Chapter 3: Bad at Love
Over the next few weeks, I worked with Dr. Miller in her lab. I was more of a secretary then a scientist, filing paperwork, blood and tissue samples, etc. I had to admit that working days was a lot easier than working nights and a lot more freedom.
On Sunday I met up with Noah at the chapel. There was a local preacher who came by to lead a non-denominational service. During the week, representatives from most major religions could be sent for as they were employed by the state of South Dakota. So, Sunday service was more of a special treat for the hospice patients and staff.
Noah sat in a corner eating a chocolate chip cookie. He looked his usual adorable self, with his long black hair pulled into a loose braid, as he looked out the window at the late-morning sun.
“Should we grab something for Juan-Palo?” I asked, taking a seat next to him. Noah’s middle-aged roommate was noticeably absent. The older man’s condition had been getting worse. He’d been taken off chemo for well over a month prior to my arrival but was still suffering the effects.
Noah shook his head. “He’s probably going to get a nutrition IV when he finishes dialysis.” He turned to me with his big brown eyes. “Maybe we can say a prayer for him.”
“Yeah, of course.” I gave Noah’s hand squeeze.
We listened to an elderly preacher talk about hope, faith, and the promise of the afterlife. He wasn’t as entertaining as the previous week’s speaker but the junk food made up for it. Candy, doughnuts, and cookies, had a way of transforming a room full of convicts into little children.
Complete with bullies.
Adam Reyes with his white-boy blond surfer dreads was pointing and chuckling with his group of friends. I knew Adam had spread rumors about me to the other nurses; I was Dr. Miller’s pet because of my ties to the mafia. That was why I got to sleep in Dr. Miller’s office (essentially having my own room.) And why I was able to be with Noah without fear of repercussions for becoming romantically involved with a patient. Was it true? Hell, if I knew. But damn, if I wasn’t going to take full advantage.
I put my arms around Noah, pulling him close. As the preacher asks us to lower our heads to pray, I felt Noah’s head on my shoulder. He fed me the remainder of his cookie before slipping his hand under my shirt, just below my abs. He had his arms around me as well, and we’re holding each other close, despite the burning glares coming from every direction. “You ok?”
Noah nodded. “I just need to be close to you.” To his credit, Noah’s touching stopped at my stomach for the duration of the service.
Afterward, we went back to the privacy of Noah and Juan-Palo’s room. The older man was asleep on the bed, his tall body shivering in the fetal position. Noah had been correct, in that his roommate was put on a course of IV of fluids, nutrients, and strong pain medication. A cookie would have been the last thing he needed.
Noah took a seat on the bed and patted his arm. “Hey, J.P., we’re back from chapel.”
Juan-Palo opened his eyes and forced a smile. “Hey,” he said in a soft, raspy voice.
Noticing his tear-filled eyes, prompted my medical instinct. “Do you need me to get a doctor?” I asked, as I examined his face for a fever.
Juan-Palo smirked as he rolled on to his back, staring mindlessly at the ceiling. “No, but perhaps a priest, or someone of the like, to cleanse me of my sins.”
“I’ve been experiencing dreams of the afterlife; coming face to face with all those I’ve wronged in my illustrious career.” Juan-Palo was in pain, that much was certain.
I placed my fingers to his neck to check for a pulse, it was rapid. His skin was clammy. I motioned to Noah. We laid on either side of Juan-Palo, holding him close.
I could feel his heart, his breath. I reached over his chest to hold Noah’s hand. But as I did, I felt Juan-Palo’s rough, callused hands caressing, pulling us closer together. “Make love for me.” He turned his head to face me. “Although I am too weak to participate, I wish to indulge one last time.”
One last time? I assumed he was speaking in hyperbole, as I willingly removed my shirt.
Noah sat up and did the same. With his bare chest exposed he placed Juan-Palo’s hand over his young healthy heart. As Noah tenderly massaged his lover’s hand he glanced in my direction with his alluring eyes. “Do you want me to fuck you?”
“God, yes!” In the short time we’d been together I’d let Noah have his way with me, in every way except for direct anal penetration with his gorgeous uncut cock. We started making out, groping each other’s bodies while careful of Juan-Palo’s IV cords.
Noah’s pressed his lips to my ear. “Do you want me to grab the lube?”
“Nah, just use spit,” I said with confidence. “I’ve been fucked raw before, I can take it.”
