Folks have wondered what a 'typical' week looks like from my point of view. What do I do all day, with 24 hours to fill? What's work like? How can I take being with Joe so many hours each day? Surely it must be boring? What do I do for fun? Who else do I interact with? What's a day like when I'm away from here?
Typical isn't a word I can use. Anything I do lately is far out of the ordinary life I know. Here's an insider's view of 'a week in the life of Andrew':
I've been with Joe at the hospital for 16 months, since March 1998. The days seem to be indistinct blocks of time, certainly not hours that make a day, that make a week, turning into a month and then eventually a year. I've got little concept of time. I have to look at my watch, stare hard at my watch, to understand what it tells me. The big hand is on the 9 and the little hand is on the 2 ... a.m.? p.m.? What day is it? Hell, what month is it?
Just now midnight, Saturday night/Sunday morning. Lots of folks go out on Saturday night. I stay with Joe. On a usual Sunday, at midnight, I will have been here since 6:00 p.m. Friday. Midnight is a mood, not necessarily a time of day. Funny though, I always seem to know when it happens.
I'm sitting here beside Joe listening to the sound of his respirator and heart monitor. I think those two sounds are forever a part of my being, from now on. The rhythm, after so long being of major concern, is finally steady. The night crew nurses are settling in. Stacey has just left after taking all of Joe's vitals. She says his blood pressure, heart rate, temperature and pulse are within reason. I note that that does NOT mean 'normal'. Within reason means he won't die in the next five minutes. It does not guarantee what will happen before the sun rises. I'm restless and it's time to walk. Midnight used to be my usual bedtime, until 7:00 a.m. I have no usual bedtime now. I go to bed and wake anywhere from two to five hours later.
I start at Joe's room and turn right, going down a short corridor to the main corridor. I turn left and walk toward the back of the hospital, about 120 feet to the end. At this hour the lights are down and the rooms are all quiet. The staff have all seen my face and know who I am. They know that once midnight comes, I roam. No one asks me how Joe is because they all know. But I get smiles and hugs and a place full of cheering. I don't want to be away too long, but when I wander like this, I get time that's mine. I love my Joe and I'll give him anything. But a half hour to myself each night won't hurt anything. I've been doing this since almost the first night I was here.
I go through the door to the stairwell and go down two sets of stairs, 16 steps each. Some nights I sit here, alone, gathering my reserve. Most nights I just go through the door to the next floor. From this end of the floor, I walk the 200 feet to the other end. Again, there are familiar faces who know mine. They too know why I am here. To the end of the hall, to the stairwell, down to the next level, down the long corridor, to another stairwell, to another endless corridor and another stairwell - down and down until I exit the hospital at the lobby and then to the outside world. I walk to my favorite place on the hospital grounds, near the helipad, among a set of well-kept trees. The night is warm. I listen to the traffic of the town, the sound of the night neighborhood nearby, and to the night symphony of crickets and frogs. I can tune out the traffic and neighborhood sounds and hear only the music. There is a steady breeze blowing and I close my eyes to enjoy my surroundings.
I go back to Joe when I'm getting antsy. My watch says I've been away about 40 minutes. I go directly back, via lobby and stairwells, which takes only about seven minutes. When I get to his side, I sit and take his hand. I kiss it and feel the warmth against my lips and cheeks. I take off my shirt and put his hand on top of my heart. If he feels mine beating, his will match my rhythm. My heart beats for Joe only. I don't know if he hears me. Some E-mail friends say that I should believe. I doubt. I don't know if he feels me. I don't now if I'm doing enough. I'm here 18 hours a day most days. I'm antsy about the time I'm away from Joe, though.
I close my eyes and draw him to me, my hand on top of his. I loved holding my Joe's hand. It's soft. It's weakened by his trauma. I kiss his knuckles. I hold his fingertips against my lips, then press into them. I tell him that I love him every day. He knows, but hearing it is important. I am tired after the fresh air. I take my sneakers off and put my shirt on top of them. I lay on top of the sheets next to Joe, on my left side. I watch his face and I put put my hand on his heart or I clasp his hand in mine. I want him to draw from me, taking what he needs. I kiss him on his cheek then on his lips as if he were kissing me back. I can't kiss him full on the lips because of the respirator, but I can get enough to be satisfied. I turn off the light over his bed and stare at his face, illuminated only by the lights of his monitors. Sleep swallows me.
