July 29 and 30th
I had an E-mail discussion with a friend earlier tonight; a female friend who likes it that I share such intimate things. This next section is various pieces of E-mail I've been sending to my immediate friends. I call it 'heart and soul -- under construction' because it describes some fairly intense turmoil going on in my head.
Wayne's fever was from an internal infection and a combination of side effects from the chemo, lack of resistance in general, and the drugs being too strong. He has to have blood toxicity testing regularly--the level was too high so they had to drop his chemo dosage back a bit. Remember we explained about the cell counts? His was 2,400 times normal a couple weeks ago. When he had the fever, they were over 6,000 times normal. He had a bone marrow aspiration last night (Wednesday, the 28th) and his counts are now 11,000 above normal. So much for his chemo being changed any time soon. He was devastated today. He ended up being in enough of a funk that he stayed in the office until past 9:00 tonight. I stayed until after 5:30, trying to get him to come home with me. He told me I needed to be with Joe since I'd been gone so long. I got E-mail from him a few minutes ago. He's home and going to bed.
I have to tell you, honestly, that I'm starting to wish that Wayne and I were more than friends. It's been tearing me up that I leave him to spend my nights with Joe when his own needs are as much. Last night was hard because he was so sick. I think you know he has a cracked rib, just from throwing up. He started throwing up last night with the first of the nausea wave and fairly screamed in pain. I didn't know what to do, other than try to hold his chest together, so I got down on my knees behind him, lay on top of his back firmly, and wrapped my arms around him tightly. He said it helped. There's very little the docs can do for a cracked rib.
I can't seem to let go of him, for the fear I feel for him. Wayne affects me, my life. He's (is this weird to say??) the part of Joe that I'm missing. I admit that I could easy hold him and put a kiss on his lips. Maybe it's a bit sexual; but he moves me deeper than that, not unlike what Joe did when I met him. Maybe I feel too much. But I do love him. And I feel torn even more. Splitting my time up, especially after seeing how ill he was a week ago and ending up in the hospital ... God I hurt so much for him. I want to take him and let him know what I care about.
Physical need is one thing. I know I could tell Wayne and he'd talk it out with me. I'm not afraid to voice what I feel (and he may already know), but I'm afraid of putting him on the spot. It would mean sharing something more than he's ever done. I don't know if he could. I didn't know Joe could either until I let him. And I don't know what Joe would feel about it. If nothing else, he'd be glad for my honesty, even if meant my heart was torn in half. My heart aches, and my head hurts -- feeling so intently for Joe was easy. Feeling exactly the same way for Wayne is asking a whole lot of my friend.
What he read in my last journal chapter did not change his willingness to hold me. In fact, he held on as equally as he ever did. I didn't expect it to be different -- he has what Joe and I had first; deep friendship. Wayne has a very strong character, and a very strong presence. I'm a little ashamed about what I feel, but I can't deny the desire either. Part of me wants badly to be loved by Wayne; part of me worries because of Joe. So it's time to talk to him. He'll be with me for my last radiation of the week on Friday. I don't know what to do. Maybe nothing ... but then again, maybe something. I have had dreams about 'maybe something'.
I want to hold him and make his fear go away. I want him to hold me because I need the energy. He told me he'd like to be with me after my treatment this afternoon (I also have a biopsy at 8:00 a.m. (Friday) to check the tumor but he has a meeting and can't be there). I told him again I loved him, and then some. We talked for awhile. He knows what that means. He seems to want what I do.
So I wrestle with it, because I don't know if it's right. I love my Joe, with all my heart. I sit here with tears flowing down my cheeks trying to feel something good from this. If it's just hormones, I don't want it. If it's the next step up from friendship, then I do. I'm not living for me right now (meaning ALL my time is for Joe). I want Wayne to be a part of Joe and me. If we do this, it's Joe and Wayne and Andrew, not Joe and Andrew and then Andrew and Wayne on the side. Two become three -- three become 1 really. I'm scared for Joe's lack of voice. If there can be two, there can be three. It's not so unusual (see Andrew desperately try to justify being with 2nd best friend while his first love lies in the hospital). How pathetic. But ... and a big but -- If the cancer is going to do its thing to him, I want Wayne now. I need his heart.
