A Special Place--Part Four--Matt
As I drove my father's truck to Michael's house, I kept running over what I would say to him. Michael was only a year younger than I and we had been close since forever. Luke, Michael and I were more like brothers than neighbors. Our families were so close we just grew up together. Of course, just about the same could be said of Mary Kathryn even though she was a girl. She and Michael were the same age--a few weeks apart--and she was just like one of the gang. In fact, she was ten or eleven years old before she stopped skinny dipping with us at the falls. And I'm not sure she would have stopped then except her mother found out she was doing it and was horrified. Dad told us we should use a Lakota custom: if you didn't want anyone to come into your space, you put crossed sticks in the entrance. So we had two cane poles that were put across the path to the falls when the guys were swimming. Other times we all wore swim gear; actually, to tell the truth, we usually just stripped to our briefs or boxers. I found myself smiling, thinking of all the happy times we had at the falls. Sometimes just the three guys skinny dipping, sometimes the four of us, and very often the three families all swimming and picnicking. It was a place, a special place, that kinda bonded us all together. Suddenly I wasn't smiling because I remembered where I was headed and why and that the special place had almost become a place of separation.
When I reached the Andrews' place, I walked into the living room and called out for Michael.
"I'm upstairs in my room, Matt, come on up." When I entered the room, Michael got up from his computer, walked toward me and embraced me in a bear hug. "I am so sorry, so very, very sorry," he said, still holding me tight. The water works started again. "Luke will make it, Matt. I know he will. He just has to." Michael gave me a final hug, then turned and sat on his bed, patting the place beside him indicating that I should sit down.
"Michael, I consider you a good friend, closer than a brother, and there is something that I feel I should tell you, but I want you to read this first." I gave him Luke's letter.
Before he had time to read more than a few words, he put the letter aside, looked up, and said, "I have known Luke was in love with you since just after Christmas. He didn't know I knew and I didn't want to tell him because of how I found out and I certainly couldn't tell you because of what it might have done to your and Luke's relationship as friends. It was a secret that I wished I had not discovered because I ached for Luke every time I saw him looking at you with pure love in his eyes, looks that you may never have seen. I found out because one afternoon when I was at Luke's, he was showing me the new computer he got for Christmas when Gabrielle called him to do something. As he left, he accidentally restored a file which had been minimized. It was a journal entry. I should not have read it, but I guess most people would have and what I read was an outpouring of his love for you and the heartache he felt because he could not tell you. If I had only known where it would lead, I would have asked Dad what to do. But we never know the future. So I knew before you did, so there's nothing to tell, is there?"
"And you didn't mind that Luke was in love with a guy?"
"I guess I had a 'Well, well' attitude. Do you know that Dad has or had a gay brother who he hasn't seen or heard from in years?"
"Well, needless to say, he has no truck with people who gay bash. I think we might have still been involved in church, even though the church folks were never around while Mom was ill and dying, except for the fact that 'most every Sunday the sermon made some reference to gays or fags, or queers, or some other putdown. Dad finally got fed up with it and told the preacher off. In fact, the Sunday it happened, he had mentioned how much I reminded him of his brother so I know he was thinking and hurting over that and then to go to church and have that kind of garbage thrown at him was too much. Had a couple fellows not taken Dad aside, I am sure there would have been a preacher with a black eye and I'm not just kidding. So being gay is the way some people are, Dad says, and I believe him, that's just the way you are, same as being tall or short." With those words, Michael gave me a punch on the arm and laughed. Although he is a year younger, Michael is already six feet tall, and still growing.
"God, I'm glad to hear you say that, Michael. And we do have something to talk about. I'm not as careless with my journal, it is encrypted. But had you been able to read it, you would have discovered I was writing almost the same thing about Luke. I love Luke Larsen with my whole heart. I have loved him for as long as I can remember. But I, as he, would not risk destroying our friendship by telling him I loved him. I guess that makes me gay, I really don't know because I have never thought about girls or boys, men or women. It has always been Luke."
"Holy shit!" Michael exclaimed as he smacked himself on the forehead. "I have to be some really dumb ass shit not to have realized that the looks Luke gave you when you were not looking were the same as the ones you gave him when he wasn't looking. I really feel like a dumb ass and guilty as hell because. . . ."
"Don't, Michael, don't go blaming yourself for what Luke did. We did what we thought best with what we knew. In hindsight, Luke and I could have had a couple years of loving each other instead of both being in pain and now him being barely alive. But we didn't know. Never would I blame you for being a good friend, and that is what you are and have been. But we had better get to the house. The whole gang will be there along with Dr. Bailey."
"Do you think there's something going on with Dr. Bailey and Dad?"
"I think both of them would like for there to be, but are afraid to do anything about it."
"Maybe we should take seriously the lesson we have learned about keeping love secret. What do you think, Bro?"
"Sounds like you are wise beyond your years, Little Bro." With that we both stood up, ready to leave. I had started calling Michael Little Bro the first time I noticed he had passed me in height.