I wake when either Stacey or Betty come in to take Joe's vitals. I'm a light sleeper. They don't disturb me. It's more of a sense that someone is there. They check Joe every two hours. I slip back into sleep before they are done, because I know who is there. When I wake again it is before dawn. My watch says 4:10 a.m. I won't sleep again today. I touch Joe's face and tell him it's almost morning. I want to make love to my Joe. I want him inside me so bad that I ache. When I close my eyes I can picture what it was like for Joe to make love to me. I know his words, his touch, his rhythms, and his face. He doesn't have sex with me. Joe makes love in the truer sense of the words. He makes me feel him, in all the ways I can. I don't just want his dick inside me; I want him inside me. I wait for my erection to go down before I get up. My jeans show it very well, so I have to be careful.
At 7:00 I go to the nurses lounge and raid the cabinet that has cereal in it. I put my feet up in a chair, no sneakers on yet. The nurses find great amusement in my walking around in stocking feet. One of them piped up once and asked me if I'd walk around in my boxers. I smiled wickedly. Margie was within earshot and looked at me to see what I'd say. I mooned her once, in the early morning hours when she came to check on Joe. She thought I was asleep. She'll never assume again. They all know that if they tease me, I'll tease back. I'm basically a modest guy, but we all know that nurses have seen it all. So what's one more pretty 'face'. And besides that, I'm very proud of my butt. It's taken miles on a NordicTrack, hours and hours on a Soloflex, years of basketball, and even more years of trying to avoid being a junk food junkie. Margie will tell you that 'it was good for her'.
There are seven nurses who watch my eating habits all day long. If I don't eat at least every morning, there is hell to pay. If you think I'm strong enough to fight against Margie, think again. She won't put up with me going 24 hours (or more) without putting something into my stomach. She knows what's in the cereal boxes too and says I'd better be emptying one or the other during the week. She buys me Total, Cheerios, and Spoon-sized Shredded Wheat. There is 2% milk in the fridge at all times. There's a half-gallon of OJ every couple of days. There is also oatmeal, English muffins, bagels (2 or 3 so they won't go stale, replenished every few days) and fruit so I can snack. I put money in an envelope for Margie so she'd not have to support me as she does one of her kids. We fought about it, but I finally won out. I love that she treats me like her son, but taking advantage of her good nature is quite another thing. I too stop at the grocery store on the way to the hospital to pick up basic needs (I have a weakness for Pop Tarts) and Wayne stops at a farm once a week and loads up on peaches, plums, grapes, apples, etc. to help me through. We split it, so that he eats too.
So, at 7:00 I sit in the nurse's lounge and wait for the morning crew to arrive. We talk about weather, Joe's progress (or lack of it) overnight, what they did, news, basketball, life ... we're a family. The tech who told me he's gay comes to work a half hour early each morning to spend time with me. He says I don't judge him and he likes that I'll talk to him about anything. I recently gave him all our journals to read, so he'll know that being gay is not just being in search of sex. It's okay to tell a man that you like him, respect him, or love him. I told him not to rush into trying to get inside a guys pants. If you have a friend before you have sex, you'll have something more permanent than a lover. He likes that I tell him to be careful.
"You're not afraid of anything are you," he asks.
"I'm afraid of a lot of things. But only if they're important."
He pats me on the shoulder as he goes about his day in the lab. He comes back before I go to work to make sure all is well. He knows I hate leaving Joe. He tells me I have nothing to worry about when I'm gone. He has my phone number at work. He said he'd call me if necessary. I taught him how to sit with Joe and care for him too, as a human, not as a lab tech. He reads to Joe. He swaps off with one of the afternoon nurses and reads from a John Grisham novel which Joe had been reading at the time of the accident. He now knows what's going on in "The Rainmaker".
I spend the whole morning and afternoon with Joe, sitting by his side, talking, holding his hand, dozing off a bit, reading my E-mail, sending mail to Wayne about dinner plans or just staring at my bud's face. I know every inch of his face, every line and every scar. He has marked scarring from the facial injuries. He'll always be my handsome Joe regardless. He really is still very handsome. The scars are no longer swollen and purple. His face has returned to the Joe that I know. But there is no doubt that he was in a car crash and that he was hurt very badly.
At 5:30, I leave to go to Joe's place or to Wayne's place, depending on what I need to do at home. Wayne and I have dinner every Sunday and Wednesday now. Tonight's dinner is roast pork, roasted potatoes, fresh salad made of spinach, Vidalia onion, bacon, tomatoes, and a hard boiled egg. We have a peach cobbler for dessert, made from my great-grandmothers recipe. The two of us in the kitchen is a howl. We dirty everything we possibly can and then ignore cleanup for at least a couple hours past dinner. We listen to Yanni, Enya, Elton John, Dan Fogelberg, Backstreet Boys, 'N Sync, John Mellencamp, U2 ... music is the common favorite of ours. Joe's collection and Wayne's collection are quite a bit alike. We belong to Columbia House music and BMG music. When there is a 'buy one, get one free', we buy two of the same and give one away. Music is too good not to share.
