Home > Life or something like it > Firsts… In Love and Lust (Ending)

Firsts… In Love and Lust (Ending)

01/23/2007
    I woke up in a neon lit room and to the smell of antiseptics.  I knew I was in a hospital…  And it didn’t take me long to figure out that I was in the Intensive Care.
    The lighting.
    The fact that the room was much like a goldfish bowl. 
    The monitors and IV that were hanging to the left side of my bed.
    The fact that I had a feeding tube down my throat. 
    The distinctly uncomfortable feeling of catheters. 
    I took a moment to look to see if I had any casts on, whether either of my limbs were elevated, which they weren’t.  Slowly moved my neck and realized that it wasn’t locked into a brace. 
    I looked for the nurse’s buzzer because I felt like I was being choked by the feeding tube, and wanted it out, but I didn’t want to freak the nurses out by doing it myself.  I had other concerns on my mind at that moment.  Creating unnecessary drama wasn’t one of them. 
    I found the nurse’s near to my hand, and came to the conclusion they expected me to gain consciousness at some point. 
    One of the nurses at the station came quickly and when they saw my eyes were open and looking towards the door way told me that they would get a doctor and come back to remove the feeding tube. 
    Time is always a relative thing.  What was actually was about five minutes before a doctor and two nurses came into the room, felt like I had been laying there waiting for at least an hour. 
    They pulled out the feeding tube.  I gagged twice in the process.
    They pulled the catheters.  Not a pain I would like to describe even when I’ve had a few to drink. 
    They did a couple of checks on my blood pressure, my responsiveness, motor reflexes with my arms, legs, a battery of on the spot reflex and attentiveness tests to ensure that I was conscious and able to move without issues. 
    The doctor commented to me during some of the tests that the reason why they were doing it was because of the severe blow to the head that I had taken going through the windshield.  He said that it was miraculous that I wasn’t cut to shreds going through the windshield, and further went on to comment that I was the second person he had seen and treated to survive such an accident relatively unscathed.
    He sat down and told me that there was a possibility of brain damage because the blow to the head was severe.  That I had suffered a serious seizure in the ambulance on the way in to the ER and that because of the seriousness that I had been DOA and legally dead for approximately seven minutes, thirty-eight seconds.  When they had resuscitated, I didn’t recover consciousness at all, and I had been in a comatose state for approximately eighteen days. 
    When the doctor said that they would be performing more tests over the next couple of days, I asked instead, "What about the other two men that were in the car with me?"
    The doctor informed me that Glenn had died upon impact.  The steering wheel had caved in his chest. 
    But he didn’t tell me about Tommy. 
    I insisted to know. 
    He paused before he told me that he was in the next room over, but it didn’t look good. 
    I ignored him and headed in the general direction that the doctor had pointed.  They hadn’t pulled the IVs, and I had been feeling weak, so as I began to hobble out of the room, using the IV tree as a support, the doctor and nurses had advised against walking and told me that I should get back into bed and rest a little bit.
    I ignored them.  I told them that I would get to bed once I checked in on Tommy. 
    They didn’t press too much further because the look I gave them would involve getting bigger orderlies. 
    Tommy was in the room immediately left of my own.  I saw that he had an older man and woman in the room with him and that he had been in pretty much the shape I was in save one.  I could see that he was also on a respirator.  I stood there for a moment looking in the room, focusing mainly on Tommy, but looking occasionally at the older folks in there.  The older gentleman was clearly his father.  I had assumed that the woman sitting by the bed was his mother. 
    "My name is Michael.  I was Tommy bunkmate at Bravo Company on the base," I said as a form of introduction.  I sounded hoarse and knew it had to be because of the feeding tube that had been in my throat the last couple of weeks.
    "I’m Louise, this is my husband Tom," the woman stood up and walked over to me, "We checked in on you while you were in the coma."  She paused a moment, changed her facial expression from stern and motherly to something more hospitable, she said, "Come sit down, you’ve been in a hell of an accident."  I started to see the resemblance between Tommy and his mother.  They both had the same black eyes. 
    Tom grabbed the other vacant chair and put it down next to the one that Louise had been sitting in.  He nodded, said, "Excuse me."  And left the room. 
    I was going to sit down in the seat further away from Tommy, but Louise insisted I sit closer to him.
    "How is he?"  I asked, "The nurses and doctor didn’t tell me a thing other than not well."
    Tears were welling up in her eyes, and she took the tissue in her hand to dab her eyes a little bit. 
    I could feel my stomach falling out. 
    "It’s not good."  She paused.  "They have him on life support, but they think this is a coma he’s not going to ever come out of." 
    I looked away from her to Tommy, to let her collect herself.  I was feeling grim at that moment, and didn’t know whether I should or shouldn’t console her. His head and one eye was totally bandaged up on his head.  He had a cast on his right arm that was pinned/pegged to his chest, both his legs.  I checked the EKG and respirator, and it looked like everything was working properly. 
    Just that Tommy wasn’t.
    I looked back at Tommy’s mother who had recovered herself a bit, although her eyes puffy and red. 
    "We’ll be back later," she said, stood up and headed towards the door.  "Get well." 
    I nodded and watched her walk out. 
    I sat there for some time, touching Tommy’s hand, but not saying anything.  I didn’t cry, I didn’t say anything, and eventually the nurses came to collect me to tell me it was time to eat, and recuperate in my own room. 

