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Joe, Andrew & Wayne - Part 17

I tend to listen to my head first. That happened after I lost Katie. I don't trust my heart any more.

Andrew listens to his heart first. That improved more after he lost his sight. I want to learn how to do that again.

A friend told Andrew recently that I do things for me more than I do for Andrew sometimes. Can't argue with that. To me, and my friend would probably agree, doing something is better, usually, than doing nothing, even if it makes only me feel better.

November 20th - Saturday

i woke up and reached for my buddy. he wasn't there.


i listened a few moments. the house was quiet. my buddy's mood had been awful last night. he was so restless when he brought me upstairs. he lay beside me and i dozed off, my head on his chest. but i kept waking up. he hated to do that to me. i told him to stop worrying, to have faith in doc. he finally held me close and went to sleep.

i pushed the covers back and sat up, listening some more, to make sure he wasn't just being quiet. i got out of bed and went to my doorway. i listened some more.

"mom? pop?"

i put socks on and put nylon running pants on over my gym shorts. i went downstairs. i didn't know if it was the middle of the night or morning, past sunrise.

"mom? are you here?"

"in the kitchen, my boy."


"he's outside, in the front yard, sitting against the tree. he was there when i came down at 6:30, andrew. i asked if he'd like a cup of coffee. he barely shook his head."

i stood at the window that faced the front yard.

"he's hurting, mom. his body is on fire. his mind is terrorizing him."

"i know. but i don't know what it is. did he tell you what doc said last night?"

"no, not in words. he didn't talk much last night. we went to bed around 3:00 and he couldn't settle down. what time is it now?"

"7:30. it's foggy and cool out there."

"will you help me find mail? maybe he said something to someone."

"andrew that's invading his privacy."

"not if he sent mail from my account."

she thought about it for a moment. i knew mom was as concerned as i was. we went into the den and opened up the 'sent items' folder on my e-mail account. mom said there was a group message at 2:56 a.m. to our group of eight. she read it to me.

"so it looks like he's debating on sharing the news," mom said.

"he can't keep it to himself. my god, fifteen times higher than his counts were at his last checkup. he's got to be floored by this."

"breakfast is almost ready. let's see if he'll come in, and then if he'll tell us what's on his mind."

wayne sat to my left when he came in. i could hear him moving things around on his plate. my appetite was lousy enough from having chemo but there were two other people in the house who made sure i ate something anyway. i bet mom and pop were watching wayne.

i reached over and took his hand. i looked to my left, so he could see my eyes. he held my hand and then intertwined his fingers in mine. i was afraid he'd pull away but he didn't.

"wayne? i can feel your restlessness. are you okay?"

"yeah, andrew. just kinda tired. i took us to bed so late and i didn't sleep much at all. i'm sorry i kept you up so late."

"you didn't really, bud. i slept in your arms if you remember. i wish you were able to find comfort in me like i do in you."

he didn't say anything. i brought his hand to my lips and kissed it softly.

"talk to me, bud."

"i'm okay, andrew."

he said one thing while his e-mail had said another. he wasn't lying, but he was wrapped up, tightly, in a funk. i couldn't see, but i could feel. i knew my buddy. i ached for him. i knew why he wouldn't talk. if i had asked him directly why, he would have said that i had enough to think about already. and i would have told him that we do this together, not standing alone.

"how's your french toast?"

mom and pop could see he barely touched it. french toast and bacon was his second favorite breakfast, next to an omelet. i could hear him cutting a piece and chewing it, only because i had asked the question.

"good. thanks mom. you made it just right."

"you're so quiet wayne, like you were the first time you came here. are you shy all of a sudden?"

"no, love. tired. you know."

"i do know, my bud. and?"

he didn't say anything. i put his hand against my chest. he started to pull away but reconsidered.

"you know how we feel about you, bud. how all of us do. when you turn quiet, you're locking me out. it's not how we are. please?"

"my counts are so damned high, andrew."

"i know, bud. but ..."

he got up, excused himself from the table, and reached for his crutches. he headed toward the living room and out to the deck. under normal circumstances, with anyone, pop or mom would have gotten up and opened the door for him. we were both independent enough that we wanted to do what we could ourselves, even if it took more effort. we let him go.

a while later he came in, went upstairs, and then came back downstairs, going right back outside. mom looked out.

"i think he was cold, andrew. he's got his hooded sweatshirt on now and your vest. his baseball cap is low on his head, with his hood pulled over it."

"what do we do for him, mom? he'll stew over this on his own because he'll say i got enough to think about. he knows better, but he won't be any different. he shouldn't do this alone."

