- Back in Honolulu, Dad’s POV -
I found an empty conference room… I’d been in the same one before.
In my mind, I remembered seeing the boys’ faces… I had to do something. I’m not used to leaving kids behind who need help… yet with the bedlam of getting ready for our move on Sunday; I wasn’t all that keen about bringing another child into the midst of chaos.
Okay, Peggy needs … no, I want Peggy involved in this decision. Things are no longer at my sole discretion… and I’m glad.
Rather than picking up my phone to make the call to Ella, our CPS social worker, I went back to the ER proper, entered the treatment room. Peggy looked up and then winked her eye at me then returned to Micah’s bath while Dr. Miller and other hospital staff hovered close by doing this and that for his care.
The poor boy… his color was dusky, his frail naked emaciated body penetrated with various tubes, IV lines, and other such things best left for medical personnel to describe and explain… I went to Peggy, whispered in her ear that we needed to talk then helped her to finish cleaning the sand and filth from Micah.
When we were finished, Peggy made sure that none of the apparatus had been disturbed during our ministrations, and finding all was as well as could be expected we left the treatment room then headed down to the conference room hand in hand.
Upon arriving, Peggy closed the door then we embraced and kissed deeply. Beyond Peggy’s starched hospital staff attitude was a very soft yet very strong woman whom I loved very, very deeply.
“Honey, he’s going to survive. CPS and the authorities have already been called by hospital social services. I haven’t heard anything back from them yet. Jim, I know him from when I was working the beach, and I helped the placement process to get him adopted. I also knew his new family. I was so happy knowing he was going to a good family. I’d like to call them. I’d like to know what happened to change all that. Why the hell would they throw a kid away? Why did he leave if they didn’t toss him? Jim, I don’t know why families do it. I just don’t understand.”
“I don’t know either, babe. Peter’s mother was a real case in and of herself. She’s mentally deranged. There’s an explanation for the problems he’s had – I understand. What’s amazing to me is Peter’s attitude toward those experiences. His level of acceptance is amazing; his forgiveness is to be commended; his integration into our family was… well, it speaks for itself.” I said proudly.
“What are you thinking?”
“Maybe the same thing you are … if I’m hearing what I think you’re saying.”
“We’re playing games, Jim. I love it. I love you. We have to do the right thing though… we have to keep the boys informed… and yes, we need to get their permissions… Antoine and Matt need to be involved in the decision making process. Don’t you agree?”
“Absolutely. Just to let you in on a tad bit of information… the boys sent me to the conference room to make some phone calls… the looks in their eyes… God you should have seen them… like I was some sort of urchin or something <chuckles>.” I replied happily then added, “Let’s go get them so we can talk.”
Peggy took my hand, kissed me meaningfully then we headed down to the ER waiting room where we gathered up the boys, and then returned to the conference room… but only after we checked on Micah. Dr. Miller had said reassuringly that Micah’s oxygen saturation readings were up in the normal ranges; that he was essentially breathing on his own; that the boy was out of danger, at least for the moment, and that they were getting him ready for transfer to the ICU. Both Peggy and I offered collective sighs of relief knowing he was safe, that he was getting better after a very short period of time.
We passed the new information on to the boys. They too exhaled collective sighs of relief. David, who apparently was elected as spokesperson said, “How’s Micah doing? Is he going to make it?”
Peggy replied clinically, “He’s resting comfortably, is essentially breathing on his own, and is being readied for the ICU. His oxygen levels have dramatically improved.” Then softening she added, “Barring any complications, he’ll be ready for discharge from the hospital in the next few days.”
Jeremy, looking at me, asked, “He’ll be discharged to where? He can’t go back out there?”
Peggy responded after taking my hand in hers, “Your dad and I were talking about bringing him home. What do you guys think? Your dad and I are in agreement, however you boys, and yes, we need to hear Antoine and Matt’s thinking too.”
I said, “The decision needs to be made by all of us. Are you all in agreement that Micah should come home with us?”
Allen replied, “As if there was any question…?” He then gave me his trademarked impish smile that said “DUH!”
The boys are taking after him in that regard. Playfully defensive, I replied while at the same time chuckling, “Okay, well we had to ask.”
Peter, not waiting another second, pulled his cell phone off his belt and began pressing numbers on its keypad. Smiling, he said into the phone, “Hey Antoine. What’s up dude? It’s me, Peter. We have something to ask you and Matt…”
And so the conversation went. All were in agreement as I expected they would be… our boys are just like that.
