Note: Joe had changed the names in his original edition of this because he did not really want to use real names. It was a dumb idea he says. This edition has the right names for Brad, Joe's brother and Rob, Chris' brother. Neither felt a need for Joe to protect them, though they understood his intentions when he first wrote his story.
This is the last section of the "added-since-Christopher" material. The rest of the story continues in new updates to the "My Buddy Andrew" series. This chapter has been very hard on Joe. I (Andrew) am still Joe's fingers, and he is the words you read. They come hard even though some of these came from the original "Christopher". Today is May 7, 1999. We have been working on this section for four days and we still have a ways to go to making it tell all that Joe wants to. But it is so hard. I am moved by what he wrote, and I find it no less hard than Joe does. We've held hands for hours at a time before we could continue to write.
Dedication: Joe wrote these past few "chapters" for a young man last year. He had read "Christopher" in the Nifty Archive and sent Joe a message, saying how much he liked the story. He wanted to know more. So Joe wrote these parts (as a complete story) for that young man. We've not kept up with E-mail lately and have lost touch. But the reason for writing these sections remains the same - to show a young man more about Chris and Joe. We don't know if he is still reading the Archive. He's in college and is probably swamped enough with work that neither Joe nor I feel right in intruding on him. We may do so anyway by sending him the new copies of this. Until we lost touch, he was always encouraging me (Andrew) to keep wishing for Joe to be well, to hang close to him so he would be. Again, we'll explain more about that in the updates to the "My Buddy Andrew" sections.
These chapters wouldn't exist without the young man who loved that they were brought to life. Mike ... from us to you. We did not ask for permission to take "your" chapters and show them off, but we hope you won't hate us too much for doing so. We've had hundreds of requests to share, though yours was the first. Please forgive us. With so much time on our hands, it was the only real way to pass it without being driven insane by the consequences that put Joe in the hospital again.
Joe & Andrew -- May, 1999
He held me close and looked into my eyes. He loved watching my eyes. We could have full conversations with our eyes alone. He smiled, creating another unspoken conversation. His face was youthful and so handsome that it made me ache sometimes. His body was naked, lean, firm, and athletic. His cock hung past his balls. His public hair was light. I smelled the manliness of his flesh as it rushed up my nose. The sweat was musky and pleasant, adding to the arousal of my sex and my senses.
He touched my face. He held my cheek and kissed me softly, first on my forehead, then nose, each eye, and then my lips. He ran his hand down my chest, tweaked each nipple, ran down my flat stomach, and touched my pubic hair, cock, and balls. He played with me until I shot out a creamy load, only from the sensation of his lips on mine and his hand on my erection. He cleaned me up. I closed my eyes. Another day passed.
There was a seven-month gap in my memory. I knew it was seven months because I had been listening to my surroundings for a few days. I knew I was in the hospital, and I knew it was July. Other than that, I was a mere child. There were no memories, no individual thought processes, and an awareness of only two others close to me drawing me out. I ached terribly all over my body, bearing up with the pain that was surely derived from a severe beating of some sort. I could not see either.
But drawing me out? Out of what? And why was it July instead of December? I couldn't speak, so I could not ask anyone. I had only to lay and listen to get my answers. I had been awake, more or less, for only a few days. No one knew that I was. Each hour there was someone putting a cold wet washcloth over my face, someone attending to my basic bodily functions, and someone holding my hand. I tried desperately to squeeze my hand so that whoever was there would know that I was awake. But the did not know because I was too weak to move even the slightest.
Chris, are you here, bud?
"Yes, my friend. I am here."
"Hold me. I'm afraid."
"There isn't anything to be afraid of. I'm here anytime you need me."
He put his lips on mine. The anxiety I'd felt fled immediately. His lips were soft, so beautifully soft and so caring. He lay on top of my body, naked and firm. He parted my lips and explored my mouth. His breath tasted of my cock. It was salty, like my cum. Heat rose inside me as I probed his mouth. I felt his hair, touched his face, licked his ears and felt him shudder in my arms. There was never, ever any better compliment than making my man shiver under my touch. It made me complete, knowing that his pleasure need was being met.
He touched my body and sucked my Adam's Apple, licked my neck and slid slowly over to my ear lobe. He bit it oh so gently, working it with his tongue and his teeth. He knew my hot spots, in love and in sex. He slid down and moved his lips over my hairless chest, to my nipples, down to my naval, over to my hip, and then back to my crotch where he sucked each of my balls into his mouth. He licked the tender underside of my balls, and down to my asshole. He spread my cheeks as he tongued my hole, eating me deeply, prepping me for the treasure I wanted most inside of me.
