Cameron was waiting for me in the hospital lobby when I entered. “Hey,” I said as I sat down beside him. “Where are the others?”
He informed me, “They are running late. They told us to wait.” We started to talk about me filing charges against Travis and Raleigh. After talking to Leo, I was wondering if I was doing the right thing. Eventually, they would leave school, and I wouldn’t have to worry about them ever again.
“But you have to,” insisted Cameron after I had told him of my apprehension. “This isn’t just about you. You’re doing it for every gay and lesbian who has ever been shoved in the hall or had a gay epithet hurled at them. You have something going for you that no one else has.”
“Name recognition,” he answered. “Your name to this will have a lot more weight than anyone else.”
I insisted, “I’m trying to avoid that.”
He shook his head and replied, “Whether you want to admit it or not, you’re involved in this. Look at what happened yesterday. You can be a role model for a lot of young, gay men.”
I responded apprehensively, “You know I don’t like attention.”
He laughed and said, “Do you think anyone does? Some of the biggest movements in history have been led by humble, modest people who wanted no more than to enjoy a quiet life. You don’t pick your place in history, sometimes history chooses you.”
“You make me sound like I’m some kind of a hero.”
He patted me on my knee. “Not yet, Dorian. However, you may be called to take your place in history.”
I started to protest, but just then the doors of the hospital opened, and Seth, Sydney, Jade and Amanda entered.
“How did things with Leo go?” Seth asked worriedly. I looked at Cameron.
“I don’t know,” I replied. “Everyone keeps thinking something is going to happen.”
Jade asked, “Like what?”
“That’s just it,” I replied. “I don’t know.”
Cameron stood and told us that Wes’s room was located on the second floor. He had checked earlier with the receptionist, and he was told his condition had improved slightly. He was now in serious condition, instead of critical.
“Thank God,” muttered Jade as she reached for Amanda’s hand.
We took the elevator to the second floor. After departing, Cameron told us to have a seat in the waiting area while he went to see if we could visit Wes. He said that he had talked in the morning to Mrs. Hayes, and she didn’t have any objections to us seeing him as long as he didn’t disapprove.
While Cameron was gone, I explained my meeting with Leo to the others. “He’s going to try and turn this around to make it look good for my father.”
Jade responded sarcastically, “So he’s going to change overnight from a shit head, homophobe to a crusader for gay rights?” She laughed and said, “When pigs fly.”
“I don’t think they want to make it about him, but more about me,” I replied.
Seth said angrily, “So they want to use you to gain a few votes?”
“Well, no,” I stated. “I don’t think so.”
Jade sat down beside me and took my hand. “You’ve got to do this because you want to. If you do this for your father, Leo, me or anyone else, then it won’t mean anything. Your heart has to be in this.”
I stood and started pacing around the waiting room as everyone watched me. “I don’t know what to do.” I stopped and looked down at them. “Maybe I’ll run away until after the election.”
“Only the weak run away!” spat Jade. I looked into the faces of the others, and I could tell they agreed with Jade. Running away would solve nothing, and I would only end up losing the only friends I ever had.
A few minutes later, Cameron appeared in the lobby. We gathered around him to hear what he had to say. “I visited with his mother for a few minutes. Wes is pretty sedated, so he isn’t too aware of what is going on around him. She says his condition is improved, but he seems pretty depressed. She thinks visitors might cheer him up. I talked to him briefly, but he didn’t respond.”
“Was he beaten badly?” asked Sydney.
“Yeah,” responded Cameron. “You can tell he was roughed up. But I don’t think it’s anything you can’t handle.”
Jade asked worriedly, “Do you think he wants visitors?”
“Probably not,” replied Cameron. “However, his mother thinks it might help his recovery if he knows people are concerned. No one has visited him except family members.”
I asked, “What about Alex?” Since he was Wes’s boyfriend, I was sure he would be visiting him.
Cameron gave me a puzzled look. “Who? His mother never mentioned anyone by that name. He must be family.”
“Never mind,” I said. Since he was so close to Wes, then his mother probably treated him like a family member.
