Saturday, May 8, 2010

If I Fall, Catch Me

Warning: This is a long post ! If you have a short attention span or bore easily, skip this post and hit me back next week when I talk about my dislike of bottoms that drive Mini Coopers.

First of all let me say that I'm not crazy. Well, that's not completely true. I am crazy, a little bit. When I first tested HIV-positive I didn't have anyone to talk to or confide in. So,I wrote a series of stories about the first friend I ever lost from AIDS coming aback from the grave to sorta look after me and help me get my shit together. The stories are fiction(of course)but heavily based on the truth of my life at that time. This is the second story in that series:

and so...

The darkness of the forest surprised me. It was early afternoon but it might as well been night in this forest. For a moment I couldn’t see the path before me but a belligerent yank of the lease reminded me that I wasn’t alone as Mr. Peabody continued to steadily pull me along the slanting path toward the brook.

I sighed. Who is Mr. Peabody, you ask? Mr. Peabody is a retarded Boykin Spaniel I’d rescued from the shelter. We didn’t much care for each other, to be honest. I’ve always been partial to large, strong, magnificent Australian cattle dogs (think: that black-n-white dog in Babe), not hyperactive, short, chocolate-brown dogs with stinky, wiry fur and swirling, crazy, amber-colored eyes. Oh, and let’s not forget that instead of a tail, he only had a hairless stub. I'll tell you what; they broke the fuckin' mold when they made Mr. Peabody. When JoAnn called this morning and wondered aloud if I was going to go to hell because I didn’t spend enough time with Mr. Peabody, I acted very put upon but was secretly glad for an excuse to get out of the house. I promised her I’d walk Mr. Peabody by the South Fork River later that afternoon. I had been on a medical leave of absence from work for two months and was getting sick of laying around watching house Bravo and Comedy Central while everyone I knew was at work during the day doing something and being productive.

“Pea Pea, damn it, slow down, you’re going to kill me here in second!” I complained a little too late because my feet were already beginning to slip out from underneath me.

Too late, I started falling and rolling down a bluff toward the bottom, Mr. Peabody running after me howling in that hoarse voice of his. Don’t you just hate it? Everything seems to be going in slow motion and you’re powerless to stop it. I tried to grab hold of anything as my body was being flung down the hill, roots, rocks, tree limbs, but everything stayed just beyond my grasp. Finally I came to a rolling-stop on the edge on the brook, but not before my head stuck a large rock with a loud thunk. I wondered why I didn’t see stars as I struggled to sit up and swore loudly rubbing at the wetness on the back of my head.

“Thank God, I didn’t pass out, Pea Pea.” I seemed to be having a hard time keeping my eyes open and speaking. Mr. Peabody was pacing circles around me and still howling as if I were some kind of stranger, his crazy, yellow eyes glued on me.

“Oh God, shut up, Pea Pea ! Shut up the fuck up, please! I’ve got headache!”

It was then that looked down at the pooling blood in my lap, “Oh God, I’m, uhhhhh…bleeding, Pea Pea.”

Total blackness. Deep, booming laughter. A hand stroking my face.

“Queen, wake up.”

“Norton, zat you?” I mumbled from my fog.

“Well, it ain’t Antonio Sabàto, Jr. coming to sample that little butt of yours.”

I didn’t say anything, just considered that for a moment.

Damn it, Kenneth. Open your eyes, you’ve been out long enough.”

I groaned and struggled to my feet, not bad for someone that just got knocked silly. I looked around for Norton.

“Norton, where the hell are you?”

“Good God, Ken, be quite, you’re still loud enough to wake the dead!” Silence, then laughter, “Get it, wake the dead? Oh God, I’m still funny as hell and not to mention, still smokin’ hot!”

“Where the hell are you, Norton?” I asked again.

“Turn around, Missy!”

I turned around slowly and tried not to seem too startled when I saw him kneeling by my limp body. He was, of course more beautiful than ever.

He continued to stroke my face and look at my closed eyes; “I have three words for you, Ken…”

“What?” I leaned forward, expecting profound words from the other side.




 He turned around finally to look at me and wink.

“Cunt!” I sputtered but laughed too.

He chuckled, “Face it, Ken…for 36, you don’t look so good!”

"Well, I've been sick..."

"I can see your collar bones ! You trying to look like Celine "I am the greatest singer in the world" Dion ?"

 "Chemo does that.”

Norton put a pouty, little expression on his face and began to mimic me like some kind of insane parrot, “Chemo does that! Chemo does that! Chemo does that!”

“Shut the fuck up!” I was laughing now; “You don’t have to be so hateful... I don’t sound like that.”

He stopped suddenly and looked down at my body. He pointed to the bloody gash on my head, “Explain that. What is this about and why did you fall?”

“Norton, you know how excited Mr. Peabody gets sometimes when he’s on the trail of something.”

He stopped me, “Don’t blame this on that retarded dog, Ken!”

“I just fell, I guess.”

“Ken, I know more than you think I do. When you said you’ve been sick…”

He stopped to swallow, "You have it, don’t you?”

I nodded, “Yep.”