"let him have his time, andrew. he'll think about it and then come to you or us for some encouragement. it's his way."

throughout the day i 'watched' him, through mom or pop. he wasn't sulking. nor was he rude to any of us. he's not looking for pity. none of those were his style. i told friends in an e-mail message late in the evening that i think the news took his soul. mom had said that you could look at his eyes but there was nothing there that looked back. at best i was hoping he'd come in and hold me again tonight, as usual. we went out for dinner, as we had been planning for a week. he was sociable enough but he was very reserved.

our friends sent e-mail back after mom and i had sent out 'daily mail' to let everyone know what was up. some thought wayne was looking at giving up on fighting. i knew it wasn't true. i told one friend, who was quite ticked off, that wayne just needed time to work out his own plan. he didn't need any 'noise' in his head while he thought things out. i could handle him being this way for a couple days, and then i'd reach inside him again and talk. i told my friend every day that i loved him and that i was here. that put things back on his shoulders, to come to me when he would. i would watch him and talk to him, but only when he was ready. while our ticked off friend wanted to kick wayne's ass, i wanted to hold on tight and get to his heart. i think i had the better chance at getting to him.

around midnight, as the sky cleared and the moon shone, i went out to him. i lay with him on the padded lounge chair in the back yard. i held him tight. and i told him i loved him. i got no response, but he was holding me, tightly. for now that's the best i could hope for. if he tried to push me away, the steel-toed boot would come out, with a friend waiting in the wings to use it. i had greater faith in my method, and my style. i kissed my wayne on his lips. he kissed me in return, and held me close.

November 21st - Sunday

it took some talking overnight, but i got wayne to tell me what was most forward on his mind. when i went out to hold him, he was standing near the garden. i put my left arm around his waist and held him, with my head on his shoulder.

"hold me, wayne? please?"

he dropped his crutches and wrapped his arms around me. he held my head to his chest with his hand. then he broke down and cried so hard.

(note: this next section is taken from e-mail to friends)

he's not thinking he's dying because he's not. he's not afraid of the chemo making him sick, or that it'll take awhile for his counts to drop again. they will drop because he has faith in his own strength and in doc. doc is a lighthouse to wayne, and most of you know wayne loves lighthouses for their beacon against the storms.

our buddy is afraid of the pain, of it taking his attention instead of giving it to me. he says his pain has his total attention. he can't give anything to me or to you because he has nothing to give. wayno feels like he got hit, sucker punched. first by his kidney infection and a high fever, forcing him to stay home from work and to rest. then he got hit again, by a week in the hospital and 10 days away from me. he stood up again and came home to us, waiting for news, waiting for counts on the order of 2 to 4 times higher than they last were (100,000 to 150,000 vs. the 40,000 they had been). but he took another brutal hit, by his counts being 15 times higher than he expected. two of you on our e-mail list used the same phrase -- it took the wind out of his sails. he says he's now lying on the ground, in a bloody pile, afraid as hell to get up again because he'll only take another hit.

he's sitting outside, bundled up in three layers of clothes and work boots, with his favorite baseball cap pulled down over his head. his artificial leg is in our room. he won't put it on. his crutches are on the ground, on either side of the padded lounge chair. mom says his arms are wrapped around himself. i went out earlier this morning and he pushed me away. i held his hand anyway. it shook so badly in my hand. he took it back, finally, and told me he wanted to be alone. no i don't feel rejected. i can't help him make peace with his demons. i can't do anything for his pain. it hurts him too much to be held. (if you're thinking all the pain is in his leg, it's not. it's in his back and chest, hips and shoulders.

he hasn't eaten since last night. he did drink the glass of milk i took out to him. mom's going to make home-made soup for lunch and we'll bring him inside to eat. he won't fight my mom or pop. and then i'll try to keep him inside. if i can't hold him, i want him to hold me. it's not often he'll turn me down. when i sleep, my headache hurts me less. i want him to sleep too, for the same reason. he lasted all of 30 minutes in bed with me last night and then went outside again. mom said he was in the front yard with his back to a tree when she came downstairs at 6:30.

my wayne likes backstreet boys and he's going to read his mail eventually. this is what i want him to find --it's "the one" from the "millennium" cd:

ps: mom found this for me at:

Backstree Boys: 'The One' lyrics

I'll be the one

I guess you were lost when I met you
Still there were tears in your eyes
So out of trust and I knew
No more than mysteries and lies

There you were, wild and free
Reaching out like you needed me
A helping hand to make it right
I am holding you all through the night

I'll be the one, I'll be the one
Who will make all your sorrows undone
I'll be the light, I'll be the light
When you feel like there's nowhere to run
I'll be the one

