You Pass This Way But Once

A New Beginning

The next morning, I awoke and checked on Seth again, to see if there were any improvements.  Mr. Eldred and I talked for a while before he left the hospital to go home, clean up, change his clothes and get a bite to eat.   Shortly after he’d departed, my parents returned with more of my clothing and breakfast from my favorite diner.  I ate first and then went in to shower and change.  The warm water felt great as it ran over my body and relieved the aching feeling from my stiff muscles, which were a direct result of sleeping in the chair.  It also drained the tension that had built up in my body throughout this ordeal, even though it only seemed to last for a brief time. 

I was hesitant to get out of this wonderfully relaxing treat when I eventually concluded that I needed to get back to Seth and let him know I was still here for him.  Just as I was coming out of the bathroom, Robbie and Tom were coming into the room for a visit.  My mom and dad collected my things and said goodbye, so I could visit with my friends in private and fill them in about everything that had happened.  We all said farewell to my folks and watched as they left the room and headed down the hallway.  Once they were gone, Tom spoke up.

“Logan, I’m sorry I haven’t been here before now,” he stated.  “I heard about Seth on Friday at school, but I wasn’t sure if he could receive or even wanted visitors.  When Robbie called last night and asked if I wanted to come with him today, I was happy to accept his invitation, so I could see both of you.  It wasn’t that I didn’t care, because I do, and I wanted you to know that.  Is he any better?”

“The doctor says he’s doing well, but he can’t understand why Seth hasn’t come to yet,” I answered.  “He said he couldn’t find any medical reason for him to still be unconscious, so hopefully he’ll come out of it soon.”

“If there’s nothing medically wrong with him, then he should be fine.  Right?” Tom asked.  “Maybe he’ll snap out of it later today then, so we’ll keep hoping and praying for the best.  I know things will work out for Seth.  I can just feel it.  I don’t know how, but I feel that Seth will be all right and we’ll soon be joking around with him again.  My mom is always telling me that we have to trust in God at times like this, because she says God knows what’s best and he’ll take care of us, if we let him.”

I thought about what Tom had just said and hoped he was right about it, but sometimes it’s hard to place your faith in someone or something you can’t see.  It’s also very difficult to cope with the feelings of helplessness that tend to overwhelm you when you aren’t able to improve a situation yourself.  As teenagers, I think we often feel helpless and powerless as it is, because we’ve spent most of our lives having to either rely on or listen to our parents, teachers, other relatives and even God for nearly everything.  We don’t get to make many decisions for ourselves, so it’s times like these that seem to magnify our feelings of helplessness and uncertainty.  It makes us feel as if we are even less in control than usual, but maybe we wouldn’t feel so alone or hopeless if we had a little more input into the decisions and events that directly affect our lives.

I was still chatting with Robbie and Tom when Jeff and Keith showed up again for another visit.  They came into Seth’s room and mingled with the rest of us, as the five of us not only sat and talked to each other, but we also took turns going over to Seth’s bed to carry on a private dialogue with him, as he lay motionless on the bed.  I think we all hoped something we said might be the catalyst that would bring him around and cause him to wake up from his deep sleep, but none of us had made much of an impact on him thus far. 

The four of them stayed with me for a long time, at least two or three hours, and we continued to talk about many other things besides the current situation.  Mr. Eldred returned during their visit, so I introduced him to the boys he didn’t know.  Although the four of them were skeptical about how friendly they should be with Mr. Eldred at first, seeing they’d heard about how he’d treated Seth, but I managed to convince them he had changed.  After that, we all got along quite well and had a nice visit. 

At one point, when there was a lull in our conversation, we thought we heard a noise coming from Seth’s bed, so we went over to investigate.  As soon as we were standing beside him, we noticed Seth’s eyes flickered a few times, before they opened completely.  I guess he’d been trying to come to and speak, but due to the tube in his throat, he was only able to force out a few noises.  That was obviously what we heard, but now he was coming to. 

