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one for the road

Chapter Two

October 2006

Jason was silent for a few moments. “What exactly happened to your arm?” he continued undeterred.
“Really Jason it’s pointless.” Shit he knew something. Was I really that obvious?
To my relief the warning bell rang sending me off to the hallowed halls of learning and leaving a speechless Jason in the passenger side of my car. I was in no mood to talk about this, and I know that getting these thoughts out of my mind would be priority number one.
If only it were that easy. I spent the whole day with my mind on Josh and Mar running around in my head. I had feelings for both of them, but I know that each of them was dead to me emotionally. The best thing for me to do was jus move on. Josh would be relatively easy to get over just because I never even see him any more. Unfortunately I see Mar every day during my last class of the day; and worse yet I have to suffer through watching him change in the locker room. He was beautiful and he was forbidden to me. So each day I watched him out of the corner of my eyes just like I use to, only now I couldn’t pretend to look past him and that aura of awkwardness was thicker in the air. That seemed to be the story of me. Nothing could ever go right for me. I knew that I could not live a normal life being gay and in the closet but I was at least hoping to had a friend who I could trust. I guess I can’t even get that.
It was not until Friday that I felt a bit better. The stress of my double life was pressing down on me more than usual. Suffering through the awkwardness between the only people who reached out to me while enduring my own and rather unpleasant thoughts. But when the finial bell sounded out over the campus signaling the release of probably the worst drivers in the city, I was exuberant about the end of my most awkward of weeks. All that was left was to swing by work and pick up my paycheck and I could go home and try to forget about all of the voices and faces haunting me.
The parking lot of Gribbly’s was packed when I got there. Normally on Fridays the story is pretty busy, but nothing like it is now. Every checkout lane had a cashier in it and every lane was full. On my way to the customer service counter the person in charge of the front end, Will Schlaudt, ran up to me and asked me to come in and help out. With college coming up I really needed the hours and the money so I told him that I would after I picked up my check. Within 30 minutes I was home, changed, and back to work ready to man my register. Customer after customer came and went and before I knew it my first break had arrived.
Fifteen minutes of leisure break time I was back down on the busy floor. I don’t know if it was the stress of the busy store or because we were almost out of about half of the sale items, but as the night wore on customers became bitchier and bitchier until I blatantly told one little old woman that if she wanted her pudding that was on sale then she should have came to the store earlier. This didn’t sit well with her for some unknown reason. This lady actually had the nerve to go to the PIC and complain to him that there was no more pudding left and I was being “very unprofessional” as she put it. I wanted to slap her around like a rag doll but I couldn’t because it was a public place and that sort of action would get my ass fired. So I calmly helped the next customers in line one after another. Nobody else had any trouble finding what they needed and one customer even had, believe it or not, the sale pudding that we were supposedly out of. When I got to this item I looked at the guy, who must have been only a few years older than me, and told him, “there was a little old woman who was just in here looking for this.”
The man smiled at me and said in a quiet voice, “I know, I saw her walking towards it and grabbed it before she got there.” I don’t know how I kept myself from laughing but it must have been something. “You know what?” He continued, “I don’t think she need any more pudding anyway.” That got me and I had to act like I was grabbing a pricing book out of the drawer to hide my smiles from everyone else in my lane.
The night wore on and soon the bitchy customers left and were replaced with the normal crowd of families grabbing last minute groceries for the weekend. I have always thought about proposing a theory on the less a person is doing, the slower time actually goes by. But that just sounds crazy even though it works out to be true. It just died at Gribbly’s and slowly but surely the other cashiers and carry-outs left. Will came up to me and thanked me profusely before he let me leave early. I waved it off and walked down to the punch clock which was flashing 9:30 pm. A solid 6 hours of work would amount to a nice add-on to the paycheck. But what I was really surprised about was how dark it was outside. I added on a few extra little twists and turns to my route home which put the time at 10 to 10. Not bad. With any luck today could actually be a good day.
My parents were home when I got there, but to my dismay they were awake. It’s not that I don’t like my parents. No I love them with all my heart. The thing is I just feel so awkward around them; like I’m violating some secret taboo just by saying hello. The second I walked in the door the barrage of questions came questioning my day and where I had been. I told them that I was at work because they needed me. My mom commented that if she knew I was there she would have called me to have me pick up some groceries for the weekend. I volunteered to go back there and pick them up mostly because I didn’t want to sit around in my room and do nothing the rest of the night. Before I left my parents yelled out to me that it was about to rain. To me this was a preposterous idea because the sky was mostly clear when I was driving home. Low and behold when I got out of the house I could feel the cool rain beating down on me. But I guess that’s what I get. If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes and you’ll wish it was back.
The rain was really a welcome for me because I love the rain. I rolled down my window and let the rain cascade down through my open window.