To hold you and make sure that you'll be alright
'Cause my faith is gone
And I want to take you from darkness to light

There you were, wild and free
Reaching out like you needed me
A helping hand to make it right
I am holding you all through the night


You need me like I need you
We can share our dreams comin' true
I can show you what true love means
Just take my hand, baby please

I'll be the one
I'll be the light
Where you can run
To make it alright

I'll be the one
I'll be the light
Where you can run


I'll be the one
I'll be the light
Where you can run
To make it alright

I'll be the one
I'll be the light
Where you can run
To make it all right

I'll be the one
To hold you
And make sure that you'll be alright
I'll be the one

i love you, wayno, you know that. please come back to me.

one of our friends last night said he'd kick wayne's ass, because it made him mad what wayne was doing. mom and i sent mail back saying that wayne's got an iron butt, so it won't help. i was going to break him down by holding him instead, and telling him i love him. our friend was less angry the second time, and mom wrote back to him telling him it was okay to kick wayne's ass and to hold him tight. you guys and gals know how to do both. my style is to get to his heart, not his brain.

but our friend needs time to work out his fears. they are extreme, my buds. they are as bad as the pain, and the pain is purely agonizing to him. he does not hate me, nor my folks, nor any one of you. wayne's angry and scared. but he has me to love him with all my heart and i'm not giving up that. the words in this song above are very fitting. kick his ass if you want, but hold him in your hearts, close, too. don't give up on the mail either. he'll read it in a day or two, even out of curiosity.

we also found a quote, on the website, that struck a nice note. it said:

"if you love someone, put their name inside of a circle,
not a heart, because a heart can be broken,
but a circle goes on forever."

it was credited to brian litrell of the backstreet boys.

November 22nd - Monday

I did find Andrew's E-mail message to our friends, as he had found mine on Saturday morning. I'm glad now that I did not delete it from the `sent items' folder. What Andrew said to our friends is right. There should be no pity, pouting, or rudeness. There were lots of things to think about, though. I had help of another sort, too, in all the time I was outside. It came from a little faith, love of a friend, and a need to begin to heal so that there was forward progress. The fears and the pain was still there, of course. But how I would fight both changed because of what had gone on outside.

"Why be so afraid? Your counts have been high like this before. Didn't Doc help you then?"

"Yeah. But they came up so quickly. And I ache everywhere, bud. The pain talks louder than my faith."

"Who told us `gotta believe' a few months ago?"

"But I don't."

"Did you lie to the rest of us? To me especially?"

"No. You know better."

"Then believe. Fight it. Don't push Andrew away, ever. He feels pain too, he knows what it's like."

"He has too much to worry about."

"Do you love him?"

"With all my heart. You know that. I've told you so many times what love is like with my Andrew."

"Then no pushing away, ever."

"He doesn't need my shit on top of his."

"He doesn't need you pushing him away and telling him that you can do it by yourself."

"I'm scared."


"Losing Andrew. Having no strength to fight my own cancer, never mind his."

"You don't fight his. Just yours."


"Hold his hand, encourage him, hold him, be there with him through the chemo and the puking. That's what you fight. You can't take his pain from him."

The `voice' wasn't a physical voice to me. It was more like words inserting themselves into my brain, not into my ear. What I wanted to believe was what I did believe. I reached out to my young friend because he touched me.

The afternoon would bring me back to my first chemotherapy in nearly a month. Mom and Pop would help Andrew and I during the evening when we got sick. We had thought about returning home on Sunday, but since Doc had me on short-term disability still, and the Thanksgiving holiday was coming up on Thursday, we said yes to the folks invitation to stay another week.

Mom took care of Andrew through his post-chemo sickness, but Andrew wanted to be with me for mine. Like a trooper, he held my chest together while I was sick.

I could not sleep, so I worked on part 16 of the journal during the late evening hours. Andrew sat in front of me, as usual. He wouldn't go to bed unless I did, and I didn't want to go to bed because my restlessness would keep him awake. Sitting asleep in my arms at the PC was different, and he would sleep through most any typing I was doing. I think the rhythm of the keyboard was to Andrew what a ticking clock is to a young dog or cat without its mother.

November 23rd - Tuesday

Andrew and I got through the night with minimal sickness - only two nausea `tsunamis' to put us down for awhile. Day 1 of treatment usually made us feel like we had the flu. Day 2 was worse exponentially. Day 3, which Andrew says he is used to, came to me in total dread. I had not had three chemo sessions for a long while. But it was too soon to worry about something that was four days away.

