Jake -- Part 4
Friday morning at dawn -- the spare bedroom; Jeff, Jake and I woke up holding on to each other, me to Jake, Jake to Jeff, Jeff holding Jake's arms. Like I said before, Jake likes Jeff, and Jeff likes Jake. Holding Jake meant I actually spent a good six hours sleeping too, instead of my usual none to four hours. All my fears about him had gone, except for one. That last one would be over this morning.
Note to Aaron's brain: spare bedroom needs a bigger bed and a makeover.
Good thing we were all skinny ass guys. Being underweight finally had an advantage for me. At least I'd always have a bed to sleep in with someone else. On second thought: note to self: twin bed makes for great cuddling, even if three is a crowd.
I kissed Jake on his cheek as he began to stir and awaken.
"Did you sleep?" I asked Jake.
"Yeah, I did. No fears for a change; no more wondering what would happen overnight."
I'm going to write a bill and submit it to Congress. It's mandatory that people sleep at least in pairs, to protect each other. Nobody is to sleep alone ever again. Nobody dies alone and lonely in the night, ever again. Pick somebody you trust; male or female -- minimum rules; only that you can't sleep alone, and that you have to hold each other, and mean it. If a police officer finds a person alone on the streets at night, he or she has to hold on to them. Like he or she means it.
I know, I know; dream on. Fine! I will. At least in my world people would be safe at night. I feel safe, and I know I won't die alone either, whether or not Jeff or Matt gets me to Doc in time.
I had a planned day off from work today. I had worked it out with my manager, just between us. I didn't have to take a vacation day, or a day without pay. I was `working from home'. I would check E-mail from home by noon and then again around 3:00. That was my only obligation.
I had other things to do as well. It was going to be a busy day. I signed on to work, found nothing critical, and got into bed with my Joe.
This was the week before Thanksgiving week. I wondered what to do about Jake. He wasn't going home. We were going to take care of his past today.
I called his parent's house. I can't call it `his home' because it wasn't. His parents did not have a home; it was a big lousy house. My apartment, one-third the size even at 1000 square feet, was now `home'. Home is where people loved each other. A house is where people beat the crap out of their own son, only because he was gay.
I told Jake what I wanted to do first. He had agreed to it. So I called his parents, told them where Jake was, who I was, and said I had something to bring by. They reluctantly agreed. I had left them very little choice.
An hour later, Jeff and I pulled into the driveway. Both of us got out. His parents already knew that I was a friend that Jake had met at the hospital. They did not know why I was using a crutch and had my shoulder tied to my chest. They never would either. They came out of the house together. Jeff and I stood at the end of the path, making them meet us at the foot of it.
Jake's father carried a chip as big as the outdoors on his shoulder. It would be gone in a moment.
I handed Jake's father (not `dad', father) a sealed envelope. His mother, no longer `mom' but relegated to merely mother, stood and looked at me. I glared at them. They knew I was not happy. The father took the envelope and opened it. His eyes widened. Inside were:
* 3 photographs of Jake's battered face, one of them a close up;
* 2 photographs of Jake's arm, one before a cast, all bloody and black, and one after, and an x-ray of a twice broken bone, marked with Jake's name and social security number;
* 2 photographs of two large bruises on Jake's chest and neck from different angles;
* A restraining order against both Jake's father and his mother, signed at 9:00 this morning by a district court judge, an hour ago.
Regarding the x-ray, Jake told me his father had taken his arm and snapped it over his knee, as someone would do with tree branches or a stick. Then he did it again. Two breaks. I try not to hear Jake's scream, to not feel how that would have been torture. I got dizzy the first time I looked at it. Anger stirred in me even more. It was the final straw to this whole deal.
There was a police car sitting across the street, window rolled down, and a policeman looking our way. Jake was in the passenger seat.
"I know who did this, and I know why. It will never happen again. Jake is leaving this house."
I turned to the policeman, who was a friend for the past four years. He and Jake got out and walked to where we stood, each carrying a box.
"You are to stand here. Jake is going to pick up what he wants from his room. He's not going to take anything from any other room. If he needs anything beyond what's here, I am going to buy it for him. You can check the boxes when they return outside. Clear?"
Nobody said anything. I nodded to Jake to go ahead. If looks could kill, his father would be drilling death rays into my skull. He didn't look like a man who would beat this son, but then again, what does a child abuser look like? His mother was a kind looking woman. I thought to myself `get the hell out of this house lady, before he hurts you too'.