Micah was transferred to the ICU without incident. We all walked alongside the gurney then broke away from him when they entered the cubicle where he’d be spending a few days. Peter brought it to our attentions that Micah was being assigned the very same cubicle Matt had spent so much time in after he’d been grievously hurt a few months before.
After they got him settled in, we paid one last visit before leaving to take care of business, and to get ready for move day on Sunday.
When we arrived home, Peggy and I stole off to my office where we’d make some phone calls to get things moving while the boys went swimming.
My first call was to Ella. After her secretary redirected the call she came on the line, “Hey, Jim. It’s good to talk to you. How are Peggy and the boys?”
After replying that all was well on the home front, I went into the reason for calling. She was aware of Micah’s situation… and then she delivered some devastating news… to us anyway… yet it was good news for Micah.
“Jim, we’ve been in contact with Micah’s family. They’ve actually been diligently and painstakingly searching for him. The truth of the matter is that Micah ran away from home about 10 days ago, and he’s not been seen nor heard from since. His family is a good one… they love him beyond words. When we found out where he’s at, I needed to contact his mother – she’s been frantic, Jim. His dad, brothers and sisters haven’t been much better than his mother. I’m sorry, Jim.”
Peggy spoke up, “I couldn’t have imagined them kicking him out of their home… yet we were dealing with what we knew at the time. I’ll give Monica a call… it’s been quite some time since we talked… our lives just got distanced through no fault of our own.”
Ella said, “That’s understandable. You’ve both been through quite a few changes. I’m sure she’d be glad to hear from you. Here’s her new number. I’m going to call her right now. My call will definitely make her day. She’s waited so long.”
I spoke up, “Ella, do you know why he ran away from home? There has to be a reason…”
“As a matter of fact I do know what set him off… his family is in the process of adopting a special needs child… the child, who needs quite a bit of attention, was placed in their home approximately one month ago… and well, Micah is feeling left out. The boy is a runner, Jim. He had to be. I suspect why he’s so sick right now is because he’s been off his medication. You knew he’s HIV/AIDS positive, right?”
Peggy looked at me… pain immediately filled her eyes then they began watering. She reached for a Kleenex then said, “No, I didn’t know but it all fits now… when I was treating him on the beach for various things such as chest colds, sores on his arms, two thrush infections - his mouth and bottom… I had no idea… I never even suspected… Jim, obviously he’s on a cocktail of medications for his immune system difficulties, then when he’s been off of them… well, he got sick… very sick… that’s probably why he’s here now. He’s got full blown AIDS, and is in the middle of an immune system crisis. Jim, I need to go tell Dr. Miller this information… I don’t think… we do not routinely perform an HIV antibody test in pediatric patients… unless we suspect an infection… I’m going to page Dr. Miller right now because it intimately affects his care, and hospital staff too even though we use Universal Precautions…”
That said, Peggy used the phone, paged Dr. Miller, and then advised him of our knowledge.
After the call was terminated, Peggy and I sat thinking about the conversation we just had. Peggy spoke up first, “I’m glad for them. I really am.”
“Honey, let’s not tell them of Micah’s true condition… I don’t think telling them would serve any good purpose, do you?”
“Telling them may very well be a good idea… that way they know exactly what’s wrong with the boy… I think they’ll handle it just fine… we’ve made to them commitments to be open and honest in all matters.”
I nodded in deep contemplation… it made sense. I said, “Okay, you’re right, let’s go tell the boys. We’ll call Antoine and Matt later on today. They’re probably asleep now… let’s see it’s 9 hours later there than it is here… yeah, they’re probably asleep.”
After standing, Peggy and I kissed warmly then headed out to the pool where we stripped and jumped in the pool… well, Peggy gracefully entered the water while I took a running leap and gave the boys quite a cannon ball splashing.
Their reactions were positive even though they were disappointed somewhat. Nevertheless, no matter what their reactions were, they were, at the same time happy that Micah family would soon be reunited with his family, if it hadn’t happened already.
Soon, we got the boys out of the water and then began the final packing up phase. Peggy and I worked on Matt and Antoine’s room while the boys got their stuff together and packed it up.
Meanwhile, in Singapore (Antoine’s POV)
I awoke wide awake at 4:30am… despite many efforts to do so, I couldn’t fall back to sleep so I got up, went into the bathroom, peed then went back into the living area of our suite and began typing on the laptop computer. There was an email from dad. It only said, “Call me.”