“Let’s go upstairs,” suggested Wes. “His mother doesn’t want too many people in his room at once, so we’ll go in two at a time. I’ll introduce you to him, and we’ll see if he will talk to any of us.”
We entered the elevator and stopped on the second floor. My chest was pounding with an uneasy nervousness. It would be the first time I saw Wes since our encounter at the restaurant. I was afraid he wouldn’t recognize me.
After arriving outside Wes’s room, Cameron asked us who wanted to enter first. Jade suggested that I go since I had met him, but I refused. I wanted the others to go in, and then I would see how he reacted to them. It was decided Seth and Sydney would be first. Jade, Amanda and I waited in a waiting area a few doors down from his room.
Fifteen minutes later, Seth and Sydney came to the door of the waiting room. Sydney had been crying, and Seth was trying to console her. “They beat him so bad,” she said as she cried into Seth’s chest. Jade and I looked at each other and I knew she was thinking the same as me. She was questioning whether or not this was a good idea. Seth looked over at me and asked if I would like to go next. I shook my head and told Jade and Amanda to go in.
While waiting, Seth told me that Wes’s spirits had been pretty much broken by the beating. His mother was concerned that he would physically heal, but she wasn’t sure if he would mentally. She said he hadn’t spoken to anyone since the incident. Sydney said he opened his eyes when they first spoke to him, but he quickly appeared to go back to sleep.
After about ten minutes, Cameron, Jade and Amanda returned. Jade and Amanda were noticeably upset. Both had been crying, and they were trying to console each other. Cameron looked at me and asked if I was ready to visit Wes.
“I don’t think so,” I responded nervously. I had witnessed how the others reacted, and I was afraid it would be too traumatic for me to see him.
Jade approached me. “Dorian, you have to,” she insisted. “You’re the only one of us he knows. Maybe he’ll respond to you.” She grabbed my hand and pulled me from the room. I tried to resist, but she was determined I would visit Wes.
When we entered the room, I quickly looked at Wes’s body covered with a white sheet as he lay on the hospital bed. The room lights were dim, but it was obvious that he had been seriously injured. Besides the wrapping around his head, his eyes were slightly darkened from bruising, and there was a deep gash with several stitches on the side of his face near his right ear. He was pale, and he didn’t look like the same handsome man I had met earlier. In fact, he appeared like a stranger.
His mother rose from a chair when we entered. She looked tired and weary. Her eyes were red and puffy from crying. Under different circumstances, I was sure that she and Wes looked remarkably alike. She gripped my hand firmly when Jade introduced me to her. She looked over at Wes, then back at me. “It’s good that so many people are concerned about my son.” She placed a tissue gently to her face and wiped away tears.
She led me to the bed, and we looked silently down at Wes. His face was tilted to the side, and it appeared he was sleeping. She took his hand and squeezed it. “Wes, Dear,” she said almost in a whisper. “Someone else has come to visit you.” She turned toward me and said, “I’m sorry, I don’t remember your name.”
“Dorian,” I stated nervously.
She squeezed his hand gently and said softly, “Dear, Dorian has come to visit you.”
Wes slowly turned his head and squinted his eyes. He pulled his hand away from his mother and reached for mine. “Dorian,” he mumbled as he squeezed my hand and fell back to sleep. His mother looked down at our entwined hands.
“Who are you?” She gazed at me surprisingly. “You’re the first person he’s responded to.” She looked back down at Wes’s hand still gripping mine gently. “Sweet Jesus!” she muttered as tears streamed down her face.
I didn’t know what to do. Everyone was staring at me, and I was afraid to pull my hand away. His grip was weak, but he had enough strength not to let loose of my hand. His mother approached the bed and whispered to Wes that everything was all right. She then took his hand and removed it from mine. She leaned over and gently kissed him on his forehead. His fingers moved as if he was trying to find my hand. She watched for a second, grabbed my hand and led me from the room. Jade and Cameron trailed behind as we headed to the waiting area.