    Two days passed, and from my vantage, I saw Tommy’s parents come and go like clockwork.  By the end of the second day, they had pulled my IV, and told me that they were moving me down to a semi-private room the next day, and then a couple of days after and depending on the results from my EEG, that I would be discharged.  Towards the end of the two days, I had experienced my first seizure.  Something that would happen with some frequency for the next seven years.  Most of the time they were petite mals, but occasionally they were grand mal. 
    The nurse’s gave me information on what I can and can’t do.  What I can and can’t eat.  What I can and can’t drink, in order to avoid having seizures.  All the routine precautions. 
    I had been visited by the Duty Officer to the Post Commander, informing me that they would be beginning to work through the paperwork to having me discharged because the seizures had made me in so many words "damaged goods" and incapable of serving within the US Army. 
    Towards the end of the second day’s last of the visiting hours, I saw Louise whisper to her husband, kiss him and them come to my door.  "Can I come in?"  She asked meekly.
    I nodded, "please.  Come in." 
    "Tommy’s father and I have made the decision we’re going to pull the plug on his life support.  We’ve mad the decision this evening.  I stopped by to ask you whether you had any reservations on our decision, considering that Tommy told me how close you and he were." 
    It took a moment for it to sink in.  She clearly implied she knew it was more than just a close friendship.  I tried to read her when she said it, but couldn’t.  I avoided reading her further and returned to the subject at hand, "What’s the chances of him coming out of this coma?" 
    She shook her head no.  The look on her face was easy enough to read though.  He wasn’t coming out of it.  His body was there only on life support. 
    If I wasn’t lying down already, I would be sitting down.  I thought about it for as long as I could, given that Tommy’s mother was waiting for a decision or an objection, "they say he was brain dead?" 
    "They didn’t say anything, but he hasn’t changed at all in the time he’s been brought in, although they tried everything they could…"  her voice trailed off.  "They’re not making any promises he’ll make it out. " 
    I nodded in response.  While I kept most reaction out of my face, I was pretty much in turmoil underneath.  Ultimately I didn’t feel like I could object because Tommy’s parents had already made the decision.  Ultimately I realized that Tommy was already gone, and objection would be futile…  Useless. 
    I wanted to throw up, but didn’t have anything in my stomach to throw up. 
    I said flatly…  emotionlessly…  "I want to be there when they shut down life support.  That’s the only thing I ask." 
    She nodded.  "It will be done tomorrow morning at nine." 
    "I’ll be there." 
    She got up, said she would see me in the morning and left.

