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by the way

Chapter Five

The next few weeks flew by. Lots of drinking on our part. My mom never understood exactly why Don and I spent so much time at his house. It was because of the bottomless liquor cabinet, Momsy. I’m sure that my parents must’ve known what I was doing. My oldest brother was a bit of a dolt so I’m sure they realized that there was partying going on. My middle brother? Was he a partier? To tell you the truth I have absolutely no idea. I’ve never known a more private guy in my life. Yeesh.

The first day of school for me was the same day that Don was to go to North Carolina. I was miserable. Not just deep down, but on the surface. I think I pouted the entire week before. Well at least I figured that I would be distracted by the new classes, teachers, whatever.

The evening before the first day of school I was upstairs laying on my bed, listening to music. I was trying to listen to something peppy, but since I didn’t have anything to bring me up out of my bad mood I flicked on the radio. 94-Q, later to become Star-94, where the great Ryan Idol once dj’d. That station played all of the current music that I could tolerate. Typically I was an easy listening junkie. Back in ’86 we still laughed at disco music and thought that it was a low point in American history. Even though I grew up wearing platform shoes (in the third grade, mind you) everyone still had disdain for that kind of music in the 80’s. By then we all embraced what I call the second British music invasion. Punk rock was pretty much over and more mild forms of it lingered. You’ll remember the Thompson Twins, Tears For Fears, Howard Jones; that kind of stuff.

As I was lying on my twin bed I heard the doorbell ring.

“Hey Mark! Don’s here!” my dad hollered up the stairs.

“Come on up!” I hollered back. Our house wasn’t exactly the size of Biltmore but we’re Italian so loudness comes naturally to us.

I sat up on the bed as Don came into the room.

“How’s it goin’” he said.

“Eh,” was my reply. “I’m not really looking forward to tomorrow.”

“Senior year, buddy,” he said.

“I know. Still. I’m just not really thrilled about it. This summer’s gone by so quick.”

Don sat on the floor at the foot of my bed, with his back against it. I laid back down on the bed and playfully rubbed his shoulders for a second, then took my hands off.

“Hey man, would you mind rubbing my shoulders for a second?”

The world then ceased rotating on it’s axis. Time stopped, seemingly forever. I couldn’t believe that he’d actually said that.

“For real?” I asked.

“Yeah, man, my upper back is killing me.”


“Well, lie down on the floor so I can reach you easier.” I stood up and pushed the door closed. Not that I was planning on seeing his chin-nuts, I just thought anyone walking by my door would think it odd, me rubbing his shoulders.

Don laid down on his stomach at the foot of my bed on the floor. On my desk the drafting light was on, casting a shell of light downward onto the floor. My mind was fuckin’ reeling. I was about to start rubbing the shoulders of the friend that I was secretly in love with, and that friend had asked me to do it! I was kneeling next to him looking at how his jeans hugged his muscular ass. His cotton polo shirt was very snug against his torso, his arms down along his sides.

“Well?” he said.

“Sorry man,” I mumbled.

As quickly as I could I put my hands on his shoulders and started rubbing the muscles there. Oh God! I tried not to be too sensual but was having a hard time not doing so. Slowly I kneaded the muscles in his shoulders and his neck. Even though I lusted after him I’d only observed his musculature, never really touched it. Christ, I was getting hard too. Ok, I wasn’t ‘getting’ that way. Baby, I was hard in an instant.

I slowly worked my way around his neck and rounded shoulder muscles. Then I’d fan out and start working on the backs of his biceps. I guess you’d call those his triceps. I was having the hardest time breathing. Don broke the silence first.

“So what classes do you have tomorrow?”

“Um,” gulp “Spanish 2 is first. Then physics-“

“Coach Bullock?” he asked.

“Um, I think so. Yeah.”

“He’s a goofball. What else?”

What else? I’m rubbing his shoulders and he asks me ‘what else’? What else is I’d like to start rubbing that ass of yours, ‘buddy,’ I thought.

“Uhh, journalism then World Lit.”

“Mrs. Lloyd?”

“Yep.” My dick was still rock hard. I was still rubbing his shoulders, then I started working my way down his back a bit.

