Journey to Love
A Rare Gem
Edited by Cole, Peter and Scott
I hung up the phone thinking about how I might help Bryan by making it possible for Andy to come down for the weekend. For some reason or other, the Days Inn told him there was no space available. I was about to call Miss Carrie for suggestions when the phone rang. “Dr. Cranston’s ...”
“Derek, Janice. Rose Lee was bleeding to death when we got here. I think we may have the bleeding stopped, but we are out of blood. She lost so much blood we need whole blood in the worse way. I called her family to see about getting some donors, but most are Jehovah’s Witnesses and blood transfusions are anathema to them. None of the others we have tested are the right type. Tell me, dear boy, that you are Duffy negative.”
“A Duffy negative on his way.”
When I arrived, I was quickly prepped so blood could be drawn. Janice came in and said, “Derek, I know you are a rare gem, but I had no idea what a valuable one you were. I almost didn't call you because the chance of your blood matching what was needed was so remote.”
She came back after I had finished giving blood. “I think we're out of the woods thanks to you, but it was real close. We're fortunate that you knew you were Duffy negative.”
“No reason I would have known except in biology when we were studying blood the question of factors found in certain ethnic groups came up and we did typing for some of them. Since Duffy negatives are more prominent among African-Americans, I was checked for that.”
Suddenly there was some kind of commotion outside the curtained off area where I was giving blood and an angry man shouted “Doctor, you ain't putting no nigger blood in my little girl. This family ain't never had no nigger blood in its veins and it ain't now!”
“I'd recognize that voice anywhere. Rose Lee's father has arrived. I'll be back,” Janice said and she left.
Ten minutes later Janice was back. “Well, Hubert Randolph will be cooling his heels in Sheriff Reynolds' jail for a day or so. Rose Lee has stabilized. Now if her mother's prayer group doesn't push her over the edge, she'll make it, but while the hospital has a no-more-than-three-visitors rule, those standing in the hall outside her door are actually worse than the ones inside. She won't be back to work anytime soon, not that I'd let her come back. How are you feeling?”
“Fine,” I said and started to get up.
“You just stay right where you are, Mr. Wilson. Ah, here you go,” she said as a woman appeared with a plate and cup. “Orange juice and cookies. Good homemade cookies, no less. Cuthbert's hospital has one advantage over a larger place. It's so small meals are practically custom made. Also, fresh produce is accepted as payment on bills. Summer is the best time to be in the hospital if you have a choice.”
“Janice, I really need to be up. I promised Andy, Bryan's boyfriend, I'd try to find him a place to stay this weekend so he could see Bryan. I planned on calling Miss Carrie and see what she might suggest.”
“You might call Miss Lottie as well. She's really put out at Bryan's father.”
“I remember. Good suggestion.”
“But you can make phone calls from right where you are.”
When I called, Josephine said Miss Carrie had gone over to visit Miss Lottie. 'Hatching up something, I bet,' I thought as I dialed Miss Lottie's number.
“Miss Lottie, Derek Wilson here. Is Miss Carrie there? ... Could I speak to her, please?” I explained the situation and Miss Carrie asked if I was at the office. “No, I'm in the hospital ... No, no, nothing like that. Some of my blood was needed ... Well, you're right, it is kinda rare. Well, it's damn rare.” Miss Carrie said she'd call me back in a few minutes.
She did. She said the sweet boy could stay with her this weekend and with Miss Lottie the next time he came down. I called Andy and found he had gone to work at the pool where he was lifeguard. His mom gave me his number and I called. He was ecstatic.
“I think you can sit up now, slowly and take it very easy,” Janice said.
“I need to see Bryan. I have some good news for him.”
“Fine. I'll call for a wheel chair.”
“Don't be silly. I am not an invalid.”
“No, but you have been relieved of more blood than a simple Red Cross donation and I don't want you passing out.” I didn't argue since a) I knew it would be wasted breath, and b) I was a little lightheaded. An orderly appeared with a wheelchair and wheeled me to Bryan's room.
Bryan was looking better, much better. “Why are you in a wheelchair?” he asked.
“I have a rare blood type and some was needed. My doctor wouldn't let me come unless I came in a wheelchair. I had to come because I have good news. I talked to Andy and he'll come Friday after he gets off work. He'll probably be here about ten that evening.”
Bryan looked happy and excited—surprise, surprise—then said, “But that's after visiting hours.”
“Oh, I think between Dr. Evans and myself we can get around that small detail. Of course, I can't really tell from a couple of phone calls, but Andy sounds like a really special guy.”
