It was 9 o’clock Monday morning and once again Sammie was alone in a crowded waiting room. This time he had brought along a magazine to read, but found he couldn’t concentrate on any of the articles.
The doctor had told them the surgery would take most of the morning and not to expect Steve to leave recovery until early afternoon. Sammie felt like time had stopped completely. He had been sitting here for fifteen minutes and it felt like fifteen hours. Dreading the long wait he knew lay ahead of him only made the minutes feel longer.
Troy sat down in the seat next to Sammie. “How are you doing?”
“I’m trying not to think about it.”
Troy nodded. “Joel will be here in a little while. He had a meeting this morning he couldn’t move, but once that’s over, he’ll be free the rest of the day.”
“He didn’t have to do that, change his whole schedule.”
Lisa walked up, hugging Sammie. “How are you doing?”
“Better, now that you guys are here.” ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
Joel showed up an hour later and the four friends passed the time chatting about everything and nothing. The conversation stayed light and everyone avoided the subject of Steve’s cancer. It was as though speaking about it would make it too real.
Around one-thirty Sammie started to get antsy. “Shouldn’t we have heard something by now?”
Lisa went over and spoke to the volunteer who was covering the waiting room, then came back over to Sammie. “They’re going to check.”
A few minutes later the elderly woman came over to them and said, “They were late getting started. The doctor was delayed. The OR nurse said he’s doing fine and they expect to finish up in another hour or so.”
Sammie gave a small smile, relaxing a little at the news. “Thank you,” he said.
It was almost three when Dr. Ross came out to the waiting room. “Come with me, where we can have some privacy,” he said. The group of friends followed the doctor across the hall to a smaller, more private waiting area.
“First of all, Steve came through the surgery fine. He is in recovery now and I expect him to remain there for another hour.”
Sammie nodded. “And the cancer?”
“I’m afraid it had spread more than we expected. We removed as much of the tumor as we could and also much of the surrounding tissue as well as the gallbladder, the spleen, part of the stomach, part of the small intestines and most of the lymph nodes. We did what we could, but couldn’t get to everything without risking the patient, so what that means is that we must be aggressive with the radiation treatment to fight the remaining cancer.”
“Will the radiation be able to kill it? I mean, can he still survive this even though you couldn’t get all the cancer out?” Sammie asked.
“We’re going to do everything we can.” The doctor was used to these conversations, he knew better than to make promises.
“But...” Sammie hated the sinking feeling he had. They hadn’t been able to get all the cancer, which meant it would spread again. Maybe it was already spreading. Maybe they couldn’t stop it no matter what they did.
“I’m afraid your partner is very sick. We’ll do what we can to keep him comfortable, but it’s unlikely he will survive longer than a year or so,” the doctor continued. “As we talked about earlier, he will stay in post surgical step down for the next day or two, then be transferred to the medical-surgical floor for another four or five days. We will give him a week or so to regain some strength then we’ll start the radiation treatment.”
“Thank you, Dr. Ross,” Sammie said, a little numbly.
He shook Sammie’s hand. “Sorry I can’t give you better news. You’re welcome to stay in here until they bring him out of recovery.”
No one said anything as the doctor left the room. The first sound heard was a sob leaving Sammie’s throat as he collapsed into Joel’s arms. Lisa, Terri, and Troy looked on with tears of their own as Sammie cried his eyes out, Joel trying unsuccessfully to console him.
“He’ll probably sleep the rest of the day. You should go home and get some rest,” the nurse said when she came into check Steve’s vitals. He had been out of recovery and in a semi-private room now for a few hours. Sammie had been dozing in a chair beside the bed.
“I’m fine. I want to be here when he wakes up. I promised him.”
She only nodded as she left the room.
Sammie turned his head to see Tyler standing in the doorway. “Hey, what are you doing here?”
Tyler stepped inside, “I borrowed my roommate’s car. I was worried and wanted to see how you were. How did the surgery go?”
Sammie frowned and glanced back over to where Steve was still sleeping. “Let’s go get a soda.” ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
“The cancer had spread more than they expected,” Sammie said.
Tyler reached across the table and placed his hand over Sammie’s.
“The doctor said…” Sammie stopped, unable to go on.
“Sammie, you need to have hope.”
Sammie shook his head. “They don’t think he’ll survive.”
“Oh,” Tyler squeezed Sammie’s hand.
They sat in silence, both at a loss as to what to say. “Um, Tyler, about me and Steve…”
“You don’t have to explain.”
“Yeah, I do. We, um, aren’t together. I mean, he’s staying in the spare room. We haven’t had sex since that night.”
“Really, Sammie, it’s none of my business.”
“I know, but I want, I need to tell you this. I had decided that I didn’t want to get back with him, then he got sick and I thought maybe I did. But I think I was just feeling, you know…guilty and now… shit. I’m just trying to tell you that, well, I know the timing sucks, but I really care about you.”
“Sammie, it’s okay. Steve needs you now, I understand.”
“But, I still, ah shit. Tyler, I miss you.”
Tyler gave him a shy smile, “I miss you, too.”
“I just wish, I mean if we had met under different circumstances..."
