Chapter 24 – Confronting
Friday, January 20th, 2017
As restless as I am today, I haven’t been since the day Calo decided to try and kill himself. And it’s not because something bad happened, it’s because I never kept any secrets from my parents.
I never had secrets to keep from them, besides the dark thoughts and the longing to end my life, which I never actually tried.
Thanks to Calo’s perfect timing to show up in my life.
But even those thoughts weren’t a surprise or even a secret to my parents. It’s as if they knew, just waited for me to break every so often to spill them out.
But now we’re seated at the dinner table at my grandparents’ house and I desperately want to spill out the fact I, Neo Favre, Faulty Freak, have a boyfriend.
But they don’t even know that I’m gay. At least, not that I’ve told them. If I have to believe Dr. Delgado, they must know. Mom must know. She saw me and Calo together on multiple occasions.
But she could easily explain my giddiness and happiness ever since I met him, due to the fact I met him and made a friend.
I haven’t had friends since pre-school, so it is a huge deal anyway.
But how do I spill out the fact I now have a boyfriend? That I’m gay, and in love with Calo?
Pyper is sending me worried looks ever since I came home after visiting Calo yesterday. Not because I was unhappy, I was on cloud nine. But during the ride home, I started overthinking all of it, and the fact I now have to go and come out to the world. Maybe not specifically right now, but some day.
I tried calling my cousin Milan, since he already knows I have feelings for Calo and he is into a guy himself too, but his phone keeps going straight to voicemail and a quick text from him told me he is out on the slopes, practising skiing because he’s competing in a big tournament in two months.
He reminds me how he expects me to come over in about three of four weeks to take pictures – and inevitably learn how to ski too.
Since he did just send me a text not too long ago, the phone call that comes in right after dinner, is a call I did not expect, at all.
Since I’m closest to the phone, I get up to answer the call, making sure not to touch the phone with my ear, cheek or mouth.
“Who’s this?” Uncle Ricardo sounds upset, surprised, weird. As the confident guy he usually is, he’s lacking any calm tone-of-voice.
“It’s Neo… I was closest… do you want me to hand to phone to Nana?”
“Yes, eh, no, give it to your grandfather.” He hastily tells me, and I do so. “Actually, Neo? Can I talk to your father?”
“Eh, yes, sure.” I agree, walking over to my dad, while everybody is frowning since I first moved towards grandma, then towards grandpa and now towards dad. As if indecisive. “Uncle Ricardo wants to talk to you.”
Dad’s frown increases and my mom clicks her tongue disapprovingly, while Pyper sends me a questioning look.
I shrug in response, but as I sit next to dad, I pick up some words that uncle Ricardo is saying, and they shock and confuse me.
So far, I caught ‘accident’, ‘not good’ and ‘ER’. I don’t know who he’s talking about, but I do think he’s upset and maybe even crying.
“Rico, calm down and listen. We’re getting in the car and we’re coming over right now. Just focus on Chantel and especially Milan right now and once we’re there, we’ll call the rest.”
“We’re going there?” Mom pulls up her eyebrows, confused and dazed a bit. “What’s going on?”
Dad holds up his hand to silence her. “I’ll tell them, and we’ll see what we can do for you once we’re there. We’ll be there in about three hours.” He hangs up the phone and by now it’s silent at the table, everybody staring at him. “Milan has been in an accident and right now, things do not look good. Ricardo and Chantel need our support and help and that’s why we’re going over there.”
“What sort of accident?” Grandpa asks, sounding a bit emotional.
“What’s wrong with him?” Pyper squeaks, looking at me because she knows this might upset me since Milan and I have always been close until our parents got in a fight. I stare at my phone after opening the text he sent me not even three hours ago.
“They’re still doing tests but as far as they know, he broke multiple vertebrae and he might suffer from brain damage.” Dad now even sounds like he’s on the verge of crying and that causes me to have watery eyes and goose bumps.
“What happened?” Nana demands an answer.
“He had an accident during skiing. He landed wrong in the halfpipe. It’s all I know right now.” Dad gets up from his seat and walks towards nana. “I’ll call as soon as we know more.”
She nods and swallows, looking back and forth between Pyper and me. “I’ll go fix some places for you two to sleep here…”
“What?” I stare at her in horror. Not to insult her or grandpa, but I do not feel comfortable to sleep anywhere else then at home. And if I were to sleep anywhere else, I want my mom nearby in the least. Not three hours away.
Mom looks at me long, while obviously overthinking the situation, knowing what can happen if I were to sleep here, far away from her and her ability to calm me down.
“Mom! Only you or Cay… I need someone… I can’t sleep anywhere else…”
“What if we go to their house so Neo gets to sleep in his own bed?” Grandpa suggests.
