Hand Me Down
by Evan Carlton
Friday was the day everything started to get better. I went from 'sick' to 'convalescing'. Evan and Steven came by with Connor straight after breakfast and we sat chatting for an hour. For the first time since the accident, my head was clear and I could feel myself getting stronger. My shoulder ached but I had learned how to move it without it feeling like I was being stabbed repeatedly. Steven told me they had started calling me 'the boy who lived' at school. His eighteenth would be at the start of December, and they were worried I wouldn't be fit in time for the party, but I told them I would come, even if Charlie and Michael had to carry me in on a stretcher. After they left, Connor settled down in the chair next to my bed.
-Connor, why didn't Ella come to visit me? I thought we were friends.
-We split up
-OMG why didn't you tell me?
-I was going to tell you tomorrow.
-What happened? Connor? You can tell me.
-Can we talk about it on Monday when you're home? It's complicated.
Before I could ask him anything else, two male nurses walked in. I recognised Jimmy, but the other one was new to me. He introduced himself as Hal, my physiotherapist. I looked at him in surprise. He hardly looked any older than me. He was really handsome, with a rugby player's chest and strong, tanned arms. Jimmy announced that it was time to remove my catheter for good as Hal was going to get me up and moving, and I would be able to use the toilet on my own from now on. That was music to my ears. Jimmy glanced at Connor and he sighed and stood up. I signed and spoke at the same time.
-no he can stay. I don't mind. It's nothing he hasn't seen before. Wait, that didn't come out right. He's my friend. He can stay, I finished lamely.
Connor sat down again and Jimmy took care of the catheter, pulling it out gently. I winced, even though it didn't hurt. Connor winced in sympathy. Jimmy wiped some antiseptic cream around where the tube had been, and then started checking my temperature and blood pressure while Hal showed me pictures of the bones and muscles in my shoulder. He pointed to the areas which were worst affected by my injuries. Most of what he told me was what I wasn't allowed to do for the next eight weeks, which turned out to be a lot. Then it was time for me to get out of bed for the first time in five days, which felt extremely weird. Connor fussed around me while Hal got me standing, the muscles in my back and shoulder screaming in protest. I walked a couple of steps, feeling woozy and very unstable, but after a few seconds, it felt bloody fantastic. I looked up just as Charlie and Michael came into the room with huge smiles on their faces. They both planted a kiss on my forehead and sat down to watch me hobble around like Quasimodo.
"Jesus, you've got skinny," said Michael, looking at Charlie worriedly.
"Yea well the food's crap here," I said. "I need macaroni and cheese. I've started dreaming about it."
"You really are the oddest fifteen-year-old in New Zealand."
"Can I go home today?" I asked hopefully. "You can feed me up over the weekend."
"Sorry, mate," Charlie said. "Doctor Hawkins wants you here until Monday and then he'll have you X-rayed one more time to check you're healing alright. After that, we can take you home."
"Can I use the toilet?" I asked Hal.
"Sure. Just don't lock the door. Shout if you need anything."
I hobbled into the bathroom and wrestled my boxers down to my knees. Settling down on the toilet, I sighed contentedly. You can keep your sports cars and gold watches. Your first good poo after being stuck in a hospital bed for six days is paradise on earth. I took care of everything and stood up to flush. My boxers fell down around my ankles. I stared at them and then at the door. I tried to jiggle them up to my knees using only my feet. No luck. I sighed and turned to the door.
Charlie came bursting through the door, expecting to find me in a heap on the floor.
"My pants fell down. Stop laughing, I'm freezing in here. Stop laughing, I mean it."
With no school and no work, the whole of Napier had nothing better to do than drop by for a visit with 'the boy who lived'. The bandage around my head had been replaced by a plaster and my shoulder taping had shrunk until it just covered the wound from the operation and the spot where the break had occurred. My left arm was still taped across my chest, but I could move my forearm and my hand better now.
Denny and Kevin came by, then Kelvin Ngata and Ian Carter, who looked hugely relieved when he saw my shrinking bandages. Evan and Steven visited again and showed me a really cute video of Max and Moritz sitting behind a sign saying 'get well soon'. Then Mr Hembrey stopped by to check on me and to tell me they had arranged for my schoolwork to be sent to the house for the next couple of weeks while I got better at home.
