The fourth week of Steve’s treatments seemed to go more smoothly than the previous one. Tyler being there full time to help really made the difference
Troy still came by every morning and took Steve to the hospital for his round of radiation, then would bring him back home and stay until Sammie came home at noon. Sammie would spend his afternoons tending to Steve until Tyler got home around six. Then Tyler would take over and Sammie would get out his laptop and work on whatever project needed the most attention. Tyler would stay with Steve until around nine or ten, then he would come out and either visit with Sammie, or tend to some of the housework.
Tyler and Sammie were sharing the master bedroom and although the room was big enough to put out Tyler’s air mattress, Sammie wouldn’t hear of it, insisting that they could share the bed. It really wasn’t an issue, as most nights Sammie was up much later than Tyler, either working, tending to the apartment, or to Steve. Their relationship remained platonic, both men still dealing with their own reactions to Steve’s illness.
Steve was beginning to be in more pain and didn’t want to take the medications the doctor had prescribed, complaining that they made him too loopy. Therefore he wasn’t sleeping well. Sammie would stay up with him, trying to comfort him as much as he could. Frustrated, Steve would finally bark at Sammie to go to bed and leave him the fuck alone before Sammie would give up for the night. ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
Sammie started noticing that in the evenings when Tyler would come out of Steve's bedroom Tyler would be sullen. A couple of nights his eyes were red and swollen as if he has been crying. When Sammie tried to ask, Tyler shut down. One thing Sammie had learned about Tyler, he only talked if he wished to; you couldn't coax it out of him.
One afternoon while Tyler was at work and Steve was feeling a little better than usual, Sammie decided to quiz Steve.
"What is it you and Tyler do in here every evening?"
Steve smiled, "Don’t worry Frog, I'm not after your boy."
Sammie rolled his eyes. "He's not my boy, and I only ask because so many nights he seems upset when he comes out of your room."
Steve looked at Sammie, chewing his bottom lip, obviously deciding how to answer.
"Oh my God," the realization hit Sammie, "You're counseling him aren't you?"
"Sammie, you know I can't discuss this. I won't tell you anything.”
"But you are, you’re counseling him. Has he told you his secret?"
Steve sighed, closing his eyes.
"He has, hasn't he? Shit. I don't know how to feel about that. I mean he won't tell me, but he trusts you. Wow."
Steve shrugged, "It's easier to tell a dying old man, whose opinion of you isn't important. It's much harder to tell the guy you're in love with, whose rejection you fear."
Sammie eyed Steve, "Is his past so bad? Really?"
Steve closed his eyes again for a moment, then opened them again. "I'll say this one thing, then I'll not speak of it again, understand?"
"It's nothing you can't handle. It's much bigger to Tyler than it will ever be to you."
Sammie nodded again, knowing the gravity of what Steve had just done. He didn't take confidentiality lightly.
"He'll tell you; just be patient. He has to reconcile it with himself first."
"Okay," Sammie turned to leave the room. He stopped at the doorway and turned back. "Thanks, Steve. You're a good man." ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
By the fifth week of Steve’s radiation treatments his health was starting to fail more dramatically. He was not able to keep much food down, and that combined with the fact that he was now diabetic, as that the doctors had removed most of his pancreas, and he was becoming malnourished since they had removed part of his small intestines, caused him to be extremely weak. He needed help getting in and out of bed and could not walk any distance without some sort of aid. They had tried to get him to use a walker, but Steve wouldn’t hear of it.
One evening while Sammie was seated at the dinning room working at his laptop he noticed the voices coming from Steve’s bedroom seemed to be getting a little heated. Just as he was getting up to go see what was going on, Tyler came bolting out the bedroom door.
“Tyler, come back here. We’re not done yet,” Steve shouted after him.
Tyler wiped his eyes as he sprinted toward the front door, not responding to Steve’s request.
“Tyler? Are you okay?” Sammie asked, as Tyler brushed by him and out the door.
Sammie walked over to the entryway of Steve bedroom. “Are you sure you’re up to this?”
Steve closed his eyes and sighed. “Yeah, I’m not dead yet. Besides, it helps me to think that I’m still contributing in some way, still helping people. I miss working with the kids.”
Sammie nodded, Steve had always loved his job. “Is he okay? Should I go after him?”
