I felt warm. And safe. And snug. I felt an arm around me. I felt a body next to me, naked, strong, holding me. I felt the sun on my face and a breeze through an open window. I felt joy and euphoria as I realized I was waking up in Nicky Mancinelli's bed and he was holding me.
We were lying spoon fashion and I could feel his warm breath on my neck. His arm was wrapped around me and his hand held my shoulder tightly. I could feel his erection against my butt and nothing had ever felt more right. If only I could feel Nicky inside me. If only Nicky would tell me he loved me, I would do anything in the world for him, let him do anything in the world to me. I wanted this moment never to end.
But, it did.
We both jumped as his telephone rang.
"Fuck," Nicky whispered as he came to his senses. The phone rang a second and then a third time before he let go of me and rolled over to reach for it on the table beside the hide-a-bed. He picked up the receiver of the ancient black cast-iron phone and grunted, "Yeah."
After a pause, he said, "Yeah, he's here . . . Well, we didn't get done until real late, so I told him to crash here . . . “Fuck . . . oh, sorry, Pops . . . Yeah . . . OK . . . See ya at dinner."
He dropped the receiver back in the cradle with a crash and rolled over again, putting his arm back around me and pulling me back into his embrace.
"What's up?" I asked, knowing exactly what had happened.
"Ya gotta call your folks and let 'em know you're here."
My heart froze. I knew I would have to go back home, but I didn't want this moment to end. It just felt too wonderful lying in Nicky's embrace, the warmth of his body, the strength of his body, the intoxicating smell of his body, the love of his body enveloping me.
"They called Pops to see if he knew where you were," he said softly.
Nicky didn't know just how serious this was. Nicky didn't know Dad. Nobody knew Dad, except Mom and me.
I had to call. I had to. But, to go from Heaven to Hell was just something I couldn't face yet.
"What's the matter?" Nicky asked in my ear.
I took a deep breath.
"It just feels really cool lying here. I don't want it to end."
Nicky squeezed me.
"It don't have to end. Just call 'em and get it over, Lil' Buddy."
He just didn't understand.
Nicky rolled over and pulled the old phone over and set it down between us. I turned around and he was grinning at me.
"Come on," he said. "Pay the piper and then we can have some more fun."
He didn't understand. I sighed and picked up the receiver. My hand was shaking as my finger turned the dial on the old phone. Nicky pushed the sheet back to reveal his raging hard-on. He gave me a nasty grin as he slowly moved his hand up and down it.
"Dad, it’s me."
There was an ominous silence for a moment and then, he said, "Where are you?"
"I sp-p-pent the n-n-n-night at N-n-n-n-icky's p-p-place ups-s-s-stairs from the res-s-s-stauran-n-n-nt. You s-see, it was r-r-r-real l-l-l-late and we were real t-t-tired and . . . "
"Get home now."
I took a deep breath.
"Did you hear me?" he asked with a sharper edge in his voice.
"Yes, s-s-s-sir. Right away."
The line clicked and went dead. Numbly, I placed the receiver back in the cradle. I turned and looked at Nicky in the eyes. He had been slowly jacking off as I spoke but had stopped and was only holding his hard-on.
"You gotta go now, doncha Lil' Buddy?" he asked.
I looked down at the sheets and nodded. Nicky sat up and put an arm around me.
"It's OK. I understand. Hey, we had fun, didn't we?"
I looked up at him. Was that all this was for him, fun? It was more for me, much more. It was the world to me. Was I misreading things? Almost imperceptibly, I nodded.
"Hey, we'll have lots more chances to fool around again," he said soothingly as he put his arm around me. Desperate for his hug, yet fearful I might push him away if I seemed too lovey or queer, I leaned against him. Then, the dam broke and I lost all reserve. I melted into him, clutching desperately at him, silent, afraid to say anything.
Nicky stiffened in surprise and then seemed to melt, as well. He squeezed me tighter, saying nothing, yet caressing me with the most tender and loving hand.
We sat there for quite some time, I unwilling to allow the moment to end, fearful of what awaited me, longing for the moment to last forever. Eventually, Nicky moved and began to pull away. I looked up at his eyes and saw confusion and concern. I sighed.
"I haf-f-f-f t-to g-g-go n-n-n-n-ow."
Nicky nodded silently. I crawled from the bed and slowly crawled back into my dirty work clothes.
"Hey, ya gonna make it to Sunday dinner?" he asked.
Nicky stood up naked and squeezed my shoulder again.
"Hey," he said softly as I looked up into those soulful brown eyes. "You're my Li'l Buddy. Remember that, OK?"
I nodded and smiled.
The ride home on my bike seemed to take forever, yet seemed to end before it began. Mom and Dad were already dressed for church and getting in the car as I rode into the driveway. Mom looked numbly at me and climbed into the car without a word. Dad stood at the driver-side door and gave me a Look. I stopped on Mom's side of the car.