Having his brights on in the city should have given him away in an instant. Either that or the way he never slowed down for the bright can’t-miss-it red stoplight that beckoned him for my sake to stop, cease, or at least desist his ruthless speeding. But none of that really mattered when the grill and front bumper of his 4runner smashed not only into the car door, but into me as well. One safety feature of the Olds Mobiles that I really appreciate is how the door paneling can absorb so much impact. But that was also where the problem lies. The paneling can take a good beating, but the glass window can’t. It shattered in seconds and sprayed me with razor sharp shards of glass. Everything blurred itself as the obviously drunk driver not only hit my car, but continued to push the not exactly small Delta 88 over all the way to the curb. The last thing I remember seeing was the forest green battering ram back away from my crumpled heap of a car, turned around, and drove away as nonchalant as I have ever seen. The red taillights that sped away seemed to laugh at me and show me that no matter how great of a day I was having, I was doomed to pain and suffering.
A black MX5 passed by the intersection of 66th Street and 146th Ave. The carnage of the scene caused the driver, a bleached blonde man in his early thirties slammed on his breaks. It took driver a few moments to recognize where he knew the unfortunate occupant of the thrashed car from. Instantly the driver’s blue eyes welled up with tears of sorrow for the unfortunate soul in the other mass of metal. Before the MX5 even came to a stop the blonde haired driver had his cell phone to his ear. “Hello, 911? My name is Paul Wenzel and I need to report an accident.”
A pain like no other rushed its way into my unconscious mind dragging it back from the peaceful reaches of a comatose sleep into the waking world. At first it was a small twinge bothering my already scary dreams but soon I just couldn’t stay asleep anymore. My eyes bolted open and I tried to sit up, which was a big mistake. My pain not only cut off pretty much all strength coming from my abdominal region, but the attempt caused my abs to flex which really hurt my chest and stomach. Hopelessly weak I gave up and sat back. I used the switches on the bed instead to prop myself into a position where I could get a better vantage point to survey the severely under furnished room, which was painted a really horrible grey-blue color that seemed to say ‘wow your sick and that sucks’. Really it was an ugly room, except for one thing. There was a vase of flowers, roses to be precise, sitting on the oddly sized table. Now I don’t know a whole lot about flowers and what they mean, but I do know that a rose symbolizes love. So it couldn’t have been my parents who sent me them. The only people I could think of would be Jason, but he’s with Adam, or it could be Josh or Mar. Other than that I don’t have any friends.
I heard a loud boom and then a shriek coming from the doorway. Stupidly I whipped my head around to see who it was. After the blinding pain subsided my eyes were greeted by three things of importance: Paul, Lee, and a vase of flowers. Mentally I checked off Paul and Lee from the list of possibilities. “Oh my God are you alright Kyle?”
As much as I respect Paul I had to say, “no Paul I’m dead.”
“Well he’s fine,” said Lee in a much more relaxed voice. “But seriously, what happened?”
I went through the tale of what happened to me while Paul and Lee sat back and listened. When I finished my tale I had a question for the two of them. “So Paul, Lee, how did u find out that I was here anyway?” I asked them.
Silence was my response. “Well,” started Paul, “I was driving down 66th street when I came to the corner of 146th Ave. and saw the carnage from the accident. It was pretty bad. I don’t know how much u remember but the car was pushed all the way into curb and the driver’s side was obliterated. When I found you there was glass and blood all over the place. Unfortunately I did not see who did it, but I hope u did.” A shake of my head more or less confirmed my fears that the perpetrator would never be caught.
“So Kyle, who brought you the other vase of flowers?” Lee asked giving a much welcomed subject change. “It looks really nice.”
“I don’t know,” I told him. “It was there when I woke up. But who ever left it for me either knows me really well or has a thing for me because I love roses. It’s just the mystique about them and their elegance. Anyway, I really don’t know who left it.” Well, what would I want more? Would I rather have it be someone who knows me and have this be a token of friendship or do I want it to be a potential suitor? As of right now, I’m sick of friends. I want to feel whole, needed, loved. Please oh please let this be a suitor.
Once again the door burst open only this time a troop of rowdy teenagers emerged through the gateway to the outside. “Oh my God oh my God oh my God are you alright Kyle?” Adam rasped as he ran over to my bed and game me a hug, “we only just heard. How did this happen?” I recapped my story once again for the four while two bouquets of flowers and a box of chocolates were added to my gift collection on the bedside table. “So you don’t even know who did it?” Adam asked after the story. I shook my head and the others mumbled something about a bastard, decapitation, and castration; each of which I thought was more than fitting as a punishment.
For the next half hour the seven of us made small talk. I asked how everyone found out about me and Jason said that Lee had called and told him. Josh asked how Remember When was going and we were just enjoying each other’s company. The door opened up one more time and almost expectantly my parents walked through the door. “Hello Kyle, how are you feeling?” He asked. I told him I was feeling good which seemed to be all he wanted to hear. “And who might all of these,” my father said before he looked around, “gentlemen be?”
