Journey to Love

Chapter Forty-three

Canyon De Chelly

by Sequoyah

Edited by Cole, Peter and Scott



The next morning, I helped Jayden get dressed and had showered when he called out, “Derek, are you scraping the evil from your face?” and laughed.


I opened the bathroom door after wrapping a towel around my waist. “What?”


“My mom used to laugh about white men who were so evil they had evil growing out of their faces and had to scrape it away once a day.”


“Well, I guess she might have a hard time fitting me into the white man category,” and we both laughed. “I do envy your smooth face which allows you to skip the morning face-scraping ritual.”


“You do know you have a magnificent body, don't you?” he asked.


“Good genes and swimming and it just happens. I never work on it because I want a magnificent body, but get the body I have doing the things I want to do.”


“You sure can swim, that's for certain. Miss it?”


“You saw me in the pool. What do you think?”


He grinned and asked, “You're on a swim team, right?”


I nodded and said, “Well, the dive team.”


Neither of us had mentioned last night and I had decided it was a closed episode. Obviously it was not. “Derek, thanks for last night. I guess I had not realized how much being put on the street and what I did to survive had done to me until last night. I also never knew what a friend really was until I realized you were not judging me or, I guess you were, but finding me innocent. Then you held me while I cried and expected nothing in return. Derek, I really want to become the person you see me to be. Maybe I am, but that's not the way I see myself. If you see me that way maybe you are right and I am wrong. I hope that's true.”


I looked at him and felt some of the feelings I had toward Jeremy and Levi. Here was a budding friendship and I was thankful. “Jayden, there are few things in this world I am absolutely sure about, and one of those is I know I am right and you are wrong about who you are.”


After breakfast, Kathryn said we would be leaving on our tour at 9:00. “Richard and Lupe arranged and paid for the tour. Because of your leg, Jayden, they have arranged a really private tour with one of the best teams around. We'll have lunch and get back late afternoon.”


I know young people call everything awesome, but Canyon de Chelly was truly awesome. Once when I looked at Jayden and saw his eyes, I knew he was experiencing a depth of emotion I could never know. These were his people and he was discovering a part of himself which he had been denied, especially after his mother died.


Once when the driver and guide said something to each other in Diné, Jayden started laughing uproariously. “What's so funny?” I asked.


Jayden laughed and said in English, “Bluesky said you must be Hopi because you looked like Black Ogre, a Hopi Kachina who deals with bratty children.” I started laughing thinking I knew someone in Lynchburg, Virginia -- Marissa -- the real Black Ogre needed to deal with!


After the tour, Kathryn gave the two a very generous tip and as we turned to leave, Bluesky called Jayden over and whispered something to him. Again, I saw that look in Jayden's eyes and didn't miss his wiping away a few tears.


We had checked out of the motel before leaving on the tour because we were spending the night at the Pueblo. It was almost an hour's drive from the motel, so we made use of the restrooms before setting out again. Kathryn suggested I drive and she got in the back seat and was asleep before we left Chinle, which wasn't long since the town was really a small village.


I suspect we were all tired from the day, not only the tour, but also its emotional impact. Appreciating the emotional impact it had on me, I could only imagine its impact on Jayden. I thought he might have fallen asleep he was so silent, but when I glanced over at him, he was wide awake, I guess, but definitely somewhere else. I started to speak to him, but thought better of it. Instead, I started reflecting on the day, then my time in Arizona. I was a bit sad when I realized I only had four weeks left of my twelve weeks. I knew one thing; I was not the same person now I had been when I’d arrived eight short weeks ago.


I was startled when Jayden said, “Derek, how would you describe our day?”


“Jayden, I cannot even imagine trying that. Of course the scenery was awe-inspiring even after having been in Arizona two months. All the cultural stuff will no doubt make me appreciate the fact that we are all different, but all the same in new ways. Emotionally it tugged at me and I felt a connection with the Navajo in some strange way. How would you describe it?”


