Discovering Love

Written by Rick Beck

Chapter 47

Cold Cold Heart

Greg got sick first. I'd adjusted to the rigging and the sight of him being laid low, but seeing him sick was harder. I'd hold him during the worst coughing jags. He gave up exercise and barely touched the mounds of food that were delivered to us each day but I ate my share and then some. I forced him to drink juice and warm liquids, broth and clear soups that Nurse Atilla started arranging, without much cooperation or interest coming from my love.

He slept 90% of the time I was there and I was left holding his hand and thinking of how much I missed him. When he would awake and start hacking, the rigging would rattle and clang as I held him and prayed that he would return to sleep. After most of a week of torment, the doctors sedated him to lessen the coughing that racked his body.

They weren't sure if any damage had been done to the healing leg, but they also didn't want to expose him to any other germs, so they left well enough alone, and their long worried looks started anew and we all worried together separately.

The talk of pneumonia and the long cautious looks at him before holding their chins and looking at each other told the story, after another few days with no change. When one doctor called another and he another, they held their huddle around his bed, I wanted to grab one of them and slap the shit out of him and insist he do something to help Greg. Instead I stood to one side and remained silent about my aching heart. There was only one medicine that could possibly help me and I felt helpless.

There was no doubt about their worry, because they wore it and I could read their looks by then. At the end of week two I was feeding him through a straw and he never raised his head from the pillow, sipping until exhausted, he'd drift away from me without notification, only managing to hold the hand that held the cup until he slept again. He would roll the ice I put in his mouth while he stared at me. He seemed to be trying to remember who I was.

By the end of the second week he was no longer moving. The back of his head stayed planted in his pillow and his face had become white as the sheets. He didn't move even when the autonomic coughing interrupted his deep sleep. That was at least one comfort in knowing those functions were still working.

He didn't wake up at all that Saturday and I fell asleep beside his bed that night, waking at first-light with a blanket stretched over my shoulders and my head on his hand on the bed. I sat up in my chair trying to remember what I was doing there.

There was a steaming pot-of-coffee, eggs, bacon, toast, and juice under the silver cover that was on the stand beside me. I had started to lose my appetite and I sent back most of the food the day before. It was a nice awakening and I thought I was hungry until I looked at the food, and then my attention returned to Greg. There was only two cups of liquid left for him, one hot, one cold, and the ice had been renewed.

When I started coughing that afternoon, Nurse Atilla said, "You must go now. Whatever ails your friend has infected you and you can pass it right back to him if he starts to recover and that isn't going to happen as long as I'm in charge. Go home and rest, please. There's nothing you can do now. I will see to it he is taken care of."

There was a doctor's prescription for an antibiotic waiting at the desk. Nurse Atilla pressed it into my hand as I lumbered past. Her smile was forced and her eyes were sad. She wasn't a bad sort if you don't mind women that can kick your ass.

"Fill this before you get home. Go to bed, take plenty of liquids and get some sleep. You look like hell. You're sick because you aren't getting enough rest, plus the fact that you're worrying about him and not eating. We'll take care of him; it's what we do. I don't want you back here for at least the next week. I don't care if his father is the President."

"Yes, ma'am."

My own illness wasn't as brutal as Greg's, but I wasn't flat on my back and I could fight it. A picture of him was always present while I slept. The one of the gaunt, lifeless Greg with his face facing the ceiling and his breathing labored. The image haunted me.

Whatever I had took me away from myself for several days. My parents spent time around my bed, forcing gallons of chicken broth down my gullet. They were at their best when they were forcing me to do something. I felt like I was drowning in the shit. Then it was endless trips to the can and more sleep and more broth and a perpetual chill that ran through me, On the other hand, the drugs were good.

They'd never gotten totally pissed-off at me for staying out overnight the last night I was with Greg. I guess being so ill took that out of the playbook, not that I cared any more. I had escaped my parent's sphere of influence long ago and even when I was younger I knew how to simply escape my body to avoid the constant rancor that lived in my house.

It took me several days before I had to call Nurse Atilla. Then I had to answer all her questions about how I was feeling and what I was doing for my illness before she'd tell me what I needed to know. She reassured me that everything that could be done was being done and there had been no change. He was on an IV and the medication kept him sleeping so the coughing was controlled and so I was left to imagine what was going on over there.