We all got very excited when we noticed he war regaining consciousness, so we all started shouting and jumping around.  Seth’s father was touching his son and stroking his hair, as I ran out to the nurses’ station and informed them that Seth was awake.  Two of the nurses followed me, when I turned to go back to Seth’s room, while a third nurse paged the doctor. 

Shortly after we entered Seth’s room, the nurses asked us to step out into the hall and we hesitantly did what they requested.  We didn’t want to leave Seth so quickly, now that he was back with us again, but we knew they had things to do.  The first nurse got busy removing the tube from his esophagus and then ran out of the room again, so she could get Seth some ice chips to moisten his mouth and throat.  At the same time, the second nurse was busy checking his blood pressure, heart rate and temperature before the doctor arrived.  Once they had finished doing those things, they allowed us back into the room to see him. 

Everyone had a huge grin plastered across his face when we walked up to his bed and he looked up and began to speak to us in a hoarse whisper,

“Why am I here?” he wanted to know. 

“Don’t you remember?” I asked, wondering if maybe he had amnesia or possibly suffered from brain damage, as the doctor had warned us. 

“Not really,” he replied.  “I remember doing something silly, but that’s it.” 

“Silly?  I think it was downright crazy,” I countered, “but we’ll talk about that later.  I’m just glad to have you back.” 

“The others quickly let him know they were glad he was back with us too, especially his father, but that’s when Seth’s doctor came through the door.  He immediately asked us to step out of the room for a few minutes again, because he needed some time alone with Seth to perform his own examination and maybe even run a few tests on him.  Although we weren’t totally happy about having to leave him again, especially now that he had regained consciousness, but we understood why the doctor needed for us to do this. 

When the doctor finished his examination of Seth, he came down to the waiting room and told us that everything seemed fine and we could go back and visit with Seth for a while.  He asked the others not to stay too long, because he wanted Seth to rest some more, and then he told Mr. Eldred and me that he’d see us the following day.  He was going to run another series of tests on Seth at that time, to determine if there might be any lingering problems from the mishap.  Mr. Eldred and I each thanked him again before he left and then we all hurried down to Seth’s room and began buzzing around our buddy. 

Jeff, Keith, Robbie and Tom each told Seth how sorry they were about how they had acted and then added that they wanted him to know that they would be there for him from here on out.  After visiting with him for a few more minutes, the quartet decided to leave and I walked them out, so Seth and his father could enjoy some time alone.  I knew they had a great deal of making up to do and needed a chance to do it alone.

I intentionally stayed away from the room for many minutes, and by the time I returned, both of them were crying and hugging each other.  Even though their faces were tear streaked, they were also covered with very peaceful expression from having reconciled their differences.  As soon as they saw me, they summoned me into the room to join them and then Seth asked his father if he could speak with me alone next.  His dad agreed and stepped out of the room to give us some privacy.  Seth reached out his hand, grabbed my arm and then he pulled me close to him, so he could give me a hug.  He held me tightly for several minutes before letting go.

“I know what you did for me and how you’ve been here the whole time,” he began.  “I don’t know if it was a dream or if it really happened, but I even remember you encouraging me to keep fighting and not to give up.  I could hear you telling me that you loved and needed me, but then that made me feel guilty, because I’d only thought of myself when I did this.  I never considered your feelings at all.  Will you forgive me?” 

“Of course I will,” I assured him.  “I don’t care about any of that, as long as I have you back.” 

We kissed and hugged after that, but then Seth pulled away again, so he could ask another question. 

“I need to know something, Logan.  Was what I heard all a dream or did you really say those things to me?” 

I studied at him for a few seconds, as I tried to decide which things he was asking about, but eventually I was ready to answer his question. 

“That was me that you heard, Seth,” I confessed.  “I sat beside your bed and kept telling you all of the things I wanted you to know.   I told you how much I loved you and how much I needed you.  I also asked you to come back to me, because I didn’t think I could live without you.  I meant it all, Seth.  I wasn’t lying and I don’t know if I could have survived if you hadn’t.  You mean far too much to me, so I don’t think I could have lived with only half a heart and half a soul.” 