“A step on my journey home. Amazing, Derek, I wasn't even aware of my first step and I did not take it. You did when you picked me up unconscious and lost -- really lost -- in the desert. I'm not sure where the journey will lead me, but I will try to honor that first step you made for me. Thanks.”


I had no idea what to expect at the Pueblo and I'll admit I was surprised to find it was actually a pueblo situated on a cliff like one of the ancient ones. “Wow,” I said as I spotted it. “Clearly we'll not be driving to the front door.”


We parked the Land Rover beside the one Richard had driven and put on backpacks and started walking. At the base of the cliff, there was the beginning of a very steep trail with a lot of switchbacks leading to the pueblo. “When there are large and heavy objects to be taken up, there is a rope and pulley system,” Kathryn explained, “but most of what is needed can be carried up.”


At the top, we were greeted by Richard and Lupe. “Welcome,” Lupe said. “We have been expecting you.” She showed us into her space. As soon as we were seated she asked about the tour. After Jayden and I had been talking for twenty minutes, I realized Kathryn had not spoken at all. “Obviously it was an experience you'll not forget soon,” Lupe said when we finally ran down.


“Never in a hundred years,” I said. “I can't begin to imagine what it meant to Jayden, but it was an experience like few others I have known.”


“As I told Derek, it was another step -- maybe a giant step -- on my journey home. And, as I told him, he was very special because he took the first step for me.”


“He did indeed,” Richard said.


“One of the guides got a surprise when he made a comment about Derek and I started laughing. He said Derek must be Hopi because he looked like a Black Ogre Kachina.”


“You Navajo better watch taking the Kachina lightly,” Kathryn said and it was clear she wasn’t kidding.


After a few moments’ silence, Jayden said, “As we were leaving, Bluesky, one of our guides, said to me in Diné, 'You have been chosen. I can see it.' I haven't the foggiest idea what he was talking about.”


“See, Richard, we are not the only ones who noticed,” Lupe said.


“Well, if you noticed, could you tell me what is going on?”


“We don't know exactly, Jayden, but you have been chosen to be a blessing to your people. That may mean to the Navajo, it may mean all Indian peoples, who knows? But you are special just as Derek is special,” Richard replied.


“Whoa, wait a minute. This is creeping me out,” I said.


“Nothing creepy about it,” Kathryn said, “and don't think those three have a monopoly on spotting Chosen Ones. I saw it in you, Derek, when I first laid eyes on you at Dr. Bailey's. You had to be out here. Later if necessary, but best this summer so you'd not waste a year. Took some doing, but we found a friend of your Auntie and got them connected, hoping they would exchange visits, but it worked out even better with her coming for the summer.”


“So no free will?”


“Sure there's free will. You chose to come because of who you are. You were not forced, there was no eternal plan which meant you had to come. Being who you are, you wanted to come. Regret it?”


“Hell no. I was just thinking today I had only four weeks left, not how long the last eight weeks have been. It seems as though I arrived only yesterday.”


“Yes, it does,” Richard and Kathryn agreed.


“Now what about the wedding,” I asked. “I have four weeks left and I have been promised a wedding before I leave.”


“We're in a bit of a bind here,” Richard said. “We want a traditional Navajo wedding, but we're lacking some pretty important things. The medicine man I am working with, unlike most, can actually perform a legal wedding since he is a justice of the peace, so that's not a problem.”


“The problem is, we are without family. Traditionally, the families arrange the wedding, but we have none,” Lupe said.


“Whoa,” Jayden said, “Maybe not legally or traditionally, but Richard has a family even if one member is a Black Ogre Kachina. Oops, sorry, Kathryn. Won't happen again.”


“Kathryn, would you be my mother?” Lupe asked.


“I'd be honored.”


“So let's set a date,” Jayden demanded.


“Two weeks from today. Richard can have a week off while I am still here and I can spend some of my last week with him,” I said.


