You Pass This Way But Once

The Long Vigil

My parents and I talked for a while, as they tried to distract me from the sadness and harsh reality of the situation.  My mom also handed me a small bag containing a change of clothes and some toiletries, so I went into the shower stall that was located in Seth’s private bathroom.  After I finished cleaning up and changing, I came back out and gave my mother my dirty things, before I went back to sit beside Seth.  As I sat there, I thought about everything that had happened when an idea came to me.  I jumped up and went over to the locker where Seth’s things were stored so I could search through his pockets.  There it was.  I found what I was looking for.  In the back pocket of his jeans was the folded up letter that had set Seth off so badly.  I took it out, unfolded it and began to read the message.

 

Dear Seth,

I don’t understand why you’re clinging to this stupid idea that you are gay.  I know boys your age go through phases like this and sometimes engage in sexual exploration with one another.  I understand the feelings you derive from these activities are quite pleasurable and make you feel good, but all sex makes you feel that way.  I just want you to know that it gets even better when you do things with girls.  This is just a phase you’re going through, but you can’t cling to it and ruin the rest of your life.

I am telling you once more that it’s time to get yourself together and start acting straight.  You can find a nice girl to start going out with and that will make you forget about all of this other nonsense.  I want you to stay away from Logan and any of the other boys that you’ve been having sexual contact with until you are beyond their influence.  I know you can do this for all of us.

I feel I must warn you that if you persist in your assertions that you are gay, then your mother and I won’t be able to accept you into our home any longer.  Even though we realize we’ll continue to be responsible for you, because you’re still a minor, we still won’t be able to let you to continue living with us.  Unless this situation changes, we will be forced to sign you over to the state and then let them deal with you and your problems.  We won’t accept a sexual deviate into our home and will not associate with anyone who does those sick, perverted and disgusting things.  We are willing to love and accept you, but only if you can give up your faggot ways and become the normal person we know you to be.  If you are wise, then you will heed my advice before you find yourself alone and on your own.

I’m sorry to be so blunt, but I feel you need to hear this.

Dad

 

I couldn’t control my emotions after I read the letter and totally lost it.  I started sputtering and cursing at Seth’s father, even though he wasn’t here, and this caused my parents to turn and look at me, because they wanted to know what was wrong.  I merely handed the letter to my father and let him read it next, and after he finished with it, he passed it over to my mom, so she could read it too. 

I was still extremely furious and couldn’t believe that bastard had actually told Seth he was going to give him away to the state and have nothing more to do with him.  I then began to cry, as I moved over next to Seth so I could kiss him of the forehead and hold his hand. 

“I’m here for you Seth,” I whispered in his ear.  “I am here for you today and every tomorrow that follows.  My father told you before that you are part of our family and I can assure you he meant every word of it.  You can come live with us and we’ll take care of you.  You just have to get better and we’ll deal with the rest.  If your dad tries to turn you over to the state, then my dad will sign up to be your guardian.  You’ll be fine, Seth, because we’ll make sure of it.”

While I was doing this, my parents moved around behind me, so they could each place a hand on my shoulder, in an effort to comfort my enraged soul.  After learning about how Seth father had handled the situation with him, I appreciated my parents even more.  They sat with me until lunchtime and then once again bought something for me to eat from the cafeteria and brought it back to the room.  After that, they left and went home for a while, which left me alone to continue my vigil over my boyfriend.

Sometime around 2:00, I thought I heard someone call my name.  When I turned toward the door, I saw Jeff and Keith standing there, but it looked as if they were afraid to come in.  I got up and moved over to the door so I could greet them.

“Logan, we’re so sorry about what happened to Seth,” Jeff began.  “We feel like this is all our fault and we don’t know what to say or do.  We want you to forgive us, but we realize we probably don’t deserve it, especially after this.”

