I took you from New England, to Makarovia, to 1938 Europe and now back to High School. I'm tired.
Past Shapes The Future Pt 2
We left Olek’s office where Peter told me again who I was, listened to Klaus Ordan’s words, bullies came up to bully and I refused. Okay, I follow that. Chuck, a junior, was...a first...many things for me. I'm also confident in saying I was his first anything man to man. I knew he'd been with Jackie and he'd kissed her a lot. Bitch. He was supposed to. Damn it. I doubt he ever kissed another guy other than me and he never kissed me as he did her. He had feelings with me. I did really love him and still did and I always will. I refused to accept that. When he told me he was going to the Citadel, a high-level military college formed in the mid-nineteenth century, 1840...something. Before the War of Northern Aggression. (The Civil War?) Those in the North said we couldn't do things anymore and we asked how come? You know many died as a result. But every Southern Gentleman prayed they could get a diploma from there. It was almost two centuries old! After that was done, Chuck's life would be smooth-sailing. If he endured Hell Night. Yes, that's what it was unofficially called. If you ask anyone from the Citadel you knew well enough to ask, it was a night all new recruits, (called Knobs because of the shaved head) and everyone) had to go through it. Technically, it was part of the Knob Knowledge period which lasted a week. Any upperclassmen could stop any Knob at any time that week and demand an answer to any question about the Citadel. And you better know the answer. Never guess. They know when you do. Yeah, I know this has nothing really to do with anything in Makarovia, but knowledge is good! But in a way, it did have a lot to do with me, and therefore Peter, and Makarovia.
So? You ask. What’s wrong with that?
Nothing, really, but Hell Night is different because of the extreme nature of it. It was and still is the worst case of hazing you ever even heard of. This was more than just hard physically. In the recent past, women were not allowed to go to the Citadel. They humiliated you and did questionable things to members of the male gender. It wasn't loving and though it may be sexual, it was barely sex!
I'm not done! Did they have to? I didn't like what they did, but I can say every man that goes through the Citadel learned to act like a Citadel graduate.
They often had guys "wash out" during that week and many right after that night. Learning to make beds and polish brass and medals were easy. Yet, Chuck willingly went through this week and night rather than coming out? There were almost no homeless people who wore a Citadel Ring they earned unless there was a mental illness involved or drugs. Even if there was one of those reasons, they were usually a higher...class of Alcoholic or Junkie? It's on the Internet. Look it up! Just watch out for the ex-Knobs. You know, those that didn't make the cut.
I simply know I'd never make it. I was not going to the Citadel. I am proud to boast that I have too much of Katrina and Theodor Sams in me.
Chuck was doing this at the end of the next year, I knew it was ending and even when. This sounds odd, but I wished him all the happiness. Really! I also prayed that our paths just would not cross again. Understand what I mean. He was...my Sergi. Grandma had hers and didn't want to see him or have her memories ruined because of it. Remember? The pregnancy scare she had with him in the past that she admitted to last year?
The past is important. It shaped how we would react in the future. As bad as they were, the bully played a part in our lives. It taught us how to deal with conflict. My way was to confront right away. I'm pretty sure that came from Grandpa. He would always look at the list of jobs and did the hardest and more difficult job he did first; to get it done!
"Then everything after that will be a piece of cake!" He not only told me why he did it that way. He modeled life for me. I loved my father. Never doubt that, but I was young so when I started to become an adult, Grandpa was my Dad.
His cancer hit hard and fast. Pancreatic Cancer was just so fast. With Grandpa, it happened in two months. He finds out, he starts treatment and just dies. Quick and as painless as they could make it. Grandma was a bear! Those people at the hospital didn’t want to overdose him with the strong narcotics.
Grandma took her cellphone out. She was the one I got a lot of things from. She started recording.
"Tell me again," she demanded, pointing at the young doctor, "You want to cap the amount of medicine because he could overdose!? He'll die anyway!" She began approaching the man. "Tell me there is even the slightest chance he can recover." He didn't want to answer. "TELL ME!!" Grandma could be terrifying.
“There’s...,” the doctor stammered, “you can’t give up.” He said weakly. “We can’t euthanize.”
