This is the final Part IV of a four part story. (See Part I for Index). It is a story about relationships between and among teenagers. This includes intimate relationships between young males. If you don't approve or are offended, then how come you're reading this? Find a different story. Or perhaps read on; you may be persuaded to think differently.
If, for some legal reason, you are not allowed to read this in your area of the world because of illogical laws, again I will not condone (publicly) anyone breaking the law, so either move or read sentence six. I definitely don't want the thought police after either of our butts.
Please, this story is sort of my property, so if you ever want to quote some of it, please e-mail me and also give proper attribution.
Note that an author welcomes any feedback. Constructive criticism is appreciated, and all e-mails will be answered.
Chapter 90b -- "Explosions" (of a More Personal Kind)
During the month after Rocco tried to invite disaster in Father Irons' class was a time of notable changes in my life whose full impact I didn't understand until much later. And although I used expressions like "changed my life," and "had life-changing impact," when talking about them later, I soon after considered these statements almost true even if a bit melodramatic. And that probably more of my White-boy's emotionalism had been rubbing off on me than I would have thought. These events, however, DID affect me tremendously, and were occasions of tremendous emotion, but each for vastly different reasons. Rocco was on the sidelines for two of them -- one fortuitous, the other as `invitee.' The one that happened first though, he missed because he was at a cross-country meet.
I need to rewind time to that very day when Rocco emerged from Father Brand's office to tell me he wasn`t in trouble after all about what happened in Father Iron's class. And although I was glad, just the same I felt somehow that I was not really getting through to him sometimes. He still keeps being so impulsive. And sure. I said that I loved that about him. Mostly because his impulsiveness was usually concerning what he felt was right and wrong, or about helping someone. But there were plenty of times that it got him (and me) into trouble or had the potential to do so. We've been pretty lucky sometimes.
It was during my wait for Rocco outside of Father Brand's office, fuming one more time about him being too unconcerned about the consequences of what he does sometimes, that I made up my mind to really confront him about it. Rocco keeps saying that we had to "talk about things before they become problems." Well this was one of "those things" as far as I was concerned.
It was on our way home that I brought it up. "Rocco, we need to talk."
Rocco I could see was instantly frightened. I'm not sure if I'd even said that to him especially in the tone of voice I used. He then started to say he was sorry about what he'd done in class that day, but . . .
He always had a `but.'
"Rocco, you always say you're sorry and then do two things. You try to excuse yourself like this time saying that you were so frustrated with what we were being taught. And second, and worse, you will do it again."
Rocco had this real worried look. Like he knew this was more than just being miffed at him. "Jade, all I can say I'm sorry and I will try harder not to do it again. But you really think it's all that big a deal?"
I wasn't too sure myself. And in fact I was trying to figure out exactly WHY I was so upset. So I told Rocco that.
"OK, look Jade. Let's suppose that the worst happened. What would that be? So I'd get Jug. So what?"
"I don't know. And I can't SAY exactly why I'm so upset. But I am. Or was."
We decided to put the conversation about this on hold for now since I really COULDN'T figure out why I was so upset.
It was during one of our talks a few days later while trying to decide what to get Tim for his upcoming birthday when our conversation, as it was want lately, diverted into talking about `our future' (he was still saying that I had a chance of a scholarship yet) when the topic came up about out soon leaving the area and the Webster's and Tim and everything when I got the same exact feeling that I had in Irons' class that day. And it was almost like a revelation. I was SCARED. When faced with possible big changes, or potential disasters, I got so scared.
"White-boy, I'm afraid. What if all our plans blowup? And we don't get to college?"
Rocco was instantly concerned. "Jade, you are the one now being impulsive. But not with your actions but with your worries. Remember we ARE going to college. We ARE going to have enough money. We HAVE already succeeded."
"But so much could go wrong yet. I probably won't get any scholarship. And what if something else goes wrong where we need the money for something else? What happens if . . ."
I never got to finish. Rocco came over to me and wrapped his arms around me, and suddenly all was right again with my universe. And then he proved to me again that sometimes he is smart. "Is this what happened about that Irons thing couple days ago? You got all scared about wondering if the WORST happened?"