“You two weren’t responsible,” I responded.  “This was the result of something far more personal and something Seth was having difficulty dealing with.  I know what you accidentally did in the beginning, when you spilled our secret in public, but that wasn’t intentional and neither of us held it against you.  I’ll admit that we were disappointed in how you reacted toward us after that, but you weren’t cruel or malicious, so we don’t hate you for that either.  If you want to come in to visit, I won’t object and I know Seth wouldn’t either.”

“How can you be so understanding about all of this when we can hardly even forgive ourselves?” Jeff responded.  “You were our friends and we were inadvertently responsible for everyone turning against you.  Not only that, but we didn’t even have the courage to help defend you either.  Instead, we chose to stay away and never dared to say anything to the guys that made disgusting comments about you or told jokes at your expense.” 

“Yeah, we should have had the guts to tell them they were wrong and that you and Seth are great guys,” Keith added.  “We didn’t and they chased you off the football team and pretty much out of school.  Even though you don’t blame us for what we did, we still blame ourselves, so we came here to let you know and to apologize.  We also want to know if there is anything we can do now to help.”

“The fact that you took the time to come here has helped far more than you can know,” I assured them.  “I’m fairly certain I can speak for Seth too when I say we accept your apology and hope we can be friends again when this is over.” 

I then reached out to shake their hands, but Jeff grabbed a hold of my arm and pulled me toward him.  As soon I was close enough, he threw his arms around my chest and gave me a powerful hug.  Keith joined suit and together they managed to squeeze the air from my lungs.

“I’m afraid a handshake just wouldn’t have been enough,” Jeff told me, just as soon as they broke their embrace.  “I think we needed to show you that we aren’t afraid of you and we’re willing to be your friends completely this time around.  We won’t let you down a second time.

“I want you to know that not very long ago I wouldn’t have been able to do that,” he continued.  “What I mean is, I wouldn’t have been able to hug you like I just did.  I’ve always been told that gays are bad people and do disgusting things with each other, so it affected how I thought.  It was easy to believe that when I didn’t know anyone who was gay, but once I knew you and Seth were gay, then I began to question everything I believed.  Over time, I realized the others were wrong and I couldn’t feel that way any longer.  I’ve known you and Seth for quite a while now; even before I knew you two were gay, and I liked you then and I enjoyed your company.  You’re both really smart, great athletes and super guys, but you’re also a lot of fun to be around.  I think you might have realized when you talked with me before that I was having trouble reconciling those differences in my mind, but I’ve definitely figured it out now and want to be your friend again.” 

I nodded to him that I understood what he was referring to and agreed to do as he’d requested. 

“I have no problem with that and would like us to be friends again too,” I agreed. 

“Logan, I want you to know that I found it hard to hate or even   dislike gay people as a group once I knew you and Seth were gay,” Keith added.  “I liked you guys then and I still like you now, but back when I first found out about you guys it wasn’t making sense to me.  I hated it when you were having problems on the football team and I’ve missed you terribly since you left.  Football hasn’t been as much fun for me without you guys there to share it, but the team has also paid for their stupidity.  We’re having a terrible season without you two and we probably won’t even wind up with a winning season.  There’s just no one as good in the backfield as you two were.” 

“Yeah, I agree,” Jeff chimed in.  “The three of us really clicked together and you guys helped to make me look good too, but I definitely haven’t looked very good with your replacements.  We suck together and it’s just not the same with them.  I knew you guys and you knew me.  We knew each other’s moves and we all knew what to expect from one another.  I also knew you’d be there to cover for me if I screwed up and that I’d do the same for you, except I didn’t do that with this situation.  Without you two being around, football has lost some of its glitter for me, so I’m hoping we can correct that problem and you’ll come back next year.

“Keith and I were even a little worried about taking showers with you two at first, and I know some of the other guys felt the same way,” he admitted.  “Then we began to realize that we’d taken a lot of showers with you guys before we knew you were gay and there was never any problems then, so why should there be any now.  Sure, maybe you’d sneak an occasional peak at us, but we all do that with each other as well, you know to check out the competition.  Maybe you two enjoy what you see more than the rest of us do, but you’ve never come on to any of us or tried to force anybody into doing anything with you, so our concerns seemed really dumb.  We’re not afraid any more and I think I can convince the other guys to get over it too. 