His blue eyes flashed with anger and he franticly pleaded to the heavens, “Oh good Lord, Ken! Why? Who? Do I know him?” He peppered me with questions.

He stopped for a breath and continued. “You whore, do you throw your legs to Jesus every time a good-looking guy crosses your path?”

“No, not anymore, I guess…” I said flatly.

Hurt silence, “I can’t believe you did this to me, I couldn’t even get you to kiss me…”

I sat down beside my body and began to sob quietly. This was too much; my jealous, dead, best friend thought I was a whore. I just couldn’t fucking stand it anymore. When Norton sat down beside me and put his muscled arm around my waist, I began to sob even harder.

“Don’t be mad at me, Norty. If I don’t have you waiting for me on the other side, then what do I have? I won’t be so scared when my time comes ‘cause I know I’ll see you again…”

He was pensive now and kissed my temple to offer solace, “Stop crying unless you’re wearing waterproof mascara. Your eyes always did look like shit when you cry.”

“I don’t wear make up.”

He rolled his eyes, “Right.”

“I don’t.”

“Every queer owns a bottle of foundation or something to cover up the occasional pimple.”

“Well, that’s different, smart-ass.”

He “pretend” slapped me and said, “I’m just pissed because some asshole cheated you out of a normal life, one of us queens was supposed to stay here and carry on for the other.”

“I’m carrying on, I swear I am.”

His voice began to shake as he continued his lament, “I can’t watch you die, damn it, Ken…you’re too…” He trailed off into silence once more and his chin dropped to his chest. The forest filled with his wailing, pouring forth from every dark place in his soul.

The emotion and force behind all this palpable grief scared me; sometimes I forgot how much he’d loved me. I was a little spooked as well; sitting beside my own body and talking to a howling ghost was beginning to enervate me just a bit.

“Norton, damn it, you calm down, now!” I ordered him but he continued to wail.

“You sound like a little girl that’s just dropped her sucker in a mud hole.”

"Fuck you, bitch." He stopped to wipe the tears from his eyes and fell quiet.

“I didn’t know ghosts could cry.” I marveled.

"Yes, Ken, we can.”

"What about all those old hymns we sang in church about there being no more tears in heaven?”

He glared at me for a moment and succinctly replied, “Nothing quite so esoteric about it, Ken. A man wrote those songs, a living man…how the hell would he know?”

“Yeah, I suppose you’re right about that.”

“You should hear the hymns we sing, Ken.” His eyes shone with a luminous glow, “We don’t even sing with our mouths anymore, that’s for the living, we sing with our souls up there.”

“I…. I want to join you, Norton.” I left out the word “soon” but the unspoken word hung there in air, felt by us both.

“The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.” Norton recited verbatim. I remembered the verse from my days of teaching Sunday school.

“Since when do you go around spouting bible verses, preacher-man? I thought that you didn’t believe.”

“There are grains of truth in all things, Ken. You need that verse, remember it.”

“Okay, Okay, old man! Stop playing the wise old oracle and lighten up a bit!”

“That’s what death does to you, Ken.”

I sighed, “I’ve grown tired too, Norton. I’m failing and I no longer have the motivation to continue with my life here anymore. Can’t you take me with you, this time? Please.”

“You will join me soon if you don’t start taking better care of yourself. Ken, go in any AIDS clinic and sit down in the waiting room and look around at the others, you’ll realize just how lucky you are.” He looked over at my body, “Falling down a mountain, Ken…damn.” He shook his head at this sad affair.

“I guess. I shouldn’t have been out here, I am pretty weak.”

“No shit, Ken” Norton said, bemused by my statement.

“Well, I was bored and Mr. Peabody needed a walk.”

Norton looked around, “Where is that retarded dog?”

“Be sweet. He can’t help it.”

“Some loyal dog. Master is laying here in a pool of blood and he’s chasing some imaginary rabbits through the foliage. Hmmm, what’s wrong with this picture? Where's Lassie when you need him?”

I laughed because nothing seemed to surprise me anymore, “Am I going to bleed to dead, Norton? Mr. Peabody sure as hell ain’t going for help.”

No, Ken, this is not it, your white light experience, blah, blah, blah…you have a more time left on earth. But, I have to bitch at you about how you’re spending your free time.”

“What do you mean?” I asked suspiciously.

“You know what I mean! I mean you camping out of that G.D. internet always looking for a man!”

“How do you know?”

“Ken, I see everything…. EVERYTHING. You don’t seem to understand, I can’t leave until you straighten your life out,” he stopped and turned around to look me in the eyes, “Yes, I even see you jack-off every night before you go to sleep.”

“Oh my God !” I stuttered, swearing to never touch my schlong again.

“Don’t be embarrassed, it’s not as if it’s a stranger watching. I’m just me and I love you, Ken.”

I was too embarrassed to say much of anything, so I looked over at my body and wondered why I decided to wear that ugly green shirt; I’d be sending that to Goodwill when I came to.

“Ken, I know that you’ve met someone on the internet and that you’ve developed a strong affection for this man.”

“Yes, I have and I think he’s wonderful, Norton. He has this voice."

