Dean came over to keep me company for a while. I was still depressed as hell. TJ hadn’t come home again, and quite frankly, I was having trouble keeping myself together. I felt so helpless not knowing what to do. Dean wasn’t much help. He kept telling me I should forget about him, and that I was just wasting my time.
He wanted to spend the night, but I was tired of hearing his advice. I knew he was probably right, but I had to hold out some glimmer of hope that he’d return. That glimmer seemed to be getting less bright as each day passed. I was beginning to picture spending my life without TJ, and that really hurt.
I went to bed that night and did something I hadn’t done in a long time. I got down on my knees and prayed. I prayed like my mother had taught me when I was a small child. I knelt over the bed with my hands folded. Instead of saying, ‘Now I lay me down to sleep,” I prayed for TJ to be safe, wherever he was. I didn’t pray for him to come back because that would be selfish. What if he didn’t want to? So I just prayed that he was safe and happy, and that he realized that I still loved him. I then lay down on my bed and cried myself to sleep- again.
I awoke screaming sometime in the middle of the night. I was on my knees digging into my bed. I had torn my sheets off, and I was ripping at the mattress. I had just had the worst nightmare. TJ was dead! I had been at his funeral. I went to his gravesite and saw a tombstone with his name on it. I fell to the ground and was digging away at the newly dug grave. I desperately wanted to hold him again. It was so real, so vivid. TJ was dead!
My body was covered in sweat. I threw back my head and let out a blood curdling scream, “YOU PROMISED ME A TOMORROW!”
My door burst open and my parents came running in. My father grabbed me around the waist and pulled me off the bed. He wrapped his strong arms around me as I beat on his chest.
“TJ’s dead! TJ’s dead!” I continued to scream over and over.
“Ssshhh.” He rocked me in his arms, but I was not to be consoled. All my fears over the past several months had surfaced. A fear that something would happen to TJ, and I hadn’t done anything to prevent it from happening. I was trembling so bad that my mother had to hold my face still so that I wouldn’t pound my head against my father’s chest.
My mother disappeared from my room and returned minutes later with Elizabeth. She gave me a couple of sedatives. Twenty minutes later, I was sitting on my bed like a zombie. I went from feeling overwhelmed by my emotions to feeling absolutely nothing.
My father lay me back on the bed and I fell asleep. I don’t remember dreaming anything more that night. When I awoke in the morning, my father was asleep in bed beside me. I guess he wanted to be close in case I had another nightmare.
I crawled carefully out of bed, so I would not awaken him. I went to the bathroom and took a warm shower. It felt relaxing until I remembered all the times TJ and I had shared the shower and made love. I remembered the first time, right after we had sex. We ended up doing it again in the shower. A smile came to my face, then tears began to fall down my cheeks and were washed away by the water.
“Are you all right, Son?” My father knocked on the door bringing me back to reality.
“Yeah, Dad,” I hollered back, but he knew I wasn’t.
“Will you join your mother and me for breakfast?” he asked.
“Give me about ten minutes,” I replied.
When I went downstairs, they were sitting in the kitchen drinking their coffee. My mother looked at me with a sad expression.
“You know it was just a nightmare?” she asked reassuringly. “TJ will be all right.”
I walked over to her as tears welled up in my eyes once again. She held me tightly while I cried again for about the hundredth time. I don’t know where tears come from, but I had sure produced quite a few recently.
“Do I have to go to school today?” I asked. “I’d kinda like to see if I can find him.”
“Sure, Honey,” she said. “Take me to work and you can keep the car. I’ll call the school and tell them you won’t be there today.”
“Thanks, Mom,” I said as I hugged her once again. “I love you.”
I took her to work and spent the rest of the day driving around every street in town. My father had me where TJ lived, and I must have circled his house about fifty times. I knew he wasn’t there, but I didn’t know where else to look. A police car pulled me over once, and the officer asked me why I was driving around the neighborhood. Someone had called 911because they thought I was casing the homes to commit a crime. After that, I went to the mall and walked around for a few hours. I now knew what the phrase, ‘trying to find a needle in a haystack,’ meant.
I called Dean on his cell phone about a half hour before school let out. I arranged to meet him at his home after school so he could join me in my fruitless drive around town. At least I’d have some company. Besides, I was beginning to get really agitated. Dean knew how to calm me down.
I told him all about my nightmare and how I feared that something had happened to TJ. His advice was like my mother‘s. He kept telling me it was just a dream.
He drove as we resumed cruising around town. We thought we saw Carter one time, but it turned out to be a junior high school student on their way home from school.
“What about Carter? Dean asked. “You know where he lives?”
“No,” I replied. “TJ never told me much about him.”
“Do you know his last name?”
“Chapman, I think. I had a class with him last year. If I remember right, that’s what the teacher used to call him,” I said thoughtfully. “He was weird even back then. I don’t know why TJ hangs with him.”