“What I’m trying to say, Logan, is that I’ve changed the way I think about gays because of you and Seth, and Keith has too, so I think the others will change their minds about it too, if they haven’t already,” he went on.  “All we have to do is show them that you guys are normal in every other way and you’re not out to convert or take advantage of any of them.  Keith and I know this now, so we just have to get the others to realize it too.  It will take time, but I’m positive that once people give you a chance and get to know you, then they’ll feel the same way the two of us do about you.  Please don’t give up and please don’t quit school, transfer somewhere else or stop playing sports.  Don’t let a few narrow-minded idiots change your life and ours, just because they can’t see past the ends of their noses.”

When Jeff finished his rather lengthy spiel, he, Keith and I hugged again and then I thanked them for their kind words and support.  They kept me company for a while longer, before they had to leave.  I thanked them again as they were departing and was encouraged by their change of heart, but I wished it hadn’t taken Seth’s act of desperation to bring it about. 

Once they were gone, I sat down next to Seth again and watched him, as I wondered what might be going on in his mind.  I hoped he had been able to understand what had just happened with Jeff and Keith, because if he did, then he might begin to realize we were making some progress in our quest for support and understanding.  I continued to hold his hand, while occasionally stroking his hair and once in a while I’d also whisper in his ear.  I wanted him to know I was continually here for him and hoped it might give him more of a reason to fight to get his life back. 

I was still sitting there beside Seth and praying, when I heard someone clear his throat.  When I turned toward the entrance, I saw a group of guys standing there.  I recognized some of them, because Seth and I had played sports with them at one time or another, but some of the others were older than us, so I had no idea who they were.  The leader of the group moved forward and began to speak.

“Logan, I know you don’t know me, but my name is Justin McDonald and I play on the varsity football team,” he began.  “A group of my friends and I wanted to come by to let Seth and you know that we’re really sorry we didn’t try to help you when you were having problems at school.  Some of these guys played with you on the JV squad, but none of them did any of those awful things to you.  Unfortunately, they also didn’t try to stop the other guys from doing them either.  Seeing we’re all black or Hispanic, we know what it’s like to be mistreated and harassed by bigots or to be singled out for being different.” 

He paused briefly and glanced around at the others, looking for support, and then he swallowed hard and continued. 

“Just because you’re gay, what was done to you wasn’t right.  It was no different than what others have done to us because of our race or skin color, so we should have realized that sooner and stepped in to help you, but stupidly we didn’t.  We shouldn’t have tolerated or ignored injustice in any form or cloaked in another guise.  We realize this now and wanted to let you know that we will be more vigilant and aggressive in stopping this intolerance in the future.  I know this doesn’t do much good for you or Seth now, but I wanted you to know that some good will come out of your suffering.”

“Thanks, Justin, and I’ll remember that in the future,” I replied.  “I want to thank all of you for coming by and you can come in and stay for a while, if you wish.  It might do Seth some good to hear some other voices besides mine.”

They all moved closer to Seth’s bed and talked to me, as well as to each other, for about an hour.  When they were ready to leave, I thanked them again for coming and shook each of their hands.  As I watched them walk down the hallway, I had to wonder why it took a tragedy such as this to bring the good out in people.  Why did it take something this awful to happen before that side of them rose to the surface? 

I was still pondering this quandary when my parents showed up with dinner.  As I wolfed it down, since I was hungrier than I first realized, I told them about all of the people that had had stopped by.  I paraphrased most of what they’d told me and explained how it made me feel.  I also told them I hoped Seth had been aware of everyone who stopped by and had heard some of the things they’d said.  I was just finishing up my story when another visitor entered the room, but this was one I didn’t want here.