“Oh Ken,” he shook his head, “You sound like a teen-age girl.”

“I can’t help it. I like him.”

“Be careful, your heart has always been your biggest commodity. Guard it carefully, don’t give it always so freely or it will have no meaning.”

“Norton, you know that I’m not like that. I'm so picky it’s not even funny. People rarely have the ability to touch my soul, but this guy has.”

“Okay, just be careful, I’ve not sure if his intentions are honorable. I get the impression that he might be some sort of gay sheik looking to add a few whores to his harem.”

"Whatever.” I laughed, “A sheik?” He nodded. “You want me to never speak to him again? That’s so not what’s going on here, Norton!”

“Damn, Ken! Do give him a chance…yes, just but be careful, ok. Remember that you’ll know him by his actions, if he’s real and he truly cares for you, it’ll show.”

“Dating. I’m so bad at it. I suck.”

"Well, I wouldn't know about the "suck" part..." Norton raised an eyebrow and gave me a comical look.

I laughed and punched him on the arm, "You're still so nasty ! But really, But every since I left David, I can't seem to get it right when I meet somebody."

Norton put his arm around my shoulders, “Because, you’re lonely and you try too hard. I see you sitting in front of your monitor at 3 am; praying, just praying that someone will speak to you or say a kind word.” I felt my face grow hot with embarrassment again.

He continued, “Some guys like being single, true. But, you hate it. You’re so family-oriented, you should have married a chick and had a houseful of children.”

I tried not to laugh. “Me, with a woman? Come on, Norty. Can you really see that?”

Norton did laugh, “No, I guess not. You like to play hide the sausage too much.”

“Whatever, Miss Thang. Look who’s talking.”

Norton stood up, pulling me up after him, “Dance with me before I go?”

“Here?” I motioned to the forest around us.

“Sure, why not, join me in my private sanctum, young man.” Norton smiled and bowed gallantly, making a grand, sweeping gesture as he did so.

He pulled me in close and began to sing gently in my ear:

Quando sono sola

sogno all'orizzonte

e mancan le parole,

si lo so che non c'è luce

in una stanza quando manca il sole,

se non ci sei tu con me, con me.

Su le finestre

mostra a tutti il mio cuore

che hai accesso,

chiudi dentro me

la luce che

hai incontrato per strada.

Con te partirò.

Paesi che non ho mai

veduto e vissuto con te,

adesso si li vivrò.

Con te partirò

su navi per mari

che, io lo so,

no, no, non esistono più,

con te io li vivrò.

Quando sei lontana

sogno all'orizzonte

e mancan le parole,

e io si lo so

che sei con me, con me,

tu mia luna tu sei qui con me,

mio sole tu sei qui con me,

con me, con me, con me.

Con te partirò.

Paesi che non ho mai

veduto e vissuto con te,

adesso sì li vivrò.

Con te partirò

su navi per mari

che, io lo so,

no, no, non esistono più,

con te io li rivivrò.

Con te partirò

su navi per mari

che, io lo so,

no, no, non esistono più,

con te io li rivivrò.

Con te partirò

Io con te.


His body radiated warmth and strength. I laid my head on his shoulder and just let him carry me along. Though I didn’t understand the words he sang, I somehow knew it was a song about saying good-bye. Before I knew it, the dance was over and my eyes started to tear up. Norton lifted my head and stared into my eyes for the longest time before he spoke, “Time for me to go, Ken.”

“Don’t leave me here alone, I’m so scared.” I trailed off into silence.

I kissed each cheek and finally his lips, adoring him. His long, tapered fingers pushing me aside as if my touch burnt. He rapidly started his climb up the embankment, when I remembered something, “Hey! What about that?” I pointed to my body.

“Oh shit, I almost forgot…”

I turned around to watch my body fall into the stream. The shock of the icy water sent me reeling back to my body in a flash. Shit, my head was throbbing and I felt like I was going to throw up any minute.

“Norton, you ass-munch!” I swore under my breath as I struggled to extract myself out of some recent flood debris. Mr. Peabody ran up to the bank then, panting and dragging his lease.

"There he is! Sir, Sir! Are you alright?” Two little girls came run down the side of the hill and stopped short when they saw a blood-cover behemoth (me) struggling to crawl from the stream. What a sight I must have been. The older girl came forward as if to help, but I panicked and jumped up finally, grabbing Mr. Peabody's lease.

“I’m okay, just a little cut.” The girl again reached for me, “No, Don’t touch me!” I shouted like a crazy man and began to run up the side of the hill through the labyrinth of tree limbs, dragging Mr. Peabody along by the neck. My lassitude forgotten, fear of getting my tainted blood on the innocent children powering my trembling legs up the mossy bank.

I ran until I reached a crumbling, old park bench far off the main path. I closed my eyes and stretched out. My new mantra fell from my lips, “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.”  It fell from my lips easily enough but did I believe it ?

Lethargy crept over me quickly; I slept dark and dreamless, falling through a vortex of exhaustion as Mr. Peabody first licked his ball sack and then searched for a new place to defecate.


P. S. I will spam you if you email me about the political-correctness of the word, "retarded".