After dinner, we go for a long walk through the neighborhood. We take our time unless it's hot and muggy. On the nice clear days we go out late, so we can sit in a nearby field and watch the stars. We lay on our backs, facing two different parts of the sky so we can see the shooting stars. Out in the PA countryside, the sky is as good as it is anywhere around. We can't see the Milky Way the way Joe and Chris talked about on Joe's parent's farm, but the stars are plentiful.
Once home again, I help Wayne into the bathtub so he can soak the soreness from his stump. He's got a special Aloe-based conditioner that takes the chafing away. I sit on the floor next to the tub and we talk about projects at work, what's playing on the CD player, the latest novel we're sharing, plans for holiday weekends, treatment regimens, or just stuff. I wash his back for him. We have no reason to be shy or modest around each other. He likes his back rubbed. I like doing it.
I've got laundry to do, general housekeeping stuff to keep ahead of the dust bunnies and cobwebs, and plants on the balcony to water and nurse. I water a couple times a week when I get home before going to work in the afternoon. After an evening of normal ritual, I crawl into bed. If I'm at Wayne's place, I usually sleep in the spare bedroom. If Wayne stays over with me at Joe's, he'll take the spare room. Some nights I hate to sleep alone because I'm not used to it. All either one of us has to do is speak up about wanting to sleep in the same bed. Wayne holds me the way I like, without reservation. Sunday nights are usually my best sleep of the week.
Monday's starts after 7:00 a.m., not at midnight like much of the rest of the week. Wayne's alarm (or mine, if we are at Joe's place) goes off around 7:15. He showers and we sit outside on the balcony sharing an English muffin or bagel, or scrambled eggs and sausage, or a half cantaloupe each with strawberries. The quart of OJ lasts through Monday a.m. breakfast only. If I'm at Wayne's I head off to Joe's place until I have to go to work in the afternoon. If I'm at Joe's I sometimes go back to bed for an hour or so to let my back settle down. I try to catch up on mail, or I dial in to the LAN at the office and work on a project until I have to get ready for work myself.
I pack my duffle with a change of clothes for the afternoon and put in a sweatshirt should we ever have a cool night again. In a heat wave we've had lately, the evening temps have rarely fallen below 75. I suspect I won't need the sweatshirt until around October at this rate.
Work is from 1:00 to 5:00 each day. I'm still on half days in the afternoon because of the problem with sitting. Any pressure on my back for an extended time drives me crazy. I'm so antsy about spending hours at my desk. I like it best when I'm teaching a class because I can stand, use a high stool, or walk around the classroom. When I'm at my desk, I have to consciously stand up every half hour and stretch my back. If I do not, it becomes stiff and I become terribly bent over. At worst, the lower muscles will seize up and bring me to my knees. If I am in an afternoon meeting, I will sit at the far end of the table and then stand near a corner for a few moments every half hour. My co-workers are aware of my back trauma so they help me get through the afternoon as pain-free as possible.
One afternoon, I don't remember the day now, I got rear-ended by a co-worker. He is a young man who came around a corner too fast and plowed into me. I couldn't help it and I yelped in pain as I hit the floor. He landed on top of me, his hip landing squarely on my left side where the bulk of my ruptured disc injury was. He wanted to crawl away and die. Poor kid was having a hard week as it was but this just added to his gloom. I assured him, finally, that I was okay. I joked that I wanted to see his insurance and registration information and that I would wear anti-collision gear the next time. He went to Wayne's cubicle later in the afternoon and asked if I was really okay. He couldn't face me even the next day. I talked to him again and told him that I hurt but that it wasn't fatal. Accidents happen. If it hadn't been him, it would have been someone else.
There are projects to work on, an Excel class to be prepared for the next set of in-house staff, documentation to write for systems that Wayne and another programmer works on, specs to be written for new project requests, E-mail to read and answer (and no ignoring allowed), and classroom PCs to check out for readiness. I teach, typically, two days a week each month. What I miss the most is working on projects with Joe. He'll be back again and we'll continue to build our business.