Tears were gliding down my cheeks as I spoke to him, because the realization had once again set in that I could have lost him for good. 

“I’m fine now and we’re going to be fine, too,” Seth added.  “My dad told me that he’s willing to accept us as we are and he’ll be proud if I decide that I want you to be my boyfriend.”  He kissed me passionately after saying this. 

“Seth, did you also hear all the other guys when they came to visit to?” I wondered.  “There were a lot more people here than just Robbie, Tom, Jeff and Keith.”

“I remember bits and pieces, but my dad told me about some of it too,” Seth confirmed.  “I think we’ve learned that we have some really good friends and they’re willing to stick by us now, but they’ll even help to protect us in the future too.  What more could we want?  Things are looking up for us and everything’s going to be all right.  The only thing I regret is that I that I put you through all of this and made you suffer so much.”

“Shhhh.  Don’t say any more,” I told him, while placing a finger over his lips.  “That’s behind us now and we have to look toward to the future.  We need to consider if we’re going back to our old high school or if we want to transfer, but I think that decision is going to be a little easier to make now.  We also have to think about what sports we want to play and who’s coming to whose house for Christmas and spring break.”

“I love you, Logan, and I’ll do whatever you want,” Seth quickly agreed.  “My dad told me that you saved my life by doing CPR on me after you pulled me out of the garage, and in some other cultures they say that if you save someone life, then that life becomes yours from that moment forward.  That means my life now belongs to you now, Logan.  Choose wisely for both of us and I will do whatever you wish.  I guess this also means that you’re stuck with me from here on out, whether you like it or not.”

“Like it?  I love it, but I think you’ve got things a little confused,” I countered.  “Whatever we do, we’ll decide together.  It works both ways, Seth.  My life is just as much yours, as your life is mine.  Everything we do and everything that we decide will be done jointly.  There will be no unilateral decisions made for us.  We are full and equal partners in this.  I want us to always be together and happy, Seth.  We’re a team.  It’s just you and me against the world.”

“It will be like that always and I promise you that I’ll never do anything this utterly stupid again,” he confirmed. 

Things were going great now and everything was falling into place.  We just had to wait for the test results to come back and if they turned out ok, then the doctor would release him.  We were all holding our breath when the doctor came by and told us he’d just got the results from the lab. 

“The tests show there is nothing seriously wrong with you now,” the doctor began.  “In fact, they seem to indicate you probably won’t be suffering from any lingering or long lasting effects from this incident and you appear to have suffered no brain damage.  You’re a very lucky young man, but I still want you to spend one more day in the hospital, so we can observe you a little longer.  I want to be certain of these facts first, before I agree to discharge you.” 

When Seth was finally released, his family and mine joined together and held a big welcome home party for him at his house.  We invited all of the people who had shown up at the hospital and who had supported us through this whole ordeal, so Seth could thank them all too.  Seth was very pleased to see everyone again, although he was slightly embarrassed by the attention, but the others helped to put him at ease. 

After the party, Seth took me up to his room and we spent some time alone and discussed our future.

“Logan, I think we should go back to our old high school.  What do you think?” Seth asked. 

“Yes, I agree and that’s what I was thinking too,” I concurred.  “We’ve got a lot more support now, so it should be easier to deal with any of the remaining bigots who still might try to hassle us.”

“Logan, I think we should thank you father for his advice too,” he added. 

I wasn’t sure what he meant by this and gave him a puzzled look. 

“What advice would that be?” I questioned. 

“You know.  That thing your dad always says about ‘you pass this way but once.’  I did a great deal of thinking about this while I was lying in the hospital and realized he was right.  Most of the choices we made were good and we benefited from making them.  Sure, sometimes they didn’t turn out quite so well, but you can’t expect everything to work out for the best and not have some disappointments.  I was thinking about the decisions we made, as well as some of the choices our friends made along the way, and I concluded that we wouldn’t be together or this close if we hadn’t made those decisions in the first place.  I know it was rough at times, but I wouldn’t want to go back and change anything we did, well except for my dumb stunt.”