“Haven’t you done enough damage already?  What the hell are you doing here, anyway?” I screamed, totally losing my cool with Seth’s father.  “Did you come back to gloat or just to make him feel worse?  Don’t worry.  You can ease your conscience, because you won’t have to concern yourself about him any more.  We’re going to take care of him from now on, so go ahead and turn him over to the state.  We’ll just sign up to take care of him and then you won’t be disgusted by having him around any longer…” 

As soon as I started ranting, my father jumped up and got between us and eventually placed his hand over my mouth, to stop me from continuing.

“Even though you’re upset with him, he has every right to be here, Logan,” my dad pointed out.  “Seth is still his son, so maybe we should leave and give him some time alone with Seth.”

“Why, so he can finish the job?” I spat out, once my dad removed his hand.  “I’m not leaving Seth alone with this son-of-a-bitch for any reason.”

“You won’t have to,” Mr. Eldred responded.  “I would like Logan to stay and listen to what I have to tell Seth.  I owe them both an explanation and an apology, but I’d like to do it with both of them at the same time.”

My father looked at Mr. Eldred and then at me.  Not only had Mr. Eldred’s comment confused both of us, but I could also tell my dad wasn’t convinced he should leave us alone in the same room.  After I thought about what Seth’s father had said, I assured my dad it would be all right for him to go. 

“We’ll be just down the hall in the waiting room,” my father told me, as he and my mother moved toward the door.  “You be able to find us there if you need anything.” 

They then left the room and I moved to the opposite side of Seth’s bed, away from Mr. Eldred.  He moved over beside Seth and began to speak to his son.

“Seth, I hope you can hear me, because I need to apologize to you and let you know how much I love you.  I didn’t understand about homosexuals and really didn’t know any, so that made me afraid of them.  I really thought this was just a phase you were going through and felt I could scare it out of you by using tough love.  I never wanted to hurt you in any way, so I was very upset and frightened when I got back from vacation and found that message from the police on the answering machine telling us what you’d done.  I really do love you, son, and want you to get better so I can prove I’ve changed.  I will do my best to make this up to you.  I promise.

“I’m sorry I mailed that letter and said those things too,” he added.  “I wrote it on the plane, during the flight to Miami, and mailed it as soon as we landed.  I have wished many times since then that I could take it back, but there was just no way to do that.  While we were in Miami, I ran into a group of gay guys on the beach.  I mean I could tell they were gay just by the way they were acting with each other, so after a while I got up the courage to approach them.  I explained that I had a son who thought he was gay and told them I was wondering if they could answer some questions for me.  They were very nice and extremely polite about the whole thing and even went out of their way to help me better understand about your tendencies.

“One of the first questions I asked them was why they decided to be gay in the first place, and after some awkward snickering, they told me they were born that way.  They explained that there was no choice involved and that’s when I remembered you had told me something like that as well.  Then, I asked when they first realized they were gay and they all said they knew they were attracted to other boys before they were teenagers, although they didn’t exactly comprehend what it meant yet.  They may not have acted upon those feelings then, but they knew they weren’t attracted to girls or aroused by looking at the feminine anatomy.  We talked about a lot of other things as well, and then I knew what I had to do.  I was planning to come home and apologize to both of you and tell you that you had my love and full support, but we learned about what you did before I got the chance to make amends.  I’m very sorry about that. 

“Seth, I not only want to apologize for the way I treated you, but I have to make an admission as well,” he continued.  “I thought I could scare you into being straight, because I had felt a similar attraction to boys when I was your age, but I managed to fight it off.  I started dating girls instead and quickly discovered I liked them too.  I had a few problems ignoring my other feelings after that, but eventually I met your mother and fell in love.  Our life together has indeed been wonderful and I wanted the same sort of life for you.  I wanted you to fall in love, get married and have children, because I wanted grandchildren to love and spoil once you had grown up.  When you said you were gay, all of those dreams went up in flames and my hope of having grandchildren vanished in a split second.