When we entered, she turned and asked me once again who I was. “Dorian,” I replied.
“No, not your name,” she said. “Who are you to Wes?”
I shook my head. Even I was surprised by his actions. Even in his severe physical condition, it was as if he recognized me. “I’m really nobody,” I insisted. “We met at a café and had a cup of coffee our first week at school. I haven’t seen him again since then.”
She sat down on a sofa and patted the seat beside her. I cautiously walked over and sat down. “He knew who you were,” she said. “He hasn’t even responded to me like that, and I’m his mother.”
I asked, “What about Alex? Has he visited him yet?”
She gave me a puzzled look. “Who’s Alex?”
I didn’t want to say that Wes had said he had a boyfriend named Alex. I didn’t know if he was out to his family. Perhaps, they just considered him a good friend.
“His friend, Alex,” I said. “When we met, he said he had a good friend named Alex who he missed.”
Mrs. Hayes continued to give me a puzzled look. “He doesn’t have a friend named Alex,” she replied. “If he did, I would certainly know him.”
I didn’t know what to say. I was beginning to sound like a fool talking about someone who didn’t seem to exist. I couldn’t understand why Wes had told me he had a boyfriend the night we met.
“Maybe you misunderstood him,’ suggested his mother. “He has a friend named Adam. Maybe that is who he said.” I nodded, but I was certain he said he had left a boyfriend named Alex back at home. It was the reason he appeared so lonely the night we met.
She studied me for a minute before taking my hand in hers. “You look strangely familiar, Dorian. It seems like we’ve met before. Did you go to school with Wes?”
“No, Ma’am,” I replied as I looked over at Jade. I knew Mrs. Hayes had probably seen me on the cover of the National Enquirer, or perhaps she had seen me briefly on stage with my father.
“Maybe you should tell her,” suggested Jade. “She’s going to find out anyway.”
Mrs. Hayes gave me a puzzled look, “Tell me what, Dear?”
I took a deep breath and said, “I’m Dorian Gale.”
I took another deep breath. “My father is Senator Jonathan Gale.”
“Sweet Jesus!” she exclaimed as she stared at me. “That’s where I know you. I was in the gift shop here at the hospital last night to buy some gum. I picked up a magazine while I was waiting in line and saw you on the cover.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” I replied. “It was the National Enquirer.”
She smiled slightly and said, “You’re more handsome in person.” She smiled again as my face reddened. “Now tell me,” she said as she took my hand and held it. “How do you know my Weston?”
I looked over as Cameron indicated to Jade, Seth and Sydney that they should go and leave Mrs. Hayes and me alone. I nodded when he pulled his phone from his pocket and held it to his ear. I nodded when he whispered, “Call me when you’re ready?”
After they left, Mrs. Hayes asked again, “How do you know Wes?”
I told her there wasn’t much to tell. I related how I had taken a walk around campus one night. I didn’t tell her I was trying to avoid my room because Travis was having sex with a girl. I told her how Wes had come over to the table, sat down and started talking to me. I didn’t tell her how he had kissed me as we were leaving.
It startled me when she said, “I can see why he approached you. He’s always been able to pick out the cute guys.”
She took my hand and squeezed it. “You are gay, aren’t you, Dorian?”
“Yes,” I replied nervously, “But...”
“It’s okay, really,” she assured me. “Wes came out to me when he was thirteen.”
“So then you know about him and Alex?”
She seemed puzzled. “Who is this Alex you keep mentioning?”
“The night I met Wes, he told me he missed his boyfriend, Alex,” I replied.
She started laughing. “Oh, I see.” She smiled when she noticed the puzzled look on my face. “Wes is very sensitive,” she said. “He is always afraid he would meet a guy, and then later get hurt. So he built up this defense, and he would try to dissuade a guy from liking him by telling him he already has a boyfriend.”
“That’s kind of stupid,” I remarked. “What if a guy really did like him?”
She shook her head. “I was always telling him he was going to miss out someday if a guy really did come along and wanted to know him better.” She looked intensely at me and then took my hand and squeezed it. “You liked him when you met, didn’t you? Is that why you came tonight?”
