HOW WILL I GO ON ?
The following fictional story deals with sex among males. If you are offended by such material, are too young, or reside in an area where it is not allowed, depart.
Though not observed in this story, care enough about yourself and humankind to practice safe sex.
It's the friends you can call up at 4 a.m. that matter.
The author retains all rights. No reproductions or links to other sites are allowed without the author's consent.
Once again, thanks to my big bro Tim, for proofing and editing, a task he performs with amazing speed.
Thank you to Dad for your suggestion; hopefully, it is well incorporated.
AND... Thanks to everyone that's read and emailed about the story. I've gotten some wonderful emails that have truly made me feel great about the story.
Ash - firstname.lastname@example.org
"Twenty minutes or so, Ash!"
After receiving Hunters phone call about Shaun's failed suicide attempt and his asking to see me, Patrick had turned the car around and was proceeding at something over the posted speed limit toward the hospital, someplace downtown.
I'd been in my, seemingly ever present, state of semi consciousness! I found myself wondering just how much of life I was missing while spaced out.
"Twenty minutes or so, guy! Where were you?"
"I seem to find myself spacing our more often lately. I was just wondering about the "what" of this."
"I figure I know the "why" of Shaun attempting suicide. After all he's gay, a fag, queer! I'm assuming that's the why." What I don't know, and can't get a grasp on is what." What pushed him over the edge, what happened to trigger this?"
Silence reigned again for a few minutes, both of us in our own thoughts. Patrick, I'm sure, thinking more about skillfully maneuvering us through the late day traffic than about Shaun, me definitely wondering and worrying about Shaun, a nice kid that had managed to breech the defenses that I had built since Jacob's death.
"Damn!" Patrick swore! "Street closing, we're going to have to circle around a few blocks. Not too much out of the way, but it's going to take more time."
"Just relax and we'll get there dude! He's not going anywhere!"
After what seemed like an endless detour we finally pulled into the parking garage across from the hospital entrance. Finding a spot on the fourth level, Patrick skillfully maneuvered into the tiny space. As I got out I realized that I was looking out at the hospital entrance. Flags flying, nicely landscaped, benches, people milling about, memories came flooding back and I could feel my heart pounding, my vision going out of focus. Closing my eyes and gripping the edge of the wall, I forced my feelings of dread back, trying to concentrate on the kid inside and how I could help him.
"Where can I find Jacob Williams" I asked at the ER desk. I had gotten a call from Jacob's parents that he'd been in an accident. Even though I know he had me listed in his wallet as the person to contact in an emergency his parents had been listed too and the hospital had managed to get ahold of them. They had gotten me on my cell. Rushing to the hospital I had made a mental note to update the card in his wallet with my cell number, and the card in mine with his.
"His parents are in the waiting room, you can join them there. It's down the hall, fourth door on the right."
Tess and Michael stood to greet me when I walked into the room. I could tell immediately that more was wrong than I had been led to believe on the phone.
"What is it, Tess, what's wrong? Where is Jacob?"
Tess grabbed me into a hug and Michael moved in close, wrapping one of his large hands around the back of my neck.
"Ash, it's not good! The accident was evidently pretty nasty; Jake was in bad shape when they brought him in. We're waiting for the attending doctor; he came in before, long enough to tell us they were working on Jake. We haven't heard anything else."
I sank in to Tess's embrace, welcoming her comfort. She and Michael had been terribly upset when Jacob had come out to them. It hadn't taken their love for their son long to override their apprehension at him being in a gay relationship. They had joined a local PFLAG group and were amazingly quick to learn and accept that things were the way they were. After some initial coolness at Jacob and I being together, I had found them to be wonderful, open and loving people.
Time passed, people came and went. Tess, Michael and I talked about Jacob, his childhood, school years, our time together. We managed to laugh a bit, and cry a bit as the time slipped slowly by.
"Mr. and Mrs. Williams?"
We turned to face the doctor as if we were one entity.
"Doctor, this is Ash Bradley, Jacob's life partner. We want him included in any discussion of our son's condition."
"Why don't you sit down? This is a part of this job that never gets any easier. I'm very sorry to have to tell you this, Jacob's life is being sustained by life support at this time. There is no brain activity evident on the EEG. At this point we need to know if your son had a living will leaving instructions about what to do if something like this occurred."
Through whatever fog I was in I heard Tess explain to the Doctor that I was Jacob's partner, and that I would know what Jacob wanted. Jacob and I had actually had documents drawn up assigning rights in this type of situation to each other the type of document that lawyers recommend, and you hope to never have to see again after you sign it. Our lawyer had then told us the legality of our documents could depend on the whim of whoever we were dealing with.
Drawing a ragged breath I asked the Doctor if they had Jacob's wallet.
"In the back of his wallet you'll find what you're looking for Doctor. We had documents drawn up."
