Nervousness invaded my soul on Monday morning as I got ready for work because I would be leaving Tom home all day. Half of it was the fact I thought that he might get bored. We had decided it would be best for him to lie low for a few weeks. He said he would be content with the wall of books behind my desk.
I handed him A Confederacy of Dunces and said, “Here, you wanted to know about exotic New Orleans, read this.”
“Cool, sounds good. I can’t wait.”
I was also apprehensive about the trust I had given him. Fitz had put that bug in my ear. I let it go. I gave him my number and address at work and we agreed to meet for lunch. We kissed and hugged and I sighed as I heard the door lock behind me. I saw Klaus on the way down the front steps as he was picking up trash out front.
“I have a friend staying with me for a while. A young blond haired boy. So don’t be scared if you see him out back or hear music or the TV during the day. It’s OK. How’s the missus?”
“Pete, she gut. Verk hard. Ja?”
“Yes, I usually do. Bye.”
The walk to the subway was brisk and bright but underground it still oozed of steam heat. I was glad that summer had moved on and excited to get back to work to make up the time for Friday when I had concentrated on the weather instead. Ensconced at my desk, I made my round of morning phone calls including one to Mom Elliot to get the final arrangements for their trip up here.
They had been coming up to New York at least once a year since I had moved here. Since Daniel was born they had been here four times. Now they were coming to meet Steve Jr.. These kids were their grandchildren by proxy. We all encouraged it too. Steve called them as soon as he hung up calling his and Katie’s parents on the morning Daniel was born. To all of us it was natural.
“Hi, Mom, it’s Pete. Ready to meet your new grandchild?”
“Hi, darlin’, yes we are. And can’t wait to see our architect!”
“I can’t wait to see y’all. I have reservations all set for ‘Tavern on the Green’ and ‘21’…and ‘Velselka’ too.”
She giggled at my favorite hole in the wall.
“I was just talking to your Mom. We extended our visit to stay with them and to go to a Princeton football game on Saturday.”
“Cool, I wonder if they got a ticket for me too. I guess she’s next on my list to call.”
We chatted about life in general for a while until I was summoned to the Monday office meeting.
We said our good-byes and then at the very end I said, “Oh, by the way, I have someone for y’all to meet.”
“A new beau!”
“Not exactly, sorry to leave you hangin’ like this but I’ve got to go. I’ll call you and Dad tonight and I’ll let you talk to Tom.”
“Well, I like the name!”
“Bye Mom, I love you.”
I felt a little odd leaving it like that and it made me anxious the rest of the morning thinking about it.
I called my mom after the meeting, they hadn’t gotten a ticket for me.
“Thanks,” I said sarcastically, “I can always cut the number for dinner ya know.”
“Oh, Pete, stop.”
“That’s OK I’ll get Vroom to get me a couple of tickets to sit with him and Jeremy.”
“A couple…is Tim in town? Have you worked things out?” she said excitedly.
She loved Tim as much as if not more than I did.
“No, I have somebody else who’s staying with me.”
“A new boyfriend…and he’s staying with you and this is the first I’m hearing of it!”
Oh God, I thought to myself, I didn’t want to do this on the phone with her, but here we went.
“Not a boyfriend, well not yet, he’s a friend, he needs a place to stay and get back on his feet; life and New York have not been kind. He’s a good kid. You’ll like him.”
“Kid? How old a kid.”
“Mom, that was a phrase…but he’ll be seventeen in January.”
“Pete, now, you know…”
“Mom, I know. I had a long talk with the lawyer and Katie too. I know you’ll call her three seconds after you hang up with me. Please do. It will be easier on me.”
“Peter, you make me nervous.”
“Look, I do what is in my heart and soul guided by my mind, you know that. It has led me down some strange but wonderful paths. I’m on another adventure and it’s just begun.”
“But what about Tim?”
“I don’t know, Mom. I can’t live my life waiting for someone to screw his head back on right. I’ve put that out to the cosmos to take care of for the moment. If it’s meant to be it will happen. I need to get on with work this morning. I’ll call you later if you want and I’ll see you in a couple of weeks if I don’t bring Tom out to meet you sooner. Ok, love you, by, Mom.”
“Bye, dear, you behave.”
My eyes rolled up and I stared at the ceiling; she still thinks I’m twelve.
“Yes, Mom. Bye.”
I finally got some work done by the time Tom called at twenty till twelve.
“Meet you in the lobby at noon, OK? I got lunch for us.”
“Yep, see you soon.” He hung up.
He walked into the lobby on time with my knapsack on his back. He grasped my hand and led me back to the door.
“Let’s go eat in Madison Square Park.”
We walked the two blocks and found a bench in the sun. He had put together a meal from the leftovers from last night, reheated it and wrapped the containers so that they stayed warm. He had made little salads with dressing on the side, and brought a bottle of mineral water and some biscuits with jam. After laying it all out he looked up to see me smiling.
“What?” he said as he gave me a devious smile, “Somebody needs to take care of you too.”
I burst out laughing. He was absolutely right.
“And I’m just the one to do it too.”
As we ate we talked about the first couple of chapters of Dunces. Tom had a lot of questions, most of which I answered by saying to just keep reading and don’t ask questions; all will or maybe not be revealed, but that’s what the book is about.
“Oh great, thanks,” he said sarcastically, “You’re a big help.”
“I’ve read the book four or five times and I still find something new about it each time. It’s just one of those things. But frankly, I still don’t get it…maybe you’re not supposed to get it…more of the mystery that is New Orleans.”
“It’s tragic about the author,” he said quietly to his lunch.
“I know. To commit suicide because you can’t get your book published only to have it win the Pulitzer Prize when your mother gets it published years later…that’s a New Orleans story all in itself.”
“I think we’ll try to go out to meet my parents in New Jersey this weekend. I told my mom about you this morning. She’s confused about you and me…but she’s always been slightly confused about me, anyway. You’ll catch on to the standard joke about me surprising them all my life. It’s part of Dad’s humor. I just want you to be yourself whenever you do meet them. I also told Mom Elliot about you too. That’s Dan’s mom. His parents are my second set of parents. I love them as much as I love my own. I go there for Christmas or Thanksgiving each year and they come to visit me too. They’re coming in two weeks. So you are going to be on parade for awhile.”
I looked at Tom’s face to see if he had any reaction; just a slight smile crossed his face.
“I’m sorry it comes with the territory of life in Peter’s Garden.”
Tom now stared at me and then sighed.
“What’s up? I can see the gears turning.”
Tom, no secrets. That is the number one rule. It only leads to more hurt if you try to hide anything.”
He blinked a few times and then said, “I called my mom this morning too. Hope it’s OK to make a long distance phone call…I’ll pay for it.”
“Hey, no problem, I don’t argue over money. It’s a waste of time. Calling home is a good thing I will gladly pay for. So, what happened.”
“I told her that I was OK, and hopefully that I would have a job soon and begin to take care of myself. She asked me if I insisted on still being gay. I said yes, and that I didn’t think that it would ever change. Then she started yelling at me to come home and start going back to the psychiatrist, and go to school, and have my hair cut,” he pulled his hair away from his head, “and on and on. She promised that Dad wouldn’t hit me anymore and then she started to cry. I told her I couldn’t come home anymore. She started screaming at me, ‘Why not?’ and then started hurling obscenities at me. I told her ‘bye and hung up.”
He hung his head down. I scooted over next to him and put his head on my shoulder.
I twisted my head to look into his face and smiled, “You could use a hair cut.”
“You bastard,” he said softly.
I paused and then said, “The next few months are not going to be easy on either of us. Although we have this gut feeling about our relationship we need to learn a lot about each other. Then there are a lot of people in our lives who need to get acquainted with our decisions…whatever they may be.”
“Well, I know I want to be with you and I can be patient to work out the rest of the details. I will do anything you ask to make our life together possible. Now let’s just enjoy lunch and the beautiful day.”
We smiled as we ate in peace together. He walked me back to the office and waved as I got on the elevator. When I got home he was taking a shower to get all the hair clippings off the back of his neck and shoulders after his visit to the barber. I stood and leaned against the doorframe watching him take a shower.
“In January, you handsome man.”
“I know, patience.”
On Sunday morning I walked Tom down to meet Sammy for our trip to New Jersey. I hadn’t said a thing except we were going to my parents’ house. As I hoisted the metal roll-up door the sun shone into the garage and I walked in and folded the dust cover off.
“Wow, it’s so cool!”
“He’s so cool. His name is Sammy. Dan rebuilt the car after he had a horrible owner for the first few years of his life. He came to me when Dan died.”
Sammy started right up. As he warmed up I closed up the garage and cleaned the windows. Tom settled into the front seat and buckled up.
“This is so cool. I’ve never been in one before. I’ve always loved them.”
He rubbed Sammy’s tiny dashboard. I climbed in.
“Let’s go get John and Jeremy. Hope they’re up and ready to go!”
Vroom and his “sweetie,” as he called him, were waiting in the carport of his apartment building on 10th Street when we zoomed up. Tom got out so they could snuggle into the back seat. John had promised to come for moral support in Tom’s first meeting of my family, although this would not be like times past, as only my mom, dad and Jamie and his second wife would be there. Not the experience Dan or Jason had to go through, but I wanted all the support I could get.
Actually, the get together went very well. Dad had come to support whatever I felt was right in my life. He had an ultimate trust in the human being I was. Mom was still unsure of herself. I think she would eternally optimistic that I would become straight. Jamie was still a pain in the ass although we got along now. Still, he had to find some way to dig at me from time to time. I felt a strange ironic sense of justice when his wife left him two weeks later for a woman.
Tom was fantastic. He showed them a blend of fun, confidence and maturity. So even when the sixteen-year-old peeked through it was perfectly natural and expected. Dad thought that I was just creating the younger brothers I had always wanted as a child by surrounding myself with John, Jeremy and now Tom.
“OK, Dad, you’ve got a point there…but what if I want to date Tom?”
“Well, you’ve always made your own rules to live by, what’s a few new ones.”
He shrugged his shoulders, smiled and winked. I knew in a private moment we would have a short but serious talk about the subject.
“I don’t like it,” Mom said, “I don’t know, there’s something wrong about it.”
“Yeah, Pete’s just fuckin’ nuts like he’s always been!”
“Jamie, don’t swear.”
“I think it’s beautiful that Pete accepts people for who they are in their soul,” Jamie’s wife said.
On that note we bowed out to take John and Jeremy to Princeton so we could show Tom the campus before returning for dinner with my folks. The ride down Route 206 was a stop and go pain in the ass. I couldn’t believe the number of subdivisions that had cropped up in what used to be endless fields of corn and soybeans with forests in between a few small quaint towns of central New Jersey.
Vroom’s room was inside one of those ivy-covered halls with plaster walls, a fireplace and a thick paneled door. The room had an aura that took my breath away. I don’t know why, maybe the history in the room or the more than a century of testosterone that piqued my interest. I just liked to be there, sitting in the sunshine on John’s settee with Tom wrapped in my arms talking about the classes Vroom and Jeremy were taking and the trials and tribulations of school. It all brought me back in time. For Tom it was whetting his appetite to get back into school and the future. We both knew that the other was thinking about sharing that experience together. We also set up arrangements to see the football game together next weekend. Soon enough, it was time to go. Tom and I kissed our friends goodbye and headed back up 206 to the old homestead.
It was a quiet dinner with just the four of us. Jamie and his wife had gone back to their house across town. They let go of any conversation about our relationship and just accepted Tom as a friend for dinner. On the drive home he was absolutely ecstatic that he had sat at a dinner with parents and there was no yelling, screaming or swearing. He had never known a dinner with family that wasn’t fraught with turmoil.
“Does that happen all the time?”
“Most every time. Now it was different when there were five young kids around the table, but it was very rarely anger, obnoxiousness yes, teasing yes, but true anger no.”
“No wonder I want to spend time with you if you can offer me a sane existence.”
“That’s what I want too. It may not be what others expect but it is what it is, straightforward and honest. It exists if you want it.”
“I want it! And I want to get back into school, I want to go to college.”
“Absolutely…we just have to get your parents’ permission, remember.”
“But I don’t want them to know where I am…at all!”
“I’ve been thinking about it. I think Steve had this in his mind the other day too. He wants to get somebody from his Philadelphia office to contact your parents on your behalf and tell them straight out that you want to get back into school but need their permission, and see if they go for it. If they balk, well, then we think of the next thing. We’ll get it to work out, don’t worry.”
A golden full moon hung above the skyline of lower Manhattan as we cruised over the Bayonne Bridge and down the Turnpike headed for the Holland tunnel and home. Within the hour Sammy was put to bed and we were getting ready to do the same.
As we brushed our teeth, smiling at each other through the foam, I felt content that just having Tom near was all the physical contact I needed…well except snuggling with him in bed. I had slept better the last two nights than I had in a long time, even better than the times with Tim, Jim or John. Only a few times with Steve had I slept as well since I shared a bed with Dan and Jason.
Over the next week we each found a rhythm to our daily life. While I went to work Tom would read, make lunch, bring it to me and we would spend an hour or so together. He enjoyed sitting at my desk and eating there together. The two guys and the woman who shared the corral of desks with me began to eat their lunch with us too. It became a daily session of free wheeling conversation and laughter. When he left he would wave goodbye to us all and add a wink. He spent the afternoons reading and taking care of the house. I never asked him to do a thing but I came home to an absolutely immaculate house. When I changed a lightbulb in the hall I noticed that the tops of the doors and moldings had been cleaned. I was intrigued at that point.