I'm lucky that it's not commitment that I'm concerned about -- I'd have no trouble making a commitment to Wayne and Joe both. It's that I'm afraid of what my feelings for Wayne (extreme and very deep) would make Joe do. Joe still loves Chris (the flashback in my last journal was from '94, but Joe didn't feel any differently in '98 before his accident) so maybe Joe would understand. I'm not going to stop loving him, but I want Wayne to be part of us. My UK friend said that Joe is in the future; Wayne is now.
No, it's not about sex (the 2nd person I told pointed this out to me). It is, very much, about sharing something deeper. Our friendship is strong and an incredible base for letting us (God I hope!) step it up. Wayne is all the things that Joe is, except more a part of my physical day. Joe's almost completely part of my emotional day. I think I can hold two in my heart, with equal caring that Joe holds me and Chris in his. The difference is that Joe wants only me. That needs some reconciling in my mind, because I used to want only him. So I have to admit that part of my need for Wayne is because I'm afraid that he'll die and I'll have only Joe left. I can't take that. We'll talk about all that. You're right -- I have to release the secret. It's not fair to either of us.
Wayne and I will be together tonight to talk. It's not to be rushed into because he may not feel what I do. I don't worry about rejection, but I also don't want to change his life for the sake of my fears.
Sunday afternoon -- about 6:00 p.m. I got to Wayne's place, carrying an armload of groceries. When I opened his front door, I expected to see him in the kitchen getting the appetizer going. I put the groceries on the counter and went into the living room to turn the stereo on.
I found him curled up on the floor, unconscious. I went to my knees immediately and tried to see if I could rouse him, and then to see if he had a heartbeat. He did but it was faint. His forehead was on fire. There was no way I could justify waiting for an ambulance. I had no clue how long he'd been down. I hadn't talked to him yet in E-mail, but that wasn't unusual. On Sunday's he had his own routine. We didn't worry about talking because we would be together at 6:00.
I picked him up and carried him out to my truck. No one was around so I was on my own. I put on my 4-way flashers and sped toward the nearest hospital, doing well over the speed limit.
We were having a repeat of what happened ten days ago. I pulled into the parking lot at the emergency room entrance and went inside, yelling for help. A nurse, who I knew, came running to help. We put him on the gurney and he was whisked off to a treatment room. I lay down on a two-seater in the lobby, waiting (not patiently) for word to come back and then an opportunity to sit beside him until I had to go home.
I needed a diversion or my head would explode. I sat and formatted a document for a friend, converting it from a Microsoft Word document into an HTML document. My laptop had been in my truck, so for 30 minutes I sat and worked on something to take the pressure off my brain. Not doing things like that along the way would make my head explode. It's probably weird to seek the diversions, but it also keeps my head intact.
August 2nd through 5th -- Each day was little different from the previous day. I was at the hospital by 10:00 a.m. until about 12:30 and then went to work. I came back at 5:30 or after my treatment, depending on the day. I stayed until past visiting hours (with Doc's permission) going home somewhere between midnight and 1:00 a.m. I cried myself to sleep the first night because I loved Wayne.
I thought about the 'smile of the week' as I went about a couple small errands. I had come into Wayne's room one morning, around 10:00 a.m. He was reading a novel, lying back looking quite tired. He looked up to see who came in. When he saw me, his face broke out in to an ear to ear full smile that made me melt. It was such a stunning face to behold. It was for me only, which made it all the better. I went over and took his hand, doing what I always do when I hold the hand of someone I care about, though an automatic reflex. I rubbed my thumb across his knuckles. His hands were warm. I bent over and kissed his forehead. It was ungodly hot. The fever was the reason he had passed out at home. He had a couple IV drips going into his vein, but they had not done much yet, other than rehydrate him.
August 6th -- home, for good we hoped. It had been five days of worry. Today we would stop worrying for awhile. Life returned to normal, whatever level or normal we would accept.
To love a friend is one thing. To have the love returned is THE thing. Two hearts, talking to each other. Two hearts, listening to each other. Sharing the good, sharing the bad, helping and healing.
It was Friday night, August 6, 1999. The week had been long and nerve-wracking, with Wayne in the hospital all week after I'd found him passed out at home. But the time came to take my buddy home and to give him some of the attention he deserved too.