After retrieving the paperwork from Jacob's wallet and reviewing it the doctor, with a quizzical look, informed us that he would have to consult the hospital legal department about my having input into any decisions concerning Jacob.
"Doctor," Michael said rising to his full six foot five, his eyes boring holes into the doctor. "I know that document, and I know this state's laws, and I know that Mrs. Williams and I will defer to Ash's wishes in this, so let's dispense with the crap and talk about what really needs to be done."
"There is no brain activity; we need to know if it was his wish that no extraordinary means be used to maintain his life."
Sinking back into chair, tears running down my face, I flatly and unemotionally stated, "Doctor, it was his wish that under these circumstances his life not be maintained by machines."
"What do we have to do?" I sobbed.
"I'll get the paperwork that needs to be done. In the meantime if you wish you can see him."
I looked at Tess and Michael, reached for their hands and nodded, acknowledging that we would like to see Jacob.
As we walked down the hall to the ER bay where Jacob lay, I felt as if things were moving in slow motion. Glimpsing him on the bed as we moved across the room I was struck by the calm, almost peaceful look of him laying there. Approaching the bed, grasping his cool, limp hand, the quiet sucking sound of the respirator in the background, I realized it was true; it really was my Jacob there in the bed. Tess and Michael moved on either side of me, both holding me with one arm and reaching for Jacob's hand with the other. We stood there for countless minutes before the soft clearing of a throat brought us back to the present.
"If I could get you to sign these forms we can take care of things." The doctor said, handing the forms to me.
As I signed the papers I wondered just what gave me the right to do what I was doing. Barely able to speak the words I informed the doctor that Jacob had wished to be an organ donor. The comforting arms of Tess and Michael gave me the strength to straighten myself up and face the doctor. "Please get me whatever forms are necessary to do that."
The doctor disappeared again but was soon back with more forms to sign. With that all taken care of all that was left was actually turning things off.
"Folks, we don't recommend that you stay while we do this. It is up to you, of course, but it's very difficult."
"We'll stay!" came from all our mouths as one statement
In the end I knelt beside the bed with Jacob's hand pressed to my lips as the machines were shut down. Jacob's parents on either side of me one hand on me and one on Jacob.
His work complete the doctor pulled the curtain around the bed, leaving us alone for our final goodbyes.
This had been the longest four hours of my life.
As the casket was lowered into the ground two days later I felt as if my own life was being lowered right along with it.
The days following Jacob's death were also rife with frustration. I found that no matter what documents Jacob and I had had drawn up most people didn't want to recognize their legality. From the hospital paperwork to the funeral home Michael fought for my right to make the final choices. In the end, to facilitate things, Jacob's parents let me make the decisions and they signed the paperwork. I was alternately furious and resigned, all emotions kept in check by the loving guidance of Tess, Michael and my parents, who had arrived about an hour after Jacob's death. I found from the police that since I wasn't an "involved party" I couldn't get information about the accident until all the reports were filed and became public record. Michael volunteered to press the police for information but I shrugged it off. Did I really want to know? The insurance company didn't want to deal with me either, I finally turned that matter over to my business partner Connie, a task that she took up with great enthusiasm.
Nothing had prepared me for the day following the funeral. Tess and Michael left about noon that day, my parents shortly after. I returned to the house after seeing my folks off, and closed the front door behind me, the silence enveloping me. Leaning against the door the tears started to come. I walked as far as Jacob's lovingly restored staircase before collapsing, sobbing. Minutes, maybe hours later, I managed to drag myself to our bed, snuggled, fully clothed, into Jacob's pillow and cried myself to sleep.
Walking into the hospital I imagined I could feel my stomach turning over and over. The smells, colors, fixtures, the soft squeak of rubber soled shoes, everything reminded me of my last hospital visit, the visit where life as I knew it ended. Patrick noted my slowing gait and took my arm, turning me to face him, and drew me into a hug. "Are you all right?"
"I'll be OK." I murmured into his shoulder. "This is just a bit tough for me. It brings back memories!"
"Where can we find Shaun Johnston" Patrick asked the older lady behind the visitor desk.
With the lack of speed that boredom brings she finally handed us stick on visitor badges and directed us to the elevators with a monotone "Room 421."
Exiting the elevator on the fourth floor we checked the direction signs and proceeded to the left in search of Shaun. As Patrick was about to open the door I bolted to the waiting area diagonally across the hall. Patrick watched me go, nodding to me to ask silently if he should go in himself. I gave a slight smile and nodded, indicating that he should proceed without me.
Several minutes later Patrick and Hunter emerged from the room and came over to me. As I stood to meet them I noted just how tired and haggard Hunter looked. My understanding of his emotional state brought tears to my eyes, and I grabbed him into a hug.