I walked into our bedroom suite, retrieved my cell phone from the pocket in my Kimono then went outside to the patio and called dad.
Mom answered the phone, “Hi honey. How are you guys doing?”
“Oh, we’re fine. I woke up early and couldn’t go back to sleep. Dad sent a message to call… is everything okay?” I asked concerned.
“Uhm hmmm, everything’s fine here at home. Honey, Micah’s parents did not throw him out of their home, his home. Instead, Micah ran away home about 10 days or so ago. They were frantic to find him, and were relieved beyond words when he was found.”
“So, he’s okay? He’s getting better?” I asked sincerely.
“Yeah, he’s doing much, much better.”
“Oh, that’s good to hear. I’m really glad; I’m sure Matt will be too. We were both worried about him. Hey mom, oh sorry, I don’t want to change the subject in case you weren’t finished talking…”
“There’s one other thing about him that we didn’t know until just today… he’s HIV/AIDS positive… he’s been off his medications since he ran away. He then acquired a serious, life threatening infection named ‘Pneumocystis Carina Pneumonia’, or PCP for short. PCP’s a very serious complication. He’s being treated for it.”
“How did he get it mom? I mean in adults the cause is IV drug use or sex with an infected person, right?”
“There are other ways to acquire it… those you gave are the more common conveyances but they aren’t the only ones.” mom replied knowingly.
“Does anyone know how he got it… it’s important to know.” I said, my voice rising… not that I felt angry or anything along those lines, I just needed to know…
Mom replied, “Antoine, Micah’s safe now… besides it doesn’t really matter how he got it… the important thing is that he DOES have it, and that he’s being treated.”
“Yeah, okay… that’s true. I’ll tell Matt when he wakes up. Speaking of Matt, I’ve got some really good news…
“Well, let’s hear it then. Oh by the way, we’re going to leave your plants for last. The ones you planted… we were going to dig them up then transplant them but you need to take care of them when you get home. That way they’ll be done right, and they’ll be where you want them to be.”
“Okay, that’s kewl, thanks mom. I’ll have Jesus help me… how’s he doing? Have you heard from him?”
“Yes, we did, as a matter of fact. Maria told me he was having a meltdown. He spent a couple of days with us. Jeremy was really great, as were all your brothers… by the time he left, he was his usually happy self, and he’s gotten back into working out as you taught him. He’s also spending some time with Father Ben, doing chores… anyway, he’s good but he misses you!”
“Kewl. Yeah, I talked to him yesterday… he told me about the time he spent at home.”
“So what did you need to tell me, son?”
“Well, we’re going back to see Sensei this morning… anyway, Matt’s totally free of pain, mom. And he has another good surprise – but we decided to not tell you and dad about it until we’re home. The doctor and Sensei performed some miracle like acupuncture… and it’s worked out perfectly. Mom, I didn’t know he was in so much pain… he never said anything… he never complained… he never got into himself… I thought he’d tell me about it.”
“Honey, Matt most likely didn’t want to worry you… he was the same way when he started coming out of his coma… he never wanted to be fussed over… I believe he’s grateful to be alive, his being alive supersedes all else in his mind. I’m really glad he’s not in any pain.”
“You don’t say much either about what’s going on with you, young man. So … what are you going to do about that?” Mom said chuckling.
She got me. She knows she did by my silence.
We began to speak at the same time… since she’s my mother, I said, “Go ahead, ladies first.”
“You’re such a gentleman… I think I’ll keep you around.” Mom said… I could, in my mind, see her grinning from ear to ear.
She added warmly, sincerely, meaningfully, “You’ve opened up a lot, Antoine. I’m not criticizing you, or saying that you should do anything differently.”
“I didn’t think you were criticizing me. I just realized that I do keep a lot of stuff inside. I’ll work on it, okay?”
“Just remember I love you anyway. I’ve learned to not rush you… that you’ll share with us what you want to share in your own time. That’s good enough for me, son.”
Tears immediately came to my eyes, great big ones… they rolled off my cheeks and onto my thighs. Mom said through my silence, “Are you okay, honey?”
“Yeah, mom, I’m just fine. I’m just having an emotional moment, or two. I love you too, mom, more than I can express right now. Well, it’s about 5:15 in the morning here, so I’d better get Matt up. We have a full day planned with Sensei, and well, Sensei’s a real stickler for people being where they say they’ll be, on time.”
