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Date Posted: 09:38:22 05/08/15 Fri
Author: Mike84
Subject: Flashback (2015) By Mike84
In reply to: Comicality 's message, ""Shacker Story Post"" on 03:49:16 05/08/15 Fri

FLASHBACK - A SHORT TALE BY MIKE


(This is a total re-write of a story that I've had in my head for many years, and also written in several forms on various forums, over the years, too. It is also noteworthy to mention that the term "poof" appears in one or two sentences. "Poof" is a common British derogatory term used on gay people. It can also just be used as a general insult. It's not quite as venomous as the better know term "fag" is, but it is similarly applied. I'm not totally happy with the story as it stands. Maybe I never will be, but it's the best I could do at short notice.)





Feeling numb, I steered the car to make a left turn to enter through the cemetery gates. My mind was filled with distant memories, mixed emotions, and… deep regrets.


Many years had passed since the last time I had driven down this long and narrow road. A road decorated on either side with the gravestones of people who have long since passed on from this world. Many of them long gone and forgotten, their own relatives now no longer around to care, evident by the many weathered and unkempt gravestones. Others, more modern, lighter in contrast, and, even the odd one here and there, decorated with flowers. Not uncommon for this time of the year. Christmas often reminds us of the loved ones we’ve lost. And that’s what had brought me here this evening.


“Are you sure you’ll be OK, honey? I know this trip has been weighing on your mind so heavily over the last few days.” I nodded my head, still not lifting my gaze up from the steering wheel. “You know you don’t have to do this alone. Sam and I will be right here if you need us.”


After letting out another long sigh, I raised my head to reply to my wife. The one person who has been by my side, through thick and thin. She’s been my anchor on life for the last fourteen years of marriage.


“I know, my love, and I’m sorry I’ve been so quiet lately. Especially on the long drive over here. It’s just…” I stopped to gather my thoughts. I needed to get a grip. To pull myself together, for my wife, for my son, and most of all myself. “It’s been difficult, Jenny. After reading the article last Friday, a lot of old and painful memories have come back to haunt me. I feel like I'm drowning here. I feel like I need to get some closure, I just need to say goodbye.”


I took hold of the door handle to leave the car, before I lost the little remaining composure I had left in front of them. “Danny, the flowers…” Jenny reminded me. I leaned over to collect them and gave her a quick kiss on the lips, and ruffled my young son's head to assure them both that I would be fine. Only I wasn’t. I wasn’t fine at all. But this was something I needed to do nonetheless, and I had to do it alone. “Thanks love. I won’t be long.” I told her.


I walked the short distance from the car to headstone. A feeling of intense trepidation hung over me like a dark looming cloud, almost to the point of halting me on my short walk several times. Somehow I found enough courage to keep moving. It had been a long time coming and I owe it not only to myself but to my family to get some closure to the past that has been haunting me so much since that devastating day. And I owe it to him too.


I'd finally made it. In front of me was the headstone that honoured my best friend of almost ten years. The boy who I'd grown up with and shared so many of my greatest childhood memories. The boy who would stand beside me, against anyone who would dare to challenge us to a fight. The boy who could make me laugh, even in the most unfunny of moments. The boy who I loved so much that he was very much like a brother to me. The boy I loved so deeply…. that I killed.


I knelt down beside the gravestone and found that I couldn’t say much of anything for a while. The words I needed to say were lost somewhere far back in the recesses of my mind, behind all the deep sorrow I was feeling at the moment. I was struggling enough just trying to collect my thoughts. To find those all-important words that needed to be said. I wanted to tell him how very sorry I was. How, that I wished so much that I could turn back the time. How I wished so much that he was still here. How, after all this time I’d never forgotten him. Never. And…. and how I’d never forgiven myself for what I’d done either. I wanted to tell him how I’d give anything ...anything at all to go back and change what happened on that dreadful day.


I finally lost whatever temporary hold I had on my emotional state as tears began to cascade down my cheeks, and I began sobbing quietly. “Oh Sam, I’m so sorry buddy. I’m so, so sorry!” I cried softly as I sat down beside the stone. The many memories came rushing back to the surface.