Noah only laughed. “I’m getting the lube.” He returned with a brand new tube of generic brand Astroglide and started to doll out a liberal amount directly on to his erection.
I watched as the liquid dripped down his shaft. It took every ounce of restraint to not lick him clean.
“I’m not like other guys.” Noah lifted my leg, forcing off my pants until I was naked in the bed. “I don’t want to hurt you, but I do want to make you scream.”
The next thing I knew Noah had my leg over his shoulder, fucking me fast and hard while jerking me off with his free hand.
I gripped the bed, gasping for air.
But after only a few moments Noah moved his hand to my shoulder, getting a better grip as he slowed his pace. He was fucking me with deep deliberate motions, each time bringing me to the edge.
I reached for my cock, desperate for a release, only to have Juan-Palo’s large hand slap mine away. “Just relax, enjoy the ride. Noah likes to take his time.” The older man gripped my cock, working my shaft with long tender strokes.
I knew the bed must have been soaked with my pre-cum, but I didn’t care. I wanted to give in to their touch, their control. “Please, have mercy.” When I was finally allowed to climax, I came harder than I thought possible. I leaned my head back as ropes of cum gushed from my cock. My muscles were locked in a full body orgasm with Juan-Palo coaxed out the last of the cum from my balls, while Noah leaned in to kiss me.
His lips pulled away slightly, drawing a breath as he climaxed. “Tell me you love me.”
“I fucking love you, Noah Redflower.”
With a sweet smile, Noah rested his spent body between Juan-Palo and myself, melting into our embrace.
As I drifted off to sleep, I heard Juan-Palo whispering something in Spanish. I didn’t know any Spanish other than slang and swear words but I could have sworn he was reciting a list of names.
I turned my head to see Noah facing Jean-Palo. “Speak their names,” Noah said in his innocent, angelic voice, “so you may be forgiven.”
“Noah?” I forced myself to sit up, but both men appeared to be asleep. I stroked the hair from Noah’s face to gaze upon at his innocent expression. I kissed his cheek and simply fell back asleep.
We slept through lunch, but evening meal was a required mandatory welfare check for all patients.
I awoke to the sound of knocking at the door. I got up and left the bed with every intention of opening the door when I heard Noah whimper.
“Don’t open it, please, Marc. Please.” Noah was cuddled in Juan-Palo’s arms, holding his body close.
I touched the older man’s face, down his neck; no breath, no pulse. Juan-Palo’s body was warm, but it was clear his spirit had passed on. “Noah, we have to let them in.”
“They’re here to take him away.”
“Marc are you in there?” It was Dr. Miller’s voice. As usual, she was kind, polite and even-tempered.
“Yes, Dr. Miller,” I replied. “I’ll be right there.” I opened the door, because I had to.
Dr. Miller entered the room, upon seeing the state of the scene she sighed and radioed for a gurney on the in-room intercom.
“You already knew he passed?”
Dr. Miller bit her lip, brushing a lock of blonde hair from her face. “I’ve been carefully monitoring him, adjusting his medications as necessary for the physical pain.”
Two volunteers came in the room, one I recognized as Adam Reyes. He was talking with the other man, a muscular tattooed Asian who I’d never met. “I guess it was only a matter of time before Noah Redflower fucked a man to death.” Adam laughed out loud while the Asian threw Noah to the floor.
Dr. Miller cleared her throat with noticeable disapproval. “Leon!”
Noah was curled into a fetal position, rocking back and forth. Dr. Miller approached him, getting on her knees to speak to him at his level. “Noah, we need to move the body to the morgue.”
“The body…” Noah repeated in a monotone.
“Yes, Noah.” Dr. Miller placed her hand on Noah’s shoulder like a preschool teacher. “Juan-Palo is not here anymore, you know that.”
Noah looked at her with his dark innocent eyes. He wasn’t crying or angry, his expression was just one of deadpan-confusion.
I got down beside him, holding his hand. “I’ll be with them the entire time.”
Dr. Miller nodded in agreement. “Marc will accompany Juan-Palo’s remains.”
Noah swallowed hard as he turned to me. “Will you bring him back?”
“I’ll bring him back, I promise.” I had no means of upholding that promise, a fact which Adam and Leon found hilarious as they pushed the gurney out of the room.
