Saturday morning, Dad drove me to the hospital. We went up to Oliver’s room and I gave him a hug (no kiss because Dad was there). Then we talked about what Oliver wanted to do. He was adamant that he didn’t want to leave town with his father. He wanted to live with us.
Oliver had told Doctor Winston that we’d go to Mr. Talbott’s room at 11:00, so shortly before that we walked out of the psych unit, which Oliver was allowed to do with a pass to visit his father. We rode an elevator down to the floor where his father’s room was.
As we walked in, I noticed that Mr. Talbott looked a little better. His head was propped up some on his bed, and he didn’t appear to have quite so many tubes. Oliver introduced me and Dad as Trevor Brooks and Mr. Brooks.
Then, Dr. Winston walked in, shook hands with me and Dad, said hello to Mr. Talbott, and then gave a friendly little cuff to Oliver’s shoulder.
Oliver and I sat in the visitors’ chairs while the doctor and Dad stood.
“What’s this, a committee meeting?” ask Mr. Talbott. His voice seemed raspy and it wasn’t very loud but I could hear and understand him.
“Yes,” said Oliver, “I want to talk with you about what happens after you get out of the hospital.”
“We’re moving far away from here,” his father responded. “I don’t ever want to go into that house again. I’ll just have it bulldozed and carted away and then I’ll sell the property.”
“Okay, that’s what you want to do. It’s not what I want to do, although I do agree about the house.”
“What do you mean it’s not what you want to do? It’s decided. You’re my son, so of course you’ll come with me.”
Oliver paused before saying, “Father, what do you really think of me?”
“What kind of a question is that? You’re my son, that’s what I think.”
“Do you love me?”
Mr. Talbott looked startled. “Well, like I said, you’re my son so of course I love you.”
“Really, Father? Or are you just saying that because that’s what you’re expected to say? What have you done to show that you love me?”
Mr. Talbott sputtered for a bit before he said, “Well, I’ve fed you and clothed you and put up with some of your shenanigans.”
“Did you ever come to any of my games? Did you ever encourage me in what I wanted to do? You don’t have to answer that because I know the answer. It’s no. You’ve never done anything like that. When we were home together you barely spoke to me. Oh, you had conversations with Mom and Callie, but it was as though I wasn’t even in the same room. I can’t imagine living with just you and having that happen, so I don’t want to live with you. You go your way; I’ll go mine.”
There were tears in Oliver’s eyes and his voice was trembling, but he had said what he wanted to say. Somehow he looked relieved.
“How dare you talk to me like that. I’m not one of your little, que…”
Mr. Talbott stopped.
“Go ahead, say it. Say queer. You think I’m gay, don’t you Father? Except you don’t like that term because it tends to dignify boys like me. You’d rather say ‘queer,’ or ‘fairy’ or ‘faggot’ or any of the other terms that are used to put kids like me down. That’s the real reason I won’t live with you. And if you make me, I’ll run away.”
Mr. Talbott was silent for a long time before saying, “So, what you’re saying is that you’d rather live with your homo friend. Do you know how unsafe that would be for both of you? Two of you together, both queer, and you Black? How long do you think you’d last before someone killed you like they did your mother and sister?”
“I don’t care. Maybe a week; maybe a hundred years. I don’t know and I don’t care. At least I’d be happy in whatever time I have.”
“I need some time to think,” Mr. Talbott said, weakly. “This is not something I can decide right now.”
“Okay, we’ll come back tomorrow, and I’ll keep coming back until you agree to let me go.”
With that, Oliver walked out of the room and the rest of us followed. In the hall, I gave Oliver a big hug, squeezing him as tightly as I could. I could feel his sobs, although no sound came out.
Oliver, the doctor, Dad, and I went back up to the psych unit and to Oliver’s room.
“Can I say something?” asked Dr. Winston. When Oliver nodded, the doctor went on, “You were pretty hard on him in there. Is that really how it is and how it would be if you lived with him?”
“Yes, sir. I’ve always known he didn’t like me, but I had Mom and Callie to make my life bearable. Without them, living with him would be hell.”