“After talking to those gay guys in Florida, I began to realize a lot of things about myself and they helped me understand that I was probably bisexual.  What that means is that I was equally attracted to both sexes.  That’s why I could live a straight life and suppress my urges for other males.  I didn’t understand the difference in our situations before then or realized I wouldn’t have been able to change my desires like that, if I had truly been gay like you.  I’m sorry that I was so ignorant and I’m sorry that I never let myself explore the other side of my sexual desires.  If I had, then I might not have been so hard and inflexible with you.  I’m so very, very sorry about how I treated you and pray I’ll have an opportunity to make it up to you when you get better.

“Seth.  Logan,” he continued, while glancing between us, “I want both of you to know that I’m fine with you being boyfriends, if that’s what you want to do.  I’ll even accept you getting married later, if you choose to do that too.  I just want you back, Seth.  I want to have the chance to make amends and show you how much I really care about you.  I want to watch you grow up, play sports, fall in love and be happy. 

“I’m sorry I’ve messed things up,” he went on, “and I want an opportunity to make things right.  I need to show you how deeply I love you, so please, Seth, if you can hear me, then please fight to get better.  Do everything you can to come back to us.  I’ll never be able to forgive myself if you don’t get well.  I’ll always blame myself for my arrogance and stupidity for trying to handle such a delicate problem with so much coldness and inflexibility.  Seth, I love you and need you.  Your mother loves you and needs you too.  Logan loves you and needs you as well.  So please try to get better, because I would like to have another chance at getting this right.”

He then bent over the railing, kissed Seth on the cheek and gave his hand a squeeze.  When I saw that, I walked around the bed so I could hug Seth’s father and tell him I was sorry for my earlier outburst. 

“Logan, you have nothing to apologize for,” he told me.  “You were absolutely right in how you felt about me, as well as the things you said about how I was acting.” 

“But I probably shouldn’t have screamed at you, swore or called you names,” I offered, feeling badly now. 

“No, you were totally justified in making those accusations and lashing out at me so harshly,” he agreed.  “Even though I didn’t think so at the time, I deserved every word of it.  I’m really glad Seth has such a caring and devoted boyfriend who is willing to stand up to others, even his stubborn and pigheaded father, and protect Seth at all costs.” 

I was not only shocked by his comment and the fact he’d just referred to me as Seth’s boyfriend, but I was also a little embarrassed.  I felt he might be taking it a little easier on me than he should, especially after I’d been so willing and vocal about pointing his faults out to him. 

“Logan, out of all of us,” Mr. Eldred continued, “you were the only one who was truly acting in Seth’s best interests.  I, on the other hand, was primarily thinking about my wife and myself.  I realize now that I was merely trying to shield his mother and me from the gossip and humiliation I thought Seth’s admission about being gay would evoke.  I was more concerned with how my friends and neighbors were going to react, rather than caring for and worrying about my son.  I want you to know I realize that now and I’ve changed.  I’m willing to admit that I’ve learned a great deal since that first day when this all came to light and my attitude about your sexuality and how I feel about it has done a complete about-face or what you kids would call a 180.  I’m not going to try to change Seth or stand in your way any longer.” 

“Thank you for telling us that, because it really means a lot to me and I’m sure Seth will feel the same way,” I told him, in all sincerity.  “My dad often tells me that it takes a really big man to own up to his misstates and admit when he’s wrong, but until now that was just a nice saying.  After today, it has a whole new meaning for me and I think I’m seeing a true giant for the first time.” 

Mr. Eldred hugged me after I’d said this and he even kissed me on the forehead.  It seems as if we’re going to have a totally different relationship from here on out. 

I then left him alone with Seth and headed down the hallway toward the waiting room, so I could tell my parents about Mr. Eldred’s transformation.  I didn’t tell them about his hidden bisexual tendencies, but I did explain that he had become better informed about what it meant to be gay and was willing to accept us as we were, including if we wanted to be lovers or even spouses.  My mom and dad were quite surprised by his change in attitude and I assumed they were wondering what could have brought about such a drastic reversal.  They might have also been worried that he might revert back to his old ways, once Seth recovered. 