“I’ve complimented you on your cleaning of the house, but are you obsessive about it or what? You’ve cleaned the tops of the doors….Don’t get me wrong, it’s great, it’s the right thing to do, but I don’t want you to harbor any resentments if I don’t ever go that far.”
“I guess I might be obsessive, but I was raised to be the slave child of my parents. I was made to do as many chores as they thought I could deal with. I did all of the cleaning, laundry, garbage removal, and lawn mowing…anything and everything but work in the garden. That is where Mother ruled. And they nitpicked it all to death. I thought I was just doing a light cleaning here.”
“Oh My God! I didn’t realize that was going on too. How are you as well adjusted as you are?”
“I didn’t know any better and I created a fantasy world that is very much like the one I was carried into almost two weeks ago. I’m in heaven and cleaning is fun.”
I put the palm of one hand on the back of his head and the other arm around his waist and pulled him into a gentle hug. I started to laugh. So did he.
“You can work in my Garden any day.”
“I plan on it,” he said and then squeezed my crotch, “And the other one too.”
He also wanted to learn yoga and began to join me during my routines and quickly memorized the poses. I bought him a yoga mat. It brought new meaning to my practice and helped me improve too. His natural flexibility was incredible and I was jealous of the ease with which he could attain some of the poses.
By Friday afternoon when I arrived home I was so excited to see the house so beautiful. In about an hour Mom and Dad Elliot would be ringing the doorbell. I got in the shower to freshen up and let go of some of the anxiety I was having about their meeting Tom. To me this seemed more important than his meeting my real parents.
“Pete, you OK? You look almost upset.”
Tom was leaning against the bathroom sink having his own worries about a tiny zit.
I rinsed the shampoo from my hair, “I’m just nervous about your meeting Tom and Thelma Elliot.”
“This means a lot to you, huh?”
“More than I think I know…they are everything to me…I have it deep in my soul that I must carry on for Dan for them, that somehow I must uphold some standard of their son for them…God, just saying that out loud I know that Dan would whack me on the ass but good!”
I looked up toward the ceiling, “Sorry, Dan! I know it’s ridiculous, but the things you do for love seem so strange sometimes.”
I looked to Tom who was now brushing his teeth.
“Tom, it’s silly for me to worry. You, just being you, is perfect. So there is no need for me to get wacky over this.”
I turned off the taps. He handed me a towel.
I was brushing my hair when the doorbell rang so Tom buzzed them in. We stood together and I gave him a quick kiss and a smile before I opened the door.
“Hi, Mom and Dad!”
I hugged and kissed them both.
“This is Tom Petersen. Tom, Tom and Thelma Elliot.”
They shook hands. Tom immediately took their coats and hung them up. Dad smiled at that.
“Wow, the place looks so wonderful,” Mom said, “All the last little things are in place.”
“Thank Tom for that, he’s been such a help.”
I led them to the couch and we all sat down to talk for an hour before heading to dinner at 21.
Tom started the conversation by telling Mom and Dad how we had come to meet. I had given them the gist of the event but no details. Tom’s telling of the story with his feelings and impressions gave it a lot more depth than I had over the phone. Even I enjoyed hearing about it and I was there. To see him talk and gesture in the slacks, dress shirt and tie we had bought the other day impressed me. He looked older to me. He didn’t look like the scared kid I had nursed exactly two weeks ago this moment.
“What made you go out into the rain, Pete?” Dad asked.
“I had this urge to, that there was something outside for me. Earlier in the evening I had had one of my ‘feelings,’ so I was attuned that something was about to happen. Any other time I would have just looked out the window and been satisfied.”
My face tensed up and I could feel my brow furrow.
“I’m glad I did go out that door -one because of the wonderful man who sits next to me and, two…I don’t think I would have handled finding the alternative situation very well at all. It still scares me to think of it.”
I put my hand on Tom’s thigh and gave it a gentle squeeze.
I changed the subject.
“How was your visit to see the kids…and Katie this afternoon?”
“Wow, great. Daniel has grown so much and Stevie is so cute. I didn’t want to let him go. Tom took a whole roll of film. Oh, and Katie is such a wonderful mother. I just don’t know how she does it with two. I had my hands full just with Danny. And I can’t even imagine your mother with five…that’s completely unfathomable to me.”
Mom was about to run on when Dad stepped in.
“We invited them down in the spring. We want you two to come too. We just bought a small house on the Gulf outside of Galveston,” he said, “I can’t wait for you to see it when you come for Christmas. I need to have an architect look at it because we would like to spruce it up, maybe add to it; to turn it into our retirement home sometime in ten years or so. I was wondering if you could look at it and maybe recommend someone.”
He had a wicked smile on his face.
“You’re still enrolled in the Dad school of humor, huh? That sounds great. I can’t wait…now don’t expect me to design some ‘Phony Colony’ addition. I might have to experiment some.”
Mom piped in, “Katie showed us that sketchbook you did for their wedding present. I’m still a little Old World but I like that. I’ve learned from you and Dan that I need to accept the present…I think I’m doing OK.”
“Yes, you are,” I said with a huge smile.
“Tom, are you going to come for Christmas at our house? You’re perfectly welcome and we’d love to have you,” Dad said.
“I couldn’t think of anyplace I’d rather be. You guys are so nice. Besides I want to stick by this one as much as possible.” Tom interlaced his fingers into mine. “I’m learning that there really is a wonderful thing called life in this world and he’s showing how to find it and who else knows about it.”
“It isn’t always easy, Tom,” Dad said, “It isn’t always easy.”
“But it isn’t always hard and hateful too,” Tom responded, “That’s what Pete has shown me.” Tom paused, “I love your son very much. It’s been exactly two weeks since he was feeding me soup as I got warm in the tub. I didn’t know that you could love someone so much.”
He began to cry. Mom moved over to hug him. So did I.
“Let’s get our coats and grab a cab,” I said after we got Tom to smile.
“Let’s see if they can serve something vegetarian at this fancy shmancy place.”
“How come you’re vegetarian?” Tom asked as we went out the door. Dad and I both raised our eyebrows.
“Can I defer that question to another place and time, please?”
He looked at me with a tilted expression, “ Well, sure…I guess it wasn’t the light hearted question I though it would be, huh?”
“Nope.” I smiled, put my arm around his shoulder and whispered, “Thanks,” into his ear.
The best part about dinner was the conversation I had with Dad in the men’s room.
“I understand your quandary with whether to treat Tom as a lover or a brother. It’s obvious that you both love one another very much. I think that is all that is necessary. So whether you have a physical relationship with him is not an issue. It will naturally occur if it is supposed to. You have good instincts, Pete. Stick with them.” He stared at me in the mirror as we washed our hands. Then as he dried his hands, “I have to say this, it’s just my opinion, OK? You are as happy, comfortable and relaxed as you used to be for the first time since Dan and Jason died. I always had hoped you would get there, but after a few years I didn’t think it was going to happen. Even with Tim, you sometimes seemed forced in your happiness. Don’t get me wrong. I love Tim and think you two make an incredible couple. But there is something about this boy…young man…that has put the spark back in you. Enjoy the ride, it might get bumpy sometimes but go for it. I love you, Son.” He kissed me on the cheek.
Mom and Tom were laughing wildly when we returned. I figured she was telling stories on me because they just smiled when we asked what was so funny. I smiled back and shrugged my shoulders as we sat down.
I picked up a rental car late that night for the drive to Princeton the next morning. It just wasn’t necessary to cram the four of us into Sammy. Tom reminded me of Jason in his excitement at the prospect of having two new sets of parents to interact with, I couldn’t shave fast enough in his opinion as we tried to get ready to go out the door. He calmed down when I made the comment about him not having to shave at all. He was about to protest but got my drift and settled. At seven on a Saturday morning traffic was nonexistent. We were knocking on Vroom’s door before nine. He wasn’t ready for us. Matter of fact he only peeked his head around the door when he answered my knock. I peeked back and saw he was naked. I bounced my eyebrows.
“We’ll go get some muffins and coffee and bring them back. Is a half hour cool?” He nodded. I gave him a tug on his cock. He smiled and I kissed him gently on the cheek.
“Morning,” he said.
“Call Jeremy and get ready. Time to have some fun with my four parents! See you soon.”
He closed the door as I turned around and said we were too early for him. On our way out of the parking lot we saw my parents cruise by. We took off after them. They turned into stadium parking lot about a mile down the road. They were there to set up their tailgate party. The Elliots stayed with my parents. Tom and I soon headed back with some food and a thermos of coffee Mom had already prepared for us; sometimes she amazed me.
I knocked on the door again. Again only a head appeared. I told him it was just Tom and me so he let us in. He was still naked.
“Jeremy and I got chatty, sorry.”
“Phone sex,” I asked with a smirk.
“Ya didn’t give us enough time,” he said, sticking his tongue out at me playfully.
I turned to Tom to see him staring at John, “Handsome isn’t he?”
I could see he was getting excited. John noticed too.
Tom blushed, “I haven’t seen too many guys naked in my life, sorry.” Tom quickly turned to me and hugged me.
“It’s OK, Tiger. He still gets me goin’ too.” I then got lost in the thought that I had just called him ‘Tiger.’ I turned around and sat on Vroom’s bed pulling Tom down with me. I hugged him tight and put my head on his shoulder. John brought us over our paper cups of coffee and the bag of sticky buns.
“Not too many crumbs in my bed, OK.”
We both just smiled and stared at his crotch. He shook his head, turned, grabbed his towel and dopp kit and disappeared into the bath.
I slid back so I could lean against the wall and Tom slid back so he could lean against me. We sipped our coffee.
“I’m glad you didn’t get jealous and upset with me because I looked at John.”
“I look too and I think about it also. But I also have respect for him, and his relationship, and you and our relationship, and me and my self-respect…so I don’t act on it. But I do have an imagination…too vivid sometimes. There’s an expression a friend of mine in New Orleans always used to say, ‘If you can’t cut the mustard at least you can lick the jar.”
Tom twisted his head around to look at me out of the corner of his eye, “New Orleans is as fucked up as much as it is mysterious, huh?”
We both dissolved into laughter for a minute. We fell quiet and content in each other’s arms. Tom looked around the room and then stared out through the diamond patterned leaded glass window at the charcoal gray limbs of a Sugar Maple sporting spotty clusters of orange, brown and gold leaves.
“So my mind can think, but I just don’t act,” he said.
“Not without talkin’ to me first. No secrets remember.”
I too stared out at the leaves barely hinged to the limbs fluttering in the light breeze.
“Dan and I were shocked by the fact that we had fooled around with Jason in the men’s room of that gas station as we drove down the highway afterward. We were so content with each other sexually we had never even considered three way sex before to even talk about it, but when we were presented with this situation we let it happen. We were both there and we communicated not so much in words but with nods and expressions. There was no jealousy or hard feelings, just some confusion that we talked about. As it turned out it was the best thing that we did, but we would never have done it had we not trusted each other. So I try never to be upset about talking about anything, otherwise you’d never talk to me at all…and if that happens, well, we’re doomed. Don’t ya think?”
“It’s the reason I don’t live at home,” he said quietly.
I kissed his ear.
“But if they did, you wouldn’t be livin’ with me.” He turned and kissed me on the lips.
There was a quick knock at the door and then it opened as Tom was getting up to answer it. It was Jeremy. He was all smiles.
“Hey, perfect football weather today, you guys ready?” We nodded our heads.
“Nice sweatshirt,” I said. Jeremy was wearing a heavy orange sweatshirt with Princeton in black stitched lettering across the front. It was identical to mine, just a decade newer.
He smiled and said, “Where’s Sunshine?”
“Still in the bath,” Tom said. Jeremy disappeared down the hall to get him.
We met up with the parents at the back of Dad’s car. John and Jeremy stood in line for one of my mom’s Bloody Marys. Tom and I were happy with orange juice and some more snacks. It wasn’t long before I had to grab my camera to take a picture of Tom between the Moms with an arm around each one. He was in heaven, and so were they. Dad had to make sure he got a picture of John, Jeremy, Tom and me. If none of his kids ever went to Princeton at least some of his son’s best friends did and he wanted a picture of that. Dad was in his element that day as many of his friends and acquaintances from school came by to chat and catch up on the present and laugh about the past. He didn’t feel awkward at all in introducing my friends and me. He was only caught when one of his former roommates asked about how he and Tom Elliot met. He stopped, blinked, swallowed and then explained that they had met because Tom’s son and I were in a relationship together until a car accident killed Dan and seriously injured me, and that the friendship had only gotten stronger because of it. Dad’s friend just nodded his head. I mouthed the words ‘Thank you’ and smiled at Dad when he glanced at me. I think he was nervous also because he hadn’t mentioned Jason too. I understood. As game time approached we packed the trunk and headed to the stadium. We left them under the huge concrete arches of Palmer Stadium as we went our own ways to our seats.
For the next three hours we were just four blond boys wearing orange clothes screaming ourselves hoarse under a brilliant blue sky and having fun. I just wished that Steve, Katie and the kids had been able to join us.
We all went to dinner afterwards. The dads were quite hoarse too from the game. The moms complained how embarrassed they were by their behavior. All the rest of us could do was laugh. I paid the tab for dinner, which made Dad a bit upset with me.
“What are you doing? Save your money.”
“I got it,” I stated quietly.
With a smile, Dad Elliot said, “Let ‘em. It’s OK.”
My dad shrugged his shoulders. We were soon saying good-bye to Mom, Dad, Jeremy and Vroom as we got in the car for the drive back into Manhattan.