He probed at my insides with a finger and then two. In a few minutes, he replaced the fingers with his hard cock, hitting every nerve ending in my ass. His cut cock, seven and a half full inches, just the right thickness, poked my slippery ass, sliding fully in and then pulling back so just the swollen purple head was inside me. He slid in and out in the slow and steady rhythm that we both loved so much. He always asked me if it was okay, if he was pleasing me enough. My demands were not high. He always made me feel good. His skill at making love to me had developed over the period of 11 years. In a few minutes, the sweat beaded up on his face as he tried to hold off his orgasm. I pushed my ass into his cock, gripped it firmly with my muscle ring and pulled his cum out of his balls. I didn't want him to hold off any longer; I wanted his juice inside of me. The moist heat filled me, my reward for my passion with this man. I would love him forever, and I had no hesitation or worry that he would ever not love me.
Without touching myself, I shot an incredibly hot load of cream on to my stomach as he drew his now softening cock from my ass.
Time continued to pass. The cycles of light and dark, even though I could not see, were evident in my senses. The rhythm of the day was different than that of the night. I listened to everything. It was 7:00 a.m. when Kelly showed up for her shift and kissed me on my forehead. She was a nurse. It was 3:00 p.m. when Dorothy came in and kissed my cheek. It was 11:00 p.m. when Nancy arrived and kissed my cheek as well. I wish I could tell them I loved that they did that, each day or night, without fail. I wish I could tell them that I was alive.
It was seventeen more days before I found my voice. I was thinking, as usual, about my Chris, lying beside him while he kissed me and jacked me off. He put his cock in my mouth and let me swallow his juice. I licked him clean and shared some of it with him as he bent down to kiss me some more.
"Huh? Who's there?"
Rob? Chris' brother, Rob? I instantly recognized him as one of the two people who had been close to me for these past few days. Maybe it had been longer, but I was conscious of him for only days, about 22 days if I had tracked the sunrises and sunsets the right way.
"I'm here, too, Joe."
Brad was the second presence that I had felt. My brother was a tremendous part of my life, and had been since we were little boys. He was 18 months younger than I was.
"I can't see anything, but I know my eyes are open."
"Yes, Joe, your eyes are open. You are in the hospital, because of an accident. We are hoping the blindness is temporary."
"Okay. Yeah, I hope so, too. I'm tired. I need to sleep some more."
Two hands, one first then another, touched my face gently. I heard my brother say "Sleep peacefully. We'll be here when you wake again." I heard Rob say "Peace, friend. We're not going anywhere."
"Where'd you go?"
"Nowhere, my friend. I'm right here. Sleep now. I'll sleep along side you. And Joe?"
"I love you, Joe. I always will."
"I love you, my bud. From my heart - always."
I felt his body behind me, spoons-style, pressing his crotch into my bare ass, wrapping his right arm across my body and placing his hand firmly on my chest. He kissed my neck and we slept.
"No, Rob. Brad's eating breakfast. He'll be back shortly."
"I feel you close. Why now?"
"Actually I've always been close, since you came home for that first Thanksgiving. You still amaze me Joe, just as you did almost 12 years ago."
"We did seem to get along well from the beginning, didn't we?"
"Yeah, and I'm thankful for that, and for everything you have been to our family. Mom and Pop are coming out soon. They wanted to know when you were awake. Eileen has been here every day, too. The woman is amazing. I don't think I'll ever look at bosses the same way again."
"So I'm in the hospital?"
"Because of an accident? What kind?"
"Car accident, Joe. A drunk driver hit you on Christmas Eve. He came out of nowhere and you couldn't avoid getting hit."
His words caught in his throat. He stopped for a moment. I heard him sobbing softly. He must have turned away so I couldn't hear, but I did anyway.
"Why are you crying, man. You don't have to. I'm okay now."
"I'm sorry, Joe. We weren't sure you were going to make it."
"Tell me the truth, I was supposed to die."
"Well, I don't know if 'supposed to' is right. But you nearly did. Something brought you back to us."
"I've heard something in my ear for awhile, but I don't know how long. It was a very strong presence, pushing me out of the darkness. Then I suddenly felt Brad and you pulling from the other side of that same darkness. I guess I didn't belong there."
I felt a kiss on my cheek. He put his hand on my face and touched me lightly, with great care.
"What was that for?"
"A connection, but it's hard to explain until you understand more. I know what you mean about the 'something' being with you. I feel it too, quite strongly, but I'm not sure what it is."
"What will make us understand?"
"Okay. I guess."
I didn't understand at all, but I liked Rob and trusted what he said. What was missing though? He mentioned a connection. I had a connection too, but I didn't know to what.
