Window Stories

Chapter 9

When I awoke the next morning, there still appeared to be an uneasy tension in the air. People were rushing around, and no one seemed to be enjoying what they were doing. Mrs. Sullivan again didn’t show up. I had a different aide than the day before. She had attended to me in the past, and I found her very rude. She quickly took my food order and left the room.

Around nine, Jason showed up to take me to my physical therapy. Even he didn’t seem to be in his usual jovial mood. After about ten minutes, I asked him what was wrong. He sat beside me on the bench as I lifted some light weights.

He looked around to see if anyone was nearby. “I’m not supposed to say anything, but I know you won’t mention it to anyone.”

I asked, “What?”

“They found Mrs. Sullivan’s son last night.”

I gasped and asked, “Did they find him dead?”

“Oh, no!” he said excitedly. “I guess I didn’t say that right. They found him. Well, I guess he wasn’t found. He was actually arrested.”

“What did he do?”

“One of the other nurses told me that he was arrested for shoplifting in a convenience store over on Shannon Drive.” He shook his head and added, “That’s all I know right now.”

“So, he’s okay?”

Jason shrugged his shoulders. “I guess being arrested and taken to juvenile detention in the middle of the night isn’t what I would consider okay.”

“At least he didn’t get hurt,” I replied. “Things could have turned out much worse for a young runaway boy.”

“I’ve been there,” responded Jason solemnly. “I know.”

“A nice young man like you?” I asked. “I can’t see you getting in any trouble.”

“Phil,” he replied as he looked around the room to make sure no one was listening. “I went through the same thing as Mrs. Sullivan’s son.” I sat up and listened closely. I could tell that Jason was relating something that he probably kept hidden from most people.

Tears welled up in his eyes as he spoke. “I ran away from home when I was fourteen. My parents were very strict. I couldn’t breathe. They watched everything me and my siblings did. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I started liking boys when I was about thirteen, and I think my parents suspected that I was gay. I couldn’t even have a friend over to visit. If I went anywhere, my dad or my mom would take me and pick me up.”

I said, “A lot of parents are like that. What made you run away?”

“It was a Saturday afternoon,” he continued. “Dad had taken me and my sister and brother to the mall to see a movie. I got bored about halfway through it, and I told my siblings I was going home and to tell Dad.” Tears welled up in his eyes. “When I got home, the front door was unlocked, so I didn’t have to knock for my mother to let me in. When I went upstairs, I heard noises coming from my parents’ bedroom. When I passed the door, I looked in. Mom was in bed with Mr. Jordan, our next-door neighbor.” He wiped his eyes, rose and went into the restroom. I sat in disbelief at what he had told me. I felt sad for Jason that he had to experience something so young. And I was angry at his mother for her behavior. She held her children to a strict guideline while she was involved in an adulterous affair.

After several minutes, Jason returned. “I’m sorry,” he apologized. “That was over ten years ago, but it still hurts.”

“I’m sure it does,” I replied. “It was awful you had to witness something like that.”

“Anyway,” he said, “I left the house and never returned.”

“What did you do?”

“I tried to live on the streets for a few days,” he said, “but I got scared. I was also cold and hungry. Finally, I went to my aunt’s house. I told her what I saw. Things got real crazy after that. My aunt went to my house and confronted my mother. She told Dad what I had seen. They got into a big fight. The police had to be called before someone got hurt.” He shook his head and said sadly, “I should have just kept my mouth shut.”

“Did you ever go back home?”

He sadly shook his head. “No,” he replied. “There was no home to go back to. My parents split up. My brother went with my dad, and my sister stayed with Mom. I stayed at my aunt’s house.”

I asked, “But you survived, right?”

“No, Phil,” he replied, “I may have survived, but I died inside. My cousin introduced me to drugs. I messed around with cocaine for a couple of years. I had to hustle to support my habit.” He broke down and rose again and went into the restroom. He returned a few minutes later and sat down.