Grandma nodded, “That’s why you instructed me to call Hospice.”
We all know the word "Hospice" and its meaning. They were who you called when there was no hope left. The person they cared for was going to die. Period.
I had trouble with them, too. No, they weren't the cause of anyone's death. They provided care for people to live a better life with whatever time they had left. I struggled with that distinction.
"You hear me, young man," Grandma loomed. "Maybe after the ink finally dries on your diploma, you'll stop seeing these people as more than the illnesses and see the person you are treating." She pointed to Grandpa. "There is the kindest, loving man I have ever known. He deserves better. He will not suffer one single minute if he doesn't have to." She threw her hands out. "In Ukraine when a patient reaches this level, they talk about medications used to stop the pain." Tears were coming unchecked by Grandma. "I don't want him to die. Not ever, but he will. He will not live with any pain but die with dignity. Am I clear?"
My mother and I were there and saw and heard it all.
I got a lot from those people. Confronting this bully was one. Sending the recorded meeting was another.
Nothing is really unrelated to this here. Everything and everyone made us who we are. Even Ronnie. Chuck did, but this was also when I met Daniel, my first real love. We were the same age and shared some classes, but he was not one of us. No, he was a damned Yankee! Complete with the accent. We didn’t have one. Yes, he was one of them! That just made me like him more. You know me. That forbidden quality just made me like him more. My friendship with those in that inner circle caused Daniel not to be as friendly as he could be at first. He and I spoke in the classes we shared, but when lunch came and the table I sat at had these large guys or their pretty girlfriends with me, he passed me off. Often. That was because of Chuck's presence.
Mom did survive longer than expected her to. I never broke up with Chuck. He just faded into the background. What he and I felt wasn't considered. Honestly, there wasn't much to break up. We rarely saw each other on the weekends or holidays. It was my only experience with a double life. I determined at that moment to be honest about anything and most definitely, about my life. I wasn't at the swearing marches and protests, but...my fear was the reaction of others if I did. Would Jackie have her initial suspicions confirmed? Her boyfriend was gay. Gasp! Or at least bisexual? What did that say about her? She wasn't woman enough for him? No, she wasn't male enough for him or honest or sincere...during the summer break, I worked. The Tomato Sheds. For those with little Southern agricultural knowledge, the South boasted many farms. Many farms! Tomatoes was one of the biggest cash crops. Limehouse Farms was one of the biggest farms for tomatoes! A student who wanted to earn more money, way more than you could flipping burgers could really make good money at the sheds. It was tiring, hot, and dirty work. You either took tomatoes from the plants in the field, sorted what was brought in to get rid of the ones birds or insects had gotten to, wash, and then packaged them for grocery stores all over! From sunup until sundown, it was all about tomatoes. I sorted and packaged. Apparently, you needed certain skills to package. Sealing tomatoes with that clear plastic wrap, without bruising the tomatoes required that. And you did it quickly. I don’t know how many thousands of tomatoes I went through in a day. There were about twelve Limehouse Farms and covered thousands of acers.
Occasionally, you make friends doing it. That was my Yankee-Italian friend who quickly set me straight about the whole Yankee versus Rebel thing. His family was still in Italy during the Civil War. They arrived through Ellis Island in the Twentieth Century! Whatever. Toe MATE toe, To ma toe...I wasn't going to quibble. People found out I spoke Russian and Ukrainian I was labeled a Red. He was a Yankee.
Tony and I even carpooled! What I got from Tony, I didn’t get with Chuck. The freedom to be friends.
Tony and I weren't holding hands in the corridors, or kissing on school grounds...well, that's not exactly true. My high school became the only high school on James Island and the school boasted every high school student that lived on the island. Our student body was in the thousands. Unless you were homeschooled or went to a private school, you went here.
Keeping a reign on these rabbits is hard work! My point was, there were places to go if you knew where to go. The band room or chorus room that had private smaller rooms a section from the choir could work and were seldom used. When the new year started, Chuck and I just slowed to a stop. The one conversation we had at any length sort of finished us off.
It was right before my lunch period as I put my books in my locker. I felt him before I saw or heard him.
