Doing Something



Chapter 11    



Chase leads the way into the house.  Dad’s working in his office.  I don’t bother disturbing him.  Telling him Chase is here won’t mean much to him.  Chase looks around but seems uninterested in what he sees.  To me, he lacks life, enthusiasm.  It’s like he’s simply here filling a space.


When I make a joke, he just looks at me.  So, I decide it’s time for me to take charge—something I’d never get away with if he were himself.


I tell him he needs a shower.  He looks at me, so I take his hand and we go upstairs together.  I tell him to get undressed, and I do the same thing.  His body turns me on, like always, but nothing seems to turn him on.


I get the shower up to temperature and get in, then hold out my hand to him.  “Come on in,” I say, and he hesitates, then does as I ask.


I soap him up, soap him all over.  It feels sensuous to me, but it doesn’t seem to have much effect at all on him.  I wash his hair and rinse it, then quickly bathe myself and we get out.  I hand him a towel, and he dries himself perfunctorily.  When he’s done, I take the towel and dry him thoroughly.  Chase simply stands still and lets me do it.  He’s said almost nothing since Lindsey and I picked him up.


I don’t like how quiet he is; it’s sad and unnerving.  I have to get him to snap out of this funk but don’t know how.  I see why his dad was so worried about him.


We dress.  I find clean clothes in his suitcase.  He smelled bad before the shower, so I figure he needs something else to wear now.  He dresses himself after I lay out clothes for him, and then we go downstairs.  He sits at the kitchen table while I make dinner: pork chops, green beans, mac and cheese and a salad.  I have him tear up the lettuce, chop some carrots and celery and slice some tomatoes for the salad.  He mutely does as I ask, looking awkward.  He’s never cooked before either.


I go get Dad, and we eat.  Dad makes an effort to speak to Chase but gets very little in return.  Eventually, Dad gives up, finishes quickly and looks relieved as he goes back to his office.


I have Chase help with the dishes, then tell him we’re going back upstairs.  When we do, I undress and tell him to do the same.  He does, and I pull back the covers on the bed.


“Get in,” I say.  “We’re going to bed—even though it’s early.”  He looks at the clock; it’s only a few minutes past eight, but he’s nothing if not compliant.  He gets in bed, and I get in right behind him.  He rolls over, away from me, but I move right with him.  I wrap my arms around him, pull his back up against my front, and just hold him.  I whisper in his ear, “You’re with me now, Chase, and I’m not letting go.  You’re safe.  Everything’s good.  I love you.”  And I do.  Seeing him like this is breaking my heart.  Despite what I feel for Lindsey, I’ve been reminded how much I love Chase.


I feel him shudder, and I hug him a little tighter.  Within a minute, his body relaxes and his breathing deepens.  I could get up now, but I don’t.  I don’t fall asleep for some time, but I don’t mind.  It feels right just being here and holding him.  I’m trying to help Chase, and that’s the most important thing I have to do right now.


I wake up early.  Chase is still in my arms.  It doesn’t seem he’s moved at all.  His breathing is slow, deep and steady. 


Slowly, gently, I work my arm out from under him.  He doesn’t react.  I carefully get out of bed.  He sleeps on.  I write a follow-up email to his dad—I sent him a short note yesterday telling him Chase had arrived safely—and tell him I’m hoping Chase will improve in the next few days, that I’m taking good care of him.  Then I go downstairs and make breakfast.  I’m not sure what to fix, but his father said Chase wasn’t eating much, which I can see for myself because he’s thinner.  I don’t want to give him too much food; the sight of it might turn him off.  So I make him a piece of toast, one poached egg, and a cup of hot chocolate.  I take it up to him.


He’s still sleeping, still hasn’t moved.  The room is fairly dark and smells a little stuffy.  I don’t open the window, though, as the bright light coming through, even momentarily, might waken him.  I wonder if maybe I should do that—nudge him awake—so he’ll sleep at a normal time tonight, but decide not to.  It seems to me that if he’s still sleeping soundly now, maybe that’s the best thing for him.  I set the food on the nightstand, then softly close the door and walk away.  Maybe he’ll wake up, eat what’s there, and then fall back asleep.  Or maybe he’ll just stay asleep.  I’m actually very happy he’s sleeping.  I read on the internet that not sleeping soundly is a symptom of depression, and his dad said he wasn’t sleeping much at all.  Now he is.  I’m hoping this is a first sign of recovery.


I leave him alone and go back downstairs.  I knock on Dad’s door.  Three knocks.  I wait, and eventually he opens it.


