Discovering Love

Written by Rick Beck

Chapter 60

Tomorrow Is Today

"I want to go to Ocean City."

"What!"

"Not right now. I want to walk into the ocean. I want to swim in the Atlantic before the summer's over."

"You think that's enough time, Greg?"

"I want to go to Ocean City."

"Sure, Greg. Ocean City."

"Yeah."

What was the point of arguing with him? His face was covered in sweat and his hair was wet. He lay with his head in my lap. I couldn't get up without dislodging him and I didn't want to move him. He seemed okay if okay was lying in my lap in the middle of his driveway, but didn't seem to be in pain and I wasn't going to disturb him.

The sound his leg made, made me queasy. If we'd destroyed it, letting him rest for a few minutes wasn't going to make a lot of difference and so I sat with him until he was ready to go back into the house, and then I put the bike deep in the shed, making sure he couldn't get to it.


"You're not very hungry tonight, Gregie," his mother said, after she'd come in and fixed dinner.

He had slept the rest of the afternoon. He was white as a sheet but didn't complain or cuss me for letting him do what he wanted. He was quiet and went right back to sleep after not eating his dinner. I sat with him until he was snoring and then I went into the kitchen where Greg's mother and father were doing dishes.

"How's the champ today?" His father asked.

"I don't know. He tried to ride the bike," I stammered, not wanting to admit to stupidity or lose the acceptance of people I cared for.

"That boy, a chip off the old block," his father said, laughing that infectious laugh of his, but it didn't catch on and his mother heard the inflection in my words.

"What happened?" She asked, turning her back on the dishes to face me with her question.

We were in the driveway. I didn't want to go along with it. You know how hard-headed he is. He wouldn't take no for an answer. He was going to try to do it by himself and I was afraid he'd fall and...."

"Martin! What happened?"

"He got on the bike and I wedged his foot on the pedal. I started pushing the bike. Real slow, because I was really worried about what he was doing, but you know how he is," I stammered, looking for some agreeable words but they all made me sound like I was nuts.

"Martin!" His mother said as his father fell silent.

"His leg made a sound. It really hurt him bad. I mean crying-bad. He's cried before when forcing himself to lift weights or stretch his leg beyond where it's ready to go, but nothing like this," I continued, wanting to get it all out there as his mother sunk into one of the chairs at the table. "Then he was okay. Not okay, he's been sleeping ever since. I just don't know if we fucked it... excuse me... if we might have damaged it. It doesn't seem to have changed anything. He still walked on the crutches and walked to the bathroom afterward. He hasn't mentioned it, so I had to. I'm sorry."

It was Greg's mother's chance to fall silent. I could see the disappoint in their faces that I'd been a party to his folly and I should have known better, but I knew all that. I just hated to see them look at me that way.

"I'll call his doctor. He's not due for therapy for another day but I'll get him in first thing in the morning. You can take him over?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good. Let me call the doctor and set it up. If the therapist thinks anything is wrong the doctor will be waiting for his call. Just don't tell Greg what we're up to and that way he'll go along without any argument."

"He's going to notice I'm taking him to therapy on his off day," I said.

"I'll just tell him there's an extra appointment this week," his father said.

Of course Greg knew I had told his parents about our misadventure. He gave me the appropriate silent treatment on the way to the hospital. He looked like death warmed over. His eyes had deep circles under them and the usual sparkle had gone out of them, and him, as he sat motionless, staring out of the passenger side window at the fast moving world. I went along with the game plan and didn't bother trying to talk to him.

The therapist was there, although it was his day off. I followed them as he chatted Greg up with his usual positive spin on the world. Greg sat in the wheelchair after shoving the crutches at me. He had nothing to say but it was obvious he was not in good humor.

The therapist put him in the pool first. It was usual what he did at the end of a session. He had Greg's ankle on his shoulder and he was working gently to bend the knee, which was a normal part of the routine. Greg was stoic, wincing no more than usual but did not complain about his pain. Part of the time he stared at me with darts in his eyes over the indignity of having to return to the hospital on a day when he could have been home. I could take his wrath as long as I found out we hadn't set him back too far.

"Why the long face?" His therapist asked, while lifting him out of the pool.

"It's okay. Probably didn't do your tendon much good. I think it's a little inflamed. I'll give you something for that. You have about 30% motion in your knee today, so whatever you did, it looks like we're about three weeks ahead of where we were yesterday. Just don't do it again, Greg. That leg has taken all the beating it can handle. Let's go slow for a while."

"You're the boss," Greg said, not selling it.

"Yeah, well, whatever. You can listen to me because I know what I'm talking about and we'll see this through, until that leg is almost as good as new, or you can keep fucking around with it, and then maybe it'll never support your weight again. It ain't no fucking sweat off my balls, kid. I'm going to be here doing this no matter if you walk again or not."