“Oh, he is, he really is!” Bryan said, then got a pained look on his face and started crying.
“Bryan, what's wrong? You in pain?” He shook his head. “What's the problem?”
“Derek, Andy is all you said and more. I'm dirty. I've been fucked by five strangers just like a slut. I couldn't dirty Andy.”
'Don't panic, Derek,' I said to myself. 'Don't panic!'
Tears were pouring down the young man's face. “I love him too much to let him dirty himself with me!”
I knew the feeling was a common one with rape victims and I knew recovering from being raped did not happen overnight, but that didn't mean the process shouldn't be started.
“Bryan, I want to tell you about someone. His name is Jayden. His dad found a gay magazine in his room and some gay porn on his computer. He beat him and took him to a city in another state and dumped him.” I then told Bryan Jayden’s story. “He was more trouble than he was worth as a whore to the pimp, so Jayden was beaten again and taken to an isolated place in the desert, dumped and left to die.
“You were raped one after the other by five strangers. I can't imagine how horrible that must be for you. I couldn't imagine how horrible the life forced on Jayden was. I do know this: given a chance, Jayden would have still been a virgin when he was found and rescued. I know given a chance, you would never have had sex with anyone other than Andy; Andy knows that. Andy loves you, Bryan, I know that from talking to him. He doesn't think you are dirty. He wants to hold you and comfort you and eventually, when you’re ready, make love to you. For you, it may be a long time before you can make love without connecting it to being raped, but Andy will move at whatever pace is comfortable for you. He'll wait until you are ready for each step and for when your love overcomes your feeling of being dirty. How do I know this? Because I know how it has been between Jayden and myself. He's not dirty or used or less than the man of my dreams as you are of Andy's.”
“I hope you're right, Derek.”
My thoughts were exactly the same. I hoped I was right about Andy, but I said, “I am. I'm not shittin' you. You two have a rough road ahead, but isn't he worth it? I know he thinks you are.” I leaned over and kissed the young man on the forehead and wheeled myself from the room and down the hall to Dr. Evans' office. He wasn't in, so I just waited there until he and Janice came in. “Well, Rose Lee's alive, thanks to you, Derek,” Art said. “Janice said you went to see the boy.”
“I did and we had a long talk. He's at the 'I'm dirty and used and Andy—his boyfriend—is too good for me' stage right now.”
“He's in for long-term counseling, I'm sure. He's sure he has no place to go after the hospital and no money for counseling or anything else.”
“I'm not sure about the 'no place to go and no money,'” Janice said. “Miss Carrie and Miss Lottie were together this afternoon and I'm sure it's related to Bryan.”
“Don't think you'd lose that bet,” I said. “I called trying to find a place for Andy to stay this weekend and Miss Carrie signed up for the honor with Miss Lottie signed up for his next visit.”
I was ready to go back to the office, but Janice put her foot down, so I went home, crawled into bed and was asleep in minutes. When I woke up and looked at the clock, it was 5:30. I had slept all afternoon. I showered and put on fresh clothes and went downstairs. Miss Carrie was just walking in.
“You must've got home early because you look all fresh and handsome.”
“I did, way early. I got back about 1:00.”
“Talk all over town is about Rose Lee 'most bleeding to death and you coming to her rescue. Got the Randolphs in a real uproar. Most of them are Jehovah's Witnesses and shun blood transfusions because it's 'eatin' blood.' Old Man Randolph‘s raging because now Rose Lee has African-America blood in her and he's a white supremacist. Lordy, ignorance lives.”
Janice got a call from a county waste management fellow she had helped when he'd had no job and no money but needed medical attention badly. He’d told her he saw an order for a special trash pickup at the Skaggs. “I know you helped the Skaggs kid and think it might be his stuff.”
Janice rented a storage unit and called another fellow she had treated and asked him if he’d pick up everything and store it. A couple hours later, Hanes called to say he had stored it all. She sent me over to check it. There wasn't much, but then Bryan had really lived at Lakeside for the past six years. I did find a framed photo of Bryan and, I assumed, Andy which I took to the hospital.
Any day I was at the hospital and Art was free, we talked about being gay and all that went with that. Man, he was right when he said he had bought into the stereotype, but his views were not held religiously, so he was learning. I smiled when I thought about Andy showing up. He was, from the photo, a stereotypical straight super jock.