He shook his head and said, “I don’t know why I’m telling you this. It’s not something I’m very proud of.”

I reached out and gripped his hand. “I hope you’re telling me this because you trust me and consider me a friend.”

He smiled and said, “Yeah.” I noticed him turn and stare out the window for a few minutes. “I finally got my shit together during my junior year of high school. There was this teacher, Mr. Hayes, who helped me. He got me into a rehab program, and then he helped me find a job. When I graduated, he helped me obtain grants to help me become an occupational therapist. I’m an assistant right now, but I hope to get my degree in a year or two.” Jason smiled and added, “I got clean before I killed myself.”

“The world would have lost a wonderful young man,” I said tearfully. Jason pulled me into a tight hug. “I’m never going back to those days.” After a minute, we pulled away and wiped our eyes. He looked worriedly at me and pleaded, “You won’t tell Colin what I told you, will you?”

I smiled and asked, “You like him, don’t you?”

“Yeah,” he said as he returned my smile. “We’ve been talking on the phone for about an hour every night. I think we have a lot in common.”

I elbowed him and said, “I know you do.” I then started laughing. “You want to upset him?”

Jason gave me a puzzled look and asked, “How?”

I laughed and said, “Call him a bougie boy.”

He gave me a puzzled look and asked, “What’s that?”

“Just tell him he’s a bougie boy,” I laughed, “And see how he responds.”

Jason smiled and said, “You better not be setting me up.”

“Trust me,” I smiled, “I’m not.” Jason had me do a few more exercises before he wheeled me back to my room. He looked inside to see if Colin was waiting. I made a joke that he would have to find an excuse to return later. He laughed as he left the room.

Colin didn’t show up until after two. I was napping when he crept into the room. I awoke when I heard the chair next to my bed creak. I looked over and smiled. “I wasn’t sure you were coming today.”

He replied, “There really should be some way I can contact you. Don’t you have a cell phone?”

“I had one,” I said, “but my son took it from me when I came in here. He said I had no reason to be calling anyone.”

“I’ll see what I can do about setting you up with a new one,” he replied. “Many phone servers have discounted rates for senior citizens. Do you have any way of paying?”

I laughed and replied, “Of course, I have a way of paying. In fact, I have several rather large investments. I think I can afford a phone.”

He stared worriedly at me and asked, “Does you son have access to your accounts?”

“Do I look stupid?” I laughed. “That’s another reason my son hates me so much. I wrote him out of my will years ago. I’ll be damned if I leave him a penny when I die.”

“Excellent,” smiled Colin. “I’ll check about getting you a new cellphone. That is if you want one.”

“I really don’t have a reason,” I replied, “other than for you to keep in touch with me. However, it might keep me entertained by being able to access the internet again.”

“Would you like a laptop, too? Do they have Wi-Fi access here?”

“I’m sure they do,” I answered. “I see the staff walking around on their phones all day.”

“I’ll check with Jason,” he replied. His face reddened when I raised an eyebrow. He added quickly, “I can ask Mr. Maxwell.”

His face reddened more when I said, “I’m sure you would rather ask Jason.”

Colin ignored me and took out his notepad. “Let me see,” he said. “You were going to tell me about your son, Roger.”

I looked out the window and saw Roger glaring at me. “I would rather not talk about him, but he is a part of my life story.” I asked, “Can you wheel me outside. I think I need some fresh air.” Colin helped me from my bed and then took me outside to sit under the oak tree. I inhaled deeply. I could smell the newly mowed lawn.

I sat back, closed my eyes and asked, “Where did I leave off the last time?”

Colin replied, “You told me that you and Eloise got married and moved back to your hometown. Then your son came along.”

“That’s right,” I said. “Eloise and I got married in our senior year of college. She thought that was the best way for me to avoid the draft. Of course, getting married was never in my plans. I knew I was gay, and I was sure I could never live a married life forever. But, at the time it made sense. Besides, when I took Eloise home for a visit and introduced her to my mother, my mother fell in love with her. I didn’t have a chance. After that, if I didn’t get married to Eloise, I would have to explain why I didn’t want to. Telling them I didn’t want to get married because I was gay wasn’t an option. So, I went along with the plan.”