"I want to go to the beach," Greg explained.

"Not a problem."

"I want to walk into the ocean by the end of the summer," Greg declared.

"Uh..., that's a bit ambitious. The ocean gets pretty cold by September. I'd save that idea for next summer," the therapist cautioned.

"Next summer?"

"You'll be walking on it without difficulty by the end of the year if you'll listen to me and keep doing your exercises. I'd say the ocean will be a bit cool by that time. What's your rush?"

"I'm tired of being a crip," Greg said.

There was silence that you could cut with a knife, and then the therapist erupted.

"Holy Shit! Are you kidding me?!? Let me take you upstairs and introduce you to some of the guys who really are crippled", he snarled.

"You had an accident! You're recovering! Cripples don't EVERY recover you little plebe! You should be thankful for what you have! You been blessed, boy!"

"I don't feel blessed, I'm just tired of it. I'm sick of needing a nursemaid. I'm sick of coming here, I hate this place," Greg bleated in spite of his cowering now.

The thoroughly frustrated therapist looked at me, "You dress him and you get him outta here, please! He'll be okay if he holds his horses. I've got things to do. See you tomorrow, Gregie. You should rest that today, and I'll check it tomorrow and if that swelling hasn't gone down, we might lay off the therapy for a few days."

Looking at me again, "Don't let him do any exercise. Make him use the crutches or a chair for a few days.

A second passed, then glaring at Greg he said, "I don't appreciate giving up my day off for someone that refuses to listen to me and does nothing but feel sorry for himself! You've had one, kid, and you only get two from me - then I tell your old man he can find someone else. You got that?"

"Yes, sir," I interjected, as Greg withdrew from our conversation, refusing to be scolded by some Airman 2nd class.

He gave me no help at all while I dressed him, making me wait until he lifted up his ass so I could pull his pants up to where they belonged. I started buttoning his shirt for him and he slapped my hand away.

"I'm not crippled," he growled.

"Then quit acting like you are! I screamed. "Tell you what Gregie, your nursemaid can get lost faster than you can say "motherfucker"! I can call your father to come take your sorry ass home, and be done with you."

"I'm not gonna put up with this shit again, Greg. It's not worth it to me 'cause I got other more rewarding things I can be doing with my life!"

"I want to get a job but I can't because you want me with you all the fucking time! Now you want to get rid of me because I did what had to be done for your own good. You know something you shit, I somehow feel responsible for our little stunt yesterday - don't bother to ask me how, I just do."

"You're not a fucking little boy, Greg! You can't play games with that leg," tears welling up in my eyes, "Yesterday, I didn't know if you'd hurt it again; I was scared shitless and all you can do now is bust my balls? Well fuck you and the horse who rode you in, you bastard!" I yelled, throwing his shoes at him and making him wince as his eyes opened wide at my tirade.

He held his shoes in his lap, unable to bend over far enough to put them on by himself and I refused to do it for him. I angrily wheeled him out of the room and down the hall toward the car.

He was still holding them when I put him in the car. I slammed the door and yanked the car door open, slamming it once I was inside. Once we got home, I pulled him up out of the car and one of the shoes got away from him and rolled out onto the driveway, where I let it lay.

It took him fifteen minutes to finally get up the back steps and through the kitchen and into the television room with me right behind him until I sat him roughly down in the chair, tossing the crutches onto the floor. I returned to the kitchen, where I fixed him lunch, putting way more food on the tray than he could eat. I filled two glasses full of ice and soda and I delivered it all to the television room where he still sat with his one shoe in his lap, staring at the blank television screen.

"I'm sorry," he said, looking up at me with his sad puppy look.

"Yeah, I know, I know. I'm going out to look for a job," I declared with absolutely no forgiveness in my voice. "That'll hold you until dinner. I may be back, I may not. Your nursemaid has had it up to here," motioning to the top of my neck.

"When will you be home?" He asked softly, not daring to look at the hostility in my eyes.

"When and if I get here, but don't wait up for me. I wouldn't want to get in your way. You've got plenty of food to last you until your parents get home. I'm leaving." He wanted to say something else, glancing up at me with a pitiful look on his face. He looked away when I glared at him as I went out the door.

My rage at Greg was because we both knew he played me like a fine fiddle, and I didn't know the difference between the sincere Greg and when he was giving me a con job. Giving up my life to help him get back to a place where he could dump me wasn't my idea of a good time. There were limits, and I had reached mine.

I realized at that moment that my life had to be about me as well, and not just about him. He was usually pretty careful not to cross the line, because he knew I remembered it all. Just like he knew I'd lay down in traffic for him, but what he didn't know was just how far he could push me and he had crossed the line and brought me face to face with a reality I feared more than loneliness.