At 5:00, I head out the door with Wayne. He has a chemotherapy session this afternoon. I've gotten, just in recent weeks, to hate the idea that he does that alone. I can't do much, but I can sit beside him and talk to him during the 90 minutes that he has a needle in his hip, administering a mixture of toxic substances into his body. He closes his eyes and dozes a bit. I know he hates this. At the same time he's trying to show me that it's tolerable, since I start four weeks of chemotherapy on August 10th, after my six weeks of radiation treatments are complete. It will be, like his, a twice a week routine.
By 7:30 we are at Wayne's and he is heaving mightily in the bathroom. I hold his head, rub his shoulders, massage his back, and/or hold his hand. When he's done, I help him back to his sofa where he will sleep for awhile. Once I know he's okay, I head back to the hospital to be with Joe. Wayne sends me E-mail when he is going to bed, so that I know he's okay. If he needs me to spend the evening with him, he need only ask. He hasn't yet, but I wish he would. He says no, that it's too much time away from Joe for me. Joe would understand. Wayne says that the first treatment of the week is not too bad and he can usually fend for himself. Stubborn man!
Midnight. Roaming. Then to bed with Joe. A kiss goodnight and my hand on his chest.
Joyce brought in a batch of fresh blueberry muffins this morning. Cranberry is my first favorite, but I'm not proud when it comes to putting a little fresh butter on a muffin of any kind. She made me a cup of tea and brought in three muffins on a saucer, two for me and one for her, with the tea made just the way I like it. She checked Joe's vitals, noted them on his chart, and then sat down with me for a few minutes. I'm glad we made friends. Joyce needed a chance, like anyone else. We are comfortable together. She's going to be just fine.
Carrie comes in to check on Joe two hours later. Margie is handling emergencies all morning, then pushing paper around, then comes to spend some time with her boys. I love Margie. The days here would be thoroughly unbearable if it were not for all seven of these angels in white. Mim and Beth watch Joe until I get back in the late afternoon or the early evening.
I kiss Joe goodbye at 11:45 a.m. and drive to his place to shower and dress for work. I don't need much time to get ready since I don't wear a suit to work, just dress slacks and a shirt and tie. On Fridays we don't have to dress up, so it's even easier. I can hear a couple of my friends snickering at me. They know what "Andrew's wearing jeans" means. One of them tried it recently on his dress-down Friday. I forgot to ask him how it felt. I can picture him having to sit all day at his desk because the denim made him hard. Okay friend, don't keep me in suspense any longer - will you do it again?
Saying goodbye to Joe each day and going to work is tough. When I was first recovering from my back surgery, I was on disability leave and did not work. I finally went back half days in April. Some would say Joe welcomes the time I'm away so he can rest. I, ever hopeful and romantic, hope he misses me so bad that he'll wake up from his coma, call me, and tell me to get my ass back to his side. I'll do it in a heartbeat too.
Work is a good diversion. I see why Wayne doesn't tell anyone in the office about his cancer. For him it's eight hours a day of something else to think about, totally. For me it's four hours a day, but a necessary time. I can't constantly be reminded that I have a tumor on my spine. I thought I would go mad when I found out that it is not merely on the bone and tissue. It could travel; I could lose my hearing, my vision, my mobility ... but for four hours a day I don't worry about it, cry about it, plan and plot against it, or feel a need to think about it. For four hours a day, I have a job to do that needs undivided attention. After all, I represent Joe and me to this company and I'm not willing to let our reputation suffer.
Radiation sessions are now three days a week (Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday) with the finding of the involvement of the tumor. We are hoping that the radiation I already had has started to work against it, shrinking it down so that it won't interfere with my life any more than it has. I feel what Wayne feels relating to the cancer. I don't know what chemotherapy feels like, so I can't feel that deep. But I know what cancer invading one's body feels like. Sometimes it strikes absolute terror in me. I feel the pain of it. It eats me, eats at me. I hate the fucking tumor. I want to claw it out of my back and let a surgeon sew me back up again. I can't wait to see if the radiation is working, I don't have the patience to sit it out.
The treatments cause me to be dizzy, endlessly so. And my head aches deeply, at the base of my neck as if someone struck me hard there. When I compose E-mail, I lie on my side, on my cot, with my head on my arm, my laptop sitting at my side tucked near my belly, typing one fingered. The shortest of messages could take me ten minutes to compose.
At 11:00 p.m., I walk Mim and Beth out to their cars. I told them both that I worried about them alone out there so that they should be sure that I walk them out every night. On Sunday's they get escorted out by the male techs who leave when they do. The incoming nurses, Stacey and Betty arrive so they I can walk back in with them. I know they were safe before I ever arrived here and will be when Joe and I finally go home, but for now I want to let them count on me. It may be ego, I dunno. I think I just need to care about someone. This is a minor way to know that 100% of my time isn't spent being sad over Joe.