“Oh man, yeah. Right there,” he grunted. So I started working on his back. I was dying. But I focused on giving him the best damn back rub I could. Up and over his shoulders, then down his arms a bit, before returning down his well muscled back. Half the time I was delirious. Why did he ask me for this, I was wondering. I’ll bet that most of you are like “because he wanted to get a piece of you!!!” I was so fuckin’ naive back then. Looking back… “What else?” he asked.

“Uhh, study hall and then Trig. I’ll work in the counselor’s office for study hall,” I said.

“Trig with Mrs. Turner?”


“Oh man, you’re gonna love her. Oh shit, that’s it,” he groaned. “You’re killing me.”

“Sorry,” I said backing off a bit.

“No, no, don’t stop. My back’s really hurtin’. I think you’re loosening it up.”

We were silent while my hands roamed all over his back and shoulders. Thank God I had tight shorts on, not that he could see my boner. Don pulled his arms up, crossed his hands, and lay his face on them. This made his biceps flex. Oh shit. I couldn’t help myself and my massage started becoming more sensual. I started at the base of his back, my hands spread open and thumb tips touching, then I’d push slowly up his back.

“Unhh,” he grunted. I think I was shaking a bit at that point. “God that feels so good,” he muttered.


“I heard from Elizabeth today,” he said. My hands paused for a second before continuing.


“She wanted to say goodbye.”

“Where was she going,” still rubbing his back.

“Georgia Southern.”

“Ahh,” I said. The muscles in his back were so damned sexy.

“It’s best that we stay apart,” he said.

“Why’s that?”

“Well, my parents never liked her. At least my mom didn’t.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“I dunno. Probably because I liked her.”

“Hm,” was my response. I still had about 165 pounds of muscle beneath my hands. I could’ve cared less about his ex-girlfriend.

“One time she came over and was feeling sick, so I put her in the guest bed and pulled the covers up over her. I sat on the bed and was watching television with her.”

“On the covers?”

“Yeah. Mom came in and saw us, then she left the room and called Elizabeth’s mom and told her that we were having sex.”

“Did you?”

“No,” he said, defending himself.

“Dude, it doesn’t matter to me.”

“I mean, I was just sitting there until she felt better.”

“That was pretty crappy of you mom,” I said.

“Tell me about it. Elizabeth couldn’t come over anymore after that.”

I was still rubbing his back. I was also still sporting wood.

“Can I ask you something personal?” I said.

“Of course.”

Then I did it. I don’t know why I did it, but I did. I took my hands off of his back and placed them onto the back of his thighs. Don tensed up a little bit.

“Have you ever made love before?” Now I have absolutely no fuckin’ idea why I asked that question. It didn’t make any difference to me.

Quietly Don said, “Yes, I have. Why?”

I was rubbing his legs a bit, from the knee to below the ass. “You know bud, I have no idea why I asked that,” I said chuckling.

Suddenly he pushed himself up off the floor, drew his legs up under him and sat back against my bed, feet flat on the floor, resting his arms on his knees. “Thanks man, now I feel like I can move again.”

“No problem,” I said. That's great, because I couldn't move. If I stood up it would’ve been obvious to anyone with vision that I was excited, to say the least. “What time do you leave tomorrow?”

“We’re leaving around 10 o’clock. It’s only about a five hour drive.”

I nodded. Looking down at my feet, picking up some imaginary lint off of the carpeting, I said, “Weekend nights aren’t gonna be the same, man.”

“Neither are weeknights,” he agreed.

“Will you get home much?” I was really in agony. I felt like a part of my heart was gone. He and I had spent so much time together, shared so much together, that I couldn’t imagine what it’d be like without Don. I knew he wasn’t really comfortable with expressing feelings and I didn’t want to sound all slobbery and mushy. Face it, he was 18 and I was 16, both teenage guys who still enjoyed a certain amount of bravado. It’s when you get older, into and after college that it becomes acceptable to hug another guy, slapping them on the back in the 1,2,3 or “I’m” “not” “gay” back slap before stepping quickly away. Like that? I learned that on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

“Probably not too much. Definitely at Thanksgiving and Christmas.”

I just nodded.

“Sounds like you’re gonna be pretty busy at school,” he said, obviously changing the subject.