“What about your dad and the way he treated you?” I pressed. 

“Logan, I would have had to face that problem sooner or later, regardless of what decisions I made,” he pointed out.  “It was something that was bound to happen and the only question was when that confrontation was going to take place.  When we were outted before we were ready only sped up the process, but I would have had to go through the confrontation with my dad eventually, no matter what else happened.”  He hesitated at that point and stared at me for a short time before he continued.  “Don’t you agree with me?  Don’t you think we should have made those decisions when we did?”

“Of course I do,” I confirmed.  “We did what we had to do and because of it we found each other, but we also found Timmy and Robbie, too.  I’ll never regret those decisions or the good times we enjoyed along the way.  I know there were some bad times as well, but I think I’ll be able to forget about those things eventually.”

“There’s something else to consider as well, Logan,” Seth added.  “If this didn’t happen when it did, my father might never have run into those gay guys in Miami.  Well, he probably would have run into them, but I don’t think he would have approached and talked to them, which means he’d never have come to the conclusions that he did.  Even though I almost killed myself in the process, and that definitely wasn’t necessary or needed, but the disagreement my dad and I had might have been the catalyst that was needed to get him to understand who and what I am.”

“Yeah, I guess you might be right,” I relented.  “I’d never considered the possibility that if this had happened at a different time then he might have stuck to his guns and you two would still be feuding.  I guess we just had to make those decisions as they came up and then not try to second-guess ourselves later.  Hindsight is always easier and more accurate than foresight, because you have a lot more information on which you can base your decision.  If only life worked that way.”

We went back to school shortly after that and things definitely improved.  We still found a few notes stuck to our lockers or stuffed in our books, but there were a lot fewer of them now.  That was probably due to the fact that there were also a lot more people around school who were ready to confront and enlighten those they caught doing these things.  We had a very reliable support group and it continued to grow with us. 

For some time after we got back to school though, I noticed this one boy always hanging around where we happened to be at the time.  He was a good looking kid, about 5’ 7” [170 cm], with curly brown hair and a runner’s build, but he seemed to be constantly staring at us.  I just assumed he had heard the rumors and was just checking out the gay boys, to see if they had horns and a tail.  After a while though, I started to question if he was there to condemn us or offer support, but he never made a move either way.  I didn’t let the uncertainty bother me though, but one day during lunch period, Seth and I were sitting outside on the grass when he finally worked up the nerve to approach us.

“Hi.  I know you don’t know me, but I’m Connor O’Leary,” he began, somewhat sheepishly.  He would look at us for a short time and then glance toward the ground, almost as if he was afraid to make eye contact with us.  “I only started school here this past fall and I’d like to talk to you about something.  Before I do though, you have to promise me something first.  You have to promise you won’t ever tell anyone else what I’m about to say.” 

We were both confused and amused by his cloak and dagger request, but we agreed to do what he asked.

“I heard about what happened to you guys and knew that I had to talk to you,” he began.  “It’s taken me some time to get up the courage to do this, but here it goes.”  He looked directly at Seth as he continued.  “I know exactly how you were feeling when you tried to kill yourself, because I attempted to do the same thing not too long ago.” 

I think Seth and I each had a shocked expression on our faces, so Connor hesitated.  I think this was because he wasn’t sure if our expressions indicated that we were merely shocked about what he’d told us or if we were horrified about what he’d done.  I felt we needed to ease his doubts. 

“Please continue, but it’s just that we were surprised you’d tried something like that too,” I told him.  “We didn’t mean to be rude, but we were totally shocked by what you just said.  I think Seth felt that he was the only one who’d ever done anything like that.”

“He’s not and I’m embarrassed that I did it now, but we’re not the only ones to attempt something like that,” he admitted.  “I did it last year, when I was at my old school, so it’s also why I transferred here this fall.  You see, I’m gay too and I was being treated really badly at my old school.  It seemed that every day some macho straight guy thought it was his turn to beat up the fairy.  I actually think they felt obligated to do it.” 

Connor paused briefly at this point, because I think those old memories were still more than a little painful for him.  After taking a minute to regain his composure, he continued again. 