Andrew was doing a series of epidural steroid injections for his back and for the tumor. His first had been on October 13th; the second was November 4th and his final one was this morning. I drove my buddy into the city, 45 minutes away. He registered with the outpatient office and then we walked back to the surgical services suite. A nurse came to get him about twenty minutes later. She was a little taken aback to see that Andrew was blind now, where the first time she had met him, a few months ago, he was not. Andrew's `regular' nurse was off duty. I sat and waited until his nurse returned him to me, about 35 minutes. We headed for home again.

We had skipped breakfast and weren't overly hungry at lunch but we toughed it out anyway and settled for grilled cheese with tomato and bacon for lunch. Mom had started baking last night for the holiday. She would stock the freezer with breads, pies and cakes. Some would go home with us next Sunday. Some would go to school with her.

The weather was cold and damp, so we stayed inside and listened to The Moody Blues CDs. We lay on the sofa in the living room, watching the trees sway, losing the last of their leaves. I described the backyard setting to Andrew.


"I love you too, Wayne."

"I really wish you'd stop doing that, love. Don't you know I want to say the words?"

"But when you say `Andrew' like that, I know what you're going to say. You know what, though?"

"Yes, I do know what. You like to hear the words, right?"

He nodded. My boy's eyes were blind, but he looked at me anyway and he smiled to me. He put his hand on my cheek.

"I love you, Andrew, with all my heart. I want to hold you forever."

"Forever is a long time, bud. I don't know if ..."

I put two fingers on his lips. I waited a moment and took them away.

"... if I'll ..."

I put them back on his lips again. I moved them away and kissed him. He could think it, but I wouldn't let him say it. I wanted him to hear me, not what his body tells him -- or what his injured brain tells him.

"I love you, Andrew, yesterday, today, tomorrow, for all our lives, with all my heart. Don't forget, ever. And if you do, I'll tell you again. Okay?"

"Yes, my bud. You touch me deeply. I am in love with you, Wayne."

We had been quiet for awhile, dozing off as we held each other close. Andrew stirred a bit, then lay still for a few minutes, and then moved again. His hands found my face. I looked at Andrew just as he pushed me away. His eyes were different - empty. My Andrew was not in there.

He slapped my face and pushed harder, finding that I was not being driven away."

"Who are you ?!" he yelled.

"Your buddy. I'm Wayne."

"Let me go. I don't know you. Leave me alone!"

"Do you know your name?"


"Do you know mine?"


"I just told you my name."

"I don't want you here! Let me go!"

"I'm here, Andrew. I told you before I will always be right here."

"I don't want you. I don't know you. Leave me alone. Get away from me!!"

Something hideous took my Andrew's soul away. I shook so bad as I got off the sofa. Andrew turned and faced the back of the sofa as his mind folded in on itself.

"What's the riot in here boys?"

Mom came in through the front door and came immediately to the family room.

"Andrew? That's not how you treat your buddy."

"Not my buddy. Alone. Get him out!"

"Andrew, do you know my voice?"


He didn't turn around. He knew his mom's voice, but not mine. I tell him every day, more than once a day that I love him so much. He tells me he loves me the same. He tells me that I'm his buddy and he loves that I care for him through the puking and the long nights. But I'm a blank to him. It's some dark demon talking, taking my buddy's memory.

"Andrew I have to hold on to you. You don't understand."

"I understand. Don't you touch me. I don't know you, so you leave me alone."

I sat on the floor beside the sofa. I reached for his hand. I wanted him to feel my touch because he would recognize me. With hearing in one ear, he couldn't hear me well, so I wanted him to feel me. I looked at Mom, wondering. She nodded her head.

Andrew screamed in rage. I put my arms around him and slid behind him, holding him in the familiar way, but he fought against me. He was like a child having a temper tantrum, but it was rage, not childlike stubbornness.

"Andrew, hear me. I'm someone who cares so much for you. We're friends, bud. You've known me . . ."

"I don't know you! Get away from me!"

"Listen to me, don't shut me out!"

He squealed and he fought me.

"Mom, I can't let him go. I have to try. If he slips away, he's gone. Please help me for a minute."

I got off the sofa and Mom sat down behind Andrew. He calmed down immediately. She looked up at me.

"My boy, that's your friend Wayne. He's not going to hurt you."

"Yes he is. I don't know him. I don't want him here."

I nodded my head slightly. I moved to the wall, away from Andrew. I folded my right leg, my heel touching what remained of my left leg.

"Andrew, do you know where Joe is?"

"No. I don't know Joe. Don't let them hurt me."

"No one is going to hurt you, hon. Joe is in the hospital. Do you remember?"


"Wayne is your good friend. You've known him a long time."


