come back to you."
"No. Wanted—to try one—more time. But—too hard."
"Okay, love. I understand. You are brave just right, where you need to be."
I kissed him again. I continued to wash his chest and stomach, back, and then legs and feet. I released the drain to let the water out. I picked him up and put him on the towels that Lorial had put on his bed. She knew we were in the bath, apparently, so she spread out the towels for him and left a large one for me to dry us off with. I put on a clean t-shirt, jock, and gym shorts. I took a clean t-shirt, BC shorts, and sweatpants for him out of his drawer. Dressing him was a cool as bathing him. The shorts were lined, so he did not need a jock or briefs.
I set him in his wheelchair. I put the laundry bag in his lap and put his hands on top of it. We went to the laundry room down the hall. I tossed everything into the washer. I did not have to separate out whites because there was none. Simple wardrobe, courtesy of the boys' purchases. And also how I packed for us at home.
I wheeled him to ICU to say good morning to Lorial.
"Thanks for the towels. I put them in the washer with our clothes."
"Okay. I'll put everything in the dryer later. Off to exercise?"
"Yeah. See—you before—you leave?"
"Yes, love. I'll come in to see you."
He gave her wiggly eyebrows and she leaned in to let him kiss her.
"Nice," he said.
Skip loved both Lorial and Kelly. They were his first caregivers in Atlanta. Like we are to each other, no one around us was better or worse than any other. This place was so full of kind hearts, given freely. No patient here was just a patient. Patient was at the bottom of the list of what an injured and needful person was.
I wheeled Skip into the therapy gym and lay him down on the exercise table. He wanted to sit up first, so I put the board and a pillow behind his back.
I put my hand under his right leg. He pulled it toward him, pulling his heel with it. With a little help from me, he could now put his foot flat on the table.
"Try to reach out and wrap your hands around your shin."
His hands were at his side. He worked for a couple of minutes to put them in his lap. He tried to interlock his fingers but could not. He looked up at me.
I put his hands together and worked his fingers. Together we got them interlocked the way he wanted. He raised his arms about a third of the way. His concentration was absolute. He held his hands there for a moment. I put my hand under his hands, merely holding them in place so he would not drop them. When he was ready, he raised his arms more, leaned forward, and grabbed his leg, just below the knee. He looked at me to see if I was happy with what he did, eyes asking for approval.
"Bro, I'm totally happy with that. Remember what Yoda said in Star Wars, when he was trying to teach Luke about The Force?"
"Do or do—not ... there is—no try."
"Is that too harsh a sentiment for you?"
"Do or do not. No `happy medium'."
"Yeah. Some—times good—enough."
"Yeah. There's always another session, or tomorrow."
He let his fingers go and his arms fell to his sides again. I caught both his hands so he would not bruise them on the table, padded or not. It remembered how tiring anything I did was, and how easy it was to bruise myself. I kept drawing on my experiences from my own healing. It was such an awful time of my life—the loneliest I had ever been, even in a room with others like me. My depression was extreme and I did not interact with other patients. I did not know about The Shepherd Center back then, and no one told me about it. A general hospital rehab sucked. That alone drove me to the Internet to search for specialized rehab centers for Skip.
"Sorry love. I was thinking about ... stuff."
"What it—was l—like for y—you?"
"Yeah. Forget it. I'd rather be here for you. What do you want to work on?"
"Sorry love. Are you tired?"
"Yeah I know, don't be dense."
He could work on his shoulders better if I, or Deb or Mark, sat behind him, letting him lean against us and pushing him more upright. I got behind him, sat close, and put my arms around his belly. He worked his shoulders by rotating them forward. Once he felt limber, he shrugged for four to six reps.
He spent most of the morning working on arm strength. I helped when he wanted me to, which was about half the time. He worked hard, surprising me sometimes and pleasing me at other times. His heart was in his recovery, which means that he would get where he wanted to go, in time. For now anyway, walking was still not the end goal. I had put my focus on walking, because I had had enough loss from the accident. Me walking was me thumbing my nose at the naysayers. Turns out, that was the technique back then—to make a patient mad as hell, therefore more determined. As a modern day technique, it sucked.
Mike and Amanda came in to the center at lunchtime. She bought fruit salad with honey-yogurt dressing. Skip could not eat until his trach tube was removed. He was not bothered, naturally, that we ate with him.
"Don't worry about any time off, bro. Of course we understand. And you, bro, do not say that you are weak because you want your lover to be with you. That's a sign of strength that you know what you want and will ask for it."
Skip nodded a bit and smiled. He was much happier knowing I too was being taken care of.