“I guess so.” I wanted to tell him so much how I felt. How much he meant to me. I hadn’t had a close friend like that, ever. And I felt like I was getting gypped because we’d only had the one year. Such is the thinking of a 16-year-old. One year was an eternity to me. I looked up and locked eyes with him. “I had an absolute blast this summer,” I said.

He smiled slightly. “Me too, buddy.” I thought I could see sadness in his eyes but wasn’t really sure. “Well,” he said standing up, “I love you like a brother, buddy.” You gotta know something. He didn’t say this slow and mature like a grown-up would. He said it as he was standing and it came out kinda strained and fast.

“Me too,” I said.

“Thanks for the back,” he said, and he seemed to hurry out the door of my room.

I chuckled a bit. “Anytime.”

As he was heading down the stairs he turned to look at me for a second. I couldn’t read the look, though, then he kept going. I followed him downstairs, opened the front door and stepped out onto the porch, watching the v-shaped back and perfect fucking ass as he walked to his car. I knew if I followed him there I’d lose it.

“Call me when you know your new phone number,” I said.

“I will. Take care buddy,” Don said.

“Have a safe trip, man.”

The door closed and the engine turned over. He pulled away from the house, waved to me, and turned onto the main road outside my subdivision. I sighed and waved back. Long after he was gone I stared down the road.

He was gone.

* * * *

I went back inside and headed up to my room. Just as I was shutting the bedroom door my mom put her hand on it and stepped into the room. “Can I ask you something?” she said.

I was sort of bewildered. “Um. Yeah. What?”

“Are you on drugs?” I laughed out loud. “I’m serious. Are you and Don taking drugs.”

She actually was serious, which irritated me. “No!” I said, pretty firmly. “Why would you think that?” This was so odd. My mom had never asked me anything like that and I didn’t think I’d ever given my parents reason to think that I’d been doing drugs.

“Because ever since you started hanging around him you’ve been acting really strange.” She looked as though she didn’t quite believe my answer.

“No, Mom,” I said, like dumb-ass “I’m not into drugs. And neither is Don, for that matter.”

“Well you have been acting really odd, out of character lately. For a while actually.”

“Ok?” I said.

“I’m serious, Paul. I don’t want you doing drugs.”

“Mom, I’m not doing drugs!” Now I was getting pissed off. “Don doesn’t do drugs. Neither one of us do. This is crazy,” I said.

“Well,” she said, backing down a bit, “you better not.” Back then the drug of choice was weed, and what was considered hardcore was coke, but most of the people who did it were looked down on by the potheads. Cool, man. Today the kids are using crystal meth and heroin. Not quite what I’d call an advance in society.

“Ok, Mom.” Maybe she was going through ‘the change.’ She could tell that I wasn’t doing drugs, but definitely my behavior had changed over the past few months. Everything I did evolved around Don and I wondered if she was the only one to take notice. Mom left the room and closed the door.

* * * *

“Paul, wait up!”

I heard the voice as I approached the school on the first day of my senior year, turned and saw Kent coming up towards me from the parking lot. Now that we were seniors we had first parking privileges. That was great because it meant that you didn’t have to park so damned far from the school on some damn street.

“Hey man, how’s it goin’?”

“Awesome! How was your summer?” he asked.

“Dude I had a blast. You?”

“I went back to Mobile for a couple of months and spent some time with my dad.”


“Man, we’re seniors! From this day on, we rule the school!” he said, and I laughed. Kent clapped me on the back as we headed toward the cafeteria. I didn’t expect to see Charles that early. He lived right next door to the school and usually he rolled in about 30 seconds before the first bell rang, his hair still wet from a shower.

First bell finally rang and a collective groan rose as everyone got up to go to first period. I sauntered into Spanish 2. There were only a few seniors in the class; the rest of the students were juniors. Goody. I recognized another senior named Deanna. I don’t recall her last name now, but I remember that rumor had it she’d gotten knocked up twice by her boyfriend and had an abortion each time. That must have sucked. I ended up sitting with her but looked around for some other senior that I might know. I figured that some of the people from my class last year would be in here. Guessed wrong!

