As my parents went to the check-in counter, the officers sat on either side of me in the waiting area. I heard my dad say that he had contacted Doctor Erikson, our family physician, who recommended that they bring me in for evaluation.
I was so angry with them.
One of the officers told me to settle down; apparently all my jittering was making them nervous. I tend to shake my legs when I'm nervous.
All I could think of was to run, but I knew it would be useless. Eventually, you have to give in to your situation and make the best of it. But there was nothing wrong with me. Was there?
It was then that I heard a loud un-muffled truck pull up outside and a door slam shut. When the doors to the Emergency Room opened, Doug's father walked in. My anger went wild. I attempted to stand, but one of the officers grabbed my arm.
"Sit down son"
Mr. Merrick went up to the nurse's desk and began making demands about his son. He told them he was Doug's father and that he needed to see him.
"I'm sorry Mr. Merrick, but I'm going to have to ask you to wait over there. Your son is fine, but I need you to wait for the doctor."
In a huff, he turned and began walking towards us.
He was a scruffy older man, probably in his early fifties, tall, with a solid build and a receding hairline. He took one of the orange seats that was across the room from me and sat down. He leaned forward and put his head in his hands.
I sat there in silence coldly starring at the man who had beaten Doug.
When Mr. Merrick lifted his head some time later, our eyes met and I wanted to reach out and strangle him.
He gazed back at me with a look of pity and disgust. But it was only when he snickered a little laugh did I lose it.
I jumped to my feet and charged towards him.
The officers were quick to grab my arms and force me to the ground.
"What you gonna do boy?" Mr. Merrick said.
"YOU SON OF A BITCH!!!" I screamed at him.
He laughed again.
My parents came in and noticed Mr. Merrick calmly sitting across from me in the waiting room.
"Hey Shaw, it looks like your son is a little out of control."
"Fuck you John – we both know whose fault this really is!"
Mr. Merrick just shrugged it off, stood up, and went outside to smoke.
The officers put me back in my seat while I calmed down. My parents took seats directly across from me.
My mom said that all my anger wasn't helping anyone and that I just needed to calm down.
"How could you do this to me?" I asked her.
"Jason, we are only doing what is best for you. I know you can't see that now, but we only want to help you."
"Help me with what?"
"With what you have been through, honey."
"Mom, I'm sorry – but you really don't understand."
"No honey, I guess I shook her headdon't."
"So what makes you think that any of THIS is actually helping me?"
They sat their silently looking at me. They didn't have an answer. How could they? Their only instinct was to protect.
I shook my head and looked out the doorway to the waiting room where I saw Doctor Erikson talking with one of the nurses. He was dressed in street clothes and the nurse was pointing towards me. When he started coming towards me, my heart began to race.
What was going to happen now?
One of the officer's radios chirped and a woman announced a code 240 for John Merrick.
My father asked what a code '240' was.
"It means someone committed an assault."
As Doctor Erikson came into the room I told them if they were looking for John Merrick - he was standing outside.
"Yes officer..." my mom said, "...that's him right there" pointing to the man standing on the other side of the window smoking a cigarette.
"I'm sorry ma'am – but could you excuse us?"
"Its fine officer, please go." Dr. Erikson told them.
The officers got up and went outside. From where we were sitting the police approached and put Mr. Merrick in hand-cuffs. With his face pressed to the glass - he looked in and our eyes met once more.
I couldn't help but discreetly smile and flip him off.
"Can you folks come with me?"
We followed Dr. Erikson down the hallway into the Emergency Room where Doug was. He was asleep. My mother wrapped her arm around me and reassured me that he was fine.
He looked so peaceful.
Dr Erikson led us into a small exam room where I sat on the table and my parents took two seats against the wall. He closed the door and sat down on his little round stool.
"Jason, do you know why your parents had you brought in here?"
"Dr. Erikson, I appreciate what all of you are trying to do – but I'm fine."
"Jason, with what you have been through in the last year, it is perfectly normal to question the way of things."
"Look, I know what I went through was 'difficult', but I'm really okay. And what Doug Merrick and I are 'doing' is something that is really none of your business."
I looked to my parents who were sitting there quietly. My mom grabbed a tissue from her purse and patted her eyes.