“Done,” Kathryn said, “as I believe the bride's mother does set the date.”


“The staff here will prepare the meal and the meal after the ceremony,” Lupe said.


“The meal and the meal?” I asked.


“The ceremony is very simple,” Lupe said. “Essentially the bride and groom eat corn meal -- actually mush -- uniting them. After the ceremony, there is a traditional meal. I know we could sit up and talk the night away, but it has been a long day for you and we have much to see and talk about tomorrow, so we best be off to bed. Kathryn, you and I will share one room and the men will share the other.”


In the room, Jayden said, “Richard, I don't want you to get any wrong ideas, but I want Derek to hold me while I sleep. I need to tell you about last night.” Jayden then told Richard what had happened last night and how today had added to his feeling and how we were growing as friends.


“Richard,” I said, “you know my feeling about sex and friendship and there is something between the two of us that is far more important than sex, even though we are both as horny as hell.”


“Talk about horny! Lupe and I made out last night until I went to bed with blue balls.”


“Listen to that. I get paid for sex, Derek has had two regular bed partners and I guess you haven't been a virgin....”


“Not for a long time,” Richard laughed.


“And we're talking like middle school virgins saving it for marriage. Well, maybe it is like middle school, but I am going to jack off!” Jayden said.


No-one said anything, but by silent agreement, we ignored each other as we jerked off. I was surprised that I couldn't tell who it was I was imagining as I started shooting, and man, did I shoot! Only after my spasms stopped did I remember I had nothing to clean up with and was thankful when Richard pressed a wet wipe into my hand. How he found it in the dark, I did not know. After we cleaned up, Jayden lay beside me and I held him and we both were soon asleep.


The Sunday evening when we got back to the clinic, a man was lying by the clinic door, his horse standing patiently at the rail even though it was not tied. Kathryn and I got the man inside and I started an IV while she tried to find out what was wrong with him. When she pulled off his left boot, she said, “Snakebite. Not too long ago. Get the antivenom, Derek”. Once she had started the antivenom, she said, “He's in pretty bad shape. Any damage done can't be reversed, but I think we can save his life. I will start antibiotics since there's a high risk of infection.” She selected drugs from the cabinet and injected them into the IV line. “He's very dehydrated, but the IV will take care of that. Derek, if you'll get him undressed and bathe him, and check him for anything else, I'll take care of the horse.”


The man was about Richard's age and sinewy. It was pretty obvious he spent most of his time out of doors. Navajo? Hopi? ’Breed? I couldn't tell. I almost missed a second bite on the same leg, but all I could do was cleanse the wound and hope his body could fight off the poison with the help of the antivenom. He had not cut the fang marks as old first aid books suggested, but which only made matters worse.


When Kathryn got back, she examined the man and we got him dressed in a hospital gown and in bed. “Nothing we can do now but wait. Jayden, you've had that cast on for seven weeks now. Let's do an x-ray and see what progress you've made.” She was very pleased with the x-ray and gave Jayden permission to walk without crutches, something he had already been doing a great deal of the time for about a week.


The man with the snakebite was lucky. There was tissue damage and his leg would always show that, but he didn't lose it. His family came and got him a week after we found him.


The wedding went off perfectly and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. After the wedding meal, we all left, leaving Richard and Lupe in their apartment in the Pueblo. Before we left for home, Jayden asked one of the young men in the Pueblo program if he could see where they lived. The young men had private rooms. They were small, but quite nice. The younger boys often shared a room which was the same size as the private rooms with bunk beds and under-bed chests.


“Derek, I have a feeling I'm going to like it here.”


“I hope so, Jayden. I hope it all works for you. I'll think about you often, but I guess it's like being at the clinic, we'll have to depend on snail mail and I don't know how often you'll receive or be able to send mail, but we must stay in touch.”


“We will.”


When my last week began, Kathryn had Jayden and me in the clinic for what she had said was a coming-out party. She x-rayed Jayden's leg and removed the cast. It had healed very quickly and she was very satisfied with the result.