He took my hand. It was soft and gentle, but manly. It was so familiar, but I didn't know from where. If I'd been here for awhile, maybe he held my hand each day. If he knew anything about me at all, he might know that I liked touch.
"Why are you so sad?" I said.
"It's a long story. You can feel that in me?"
"Yeah, I can. And from Brad, too. Sometimes it seems like there is a wave pushing me back, and then you two change and then seem to start pulling me forward again. How long have I been here?"
"Since the accident, Joe. Since Christmas Eve - seven months almost. It's mid July."
He kissed my neck. He reached from behind and put a hand in my crotch, playing with my dick until it was fully hard. He messaged my balls in his fingers, cupping them in his hand. His own hardness pressed against my ass. He rubbed his cock over my ass and then entered me in one push. The love we made was steady, rhythmic, unhurried and fulfilling. Even my barest of needs was always taken care of. He loved being inside me, making me horny and then taking it away because he was so good at what he did to me. He quickly brought us both to an unstoppable orgasm, making me shoot so hard and so far that I didn't see where all of it ended up. I know that his load filled me full. He stayed inside me as long as he could.
"I love you, Joe. Don't every worry."
"I love you, Chris. There will never be anyone else like you."
There was a terrible thunderstorm one night in mid-November, unusual for this time of year. I could not see the lightning, but I could feel it. I was always scared of thunderstorms, equally afraid of the lightning and the thunder. The storms that we would have in the mountains of New Hampshire would shake the whole house. I had spent many stormy nights under my bed as a child.
The rain beat against the window incessantly. The thunder cracked and then rumbled for long minutes. Shadows of the trees outside moved in the wind and torrential downpour. It was like an eerie Halloween night. My imagination has always been vivid, so even though I could not see the storm, I still felt like I wanted to be beneath my bed instead of lying on top of it. The storm outside was little different from what raged inside my head though. Terrible truths came out of the storm, and rocked me as surely as they rocked the house I lived in in my childhood.
"He's gone, isn't he?" I asked, to whoever was there.
"Yes, Joe, he's gone."
Rob's voice, profoundly sad. I was Joe's buddy, but Rob was his brother. It must be heart wrenching for him to see that I survived but that Chris did not. How awful that he will be without his only sibling for the rest of his life. He is only 28. Would he hate me because I am the one lying in this bed?
"But he loved you," Brad answered.
Did he know, really, that Chris loved me?
The emptiness was complete. If I fell into it, I'll fall forever because it was so deep. I swallowed to choke back the feeling as it rose in my throat, threatening to gag me and drag me down into its depths.
For a few days I turned my back to the world. I couldn't move much, but I could close my blind eyes and shut them all out.
"Don't shut them out. It's not their fault. Don't hate the world because of one man, too drunk to know what he did. Rob loves you just the way he told you he did years ago. Trust him, he will help you."
Brad sat beside me. It was the end of November and I could see only enough to know that my brother was there beside me. Rob stood at the head of my bed, holding my hand gently and with great care.
There were no tears. I couldn't find any. I had suspected that Chris was the missing connection. I had that thought a few days ago, before I came to realize that he was indeed gone. If it were just Rob and Brad with me, then my Chris was gone. The memory came from nowhere, but it left no doubt that I now was alone. Chris would never hold me again. I would not ever hold him. The thought of my arms being empty for the rest of my life, my Chris being dead, and no one to ever love me again like he could devastated me. If I started to cry, I would never stop. I was empty. There were no tears because there was nothing to feel.
"Brad, please go home to your family now. You've been here almost a whole year. Go home for Christmas; stay with your family. Your son needs you more than I do here. I love you, but you can't help me any more. Your job is done."
My brother had been away from his family, nearly full time, for the past eleven months, and a couple weeks. He had a two-year-old son and a wife who understood his need to be with me. She supported his wishes and encouraged him from four hours away. But now it was time to let him go.
Rob, newly married about 18 months ago, but with no family yet, wanted to stay. He lived outside of Boston. Even though he'd been here with my brother for the whole time, he'd at least gone home every few days. His wife was also supportive and understanding. He would stay with me out of love for me, and out of respect for what Chris would want.
Rob, too, went home for Christmas. There was enough nursing staff and friends from the office, both Chris' and mine, to see me through while Rob took a well-deserved break. This was not the place to be during a holiday when you could be elsewhere. I made Rob promise to stay home until at least the new year. He did not say yes or no. He kissed my forehead and my cheek before he left.
He put my hand against his chest, like Chris would.
"You're right in here, JMan. I love you and I will take care of you for as long as you will let me. Is that okay?"
"Yes, my friend, it is very okay. I love you too. Please take care of yourself and your wife for a few days. Come back when you want, but not too soon."