“Can we talk?”
I felt this cold weight in the pit of my stomach, but I just closed my locker. “Sure.” I could feel what was coming but tried to school my face from any emotion.
Chuck looked at the students in the hall and grimaced, “In private?”
Why was it at lunchtime? I was hungry! “Mrs. Cauthen doesn’t have a class now. She doesn’t normally lock her class.”
We still had to be careful. The school had video surveillance cameras, not in the private areas like the locker room or bathroom (right), but in the command high traffic areas. We suspected there were more eyes than we knew about. We all saw security in that booth watching those little monitors showed who came in and out of the many entrances. You also had to know us; the students.
We knew the camera had a blind spot. The far back corner had a cabinet in the way of the camera that showed the room but didn't see there. It was a typical classroom for science with the waist-high desks covered with black and little silver nozzles where you could light to heat whatever chemical under beakers. No chemicals were out now.
He stopped in that blind spot. “We haven’t really seen each other these past few weeks.”
I shrugged, “I haven’t gone anywhere.” I meant for it to be...less angry than it sounded. I wasn’t really angry. “Sorry.”
Chuck shrugged, “What else can we do?”
I looked at him and asked, “It’s becoming legal around the world and is in all of the United States now and will be all over.” I said, “The bottom line is; will we ever become a couple?”
Chuck opened his mouth to answer, but nothing came out.
I nodded after a moment or two and said slowly, “That’s what I thought.”
“What do you want?” Chuck asked.
"You!" I said instantly and simply with no need to guess. "I want you, damn it!" I sighed, knowing to stay put or risk being seen by security.
“You have more than anyone!” Chuck argued loud. Now, I could see some of that game aggression in his blue eyes. “You know that!”
"But not all of you!" I shot back just as loud and I held my hands up, stopping him. "I realize this is risky behavior. Someone could find out we slipped in here together and guess what we're doing and know why! We can’t be seen doing that.” I said. “Why is it important?”
He was flustered because I was making him say what we were doing.
“The magic about a conversation is there are two inputs,” I said. “I’m begging you to interrupt me if I go anywhere other than the path we’re on!” I pleaded with him. “I’ll tell you. I love you, Chuck.”
He wanted to say something, but again, he couldn’t.
“You think we shouldn’t be doing what we’re doing,” I said, “Don’t you? If you don’t say it, you aren’t gay.” I laughed at the pointless words I spoke. “News flash. You are! Here’s what else for you to chew on. Gays have ALWAYS been!” I waved off in the air. “As far back as Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar,” I saw his eyebrows rise when I said Caesar. "He was, too. He had an affair with King Nicomedes of Bithynia? It's documented! Everybody knows about Alexander. Up to Baron Friedrich Steuben who knew George Washington and served with him!" I shook my head. That wasn't fair, this wasn't covered in most American History classes. "Fred was a Prussian military man hired by President Washington...KNOWING Fred was a fag!" I turned to Chuck more, "And where does that pride come into this? Huh?" Yes, I got rabbits even then. "I sure as Hell didn't do anything to be proud of, but I've done nothing to be ashamed of either."
Chuck was frustrating! "Say something! Anything!"
“I…” He began hesitantly, “don’t know.”
“Yes,” I nodded my head. “You do. You believe it’s wrong!”
"No!" I said instantly. "We are a part of a complex world! We understand almost nothing dealing with Human Beings. What we do know, fits in the shortest time of life. Not even a fraction of the time of life on the planet. There is more than just black and white, on and off, right and wrong!" My head turned a little bit looking at him. "Can you even say it? Out loud? What are we doing? What are we? You and I are what?" I asked. "Tell me at the very least!"
The other part in play here was another set of unwritten rules but known by everyone. (There are just so many!) My mother and father weren’t part of this group, and wouldn't have even tried. Chuck grew up in Fort Johnson Estates. Yeah, I know. You don't automatically get the significance. I will also add the Country Club and not a single lot was less than a couple of acres of perfectly landscaped yards were maintained. Seldom was it taken care of by the people residing in those houses. The only person in the neighborhood responsible for lawns owned a company that did that.