He didn't mind waiting for me to take my final radiation session in the series. He stood by the window as usual while the techs did their work. He stepped back after I made eye contact and crossed his heart twice. It wasn't a ritual of routine. It was him saying “Don't be afraid. I love you a lot.” I wasn't afraid any more, not after the first two weeks. I mouthed the words “I love you too,” to let him know it was not one way. He was my best buddy, after Joe. He considered that a high honor, never thinking he was second best because he was not. He knew he was in my heart, on my mind, and inside my soul forever.
I brought my friend back to his apartment about 6:30 Friday night. I helped him put his clothes in the hamper while he made us some tea. I had carry-out dinner in hand so we didn't have to cook much tonight.
Now that we were home, we didn't have to worry about that any more. I went back out into the kitchen and stood beside him as the water boiled. I put my arm across his lower back, my head on his shoulder. He kissed the top of my head, and then lay his head there.
“I'm glad you're home, my friend. It's been a terrible week of wondering about you.”
“I'm glad I'm home too Andrew. I know you worried. We'll be fine now.”
We took our tea to the balcony outside. I sat to his right, put my legs up on a small table beside his legs, and took his right hand in my left. I brought it to my lips for a moment, kissing it gently, and then holding it against my face.
“I don't want to let you go again.”
“I'm not going anywhere, bud. You saved my life, and I'm going to be okay. So are you.”
“Do you love me, Andrew?”
“I love you, Wayne.”
“Because you're afraid?”
“Yes. I won't lie about it. And because you're my friend. Both.”
“I wish I could take all your fears away, Andrew.”
“You wouldn't want them.”
“But I would help fix what we could, and ignore the rest.”
“I'm trying to.”
“Yeah. I know.”
“You know what you mean to me. You know I want to be here for you like I am for Joe, as much as I am for Joe.”
“Joe needs you much more right now, Andrew. I don't have many needs.”
“But you have some. I want to love you, my friend. Being your friend isn't enough for me any more. You already know I've fallen in love with you. For fear, but for love greater than the fear. I need to be held too, man. Joe doesn't take anything more from me than he knows I can give, but I'm also so starved for someone to hold me too. It's been too long.”
“I'll hold you Andrew. I'll love you too, and not just because you're my friend. Because I've fallen in love with you too. I knew the last time you told me that you loved me that it didn't mean what it has in the past. It meant more. I'm glad for the love Andrew. It's been too long for me too.”
“I don't want to make you hurt, man, or to make you confused …”
“I'm not confused, bud. I love my Kate and I always will. We had 24 years. It's time to give you something too. It doesn't mean I'm being disloyal to her memory. Or that you'll have to cheat on Joe to love me. I feel for Joe what you do because he's my buddy too. I think he would be very glad to see you finally letting someone else in.”
I put his hand on my chest. Joe and Chris started the 'energy transfer' idea out of love. Wayne's hand on my heart lets me take from him and lets him take from me. I felt a tear flow down my cheek. How do I love two men, how can I possibly? I don't know. But I'm going to. Joe is alive, because I'm using the lessons he taught me. I know he loves Wayne. I've known that a long time. We are three men in one mind.
“I have to tell you something Andrew, so you understand. When I'm out working, or walking, especially if you're not with me, I walk in the world for Joe. I sit on the top of the field in the morning and watch the sun come up and tell Joe what it's like -- just by my thoughts. People are always telling you, in E-mail, that they send love and light. I believe it. None of those who tell you so are doing it just to make you feel better. They tell you so that you are not alone. It makes them feel better to because they don't feel helpless. Joe's alive -- and for a reason. Sending the light, thoughts, love -- it all works. So I think about Joe and try to do my part too. He'll wake up some day my bud and he'll take me into his heart as surely as you have. I count on it.”
“I do too, my love. I do know, without a single doubt, that we are meant to be one from three. And wherever Chris and Katie fit in to our circle, there they shall be forever.”
It was his turn to cry. I let go of his hand to wipe two or three tears from his eyes and cheek with my thumb. I hurt for my friend. I haven't lost what he has. His wife, his child, his leg … it has to be so overwhelming for him. And then for me to tell him I love him. I wanted to tell him sooner, but I was afraid he wouldn't accept it because Katie was who he wanted, even though she was gone. But he wants me too. He wants my heart, and I want to give it.