“Wasn’t that difficult?” asked Colin. “I’m not sure I could have pulled that off. There is no way I could have married Janet and lived a lie.”

“Living a lie is a little harsh,” I responded. “I guess you could say I was living a lie to myself, but I was a good husband. I provided for Eloise. We had a nice home. I began teaching at the high school, and she got a job as a receptionist in a doctor’s office. We were living a nice life.”

“You were happy?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied. “I was happy. I was able to put all gay thoughts out of my head. Then, Eloise got pregnant. That wasn’t part of the plan.”

“Why?”

I looked out the window and saw Eloise staring at me. It was as if she wanted to hear my answer. “Having a child complicated things,” I said thoughtfully. “If someday I wanted to walk away, it would be easier if we didn’t have children. A child carries added responsibilities. I felt that I was in a situation I could never escape from. How could I leave when children were involved?”

“Children?” asked Colin. “Did you have more than one child?”

“No,” I replied. “After Roger, I had a vasectomy without Eloise finding out. I didn’t want the chance of bringing more babies into the world. I know that sounds selfish, but I thought it was the right decision.”

Colin asked worriedly, “Does Roger know this?”

“No,” I replied. “I never told anyone until you today.”

“I understand why you did it,” he said. “I guess since you felt you were forced into getting married, it was a reasonable decision to make. Obviously, you and Eloise divorced later, so at least there was only one child involved. There could have been many more.”

“That was my greatest worry,” I agreed. “I guess even then I was looking at the big picture. I was following the Stonewall Riots that occurred in New York.” I paused while Colin took out his phone and read.

“Wow!” he exclaimed. “I wasn’t aware of Stonewall. It says here that it was the beginning of the gay movement in America.”

“It seems like overnight people began coming out of the closet,” I told him. “I had never heard the word gay before that. But men were slowly coming out as gay. I read everything I could on it at the time. I began to realize that I couldn’t live forever masquerading as a straight man.”

Colin replied, “This puts a whole new perspective on everything. My whole life gays and lesbians are just accepted. I mean, they have problems, but most people accept them. I never knew that there was a movement that started it all. When I leave here, I’m going to go to the bookstore and buy some books on the Stonewall Riot. I want to learn more about it.”

I smiled and said, “You better be careful. It may bring you out of the closet.”

“That’s why I want to read about it,” he replied. “If others were brave enough to do it in the 60’s, I can to it today.”

“I sit here and look at you,” I said, “and I don’t know why you worry. You’ve got everything going for you. You’re well educated, you’re a good-looking guy and you have a good job. If people judge you because you’re gay, then that is their problem, not yours. I think you’ll be surprised how well people will accept you.” He smiled and nodded his head. “Anyway, where was I?”

“Roger came along,” he replied.

“Yes,” I continued, “Roger came along. Suddenly, our lives changed. Before, life was just rolling along. I was teaching, and Eloise had a nice job. Then, this small baby came into our lives. Eloise and my mother couldn’t have been happier. But I was worried. Now I had a new name, Dad.”

“I thought most men enjoy being a father?”

“Oh, I did,” I replied. “I was a great father. Roger never wanted for anything. However, there was one thing I just couldn’t give him.”

“What?”

“A father’s love,” I replied sadly. “I mean, I gave him a lot of love, but I didn’t feel it in my heart. It was the same love I felt for Eloise. Over the years, I became a cold-hearted man. I immersed myself in my job. I kept going back to college and getting degrees to keep myself busy. I became the principal of a high school for ten years. I guess I was what you would call a workaholic. I spent little time at home. Roger grew older, and I missed out watching him grow.” Colin sadly shook his head. “He hates me today, and I don’t blame him. We never had a close father-son relationship. I pushed him out of my life. However, he is my only family, so we have kept in touch over the years. When I had my stroke, the hospital asked me questions. I gave them his name. I fought them, but they insisted that he help me with my arrangements for aftercare. He came in, signed a few papers, and he’s never visited me since.” I couldn’t stop the tears running down my cheeks.