I told Andy to come to Miss Carrie's when he arrived and he showed up at 8:30. Miss Carrie insisted he get settled in his room and have supper before I took him to the hospital. “You go now and there will be a hassle about visiting hours. Give visitors time to clear out, then go.” Made sense. Andy had the appetite of the jock he was and consumed two days’ food, all the time assuring Josephine he had never had better.
I took him to the hospital at 9:30 and told him I'd be back for him at 11:30. I wrote an order for him to be with Bryan in case the night nurse needed to CHA—cover her ass. “Andy, one of Bryan's testicles was ruptured and repaired, so no playing around. You don’t have to worry about his getting a hard-on and it hurting. Not even you could give him an erection now. He, on the other hand, is free to do you as he wills.” Both turned bright red and I left. Andy was a really nice guy and, it was clear, absolutely devoted to Bryan. By the end of the weekend he had done more for his lover's healing than modern medicine could.
Midweek following Andy's visit, I commented on the number of older people we had seen about something else entirely who had bruises. All had said they had fallen and Janice said, “They seem to fall on a regular schedule,” which was the reason I decided to do a little research in the files. I selected half a dozen people we had seen who were bruised. Sure enough, the first week of the month, they had falling spells. It didn't make sense.
Janice reported my findings to the Sheriff and he said he'd look into it. The next day, an elderly African-American was brought into the hospital. She was one of our patients and Art called and said she didn't need immediate attention, but she had been beaten pretty badly. Janice sent me to talk to her, hoping she'd be more open with me. I spent an hour with her and learned nothing. As I was leaving, she asked if I could do a favor for her and get an envelope to Billy Bob. I assured her I would and took the envelope. I was curious about what was inside and it was not sealed, so I looked. There was eighty dollars in twenties. Why was Miss Lavonia giving Billy Bob eighty dollars? I saw that Billy Bob got the envelope and all he said, “Well, it’s about time!”
The week got busy and I put aside the question of bruises and money in an envelope and worked. I had talked with Miss Carrie about the bruises and money, but she had not mentioned it again.
Friday night after I was in bed, I got a call from a man out in the country saying Dr. Cranston asked him to call me to tell me she needed my help as quickly as possible. He told me he'd meet me at Mt. Carmel church. As I was rushing out of the house, James appeared and I said, “James, I got a call from someone out in the country saying Dr. Cranston needed me. I'm meeting my guide at Mt. Carmel church,” and I ran out the door.
When I arrived at Mt. Carmel, I saw a pickup over to one side of the parking lot and parked beside it. A young man, my age or a bit older, got out and said, “We've had a real bad accident and Dr. Cranston needs your help. Hop in and I'll take you to her.” He drove about a mile from the church, turned down a mere trail for half a mile and stopped. “Here's where the queer nigger learns white folks rule.”
My door was yanked open and I was dragged from the truck. In addition to the driver, there were four others. I recognized Rose Lee's boyfriend and the deputy and Billy Bob. I was tied to a tree and my shirt ripped off my back and the five took turns using a whip on me. “Hey, Depu, you only get five licks. Save some for the rest of us.”
The pain was incredible, and I couldn’t help thinking how my ancestors had endured this for years. I wanted to cry out as each lash hit, but I told myself I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction, and somehow, just through the force of my will, I was able to keep the shrieks inside me.
“Yeah, and he needs to be good for fucking when we get through,” Rose Lee’s boyfriend said. “I want a piece of that nigger ass!”
When all five had had their licks, Rose Lee's boyfriend dashed salt water on my back and laughed. The whipping was bad enough, but the sting of that salt eating at my seeping wounds finally made me cry out. They were all drinking beer and I guess they worked up a thirst whipping me because they all sat down for a beer. “Billy Bob, that nigger sure knows something about the social security checks . He really questioned that old lady Lavonia. You shouldn't have beat her the way you did. She always pays up sooner or later.” They argued about that and it was easy to see they had a protection racket going. Social security checks arrived the same day each month and they were there to collect protection money.
One of them stood up, dropped his pants and started jerking off. “What the fuck you doing, Hog?” Billy Bob asked.
“When I fuck Milenda in the ass, I cum too quick. I want a good long fuck of that queer nigger.” Soon all five were standing in a circle jerking off. First one and then another shot their load and started stroking slowly. “You get a hard-on, you fuck the nigger,” Billy Bob said. One of them started walking toward me, his cock leading the way, but before he had taken two steps, a shotgun blast echoed through the piney woods. “Fuck!” he shouted. “I've been hit in the ass!” Another shot rang out and four ran for a tricked-out pickup and the one who had brought me headed for the old truck we came in. The first shots were from a small gauge shotgun I'm sure were loaded with birdshot. The next two blasts were from something heavy and the loads hit the trucks. Neither would be going far as the heavy shot left the radiators leaking like a sieve.
