Fitz was right, I did like yoga, and both Tim and I were hooked by the end of our first practice. I felt elation, confusion, excitement, frustration, accomplishment, pain and satisfaction, plus had sweated more than I could ever have imagined. I thought that I would never make it to final relaxation. Only Katie’s sessions helped me through it. Tim, who was in good shape, thought he was going to have a heart attack and die half way through. During class we both kept watching this tiny woman who had to be in her sixties. She hardly broke a sweat and her breathing was strong, yet effortless and regular throughout. We both agreed we had something to aspire to.
Tim and I went on non-stop about the class for an hour afterwards. We sat up till midnight talking about anything that came to mind because we were so excited because of the energy created by what we had been through. Tim and I also talked about the night he spent with me. He had gone back and made up with Brad. He even invited Brad to come to yoga, so they would have something new to share together and to share with me. Brad apologized; he said that Tim needed to have a good friend. He wasn’t too thrilled that I was his ex, but “c’est la vie” as he put it. So going to yoga was OK with him, we would at least be out in public together. Tim said with humor to him, “BANG, ZOOM, To da moon wit ya, Alice!” I was happy for the two of them and Tim and I were hoping that in time we would figure out our feelings for one another and learn to deal with them.
On the morning of December 20th I mailed my packages to the Elliots’ and one to Bill too. I had yet to meet up with Bill since the accident although we had talked and cried on the phone a few times. His new engineering job takes him on the road for weeks at a time and he still was juggling his personal life with both a boyfriend and a girlfriend. So it didn’t leave much time to venture to New Orleans. I told him he would have to be there when I came to get Sammy or he would have to quit his job. He promised he would be there.
After driving my old car back from the post office and I tossed my duffels into the car. Steve, Katie and Tim were all going to drive with me to the airport and see me off. My love for the three of them and their support continued to grow. I was leaving one family to go visit another. When I left their embrace I was so excited about going home. I was also scared, because I was about to go home alone to face my family. I felt as if I would be absorbed back into the swamp that I struggled for eighteen years to escape, since I didn’t feel so invincible without Dan or Jason. I was going home a lone gay man. My desire to see my family and Egil did not keep me from diving into the blackness of my soul by the time I arrived in Newark two and a half hours later.
I hugged both Mom and Dad, but mentally I was elsewhere. Julia had come along too and she hugged me with more affection than she ever had. She had matured since I saw her last. I felt that she had some understanding of the devastation I had been through. That hug seemed to bring me back. Mom was amazed at how good I looked and walked.
“Thank Katie, Mom. Thank Katie, I owe it all to her. I hope y’all are shipping her a truckload of presents because she just delivered you one. I’m still in awe.”
“So am I,” Dad said.
“On the fourth day of your coma I was beginning to lose hope. She wouldn’t let me. Even as Jason kept getting worse, she said you’d survive and be dancing for Christmas.”
I did a little jig as I carried one of my duffle bags.
“And, Mom, I know what you’re thinkin’, yes I’d marry her in a heartbeat except for two things - I won’t push Steve out of the way and I’m queer.”
“Sssh, not so loud,” Mom said.
That pushed the wrong button in me.
“I am not going back anywhere near the closet Mom.”
“Oh, Pete, I just meant…”
“Hey! Did you know I’m queer?” I said to a passing traveler, “Hey! These are parents of a faggot.”
“Pete! Stop it,” Dad exclaimed in his no nonsense voice.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “but, dammit, I am not ashamed of it. Come on, I didn’t come out to y’all ‘cause it was fun. I came out ‘cause it was the right thing to do. Just because Dan and Jason are gone doesn’t mean I stopped being gay. Someday, hopefully before I turn 40, I’ll fall in love again…although it scares the shit out of me.”
I put my arm across Mom’s shoulder and squeezed her.
“I’m sorry, Mom. Let’s go home, I can’t wait.”
She squeezed me back, “I’m so glad you are here!”
We finally did enough loop de loops to get out of the parking lot and on our way down I-78. Forty-five minutes later we drove up our driveway. As I got out of the car, Sociable came bounding down the steps with her mile long tongue. I gave her lots of love and attention.