He had employees that did that as teams of people. He was one of the few blue-collar workers that lived in that neighborhood. The rest were all doctors, scientists, lawyers, judges, architects, and all those big ink occupations that required a comprehension reading level over the third or fourth grade. You might be surprised at which level most newspapers were usually written.
Here’s another rabbit, a teacher when I was in seventh grade announced “open reading.” Yes, I’ll explain. She didn’t care what we read, we had a selection of topics and books. Magazines, if you submitted the article with it. I loved Ms. Daniels! (You know what I mean.) Patrick, a future geek in the community or mega-rich entrepreneur because of forward-thinking handed in his paper based on a series of articles in PLAYBOY! Everybody gasp! Go ahead. He earned an A! I read it and it was DAMNED good. Both the article and the paper! Thank god, not a naked anything of any gender to be seen. Of course, word spread, but like always that word was full of errors. Mothers came to speak with Ms. Daniels who did nothing to defend what she did. She handed over the copy of the article and asked them to read it. Charles Adams was a famous writer, having won award after award for writing excellence. He had been doing a series of articles that had nothing to do with sex or nudity at all. He tried to explain global warming even if it had unseasonable snows! The weather patterns changed and Gulf Stream and Jet Stream changed slightly and...he dumbed the article down to reach more readers in hopes that some ignorant bastard would understand at last. They probably only looked at the nudes. Pity. At least the article read at a high school level! Ms. Daniels handed Patrick's paper, admitting she was challenged to understand some of it, but Patrick was smart! Very smart. He did understand and explained it very well. I always suspected Patrick was...nevermind! I ain’t going there.
Chuck was the son of Judge Charles A. Slaughter and he didn't mitigate traffic tickets. He got crimes. Not the, she was cheating on me so I shot the boyfriend crimes either. Complex crimes of did they or didn’t they as motivations were explained and often hidden truths. Every lawyer, young or seasoned sweated Judge Slaughter’s no-nonsense approach to everything. All of the sons wanted to go to the Citadel. (Some of the daughters, too.) They still admittedly went to school to get a husband. Really!? Is it the 1950s again? Marry a doctor or lawyer? Maybe SHE wants to be the doctor or lawyer! They meet, marry and she's pregnant and she's done! If she did it all before thirty, well THAT was an accomplishment!
Yes, this is a big, BIG rabbit, but not unrelated. This is why I had a hard time accepting Peter and his no consequence family and country. All Chuck needed to possibly give up was his Corvette when he graduated...from High School! I wondered what he got graduating from The Citadel?
Anyway, I knew he couldn’t do it. I nodded, “It’s okay.” I even smiled at him. “We have something special.” I touched my own chest. “I’ve said it. I love you, Chuck. I always will.” I got closer, “I’m not breaking up with you, but you’re breaking up with me.”
“And letting him in?” Chuck asked a little bitterly.
I couldn't help it. The idea was so...ludicrous sounding. I burst out laughing. "You're jealous because I like that Yankee!?" I shook my head, "Too bad. I'm jealous all of the fucking time with Jackie! How many times these few weeks have you slipped her your dick?" I held my fist over my mouth as a felt my stomach wretch. It was real, too. The idea of what he did with her made me nauseated! It's natural, I know, I know. I didn't have to like it. A lion taking down an innocent deer is natural, as well. I didn't want to see that either. "You give her this awesome gift, does she appreciate it?”
There were these scales and numbers to represent the behaviors of people. I don't believe I gave any signs to what my preference was. I never did a sashay when I walk. Not even once. The scale had one number (0) meant you were completely heterosexual. The opposite extreme number (6) meant you were completely homosexual. The number in the middle (3) meant you were both. Please! No limp wrists. I just liked socializing with the male gender. Don't hate me! Remember? Again, gay. Me. I love and like many women. No romances for me. I'm NOT straight.
Chuck was embarrassed and nodded. “She’s never gotten all of me unprotected.” He looked almost...panicked. “I...just can’t.”