And I realized that was exactly it. I was worried about what if Rocco got into so much trouble he'd be thrown out of school. And I'd gotten mad at him for tempting fate and messing up both our futures. And this time we did talk about what happened in Irons' class and why I had been so upset.
"Look Jade, you are half right about things. Sometimes I do things that COULD bring disaster. And I will try my best not to any more. But you also have to stop thinking the worst will happen. And what if the worst DOES happen? What IS the worst? We'd still have each other. So our worst is still pretty good.
I was feeling much better already. And I resolved not to think the `worst' all the time. It's strange. I was usually the one who told Rocco not to worry so much. Just let's have fun. But as we were SO close to finally such a great future I was afraid to lose it. And all along I knew I needed security. And I was soon to remember his words about "our worst is still pretty good." Although I `believed' that at the time spoken, it was what happened several days after that that gave these words an even greater impact.
Well, as I said, Tim's birthday was coming up and the very next day we were again trying to decide exactly what to do for it. And preparing. (My birthday was also approaching but we decided to just enjoy it quietly -- maybe just take a long walk together by ourselves, or if we got real ambitious, maybe take a short trip somewhere. Like a museum or the Franklin Institute or something). I was mostly over my `fit of paranoia' we were calling it now.
Just after Rocco left, Tim pounced on me and pulled me to his room. I though that of all the people I would leave behind when Rocco and I left for college, I would miss Tim the most. So I was determined to spend as much time with him I could before we left.
Two days later I was in the Hobby Shop trying to figure out what to get Tim for his upcoming birthday. I finally settled for a book of puzzles, a model of the Saturn rocket, and one of those Frisbee things. (When I first saw one a number of years ago, it was called a Pluto Platter). And this was the occasion of the first of these three events though you might have wondered just why the event could have provoked such strong emotion.
Just outside the store I got a weird idea. I should have thought of doing this way back at the wedding. So I pretended I was Rocco -- he was supposed to be the impulsive one -- and made a mad dash for the trolley at the corner. Of course as soon as I sat down I realized that I was going to have to explain to Rocco just why I did this without him. He was currently at a Cross Country Meet. I was wondering how come many of them were scheduled when other students (like me) couldn't even attend.
Well anyway I got off at Bridge Street and waked two blocks. I guess I was easy to remember. Mr. Wurtzman was with another customer when he turned around and saw me standing several yards away. A smile lit up his face.
"Herm," he said to the customer with him, "this is one of the boy's I talked about, Jade Brown." Then he turned toward the back of the store and yelled: "Andy get out here. We have an important visitor." And then even louder. "Andy, did you hear?"
I guess Andy was Mr. Patterson because that was who came. "No need to shout. What in tarnation. . ." But he stopped when he saw me. And a third smile greeted me.
I lifted my hook. "Your ring fits well."
Then Mr. Wurtzman spoke. "Herm, you must see the craftsmanship here. Jade if you would show Herm your ring. Andy did a great job. And to think he was cursing up a storm making it. He kept saying it had to be perfect."
My hook was grabbed and pointed at the older gentleman, Herm. He looked at me and asked: "Does it come off?"
"Sure." And I just sort of rolled the base of the other hook at the very base of the ring. It snapped off. I let it drop to the curve of the hook and dropped it into Herm's hand. He looked at it quite closely.
Herm remarked: "Damn, Andy. You outdid yourself. It's not even round! Quite clever, and the craftsmanship is superb."
I felt pretty proud just being able to take the ring on and off.
Mr. Wurtzman looked at me with a funny expression. "The other boy? You came alone?"
"Rocco is at a Cross Country Meet right now. I just came on the spur-of-the-moment."
"And how's he doing?"
"He's doing well. And I wanted to tell you. We used these as our wedding rings. We were married last September."
Mr. Wurtzman looked at me and I could see tears forming in his eyes. I was amazed that he'd get so worked up. "Married? Is that possible?"
"Well not legally I guess. But we were married in a church."
Mr. Wurtzman looked at his friend and said: "See Herm, I told you these two were special."
Mr. Paterson came up to me and asked: "Can I see you put it back on?"
I picked the ring up with the tip of my hook, lifted it upward, and with the other turned it the right way. It slipped into place and with another roll of the second hook at its base, it snapped into place.