“Okay. I think that tomorrow we should try to get Mrs. Hatcher here to fill her in on what you’ve said and then have her sit in with you and your father. What do you think?”
“If that’ll help me stay in Wallaceville I think it’s fine.”
Dad and I remained for a few minutes after the doctor left but we could see that Oliver was exhausted, so we soon departed and drove home.
Dad and I talked in the car about what had happened in the hospital.
“I had no idea things were that bad for Oliver,” Dad said.
“I didn’t know until the last few days, after he told me on the phone. Do you think Oliver was too honest? Too brutal?”
“At first I thought so, but then I realized he had to say how he felt. No, I don’t think he was too brutal. At least now they both know where they stand. I doubt that Mr. Talbott will let Oliver stay here. It would be too hard on his pride. And if Oliver ran away and came here, his father would know exactly where to find him.
“I’m also concerned about what his father said regarding safety. After all, that really includes not only Oliver, but all our family.”
“Dad, I can only say that, as far as I can tell, Oliver is accepted by everyone in the town except Charlie and Derek. There isn’t anyone else.”
“That’s what you think, but there really is no way of knowing if there are other bigots out there. What if you’re wrong? Are you willing to risk your life as well as Wally’s and mine? Will you at least think about that?”
I told him I would, and then we were silent for a while.
Finally Dad said, “You know, I’m sure our house is safer than the Talbotts’ house was, but that’s no guarantee of anything. In fact, I tell my customers when they first hire me that there’s no such thing as foolproof security.”
I nodded but didn’t say anything more until we were home. Then I made a quick sandwich and told Dad that I was going over to Pete’s for the afternoon. Before I left, he grabbed me in a bear hug and whispered in my ear, “I love you, you know, and if Oliver comes here, we’ll work it out.”
Hugging him back, I said, “Thanks.” When we broke the hug, I went out the door, got on my bike, and rode to Pete’s.
When I arrived, everyone climbed out of the pool asking to hear about Oliver. I gave them a brief synopsis of what happened, leaving out the gay part, and they all agreed that they hoped he’d be able to stay in Wallaceville.
The next morning, Dad and I rode back to the hospital and went up to Oliver’s room, where Dr. Winston and Mrs. Hatcher were already seated in visitors’ chairs. Oliver had just finished filling in Mrs. Hatcher about the conversation of the day before.
“Well,” she said, “I guess the next thing to do is to see what your father says. Unfortunately for you, Oliver, legally he has the final say.”
We left Oliver’s room and rode the elevator down to Mr. Talbott’s floor. When we walked in the door, Oliver and I feeling considerable anxiety, Mr. Talbott looked at the five of us and grumped, “I see you’ve brought reinforcements. Did you think that would change my mind?”
Dr. Winston said, “Mr. Talbott, having spent quite a bit of time talking with Oliver as his therapist, I can tell you two things which Oliver has given permission for me to say. First, I think Oliver has been able to get his depression under control. He’ll need to see a therapist for a while, but he’s much better. Second, I believe his depression, while at first caused by the violence done to your family, has been deepened by his fear of living with you. I believe that psychologically he would be much better off living with Trevor and his family.”
“So, what’ll it be Father?” asked Oliver. Are you gonna let me stay here where I want to be, or are you gonna drag me away so that I have to run off and come back here?”
“Can you tell me if what Oliver is asking for is even legal?” Mr. Talbott asked. It was an interesting question and I wondered if he was beginning to weaken a little.
“There would have to be papers drawn up and signed,” answered Mrs. Hatcher, “but it could be made legal, yes. Trevor’s father would have to agree to it, of course, and be willing to take legal responsibility for Oliver. I haven’t yet heard what he thinks.”
I looked at Dad, hoping he wouldn’t express the same worries about safety that he had talked about in the car yesterday.
“Trevor and I talked about it on the way home yesterday. I raised some questions, but Trevor convinced me that it was the right thing to do, so yes, I’m willing to take Oliver in and assume responsibility for him.”