Through it all, Connor sat in the corner of the room, watching people coming and going. He was reading one of my fantasy books and hardly signing at all. When Mr Hembrey left, I asked him if he was okay.
- yes no problem. I forget sometimes you have another life. A hearing life.
-what do you mean?
-deaf people's lives are small. We're like islands
-you mean you live on an island?
-no I AM an island, surrounded by deafness. Being deaf means always being on the outside, looking in. Hearing people exclude us automatically because they can't communicate with us. Eventually we start to exclude ourselves because we don't want to go through the same bullshit again and again
-I came to your island
-I know. I still don't get why.
-does it matter? I like it here
-I don't know what you want from me
-what do you mean?
-you have all these other friends.
-they're not my friends I signed quickly, suddenly worried about how Connor was talking . Not like you. I don't talk to them like I talk to you. They don't know how I feel. Who I am.
-Do you always feel like that? His signs were getting agitated.
-why are you being like this? Did I do something wrong? His shoulders slumped.
-no. Sorry. Sometimes I get depressed when I see how easy it is for hearing people
-Connor you have to stop trying to be something you're not. You hide your deafness because you're worried what people think about you. You don't want people to stare. But you might as well hide your face, or your hair, or your nice bottom. Your deafness belongs to you. It's not all of you, but it's a big part.
-you think I have a nice bottom?
-is that all you got out of what I said?
-pretty much. What's nice about it?
-God you are frustrating.
-Look you must feel the same. One day, when you come out, people will only see that you're gay. You won't be smart Ben, or sad Ben, or handsome Ben. You'll just be gay Ben. They'll look at you the same way they look at me. They won't see who you really are.
-you think I'm handsome?
-is that all you got out of what I said?
-ha ha. Being gay is a part of me. I don't want people to see that first, but I can't change it. The only choice is to pretend I'm not, and I won't do that. I won't hide.
Connor sighed and sat down with my book again. His hands flicked through signs as he read. Eventually he looked up again.
-I broke up with Ella because of what happened. The accident.
-Why? That makes no sense.
-When I was watching you through the window in the hospital, and you were in so much pain and so scared, I wanted to scream. It hurt so badly. I couldn't breathe.
-I saw your signs. They helped.
-You did? I hoped you would, but you were so out of your mind with pain.
-I'd almost forgotten
-Anyway when I walked outside and saw Ella I realised I would never feel anything even close to that for her. She's just a friend. Someone to hang out with. I didn't even like kissing her, to be honest. It was just that she expected it.
My stomach was turning somersaults.
-so what are you saying?
-I don't know. Really. I need to work it out. Maybe I'm just trying to say things you want to hear.
-that won't work
-I know. I think I'm more scared than sad.
-and I'm sad you're scared.
Leaving hospital was an anti-climax. I was expecting an emotional farewell, with hugs and tears, but the reality was much duller. After Dr Hawkins had checked my X-Rays and pronounced me 'good to go', I sat with Charlie and Michael for an hour in my room, waiting for a nurse to bring my discharge papers. Charlie wrestled me into a huge black police hoodie which covered my left arm. They had removed almost all the tape now, and my arm wasn't attached to my chest anymore, but I would have to wear a sling for the next six weeks.
When we got home, Charlie headed off to work and I sat in front of the TV like a zombie, napping in between endless rounds of sandwiches which Michael made for me. I was pretty skinny on my best days, so losing three kilos in hospital had left me looking like a skeleton, or so Michael claimed.
Connor had been quiet since our conversation in the hospital. He'd messaged me on the Saturday to say goodnight as usual, but he hadn't stopped by on Sunday to visit. Sandra said he had 'a thing' at the deaf club, but I suspected our conversation had made him feel uncomfortable. I'd come to realise that being gay and being deaf weren't all that different, at least in terms of how difficult it was to explain your feelings to someone else. Being hearing meant that I could only imagine Connor's frustration, not really feel it. And he would never know how I felt when I looked at him and felt the shock of attraction, the gut-kick of desire. Maybe it would be better to put some distance between us, to take a step back. I would lose my mind if I went on like this.