As we cruised down the highway Dad leaned forward from the back seat and said, “You’ve never told your parents have you.”
I looked at him in the rear view mirror.
“Nope, I guess I should but…I’m ashamed by it still.”
“Just tell me when you do. I’ll keep it under my hat till then,” he paused for a few moments then leaned forward again, “What about ‘No secrets?’”
I looked at him in the mirror and then looked at Tom who was staring at me completely confused as to what we could ever be talking about.
“How about next weekend when we come out to see you all at the house. I’d like you to be there Dad, OK?”
“Sure, sounds good.”
I looked at Tom, “We’ll talk tonight.”
“OK, but if this is something that is maybe too soon to talk to me about I trust you. It can wait.”
I looked straight at him, “If I wasn’t driving I’d be all over you with kisses and hugs.”
Dad chuckled in the back seat and turned to his wife, “See there’s something special about guys named Tom.” She gave a knowing smile.
That night in bed I told Tom how much I was truly falling in love with him. It was going to be tough to last till January. He couldn’t have agreed more. I also said how proud I was of him for what he said in the car that evening. I explained that Dan had a will and had left me everything he owned. Thus, that was how Sammy became mine as well as a life insurance policy, stocks, mutual funds and the settlement from the insurance company from the accident.
“It’s a lot of money and the only thing I’ve done with some of it is to make a scholarship fund at Rice University in Dan’s and Jason’s names. The rest has been invested. “Frankly, Tom, it scares me every time I get my investment statements. I have this huge block of blood money.”
He looked at me and blinked, “You really shouldn’t look at it that way. Just leave it there and someday you will know how to use it that will honor Dan and Jason and put it to good use for you too. I think that you just don’t want to look selfish to yourself in the way that you use it.”
I stared at him blankly, “You are too smart and mature for that cute young body of yours. Are you sure there isn’t an old man hiding under that skin?” I jumped on top of him and began to tickle him. He shrieked in laughter and began to tickle me back. We wrestled and rolled around for a few minutes until we ended up passionately kissing each other. We broke off from one another out of breath. I was about to cry. Tom hugged me tight.
“We’ll make it,” he whispered.
By Wednesday evening I was worn out from being a tour guide and was ready to go back to work. The four of us had had so much fun exploring the city and its museum, neighborhoods and landmarks. It very much reminded me of the summer Dan worked for my dad and the time that Jason came with us. We just didn’t have the “sexcapades”. I got Mom laughing when I told her about Steve and his “bloody stumps.” She could relate after the miles of walking we had done. We cabbed over to Penn Station. Then we stood in the main waiting room, talking and laughing, patiently wasting time for the big board to click the track number for their train to New Jersey when Tom suddenly yelled, “OH FUCK!” and dove onto the floor behind a stack of luggage. It scared the shit out of the rest of us by the expressions on our faces. I raised my hand to Mom and Dad so that they wouldn’t overreact. I had learned enough about Tom to know he didn’t act irrationally.
Keeping an eye across the floor I asked calmly, “OK, what’s up?”
“It’s my Dad! Black and white wide striped shirt. Parka all askew. Fat gut. Staggering a bit. The asshole’s drunk. Oh my God, what’s he doin’ here?”
“I see him. Stay cool.” I took off my coat and laid it on him and over his head, like he was sleeping.
“Dad, come on, let’s see if we can find anything out. Mom, watch over your son here.”
She smiled and nodded. As we walked off I heard Tom say, “Tell me what’s goin’ on, Mom.”
I chuckled as I looked at Dad. He nodded and smiled.
We casually followed him around the floor to see if he was going to meet up with anyone. He finally walked up to a phone and began to punch numbers in. Dad and I picked up the phones to either side.
“Yeah, it’s me, who da fuck do ya tink it would be?”
“No, I been ta all the places where his card was used and wandered ‘round the neighborhood showin’ his pitchure to people. Some people said dat dey had seen ‘em, maybe, but not in the last week or two.”
“The little bastad’s hangin’ out somewhere, prolly shacked up with some twinky boy.”
“No, I just need to smack the bastad straight!”
“Goddammit, Claire, I ain’t neva gunna let dat boy go, neva. He’s mine and I tell him what to do.”
“Fuck you, Claire! I’ll be home tamorrow. I’ll sleep in da station and I’ll take da train home late in a afternoon.”
“Shit, I’m a gunna find dat fuckin’ boy and drag his ass home in a sling.”
He slammed down the receiver. I had to stop myself from slamming my receiver down on his head. He turned and stomped off across the floor in a meandering line to the bar.
“Oh my God, I just want to fuckin’ kill him!”
“Calm down, Pete. You go and get Tom out of here while he’s in the bar. Tell Mom, we’re waiting on the next train and to call Marge and Jim that we’ll be an hour late. I’m going to go have a drink.”
“Pete, trust me…OK.” I nodded my head.
“Call me when you get to New Jersey. I don’t care how late. I love you.”
He smiled and sauntered off into the bar and sat down next to the fat asshole.
“Well, he’s a real piece of work,” I said to Mom.
“No shit,” exclaimed the voice under the coat.
“Dad’s gonna have a drink with him. Hold on, Tiger, before you say a thing. I think he wants to try to strike up a conversation and see where it leads. Mom, he said to call Marge and Jim and tell them you’ll be on the next train. OK? And we need to get the hell out of here before he finds you, Tom. So face away from me and stand up. Hand me my coat. Here pull this wooly over your head.”
“See you soon, Tom,” Mom said stoically and kissed him, “Bye, dear. We’ll see you on Saturday.”
“Maybe sooner depending on what happens,” I said.
We kissed. I looked back toward the bar. Dad and the asshole were talking. I led Tom out on to the street and hailed a cab. I related the whole phone conversation to him on the ride home.
“Let me just tell you one thing, Tom, I will do everything I can to keep you away from him. No matter what!”
Tom squeezed my hand.
“At the corner on the right side,” I said to the cabbie. I gave him five dollars. “Keep the change.”
“Tanks,” he said. As we climbed out Tom pulled the hat off of his head. His hair was standing on end from the static electricity. I started to giggle and smooth it down.
Tom got out his keys and got the door. I checked the mail. Once in the apartment the message light was blinking. The first was Steve asking whether we should go through with contacting the Petersens in Pennsylvania and the second was from Tim. He said he called to say Hi and he wants to talk. He said he would try again later. He didn’t leave a phone number.
“Dammit, when is he going to let go?” I muttered to myself.
“Remind me to tell you about Tim too.”
“OK, should I know?”
“Absolutely,” I said as I picked up the phone and pressed in Steve’s number.
“Hey, handsome, how are you?”
“Well everything’s been great. They’re still at the train station.”
“I’m getting there, geez. We had the pleasure of running into Tom’s dad.”
“No, he ducked for cover and I’m so glad he did. What a dickhead.”
“A royal fuckin’ asshole dickhead,” Tom screamed at the phone.
“He thinks Tom is his property. Now it’s one thing to say ‘I’m the parent and you’re the child and this is what you need to do’ but he was way out of bounds. I literally wanted to kill him and I avoid steppin’ on roaches even.”
“No, I don’t think we should talk to him, but what about getting some sort of separation due to abuse, physical and mental?”
“I know, you need to ask, it’s not your field. Maybe we can get together with whoever this guy is…or even the best there is. I don’t have to do this on the cheap ya know.”
“OK, How’s Fitz and the kids?”
“Snoozin’ on the couch, huh, they wore her out.”
“Sure, have her call me at work tomorrow. OK. Love you.”
“Yeah, thanks, I’ll tell him. Bye.”
“Steve says hi and sends his love.”
Tom puckered his lips and kissed the ethos.
“He really doesn’t know how to deal with your parents.”
“I heard you offer to pay for a lawyer. You don’t have to do that.”
“Dan would absolutely approve of any money I spent getting you away from that man. Anyway how did you turn out so wonderful compared to your father.”
“I take after Mom almost completely. In looks, basic temperament, smarts. I think that’s what pisses the old man off so much. He abuses my mother and she lets him and takes it. My Mom would be cool if he was out of the picture but she’s got problems and just lives in the shit. I think that’s why she drinks so much too. I don’t think it would be so bad if they didn’t drink, but I don’t know. I’ve never known them not to be half-cocked. So I finally got tired of puttin’ up with all the shit. And I guess I got enough of my old man not to want to take any shit off of anybody. Including him. It’s just all fucked up. It just took me sixteen years to figure it out and get the hell out of there. I feel so normal around you and now that I know that sanity really exists I’m not going back. I’d rather jump off the Brooklyn Bridge.”
I dropped the top of my head down and leaned it against his chest. He put his hands on my shoulders.
“We’ll be OK, Pete.”
I picked up my head.
“Because of you the two of us will be OK.”
I kissed the tip of his nose.
“Let’s lock the doors, heat something up to eat, then go climb in bed and wait for Dad to call.”
We both had drifted off to sleep when the phone rang.
“Hey, Dad,” Tom answered, “Oh sorry, sure, he’s right here, hold on.”
“I’m Tom. And you?”
“Hi, Tim, here’s Pete.”
My eyes were as big as plates. Tom started to chuckle as he wiggled the receiver at me.
I took it and said, “Hi, been a long time. I still love you.”
“ Yes, Tom, well, he’s living with me.”
“FUCK, he hung up. FUCK!”
“Oh, what hasn’t happened with Tim? Well now it’s as good a time as ever to tell you the story of Tim. Let’s see. Let’s start with the fact that I am in love with him, very much, but….”
For the next hour he heard all about Tim. How we met and broke up. How I embarrassed him in front of the parents on the streetcar. How he became a good friend of Dan, Jason, Steve and Katie. How he helped in my recovery from the accident. How we became sort of boyfriends while he was still with Brad; and then Brad’s suicide. And then how he had cut me off from him.
“…and an hour ago was the first time I’d spoken to him in over a month when he got an unlisted number and then he hung up. Who knows if I’ll ever hear from him again? I could find him; I know the bank he works for. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist, but I thought that I would let him decide.” I frowned.
“In a couple of weeks, in between Thanksgiving and Christmas, if he hasn’t called, find him,” Tom said matter of fact.
As I kissed him I was scared by the ring of the phone. I picked it up.
“Hi, Dad and Dad, what’s up?” I let Tom share the receiver.
“We need to stay away from him as much as we can. He’s off the deep end. He has vengeance in his blood. The fact that Tom’s gay and the fact that he has stood up and defied him has that man so riled up he can’t handle it and his drinking doesn’t help. We missed the next train even because I was scared I’d piss him off by leaving before he was ready for me to leave. He’s fucked up on anger and alcohol.”
This is the first time I’d ever heard Tom Elliot swear.
My dad piped in, “Tom, are you listening?”
“You can come stay out here if you want to feel safe. He knows generally where you are now, but he won’t find you here.”
“Thanks for the option. I think I’ll stay here for now. He’ll go back tomorrow. I’ll be OK.”
“Dad, I’m going to hire a lawyer who specializes in this tomorrow. I think that’s the only way to be safe. Till then he’s going to have to lie low. He’s got Dan’s whole library to read. And we’ll be going to Houston in two weeks anyway.”
“Now, Pete, you know you’re taking a minor across state lines; there could be complications there.”
“Dad, I drove him to New Jersey, that’s the same thing.”
We all laughed in release of some of the tension.
“Look, it’s time to lay low for awhile as we figure our options. We’ll see you all this weekend. OK!”
“Sure, bye. Take care we all love you two.”
“Thanks, Dad and Dad.”
“I love you all too,” Tom said.
I hung up. Tom started to cry.
“We’ll be OK,” I said. Tom lifted his head and smiled and then buried it in my chest and let it all out.
When I left for work the next morning, I was nervous. The only thing that let me go out the door was the fact that I had not gotten one of my “feelings.” I made sure I took my lunch today.
“Tom, just don’t even go out the door today. OK?”
“I wasn’t going to. Look, I really know what kind of asshole he is. Don’t worry.”
“But I’m going to… I can’t help it. Sorry, you mean a lot to me.”
“Thanks.” He gave me a smile and a hug.
“I got that yoga book you bought me and I can go anywhere I want in my head.” He waved his hand toward the bookshelf. “I’ll call too.”
“I’ll be home by seven, OK. I’ll pick up what we need for dinner on the way home. I love you.” We kissed.
“Bye, Pete. Love you too.”
I waited to hear the door lock before I continued down the hall and out into the sunshine. Klaus was working the trashcans as always.
“Howse Tom?” he asked.
“Good, keep an eye on the place today, Klaus. There’s this short fat drunk in a black and white striped shirt that might be around to cause trouble. Call me at work if you see him.”
“Tom’s home all day too, OK?”
“Tom, I like him. Gut, I vatch.”
“Thanks, Klaus. I’ll be home by seven.”
I don’t know why I said that to Klaus but the ‘dickhead’ would be wandering around only five or six blocks away. That was too close for me. I didn’t get much work done all day. My corral mates wanted to know where the “lunch boy” was that day. I said I missed him too but that he had more important things to get done. I spent the first part of the afternoon calling most of my clients to see if they needed anything immediately done. I was thinking of telling my boss I wouldn’t be in tomorrow and driving to New Jersey tonight. Tom called in between those calls. He was OK, just bored.
“That’s good,” I said to him. He didn’t think it was funny. I told him my thoughts about going to Mom and Dad’s tonight for the weekend. He thought it was a good idea only if I wasn’t going to get in trouble at work.