“Okay honey. You guys have a good day. We’ll talk to you soon. Tell Matt hello. Give him a hug for us.”
“Okay, mom, will do. I love you.”
“Love you too. Later.”
“Love you too mom. Goodbye.”
After our call ended, I went into the bathroom where I got a couple of Kleenex that to wipe my eyes out, and to blow my nose into.
I went into our room then began waking Matt up… he’s not all that much of a morning person, but I know how to get him up and awake… in more than one way.
After successfully waking him up in more than one way, we got into the shower, dried off, got dressed then headed down to the restaurant where we voraciously ate everything put in front of us.
During breakfast, I called our driver. He said he’d be in the hotel driveway waiting for us. He’s always been true to his word… when he said he’d be somewhere at any given time then he was always there, on time, and usually early… so when he wasn’t in the parking lot 30 minutes later, I knew something was amiss. I tried calling him… he didn’t answer. I then called Sensei, said we’d be late, and then hailed a cab who took us on the scariest ride I’d ever been on. Granted, we ended up being on time yet even I had cramped fingers from holding on so tightly… and poor Matt was as white as a sheet.
When we arrived I found it very odd that Sensei was showing two young boys out the side door of his house… but passed the thoughts by knowing I’d been a very young boy when he first took me in and showed me his version of the arts, and his willingness to teach. The last he had told me some time before was that he was taking no new students because he was getting old.
Matt and I stayed in the cab until the boys had passed by. They were maybe 11 or 12 years old, fair skinned Asian children, and quite affluent apparently by the way they were dressed, and their refined demeanor. I didn’t give it a second thought.
Sensei was in a really good mood then after exchanging pleasantries Sensei took us to the sun room, got Matt comfortable and settled in then began Matt’s additional acupuncture treatments. I then gave Matt deep muscle massage and stimulation to relax his still tight and knotted up muscles that had resulted from his injuries and prolonged hospitalizations where was inactive and unable to move around or exercise in any way.
Sensei then moved Matt deep into meditation and relaxation, and at Sensei’s insistence, I began working on Matt’s back with extreme deep massage. I know he would have had experienced great pain without the acupuncture methods Sensei was using. Nonetheless, Matt relaxed out nicely, his previously tight and rigid long muscles in his mid and lower back became supple and compliant. Sensei then made several manipulations to Matt’s spine and hips. On one occasion, Matt’s hip popped out of its socket then popped right back in. Matt did indeed flinch with that last manipulation but then relaxed nicely.
When Sensei brought Matt out of his meditation, Matt looked all around… he was clearly confused but regained his sense of being very quickly. With Sensei’s instructions, I completely undressed me and Matt then got into the hot mineral water bath where we relaxed, talked and made plans for the rest of the day. Three hours later, Sensei urged us out of the water and into huge downy soft white towels then led us into the bedroom where we had slept the previous day.
Matt was very sore… he did say so which, to me, meant he was in excruciating pain. I summoned Sensei. Sensei then retrieved several acupuncture needles and placed them in strategic points on Matt’s body. He then instructed me to take Matt to that place that where we so much love to go to…
We had no problem entertaining each other for the next couple of hours. Matt reached ecstasy 4 times, and I reached Nirvana once.
At the end of two hours, and after Matt had his final mind shattering travel into space, Sensei returned and removed the small, hair thin needles from Matt’s neck and accessory spinal nerves then sent us on our way with instructions to return in two days, that would be Monday, and we would be leaving on Monday afternoon to return home.
Matt said he felt fine. He was absolutely not in any pain. He was walking normally. I hadn’t realized that Matt had walked with a slight limp before but when he was walking normally, I felt really, really good knowing my baby was finally doing and feeling much, much better.
Throughout the day, I attempted to call our driver, and each time was notified by the automated message that his phone was out of service. I noted to call dad later and advise him of the situation but in the meantime Matt and I took a leisurely walk through throngs of people, shops, vegetable and fish markets, and souvenir stands.
At this one particular shop we both found necklaces that we really liked so we bought them with dad’s credit card… they cost over $1,000.00 US dollars apiece. We promised to ourselves that we’d repay dad, with interest. They were really kewl, and Matt looked so neat wearing it that I just about kissed him on his lips, in public, but somehow I refrained by telling myself ‘later’ over and over again.