As I was sitting sideways in my chair, only half paying attention to what Deanna was jabbering about, I saw this dude come into class. Alan Collin. He was a junior but I’d recognized him as someone I’d seen around school. He was a football player and even though I knew most of the seniors on the team, I really didn’t know any of the juniors. What got my attention in the first place was his jeans, or rather what was in them. You know, what can I say - I like checkin' guys out. I'm not trying to be lewd. He was really cute and had short-ish brown hair and hazel eyes. He ended up sitting in the same row as me but two seats over. Then this other skinny little dude, David Harrison, came and sat down in front of him. The two were obviously friends. I had known David from the time I was in the seventh grade because he and I rode the same bus.

David didn’t notice me so I took my Spanish book and threw it at him, or rather at his desk. He jumped at the noise.

“How ya doin’ shithead?” he said.

“Fine, prick,” I responded.

“Nice!” Deanna said.

“It’s ok,” I said. “I’ve known this shit-suck since elementary school.”

“How’s your mom?” David asked. “She still bent over from me nailin’ her?”

“Oh shit!” from Deanna.

“Yeah,” I said. “Just like your daddy is after I fucked him up the ass.”

“Oh my God,” Alan laughed. “Please tell me y’all are jokin’.”

“How you doin’ pal? Did y’all have a good summer?” I asked David.

“Yeah. Just swam a lot. You?”

“Drank a lot.” That got them all laughing.

“That’s what I heard,” Alan said.

“Huh?” That got my attention because again, he and I had never formally met.

“With Don Keller, right?” he said.

“Well, yeah,” I looked over at Deanna.

“He’s friends with that dude, Carl, right? Well, he and Carl friends with my older brother and apparently Don’s been talking to Steve, my brother.”

I kinda shook my head. “Um. Ok?”

“Word travels fast,” said David. “Of course we shouldn’t be surprised at an Irish kid drinking.” I'm Italian and Irish.

Turning to Alan I asked, “Have your balls met David’s chin yet?” He got really red at that and said nothing. “Dude, sorry! I was just trying to bust on him. I’m Paul,” I said, finally introducing myself to him. David just kept laughing and Deanna was grossed out.

“Guys are such pigs.”

“I’m Alan,” he said to me. I nodded back and glanced down at his crotch. What a freakin’ package! I looked back up and he was watching me.

The rest of the day went well. I could tell that I wasn’t going to like physics because it required thinking. I wasn’t really interested in thinking. Journalism was pretty cool. Our class had the first Mac (as in Apple) in the school. It was a pretty big deal because up until then all of the newspaper layouts had to be on blue lined paper. Now, we could use the computer to type our articles on, and then layout the paper, all at once. Just a few steps above the Commodore. Ok, maybe more than a few.

World Lit didn’t really pump my nads. I could care less about Homer or Dante. Fifth period was study hall, so I elected to work in the counselor’s office which guaranteed that I wouldn’t be bored to suicide.

Then came sixth period; Trig. The only math that I was really exceptional at was geometry. I hated doing proofs in the beginning of it, but everything else was practical to me. Trigonometry with all of it’s imaginary numbers and shit – damn, if they’re imaginary, why am I concerned in the first place? My teacher was Mrs. Turner. She reminded me of Florence from “The Jeffersons,” attitude and all. Mrs. Turner loved teaching and it showed, but she would no more put up with crap from us teenagers than she would her own kids. Everyday I would just start laughing at something she’d say, or do, or if she’d gripe at some moron who wasn’t quite paying attention. She’d say “Lyons, what’re you laughin’ at now.”

“You’re just so funny,” I’d say, still laughing.

Then she’d smile really big, catch herself and say something like, “You’d better do less laughin’ and more payin’ attention.”

“Yes ma’am.” Still laughing.

That first day, when I got back home, I expected to see a phone message from Don, leaving his number. It was kind of dumb because I’m sure he was still moving his stuff into the dorms. Luckily I had to work that evening, which was rare during the school week, and I was able to be distracted somewhat. When I came home that night, still no message.

Next day. No message. Huh. Okay, Don’s getting settled in. I can dig it.

Third day. Still no message. Damn. I wasn’t pissed, I was just hurt.

Day four. No message. Time to call the drunken mom.

“Hey there Mrs. Keller, it’s Mark, how’ya doin’?” I asked.

“Oh hello Mark.” She always managed to sound pleasant to me on the phone. It was hard to imagine her any different, but I guess booze’ll do that to ya. “How are you doing?” she asked.

“I’m fine. Say, I was wondering if you had a number for Don yet.”