Skip did not want a daily bath because he wanted bath time to be special. I would give Skip a shower, wash his hair, shave him, and get him dressed in whatever gear he needed for the day. This will be the daily routine once we go home, so getting him accustomed to being cared for in this way was important. It got rid of, entirely, the feeling of being a burden. I would then go home, shower and dress for work, work a normal day, and then arrive at 4:00 at the center. I did go back to work on Wednesday, and did spend time in my apartment as necessary, but I stayed with Skip every night. The administrator checked in with us both one night, later in the evening than I expected, a bit past the dinner hour.
"Thank you so much for letting me stay overnight. I know it's not exactly policy."
"Policy is whatever makes our caregivers and patients work and live well. You two are such a beautiful pair. I would be heartless to keep you two apart when Skip needs you so critically. What else can I do for you, either of you?"
I smiled at the repeated compliment about Skip and me as a couple.
"You've done so much. I'm fine. Skip?"
He gave her eyebrows. She kissed him on his forehead and then he kissed her cheek. This did not surprise me in the least, even though it was the first time I had seen them interact so sweetly.
Another surprise came to Skip on the second to last week of August. He was getting antsy because he knew the boy's senior year was about to start. He wanted to see them. I knew this, so I called Billy to let him know that Skip was ready.
On that Thursday morning, again while Skip was in the therapy gym, David walked through the door. Skip's eyes lit up like a kid at Christmas. David walked over to Skip, sat beside him, and gave him one hell of a hug and then a kiss on his lips. Skip happily kissed him back. I knew what was coming, so I grabbed a chair. If there was popcorn, it would have been all the better. Deb and Mark sat down beside me as well, away from the boys so they could have their time with Skip. Being 1000 miles or more from us was no easier on them.
Jake and Jeremy walked in next. Actually, Jeremy walked in with his twin on his shoulders. David came over to me and gave me a great kiss. The twins sat on either side of Skip, hugging him in turn. He kissed both of them as they each kissed him on his lips. No forehead kisses today. The boys got up to come to me only when Ste walked in. Skip now knew who he was going to see that day—or at least he thought so.
After Ste had his minutes with Skip, he came to me as Paul walked in. Paul hugged Skip very warmly and kissed him. He ran and leapt into my arms, putting kisses all over my face.
Then Jerry arm-in-arm with Greg, Brian carrying Jessie piggyback, Kenny, who was flung over Matt's shoulders, and finally Henry, who came to me first but I ducked.
"Nuh uh. Me later. Your bro first!"
"You're my bro, too!" he said protesting but not much.
"Second-class bro. First class is to your right."
"Fine, but you know how I feel about Sloppy Seconds."
"Deal with it."
Each boy had hugged Skip and kissed him so nicely. "Missed you sooo much" echoed throughout the room. Deb and Mark were in awe of the BC boys.
"More?" Skip said to me.
"Well, if you're gonna get all greedy on us, love," I said with a smile. "There is no David without ..."
"Sam!" Skip sorta shouted.
Sam came running in at full speed and had to jump a chair at the last moment. He giggled like a little boy as he kissed Skip over and over, crying the whole time and then finally laughing, fully happy to be with his friend again. For a couple of minutes there was not a dry eye in the place.
"More?" asked Skip, hugging Sam tightly.
"More!" I yelled.
Patrick walked in, smiling his gorgeous smile, carrying Alex and Kirk over each shoulder. If Skip could have applauded, he would have. Patrick put Alex down beside Skip, and then held Kirk in both arms, with Kirk holding on to Patrick. Alex reluctantly left Skip, replaced by Kirk who kept the kisses going. He gave way to Patrick, who kissed Skip and then got behind him, putting his back to the board that Skip had been lying against. He wrapped his arms around Skip.
"Still greedy?" said Patrick to Skip.
"Yeah," said Skip, seriously. There had to be more, just from how Patrick asked the question.
"More!" I yelled again.
In walked Jimmy and Marissa, followed by Edward and Kathryn, followed by Nate carrying Bryan piggyback as well, followed by Jillian and her Jimmy. Every one of them gave Skip kisses and warm hugs. He should be about worn out by now, but he was not. He cried instead.
"So, love, you're floored that these friends and loved ones would make this long trip to see you?" I asked. "This is what love is, bro, to the bone."
"Not surp—prised. Well—a li—little. Sooo—happy. Oh mm—my!"
"We're not done yet," I said.
"What?" he said, giving me big eyes.
"More!" I yelled once more, for the last time.
"Will came in carrying Michael cross-ways over his shoulders."
More tears fell down Skip's cheek. Patrick, still behind him, held him tighter and kissed his neck. Will set Michael between Skip's legs.
"Hi love," he said, sincerely to Skip. "Me and my bro came about a million miles by plane for only one thing. It was pretty harrowing to tell the truth because neither one of us likes to fly. For you, we could put our fears aside. It will be against how you would want to do it, says Aaron, but it's his plan that Patrick is behind you right now."
Skip looked over at me. I nodded.
"Patrick?" said Michael.