    I was up early the next morning, unable to really sleep.  I don’t recall much of that night other than I had tossed and turned and tried my best to wrap my brain around the decision that Tommy’s parents had made, and that they had agreed I could be present at the termination of life support.  I vaguely recall having dreams of defending Lucifer to God in some Ancient Greek court area — a re-occurring dream that still happens today whenever I’m wrestling with strong issues within my life. 
    Tommy’s parents came in early.  I remember that Louise had been carrying a shoebox with her.  They were both dressed in dark colors; as though they were about to attend a funeral.  There had been a short discussion between Tommy’s parents and the nurses on duty, one of which picked up a phone and made a call shortly after their discussion. 
    A doctor showed up about five to ten minutes later looking as serious at Tommy’s parents.  It was the same doctor that had been checking on Tommy since I had woken up and checked in on him when possible.  Tom had spoken to the man briefly, pointed in my direction.  The doctor nodded. 
    Louise came into my room, put the shoebox on the bedside table and told me they were ready. 
    I walked with her into the room, which she whispered to me, "I think Tommy would’ve wanted you to have them." 
    I nodded and said my thank you perfunctorily. 
    I took my place at the foot of the bed.  Tommy’s parents to my left.  The doctor on the right next to the controls. 
    The doctor said, "I just need to ask this one more time," he said formally, "Are you sure you want his life support shut off?" 
    Tom spoke up, "Yes.  It is both of our decision." 
    The doctor shut off the respirator, the other medical equipment.  He kept his hand on Tommy’s wrist, monitored his pulse. 
    I stood there feeling every passing moment as though it were an eternity.  I wanted to cry, but couldn’t.  I wanted to wail, but contained myself.  I had forced myself to become as numb as I could be because there are no words to describe that one moment; and the only feelings that I had going on were one of profound loss.  Of betrayal and anger at the universe at large.  Heartbreak was in there someplace.  I wanted to lash out.  I wanted to strike anyone and anything.  I wanted to be fury. 
    I went back and forth between anger and pain like a pendulum on a grandfather clock from one eternity to another. 
    However, I stood there a model of composure and calmness, letting as little of the war going on within show or be felt around me. 
    After about seven minutes of the doctor checking pulse, respiration and heartbeat, he said quietly, "I’ll be outside if you need me." 
    Tommy’s parent’s stayed ten more minutes. 
    Louise tapped Tom’s shoulder and nodded to walk out of the room. 
    He nodded back and motioned one moment.  She walked out and stood there before walking out of Intensive Care. 
    Tom came up to where I was standing.  Close enough to be heard, far enough to have a respectable distance.  He said somberly, "You were a good man for my son."  He extended his hand. 
    I accepted it. 
    He walked out of the room, without saying another thing. 
    I stood there ten more minutes.  Looking at the man that had said "I love you" to me first and said my silent good-byes, and while on the pendulum side of regret, wished him to a better place. 
    When I walked out of his room, the world had stopped existing for me.  Life went on around me, and I didn’t pay attention to it.  Didn’t care. 

    Three days had passed before I came out of that dark place.
    I had finished signing the paperwork for my discharge and the Duty Officer had explained that transport back to my home state had been arranged.  We saluted as military people did, and he shook my hand out of duty more than respect. 
    I was in General Care, looking at the shoebox that Tommy’s mother had left me. 
    I was afraid of opening it because I didn’t want to see what she had left me, and curious to see what she could possibly think Tommy would want me to have. 
    Curiosity won out on that day. 
    They were letters.  Left in the envelopes that they had been mailed in.  Opened cleanly by letter opener.  Folded, unfolded and folded back again.  Ordered neatly by date of postmark. 
    The first letter, the day after I had transferred to Indianapolis. 
    Tommy had seen me heading to class.  It stated that when he saw me, he had wanted to go up and talk to me, but didn’t know what to say. 
    The next letter the day after I had transferred rooms into Glenn’s and his billet.  How excited that he had been to actually meet me.  To get to know me. 
    The next letter after that on the discussion of religion vs. objectivism and how he thought Glenn was being dense, stubborn, and not listening to anything that I was telling Glenn.  How he wanted to tell Glenn to listen, but kept it to himself, not feeling confident he could interject.
    The next after that, the letter telling his mother about the Weekend Pass and how the three of us were going to Chicago together.  It was in that letter that he had told his mother that he was gay, and that on that trip he would come out to me, the first person he trusted and felt comfortable enough to tell someone of his secret. 
    The next after that, how wonderful it had been to come out.  How relieving.  How accepting and trusting I was of him being gay.
    The last letter a week before the car accident.  It was a letter that he wanted only his mother to read.  He said to her that he had fallen in love with me, and explained to her that he and I were in a relationship.  Had been for some time.  Said to her that he was considering getting discharged from the Army so that wherever I got stationed, he would go with me.  Said that if there were a way, he would ask to marry me. 
    He told his mother that he understood now what it was like to love another — like how his mother and his father did all the years they had been together. He said he wanted the same in his life. 
    I couldn’t read anymore..  The tears were making it too difficult to continue reading. 
    I put the last letter down, and went over to my door to shut it. 
    I came back and picked up the letter, and at the bottom of the shoebox, my eye caught that there was a picture in frame.  It was Tommy’s high school picture. 
    I picked it up and took a long look at it. 
    He was in a suit and tie, and smiling.  The kind of cryptic smile that I remember when he was being sincere about something but didn’t want people to catch on to what he was thinking or feeling. 
    I cried for the remainder of the day….

    So that…  That is what my first was like.  I don’t talk much about Tommy even after all these years, although occasionally I will bring his name up in conversation when people ask "who do you miss?"  Some of my friends know this story, but not in its entirety.  Some simply don’t ask because the tone I use brooks no opening to ask and accept as is.  I sometimes think about him on his birthday, and occasionally still dream about him being alive and well, and wondering — if the accident didn’t happen, would we still be together?  Or would it be like so many failed attempts at relationships I have gone through and fallen to the past: a mixture of good memories and bad. Of easy times and hard…
    Only the universe and god know for sure.

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