It would have been twenty one years ago this very evening that I lost Sam forever.



-----------------------



Sam was his name. We met for the first time at some point during the first week of school. It was a nerve wrecking experience for me. I was five years old and I was what you’d call a mummy’s boy back then, and I had never really been away from my parents before. I would say that Sam and I met on the first day of school, although I can’t actually remember the first time we met. We were both in the same class, so I assume we must have seen each other at some point on our first day there, but I do know that we naturally gravitated towards one and other, or so I am told, and by the end of the first month, we were both really good friends. In fact Sam was my first and only friend for quite a while. I hadn't really come out of my shell for another year or so after that first day. And only then was it at the hands of Sam. Practically forcing me out of my social seclusion.


How we first came to be friends I have no idea. We were almost the complete opposite of one and other personality-wise. He was outgoing, while I was rather quiet. He would say whatever was on his mind, whenever he felt the need. I was more introverted, I would, more often than not, keep my thoughts to myself. Preferring to work things out on my own. Maybe it had to do with the fact that I was an only child, while Sam had three older brothers. Sam was also quite imaginative, even for a five year old. He would often create imaginary adventures for us both to venture on. He was a huge star wars fan at the time. Even as he grew in age he never let his adoration for Star Wars outgrow him. – So we’d often play some imaginary adventure based on the Star Wars films, taking it in turns to be the Jedi and the Sith. When we weren’t imagining ourselves in some other sort of adventure, we were climbing trees or building little forts for one of our many battles.


As we grew older our personalities changed, as it often does with most kids. Ours grew to complement one another's. Sam’s somewhat exuberant personality had toned down considerably. His imagination began to take on forms in many other ways. He was incredibly artistic for his age. I’d quite often find myself just in awe at many of his impressive paintings. He was also very talented on the piano, I loved to listen to him pay.


As Sam changed growing up, I did too. I came out of my little shell and made some more friends at school – although none where quite as close as Sam and I were – I also found a passion for sports, particularly basketball. My taller than average height, long arms and fine coordination gave me a good advantage out on the court, I was considered one of the finest players on our school team.


Entering high school was a completely different experience from the one I had starting elementary school. By the age of eleven, I had changed a lot. From the quiet and shy five year old, to a confident assured eleven year old, with a good group of friends, a healthy passion for sports….And girls.


The day that changed everything between us started out just like any other day. Now fourteen, we were both well in to the throes of puberty. Sam had recently started his own growth spurt. His voice had deepened somewhat, although he was still a few inches shorter than I was. I was well above average height so that wasn't surprising. His blonde hair had now also darkened a shade or two, and was now much pretty much a brown in colour.


Sam had grown quieter still over the last few of years. Ironically, almost as quiet and reserved as I had been all those years ago, on my first day of school. He spent most of his free time drawing, reading and writing. And besides me, he had very little time for his other friends. In fact most of them had moved on without him anyway. To be honest, I couldn't really blame them. When he was around them he was mostly quiet. Reluctant to go anywhere, and even downright moody at times. Despite this odd behavior, he was still for the most part, the same old Sam with me. Nothing could ever come between us. We wouldn't allow it to. He was my brother in every other way but biologically.


The day marked the beginning of the Christmas break. The schools had closed down for the holidays, which meant I could sleep in a little and take advantage of having nothing specific to get up for. The Christmas gifts for my friends and family had already been taken care of, so now all I had to do was to relax and enjoy the three or so weeks we had at home before school would start up again in the new year. I knew that Sam would be around at some time before lunch, so I decided to get my backside out of bed and take a shower before he arrived.


It wasn't long after I’d finished toweling myself off, I was currently bent over, facing away from the bedroom door pulling up a pair of jeans, when Sam walked in to my room. “Morning bro’, and I see there’s a full moon on display, today.” Sam chuckled.


“Oh yeah? Well you know you want it, mate!” I teased back.