At midnight, I wander. We've had a long stretch of hot muggy weather so sitting outside, even at midnight, is not comfortable. I will stand near the lobby entrance and get some air, but fresh air is not to be found yet. I like September and October air the best. July and August in PA sucks. Two of the plants (marigolds) I planted on Joe's balcony went belly up, no matter what I did to care for them. The rest seem to be thriving but I'm walking a tightrope between watering and not, moving them inside, putting them in more shade . . . yada yada yada. I go on instinct.
At 11:45, I kiss Joe goodbye. I drive to his place. I shower, dress, and drive ten miles to work. On a good day, it takes twenty minutes. Work comes and goes. If tomorrow were a day of teaching for me, I'd be getting my class notes ready. This particular week, I'm not teaching so I spend today writing specs for a new project from one of the departments. Wayne signs off on them and passes them to his manager who sends the request to the department's Director for approval. Projects are shuffled like a deck of cards in Las Vegas. I have three to four concurrently. I have taken most of my work back from another business analyst who shouldered my work load while I was away on leave. He's working only twelve hour days again, to his relief.
5:00. Wayne and I leave on time to get to the hospital three miles away, about a fifteen minute drive with rush hour traffic. My radiation session also comes and goes. Wayne has his second chemotherapy (and last of the week) and then we go out and grab a bite. On the cooler and dryer days, we'll sit by the river and watch the sun set. Today is 97 degrees. We can't even see the sun for the haze.
We'll spend the evening at Joe's place or his place. We share music while he at least reads his E-mail. Within two hours of his treatment, he is throwing up, so mail is not likely going to get answered on any given Wednesday. My laptop is resting on the coffee table, pulled up against the sofa. I read mine looking at it sideways. I've made a science out of reading (and occasionally answering E-mail) while looking at it sideways. Wayne just shakes his head at me. When I'm ready to write in my journal, I lay on my back on the sofa, put the laptop on my belly and just write. I don't care about typos and grammar right now. I just want to get my words down. I type with my eyes closed so that the room stops spinning a few minutes at a time.
Wayne and I end up holding the other in bed. Misery, it is said, loves company. We try to make each other's misery a little less. No, we don't make love. Wayne sleeps in boxer briefs. I sleep in gym shorts, and have been doing so since I was in junior high. Wayne's not a sexual being to me, nor am I to him. He's the second best friend I have in the world. We care deeply for the other. Besides, why should sex spoil a good thing. He holds me with his arms and his heart. I hold him equally, I hope. He hasn't complained yet, so I must be doing okay by him. I tell him, before we fall asleep, that I love him. He tells me, while holding me from behind and close to his chest, that he would find life without me very hard. And he says he loves me too. Tonight I am not starved for affection. I wish Joe wasn't either.
Today is not a typical day either. This particular Thursday is July 22nd. I woke at 2:30 a.m. to find Wayne stirring restlessly. He was sweating profusely when I turned the lamp on. I put my hand on his forehead and find him excessively hot. I ran into the bathroom to get a thermometer. It had a digital readout. In about 30 seconds, it chimed -- 104.4. Christ!
"Come on bud, we got to get you to the hospital. You're burning up."
He didn't seem to hear me, or understand me, either one or both. I put my jeans and a polo shirt on. I put a t-shirt on Wayne quickly, then his jeans. I didn't take the time to put his leg on. I didn't know how. The room spun and I grabbed him to hold on to, waiting to focus. Damn I didn't need this now, I need to help my buddy.
"Andrew help me."
I look up at the ceiling and spoke. "God, stop testing me. I'm going to fail your fucking tests if you keep it up. You already know what I'm made of. Leave us alone, dammit!"
I couldn't help but be angry. Wayne's had more than enough. It's the struggles that made us who we are, but it's time to let us be human again. Bring Joe home and let Wayne be. I don't have a lot, not really, not like Joe, not like Wayne. Given time I can handle the tumor. Leave my friends alone and let me heal in time. I don't want to spend my life this way and it's not fair to keep asking.