I watched his bus pull up and he got out, looking at his house and then at ours. A few seconds later he was ringing the doorbell.
-thanks it feels great
-want to hang out?
-I'm kind of tired. I was just going to head up to bed for a nap, I signed, lying and immediately feeling bad about it.
-sure. After school.
Michael came out of the kitchen just as I was closing the door behind Connor. He stared at me, his eyes full of questions.
"I'm going to go crazy, Dad" I said, dissolving into tears. Michael dropped his tea towel and came rushing over to me. I buried my head in his chest and howled while he rubbed my back and waited for me to finish. "I don't know what to do. He basically told me he loved me, but I know it's not the same as the way I love him. He loves me because… because I love him. He feels it and he likes it, so he loves me back. But it's not the same. I'm so miserable. What am I supposed to do?" Michael shushed me and sat me down on the couch.
"You just got out of hospital. You're exhausted and high on painkillers. Your hormones are all over the place. I know it sounds pathetic and a real 'Dad' thing to say, but you just have to be patient and wait to see what happens. You can talk to us whenever you want, and you know we'll listen. But don't get angry at Connor. He looks just as miserable as you do. I think he's starting to work out that he loves you a bit more than a friend normally does, and it's scaring him. If he's both deaf and gay, he knows that he is going to be even more of an outsider. It's a huge moment in his life."
"You think he's gay?" I looked at him in amazement.
"I think he's a fifteen-year-old boy in love with another fifteen-year-old boy and I think he's absolutely petrified. Just let him work it out on his own, alright?"
-sorry I was so tired earlier on
-it's fine. Ella said hi.
-she's nice. Just not my type lol
-so did you do it yet?
-you know. You've been in hospital for over a week. Your balls must have been bursting. Did you rub one out?
-how do you know I didn't rub one out in hospital??
-ooh did you?
-that's for me to know and you to wonder.
-anyway I didn't today yet
-what do you think about when you do it?
-have you ever thought about me?
-that's it I'm out of here.
-have you? Ben?
-yes. Go to sleep.
Kevin and Denny brought my homework round the next day and went through some of the stuff I'd missed the week before. Most of it made sense, and with their help, I even managed to get quite a bit of homework done. We were engrossed in a maths problem when the doorbell rang and Connor was standing there, a hopeful look in his eyes.
-come in I was just doing homework with D-E-N-N-Y and K-E-V-I-N
-I can come back later
-no stay we were almost done.
He stared over my shoulder at the problem.
-x can't be negative. Denny and Kevin looked at me in confusion
-the answer to the problem. x has to be positive.
-so simple. We've been staring at that for fifteen minutes.
- sometimes the simplest answers are the best ones, I interpreted for Denny and Kevin
"Do you do the same maths syllabus as we do?" Kevin asked slowly.
-maths is maths. There's no deaf maths.
-play nice I signed discreetly
- stupid question
-they don't know any deaf people
-that's what I've been saying
-Connor please they're trying
-tell them I can tie my own shoelaces as well
"Everything alright?" Denny said
"Yes we were just talking."
"It looked like you were fighting."
"It was nothing."
After Denny and Kevin left, we went up to my room.
-forget it we're both kind of crazy at the moment
-you too? Thought it was just me
-no, hospital did my head in
-can you help me with my sling? I need to change my shirt it stinks.
-sure. Show me how
-just don't bend my arm at all.
-wow you really do stink
-sorry I haven't showered since Sunday
- I can stand guard if you want. In case you fall.
-okay can you grab me some boxers and a clean shirt? A button-up one so I can get my arm through the sleeve.
-I don't care nobody will see me apart from you. You choose.
-you need help with your shorts?
-no they just fall off. Maybe with getting them back on.
-ok. How do you want to do this?
-just sit over there and pick me up if I fall.
-what if you fall on your shoulder?