A long silence filled the back yard. I turned my head up and stared at Dad.
“Joker died…the same day Jason did. He was an old dog,” he said.
I sat on the ground and cried as Sociable continued to lick my face.
“Merry Fuckin’ Christmas,” I said softly to myself as the snow melted through my pants.
By the time I got inside, I was ready to get rip-roaring drunk. I slowly and steadily resisted the urge.
“I need a nap,” I said testily.
“Sounds like you do,” Dad said quietly.
I gave him a bit of a hug and lugged my stuff towards the front stairs.
“Hi Emily,” I said, without enthusiasm as I walked by her.
She was watching an old movie on cable. She had a tissue against her cheek.
“Hi, Pete, I’m sorry this movie has got me.”
She jumped up out of the chair and gave me a hug.
“Don’t worry, Em, it’s OK. I know how those old movies can be.”
A brief smile came across my face.
“They’ve sort of kept me sane the last couple of months. Sit back down and watch. I’m goin’ up to take a nap anyway. We’ll talk later.”
I dragged my stuff and myself up to my room. I climbed into the old double bed. I could still smell Joker on the coverlet. I couldn’t smell Dan or Jason. I wanted to go home to New Orleans. I reached for the phone and called Egil.
“Life fuckin’ sucks,” I yelled at him when he answered the phone.
“Merry Fuckin’ Christmas to you too,” he yelled back and started to laugh.
“I love you, Egil.”
“Love you too, Petey.”
He was the only person I let call me ‘Petey’ and have me answer.
“How are you?” he asked me seriously.
“I can dance if I want to…I’m a dancin’ widower. I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to it. I’m very confused and very alone here in my own home.”
“Wanna go get a beer to cry into?”
“No thanks. You want to go for a long walk in the cold.”
“Sure, I’ll be there in ten.”
Twenty minutes later he zoomed up the drive on his bike.
“Hey, Egil, you’re a little early for work,” Dad said with a laugh.
“Yes, sir. Pete ready?”
“He was takin’ a nap.”
“He called me not too long ago.”
I walked down the back steps into the kitchen.
“Hey, kid,” I said as I gave him a big hug. He returned it.
“Let’s go,” I said as I pulled my big green down jacket off the coat rack that stood by the back door.
“Oh god, the green cloud rises again, look out.”
“Oh, piss off, Egil. Goin’ for a walk, Dad.”
He tossed his woolen cap to me, “Put this on.”
“Thanks, Dad, wouldn’t want to catch my death of cold,” I said with a smirk.
“If you two are on one of your long walks, dinner is at six.”
Egil and I were famous for our four to six hour walks all over town. We would walk and talk until we were done.
We walked through the eight blocks of downtown and then continued toward where Egil lived. He lived in a section of small houses built after the Korean War. We wandered down along the railroad tracks, then across an old sheep farm that had an abandoned open-air dance hall built out in the middle of one of the pastures. I always wondered about the place’s history and the events that had taken place there and had always felt the presence of many people’s lives whenever my footsteps echoed across the wooden floor and around the trussed ceiling. It was one of our great places for a group of us to drag a case of beer and a few joints to when we were in high school. We made our way back across town and began to follow the string of parks that cut through town along the path of Peter’s Brook. I always wished it was named for me, except when my brothers would tease me that I was named after a little stream of water that they pissed in. No one could ever tell me who the Peter was that the brook was named after, it just was. My parents couldn’t tell me why they named me Peter either, they just did.
We talked about all that had happened to me and him since we had last seen each other in August when the three of us had come up for the interviews. I had a lot more to say. Finally, I got the chance to spill it all out at once in a stream of events and feelings. I could say a lot of things to Egil that I couldn’t say to anyone else. He was a trusted friend and confidant who was completely removed from all of the events and situations that had happened recently. I told him about the weekend before the accident and what little I knew of the accident itself. We talked about why I had become meatless. We both shrugged our shoulders and looked at the other with twisted grins unable to come up with an explanation. He completely understood about the drinking. He said he would never bring it up again. I told him not to worry about it. I cried about waking up alone and how much I missed them. He put his arm around my shoulder as we walked. I yelled and ranted over the pain I went through with Katie to be able to walk with him. I related to him the nightmares that I have had and how Steve would come and sleep with me and told him of making love to Steve in Houston saying that we had done it out of our friendship more than anything else. Egil said to not screw up Steve and Katie’s relationship no matter what. I nodded my head in agreement. I spoke of the love unresolved between Tim and me. He also said to not confuse it with loneliness at this point, because if he jettisons his boyfriend for me and then it isn’t really love all three of us would lose. “Give it time; you guys are having a lot of fun together. Isn’t that what it’s all about?” I wondered why Egil didn’t have a girl. He’d be a wonderful husband. And I went on and on and on about yoga. He began to roll his eyes and put his hand on his stomach like he was going to puke. I got the message.