As it were, we were both famished and in need of some seriously good food substance. We hadn’t eaten since that morning, and well, it was nearly 4:30pm local time. We soon found a wonderfully looking Kona Kai restaurant but were severely rebuffed by the dickhead taking reservations and seating people as they came in… until I opened my wallet and showed him a substantial amount of money, surely enough to buy us a fuckin meal. We were then treated like Kings, and ate like pigs until we were so full that walking back to the hotel was completely out of the question.
On our way out of the restaurant, we stopped by the restroom, paid multiple doses of homage to their sewer system, and then went to the front desk where I called our hotel and asked them if they had a livery service. They did. I advised them of our location. They promised to dispatch their van to pick us up.
When I gave the phone back to the maitre d, I turned around… Matt was not standing next to me. I casually looked around thinking he may have been looking at some curios in the window… but he was nowhere to be seen. Quickly, I reentered the restroom, and went so far as to look for him in each of the stalls, and when I couldn’t find him, I became very concerned. Quickly, I went back into the restaurant proper, checked each and every table, and after not finding him, I went to the maitre d and asked him if he had seen where Matt had gone. He quickly indicated that Matt had left with a man he had thought was our father.
Immediately, I went on high alert, aware of everything and anything around me, and I especially tried to pick up Matt’s scent. Even after taking a shower and putting on deodorant I can always find Matt anywhere. I chastised myself severely for becoming emotional at a time like that, when I needed to be fully aware and charged up. Quickly, I wiped away the tear that was threatening to fall from my eye then headed out onto the sidewalk. I saw the back of Matt’s head a block and a half away. The man he was with was much shorter; the sidewalks were clearing since it was going home time for the working people… without so much as a seconds’ hesitation, at a full rate of speed, I jumped my way through traffic. The man had hold of the back of Matt’s belt loops and was clearly… basically he was carrying Matt by those loops… Matt’s feet were barely touching the pavement, and they were walking very, very fast. I arrived just as the man was about to push Matt into a very dark and dingy and skanky alleyway.
He was good, very good. Before he even looked around to see what was stalking him, he kicked hard, very hard. He connected with my ankle… I pushed away the lightening hot searing pain to the farthest reaches of my brain. He then kicked Matt hard sending him sprawling to the pavement and into a garbage can. Matt was dazed.
No fucking body does that to my Matt, ever.
Instinct took over.
The guy was good, very good. He got in some really close and up personal cheap shots. The last one he ever gave anybody – I played it and went to the ground then when he came in for the kill, Matt diverted his attention for a split second, long enough for me to spring up and in the guys’ face.
Bones crushed. Eyes popped out of his head. And he limply dropped to the ground in his own pool of blood and guts.
Matt was totally terrorized. He was nearly catatonic, paralyzed with fear. I quickly stood Matt up on his feet then kissed his lips passionately and held him firmly in my arms. He soon responded, and when he regained his sense of time and place he pushed me away, saying, “You fucking piece of shit. I thought you were done with that shit. You’re a fucking killer, you son of a bitch.”
You could have hit me with a sledgehammer. You could have run me over with a Bullet Train. Neither would have bowled me over any worse than Matt’s words did to me right then and there. My body became rubbery. I stepped away from Matt then without any warning, I tossed dinner up and out and onto the pavement.
As I was doubled over retching my guts out, Matt walked past me, and out into the crowd of people on the sidewalk.
Out of total uncontrollable rage, I kicked the guy who had caused that difficulty so hard that his head popped off and rolled to that place where Matt had been then crashed against the hard concrete wall sending blood and brains splattering all about.
Armed and dangerous, I took off looking for Matt. He wasn’t going to get away with breaking off our relationship… we were soul mates, through and through. I don’t give up easily.
He wasn’t hard to spot. He was sitting on the curb with his head down between his knees. He was in a very dangerous position what with speeding cars passing by no more than a foot or two in front of his knees. His shoulders were heaving up and down, he was gasping for air, he sobbing uncontrollably and inconsolably.
In an instant, my rage dissipated leaving me standing there shaking from the sudden release from the adrenalin rush, the fight or flight syndrome, or whatever it’s called.
He looked up at me, put his head back down, and then he looked at me again, stood up, turned toward me, and then he shattered my life when he screamed at the top of his lungs, “FUCK OFF!” and then he began walking down the sidewalk away from me at a very fast pace.
Matt’s figure was rapidly fading as the distance between us lengthened… then almost simultaneously, a man running across traffic in Matt’s direction caught my attention… my blood both boiled and froze solid… all at the same time…
*** To be continued