New Life Ch. 03

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My mouth was terribly dry when I opened my eyes. Everything was blurry again and I could hear the rush of oxygen. Another set back I thought until I heard my name being called over and over again. The voice wasn’t a familiar one. Not Brion. Not my Dad. None of my other family or friends. Nor was it any of the three nurses that I could recall caring for me over the last two weeks in the ICU. I glanced down and saw the horseshoe shaped oxygen mask covering the bottom of my face, then followed the voice to the face that floated above me. Dark brown eyes behind square framed glasses and something about her eyeshadow made me laugh. It came out in a slurred giggle and she smiled.

“You with us honey,” she said with a deep southern drawl, her thin peach tinted lips parted in a smile. “You did great young man. That bullet came out clean.”

Not another setback. I remembered now. Today was the day I got rid of the last souvenir from that awful night some two months ago. I’d almost died. I did die, twice, technically but it didn’t stick thanks to the surgeon who wouldn’t give up on me. Probably a little divine intervention too but I can’t be too certain about that. Either way I was alive and making progress.

I’d started therapy, physical and speech, to help speed my return to normalcy. I could wash myself now and move from the bed to the chair with relative ease. I still wasn’t eating solids yet but I’d always loved jello and popsicles so I didn’t mind much. The chest tube was gone but the catheter still remained but the doctor promised that it would be gone after this last surgery. So far, he’d made good on his word so I had no reason to question it.

“I’m thirsty,” I said and my voice sounded harsh. “My mouth’s crazy dry.”

“I thought you had aphasia,” she said, looking down her glasses at me.

“I don’t even know what that means,” I said and she laughed a little.

“Lets get you settled first and we’ll see about getting you some ice chips. There’s a couple guys out there waiting, want me to send them back? They can hang out with you until you’re room is ready.”

Today was also the day I checked out of the ICU. Chrissy was there to see me off, she seemed sad to see me go and made me promise to come back and visit when I got myself back right again. She was a sweetheart and I don’t think I would have made such a quick turn around without her gentle pressure to push myself. She never did take my pad but only because I didn’t stop talking, no matter how messed up my words came out.

“Wait, you understood me?”

“Sure did honey, listen to yourself. Maybe it was waking up from the anesthesia, or just that it ran it’s course. Doubt we’ll ever know,” she said before she left me.

I could have cared less of the reasoning just that it was over. That was more frustrating than not being able to move. I had always been a man of few words but I knew well how to put them together. It was irritating knowing what I wanted to say but having it come out in an unpredictable mishmash of nouns and verbs. I couldn’t control it, believe me I tried. Even the speech therapy didn’t help. We’d go back and forth, saying a phrase one word at a time but as soon as it was time to string them together it was like somebody put them in a blender on their way from brain to mouth. It was awful and thankfully I didn’t have to worry about that anymore. Now I could focus on getting my body right, even if I’d lost 30 pounds and my arm was in a sling for who knew how long. But those were things I could fix and even if I couldn’t get back to 100% the possibility of a having a normal life after all this seemed much more plausible if I could speak.

My Dad came in first, and I was actually glad to see him. True to his word, he’d been coming to see me every day. Sometimes he only stayed a few minutes but more often than not he spent his evening with me. It was tentative at first, neither of us really knew how to act around each other. It was Brion’s idea to bring out the dominos. Nothing breaks the ice for Black men like cards or bones and eventually we got to the point where we could laugh and joke. He had even gotten to the point that he didn’t have to avert his eyes at every show of affection between Brion and I. It wasn’t like we were making out in front of him but he stopped looking uncomfortable when we touched. And it seemed that he and Mac had rekindled their friendship as well. On the nights she was on, Chrissy would bend the rules a little and let all three of them in as long as we didn’t get too loud. Which didn’t always happen when we started playing tonk and spades but we made an effort.

“Don’t look at me like that Pop,” I said to him and he furrowed his brows. “Like I’m dying or something. I might look worse but I feel better but that could just be these awesome drugs,” I said and tapped the IV pole. He came over to the bed, shaking his head and gave my head a rough rub.

“A father can’t be worried about his boy,” he said and I smiled as he took my hand. “I been up half mersin escort the night worried about today. That woman ain’t help none…”

“You can save that for somebody else…”

“Anybody else,” Mac said from behind my father. Brion pushed past both of them and came to the other side of the bed, shock plain on his face. All I could do was smile.