Mr. Patterson didn't say much but he was smiling. After a warm conversation I felt quite glad I had come. Nothing definite was said, but I was now certain that Mr. Patterson and Mr. Wurtzman were a couple too. They asked about the wedding and I then talked about all our plans. I agreed to bring Rocco some time soon. Just before I left I noted a tattooed number on Herm's wrist. I was a bit shocked because I knew its significance. I was wondering if Mr. Wurtzman had one too.
All the way back on the trolley I was so glad I let myself give into an impulse. Now how to tell my White-boy I went without him. He'd understand. And I was still carrying Tim's presents. I then started thinking about how good things were going right now in my life. And my White-boy's words came back to me with a vengeance. "What if the worst happens? What IS the worst? We still have each other. So our worst is still pretty good." Thoughts of what life must have been for Wurtzman and his both friends had me realizing just how fantastically fortunate my life at that moment really was. The more I pondered my life with the boy I loved and all our future together, I was now the one with tears in my eyes. After wiping my eyes with my handkerchief, hoping that the others on the trolley did not notice, I decided to let myself be happy. My last thought, besides needing to talk about this with my White-boy, was that hell, there were quite a few heterosexuals out there ! who would never experience the love he and I had right now.
I guess I was still 'thinking about things' as I started turning up my walk because Rocco's startled me.
"Where the heck you been?"
Rocco was outside sitting on my front step.
"I told you I was getting Tim's presents." I lifted the bag as proof.
"And where else? I've been waiting half an hour." Then with a leer which meant that his next question was merely a taunt. "Find a new boyfriend?"
Without even a pause I replied: "Two. No three. Mr. Wurtzman, his partner Mr. Patterson, and a friend of theirs."
Now Rocco was all curiosity. I had him totally hooked and I was going to make him `pay' for that boyfriend remark. I did what he did all too frequently. He had to pry it all out of me bit by bit. He wasn't even distracted by The Three Stooges that Billy and Tim were watching on TV. It was already pretty late and I knew he had to get home very soon for dinner so I finally relented and we slipped upstairs and I told him the whole story. We both had a few tears before the telling and the comments were finished. I followed Rocco downstairs where he got into his coat ready to leave for home. Mr. Webster was there by then and even he was watching the `stooges' with glances over the top of his newspaper.
Then there came a phone call out of the blue. I'm not sure what I would have done if my White-boy had not been right there. Mrs. Webster had come into the room probably to announce dinner and it was she who answered the phone. She said there was a call for me.
"It's about some broadcast or something."
I couldn't quite understand what that could mean but I took the receiver and said: "Hello. This is Jade."
"Is this Mr. Jade Brown?"
It was some woman. I was quite puzzled. "Please hold for Mr. Broadcast." And I started trembling so much as I recognized that name. I punched a hole right through 2 inch wide rubber banding I had on the phone for gripping the thing. Rocco saw right away that I was upset.
"Mr. Jade Brown, this is Mr. Broadcast. Do you remember who I am?"
"Yes?" I was in an emotional turmoil.
"I am only making this call as a courtesy. I am no longer your uncle's attorney. I want to make that perfectly clear. But your uncle was gravely injured two days ago and he is in the prison hospital at Holmesburg Prison. He expressed the desire to speak with you but did not know your whereabouts. So I was contacted. I consider my duty discharged with this call. I will not be involved further. Is that understood Mr. Brown?"
"Yes." The turmoil turned to almost panic.
"Good. Then we are at an agreement. Good day Mr. Brown." I sort of collapsed right on the floor. Well not collapse, but I had to sit, and that's where I did it.
"Lordy, lordy, what ever's the matter Jade?" Mrs. Webster had been watching. Mr. Webster showed concern too. He put down the newspaper and inquired: "What was that call about?"
Rocco was now holding my shoulders and asked quietly: "What happened? Oh my god it's about your uncle isn't it?"
His ESP was working well. "Yes. He's hurt."
"Bad I hope." Rocco quipped.
Mrs. Webster overheard. "Tush boy. You shouldn't wish ill on anyone. `Specially those you don't like." I'm sure Rocco never heard her reprimand. He had selective hearing at times. But I was sort of not knowing WHAT to do. I sure as hell did NOT want to see my uncle.
Eventually we all went into the kitchen and I told them the substance of the call. There wasn't much.