We listened to Savage Garden, Kenny Loggins, John Mellencamp, and three Dan Fogelberg CDs. The music lasted for over five hours. We came inside well after midnight, turned off the lights and stereo, and went to his room. Tonight was our time. I thought of Joe, of course, because he was alone tonight. He would be okay with that.
Wayne and I stood alone in the bedroom, holding both hands, looking into the other's eyes. I turned back the sheets and comforter. He took off his shirt and then turned me toward him so he could take off mine. He touched my chest, running his hands over my smooth skin. He turned me around and held me against his body, wrapping both arms around me and feeling my chest. I put my arms on top of his. He kissed my neck and nuzzled into my ear. I put both arms down to my side, then moved them back so I could hold his legs. I leaned back against him. One arm was around my stomach, the other across my upper chest. I put my head on his arm and moaned.
“I love you Andrew.”
“I love you, my bud, always.”
Wayne undid the top button on my jeans and then lowered the zipper. He rested his hand on my belly and then moved slowly down to my crotch, at the inside of my groin. He did not touch my dick yet. He was exploring, touching intimately. But I was getting hard. Neither of us had seen the other with erections before. He grazed my right testicle ever so slightly, continuing to massage the inside of my thigh. I turned my head to smile at him. He nodded.
I slipped out of my jeans. Then I turned to undo his. He stood with his hands on my shoulders as I knelt down and pulled his jeans down and off. I touched his belly, his thighs, and moved around to touch his ass. I leaned forward a bit and kissed his hip. I touched his legs, both the real and the artificial.
“You're not afraid of my leg, Andrew?”
“No man. I'm not afraid.”
I stood again and looked at him.
“Will it be more comfortable if you take it off?”
“Yes, but …”
“No but's my friend. I am not afraid.”
“It's not who you are, only a small part of what.”
He thought about it for a moment. He hated wearing his leg. His cancer cell count was extremely high again and the pain in his leg nearly tripled when they were so high. I knew he'd be better without it, and I didn't feel afraid to see. I'd seen him a few times without it. It wouldn't change how I felt about him now.
I got in the center of the bed and made room for him. We lay facing each other, touching each other's skin. We stared into the other's eyes. I put my hand on the side of his face. He put his thumb and forefinger under my chin.
“Andrew. I can't believe we're laying together.”
“Are you okay about this?”
“I've been thinking about this for a few weeks. You're on my mind all the time. I can't say I'm confused, because that's not the right word. I want you very much. But I didn't think . . .”
“We're buddies, man. Why wouldn't you think I'd want you too, just a little closer?”
“I don't know. You're special …”
“Don't put me up there, man. I'm not special. I'm your buddy, like you're mine.”
“You are special, you deserve to be 'up there'. Don't argue with me. I like touching you. I've thought about this, and it's like a dream being handed to me. Andrew, please hold me.”
I did. I moved close to my buddy, moved my chest to his, my crotch to his crotch, and put my legs around his. I did that without thinking then backed off quickly, sure that I hurt him.
“No Andrew. You didn't hurt me. I'm okay. I want to hold you, and for you to hold me. It's been too long for both of us. I need you Andrew, really bad.”
I smiled at my friend. Who else got to take their second best buddy (second only to Joe, and not by very much at all) and hold him close? I know what he felt like about being handed the dream. He was so warm and so soft, but manly and strong, holding me and nuzzling into my ear. I looked into his eyes again.
And then there was the first kiss. It was so sweet. It was soft and intimate, not hot or passion-filled -- just soft and incredibly appealing. His lips touched mine as mine touched his. I closed my eyes and tasted him, lightly, tentatively, feeling full as I was the first time I kissed my Joe. I kissed and held Wayne for the same reasons I had kissed Joe -- out of great fear for their loneliness. No one should be so alone, not after experiencing a wonderful deep love. For Joe it was seven years alone. For Wayne is was a dozen and then some. No more -- he'd not be alone as long as I could hold him.
