September 20 2005
Needless to say I didn’t sleep well, or rather at all, that night. I went over our short “conversation” a thousand times, assessing every word she said. She couldn’t have meant Derrick was dead; somehow I knew he wasn’t. But I was still worried for him. Had his mom found out about us from someone at school, or worse, the news? The one possibility that really stuck in my mind was if he actually told her himself. That would’ve taken a hell of a lot of guts, especially for him. I had to tell my parents because I was shot, so for him to do it on his own will would have been amazing.
Finally my own physical exhaustion got the best of me, and my body forced me into a light sleep sometime after four a.m. the next morning.
A quick jerk jolted me out of my short-lived sleep. I opened my eyes to see the ceiling about two feet lower than I remembered it, then it hit me. Duh, the transfer was today, I realized I was in an ambulance heading back home to Baraboo’s local hospital. I looked around to get a better sense of my new surroundings. The quarters were pretty cramped; the walls of the ambulance were only about two feet in either direction. No one was with me in the back, which reassured me that I must be in pretty good shape now. I was still hooked up to an IV, but it looked like they took the morphine away, darn. I recognized the sound of motors roaring from the outside and realized we must be on the highway still pretty close to Madison. Oh goody, only a forty minute ride in this flat, ungodly stiff gurney.
It’s hard for me to grasp at my age how this is really all going to affect me in the long run. Even if the media has a field day with this, there’s no doubt some other story will come about in a week, at most, that’ll completely draw attention away from me and Derrick. But then there’s still high school. Derrick doesn’t graduate for another five months, so how is the school going to treat him until then? That’s just something we’ll have to face…together.
And then there’s the matter of what even happened to him. He probably doesn’t know I’m being transferred back home, so I hope he hasn’t driven up to Madison to find an empty hospital bed. How much would he freak at that? Plus I have no idea how to contact him when I don’t know where in the hell he is. I just have to calm myself and perhaps a solution will present itself. It’s too soon to be thinking about all this. I’m sure all this added stress isn’t going to help my recovery.
This is way too much to be worrying about now; I’ll just spend the rest of the drive day dreaming.
“Good morning gorgeous,” that husky voice whispered in my ear.
I never got tired of waking up gripped into the soft skin of Derrick’s beautiful chest.
“Good morning to you too,” I replied, “I can see someone else is ‘up’ this morning too.” I could feel his hard on pressed tightly on my thigh.
“See what you do to me baby,” he growled and started nibbling on my neck, just the way that sent me over the edge.
“Well, I suppose we’ll just have to do a little something about that,” I said as I turned around and starting kissing down his chest.
He looked at me with those magnificent hazel eyes and whispered in my ear, “Are you okay kid?”
I looked at him curiously, “What?”
“I said are you okay kid?” Derricks face was gone and replaced by an older man dressed in an EMT uniform. Why can’t these dreams ever finish?
“Yeah I’m fine.”
“Okay, we’re at the hospital now, so we’re going to take you out of the ambulance on the gurney and straight up to your room.”
“Sounds great,” I said my voice leavened with sarcasm. I quickly caught myself, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to sound rude, it’s just been a rough week.”
“It’s all right, I don’t blame ya. At least you’ve got a right to be bitchy. You should hear some of the shit I have to listen to every day from people with sprained ankles, or scraped knees.” We both shared an uneasy chuckle. “All right, we’re gonna take you out now, so just lie back and relax for a while.”
Another man appeared near the open back of the ambulance and they each took a side of the gurney, pulled it to the doors, and let the wheels fall into place.
The halls weren’t very crowded, nor were the rooms as we passed by them, which considering we were in a hospital, was probably a good thing.
“Here we are,” said the older man as he stopped in front of a room on the first floor. He went in first to grab one end of the gurney to ease it through the door as the other worker was steadying the back. They brought it right next to the bed.
“Okay, we’re gonna transfer you onto the bed now, okay?”
“Actually, I was wondering if I could try myself.” I felt some inner need to prove myself not completely useless to total strangers.
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. I’ll be fine.”