“You know, honey,” she called me ‘honey’ on the phone a lot, “he doesn’t have a phone in his room yet, but there’s a pay phone number that you can call and they can run get him. Would you like that number?”

“Yes ma’am.” I wrote down the number, hung up, and called the number she just gave me.

It rang about ten times before some guy picked it up.

“Hello.” He sounded like a dumb jock.

“Um, yeah, I’m trying to reach Don Keller?”

“You know what room he’s in?” he asked.

“Oh, shit no, I forgot-“

“So how you’s figurin’ I’m gonna know.” Long Island accent. Great.

“Dude, I’m sorry-“

“Don!!! Don Keller!!!” he yelled down the hallway. Jesus.

I heard Don in the distance. “Yo!” Yo? When does he say ‘Yo?’

“Someone on the phone for you!”

I heard his voice closer. “Who is it?”

“Whaddam-I, your secretary?” yankee boy said.

“No,” Don said, “you’re prettier.”

“Fock you, dude,” then I heard Don laughing.

“Hello?” His voice.

“Hey man, what’s up?”

“Paul! How’re ya doin’? Sorry I haven’t called yet. Things are kind of crazy getting settled in here.”

“No problem man. Say, when’re you gonna get a phone?”

“Eh. I’m not sure. You have to have a calling card, or whatever, and I’m not sure if I can do that yet.” Back then there were no ‘anytime minutes’ or whatever. Long distance phone calls weren’t exactly cheap, and calling cards were somewhat new.

“That’s ok,” I said.

“So how’s school, buddy?”

“It’s goin’ alright. We haven’t really gotten into anything yet. You know, first few days and all.”

“Dude will you knock it off?” I could hear that his mouth was turned away from the phone a bit and he was laughing. “I’m on the friggin’ phone, asshole,” still laughing.

“That your girlfriend?” I heard the voice say.

“Who’s that?” I asked.

“My roommate Arnie, the midget prick,” he said. I heard the recognizable sound of a fist hitting a shoulder, and then Don saying “Ow! You short bastard!” You could hear the laughter in his voice.

“Arnie? Someone named their kid Arnie?” I said. It sounded like the two of them were wrestling the whole time I was trying to talk.

“Who’s that?” I heard Arnie say.

“It’s my friend Paul,” Don said.

“Lemme talk to him-“

“Dude!-“ I heard Don say, then Arnie was on the line.

“How ya doin’ Paul?” This boy had a real country accent.


“How ya know Don?” he asked me. What the fuck?

“From high school. How do you know him?”

“We’re roomies.”

“You really a midget?” I asked. This guy would annoy the stink off of shit.

“No! I couldn’t play ball if I was.”

“Y’all gonna be on the same team?” I asked.


“Cool. Say, how about putting Don back on the phone?”

“Aww man. Don’tcha wanna talk to Arnie?” he said.

“You been drinkin’ son?”

He laughed at this. Mental giant. “Naw, I’m just cuttin’ up.”

“Hmm. Don’t you have a jock strap to tug at?”

He burst out laughing again at this. “Don! He says, ‘don’t you have a jock to tug at?’ This boy’s a trip!”

“Gimme the phone.” I heard it being twisted back and forth. “Sorry man,” Don said talking to me again.

“Let me guess. Astrophysicist?”

He died laughing at that. “Nope. Something to do with engineering.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“No, road construction or surveying. Something like that.”

“Ahh. So he’s your roommate, huh.”

“Yeah, he’s pretty cool. We clicked the minute we met.” Ouch. “He’s a really nice guy, for an asshole.” This last word he shouted down the hall and I heard “Fuck you, Keller” in return.

“Well I’d better get goin’. I know y’all got some serious things to discuss” he laughed at this “and I’d better get down to dinner.”

“Hey buddy, thanks for calling. I’ll give you a holler sometime soon.”

“Sounds good man. Take care.”

“Good night,” he said.

* * * *

The first few weeks of school were like ‘eh, whatever.’ I couldn’t stand physics. My first observation was right - too much thinking.

Then the school, or our class, experienced a tragedy.