“Sure.” He replied, sarcastically. “So what’s planned for today? I need to be back home for eight o'clock tonight. My folks are giving me some grief about not spending enough time with them, which completely blows by the way. What’s the point of Christmas if you have to spend it with the family?”


“Ha-ha. Well, it beats me. It never crossed my mind that Christmas was about spending time with families.” I joked. “As for today, I figured we could watch a couple videos, maybe play some Nintendo later, too. It's too cold to do anything outside. You up for that?”


After thrashing Sam on Mario Kart through most of the afternoon, we settled on watching ‘Goonies’ one of our favourites among the recent releases of Spielberg films.


****



“So Michelle called me up last night,” Sam told me out of the blue. Something about the tone of his voice sounded slightly off. “She told me that she uh…. that She heard some rumors about Rick.”


Michelle was a cousin of Sam’s, and from time to time Michelle and her family would stop by to visit Sam’s family, and occasionally bring Rick along with them. Rick was a long-time friend of Michelle’s. Kind of like Sam and I were. Sam believes that Michelle likes Rick in more ways than one. Though don’t ask Michelle whether or not that’s true. The last time I had, I got a hard punch in the arm as a reply, along with a “Hell no!” But the blushing made clear her true feelings.


So it’s Sam’s theory that Michelle’s trying to give Rick hints about the way she feels, and either Rick’s not interested, or simply can’t take the hint very well. I’m not sure what I think. To be honest I don’t know Rick all that well. But from what I do know of him, he seems like an OK enough guy, I suppose.


“Rumors?” I asked


“Well, apparently, the reason Rick’s not interested in Michelle is because, well, he’s not interested in girls…”


“So?” I asked.


“So - well he might not be into girls because he’s into guys instead.”


“Who came up with that dumb idea?” I asked.


"Michelle,"


"And Michelle knows this how?" I asked as I turned to face Sam. "I mean, just because he's not into her, that doesn't make him a poof!"


Sam looked away for a moment, and then he continued. "Yeah... I know. It's not like it was my idea anyway. Though she could be right, I suppose…".


I cut Sam off. " You mean, he might be a queer? Man that's just stupid. Give the guy some respect. jeez!!"


"Dude, don't blow my head off about it. I was just saying, it doesn't matter. Don't get so worked up about it. I'm sorry that I even mentioned it now."


I apologized for my outburst. To be honest I'm not sure where it came from. It's just that Michelle thinks she's the shit. But the fact is, Rick probably just isn't interested in her. She's not all that hot anyway. I wouldn't tell Sam that though, him being her cousin and all.


"It's fine," he told me. "But so what if he is gay? I mean it's his life... right?"


I had to think about that. I mean this was the eighties, people aren't quite as square as they used to be, but queers just seem really weird to me. They dye their hair in all sorts of bright colours like yellow or pink or purple. They pierce themselves in bizarre places, and some even wear those super-tight fitted jeans to show off their arses! Granted, my experience of gay people was limited to the poofs I saw on TV, usually on the MTV channel. Although I have seen a few out in the city. Never around these parts, though. Not in the suburbs. They'd just stand out among everyone else. Anyway, who'd want to be a queer? I mean It's just...Just weird!


"Sam, Rick's not a queer, Jesus! Just leave it alone, already!"


"But you're not answering the question. What if he was? So what?"


Because it's.. it's just fucking weird, all right? Stop asking me why.


"That's not true at all!” Sam protested. “Anyone could be gay, and you wouldn't even know about it."


"God dude, will you just shut the fuck up about it? I really don't care. You're not queer. I'm not queer. I'm pretty damn sure that Rick isn't, either. OK? so who cares?" Sam was beginning to annoy me now. What was with all these stupid questions?


But as soon as I said that, Sam stood up. "Yeah? Well?... Well maybe I am gay, huh, how about that?!" He demanded, then suddenly looked like he regretted his sudden outburst. And... omygod!, I didn't know what to think. What was he trying to tell me? I don't think it registered at all, at first. What was going on here?