“It was all really sick, because they were constantly beating me up over nothing.  I was continually bruised and sore from all the different times they pounded on me.  The problem was, the more I tried to defend myself, the worse the beatings got.  Those guys would spit on me, kick me, call me names and they even ripped my clothes off.  There was this one time when they stripped me naked and I had to walk several blocks to get home with only my books to cover myself with.  Once they left, I hid out in some bushes until it got dark, but several people still saw me that way.  They didn’t even bother to help me though and all they did was to start laughing about it.  No one even offered to give me a jacket, shirt or anything I could use to cover myself with.

“After that happened, I finally decided it was just too much for me to deal with any longer and planned to end it,” he admitted.  “The next day I snuck back home from school and grabbed all of the pill bottles I could find out of the medicine cabinet.  Then, I started to swallow each of the pills that were in those bottles, all different kinds, and washed them all down with glass after glass of water, because I wanted to die.  I was fed up, disgusted and knew I couldn’t put up with the abuse any longer, so I decided to end it. 

“It turned out to be lucky for me that my grandfather happened to come over to our house that day, so he could borrow one of my dad’s tools from the basement,” he went on.  “My dad had given him an extra key to our house, so he could keep an eye on things when we were away, but he could also use it to borrow stuff when he needed it.  Anyway, when he came in he heard the water running in the bathroom, so he went there to turn it off.  That’s when he found me lying on the floor, unconscious.  I guess I must have passed out from the effects of the pills I’d already taken, before I had a chance to turn the water off in the sink. 

“As soon as he saw me,” Connor continued, “my grandfather immediately called the paramedics and they took me to the hospital, where the doctors pumped my stomach out.  Before they were able to do that though, they first had to force a bunch of granulated charcoal into my stomach, so it could absorb the drugs I’d taken, and then they put this tube down my throat and pumped the whole mess out of me.  It was really pretty gross, but as you can see, I survived.  Afterward though, I had to attend mandatory counseling sessions three times a week.

“That was actually the best thing that could have happened to me though,” he confessed.  “It was at the counseling sessions where I finally learned how to deal with being gay and how to cope with the kids that hated me because of it.  I never went back to my old school, but I heard that a whole bunch of the boys who used to enjoy beating me up got suspended for a while.  Anyway, the shrink thought it would be good for me to change schools and get a fresh start.  I did everything I could to make sure that no one at this school learned I was gay though, because I didn’t want to go through that again.  Then, I started hearing stories about what the other students were doing to you two and it really scared me.  I was becoming totally frightened that it was going to start happening to me all over again. 

“I considered talking to you guys way back then, but I was afraid to.  I thought that if I was seen with you it would blow my cover and out me too,” he confessed, while at the same time looking guilty about having done that.  “It seems that I waited too long before I acted and you tried to do the same thing I’d done, but you used car exhaust instead of pills.  I wish I had the courage to tell you about me when I first got here, because then you might not have tried to kill yourself.” 

As he said this last statement, he looked over at Seth and then hesitated for a few seconds, to give us time to think about what he’d just said.

“My shrink told me that gay teens are the most likely group to try and kill themselves,” he finally continued.  “He said the suicide rate among gay teens is higher than for any other group, so we can’t let this happen to any more kids like us.  We’ve got to let them know we are all facing the same types of problems, but killing yourself is not the way to correct the situation.  There are other options and they need to learn to recognize and select those choices instead, before they go to extremes.  I’m going to start a website to try to get the word out and I’d like for you two to help me with it, if you wouldn’t mind.  I’d also like for us to become friends and get to know each other better, so what do you say?  Will you do this with me?”

Neither, Seth nor I hesitated and instantly agreed to his offer.  We soon found ourselves spending a great deal of time with our new friend, as we helped him collect information to put on this site.  It was pretty varied, because there were a bunch of pages with information about the problem of suicide, others with links to other sites they could go to and some were even confessions from other kids who had survived their suicide attempts.  There were also stories others had written about their friends, children or siblings who had been successful in their attempt and they gave their reactions about the losses they had suffered.  I guess one thing those committing suicide don’t realize is the pain and anguish they cause for those they leave behind. 