I hung my head and mumbled, “Yes, Ma’am. I was afraid he wouldn’t remember me.”
She lifted my chin and smiled. “But he did, Dear.” She then leaned in, kissed me on my forehead and said tearfully, “He did remember you.” She grabbed my hand and asked me if I would like to return to Wes’s room. It was getting late, and hospital hours would be over shortly.
Wes was asleep when we entered, or at least he appeared to be sleeping. He stirred slightly when we walked over to his bedside. Without opening his eyes, he reached for his mother’s hand. “Mother.” His words were almost inaudible.
“Yes, Dear?” She leaned down closer so she could hear him better.
“I think an angel visited me tonight?” Mrs. Hayes looked at me with a puzzled look.
She turned to me and asked, “An angel?” I began to panic that Wes was dying, and that was the reason he thought he saw an angel.
“Yes,” he mumbled softly. “I think I heard Dorian’s voice.” His mother’s eyes widened as she glanced over at me.
She then told Wes, “You didn’t imagine it, Dear.” She took my hand and placed it over his. “Dorian is here.”
He attempted to open his eyes and look up. Finally, it appeared he was able to focus on my face as I stared down at him. “Hey,” he mumbled as he attempted to smile. “You’re not an angel.”
Tears welled up in my eyes as I managed to say, “No, I’m not an angel.”
He smiled again before muttering, “Good.” He then closed his eyes and fell back asleep.
I didn’t get back to the dorm until after nine o’clock. Mrs. Hayes insisted that we stop at a Starbucks for coffee. She was excited about Wes finally speaking.
“For a while,” she said tearfully as we sat at a table, “I thought I was going to lose him. The doctors kept telling me his condition was improving, but he seemed so lifeless.” She reached across the table and squeezed my hand. “Now I feel hopeful, and it’s all because of you, Dorian.”
I didn’t know how to respond. When I first entered his room, his appearance was ghostly. He was pale and lifeless. When Mrs. Hayes and I left him, there seemed to be a noticeable change. His breathing was more regular, and his skin wasn’t as pale.
She looked excitedly at me and asked, “Will you visit again tomorrow?”
“Yes, sure,” I replied. “I guess I can come for a while after my last class. I won’t be able to stay long because I have a composition to complete for my English class.”
“I don’t care how long it is,” she remarked cheerfully. “I can even come get you and take you back to school, if you like.”
“It’s all right,” I replied. “I can find a way.” I knew it would mean riding the bus for thirty minutes, but I was willing to do it if it helped Wes’s improvement. I could ask Cameron, but he had other things to deal with, like the upcoming march.
Mrs. Hayes cried when I told her about the march Campus Pride was organizing for the victims of sexual harassment at the university. I was surprised when she told me that no arrests had yet been made in Wes’s assault. She asked, “When is the march?”
“We don’t have a date yet,” I replied. “Cameron still needs to talk to Dr. Avery.”
“I want to be present,” she said. “It’s the least I can do for my son.” I assured her I would let her know when a date and time was set.
When I arrived in my room, I dropped exhaustedly onto the sofa. It had been a very emotional night. I needed to study for a sociology test, but I decided it would be best if I skipped lunch and went to the library before class. I was too tired to remember anything.
I opened my eyes when Seth and Sydney came from his bedroom. They suddenly stopped when they saw me. “We were just studying,” Seth said quickly.
I put my arm over my head and mumbled, “Whatever.” I heard them walk across the floor and stop by the door. I didn’t want to look, but I was sure they were kissing. After she left, he walked over and sat down beside me.
“How did it go?”
I sat up and smiled, “He remembered me.”
“So?” he replied. “He remembered you.” I then excitedly told him about my first meeting with Wes. This time I even told him about our kiss. I then told him what happened in his hospital room, and Wes telling his mother he’d seen an angel. Seth wanted to laugh, but I could tell he didn’t because he knew how excited I was.
“You kissed him?” he asked incredulously. “Why?”