I picked him up and put his arm around my shoulder, walking us down the dog-legged hallway. I sat him on the living room floor long enough to put my sneakers on and then his right sneaker. I picked him up again. He was okay hanging on my shoulder. I locked the door, got him downstairs and into the car, and got him to the emergency room of the hospital closest to my place. If I waited for an ambulance to arrive, I would have passed out from fear and anxiety. I couldn't take him to the hospital we went to after work because it was another 10 miles further. I held on to his hand as I drove, squeezed it. He squeezed mine back. The whole way I chanted don't die on me, don't die on me ... his fever was too high. I don't know how long it had been like that. He had had a fever that kept him home from work on Wednesday, but it had broken with aspirin and rest.
When I got to the emergency room, I ran inside and yelled. A nurse came on the run and I helped her get Wayne inside. I knew I wasn't going any further so I let the triage team take over. I sat in the corner, then remembered that I had a book in my truck. I came back inside and sat across two chairs, trying to sit so I didn't stress my back out any more than I could handle. It was a half hour later when Wayne's doctor arrived. He nodded to me as he went down the hall quickly. This was not his usual place and I didn't even know if he had privileges here. It wasn't up to me to care. Wayne could be transferred out by ambulance if there was any problem. There was no sign of activity for another hour plus. At 4:30, the nurse came back out and said I could see Wayne for a couple minutes before I went home.
He didn't wake up when I came in. I took his hand for a moment and squeezed it, letting him know I was here. I bent forward and kissed his forehead, which was intolerably hot. I don't know what they did for fever patients but he had two IV tubes running into his arm. The nurse came in and assured me that he would be fine and that I should call in the afternoon if I wanted any info. I hate going home alone. I considered going back to Joe instead but decided to just drive home. I lay on the sofa until my alarm went off at 8:00. I called Wayne's boss to tell her he was in the hospital. She knew of his cancer, only one of two in the company who did. The hospital wouldn't know much by now so I went out for a walk before the humidity settled in again. When I got in, I dialed in to the LAN and checked my company mail, worked a bit on a status report, and then lay back on the sofa. I called the hospital at 12:15 and was told that Wayne was doing a bit better, that his temp had fallen to 102. If it reached normal by Friday morning, he could come home in the afternoon.
I went to work and thought about him all afternoon. I can't remember what I got done at work, though I made forward progress enough that I could leave at 5:00 as usual. I sat with Joe at the hospital and told him what happened. I squeezed his hand. It didn't squeeze mine back like Wayne's did. I dozed off for about two hours while holding it anyway. If I held it, there was hope that it would some day hold me back too.
Past midnight. I wander the halls and the stairwells and go outside for a little while. It's hot and sticky. I sit in my truck to get the weather forecast. We had a brief but fierce rainfall on Thursday at rush hour, enough to cause localized flooding and traffic snarls. One would hope that such storm activity would break the heat. Not in Pennsylvania. The radio station I tuned in to said the current temp was 84, with a low expected of 75 overnight. Bullshit ... the low would drop another two degrees if that.
I went back to Joe's room. I sat in the chair and kicked off my sneakers. I wanted a shower before I slept but would not get one. I went into the bathroom and washed up briefly instead. I know I could have used a shower in another room if I asked, but it would have been a luxury more than a necessity. I came back in and settled beside my Joe. I kissed him goodnight and held him close.
I didn't sleep well. I wondered about Wayne. I wondered about Joe. I felt sad for the young Kennedy and his wife and sister-in-law killed near Martha's Vineyard - 38, 33 and 34 were too young to die. I am 34 and I know I'm not ready to die. I suppose they all weren't either. I hope the young trio are without pain. I thought about Joe's family. I thought about my folks. I thought about Wayne again, with no family - an only child with both parents gone. His mom had miscarried multiple times after he was born and could have no more children. I wondered how he stood it. I thought about Kevin, my brother, also gone too soon. Who was prepared to die at 10 years old, of an incurable cancer? I thought of Joe being taken to Philly and me running after him in frustration. I thought of Joe's brother and two sisters. His parents were gone as well. I thought about Chris. I thought about Rob, Chris' brother, having no brother the rest of his life. Was he used to it by now? I doubt it. I heard metal scraping metal as Joe was driven off the road at 80+ miles an hour, down a 60 foot embankment, wondering how in the hell he is still alive.
I had to go to his car, after the accident, because his wallet had been lost out of his pocket. It took three phone calls to find out who took it and where it was. The last thing I ever wanted to do was to go to Joe's car. It would have been a huge hassle to get the bank to issue a new credit card, to get a new ATM card, driver's license, and family pics . . . so I went to his car. I stood near the fence at the salvage yard, thirty feet from the car and stared. I cried while standing there. I couldn't makes my legs move to go and open the door. Once I did get over there, I could not open the door, neither of them. Joe's side of the car was crushed. No wonder he was broken. The roof was caved in, the windshield and rear window smashed with spider-like cracks in a million places. I had to crawl in through the right window to get inside. There was dried blood all over the steering wheel and dashboard, and on the passenger side of the car. I sat there and heard two cars hit his car, one from the rear, one from the left. I saw it turning over as it skidded down the grassy hill. I heard Joe screaming in terror. I broke down and cried hard, the pain racking my body and making me shake.
