Soon enough it was Monday morning with Steve's next round of radiation. "You sure you don't want me to take you? I mean since it's the first one and all?" Sammie asked.
"Don't be ridiculous. And I still don't think you need to take every afternoon off work, at least not yet," Steve said, trying to get Sammie out the door and on to the office. They had already made arrangements for Troy to come by and drive Steve to the hospital.
"Well, I want to be here, you know, just in case."
"Yeah, yeah, I know. And even though I do appreciate it, I'm not an invalid. At least not yet," he repeated.
"Oh Toad, you’re going to be just fine."
Steve rolled his eyes, "You know, all your sunny optimism is a little hard to take this early in the morning. Now get to work before you’re late. I'll see you this afternoon."
"Okay, see ya." ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
The first few days went fairly smoothly. Troy, Steve, and Sammie fell into a routine of Troy picking Steve up, driving him to the hospital and then waiting the hour and half for his treatment. Afterwards Troy would drive him back home and usually wait around until noon. Sammie would spend his mornings in the office, then bring home his projects and his laptop to work from the kitchen table in the afternoon while Steve napped. So far the only side effect Steve had noticed was that he was even more tired than he had been before, something he said he didn't think was possible.
Thursday evening Sammie and Steve were relaxing in front of the TV when the door buzzer rang.
"Yes?" Sammie said into the intercom.
"Sammie? It's Tyler, buzz me in."
Sammie hit the button to release the remote lock then walked over and waited by the apartment door. Tyler was there moments later.
"Hey. I have something to show you," he announced.
Tyler nodded, obviously excited. "It's downstairs," he told Sammie. "Steve, do you feel up to a trip to the garage for a minute?"
"Sure," Steve said, reaching over for his slippers.
The three men took the elevator down to the parking garage.
"What is it, Tyler?" Sammie asked.
Tyler shook his head. "You have to wait."
He led them out into the garage and over near Sammie's Jetta.
Sammie and Steve both looked around. "What?" Steve asked.
"The car. I bought a car." Tyler pointed to a dark blue Grand Am. It looked to be about ten years old, and had seen better days. "I know it's nothing great, but it's mine. I've been saving up for months and now, finally, my first car."
"Oh, my God," Sammie said. "Tyler, that's great."
Tyler smiled. "Yeah, it is. Now I don't have to get on the stinking bus, or beg people for rides."
"Your first, huh? You didn't have a car growing up?" Steve asked.
Tyler shook his head. "No, I didn't. My parents let me borrow their car some times, but I never had one of my own. It's something I’ve been dreaming of for a long time."
"That great, Tyler. I'm happy for you."
"Hey, why don't you take Sammie for a ride?" Steve offered.
"Yeah! Want to Sammie? You can come too, Steve."
Steve chuckled at Tyler's enthusiasm. "No, that's okay. I'm going to go back upstairs and lie down, but Sammie, you go."
Sammie nodded. "Sure, if you promise it won't break down and leave us stranded."
Tyler laughed shaking his head, "You're such a princess, come on, get in. And no promises."
“Steve? Will you be okay?” Sammie asked.
Steve rolled his eyes. “I’m fine. Go, take a ride in Tyler’s new wheels. Really.”
“Okay, I’ll have my cell phone.”
“Go. I’m fine” ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
"Where do you want to go?" Tyler asked as they pulled out of the parking garage.
Sammie shrugged, "Can't blame a guy for trying."
"I know, lets go to a Sonic."
"Yeah, we can get cherry limeades. Didn't you ever do that when you were a kid? Drag main and park at the Sonic?"
"Yeah, I confess, I did," Sammie laughed. "Okay, sounds fun."
They pulled into the Sonic and ordered cherry limeades.
“How is Steve doing? Is the radiation making him very sick?”
“Not so much yet. I mean, he’s really tired and the surgery was hard on him. He’s diabetic now, and his body doesn’t absorb the nutrients from food like it should, all thanks to the surgery. So he really isn’t doing all that well.”
“I’m sorry, Sammie.”
Sammie shrugged. “Yeah, it sucks.”
They rode around for a while then Sammie thought he should be getting back to check on Steve.
“I’m glad you got yourself a car, Tyler. It’s really cool.”
Sammie leaned over and gave Tyler a kiss. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Okay, bye Sammie.” &nbs`; ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
Sunday afternoon Lisa and Terri called to announce they were bringing over dinner. They showed up a few hours later with chicken noodle soup and an arm full of board games.
"Anyone up for some Trivial Pursuit?" Terri asked, sitting down the games on the coffee table.
Steve smiled. "You know, you guys don't have to entertain me."
"Who's entertaining? I'm here to kick your ass on some trivia," Lisa said grinning.