“He’ll be all right… I think… Yeah, maybe you should go check on him.”
Sammie nodded. “You’ll be okay for a while?”
Sammie walked out to the parking garage first to see if Tyler’s car was still in its place. It was. From there he exited out the front door of the apartment building. Tyler was sitting on the front step, visibly upset.
“Hey,” Sammie said, sitting down next to Tyler on the step.
“God, I’m such a fuck up.”
“No you’re not.”
“Pffft,” Tyler snarked. “Is Steve mad?”
“Mad? No, he’s concerned, but not mad.”
They sat like that for a few minutes, then Sammie asked, “Tyler, maybe you should consider…. I just wonder if Steve is up to this.”
Tyler nodded. “Yeah, I know. I mean, it started off innocently enough, just talking, passing the time. But, lately it has gotten more intense and he’s getting weaker. Every time I try to tell him we should stop he says that it takes his mind off his own problems.”
“That’s the truth, it does.” He paused for a moment, thinking how to phrase this, then just went ahead. “Well, just maybe you could take it easy on him.”
“I should go back inside. Come with me?”
Tyler shook his head, “No, I want to sit here a while. I’ll be up later.”
“Okay.” Sammie leaned over and kissed the top of Tyler’s head. “You’re not as fucked up as you think, you know.” ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
The next evening Lisa stopped by, insisting that she and Sammie go out for coffee. Sammie figured Tyler or Steve had called her to suggest it. He tried to beg off, saying he had too much work to do, but she wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.
“How are you doing?” she asked as they sat at a Starbucks not far from Sammie’s apartment.
He shrugged. “Okay, I suppose.”
“How is it working out with Tyler?”
“With him living with us? Great. With the other us…he and I? It’s not.”
“Why not? I know you’re crazy about him and he is obviously quite fond of you.”
Sammie shook his head, “Too much else going on. My life has been put on hold.”
“Yeah, well, Steve doesn’t want you to put your life on hold. He wants to see you happy.”
Sammie looked away, not able to give a reply to that.
“Sammie? Talk to me.”
“He’s getting worse.”
“Steve? From the radiation?”
“Yeah, but it’s more that just the radiation. I mean, when the doctor said he wouldn’t recover, I guess I hoped that maybe Steve would prove them wrong.”
Lisa reached across the table to take his hand.
“I just thought we’d have more time, but he’s …” Sammie couldn’t finish.
“Sammie, I’m worried about you. I don’t think you’re taking very good care of yourself.”
He answered her by rolling his eyes.
“I’m serious,” she continued. “Are you sleeping? Eating right?”
“I need to get back. Are you finished with your coffee?”
Now it was Lisa’s turn to roll her eyes. “You can’t shut me out, dear. I won’t let you. Sit back down here and talk to me.”
“And just what is it you want to hear?” Sammie sniped.
“I want to know what’s going on in your head.”
“Steve’s dying, right before my eyes. Everyday he is just a little closer, and there isn’t shit I can do. I am so fucking sick of feeling so helpless. There, are you happy now?”
“How can I help you? Can I come sit with Steve? Tell me what you need me to do.”
“That’s just it. There’s nothing any of us can do.” He sounded so defeated, so hopeless.
“Sure there is. We can be there for him, make sure he knows how much we love him.”
Sammie only nodded. He was tired of pat answers.
“Maybe Terry and I could come by this weekend and stay with Steve so you and Tyler can go out.”
They just didn’t get it. Steve was dying and they were worried about stupid stuff like was he getting enough sleep or if he wanted to go out to the clubs. “Thanks, but no. I’m not much into going out right now. You’re welcome to come by though; I mean to see Steve, if you want. I’m sure he’d like that.”
Lisa nodded, “Okay.”
“I really do need to get back, I have a ton of work to get done before morning.” As much as he loved Lisa, she just didn’t understand what he was going though. ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
The next morning Sammie was at the office early, hoping to get some much needed work done. So far he had managed to meet all his deadlines, but he had a few more approaching that were in danger of being missed.
He was so engrossed in his work he didn’t hear Jarred come in. “Hey, how long have you been here?” Jarred asked as he sat down at his desk.
“Hmm? Oh, hey. I came in around six. Wow, is it eight already?”
“About a quarter till. Damn, Sammie, you look beat.”