On my table sat a picture of Chris and Rob and me, taken last year at Thanksgiving. It was in a silver frame, three sparkling faces mugging for the camera. Beside it was a small Christmas tree, only big enough to handle about a dozen white lights. They were my gifts from Rob ... and one of the best I'd ever gotten. I had never seen the picture. It was supposed to be our gift last year, simple and inexpensive from the newlywed brother, whose heart was always in the right place.
I woke up after sleeping for days at a time. When there was sleep, there was little or no pain. Someone was with me every day. Kelly, Dorothy, and Nancy took me though three shifts and twenty-four hours. Interns and orderlies and techs and doctors ... they were there for my medical needs and there for lending a hand just because. They were angels all.
My boss, Eileen, came every other day through the holiday. She did not fly in and fly out. She sat at my side for hours on end. We talked, or she read me the newspaper, or she just sat and held my hand, saying nothing, giving some of her wonderful strength to me. She had assured Brad and Rob that my job would be there for me whenever I could or wanted to come back. Everyone knew that this was going to be a long hospital stay. There were things I should not have to worry about, my job being one of them.
January came. Rob sat on my bed, holding my hand. He had stayed away as I had asked, though reluctantly. He had called Christmas day and the nurse put the phone beside my ear so I could listen. He did not wish me a merry Christmas because he knew there was no tolerable sense of merry. He told me he loved me instead. He wished me well and told me he would come if I wanted him to. I did, but I did not call.
Rob was younger than Chris was, by twenty-three months. They had a lot of things in common; strong handsome faces, deep blue eyes, sandy blond hair, a smile that was so infectious you had to return it, and a heart made from the purest of gold. He looked into my eyes.
"You may not know, but your eyes are badly bruised, Joe. The trauma to them is the reason you are blind. Beneath the bruises, though, are the same incredible eyes that Chris loved. They are more hazel than brown today. You're injuries are all terrible and will take a long time to heal, but what made you who you are still lives in there."
I didn't know yet of my injuries, other than that they were extensive.
"Tell me, man. Tell me what's wrong with me. I need to know, so I know what to do."
"I dunno, Joe. You might be better off not knowing right now. Isn't it too soon?"
"Yeah. But tell me anyway. Please."
He sat for a moment and looked at me. He wrung out his hands, wishing he didn't have to tell me. I didn't insist because my manner did not allow me to be that way. I offered an alternative, to see if it would be easier for him. He nodded, accepting it.
"Head injuries, pretty major obviously, to put me in a coma for more than six months and to give me such a long-lasting wretched headache. You said my eyes are bruised badly. My guess is I hit the dashboard, even with a seatbelt on."
"No Joe, the dashboard hit you."
The thought was incredible for me to imagine. How fast were we going? Or how fast was the other driver, when he hit us. It must have been head-on.
"Neck and shoulder, too. Feels like my left shoulder is restrained. Is it dislocated?"
"Is this still too hard, RobMan? I can stop ..."
"It's okay, JMan. You have a right to know. It doesn't matter what I feel."
"Yes it does. You're my friend too. I understand that you can barely look at me, never mind trying to talk about it too."
"I didn't realize I've been looking away. How do you know that?"
"I dunno. Probably because if I were you, I wouldn't be able to look either."
He bent down and kissed my cheek. He was surprised at my perception. He took my hand, carefully, and held me.
"Forgive me my weakness, Joe. I'm sorry."
"No need, my brother. I can't imagine what it's been like for you. You've been here almost every day since the accident, haven't you?"
"Except for Chris' funeral. But yes, I have, Joe. I owe you, for all you ever did for Chris. This is nothing, to be here, compared to what you did, how you stood by him without even thinking about it."
"Oh I thought about it. But it was a no-brainer. He needed me, and I knew, somehow, how to do what he needed. Trust me, man, just being able to sit and hold his hand was all he would ask of me. It is easy do stand by someone, in the name of love. But you know that. Otherwise you wouldn't be here."
"Are you an angel?"
"Ha. No, friend, just someone who knows, thankfully, about true and sincere love. There's nothing special about me. It comes from here ..."
I touched his heart. My fingers were bandaged, so I could not feel him. He watched my face. He knew I liked touch and he was not intimidated by it. Pity the people who don't like the comfort of a soft touch. For me, it was the world.
"I have a few broken ribs, too."
"Yes. Five on the left and three on the right."
"Yeah. There's pain?"
"Yeah. All over, though. My whole body is on fire with terrible aches."
"Your left arm, as you might see, is broken -- in two places. Your right arm is okay, but your right hand is broken."
"I can't feel my legs yet. Does that mean they are too badly damaged, or does it mean I have spinal damage?"