"This lawyer said my uncle wanted to see me. I don't want to."
"Then don't." That was Mr. Webster. "That SOB only deserves whatever he gets."
That was the most adverse reaction I'd seen out of Mr. Webster since I'd known him. His voice was even quivering. He didn't even get that worked up when he was commenting on George Wallace talking about segregation a couple months ago when sworn as governor of Alabama.
Mrs. Webster looked one of her `looks' at him but didn't comment.
Rocco, for once, wasn't saying almost anything. Tim then came into the kitchen asking about dinner and asked what was going on.
All the rest of the week Rocco and I talked about what my uncle could possibly want.
"Look Jade. Please don't see your uncle if you don`t want to. I can't see anything good happening."
"You were the one saying I needed to forgive him. What gives?"
"I just don't want to see him hurt you again."
That Saturday I finally decided I couldn't stand not knowing what he wanted. I called and found he was still in the hospital there. I didn't even know that prison's HAD hospitals. It wasn't much. Much of it was just the section of hallway at the end of a corridor, separated by this brown and white barrier that went from the floor to the high rounded ceiling. There was a connecting room only a few beds, with a similar barrier. And there had to be a guard with me at all times passed the usual visiting room. The place was absolutely gloomy and depressing. The huge outside stonewalls alone made you cringe about what was inside. And the worst thing was I went there without my White-boy. I changed my mind 20 times that last night trying to decide whether to ask him to come with me. They said only I could actually go in to see my uncle. That decided me not to tell Rocco I was going at all.
And that's why I was so shocked to see Rocco already waiting for me in the room where everyone is searched. He even had the gall to smile.
"I thought you'd be angry," I said.
"I know you're so upset right now that, I sure don't want you even more upset. Besides, now the next 10 times I do something without telling you I can bring this one up."
I was already feeling better with my White-boy there. I now realized that I had made the wrong decision in not telling him.
"But how'd you know I was coming?" I eventually asked.
"Mrs. Webster. She said I needed to be with you. Or actually you needed me with you."
Rocco waited while I was escorted to this ugly room on the second floor and waited for some official to come with us. They tried to make a fuss about my hooks but finally decided that I didn't have to take them off after all.
My uncle was a withered wreck. I hardly recognized him.
"You came boy. I'm surprised." His very voice brought back bad memories. I didn`t even know how to respond. But all those horrible emotions were back. I tried not to hate him but it was a battle. I tried harder for my White-boy. And almost succeeded until he spoke again.
"Looking well. . . . Still with your faggot butt-buddy?"
All my anger resurfaced in a heartbeat. I suspect it was good there was a wire grid from floor to ceiling. And a guard.
"You son-of-a-bitch! What the hell did you want to see me for?"
My emotions were exploding inside me and I had all I could do to keep the explosion contained. I almost bolted right out of there.
He went on without answering my question. "You know your father was a faggot too. He was too much a coward to stay `round when everyone found out."
"What do you want, damn it! Tell me or I leave right now."
My uncle seemed to think for a moment and as I was turning to leave I heard a weak voice say: "I had no call to do what I did."
I was stunned. I would never thought my uncle even capable of saying that much. I turned back to see his face.
"You think different thoughts when you come close to dying boy. I regret so much."
All my emotions seemed to drain away. All the horrible ones at least.
"I regret thing too." I barely whispered.
"That's all I had to say boy."
I walked toward the gate but I had to wait for the guard had to open it. And the other guy was just outside. I looked back one last time. My uncle was facing the other way.
I was surprised at my feelings as I walked hurriedly back the way we came. Something sort of released inside me. I was in a way glad for my uncle in some strange way. There was some good in him yet after all. For some reason this gave me hope. And I couldn't figure out why. As Rocco and I waited for the bus in the little turn around just outside the prison, I didn't give a damn who was watching. As tears started down my cheeks I hugged him tight and said. "Please take me home, White-boy. Take me home."
My White-boy hugged me back.
Later that afternoon, nobody else was in the house and we took the opportunity to make love. It was slow and easy rather than passionate. Rocco never did ask about what my uncle said. It probably took him a year's supply of will power for him but I was grateful. I wasn't ready yet.
Afterwards, just lying there I started to talk.
"He said he regretted things. He said he had no call to do what he did."