Sammie frowned. “Thanks.”
“So how’s Steve doing?”
“Not so good.”
“Sorry to hear that. Um, so Tyler is living with you then?”
“Yeah, he needed a place to stay.”
“So are you two… uh…?”
“No, I mean, we were, sort of, but now with Steve sick…”
Jarred nodded, “But you and Steve didn’t get back together either?”
“As far as management is concerned, Steve and I are still together. It is hard enough to get the time off for my male partner, let alone just a friend. But legally… When we were together we drew up all the legal documents, we’ve never changed any of that.”
“So it’s like you were married, and just never got the divorce.”
“Something like that, yeah.”
Jarred watched as Sammie went back to work, then spoke again. “Um, Sammie, I could take over a few of your accounts, you know, until things are better for you.”
“Thanks, Jarred, but I couldn’t ask you to do that.”
“I’m offering, really.”
“Are you sure, I mean you have your own accounts too.”
“I’m sure Sammie, I mean it’s not that much to do for you… Jeez, considering what you are going through.”
“Thanks Jarred; that would be great.”
For the next half hour Sammie went over a few of his smaller accounts with Jarred. As they were finishing up, Matt walked in. Not being able to help but overhear what they were discussing, Matt joined them. “You know, Sammie, my work load is pretty light right now. I could probably take on a couple more projects if you want.”
“Thanks, Matt, I would really appreciate that.”
With his workload down to a more manageable amount Sammie felt that at least a small part of the weight he had been carrying on his shoulder had been lifted. ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
On Friday evening of Steve’s fifth week of radiation Sammie received a phone call from Joel. Steve had already gone to bed while Sammie and Tyler were watching a movie on TV.
“Um, Sammie, I need to talk to you.”
“Okay, what’s going on, Joel?” He was obviously troubled by something.
“It’s Troy. I don’t know, Sammie. I think maybe this is too much for him.”
“Steve. Taking care of Steve in the mornings for you.”
“Did he say that?”
“No, and he won’t. But, shit, Sammie. I don’t know what to say. I mean, I know you need the help and all, but I was just wondering if maybe the girls could take him next week.”
“I suppose I could see. I take it that you aren’t available.”
“No, I’m sorry. I wish I could… but, well, work is crazy right now.”
“Okay, tell Troy I’ll see what I can do.”
“It’s just that, well, Troy doesn’t know I’m calling. I thought maybe you could call him and tell him that one of the girls wanted to be with Steve this week.”
“Oh, Sammie. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to put you in a bind.”
“Well, um, you are kinda putting me in a bind.”
“Please, Sammie, don’t make this harder on me than it is. I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t think it was important. This is all just too hard on Troy.”
“Yeah, okay,” Sammie said, rubbing his hand over his face. “I’ll see what I can do.”
Sammie hung up the phone. “Fuck.”
“What did Joel want?” Tyler asked, only having heard one side of the conversation.
“Um, for me to find someone else to stay with Steve.”
Tyler frowned. “Why?”
“He thinks it’s too much for Troy… too upsetting to him.”
“Did Troy say that?”
“I don’t know, I guess not. Not to me, anyway.”
“What does Joel expect you to do?” Tyler asked.
“Um, ask the girls.”
“What? You’re kidding. Does he know how weak Steve is? I don’t think either of them could handle him, do you?”
“Well, Terri is a lot stronger than she looks, but no…I don’t think they could manage him if there was a problem or if he fell or something. Besides, I can’t ask them to take off work; that’s why Troy was taking him, since he’s self-employed. I’ll call Tom tomorrow and tell him that I will need to take next week off work.”
“I have some vacation earned. I could take off the mornings and take Steve for you, well except for Tuesday.”
“No, you being there is the reason they can afford to let me off.”
Tyler started to argue Sammie’s reasoning, instead chose a different route, “You know what I think? I think you should talk to Troy.”
Sammie shook his head, “Joel asked me not to.”
“Fuck Joel. I mean Troy said he wanted to do this, Troy should be asked before he is relieved of his responsibility.”
“Well, I’m too tired to deal with it tonight. I’m going to bed. I’ll decide what to do tomorrow.” ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
The next morning, the ring of his cell phone awakened Sammie. “Hello?”
“Sammie? Oh shit, man, sorry to wake you.”
