“You look depressed.” Linda was standing beside my locker giving me a worried look.
“This is the big day,” I replied. It had been a month since my father left home. I hadn’t seen him since that day at the mall. He had called a couple of times, but most of the conversations only lasted less than a minute. He’d ask how Randy and I were doing, and then he’d hang up.
My mother was taking me downtown after school to talk to the judge involved in the divorce proceedings. She wanted to meet me and Randy concerning visitation rights. My mother and I had long talks about it. She told me it was my decision how much time I wanted to be with my father. It was different when it came to Randy, though. She still insisted that he never be left alone with my father, at least until he reached the age of thirteen.
After hours of discussion, it was decided that Randy could visit my father only if my grandmother or I went with him. She was still pretty upset with him, and this was one thing she just wouldn’t compromise on.
“Will he be there?” Linda asked. I really wasn’t sure if he would be or not. The court just sent my mother a letter telling her that Randy and I should appear at 4 pm. I really didn’t know anything beyond that.
‘I hope not,” I responded. “I don’t know if I’m ready to face him yet.”
“Artie, listen.” She took my hand and looked me in the eyes. “You have to talk to him some day. I’ve watched this eat you up inside for weeks now. Someday you have to see him.”
“I know,” I said sadly. “Every time I convince myself I’m ready, I remember him with that guy in the mall. I just always thought he’d come back home and everything would be like it was before, but I know it won’t be.”
“No, it won’t.” Linda squeezed my hand, and then stood on her tiptoes and kissed me on my cheek. “But you know that Brent, Amber and I will be there if you need us.”
“I know.” Tears started to well up in my eyes. They had been by my side for weeks as I my life became a roller coaster of emotions. Brent and I were now almost inseparable.
Just then he came walking down the hall with the widest smile on his face. It seemed like his eyes lit up every time he saw me. I’m sure mine did the same.
“Hi, Artie.” He walked over and touched me gently on the arm. It was difficult to not show our affections at school. Even though we weren’t being escorted around school by members of the football team any more, Bert and Ryan would occasionally find us in the hall between classes and ask if we had to use the restroom. We became frequent lookouts for each other.
I was still waiting to have sex with Brent. I stayed at his house almost every weekend, but we didn’t do anything more than masturbate. We always felt guilty if our playfulness became serious. I think Brent was afraid to have sex with his parents in the same house.
If we stayed at my house, then Randy would be constantly interrupting us. Brent spent the night about a week ago, and Randy pouted until I let him sleep with us. I insisted that he had to use the sleeping bag and sleep on the floor. I thought it would discourage him, but he thought it was cool. He pretended he was camping for the night. We made him wet his pajamas when we got up in the middle of the night and jumped on him, roaring like bears. I’m going to have to talk to him about some of the names he called us. I didn’t think seven year olds knew that kind of language.
“Would you like me to go with you after school?” I could tell by the expression on his face that Brent was worried about me.
“It will be all right,” I tried to assure him. “I have to face him someday.”
“I want to be with you.” It looked like he was ready to break out in tears. We had spent so much time talking about this day. I could tell he really wanted to share it with me.
I reached over and squeezed his hand. “I’ll be all right. I’ll call you as soon as I get home.” He nodded, blinking away the tears in his eyes.
Nothing was said at lunch about my meeting with the judge. I guess everyone knew it was a subject I didn’t want to discuss anymore. As usual, Jared made his daily appearance at our table. It was no longer just to be protective. He really seemed to enjoy the few minutes he spent sitting with us.
Today, Bert and Ryan joined him. Usually, they’d stay back and watch from a distance until Jared got up, and then they’d follow him to the jocks’ table. Today, however, Jared invited them to take a sit at the table with us.
Sitting with us seemed awkward for them. They kept looking around the cafeteria to see if anyone had noticed. I think they were afraid other students would assume they were gay if seen sitting beside us.
“Would you guys relax,” laughed Jared. “Or do you need me to protect you two like I did Brent and Artie?” Amber started choking, and spit out the milk she had just drunk. Linda rubbed her back, giving Jared a questioning look.
Bert and Ryan looked startled. They both started to blush when they realized everyone was looking at them.
“What?” Ryan asked embarrassedly. “What’s that supposed to mean?” He turned to Bert and gave him a frightened look. I felt sorry for them. I knew what Jared was trying to do.
Somehow, Jared had figured it out, and he had taken on the task of outing them to us. Knowing Jared, he probably thought they’d be more comfortable around us if we knew. I don’t think he knew that Brent and I were already aware.
“Jared,” I said quickly. “Can I talk to you alone for a minute?” I was going to tell him that I didn’t think Bert and Ryan were comfortable with others knowing they were gay.