Connor proved to be a really nice guy and our friendship with him blossomed.  Even though he was a year older than Seth and I, we became extremely close and included him as part of our group.  This meant he was a couple of years older than Robbie, but they grew to be good friends as well and we all continued to help him with the website until he was finally ready to launch it.  It was a lot of work, but we were willing to do it because we felt as if we were actually helping other teens learn to cope with problems similar to the ones we had been facing.  It not only gave us a great deal of pride and satisfaction, but it also filled us with a sense of accomplishment in knowing that we might have saved some other boy or girl from going through the same type of things that we’d endured.  Who knows?  We might even be giving someone else a ray of hope and a life preserver to cling to in a sea of despair.

Besides working with Connor, Seth and I were wrestling again as well.  We felt we had enough support to go out for the team, and even though there was a great deal of body contact in this sport, we didn’t encounter the same type of reaction we’d faced in football.  Nearly everyone seemed ok with us being on the team, but there was one notable exception to this rule.  Before he could cause us any problems though, the other guys let him know that if push came to shove, then they’d rather have us on the team than him.  Seeing he was definitely out numbered, he left us alone and remained on the team, although we were never really friends or very close to him. 

The days flew by quickly after that and it seemed as if no time at all had passed before Timmy was coming to stay with us after Christmas.  Even though we were supposed to go to his house this year, everyone agreed that after everything Seth had been through that it might be best for him to remain close to home.  We figured that seeing he was getting along so much better with his parents that it would be nice for Timmy to see how well he was doing.  We invited Connor and Robbie to join us too, so the five of us stayed at my house most of the time, since we had more room, but we spent time with Seth’s family as well.  We had a great time together, just like before, but with one more friend this time. 

The feelings of guilt that Seth had been fighting with during those dark days after his suicide attempt had completely vanished.  This allowed the two of us to also enjoy some really fantastic nights with each other during the holidays as well, including all of the pleasures associated with that.

Since Timmy had come to visit us at Christmas, we went to his house over spring break and renewed our friendships with his parents and Timmy’s other friends too.  Timmy also invited Connor to join us when we went there too, although it took Seth’s parents and mine several trips back and forth to Connor’s house before they convinced his parents that he would be fine and this would be good for him.  After a great deal of coaxing and cajoling, Connor’s parents finally agreed to let him join us on this little excursion.  Life was looking better to us every day.

Seth’s family and mine started doing a lot more things with each other too.  Even after their previous differences, our parents put that aside and became close to one another, although Seth and I knew they were basically doing this for our benefit, not their own.  The four of us, Robbie, Timmy, Seth and I, also went back to camp that summer and then the seven of us tried out for the junior varsity football tem.  Yes, even Connor decided to give it a try and became a fairly decent wide receiver, as he joined Seth, Jeff, Keith, Robbie, Tom and me as part of the starting lineup. 

The coach seemed really happy to see Seth and me again, but he was also pleasantly surprised by Connor’s ability too.  He promised all of us that things would be much better this year and they were.  We had a lot of support from the other players and we all enjoyed another great season, with the team going 7-1.  Once again, our lives were back to normal and we were enjoying being in school again.

Seth and I, along with the others, had learned a great deal over the past few years and with the wisdom we’d acquired during that time, I’d like to share a small piece of advice with you.  ‘You pass this way but once.’  What this means is that you shouldn’t be afraid to make those difficult decisions in your life, but just think them out carefully first and don’t be afraid to accept both the pleasures and the pain that might result from them.  Also don’t second-guess yourself and don’t ever regret the choices you’ve made, unless you knew you were making a negative or bad choice in the first place, but did it anyway. 

If you do this properly, the only regrets you should ever have are those that were caused by inaction.  This means the results that come about because you couldn’t or wouldn’t make a decision when the opportunity arose.  Follow your heart, but always use your head.  Choose for yourself and don’t let others, or fate, make those decisions for you.