“Thanks for the concern, Dad,” I replied.
“I’m givin’ you the finger through the phone,” he laughed.
“Hey Klaus is in the back yard. I’m gonna hang with him for a bit. OK?”
“Don’t go out on the street. I mean it. Your old man isn’t that far away.”
“I’m givin’ you the finger now!”
“Bye, love you.”
“Bye, take care.”
I leaned back, stared at the ceiling and spun my chair around and around and around with my feet. All of a sudden I saw my boss’ face flash by. I immediately stopped and sat up straight.
“Pete, either you got one of your great ideas cookin’ or you’re worried. Which is it?”
“Wanna talk about it?”
“A little, I might need to take tomorrow off.”
“Come on, to my office.” He walked me to his office with his hand on my shoulder.
I told him about Tom being a runaway who was staying with me. And that he had an abusive parent who was out looking for him to drag him home. When I finished he told me to leave now and get him to my parents’ house. He then told me about how he came from an abusive home and how he had prayed for someone like me to come along when he was a teen. He decided on architecture school because the closest university that had a program was almost a thousand miles from home. That was his chance to run away.
“I never went home again. My kids have never seen their grandparents. I did the right thing.”
The receptionist came running into the room.
“Pete, some guy I can’t understand, something’s wrong. He’s on the phone, line two.”
I picked up the phone it was Klaus. I could hardly understand through his accent and his excitement, half of what he was saying was in German. What I did understand is that Tom was gone; dragged off by a man in a back and white striped shirt. They got into a cab. He didn’t know where they went. He was so sorry that he had failed me. I tried to forgive him but he wouldn’t listen. I finally hung up on him.
“Shit! His old man’s got Tom…Penn Station…they must be goin’ to Penn.”
I dialed Steve’s office. He picked up his phone.
“Go to Penn! Now! His old man’s got Tom. Penn Station. Now! Bye.”
I slammed down the phone.
“I’m comin’ with ya,” my boss said.
We tore down the twelve flights of the fire stairs instead of waiting on the elevator and took off down the block looking for a cab. We chased one down a half a block away.
“I’ll triple the fare if you break the speed record to Penn Station. Go!”
We were there in less than five minutes. I threw a twenty into the front seat. We went down the stairs two at a time. We caused chaos and people screamed at us for being rude. I slid out on to the main waiting room to check the flipping board for the trains to Philadelphia. One had just left.
“Shit,” I yelled. The next one was in two hours.
“Do you think he got here by now,” my boss asked me.
“I don’t know,” I said still trying to catch my breath. I spun around to look in the bar. Nothing.
“Oh God, what am I going to do?”
“Don’t worry, we’ll think of something. I think we beat him here…unless he’s takin’ a bus.”
“Oh shit, but he was here yesterday saying he’s takin’ the train.”
“We’ll wait for your friend and give it a few. Everybody always comes to check the board.”
“He’ll probably have to buy a ticket too.”
I described Tom and his dad to my boss. He had met Steve before so he was going to walk back and forth in the main room searching while I scanned the ticket lines. The ticket windows offered no help. I checked all of the faces in the drab ugly oval room where the ticket windows were situated. How I despised the assholes who tore down one of the grandest expressions of Beaux-Arts architecture to build this dump of a train station under Madison Square Garden. Why during moments of panic and terror my thoughts turn to architecture I’ll never understand. I continued to search the room. I looked up the stairs and caught sight of Steve. He was pointing to his right to Tom being dragged by his dad. My heart felt as if it was going to explode with anger. Tom’s face was red with rage. He was talking non-stop till he caught sight of me. His eyebrows arched in excitement. I put my finger to my lips so that he would not let on. He went back to ranting in his dad’s ear. I could tell Tom was in pain from the grip on his upper arm. I calmly pointed at Steve. Tom twisted his head around and smiled.
Across the floor to the ticket windows they went causing stares from the travelers. I caught Steve’s eye and pointed to the floor where I stood. He nodded and I walked into the main room to find my boss. I told him they were at the ticket window. We walked back and stood with Steve and watched.
“OK, Pete, what do you have in mind?” Steve asked.
“We need some way to break him free so that he can run to Fitz, can’t go home now. I’d love to get the asshole arrested somehow but that would just be cream. And I really don’t want him to know that we helped him escape. He’ll eventually find out who I am, but I don’t want him to know about this. Not yet.”
We followed them into the main room. Tom was really putting up a fight with him. I was wondering where a cop was when you needed one, much less one that showed some interest. Then his dad dragged him into the bar. He didn’t even get ten steps in before the bartender ejected them. Now the old man was irate. He turned and slapped Tom hard on the face. Tom got right back into his old man’s face and screamed obscenities at him. Steve latched on to the back of my belt.
“Hold on,” he said calmly, “Let’s not all end up in jail.”
He knew I was getting to my boiling point. I spied a group of high school kids. They must have been skipped out for the day. They were acting like jerks.
“Perfect. Steve let go. I got a plan. I’ll be right back.” I marched across the floor to the kids. “Hey, guys. Want ta make some money and help out a kid?”
“What, don’ fuck wit us, Suit.”
“No, I ain’t shittin’ ya. Look.”
I pointed to Tom and the asshole.
“He’s draggin’ the kid home with him to beat the shit outta him for runnin’ away. I need your help. I’ll pay ya ten bucks apiece. All ya havta do is get them separated so the kid can run. He’ll take it from there.”
The six of them looked at Tom and his dad screaming at each other, looked at one another, and then one of them said, “No prob.”
“In about five minutes, OK. I’ll meet ya by the big board after. I promise.”
“I trust ya…anyway I could run you down, Suit,” he said with a smirk.
“Maybe, maybe not,” I smirked back. I walked away. They went back to being obnoxious teens and slowly meandered their way toward Tom. I told Steve and my boss the plan. We stationed ourselves toward the different escape routes. I told them to tell Tom to keep running and to go to Fitz, then run interference if necessary.
I nodded to the kids. They moved en masse toward Tom and his dad, enveloped them and then began giving his dad shit about picking on someone his own size, calling him a faggot who’s into little boys and on and on. The asshole finally lost it and took a swipe at one of the kids who pushed him back over the cocked knee of one of his friends. The whole group went down onto the floor in a heap. A crowd began to form. I couldn’t see what was going on anymore. A fat cop came bounding across the floor. I couldn’t breathe, my throat was clenched with anxiety. The kids began to pop up and disperse at the call of “Cops.” Three were gone, then four, five and finally Tom and the kid I talked to appeared and began to run. Tom spun wildly around looking for me. The cop was in between the two of us. He turned and ran the other way; right at Steve. Steve was screaming at him. Tom ran right past him. He ricocheted hard off the wall at the base of the stairs and disappeared on his way to the street.
I moved in toward the crowd to see what the asshole had to say to the cop. Steve and my boss came up behind me.
Smiling at the two of them, I said, “Thanks.”
“Can we do this more often?” my boss said with a smile.
I rolled my eyes at him and sighed heavily.
“Steve, call Fitz. Tell her Tom’s on the way and what happened. OK?”
“And then I’ll call work. They must think the world exploded the way I ran out of there.”
“Mine almost did,” I replied.
The asshole was finally getting to his feet with the help of the cop. The crowd was telling the story for him. They weren’t cutting him any slack. The cop tried to quiet the crowd so he could get the story from the asshole. He finally was able to tell the cop that he was taking his runaway son home and that he needed a little “persuasion” to do it. An old blue-haired lady whacked at his leg with her cane, “I’ll persuade you, honey, treat a little boy like that!” The cop tried to get the lady to move on, but she just gave him a talking to also that ended with, “Don’t believe a word that man says!” Then she turned and walked away, proud of herself. My boss pushed to the front of the crowd.
“Hey, asshole! What gives you the right to be an abusive father? Do you think you own him or what? You’re just like my old man…the one I haven’t seen in twenty-five years; the one who has never seen his grandchildren. The one I have to have an unlisted number so that he doesn’t harass me. The one I still love but hate so much I can’t wait till he dies! Why the fuck would you ever want all that? Oh, and go drink yourself to death like mine’s been trying to do all his life...he can’t even do that right…Better yet, just go put a gun to your head and end all of our miseries.”
With that he turned and pushed through the crowd. He stopped in front of me, “See you Monday.” I thought he was going to cry. He bit his lip and stormed off and up the stairs two at a time.
“Thank you,” I said softly.
The asshole was holding his hand and wincing in pain. It was obvious that at least one of his fingers was badly broken. The cop was on his radio for an ambulance and some backup. I saw one of the boys at the board. I cocked my head toward the ticketing room. I turned and walked toward there. I got eighty bucks out of my wallet. They surrounded me. I handed the one kid the money.
“Sorry, I don’t have a wad of tens. Can I trust you to divide it up evenly?” They looked at one another. I pulled one twenty back and gave it to the two smallest kids. They smiled. “The extra twenty is for whoever broke the man’s finger.”
They again looked at each other.
“The kid broke his old man’s finger trying to get him to release his grip.”
“Keep it anyway for makin’ my day. Split it up evenly, would ya, please.”
I turned to go.
“You care for that kid, doncha,” one of the kids asked. I turned my head back.
“Very much so. Why?”
“Dat’s what I wanna know.”
“Because that’s what life is all about. Sorry, I need to go. Thanks, thanks for the help. I owe ya.”
I walked back toward the other room. I turned to see them clamoring up the stairs and out onto the street.
“Be good. Thanks,” I whispered after them.
I came up behind Steve and patted him on the butt.
“I love you,” I whispered in his ear. He turned his head and smiled.
“Katie’s waiting for him. She called the doorman to let him come right up. I need to go back to work. You OK?”
“I’m fine. Loan me twenty bucks. I gave all my money to the kids for helpin’ out.”
“Sure…What are you gonna do?”
“Go home, get some things, get the car and go pick up Tom and then go to Mom and Dad’s…we need to stop this legally. I don’t think he’s gonna give up. Find out what ya can,” I said exhaustedly.
“Pete, you’re drained. You gonna be OK?”
“I was so afraid I was gonna lose him. I had the same feelings when I realized that Dan and Jason were gone. I thought I was havin’ a heart attack during the fight to free him.”
Steve put his arm around me as we watched the asshole rant and rave about how he found his kid in the backyard of some place where some “kraut” was. He said he had to deck the man to get his son away.
“Oh shit,” I said to Steve, “I gotta go see Klaus. Listen for anything else. I’ll talk to you later.”
“Pete, everything will be OK.” I smiled tightly hoping he was right.
I grabbed a cab home. I buzzed Klaus’ apartment and he said he would be right down. I went into my place and began to get fill a dufflebag of things the two of us would need for the weekend. There was a knock at the door.
“Come on in, Klaus.”
I walked over to him and gave him a big hug. He had huge shiner on his left eye.
“Oh my God, Klaus, I’m sorry.”
“Howse da boy?”
“He’s OK, he’s with Katie. I’m gonna go get him soon and take him where that jerk can’t find him.”
I told Klaus that that man was Tom’s father who abused him and that’s why he ran away and was living with me. I then told him my next plan was to figure out a way to keep those two apart permanently. I couldn’t stop apologizing enough for Klaus’ black eye. He was sorry he couldn’t stop him taking Tom. I told Klaus the police would probably be by today.
“Tell them I wasn’t here and hadn’t been here. Tell them you don’t know anything but that the boy was living with me.”
“I tell zem nossing. Zey know me. Zey know I’m gut man. Zey believe anysing I say. I tell zem nossing.”
“I got to get things packed and get out of here. I’ll be back Sunday night.”
“Gut. Take care of zee boy and yourzelf too.”
I was on my way to Sammy ten minutes later. I drove back by the house and the police were there. Klaus was shrugging his shoulders. He smiled at me as I drove by. It was the first time I had ever seen him smile.
Tom hugged me as hard as he could when I came through the door of Katie’s apartment. I hugged him back. I never wanted to let go.
“Thank you,” he whispered in my ear.
“I love you,” I whispered back. Daniel toddled over and hugged my leg. I picked him up and kissed him on the cheek.
“Hey, big guy.”
“Hi, Unka Pete. I kissed Tom. So did Daniel.
“I’m so sorry,” Tom said.
“For what? You didn’t do anything wrong.”
We moved into the living room. I kissed Katie and we sat down.
“I went out back and was pickin’ up stuff out of the garden and talkin’ to Klaus. He was getting out the hose to wash down the sidewalk. I began to sweep the walk. I was whistling a tune I had made up when I was a kid. Klaus thought it was funny. He was laughing! So I whistled louder. Klaus opened the gate to take the hose out and that’s when he burst through into the backyard. It was horrible. He hit Klaus when he tried to stop him. I tried to run in the house. He caught me by the shoelace and tripped me up. He dragged me out onto the street and stuffed me into a cab. Klaus was running after us as we drove away. We got caught in traffic so we missed the train that the asshole wanted to be on.”
I told him how Klaus had called me and I figured he would head for the train. I told him of the kids I convinced to wreak havoc and that he had broken his old man’s finger.
“Oh, I know. I heard it snap, big time. And then I twisted it back and forth a few times. Didn’t you hear him scream?”
I shook my head no. Tom just smiled with a sense of accomplishment. We sat silent for a few minutes. I held Tom’s hand and hugged Daniel close to me.