"Both. There is swelling along your spinal column and the muscles in your back are pretty ripped up. Both your legs are broken - two breaks on the left and four on the right."
"Wow. Am I ever going to walk again?"
"Your doc says it's not likely. But Brad and I both told him that he doesn't know you. You'll do as you damned well please. There's no shame, Joe, if you can't. Considering what you really do look like, and I am looking, the fact you are alive amazes me to no end."
"Rob? Would you hold me?"
"I'm scared to, Joe. If you knew how badly I've wanted to, but I'm scared."
"Don't be. I know you. You won't hurt me."
He stood and looked at me for a moment. He was trying to figure out how to do it. At that moment, Dorothy came through the door to check on me.
"Dorothy. Can you do me a favor? Can you pull me to the side of the bed a little more?"
"It'll hurt you, Joe. It might hurt a lot."
"I know. Please? Rob can help you if he wants."
Between the two of them it took about five minutes to move me without making me scream. I wasn't just broken; I was mutilated. I now knew the extent of my injuries and they were horrific. It wasn't amazing, as Rob said, that I was alive. It was miraculous.
"Dorothy, I've asked Rob to hold me. I don't want any grief from anyone around here, okay?"
"My Joe," she said taking my hand, "if I were you, I wouldn't have waited this long to ask. Do you need anything else?"
"No ma'am. Just for my friend to hold me."
"Bless you Joe. I know he won't hurt you. Rob, can I help?"
"Yeah, stand by and make sure I don't fall out. If I break something, I'll need you right away."
They smiled. My eyes moved so that they knew I liked Rob's humor. He was a good man and I know that he wasn't worried at all about himself. If I screamed while he was trying to settle in beside me, he'd want Dorothy to help us.
Rob took off his sneakers and lay down on my left side. He slid his right arm, carefully, beneath my neck and then closed it around my shoulder. He put his left hand on my chest. When he settled in, he kissed me on my forehead, then on my cheek.
"I'm here for you Joe."
"Bless you Rob for your kind heart," Dorothy said.
She left quietly. Rob looked into my eyes.
"You okay Joe?"
"I am now, JMan. I wish the rest of the world were so caring as you are. I hate what's out there, for people to be doing this fucking senseless shit to someone else. They don't care."
"I know you hate the world because of what someone took from you. Please, find it in you to not hate me though. I told you several years ago that I love you. I do, more than ever, and not because of what has happened. I love you because of who you are."
"I'm scared, RobMan. I don't hate you. No reason I ever could. I have been afraid though because I'm the one who is here and not Chris. Maybe it's unfair of me to think so, but I am afraid of how you feel about that."
"You lived for a reason Joe. It was bad luck that Chris died. I'll miss him so much all the rest of my life. I'll be forever different because he was killed. But there will always be a place in my heart for you. I don't hate you, if that's what you are afraid of. We will get you well and I will ask you to be my brother now."
"Aww, man. I can't replace Chris, as much as I would like to."
"You don't have to replace him, Joe. Just continue to be the brother to me that you've become, only better."
"Will it be enough?"
"Yes. It will be more than enough. I'm sorry for you. I know what you feel, because I do too. I know what you were to my brother. And I know he loved you, not just as a friend, but as a true love, from within his heart and soul as well. The two were so closely tied, and so natural--"
"Did he ever tell you?"
"What did you think?"
"I thought nothing. I loved him. I didn't care if he was gay. Being gay was private and did not make him who he was. It was a part of him, but he did not flaunt it nor did he feel he should not be gay. He had you to love. You never deprive a person of the love he has, even if you do not totally understand it. He was right, Joe. You are special. I know you and he were of one mind and that when it happened, it was because both of you wanted it in the same way. I'm so glad for you, to know you had an amazingly strong love. I don't think even I have that, not quite to the level you and Chris had."
"Yes. He didn't understand as well at first. But we had a lot of time together. He understands now and will tell you so when the time is right. He too loves you and would not feel it right to deny you happiness and the memories you have. He thought Chris was aces and loved it when he came to spend time on the farm with you and your family."
"How long have you known about Chris and me?"
"Probably from the first Spring after you knew each other. There weren't a lot of secrets between us. He didn't brag either, but he told me that you were special to him. Then when he got Hodgkin's, it made me cry to see how you stood by him, no matter how bad it got."
"I'd forgotten about his cancer, until now. There are still some holes in my memory. He was so scared that the cancer would ..."
"I know, Joe. He was scared to death. You stood with him through it, so the fear subsided in time. I can help fill in the memories. And I will, in time. All you have to know now is that Chris' love for you was as unconditional and true as yours was for him. When he told you he loved you, he meant it. And he knew you meant every word to him. You were the universe to him. Even more than me."