He ran his hand over my face, wanting to kiss me. It was in his eyes, and a few tears too, but he held back for my father’s sake I’m sure. “I was kind of getting used to it,” Brion said quietly as he slipped his hand behind my head.

“Well sucks to be you,” I said and he laughed.


“But you looooove me,” I slurred a little, all of a sudden feeling sleepy again. I heard our dads laugh at that, my own patted my hand and let it go. I grabbed Brion’s shirt front and pulled him closer so I could whisper in his ear, “And as soon as they get this tube out, we gonna see how well everything else works.” I kissed him softly on the neck and he blushed a little as I let him go.

“I appreciate you trying but I think the whole recovery room heard that Nev,” he said as he stood. “I gotta go get my cast off but Pops is gonna stay with you ’til I come back.”


“Ain’t no place I’d rather be bud,” he said and I smiled wide, my eyes starting to droop a little bit.

“Go to sleep babyboy. I’ll be back as soon as I’m done,” Brion said and kissed my forehead. “Love you.”

“I know,” I said, eyes already closed and he sucked his teeth.

As I drifted off I overheard our Dads talking, reminiscing mostly about how things used to be between them, and sharing hopes that maybe they could patch things up. My father thanked Mac for always being there for me in spite of his own absence and Mac apologized for the harsh words he gave over the years. They talked of possible fishing trips and watching games in Mac’s man cave like they used too. Mac joked that seeing us together got less awkward over time and my Dad agreed that he was getting over it.

“He look at him the way I looked at his mother once and I can’t deny how powerful that feeling is,” he said and Mac laughed.

“Tell me about it brotha. I admit it ain’t ideal. Hard enough being a Black man in America then to add that to it…they damn sure got some struggle ahead but I ain’t gonna be the one to add to it.”

“I don’t want to either, not anymore,” my father said and for the first time in a long time I was proud of him. “Now that Pru on the other hand…I don’t know.”

“What’s between you and your boy is between you and your boy, Declan. She ain’t got no say in the matter,” Mac said but his tone was more sympathetic than anything else. “If Margie talked about Breeze the way Pru goes in on Neville I’d have to kick her to the curb. No hesitation. But that’s for you to decide, I can’t tell you what to do. Just what I would.”

“Yeah I hear you Byron, loud and clear. Guess I just got used to being uncomfortable that I made it comfortable, you know.”

By then I was awake but I didn’t open my eyes, allowing them to talk as if I wasn’t there. I had no illusions of my father leaving her but the fact that he was actually owning his displeasure was steps in the right direction as far as I was concerned. The subject quickly changed to more innocuous topics like sports and work life. Both were approaching retirement age and not really sure what that meant. They’d both grown up in a world where the norm was working until death, now though that wasn’t exactly necessary. Neither had children to take care of anymore, so the rest of their lives were their own for the taking, and they weren’t sure what they would do with it.

Eventually I had to stop pretending when they came to move me to my room. It was private and the first thing I asked was when the catheter was coming out. With my speech back I had a whole new sense of purpose. I wanted to move, needed to, and with my arm in a sling I figured it might be difficult with a bag hanging off the front of my walker. And I wanted to eat. As far as I was concerned I wasn’t an invalid and I was done with the liquids. My new nurse, Jackie, promised that would all happen in the morning.

“I bet that show has made your life that much more difficult,” I said to him and he laughed. “I promise I won’t be making any druggie jokes.”

“And I thank you kindly for that,” He said as he helped me get comfortable in my new bed. He then went about explaining the unit I was on and standard operating procedures. No more limits on visitors or how long they had to stay. “Chrissy in ICU is a good friend of mine and she told me you’ve been itching for pants. When that cath goes, comfy sweats will be fine. Shorts would be best since you’ll be working with one hand for a while. And aside from your injuries your in pretty good shape so I’m sure you won’t be having any dietary restrictions but we’ll go over all that tomorrow when the doc changes you over to solids. Get some good rest in tonight, tomorrow the real work starts.”

“I’m not scared,” I said with a cocky smile and he gave my shoulder a pat.