“Okay, we’ll be right next to you in case you fall, all right.” He made me feel like some eighty-year-old in nursing home, which reminds me, I wonder if the room comes with a bedpan. I’ve always wanted to use one for some reason.
I sat up on the gurney and turned so my legs dangled over the side. For any normal person, it would’ve felt like a simple hop, skip, and a jump, but right now it was looking like a rather daunting task. I planted my arms on the gurney and pushed to support myself as I eased my feet to the floor.
My first thought was, holy crap this floor is cold! My second thought was, hey this isn’t so bad. Apart from a dull pain in my back, I felt pretty much fine, if not a little week from not having eaten a regular meal in a while. I quickly moved my hands to the edge of the bed, turned myself around slowly, and pushed myself up onto it. After that, it was a short job of merely lying back and getting comfy. The older man pulled the blanket at the edge of the bed over me and left with the other worker and the gurney pulled behind him.
It’s good to be home, well, sort of.
A much needed nap satisfied me until lunchtime when I awoke to who else, mom and dad. This time, however, my brother Ty was with them. We shared a nice meal (by nice I mean solid food) and talked about how my ride home was and other crap like that. The one topic I could tell they were avoiding was about the first talk we had back in Madison. It had suddenly occurred to me that mom and dad might not have told Ty about me yet. I decided not to bring it up, that time would come when we were all ready to discuss it together, since my parents obviously were not yet.
They left back home around one and left me to flip around channels on the TV in my room for a while. The most unexpected visitor came about half an hour later.
“Hey Tommy, how are you doing,” said Father Bakers in his constant cheerful tone.
Now, Catholic priests can be pretty much summed up into one of two categories; the “old school” as I prefer to call them (you know, the fire and brimstone, all gays are going to hell type) and the more modern or liberal priests who are more accepting to what religion should teach, love and acceptance instead of hate and discrimination. Father Bakers was, thank god, a more liberal priest who’s been with our parish for several years.
“Well I’m not so sure anymore, whenever a priest comes to visit someone in a hospital, it’s never good news,” I replied. “Actually, my doctors say I should be fine. I just need a few weeks of therapy in the inpatient wing before I can be released.”
“Well, it’s good to know your doing well.”
“If you don’t mind me asking, how did you know I was here?”
“Well Tommy, you know me, I’ve got a pretty good connection with the big guy upstairs.”
I raised my eyebrow delving for more info.
“By that I mean Doctor Torring. He’s a golfing buddy of mine and actually is in charge of the physical therapy department in the second floor. Plus your mom and dad came to talk to me.”
“I suppose I can’t ask what you talked about.”
“Sorry Tommy, you know that’s confidential.”
“Yeah, but I’ve probably got a good idea anyway.”
“Tommy, just so you know, I’m all right with this. Have you ever read the Catechism of the Catholic Church? It’s basically a guideline for us Catholics which clearly points out the views of the Vatican, and what should be our views. Notice I said should.”
He pulled out a folded piece of paper from his pocket and began reading out loud. “The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided-Subject 2358.” He returned the paper to his pocket. “So that’s the church’s views”
“Yeah, except in the line right before that it said that homosexuality should quote, ‘Under no circumstances…be approved’ end quote.” I did my research too.
“I know that the church still has a long way to go when it comes to this. But if you want to know my opinion, I’ve known you for only a couple years, but I know that for you it would be about the love and not just the sex. That’s why I don’t see it as ‘intrinsically evil’ as one Old Testament book says.”
“Thanks at least for stopping by, but more importantly, to show that there is still hope for the church as long as it’s pumping out a few good priests every now and then.
“Oh Tommy, there’s plenty of good people out there, you just haven’t had the luck to meet them yet. In the meantime, if you ever need anything, my line is always open. Bye Tommy.” He got up and started heading for the door.
“Actually Father, there is one thing if you wouldn’t mind running an errand for me.”
“Of course, what do you need?”
I tore off a piece of a napkin I used for lunch and grabbed a pen on the table next to my bed. I scribbled down the name of the downtown store and the order number and handed him the paper.