Up to that point, neither Oliver nor I had known what Dad was going to say. We looked at each other and smiled.
At first, Mr. Talbott said nothing. He just sat there. After a long silence he said, “You’ve got this all figured out, don’t you? You’re all ganging up on me.”
“That’s right,” said Oliver. “The only person here who thinks I should stay with you is you. Unfortunately for me, this isn’t something that can be decided by a vote. You have to decide, and I hope and pray you make the right decision.”
We all looked at Mr. Talbott and he looked back at us, searching all our faces. “Is this what you all think, that letting Oliver stay in Wallaceville would be the best thing for him?”
We all agreed.
“Oliver, would you write to me and tell me how you’re getting on? Would I be able to visit you sometimes?”
“Yes, of course,” Oliver said quietly.
“Then I guess you should stay here. Obviously, I can’t do anything for you.”
Oliver walked to the bedside, took his father’s hand, and said, “Thank you, Father. That was truly the most loving thing you’ve ever said to me. You won’t regret this.”
The rest of us shook Mr. Talbott’s hand and then left his room. We went to the psych ward solarium and pulled some chairs into a circle.
“I’ll call my lawyer in the morning and have him draw up the papers,” my dad said.
“Oliver,” Dr. Winston said, “if I find you a good therapist you could visit as an outpatient, would you agree to that?”
“Yes sir,” Oliver responded, “but if the therapist isn’t in Wallaceville, I don’t know how I’d get to them.”
“Don’t worry about that,” Dad answered. “I’ll make it work. My job is flexible enough so that I can do that.”
Mrs. Hatcher spoke to Dad. “Mr. Brooks, when you get the papers drawn up and ready to sign, give me a call. I can be a witness and I’m also a notary, so you won’t have to bring in another person. But if your lawyer wants to be present, that’s fine.”
Oliver looked around the room, beaming. “Is this really gonna happen? Am I really gonna get to stay in Wallaceville?”
We all said yes. He came to me and gave me a big hug and then hugged all the adults, thanking them.
Dr. Winston told Dad, “If you can get the documents signed this week and I can arrange for Oliver’s therapist, I can release him from here by Friday.”
So it was agreed that we’d try to make the signing Friday morning.
I hugged Oliver again, saying, “I’ll see you Friday.” And then Dad and I left the hospital.
On the ride home, neither of us spoke for a while. At last Dad asked, “Well, Trevor, should I get you two a bigger bed so that you don’t have to pretend with the sleeping bag anymore?”
Looking at him, I asked, “You know I’m gay? How long have you known?”
He smiled, laughed, and said, “I figured it out the first time Oliver slept over, but I wasn’t sure until I heard Oliver and his father talking about him being gay.”
Smiling back, I said, “Yes, Dad, a bigger bed would be great.”
We rode the rest of the way home in companionable silence, each thinking his own thoughts.
On Friday I took the day off from school and rode with Dad to the hospital to sign papers and get Oliver.
When we entered Oliver’s room, both Dad and I got big hugs. We went to Mr. Talbott’s room, where we met Dad’s lawyer, Mrs. Hatcher, and Dr. Winston. The lawyer had already gone over the papers with Mr. Talbott, who had agreed to everything, so the signing went quickly. Oliver again thanked his father and said he’d call him in a few days to find out how he was doing.
We returned to Oliver’s room to pick up his few belongings, and thanked Mr.s Hatcher and Dr. Winston. The doctor gave Dad Oliver’s release form. Oliver and I hugged each other again and then we all left.
On the way home, Oliver and I rode in the back seat, holding hands.
At home, the three of us piled out of the car. Oliver and I went up to our bedroom, where there was a brand new double bed. Oliver looked at it and laughed. “So everybody knows,” he said. “Good,” he continued, “I can’t wait to try it out!”
Without saying anything more, we both stripped, I pulled back the covers, and we fell onto the bed in each other’s arms. The rest I leave up to your imagination.
Many thanks as always for my editors, from whom I always learn so much and without whom the story would have many more errors than it probably has.