"No, don't be, Joe. It's great that you were. I don't envy or hate you for it; it's just the way it was. And I hope it'll see you through. You've got a lot of healing to do, and I don't think it'll be easy. I want to help, though, all I can."
His arms were wrapped around me, warmly and with sincerity. I was now his link to the past, as he was mine. There was no feeling of lust for him, as easy as it would have been to have it. But at least there was a fire in my desire, which is probably why Chris' image filled me so vividly. He nuzzled into my neck and fell asleep.
"I'm glad Rob is taking care of you. Take care of him, too, okay?"
"I will, my love. We're brothers now. I'll watch out for him always."
"I love you Joe. Always know that I have the deepest love for you."
"I'm glad, Chris. It will keep me alive to know that. I love you always, my bud."
I slept too, finally. Today had been the first day I'd been awake for 16 hours. To be held again was deeply fulfilling. I knew he felt pity for me, but I hoped what he also felt was what we had become - brothers. I had a lot of respect for the young brother of the man who had been my love for 11 years. Rob did not care that his brother and I were in love. He was truly impressed by me. But it was mutual. I knew that Rob would be "alone" now forever. It was going to be so hard on him.
For now he was helping me, but there would come a time when I was better and wouldn't need the care that he gave. Would we still be close? God, I hoped so. I so wanted to be a part of his life still. He was a strong connection to my life before the accident. I didn't see much of what my life after the accident would be like. For now all I knew was pain, physical and debilitating. And emotional, just as debilitating just as real as the extreme ache in my shattered body. I was not in love with him, not in the way I was with Chris. But Rob would need someone to talk to when he missed Chris. I was the only one who would understand what he felt. I cared for him the way I cared for my own brother.
Ahead of me was more surgery (there had been several rounds the night of the accident and for weeks after), rehab for my broken bones and torn tissues, and physical therapy to learn how to walk again.
The latter was torture in the extreme. Having been a runner, a basketball player, and a soccer player, not using my legs for months was bad enough. Now learning how to use them again was going to test the limits of what even I would stand for. How could I have encouraged Chris through his cancer yet not believe a word of it now that I was pushed to the edge of my life too?
The first day of my therapy arrived. It was March, fifteen months after the accident. The tech, a young lady, came into my room with a wheelchair. Up until now, therapy had been muscle rubs and heat treatments. We had slowly worked my arms and legs as they healed, helping them along. We had done spinal manipulations and whirlpool sessions. Many times I ended these sessions in tears from the pain that was still there. I tried hard to adjust my attitude, to tell myself that without this, there would be no healing. Being an invalid the rest of my life was unacceptable.
Nothing - there was no voice in answer to my call. I called out to him two or three times a day. I wanted him to tell me it was okay. But his presence wasn't there. I felt empty. I know he was only in my mind, but it was comfortable for him to be there. I wanted him back. But it was not to be.
One day I was standing at the end of the parallel bars, absolutely frustrated and fed up that my legs would not respond to me. I held on to the bars on each side, leaning on my wrists. I looked at my legs, as if that were enough to urge them forward. I had tried for an hour to do as Katherine told me to. It wasn't attitude; it was my muscles. They wouldn't move. I concentrated and shifted my weight. I relaxed. Nothing worked. All I wanted to do was sit in the wheelchair again and learn how to push myself around in it. I couldn't care less about anything.
Rob sat nearby, cheering me on. He came over and stood beside me, then slightly ahead of me.
"Come on, JMan, it begins with a step. You've done it on other days."
"I can't, man. My legs won't move. They hurt so much. I know it's me not cooperating, but I can't. It just hurts too much."
"Chris. You're here."
"Walk my man, take a step. Like Rob said. You can do it. For me, please?"
"No, not this time, my bud. The bastard has won."
"You can my love. You've already been doing it for two weeks. I'll help a little. He took me from you, but he won't take your will."
"He already has, Chris."
"No, Joe -- not ever. You're strong and kind. Stop hating him. Live for yourself."
Chris' arms wrapped around my chest and I leaned into him. His right knee pushed against the back of my leg and I took a step forward. I moved my right hand forward on the parallel bar. His left knee pushed into my left leg and I took a step. I again moved myself forward along the parallel bar.
Rob was beside me, nodding and smiling. Katherine was behind me so I wouldn't fall.
"Only two more each. Then you can rest like Katherine says."
He did not push this time; he made me do it.
"Do it. Move your leg."
And I did.
"Okay my love, now the right one."
So it was.
"Once more, only with your left."
His left knee gave me the slightest push.
"Now the right one, on your own."
"Okay, good man. Now you can rest."