"Yes Andrew. For six years. Joe is your friend for nine years."

"I don't know them. I don't want them here."

Mom looked at me.

"Andrew, may I hold you?"


"Listen to me, my boy. Your Wayne here loves you very much. He helps you when you are sick, Andrew. Like you help Joe when he's sick."

"I don't know them, mum."

"Yes you do."

He lay down again and faced the back of the sofa. He reached for his pillow and wrapped himself around it. He went to sleep in no time.

"My God, Wayne. How do you stand this?"

"I hold on, Mom. He's fought me but I told him I am someone who cares about him. He gave in the other two times. When he awoke both times, he was okay. I don't know if it is ego in the extreme, but I gave him a little to think about. While he slept, his mind worked on what I told him. He came back. I have to do the same this time too. I have to hold on and tell him he is important to me."

Mom got on the floor with me. She took me into her arms and held me close.

"I love you, dear Wayne. You need to remember that too."

"I do, Mom. I help your boy for you as much as for Joe and me. To do something is better than nothing, but I don't know what he needs. I don't have any faith he'll come out on his own. I need to know that I pull him back to me, to us."

"Hold him, dear boy. Try what you think is right. I'm going to change clothes. I'll be back to help you if I can."

I lay behind Andrew as he slept. I didn't touch him yet. I wanted to take my friend and hold him so close, to get inside his mind and to drive away the demon. His words hit me so hard. He wanted no part of me because I was nobody.

I bent down and kissed his cheek ever so lightly. I didn't want to waken him. He moved a little. I kissed his sweet lips very softly. My Andrew was inside, but the answer of how to bring him out would be found only in my instincts. I had no faith in them either. I am a man driven by my heart. It told me to do something, to try. My Andrew would think I was trying to harm him when all I wanted to do was to connect to him, to even a small piece of something that knew who and what I am.

Over the course of fifteen or twenty minutes, I put my hand on his shoulder, then touched his chest, then touched his hip, then put my chest against his back, all the while hoping I would not wake him up and to have him push me away again. Finally I held my Andrew, spoons-style, the way he liked best. I asked that Andrew would feel me here. I was pushing my luck, but I had nothing to lose by trying to reach inside the demon and find my Andrew. The young man who loved me and his Joe was in there. I held on to him. Andrew loved me; but the demon in his mind disavowed any knowledge of who I am. I hated this. Andrew was at the mercy of his brain misfiring. We had talked after his second episode in late October. I asked him if he knew I was there, after the fact. He says it's like a black hole. There was no memory of not knowing, of pushing me away. He told me to trust my instincts when it happened again. I was so torn, but I had to hold him and talk to him.

I didn't talk very loud, because he was sleeping. And this is one of those times I was doing more for me than for Andrew. I wanted to feel that I was okay to be protective of my bud. I wanted to know that if I held on to him, I would not lose him forever to his mind. I could feel a storm coming and it was going to do some damage. Mom sat by and waited, wanting to do all she could to help us both.

Pop came home from work around 5:45. Mom explained to him that Andrew was having a memory lapse and that Andrew had no clue who I was, nor did he even remember Joe. I asked Pop if he would talk to Andrew when he started to wake up, so he wouldn't feel like he was alone. If Andrew started to stir, I was going to stop holding him, but I was going to stay right here with him.

Pop sat with Andrew's and my feet in his lap. Mom was at the other end of the sofa, our heads nearly in her lap, but not quite because of how we lay. Andrew curled into the fetal position. I folded myself around him. Waiting.

It was an hour before Andrew woke. I quickly backed off from holding him. Even if he moved, he would think maybe a blanket or something was at his back.

"Andrew, are you okay?" asked Pop, tentatively.

Andrew scowled, cocking his head. Pop reached out his hand. Andrew pulled back from it.

"It's Pop, Andrew."

"Pop? Who are you, I don't ..."

"Your dad, Andrew."

Andrew lay still, thinking about `Pop'. Mom spoke up.



"Dad's sitting with us. Okay?"

It took a few more minutes for Andrew to work it out. Pop reached his hand back to Andrew. Andrew took it and held on.

"Love you Pop."

"Andrew? Wayne's with us too."

"I don't know him. Don't want him here."

"Andrew, that's not right. Think about it for a minute. Wayne's been your friend for a long time now. He cares about you very much. Think about your good friend. He wants to help you."

Andrew listened and was silent again for a few minutes.

"No. Don't want him here. I don't know him."