"I'm glad I met you when I did. You have no idea how much you have helped me adjust from... I mean, well, you really have been good for me. And now, I'd like to be there for you if you’ll let me."
"I'd like that, but Tyler, my emotions are all over the place right now. I mean, this probably isn't the best time to start a relationship, no matter how I feel about you."
"No, just friends, Sammie. You need to be there for Steve."
Sammie looked at his watch. “Yeah, I better get back up there.”
Tyler nodded and stood. “Yeah, I should get my roommate’s car back to him.”
“I’ll walk you out.”
As they exited the hospital into the parking garage Tyler reached out, taking Sammie’s hand. Sammie gave him a slow smile.
“Here, this is my car, or rather Doug’s car.” Tyler pointed to an old dilapidated Trans Am. The fender was dented and the paint was rusting.
“Wow, will that make it back across town?”
Tyler chucked, “Beggars can’t be choosers.”
Sammie grew serious again. “Tyler, thanks for understanding, and for being my friend. It means a lot to me, especially right now.”
Tyler grinned and gave Sammie a quick kiss. “Your friendship means a lot to me too. Call me tomorrow, let me know how things are.”
Tyler nodded, then turned to get in the car. Sammie watched as he drove off, then turned and headed back up to Steve’s room. ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
The next morning Steve was more awake but still rather groggy due to the pain medicine. It was almost noon when Sammie finally left for home to take a shower and a nap, after spending an uncomfortable night trying to sleep in the chair. Once home he thought of calling Tyler, but then he lay down on the bed and closed his eyes. Thankfully, no more thoughts of Steve came for the next few hours.
When he awoke it was already evening. He rushed back to the hospital and up to Steve’s room.
“He’s been moved,” the nurse Sammie remembered from last night said as he came down the hall.
“Where? Why?” Sammie asked, fearing the worst.
“He’s on five now. He was doing so well he was transferred to the regular medical-surgical floor.”
“Oh, good. How do I find him?” Sammie asked, relieved to hear the news.
“Take the elevator to five. The nurse’s station is to the left when you get off, they’ll know what room he’s in.”
“Thanks,” Sammie said as he turned and headed back down the hall.
He found Steve’s room easily enough and was surprised to see that Steve was awake, watching TV. He was still a little out of it, but he looked much better than he had before.
“Frog. There you are.”
“Hey, sorry. I went home to take a nap and overslept.”
“S’okay. I had plenty of company.” Steve’s speech was a little slurred.
“Who? Joel and Troy?”
“Oh yeah, they came by too, earlier.”
“You said ‘they came by too’. Who else was here? Lisa?”
“No, Your little blond boy.”
“Yeah. He’s a good kid. He came to see you, I know, but he stayed and chatted with me for awhile.”
“Uh-huh. I like him, you should have him come around more.”
Sammie wasn’t sure what to say to that.
"The doctor came to see me too."
"Yeah? What did he say?"
"That I'm dying."
"No, it's all right. I mean, we'll fight the good fight and I may even get another year, but well..."
A tear ran down Sammie's cheek.
"Hey, no crying. Besides, it's not all bad. The drugs are good."
Sammie rolled his eyes.
“Frog, I think you got here just in time to watch me sleep. The pills are kicking in.”
“That’s fine, Steve, you need the rest right now. Close your eyes and sleep.” ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
Wednesday morning Sammie returned to work, feeling like he’d been gone for a year. Steve was still recuperating in the hospital but was doing well enough that Sammie felt he could return to the office. He would need to take more time off later, so he felt he should be at work as much as he could now especially since, so far, they had been more than understanding. Of course he spent every evening in Steve’s room, staying until the nurses kicked him out, citing that visiting hours were over.
Wednesday over lunch Sammie breeched the subject of Tyler’s visit. “I understand I missed you at the hospital the other night.”
“Yeah, Steve said you were home taking a nap.”
Sammie nodded, “He said you two had a nice visit.”
Tyler smiled. “Steve is a nice guy, but I really didn’t stay long.”
Sammie eyed Tyler over his salad.
“Does it make you uncomfortable for me to speak with your ex?” Tyler snickered.
“No, just wonder what you two had to discuss.”
“Why you of course. What did you expect?”
“And just what about me were you discussing?” Sammie asked slightly amused.
Tyler shook his head. “My lips are sealed.”
Sammie’s eyebrow went up, causing Tyler to laugh. “Oh, I’m kidding. Really, you are such a princess. I was only there for a short time. We didn’t discuss anything, I just asked how he was feeling, that sort of thing.” ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
By Friday Sammie was feeling exhausted, between the hospital and work, he felt like he never caught a break for himself. "You have big plans for the weekend, Tyler?" he asked over lunch. Sammie had really come to look forward to their lunch date each day. Some days he would talk about Steve and what was going on, other days they would discuss anything but. Tyler seemed to understand and be there for Sammie in whatever capacity he needed. More so even then Lisa, maybe because Tyler didn't really know Steve, but Sammie found he was more comfortable talking with Tyler than any of his other friends, who were also reeling from the news.
"No plans," Tyler answered.