“Yeah she said you were all will and believe me in your circumstances that’ll come in handy.” He put my buzzer in the bed next to me and told me he’d be back in a little bit.

The Dads were back immediately and commented on my new digs. It was a nice room. Big tv, nice view of the city, a bathroom with a door instead of a curtain. Not like I got to use the last one but at least now the option was better. There wasn’t much machinery either. Just the IV pole. And nobody had to stand anymore. There were two chairs and a couch that Jackie told me turned into a bed for overnight visits. It was bigger than the shitty studio apartment I lived in before I got locked up. If I wasn’t itching to get back to the real world I might have tried to stay as long as possible. I asked Mac to let Brion know about the changes and he happily obliged me, filling him of all the new details of my move. It was about then that my father’s wife called him, inquiring of his whereabouts. I had overheard this conversation before but never had he been so forthright, or short.

“Visiting with my son and then me and Mac is going for a bite to eat…No I don’t know where or when I’ll be back…Yeah you keep singing that song but I still ain’t seen no bags packed Prudence…Wish this was a show…Aight now that’s enough,” he said before he hung up. His phone rang immediately and he silenced it, put it back in his pocket.

“Better hope she don’t have herself a waiting to exhale moment on you Deck,” Mac said with a smirk and my father shook his head, but he let out a chuckle of his own.

“Don’t know why she would, ain’t like you some young white girl come sweep me off my feet.”

“Yeah but I damn sure might lead you off the path of righteousness far as she concerned,” was Mac’s quick response and they both laughed heartily at that. “Shit we ain’t too old to get in a little trouble and Margie wouldn’t mind another mouth to feed.”

“Yeah right,” my father scoffed and batted that notion away with his big meaty hand. “I be damned if she kick me out my house.”

“But yall married ain’t you?”

“Her name ain’t on nothing I had before she came along. That deed still say Declan and Cheryleen Sinclaire. And I already fixed my will so it goes to Neville when I’m gone. Me and his mother worked too damn hard for it to go anywhere else.”

“Oh is that right,” I said and they both looked at me like they’d forgotten I was there. “I appreciate the gesture but why would I want that house? I mean I ain’t like you. It’s not like I can look back and remember any good times there. Let’s be real Pop. I was three when you married her and I could be wrong but I don’t remember a time when she was anything like nice to me. Maybe she wasn’t always as cruel as she was once I got older but I was a nuisance always. Don’t get me wrong I’m glad you’re here now but don’t think my name in your will is anything like amends. It’s gonna take a little bit more than that.” When I was done, I expected him to be angry, to leave. But he didn’t.

“I can respect that,” he said with a shrug. “But that’s not why I did it. Not to make amends anyway. I just want to do right by my boy is all. It ain’t no bribe, just how things is supposed to be. Shit just cause I’m leaving it to you don’t mean you got to live in it. Sell it for all I care, I’ll be dead anyway.” That made me laugh, breaking the tension in the room. “Look Neville, I know we got a long hard talk coming and I’m sure most of it won’t be as civilly worded as that. I did a lot of wrong by you boy, a lesser man would have spit in my face a long time ago. I don’t know whether to be sad or impressed by the man you’ve become without me.”

And that was the end of that for now. Jackie returned with a pitcher of ice water and a stack of cups for me. He started to fill one but I told him to let me do it. It took me about five minutes but I did it, and only with minor spillage. Took care of the straw all on my own too. Progress was a beautiful thing. And before I knew it Brion was back with a soft cast and overnight bag. Our fathers stayed long enough to say goodbye and were out the door. When they were gone Brion shut the door and kissed me long and hard. Now that he didn’t have to worry about my breathing, he let go all his pent up feelings but stopped short of climbing up in the bed with me. There wasn’t enough room and I wasn’t strong enough to force the issue just yet, but I was getting there. He pulled one of the chairs up close to my bed and put his feet up on the edge, took my hand in his. The other was busy working a stress ball, I guessed that was his physical therapy. We didn’t talk but the silence was comparable, just being able to look at him was enough. To feel his hand in mine. I kissed it occasionally and he’d look at me with love in his eyes.

“You sure about this Breeze. I mean this would be the perfect time to cut and run. I’m not really in the position to give chase.”

“Is that what you want,” he asked without looking at me, steadily working the ball in his fist.

“Of course not.”