"You can't go to church looking like that," he said ominously. "Go to your room and stay there until we get back."
I nodded silently and pushed my bike around the garage to the backyard as the car pulled out of the driveway.
Dreading their return and cursing my dad for making me come home when I could have spent another couple of hours in Nicky's arms, I resentfully entered the house, stripped my clothes off in the laundry room and walked naked to the upstairs bathroom to shower.
I knew what was coming. The severity of what was in store for me would depend on whether or not Mom went to her sister's, as she often did on Sunday afternoons. It also depended on how much beer Dad drank while he watched the game on TV. As I turned the water on as hot as I could stand it and climbed into the shower, I tried to empty my mind of the reality of where I was and where I would be in a few hours, a trick I had been forced to master over the last few years during certain moments when reality was just too much for me. Instead, I was back in Nicky's bed, with his arms enfolding me, breathing in the smell of Nicky, drinking in his warmth, his love . . .
I opened my eyes as water flowed over my face. His love. I was confused about Nicky. Did he love me? Or were we just "fooling around" and having fun like guys do sometimes. Of course, "fooling around" as we were is usually something twelve- or thirteen-year-olds do, not sixteen- and eighteen-year-olds. When you do it at this age, it’s not fooling around. It’s gay. But, when Nicky held me, he was so tender, I could feel something. He had to love me. Yet, he never said it and when I was leaving, he just acted like we had just done something natural, like guys do, like sitting around, drinking beer, smoking pot, listening to music, jacking-off. Jacking-off. No. Most guys don't jack-off with each other when they’re catching a buzz and listening to music. Nicky had to be gay. But, did that mean he loved me, or that he was just horny and wanted to have some fun?
At work, he was always nice and encouraging. Whenever he was teaching me something, he was so patient and under-standing. Was he like that because he loved me, or was he just a really nice and decent guy who just happened to like fooling around and having some fun sometimes. Or both?
Before I realized it, I was seriously hard. I grabbed my boner and jacked myself into a frenzy, thinking of Nicky holding me, jacking me, loving me. Knowing I was alone, I found myself talking to Nicky, encouraging him, urging him on. I was moaning and groaning and when I shot my cum all over the shower wall, I cried out and the orgasm was almost as hot and intense as when Nicky sent me over the edge.
After my shower, I put on a clean pair of jeans and a rugby shirt and lay on my bed. I drifted off to sleep and awoke to the sound of the front door slamming. I didn't dare leave the room. I heard the TV come on and the sound of a football pre-game show worked its way into my consciousness. Soon, the smell of bacon frying made its way upstairs.
Cautiously, I went downstairs. Dad was already in front of the TV with a beer. Mom was in the kitchen making BLT sandwiches. Without a word, she handed me a plate and a can of RC. I sat down at the kitchen table and slowly ate as she took a plate with a couple of sandwiches into the living room. When she returned to the kitchen, I took a deep breath.
"Mom, can I go over to the Mancinelli's for Sunday dinner?"
She gave me the numb, dead stare which seemed to be the norm for her, a look which she had developed during the last two or three years, and simply shook her head. I looked down at my sandwich and, suddenly, I knew what was in store. I saw her pick-up her handbag, walk to the living room, and go out the front door.
Dad came into the kitchen as I was finishing my sandwich. He walked to the fridge and extracted another beer.
"Go to your room and stay there," he said with a fearful undertone to his voice. This was not good. This was definitely not good.
I did as I was told. I went to my room and sat at my desk. I looked at a picture of Lord Byron on my wall and a picture of Shelley. I wondered how they would react to my life. I wondered if adversity had led to their sense of independence, their gift of flaunting convention and seeking the marrow of life. I looked at the notebook on my desk, the notebook in which I collected what I called my "poetry." It was crap. I knew it was crap. I was pretentious to think it was anything other than crap. Dad had always said I was a loser and he was right. Nicky didn't love me. He just wanted to play around and have some fun. He was always "banging chicks," as he said. Maybe had a few gay feelings and thought it would be safe to fool around with the "retard." I wouldn't tell anyone, he must have figured. I would be either too grateful to get attention or too ashamed to admit to what happened, so he would be safe. That's all I was good for, for Nicky to use me. Or Dad. I was nothing. I was a fag. A fairy. My Dad sucked my dick because he couldn't get anything from my mother and . . . and . . . the most disgusting thing I could admit, even though I tried not to, even though I would force my mind elsewhere, even though it disgusted me and made me sick when he did it, even in spite of all that, the most disgusting thing about me was . . . I liked it.
There it was. I admitted it. I hated my Dad. I hated him with every fiber of my body, and I never hated him more than when he was sucking me. Or hitting me. Yet . . . I liked it.