Rocco sat up and seemed still not to know what to say. "Anything else."
"He said my father was also like us. But he called us all faggots."
Rocco said what I had previously thought. "I'm surprised he said what he did. I mean about regretting things."
"Well he said he almost died and started thinking. But he never actually said he was sorry. He never said that. The bastard."
"But he still said he regretted what he'd done. That's something."
After a long pause Rocco added: "Now what? How do you feel?"
"I'm not sure. But I think I don't hate him anymore. He seemed so pathetic lying there. His life is over. And I was thinking all he had left were his regrets."
I sat up and looked at my White-boy almost like I discovered something. "I don`t want to live half my life and decide all I have are regrets." I hugged my White-boy and sighed. "I feel sort of charged up somehow. I keep thinking that even if all I ever had was you, I already won't regret too much. And we have all our future together. Let's not have any regrets."
"What do you mean by that?" Rocco asked.
"Well, I was thinking how come my uncle turned out the way he did. And got to be the person he was. He didn't love anyone. He was always too busy hating. I don`t want to hate anymore."
The next week in school a couple of people asked what had happened. The first was Twain.
"You've been so upbeat this week. I was just wondering." Twain remarked.
"I finally realized how good I had it." I looked around to see if anyone was too close. "We really love each other you now. And it's wonderful."
Twain replied: "That's what my uncle says too. Most people can't get past the idea that two guys just want sex. But I see different. I just hope that I can find a girl who will love me as much. Dan's around so much it all seems normal."
"It is normal." And I smiled thinking about our religion class. Twain wasn't Catholic either. It was easy to not remember that. "It's just natural for two people to want intimacy and love. It's a natural law."
We both laughed.
Later at home, Mrs. Webster must have noticed that I had been in a good mood. "You gonna tell me ever `bouts your uncle? I see your seein' him did some good."
And I explained about the whole thing. And how I was feeling. And how grateful I had people in my life who cared for me.
Two weeks later, and the week after we celebrated Tim's birthday, is when the third `major thing' occurred. Rocco and I were visiting Hahnemann Hospital and the `hookstore' as I sometimes called the prosthetics department. That same technician was there and this time would not let herself be baited as I deliberately made all kinds of double entendre type comments to Rocco. But all my shenanigans abruptly halted with her next statement.
"Noel, since you obviously haven't asked about the new strap system I have to assume that you didn't read the last brochure we sent you?"
It came out as a question. And I've never read those things.
It was Rocco who answered: "What new system?"
She smiled in spite of giving Rocco `that look' which expressed severe disapproval. She had just finished making sure that the new sockets fit properly and then picked up both hooks and said: "Mr. Jenkin's (another technician I'd seen on occasion) will explain the new system inside."
"Inside" meant in one of the more private `fitting' rooms. Rocco and I looked several messages at each other and I then followed her back to Mr. Jenkins. It took quite a while but the new set of quite light and more comfortable web straps were fitted to my hooks and adjusted. I was ecstatic! I had to show my White-boy! I literally ran out with just the hooks over my undershirt and showed my White-boy something he'd never seen before. With a double `ripping-sound' and then another double `ripping-sound' I was able to release both hooks, drop them onto the counter, then I again slipped my forearms into the two sockets, and with my own two hooks, re-attached all the straps MYSELF! For the first time in my life I put on my own hooks and adjusted all the straps BY MYSELF!
Rocco pulled on one of the straps -- he had to see for himself. With another pull and another `ripping sound" he loosened one of the straps and then pressed it back. He did this again with his eye ball less than an inch away.
"Holy smoke! What the heck is this stuff?"
"It's something new I guess. It's called Velcro!"
Rocco kept looking closely as he pulled up and then closed again one of the straps. He had to see how the stuff worked. Later, on our way home, I couldn't stop reiterating how this changed everything! I was FREE! I now needed no help with my hooks. And the closer we got back home the more emotional I got. I guess that it took a while for the full reality of the situation to sink in.
And Rocco of course got even more emotional than me.
"Jade, I know you rarely said anything but I know how you felt about always needing help with those things. I am so glad for you."
Then there was small gasp as the woman across the aisle on the el saw my White-boy give me a kiss.
Rocco looked up finally realizing we were in a public train. "Don't worry ma'am, we're married!"