“Basement level, just beyond the staff gym,” Dr. Miller said, patting my shoulder. “I won’t start without you.”
I kept my focus on Noah. “Will you be alright?”
Noah gave my hand one last squeeze before releasing. “Yeah, just keep your promise.”
I left the room, taking a deep breath in the hallway. I wanted to cry, scream, but I knew my priority had to be to Noah. I took the stairs to the basement, following the hallway past the gym, to an unmarked metal door. “Hello? Dr. Miller?” I noticed the card reader. I had been issued a name badge with a bar code connected to my identification file, I swiped and the door opened.
I blinked my eyes as I was hit by a rush of cold. The morgue looked more like Dr. Frankenstein’s lab, with shelf after shelf of bottled samples; blood, tissue, bones, all neatly labeled with barcodes. On the only exam table was Juan-Palo’s body already stripped of clothing with black marks made for all the potential incisions. I felt sick to my stomach. “I don’t know if I can do this.”
“Wow, Noah’s really gotten to you,” she said as she arranged her tools.
She was going to dissect him regardless, so figured I’d man up and stay. “Will you tell me a story?” I asked as I put on an apron and gloves.
“Sure,” she said starting her work while I stood by the computer looking at her filing system software. “Once upon a time there lived a man named Juan-Palo Santiago, a son, husband, and father- the same as so many other men of this world. Except Juan-Palo Santiago was raised in a culture of sin; Catholic sin, the kind that starts wars.”
I could hear her start the chest incision. “Is it true he killed his son?”
“For being gay? I’ve heard the rumor, but as for what Juan-Palo was tried for; he was sentenced for smuggling drugs and weapons. There were no provable counts of murder. Although I, like many, believe his kill count to be in the hundreds if not thousands.”
“Is that why you see him as a monster?”
“What I see is a body,” she said as she started to fill vials and jars. “A body with stage four cancer that did not respond favorably to nine rounds of aggressive chemo. But despite all that he thrived in physical therapy; his joints, bones and muscles tissue, maintained durability and strength at a remarkable rate. All until his unfortunate death due to kidney failure.” After a series of cracking, cuts and other sounds she now had a tray full of sample containers. “I’m going to need you to file these.”
“Got it.” I already had her filing system figured out. “What’s going to happen to his remains?”
“Since he had no next-of-kin, his remains will be disposed of.” She walked to a plastic bag handing it to me. “I saved his clothing for you to give to Noah.”
“That’s all I’m allowed to give him?”
Dr. Miller removed a glove, placing her hand upon my back. “Noah is not well, physically or mentally. I’m glad he has a friend like you, someone willing to talk him down from the edge. But the poor kid is living on borrowed time, like everyone else here.”
I spent the next few hours in the morgue, never once looking away from the computer.
When Dr. Miller handed me the last of the samples, I caught a glance at her reflection in the screen. “Are you hungry?” she asked. “I could take you to dinner after we wash up.”
“I should get back.” I waited until I heard her put away what remained of Juan-Palo’s body before turning around.
“Back to Noah?” she asked.
“Yeah, where else would I go?”
I took the bag of clothes back to Noah’s room only to find it rearranged. The king sized bed was now two twin beds, with Juan-Palo’s side stripped of linens. I massaged Noah’s back as he slept in the fetal position. “Noah?” I placed the clothing bag at his side. “I’m going to get a cup of coffee, I’ll be right back.”
Noah opened his eyes. He looked at the bag, then at me. “I love you.”
“I love you too, Noah.”
Noah hugged the bag and closed his eyes. Since he seemed alright for the moment, I had every intention of ducking into the cafeteria for a coffee before quickly returning to his side.
I walked into the empty hallway, only to be grabbed by three men; Adam, Leon, and Kyle. They didn’t even try to hide their faces.
Adam with his long blond dreads pulled back in a ponytail, pressed his lips to my ear. “Please, Marc, join us?”
“How about- no.”
Adam laughed and jumped in front of me, clearly intent on blocking my path. “How about you not be such a pussy.”
With Leon and Kyle grabbing each of my arms I knew I had no choice.
We walked as a group to the empty cafeteria where Adam promptly locked. “All jokes aside, we just want a moment of your time.”
Leon chuckled at Adam’s mock sincerity as he forced me into a chair. “Yeah, doctor’s orders.”
“What? That can’t be true,” I muttered. Dr. Miller had been nothing but a friend.