We had circled back to my house. I wasn’t really ready to quit walking, but my feet were cold and wet and some of my joints ached because of the cold. I wasn’t used to winter anymore. I thought of riding in Tim’s car with the top down on a warm afternoon just a week ago. I wanted to go to Upperline, now. I told this to Egil. He laughed, giving me that wonderful toothy grin of his. “We never get exactly what we want,” he said. “I did, for eighteen months.” He looked at me. “I guess there is hope for me,” he replied with a grin. A smile crossed my face too.
As we stood under the Norwegian Maple in my backyard I stared into Egil’s eyes, “Thanks for the walk. You’re better than any of the therapists I’ve seen so far.”
“Just drop the check in the mail. You know the address.”
He smiled and winked. I hugged him and kissed him on the cheek.
“Don’t start that shit with me,” he said laughing and then he quickly kissed me on the lips.
“And don’t expect that ever again either!”
He grabbed the handlebar of his bike and spun it around so it faced down the drive.
“See ya,” he said as he mounted his bike.
“Bye, I’ll wave my coffee cup at ya in the morning.” He zipped down the drive and was gone.
I walked up to my room, changed clothes and put on heavy socks. I made out a check for a “Gazillion” dollars to Egil; the whole check was ringed in zeros. In the memo section I put “For Eternal Nomadic Intergalactic Friendship.” I put it in an envelope and stamped it. I put the envelope with the rest of the mail to go out. He got it the day after Christmas. He called me up and laughed for about thirty seconds and then hung up the phone. We never said a word about it, but the check is still stuck in the corner of his bureau mirror frame.
Christmas itself was a complete letdown and depressing in and of itself. I had become completely out of touch with my own family. The presents I had bought for everyone had no inspiration from me. I did not relate to or know of the directions in which my family’s lives had gone in the past year. Part of that was me self absorbed into my relationship and school and since fall…well anybody could understand my preoccupation then. I had not cared what my family was up to during that time. I was too busy building my own. Now I was lost in a bombed out shell of a life, clinging to its charred remains and my family had moved on without me. The clothes that I bought were the wrong size and style. The books had already been read. My brothers complained about anything anyway, so in a way, I didn’t care but it still hurt. I brought two dog toys for just one dog, although I can’t help it if I hadn’t been told. Dad sat next to me on the floor while we handed out presents. Me being here was his real present and he loved the orange sweatshirt I gave him. Of course, he loved anything as long as it was orange for Princeton.
Once the crew had disbanded for breakfast or to look over a certain gift I lay on the green wool carpet with the sun shining through the Christmas tree from the bay window. Sociable snuggled up next to me and sighed, her head on my chest staring at me. I thought of the two presents that I had already bought for Dan and Jason wrapped in a brown paper bag and stashed in a box stacked in the grid. I wondered what the fuck I was going to do with them. Sociable wiggled forward and licked the tears from my cheek.
The next morning I asked Dad before he left for work if I could move my plane reservations up so I could go home sooner.
“Aren’t you home?” he asked cautiously.
I stopped a second, realizing what I had just said.
I broke down sobbing, “No, not anymore.”
He hugged me.
“Sure, do what you need to do, Pete.”
Three days later I called to change them by a week. I would fly back on the thirtieth. Joe Larkin was having his party again. I wanted to go so I could toast the end to the best and the worst year of my life at the spot it began.
Dad had one last Christmas present for me before I left. I got a call from an architect in New York City that he had met right after he came back from seeing me home from the hospital. We talked for a half an hour.