“Fitz, we better get going, to beat rush hour traffic out of town. I’m nervous just being on this island right now knowing that asshole is on it too. I’ll be back on Sunday night. I brought some things for both of us, Tom, but the most important thing’s right here.” I squeezed his hand. “I love you, Daniel,” I said as I put him down and patted his butt. He walked over to his mom. “I love you too, Fitz, we’ll call you tonight.” As I kissed her and gave her a hug, I said, “I want a boring life.”
“Oh no you don’t, Pete. Maybe a little less excitement but boring, no.”
I called my mom and said we were on our way. She asked if everything was OK.
“It will be once we get there.”
I was never so happy to be in New Jersey in all of my life when I saw the tiled line inside of the Lincoln Tunnel dividing the two states. In less than an hour I was looping back over Route 22 and into town. We zoomed up the driveway and pulled into the back. I got out, stretched and grabbed the duffle. Tom met me around the back of the car. He put his arm around my waist. I kissed him on the cheek.
“Now you have all four parents to take care of you for the next few days…and one pair or the other to take care of you for the next couple of months.”
We had talked it through on the ride out here. It was best just for Tom to disappear for awhile till things settled down or we could get some resolution legally. So he was going to stay with my parents or down in Houston with the Elliots’. The four of them were standing in the cold air, soaking in the golden warmth of the late afternoon sunshine on the back porch when we walked back down the driveway. They ushered us inside desperate for the story of what happened. We told them the whole story and what we planned to do about it for the foreseeable future. They wholeheartedly agreed, although my mother was upset that Tom had busted his father’s finger and then yanked it around for good measure. He pulled his arm out of his shirt to reveal the black and blue mass of his bicep and tricep muscles. Mom burst into tears.
“He wouldn’t let go,” Tom said gently. Tom Elliot got up.
“We need to document your arm, Tom. I’ll get my camera. God damn that man.” Tom looked at Dad Elliot quizzically.
“Tom,” I said, “If we have to prove physical abuse, we’ll need documentation. It’s cold but necessary. I’m glad he’s thinkin’ about this stuff.”
We ate a light dinner. No one was very hungry. By ten Tom led me off to bed. We held each other tight once we got under the covers.
“You’d do anything for me, wouldn’t you,” he asked.
“Yes, I think I would.”
“I know I would do anything for you.”
“How about don’t ever leave me.”
“OK, I think I can do that,” he said. We were quiet for awhile content to be cheek to cheek.
“I sure did climb over the right fence.”
Dad walked through the door at 6:30 in the morning. Tom and I were still nestled together.
“Hey,” he whispered hoarsely. He shook us a bit. Tom woke with a start. His head whacked my nose.
“Huh, fuck, ouch!”
“Oops, sorry. Didn’t mean to startle ya. Hey, I could really use some help today, Pete. You want to get back in the ditch for a day? You too, Tom.”
“Oh God, Dad.”
“Sure, sounds good to me,” Tom said, “Come on, Pete, will ya?”
“Oh God, Tom…Sure, Dad we’ll be down in half an hour.”
“Thanks, guys.” Dad turned and left. As I rubbed my pained nose I said, “I can’t believe you, ‘sounds good to me.’ Holy shit, how are you going to work with one arm.”
“Ow, you’re right, but come on, let’s have some fun.”
“Fun has three letters, work has four, like fuck and shit.”
“Fuckin’ sounds like fun to me,” Tom smirked.
“It is and I can’t wait to fuck you.”
Tom grabbed my dick, “And you’re ready too!”
“Come on let’s get in the bath. We don’t have much time to get ready, eat and be out the door.” I kicked off the sheets and pushed him out of bed. I tossed him one of the towels Mom had left for us and we ducked into the bathroom next to my room. Since he arrived into my life, I had told him a couple times about Dan, Jason and me sharing the bathroom. The first time he didn’t believe I was serious. The next few times he seriously contemplated it. Today, he thought he would try it out.
“Sorry this place lacks a fan,” I said when he sat down as I shaved.
“This is really weird.”
“You could join the army or navy and it would be normal.”
“And there’s another reason I won’t be joining the armed services like my dad once tried to force me to do.”
“But you aren’t old enough.”
“I tried to tell him but he’s an asshole, ‘Nobody tells me shit,’” Tom said mimicking his old man’s whiney voice, “No, they just give him shit.”
“Well finish takin’ yours, it’s my time.”
Five minutes later we were laughing about it in the shower.
“OK, OK, I might be able to handle it,” Tom said chuckling as I tickled him a bit.
“And I installed a fan at home…Just be glad we don’t eat meat, that makes it really stink!”
We hardly had time for juice and an English muffin before Dad was saying, “It’s time.”
Tom was dressed in the old blue jeans I gave him that first night, a t-shirt, a sweat shirt and a big heavy old jacket Dad tossed him.
“Try not to grunge up your new sneakers,” Mom Elliot said.
“Jim, don’t you have some boots for him?”
“Not that would fit his big ol’ feet. I don’t know where he got those compared to the rest of him. And you know what they say about big feet…”
“Jim! You are so bad!”
The two moms and I blushed with embarrassment. The two Dads and Tom chuckled. I got up and grabbed Tom’s hand, “Time to go! Bye, y’all. We’ll see you tonight.” Tom barely got his hand on his coat as I pulled him out the door.
“Your dad is funny.”
“He is,” I said honestly, “He’s also a slave driver. So watch out, that’s not funny. He likes to work and get the job done.”
“Sounds like you, darlin’.”
“I’m just not as funny,” I said with a smile.
Tom spent the morning being Dad’s rod man as he shot grades with his transit. Tom had to hold the measured rod vertical at spots Dad directed him too. Dad took him under his wing explaining the whys and hows of what he was doing. Tom absorbed it all quickly. Dad even showed him how to run the backhoe on a drainage ditch we were digging. After lunch he taught him how to run the skid loader. The two of them were lost in a world of big kids’ toys. On the drive home Tom was worn out but so excited, he wouldn’t shut up. I was almost too tired to drive the dump truck. I had been swinging a sledge hammer all day building a railroad tie retaining wall. We saw Egil driving his dad’s car as we came into town. I honked and waved but he never heard us. The music must have been cranked up.
We were both asleep on top of the bed still wrapped in our towels not five minutes after we got out of the shower. Mom had to wake us for the dinner she made. The four of them left to go out to dinner. We staggered downstairs after pulling on some clothes. As we ate, I remarked to Tom how quiet this big old house was. I had never known it to be so empty, yet I was content with it being filled by just the two of us.
He smiled at me, paused and then said, “Actually it’s just my feet and…”
“You cheeky bastard, then use those 2 x 12’s of yours to go get me the phone.”
He got up, kissed me on the temple and got me the phone. I called Klaus and asked him about the police. He had told them I was away for the weekend, and that Tom had been living there peacefully as a boarder and had not been back since being dragged away. He also filed charges against Tom’s dad for the punch in the eye. The asshole spent the night in jail and then was allowed to go to the hospital for his finger after seeing the judge. I thanked him and so did Tom. The three of us were laughing when I hung up.
I called Steve and Katie to tell them what Klaus had done. We all had a good laugh over someone else’s misfortunes. Tom talked to Katie for awhile as I cleaned up from dinner. I told him to tell them I would come over after work on Monday for dinner if that was OK.
“She says Unka Pete is welcome anytime.”
“Tell them I love them all. Kisses.”
As soon as he hung up I asked him to dial a number and ask for Egil.
“When he gets on the line tell him, ‘Hey you crazy Norwegian bastard get your ass over to the fucked up German’s house, schnell!’ and then hang up.”
Tom dutifully did as I asked. Thirty seconds after he hung up the phone rang. Tom answered it. All he heard was laughing for about fifteen seconds and then “Be right there,” and a click. Twenty minutes later he squeaked to a stop and leaned his old bike up against the maple tree in the back yard.
Egil had moved to Philadelphia a couple years before. He lived in an old row house he was renovating on the South side. He bought the house with his girlfriend. He was at home for a few days to see his folks. I introduced him to Tom and told Tom that I had known Egil for more than twelve years. Then I proceeded to tell Egil of life in the last month. Egil thought my feelings for Tom, though a bit confused at this point, were perfectly natural. He was so glad to see me so happy, full of life and desire.
“After the accident you had changed, radically, there wasn’t the same ol’ spark of life and adventure. I was beginning to believe it was a permanent condition. Now, I know it’s not. So don’t question yourself, Pete, just do.”
We spent a couple of hours telling stories on ourselves as we reminisced and entertained Tom. The parents came home around eleven. Dad was so glad to see Egil.
“Don’t ya want to come back to work for me?”
“What? Na, I got a new slave driver now. He doesn’t make me stand in the mud in the rain for three hours trying to shovel muck. But he’s also not as funny.”
Egil soon left to go have a few beers before going home. We all chatted for awhile before I called it a night. Tom came up twenty minutes later.
“Hey, you still awake.”
“Yep.” I slowly opened my eyes, “thought I might be able to go to sleep without you, but it wasn’t happenin’…I forgot to bring Dan’s watch in the rush.”
“That watch really puts you to sleep?”
I nodded my head yes and shrugged my shoulders.
“It just does. I don’t question it. I guess I feel as if I’m safe in his arms if I hear it ticking.”
I started to cry. It was the first time I had admitted that to myself out loud. Tom lay down on the bed and held me.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you…”
“It’s OK,” I sobbed. Tom held me tighter. I took a huge sigh and wiped my eyes on his shoulder. “It will always hurt, Tom.”
“You keep tellin’ me about him and Jason ‘cause I feel as if I know them…and I like ‘em a lot. Like the stories you and Egil told tonight, they were cool. They tell me so much more than the stories themselves.”
“Thanks,” I kissed him. There was a light knock at the door.
“Come on,” I said as I wiped my eyes again.
“Hey, Tom and I were wonderin’ if you guys want to go to the ‘Pitch and Putt’ in the mornin’. The girls are goin’ shopping and …well…they canned the idea of Tom and me goin’ car shopping. They thought that we might get serious.”
“Knowing you and Dad Two, they’re probably right.” I looked at Tom.
“I’d love to. It’s the only thing the asshole and I ever agreed on and had fun together at.”
“Bus pulls out at nine. OK by you two?”
“Fine here, and then the four of us can go car shopping,” I said with a serious smirk and bounce of the eyebrows. Dad laughed and disappeared as the door slowly shut.
It had been almost two years since I held a golf club. During the first year I moved to New York, almost every time I came out to New Jersey, Dad, Egil and one of my brothers would go out to the county golf facility and play this course of nine par three holes with me. I enjoyed it immensely and it took my mind off of the mental pain I was going through at the time. It also was another good way to loosen up my joints. Golf was one thing that Dan, Jason and I had never done together. I got a thrill over sharing something with Tom that didn’t have any reference to Dan and Jason. I felt like a little kid at Christmas. Tom had fun too, but his golf was serious. He teed off last among us. We all put it on or near the green. He put it less than three feet from the cup with backspin. Our jaws dropped to the ground. He just smiled.
“Well I’m leavin’, that’s enough for me to see,” Dad said with a smile, “Thank god, I didn’t offer up the bet I was thinking about. Tom and I would be out a car.”
“Don’t need one…,Dad,” Tom said. I looked at Tom.
“They want me to call them ‘Dad’, officially, if I want to…and I do.”
“Cool,” I exclaimed as we walked the hundred yards to the green.
I was farthest from the cup. With a smile and the lightest of touch I lipped it around the cup. I knocked it in for par, one of two I would get that day. Tom had that by the third hole along with a birdie. The four of us had found something that we all could share. After lunch we went car shopping. On the drive between the Jaguar dealership and the Mercedes-Benz showroom I told my dad how much my net worth was.
“Two and a half million dollars,” he screamed as he pulled over to the side of the road and slammed on the brakes.
“Well, most of that is in two stocks that have gone nuts. And don’t look to me for financial advice, Dan picked both of them.” I pointed with my thumb to the back seat, “Talk to Dad here, he taught me all I know and he taught Dan. It’s not like I do anything with it anyway. I really don’t want it. I live on what I make and I’ve saved enough for a down payment on a house or a Mercedes for you.” I turned in the front seat to face him. “I’m sorry I’ve never told you about this. When I got the money any thought of it made me feel sick and start to cry. It still is blood money to me…I hate that I use that term…it’s too literal. Even Andy said it’s a bit much when I said it to him.”
“Andy who?” Dad said.
“Andy Warhol, he’s a friend of mine…Jason introduced me.”
“Do you know everybody?” he asked, rhetorically, with a smile and a shake of his head.
“Only those that count,” I smiled back. I was silent for a second as Dad pulled back out on the highway. “If you ever need it, Dad, don’t be afraid to ask. Unless Dan and Jason tell me what to do with it first…I’m still waiting. I know Dad Elliot has told you about the scholarship fund. I thought you’d get an idea at that point and ask some questions. Those aren’t cheap ya know.”
“You’ve told Tom about this money before now.”
“A little, he had no idea how much till now.”
“I was thinkin’ fifty grand…tops, but I don’t think I could ever bring up this subject because of what it means to him.”
“I have to agree with you there, Tom,” my dad said. I turned around and looked at them all. I swallowed.
“The only thing that has come to mind that I know Dan would want is for me to use the money to back myself when I start my own firm and to build a home for me and my family….It was going to be Dan, Jason and me…but now, once I decide to leave my apartment and I figure out where I want to be and Tom’s ready for a big place I’ll go for it. Till then let’s not talk about it. OK?”
“What about Mom?”
“Your call Dad, I trust ya, but I think you should tell her.”