Friday morning Kathryn suggested Jayden and I take the horses out and make the rounds of the houses near enough for us to be back by mid-afternoon. We were in no rush and talked as we allowed the horses to proceed at their own pace. When they stopped to graze a bit, we let them. At noon, we stopped under a cottonwood tree and ate lunch. “Derek, are you going to be embarrassed to death when I cry when we say goodbye tomorrow?”


“No, are you when I cry?”


“No. Will I ever see you again?”


“You will and you can take that to the bank. I don't know where or how, but we will see each other again before a year passes. Promise.”


“I know you know you saved my life when you picked me up in the desert. No argument about that. And you and Richard saved my life when Big Walt came to have me killed. No argument there either, but I'm not sure the life you saved those two times was worth a great deal. You really saved my life the weekend we spent in Canyon De Chelly. That life has a lot of growing to do and I'm determined to do it, but you saved me that weekend.”


“Jayden, I guess you didn't know it, but you also saved my life that weekend. We could have easily ended up having sex and it would have been good sex, but we both would have died in a way. You? You would have found proof that you were nothing but a whore and I would have destroyed a friendship which is very much a part of the new life I have discovered this summer. Yeah, we both discovered friendship and unconditional love this summer because we worked at loving instead of fucking.”


We sat in silence for a good long time before we mounted up and rode back to the clinic.


Richard and Lupe drove up as Jayden and I were coming from the corral after caring for the horses. After hugs all around we all sat outside under a cottonwood drinking beer and eating fresh salsa with home-made chips. “Man, I am going to miss this,” I said. “Maybe you can FedEx it overnight to me once a week.”


“Yeah, I'll just schedule a weekly pick up,” Kathryn laughed. “Derek, you'll not know how to behave with broadband internet and email, even messaging and chatting.”


“I know one thing, I know I can do without that and a lot of other ‘necessities of life’ after this summer. I'll not have a lot of time for such anyway,” I added. “My schedule will be loaded with chemistry and biology this year and both have labs. I am itching to get through those and then through medical school. I definitely will forgo the huge salary of a big city specialist for an underserved area, of which there are many across this country and not all of them are underserved because the people are scattered like here.”


“So, let's talk about your summer here,” Kathryn said.


“Better yet, how about our summer here?” I asked.


“How do we start?”


“How about naming five events that hold the summer’s experience for us?”


“Fine. You go first.”


I had to think a minute and finally said, “I'm going to cheat a little since I'm combining some things and calling them one.”


“Okay,” Richard said. “What's number one?”


“Number one has to be finding Jayden and getting him well. Number two: Kathryn’s faith and trust in me evidenced by her gently pushing my self-imposed limits and showing-by-doing. Number three: it's really cheating, but it's Richard teaching me to ride and about friendship. Number four: delivering the twins, who, by the way, are healthy and growing like weeds. Number five: seeing and learning in so many ways and from so many people that love and caring heals.”


“Wow,” Lupe said. “I guess you young ones are what this is all about, so Jayden, how about you?”


“Number one is easy. There's sex and there's love. Sex without love does not help us grow, heal, be more human. Love without sex can do all of that and I can only imagine what sex with love would be like. Number two: having my life saved three times in one summer: when Derek found me, when he and Richard saved me from Big Walt and when I discovered I was not worthless and dirty the weekend we spent at Chinle. Number three: Richard helping me rediscover my Navajo heritage and Canyon De Chelly. Number four: Kathryn pushing me in so many ways, usually without my realizing it, but also the one time she got very direct when I was kinda poking fun at Hopi Kachina. Number five, last: but only because I've already kinda said it, experiencing nonjudgmental, unconditional love for the first time since my mom died when I as twelve.”


