I've discovered something about my writing. My favorite chapters tend to be more about the supporting rather than the main characters. This chapter is mostly about Nate and his budding feelings for Gleason. We also get another perspective on Nate's vlog from Maggie (his Mom)
Chapter 12 – The Start of Spring Semester
It was nice to get back into the routine of classes, even though Matty was back in the mountains. There was a little bit of nonsense after the family’s second appearance on GMA, but it was nothing like before.
Over Christmas break, Matty told Conner to move his ass into the house. It didn’t really change things all that much since he was there pretty much every night anyway. The rest of the family loved him, too. But Conner was completely in awe of Nate and treated him like the little brother he had always wanted.
Matty was getting ready to audition for the big musical. ASU was going to do The Who’s Tommy toward the end of the semester. Matty said he really wanted to be cast in the title role, but he knew that his being a Freshman would most likely mean he would be cast in the ensemble.
Matty. Holy crap—just when you think you couldn’t love that amazing boy more than you do, he turns around a literally saves your brother’s life. Everyone was shocked that it was Matty, and not one of us Hamiltons, who ended up being the donor match. Well, everyone except Dad and Nate.
Dad said that we all thought God had brought Matty to our family so that he and I could find each other’s love. He also says God really does work in mysterious ways. I like Matty’s take on it the best—it’s just God doing that God stuff He does so well!
When Nate’s hair started coming back darker, we were all a little surprised about that, as well. Nate would just smile and say he was getting Matty’s hair. I know that sounds crazy as fuck, but I’ll be damned if Nate’s hair doesn’t look just like Matty’s did when he was fourteen.
I ended up missing a few weeks’ worth of classes during Nate’s illness, but the professors were really cool about the whole thing. The only bump in the road was that I had missed too much of the basics in my sign-language class. We decided that I would audit the rest of the Fall semester and take it again this semester. The cool part of that was Conner deciding to TA another semester since I would be in the class again. Conner’s fucking awesome!
Wow. I never thought I would ever be happy to be going back to school! It was like the final chapter of this whole cancer bullshit. Everything was back to normal again. Well, almost everything—I now have this head of hair that looks just like Matty’s—and I don’t know what the fuck to do with it! Mom said she would take me to a stylist to help me with that—so maybe in the next week or two I can start looking decent again.
I was sitting in the cafeteria with Simon before the bell rang, and that reminded me of the last time I was here. It was with Simon. We were talking about his adventures with girls and how he was sorry he had hurt me and all. We had planned a sleepover that weekend, but I ended up getting the flu. And that, of course, was the start of everything.
He and I did have a couple of good talks while I was in the hospital. I will always love my best friend. But something like cancer makes you think a lot about life and the choices you make. After a nice, long talk, Simon and I agreed that we were awesome as friends and that we should probably look elsewhere for a boyfriend—or maybe a girlfriend in his case—right?!?!
A third person was sitting at the table with us, who was new in school. Gleason Rogers—or G, as he preferred—was a boy I met in the hospital. He was also fourteen. He was from this tiny town called Mazeppa. It was just him and his mom, and she decided to move to Charlotte as soon as she could find a job. She wanted G to be closer to the doctors so he would have the best chance at beating his cancer. He had Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. His cancer had started to spread, and his treatment was also pretty intense.
G and I spent a lot of time in the chemo room. We would talk about all sorts of shit, and he would always be the first person to see my vlog episodes before I posted them. G was blown away when he met Eddie and Matty. He had remembered them from the promposal video thing, and they were the biggest celebrities he had ever met.
One evening, after the parents had left, he came into my room and asked if we could talk. I smiled and told him how nice it was going to be talking with him without all that poisonous shit being pumped into our bodies. Of course, we still had IV’s hooked up to our arms—pumping God only knew what was going in.
I couldn’t help notice how much better G looked standing up and smiling. Just like me, he didn’t have any hair, and one of the first things I noticed was how his head was the perfect shape. The next thing I noticed was the tone of his skin. It was almost the color of one of those caramel macchiato drinks from the lobby Starbucks.
G also had these amazing brown almond-shaped eyes that were like these deep pools you just wanted to dive into. Okay, maybe it’s just me that wants to dive. I’m so bad! But, I also noticed that there was something in his eyes. It looked like he had been crying. Awww man, I knew he was going through a tough time—hell, we both were.
I offered to go walking with him, and he asked if we could stay in the room—he wanted private time with me. I just smiled at him, took his hand in mine, and told him that I was there for him.
“I know you are, Nate. You’re the first real friend I’ve ever had. I was just thinking about my life back in Mazeppa, and much I hated it. It sucked so bad, Nate. Mom and I were talking about moving to Charlotte when I got out of the hospital, but she can’t find a job that’ll pay the bills—and because of me, the bills are real bad now.”