"You have never, nor will you ever, kick my ass in trivia. I am the king of that game," Steve announced.
"More like queen," Terri chided. ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
That evening after the girls had left Sammie and Steve were getting ready for bed. "Does it seem weird to you living here, you know, with us just being friends?"
Steve smiled and said, "Frog, you have always been my friend."
"Yeah, but, you know what I mean."
"Sammie, we've been through this before."
"Yeah, I know, because you’re sick. Is that why you’re trying to push me into Tyler's arms? Because you think you might die?"
Steve pursed his lips but didn’t answer.
"Sammie, we both know the score here. I am going to die. I'm going to bed, you should too." The conversation was over; Steve stood and left for his bedroom.
That night Sammie lie in bed staring at the ceiling, not able to sleep. Finally he got up and went into Steve's room, sliding into bed next to Steve's warm body. ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
When he woke the next morning he was in the bed alone. Getting up, he found Steve sitting in the living room staring out the window. His eyes were red and puffy from crying. "Steve? Are you okay?"
Steve glanced at him, then turned away, hiding his face. "Don't mind me, just having a little pity party here."
"Sammie, no. Don't. Go on; take your shower. I'll be okay."
Sammie nodded then turned and went into the bathroom, closing the door. He turned on the water and wondered how his life had gotten so complicated. ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
During the second week of radiation the side effects started getting worse for Steve. Sammie came home Monday at noon to find Troy still there and Steve getting sick in the bathroom.
"He started getting nauseous about an hour ago," Troy explained.
Sammie frowned and nodded. "Thanks for staying, Troy."
"Hey, no problem. Tell him I'll see him in the morning."
Troy left to go home and Sammie spent the rest of the afternoon helping Steve from the bed to the bathroom and back.
By Thursday Sammie was exhausted. He spent his mornings at the office, his afternoons and evenings tending to Steve, then his nights sitting at the kitchen table with his laptop, trying to keep up with his projects.
On Thursday about six o'clock, Sammie was helping Steve back into bed for the umpteenth time that afternoon when he heard a knock at the door. "Who the fuck could that be?" he muttered. Getting Steve settled in, he went to answer the door.
"Tyler, what are you doing?"
"Um, I caught one of your neighbors as they were leaving, hope that's okay, I mean I just sort of snuck in."
"No, that's fine, come on in. But, what are you doing here? I mean, not that I’m not glad to see you."
"Shit, Sammie, you look like you are about to drop. Why don't you go lay down for a while. I can look after Steve for a few hours."
"Thanks, Tyler, but it's really not that simple."
"Sure it is. Go on, I can handle it."
"Are you sure, cause he's puking and everything," Sammie asked, the offer of a nap sounded so tempting. He had even thought of calling Lisa and asking her to come over.
"Yes, I'm sure. Go on, go lay down."
"Okay. Thanks, Tyler. Wake me up in a couple of hours okay? Don't let me sleep too long, I still have a lot of work to do.”
Tyler nodded and gave Sammie a kiss on the check. "Go."
Sammie nodded and turned heading into his bedroom. ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
When Sammie awoke it was dark. For a minute he felt disoriented, not being able to think of what day it was or what time he needed to get up. Then he remembered Tyler stopping by. A glance at the clock on his nightstand told him it was three a.m. He had been asleep for almost nine hours.
"Shit," he mumbled as he got out of bed, rubbing his hands over his face. He still had a ton of work to get done on one of his accounts.
When he walked out into the living room he saw Tyler asleep on the sofa. He checked in on Steve, who was also sleeping soundly. Sammie walked into the kitchen and started the coffee, then booted up his laptop.
When he pulled open the file he noticed that the project had been updated. "I hope you don't mind."
Sammie jumped at the sound of Tyler's voice. "Fuck, you startled me."
"Sorry, I heard you get up. I hope you don't mind," he repeated, "You had me work on that account last week, so I went ahead and finished it. I mean, subject to your approval."
"Shit, Tyler, you didn't need to do that."
"I don’t mind."
"Yeah, but you already worked all day, then you came here and worked all night... Not to mention taking care of Steve."
"It was nothing, really. You looked so tired when you came into work yesterday," Tyler explained.
"Thanks, Tyler. Really. You’re a good friend."
Tyler walked over to Sammie and into his arms, giving him a hug. "You should go back to bed, try to get another few hours of sleep."
"Come with me?"
Tyler shook his head. "I told you, that was a one-time thing. I'll be your friend Sammie, but it wouldn't be fair to you to do anymore."
"Fair to me?"
"You're too vulnerable right now."
Sammie closed his eyes and chuckled. "You're worried about me?"