“Come see me when you move up here,” he said, “If I can’t hire you then I will find someone who will. I guarantee it.”
I hate having things handed to me sometimes, but this time I did not have the drive to hunt for a job.
I arrived at Moisant Airport. Only Tim was there. I hugged him as hard as I could.
“You’re crushing me,” he said painfully.
“Sorry, I missed you.”
“Missed you too, big guy.”
“Where’s Fitz and Steve?”
“We made plans to come together, but Steve called right before I was headin’ over to meet them and he asked me if I could do it alone…There was tension in his voice. I’m a bit nervous.”
“Now you got me nervous. Let’s go!”
We zoomed down I-10. The heat was blasting in the car. It was below 20° F outside. Colder than I had ever known it to be in New Orleans. The car ground to a halt in front of the house. I got out, grabbed my bags and took a deep breath.
“Come on, Tim, please.” I opened the door; I was conscious not to bang it open. The stereo was on loud. The radio was playing Brubeck’s Blue Rondo a la Turk. I dropped my bags and called out “Hello!” No answer. I looked down the hall and could see broken dishes on the kitchen floor. I took off in a trot down the hall, and then began to run. When I got to Steve and Katie’s door, which was ajar, I looked in. They were naked, locked into an embrace of bodies and Steve was pumping into her hard. I stared for a few seconds and then pulled the door closed. Tim was at the end of the hall at the entrance to the kitchen when I turned around.
“Everything’s OK…I guess.”
Tim started to chuckle.
“What, I was worried!”
He pointed at my crotch. I had a hard-on. I stepped around the shards of porcelain and grabbed Tim in a hug.
“Stop laughing or I’ll use it on you.”
He laughed harder and said, “Do it.”
I did, despite hearing Egil in my head.
Tim and I were in a light embrace lying in bed when I heard the porcelain being swept up.
Then I heard Steve’s voice, “Hey, Pete’s bags are here!”
He opened the door and saw Tim and me lying naked on top of the sheets.
“Either remember to knock or don’t be shocked,” I said quietly.
He came in and closed the door. He leaned over and kissed me. I gently grabbed his cock through his boxers.
“Been getting a workout,” I said to it.
Steve looked at me, squinting his eyes.
He leaned over me and kissed Tim, “Thanks for picking him up.”
“Mmmm, he picked me up,” Tim said smartly.
“I don’t want to know,” Steve said.
“But I want to know what’s goin’ on with you two,” I asked.
“Come ask the two of us, we’ll be out sweepin’ and cleanin’ up.” Steve bent over and kissed me again.
“We sure did miss you, and glad you came back early. See ya in a few, OK?”
He went out the door, closed it and turned down the radio.
“Well, I better get dressed and go so you kids can talk things through. I think they need you.”
“We’ll find out.” I paused and then hugged Tim. I pushed back a bit.
“I did not expect what happened. I did…but didn’t want it to happen. I am not here to break up your relationship. I need your friendship more than any sex, good as it may be. And I need time…but wow, I did need that, I had forgotten how good our sex had been.”
“Pete, I wanted that so much. It was beginning to drive me to distraction, but I was just going to go on, because I don’t want to screw up our friendship or my relationship either. We will figure out what’s best for us in time. I don’t care if it takes us five years or more.”
“Cool,” I said beginning to get hard again. He cocked his leg and I pushed inside of him. I left it there. He squeezed it. We laughed and then climbed out of the bed still locked together. I put Dan’s robe around both of us and we snuck across the hall into the shower. Twenty minutes later he roared off in the Alfa for home.
“OK, talk to me,” I said to the two of them as they were sitting quietly sharing a beer.
They both looked a little sheepish as they glanced back and forth at one another. They couldn’t decide who was going to talk first.
“OK what did I do to precipitate this?” I asked, half joking.
“Well, it all got started when it came out that you two fucked each other in Houston,” Katie said bluntly.
I gulped, hard, and my eyes opened wide.
“Now, I know I told Steve that if it ever happened I would be OK with it, but it was a lot easier to say that then than it is to deal with the reality of it now. And then I come to find out your sponge baths have been more like spooge baths.”