My lips were against my friends, my tongue gently exploring his soft lips. I drew back and looked into his eyes again. His face is so handsome to me. Others would look and not see one half of what I did, because I knew of his pain and his heart's desire. I knew what he wanted. I felt blessed that he wanted me. I wanted him too. I stroked his chest as I kissed him. He held on to my cheek with his hand.
His eyes welled up with tears.
“Talk to me, bud. What are you feeling? Is this too much for you?
“Yes, Andrew. The memories are coming back in a rush. I can't shut them out.”
“Don't. Hold me tight, bud. Let them out.”
“Andrew, it's not right to put this on you.”
“Then who are you going to talk to?”
“I don't want …”
“I do. I want everything you have. I want to share the pain of your heart. I want what good is in it. I want you to tell me you love me and mean it, because I do love you Wayne.”
“Andrew it hurts so much.”
“My life was stolen from me. It was too soon. All I have is you.”
“It's not much, but I care.”
I kissed him some more. I did not invade his mouth with my tongue. I used only my lips to kiss his. I kissed his forehead, his cheek, and his eyes when he closed them for me. I touched his stomach, felt the soft skin of his groin, and caressed his dick. I was teaching him and he was learning from me about manly gentleness, about caring in so different a way than he ever had.
I moved back a little so he could touch me if he wanted to. He touched my balls first, cupped them in his hand. He smiled.
“Wow, feels different than mine.”
He let me take his testicles in my hand. I rolled them around with my finger tips, gently. Balls are not to be manhandled roughly. Mine were very sensitive and his touch was just right. Then he stroked the shaft of my dick with just his fingertips, lightly, teasing me a little. I smiled at him.
“Is it okay?”
“To hold it? Yes.”
He wrapped his fist firmly around me. I closed my eyes again and tilted my head back. Neither of us wanted to jack the other off. But we would touch each other and let the cum flow as it would. For now, I wasn't ready to let it. I wanted this to last. He sensed that and held me close again, pressing his hard crotch into mine.
We lay on our sides, facing each other. He put his leg between mine. His hand gently touched me as we held each other. His fingertips explored out of curiosity. I stayed hard, as did he. He put his head down on the pillow next to mine. He stared very intently into my eyes, not saying a word. We held hands, interlocking our fingers. He let me rub his knuckles like usual. He frowned a bit.
“What is it?”
“Is this right? To be with you?” he asked.
“Touch my heart and ask me again.”
He put his head on my chest, listening.
“Is it right?” he whispered.
I kissed the top of his head. I took his head and gently put it back on the pillow. I held his chin in my fingers and drew my face to his and kissed him ever so gently.
“Yes. It is. I need you.”
“How come I'm the one?”
“Not a very sensible answer.”
I watched him. He was unsure. What would Joe say? Was he taking me from Joe?
“I'll say it again. Listen to me and believe what I say -- you are an addition to my life. You're not taking anything Joe wouldn't do himself. He loves me and he knows I've been alone. I love him too, exactly as I did before I kissed you. I will always love my Joe and I will always love you. If you doubt I can do it equally, think again bud.”
He watched me. He thought deeply about what we were doing and what it meant to Joe. He didn't look away from my eyes. His hand was on my chest, over my heart, taking the truth. He got the truth.
“Okay. Then it is right.”
Wayne snuggled closer. We lay with our faces buried in each other's necks.
“What are you thinking about bud?” I asked
“About what I used to have, and what I have now. Like I said, you are all I have, Andrew. I never wanted to feel this lonely.”
“How much of that do I take away?”
“All of it.”
“Most of it.”
“You will. If you don't now, I know you will. It's who you are.”
“Who am I?”
“My buddy. My connection to a place I've found too scary to look at. You're opening my eyes. Sunrises, sunsets, blue skies, clouds, the 'night symphony' … the world. My eyes are open. My ears are open. My heart is opening back up, when I wanted it closed and distant.”
“How long have you felt this way? How long have you wanted me to hold you like this?”
“As a fantasy, months ago. As something for real, the past few weeks.”
He took his head out of my neck and looked at my eyes, and through them. I held his face in my hand. I brought my lips over to his. I touched his crotch, massaged his balls, and lightly worked my fingers on his dick. We kissed deeply. He touched me every way that I touched him. I don't mean just my dick and balls either. He touched my heart, into my soul, with deep affection. I got something back from someone, after waiting many months to get it.
