Every step towards that hospital drinking fountain felt like an eternity spent in terror. And if these few moments can be stretched out into infinity, just imaginewhat it's going to feel like when I'm thrown in PRISON! A rapist, they'll call me. A monster. By the time I reached that fountain my stomach was trembling too violently for me to feel confident taking more than a sip or two, for fear that I'd bring it right back up.
Is this how my life comes to an end? Is this how I deconstruct and destroy everything that I've ever had? It all happened so fast. Somehow I got so wrapped up in the good things that I stopped looking out for the bad. Dustin and I were happy. We talked, we laughed, we looked out for one another. We felt so normal and natural with our relationship that it was easy to forget just how abnormal and unnatural it really was. Well...to other people, anyway. Dustin and I stepped outside of the social 'hive-mind' and that's just not allowed. I'm going to be punished if this continues to unravel. Punished hard.
The cool water touched my lips, which were so heated I'm surprised that wisps of steam didn't rise above me as a result. Funny how I was almost breaking a sweat while my blood was running so cold.
How much time did I really expect this little distraction to buy me? I mean, I was going to have to go back to the nurse's desk eventually. If I take too long she's just going to come looking for me. So I might as well try to come up with a good story, right? I mean...a teenaged boy came over to my apartment, spent the night, stripped naked, was taking a shower and accidentally...oh my GOD this sounds so WRONG! She's going to know something's off. I'm going to look her in the eye and the whole ordeal is going to unfold right in front of her. Shit.
As I inhaled deeply and started my walk back to the place where I may be facing a fate worse than death...I saw the sunlight pouring in through the automatic doors in front of me. Just past the front desk...just a few hurried steps away...was possible freedom. She'd probably be too busy to randomly look up and recognize me if I just nonchalantly passed by the front desk and the waiting room, just to escape to the bright sunshine and freedom of the sunlight just on the other side of that glass door. It's even got a sensor on it. It would open for me automatically. What's she going to do? Chase down my automobile like some kind of killer robot from the future? I could leave. I could run out of here and not look back until I saw Dustin come back to work with a clean bill of health. We could pretend it never happened. We might even laugh about it someday.
That's what I was thinking about as I kept trying to casually place one foot in front of the other. I could make a break for it. I could walk right past her and she'd have no way to find me ever again. I could do it, you know? I really could! That open exit was sooooo inviting.
I was coming to the end of that hall wall...the only thing camouflaging me from the nurses behind the desk. A bright sunshine future ahead, and bleak and dismal set of circumstances just to my left. Even *I* didn't know what decision I was going to make until the last minute.
"Sir? Excuse me! Sir?" The nurse called out the moment she saw me. Fuck! I guess she was keeping an eye out for me. Perhaps already clued in on my royally suspicious behavior.
The exit doors were so close. I could have made a run for it and gotten away easy. But for how long? She had seen my face. Not to mention that I was probably on every hospital surveillance camera in existence since I first dragged Dustin out of my car in the parking lot.
But...more than anything...I know that I couldn't just completely 'ditch' my sweetheart here in the hospital without knowing that he was ok first. I wouldn't be able to drive more than a few blocks without worrying about his well being. His safety. I was terrified, sure...but this wasn't about me. It was about Dustin. And while the temptation to charge out of those front doors like an escaped cheetah from the zoo was gripping my shoulders and pushing me forward...I didn't run.
I closed my eyes for a moment, letting out a long sigh, and I turned to give the nurse the information that she was looking for.
"Sorry." I said. "I left my...shirt out in the parking lot. I was using it to pad the spot on his head but we dropped it in the race to get him in here. I just figured...maybe I could go grab it really quick."
She gave me a sideways look at first. Then she said, "If you don't mind, I'd like to get a few more details from you first before you go back outside. It's important that we document everything that happened here today, ok?" I was afraid she'd say that. But I nodded anyway. I dragged my sorry ass back to the front desk, my head down, my every breath feeling as though it was covering my struggling lungs with a thin layer of emotional ice. And I tried to maintain my cool as she started asking me questions.
Where did the incident happen? Why? How long ago? She asked me if I had his insurance information, or if I could be listed as a parent or guardian for Dustin. They gave me this 'clipboard' of questions that they wanted me to answer. Questions that might seem simple and unchallenging to your average person...but to me? They were the most invasive questions ever written on a legal document. I scoured over them as if every inquiry was a cleverly worded 'trap' for me to fall for and end up in handcuffs. It took me much longer to fill out than they thought it would.
I can't believe I'm doing this. I can't believe this happened to us.
But...the whole time, I kept thinking about Dustin in the back room somewhere with his head throbbing. I mean, were they watching him? Making sure he wasn't going to sleep or trying to walk on his own. Should I go up to the desk and get the nurse to take special care of him? He's stubborn. He's not going to just listen to what they tell him to do. He's going to try to get up and walkout of here as though nothing is wrong. She should be watching him. Or at least telling somebody else to keep an eye on him. What kind of operation are they running here???