Greg's mom came by on Friday. She brought a bottle of chicken broth she had made. I almost gagged, but I forced a smile. She said that everything was fine but she couldn't tell me anything I wanted to hear. She knew that didn't sit very well with me but she refused to say more. She too wanted me home in bed.

Doug came Saturday and brought a weeks worth of assignments and homework and after I had had such nice dreams about him. We played cards on my chest and ended up with him laying his head down on my stomach and his eyes and my eyes got mixed up together for a long time. He was so damn lovely and I was so damn sick.

"You know how much I like you, Martin," he said out of the blue. "Why is life so complicated. Why can't guys feel that way? Whose it hurt?"

"Guys do feel that way. You just said you did," I said as he had me stirring in a way I hadn't stirred in longer than I cared to remember.

"I mean why can't we care in front of anyone. I'm not saying I don't love my Cheryl, but it's different with you. I wouldn't even dare tell her how I feel about you and Herbie. What we do... what we did was pretty neat. I like being close to you. I told her some of it. Why don't you come up and stay anymore."

"Did you see Herbie when he came home?"

"Yeah, him and that little queer he was with. They sat in my television room doing each other in front of me. I wanted to tear his head off."


"No, that little queer."

"How many guys has Herbie done it with in that television room?"

"Plenty, but I knew them and I was always one of them."

"You didn't do anything with him while he was here. That's not like Herbie? He must be slipping."

"Yeah, but not in front of that kid. Herbie and I... we've got something... we love each other. I can't explain it to you. That's what I mean. We can't let anyone else know that. Cheryl might walk away if I told her all of it. I don't like not telling the truth. I like what Herbie does for me. Why can't I? Who makes this stuff up?"

"Doug, you don't say anything and that takes care of it," I advised. "Why do you want to complicate things. Herbie is gone."

"You're not and I don't like lying. I love her too, Martin, and lying about my feelings is wrong. I hadn't been with a guy since Herbie left but he started me thinking about it again. You know who I thought about don't you?"


"No stupid. You and me when we went up to the mountains that time. Remember how pissed Greg was. We were crazy to do it there."

"We? I had little to do with it," I remembered.

"Get real, Martin. You had everything to do with it. I didn't think he'd ever speak to you again. I'm glad you're with him. I didn't think you two could ever... I'm just glad, you know. He's pretty sick."

"I know. I miss him," I said.

"He doesn't do anything but sleep. They changed antibiotics but his system is all fucked up. I'm not suppose to talk about it in front of you, but I'm worried."

"Me too. What were we talking about anyway?"

"Me lying to Cheryl."

"Losing her is wrong if you want to be with her. I don't think you've got to tell her the details. I don't know, I don't date girls."

"I do, but that doesn't mean I can't like Herbie, or you for that matter. Why can't I like you? What law says I can't? It really pisses me off."

It did piss Doug off and Doug never got pissed off at anything. He told me about Herbie slipping out of the motel and coming over the night he was in town. There were graphic details I didn't need to know but couldn't wait to hear and more attention from Doug than I expect or wanted... or perhaps should have wanted. Doug's quandary about his girlfriend was a similar quandary in my mind but not enough to tell him not to care about me or to tell him to stop doing what he was doing to let me know how much he cared. He said he had to. He said it over and over again.

Being with Doug was always one of the nicest things I could experience. The more I was with him the more I wanted to be with him and so I avoided him. Except when he came to me and made it impossible. Then I had to figure out how to be with him while not violating the trust that Greg and I had established over the months. There are some things too complicated to deal with when you are sick, so I let Doug take the starch out of my under shorts for me.

I wanted to feel bad about it but I couldn't feel bad as long as Doug stayed and he said he wanted to stay because he couldn't stay with me at the hospital. Herbie had reminded him of what it was like after he thought he had given it up and now the desire was back, stronger than ever.

As often happens when someone gets what they are after, he was made unhappy because he lacked the ability to turn his back on boys and me or Herbie. Doug's was a doubly- difficult case, because he wanted so badly to be true-blue to his girlfriend but simply couldn't.

"Herbie started it, you know," he lamented after retreating and resting his chin on my bare hot thigh.

"Doug, no one forces you. If you keep fighting your feelings you're gonna go nuts."

"I know that. It's just that he knows what I like. No one has one like him. I dream about Herbert's cock. It's perfect when he does it. I don't even like that any more but he's home for fifteen minutes and I'm letting him ride me like some lovesick pony he keeps tied next to the bed. I'd hate it if I didn't love it."