"Go out with me?"
"What?" He seemed truly to have been caught off guard.
"As a friend? I need a break. I need to have a few hours of something besides hospitals and cancer and... Shit. I just want to forget everything for a couple of hours."
Tyler smiled. "Sure. Where do you want to go?"
"The club. I want to dance."
Sammie shook his head. "I'm too tired. Tomorrow night, after visiting hours, say ten?"
"Sounds fine." ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
Saturday evening Sammie sat with Steve at the hospital. Steve's strength was slowly coming back, but his deposition had gone from bad to worse. Instead of being depressed, now he was angry. He snapped at the nurses and groused to Sammie. Sammie tried his best to hold his tongue but it was getting harder and harder.
Steve had dozed off and Sammie was reading a book. He had talked to Tyler earlier that afternoon and had made plans to pick him up later that night.
"What are you doing still here?" Steve groaned. "Are you just going to sit around like a faithful wife?"
"No, a faithful friend, a wife would have already divorced you over some of the things you've said. How are you feeling?"
"Are you in pain?" Some times the nurse got a little lax on getting Steve his pain pills. They were busy and Sammie understood. There were so many patients per floor and so few nurses.
Steve turned his head away from Sammie, not answering.
"No," Steve said quietly.
Sammie went back to his book thinking that Steve has drifted back off.
"I'm sorry." He said it so softly Sammie wasn't sure he had heard it.
"I know I've been a bastard. I'm sorry. I shouldn't take it out on you."
"It's okay, Steve, I understand… but thanks for saying it anyway."
"It's just not fair. It shouldn't be me."
"I know. You're right, you shouldn't be here," Sammie said with much compassion.
"But I am, and that doesn't give me the right to treat you so badly."
"Oh, I don't know, I think it gives you a lot of rights."
The nurse came in, "How are you this evening, Mr. Moore?"
"Fucking wonderful," Steve mumbled.
She handed him a little cup with a pill and his glass of water from his tray. "Visiting hours are almost over," she said to Sammie.
He nodded. "I'll see you tomorrow, Steve," walking over and kissing Steve's forehead. "’Night."
Sammie pulled up in front of Tyler's building and watched him emerge from the front door before Sammie had even had time to kill the engine.
"Hey," he said as Tyler got in.
"Hey, how was Steve tonight?"
"The same, well maybe a little less angry. He did apologize for barking at me."
"See, I told you it would pass. So are you ready to shake your thang?"
Sammie laughed, "Oh, yeah."
Sammie pulled up in front of the club, finding a parking space relatively close. They walked in and over to the bar. "Long Island Ice tea," Sammie said, remembering how Tyler had gotten sick from the wine coolers last time they were here.
"Two," Tyler added.
Sammie looked over at Tyler arching his eyebrow. "You do know it’s not really ice tea?"
Tyler smiled. "Duh."
They moved out to the dance floor and enjoyed grinding their bodies to the music. Sammie returned to the bar from time to time for another Long Island, Tyler switched over to water early on.
For the next few hours Sammie drank and danced and tired to forget his problems, promising himself that, he'd deal with them again tomorrow.
"Let me have your keys," Tyler said. They had just announced last call and Sammie had ordered another Long Island. Tyler had only had one drink early that night.
"Yeah, you're going to let me drive."
"I am?" Sammie giggled.
Sammie gave Tyler a loopy smile. "I love it when you're forceful."
Tyler rolled his eyes, "You're drunk."
"Am not, just feeling no pain."
"Yeah, well, Mister Feel No Pain, give me your keys." ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
"You can drive my car over to your apartment then come get me tomorrow, if you want," Sammie offered when they pulled into the parking garage.
Tyler shook his head. "I don't trust it sitting in my neighborhood. I would feel terrible if something happened to it."
"Well then, I guess you’ll just have to stay over," Sammie managed to say despite his slur.
Tyler nodded, "Okay, but you be good."
"Oh, I'm always good."
"Yeah, that's what I'm afraid of," Tyler muttered. ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
Once in the apartment Sammie led Tyler over to the sofa. They sat down and Sammie leaned over kissing Tyler passionately. Tyler returned the kiss for a few moments then pulled back.
"Wait, Sammie, I'm not sure we should do this."
Sammie closed his eyes, then slowly opened them again. "Why not? We’re both consenting adults.” He started another kiss, “I need this, Tyler."
"I'm not sure I can go back to being friends if we sleep together again."
Sammie sighed and nodded, "Yeah, okay."
Now it was Tyler's turn to close his eyes. He rubbed his hand over his face. "Fuck, I'm sorry, Sammie."
"No, I'm the one who owes you the apology. I know, I'm all over the place. I say I can't be with you, then I turn around... Shit, I'm sorry."
Tyler looked at Sammie, staring into his eyes. "Fuck it," he finally said. "Just for tonight, we'll deal with the consequences tomorrow. Tonight I'm yours."
"Are you sure?"
Tyler didn't answer, instead he leaned in and kissed Sammie, deeply.
"Let's move this to the bedroom," Sammie sighed into Tyler's kiss.
© Melina Catts 2005