The voice was that of my physical therapist, Katherine. The woman was blessed with the ultimate patience. She did not know that Chris' presence was with me. It was his voice only, and I knew that. I had not gone over the edge and made myself insane. I knew as well as anyone that Chris was not there, physically. But he was there where it mattered ... in my heart, in my soul, making sure that there would not be three deaths from the terrible night in Boston. He was real enough.
Rob sat on the sidelines now and smiled at me. Chris was sitting next to him. I blinked, then he was gone. The mind is marvelous at playing tricks, even when you don't believe what you see. It is hard not to though. Chris' presence was so strong. Would there ever be a day when he wasn't so close to me? Truthfully, I hoped not. I want him with me always, if only to keep me straight (so to speak).
An half-hour later, we resumed right where I'd left off on the parallel bars.
"Six more steps, love, then you're done for the day."
There was a gentle nudging, from behind, on two of the six. Katherine stood in front of me to catch me if I fell. The nudge was, well, a nudge. I didn't care where it came from, as long as it moved me forward. Rob carried me back to my wheelchair when I was done. He cheered me on while being right there to see my small victories. Each step meant that I really could live.
Four weeks later, I could walk while holding the parallel bars. Stairs were next. Stairs made tears run down my eyes. Up two steps, rest, down two steps. Thirty minutes rest, and repeat. This was so hard, so awful, and so painful. Instead of getting easier it got harder because the pain sent its signals into and through my brain. I stood and cried like a baby because I could not get back down the steps when I got up them.
"Come on my love, ever so carefully now."
The strong arm held me and helped me.
"One step at a time, don't worry that there are two. Stay focused, love, stay focused and don't worry so far ahead. When it's too much, don't look so far ahead. One step at a time, my bud, and one day at a time. Tomorrow does not matter, only today does. We've lived before like it was our last day on Earth, so you know how."
"I love you."
"And I love you, Joe. Always, my love, always. Stay focused, now. You can do this."
I stepped down one step and then a few minutes later I stepped down the other. The pain was crushing, but I did this because of my Chris. Chris was going to be my only reason in these next few months. I loved my family and I loved Rob, but they had lives of their own and I had to make my own again.
Two weeks later, four stairs were "easy" (HA!). Well, okay, easy in comparison to the first day. Easy was relative only to the task at hand and to the day. The stationary bike was next. 1/2 mile. And no slacking allowed. There would be a treadmill later on, and Nautilus equipment, and real stairs between real floors, and then long hallways and ...
"Joe, stop that. All you have to worry about right now is this bike. The treadmill and the Nautilus and the real stairs and the long hallways will be there for you to conquer one by one, until you can do anything you want to. You're going to be playing hoops again, Joe. If you don't believe me, wait until you throw that ball the first time and think back and remember me."
"I'll remember you always my bud. You're going to be in every step, push, pull, throw, and breath. I hope you don't get sick of me."
"No man - not ever."
"Come on love, push. You need to work those ligaments."
A gentle hand messaged my muscles, now slightly flabby where once they had been hard as steel.
It wasn't the end of the pain-filled tears, but there were fewer as the months wore on.
"I'm here, love. Keep going. You're gonna lick this yet."
Five months into the PT, I could walk up and down the parallel bars without holding on, mostly. I could walk up and down the four steps with little encouragement. I could do a mile on the stationary bike.
Eight months into it I could walk, unaided, around a 1/2-mile track.
Ten months into it, I was walking almost everywhere, unassisted. 300 days it took; six days a week so that I would not lose my momentum. I stood in front of a basketball hoop. We were in a schoolyard near the hospital. There was a Spaulding basketball in my hands and Rob was standing behind me. The first throw was a little awkward and my back muscles pulled me out of line. The ball bounded off the rim. The second shot, with Rob's help supporting my back, was nothing but net. He went and picked up the ball again and challenged me to do it again. It did, with only a little rim. He stepped away from me and told me to do it again. I didn't. The back without his support was useless. It told us that the back brace Katherine proposed for me was going to become a reality after all. I didn't want it, only for the fact that it made me dependent on something. I would use it, so I could shoot straight and true and get something I loved back in my life.
At night Chris held me close. Rob was now spending his evenings at home, coming every other day ever faithfully, to help me and to cheer me on. Brad was talking to me a couple times a week now to cheer me on from home. Little Jeff, my nephew, told me he loved me and I should get better.
But my Chris held me at night and talked encouragement into my ear. When I needed him most, he was there.