If I could find the two young men, I would reach into their chests and rip their hearts out, then I would stuff them down their throats until they choked to death. Then I would rip their left legs off. They did no less to Joe. I would give them head injuries, broken bones and ribs, scars to their faces and the terror of near-death that Joe had to have felt when they hit him. They would not be rushed to Philadelphia to try to save their miserable lives. They would hurt in every way that Joe was made to hurt, and then I'd kill them with my bare hands ... and fucking enjoy it! God damned them for the rest of their wretched lives.
Damn the man who nearly killed Wayne, who did kill his wife and child, and caused him the terror of facing his death too soon. I hope he lives in misery every damned day of his life. Prison time, as far as I'm concerned, was an easy out for murdering someone with his truck. A friend in the office who knows that Wayne is widowed says that the guy will live with it the rest of his life. My thought is the guy doesn't care anymore and probably blames Wayne for having to spend more than 10 years in jail.
And I know it's cruel and heartless to say so, but the young man who killed Chris got what he deserved. He wasn't just stupid, he was thoughtless, and that's worse by far.
I thought about all the things that made me afraid. And I didn't sleep. I don't really think I can sleep again knowing all that I do. I'm scared. And you wonder why doesn't Andrew sleep more than a couple hours a night. Sigh - and I wonder why I sleep at all.
Midnight, a little past, actually. The air is hot and muggy but I need to escape air conditioning for awhile. I take a blanket out of my truck and lay under my favorite grouping of trees so that I can see some of the stars. It's a bit clearer tonight and I watch a couple of planes travel across the sky. I put my hands behind my head and listen to what the night tells me. The crickets aren't as plentiful tonight. I can't hear any frogs yet. The neighborhood sounds are minimal. People out here tend to go to bed early and rise with the sun, like Joe's family did at home. I'm thinking again about what it will be like to have a normal life. Normal life, defined as:
-- Going to bed at midnight each night, instead of God only knows when
-- Getting up at 7:00, rested instead of more tired than ever
-- Going to work from 8:30 to 5:00
-- Playing basketball, instead of dreaming about it
-- Studying for my degree, instead of taking no classes
-- Sitting with Joe and going over our finances, instead of trying to get by myself
-- Laying in bed with Joe a couple times a week and making out with him
My dick is getting hard in my jeans. I reach inside with my right hand and fondle it, letting it get harder. I haven't jacked off all week. Sometimes I don't have the energy. Sometimes I don't have the desire. I think of Joe. I wonder what sex will be like with him after he heals. I have wondered, off and on, if he'll be able to. I don't know if I'll be able to bend him in half again and slide into him, with his legs (damn! ... leg!!) over my shoulder. Can he get hard if I lay between his legs and suck his dick? Will he let me put my dick in his mouth and blow me off? Can he shoot off in my mouth? I decide that I don't care. Sex is nice. But if Joe can't (or won't) do any of that with me again, I'll love him as much. It wasn't his dick that attracted me to him in the first place. Of course I had lust for the man ... who wouldn't? But it's not the lust that made the difference. He took a piece of my heart and kept it all to himself. He gave me a piece of his to replace it. I loved him because I was scared for him. I love him now because it's what I do. Joe taught me love. I teach Wayne, too. Not sexual love ... inside the heart love; compassion and caring, sharing of fears and good things. I play with my dick while I think about Joe ... and while I think about Wayne. He's a hot guy, for a straight guy. I don't feel bad about thinking about him a little lustfully. (He's read all the journals - he'll know what I think about him, but I don't think he'll mind). I've seen him naked after we played basketball. I liked what I saw. I've seen him naked while I help him bathe, while I wash his back as he soaks his stump. It doesn't turn me off from thinking about him anyway. I'm human. I've held him close. He's held me close. I love him almost as much as I love Joe because Wayne cares about me. We're not 'just friends'. Our friendship is deep and gratifying ... I'm not ashamed for him to know that he makes me hard sometimes. Knowing him, he'll take it as a compliment. But he also knows my heart belongs to Joe. He says that's the way it's supposed to be.