"Yeah, and me too. Can you handle just being my friend for now?"
"Yeah, I can. So come to bed with me."
Tyler gave Sammie a frown.
"No, as a friend. Seriously, just to sleep. I'll be good, I promise."
"Okay, but just sleep."
After that night Tyler started coming by every evening. He would look after Steve while Sammie got caught up on whatever work he needed to get done.
Tyler would spend a good part of the evening in Steve's bedroom. Sammie could hear the mummers of their conversation and occasionally even laughter.
Usually Steve would fall asleep before nine and then Tyler would come out and visit with Sammie. Sometimes he would unload the dishwasher or start a load of laundry, under Sammie's protest.
Around ten or eleven Tyler would say goodnight and go back home. Sammie quit asking him to stay, respecting his wish to keep things from getting anymore complicated. ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
On Thursday of the third week of Steve's radiation treatment, Tyler came by as usual and left around ten-thirty. Sammie was folding the clothes from the dryer when he heard the intercom buzz.
"Who is it?"
"Sammie, it's me," Tyler sounded upset.
Sammie buzzed him in and waited by the door for the elevator.
"Tyler, what's wrong?"
"I'm sorry to bother you, but I need a favor,” Tyler said, coming into the apartment.
"Sure, what's that?"
"Can I sleep on your sofa for a few days? Until I can find someplace else to live?"
"Of course, but why?"
Tyler frowned and sat down on the sofa. "My roommate is dealing. I suspected he was using again, but when I got home tonight I walked in on the middle of a drug deal. I can't stay there, Sammie."
"Okay, so you'll stay here. It's not a problem."
"I'll start looking for a place of my own. I've been saving up for deposits and stuff, but I don't know if I have enough put away yet. Plus I'm still on the lease, Doug may not want to let me off of that."
"I don't see that Doug has much choice. He lets you out of the lease, or you turn him in. Pretty simple, really."
Tyler sighed. "I'm sorry, Sammie. I know you don't need this right now, but I didn't know where else to go."
"Nonsense, of course you can stay here," Sammie cocked his head. "And you are welcome to share my bed."
Tyler shook his head. "No, I'll sleep on the sofa," he chewed his bottom lip. "I don't trust myself in your bed with you."
“Hey, we did it the other night with no problem, right? I said you could trust me and you can.”
Saturday afternoon Tyler left to go get his belongings from his apartment and to discuss the lease with Doug. Sammie had offered to go help, but Tyler stated that he really didn’t have much to move, and would rather speak with Doug in private.
"He didn’t need any help?” Steve asked for the recliner.
“He said he wanted to go alone.”
Steve furrowed his brow.
“Last time I was there all he had was an air mattress and a lamp. All his clothes were in cardboard boxes on the floor,” Sammie explained.
“Shit, Sammie, don’t you guys pay him?”
“He said he didn’t want to buy any furniture until he got his own place,” Sammie said picking up the newspaper from the coffee table and sitting down to read it.
A few minutes later Steve spoke back up, “You need to convince him to stay here."
"Hmmm?" Sammie looked up from the newspaper he was reading.
"Tyler. He should move in here."
"We only have two bedrooms, Steve."
Steve rolled his eyes. "Yes, I know. But he can move into the master bedroom with you."
"He doesn't want to move in here, Steve."
"Have you asked him?""
"I have offered to share the bed. He turned me down."
"Ask him again."
"Steve, stay out of it."
"Ask him again."
“Why are you pushing this so hard, Steve? He says he only wants to be friends, let it go.”
Steve shook his head. “He’s in love with you is why. He’s just afraid, that’s all.”
“Steve, what part of ‘stay out of it’ are you not understanding?”
“Ask him again. You could use his help around here with me; besides, I enjoy his company. And he’s in love with you. Ask. Him. Again.”
Sammie sat there contemplating Steve’s words. “Fine. I’ll ask him again.” ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
That evening after Steve had gone to bed, Sammie and Tyler were sitting in the living room in front of the television. “There is plenty of room in the master bedroom, really. I mean we could even put another bed in there if you wanted,” Sammie said.
Tyler nodded, but didn’t answer.
“I know you don’t want to get involved with me. I accept that, but for now… well, I don’t see any reason for you to rush finding a place of your own. Steve enjoys you being here, I can use your help, and who knows, maybe you’ll change your mind about me.”
“Oh, Sammie, you really don’t get it do you?”
“I guess not.”
“How can I compete with a dying man? He was here first, and now he has this terrible turn of events and his life is ending. How can I do that to him? How can I take you away?”
It was Sammie’s turn to nod. Tyler’s guilt too closely mirrored his own.
© Melina Catts 2005