I could hear strange noises and voices. I couldn’t make any of them out. Finally, I recognized the buzzing of a fluorescent light. Confused, I tried to open my eyes, I couldn’t. Now scared, I tried to open my eyes again. They fluttered slightly. I screamed as loud as I could. It was only a moan. I tried to open my eyes once more. I could see some light and then I heard Steve’s voice. That didn’t make sense to me. When I heard my mother’s voice I got so scared I pissed all over myself.
“Peter, Peter, Peter, talk to me, Peter,” my mother said.
“Jim,” she then yelled.
I tried to open my eyes; the light blinded me. I could only moan; my vocal cords would not work and I could hardly swallow. I opened my eyes again; it was only shadows and light. Closing and opening my eyes once more, they finally began to focus. I recognized the outlines of Mom, Dad and Steve.
“Where’s Dan, Jason?” I could not understand myself.
Dad lightly lifted my head in his hand and dribbled water from a wet rag into my mouth.
“Pete, Pete, can you hear us?” Steve said.
I nodded my head.
“Are you ok?” Mom asked.
I stared at her as if she was crazy. I hardly knew who I was.
“Where’s Dan, Jason?” I asked again.
This time I could barely understand myself. They all stared at me.
“Where’s Dan and Jason?” I asked again in a rough voice.
They still just stared at me. I knew in my heart and started to cry. Steve ran out the door. I asked twice more before Dad answered.
“Pete, you were in a car accident….”
He kept forming his mouth to continue speaking, but kept sighing and biting his lip.
Finally, he said, “Jason is in the room down the hall, he’s in a coma.” I sighed in relief.
“Dan…died instantly.” I cried out loud.
Only then did I realize the overwhelming physical pain I was feeling. I passed out.
I heard the buzz of the fluorescent light again. It reminded me of coming to before and what my dad had told me. Not wanting to open my eyes, I shook my head from side to side. I don’t know why.
Then, I heard Katie’s voice, “Pete, Pete, come on, come to, talk to me, it’s Fitz.”
I opened and closed my eyes to get used to the light. White sunlight shone across the ceiling.
“Come on, Pete, that’s it, come on.”
She kissed me on the cheek. The warmth of her lips and breath felt so good, it energized me. I opened my eyes again and began to focus.
“Hi, Fitz,” I whispered gruffly. “Tell… me…how’s Jason?”
She shook her head. I was crushed, my heart caved in pain.
“No coma,” I said trying to gain strength.
“Pete, yes, Jason is in a coma, but…” she started to break down, but held on, “there’s no hope.”
“Oh god, no, Fitz, no.” She leaned over as best she could to hug me. It was only then that I realized that my right arm and leg were in casts, full casts. I moaned as wave after wave of pain washed over me, never had I felt such hurt in my life. I thought I was going to pass out again. It ebbed and then I sighed.
“What happened?” I whispered, “I last remember getting in the car at Daf’s.”
“A pick-up with a drunk at the wheel flew across Highway 1 without stopping. He hit broadside into Dan. Dan was thrown into you. He took the impact but broke your arm and leg. He died before he knew what happened. We didn’t think that you would make it either, but you have kept hanging on. Jason was awake and talking at first. We thought that he was going to be fine. He told us what had happened. But he seemed to have gotten bounced around pretty bad in the back. A few hours after we got to the hospital his brain and body began to slowly shut down. In the last week…”
“It was five days ago, Pete.”
“Oh god, Fitz!” Tears began to trickle over the sides of my face.
“Pete, Jason’s on life support. They’re waiting for his parents to decide about turning it off.”
“You have to get me in there.”
“Pete, be serious.”
“Fitz, no fuckin’ around. You have to get me in there!”
“I don’t know how.”
“You know all about hospitals. Help me.”
“Anyway I got to go to Dan’s funeral.”
There was a long pause.
“It was yesterday morning. Mr. and Mrs. Elliot will be here soon to see you.”
“Oh, fuck, Fitz, I just want to die. Please, please, I have to at least touch and feel Jason before it’s too late. I got to talk to him.”
“He can’t hear you, Pete!”
“Yes, he will.”
Mom and Dad came into the room. When they saw me awake they rushed over.
“Pete, are you OK,” Mom asked.