I suddenly spilled my cream onto my belly. He made me hard and he made me come. I looked down in time to see his cream hitting my thigh. He shuddered. I was barely touching him. It was as if he had not come in weeks. His head dropped back and he opened his mouth. I gripped his dick and made him come more. I put my tongue in his open mouth and pulled him on top of me. After a few minutes, he pulled his head back and looked into my eyes. What did he see, I wondered.
He says: “I saw my buddy, who wasn't afraid to let me see and feel a pleasure that I have not felt in all my life. I saw my seed running down his leg to his belly. He rubbed it into his skin, taking a small part of me to keep. He smiled at me and let me know that he was not embarrassed nor should I be.”
As kids, we had both showed off and bragged with our friends. This was neither showing off nor bragging -- it was sharing something between us. It would not be the last time. Intimacy at it's best -- not sex. Neither one of us were left unfulfilled. We lay in bed and held the other, kissed occasionally, and made each other's lonely time become a thing of the past.
I had kissed my friends lips tonight. I had seen him strong and erect. I had seen his juice pour in great spurts from his insides. We shared a lot. It wasn't necessarily important that we were naked with each other. It was important, however, in that we had no secrets from each other. He trusted me to let me show him something new. It was new for me as well, and wonderful at that.
August the 10th -- Tuesday
My first chemo day was here. Six weeks of radiation treatments were behind me and four weeks of chemotherapy now lay ahead. I took my shirt off and lay on my stomach as Doc put the needle into the butterfly beneath my skin in my right lower back. It was close to the site of the tumor. I do not know what is 'normal' though I understand that most implants go in the collarbone area. Wayne's was in the left hip about two inches below his beltline. I was on an IV drip for the next 90 minutes. Wayne sat in a reclined chair to my left and I lay and locked on to his eyes. The burning took no time to feel once the IV began. It was far more psychological than physical, but I equated the burning with PacMan-like creatures roving through my body and eating up the tumor like Sunday dinner. My eyes watered but I didn't want to cry about his. I'm not the only chemo patient and I wanted to be okay about this. If the anxiety monster continued to grow, it would crush me. Wayne seemed to know what was on my mind. He reached out his left hand and held mine.
“You'll be okay. Gotta believe.”
“Okay love, I will.”
“Do you now?”
We didn't say any more for the duration of the treatments. We watched the others eyes and faces. He gave me a soft smile. I wanted to kiss his lips, right here, and feel safe. I wanted to find a way we could hold each other right now so it wouldn't hurt either of us.
With the passage of 24 hours, we were right here again. Wayne held my hand. It seemed like we had not gone home, puked off and on all night, comforted the other, slept a few hours, and worked. There was little to distinguish Wednesday from Tuesday. Wayne had gone to work on time and had worked a full day. I think he is some sort of a god if he can endure this shit for months on end AND not miss any more than a day or two of work all year.
I had left at the same time as him and driven to my doc's office for a first in a series of epidural steroid injections for my back. I would have two more on subsequent Wednesdays. This was mainly to reduce the swelling that was still at the base of my spine. Doc said the steroid could also benefit the tumor so it was doing double duty. During the night, I was wondering if I was going to go to work on Thursday afternoon.
I lay in Wayne's arms, staring at the ceiling, feeling him breathe in my neck, holding on to him. I felt like someone had molested me. I felt the cancer mocking me despite beginning a battle to defeat it. I slipped out of bed and went into the bathroom to throw up. I don't know if this was purely physical, from the chemo, or purely emotional from my fear. My stomach emptied past the point of having anything more to throw up, and then the dry heaves began. Wayne came and knelt down beside me in the dark. He held my head against his chest. Damn I didn't want to cry. Don't make me feel bad about this because I need to fight it, not worry about it, not let it get to me. I sobbed anyway. I couldn't stop. He flushed the toilet and picked me up in his arms. He held me against his chest, my head on his shoulder, his hand stroking my hair. He took a fresh washcloth from the linen closet and cleaned up my face.
“Come back to bed my bud.”
He lay down on the inside of the bed on his back. I lay on my right side, against him. Since we had been together nude, we no longer wore our boxers or gym shorts when we slept together. His body was warm, as was mine against him. I nuzzled his neck. My right arm was around his shoulders. My left hand was on his belly. His left arm was around my shoulders and his right hand on top of mine.