Pop looked at me and I shook my head, scared at the words, said like a little boy afraid of a stranger. I was still lying against him from behind, but he didn't feel me yet. I looked at Mom. She looked back at me in sadness. She knew Andrew knew me and loved me. She knew I loved him as much. Mom and Pop's generation was not usually accepting of men in love. Like many people who know us through E-mail, they both say they do not think of us as merely men in love. They know we are connected, and it's not something sexual that keeps us together. The folks have read all of the journals, even the explicit stuff. Mom says, from a female point of view, that the acts of sex are a gift to us, because the love and longing behind that is who we are. Pop, too, has fully accepted Joe and me both, knowing that it's the love that's important, not the gender. Joe would be very proud of us both, say the folks.

But I don't feel worthy of the praise because my Andrew doesn't know me, and doesn't seem to want to. I got a cold chill down my back and shivered from it. A tear had flowed down my cheek. I wiped it away and more came. I looked at Mom, so scared for my Andrew.

Andrew's left elbow punched me quickly and deeply in my rib cage. He went to do it again but I blocked it. Andrew occasionally gave me a `cheap rib shot' when we were at the PC together clowning around, a way to let me know he was paying attention when I was picking on him. He kept forgetting that at the end of that cheap rib shot was a cracked rib, yet to heal. When I reminded him to be careful, he told me he didn't mean it. I knew that.

This was not one of those types. He did it with purpose and it hurt me very deeply, knocking out my wind. There was blood forming on my T-shirt already, pooling around where Andrew had hit me. I would bruise badly if someone touched me too hard, leaving an imprint of his or her finger in my skin. I looked at where he poked me. I turned so Mom and Pop wouldn't see it. It felt warm and wet as it grew into a circle about two inches across.

"Andrew, please listen to me. You know I'm not here to hurt you. Please come back to me. You know I can't leave you alone like this."

He didn't say anything. He curled into a tight ball, shielding himself from me. I held on, gently, trying to say and do things that would seem familiar to him. He always liked when I held him from behind, spoons style. He found great comfort in being held close to me. I kissed him on his neck the same way I always do. I whispered into his ear, telling him I loved him and would not be complete without him. He'd heard that before, lots of times. I told him to think about Joe.

He turned around to face me. I thought I might be reaching him. He pounded me fiercely with his fist, beating the shit out of my chest, neck and face. I shielded my face by putting it against his chest. I kept telling him that he hurt me, but that he was not the kind of man to hurt someone else. I held his hand so he would stop striking me. When he could not use his fist, he used his head. He slammed his head into my face twice, leaving both of us bloodied. Mom protected me against the next blow. I knew that a sensible person would back away, to retreat. I couldn't and I wouldn't. I would rather be covered in blood than to give up on Andrew.

My T-shirt was wet with my blood. Andrew's shirt was stained as well, half as badly as my own. I knew I was not reaching him and that I would suffer greatly from such physical abuse. To back off would be to lose my Andrew to the demon in his head. It wasn't Andrew who struck me hard enough to hurt me badly, so I held on and tried to reach him. Mom and Pop kept trying to make him understand. He knew them but he didn't seem to trust them. I held on. He could hurt me, but I wasn't going to lose him to the demon because he had become the man that I loved. It wasn't right to hold him against his will. It would have been more of a travesty to let him slip away. At least this way he had something real to fight against, not a brain fucker that stole his mind.

It took hours. I wore him down enough that he fell asleep in my arms. I cried because I was in pain. Mom wiped away my tears as best she could. Pop went to get a washcloth and a towel. Mom took my shirt. It was my favorite T-shirt, one with a drawing of a lighthouse and a ship at night, called "Night Beacon". It was probably ruined, but she said she would soak it in cold water anyway.

I held my Andrew as Pop tended to the blood pockets that had formed at Andrew's hand. There was one on my neck, on my upper left chest, in the center of my chest, and below my ribs where Andrew had poked me with his elbow. There was one on my cheek, below my right eye. It was purple and black, and it stung with fiery pain. Battle wounds, eventually turning into battle scars. I would probably have them for some time. Andrew couldn't see them but some day I would show him, let him feel them. I was more afraid of losing my Andrew to his mind than I was of him hurting me with his fist.

I let Andrew go long enough for Pop to wrap gauze and cloth bandages around my upper chest. I took Andrew into my arms again and wished so hard for him to sleep through this, for him to dream of me or Joe, and to know that he was not alone tonight against an unspeakable enemy that choked him off from me. I held on to him and touched his sweet face, kissed his cheek, whispered `I love you my Andrew' into his ear so that he would hear and understand. If I let him go for an instant he would not know that I was here. I held on, even past Mom and Dad finally going to bed. Pop offered to take Andrew upstairs to his bed. I said no, so that we would not wake him.