I looked out the windshield and saw the flashing lights of police and ambulances at the site of what looked like a horrible accident. I quickly put my head between my knees and closed my eyes. The three of them each had a hand on my back caressing me.
“Thanks,” I said, “Tell me when it’s OK to look. Can we go home? I don’t want to look at cars anymore today.”
When I pulled my head back up Dad looked over toward me and said with a smile, “I hope you don’t do that when you drive.”
I stared back at him, “I don’t know, I haven’t come across a bad accident while I’ve been driving.” His smile disappeared.
On Sunday, we decided to have a mini Thanksgiving with the six of us. I tried to help out the two moms with cooking but Tom and I were both shooed away from cooking duties. The dads had headed off on some adventure of their own. So, I decided to do what came most naturally to me, especially on a day like today when it’s cold, gray and rainy; these were the times when I loved to draw. I found an old empty sketchbook in my room and gave it to Tom. The two of us sat at the kitchen table where we could watch, listen, talk and smell as we sketched what was in our minds. Again, a talent that Tom had not yet expressed stunned me. He drew a still life of the salt and pepper shakers and the radio that sat on the windowsill. The skill and sensitivity in his use of a pencil awed me. I was outright jealous. After twenty minutes he looked up at me, turned the book to face me and softly smiled. I was speechless. I could only smile back.
“Let me see yours,” he asked simply.
“You’ve seen it already,” I whispered back.
He chuckled and said, “Come on.”
I spun my book around. I had drawn a perspective of a six storey building on some nondescript street corner of New York.
“Thanks, yours is excellent,” I said.
“And I love when you caress it,” he said quietly with a smirk.
“Cheeky bastard.” I got up, walked around and sat down next to him. I kissed him on the cheek and put my hand in his lap. We both went back to drawing. When I looked up again. He was drawing a room. I stared for a moment, then looked at his face to catch his attention.
“It’s the lobby to your building,” he said nonchalantly, never looking up. My mouth dropped open.
“What architecture school do you want to go to?”
“What do you mean?” he asked sincerely.
“I’m serious. Have you ever considered architecture as a life?”
He stopped drawing and looked up at me.
“You are serious.”
“You think I could do it?”
I nodded again.
A broad toothy smile crossed his face.
“I was always told by you-know-who that I couldn’t be an architect or an engineer because I wasn’t good in math.”
“That doesn’t have anything to do with it…anyway you do numbers in your head with ease so what are you talking about?”
“You gotta understand, nothing I ever did was good enough in my household.”
“Well you’re the best in mine.”
“You two having fun over there,” my mom asked.
“Yes, we’re playing nice,” I said with sarcasm.
Tom ribbed me with his elbow.
“Sorry, Mom, things are great over here.”
I smiled at Tom. He went back to drawing. I doodled on another page as my mind raced on how to get Tom back in high school.
After our late afternoon supper I went up to pack my things. Tom sat on the bed next to the duffel and stared at the floor.
“This hurts. I don’t want you to leave. You’re goin’ home without me.”
“I’m not abandoning you. I don’t want to do this at all. I don’t want to leave you, but what other option do we have except quitting my job?”
He shook his head. “Life sucks sometimes,” he spoke softly.
“You and I both know that well, but then you appreciate how good it can be…even on the mediocre days, right.”
He picked his head up. His eyes were full.
“We’ll get this thing straightened out soon enough. I guess we’ll just sue your old man into submission. I don’t know. It’s time for you to get on with the rest of your life….to get back into school and on to architecture school.” I smiled at him and he smiled back. I lay down on top of him and we kissed for a minute.
“OK, got enough energy now to last a week?” He nodded weakly. “Come on, Tiger, you can do better than that.” He smiled.
“I can’t wait to go to Houston next weekend,” he said with honest excitement.
“Good, I can’t wait to meet you at the airport.” I got up and finished packing. I pulled him up off the bed and we hugged. We didn’t want to let go. I was reminded of the day Dan left on the weekend we met, except this time it was I who was driving away in Sammy.
Downstairs the six of us stood in a circle. I held Tom’s hand.
“Take care of him, will ya?”
“We will,” Dad Elliot said, “Well, until tomorrow morning. Tom, you goin’ ta ride with us to the airport?”
He nodded and then said, “Who’s gonna bring you lunch tomorrow?”
“Awww, Tom, don’t make it tough,” I said with a heavy sigh, “Wave from the airport, you’ll be close then.”
“Awww, don’t get silly now,” he said to me with a grin. He turned and hugged me and when we broke he hugged my mom.
“I’ll call when I get home, OK? And I’ll see all of you in a week, half in Newark and half in Houston…and you the whole way. Think of the clothes that you want me to pack for you…actually…don’t worry about it too much we still need to buy you some more. We could do that in Houston…before Thanksgiving!”
They all laughed knowing how much I disliked to shop, much less so during the busiest time of the year. I gave Tom a kiss on his temple. He was still locked in with Mom. I shook the dads’ hands and gave a kiss to each of the moms.
“See ya.” I climbed into the Beetle and he roared to life. I waved as I went down the drive.
I woke completely unrested. I fell asleep OK but tossed and turned the entire night. The anger that welled inside of me over having to leave Tom, combined with the inability to let go of control in the situation, had caused the restlessness. I was grumpy, no doubt about it. I would have to concentrate not to take it out on those at work. I went out and raked leaves in the back yard for twenty minutes. I beat off in the shower hoping to relieve a little stress. Neither helped. I truly missed Tom. I called home. He was still asleep. I told Mom not to wake him. She told me I was grumpy. I almost swore at her about the obvious. I wished Mom Elliot a safe flight and hung up. I finally got dressed for work. It took me five tries to tie my tie. I smiled in the mirror when I felt I was ready. I could hear Dan’s voice in my head telling me to “get over it or do you need a smack in the ass?” My smile broadened and then I shook my head.
I had to pull my sunglasses out of my breast pocket as I went out the door. Last night’s rain had cleared the sky into a beautiful clear crisp fall morning. Klaus was out front trying his best not to bang the garbage cans.
“Hello, sir, how are you this morning?”
He looked up, his black eye was now green and purple. He smiled, and in a bright voice said, “Gut, gut.” Then he whispered, “Howse da boy?”
“Gut,” I said back to him with a wry smile. “I’ll come by tonight to talk, OK? I need to get on with it. Bye.”
“Zee vife vill like that.”
I smiled and then turned toward the subway.
“Hey, asshole, I needs ta talk ta ya!”
From the whiny voice I knew exactly who it was when I spun back around.
Klaus dropped a can top with a clatter.
“Where’s my boy?”
“I don’t know. He took off.”
“Come on, asshole, ya know where he is.”
“Nope, I’m hopin’ that he’ll call sometime so I can tell him to stay as far away from you as possible.”
“He was livin’ here, right? He’ll want his things, huh?”
“He didn’t arrive with much. You don’t have many belongings when you’ve been livin’ on the streets.”
“He said he was stayin’ wit friends.”
“Well, New York ain’t easy on ya. Trust me. I took him in because he had nowhere else to go. He was trying to make his home under my back porch.”
“The little bastad has a home; why didn’t he come home.”
“He’d been tryin’ to raise the money to go back home to Pennsylvania, although it’s not a home to him. It’s just where he grew up.”
“Fuck ya, asshole.”
“No, Fuck you! He hates your motherfuckin’ guts! Who wouldn’t hate some asshole who beats on him mentally and physically day in and day out, constantly putting him down and telling him he’s a stupid faggot. Do you really think that makes you endearing to him? He’s an extremely intelligent, creative, sensitive soul with a great personality. He’s a good young man. And he’s smart enough not to want to put up with your shit any longer. He says it’s the one trait he got from you. He doesn’t take shit from anybody…and that means you too! So I hope he stays away from you forever.”
“He’s just a sniv’lin’ little nancy boy who needs ta come home so I can kick his ass straight!”
“You sure are stupid! He certainly got his intelligence elsewhere.”
“What da fuck ya talkin’ ‘bout. I ain’t stupid.”
“If you can’t see what’s goin’ on here between you and your boy, and I use that term lightly, you are stupid. Look, in a year he’s on his own anyway. You won’t be able to touch him. All he wants is to have a safe home and go back to school. That’s all! And he can’t get that from you!”
“Where da hell is he gonna get it from?”
I paused, turned and looked at Klaus who was standing a half a step behind me holding a garbage can top like a shield. I almost started to laugh.
“If he ever calls me…ME! I’d take Tom in in a heartbeat and give him everything he needed to go to school and then to college.”
“He ain’t smart enough ta go ta college.”
“Oh, yes he is. He’s smarter and more talented than most.”
“Ya fucked up. He’s just a dumb tow-headed twinkie.”
“You are the biggest asshole I’ve ever met in my life. Are we even talkin’ about the same Tom Petersen?”
“Look asshole, I just want my son home.”
“Well, I will do everything in my power to not let that happen. I’m willing to hire a lawyer for him to sue for abuse and end of your parental rights, to legally keep you away from him…forever.”
I stopped for a second to calm down. I took the edge off of my voice and began again.
“Look, you have a chance to back off and let him become the man he is going to be, no matter what, and then maybe both you and he can come to some terms in the future or you can be the asshole you are being and end up not having a son at all, because he will just as soon imagine you are dead…and pray for it.”
“He’s my son and I know what’s best for him.”
“NO, you don’t!” I stared him in the eye. “If he contacts me, I’ll hire the lawyer. Hope you’re willin’ to spend ten, twenty thousand dollars to keep your son… ‘cause I’m willin’ to spend twice that to keep him away from you. And just wait till Klaus sues you too for the injury you caused. He’ll end up ownin’ your house and you’ll be the one livin’ on the street. You can see what it’s like to have to try to live under somebody’s porch. Look, I’m late for work. I don’t have time to waste on assholes like you. Klaus, go call the police, tell them this moron is back harassing you. Want to spend another night in lock-up? You need to run home to PA before I chase your ass there! Bye!”
I slowly turned around, nodded to Klaus and then marched off to work. Klaus went up into the building still with the lid in his hand. At the corner I turned to look back. The asshole was staring up at the deep blue sky. The breeze surrounded him with a swirl of leaves. I shook my head and went on.
I called Steve and told him what happened. I told him to hire the lawyer and to send papers to Tom’s old man to make me his guardian along with a letter forcefully stating the option to sign this or be sued. I told Steve that I wasn’t afraid to threaten him. It was time to force the asshole’s hand in this matter. It was time to get on with our lives. Then I calmed down a bit and said I’d see them for dinner. I called Tom and told him what happened. He asked that the letter come from him. Tom was right; if anybody should threaten his old man it should be his son.
“And your old man thinks you’re stupid,” I remarked.
“I love it that you called him stupid. The only person I ever heard call him that was his father…” Both of our minds spun on that statement.
“Huh, I guess I gotta make sure to break the cycle,” Tom stated with quiet determination.
“You are,” I replied.
After the Monday Morning Meeting I sat with my boss in his office for an hour talking about last Thursday and this morning. He couldn’t stop laughing that the man spent the night in jail.
“You don’t know how many times I wish my old man had been hauled off to jail because of what he did…not only to me but to others.” He paused and rubbed his chin. “You’ll never believe this but he called on Saturday…God knows how he got the number, don’t care either. In a way, I’m glad he did, since for the first time in my life I spoke to him without cowering or without screaming. I was absolutely direct with him. He couldn’t handle it. He finally just said, “Gotta go,” and hung up. Maybe I finally wore him down…maybe he’s getting’ old and doesn’t have the energy anymore. After he hung up, I thought that something might really be wrong with him…but then he also might be looking for some negative way to dump something on me, making it my fault, so when he couldn’t find a way he didn’t have the guts to tell me. I don’t know…and it’s not that I don’t care. Oh shit…down deep I do…I just have a very hard heart.”
“No you don’t,” I stated, “you are one of the most caring people I know. Look, anybody who knows the names of all of the pets of his twenty five employees is no hard-hearted asshole.” He smiled. “And anybody who would blow off a meeting with an important client to come help Tom…well is just fantastic.” I smiled at him.
I told my boss about the sketches Tom did and his interest in architecture. He said that until we get him back in high school to bring him here to work as an intern.
“I’ll keep him busy and he can earn a few bucks for college.”
“Thank you,” I said.
“No problem. Now I gotta run and go kiss the ass of that client I blew off last week.”
Daniel sat on my lap as we ate dinner that night. He kept searching in the food on our plate for bits of meat.
“None there, Daniel. No meat to eat,” Katie said, “Unka Pete doesn’t eat meat.”
He tilted his head back to look up at me. I looked down at him and shook my head, “Nope.” He smiled and went back to eating.
Steve turned to me, “Can’t believe you didn’t have to explain. His favorite word is W-H-Y lately.”
“Yeah, I wouldn’t know how to explain that to him…I don’t even know how to tell Tom. I know he wants to know too, but he also knows that it’s not a simple answer. I have a tough time just knowing why myself much less having to talk about it. I guess I’m just waiting for a good moment for it to happen.”
“If you want some help or support when you do it we’ll be there,” Katie said.
“Thanks, you always are.” I helped Daniel with breaking open a biscuit and then I hugged him to me.
“I’m sorry we aren’t all going to be together for Thanksgiving.”
“I know, but we have my parents to please this year,” Katie responded.
“Next year, how about we have our own. Here. Invite your parents, Steve, and I’ll invite mine and even the Elliots too…with Tom that would be twelve…just enough. What do ya think?”
“Sounds good to me. I’d much rather cook than travel. How about add John and Jeremy too?”