I swallowed back the lump which was forming in my throat. "And what's the supposed to mean? That's not something to joke about, Sam."


Sam remained stood. His body frozen. His gaze focused intently on my bedroom carpet. He looked as though he had no idea of what to say.


"...Sam?"


"It's true, Danny." He finally told me. He let out a deep breath. “I think I'm gay.”


I was speechless. Sam? My best friend? Sam's a fucking poof?!?....No way!


"No!" I shook my head. "No you're not!" I stood up.

"It's true, Dan. But it doesn't chan-"


"Get out!" I screamed at him.


Sam stood there. Shocked. Frozen. Terrified at my sudden outburst..


I was furious! And he still wasn't moving! Get out!


I stood up and pushed him towards my bedroom door. "I said get the fuck out of my house!"


Sam looked like he was about to breakdown and sob his heart out right there on my floor (it was the look that would come to haunt my dreams every night for years after). He nodded slowly, and turned to leave. As he disappeared from my line of sight, thoughts suddenly invaded my mind all at once. Omygod! What have I just done? Sam? Oh no..Shit! Sam, wait!


I knew I had to apologize. I knew I needed time alone to think about all this mess, but I couldn't just let him leave like this. No! I had to stop him. I needed to apologize for snapping at him the way I had.


"Sam?" I rushed out from my room and ran down the stairs.


"Sam, wait up... Sam? I'm sorry!" I still couldn't find him.


"Sam, please wait a minute! Where are you? Lemme explain!"


"Too late Danny, I fucking trusted you! Leave me alone!"


I could hear him, but I couldn't see him anywhere. "Sam....Sam... Wait, please!" I rushed towards the front door after I'd heard him slam it shut. I reopened it and ran out after him.


As I reached the door, I called out to him. Pleaded with him to not to leave. He was having none of it. But I couldn't just let things end like this.


"No, Danny. You've done enough." I tried to interrupt but he was wasn't allowing it. He continued on, sobbing. "I need to...just go and think about things. You should too."


The look on his face, I'll never forget, nor forgive myself for causing it. His face was a mess. Tears streaked across his cheeks. His eyes red from all the crying. He'd trusted me as his friend, and I'd betrayed him in the worst possible way. I'd thrown ten years of friendship right back in his face.


Defeated, I nodded reluctantly, as Sam turned around to head home.


I spent the remainder of my day deep in thought. Assessing my preconceived opinions about gay people, and comparing it to what I knew for sure about Sam. To say I changed my entire attitude towards gay people in that one afternoon, would just be lying. I was still very confused by a lot of things. Confused about what exactly gays were, what it meant to be one, and how they lived out their lives. Just how much was plain nasty and untrue, and how much was real? I was yet to learn.


In fact, in my later teen years I met another gay teenager, Barry, who had been through such an ordeal, from outright rejection by his family, as well as physical abuse at home, and in school, too. I learned that, really, gay people were no different to anybody else. That their sexuality was just a small part of them, and it was something they should never feel the need to apologize for. I learned quite a lot from Barry, so much so, that the experience greatly influenced the career path that I would eventually take. I became a social worker, I wanted to become someone who could help other boys and girls out there, just like Sam and Barry. And also, to be there to help educate others, so they weren't badly misinformed about gay people, like I had been. Granted, It was the eighties, and not so much was known about homosexuality back then, other than the typical socially accepted, bigoted stereotypes that were widespread at the time. But the way I reacted to my friend, my best friend, who really needed my support, was totally unforgivable.


What I did manage to do that night was to reflect on what exactly being friends with Sam meant to me. How much he really did mean to me, and that it would take a lot more than him being gay to ever come between us. For much of my life I had loved Sam like a brother. And so what if he happened to love another guy in a different way? I wasn't going to allow my ignorance to upset things between us. My biggest hope now was that he'd forgive me for what I'd just done.


At some point late that evening I must have drifted off to sleep, because my mother had to shake me awake.


"Daniel, honey?... wake up," I groaned from being woken, and tried to shake off the remaining sleep.