“I know. It doesn’t really matter.” I said, “I'm jealous she can." I smiled at Chuck. "Modern science will figure a way we can, but I would love to take your gift, mix it with me, and create a human being made from you and me." I smiled softer again. "That would be an awesome gift." I touched his face. "If you come by and if I'm home, you'll be welcome every time. What I won't be is anyone's secret." I literally had to stand on tiptoes as I kissed him. It was tender, soft, and lengthy. It was love that he gave back. I felt it. He had no choice. “See ya," I said and went out the door, leaving Chuck with a heart that was breaking. It was his choice. He chose "the life" over me. What did I offer him? Love?
Another kernel of wisdom from Grandpa. Disappointments come. They’re a part of life. Just don’t wallow too long, or you might miss something. I missed him now, but things he and did just wrapped tighter around me. Now, I was a prince of a country grandpa would have said, "Makarovia!? Where the Hell is That?”
If Chuck had asked me, I would have stayed. He didn't. So, I didn't. I saw him three times after that. Well, I saw him four times. He only saw me three. My mother tried to fight, but cancer is an evil lifeform. They cautioned me not to give this disease more than it is. I thought it was damned evil! Grandpa was healthy until then, but his cancer was so quick! Mom was giving it everything she had, and I knew to keep her spirits up was very important. Chuck came by once before Christmas. I didn't ask because I didn't want to know. He looked...haggard. I don't think I understood the meaning of the word, but he showed me what it meant on his face then. It was more than fatigue and he just looked drained. He came and saw me. I know! His choice, not mine. He couldn't give up the Country Club, future Mercedes and all the shit and stay with me. Now, I’m glad he didn’t. Could we have worked it out? Sure. He couldn’t see that as even a possibility.
This situation was barely tolerable. That Yankee in my life I knew I was was in love with. I told you what happened. If Chuck asked and I stayed, I could be driving the Mercedes and living at the Country Club. We could have been very happy. Then again, I was difficult to live with. I'm sure life with him was a breeze. (That was sarcasm again.) Beautiful thing sarcasm. You say exactly opposite of what you mean and that's almost always understood what you mean.
Don't feel sorry for either of us, though some probably will inevitably. I'm still sad at times about it. Chuck was fine and I am fine. Obviously not together or there would be no me telling you about the common American college man marrying Prince Whatshisname. Pedro, Peter, Pete, Petie was like a cat. I’m going on with the story! I swear. Like cats, there were several names. Three in T. S. Eliot's poem. Yes, it's a poem, and no I never cared
for poems. This one stuck, okay? From the book Old Possum's Practical Cats. It's a good poem. The poem spoke of a typical name he uses in public used by all humans. Another one, in particular, was more dignified but clearly not for common human use such as Munkustrap or Jellylorum. The secret name is just that. A secret. "The cat himself knows and will never confess."
It’s a good poem! It made it to Broadway! Cats! Naturally. Movies! He has a name only I can use. Husband. People can use it to identify him, but I call him that because that’s what he is to me.
Is it a rabbit if we speak about cats? Oh, nevermind, it became what it is because of the events in the past. Chuck helped shape me.
Right at the mid-year point and once before he graduated. He showed off his corvette. Then I didn’t see him a year.
He made it through Hell Week. The Knobs couldn't even walk on the sidewalk! No! They had to walk in the gutter! The white paved portion between the sidewalk and street. I would have been kicked out on day one! I still couldn't imagine a small upperclassman, barely five feet and five inches giving six-plus feet and two hundred and forty pounds Chuck a hard time.
Daniel Anthony was a private name. His grandmother and mother used it. I did, too. Just calling his name told my Italian Yankee my mood. Friends called him Tony or even Danny. He was not a Danny or a Tony to me. He was very important. He was killed and I didn’t know how I was going to make it. I did hearing my grandpa’s words in my head and having Grandma there most of the time.
Mom had good insurance so getting help with Mom was easy. I'd do whatever Mom needed, but grandma said to me. "You would, but as your mother gets sicker, she will lose control of a lot. Her bowels. No son should ever have to change his mother’s soiled underwear if you don’t have to.”
I could almost feel sorry for the nurses that cared for Mom. As strict as with Grandpa, she was Mama bear with Mom. Sure. Mom was her baby. I knew that. It was horribly unfair. She losing them both, the man she married was dead and their child was dying. We knew Mom was confounding the doctors about how long she fought, but we knew cancer would win.