Jake and my policeman friend came out of the house within 10 minutes. Jake had packed his clothes in a suitcase. He also put what he wanted in the two boxes. The police officer carried out the two boxes and Jake's PC. I told Jake to leave the monitor, mouse and keyboard if they wouldn't fit in the boxes. I would buy him new equipment.
"This ends, today. The police sergeant here has full details. His badge number is there in the envelope. The district court judge also has full details, along with all original copies of the contents of the envelope, your names, home address, work addresses, and home and work phone numbers.
"As far as you're concerned, your son has left you for a better life. For now, that's going to be with me. I'm a safe haven for him. My friend here, or his wife, or the officer, will make sure Jake continues his chemotherapy. Jake will make a life of his own when he's ready. Are there any questions?"
There were no questions. Just death rays to my skull, and a mother who looked too stunned to speak.
Neighbors looked out their windows. Jake and the officer left. Jeff and I got back in his truck.
Jeff pulled his truck over when we got outside of the neighborhood. He just stared at me, wide-eyed.
"Whaat?! Don't give me that look. I wasn't going to kill him, much. I'm glad you were standing behind me though."
"You are one very serious and scary dude. If that were me, I would have gotten down on my knees and waited for you to lop off my head. I know you, and I love you dearly. Aaron, I will never get on your bad side."
"I have no bad side."
"Jake's parents think you are evil incarnate."
"That's my good side. Don't get them confused."
"Ohhh, sorry. I am your loving and loyal friend for life. Honest."
Jeff checked traffic and pulled back onto the street.
"Poor buddy Jake. He was shaking. Did you see?"
"I saw. He's getting a hell of a hug when we get home. I hope that is the worst thing he'll ever have to do the rest of his life."
When we got home, Daniel was there from earlier this morning. He knew what we were doing. He couldn't go along because Jake's father would have caused Daniel's family a lot of trouble.
My officer friend told me I had done young Jake a favor. He helped Jake put the boxes and PC in the spare bedroom. I thanked him for helping; it was above and beyond his duty. He left, telling me to call him in a week. I would do so.
Jake came over and stood in front of me. His eyes were so beautiful; beautiful enough that they made me sad. He looked at me for a long moment. He put his fingertips lightly on my chest and looked at my face, all around, then into my eyes. He gave me the half-smile, thoughtful and `Jake-like'.
"Do you know what I'm doing, right now I mean?"
I didn't get what he meant. I shook my head.
"Touching an angel."
"No," I said in a loud whisper because it caught in my throat. What he said was so sincere. "No, don't put me up there. I'm just like you."
"Not even, wise guy. You may not be a god with this cancer thing, but you reached into a deep dark well, and you pulled me out."
There's an angel here, all right, but it's not me. He took my hand and held it. I looked down at his hand. I closed mine tighter around his. He let it go after waiting a minute. I had bowed my head but he kept watching me. He put his finger under my chin and lifted it up so I would look at him. He searched my face again, and then he hugged me close. I hugged him back. He kissed me on my neck. His eyes glistened, but no tears fell.
"I will never forget this, my friend. No one could possibly top what you have done for me today. I hope my father shit his pants. I'm not scared any more. You told me you knew what you were doing. Aaron, I love you so much. I can't ever repay you. Where would I ever start?"
Daniel moved closer to Jake. He put his arm around Jake's back.
"You should have seen him, Daniel. He stood up to my father. Aaron's got balls man! I was so shocked. Aaron's got serious honkin' balls of steel!"
Daniel came over to me, hugged me tightly, and told Jake that they both owed me. They would pay me back some way. I told them both that I would always be here, for both of them, and I wouldn't take any payment.
"I took Jake away from a heartless set of parents. That's all. Anyone who knows you, loves you, could have done that."
"But not just anyone did. You did. Today, and for a while to come, you are my hero."
Jake's own life, a good helpful life, was all I wanted to see. I already had my wish because Jake would never be beaten again. If anyone ever touched Jake again, his father was going to jail. My first and only assumption was that Jake's father hired out someone. As long as Jake stayed `healthy', no other action would be taken against his parents.
"I made a promise, love."
"You don't break promises, do you? No matter how hard they are."
Jake looked over at Joe, then back at me. Joe understood what this was about. I had told him early this morning so he'd understand why Jake would be living here too, for however long he wanted to. I went over to Joe. He was in his wheelchair, tilted back like he could do a wheelie. He lowered the wheels to the floor. I took his hand in mine. I kissed it and then put it up to my heart, holding it there. He liked that. He knew what it meant. It was my way of telling him, without saying it, that I love him. I had to teach him because sometimes his hearing goes away for a few hours. It's a leftover result of his coma and damage from the accident. If he can't hear me, I want him to know anyway.