The first thing my vision caught as I opened my eyelids was the deeply saddened expression upon my mother's face, accentuated by the visible red rings around her eyes. I could tell that she had been crying.


"Mum? Mum, what's wrong? What is it?" I sat up straight. My mother just shook her head for a moment, unable to form any words, it seemed.


"It's Sam, honey..He's been in a really bad accident. He was hit by a car, crossing a road.... He didn't make it. I'm so sorry." Tears flooded my mother's face.


My mother reached her arms around me and pulled my close in to her chest, and she wept uncontrollably. I was paralysed. Numb. I refused to believe it even for a second. 'No! Sam's not dead! No way. He can't be!


I stood up."No. You're lying! Sam's not dead. He only left a short time ago." I wanted to cry, but if I cried, in my mind it would make it true, and I couldn't have that.


"Danny that was several hours ago, sweetie. You must have fallen asleep a while ago." My mother once again tried to approach me and offer me some comfort.


I backed away again, in a full state of shock, and ran upstairs to get away from her, back to the semblance of my room. My only shelter from the horrifying truth.


It took a while to hit me, but when reality sunk its painful claws into my skin, and it finally dawned on me that Sam was no longer alive, That my best friend in the world had been taken so suddenly from me. That I would no longer be able to see him, I broke down completely. I cried like I'd never cried before. And then, when I realized that it was all my fault, that I was actually to blame for his death, I completely lost it. I cried hard, smashing my fists against the wall until they were bloody and bruised from all the hitting. I was sobbing full on now, completely overcome with grief, as well as guilt. It was all my fault that Sam was dead… All my fault.


My mother barged in to my room and forced me in to an embrace. This time I didn't refuse, I just collapsed in to her arms and cried myself out.


------------------------



"I wish I could tell you face to face how sorry I am, Sam. That if I'd accepted you right from the beginning, you wouldn't have had to leave when you did, and you wouldn't have been there to get hit by that fucking car! I wish you could have been here for me to introduce you to my wife, Jennifer, and my son. We named him after you, Sam. He reminds me so much of you at his age," I laughed." You would have made a such great uncle, I'm sure. We talk about you often, and he's always wanting to hear stories about our little adventures." I wiped away the drying tears from my cheeks with my sleeve. "Merry Christmas, Sam."


I stood up and made my way back towards the car. Back to my wife and son, feeling content, and feeling much less sorrowful than I had on my journey here. The ache and regret was still there. It probably always will be. But I felt relieved if anything at all. I'd come and done what I needed to do, something that should have been done a long time ago. I'll always love Sam, and I'll miss him, but he'll always be a part of me, I carry his memory with me all the time, and I think that's what matters now.


I was able to muster up a genuine smile for my wife as I re-entered the car. I think she could sense the relief in me. Saying what had needed to be said, coming to terms with my past and dealing with it had helped.


"Danny... Who's that?" Jenny asked in a tone of voice of sounding like something between shock, and awe.


I turned to face her. "Who's who, hon?" I followed her line of sight, and what I saw shocked me right to the core.


"S-Sam??" I gasped.


There he was. My Sam. Appearing exactly how I remembered him so many years ago. The same navy-blue denim jeans. Same scarlet-red hooded top, the messy, mousy brown hair. Exactly as I'd remembered him.


Sam was standing in the same spot that I'd been sitting by just a few moments ago. But what struck me most of all was that, despite it only being pale light given off by the surrounding street lights, I could clearly see that Sam was smiling. Then, somehow, I could hear his voice in my head, too. He was telling me that I should let go of past regrets, and to enjoy the life that I had now. That he was very proud to see what I had made of my life. That he was really impressed by all the good work I had done as a social worker, helping the people who really needed it, and that he was also very much happy to see the family that Jenny and I had built together with our young son, Sam.


As suddenly as he'd appeared, he disappeared again. Leaving me feeling numb. I found my cheeks wet once again, although for very different reasons this time, for I was smiling too.




*********************The End ************************

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