Just Hit 'Send' - The High School Years

by Grasshopper

Ch. 14

The drive was long; the silence deafening. Griffin couldn't think of anything to say to Jordan's dad......nothing that would change anything anyway, so he sat, slumped against the door, his mind going over and over what he could have done; what he could have said.

"He....how long has he been this way? You know,........" Mr. Lawrence cleared his throat. The word 'gay' just stuck in there and lodged. His hands were tight on the steering wheel, his knuckles white. He could feel emotions raging inside that were so foreign. He'd only had them once before; when Adam had died. He had lost Adam and now he was going to lose Jordan. One because he had no control over God and now one because he had no control over the prejudice he had been raised in and the way he had been taught.

"What way?" Griffin sighed. Griffin was a big boy, tackle on the football team. He had always had to control his temper so he wouldn't hurt anyone. The only person he'd never hurt; always protected; always trusted was Jordan. And here was Jordan's father; the person who had caused this to happen, slurring his best friend. He felt his fists clenching. Taking several deep breaths, he tried to answer in a monotone.

"Mr. Lawrence, Jordan isn't any "way". He's just Jordan. He has always felt different........alone in a crowd. He has worked his whole life to be exactly like everyone else. Do you really think he wants you to think he's different?" Griff worked his fingers slowly. It wouldn't do Jordan any good to fight with his dad. Griff's mind whirled, trying to come up with the right words. What do you say to a grown man steeped in southern Baptist doctrine who knows he's right? Even though he had been as close to Jordan as a brother, he saw more clearly what Jordan had been struggling with all these years.

"But," Mr. Lawrence started again, "But, why? Why does he think he might be.....be gay?" There, he said it. "Was it Danny? Did Danny influence him?" He knew down deep that wasn't true, but he was grasping at any answer, any way to make this go away.

"No," Griff answered. "He told me before he got close to Danny. I think Danny just brought it to the surface. The fear became the reality in Danny Trainor and, Mr. Lawrence........Jordan was happy. He was happy with Danny. Danny made him laugh again.......laugh with his eyes. For the first time since......, his voice trailed off.

"Since what?" David Lawrence questioned. "Jordan was always happy........ wasn't he?" God, did he not even know his own son at all?

"That's for you and Jordan to talk about. All I know is Danny and Jordan balanced each other, like they were each other's gravity somehow. Jordan made Danny stand up and Danny made Jordan young. They were a gift to each other." Griff shut up. He didn't know where those words came from except that they seem to ease the ache.

"And my son ran away because he thought I would take this all away? Then why didn't he run to Danny?" David asked.

"Where would you have looked first? I know Jordan, sir. He's on his own. He thinks he has been all his life. I'm just hoping he realizes that he never was and he comes home before he gets hurt. It all depends on what he's thinking and how he feels. All we can do is wait." Griffin punched #1 on his cell phone one more time and got the same "message undeliverable" words. Until Jordan turned it on, no one would be able to find him.

David Lawrence rolled his head, feeling the joints crack, the tension causing pain to shoot down his neck. As they pulled off I-75 at the Brooksville exit and the huge mall came into sight, both he and Griff knew they wouldn't find any clue here. Jordan was gone.

Danny sat quietly in his computer chair, his cell phone resting on the keyboard. 'Call, damn it. Call !!' He felt the tears and just let them roll down his face. 'Until you turn it on, I can't find you.' His dad walked up quietly behind him and ran his fingers through the soft black curls that cascaded over Danny's forehead.

"Jordy loves my hair," Danny whispered absently. "Oh, Daddy," he gasped as the tears fell and he turned his face into his father's chest.

"I know, baby. I know," his dad soothed. He stood quietly as he let his son cry, feeling the pain all parents feel when they have to let their child suffer and can do absolutely nothing.

"He's okay..............I know it," Danny sniffled, as the tears began to let up. "I'd know it if he was hurt. I just wish I could go look for him." He looked at his legs in disgust and hated himself. He slapped at his scarred legs.

"Stop now," Mr. Trainor murmured. "Nothing to be gained from that." He took Danny's hands in his and knelt beside the chair. "You pray, you send your thoughts.......he knows you care. Jordan knows. He has to work this out. When he does, he'll be back. You'll go surfing again soon. You'll see." He looked over the top of his son's bowed head and hoped to God that Jordan Lawrence was all right.

Jordan walked along the middle of the street. He was from the country and he never felt right in the city streets. Too many people, too many cars, no one ever seemed to care. Right now though, it was..........he glanced at his watch, 5:45 in the morning and not too many people were moving. If he was home, he'd be up, feeding the animals and playing with J. He felt the tears and blocked them. 'Nope, not going there. Mama will feed J and Daddy will ...... Daddy..................do I have a daddy?' He stumbled and jerked himself back to now when a car came barreling down the street.

The street connected to another and another and he finally came to the run down section of Tampa where the warehouses sat, loaded with ten million of everything for WalMart and Walgreens and Albertsons. People were heading in to work now and the streets were crowded, exhaust fumes filled his nose and the sound was deafening. No one cared about one lonely boy, backpack carrying his most prized possessions; the only picture of Mama, Daddy, Adam and Jordan left, Danny's shirt that he left in Jordan's bed and one raggedy red ribbon. His skateboard got heavier and heavier but he didn't see how he could use it in this traffic, so he just kept carrying it by the front wheel.