“He’d be cute if he’d gain some weight. He’s too damn skinny.” Good old Dean. He always has boys on his mind. “Let’s stop by my house and get a phone book. Maybe his family is listed there.”
“But we still don’t know his address.” I said sadly.
“Yeah, but didn’t you say he lives somewhere near where TJ used to live?” He looked at me questioningly.
“I should have thought of that,” I responded. I felt stupid. Why hadn’t that idea ever crossed my mind. I’d spent all day driving around when I could have found out something from Carter.
We went back to Dean’s home and found the name, Chapman, in the phonebook. There were nine listings, but only one lived on the south side of town where TJ lived. When I called the number, his mother answered. She told me she hadn’t seen Carter in several days. She had notified the police, and they had listed him as a runaway. When she started crying, I assured her that if I found out anything, I’d give her a call.
So we were back to square one. First, TJ was missing. Now Carter. They had to be together. I was starting to panic again. Dean thought it would be best to return home. At least my parents were there to watch over me. I think he thought I was going to do something to myself. Actually, that had never entered my mind. All I wanted to do was find TJ and make sure he was safe.
I went home and spent a restless evening with my parents. Usually, I spend my time at home in my bedroom listening to music, doing my homework and playing video games. However, I didn’t want to be alone. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something bad had happened to TJ.
After watching some of the evening news, I went upstairs to bed. I had decided that I should go back to school tomorrow. I couldn’t spend another day like I had today. I was an emotional wreck. At least at school, I’d be with my friends.
Sometime in the middle of the night, I heard a pounding on the front door. My heart stopped when I heard the banging. The last time it had happened, TJ had been battered by his brother. This time I beat my father down the stairs.
I went to the door and flung it open without looking out to see who was there. It was TJ! He stood before me with a tear-stained face. His clothes were disheveled, and his hair was uncombed. He looked at me and lunged forward, grasping me tightly.
“Help me!” he cried.
We feel to the ground, clutching and sobbing. I was kissing his face while he held me, desperate not to let me go. We only broke our grasp when my father came to the porch and pried us apart, insisting that we go inside. We held each other tightly as we walked to the living room sofa. TJ sat in my lap while I wrapped my arms securely around him. I wasn’t ever going to let him go.
* * * * * * * *
I felt miserable. What Carter said really depressed me. Why was I sitting in a smoke- filled room? Why wasn’t Randy and I somewhere laughing and having a good time, maybe even making love to one another? I was a fool, a lonely fool. I had been trying to drink and smoke away my problems, when there weren’t any; only the ones I’d created in my own mind. It took a simple comment from Carter to make me realize that.
I couldn’t go back to Randy. There was no way he’d take me back. Too much had happened between us. Sure, he’d still say he loved me, but I know that in the back of his mind he’d never trust me with his heart again. I didn’t deserve it.
Carter and I sat for a while sharing a few joints and drinking beer. After about an hour, he became agitated and wouldn’t sit still. Finally, he got up and said he’d be back later. I knew he was going to Ricky’s bedroom again. I just didn’t know if he was going for the drugs or the sex.
After about twenty minutes, Ricky came running frantically downstairs, yelling at everyone to get out of the house. He said there was a problem and we had to get out before the ambulance arrived.
I screamed out Carter’s name and ran upstairs into Ricky’s bedroom. Carter’s lifeless body was lying across the bed. I shook him, but he refused to move. I noticed a syringe lying nearby. He had overdosed. I thought he was dead, until I felt a faint pulse.
Ricky came running into the room and told me to get out. He would wait for the medics to arrive. He didn’t want anyone else involved. I begged him to let me stay, but he forcefully pulled me out of the house. When I was about a block from the house, I saw the ambulance pull up. I hid behind a tree and watched as they brought Carter out on a stretcher. Minutes later, Ricky came out in handcuffs and was placed in the back of a police cruiser.
I wandered around aimlessly for hours. I called the hospital twice, but they wouldn’t give me any information. I was scared. Carter was my friend and I had done nothing to stop the one-way trip to hell he had taken. He had become an addict right before my eyes, and I watched it happen. In time, it probably would have been me as well.
I went to the park, but I couldn’t find solace there. I felt I was losing my mind. I couldn’t escape the image of Carter dying before my eyes. All he ever wanted was somebody to love him. When he couldn’t find that, he turned to drugs.
I had someone who loved me, and I still turned to drugs and alcohol. Sitting on that swing, I stripped away all the facades and saw the person I had become. I fell to the ground and curled up into a ball. I rocked back and forth screaming to heaven above to let me die. I didn’t deserve to live anymore. I had reached rock bottom. There was no where else to fall.
I don’t know how I managed, but I pulled myself up off the dirty ground and stumbled down the street. There was only one place that I wanted to be. When he opened the door, I fell into his arms. We collapsed onto the ground and he planted kisses on my face. I was home. This time to stay.