I glared at Steve who averted his eyes. He had told me that he had told Fitz of those.
“So, I got a little hot and so did Steve and then one plate went flying accidentally out of my hand. And then Steve threw one and then…well, let’s say that we need to get the ones Dan packed away out until we go buy a new set.”
Katie stared at me. She looked like she was about to cry.
“The whole thing is, Pete, that during this whole time Steve has been the most wonderful, loving, caring, sexy man a woman could ever want. I can’t wait to marry him…like we aren’t already. I’m just a bit confused.”
“Join the club, Fitz.” I walked over to her and wrapped my arms around her.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you. My friendship with Steve is a bit unique and my situation since the accident has freaked me out. That is no excuse though. I have to say I have feelings for Steve, but not relationship feelings. We made love because of our love and respect for each other, not for sex. I don’t know how else to explain it.”
“That’s what Steve said too. Don’t worry, it’s OK. I sort of knew it might happen one day…but I’m still allowed to get jealous, don’t you think?”
I nodded and then said, “Now the ‘spooge baths’ as you so eloquently put them. They were sex, plain and simple. I’m not too good at beatin’ off with my left hand and I needed release. Steve lent a hand, so to speak,” I said with the smirk of a bad joke.
Steve then said, “I tried to get Tim to take over that job, but the fact that I hadn’t told you, Katie, that was wrong and that bothered me.”
“Tim did help out, Steve. I can’t help that I’m that horny.”
“Cheeky bastard,” Steve said tossing the dishtowel at me.
“And that leads me to something I want to bring up with y’all,” I said, “This situation I think typifies it. I think you all need this house to yourself, like we had planned before. Things got a bit screwy for a while but it’s time for it to get back on track. I know I said I’d wait till sometime in late spring to move to New York, but I’m moving that up some so that I’m at my new job, no I don’t have one yet, and in my new place by Dan’s and my anniversary. So I’ll be leaving by the end of February, OK. Steve, I thought maybe over Mardi Gras vacation you would help me by driving the truck up…and you Fitz, I don’t mean to be chauvinistic.”
“Why, Pete? What’s the rush,” Katie asked.
“It’s time to get on with my life. Dan and Jason are gone. Our decision was based on what was best for us together AND individually. The ‘All for one and one for all’ business was a truth with us. It still is the right thing for me to do for my career and my life. I can always move back down here or god knows where if I want to at some point. I just have to do it alone now. That fuckin’ sucks! But that’s life though. So to honor Dan and Jason and not wallow in my own self-pity I have got to get on with it. Maybe still confused and hurt, but I think I can work those out in time. I also owe so much to you two for the care and love that you have shown me as long as I have known you. I know that will always continue. Katie, my Fitz, who has caused me fits with your treatment, I would not be able to go so soon if you hadn’t done the most incredible job of kicking my ass from here to hell and back again. As I told my mother, I would marry you in a heartbeat if it wasn’t for me being queer and I could never push Steve out of the way, anyway. So, I would never do anything to hurt your relationship, and if I did, I would be with Dan and Jason sooner than I expect. I love you two!”
I fell silent and slumped onto Jason’s stool. The two of them came up to me and hugged me.
“Hey, I’m going to start makin’ dinner. Pete, I guess I need to start showin’ you how to cook what you’ve been eatin’ lately. Dinners would get cold by the time I could get them to you.”
“Your humor’s a bit off, kiddo,” I said with a smile.
I was OK with cooking, but nothing like Fitz or Dan. I would have to rely on her once more to get me ready to take on the world. I didn’t know how I was going to live without her or without any of the support I had come to rely on in the last two years.
“I’m glad I brought this damn green cloud back with me,” I said to Katie as I pulled on my down coat and the orange and black woolen hat that I hadn’t given back to Dad.
She had on two sweaters and her heavy wool coat. Steve was completely unprepared for the bitter cold outside this New Year’s Eve.
“You’re not getting’ full of anti-freeze this year, babe,” she said to him.
I went to the closet and got out a long brown overcoat that was Dan’s. It had been a present from his grandmother and he hated how it looked on him. He told me, “I look like a fuckin’ tree trunk!” Steve absolutely loved it.
“It’s yours, a Christmas present from Dan.”