-I was kidding I can manage
-don't get your bandage wet
He put the toilet seat down and sat down as I kicked off my shorts and boxers and stood under the shower. It felt weird knowing he was watching me. I took down the shower head and washed as much of myself as I could without getting water on my bandages. I hadn't washed my hair in over a week so my scalp was itchy, but I couldn't risk soaking my bandages. I would have to ask one of my dads to do it later. My left armpit was pretty foul as well. I turned off the shower and reached for the towel.
-what about your hair? It looks greasy
-Charlie can do it later – I can't do it myself
-I'll do it
-that could get weird
-whatever. If It can wait
-okay okay the smell's horrible
-just lean forward
He massaged the shampoo into my scalp and I closed my eyes and sighed with pleasure. When he had rinsed it out and dried it, he mimed 'ta da'.
-brilliant. Hand me that sponge; I want to do my armpit. I think a possum family moved in there.
I felt myself starting to get hard and turned around discreetly signing over my head for him to pass me a towel. Holding the towel in front of myself, I turned around to sign.
-I think I should get dressed on my own
-why do you think?
-just turn around again and I'll help you
I heard all sorts of rustling sounds behind me and then everything went quiet. I felt the warmth of his hand on my good shoulder and suddenly I couldn't breathe. I gulped and turned around slowly.
-yes I am
-that's quite big
-are you sure about this?
-can I kiss you?
I moved my face towards his, smelling the familiar scent of his breath as our mouths came closer. I reached out my hand to stroke his chest and his slid around my waist, pulling me into him. The warmth of his cock against mine made me shudder as our lips met, and then I felt his tongue between my lips. His hand dropped to my cock as I began to push his tongue back with mine. I was trembling all over as he pushed back my foreskin and ran his thumb over my slick head. I took his in my hand, marvelling at the thickness of it. We were about the same length, but his felt twice the girth of mine. He gasped for breath and we kissed again, beginning to stroke each other properly. With his free hand he caressed my nipple, then he went lower and cupped my balls. I heard a whispered sigh of pleasure escape his lips and then he began to wank me in earnest. I sped up as well, my hand already slippy from the liquid oozing out of his cock. Suddenly I knew I was going to cum. I pulled my mouth off his and threw my head back as a wave of pleasure engulfed me. My knees went week and I felt a thick rope of cum spray out of me, hitting him squarely in the stomach. Instantly, he buried his face in my neck and started to cum as well. I felt the warmth of it as it began to run down my thigh. Then we were kissing again as we both slumped into each other, barely able to stay standing as our orgasms died down. We rested our heads on each other's shoulders, gasping for breath. Finally he pushed me gently away from him
-that was intense
-did I hurt you?
-not at all
-I need to shower again
Michael and Charlie noticed the change in my mood instantly. If they guessed what had happened, they didn't let on. Somehow their parental skills had developed sufficiently for them to know that something private was going on. So they talked about their day and I thought about Connor's cock, and we had dinner and I thought about Connor's lips, and they watched a film while I replayed the whole thing in my head over and over again. I excused myself, pleading exhaustion, and sat down at my computer.
-no weirdness, please
-Connor, I don't want to lose you as a friend. Ever. So if you have any regrets just say and we can forget it ever happened
-do you want to be my boyfriend?
-yes. Do you want to be mine?
-we have to tell our parents
-I just did
-way. She cried a bit
-she's angry I didn't tell her earlier. And she never liked Ella anyway. And she's pleased it's you
-she said that?
-so what's next?
-I don't know this is all new to me
-me too. So were you gay all along?
-yes. I just wasn't ready to actually BE it. Do you understand?
-the first time I came over to yours I knew I liked you a lot. But I knew there would be THAT conversation with Mum. And THIS conversation with you. And I wasn't ready to have either of those conversations. Also I wanted your friendship first. I had to know you liked me. Deaf/hearing relationships don't often work out because they're really hard work. I wanted to do the hard work first.
-When were you sure?
-The rugby game
-No when you scored at the end. I felt like I was going to explode with love. I knew then. I was going to tell you that night, but then you were a bit unconscious
-So it was the rugby shorts?
-I just got hard remembering them. Do you still have them?
-Yes and they're still muddy
-I just came a bit in my pants.
[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. If the email address pastes with %40 in the middle, replace that with an @ sign.]