* * * * * * * *
I can’t wait! TJ is coming home today. He’s been at a rehab center for the past three weeks. We talk on the phone for hours every evening. We’re actually making plans for the future. He wants to finish school and graduate in two years. He even talked about going out for football next year, but only if I would. Wilson was ecstatic when I told him. He said we could be the ‘fearsome threesome.’ I’m not sure what he’s talking about because I don’t think I could even come close to intimidating the other teams the way he does.
He’s been getting a lot of counseling. They’ve helped him come to accept some of the problems he’s had. He promises me every night that when he comes home, he’s never going to drink or smoke again.
Come home. I tear up every time he says that. TJ’s coming home- to me. I feel like doing cartwheels down the hall.
He was very concerned about Carter. He felt that he was responsible for his overdose. Again, the counselors are helping him deal with that. Carter survived, but barely. He almost died that night. The police said if help hadn’t arrived when it did, his family would have been planning his funeral. He was also getting extensive therapy for his drug addiction.
As a promise to TJ, I visited Carter in the hospital several times. He told me what had happened between the two of them. I forgave him and Carter. I guess my past wasn’t all that great, either. We always go into a relationship with baggage. I knew if our relationship was to last, we’d have to both accept that. He had accepted Dean, so I had to accept Carter.
What is really weird is that Dean and Carter hit it off so well. I took Dean with me on one of my visits. After a few awkward minutes, they starting arguing about who was the best NBA team. Carter is one of the most non-athletic people I know, but he could rattle statistics off the top of his head. It was fun to watch Dean become so flustered. He couldn’t win any arguments against Carter’s vast knowledge of the game.
Dean brought Carter by the house yesterday. They had spent the day at the mall. Dean had convinced Carter to get his hair cut at one of the salons. He then took him to Old Navy for some new clothes. He had put on a little weight, and his clothes fit him tightly. He looked really cute. As Dean said, “He cleans up really nice.”
I went downstairs to get some Cokes. When I returned, they were sitting on the bed kissing. They jumped apart when they heard me enter, but it was too late. I looked at Dean and saw a look in his eyes I‘d never seen before. My boy is in love!
I hear the car door slam and look out the window just in time to see TJ exit the car. He heads to the door with my father’s arm wrapped around his shoulder. I bolt downstairs and grab him as he enters the front door. We hug as we dance around the living room.
My mother watches us and smiles. TJ notices her and runs to give her a huge hug. My parents are happy he is home once again. For the past few months, they had questioned their decision to take him in. However, they had been very involved in his therapy. My father had attended several father-son sessions. I think he has become closer to TJ than he is to me. I’m not jealous, though. How can I be?
I was also involved in some sessions. They counseled us together and individually. Some of the sessions I had attended privately had at first upset me. They told me I was too insecure in a relationship. As a result, I was too controlling and demanding. It was one of the things that had driven TJ from me.
They explained to me that TJ’s unstable background had a big influence on his inability to commit himself completely in a relationship. He had never been loved by his mother, father or brother. As a result, he had trouble expressing his love properly. Instead, he pulled away from the relationship for fear of being rejected. It was one of the reasons for his alcohol and drug abuse.
After several sessions, I was beginning to realize what had happened over the past few months. I understood the things I had done wrong. The counselor even thought it was best that TJ be given his own room instead of sharing mine. He said he needed a place to go when he felt overwhelmed. It was why he had always left and didn’t come home for days. They also thought it was best that he not work until he graduates.
“You boys go get cleaned up,” says my mother. “We’re going out for a family dinner.” I grab TJ’s hand and lead him to his room. It is the first time he’s seen it.
“This is nice,” he remarks as he looks around. I had put up posters of some of his favorite singers and sports teams. He also had his own computer and desk. “You sure you don’t mind that we’re not sharing the same room.” He walks over and sits on the bed.
“As long as you’re sharing your life with me, I don’t care where we are.” I reply as I sit down beside him. “I’m so glad you’re home.”
“Me, too.” He reaches out for me. We clutch each other tightly for several minutes.
“You know I love you,” he says as he pulls away and looks me in the eyes. “You never gave up on me, not for a minute. I’ll never forget that. You were always there.” Tears began to fall from his eyes.
“I love you so much,” he says again as he puts his head on my shoulder and begins to cry. I place my hand under his chin and lift his face. He is the old TJ I first fell in love with.
“No more tears,” I whisper softly and kiss his nose. “Those are behind us.” His eyes twinkle as he laughs. “We’ve got our whole life before us. This time we take it slow and do it right.”
“I’ve loved you since the moment I first saw you,” I tell him. He starts to tear up, but I frown. He starts to laugh. “I don’t think I can ever love anyone as much I do you at this moment.”
“I’m going to cry again if you don’t shut up,” he says trying to hold back tears. We start to laugh. He puts his hand over his chest and then opens his hands to me.
“Here’s my heart. Take it. I love you, and no one will ever deserve it as much as you do. I can’t begin to tell you what you mean to me.” He leans in and we gently kiss. He pulls back with tears in his eyes and says, “I promise you there will always be a tomorrow.”