“Dr. Miller,” Adam confirmed. “She’ll find Noah a new fuck-boy roommate, and she’ll keep it up until the freak finally dies.”
Kyle shook his head. “Can we cool it with a name calling? You sound like a fucking twelve year old.”
“Noah is not a freak!” I forcibly stood up ready for a fight. “You all fucked him before I even got here!”
Adam only shrugged with a casual smirk. “Be that as it may, we all learned the hard lesson: don’t dive headfirst into a swimming pool of….” he paused, looking to Kyle and Leon. “What’s a good metaphor for Noah, a pool of candy-flavored quicksand?”
“Yup, you’re twelve.”
Adam nodded at his own joke. “Yeah, don’t dive headfirst into a pool of chocolate-candy quicksand. It may look tempting, but it’s hard to get out once you’re stuck. Luckily none of us ever got in that deep.”
Kyle stood up, running his fingers through his hair. “Look, Dr. Miller just wants you to think before you leap. You’ve fallen harder than most of us have. She’s just concerned, we all are.”
“You all are?” I knew that was bullshit.
Kyle stood up and went to the drink fridge. “Here, take a sandwich. I think it’s roast beef. I know Noah has his own stash of Cliff bars, Power bars or whatever but in case you want something more substantial.” He handed me a prepackaged sandwich and a can of soda. “Dr. Miller would want us to tell you to meet her back in her office, but we all know you’re going to see Noah.” Kyle’s voice was calm, even apologetic. “But do me a favor, ask him about his burn scars.”
“Fine,” I said, taking the offering. I just wanted out of that room.
Adam sighed and opened the door. “Go, run back to your little freak-bitch.”
“Piss off!” I flipped the bird at the three stooges, while I power-walked back to Noah’s room. When I arrived, I took a moment to compose myself before quickly entering and locking the door.
Noah was sitting up in bed eating a PowerBar while wearing Juan-Palo’s old clothes. “You ok? I thought you were getting coffee.”
“I’ll have to go without.” I put the food on a nearby table and took a seat by Noah’s side. “So, you’re wearing his clothes?”
“It’s all I get, right? One last moment to experience his smell, his warmth, his heart.”
“You can feel all that through his dirty laundry?” I asked with a forced smile. I didn’t mean to poke fun at him but the events of the past hour had me on edge.
Noah crossed his arms over his shoulders as if giving the cloths a hug. “As human beings, we feel what we choose to feel.” He rested his head on my shoulder before giving me a knowing look. “What did Adam Reyes say about me this time? I know that’s why you’re acting so weird.”
“Not Adam,” I said as I put my arm around Noah, stroking the rough fabric of Juan-Palo’s shirt, “Kyle Morgan told me to ask about your scars.”
“He doesn’t know the truth of my scars.”
“Will you tell me?”
“Only if you promise to stay the night.” Noah looked away, as if afraid of my answer. “It just, I haven’t had to sleep alone since I got here. I’m kind of afraid…”
“I promise.” That’d been my plan all along.
Noah paused, shivering. “After I killed my mother’s pimp, she sat there sobbing, screaming begging me to let her die. Meth did a number on her. I tried to move her but I couldn’t get her off the floor. So, I left the trailer and grabbed the spare gas tank, a gallon-size red plastic container that my mom’s pimp always left full.” Noah covered his mouth, his eyes wide with terror. It was clear he was reliving the horrible events.
I cupped his face, forcing him to look at me. “Whatever you did I’ve seen worse.”
“That’s just it, I don’t know what I did. I mean, I know what planned.” Noah shook his head in disbelief. “I set the trailer on fire, laid my body on top of my mom waiting to die. I don’t remember any pain or even any fire. But I awoke in the hospital in handcuffs. I had burns on my back and shoulders, like the devil had given me a hug.”
I kissed Noah’s lips. “You don’t have to say anymore.”
Noah looked at me with tears in his eyes. “I really do love you, Marc.”
Noah and I both grew up without fathers, perhaps that was why we craved masculinity in its purest form. the kind of love that inspired strength, confidence, and hope. I kissed Noah’s neck, down his chest, as I removed Juan-Palo’s shirt from my lover’s body. “I love you too, Noah.”
I would like to say we made love but, in that moment, we needed to hold each other more then we needed to fuck. But one thing was certain, we had to escape this place.