I started to get up from the table, when Bert reached out his hand and stopped me. “It’s all right, Artie.” He gave Jared an embarrassed look. “How long have you known?”
Jared’s expression softened. I think for the first time he realized that he had made a mistake. “Since about the eighth grade,” he replied. Bert looked over at Ryan. Both seemed stunned.
“Jared, you shouldn’t be doing this,” warned an angry Brent. “You can’t just out two guys in front of others.”
“But you guys are gay,” he replied. “I thought you’d understand.”
“We do.” Amber jumped in. “But it’s wrong to do it the way you are. If Bert and Ryan want to come out to us, then they should do it themselves, not you.”
“I’m really sorry, guys.” He seemed really upset with himself. I felt sorry for him because I knew that Jared would never intentionally hurt any of his friends. “I just thought you’d feel better if you had other gay friends.”
“We already do,” responded Bert. “Brent and Artie know.”
“They do!” Jared, Amber and Linda all responded in unison.
“We know how to keep secrets,” admonished Brent. Jared’s face turned a crimson red.
“If you’ve known since the eighth grade,” asked Ryan, “why didn’t you say anything?”
“It really wasn’t my business,” replied Jared. “You guys seemed like the same guys I always knew. You really kept it undercover, though.”
Bert asked, “How did you find out?”
“I saw you guys jerking off together in the shower after you thought everyone had left.” Bert and Ryan’s faces turned red.
I sunk down in my seat when Jared looked over at me and said, “I guess it’s something all gay guys do.” This time Brent choked on the soda he was drinking.
“Does the rest of the team know?” Bert asked.
“They may suspect,” replied Jared, “but I’ve managed to do damage control. Seriously, no one cares. You saw how they’ve protected Brent and Artie the past month. They’re not going to think any less about you if they find out you’re gay.”
“I don’t know,” said a worried Ryan. “I never thought about coming out in high school.”
“You don’t have to come out,” replied Jared quickly. “I just wanted you to be able to be yourselves around these guys. Maybe you can go out with them sometime. Ryan, you have a car. I won’t have to chauffeur them around on Saturdays. It’s really cramping my style.”
“Are you telling me you outed Ryan and Bert to us,” remarked an angry Amber, “just so you can get laid?”
“It sounds really bad when you put it that way,” replied Jared, as he hung his head sorrowfully. Suddenly, he lifted it and grinned widely. “Yeah.” Everyone started laughing.
A little later Jared got up from the table to leave; but surprisingly, Bert and Ryan remained behind. A few students looked over at our table, but I think they just figured that they were there to protect us.
“You guys wouldn’t mind if Bert and I hung out with you sometime?” Ryan asked.
“Hell, no,” Amber and I said together.
“It would be fun to have you guys join us,” replied Brent. “My brother has always thought you were two of the coolest guys he knows.”
“His little brother isn’t so bad, either,” said Ryan as he reached over and fisted Brent’s hand.
“So you want to join us Saturday?” Amber asked. “We’ll probably hang around the mall for a while and then catch a movie.”
“Sounds good,” replied Bert, as he looked over at Ryan for his approval.
“I guess it’s a date, then,” he grinned. Just then, the bell rang for class. We wanted to stop by the restroom, but there were too many guys hanging around. I’d have to wait until later to be alone with Brent.
As the end of the school day approached, the more nervous I became. I didn’t know what I was going to say to the judge about visitation rights with my father. In a way, I wished that my mother had made the decision for me. However, she said I was old enough to make my own decision about this.
I did want to see him again. You just can’t drop a man who has been a loving father for sixteen years. I could understand how my mother could feel animosity towards him, but I just couldn’t. Lately, I had been thinking about all the good times we had had together. I remembered the first time he took me fishing when I was about eight. He had to hook my worm because I found it a disgusting thing to do.
After about an hour of holding my pole in the water, the bobber sank, and I started screaming, “Daddy, Daddy, I got a fish! A big one!”
He helped me bring it onto the bank, and then praised me for catching such a large fish. Years later, I still laugh when I remember catching the big one- a blue gill.
I also could not forget the first time I rode a bike without the training wheels. He ran twice around the block beside me just in case I started to fall. When we got home, he lay out on the lawn for almost a half hour trying to catch his breath.
Then there was the time that I had a science project for sixth grade. I’d spent weeks working on a model of a volcano. I had filled it with baking soda, and I was going to make it erupt for my demonstration by adding vinegar. Randy came into my room while I was gone, and he accidentally pushed my project onto the floor. After a trip to the hardware store, Dad spent the rest of the night helping me build a new one.
How could I hate a man like that?
So, what would I say to the judge when she asked me if I wanted visitation rights with my father? I did want to see him again, but would things ever be the same? I found it hypocritical of me to be gay and have a boyfriend, but not be able to accept my father being gay- if he was.