Dr. Erikson asked me if Doug was the one who assaulted me last year and I didn't want to respond, I just looked down at the floor.
My dad stood up, came to my side, and placed his hand on my shoulder. "It's okay Jason."
I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Then I looked Dr. Erikson in the eye.
"Jason!" my father exploded.
"NO! HE'S NOT THE ONE WHO DID THOSE THINGS TO ME!" I yelled.
"Mom, it wasn't Doug!"
"...it was Mr. Edgars..."
I looked at the floor again and started to cry.
"...it was Carl Edgars – the school janitor..."
Dr. Erikson and my father looked at each other in disbelief. My father grabbed both my shoulders and turned me towards him.
"Jason, it was Carl Edgars who attacked you?"
I shook my head yes and reached out to hug him. He grabbed me and pulled me in tight.
"Oh my god, that son of a bitch!" his voice trailed off, "... I'm going to fucking kill him!"
"Jason honey, why did you say you didn't know who hurt you?"
"Because I was scared mom... I was scared and embarrassed! I just wanted it forgotten – okay?"
There was silence in the room for several minutes when Dr. Erikson finally spoke up.
"Jason, you realize that I have to report this to the authorities."
"Honey, he can't get away with this."
"No! I'm not pressing charges against him."
"The hell you aren't! I'll do it myself."
"No Dad, I was 18 when it happened and I have the right to choose!"
"But Jason – it was wrong."
"I don't care – it happened, it's over, and I need to move on. I can't change the past and I cannot relive it all over again by having him arrested. The entire town will know and I'm almost out of here! School starts in a couple months and I can put all of this behind me, don't you understand?"
There was complete silence and after a few minutes Dr. Erikson spoke up.
"Mike, can I ask you and Madeline to give Jason and me a few moments alone?"
My dad let go, told me they would be waiting outside, then he and my mother left.
Dr. Erikson opened a manila file folder and said he needed to ask me some questions.
"I'm sorry for having to do this, but I need to go through these."
"Jason, are you feeling hopeless about the present or future?"
"No, absolutely not"
"Have you had any thoughts of harming yourself or others?"
"Do you find yourself having racing thoughts or difficulty sleeping?"
"Have you felt that anyone might want to harm you?"
"Any feelings of impending doom?"
"Impending doom? Like the world is going to end or something?"
"No – sorry."
"Jason, on a scale of one to ten, with ten being the worst – how would you rate your average mood."
"Actually Doc, it's pretty good. I have been really happy lately."
He paused to look at me – I was smiling.
"Okay..." he said as he stood up, "...Jason, I know you have been through a lot and I would like for you to speak with someone about your assault."
"No, not now. But it is something that I would like you to consider doing in the future. Many times, we don't understand how badly a situation has damaged us until much later down the road."
"I understand Dr. Erikson."
"Your parents see your recent 'sexual exploration' as a way of coping with your past and they are afraid it is dangerous and unhealthy for you. I have to admit that the timing of your relationship with Douglas Merrick is very coincidental – and that concerns me."
"Well I promise that if I have any thoughts of harming myself or others, you'll be the first to know."
"Jason, this is serious. I need you to truly consider what you have been through."
"I understand, and I will talk to someone – I promise."
Even though I agreed, I could tell Dr. Erikson did not believe me. And when I was ready to discuss it, I would. But not now.
"Okay then..." he smiled, shook my hand and escorted me out of the exam room. "Have a seat over there while I speak with your parents."
While I was waiting, I could see Doug's bed, and went to him. As I approached, a nurse was with him.
"Hi, is he going to be okay."
"Yes, we are keeping him overnight for observation. Someone will be along to take him upstairs in a bit."
"Can I stay with him?"
As she walked away, I took a seat next to his bed, gently grasped his hand, and intertwined our thumbs. His palm was warm to the touch, his fingers calloused and rough against the back of my hand and wrist.
When I raised his hand and brushed it against my cheek, he opened his eyes just a little.
"Hey yourself – how are you feeling?"
"Like someone beat the shit out of me."
"Yeah, I'm sure. They are going to keep you overnight just to make sure everything is okay."