“That’s just it,” I replied. “I don’t know why. That’s why I was afraid to visit him tonight. I was afraid he wouldn’t remember me.”
A sly grin appeared on his face. “So now you’re his guardian angel?”
“Go ahead and laugh,” I said as I started to giggle. He sat back and roared with laughter. After catching his breath, he sat up and grinned at me.
“Let me see,” he laughed. “I’m now living with a heartthrob- and an angel.” We laughed for a minute before I said I needed to get some sleep. After a quick hug, he went to his bedroom. I stood, undressed and fell back onto the sofa.
An hour later, I was awakened from a deep sleep when my cell phone rang. I picked it up and read that I had an urgent message from the university.
East Hall is on lockdown. All students must stay in their rooms until the alert has been lifted.
Seth opened his bedroom door and rushed out. When he saw me staring at my phone, he asked, “You got the message, too?”
“Yeah,” I replied. “What’s going on?” Neither of us knew why our dorm was on a lockdown. We opened the door and stepped out into the hall. A uniformed campus police officer stationed at the end of the hall turned and shouted for us to close the door and stay inside.
“Shit!” Seth exclaimed as we closed the door. “What has happened? You don’t think someone has made a threat against your life, do you?”
For the first time since reading the alert, I was scared. It hadn’t even occurred to me that I was in danger. However, after seeing the officer guarding our hallway, I was beginning to get frightened.
I jumped when Seth’s cell phone rang. It was Sydney. She and Jade were worried about the lockdown. Seth paced around the room as they tried to come up with a reasonable explanation. No one wanted to suggest that most campus lockdowns occur when there is an armed intruder on campus.
I looked up when Seth shouted, “What? Holy Shit!” He looked down and seemed to be giving me an account of what Sydney was telling him. “She’s looking out her dorm window, and the cops are taking about nine guys out in handcuffs and putting them in cars.”
“Why?” He shrugged his shoulders. “She doesn’t know.” He listened to her and then said, “They’re pulling off.” They spent the next few minutes discussing why students had been arrested. They finally decided that there must have been a fight on one of the floors.
“Probably Travis and his gang,” I said. They seemed to agree with me.
We were getting ready to return to bed when we got another phone alert:
The lockdown at East Hall has been terminated.
“Thank God,” Seth muttered as he headed back to his room. I was getting ready to lie back down on the sofa when someone started rapping on our door. When I opened it, Brian stepped inside.
He asked apologetically, “Were you still up?” I told him I was getting ready to go back to bed as Seth walked out and asked him what had happened.
“You won’t believe it!” he said excitedly. “The campus police raided the fourth floor!”
Seth hollered, “What? No shit!”
“Yes shit!” replied Brian. “I got a call about two minutes before the raid. The chief said that Dr. Avery ordered a search of all rooms on the north side of the floor. They were looking for any contraband- specifically alcohol and drugs.”
“That’s our old rooms,” I remarked. “Did they find anything?”
Brian started laughing. “What do you think? I was there when they hauled off your old roomie, Travis, and that asshole friend of his, Raleigh. They busted seven other guys, too.”
“Good!” spat Seth. “Fuckers finally got what they deserved.”
“You said it,” replied Brian. “Avery was upstairs when they went from room to room. He told them that if anything was found in their room, then they were looking at an immediate expulsion.” He started laughing and said, “From what I could see, they took out a case of beer, a few bottles of booze and a bag of weed from Travis and Raleigh’s room. It looked like they were getting ready to party the night away.”
I asked, “Why did they have a guard at the end of our hall?”
“Oh, that,” replied Brian. “Avery was worried that someone might escape the floor during the raid, and he may come looking for you when he found out what was happening.”
Seth asked worriedly, “Everything is safe now, right?”
“Yes,” Brian assured us. “Everyone involved is locked up, at least until morning. Tomorrow, security will escort them to their room to get their things.” He looked over at me. “It looks like Avery saved you from having to press charges against them.”
“Yeah,” I replied. “It looks like he did.”