"Relax, love," said Patrick to Skip. He picked up Skip's arms and up them around Michael. Will then moved in and helped to hold Skip's arms around Michael.
"We knew that we all could not get a hug yet, so the BC boys all talked it out. They wanted me to have the hug, because of our warrior connection and because Will and I were flying the furthest. I really hope asking Patrick to help does not make you sad."
"Not at—all. Team—work. So wo—wonderful."
Skip turned his head a bit, trying to look at Patrick. Patrick knew what he was doing, so he leaned around a bit to kiss Skip again.
"You r—rock, bro," said Skip to Patrick.
"Thanks love. You rock more than I ever will, but it's awesome to be here with our mates."
After a moment, Michael put Skip's hands gently in his sides. He kissed Skip one more time and then took his place at our side. I stood and wrapped my arms around him from the back, around his belly. He turned his head and kissed me sweetly. Will took Michael's place, hugging Skip warmly and kissing him on his forehead and then his lips.
"Now," said Will, "direct your attention to Aaron."
I was standing at the door, with our laundry bag in hand. I turned it upside down, as if shaking it to get any strays out of it. I backed out into the hall, still shaking the bag. I could hear the boys laughing. As if by magic, three more pairs of hands appeared to be climbing up the edge of the doorframe. A head poked into the room. It belonged to Billy. Then another head, on top of Billy's, with shining eyes that belong to Betsy. And finally, one more head, on top of Betsy's, belonging to JD.
Heads and hands disappeared and Skip's `most real' family walked into the room, arm-in-arm, with Billy in the middle. Patrick slid out from behind Skip, holding him up long enough for Billy to sit in his place. Billy gave Patrick a beautiful hug in gratitude for his help.
The city of New Haven had paid for each Boston College boy's airline tickets to Atlanta from Boston and New York. The mayor's rep said that since the city had taken Skip away the boys, it was only fair for them to give the boys back to Skip. Jillian and Jimmy paid for the crew who arrived with them, plus Betsy, JD, and Billy.
It would not bother Skip in the least that this meant the end of his therapy for the day. I took Skip from the table and placed him in his wheelchair. Deb and Mark brought in enough chairs for everyone to sit and be with us. Kelly and Mark then brought in two cases of soda and two cases of juices, plus a large ice chest and packs of Solo cups.
The one thing that happens when people gather like this is that we share food and drink. We all already knew that this would not happen at the center because of Skip's respirator and feeding tube. It would not be fair to him at all. However, the people that we love so much should celebrate anyway, and so they would, later. For now, all the boys caught us up on news. Despite my urging them to do so, they did not have the summer weekend in July. It would not be the same without Skip and me. I argued that it would be awesome, because of who they were. But it was not meant to be. What I had planned for this evening was going to make them happy anyway. Only Betsy, JD, and Billy knew what the plan was.
I had arranged a very large catered dinner for my loved ones for tonight. After four hours with Skip (hospital policy that made sense), they were to be taken to my apartment development where Karen, the property manager, had lent a very large dose of Southern hospitality. There was a party space that also opened up to the pool. Karen closed it off to other residents, which is common for large parties. She had also arranged housing for everyone at the development, so they would not need hotel rooms. Mike and Amanda lent a hand to Karen as well for the party, and put up Betsy, JD and Billy at their home. Six of the BC boys stayed at my place. Everyone will be in town until Sunday. The BC boys had to be back for orientation on Wednesday.
I stayed with Skip. Everyone understood, knowing that is just the way it worked for Skip and me. There would be another celebration at home once Skip graduated. My bud knew what was going on at my place. He was thrilled to hear that our loves were all together again and celebrating. We will make it up to the boys at next year's July weekend, which will also be a college graduation celebration for most of them.
Sunday was not sad for Skip. We still had much work to do, and would not be home real soon, but soon enough. The BC boys came in first. The Boston crew was next, offering their bright wishes for Skip and me, and his recovery. They were all thrilled at his progress to date. Indeed, he had come a good distance from that accident.
Betsy, JD, and Billy stayed one more day, and then flew back to Boston. Billy had said his goodbyes and thanks to Patricia, Fred, Peter, and Charlie. He will see them again when Skip and I come home. He had pocketed $9,000 in summer earnings. He gave it all to Will and Michael for their first year at school in Toronto.
Skip and I went back to work, pleased and energized by our loves. It had been an awesome 3 ½ days with all of us together. Skip's depression was gone. He had me each night, and I had him.
Comments: ajlangille [at] gmail [dot] com
Please send thoughts, or continue to, to Matty Brown! His road is long and uncertain. What I describe here about Skip is what Matty too has gone through. He is too young to read these journals, but I find a need to care about him because I know what it's like for him. It's a life that sucks, bad, so he needs to know people care about him. He's 16 (Skip was 31) and has attitude to burn, but only because of his supporters. Please do care—you know what I say about the needful in my world.