“Gee, I feel like I have missed out on so much,” Lupe said, “and I don't mean just because I haven't been part of the clinic crew. I guess since I said that about the young ones, I'm next. Number one is obviously Richard. Our courtship, learning I could love again and our marriage. Number two: discovering that in helping troubled young men find themselves through their heritage, I am finding myself in the same way. Number three: twelve graduates out of twelve high school seniors. Number four: realizing that discovering yourself through your heritage is important but not enough to enable those who choose to live in the modern world. Number five: and you all have helped me see this, it's not an evil world that leads youth astray. The world, traditional or modern, is not evil. Evil people with evil spirits lead others astray.”


“I appreciate that, Lupe,” I said, “Unfortunately, I did not get to know as much about the Pueblo as I'd like because maybe there is a way the idea can be used for troubled African-American youth. I'm afraid the pseudo-African programs do little good. So, Richard, you are on the hot seat.”


“Guess I don't have to name number one, but for the record, that's Lupe and I include all of that from meeting again to right now. Number two: watching Derek grow. His growth reminds me of Jack and the Beanstalk. He has grown so much in so short a time. Number three: helping rescue Jayden and all that came out of that. Number four: watching and learning from Kathryn. I am not only a better medical practitioner for having been with her, but also a better man. Number five: teaching two young men to ride and seeing how caring for their horses transferred to caring for people -- or maybe it's the other way around.”


Kathryn came last. “Some heavy stuff children and I'll not lighten it up. Number one is Derek. As I said, I recognized something special in him the first time I saw him, but I could never have imagined the man he now is in that very young man's body. Number two is Richard and how the broken man who came here has been healed and become a superb healer. Lupe, you have to take a lot of credit for that. Number three is the team that developed here. Often when someone new comes, things fall apart, jealousy rears its ugly head, but Richard welcomed Derek with open arms and both welcomed Jayden as a lost brother. Number four: I'll have to go along with the weekend at Chinle. I wasn't privy to what was going on, but I saw it happening and it was a high point for me. Number five: Lupe and Richard's wedding and all that came before and all that followed and will follow.”


We were all silent for almost five minutes when Kathryn said, “Let's render the summer up to history and move ahead stronger because of it.”


“So, Kathryn, I leave tomorrow. Jayden leaves for the Pueblo Sunday. Richard is with Lupe. What about you?”


Before Kathryn could answer, Richard said, “Lupe and I had a long talk yesterday. She will be getting this year's group off the ground and that is a time-and-a-half job. Remember, many of those showing up are addicts of one kind or another, some are street hustlers, some are just throw-away kids. Very few are like Jayden -- and you'll need to remember that, Jayden. In short, it's not a good time to have a husband to think about. In four weeks, those who simply cannot or will not accept the Pueblo and its rules will be back with the authorities and things will begin to settle down. For those four weeks, I'll be here as usual, spending the weekends at the Pueblo. In the meantime, I am interviewing possible replacements. When I go back to the Pueblo, I will handle the work on that side of our territory.”


“I'm also interviewing,” Kathryn said. “The clinic was chosen for its work by a foundation and awarded a ten-year grant which will be used to open a second one and provide scholarships for people who want to spend a year working with the clinic as nurse practitioners, PAs or doctors. There will also be a scholarship fund for summer interns. As a matter of fact, you and Jayden are recipients of the first ones, retroactively. Jayden, your year at the Pueblo is paid for and there will be a pocket money allowance. If and when there is any money from suing Big Walt, it can go into your college fund. Derek, you have the option of keeping your diving scholarship and putting the money toward graduate school or dropping diving.”


“Kathryn, the only complaint I have about the summer is the shortage of water. I am itching to dive for hours.”


We finally had dinner and the evening ended. Lupe and Richard said goodbye as they would not see me in the morning. All three of us held a hug for a long while.


Kathryn said nothing when Jayden and I both went to my room. Once in bed he said, “Derek, I think I love you.”


I whispered in return, “Jayden, I think I love you too.”


“Maybe when we meet again, we'll know for sure.” We wrapped our arms about each other and, eventually, we slept.



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