We sat there for a few more minutes before Mr. Eldred came down to thank my parents and me for all we had done for Seth.  He said he would work with us in the future and do anything necessary to correct the mess he’d made and make life more bearable for Seth and me.  My parents thanked him and told him they were grateful for his change of heart.  They also agreed they would cooperate with him in any way, as long as it would be in Seth’s and my best interest.

After my parents went home, Mr. Eldred and I went back to Seth’s bedside, as we waited and watched for any signs that Seth’s condition was improving.  After sitting in silence for a several minutes, Mr. Eldred began to tell me more about his childhood and adolescence.  I must admit that I was surprised by how much detail he willingly gave me about his contacts with other males during that period of his life, but then he went even further and told me how he wished he had been able to accept his own sexual identity back then. 

I guess maybe this episode might have been cathartic for him and freed his soul of all the pent up doubts and regrets he’d accumulated over the years.  He even admitted that he always wished he’d been able to pursue sex with other guys, especially as he grew older and even acknowledged that he felt he had missed out on so much by not being honest with himself over the years.  He also confessed that his frustration over his own inabilities was probably part of the reason he had been so rigid and hard on Seth, but now he completely regretted what he had put his son through.  He also told me that he prayed he’d be able to find a way to make this up to Seth when he recovered.  We were still continuing our discussion when the doctor came in on his evening rounds.

He asked both of us to leave momentarily, while he performed his examination, so we went down to the waiting room at the end of the hall.  The doctor was in with Seth for quite some time before he came down to the waiting room to speak with us. 

“Your son seems to be steadily improving, although I don’t understand why he hasn’t regained consciousness yet,” the doctor began.  “His vitals look good and the tests we ran show nothing beyond what we were expecting to find.  Everything we’ve discovered is fairly consistent with surviving exposure to carbon monoxide poisoning, but since he isn’t progressing as rapidly as I’d hoped, there might be some underlying issues.  Unfortunately, I can’t rule out the possibility that he’s suffered some brain damage, possibly even severe brain damage, but there might also be some other lingering and delayed problems from inhaling such a large quantity of toxic fumes.” 

“What sort of other problems?” Mr. Eldred wanted to know. 

“The oxygen deprivation might have damaged his muscles and internal organs, so we’ll continue to monitor him for a while to see if we detect any signs of such problems,” the doctor told him. 

This news wasn’t reassuring, but he wasn’t able to give us a lot of specifics about Seth’s prognosis.  It was mostly a wait and see approach, although he kept telling us that Seth seemed to be making progress, but only time would tell if he was going to fully recover after his little incident.

Before he left, we both thanked the doctor for his efforts and for taking the time to explain things to us.  He said he would be around again tomorrow afternoon and maybe he’d be able to provide us with more informative at that time. 

Once he was gone, Mr. Eldred asked me a lot of questions about myself, but nothing too personal, and then he told me a bunch of stories about what Seth was like when he was growing up.  I enjoyed the little tidbits of information he shared with me, since they were basically things I didn’t know about Seth before, and we continued our conversation for quite some time.  When we realized it was getting late, we situated our chairs on either side of Seth’s bed, fluffed up the pillows the nurses had left for us to use and then spent the rest of the night holding on to Seth’s hands. 

We dozed off for brief periods of time throughout the night, but we never really slept for very long because the chairs weren’t exactly comfortable.  Whenever I woke up, I would say another prayer to ask God to intervene and return Seth to us, but in return I promised that if he gave us another chance with Seth, then we’d make sure to use it wisely and not repeat our previous mistakes.  I prayed for nearly twenty minutes each time, but I always did it silently, since I wasn’t sure this was something I could do if Mr. Eldred could hear me. 

These were a private communiqués, between God and me, even though it concerned Seth.  Just because Seth’s father had been willing to share his secrets with me, it didn’t mean that I was ready to open my soul and private prayers for his inspection.  After I finished my celestial request, I kissed Seth on the forehead, held his hand and then stretched out on the chair again, while hoping I might be able to go back to sleep for a little while, because I was still exhausted.