“No, I’m not fuckin’ OK, Mom. My life has been crushed…literally! I just want to die with them.”
I dissolved into sobs of grief and pain. Fitz held my hand. Dad moved around the bed so that he could put his hand on my head and hold me. Mom just cried; her face in her hands.
When I could finally speak in between the sobs I said, “Dad, get me in to see Jason. I have to!”
“What? Come on, Pete!”
I gave him one of my I-am-going-to-do-this-come-hell-or-high-water stares. He had seen it a few times in my life and knew I would find a way. He looked at Katie.
“How can we do this, seriously?”
“You’re kidding, huh,” she said more than asked.
“Not shittin’ you at all!”
“Jim, don’t talk like that!”
“Marge, the kid’s got it in his craw, we got to help.”
Katie stood up, “Lemme think about it and talk to Steve. Give me fifteen.”
Katie and Steve came back in, along with Mom and Dad Elliot. I burst in tears and so did they. Everyone backed up so that they could come close. She caressed my face. He kissed me on the forehead.
“I’m so sorry,” I cried.
“So are we,” he said.
I just sobbed. I knew no words that could express anything that I was feeling. I only wanted to scream in horror.
Mom Elliot asked, “Is there anything we can do for you?”
“I wish…well except see Jason.”
“We know about that. We’re working on that one, you will, you will.”
Dad Elliot said, “We’re gonna need to run some interference between the staff and his parents…they’re a real piece of work. Remind me of my jerk cousins. Pete, seriously though, you are not in great shape. This is not a good idea.”
“I don’t care if I die doin’ it. Right now I pretty much don’t have a lot to live for but y’all. My life died…or’s about to…and I don’t want to go on without them!”
The doctors came in and shooed them all away, saying there were too many people and I would be over-stimulated. I laughed for the first time.
“No worry of that,” I said, “the ones who did that are dead.”
The laughter turned to tears after I finished that statement. The doctors ran around, poked and prodded, asked questions and were generally irritating. I asked them about Jason. They were upset by his case. They said he came in in hysterics but otherwise they thought he would be fine. He was badly banged up, but nothing broken and no serious internal injuries they thought, although in time they did find that he had a very serious concussion. That, in time, led to his brain to slowly begin swell and then shut down, no matter what they did.
Then one doctor said two things that blew me away: “He saved your life you know,” and “It seemed as you got stronger he got weaker.”
At evening visiting hours, the six of them returned. The four parents waited in the hall and distracted the desk nurses. Katie and Steve came in the room. Katie was dressed for work. She got the bed and all the necessities ready to roll. Steve sat in the chair as she disconnected the monitoring devices and hooked a couple of the monitors up to him. She pulled me to the left side of the bed as I screamed into my pillow. She poked her head out the door and nodded. Then she locked the door open, pushed me out, down the hall, and into Jason’s room. I could feel the wheel on the bed wobble as we rolled down the hall; the vibrations sent shivers of pain throughout my body.
She put down the flip-up sides of his and my beds and pushed them together. I stared at the beautiful young man with flowing red hair, high cheekbones and thin lips. He looked like so many times before, sleeping peacefully. I used to wake up every morning and stare at both him and Dan sleeping. I slid my hand under his sheets and caressed his warm soft skin, but I could tell he was barely there. I ran my fingers across his chest, down his stomach and through his pubic hairs. I fondled his cock and balls. I tried not to lose consciousness as the pain gripped my body as I tried to move. Tears flowed down my cheeks in a continuous stream.
“Jason, I love you!”
“Jason, why didn’t you stay?”
“Jason…” I struggled to try to kiss his face but could not. I grabbed his hand and kissed that.
I could hear him say in my head, “You make me feel like royalty when you do that!”
I reached for his left arm. I was unable to get to it.
“Katie, help. Left hand, please.”
She reached under the sheets and put his hand into mine. I felt for his ring. It was still on his finger. I gazed up to his closed eyes.
“Jason, you understand don’t you?”
I felt a shiver. I removed his ring and placed it on my pinkie.
“Oh my god, Jason, you will be with me the rest of my life. I love you more than anything in this world!”
I screamed in pain as I finally rolled over far enough to kiss him on the cheek.
“One for all and all for one,” I whispered.