Finally, someone handed the nurse some papers, which she looked over extensively for a few uncomfortable minutes before saying, "Ok. This is what we're looking at here." She said, turning to the side to share a few notes with me. "We're going to take some x-rays to be sure, but from what we can tell so far, this is just a really severe bump on the head that needs some treatment and tender loving care. Ok?" That alone caused me to sigh with such relief that I nearly lost balance in my already wobbly legs. "We're going to keep him overnight to monitor him for any changes and just make sure that he's not suffering from any blunt force trauma that we haven't locked onto yet. But, for the most part, your friend should be ok in a day or two. Despite a few headaches and a rather nasty bruise on the noggin."
"Oh God! THANK YOU!!! that's the best news I've ever heard!" I grinned, more out of misplaced panic than anything else.
"Yes, well...I'd really like to get our paperwork started on this. Do you have any contact with a parent or guardian? It's important that we call them in and get them to become an immediate part of this process." She said.
My cold blood was now turning to jagged shards of ice as it traveled through my veins.
She began walking back to the desk, but it was hard to get my feet to follow her. I sighed out loud, and just tried to keep my head down so I wouldn't have to look her directly in the eye. "May I see your Driver's License or State ID please?" I guess it's a good thing I got another one of those when I did, huh? "Ok, Mr. Walters, now you said that you didn't have any insurance information on the patient, is that correct?"
"Yes. I mean...no. I don't have any idea about...that stuff."
She wrote some stuff down and then typed a few things in on her keyboard. What was she typing? I couldn't see her screen. Was she alerting the police? Was she typing 'We've got another pervert here, boys! Come pick him up'? She handed me a clipboard and a pen. "I just need you to fill out this form, starting here at the top with your full name and address and down to your signature right here."
My voice, shaky, I asked, "Is all of this really necessary?"
"Well, we have to have a record of Dustin being checked in by a second party, treatment given, etcetera, etcetera. And of course his parents will have to be notified immediately." I think I stopped breathing. Literally stopped breathing. "You did say you had a home phone number that we could use to contact them, correct?" I nodded slightly. "Ok, why don't you go ahead and write that number down for me in the 'emergency contact' box. That way we can give them a call and let them know what's going on." My hand was trembling so badly that my handwriting was almost illegible. "Now you said that your relation to the patient was 'friend', correct?"
"Yes..." I almost whimpered when I said it. I could practically feel the eyes of every person sitting in that waiting area staring at me. Possibly listening to my every word. Analyzing my body language. I was reminded of Edgar Allan Poe's, 'Tell Tale Heart'. I don't think I've ever really appreciated the terror that his words brought to that particular situation until I was standing at that desk, filling out that form, answering her questions, all while having my heartbeat pound on my eardrums without mercy. I was so clueless as to where this was going.
She typed some information into a few more sections of her report. "And how old is Dustin? Twelve? Thirteen?"
"He's fourteen, actually." Then I was quick to add. "He'll be fifteen in a couple of months, though." As though that was any better when it came to us being sexually involved.
More typing. The sound of her fingers on that keyboard were driving me insane. "Ok. So, can you just give me a brief description of what happened here? You said he slipped and hit his head? Is that correct?"
"Yes. That's correct." I replied. More typing.
"And this happened where?"
"Was this in the kitchen? In the bathroom? Where did the incident take place?" She asked.
"Oh...umm, it was in the bathroom."
"Was this at your house or his house?"
My throat was beginning to constrict on me. Almost as if to silently tell me to SHUT UP before I incriminate myself even further. But I couldn't just decline the question. That looks more suspicious than ever. "It was at my house. Well, my apartment."
"So he slipped and hit his head on what? The counter? Bathtub?"
"I'm not really sure, but I think it was the sink." I said.
"Ok. Hit his head on the sink. Yeah, that's got to hurt, right?" She smiled, her fingers typing more details of my sinful crime into her computer. Making it official. A document that's going to last forever in Dustin's medical records. Even when they finally let me out of 'Ass Rape Prison'...it'll still be there. I peeked back over my shoulder to see who was watching or possibly eavesdropping. They looked normal enough, but the paranoia hadn't decreased any. She must have seen the worried look on my face, because she stopped typing and said, "Don't look so stressed out. These things happen. The blessing is that you got him here and we're able to check him out to make sure that he's back to normal as soon as possible. Ok? You'd be surprised how many people end up with complications when they try to fix these things themselves. You did the right thing bringing him in."
"Yeah. Thanks..." I mumbled. "Is it ok if I go back and see him? Just for a second?"
She took the clipboard with my information on it and then typed the rest of her protocol into the system before saying, "Just give me a moment to go back and see if the doctor on staff is done with him, and I'll let you know. Feel free to have a seat right over there, Mr. Walters."
I thanked her again, and then wandered aimlessly to one of the empty seats surrounding me. The second I sat down and put my face in my hands as I thought about what an absolute clusterfuck of a day this has been so far. How could I let this happen? Why didn't I remind Dustin again about the slippery rug? Why do I even HAVE a slippery rug? All those paychecks I've gotten over the past six months or so, I could have bought a new rug. Instead of wasting my money on garbage, I could have been making my apartment safer for a teenage boy to spend some time there without nearly killing himself! I really hope he's ok. I really hope that I haven't scarred him for life in some way. I'd never forgive myself if I put some sort of permanent flaw in the presentation of his boyish beauty to everyone else around him. I'd totally HATE myself! Like...forever.
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