It happened on a Friday at a nearby shopping mall. Two senior girls had gone shopping and were leaving the mall. It wasn’t at night. They weren’t drinkin’ or partyin’. They were on their way home. Christina, who was the girl driving, had pulled out of the mall onto the main road and was waiting in traffic at a red light next to a MARTA bus. She had a passenger with her, a friend named Karla. Out of the blue some guy in a pickup truck came flying out of the parking lot, couldn’t stop in time and t-boned Christina’s car, pushing it into the bus. The bus crushed Karla’s side of the car and she fell into a coma.

I didn’t really hang out with them, or know them that well, but Karla had been in my American history class the year before. I remember her as being the sweetest girl. She never had anything bad to say about anyone; was kind to everyone she knew. She was just an absolute sweetheart. Because I didn’t really know the girls that well I didn’t hear about the accident until homeroom the following Monday, when another friend of theirs asked us all during the morning announcements to think about Karla and please observe a moment of silence. I was stunned.

The bell rang to change classes and I left homeroom, then headed to Spanish. I was still in shock. I guess what hit me the hardest was that this girl was doing absolutely nothing wrong. She was just sitting in her seat when she got crushed into a fuckin’ bus. I wondered how she was doing. How her family was. I wondered if she knew what had happened to her, or if it was so quick that she was unaware. I sat down at my desk. Deanna was at her seat going over some notes for a test we were supposed to have that day. I could hear people walking by in the halls talking, laughing, whatever. I just stared at the top of my desk. Deanna turned around to face me.

“Hey Paul-“ she started to say something. “Hey, you okay?” she asked.

Suddenly I saw how young I was, 16, and how quickly my life could end at the drop of a dime. In a flash I saw how fragile life really was and how so many people took it for granted. A million thoughts raced through my mind in the nanosecond it took me to respond.

“No.” My voice wavered. “I’m not.” And then the dam burst. At least the floodgates did. Silently I sobbed at the tragic way that I was sure Karla’s life would end. “It’s not fair,” I repeated, over and over.

Deanna just rubbed my back. “I know,” she said. “I know.”

The late bell rang and our teacher came into the classroom. By now everyone was in their seats. I looked up and saw that David and Alan were watching me. They both looked concerned.

“Dude,” Alan said, “you okay?”

I turned to Deanna. “They don’t know, do they.” She shook her head.

“Alright class, put your books away.” The teacher set her things on her desk to take role. I was sitting five feet from her but she never said a word about my demeanor. Dumb ass. She passed out the tests. I remember putting my name at the top. Out of fifty questions I think I answered six. I just sat there staring at the paper, numb. Finally we turned in our exams and the teacher started grading them.

“Paul?” she said, looking up.

I looked up through tear swollen eyes.

“Paul, is everything alright? You’ve hardly answered anything on your test.”

I could sense Deanna, David and Alan looking at me. “Ma’am,” I said, “a classmate of mine was in a car wreck and is now in a coma. It’s doubtful that she’ll survive the accident. Forgive me if I don’t…can’t concentrate on the test.” My tone must have been pretty bad because you could’ve heard a pin drop. “I’m sorry ma’am, I just don’t care about the test right now.”

She tried to be as compassionate as she could. “Well, I can’t let you re-take it. I’m sorry about your friend but…”

“It’s okay.” And actually it was. She ended up letting me do some extra credit to make up for the fucked up test. She didn’t have to, but she was just nice that way.

Four days later Karla’s parents elected to have her life support turned off. She was brain dead and passed twenty minutes later.

That whole week I tried to reach Don. I really needed to talk to him. He was my friend, and I soon realized, my rock. I called twice every night that week and always had to leave messages with the schnook from Long Island. I didn’t understand why he wasn’t calling me back. It was like that summer after tenth grade when he told me to call him in my annual.

That week was also when my nightmares began, bringing back a flood of memories that, though always there on the surface, I thought I had managed to get over. I kept waking up in a sweat. God, how did those memories resurface? And why were they most vivid when I was asleep? When it was dark? When I felt the most vulnerable? When I was the most alone. They were never continuous dreams, just flashes.

“Hey Paul,” the voice said, “don’t worry, everyone does it. Doesn’t that tickle?” And “You’re such a funny kid. I really like being with you. Do you like me?” And “Here. Watch. I can make it bounce up and down.” At the time I just laughed because I didn’t know any better. What eight-year-old would. Over time things progressed. There was some thrill about not getting caught, because he said we shouldn’t talk about it. I never did.