“I love you.”
“Ok, Katie, let’s go,” I whispered.
I squeezed his cock and then blew him a kiss. I screamed again as I rolled back far enough so that she could put up the side of the bed. I stared at Jason’s face, which seemed to have the slightest smile, and cried as she rolled me out of the door down the hall and back into my room. She undid Steve and hooked me back up, then called the parents in.
“I love you all for what you did for me. But I think I want to be alone for awhile, OK?”
They all turned their heads toward the voices out in the hall. It was the Godcheauxs. They hadn’t expected them back.
“That was close. They sure woulda raised hell if they found you in there, Pete…Sorry to say, but they blame you.”
“Wouldn’t surprise me from the couple of seconds of conversation I had with them once.”
Although I was emotionally drained, in extraordinary pain and had a ton of fiberglass up and down my right side I was actually feeling energized. I didn’t understand why.
“Hey…actually, don’t leave, I’ll have all night to be with myself.”
I wanted to ask some questions about the accident but thought I would wait till I had Fitz alone.
My mom looked at the dinner tray that had been brought to me. It was only half eaten.
“Peter you need to eat. Why didn’t you finish your dinner? Aren’t you hungry?”
“Yes, Mom, I have an appetite, not a great one mind you, but in general, OK…it’s just that I keep gagging on meat. I can’t stand the taste or feel of it in my mouth,” I paused to think, “I just kept spittin’ it out. I don’t get it, maybe all the medicines they’re givin’ me or something. Everything has a metallic taste anyway. I’m OK with the fruits and veggies though, like always…but the smell of the meat just makes me sick.”
“That’s…well…Pete, you do as you feel is right, OK?”
Her brow wrinkled and she looked away. Then quickly turned her gaze back to me with a smile on her face; I looked at her funny. It didn’t sound like my mom, but I let it go.
Mom and Dad Elliot said that they had some things for me.
“OK,” I said.
Dad Elliot sat on the stool next to the bed.
“I’m sorry you weren’t there for Dan’s funeral. He would have wanted you to…well, say it all, probably. So we just had the burial because we decided we should have a memorial when you and Jason were able to make it.”
“We didn’t know if you ever would at that point and now it looks like Jason won’t,” my dad said.
Mr. Elliot continued, “So you didn’t miss it. OK. And when you’re ready, tell us and we’ll put it together. But we know that he would want you to have these.”
He opened the palm of his hand and placed Dan’s ring and his watch into my palm. He then saw the extra ring on my pinkie so he placed Dan’s on my middle finger. I did not have tears left to cry. I put the watch to my ear to hear it tick.
“God only knows how or why it still works. Hopefully it will help you sleep like Dan said it always did.”
“Now I need to be alone, please.”
My heart was in such pain I thought my chest would implode. I really felt as if I was the only person on this planet, as those who were my family surrounded me.
“Oh, Dad,” I said to Mr. Elliot, and both Dads turned around, “I want to design Dan’s headstone…OK?”
“Thanks, we’d like that…a lot!”
They all filed out. I struggled for ten minutes to strap the watch on my wrist. Then I put it to my ear and soon fell asleep.
I was wide awake at three AM. It was the first time I had the chance to think through everything that had happened. I cried for Dan and Jason. I cried for the future that they would not get to live. I screamed at the asshole that caused this destruction. I didn’t care that he had died too. Then I just screamed in pain. The nurse came in and sedated me.
I heard Katie’s voice. She was checking on me before she had to report to work downstairs in the far wing.
“Katie!” I opened my eyes. I was very groggy.
“Fitz!” I finally could focus.
“Hey, Pete, what’s up?”
“That’s really what I want to know,” I mumbled. I shook my head trying to wake up and get a clear thought.
“I’m not in the loop about what happened and what’s happening.”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t know, Fitz, I’m too fucked up at the moment to think straight anyway. Come back later, please and tell me all of what happened.”
“Pete, I don’t know if there’s any…”
“Fitz…” I stared at her with anger, “The doctor said Jason saved my life. What’s the story with that?”
She stared back at me with this pained and worried look on her face.
“OK, I’ll be back after lunch. I told them to send you a vegetarian lunch…is that OK?”