November 24th - Wednesday

The night was cold and deep. I felt totally alone, even though I was in a house I knew, Mom and Pop not all that far away, and Andrew in my arms. When I closed my eyes my Anxiety Monster moved in the shadows, creeping all the closer to me, ready to come and chomp at my brain and make me let go of Andrew. I made up my mind it was going to take something bigger even than my Anxiety Monster to make me let go.

I smelled my friend's hair and put my face against his neck. I kissed him ever so gently. I moved so I could see the side of his face. He was sleeping as if nothing was wrong. I touched his chest and held him close to me as I listened to the clock tick away the minutes and hours. Sunrise was six hours away. I felt each minute and I almost knew what time it was without looking at my watch. My body ached. My heart was crying for my Andrew. I hadn't reached him yet. I tried hard not to doubt that I could. Did he feel me at all? Did he know anything about who he was? What was happening inside his mind? I didn't know any of the answers.

By 2:00 a.m. the sofa was getting to me, so I wanted to take Andrew up to his room. He didn't wake when I lifted him off the sofa. I held him for a moment, staring at his face. It was as innocent and sweet as ever. He looked like a young boy instead of the young man that he was. I kissed his lips and then I took him upstairs. I lay him gently on his bed and once again lay behind him, as if I was shielding him from the monster that lurked in the shadows.

I was still awake when Andrew began to stir. I was thoroughly exhausted. It was dawn, the light just barely shining through the window in Andrew's room. I touched Andrew's face gently and told him yet again that I loved him and that I wouldn't let go because he was too important to me.


"Yes love."

"What time is it?"

"It's 5:30 a.m., my love. I need some sleep, okay?"

"Okay bud. I love you."

I fell asleep right away, battle weary, but knowing my buddy was now safe. Mom came in and checked on us when she got up before 6:00. Andrew wanted to go downstairs. Mom asked if he remembered anything. He said no and wanted to know what happened.

Andrew had become supremely sad, and I know that Mom told him all the details. He wrote an E-mail message, with Mom's help, to apologize to our friends for hurting me. Mom had told him it wasn't necessary but he insisted. He wouldn't take no for an answer.

I had slept for four hours. I came downstairs, had a glass of milk, and sat beside Andrew. He sat on the floor in the family room with me, feeling my stomach and chest, shoulder and face. He felt what he had done as Pop put new bandages on me. He couldn't see the wounds but he could feel the difference between healthy skin and where blood had pooled beneath the surface elsewhere. He lowered his head. I told him it wasn't his fault. He just shook his head. He wanted to tell me he was sorry, but he thought it wouldn't be enough.

"Andrew? Please don't."

"It's not right what I did."

I had no answer for that, so I held him tight. We slept awhile with his head on my chest. Later in the afternoon, he wanted my help in writing another mail.

I drove us to the city so we could have our second chemo of the week. The war raged on. I hoped all the more that the chemo would kill off the beast that fucked Andrew's brain. It might not be the last time it happened, but we could always hope. I told Andrew that he could beat me to a bloody pulp but that I would not let him go. He held my hand as I drove. He put it to his lips and I felt a tear fall onto it. I pulled off the road for a few minutes. I held my buddy close to me, this time with his consent, and kissed him long and deeply. My own tears fell to his face. He knew I was crying, that I was hurt terribly. But he also knew that he would not be alone.

Some of our friends said that it might be better if I just let Andrew alone when he had the memory lapse. Our friends were more sensible than I was. My fears kept me from letting me hear them. I was more afraid of Andrew slipping away inside himself forever than I was of blood on my T-shirt. I held him because I loved him. Period.

November 28th - Sunday

Out of the darkness suddenly came two headlights . . .

. . . and brutally into the darkness we went . . .

I closed my eyes but I still saw it in my mind. The truck hit us. It came out of the darkness and then hit us again. It came out of the darkness and then hit us again. How fast? 60 miles an hour? 70? And again and again and again until I felt like I could scream, the imagery looping in my mind, the scream coming from deep within my throat. But I found no voice. My ears did not hear the scream even though my throat felt it. I felt only cold as the air rushed in through my broken window and the snow fell on my face, in a world upside-down.

It came out of the darkness and hit us again ... and then pushed us over the embankment.

It came out of the darkness and hit us again ... and then pushed us over the embankment into empty cold air.

It came out of the darkness and hit us again ... and then pushed us over the embankment into empty cold air as we hit the earth and flipped end over end.

My throat felt the screams that my ears could not hear and my face felt the burning of tears.

It came out of the darkness and hit us again ... and then pushed us over the embankment into empty cold air as we hit the earth and flipped end over end and then we slid.