He kissed me on the cheek and sashayed out the door.
“Go on wit ya bad self,” I said and shook my head.
I took Fitz by the arm and we went out the door.
“I’ll drive, my…your car,” I said.
I took my keys out of my pocket and opened the door to the Audi. I still had keys to a car that wasn’t mine. They both got in the back so they could be chauffeured. I had to laugh. They had caught on that I did not drink anymore. They never said a word. They completely understood. On nights like tonight it made life a little easier.
As I walked into Joe’s apartment I was intrigued by the new layer of design and furnishings that he had accomplished since I was last over a week or so after graduation, still minimalist, but refined. A few more pieces of art and furniture filled in the wide-open spaces that had been too stark before.
Joe rushed up and hugged me, “Oh my God, I didn’t expect you. Look at you, you look absolutely fabulous.”
He had seen me at my worst, the week I got home from the hospital. He’d come over to visit and helped Steve get me to the toilet and back. He also had stayed and chatted and laughed while I got a sponge bath. I think my whole end of our conversation was screams of pain as Steve rolled me back and forth so that he could get me clean. Joe talked calmly through it all helping me to retain some sense of sanity.
He tried to get me a drink. I kept telling him Cranberry juice.
Steve finally said, “Joe, just juice or I’ll slap ya.”
Joe, who had never heard Steve talk like that to him, raised his eyebrows and said, “OK, sheesh.”
I took my drink and told them that I was going up to the roof.
“It’s brutal up there,” said Joe.
“So’s life, but you already know that,” I replied.
He tilted his head in acknowledgement. I climbed the stairs and went out through the door. The stiff cold wind brought a tear to my eye. There were a few people smoking a joint behind the stairwell, out of the wind. I walked to the spot where we met up with Jason. I stood and listened to the conversation in my head from a year ago. I turned and walked to the parapet where we toasted in the New Year. The tears of sorrow were freezing on my face. I stared out at the lights on the bridge, the stream of white lights coming into the city and the flow of red taillights heading to the West Bank. I almost threw myself off the side of the building. The faces of Dan and Jason in my head were all that stopped me.
“How did this happen god?” I yelled into the wind.
“Why was our life destroyed?”
“Why am I left to carry on?”
My words just disappeared into the night. All I heard were the whistling whispers of the wind in my ears.
I downed the glass of juice. I looked at Dan’s watch which I wore just for tonight. I had all three bands on my fingers. It was just 10:35 and I was ready to go home.
“You OK?” a soft voice asked behind me.
I turned. It was Brad.
“I guess,” I answered, “though I’m not quite sure.”
I could tell from his eyes he had been over with the crowd by the stairs.
“How are you, Brad?”
“OK, I didn’t know if you’d remember my name.”
“Of course, you’re the lover of one of my best friends. How could I forget?”
“Tim’s not here. He’s pissed at me again. It’s my fault.”
“He loves you very much.”
“I know, but I don’t know how to let things be sometimes, so I fuck them up.”
“So that’s why you’re here getting fucked up, huh?”
“I guess…Why are you here? Isn’t this a painful place to be?”
“I just had to say good-bye to the best and worst year in my life, to come full circle so that I can move on. I’ll be moving to New York by Mardi Gras. You won’t have to worry about me any more.”
I stared him in his eyes, my anger beginning to rise.
“I love your husband too, more than I probably realize, but I also love him enough to let him make his own decisions about his life and also be able to let him go too. So, go call Tim and go see him right now if you love him anywhere nearly as much as I do.”
I turned and flung the glass off of the roof and then marched for the door. I heard it shatter on the street below as I got to the stairwell.
I flew down the stairs with a flurry of feet, my mind spinning wildly and tears filling my eyes. I ran into Joe, literally and knocked him to the floor.
“Shit, sorry,” I said as I reached down to pick him up, “You OK?”
“That question is better directed to you, dear Peter.”
“I just got a bit emotional up on the roof.”
“Come,” he said as he took my hand and led me behind the curtain that separated the bedroom from the rest of the loft. He shooed away a couple who were sitting on his bed. He took off my coat and put it on one of a pair Risom chairs that angled toward each other at the foot of his bed. He popped two tissues out of the box and wiped my face of tears.