"How's he doing?" I asked, stepping back from Hunter and looking at him.
"He's out of the woods. All we can do right now is wait for the drugs to work their way out of his system. He was awake for a bit before but has basically lapsed into a deep sleep right now. The doctors think it will be several hours before he wakes up."
"Well, I suppose that's good news. I'm sorry that I just couldn't face seeing him right yet. Being in the hospital just brought back all sorts of memories. Can you tell us anything about what happened?"
"I'm not sure just what caused him to do this. We had a good week! We didn't really know each other and he'd never been out here so we spent it doing tourist things, the Golden Gate, Alcatraz, Fisherman's Wharf, the ocean. He's a great kid! Just the other day we did talk about you. Started out talking about having you guys over for dinner, and since we were talking about you I told him what you had told me to, that you were gay and had lost your partner six months ago in the auto accident. That really seemed to affect him, he seems to like you and hearing about your partner, I think, brought home that gay people really do live and love. He was really quiet and subdued for quite a while after we talked. I'm just so glad I happened to stop by the house today. It was just dumb luck; I was supposed to be out all day but had forgotten something. I found him on the couch in the living room with the pill bottle beside him. You know, I called my brother before you got here. The fucker just told me to let him know what happens. Like his own son didn't mean anything to him."
I drew Hunter close and wiped the tears from his cheeks. "He's going to be OK, Hunter, and we're going to help him."
It was at this moment that Patrick's stomach brought things back to reality with a huge rumble. Hunter wiped his eyes and laughed.
"Why don't we get something to eat? I'll bet you haven't had anything in a while have you?" I asked.
Hunter nodded in the affirmative.
After letting the nurse know we were going to be gone for a bit we went in search of the hospital cafeteria.
A few sandwiches, some chips and bottled water later we all felt better when we returned to Shaun's room. Hunter took my hand and looked at me, questioning with his eyes whether I wanted to go into the room. Heart pounding in my chest I simply nodded and allowed him to lead me through the door. I couldn't contain the tears that started down my cheeks as I walked over to Shaun's bed. He was pale, with oxygen tubes in his nose and an IV in his forearm, but otherwise seemed to be sleeping. He looked very much like Jacob had when I had seen him after the accident. Wiping tears from my cheeks I took Shaun's hand in mine, its temperature and lack of response reminding me of Jacob. I settled heavily into the chair beside the bed, Patrick and Hunter taking the other chairs in the room.
For two hours we sat there quietly chatting. Hunter related his own coming out, his parents' and brother's grudging acceptance. How his brother had married a fundamentalist Christian and slowly moved from his, if not acceptance, tolerance of Hunter's lifestyle, to outright disapproval. Hunter had moved to California about twelve years ago when Shaun was six, partly to help deal with the fact that his brother forbade him from seeing his nephew. He was surprised, delighted and terrified when, after twelve years, he'd gotten a message on his machine from his brother. Finally getting up the courage to return the call had led to Shaun's coming to live with him, something he considered good for both of them.
Patrick and I related our backgrounds a bit. I filled Hunter in a bit more on Jacob and my relationship with him and some sketchy details of the accident and the following months.
Hunter finally said he needed to piss and stretch, so he and Patrick left the room to take care of business. They hadn't been gone more that ten minutes when I felt Shaun's hand flex and slightly grip mine. I hadn't even realized that I was still holding onto him. I squeezed back, standing so I could look at him and called his name. It seemed to register, his head moved a bit and I could see movement behind his eyelids. I was brushing some hair back off his forehead when his eyes flickered open, took a moment to focus and then showed what I could only describe as fear. Shaun turned away from me and pulled his hand from mine.
"Shaun, Shaun, dude, it's alright, your safe. Patrick and I are here with Hunter. We're all here to help you!"
He muttered something that I couldn't make out and buried his face into the pillow.
"Come on buddy, it's not that bad. We're all happy that you failed; glad to have a chance to help you work things out."
"NO, NO...YOU can't help me!!" was the anguished cry that came from him, clearly understandable now.
"Of course we can, things are never as bad as you think, especially when you're a teenager. Take it from someone with more experience, anything can be dealt with."
Turning back to face me, tears staining his face, he stated flatly and emphatically "No it can't, YOU can't possibly help me, couldn't possibly forgive me."
"Shaun, if you think I can't help or you don't want me to help then that's fine, so be it. As for forgiving you, you have nothing to be forgiven for."
Through his sobs I heard his next statement with disbelieving ears.
"Ash, I'm so ashamed, so sorry I didn't manage to kill myself. I caused the accident that killed your partner!"
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Ash - email@example.com
Finally...let me plug some friend's stories here. These guys have all provided me
encouragement and guidance, and been wonderful friends,
so I'm going to point their stories out to you. Click on the links for some great reading.