“It gets better, bud. You won't feel bad about this forever. I know the fear and the anger because I've had it. Now I just take it as a sign that someone cares about me enough to help me kill an enemy.”
“What if I lose? Or you do?”
“Then we'll know we put up a good fight. Never give in to it, bud. Doing something is better than doing nothing. There's new drugs and new hope all the time. Some day none of us will suffer with the pain any more, and it's people like you and me who will help make that possible. We're guinea pigs no matter how you look at it. We're the proving ground for these news meds and someday, whether we live or die from the cancer, many more someone else's will live. That's my mark, right here and now. “
I kissed him for his mark on history. Then I kissed him because he loves me and tells me the way it is. I closed my eyes as he lay his head on top of mine. We slept until the alarm went off at 7:15, three hours past our discussion. Wayne showered as I lay in bed still. I didn't have to be up right away. I was not one to sleep in in the morning but I wanted to this morning. I decided to get up and get dressed, to go over to Joe's place when Wayne left for work. He told me I should stay put and sleep a couple more hours. Joe's plants needed attention and I could lay down there too. There would be other mornings when I would let Wayne reset his alarm and just stay put. Restlessness reigned. It wouldn't go away. So I kept moving.
The next week was little different than the previous. Wayne changed his chemo routine from Monday and Wednesday to Tuesday and Wednesday to be with me. There was work to be done, meals to cook, laundry to do . . . no rest for the wicked. I sat with Joe. I missed Wayne. I was with Wayne and I missed Joe. My heart ripped in pieces trying to do both, knowing I couldn't.
August 21st - Saturday
Today brought the turmoil boiling over. Wayne and I were eating dinner and my pager went off. My heart leapt to my throat because it hadn't gone off in the few months that I'd been carrying it. I finally had decided that trying to be near a phone all the time wasn't going to work, so I bought a pager. All the nurses had my number and I was reachable now 24 hours a day. But now it vibrated on my side. The nurses and I had worked out a code. 411 meant that Joe was waking from the coma and I should come when I could. 911 meant that Joe's in trouble. Wayne said I went pale.
We ran out the door and he drove me quickly to the hospital. He was going to go back home and wait for me to call later. He didn't want to be 'in my way'. Mim met me at the nurses station, pacing while waiting for me.
“Joe's being prepped for surgery again, Andrew. He's flatlined twice in 35 minutes. We don't know why yet but his heart is unstable again.”
“God Mim, he won't survive another, will he?”
“Andrew you know I'm not going to say 'no he won't survive'. You know he won't if the doctors don't do something. I know you're afraid.”
By 9:00, Joe was in surgery. I lay on his bed. I did what I always did, put my face into his pillow and drew in his scent. Then I lay on my back and held his pillow in my arms, holding him close. How long would this take? A few hours --probably. I lay there and thought about meeting Joe for the first time, the impression he left on me I felt the first time we made love. We've had nine years together. Would this be our last? I felt great anxiety. Tiredness finally made me ache. I closed my eyes. At 9:40, I woke again, struggling for air. I rolled on my side and deep breathed, feeling like there wasn't enough oxygen in the world for me now.
I called Joe's sister here in PA and then sister and brother at home in New Hampshire. I didn't lie about what was going on but I always had serious qualms about having to call and tell them about Joe's distress. I told them to not wait up for word overnight because there would be none. I would talk to them by 8:00 in the morning. I'm sure they would sleep about as well as I was going to.
“I'm going to go call Wayne, Mim. I can't wait this out without him.”
He arrived within fifteen minutes. I met him outside the main entrance. We walked around the grounds for awhile. My anxiety made it hard for me to stay inside where there was no fresh air. There were no stars out tonight because there was significant cloud cover. The air was cooling down and the crickets were beginning to sing. We walked up and down streets surrounding the hospital, watching as families settled down or made ready for bed. It was quiet, a stark contrast at what raged in our heads. I stopped and took Wayne's hand, stared into his eyes. I couldn't say anything. My eyes were watering up and there was a lump in my throat.
“Don't be afraid, bud. You know he's in good hands.”