“Thanks, look you’re the only one who will tell me the truth around here. I need to know, please.”
She smiled, “I love you, Pete.”
I struggled to blow her a kiss.
Both sets of parents came in soon after. The doctors had said I could go home in a day or two at the most. Mom told me it was now time for “recovery” and all that was involved.
“I don’t know if I ever will ‘recover’ from this, how could I?”
“Physically, Pete, these doctors only care about the body” my dad said.
“Emotionally, it will always hurt, but you are going to have to come to grips with that too…somehow.”
“We are making arrangements to get you to New Jersey,” Mom said.
“NO! I am not going to Jersey!”
“Pete, you need a lot of attention and care over the next few months. Who’s going to do that?”
“My home is here. Steve and Katie and my friends will. Besides if I need a physical therapist then Fitz is my only choice. I need to love the person I’m going to hate!”
There was a long silence as everybody looked at each other and I stared at them all.
“Pete,” Dad said holding his hands up so that my mom wouldn’t speak, “OK, you win…Have you spoken to Katie and Steve about this?”
“No, not yet…and dammit… I didn’t win anything, I’ve only lost,” I said in barely a whisper.
I could see in Dad’s eyes that he was sorry for his choice of words.
I nodded my forgiveness.
He blinked his thanks.
Mom and Dad Elliot made their good-bye. Of anybody, I knew they were in the most pain, the only people I could relate to on the level of hurt I felt. I didn’t want them to go.
“I have to come to New Orleans in three weeks, Pete. Can I come by and see you?”
“Dumb question, Dad, you better come see me,” I said choking on tears.
“I love you, Son, get well, OK,” he kissed me on the forehead as a tear rolled down his cheek and onto mine.
Mom kissed me too; she was too emotional to say a word. The touch of her hand on my face said it all. I now know where Dan got his expressive hands. I don’t think anybody could see the smile in my pained face, but it was the first of thousands of cherished memories that I would have.
“Bye, Son. We love you.”
Katie, upon hearing of my plan to come back to Upperline to recover, said, “Of course, that’s what we expected. It just makes the most sense.” I don’t know if she was covering for my wishes or had truly planned on it and I’ve never found out since which it was. Katie laid out to my parents how it would all work, how Steve’s and her schedule would cover most of the time and then plan a rotation of a few of my friends to come by as relief. Most of the recovery was allowing the five breaks in my arm and leg to have the time to heal, which meant lying around. The tough part was to keep me from going nuts doing that. The rest was Fitz’s specialty. She promised to make me, at least physically, as good as new, and she would do her damnedest to make me emotionally strong again.
That afternoon Katie did come by but we talked about my coming home instead of the accident. We both knew that there would be a better time. I was ready to get the hell out of the hospital. I couldn’t wait, yet I also dreaded it more than I could imagine because I would be going back to our room…alone.
Katie also introduced me to my first psychologist, one of four therapists I would see over the next few years to help me deal with this tragedy. All in all they did help me wade through the bitterness and anger that rose and crashed in waves out of me, but a couple of them were jerks too. I think they were more interested in the relationship the three of us had than dealing with the loss of that relationship. I was not and will never be interested in a clinical analysis of what we had together.
When I checked out the next morning, one week from the accident, I learned that Jason was going to be taken back to Mississippi that afternoon. They decided not to turn off his life support. They wanted to have him close so that they could have prayer vigils to bring him back.
“Oh please, what shitheads. Just leave him alone,” I moaned. “Let him die with dignity.”
“Pete, he has gone with dignity. He’s OK now,” Katie said softly.
As I was being rolled out in the wheelchair I said, “One last time. Are they around?”
“Let’s do it,” Katie said.
She pushed me through Jason’s door and rolled me up to him. His face was gaunt. He had a frown. He looked ancient. He was just a shell.
I squeezed his hand with my hand and the three rings. I began to sob.
“One for all. I’ll love you forever, Jason.”
I stared for a while. I blew him a kiss, “That’s from Dan, Tiger.”
“Let’s go, Fitz,” I said through my tears.
She spun me around and out the door. We went through the sliding glass doors to the parking lot. I tried to cover my eyes in the crux of my elbow. I was completely unprepared for the bright sun and glare. I was completely unprepared for the world outside those doors.