“On the ground, assholes,” a voice called from the dark. “On the ground, hands behind your backs.” It was Miss Lottie's voice! To make the point clear, a shotgun blast kicked up dirt in front them and the five hit the dirt.
Abe Williams stepped out of the woods carrying a shotgun which was designed for elephants, not birds! He started zip tying wrists. Soon all five were bundled up. Abe then methodically tied each one to a tree while Miss Carrie freed me. I heard sirens in the distance and soon two cars, lights flashing, managed to get down the trail, one behind another. The first car was the sheriff's, followed by a Georgia Bureau of Investigation car. I later learned they had been advised of the possible involvement of the Sheriff's Department which gave them authority to come.
Dr. Cranston piled out of the sheriff's car before it completely stopped and I shouted at her before she reached the inner circle. “Stop! There's DNA evidence in the pine straw.” She and a GBI man quickly found five spots of cum in the straw and took samples. That done, she checked my back and said I'd probably be better off to wait until she could take care of it properly.
Since social security checks were involved, the FBI came in on the case. As a result, all five were charged with a laundry list of crimes.
Back at the office, Janice worked on my back and gave me some happy pills. “I hope you don't sleep on your back,” she said when the last bandage was in place. That done, we headed to Miss Carrie’s where she, Miss Lottie, James and Josephine were in the sitting room behaving like friends, not mistress and servants. I learned then that that's what they were, but roles they had played for years were comfortable and they were happy with them. Not for me, but to each his own, I guess, so long as it didn’t involve invading my space.
“How in the world did you all show up when you did?” I asked.
“James smelled a rat and called me and while I was getting ready, he called Abe and Miss Lottie. Abe saw you leave Mt. Carmel and followed, guiding us with our cell phones. Wish we had gotten there earlier, but we got there as quickly as we could,” Miss Lottie said.
“Abe was prepared to shoot to kill when we arrived and found you tied and your back bleeding, but with the three of us, they didn't stand a chance,” Miss Carrie said.
The following week, Bryan was released from the hospital and went to live with Miss Lottie. I don't know how they did it, but they had some way of pressuring Bryan, the second, into establishing a trust fund for Bryan and deeding him the farm next to Miss Lottie's. The farm had acres and acres of pecan groves which had reached bearing age four or five years before and would provide a decent income longer than the young man lived even if he lived to be a hundred.
My time in South Georgia came to an end as summer slipped toward autumn and I was glad, because it meant the time Jayden and I would be apart would also end soon, but it was also a sad time. I had learned much, grown much and come to love the people of Cuthbert and Wingfield County. The Saturday before I left to return to Macon, Miss Carrie and Miss Lottie hosted a dinner party at Miss Carrie's. The two actually helped with the cooking much to my surprise. The meal was wonderful and the people great. In addition to the two southern ladies, Janice, Casey, Art, Andy, Bryan and Abe were there. Patricia, Miss Lottie’s great-niece also came and I noticed she and Art seemed to be pretty taken with each other.
Sunday afternoon I said goodbye to Miss Carrie, James, Josephine and Janice and headed for Macon. It was nearly 5:00 when I pulled up to the cabin on the Ocmulgee. It was hot—it was, after all, Macon the middle of August—but the sound of the river and the shade of the old oaks made it feel much cooler than I had known the last eight weeks. I didn't unload the car before I stripped and jumped into the river from the deck. The river was high because the power plant was releasing water, I guess five feet deep, but certainly deep enough to swim which I did for an hour. It felt good. I had missed swimming and diving while I was in Cuthbert. Had I had time, there had been a pool available, but I had always been too busy to use it.
I had picked up an Atlanta Journal-Constitution at the Piggly-Wiggly while buying food and after I exhausted myself swimming, I lay on a lounge on the deck and started reading the paper. The front page of one section concerned the situation in Cuthbert. A couple of Billy Bob's boys had turned state's witness as had Rose Lee. As a result, three of the five had accepted a plea deal and only Billy Bob and Hog were going to trial. In the meantime, they were in jail for lack of a million dollar bond. Mentioned in passing was the fact that the sheriff had resigned after Bryan Skaggs, the second, had been indicted on an election fraud charge resulting from the last election. I was very surprised to learn Abe was running for sheriff. My name was also mentioned in a very favorable light, in fact, giving me more credit that I suspect I deserved.