I tell Joe every day I love him, in words, and by holding him close. We watch TV from the sofa, me behind him. He would never have to wonder, never have to assume, or ever worry. I held him at night; hand on his heart, so he would feel me. Andrew had started that when Joe was still in the hospital, before the coma released him. I continued it, and showed him what it meant, after the coma.
"No, love, I don't," I said back to Jake.
Jake settled into his room. We slipped quietly into the weekend. Sunday began Thanksgiving week. Jake and Daniel talked about having Thanksgiving at Daniel's parents. Jake said he was still uncomfortable with that. Daniel's parents knew he was gay, and knew about Jake. For some really strange reason (NOT!) they accepted it and cared for their son. Daniel had finally talked Jake into it, even going as far as calling his mom with Jake on the other line to make it an official offer. That was settled, but what to do with a 4-day weekend. Jake thought it was too much time on his hands. I had a thought, so I made a phone call. I got the answer I wanted, without having to ask. The problem was a non-problem.
I wanted to take Jake and Daniel to meet Andrew's folks. I took my wallet out of my back pocket. Jeff was standing beside me. I showed the photo to him, as a refresher. He looked sad. Andrew had been very fond of Jeff because Jeff too had lost a brother when he was younger, like Andrew had. They had found common ground to share those feelings. I couldn't share, because I hadn't lost anyone at all until Kathryn. Jeff took Andrew to visit where his brother was. Andrew, months later, took Jeff to where his brother was. The bond between the two was deep.
I showed Andrew's photo to Daniel.
"Oh my." He looked at Jake, back to the photo, and back at Jake. "Oh my goodness."
"What? Lemme see," said Jake, wanting the photo.
"Aaron?! This is Andrew?" He stared at the picture.
"Yeah; now do you know why I brought you into my life? I had to."
"The eyes are mine. God Aaron, I must be a walking nightmare to you."
I pulled him to me. I hugged him close. He hugged me back, after a moment of indecision.
"No, love. You're a walking memory."
"No." I put my fingers to his lips. "No. You're just fine, love. Don't apologize for something you can't control. I love you for you, and for the little part of you that reminds me of Andrew. I had no choice but to talk to you two months ago. I thought I saw a ghost. You can act sooo much like him. I love that you let me hold you, and will hold me back. That's to your credit, not anyone else's. "
I let Jake go on one side. I turned to pull Daniel in. He let me, and he hugged me too. We three stood there, heads touching, arms around each other, being quiet for a moment. I felt good about Daniel. I usually trust first instincts, and mine told me that Daniel was good for Jake. All of Jakes school friends abandoned him. Daniel, a year older than Jake, just drew him in even more. As Andrew did to me, Daniel almost made Jake love him.
This wasn't going to be just about Jake. They loved each other, so I wanted to be fair to both. I wanted to teach them what I knew about love, so they'd stand a chance at more than just having a year together. Sometimes friends get in over their heads when they try to love too quickly. Maybe they knew what they were doing, but I wanted to help Jake have a good life. Andrew had Joe for 8 years. I had Kathryn for 24 years, and Andrew for only one. Jake and Daniel should love fiercely, especially since young Jake's father physically abused him because of what he wanted to have.
I could get angry all over again about it. I think what we did this morning is enough revenge. At least I can keep my promise to Jake.
Someone is bound to ask me how having a year of Andrew in my life makes me know what Jake and Daniel need. I do know. I don't want anyone to question me about what I know about love.
How I loved Kathryn and how I loved Andrew was no different, excluding biology. Andrew taught me things I'll never forget about the physical thing.
However, it's not just physical. In fact, for Kathryn and me, and then for Andrew and me, physical was not the end-all be all of love. Making out was so cool, and it happened in many places. It was a bonus to loving each one, but if I never had it, I wouldn't care. Holding on to each other was even better. You talk to someone. It's two-way, all the time. It's not fair if one shuts down and says, "I don't want to talk about it." I see people do that. It sucks.
Kathryn and I never did. We never fought a single moment in our lives. Andrew and I fought constantly, because of cancer, but not each other. There were no bad words between us, no lying to each other, ever, under any circumstance. Say `I love you' and mean it, from your heart, not from your brain. Even better, say `I am in love with you', and make me feel ten thousand times more special.