He handed me two more, “Blow your nose.”
He guided me to the bed. He sat down next to me and put his hand on my thigh.
“It was all too much up there for me. I could see them and hear them. I almost jumped from your roof.”
Joe stared at me, frightened.
“I’m sorry, but I chucked one of your glasses off of the roof instead.”
“I’ll accept that. Much better choice.”
“Then Brad came up to me. Tim has been a godsend to me, and my recovery…my life. Brad’s jealous. He has every right to be. I don’t know, but I could be falling in love with Tim, which just confuses me more. He asked me if I was OK. That threw me for a loop. That’s why I can’t wait to leave to go to New York, to leave all of this behind.”
“One, slow down…calm down. You’re all right. Two, it’ll still be there,” he said, moving his hand to my face.
“No matter where you go there you are.”
He gave a slight smile.
“Anyway, why run away from the family that you have created here?”
“They’re all leaving too. The huge crew of people I went to school with, so very few are left. Steve and Katie will probably move once he graduates after next year. At the core it will leave you and Tim, Dave…and a couple of others. I just don’t want to be left all alone.”
“So you just want to make yourself all alone,” he said softly.
“Touché. Really, I will create a new group of friends. I did an OK job in the five years here.”
“School helps a lot. Now work might do it too, but…you’ll be OK, Pete. I’m just worried about you. I don’t know if I’d be strong enough to endure what you have gone through. I’m amazed at how far you have come since I saw you that first week out of the hospital. You were literally and emotionally a broken man. Now there is this incredibly strong handsome man in front of me.”
“The physical is healed, the emotional…that’s a tough row. I still have nightmares about the accident. I guess I always will.”
“I still have nightmares about being thrown out of the house.”
I smiled as I said, “I could see me running a personal ad: Good man, looking for husband. Must be able to deal with his screaming about blood and guts in the middle of the night.”
I stopped myself from continuing. “Blood and guts,” I thought to myself. What is that all about? Visions began in my head. Were these memories? I couldn’t remember, but I could. I buried my head into Joe’s chest.
“You OK?” He stroked my hair.
“I…I…don’t…know.” I rolled onto my back and stared up at the rafters.
“I think I just remembered something I didn’t want to remember.”
I couldn’t see it anymore. I lay there for awhile tapping my feet on the floor to some unknown tune in my head. Joe brought me another juice, in a plastic cup. We laughed. I went back to tapping my feet.
“Well one thing, you lost all sense of rhythm in the accident.”
Then I noticed that there was music playing.
“I guess asking you to dance is out of the question.” I laughed again.
“Come on, let’s do a round through the party. It’s getting close to midnight.”
We lapped the party a couple of times. He held my hand most of the time. I felt so reassured by him doing that. I didn’t want to run to the roof and jump off anymore. I saw the front door open and Tim stepped into the room. We both instantly smiled at one another. Brad came running across the room, grabbed him in a bear hug and kissed him. I turned back to the conversation I was involved in. Steve walked up behind me and put his arms around my chest and kissed my neck.
“I love you,” he whispered.
“Hey, I thought you only did that to me,” Joe said in a mock complaint.
“Where’s Katie? It’s time to go up to the roof,” I said.
“Right here,” she kissed me on the cheek.
“Well, grab your coats and let’s go.”
I walked to the bar and fixed myself a cranberry and soda, with a wedge of lime. I snatched my coat off of the chair. I nodded my head to Joe, Steve and Katie to come on.
“Come on,” I said to Brad and Tim, “Time to kiss this year good-bye and hope on a good one to come. I didn’t exactly get this one right. Time to try again.”
We stood in a bitter cold wind under a nearly full moon and toasted the year past. That was what I realized at that moment: it was the past. The New Year came. We toasted to the future. My heart was raw to what would come. We could see the fireworks that exploded over the river near the Moonwalk. I kissed Katie, Joe, Steve, Brad and then Tim, very passionately.
“Keep the love you have,” I said. He wiped the tear from my cheek.
“I have a lot of love to give,” he replied with a broad smile.
“So do I,” I said as I looked at the three rings on my fingers, “So do I.”