Monday I met with Dr. Durden and we talked about my experience. He expressed concern over my whipping and I assured him that my wounds had healed well. He then asked if I would be willing to appear before a panel to talk about medical care in underserved areas. I said I would, but wasn’t sure I had anything to offer. He suggested I reflect on my experience both in Cuthbert and Arizona and get my observations down on paper. “By the end of the week you should have your final report ready for Drs. Bailey and Levey as well as being well prepared to address the panel.”
I decided I'd sleep-in Tuesday since I had not had a chance all summer, have a swim if the river were high enough, shower, dress and work on the paper for two hours. I'd have lunch, relax for an hour and spend another two hours on the paper in the afternoon, swim, shower and laze around. I did call Chance and Gregory and invited them out. Told them to invite Alfred and a friend if they liked. Thursday evening fit their schedule.
I had kept a daily journal—I appreciated the importance of such when I was writing up my final report last summer—so I used it to help recall things, supply facts and provide a framework for my paper. By Thursday morning, I had a rough draft of the final paper done. After lunch, I had started the editing process and didn't realize it was 5:00 until I heard Chance's car horn.
When they got out of the car, I saw there was a fourth guy with them and hoped they had not been dumb enough to bring along Mike. When they started up the steps it was clear the guy wasn't Mike. He was taller, better built and better looking. He and Alfred were holding hands which was a good sign. “Derek, Stephen Alexander. Stephen, Derek Wilson. Stephen is the guy who was getting back from Haiti the day after Mike proved what an asshole he is.”
“Welcome, Stephen,” I said shaking his hand. “Good to have you guys back on the river. Okay, important question, did you bring the beer?” They had, of course, and we were soon on the deck downing cold ones. They had all seen the Atlanta paper and had a thousand questions. “Derek, the paper stated the five had been charged with rape and attempted rape, but said no more,” Stephen said.
“They had raped a young man who had been dumped when his mom caught him and his boyfriend of five years enjoying each other’s cock. His dad strapped him and dumped him in the middle of nowhere and he was picked up by the five and raped.”
“Poor guy,” Stephen said.
“Yeah. Had two of the matrons of the county and a black servant not been smart, I would have been raped as well by the same five. They all jerked off so they could last longer fucking the nigger. Fortunately the two ladies and the man who found the original victim arrived in the nick of time with shotguns.”
“The kid has a long rough road ahead. I know, I've been there,” Stephen said in a whisper. “I hope his boyfriend doesn't desert him.”
“I don't think that will happen. Actually, it was the victim who wanted to break their relationship.”
“Because he was dirty, had been used and wasn't good enough,” Stephen said. “My reaction, common reaction, but in my case, my boyfriend walked out as soon as I said it would be a while before anyone fucked me. It has been, but I'm still in no rush.”
“Neither am I,” Alfred said and kissed Stephen. I learned Stephen and Alfred had been together only a month before Stephen left on a medical mission to Haiti.
“Okay, we've had the opening beer and the river calls,” Chance said as he pulled his tee over his head and dropped his shorts moments before jumping into the river. We all followed in quick succession. We ate, talked, drank beer and enjoyed ourselves until two in the morning when we all found a place to sleep. Alfred and Stephen took cushions from some of the deck furniture and placed them side-by-side. Holding hands, looking into each other’s eyes, they were soon asleep. Seeing them made me really long to see my Beloved Navajo.
Dr. Durden had the panel assembled and scheduled the discussion for Tuesday morning of the second week I was back. I figured I needed to make a good impression from the start since some of what I had to say was critical of the program at Mercer as it was set up, especially the lack of cultural education. A person might have worked well in Cuthbert, but would have been a miserable failure in Arizona. In short, describing an area as 'underserved' told you very little about it and to function well, an outsider needed to know how to become accepted by the people he expected to serve.
I finished editing my report mid-afternoon Friday and called Dr. Durden to tell him I had it ready for him to look over. “I’ll do a rewrite as soon as you finish with it,” I said.
“Bring it in and I’ll look at it over the weekend,” he said. “We’ll have breakfast Monday and go over it.”
Since there was nothing I had to do over the weekend, I slept in Saturday, swam and lazed around. Sunday I made it into Christ Church and Chance, Gregory and I had dinner afterward and they came back out to the river with me. It didn’t take much urging for them to take my bed for the night and I was glad to give them a place to make love.
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