[Note: I'm writing Part 4 starting March 24, 2002. I really should date these for Jake. Very early this morning, like after 1:30 a.m. I had a discussion via IM with a friend of three years. I asked, because I didn't know the answer, "How can I love Kathryn so much. And then love Andrew as much? I don't understand." His basic answer came down to "You're that kind of person who can; be happy for that". I am, ultimately. I don't regret that I loved Andrew so deeply.]
I went about doing things around the apartment. I spent a long while sitting on the floor with Joe, helping him with his exercises. Jake and Daniel were in the spare room. I had to upgrade my t-shirt to a sweatshirt. I hobbled toward my room, passing the spare bedroom. Jake and Daniel immediately separated, turned their backs on each other, and tried to act as if nothing was going on.
"I'm sorry guys. I didn't mean to kill the moment."
"Na, it was my fault. I'm sorry, Aaron. We should have closed the door at least." Daniel was embarrassed.
I came into the room and shook my head.
"Daniel, tell Jake how you feel about him. What do you like about him?"
Daniel looked at Jake. He smiled and looked directly into Jake's eyes.
"You are the only person I want. To lose you for any reason would hurt. I love you. If you want me to tell you every day, I will."
Jake didn't need any prompting from me.
"I will want to hear it, because I won't take it for granted. I love you too, Daniel. I have loved you even at the risk of my father's rage. It wouldn't be enough to make me stop. It wasn't enough. Nobody will take you away from me, unless you leave willingly. I don't know how long forever is, but I want you. You're the reason I live."
I looked at them both. I nodded. I turned to leave.
"Aaron? It really didn't bother you to see me kiss Daniel?"
"No. I kissed Andrew, for the same reason you two do. It was always personal and private, but it was good. It was one way to show Andrew that I loved him. Based on what you two just said, if you hold that close, never lie to each other, and always talk to each other, good or bad, then the kiss really means something. It has to be for being in love, not just because it's the right thing to do."
They both nodded.
"You're the best," said Jake.
"Feh," I said waving my hand. "If you want privacy, close the door. I'll respect it. This is your home now, Jake. No time limit, no conditions, nothing that you couldn't already handle. Daniel, you're welcome here. Come and go as you please. Let me cook for you guys. Kick back and put your feet on the coffee table. If your parents will let you spend some time with Jake, bring a duffle with a change of clothes. That bathroom is yours. I got one in my room. Let's sit down and talk about what you want, when you're both ready. Either Jeff or Matt is here for me overnight because Doc doesn't want me left alone. Joe is here. He's learning all over again, so maybe you'd like to help. No obligations though, okay guys?"
"Opened or closed," I said as I left, hand on the doorknob.
"Closed," they said in unison, nodding and smiling at each other.
"Oh really now?" I said as I gave them eyebrows. "Are you two going to behave?"
"No." Two heads shaking, two mischievous smiles, one holding the other, no embarrassment.
I laughed aloud. I closed the door. I leaned against it, smiled, knocked lightly, then said, my back to the door, "Guys?"
"We love you too, Aaron," again in unison.
There was giggling followed by silence. I was happy for Jake and for Daniel. Jake had said it best. "I have loved you even at the risk of my father's rage. It wouldn't be enough to make me stop. It wasn't enough." Jake knew what love was. He was already a year with Daniel, even through the beatings. God love them both.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
(1929-1968, American Black Leader, Nobel Prize Winner, 1964)
I get a daily quote in my E-mail. This one showed up today (still March 24) as I'm working on my journal. It fits. People would carry around darkness, or impose it on somebody. Sometimes it's ignorance. Sometimes it's their beliefs. I want Jake to know right and wrong; and Daniel, too. It's two, not one. Daniel is from a good home. His parents accept him. I want Jake to know my good home. I'm not like his parents.
People who will judge me for loving Andrew would think I'm being a bad influence on Jake. Jake is going to be gay whether I support him or not. I want Jake to be a good man and shed the label. Jake called himself a faggot, a queer, because that's what he's grown up with. Jake's only `wrong', in an ignorant person's eyes, is that he loves Daniel. I would rather Jake love another guy than be a serial killer or a thief or a stray kid on the streets, or worse. I could think of better role models for Jake than me. I could also think of far worse. His own father polluted his mind with thinking that he was a bad kid, so that's why he got leukemia. I can't even imagine Jake's horror when he believed that.
The guys didn't stay long in their room. My CD player held a collection of six Enya CDs. I don't think I bought one of them; I think they were all gifts from friends, probably the first couple from Joe. He was an avid Enya fan.