Mom made sure I took the time to do what I wanted. When Daniel Anthony died, I think the understanding was with both my mother and Grandma I was in love with Daniel.
Oh, yeah. I did see Chuck one more time. He didn't see me. It was at the Citadel. I went for the Graduation Parade. Every student at the Citadel was in the parade. Say what you will, I had a hard time identifying one Cadet. Except for the slightly different uniforms, Knobs wore all grey, except today. He was moving up. All those bluish-grey jackets over the bleached white, white pants made them all look very sharp. That was the point of the uniform. No one person stood above anyone else. By size alone I guessed. Not much hair there. After the parade, Judge Slaughter approach one,
and I knew it was Chuck. Then his mother, sister and...a young woman I’d never seen before. No Jackie. He was finished with his first year of college. Jackie was still in high school. Jackie had not known but complained about not seeing Chuck hardly at all that year.
So was I, so I got the whole thing whether I wanted it or not. Her name was Ashton and was finishing her first year...wait for it. Vassar. You know the name, I'm sure. New York State? North of New York City not a hundred miles away. Women from Vassar were supposed to be very smart. Ashton looked smart! She was very pretty and she along with her alumnus married men from Yale, Harvard, Princeton, and all those Ivy League Schools. I didn't know commoners had pedigrees, but she had them. So confident. She attended Vassar and when she graduated, it was with honors, I found out. She belonged to THE Sorority. All the girls' initiations were though. I don't know what the Greek letters were and I never found out what was tough. The rumor was that any girl could pledge, but few were accepted. UNLESS (the finger is up) you could prove a family line or connection with American History. She had three!! Two direct Mayflower descendants and one was a President!
Which one? I don't know. I don't even know if he was a good president, but he married a grandmother's sister, making him an uncle.
Chuck had said he was looking at politics and maybe even president himself. That would be more difficult with me, but maybe with her. He probably couldn't go as far with Jackie at his side.
Is anyone surprised to know I didn't exactly like her? I tried not to hate her. It really wasn't her fault...exactly. I have NEVER thought she loved Chuck.
I just heard anger. It was a part of the breakup events, maybe that's where she was. Straights are weird anyway. I got the opinion that she was furious! Not really about losing Chuck, but wasting these few years on Chuck. All that time and effort on HIM! She wanted the Country Club and Mercedes! Now, it was gone!
I heard Jackie planned a few maneuvers and tried to break them up. I wished her well. I heard about her confrontation with Ashton. Sam, or Samatha, Walt’s girl, was telling the story to her friends and I was there!
"She gets him away from the group," Sam explained in a near stage whisper. "She got to kissing him as Ashton came over. She had asked him to bring it. He said he had, but he would go get it." Sam hissed, "That's it! And Ashton was walking away!
Jackie shouts, "It doesn't bother you I was kissing Chuck!?" "Not at all," Ashton says. "He's only been over with you here ten minutes. I don't own Chuck. I know he has breaks from the barracks. I know you're still in the city. If he were to cheat with you, how could I stop him? I know your past, yours, and Chucks." "All of it?" Jackie asked. "ALL," Ashton said pointedly, "of it." Ashton shakes her head and tells Jackie to "grow up."
This from a cheerleading teenager!? I didn’t know how much was true. What did Ashton mean saying ALL of it?
I heard of another about Easter where Jackie supposedly got into words with Ashton, or rather Jackie got into loud words with Ashton. Here’s another contrast I liked. Ashton never raised her voice. I love that in people! She was a lady. Damn! My head was almost turned. Of course, it wasn't but...my kind of Human Being!
And I’m no better than anyone else. I knew you don’t argue with her. You’ll lose. I wondered if Chuck and Ashton were still together. I hoped so. And there’s a part of me I hoped when the news broke about Peter and me, the interview by Anderson, the talk show that Chuck saw it wasn’t that bad with me. He had to know if he and I didn’t split up, I wouldn’t be in Makarovia And a prince. Yeah, but I hoped Jackie choked on whatever she was eating. I didn't like her. You got that? Not at all! Bitch.