It isn't long before I cream in my jeans. It's thick as it pumps out of my dick in four or five spurts. When I stop coming, finally, I lick it off my hand and fingers then clean up what's on my belly. My cum tastes like Joe's cum. Will we ever again?
Last week (the third week of June) I told one of my E-mail friends that I was torn between leaving Wayne on his own and spending the time I needed to with Joe. I feel like I'm being disloyal for doing the latter. I can't resolve it. When I left Wayne, I gave him a hug and told him to call me or come up to see me on Saturday. I held on to him for a few minutes, trying not to weep, but I did anyway. It's too hard to know what to do. Joe's need is greater, but that doesn't mean Wayne has none. And I'm so scared of being away from Joe when he comes to. I so badly want to be there when he wakes up. I was there when he went into the coma in May, and I want him to know I'm with him every day. Wayne and I talked in E-mail later and decided to meet early instead of later.
We met up for breakfast about 6:30 a.m. I love breakfast best, but my appetite is a huge struggle. I order a western omelet and a side of bacon. Wayne orders the special of the house - three eggs (scrambled), two sausages, two strips of bacon, and English muffin and a pot of coffee to share with me. We also have a large OJ. I have a vitamin wrapped up in plastic wrap in my pocket that I remember to take now too. Lunch will be fruit. Dinner might not be ... too early to tell.
At 10:00, I'm back with Joe. Saturday is a long day, into Sunday. I'll be here from now until 5:30 tomorrow night. Had it not been for breakfast, I would normally be here from Friday at 6:00, straight through. Wayne's no fool. I told him so this morning.
I sit and hold Joe's hand. I stare at it and wrap it around mine. After a while, I put it on my chest and hold it there. I wait for him to touch me back. I close my eyes. I don't sleep, but I do think about stuff. I have to be careful what I think about because I'm not alone in the dark night right now. I wait for the nurses to come in around noon and check Joe's vitals. Then I take off my sneakers and I lay beside him, nuzzling into his ear. I talk to him, telling him that I came early this morning out under the tree. I remind him of the places outdoors where we've made love, and the places I want to take him so see what making out there is like.
I doze for awhile. Despite what anyone would think, this is a boring place. With Joe in the coma, I have very little to do. I get tired of doing nothing, so I sleep a couple of hours. In my old life, a nap was few and far between. When I wake, I sit for awhile and write. When my back reminds me I've been sitting too long (this time it was over two hours), I get back in bed beside my Joe and hold him. His breathing hasn't changed in weeks. His heart is stronger each day. The pacemaker seems to be doing what it is supposed to. I look at the incisions, closely, in his chest. I find four distinct incisions, though the surgeons have opened at least one of them a couple of times. They are deep purple in color, and I can still see where the stitches were drawn together. These will be with Joe the rest of his life. I wonder what condition his ribs are in. Have they healed completely by now? What did the defibrillator when his heart flatlined do to him? I can't see the burn marks any longer. They've long since faded away.
I go down the hall to the men's room and then wander the halls. It's only 1:30 in the afternoon. I hit every floor in the hospital, top to bottom, and every wing. The whole journey, taking my time, takes 90 minutes. My tech friend joins me for the last half hour of the walk. He talks to me openly, letting me know what he struggles with about being gay and being afraid to be. There will be conversations along the way. He has not come out though, to anyone except me. He said he trusted me. I know he watches me. I asked him why. He says that I teach him the right way to care. I told him there are better role models out there and he says there is no one else that knows what dedication is about. I couldn't argue; I've been here 16 months.
We end up upside to walk the 3:00 to 11:00 nurses in. Mim takes my hand at my side and we take our time getting back inside. The day is hot and sticky, with a temp above 90 yet again. There is little for me to do for the next eight hours. I've tried to break the day up into tolerable chunks so that time passes reasonably. There is no way to do that. Time passes slowly and with agonizing stillness. Joe does not move. His respirator breathes for him. He does not shift his position. The nurses have to do it for him so he will not get sores on his skin.
And Wayne's weeks are no less hectic. He's probably worse than I am in some respects. Whereas I have one place, mainly, to be during the week, he is all over the place - at work, a classroom, at a gym, the basketball court, walking all through his neighborhood, helping friends with Internet projects of all flavors, working on his own web site, and sleeping somehow each night, though not always soundly. We talk in E-mail sometimes until the wee hours. I wish I could be with him while I'm here for Joe at the same time. I can't do both. He says he's not neglected and he knows that Joe needs me with him. The journey is long and not without compromising.
Next week will look only a little different.