"Who's on the radio," asked Jake, not recognizing the music.
"CD player, actually. Enya."
"Heard of her, never heard her music. Nice. Calming."
Joe was lying on his stomach. I straddled his butt while I did a deep rubdown of his back muscles, one side, then the other. He had gotten fidgety sitting in his wheelchair. I learned from two good PT folks how to take the pressure off his spine and ease the soreness. The music was my rhythm, but this one-armed stuff was for the birds. Jeff couldn't help much. Jake couldn't help much -- this apartment had more one-armed bandits than a Las Vegas casino. When I got tired, I sat up.
"Sorry, Joe, I can't keep it up. My arm is getting tired.
"Can I?" asked Daniel. "I know how to do massages. It was part of my sports medicine courses.
"Sure Daniel, if it's okay with Joe."
"Okay for me, Aaron. Joey's back needs massage."
Daniel took my place and gave Joe a good strong deep backrub. He worked on his muscles from shoulder to waist. After he was done, about 25 minutes later, he asked me if I had a heating pad. I got one. He asked if he could give Joe moist heat, with a towel too. I got a large towel from the linen closet. Daniel expertly made a moist heat wrap. He put it on Joe's lower back, sat beside him, and monitored it for 15 minutes.
"How was that, Joe?"
"Good Daniel. Tomorrow too?"
"You bet. Massage and heat for 40 minutes. Okay, Aaron?"
"Thank you, Daniel. That would be nice."
Joe curled up on his side in the late afternoon sun. He'd been doing that since before he got out of the hospital. He looked like a cat, asleep and content, no pain. I lie beside him, arms wrapped around him, holding his head in my arm. Jeff decided to go home for a while since we were okay. Jake and Daniel went out for a while too, for fresh air. I napped with Joe. Finally, all seemed right with the world. Jake was safe. I felt great relief for that.
Near Christmas, Jake said he wanted to see his mother. I was antsy about the idea. The court order had said no.
"It said she couldn't see me. It didn't say I couldn't contact her."
"Jake. What if your father found out?"
His mother had been as much to blame for what Jake endured because she did not stop it. She could have called the police, or told a friend, or a neighbor -- anything to keep her son out of harm's way. She had not. I made it plain that I resented her.
"I know you do, Aaron. You're not wrong. I need to know she's okay. I don't know if she'd try to stand up to my father."
"Do you want to call?"
"No. If he answers, or if he listens in . . ."
"You could call her at work, but I need to ask my policeman friend first."
"Call him now?'
I did. I told him what Jake wanted. He too advised against it. Jake wanted to talk to him.
"I just want to know she's okay.
"I wouldn't call," he said. "It's not good if you show up at work either. I will call the judge to see what he says."
Jake thanked him and hung up.
"The judge will call back. Don't worry. But he may refuse your request."
"I need to talk to her, Aaron. Please. It's been three weeks. I can't push her out of my mind."
I held him while we waited for a phone call. It came within 30 minutes."
"You can contact your mother by written letter or E-mail. There is to be no personal contact and no phone calls at home or work."
Jake was not happy.
"Does she have her own E-mail, private?"
He shook his head, then thought again. "At work. But I don't remember it."
"Come on, let's give it a try. There are usually a few standard E-mail address types companies use. We'll try some. If the message bounces back as undeliverable, we'll try another.
I sat beside Jake at my PC.
The first message came back within a couple minutes. I showed him how to go into his `sent items' folder and copy the text of the first message. He pasted it into another, with a different form of E-mail address. The second try bounced back, as did the third. The fourth one did not.
"You wouldn't be a professional hacker, would you?"
"Nah, just a hack. So now we wait, bud. We'll know tomorrow, if she reads mail each day."
We checked again at 30 and 60 minutes, just to be sure. The message had not bounced back.
Jake went to classes. He watched for E-mail each day. He grew increasingly unhappy as each day passed with no word.
"She doesn't want me."
"Maybe she's afraid."
He thought about it.
Days passed. He went to classes. Daniel came to stay with him a couple times each week. We went to chemo together. Jeff or Matt took care of Jake after chemo the same way they took care of me.
"You can. If it's meant to be . . ."
Four days after Christmas --
Jake sat at my PC, tears in his eyes.
"She's okay. She's left my father and went to my aunt's house up north."
I left him alone while he wrote her back. I was holding Joe on the sofa when he came out a little while later. He sat down on the floor in front of us. Joe touched Jake's cheek.
"We will talk to the judge again," I told him.