I felt like vomiting.
My door burst open. I had fallen asleep at my desk and my head was laying on my notebook, my neck in a crooked position. A sharp pain shot through it as I jerked upward to find my Dad standing in the doorway, swaying, his eyes bleary but filled with anger. And something else. I could hear his breathing over the sound of the halftime show.
"So," he said leaning against the door frame. "You spent the night with the dago."
I had nothing to lose. I was nothing, so it didn't matter. Nicky didn't love me. Dad didn't love me. Mom didn't love me. Nobody loved me. Nothing mattered.
"He's n-n-not a d-d-a-g-go."
Dad walked over to me and slapped me.
"Did he fuck you?"
I was gasping from the pain.
He slapped me again.
"Liar! That long-haired freak probably fucked you all night. That's all your good for, you fucking faggot slut!"
The stench of his beer breath made me sick. Was this what I smelled like last night?
Dad slapped me a third time, harder this time than before and I fell to the floor.
"Get up, you fucking fairy."
I was about to, but waited too long as I tried to gain my balance and my breath. A sharp kick to my side sent me falling toward my dresser. I was on my back, grasping my side in pain. I looked up at him through tears.
"That's it. Cry like a fucking baby."
He grabbed me by my shirt, tearing it as he picked me up and threw me on the bed.
"Please, Dad, please. I'm sorry. I won't do it again. Please don't hit me again!"
That was the wrong thing to say. Begging for mercy always seemed to inflame him more and this time was no different. The blows came so fast and so furious that I simply curled into a ball trying desperately to protect my face.
It was when he began to pull and tear at my jeans that I realized this incident would be different. An even greater fear exploded in my heart as he pulled my jeans off and left me lying on the bed, naked from the waist down.
"I'll show you," he muttered, a strange husky quality to his voice which frightened me even more. "I'll show you."
I started to turn and look up at him, but he hit the side of my head.
"Lay down!" he yelled at me, and I obeyed.
And, then, it happened.
I could not believe that this was occurring. After all that had happened to me in the past, this was beyond anything I had ever experienced. How could a father do this to his son?
He shoved my face into my pillow and screamed, "Shut up, Goddamn it!"
The pain was beyond anything I had ever known. And, then, I fell into the dark peace of nothing.
I was cold and alone. Pain exploded from every part of my body. But, at least, I was alone.
I was afraid to move. I listened. There was a football game on the television downstairs. The sun was still up, but it would be setting soon and darkness was falling over the town. And me.
Darkness was the answer. I had just left the darkness, the glorious darkness that had protected me and saved me from the unspeakable. I had to go back. I had to return to the darkness, the nothing.
I knew what I had to do. There was nothing left. Nothing to keep me from the Nothing, the Nothing that beckoned me and called me. The Nothing would welcome me and envelope me. The Nothing would protect me.
Slowly, painfully, I sat up. My shirt was ripped and I was still naked below my waist. There was blood all over the bed spread. There was blood all over my legs.
Shaking, I pulled myself to the edge of the bed and tried to stand. I was terribly dizzy, but I stood. I saw myself in the mirror. My left eye was dreadfully disfigured and blood had dried around my nose and mouth.
The sun was getting lower in the sky. I had to hurry. I had to say goodbye to the sun and greet the dark. I had to go to my place, the only place I had known real peace. Not Mancinelli's. There had been peace there, but they just felt sorry for me. I was the retard and they were just being nice. No. The only place where I had known real peace was my hill, my bench. I had to hurry and say goodbye to the sun one last time.
Shakily, I pulled my work jeans on and slipped my loafers on my feet. I listened at the door. Nothing but the game.
Slowly, I pulled open the door and listened again. And then, I crept forward to the bathroom. I closed the door and staggered to the sink, where I washed my face, drying it off with the nice towel for the company, leaving blood on it. Then I opened the medicine cabinet.
There they were, Mother's Little Helpers. Only now, they were Jamie's Little Helpers. They would escort Jamie from this world of pain to the Nothing, the glorious peace of the Glorious Nothing. And, this time, Mom wouldn't be around to interfere.
I slipped the bottle into my pocket and slipped out the door.
Dad was passed out in his La-Z-Boy as I crept down the stairs. His eyes were closed and his mouth hung open. Drool was dripping out the side. I took one last look and slipped into the kitchen and out the backdoor.
There was no way I could sit on my bike. I would have to walk. I hoped I wouldn't attract too much attention as I staggered down the street, but I had to hurry. I had to get there before the sunset.
The pain in my body, and especially down there, was horrible. But, it would be all over soon. Soon I would be in the Nothing. The only thing that sustained me as I struggled up Third Street was the thought of The Nothing.