“Fitz you’re wonderful. What do you think, Steve?”
“I just think it’s a ruse to get me to buy that big dining room table with the multiple leaves she’s been wanting,” he replied with a broad smile.
“And you call yourself stupid sometimes,” she said with a laugh, “Sure, Pete. I think it’s a great idea.”
I grabbed Tom around the waist, hoisted him off the ground, and spun us around. I kissed him on the lips, much to the embarrassment of those travelers walking past. I didn’t care. I had a faxed copy of the signed guardianship agreement in my hand. Tom’s old man had signed it without much hesitation when contacted by our lawyer down in Philadelphia. Once he was convinced that all this did was allow me to act as go between for Tom to go to school and not much more, he was willing.
“Now, this is Thanksgiving,” I exclaimed.
“I can’t believe it. I just can’t believe it,” Tom kept saying.
“What did that lawyer say to him?”
“He decided it would be best to try to talk first about the options instead of shooting him threatening letters. I guess your old man talked to his brother, who’s a lawyer, right?”
“Well, so he was willing to talk and had a few stipulations which were quite reasonable. So it all comes down to you get to live with me and go to school and he leaves us alone.”
Tom stared at me for a long time, then looked to Mom and Dad. He shook his head.
“I just don’t get it. Do we have time before the flight? I want to call them.”
Dad and I both looked at our watches and said, “Sure,” in sync. Tom smiled softly and shook his head. I flipped a quarter to him.
He flipped it back, “Got one.” He marched off to the bank of phones, picked up the receiver and then stood looking up at the ceiling for a minute before pushing the numbers.
After fifteen minutes I walked over, having watched a very animated conversation on his part. They had just called the first round of boarding. He looked a little stressed.
I mouthed the words, “Are you OK?”
He nodded yes.
They called the second round for our flight. He pointed at the gate and gave me a thumbs up. His parents also knew that he was getting on a flight. “Yes, he paid for my ticket. Yes, he takes good care of me. He’s a really good guy. Like I said before, if he hadn’t come out the back door that night I would have died. Mom, Dad, I’ve got to go. Thank you for doing this, I mean that. I really think this is the best thing. Just give me some time OK?…you know where I am now.” “OK, sure.” “Bye.” He hung up. He reached out for me. I put my arms around him. We slowly walked over to Mom and Dad and hugged them too.
“We’ll call you tomorrow.”
“Love you, Mom and Dad,” Tom said with a smile. He shook his head. “What a day this is! Talking to three sets of parents in one day and legally have a new one, well sort of…I’m overwhelmed.”
“Come on, son,” I said sarcastically.
Tom smacked me on the butt, “Don’t even think about it!”
Dad laughed, “How about we come pick you both up next Sunday and drive you into the city?”
“You don’t have to do that, but I won’t deny you two,” I said. They called the final boarding. We smiled, turned and headed down the ramp.
Once we got settled on the plane, Tom had graciously offered the window seat to me, I asked him about his conversation with his parents.
“Actually, it was probably the most normal interaction we’ve ever had. They still tried to pull me into the guilt and shame game. They made fun of me and put me down, but they also realized that me moving in with you and going to school and me taking care of myself in a safe environment was the best way overall, although they don’t really like the idea. My uncle convinced his little brother that he would only cause problems for himself and it would cost him a lot of money if they forced this into court. ‘There are a bunch of skeletons that would get rattled about,’ my old man said. He also said that he was impressed that you stood up to him and felt that if you stood up for me to him you’d do that with anybody, that’s what convinced him to sign. Although, he did ask if you were ‘a faggot’ and had touched me ‘there.’ I said that you were gay and you were a perfect gentleman. That made my mother happy, especially when I told her you have an amazing garden. The old man agreed since he saw it…I don’t know how much he really saw fightin’ with Klaus and draggin’ and slappin’ me outta there…it made Mom happy though.” He sighed and looked out at the cloud tops. “I just hope they keep their fuckin’ end of the bargain…I’m still nervous.” I reached over and put my hand into his.
“The Monday after we get back, Steve should have the paper work together to start getting you into school and getting your grades from your old school. I even went and looked at a private school for you. They said if they accepted you, that they would be willing to work with you so that you would graduate on time. That means summer school.”
“Pete, what’s wrong with public school… that’s an awful lot of money, don’t spend it on me.” I put two fingers to his lips.
“Dan and Jason said it was OK. Besides, you’re worth it and you need to have your ass worked so that you will be ready for college.”
“What a day,” he said as he kept shaking his head, “What a day.”
“This is what Thanksgiving is all about,” I said as I twisted my head to look into his eyes. He nodded.
We explained and talked it all through again upon arriving in Houston. Mom and Dad Elliot were so excited. They admitted that they had been worried that this would turn into a long protracted battle that stressed everyone to the breaking point. I had to admit that that had crossed my mind. It still worried me somewhat. Once we got home and tossed our bags into our room, I said to Tom, “I don’t want to be morbid or anything but it’s time for you to meet Dan.”
“I sort of have,” he said looking around the bedroom.
I smiled, “I need to go to the cemetery. Do you want to come?”
He nodded yes.
We borrowed the car and headed for my favorite meditation spot. We hiked across the rolling green lawn to where Dan lay. Mom had planted some flowers. They still looked good that late in the year. I got down on my knees and pinched off the few dead blooms. I sat back on my haunches and put my head into my hand. I tried not to cry. Tom kneeled behind me and put his hands on my shoulders. I picked my head up.
“Hey, Dan. I’d like you to meet Tom Petersen. I know you would like him…I sure do. Our moms and dads do too.”
I rubbed the grass on top of the grave and then stood up. I reached back for Tom’s hand and helped him up.
Tom looked down at the name inscribed into the top of the bench and said, “Hi, Dan.”
I cleaned some dirt out of the letters as Tom walked around the bench. I sat down and rubbed my hands across the bench top and the sides. Tom then sat down next to me. I took his hand into mine. I looked at Tom and smiled a nervous smile, then looked out over the sea of monuments. I fell silent for at least fifteen minutes as I meditated and reminisced.
I squeezed Tom’s hand and turned to face him.
“What a wonderful place,” he said softly. Then he tried to backtrack, “Well, I didn’t mean…”
“Shhhhh.” I kissed him.
“Thank you, you’re absolutely right. I feel exactly the same way.” I stood up. “Time to go. I think it’s going to rain soon.” A band of dark clouds had moved our way while we meditated. I kissed my fingers and then patted the top of the bench. “I’ll be back again while I’m home. I love ya. Steve, Katie and the kids send their love too. Daniel is such a cutie.” I took Tom’s hand into mine.
“Bye, Dan,” he said and then smiled at me.
We turned as the rain began to fall gently. It was a steady drizzle by the time we had walked to the car. It was a downpour by the time we got home.
I dialed Bill as Dad, Tom and I sat in the kitchen watching Mom prepare dinner. She turned around to see our three mugs faced toward her.
“Useless,” she huffed sarcastically and returned to cooking.
The Toms got up in a hurry. One made cocktails while the other offered to help chop and clean. I was chuckling when Bill answered.
“Ooooooh Noooooo, Mr. Bill,” I said imitating the clay character that had been made famous on Saturday Night Live.
“Pete! How the hell are you? You in town?”
“Yep, till Sunday.”
“No, you big dummy. I normally come for the holiday. What’s up?”
We disappeared into a forty-five minute conversation catching up on what had happened since we last spoke when he called on my birthday. He was certainly intrigued with the events surrounding Tom. I told him all he had to do was come over and meet him and he’d understand. I asked what confusing turns his life had taken. He told me he had broken up with his boyfriend of over four years and recently had run into his old girlfriend. She was recently divorced. Her marriage hadn’t lasted two years. They had been dating for the last three months.
“I’m truly in love with her,” he said.
“I want to marry her.”
“Are you going to be able to keep your hands off of boys?”
“Well, that I have to decide before I even think of actually asking her, but I kept my hands off of anyone else, male or female, when I was with Bill. So I know I can be exclusive, but I have to decide if I am going to get frustrated somehow…Although the sex with her has been fantastic.”
“Go for it, Bill,” I said laughing.
“Look, I got to go now. We’re having an early dinner. Can you come by tomorrow?”
“I think so…I’ll call you after church.”
“My girlfriend is big on it, but she hasn’t become one of born-again types. She likes to go and I enjoy it too…even if I just sit, hold her hand and daydream.”
“Bill, you are too much for TV.”
“Me?” He dissolved into laughter. “You are one to talk, Langer. Call ya tamarra, Bye!”
“That was Bill, Dan’s best friend in high school and one of my best friends in college. He’s the one who brought Dan to Steve’s and my party, thus we met. He’s been a trip to know. I could go on for hours about what he’s put himself through.”
Mom laughed, “He sure is a wild one.”
“Wild Bill...it fits. He is so named,” I said laughing, “Thanks, Mom. I’ve always thought he needed a more formal nick.”
“So what’s he up to now,” Mom asked. Tom’s head bounced back and forth as he absorbed the info in our conversation.
“Well, he’s broken up with Bill…Yes, Bill was dating a Bill, Tom…after four years, and he ran into his old girlfriend and now is dating her and wants to pop the question to her.”
“Nope and he goes to church with her.”
“Wait,” Mom said with complete astonishment, “we are not talking about the same Bill Thaxton, the one who had to be dragged kicking and screaming to go to a Christmas Eve service in which Dan was singing in the choir.”
“The one and the same,” I said.
“That’s why I said he was too much for TV…I really think that Bisexual Bill has truly fallen in love.”
“That’s what he said about Bill four years ago,” Dad said, shaking his head as he swirled the ice around in his glass.
“Aye, there’s the rub…ya listened to what Bill had to say,” I laughed.
“I guess we’ll just have to wait for the next chapter in that book, huh,” Mom said, “and dinner will be ready in about ten. So wash up if you need to.”
“I think I need to freshen up…this drink. How ‘bout yours, Dear.”
“Pete,” Dad said as he stood at their little bar nook between the kitchen and the living room.
“Have you heard from Tim at all?”
“He called late one night. Tom answered the phone. He asked me if Tom was living with me. I said yes. He hung up. Thirty seconds…it still pisses me off…he still pisses me off that he’s doin’ this silent treatment. Ffff…sorry I was about to swear.”
“You have his parents’ number…matter of fact even I do…call him on Thanksgiving…see if you can get him to talk. I think he’ll be receptive. You guys need to be friends, and there’s no reason you aren’t…I guess I just don’t understand what happened, why you guys stopped talking.”
“I don’t either, Dad. This was purely Tim’s decision…I’ll call him on Thursday. It’s a good idea. Tom suggested it too the night he hung up on me.”
Dad smiled, “Toms thinking.”
Bill couldn’t get over meeting Tom and how happy I was.
“It’s too much the change in your underlying attitude. What happened? Maybe we shouldn’t question it…just let it be. You really are back to the guy I knew at my graduation. This is great!”
I tilted my head and stared at Bill. I felt I needed to explain this to myself, “I guess I don’t have a sense of guilt of being with Tom for some reason…like I was replacing Dan and Jason. I feel as if he is in addition to them…Am I making any sense? Maybe it’s because I have finally accepted their deaths and am comfortable with their being part of me as they influenced me…not an overbearing memory of sadness. I feel at ease to talk about them now, relate them to Tom and not be morbid.” I looked at Tom. “I’m not being morbid or whatever about them with you, am I?”
“Not at all,” he said seriously, “I feel like they’re good friends of ours…now am I making any sense? Oh, Pete, let’s not try to explain it. You are the sanest, happiest, most giving man I’ve ever known and you want me to be part of your life…and I want to share my life with you.”
I leaned over and kissed him, passionately. I was in love with Tom.
It seemed like forever to get to Thursday. Tom and I enjoyed the peace and quiet with the lack of routine. He and I spent most of the time reworking all of Mom’s flower beds and weeding and trimming around the bushes and the hedge row of Boxwoods that ran between theirs and the neighbor’s yard. I had found someone to share my gardening with whom I could also spend my life with.
“I spent a lot of time watching my mother,” Tom said to me as we had our heads under a bush.
“This is the best though; I actually get to do it. Now I understand why she loves it so.”
“Well I’ll have to have you guys visit more often. I can’t seem to pay anybody to do what you two are doing…and I don’t have the time…or the patience…but I would like to see more of you than just your behinds all day. You are our guests…our sons, you know.”
“Oh, Mom,” I said like a ten-year-old. She started to laugh.
“OK, Petey, don’t get me started.” Both Toms were laughing now.
The four of us were up early on Thanksgiving morning. Mom was taking care of the turkey and fixings that went with it. I started baking the pies and then the main course for Tom and me. The Toms extended the dining room table and set up the house for the guests. Mom’s sister and her family were coming around noon. It was going to be fun to have six more for dinner. Of all of their family, they had accepted Dan and me the most. They also were the most understanding of Mom and Dad’s decision to keep me in their life after Dan had died. They thought it was natural, like we did. My four “cousins” were all in their late teens except for the oldest who was twenty-one. I was always thrilled to see them and they seemed to enjoy being with me. I was just a bit anxious about their meeting Tom. He was the same age as the youngest boy. I was just hoping that they would relate.
At eleven I went into the den. I turned down the sound on the TV. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade was on. I picked up the receiver and called Tim’s house in Mississippi. His dad answered.
“Hey, Pete, Happy Thanksgiving! Long time no hear…or see. How are you?”
“Fine, and you?”
“Great, just great. Tim’s upstairs. I’ll have to go get him.”