It came out of the darkness and hit us again ... and then pushed us over the embankment into empty cold air as we hit the earth and flipped end over end and then we slid until we rolled side over side into the darkness below.

It came out of the darkness and hit us again ... and then pushed us over the embankment into empty cold air as we hit the earth and flipped end over end and then we slid until we rolled side over side into the darkness below and came to rest against the trees, holding us and protecting us from falling further into Hell.

It came out of the darkness and hit us again ... and then pushed us over the embankment into empty cold air as we hit the earth and flipped end over end and then we slid until we rolled side over side into the darkness below and came to rest against the trees, holding us and protecting us from falling further into Hell and I saw the life drain out of the body of the woman I loved for all my life.

It came out of the darkness and hit us again ... and then pushed us over the embankment into empty cold air as we hit the earth and flipped end over end and then we slid until we rolled side over side into the darkness below and came to rest against the trees, holding us and protecting us from falling further into Hell and I saw the life drain out of the body of the woman I loved for all my life and only then did I feel fire in my body from broken bones and torn tissue, and tasted blood in my throat. And then I thought I would die too.

When I woke, in an unknown day, in an unknown place, with nobody near me that I knew, I knew that I was not in Heaven because my body screamed to me of dreadful pain and sorrow for the greatest loss I would ever know.

The holiday had taken its own toll on my mind. The night fully enveloped us when I started screaming. Saturday had been the anniversary of my Kate's death. It had been months since I last had the nightmare but time did not lessen the intensity of it.

I did not wake up until the nightmare had run its course. Andrew knew that I would not respond until the demon vision released me. Inside the nightmare it felt like hours. Andrew told me that it was eight to nine minutes of watching my Anxiety Monster suck away my soul as I tossed and turned and screamed so hard that surely my throat would swell from the pain.

He held me with his one good arm and Mom held me on the other side. I squirmed in their arms while the demon of guilt hounded me, not wanting to give me up yet to the real world. It left me with gut-wrenching pain and fear so deep that a thousand showers could not wash it away from me. I saw my Kate die, taking my unborn baby and half of my life too. I wished for death too because I could not live alone after knowing what happened tonight. It was cruel for any deity with any compassion to make me survive and to live alone for the rest of my life with all the knowledge of a man who had killed two and a half people at 60 or 70 ungodly terrifying miles per hour.

I sat bolt upright near the end of the nightmare cycle, surprising them both with my quickness. Sweat poured off my face. I looked all around quickly trying to focus on something that was familiar, watching the fading scene of the interior of my car turn to textured wallpaper and a lamp on the dresser as I felt the hands of two people hold me firmly where I was so that I would not run and do myself any further harm.

Andrew knew to hold me tight until he could wake me fully, and to hold me further until I knew where I was and that I was safe. Mom and Pop were in our bedroom, trying to bring me out of the too real nightmare. Mom tried to wipe them away as quickly as they came.

My muscles ached from the thrashing. My throat was raw from screaming. I felt disconnected for long moments after. Andrew kissed my cheek and talked to me until he knew I understood him. This is the nightmare that brought Joe to me in the middle of the night when I would call him and tell him I didn't want to be alone because I was too scared to go to sleep again. This is the nightmare that made Andrew sit with me through the darkest hours until the sun rose, holding my head as I cried on his chest. This is the nightmare that made me feel like half a man again.

Mom and Pop talked to me. At first I understood only half of what they said. I tried to listen. The Anxiety Monster retreated back into his dark corner, driven back by the love and caring of three people who I mattered to. Slowly I heard and understood it as they repeated things to me. I stared at my Andrew and held his face. He told me that it would be all right. Mom and Pop left us, the light still on to keep the forbidding darkness away, the door open so I could see down the long hallway and feel the warmth of the house, chasing away the coldness of the nightmarish visions.

My Andrew `looked' at me. He found my lips and kissed me. He pushed me gently onto my back. He put his hand on my chest and felt it beat a million miles a minute.

"You lost your Kate, my love, but you found me. And I found you. I love you. Please don't be scared any more."

I started to talk but my voice caught. My throat was too strained for me to talk.

"Don't. Just nod your head if what I said is okay, or ..."

I put his hand to my cheek and nodded slowly. I knew he meant it. I knew he loved me. He lay and held me close, running his thumb across my cheek as the last of the tears rolled from my eyes.

I did not sleep the rest of the night, did not dare to. I let my Andrew hold me close and I listened to him as he finally, after many hours, felt silent, his head on my chest against my heart. I loved him because I had lost something. And I loved him because I gained something else.

To be continued ...