That’s what the dreams were about. I could see his face but who could I tell? Why did this all come crashing back now? I needed something, someone. My best friend, my surrogate brother. I needed Don. I didn’t want to tell him about it because I was too embarrassed. I couldn’t tell my parents either, for the same reason. God, I felt so alone. I had a ton of people that I hung out with, yet I was all alone. I just needed to hear Don’s voice. That’s all.

Karla’s funeral was the following Tuesday and most of the senior class attended. All of the girls were basket cases, and a lot of the guys cried as well. I was one of those crying.

All the way home from the cemetery I just kept thinking about life. How miserable it had all been. Everything good seemed to be taken from me over and over again. I couldn’t shake the goddamned memories. Why is it that people can come in and out of your life but memories can’t? My childhood was taken by probing and grasping hands. My best friend had left me. Sure I could remember the good times with him, but it was pretty damn obvious that he had moved on with his life. At least to me at the time it seemed obvious. Then I kept thinking of those shitty memories of my childhood. Unfortunately all of the good memories couldn’t overtake those bad few.

I really needed Don.

I called his dorm again and Long Island answered. “Yo.”

“Can I speak to Don?”

“Hey, is this Paulie?”

“Yes, it is,” I said quietly.

“Bro’, I don’t know what’s up wid him, I’ve written your messages on his door every time you called. Has he not called you yet?”

“No. He hasn’t.”

“Well, I think he’s in class right now-“

I interrupted him. “Could you please, please, tell him to call me. It’s sort of an emergency.”

“Yeah man. In fact, I just saw Arnie go into their room and I’ll tell him myself.”

“Thanks,” I managed to get out.

“Hey, you okay bro’?”

“No. No I’m not.” And I hung up the phone. He’d gotten many messages that he didn’t return. Wouldn’t return. I didn’t understand. Why would he do that? Whatever happened to the ‘loved me like a brother,’ and all that shit?

I really needed him. Now. I was miserable after Karla’s funeral and I couldn’t get those awful childhood memories from my head. I started crying again, this time by myself in my room. The door was shut and my family was on the other side, but I felt so alone. The pain in my heart was too much to take. I had to get rid of the memories. I hated the idea of remembering those stroking, groping hands for the rest of my life.

I could see the writing on the wall, concerning Don. Our friendship was over, almost as quickly as it had begun. What killed me was that I couldn’t explain why, because I didn’t know why. The more I thought the more I spiraled into a deeper depression.

There was only one way out of it.

I took a deep breath and opened my door, then stepped out into the hall towards the bathroom. I couldn’t believe what I was about to do. I had always thought of people who made this decision as losers, but I had never been in their shoes. I slowly made my way to the bathroom and opened the medicine cabinet. Tylenol. Surely, that would do the trick. A big fat bottle of Tylenol. Boy, that’d wipe out all memory for sure.

I started laughing at that. I laughed so hard I cried. Then I started laughing. Again.

“Paul, are you okay?” I heard my mother call to me. Why was everyone asking me that?

I kept laughing and then something clicked in my mind. If I had committed suicide, who would know why I did it? Nobody! Then I’d become one of those ‘losers’. Oh my God! What was I thinking? Kill myself? Over a lost friend and some awful memories? Oh, helllll no! No fuckin’ way was I gonna go out like that. It just wasn’t gonna happen. What would my friends think of me? Sure they’d cry at my funeral, but then the questions would start. What a completely selfish thing it would be, I thought, to kill myself.

Over Don.

Over being molested.

I took a deep breath. Then another one. “Yeah, Mom, I’m okay,” I hollered back. I put the Tylenol back on the shelf and closed the mirror. I was okay. I was going to be just fine. With or with out Don Keller as my friend. With or without painful memories of abuse. What a dumb ass, I thought, walking back to my room, shaking my head.

Just then the phone rang. “Paul! Don’s on the phone.”

Things were gonna be just fine.

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in Mark's own words - I'm a great big goofball who loves music and loves to sing. I'm in the home building industry and have my own company. I'm not really into sports and am mostly a homebody; I like reading, watching movies and hanging out with friends. Please feel free to e-mail me if you would like to discuss my stories - or anything else for that matter. Markp>

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