“How’s it going?” I ask.  Dad isn’t looking all that good.  I thought he was getting better, but he’s back where he was before now.  He’s got yesterday’s clothes on, and hasn’t washed.  I was hoping that having Chase here would awaken some pride in him.


“Slowly,” he says, and grins wryly.  “There’s an awful lot of stuff to wade through, new mail and old.”  He stops to yawn.  “I’m learning a whole lot about a bunch of people I don’t want to know anything about.”


“Nothing from the police?”


“Nope, nothing.  I guess that’s good.”


“Well, good luck.  Chase is still asleep.”


“He seemed really out of it last night.  I was a little worried about him.  You sure you’re up to this?  Maybe he should be seeing a psychologist or someone like that.”


“I think I know what his problem is, Dad.  If he doesn’t snap out of this in a couple of days, then you may be right.  But let’s give him a little time.  He wasn’t this bad until only the last week or so, according to his dad.  I’m hoping being here with us—different surroundings and all that—he’ll snap out of it.”


Dad nods, then goes back into his room.  I hear the lock click.


I want to go up the road and talk to Lindsey but figure I’d better be here when Chase wakes up.  So I do something maybe I should do more of.  I sit in a comfortable chair in the living room and think.  Just think.  I have a lot to think about: Chase, Carly, Lindsey, Dad and, I guess, me.


I make lunch when it’s time for it: sandwiches and soup.  Dad takes his back into his office.  Chase sleeps on.


I don’t hear anything going on upstairs until three in the afternoon.  He’s been asleep for about 19 straight hours.  I go upstairs and find him coming out of the bathroom.  He sees me, too, and smiles.  Smiles!  OK, it isn’t his normal 1,000-watt smile, but it’s better than anything I got yesterday.


“Hey,” I say.  “You feeling any better?”


“I don’t know,” he says, sounding almost timid.  “It’s too early in the morning to tell.  How come you’re dressed?”


I laugh.  I can’t help it.  “It’s almost dinnertime, that’s why.  I usually dress in the morning.  That’s sort of a normal default position for me.”


“It’s evening?” he asks, very confused.


“Well, afternoon.  You missed breakfast and lunch.”


“I might have missed dinner, too, but I had to pee.”  He grins.  It’s not the Chase grin I love, but it’s a grin.  Just yesterday I was thinking I might never see one on his face again.


We walk into the bedroom and find his suitcase.  I didn’t put anything away last night.  I just wanted to get him into bed.  Now, I help him put things in the drawers I cleared out for him.  A couple of things we hang in the closet.  He’s quiet while we do this, but it doesn’t feel like the passive, unresponsive silence he gave me yesterday.


I ask him if he wants something to eat, and he looks at me in surprise.  “I do!” he says, as though shocked.  Then he blushes and says, “I can’t remember when I was last hungry.”


I pick up the untouched breakfast tray and we go downstairs.  I make him a sandwich—peanut butter and jelly.  He likes PB&J.  I only make him one so he’ll be hungry for dinner.  Doing this makes me realize, I’m acting like a mother hen with him, not even asking if he’d like another while cautioning him about dinner coming up.  But it feels like he needs someone taking charge of him.  He doesn’t act like he’s up to making decisions, and like he might prefer I do this for him.


I don’t know whether to talk about what’s been going on with him or not.  I know so little about depression and what support people are supposed to do to help.  I think maybe I’ll just not say anything, and if he wants to talk about it, he can bring it up.


So, when he finishes his sandwich, I show him around.  The property is just as decrepit as it was when we moved in, but somehow, it doesn’t look so sad to me now.  Maybe it’s because I’m used to it, or maybe it’s because Chase is seeing it with me.


I take him out in the woods.  I find the woods peaceful and relaxing.  I’m hoping he’ll feel that, too.  We hike a while.  We come to the clearing off to the side of the path, but I don’t stop.  Somehow, I want to save that for later.  I want to see if Chase responds to it in the same way I did when I was there before.  Maybe, if he does, we can do things together there, and he’ll feel something of what I felt.  But not now.  Now isn’t the right time; it would be rushing things.  He’s better, but he isn’t back to being the old Chase yet.


When we turn back, we’re both a little sweaty.  I think of the lake.  That’ll be for another time, too.


We stop on the front porch.  There are no chairs there, so I sit on the steps, and he sits next to me.  There’s an occasional light breeze, and it feels good on my sweaty body.  “You want to help with dinner,” I ask him. 


“You cook dinner?” he asks.  I’m not a bit surprised at his reaction or the fact he saw me do it yesterday—helped me do it yesterday—and has completely forgotten that.  He was out of it then, and now he’s relating to the Troy he knew before.  I never once cooked anything before we moved here.