“I guess it can get pretty scary, huh?”
“Shit. You don’t know the half of it.”
“Not unless you decide to share it, dufus!”
That brought G’s cute smile to his face. Damn, when he smiles, it makes my stomach do flip-flops.
“You don’t want to know about my shit life, Nate. We have enough crap on our plates to worry about, don’t we?”
“Are you still worried about the cancer thing?”
“Well, yeah. Aren’t you?”
“Nope. Not any more. I’m beating this shit. I’m gonna walk out of this hospital cancer-free.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because that’s what I decided. I’m not allowing my brain even to consider any other options.”
“Yeah, I watch your vlog. I see where you’re coming from. It’s just there’s just so much other shit in my life, it’s hard to think positive like you.”
“G, you’re fighting cancer. You’re beating it, too. There’s nothing that even comes close to that.”
“There is, Nate. I promise you, there is. I mean, you and I are so different. You have every reason to beat this. You have such an incredible life to go back to. Me? I’m a nobody. I’m nothing. I don’t have anything.”
Wow! I sat up in my bed and threw my legs over the side, so I was sitting up and facing the boy who had tears streaming down his face. I put my hand on his cheek and wiped a tear away with my thumb.
“G. I like to be called G.”
“I’m gonna call you Gleason. First, I think it’s an awesome name. Second, I kinda like that I’d be the only one who calls you that.”
“You’re so weird, Nate. But that’s what makes you cool, I guess. Okay—call me fucking Gleason.”
“Cool. Now then—fucking Gleason—”
Yes! A smile and a giggle!
“You got a cute ass. Don’t be getting’ a big head over it!”
“You’ve been looking at my ass?”
“Yeah. And how nice the shape of your head is—and how your skin reminds me of a Starbucks Caramel Macchiato—and how amazing your eyes—”
“Wait! I’m kinda confused here.”
“What are you confused about? I just told you I think you’re a pretty awesome looking dude. And that’s just on the outside. Gleason—your heart, your sense of humor—all of it makes you—well—fucking awesome. I’m sorry. I’ve probably said too much.”
“Nate. I’m not awesome. I’m just a small-town hick who’s been bullied since he was nine years old. I’ve been called every name you can think of—usually before they would start beating the crap out of me. Nate—you are the awesome one. You have that smile that makes people feel safe and warm. Did you know your eyes actually twinkle when you smile? It’s like you’re an alien or something. And—well—you have a pretty awesome ass, too.”
“So we’re both gay—and like shit about each other.”
“Well, I’m still not too sure—well, not for sure—I mean—oh Hell. When I was nine, the bullies would call me sissy and faggot on top of the racial shit. I would never tell Mom about the racial stuff cuz I didn’t want her to feel bad. But I didn’t know what they meant by faggot, so I didn’t know if I was one.
“Mom told me what they meant, and asked if I thought I might like boys instead of girls. I told her I didn’t understand what she was talking about. She asked me again, right before I got sick. But that’s cause I got beat up bad enough to have to go to the doctor. I still didn’t quite get the idea of boys liking boys. But then I got sick, and we kinda forgot about the whole thing.
“Am I a faggot?”
“No—you don’t get to use that word anymore. Are you gay?”
Gleason took a deep breath, and more tears began falling down his face.
“I don’t know—I think so. That’s what I told Mom tonight. We both cried about it, too. I’m just a disappointment to her. I’m sick as shit—and I’m a fa—I mean gay. Probably.”
Gleason started to sob, and I took him into my arms. Damn! This boy is hiding some serious muscles under his hospital gown! Anyway—I whispered into his ear that he was so fucking awesome, it made me hurt. And then—I told him I was gay.
“Yeah—probably. What made you tell your mom you were gay?”
“Me? What do you mean, Gleason?”
“I can’t tell you.”
“Of course you can. There’s nothing in the world you can tell me that would make me like you any less than I already do.”
“You like me? You really like me?”
“Of course I do. I think you’re the most beautiful boy I’ve ever seen.”
“I—I—I don’t know what to say.”
I pulled out of my hug and once again cupped Gleason’s face in my hands. I pulled my face close to his and whispered, “May I?”
Gleason looked at me with those big, beautiful eyes of his and slowly nodded. I leaned in and touched my lips to his. Aw, man! He made the cutest little whimper sound! I pulled away and looked into Gleason’s eyes. “How was that?”
“That was—oh, wow! Can you do that again?”
“Maybe you should try it this time.”
Oh, Gleason didn’t try! He did it like a pro! He put his hands on the back of my head and pushed my mouth to his. He still made those cute-as-fuck whimpering noises. Those noises turned into moans when I ran my tongue across his lips, causing him to open his lips. His tongue met mine, and they played together a little bit. But then, out of nowhere, he pulled away.