“That’s okay. What’s up, Troy?”
“Joel told me he talked to you last night.”
“Um, yeah. If it’s too much for you…” Sammie started.
“No, it’s not. That’s what I wanted to tell you. Don’t listen to what Joel said. I want to do this, for you and for Steve.”
“That’s a relief Troy, because honestly, I didn’t know what I was going to do.”
“Listen, it is hard. I mean to watch Steve go downhill like this and I would be lying if I said that I didn’t come home some days upset; but you are having to live with it, who am I to complain that it’s hard?”
“Thanks, Troy, that means a lot.”
“So, I’ll be there Monday morning. Okay?”
“Oh, and don’t be too mad at Joel, he was just trying to look out for me.”
“Yeah, I know. See you Monday then,” Sammie rang off; not being mad at Joel might be more than he could promise right now. ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
“You know, you never really know just who your friends are until some crisis comes along, and then, most times you are surprised. The ones you thought you could count on often let you down, and then there are those that are there for you that you would have never thought.” Tyler and Sammie were in the laundry room folding towels. Sammie had relayed his conversation with Troy earlier that morning and his disappointment with Joel.
“I suppose you’re right, but I really thought it was Joel that was my true friend. Troy just happened to be his partner. I mean I’ve known Joel almost as long as I’ve known Lisa. And it’s not like I asked this of Troy. He offered, right from the start, he offered to do this.”
“Everyone handles illness differently. Some people just can’t cope at all. They have to just look away, or run for the hills. It doesn’t mean that they don’t want to help, it’s just that they aren’t able.”
“So you’re saying to cut Joel some slack?”
“No…yes, I’m just saying that it is what it is. Just because someone doesn’t love you in the way you want them to, or need them to, doesn’t mean they don’t love you all that they can. Besides, your main concern is Steve, Joel’s looking out for Troy too, y’know?”
Again Sammie was left to wonder how Tyler could be so naive and so worldly at the same time. ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
The sixth week of Steve’s radiation treatment went along pretty much as expected. Troy was there Monday morning to take him and no more was said about the phone call from Joel.
On Friday, instead of radiation, the doctor had scheduled another CT scan to see how the cancer was responding to the treatment. From the results he would decide what treatment Steve would need.
Troy took Steve in for the scan that morning, then stayed with him until Sammie came home at noon. Steve and Sammie were due at the doctor’s office that afternoon for the results. ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
Sammie and Steve met with Dr. Ross in his office, the same one where they had received the diagnosis of cancer. Sammie had come to hate that room.
“I’m afraid your cancer doesn’t seem to be responding to the radiation treatments.”
“What do we do?” Sammie jumped in, this wasn’t the news he wanted to hear.
“I’d like to try a round of chemotherapy.”
“Okay, when would he start that?”
“I don’t think it would be wise to wait.”
“No,” Steve said softly.
Sammie nodded, “No, of course not. We shouldn’t wait.”
“No,” Steve said a little more forceful. “No chemotherapy.”
“But Steve,” Sammie turned to him, “If Dr. Ross thinks this would be better.”
Steve shook his head. “It’s not going to cure me, is it?”
Dr. Ross looked down at his desk for a moment, then back up to Steve’s eyes. “It might buy you some time.”
“Yeah, but at what cost? No. I’m done. No more treatment.”
“What?” Sammie practically jumped up, staring at Steve, holding himself back by clutching the chair arms with his hands. “What are you talking about?”
Steve ignored Sammie’s question, looking at the doctor. “What do we do now?”
Dr. Ross nodded. “I’ll get you in touch with Hospice. They will come out, assess your situation, and help you prepare. We will still want to treat you for pain, and try to keep you as comfortable as we can.”
“I don’t want to be out of it. Can you treat my pain with something that won’t make me so dopey?”
“We can try, but morphine will probably be needed in the end. We don’t want you to suffer.”
Steve nodded. “Okay then.” He stood and reached out to shake the doctor’s hand. “Thank you.”
Sammie sat in a daze, not moving. Steve turned to him. “Come on, help me to the car.”
Silently Sammie rose and put his arm out for Steve to lean on. “Um, yes, thank you doctor,” Sammie mumbled as he helped Steve shuffle out the door.
© Melina Catts 2005