“Sure I do.  And you can help.”


“OK,” he says.


So, I make stew.  OK, so maybe I’m showing off a little.  But it was really good last time I made it and looks more complicated to make than it really is.  Knowing what to do is the secret.  Thinking that, it also occurs to me that maybe that’s the secret to a lot of things.


I give him a recipe for cornbread that I printed off the internet and tell him that that is his part of the dinner.  While I’m chopping veggies and browning meat for the stew, he’s measuring everything out.  I tell him to hold off on adding the milk, that we’ll mix it in at the last minute before putting the pan in the oven, which we need to do about a half hour before we want to eat.


Eventually the stew is simmering, and a couple of hours later the cornbread goes in the oven.  I grin ear to ear when Dad says how delicious everything is, and Chase says he can’t believe it’s so good, seeing how I made it.  A joke!  The possibility of him making a joke, even a weak one, is something else that seemed impossible yesterday.  I tell him his cornbread is the best I’ve ever had.  Hey, it can’t hurt to say something like that to a depressed guy, can it?


We go to bed early again because I can see on Chase’s face he’s starting to flag.  It’s a repeat of last night.  We shower, and though I’m hard as a rock, he isn’t.  We dry off, and this time he doesn’t need my help.  We get into bed, and this time I don’t have to pull him to me.  This time he backs into me of his own accord, wanting my arms around him.  He’s asleep almost before I can turn my bedside light off.


▪ ▪


When I wake up in the morning, I realize right away Chase is not in my arms like he was yesterday.  I open my eyes and see him, lying next to me, his eyes wide open, watching me.


“Hey,” he says softly.


I smile.  Then I reach my hand over and lay it on the side of his face.  “You’re beautiful,” I say.


He almost purrs and reaches for my hand, then presses it tighter to his face.


“You been awake long?” I ask.


“A while.  Just watching you.  You’re not beautiful, you know?  What you are is handsome.  And so much more.  You’re my rock.  I love you.  More than I can ever say.”


I wriggle in the bed so my body is touching his.  “So do I, love you.  I needed you here to remember how much.  But I do.  I really do.”


He rolls on top of me.  Then he kisses me.


“Uggh!” I say.  “We need to brush our teeth.  Maybe shower again, too.”


We do both, and then we’re back in bed.  In the shower, I wasn’t the only one hard this time.  We just played a little, then stopped.  We don’t stop once we are back in bed.  We show each other what we are feeling, and our passion exceeds anything we’ve experienced together before.  I feel a bit like I’m proving something to myself.  Chase seems to be discovering himself again.  We are both making up for lost time—and reintroducing ourselves to each other—and communicating a mutual need in stronger ways than we’ve ever done before.  By the end of it, I feel I’ve experienced a rebirth.


While making our breakfast I think about and relive some of the feelings I had when we were doing what we’ve just done.  I realize what I feel for Chase is much different from what I feel for Lindsey.  In a way, I do love her.  But my love for Chase is much deeper and more complex than what I feel for her.  I also know that part of the reason my passion is stronger with Chase than with Lindsey is that his is a male body.  I know I can have—and I can enjoy—sex with both of them.  There’s no question I’d enjoy it with Lindsey, but that’s what it would be: enjoyment.  Exciting, but not as... as what?  Fulfilling I think is the right word.  Sex with Lindsey wouldn’t have close to the same emotional impact, the same passion, the same meaningfulness as with Chase.  It is much more than just exciting and pleasurable with Chase.  Even though we haven’t done everything there is to do yet, with Chase my experiences have been magical, life-affirming; they have touched my soul in profound ways, ways I know that sex with Lindsey never would, never could.


I’m not concerned any longer with whether I am gay or not.  I know I am, but also that ‘gay’ is just a word, and I am more than that; I certainly couldn’t ever be defined by any single word!  I am Troy.  The gay label fits me in some ways, in most ways, but in some it doesn’t.  I imagine that might be true of a lot of people, probably most people.  Who can be described fully with one word?  Who fits entirely and comfortably into any stereotype?  In the end, it doesn’t make any difference.  None at all.  I love Chase, and he loves me, and that is what matters.  That is all that matters.


Chase makes toast and coffee as I fry up some bacon.  I am in a great mood; with Chase working alongside me, everything feels right to me—cozy, domestic even.  And mostly, I revel in the fact that Chase is back among the living.