He let out a deep sigh. "Will you stay with me?"
"Sure..." I replied with a smile, "...I can't imagine anywhere else I would rather be."
When the nurses came to transfer him upstairs, we continued to hold hands as we walked down the hallway. My parents were standing with Dr. Erikson as they wheeled Doug by.
"I'm going with him, I'll be home later."
My mom grasped her mouth and shook her head 'yes' as tears grew in her eyes. My dad just looked on as we walked towards the elevator together.
In Doug's room I took a seat in the window sill while they transferred him to the other bed. And once he was settled, climbed in next to him on his left side and gently pressed my body into his.
"Is this okay?"
"Yes, I'm sure..." he said with his eyes closed and a smile across his face.
In the dim light of the room, Doug looked like a tan marbled statue chiseled to perfection and surrounded by white linens. I rest my head next to his on the pillow.
With my index finger, I traced the edge of his collarbone... from shoulder to sternum, where I softly swept the valley of his neck... over and down the subtle ridges in his chest to the curve of his left pectoral... slowly out to his nipple... around its peak... and down his side to the crests of his ribs.
His breathing was slow and rhythmic.
"That feels good"
I smiled and continued to trace the contours of his body... down his side, to the protruding pelvic bone on his hip... up the side of his waist... and to the trove of his abdomen which slowly rose and fell with each breath.
I wanted to get lost in his smooth valleys. The feeling of his soft warm skin against my lips; gently kissing and tracing the outer ring of his umbilicus with my tongue.
I traced the ridge of his pelvis above his hip, pushing the sheet down gently as my finger moved along his skin. Tufts of his pubic hair soon became visible. My hand went flat against his hip, my fingers spread, as I combed through the forest of his loins to the other side and back again...
"Mmm..." he moaned softly.
The temptation to go further down was overwhelming, but I resisted.
With all four fingers, I gently swept upward towards his stomach... each finger feathering lightly at the peaks in his abdominal muscles... upward again towards his chest and settled my warm soft hand over his heart.
"I think I love you."
"I think I love you too."
I saw his chest rise and fall as he exhaled slowly. I touched his dimpled Neanderthal chin with my finger tip and he smiled.
"What's going to happen next?"
"I don't know Doug"
"...okay..." he said softly as he turned and touched his forehead to mine
"For now, just close your eyes"
"...whatever you say..."
Sometime later, I awoke to the gentle nudging of Doug's nurse.
"I'm sorry, but visiting hours are over" she whispered.
"Can't I just stay?"
"Only family members are allowed to stay overnight, I'm sorry."
I was saddened, but I understood.
I whispered in Doug's ear that I would be back in the morning and left.
It was around 11:00pm when I walked out the Emergency Room doors and into the hot night air. The parking lot was virtually empty, so I started to walk out to the main driveway when I heard someone yell out.
I turned and saw Donny sitting in his truck under one of the light poles in the parking lot.
I was hesitant, but soon he was driving over to me.
"You know you really shouldn't be walking alone out here, it can be dangerous."
"I can handle myself"
"It's not you I'm worried about – it's the poor dumb bastard who thinks he can take you."
We both laughed.
"Come on, I'll give you a ride home."
"How long have you been waiting out here?"
"And you thought you would just give me a ride whenever I happened to come out?"
"Well, actually, I called your mom to talk to you and she said this is where you were. When I got here the nurse said visiting hours were over so I made them have you come outside."
The look on his face told me that he was worried about me, and I appreciated that. The fact that he came back for me made me feel good too.
"So are you going to get in, or do I have to put you in here?"
"Oh, I see..." I walked around the truck and got in. He looked at me and smiled.
"I'm sorry about earlier Jason."
"No, Donny, I'm sorry. You're right – that was the wrong place for that."
"I just wasn't prepared for that."
"I know – I'm sorry" I looked down at the floor of the truck. I felt awful.
"So you like doing that kind of... thing?"
I looked up at him, "Um – yeah – why?"
He turned to look out the window and put the truck in gear, as we drove off he said, "Well, just in case I ever needed a hand – I could call on you - right?"
With a burst of laughter I told him that he could count on me for anything except that.
But now that he mentioned it...