Damn, what to tell him about Paul and Lee? “Those four over there are Adam, Josh, Jason, and Mar. They’re friends of mine from school.” Lee seemed to have an idea in his head. Very subtly he pointed at Jason and mouthed ‘brother’ to me. Brilliant. “That over there,” I continued, “is Lee, he’s Jason’s brother. And this over here is Paul, the guy who called an ambulance for me after I got hit. He is a very nice guy and I owe him a lot,” I told my parents.
“Thank you very much Mr...”
“Wenzel,” said Paul.
“Thank you Mr. Wenzel. If there is anything we can do to repay you even a little bit please ask,” said my father.
“Wenzel, Wenzel, wait a minute, don’t you own the Remember When Café?” My mother asked.
“Yes I do. I have owned it since I moved here about six years ago from Australia and I love it. You should stop by sometime,” said Paul. I gave him a wink and he smiled back. This was turning out to be a pretty good lie.
After another few minutes of much more refined small talk my parents graciously asked if they could have a few moments alone with me. My father, mother, and I bade Jason, Josh, Adam, Mar, Paul, and Lee goodbye as they left. “So what happened?” My father asked. For a third time I retold my story to my parents. “Well I’m glad you are alright. You looked pretty bad last night when they took you into the emergency room. The way you were bleeding and the way your ribs looked the doctors thought you might have cut a few arteries. Thankfully you are fine now.”
After a few minutes a nurse came in and said that I needed my rest and that my parents would have to leave if they wanted me to be well enough to be out of the hospital for class on Monday. My parents took this with good faith and soon were on the way out of the hospital. I made it a point to thank the nurse the next time she came in. She gave me a big smile and went about her work.
I had nothing to do for the next two days, and I really wanted to get out of here, so I followed the nurse’s instructions and got as much sleep as I could. I entertained myself in the waking hours with some books my parents had dropped off and homework I had to do over the weekend.
Sunday evening the doctor sent me home with a note to my teachers telling them to take it easy on me and lighten the homework load; I made sure to give the nurse a wink and a smile for that little bit.
With the new school day came a new rush of rumors, most of which pertained to me. Somehow word got out that I was hit by a car and in the hospital for a few days, but I really didn’t care. My shoulder was wrapped up and so was my chest so it’s not like I was going to be able to hide it anyways. What I really wanted to know was who knew about that so they could tell people? But it didn’t really matter to me. Actually it would be better: I would have a few days grace period before the normal idiots of the school made my life a living hell. Anyone seen picking on the guy who was just in an accident would be disgraced beyond belief. So essentially I was in the clear for a few days. Unfortunately, that was not what kept bothering me. Each face that my eyes scanned was just another possibility as to the identity of my secret admirer, or at the very least well wisher.
My ears perked themselves to heavy footfalls behind me. The possibility that my assumption of the grace period was null and void raced into my mind and I braced myself for the worst. At the very least I had to turn to face my undamaged right shoulder to who ever it was that was hastily approaching me. Before I even made it all the way around my side decided to get on with the pain that I knew was coming and shot jolts of electric pain pulsating out of the epicenter near my rotator cup. But the painful check into the lockers never came. I allowed myself to look out of the corner of my eye and directly into the least likely face: Zach Aya’s compassionate face. Zach Aya has been, since 7th grade, one of the worst to me. Weather it be a dropped shoulder as he walks by, a hip check into my locker, or a stray foot in the cafeteria Aya has always been a major problem in my life. To see him look at me with almost civil compassion and concern scared me more than seeing him walk by. “I heard about what happened over the weekend and it made me think about what has happened over the past few years and how I have treated you. And, well, I just want to say I’m sorry for all of that and if there is anything you need, please feel free to ask me.”
I had to put my hand against my locker to keep myself from falling over. This guy was responsible for five years of cowering, four years of low self esteem, and three years of self loathing. For him to just come out and apologize to me was a real blow. But unfortunately for Zach, he has five solid years of discredit to make up for with a claim like this. Then again he could be a useful ally if I made the right move. I turned to face him full on and accept his apology but he was gone.
My locker…that’s right I was at my locker and needed to get something out of it. Books! I needed to get some of my books out of it for something. The encounter with Zach seemed to make my mind overload and restart. Reality came back to me slowly but surely. Another few seconds and my combination appeared in my mind. A few unsuccessful attempts later the right combination came back to me and I had my locker open, which presented me with another challenge. My left side was useless to me in terms of strength so I had to do everything right handed. Not a problem when you are ambidextrous, but it poses quite a problem for a task that requires the use of two hands, such as loading books into my backpack. I didn’t even have to try doing it all with only one hand to know that the books were just too bulky to do at once so I was reduced to the menial task of unloading my backpack book by book to make room for the books I would need, book by book. It took two more of the six minutes of our “break time” to finish with all of my books, which left me with only two minutes to cross campus to my A. P. Chemistry class. One last look to make sure of I had everything turned to useful when I noticed a folded piece of paper lying on the floor beneath my locker.

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