I let my mood encourage me and try something new.  I chop up some onion and green pepper and sauté them in a little of the bacon grease from the pan.  While that’s cooking, I whip up six eggs with a whisk, salt and pepper them, then pour them on top of the sautéing veggies.  I scramble the eggs and veggies, cook them just till they’re done, and then we eat.  Dad’s going to have to fend for himself if he hasn’t already eaten.  Chase eats every bit of food on his plate, wiping it clean with what’s left of his toast.  I look at him and his clean plate and raise my eyebrows, a grin on my face.  And then a wonderful thing happens.  I see his eyes twinkle.


“What, a boy can’t be hungry?” he asks gruffly, his eyes laughing at me, warming my heart.


“When was the last time you ate that much?” I ask.


“I honestly don’t remember,” he says, rubbing his stomach and appearing not to give it much thought.  He wasn’t one who, in the past, had spent much time being either introspective or gloomy.  Chase never spent much time looking backwards.  And I certainly don’t want to push him in that direction.  So I change the subject.


“We have things to do today.  Places to go, people to see.  You ready?”


“Go where?”


I stand up.  “You’ll see.  We need to grab towels and then go.  Time’s a wastin’, laddie!”


He cocks his head at me.  His eyes are twinkling, and I wonder how he could have got over his depression so quickly, so thoroughly.  I think maybe I had something to do with it, but don’t quite see how.  I haven’t done anything at all.  


“Your Irish accent really needs work.”  He laughs, but then gets up.  We put the dishes in the sink for later, because I’m in no mood to be washing them now, grab towels and are off up the road.


▪ ▪


Chase meets everyone at the Mussos.  Mrs. Musso hugs him, which makes him blush bright red.  I worry if I laugh whether it will it depress him again, so I try to hold back.  Then I realize I can’t do that.  Trying not to be who I am never has worked well for me.  So I laugh, and he throws me a look that says, I’ll regret that later.


Mrs. M asks Chase if she can make him breakfast, and I start to say we’ve eaten, but Chase says, “Yes, please!” with such enthusiasm, it sounds like he hasn’t eaten in a week.  Mrs. M. makes him French toast, and I can’t stop laughing, watching him shovel it in.


Trevor comes in and has some French toast, too.  Trevor may be the same age as Chase’s brother, Charles, but those two aren’t much alike.  Trevor is outgoing and funny and between bites says now that there are four of us, we can have a real game of basketball.  Lindsey is always up for basketball, and so we play.


The day is much like usual here, hot already though it’s only mid-morning.  The sky is so blue it seems perfect.  There are no clouds today but luckily there’s a light breeze to help with the heat.  I can hear one of the Musso horses nicker out in the fields, and hear Trevor chatting up Chase, and I realize, suddenly, I’m feeling really good, really content, something a week ago I never thought I’d feel again.


Chase and I are up against the other two.  We should win as Chase is older and bigger than Trevor.  We get trounced.  Chase isn’t a great athlete, he’s just eaten two huge breakfasts, and Trevor plays somewhat like Lindsey does; those two think the phrase ‘no-contact sport’ doesn’t apply to them.  Trevor may be lighter than Chase and shorter, but it doesn’t stop him from running into him, knocking him around, jumping into him, boxing him out and eventually making him so mad he’s ready to take a swing at the smaller boy.


”Time out,” I call.  “Trevor…”


“What?” he asks, and his overly innocent look and voice make it clear he knows exactly why I stopped the game.


“You’re about to get punched,” I say.  Trevor takes a look at Chase, sees how murderous he’s looking, sees his clenched fists, and takes a step backward.  “Uh, uh…” he says, momentarily speechless, an amazing departure from the norm for Trevor,  and takes another couple of steps back.


“Let’s cool down,” I say.  We sit in our usual spot against the barn.  I make sure Chase is on one side of me and Trevor on the other.  When Lindsey comes back with Cokes, she slides down between Trevor and me.


“Hot today,” she says to no one in particular.


I take a long pull on my Coke, then belch.  “When isn’t it hot here?”


“Want to keep going when we finish these?  Change teams?”


“Nah, I’m done,” I say.  Changing sides would still leave Chase against Trevor, and I don’t think Trevor knows any different way to play.  I want them to be friends, and playing basketball against each other isn’t going to make that happen.  Trevor is a cool kid, and I like him a lot.  But he is much more competitive, much more physical than Chase.  I need to talk to him, tell him to cool it a little.


“Swimming?” Trevor asks, and when I glance at him, he’s smiling eagerly.


I look at Lindsey, who looks back, showing me nothing, and I say, “Sure.”