Colin gripped my hand, “I’m sorry, Phil, for making you talk about this.”

“No,” I insisted. “It’s good for my soul. I’m an old man now. I made a lot of mistakes. The biggest mistake I made was thinking that I could make marriage work. However, times were different then. You have no idea how many men my age felt compelled to do the same thing.”

“I understand,” replied Colin with misty eyes. “Where is Eloise now? You talk about Roger, but you don’t mention her.”

“She passed away six years ago,” I replied tearfully. “After our divorce, she remarried and was very happy. She had two more children. She called me late one night and told me she had cervical cancer. She ended her call telling me she still loved me. Two months later, she died.” I broke down and began to cry.

“Perhaps,” suggested Colin, “I should go.” He gripped my hand and added, “You’ve told me a lot today. It must have been very difficult to do.” I tearfully nodded my head.

He wheeled me back into my room. After helping me into bed, he told me to get some sleep, and he would see me later. After he left, I looked out the window and saw Eloise wiping tears from her eyes. I closed my eyes and fell asleep.

I awoke later in the night, and I couldn’t fall back asleep. Memories. I hate memories. I thought about everything I told Colin in the afternoon. For some reason, I recalled my marriage to Eloise. She was a beautiful bride. Our wedding was in a church courtyard that my parents attended. My eyes filled with tears when her father walked her down the aisle. A wave of guilt overcame me, and I couldn’t go back to sleep.

I now regret my youthful past. I should have made better choices, but those choices weren’t available. If I had come out at eighteen, I’m not sure what would have happened. I am sure that my father and mother would have rejected me. My father was a bitter man, and my mother was the obedient wife. If my father ordered her not to see me again, she would have done so.

I’m sure I would never have gotten a job teaching if I was a known homosexual. Many school administrators viewed gay men and lesbian women as a danger to children. I wouldn’t have lasted a day in the classroom. I could have stayed single, but it would have been difficult to hide my lifestyle. It would also mean that I would have to live a celibate life if I planned to continue teaching. I could have changed my career, but since a boy I had always wanted to teach. It meant I would have to end up doing something that I wouldn’t enjoy.

I guess that sounds ironic since I married and lived a life I didn’t enjoy. However, it was a safe choice. No one would suspect that Mr. Reid was a homosexual. Afterall, he has a wife and a son. That gave me a safe shelter to survive.

Then one day, I awoke and felt that I couldn’t do it anymore. I hated the life I was living. I was hurting Eloise. She was a very loving and devoted wife. She also yearned for sex which I couldn’t provide for her. When we were in college, I could fulfill her demands. After a night of alcohol, marijuana and loud music, I could take her into the bedroom and be a great lover. I was also able to maintain a few covert sexual relationships with men that satisfied my hidden desires.

However, without those stimulations, my life would become unbearable. I became increasingly repulsed by Eloise’s advances. The only way I could satisfy her was by recalling past gay sexual experiences. There were so many times I was able to achieve an orgasm by remembering my romps with Jerry and Bobby. I also had several exciting sexual encounters with men in college. Remembering getting high with Sherman in his apartment after Eloise and his girlfriend left always aroused me. He was strong and handsome. He was also the first man I let penetrate me. Just thinking about it instantly aroused me.

Then one day, it was gone. I no longer wanted to fake sex with Eloise. Slowly, the erections began to disappear. Eloise was disappointed, but she said nothing. I blamed it on my work and studies. I would go to bed before her, and then pretend to be asleep when she crept into bed. We didn’t have sex for nearly a year. Finally, I could take it no more. It wasn’t fair to Eloise.

Through the darkness of night, I looked out the window and saw Eloise with tears in her eyes. Her mouth appeared to say, “Don’t leave me, Phil.”

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