As we stood up, Michael again hugged me and said, "I really am sorry that Luke did what he did, but maybe, in the end, it will be for the best. I love you, Bro."
"Love you too, Little Bro."
When we got back to my house, the Larsens had just arrived with Mary Kathryn. After all the greetings were over, we all sat down to dinner. The "grownups" in the dining room and the three "kids" at the kitchen table--the way it had been since we were old enough to eat without doing serious damage to each other with our forks. We could hear the adults talking, being very guarded not to let the Larsens know what everyone else knew about Luke's suicide attempt.
After dinner, the adults were having coffee when Mary Kathryn announced that she needed to get home to do her homework. "I'll drive you," I said, "OK, Dad?"
"Of course," Dad responded.
"Look, it's very warm for a March night and the moon is full, so if I could get these two handsome gentlemen to walk me home, it would be pleasant stroll." I opened my mouth to speak because Mary Kathryn drove to the mailbox for heaven's sake, but she gave me the sign to keep my mouth shut.
"I'm sure they would be happy to protect you from the dangers of the night," said Jens.
"Unless they are the dangers of the night themselves," David laughed.
"They better not be if they want to remain alive dangers to anything!" Jens said, then everyone got very quiet, remembering that one member of the family might not be alive tomorrow.
"Well, let's go," Michael said and we all said goodnight and walked out the door. Soon the three of us were walking down the road in the moonlight, arm in arm. "Matt, Mary Kathryn knows about my reading Luke's journal," Michael said as we walked slowly toward the Larsen's place.
"Then she needs to know the rest since I know I can trust her. Mary Kathryn, I love you like the sister I never had and would not hurt you for anything, but there is another side to this whole business of Luke's suicide attempt. He left a letter addressed to me in which he told me what Michael had read in his journal. What hurts more than anything is that I have felt the same way about Luke for as long as I can remember. I didn't need anything at the hospital last night, the cut on my face was such that I decided not to have anything more done to prevent a scar. . . ."
"You'll have a sexy scar!" Mary Kathryn exclaimed.
"And I hope--I pray that Luke will live to see it and think it is sexy. But anyway, Luke had no desire to live and was literally willing himself to death according to Dr. Walker. Dr. Bailey thought it was possible that even though he was in a coma, he might be able to hear my voice. Dr. Walker agreed so as soon as your parents came home, I went to Luke's room where I talked to him, held his hand, and prayed all night. I will go back tonight, and every night until he comes back to me. And I know he will."
Tears formed in Mary Kathryn's eyes and slowed flowed down her cheeks. "Matt, you know I love you the way I love Luke. I know how devoted you and Luke are to the each other and to Michael and me. Luke's love for you and yours for him is so powerful that if love can overcome death, Luke will live, I believe that." I gave Mary Kathryn a big hug and the three of us continued our walk, holding each other tightly.
When we reached the Larsens, I kissed Mary Kathryn on the cheek and turned to go when I realized Michael still had his arms around Mary Kathryn. He drew her closer to himself and she put her arms around his neck and suddenly they were engaged in a wild passionate kiss! All I could say was, "Holy shit! What's going on here?"
"There's another secret among the families," Michael said. "Mary Kathryn and I discovered that what we felt for each other was more than friendship when we all were busy celebrating Christmas. We were alone in the living room at your place when Mary Kathryn stepped under the mistletoe and I walked over to her, took her in my arms for a friendly kiss. When her lips touched mine, I forgot all about a friendly kiss and went for the gold. You know Mary Kathryn and her ability to take care of herself so I expected, at least, to be knocked on my butt, if not given a black eye, but what I got was a kiss back that made me see stars. I'm not kidding! I thought I could pass out. My knees went weak and I thought I'd fall. Instead, I managed to stand on shaky knees and give back as much as I received. When we heard someone coming, we finally broke apart--reluctantly I might add--and Mary Kathryn said, 'I thought you'd never get up the courage to do that!' Well, you can guess the rest."
"But why have you been so secretive about it? You don't have the problems Luke and I will have, if he lives."
"Look, we're still fifteen. It will be a awhile before we can drive. If our parents knew, we would lose the freedom we have had growing up, so we decided we'd just keep our love secret and enjoy each other as friends, as we always have, and let you and Luke give us space for our love to mature and develop."
"God, you sure are wise for kids," I said, laughing, but realizing that they had worked out their own way of letting their love grow and sure as hell had were doing a better job than Luke and I. I again gave Mary Kathryn a good night kiss on the cheek and said, as I hugged her,"You are a lucky young woman." Then I turned to Michael, hugged him to myself and said, "And you are a damn lucky guy!"
As Michael and I walked back to my house, we talked about the complicated loves among the four of us and just before we reached the house, Michael said,"And we still have the problem of how to deal with David and Margaret."