I passed the Goldstein's house. I was sure Davy and Stevie were still at the Mancinelli's. The thought of little Davy in the arms of Stevie, Stevie loving him, holding him, giving him the security and warmth he needed, I needed, broke my heart. Tears began to flow down my face. I walked faster.
I thought I heard my name as I walked on, but I didn't see anyone and it didn't matter anyway.
The sun had sunk below the tree tops. I had to hurry!
I came to Canterbury Avenue. A car honked and I heard its brakes as I staggered across the street; it made no difference to me, even when the guy driving it yelled curses at me.
I was going to miss it! I was going to be too late! I reached into my pocket and pulled out the bottle. As I passed the library, I began to swallow the pills one at a time, squeezing my tongue between my teeth to make enough saliva to swallow them. By the time, I made it to the Science Center parking lot, the bottle was half gone. I struggled up the path, not knowing where the energy came from to push myself upward, but pushing anyway.
I found myself by the linden tree and there were the holly bushes. I was almost there! In just a few moments, I would find my peace. And then, I was there, standing before my bench. I collapsed onto it and turned.
It was the most beautiful sunset ever. The brilliant orange orb of the sun was just at the horizon and the cirrus and stratus clouds above were each exploding in a brilliant, fiery spectacle of red, orange, salmon and purple, more vibrant and stirring than any manmade fireworks could ever be. The hills were covered with trees of green with spots of red and orange and yellow dotting the landscape as the colors of autumn grew in the annual decline from life to death to life again.
Renewal. Would I come back, like the trees of autumn fading into their own nothing in winter only to be reborn? I didn't want to be reborn. I just wanted winter. I just wanted nothing.
I could barely hold my head up as I swallowed the last of the pills. I could barely produce any saliva as I ran my tongue over my teeth. But, I swallowed and as I felt the final pill work its way down my throat, I realized with a sense of satisfaction that I had done it. I had finally done it. Finally. Finally I would find the peace I sought. Finally, I would find the nothing.
The sun sank below the farm house on the hill beyond. The clouds were fading. I was so tired, so very, very tired. The pain was starting to go away and the peace was coming. Peace.
The cool of the autumn evening settled over me and I felt happy. I loved cool. I loved cold. I loved dark. This was beautiful. This was the joy I wanted.
In the distance I could hear a voice. It was a pretty voice. A voice in the growing darkness, a voice that added to the beauty of the darkness, the nothing.
The voice was growing louder. Something told me it shouldn't be growing louder. This wasn't what I wanted. I wanted the voice to cease, to leave me with the cold, the dark, the nothing, to let me fall into my new cold, dark, nothing.
"Jamie! Oh, my God! Jamie! Jamie!
What was happening? My peace! Where was my peace? I was falling. No, I wasn't falling, I was shaking! Someone was slapping me! NO! NO! NO! This wasn't the way it was supposed to be. It was all going to be over soon and this wasn't the way it was supposed to be! It was supposed to be quiet and peaceful and cold and dark!!!
"Jamie! NO! Jamie, PLEASE! JAMIE!"
Davy. It was Davy.
"OH, God! STEVIE!!!!! HELP ME!!! STEVIE!!!!"
Why was Davy calling me Stevie? I wasn't Stevie. I was... I was... I was Jamie. Yeah.
"Oh, my God! NICKY! We found him!!!! NICKY!"
More slapping. Oh, God, was Dad here, too? It was just as well. This was how I deserved to leave the world. Pain. That's what I deserved.
"Oh, my God, no! NO! JAMIE!"
Suddenly, I wasn't being slapped anymore. Suddenly, I was being held. It was warm and suddenly, I felt safe.
"Jamie, don't do this to me! Jamie, I love you! Don't do this! Oh, God, Jamie! Stevie, do something! DO SOMETHING!"
It was Nicky. Nicky was holding me. Nicky was crying. Nicky was kissing me.
Nicky said he loved me.
Nicky said he loved me.
Nicky said he loved me.
I tried to look up at him. Nicky said he loved me. I tried to see his face, but all I could make out was a blur of long hair and hands over my face.
Nicky said he loved me.
"Davy, run down to the Science Center! HURRY! Get help!! RUN!"
"Oh, Jamie, don't die! Please don't die! I love you!"
"Nick, we gotta make him throw up!"
"I dunno. Oh, God! Oh, SHIT!"
Suddenly, my mouth was forced open. I was leaning over and fingers were forcing their way into my throat. I gagged.
STOP, I wanted to scream, but I could say nothing.
The fingers were relentless.
"Throw up, Jamie! Throw up, God damn it!"
Suddenly, I was jerked from Nicky's arms.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm gonna make him throw up!"
And, suddenly, I was socked in the gut!
I leaned over and retched.
"Jamie, I love you!And, then, finally, FINALLY, there was Nothing.