It was nine o'clock when I got back to the house. I'd filled out an application for a job at a local parts warehouse and I drove around... and around, trying to calm down but only succeeding in crying a lot and wondering what the fuck I was doing.

The shoe Greg dropped on his way into the house was sitting in the middle of the kitchen table now. His mother was reading at the dinning room table and she looked up over her glasses at me as I came through the door.

"Hope it's not catching. My son's have had those before."

"Pardon!"

"Long face. You look like you lost your best friend. My son has a similar mournful look on his face right now. Want to talk about it?"

I remembered the first day I sat with Greg and his mother at that table. She had been totally pissed off at the fact Greg had come home from the hospital without telling them. Her voice took on that same little girl charm she used on her sons. She had said the very same thing in the very same voice to Greg that day.

"I'm not going to kid you. We need you, Martin. All of us need you. You don't think he wouldn't have driven us crazy if it wasn't for you? He's a real son-of-a-bitch when he wants to be, but we love him. You're the only one I know of that's ever been able to handle him, and he can't help but make you crazy now and then. I understand if you need a break, but don't leave him like this, Martin. He depends on you. It's hard on him, being the kind of boy he is. I understand if you do leave him, but you will regret it one day. He might be a bastard some days, but he's pretty amazing other days too. It's kind of a trade-off that on days like this doesn't seem worth it. Today is almost over. There will be tomorrow no matter what you decide."

"What did he tell you?" I asked.

"Greg? Nothing, nothing at all. He's been sitting in the chair in there since we got home. Did you leave him all that food?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"He wouldn't eat dinner. He wouldn't let me turn on the television for him. He's just sitting there waiting. Were you going to be away for a while. There's enough food there to keep us all going for a few days."

"I didn't know what I was going to do."

"But you came back, that's a good sign."

"Yeah, it's not easy leaving him. He just pisses me off. It's like he's the only one with a dog in this fight. I was so scared yesterday. I can't reason with him and he does stuff I know is idiocy and then I feel bad because I let him do it anyway. He said something today that just... I don't know... it just set me off and I can't forget it. I don't want to forget it. I know what he's like."

"He's sorry," she said for him, sympathetic to my discord.

"That's not enough."

"Why don't you go talk to him. He's not going to bed until you talk to him. He's sitting in there waiting for you to come home. My son is hard-headed and now he's punishing himself because he knows that he hurt you. Don't let him run you off, Martin. He needs you, and, I think you need him."

"Yes, ma'am."

I stood at the door to the television room for a long time. I could see his mother at the table and she went back to the book she was reading. I finally opened the door, and there he was in the chair where I left him.

"I missed you," he said, after glancing up to see it was me.

"Yeah," I said.

"I've got to pee," he said. "I almost pissed myself."

"You couldn't get across the hall on your own? Come on Greg."

"No, you let me fuck my leg up, remember?" He said, giving me half a glance with half a smile attached and then realized it wasn't going to work this time.

"Yeah, I remember. Put your arms around my neck," I ordered, leaning down to where he was before standing back up, pulling him out of the chair as he hung on to me.

Our faces came dangerous close together at the end of the procedure. I could feel the heat coming off of him. He moved back just enough to see my eyes. Our lips were only two inches apart. He leaned on me as we took one unsteady step at a time across the hall and into the bathroom.

"Want to hold it for me," he joked.

"No thanks," I said.

"Didn't think so. I don't blame you for being pissed off at me."

"Good," I answered.

I got him back across the hall and sat him back down in the chair.

"Aren't you going to eat any of this?" I asked.

"Not hungry."

"You've got to eat. You didn't eat yesterday."

"I said no, I'm tired. I want to go to bed now."

"Greg, you are not an invalid."

"Yes I am! And I'm a tired one. I'm sore. Help me undress please, I want to go to bed now."

We'd hit an impasse and neither of us was sure how far we were going to go to please the other.

After going to bed, I woke up later feeling Greg crying. My anger subsided immediately when felt his tears wet my chest - it broke my heart. I hugged him to me and gave in one more time.

"I'm sorry, Greg. I know it's hard for you, but it's no picnic for me, either."

"I know," he said, trying to hold back his tears, "I'm such a baby. I never used to cry."

"You never use to be broken. It takes a lot out of you but it requires more energy to keep fighting. You need to keep fighting."

"Will you stay with me?"

"I'm here aren't I?"

"I keep thinking that one day you won't come back."

"I'm here now. Let's be grateful for right now and we'll let tomorrow take care of itself."

"Today didn't go all that well," he observed objectively.

"No, tomorrow is another day. We'll give it another shot," I said, and he leaned up to kiss me.

God I loved him.

"I want to go to Ocean City."

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