I still wasn’t sure. It could all have been a misunderstanding. Then again, if that was the case, why did my mother react the way she did? I had heard them arguing the night he came home after the arrest; just before he packed his bags and left. If he had been set up or something, then he’d still be home with us.
“Mr. Thomas, do you know the answer?” I was jolted back from daydreaming by Mrs. Acheson, my chemistry teacher. I looked at her standing at the front of the room, pointing to a formula she had written on the board.
I looked at it and realized I hadn’t been paying any attention in class. I couldn’t even remember entering the class. Suddenly, I just found myself sitting in a room being embarrassed by my lack of attention.
“No, Ma’am,” I said timidly.
“I didn’t think so,” she responded sharply. “Please pay attention in class, Artie.” I nodded and tried to focus on what she was explaining. When she finished lecturing and gave us a written assignment, I approached her desk and asked to go to the restroom. She hesitated, but eventually wrote me a pass.
“You have five minutes,” she said. Teachers always say that. I don’t know how they expect students to walk halfway across campus to the restroom, do what you have to do, wash your hands, and then return in five minutes. It’s much easier for guys to do than girls. We just walk up to a urinal, pull it out, and then we’re done. They have a much more difficult ritual to go through.
I was at the urinal when I became aware of someone else entering. I turned and it was Cal. He had been avoiding me since Jared had made it known that no one was to mess with me. He started to smile smugly when he looked around and realized I was alone.
“Where are your bodyguards?” he asked, as he leaned down and looked under the stalls to make sure we were alone.
“Leave me alone, Cal,” I replied nervously, as I hurriedly zipped up my pants and headed towards the door. He stepped in front of me, blocking the door.
“What’s your hurry, Artie?” he asked. “You don’t want to stay a little while? I’ll let you suck my cock and you won’t even get arrested like your old man did.”
“Let me by.” I tried to push past him, but he grabbed me and slammed me up against one of the stalls.
“I’m not through with you yet,” he said angrily. “I want you to give me a blowjob.” He unzipped his pants and pulled out an erect cock. It was short and stubby, and very red on the tip. The sight of it repulsed me.
“I’m not sucking your dick, Cal,” I stated boldly, as I tried once again to push him away. He pulled his fist back and then slammed it into the side of my head.
“Yes you are, Cocksucker!” he shouted. He threw another punch at me, hitting me squarely in my left temple. The room started spinning, and I fell down to my knees. Almost immediately, Cal tried to stuff his cock into my mouth.
I reached up and hit him harshly in his nuts. He screamed out in pain, and then kicked me in my chest. I started gasping for air. It felt like my lungs had collapsed.
“You Mother Fucker!” he screamed. He began kicking me again and again. After about five blows, I lost consciousness.
* * * * * *
Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!
I couldn’t figure out the irritating noise beating in my right ear. I tried to move, but my body seemed unwilling. Even though I tried to open my eyes, I couldn’t see anything.
I felt a pressure on my left hand, and I tried to return it.
“Nurse!” I could faintly hear someone shouting. “He’s waking up!”
Suddenly, I felt movement all around me. My body was being poked and prodded. My arms and legs were being raised and pulled on.
Then I heard a voice I recognized. “Thank God!” It was my mother. I was aware of her body smothering mine. I could feel her lips kissing me on my forehead, but I couldn’t open my eyes and see her.
“Please, step back, Ma’am,” I heard an unknown voice say. I felt a hand hold mine while my body was still being probed.
“Mom?” I whispered feebly. My voice felt dry. I bit down and realized that something was in my mouth. It tasted like rubber. I felt a hand gently stroke the side of my face before I once again returned to darkness.
I awoke again sometime later. This time I was a little more aware of my surroundings. I remembered what happened in the restroom at school, and realized I was in the hospital. I still couldn’t move, so I didn’t know how badly I had been hurt.
When I felt a hand squeeze mine, I gently squeezed back. A body fell against me, and I could feel the person weeping into my chest.
“Artie,” he cried. I knew immediately it was Brent. I could smell the soap in his hair, and I could feel his tears falling on my chest. I tried to raise my arm and hold him, but I couldn’t. I also didn’t know why I couldn’t open my eyes and see him. Everything remained dark.
Suddenly, I sensed more people around me. I could make out the voice of my mother and grandmother. They seemed to be crying. I could feel kisses being planted on my forehead.
“Brent,” I muttered weakly. I could feel him resting his head against me.
“Don’t talk, Artie,” he said. “You’re going to be all right.”
“I’m going to have to ask you to leave the room.” I heard a strange voice say. I wanted to shout out, “No!” However, my lips couldn’t form the word.
“How do you feel, young man?” Again, it was the stranger. “I’m Dr. Lucas.”