As soon as the Larsens left for home, Dr. Bailey took me to the hospital where I once again spent the night talking to Luke, praying, and occasionally crying when I could no longer hold back the tears. The rest of the week and the first of the next was spent in the same routine--school during the day, hospital at night. The days I was supposed to be at St. Mary's practising, Gertie insisted I go home and get some rest and covered for me the few times the school called to make sure I wasn't just skipping. The two days I usually worked out, I also went home and collapsed. I tried very hard to keep up with school, doing homework every free minute I could find, even doing some in Luke's room. Chelsea or Gladys saw that I ate and were careful not to wake me up when, in utter exhaustion, I fell asleep, my head on Luke's bed. As much as I wished it was otherwise, my strength wasn't superhuman. I could tell I was constantly fatigued, my grades were dropping like a rock and my music was suffering.
I really realized just how fatigued I was on Sunday when, during Mass at St. Mary's, I fell asleep at the organ, my head fell on the keyboard and the resulting blast almost sent half the congregation into cardiac arrest! When Mass was over, Fr. Tom called me into his office and asked what was up. I thought he knew I was spending nights with Luke because I had told Gertie and was sure she had told him. But she hadn't. "Gertie is the best parish secretary in the world; I think she had taken the Vow of the Confessional as well as I." When I told him what I had been doing, he said softly, "No man has greater love than to give his life for his friend." Then continued, "Matt, you can't keep up this pace or you'll end up in the hospital and that certainly won't help Luke."
I knew I couldn't keep up what I was doing much longer. At the same time, both Dr. Bailey and Dr. Walker were convinced that my presence and love was keeping Luke not only alive, but steadily improving. I was really in a dilemma.
A Special Place--Part Four--Luke
I knew I was in a battle for my life and that the odds were against me. Self-hate and the desire for death can become so much a part of your being that turning around was hard, like breaking a bad habit. Plus, of course, what I had done to myself made living almost impossible. In fact, I didn't know why I had not died at the river. I had planned pretty carefully. Thank God, the best laid plans. . . .My desire for death and my fear of life had so ingrained themselves into my being that simply deciding I wanted to live was not enough. I found my time--if you can talk about time in the place where I was--was divided between the times when I found strength to fight against death and to struggle for life and the times when all I could do, at best, was to hold the ground I had gained.
Black nothingness of death still pulled me to itself. I was too weak to resist. Weeping bitterly, I would feel myself being dragged toward that blackness, then, suddenly, unexpectedly, I would feel strength flowing into me. Gradually I was able to resist the blackness' pull. I knew that Matt had returned and that it was his strength flowing into my being. I was finally able to stand and to walk away from the all-consuming nothingness.
As its pull became less powerful, and with Matt's strength, I stood up and walked, slowly, painfully, thankfully away. And I was gaining ground. Matt's love was winning! As I placed distance between myself and that blackness, between death and life, I started weeping tears of joy. But I wondered how long Matt could continue to pour his strength, his life, into my being when death awaited not far from me. His voice became faint and I could feel myself growing weaker. Yet, when I could hear him no longer, I could feel his presence. And that was enough, if not to allow me to continue toward life, then to hold the ground that I had gained. Finally, I could neither hear Matt's voice and was not conscious of his presence, but still I was able to keep nothingness at bay. Again, I sank into unawareness.
I became aware again. Who knows how long I had been unaware? There is no time in this place. As I looked about me, I discovered the blackness had drawn nearer than it had been when I lost awareness, but it was not nearly where it had been before Matt had given me strength. Once again--how did I know? I felt nothing, yet I did--I knew that Matt had kissed me on the forehead. As his lips touched me, I felt a sudden surge of strength and the blackness immediately retreated. As he began speaking--I still could not make out the words, but the message of his love was clear--I looked ahead and saw, not blackness and not light, but a grayness which seemed to have substance.
Once again I started crawling toward it and, as Matt continued to give me the strength of his love, I stood and slowly, haltingly walked toward grayness and away from blackness. This was the pattern of my existence in this place of no place and no time. Strengthened by Matt's presence, I made progress away from darkness and deeper into the gray fog. Then a time of unawareness, whatever that might be in this place. Each time I awoke, I could see that I had gained ground--toward what I wasn't sure, but away from nothingness, of that I was sure. I don't know how many cycles of struggling toward life, then becoming unaware I had passed through. When I became aware this time I was not only aware of myself and my situation, but also knew that Matt was reaching the point of exhaustion. Claiming all the strength Matt was giving me and all my own, I stopped walking and started running. I noticed at once that the fog was becoming less gray and my surroundings brighter.
I knew that I was alive and would live when sheer terror struck me. I felt as though a steel band had been placed around my chest. I couldn't breathe! Some demon had been torturing me with the belief that I was going to live. Now I would die! All my dreams, all my struggles were just that--dreams, foolish dreams. I fell to the ground, tears streaming, but not weeping since I couldn't breathe. As hard as I tried, I could not get my lungs to pull air into my lungs. Awareness left me.
Hope you are enjoying the story.