“I—I—I’m sorry, Nate. I have to go.” And then he was gone. Gleason ran out the door—well, as fast as he could dragging an IV pole with him.
Well, shit! I probably just scared away the most beautiful boy I’ve ever kissed—or seen! I’m such a dipshit sometimes!
So here I am—sitting in the cafeteria with the boy who used to be my boyfriend and the boy I really, really, really hope will be my boyfriend. I just hope they don’t end up being boyfriends with each other. That would totally suck rotten eggs!
I got home from class and ordered a pizza for dinner. Donald had a biology lab. Conner had to work. I was looking forward to a quiet evening by myself when my phone pinged with a text. It was Nate.
NATEDOESNTSUCK: u busy?
EHAMPK: sup kiddo?
NATEDOESNTSUCK: can i come over? need big bro time.
EHAMPK: always got time 4 u. come on over. ordered pizza. u want some?
NAEDOESNTSUC: yup. b right there.
In just two minutes, there was know on my door, and Nate walked in. Damn! It’s so weird seeing him with this dark, wavy hair.
“Hey, kiddo! What’s got you freaked out?”
“I’m not freaked out. I never said I was freaked out. What are you talking about?”
“Dude—it’s written all over your face.”
“Okay, okay. I can’t hide shit from you, can I?”
“Nope. Not possible. I know you too well. I’ve known you your entire life, ya know.”
“Yeah, but don’t get a big head. There’s shit you don’t know.”
“Oh yeah? Spill it.”
“Yeah. I remember him—that pretty boy from the hospital. Dad gave his mom a job at the church so they could stay here. What about him?”
“I kissed him. When we were still in the hospital, I kissed him. And then he kissed me.”
“He freaked out. Ran out of the room. But he’s never mentioned it since. But he still hangs around me—and Simon.”
“And you’re afraid Simon’s gonna kiss him next?”
“Well—kinda? Today at lunch is was sitting between my best friend, who used to be my boyfriend, and my new friend, who I totally want to be my boyfriend. And then I panicked when I started thinking about the two of them together.”
“Have you talked with Gleason about the kisses?”
“No—I figured he would bring it up when he was ready.”
“And it’s been what? Almost two months?”
“You boys are such idiots.”
“Hey, you were too—when you were my age.”
“Nope. Never as stupid as you two!”
“Right. You have sleepovers almost every night with your best friend. You fall in love with him when you’re like twelve. You don’t say anything to him until you’re both sixteen. Both of you were stupid. You could have been having sex for at least three years before you finally got to it! That’s stupid if you ask me!”
“I didn’t ask you, did I?”
There was another knock on the door. Pizza!
I took the pizza into the living room and set it on the coffee table. Nate went into the fridge and got a couple of sodas and joined me on the floor. While we were eating, we continued our conversation.
“Tell me something, Nate. Are your feelings about Gleason the same that you had—or have—about Simon?”
“It’s totally different. Now that Simon and I aren’t doing shit, I look back at it and realize that while he’s my best friend, the sexual stuff was just this cool thing—this cool thing we did with each other and got off with it. But with Gleason—wow—it’s so different. I just see him, and my whole body fills up with this weird feeling that I’ve never had before. When we had that kiss in the hospital, it felt like I was gonna explode. I know he felt the same way because he was reacting the same way I was.”
“So you’re sure you’re gay then?”
“That’s just a word, Eddie. You know that. For me, it could have just as easily been a girl—well, I think so, anyway. I’m into Gleason because he’s this amazing, awesome boy—it’s not because he’s a boy. Does that make any sense?”
“It makes perfect sense, Nate.” I put down my pizza and pulled my brother in for a hug. “You know, every time I turn around, you just end up getting more and more awesome. You’re making me look like a total slacker.”
“Shut up. Everything I do that people think is good—I do it because Matty and you inspire the shit out of me. You guys have played a huge part in me being who I am. So just shut up—slacker!”
“So, what do you now?”
“I think he’s nervous about it all. He was bullied quite a bit before, and it feels like he’s afraid to act on his feelings—which I know are there—but I think he’s afraid of being bullied again. So, I’m gonna ask Mom and Dad if I can have him over for a sleepover Friday night. We can talk about shit without anyone overhearing or getting in the way.”
“And do you think Simon is going to be a problem?”
“No. I’m gonna talk with him tomorrow before first period. If he wants to stay friends with me, he’ll stay away from anything more than being friends with Gleason.”
“Who the fuck are you? And what the Hell did you do with my twerpy little brother?”
I love it when Nate looks at me and gives me that new confident smile he’s been developing!
As one goes through that roller coaster ride called life, you occasionally run across a thought or two of what life would look like if you were to suddenly lose your spouse—the one person you had chosen to spend your life with. As daunting as those thoughts can be, there are no words to describe the utter shock and horror that overwhelms you when you learn you could actually lose a child.