“Aight then, why you asking,” he said as if I had offended him and I rolled my eyes.

“I’m not trying to be funny Brion,” I said and grabbed his chin, turning him to face me but he didn’t look up. “The last thing I want is for you to feel trapped out of guilt. I don’t want you to look back on this in six months and regret it. I’m not sure if I could take it.” He looked at me then, his eyes wet but there was a little smirk playing at his lips. I guessed today was the day for hard conversations.

Brion didn’t respond right away, he didn’t pull away either, our fingers still laced together. He must have opened and closed his mouth four or five times before he worked out what he wanted to say. “How could I call myself straight when I’m in love with a man…my best friend?” He could have stopped there but he kept going. “You know, when I came to your place that night I was seeing someone. Met her at some fundraiser thing. Cute little Colombian lawyer. Legs for days, phat ass, nice tits. It wasn’t serious but she was cool peoples and we enjoyed each other enough that we went on a handful of dates. Then you kissed me and I was all out of sorts. She came to my place one night and I couldn’t pull the trigger. I tried to say it was because I drank too much but she knew that wasn’t it. She asked me flat out if I was seeing someone else, not because she thought we were exclusive or anything, she made that very clear. Eventually she got it out of me. Not the whole truth but I told her that somebody had come back into my life and made me question everything I thought I knew about myself. And you know what she says Nev… ‘That sounds like love.’ I tried to deny it, told her you weren’t my usual type but she tells me love doesn’t have a shape and that you can’t deny it when it slaps you in the face. But you know me bruh, I’m hard headed. I couldn’t stop thinking about you and it wasn’t like before. You were always on my mind Neville but not like this. Me hanging out with…I was trying to distract myself from those feelings. Thinking maybe it wasn’t just about you, that maybe I’m just bi and you kissing me pushed those repressed feelings to the surface. But that wasn’t the case. It’s you. I can’t say I won’t get a itch for some pussy every now and then but I got the feeling you’ll keep my dick distracted enough that he can’t think too hard about it.”

“If you let me watch I might not be opposed to it,” I said with a smirk and he laughed.

“Yeah that work both ways babyboy…naw naw don’t look at me like that. Don’t think I forgot about Red,” he said and I found myself blushing. “Mmmhmm neither did you. Don’t worry bruh, once we get you back right again we gonna have us some fun. Trust.”

“I love you bud.”

“Yeah, yeah I love you too so stop thinking so hard about this and just let it happen…fuck I forgot,” he said and jumped out of the chair. He looked at the clock on the wall and counted on his fingers, mumbling something about it not being too late. He grabbed his bag and came out with his laptop, set it up on my bedside table. “I promised somebody that when you were able that I’d have you call them. Don’t be mad.” Brion hit couple keys and I heard the computer ring a couple times before he spun the monitor around to face me. “Live from Paris, France Soleil MacIntosh…”

“It’s Dallier again actually,” she said and I did my best to hide my sneer, but it wasn’t good enough. “Oh stop it Neville, at least pretend to be happy to see me,” she said with that giggle of hers and I rolled my eyes. “I’m happy to see you,” she said and even through the computer I could feel how sincere she was about it.

“She came to the hospital that night and did a damn good job keeping me from losing my mind those first couple days…”

“I wish I could have stayed longer but I had to get back to my little one,” she said with tears in her eyes. The years hadn’t done her as badly as I had hoped. She was a little heavier and her hair was in one of those short funky cuts like Rihanna but she was still as beautiful as I remembered. Now it seemed her personality matched. “Brion told me you had some trouble speaking…”

“Not anymore thank God,” I said finally and she smiled wide. “Still not moving too much but I don’t plan on staying that way too much longer.”

“I’m so glad to hear it Neville. Really I am. I’ve been a wreck over here. I know you might find that hard to believe but I’ve done some growing up since Ferris was born. I was a snotty little entitled bitch and what I did to you guys was probably the lowest point of my life, ruining a lifelong friendship for shits and giggles. And all the awful things I said about you…I really was a bitch Neville and I’ll be forever sorry for it. Whether you forgive me or not.”

“Ahhh, I let that go a long time ago Soleil,” I said, sincerely and she smiled again. “You let it go too. I can tell you’re different. We were kids, I can’t hold that against you lil’ mama.”

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