“Just tell them you’re picking it up for me. It already paid for, so just drop it by when you get a chance.”
He glanced at the name of the store and looked back up at me. “I assume this is for your…umm…”
“Derrick,” he repeated with a smile and headed out the door.
With the afternoon brought my first of many sessions of physical therapy. I met Dr. Torring, of whom Father Bakers had mentioned earlier in the day. His graying hair signaled to me that he must have been in his late fifties, but his build and facial features made him look not a day past 35.
“Well Tommy, the first thing we need to do is get our to our PT center, which means getting you into this wheelchair.” He motioned to the obviously uncomfortable mode of transportation I would have to endure for hopefully only a short while. I inched my self to the edge of the bed and Dr. Torring supported me as I slowly turned myself around and lowered myself into the chair.
He wheeled me out of the room and to an elevator that was only a few yards away. I was surprised to learn that the PT center was on the second floor, which made no sense to me since it would be more difficult for people to get there who had to get there. Dr. Torring later explained that it was only temporarily here while new therapeutic pool was being constructed in the regular center.
The first thing I noticed was I felt very out of place. Everyone else receiving therapy must have been in their eighties or older, so many could hardly move, much less get around on their own.
“Well Tommy, I had a look at your x-rays and spoke on the phone to you operating surgeons back in Madison, and it looks like you got off pretty easy. All of your bones are intact; the only thing is that you’ve got a few torn muscles and ligaments on your lower back. What we’re going to do today is just kind of see how much you’ve healed and what you’re capable of doing so I can plan further therapy from here, okay?”
“Sounds great.” I’m sure he ignored the sarcastic tone of my voice, since he has probably heard a lot more complaining in his occupation.
“The first thing I want to do is have a feel at you back and see if there’s still any tenderness.” He wheeled me over to what looked like a massage table and helped me up onto it, me lying face down. “Now I want you to tell me if you feel any pain or discomfort right away.” He gently moved his fingers around my now well healed over wound and began steadily applying more force. “You still don’t feel any pain?”
“Nope, actually it kind of feels good to have it massaged.”
He removed his hand and picked up a clipboard he had attached to the side of the wheelchair. I was able to push myself up into a sitting position with more ease than I had anticipated. “All right, well that all looks pretty good then. It appears that most, if not all, of your muscle tissue has re-grown, which is pretty astounding considering it hasn’t even been a week yet. The new tissue, though, is gonna be pretty underdeveloped, so I’m going to write out a few exercises that you can do to help build back the muscle there.”
He led me through a small number of different exercises, including the “flying fish” and some good yoga techniques for stretching out the muscles. After we went through all of this, he helped me back in the wheelchair, brought me back in the room, and helped me back into bed.
“Well, I’ve got some good news for you Tommy. You’ve already healed pretty much everything you can here. I suggest you stay at least until tomorrow to build up your strength with more regular foods. Otherwise, after that, I think you should be good to go back home. I’d still like you to practice all those exercises daily, and I want you to come back once a week for a few months so I can track your progress. Good luck Tommy.” He shook my hand and left.
I immediately called home to tell mom and dad the good news. I got the machine, so I just left a message. “Hi mom and dad, its Tommy. I just got done with the physical therapist and he said I should be good to come back home tomorrow. Bye.” I thought it was kind of odd that no one would be home in the late afternoon, but I thought nothing of it.
Another uneventful hour passed before a nurse brought me one of the hospital cafeteria’s dinners. I decided to let it sit for a while since I wasn’t particularly hungry. A few minutes later mom, dad, and Ty all came knocking at the door.
“Hi Tommy, we just got your message and decided you could use a hot meal for a change. It’s your favorite.” Mom said as she held up a bag from McDonalds. I immediately knew it contents; a #2 with the cheeseburgers plain. I had fallen into the rut pf repetition since this was the meal I always ordered. I graciously took the bag and started devouring the first of the two cheeseburgers. “We also brought something else that we thought would help you out.”
I looked up from my meal and nearly choked right there on the food I was chewing when I saw Derrick standing in the doorway.