“Where am I?” I managed to say.
“You’re at Mt. Evans Memorial Hospital,” he informed me. “Do you remember what happened to you?”
I nodded, remembering my encounter with Cal. I could recall him kicking me just before I passed out. I assumed that he must have hurt me badly, since I was in a hospital bed.
“How bad am I hurt,” I finally managed to say. My voice still felt dry and hoarse, but I didn’t taste rubber now.
“We’ll talk about that later, Artie,” he replied. “We just want you to get better for now.” I could feel him running his hand over my chest. He then inspected the area around my eyes.
“Why can’t I see?” I was worried because I couldn’t open my eyes and see what was going on around me.
“We have your face wrapped,” he informed me. “You were kicked in your face and your eyes were damaged.”
“Am I blind?” My heart started pounding rapidly. I couldn’t even comprehend never being able to see again.
“We don’t know yet,” he said soothingly. “We’ll remove the bandages in a few days, and then we’ll know more.”
I could feel tears welling up behind the bandages, and soon I was sobbing loudly. I heard the doctor leave, and a minute later Brent, my mother and grandmother entered the room. Brent immediately walked over to the bed and pulled me into him. I continued to cry while they comforted me. Everything came rushing back at me. I remembered Cal coming into the restroom and blocking the door while he tried to get me to suck his cock. I then relived him hitting me in my face, and then kicking me until I lost consciousness.
“Am I going to be all right?” I asked after my emotions had settled down.
“Honey,” my mother said calmly. “Dr. Lucas is here. I think he needs to explain what happened to you. Are you able to understand things?” I nodded my head. Brent sat up, but continued to hold my hand.
“As you know, you were beaten rather severely.” Dr. Lucas began. “The police will be here when you’re feeling better to take your statement. Do you remember who did this to you?”
I nodded my head. Brent squeezed my hand gently again.
“You received quite a few deep bruises. Xrays showed that three of your ribs were broken. You don’t feel much pain right now because of the medication we have you on, but you’ll probably feel some pain when you leave here. Your spleen was also damaged, but in time, it should heal. Your left kidney was bruised, but again, we don’t foresee any long term problems.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Cal had really done a lot of damage to my body. I guess I was lucky to still be alive.
“The thing we are most worried about is your eyesight.” I felt a lump form in my throat. By the tone of his voice, it didn’t sound good.
“Whoever did this kicked you several times in the head. We think some severe damage was done to your retinas. We called in one of the best optical surgeons in the country. He’s pretty optimistic about the outcome, but right now it’s just a matter of time.”
“So I may end up blind?” I could hear my mother sobbing off to my left. Brent gripped my hand tightly.
“I won’t lie to you,” he warned. “It’s a possibility. But right now, let’s think positively until we remove the bandages in a few days. Dr. Bowman will be flying back in to see how you’re doing.”
“Thank you, Dr. Lucas.” I turned my head on the pillow and once again started crying. I was soon smothered with love by Brent, my mother and grandmother. A nurse walked in and I felt her give me a shot in my arm. A minute later, I fell sound asleep.
“Artie!” I was awakened by someone pulling on my arm. “Are you asleep?” Again, the person called my name. “Artie, it’s Jared. Can you hear me?” He grabbed my hand and squeezed it. I squeezed back.
“Are you all right, Buddy?” I nodded my head slightly. “Before Brent gets in here, can you tell me who did this to you?” Again, I nodded.
“Thanks, Artie. I love you, okay?” He gave me a quick kiss on the forehead and then left. A minute later, Brent entered the room.
He walked over and gave me a kiss on the lips. He giggled when I tried to stick my tongue in his mouth.
“Perv,” he laughed. “Laying in a hospital bed and trying to get freaky.”
“I can’t help it,” I managed to mumble. “I love you.”
“I love you too.” Once again he leaned in and kissed me.
After a minute of silence, he asked, “I saw Jared leaving right before I got here. What did he want?”
I had to stop and think. The drugs had affected my thoughts, and I could hardly remember him being in the room. I thought I had dreamed it.
“I really don’t remember,” I confessed.
“It’s not important,” he replied. “He probably just wanted to see how you were. He’s been really worried about you. He‘s been here every day.”
It dawned on me that I didn’t even know how long I’d been here. Time had seemed to stand still. “How long have I been here?”
“Four days,” he responded. I couldn’t believe I had been here that long.
Brent sat and filled me in on some things that had been happening. I really couldn’t focus on what he was saying. Several times I even fell asleep. When I’d awaken, he’d still be holding my hand and talking. I felt safe knowing he was with me.
Suddenly, he gripped my hand tightly. I could sense that he had tensed up as someone entered the room.
“What’s wrong, Brent?”
“Son! Oh, my God!”