Nathan—a boy so full of love and light was suddenly in the hospital fighting for his life. He was battling both the flu and pneumonia. I can’t begin to describe the terror I felt when this Dr. Wellington came to us and told us she was an oncologist.
When we learned that Nathan indeed had leukemia, I had to ask the age-old question, “How can God bring such pain and suffering to such a wonderful boy?” Why does God allow this to happen?
Of course, it shouldn’t be any surprise at all to learn that the answer to that question came from Nathan himself. Once we told him what was going on, and what he was going to be dealing with. He got his iPad from the table and began a Google search. He said he wanted to see and hear from other kids, and what it was like to go through this type of leukemia.
He found a couple of post-treatment messages and one or two real-time vlogs, but he wasn’t satisfied. He said he felt like the real-time vlogs were staged—and none of them were done by a fourteen-year-old boy. I will never forget the determination in his eyes when he told me that he was going to do a real-time vlog of his treatment and how he was feeling throughout.
When I told him there might be days he feels terrible and not want to be on camera, he said, “Don’t you get it, Mom? Those are the days that would be the most important. I know there have to be a ton of kids just like me who are kinda scared about what’s going to happen. I’m more scared of that than how I’m going to feel. If I can help just one kid know what’s in store and maybe—just maybe—be a little less scared, then everything I have to deal with will all be worth it.”
I remember tearing up and telling Nathan that a mother could not be any more proud—or in awe—of her son than I was at that very moment.
“There’s nothing to be proud of, Mom. I know that with you, Dad, Eddie, Matty, and Haley—you guys are all going to be there for me. I know that no matter how bad things might feel, you guys have my back. You guys are going to be there to help me through all that. I have the best family there is, and a lot more kids going through this probably don’t have a family that even comes close to you. So maybe—in some kind of weird way—you get to be a family for those kids, too?”
I think the thing that surprised me the most was how rapidly the number of views grew. Part of that was due to the young man we met who was starring in Dear Evan Hansen. Andrew Barth Feldman shared the link to Nathan’s vlog and urged his own huge following to support our remarkable boy.
The thing that inspired me the most—that touched my heart in ways unimaginable—were the comments from other young patients, their friends, and their families. The thing we all got out of those comments was that no one in our situation was alone—there are thousands of people out there going through the same ordeal—be it patient, relative, or friend.
Nathan did catch something while he was in the hospital. He has no idea that his father and I both noticed it. But the truth is, Nathan Hamilton caught the love bug while he was being treated.
There was another young boy in Nathan’s ward—Gleason Rogers—who was being treated for Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. We could see the boys become close. After all, they were both sharing the ordeals of intensive chemotherapy. There was one day in particular. It was close to the day Nate was to have his bone marrow transplant. He has this look of contentment and happiness in his eyes that none of us had ever seen before.
The morning of the transplant, Gleason came into the room all suited up for sanitation purposes, and despite Clay and I being in the room, he hugged Nathan and whispered something into my boy’s ear. I’ll never know for sure what he said, but I could hear Nathan’s reply—“Don’t worry about this, Gleason. It’s all going to be perfect. Then we can be together forever.”
Gleason sobbed a bit and replied, “Not if Mom can’t find a job or a place to stay.”
It was at that moment, nurses came in and told us that they were ready for Nathan. Gleason walked out of the room pushing his IV along with him. Clay walked over to Nathan and said, “Don’t worry about a thing, son. I’m going to offer a job to Mrs. Rogers and I’m sure we can find a suitable home for her. I’m going to start on that while they are working on you.”
Nathan looked Clay in the eyes and said, “Thank you, Dad. That will make them so happy. That makes me even happier. Gleason is the most...”
And then our boy was asleep.
Clay and I discussed whether or not we thought Nathan might be gay. Clay’s response was nothing short of perfect. “Does it matter? We should only be concerned that every one of our children is living a life where they can be true to themselves and respecting those who they find themselves close to.”
“But don’t you want grandchildren?”
“Of course I do! But if you want to know my feelings on the matter—I’m willing to bet that we are going to see a grandchild from Eddie and Matty before we do from Haley! With the attitudes changing on gay adoption in this state, I think it’s only a matter of time. Those boys are meant to have a child—or two—or more.”
Yes! I got a part in Tommy! I get to be Cousin Kevin. I get a couple of solos and get to torment Joe Hudson, the guy they picked to be Tommy. Alex got cast, too! She’s going to be Sally Simpson, the fan who eventually becomes Tommy’s girlfriend. Man, it’s going to be a wild and busy Spring semester!
I hope you enjoyed this chapter as much as I did! I do feel I should warn you in advance. Some serious sh*t's gonna be coming down in the next chapter! Hehehehe (evil grin)!
Thanks for your support and comments! Love you all!