“Will you tell him please, to talk to me and not to hang up on me.”
“What do you mean? I asked him last night how you were doing and he said fine, like everything was going OK…considering you two live on opposite coasts.”
I explained that I hadn’t heard from him except for the one time since he got his unlisted phone number.
“What the hell…dammit I hate when he lies to me…DAMMIT! I had this gut feeling he was holding something in.”
“Look, please don’t get mad at him, especially today. That’s why I’m callin’. I just want to get back to being friends at least.”
“I’m not going to say a word to him. Let’s just see what he does. If he hangs up or won’t talk to you then I’m going to have a serious talk with him. Especially about lying to me. I don’t accept that. Where are you if we need to call you back?”
“I’m at the Elliots’ in Houston.”
“I have that number. Wait, I hear him comin’ down the stairs. Tim, telephone! Nice talkin’ to ya, Pete.”
“Hi, Tim. Happy Thanksgiving.”
“Tim, talk to me and don’t hang up on me, please. I love you. I miss talking to you. I miss laughing with you. We’ve got to work this out, please.”
The receiver gently clicked. He hung up. I hung my head and started to cry. Dad walked in and sat down next to me.
“Aw, Pete, he wouldn’t go for it?”
I shook my head. I picked up the phone again.
“Hopefully, Mom and Dad won’t hang up on me,” I said bravely, trying to crack a smile. I laughed a lot talking with my family for half an hour. They were all in the silliest of moods. I thanked them for making my day. I missed them.
I got up to go back to the kitchen to finish up and help clean up when the phone rang. I stared at it and let it ring. Mom picked it up in the kitchen.
“Pete, it’s Tim,” she called. I didn’t want to talk to him now and ruin my good mood.
“That’s silly,” I said to myself as I walked to the phone.
I picked it up and said, “Hi guy, how are you?”
He cried into the phone for a few minutes before he choked out the words, “I’m sorry.”
“Tim, it’s OK. We need our friendship. We need to work things out. Don’t ya think so?”
“Yeah, I don’t know how I get these wild ideas in my head and then decide you are going to know about them…through osmosis, or ESP or something. Then I get mad at you for not talking to me about them…so I don’t want to talk to you. It’s the same shit as when we broke up. Why do you put up with me and this shit?”
“’Cause I love you, because I owe you the benefit of the doubt until we get things out in the open so that we both know where the other one stands.”
I heard the doorbell ring.
“Oh shit, the cousins are here. I’m gonna havta go, but I don’t want to. Crap, I want to work things out. I need to tell you about Tom. We all need to get together face to face too. Can I call you late in the afternoon or early evening?”
“Sure, Pete…You know I love you. I don’t know why I can be such an asshole sometimes. I should have married you when I had the chance.”
“Tim, we need to talk. Don’t get down on yourself. Have a good Turkey Day, OK? I’ll call you later.”
“OK, Bye Pete.”
I was distant all afternoon, lost in thought about the confusion and conflict of my feelings for both Tim and Tom. Tom and the cousins got along great. He fit right into their age group. They didn’t ask about our relationship at all; they just accepted us, which was fine by me. I wasn’t in any mood to try to explain something I was becoming more confused about as the afternoon went on.
During dinner Tom squeezed my hand. I looked over at him.
“What’s wrong?” he whispered.
I shrugged my shoulders.
“Pete, can I have ten minutes with you after dinner?”
I nodded yes. I felt so glad that he came to me about this. I perked up for the rest of dinner.
We all broke from dinner to let our stomachs expand and settle before dessert. Mom, her sister and two nieces decided to do the clearing and clean up. The men adjourned to the den to watch football. Tom grabbed my hand and led me upstairs to our room. He gently swung me around to sit on the bed and shut the door.
“Darlin’, what’s up? I’ve never seen you so moody. You get down sometimes, but…this is different.”
I looked up at him and then patted the bed next to me. He sat down.
“That phone call to Tim. It’s brought up all of my unresolved feelings I have for him. They conflict with what I feel for you. I was…am…in love with Tim. I always balked at asking him to marry me. Then I would kick myself for not doing it. Then he got weirded out about our relationship and went to California and then cut me off. When he did that I let it go in my heart and mind. Then you came along…but then talking to him today made me realize what I had felt and do feel for him. And how do I resolve that when I feel so strongly about you? I love you. I have a deep love for you that comes close to what I felt for Dan…and Jason…and I haven’t known you very long and technically you’re still not by boyfriend…well you are, we just don’t have sex yet. Oh shit…that doesn’t matter anyway. I will do nothing that would hurt you. I’m very confused about how I can be honest to myself and you and Tim. That’s why I’m moody.”
“Whoa, Pete. One, I didn’t know you loved me that much. I was hopin’, but, wow! You’ve taught me what love is. Two, I wondered that night after Tim called and you told me the story if this might happen. I said to myself then and I’ll tell you now that I won’t get in the way. I’ll step…”
“NO! You come first here. Absolutely! I have to resolve this between Tim and me! Oh God!”
I flung myself back onto the bed, “He’s just going to have to wait in line behind you if he wants me!”
“Pete, you can’t tell him that. Man, are you confused. What are you going to do with your feelings for him, hang ‘em in the closet while we go on with our lives? Great, that will cause some lovely resentments, yeah, right!” Tom paused, turned, got on his knees on the mattress and crawled to look down into my face. “Sorry, sarcasm wasn’t necessary.”
“Oh, Tom, help me with this. I need you.”
“Like you’ve told me, no secrets. If you’re that way with Tim and with me it will have to work out. Call him back tonight like you planned. I just think it’s gonna be a long phone call…should I give Dad a twenty now?” he said with a laugh.
“You cheeky bastard, come here!”
I grabbed him around the chest and hauled him on top of me. We started wrestling and laughing.
We heard a knock at the door, “Hey, it’s still seventeen in this state too,” came Dad’s voice with a wry twist.
“It’s OK, Dad, come on in,” Tom called out.
Dad popped his head in, “Y’all comin’ down for coffee and pie?”
“Yeah, we were just talkin’ something through,” Tom offered.
“I’m confused about still having feelings for Tim,” I said.
“Oh Wow! Maybe I should bring coffee and pie up to you?”
“No, we’re comin’ down. I need to call Tim anyway and tell him what’s goin’ on. All he knows is that Tom’s livin’ with me…and I need to tell him that Tom is stayin’ with me for…forever. But I still love him.” I hung my head down.
“Call me a ‘Cop-out’ but the three of you need to work this thing out between y’all…just call me before any punches get thrown, OK?” he said with a smile. Dad took my hand into his and pulled me up to my feet.
“Come on, you need some caffeine and sugar before you call Tim,” he smiled, “You just might need to talk fast. Come on, Tom.”
He put an arm around each of our shoulders and led us down the stairs.
I was most of the way back to my normal self through dessert, football and conversation. I enjoyed being with the cousins. The youngest, Teddy, was a natural comedian. He had us all laughing at his antics, impersonations and wacky way he would change the words to songs. I nearly wet my pants at one point I was laughing so hard. When they were getting ready to leave he was singing, “Take me home I’m deranged, My mind is detached from my brain, I can’t comprehend the simplest of tasks and my face feels as if it’s a mask,” to the tune of ‘Home on the Range.’ He did this as he went down the line kissing and hugging Mom, Dad, Tom and me. When he got to me he kissed me passionately on the lips and said, “I got to convince Mom to let me come see you and Tom in New York this summer. Do you mind?”
“See what your Mom says and then call us, OK?”
He nodded and smiled, then bounced out the door waving good-bye.
As the door closed, my mind was sent reeling. Teddy was just a few months younger than Tom, although he seemed emotionally and physically years younger. I knew he was setting up to blast out of the closet. I was shocked that he hadn’t sung ‘Homo on the Range.’ I was happy for him, but I was not feeling comfortable as the vehicle for him to do it. I sighed heavily and shook my head.
“Teddy put a hell of a lip lock on ya there, Pete,” Dad said with a soft elbow to the ribs.
“Caught that, huh?”
“Me too,” Tom said.
“Count down to lift off for that boy. He knows,” I said.
“Oh you don’t mean…”
“Yes, Mom, you will probably be talking to your sister about what it’s like to have a gay son.”
She shook her head, “Well, I’ve had five you know, you, Tom, Tim, Jason and Dan. Hope I can be of help.”
“Speaking of Tim, it’s time to go have that long talk. Care to join me, Tom?”
“Hey, Tim, ya fat?”
Tim was always trim. He never even filled out a bit as he got older much less had a weight problem.
“I ate enough for the week though,” he replied, “The cousins gone home?”
“Yep…Tim let’s get to this, OK?”
For the next hour and a half I told him how I met Tom, what he’s been through and the fact that I am now his legal guardian. I also told him that I was seriously in love with Tom but also confused because I loved him still.
“Do you understand why I’m upset over this, Tim?”
“Yeah, but I have the solution…”
I could tell by the impish tone to his voice that I was going to get a smartass remark.
“The three of us join up and do it together.”
“Tim, dammit, that’s not funny.”
“I know, I’m sorry.”
“Look that thought has crossed my mind but it’s different. I can’t explain it, it just wouldn’t work.”
“I know, but seriously I know how it will work out…”
“It’s like when I met up again with you while you were with Dan. I was still in love with you, I always have been even when I break up with you, but you two were my true friends. I was really very comfortable with that. Pete, I will always love and cherish you, no matter what, and I will always love your boyfriends too. I guess it’s the role I play in your life and that’s cool by me ‘cause I want and need you in my life. Maybe we weren’t meant to be boyfriends, that’s why one or the other of us never committed over the years. This was meant to happen this way. Don’t you agree?”
“Tim, you’re amazing, I thought you might get really upset.”
“Wait, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t easy. I want to be your husband! I’ve been dreaming lately of you fuckin’ me till I beg you to stop and then ask you go at it again. I want to wake up every morning, kiss you and spend an hour in the bath talking while we get ready to take on the world…But I also realize that I was very content and happy being yours and Dan’s friend and Jason’s too…probably more consistently happy than I’ve ever been. Look, I’m comin’ to the City in two weeks for business. That’s why I called a few weeks back. I wanted to apologize in person for being such an asshole, but I just made myself into a bigger one. I’ll extend the trip through the weekend so the three…five…no, seven of us can get together. I need to talk to Katie again. She sets me straight.” We both chuckled before he continued, “There are so many times I dialed their number and hung up before it began to ring. I just couldn’t put Katie in the middle between the two of us…but you know what, she probably would have had me callin’ you and workin’ things out a long time ago.”
“Tim, I love you. This is why I love you so much and why I have been all torn up about it. I can’t wait to see you and you are staying with us, OK! Tom can’t wait to meet you either.”
Tom was nodding his head and smiling. He didn’t know what Tim had said but I was smiling so he knew something had worked out.
“Hey, Pete, I got to go. Mom and Dad and I are goin’ over to the neighbors’ for drinks. We do this every year to toast the relatives leaving. I’m going to toast you and Tom and the relative who’s arriving…in a couple of weeks, me. I love you, Pete. I’ll call you before we all leave for home.”
“We love you too, Tim, can’t wait to see you too. I’m gonna call Steve and Katie right now! Bye, kid.”
“Bye, tell Tom I can’t wait to meet him.”
I gave Tom a huge hug and then explained the gist of the conversation to him as we walked up to the bedroom so that I could get my address book. I knew it was late in Virginia but I had to call Steve and Katie. We walked back down with our arms around each other’s waists.
“When you said he was stayin’ with us did you mean in our bed?”
I stopped dead in the hallway. I knew that was exactly what I meant but knew I hadn’t considered Tom’s feelings in the situation. I wasn’t thinking sex either. It was an innocent thought but… “Oh Shit,” I said. “Yes, actually that is what I meant, but he can sleep on the couch.”
“Pete, I trust you on this one, but I just want to be prepared…let me in on these things, OK.”
“Sorry, Tom, it’s just that I feel like you’ve been around the last four years so you know all of the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of my life.” I kissed him on the cheek.
“Don’t worry, I’ll figure it all out yet.”
We laughed all the way to the phone.
I handed him the phone and punched in the buttons, “You do some talkin’ for a while.” Steve picked up the phone. Daniel said hello.
“Hi, Daniel, this is Unka Tom.” I smiled and pulled Tom into my lap so that I could participate in the conversation.
We laughed when Daniel screamed, “It’s Unka Tom, it’s Unka Tom!”
Steve got on the phone, “Where’s the other Unka and did you all have a great Thanksgiving?”
Katie picked up the extension.
“Yes we did,” I exclaimed and went on to tell them about Tim and his visit.
Katie was ecstatic, “You two need each other. You two moderate each other.”
Steve and I fell out laughing.
“We used to,” I said.
“Oh, brother, some long ago and far away side joke comes back to life,” Katie said.
“I wish,” I said seriously as I stared at a family portrait of Mom, Dad and Dan taken when he was in high school.
Steve said, “I’ll explain it later, dear.” We chatted and laughed for half an hour.
“See you on Monday night for dinner, OK?”
Yep, love you all,” I said.
“Me too,” Tom added.
As the two of us snuggled under the sheets I turned to Tom. He could feel me hard up against him.
“I don’t want to wait till January,” I said.
“You’ve read my mind.”
The next morning after a long session of yoga with Tom I went alone out to the cemetery to sit and meditate, I left there knowing that Dan and Jason were with me forever and that Tom and Tim would always be there too. For the first time in over four years my life was whole.