We hike through the woods, and I make it a point to hang back a little so Lindsey and Chase will be walking together.  I grab Trevor’s arm.  Softly, so the guys in front can’t hear me, I say, “Trevor, go easy on Chase.  He’s been a little sick, has just recovered, and in any case, he’s not like you.  You love to turn everything you do into a contest, you love teasing, and that’s fine if the person you’re with enjoys that.  Chase isn’t really that way.  He likes competing, but he’s not real physical, and he’s been bullied before, and, well…”


“I get it,” says Trevor, and the look on his face is serious.  He really is a good kid.  And not a bit stupid.


Eventually, I’m walking with Lindsey, and Trevor with Chase, and I overhear Trevor apologizing to Chase for playing so rough.  He says he’s learned to play that way from trying to keep up with his sister and forgets himself sometimes.  He sounds very contrite, and Chase thanks him for the apology.  I decide the two of them will be fine unless Trevor forgets himself again.  Which is certainly possible.  The boy is irrepressible.


We get to the pond.  Chase looks at me and asks, “Do we swim in our underwear?”


I say, “If you want to.”  The other two are already undressing, and since they’re not wearing much, it takes no time at all for them to finish.  By the time I’ve answered Chase, he turns around only to see two naked backsides running and then two splashes.


Chase looks back at me, and I’ve only got my jock on by then.  I jerk it off and take off running for the lake.  Chase is left, standing in the grass, fully dressed and looking at three grinning faces.


I remember that he might be fragile.  I look into his face and see bewilderment.  His eyes are too far away and hidden; the sun is directly overhead now, and so the top half of his face is shaded.  I can remember when I’ve felt like the odd man out, and it’s a very bad feeling.  Seeing three people looking at you, it would be easy to think you’re the butt of some joke you don’t even understand.


I get out of the water and walk to him.  “I’m sorry,” I say.  “I wasn’t thinking.  I shouldn’t be playing games with you like this.”  I don’t want to acknowledge where he’s recently been or that before that, this wouldn’t have bothered him at all.  I don’t really want to say anything more than I already have, so just stop.  But apologizing to him feels right.


I look into his face.  He’s still got some of the bewildered look, but I don’t see any doubt or worry.  I see awakening excitement, instead.  “You guys skinny dip?” he asks.  “All of you?  Even Lindsey?”


I remember he didn’t read most of the emails I sent him.  He must have started becoming despondent soon after I left.  I had wondered about whether my leaving had had anything to do with what happened to him, but now I see clearly that it was actually the trigger for it—for his depression.  I now realize I’ve been more important to him all along than I thought I was.  It never had seemed that he had felt that strongly about me.  I knew he liked me, and he’d said he loved me, but until this moment the true depth of his attachment hadn’t really registered.


“Yeah, her, too,” I say, and force myself to grin.  I don’t want him to know how shaken I am by knowing my leaving him had affected him that deeply.  “You can leave your underpants on if you want, but it’s more fun the other way.”


“But she’ll see me!”


I laugh out loud.  “Yeah, that’s part of it.  Being in the water is, too.  Splashing each other, sort of accidentally rubbing against each other—it’s all part of being with these people, being naked with them.  That’s a big part of it.  It’s something you really have to experience, and you can’t believe how much fun it is.  It really makes for a strong friendship, too.  I can’t explain it; you have to just do it.”


He looks at me, laughing and standing naked in the sun, and then looks at the two kids in the water, also naked and watching us.  He doesn’t hesitate.  He begins undressing.  He’s blushing, but undressing, and his eyes are the eyes I’ve always loved, mischievous and plotting and eager for his next adventure, which for him is right this very moment.


Chase scoots to the edge of the water and jumps in, and I’m right behind him.  We swim for awhile and all manage to touch each other.  When we get out, I’m surprised to see both Chase and Trevor are hard.   At first, Chase looks embarrassed, but I quickly tell him I’ve been hard here, too, and Trevor has, too, and Lindsey’s seen both of us that way, and seeing Chase won’t make any difference.  It’s almost expected of someone new.


Maybe my saying that, and maybe just because of the fun we’ve had in the water and the camaraderie that’s been built, Chase grins at me and lets his hands fall to his sides.   He always did like a challenge. 


We lie on our towels, let the sun dry and warm us, and I think, heaven can’t be much different from this.


When we’re walking back through the woods, Chase grabs my arm, and we fall behind.  He says, “Thanks.”


I say, “I knew you’d love the lake.” 


He looks into my eyes and says, “Yeah, and for that, too.”


I put my arm around his shoulders, and we jog to catch up with the others.