He put two fingers on my lips and shook his head. I didn't say any more. We looked at each other and I wanted badly to say what was on my mind. He wouldn't take me feeling anything negative about Joe. It wasn't that he didn't want to. Mr “gotta believe”. He put his arm around my shoulder and held me close as we continued walking.
“Thanks man. I love you.”
“I love you too, bud. Be strong for our friend. He needs it.”
We walked onward through almost every back street within a mile of the hospital. It was after 2:00 a.m. by the time we went back to the hospital. It was quiet. My pager had not gone off. The nurses were keeping a vigil for Joe. Mim and Beth had left at 11:00. Stacey and Betty were here, having caught up on the day's news.
The hours dragged on. We sat in the lobby until the sun was coming up. We went back outside to watch. We came in and went to the nurses lounge. Margie was there.
“Good morning boys. When was the last time you two ate anything good for you?”
“About 12 hours, Margie. We didn't finish dinner because my pager went off.”
“I figured. I bought muffins for you, your favorite, Andrew. Wayne, do you like cranberry nut?”
“Yeah I love cranberry. And stop calling me a nut.”
He smiled wickedly. Margie laughed out loud and gave him a hug.
“Your humor is priceless. That was perfect. I think I needed that too. Go and tell some jokes to Joe so he'll wake up.”
We sat and had tea and warmed muffins with fresh butter. Margie knew how to spoil her boys. She'd met Wayne a couple times and told me she was glad that I called him this time. Joyce and Carrie arrived with bagels and fresh flowers for Joe's room. Joyce knew Joe liked mums and brought them from her garden once a week. They both knew the news. My tech friend came in too. He was the OJ supplier every morning. He too was up to date on Joe. Staff always came to work knowing what was up. They didn't need surprises and misinformation. There were surprises enough when the ER got busy.
Wayne stood behind me, rubbing my shoulders. It was evident that my restlessness had not ended. I don't think my heart beat was regular since we got here. It ached. I put my hands on Wayne's. I closed my eyes and pictured Joe with a team of surgeons and nurses trying very hard to help him live. I'm sure, even with the distance that doctors put themselves at, that they could not help but wonder if they were doing the right thing. I was convinced that Joe's coma was for one thing -- to ease his pain. It had to be horrendous, and now it was just that much worse. I asked myself over and over 'how much can he take?' No one answered.
Twelve hours after Joe went to surgery, I watched the clock move to nine o'clock -- then ten, eleven, and noon. We walked up and down the corridors and stairwells. I took Wayne through the route I went to on my midnight roaming. He and I went out for a walk again, just around the hospital grounds. We sat under my favorite tree and he held me from behind. He tried to get me to close my eyes and sleep. I had no desire to sleep. Fifteen hours of waiting seemed like an eternity. We went back inside at 2:00. It was close to 3:00 p.m. by the time Joe was out of the surgical suite. It had been eighteen hours of mind-numbing surgery. His doc talked to me. He had to adjust the pacemaker because the rhythm of Joe's heart had been disturbed. The culprit was a leak into one of the chambers along the aorta. Blood filled the chamber but it wouldn't pump through properly. It backflowed as it was forced out. Joe wouldn't be back in his room until several hours. Mim told us to go and lay down for awhile. It'd been close to 40 hours since we'd been up.
I slept for two and a half on Joe's bed, from 4:00 until almost 6:30. Wayne was still sleeping on my cot when I woke. I didn't wake him. His exterior was calm and I knew he was a strong man. But I also knew he was worrying on the inside. He was not unfeeling. He had great love for Joe, and Joe for him. At 8:00, I woke my bud to take him home. I needed more than two and a half hours sleep and I wouldn't get it here. I wanted badly to be held. We went to Wayne's. By midnight, we'd settled into bed. Before long, I fell asleep in the comfort of my buddy's arms.
The week brought a PT session first thing in the morning for my back. Tuesday was week three of my chemo. On Wednesday morning I had another steroid injection and then chemo in the afternoon. Wayne and I were taking care of the other as we spent the night alternately throwing up. We went back to bed by 3:00 and slept soundly.
This was life as we knew it. We worked, went for chemotherapy and radiation treatments in the hope of surviving, loved, worried, worked, walked . . . and constantly hoped for the best.
It was enough.