"Doug, we like what we like. You and Herbie, you're almost lovers."

"We are not. We have sex a lot is all."


"Shut up! I don't love him. I just miss being with him."

"I'm trying to help."

"I just told you. I don't like it any more and I never do what I just did to you to anyone," he complained, letting me know that what he'd done for me he didn't do often or for many. "It's like you and Herbie have this... something I can't forget about."

"Then don't do it," I said, giving him my best advice. "Just quit."

"Yeah, easy for you to say. Why don't you like me any more? You know how I feel. You liked me before Greg came back. You could come up and stay over night. We'll be going back to the mountains soon. You can go with me."


"We can go off without her. She'll never know and she won't want to go hiking or skinny dipping."

"Doug! You don't know what you want. I love your brother."

"What law says you can't love both of us? I don't care any more, Martin. Why should Greg have you? He doesn't deserve you. My brother is a prick and as soon as he gets out of the hospital, he'll be one again and we both know it."

"Greg's changed Doug, and you know you love him. I've seen you with him. Don't say things you'll regret later and you know I love you. You're the one that wants to be straight, remember? I'm not taking a backseat while you date your girlfriends. It's simply not going to happen."

"Yeah! It's easy to change when you don't have a choice. He hasn't changed. He's changed how he acts is all and I can't give up Cheryl, not even for you."

"He's changed. You've changed. You want to get married and you want to have kids and I don't fit into that picture."

"So! That doesn't mean I can't like you? I do ya know. You know I do."

"Doug, you're confusing the hell out of me. Things are the way they are and I am the way I am."

"Yeah, well, why didn't you stop me then?"

"You know why, Doug. I can't change the way things are and you can't change what you feel. You'll need to decide what works for you and I can't stop you when I'm what works. If I thought you and I could make it work, I'd be with you."

"Yeah, I know. It was mean doing that to you. You can say it was my fault. It's not like Greg hasn't done everyone he knows."

Doug was probably the person I liked most in the world, then and even now. He was the kindest and most gentle soul I've known. His confusion was not his alone, and it hurt to see him so deep in torment.

Why did I love Greg so much and yet was so unable to say no to his brother? It had nothing to do with loyalty and love because I loved both of them, perhaps not equally. Doug was never going to settle down with a guy and I'd known that for years but there was still hope for Greg, and so my choice had been made a long time ago.

With Doug I wouldn't do anything to add to his difficulties, although with Greg I constantly forced him to face the evidence of who and what he was. While our clashes had lessened, he still didn't believe he was what I believed him to be.

With Doug it was up to him to be whatever he wanted to be. I'd help him any way I could, even not be with him, but when he was with me and wanted more than I wanted to give him, he got his way and he took me to a place only he could take me. I always went willingly without guilt, at the time anyway.

I had as many questions about why I did what I did as I had about them doing what they did. I knew I shouldn't and I knew I always would if I could, and I could so I did. He acted like he loved me so much that day. I wish it could be, but nothing was that simple, not for either of us, and then there was Greg.

Yes, I should have stopped him and said no to him but I didn't. I loved him making love to me, even when it was only a physical relief attached to his lustful desire. The male organ had an incredible attraction for Doug but it was an attraction he fought all the time. I offered no resistance and no challenge and he was left to deal with it on his own.

Doug, like so many, wanted to play on both sides of the fence. That made him feel better. He wanted to be on the proper side of society and gain all the benefits that come from being on the preferred side of the question, but then he wanted to switch sides and play with the boys whenever the mood struck him. He was powerless once he got close to it. It just clouded everything for him and everyone he liked and who liked him. By going along, I was making it easy for him to do what he did without ever forcing him to make the hard choice to give up one of the pleasures he sought.

I was weak. I loved him and I didn't fight it, not that I thought I could. I saw no point in making it an issue for him or making a choice myself. In the larger picture it would make no difference between Greg and I, because Greg and I had yet to decide how we fit together. Having a release, even with someone you love, isn't a violation of anything but arbitrary ideas about who we are and how we should act, and this changes daily, hourly sometimes.

I was sick and weak and so horny I couldn't stand it, and that was before Doug showed up. Doug was beautiful, and charming, and needy, and willing and able, and so we both got exactly what we wanted and needed from the other. Perhaps Doug got a little more than he had suspected, but not so much that he didn't go back again to the well.

Why deny who or what we were? It seemed pointless. In the end we could call it anything we wanted, but it was always what it was and nothing more.

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