The Kicker 41 that Adam had given him a long time ago........before he had let Adam fall. Sleepy and confused, Jordan sat on the bus bench watching the cars and trucks roar by, all these people going wherever they go, to do whatever they did.......some happy, most not. Some gay, most not. A lucky few content in their hearts that they were loved and loved someone in return.

As the bus pulled up, Jordan couldn't read the sign but it didn't really matter anyway. He had nowhere in particular to go. Just wherever the gay people go...........the faggots. He had no idea where that was but it was where he belonged. Maybe the bus sign said, "Queer Street". Jordan heaved up his stuff and scrabbled in his pocket for the fare. Taking a seat at the back as the bus lurched away from the corner, he stared out the dirty window and wished with all his heart that he could wake up from this and be in Danny's arms, all snug and warm. He reached up and sadly drew a D on the grimy pane.

Jordan spent the day in the Suncoast Mall sitting in the movies. He'd never be able to tell you what movie he watched but it was dark and he was soooo sleepy. He clutched his pack and his board and awkwardly leaned against the back wall and went in and out of sleep as the day wore on. His stomach growled and his head hurt. Finally, he clicked his dayglo watch and knew he had to get up and move. Even in his muddled mind, he knew he couldn't live in the movie theatre. He didn't know why his head hurt so bad. It was throbbing and he couldn't think clearly. He had to decide where to go. Whose half assed idea was this anyway? He didn't know where to go and he couldn't go home. A thought flickered in his mind. He had nowhere to go...........He belonged nowhere. Maybe he shouldn't even exist. Maybe.............

The thought of walking exhausted him but the thought of food made him sick. He hadn't eaten since yesterday breakfast but his headache wouldn't stop pounding and he knew he couldn't keep anything down right now.

Walking slowly along the open hall of the huge mall, the bright lights, the noise, the people crowded together, he missed the quiet of the country, the sound of the crickets, the smell of J's fur, his Mama's cooking. People jostled him and one man even pushed into him, causing him to stumble.

"Sorry," Jordan mumbled. 'One more bus ride,' he thought. 'Wherever that takes me, that's where I'll stay." He shifted his stuff onto the other shoulder and walked wearily to the stop shelter.

"Hey kid," a voice said softly from the twilight of the little shelter. "Got any money? I need food."

Jordan leaned back from the smell that wafted off the man. For the first time, he realized that he was alone. He didn't have Griffin. He backed out of the shelter and waited under the street light. He could feel the man's eyes on him but he didn't turn around.

The bus took him to the Davis Island bridges. He could see the moonlight touching down on the water in Tampa Bay. "Last stop on the line, young man," the bus driver called. Jordan gathered his things and climbed off, looking around him. Lights from the homes on the island twinkled and bounced off the black water. He needed a place to sleep. He'd just have to find a motel. 'Can a kid get a motel room?' he wondered. Reaching to his back pocket to check his wallet, his eyes widened and his heart stopped beating. Where the hell was his wallet? A cold sweat breaking out all over his body, Jordan thought for minute and knew exactly when he'd lost it. In the mall......that man.......aw fuck !! He reached in his pocket and pulled out a handful of change. No motel. No food.

He started walking along the seawall sidewalk toward a red flickering light way off in the distance. His fingers traced the rough cement of the edge as he walked. The wall was about level with his chest. Climbing up, he decided to see if he could balance and walk toward that light. If his head didn't hurt so bad, he'd try to board it but............well, hell, why not. He stood for a minute, staring down into the black water of the bay, his toes on one edge, his heels on the other. 'Piece a cake', he thought. Turning, he placed the Kicker on the wall and, arms out, he set his right foot on the board. It was the one thing he was good at. Jordan knew he could ride his board........and if he couldn't, well, the water looked cool and dark and he was really really sleepy.

"I don't think we're gonna find him this way," Griff said, trying to make Mr. Lawrence hear him. They had walked that mall and scoured the parking lot. They had talked to the security men and Griff thought Mr. Lawrence was gonna blow when one of the men didn't seem to care. Just said, 'We get runaways all the time. Maybe you should be glad he's gone.' It had been all Griff could do not to beat the shit out of him too.

A cell rang and both of them reached frantically only to find Claire on the other end. "I told you to leave this line open," David almost yelled. He jabbed the 'end' button and threw the phone on the seat. After a few minutes, he picked it up and called her back. "Sorry," he mumbled. "I'm not thinking straight right now. I don't know what else to do, Claire. We can't find him."

Claire Lawrence sighed. "Come home, David. You won't find him that way. It's only been 24 hours. He had money. He'll be all warm in some hotel room with a good dinner and he'll call. He'll call." She dropped the phone and covered her face with her hands. "Call, baby, please call."

David turned the truck towards the interstate. "We can't do anything else," he said, not looking at Griff.

"I know," Griff answered quietly. He pulled out his phone and punched in a number. Speaking softly, He said, "It's me....Griff. No, nothing. We're headed home. He'll call. It will be you he calls. Hold onto that phone."

"Danny?" David asked softly. "You think he'll call him?"

"If he calls anyone, he'll call Danny. He loves him, you know," Griff whispered.

Danny sat frozen in his chair. If he hadn't asked that first question...if he hadn't typed, "Will someone listen?" none of this would have happened.

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