Two years and a bit more after the accident I was released from the hospital. I went home to New Hampshire, to my Pop's farm, courtesy of a friend who came to Boston to pick me up. I stayed until I was missing my job in Boston. It would be until the following spring before I really wanted to go back, another year away. I might change my mind and go back sooner but it wasn't likely. Friends were subleasing our apartment outside of Boston. They would need time to find another place. They were a young married couple, having their first child, and looking to buy a house. Maybe I would time my return to fall after they moved into the house. Eileen kept in touch with me and told me to come back when I wanted to. There was work enough to keep me interested and business would be good for quite some time to come.
I spent the rest of the spring and summer sitting on the front porch with Brad and my nephew, taking slow and still painful walks all over our property with them or alone. Chris was here, in the memories of how we had enjoyed our vacation weeks here. We had made love all over this farm and I felt him everywhere I went.
I stood at the maple tree, alone. The promise that I had made would go unfulfilled, at least in the way that I had made it. I climbed up to the large bow and sat with my back against the right branch, my legs dangling on either side. Chris should have been sitting against me. It hurt me so bad, worse than any physical hurt caused by any drunk driver could ever inflict. I had learned to walk again because of Chris. I had played basketball again because he told me I would. But the tears wouldn't flow.
I had come back to life, but for what? With my bud gone, what was my life about any more? I didn't have any answers. I was being treated for depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and knew that I could ask myself a million questions that had no resolution until I encountered them. But, nonetheless, I was empty.
On Christmas Eve, Brad and I sat in the barn on the farm on which we'd grown up.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I know, three years today. It seems shorter, truthfully. I envy you that he loved you so much."
I looked at him. We'd still not talked about Chris and I, intimately.
"No, it doesn't matter to me. It never will. It did for awhile because I didn't understand. But I'm not qualified to judge. Rob and I talked a lot. You're lucky and blessed to have had love. Some never feel love, at least to the depth you and Chris did. There's nothing wrong with that."
"I miss him. I haven't cried yet, at least for him. Any tears have been in frustration or pain. I had no chance to say goodbye. He knew how I felt about him every day, but a final goodbye would have made it easier for me."
"When or if the time comes you need to, you will. But you are also extraordinarily strong willed. I've learned to be, probably from seeing you lie near death. Six months is a long time to wish you'd come back. But then we didn't consider the fact that you'd be a vegetable if you did wake. This voice in my head wouldn't let me give in though. It was strong and willful, and anytime I was going to give in, it made sure I wouldn't."
The voice. Did we all hear it? It wasn't real, nor were the images of Chris holding me, but sometimes I think we made our own realities, kinda like a safety valve.
"I hear the encouragement, too. I can't say for sure it's Chris doing it, but he's always on my mind and I wouldn't doubt too much that his spirit is with me. But I don't know for sure."
"You'll probably never know. Life's a mystery. But God forbid that you waste it."
"No, I can't possibly ever do that. Chris' life and death would be meaningless if I ever did."
In the spring, after a year at home, I returned to Boston. I hadn't been in our apartment for over three years. I didn't go back to work quite yet. There was still on-going PT. I'd also settled into a deep funk. Nothing seemed to help shake it. I walked along the ocean. I sat and watched sunrises and/or sunsets. I walked along the Charles River; sat at Boston Common and walked through The Public Gardens. I went to the Hancock Tower; listened to the Boston Pops along the Esplanade ... all the things that Chris and I did together, something familiar. But the sadness was so overwhelming that it threatened to swallow me whole.
The nights were too long and extraordinarily lonely. I often stayed up all night until I was so tired I'd sleep for a whole day at a time. I had no regular routine to fall into. I had nothing to look forward to. Most especially, Chris was gone and I had only memories. They weren't enough. And I couldn't cry to save my soul. There were no tears. Did that mean I didn't care? All I felt was empty.
I decided a change of scenery was in order. I talked to Eileen and told her that I couldn't come back to work. There was enough money to keep me going for awhile. Boston wasn't home any more and I had to leave, at least for awhile. She understood but said I would be missed, like I had been since the accident. We would keep in touch. I respected her and she felt for me. She told me she could write me a recommendation should I need one. I told her I would call from wherever I ended up.
I arrived a few weeks later in Pennsylvania. A new place to live, a new job prospect, and a place to hide away from the too familiar surroundings that were empty now because my buddy was dead.
I remembered back to the night in August, at Chris' folk's house, some time ago when I had a dream that I would not tell Chris about. In the dream I was sitting on the rocks at a beach, alone.
To be continued ... in "My Buddy Andrew" series -- Joe and I have had lots of discussions about Chris, so we will leave them within our stories, rather than come back here to fill in the gaps. Joe could add at least double the text here about his life with Chris. The healing process is on-going. Since I have been a part of that, Joe feels right in upsetting the chronology and doing it via flashbacks with me.