“If he panics…” Pyper looks at mom. “You know you can’t leave him.”
“I don’t think aunt Chantel and uncle Ricardo are waiting for more visitors right now,” dad answers tiredly.
“I don’t care.” Mom puts her arm around me, pulling me to her side. “Neo’s coming with us, because I simply can’t leave him alone right now. Not after all that has happened in the past weeks.”
“I’ll just sleep here if you promise to let me know how Milan is doing.” Pyper squeezes my hand shortly. “And give him a big hug and a kiss if it’s possible to do so.”
“I will.” I nod, smiling a bit because I’m relieved mom is willing to take me with them. I simply can’t stay her while she and Calo both aren’t capable of calming me down if needed.
I might have grown a lot in the past weeks, I’m not that strong yet.
And the thought alone of mom being too far away and Calo admitted in the psychiatric ward could give me a panic attack.
* * * * *
I don’t think aunt Chantel or uncle Ricardo overthought my presence much after we arrived in the hospital. It’s nearly a little past eleven in the evening and it’s quiet, even in the ER.
Milan is in a bed, connected to all sorts of machines, in deep sleep. He’s wearing a brace around his neck while his body is still immobilised. Right now, they’re going over a bunch of scans that should tell us if there’s any damage to his head.
But for as far as I know, from what I heard uncle Ricardo tell my dad, he hasn’t been awake much and that’s not a good sign at all.
But he’s breathing on his own and his heartrate seems fine to me. I mean, I’ve seen Pyper in hospital whenever she has a bad period and her heartrate has been weaker a lot, while nobody was worried about it. Milan’s isn’t too high either.
I’ve been seated on a stool in the corner of a small cubical that is separated from the next by curtains, staring at Milan in the bed.
His mom hasn’t left his side; besides the few times they took Milan for a new scan or they called her and uncle Ricardo in for a conversation about his situation.
I know, by now, Milan threatened to collide with another skier – who was in the wrong – and tried to avoid a collision, causing him to hit the edge of the halfpipe. They collided anyway, and the other skier was in hospital because he broke his wrist.
Milan’s best friend left not too long ago, not wanting to hang around while we were there too because he felt like it was too busy.
And in the mean time, dad called my other cousins and told them what happened, while mom keeps getting drinks for uncle Ricardo and aunt Chantel. She told them she would make get some food, but neither of them is hungry right now.
“Chantel,” mom whispers, caressing her back to try and calm her down. “Let’s go out for a short walk, okay? There’s nothing you can do right now.”
“I can not leave my son alone right now!” She cries out. “My baby…”
“Honey, I think some fresh air isn’t a bad idea.” Uncle Ricardo tells her tiredly. “You’ve sat by his side for the past couple of hours. We have another half an hour in the least before they’ll tell us more. Go out, go take a walk, vent.”
“Scream to me if you want, but please, think about your own health too. Milan needs you to be on top of your parental skills as soon as he wakes up.”
“Don’t you dare to insinuate that I’m a bad mother…”
“I’m not.” Mom shakes her head. “I know you’re a great mom, and Milan needs you to be that mom. A walk will help you calm down.”
“I’ll call as soon as there’s news, or when he wakes up.” I tell her timidly. “I’ll stay with him.”
She looks at me with red eyes, a tired face and a messy bundle of hair on the back of her head. “Okay,” she whispers. “But just a couple of minutes.”
Mom smiles happily with the outcome, supporting her a bit while they get up from their seats.
“We’ll go out for a cigarette.” Dad pecks a kiss on top of my head. “If anything is happening, we’re right outside.”
I nod, moving to sit in the chair aunt Chantel was seated at. I wait until they all disappear from sight, before turning to look at Milan.
“Hey, Mimi…” I mutter, not knowing for sure if it’s helpful at all to talk to him. “You’re scaring us, you know?”
“It’s good to talk to him.” A nurse shows up and smiles at me. “Don’t feel weird for talking to a sleeping person. They hear you and it can help them too.”
I was more planning on talking to Milan because I’ve heard it helps them, but also because I need to tell someone that Calo agreed to be my boyfriend. And I’ve been wanting to tell Milan all day today. So why not get it off my shoulders while helping him in the same time?
Maybe talking to him about small things will calm him in some sort of way.
She checks a bunch of things on the machines and some papers, before leaving us again.
“So, talk to you…” I drawl, lolling my head a bit. “I wanted to tell you something. So maybe I might as well tell you now that I’m here. I’m not sure if you can hear me right now, or even remember it if you hear it when you wake up. But I need to tell someone, and you and I already talked about this before…”
I know I’m blabbering and I curse myself. If I can’t even confess my relationship with Calo to an unconscious person, then how the hell am I ever going to tell a person who’s actually able to respond to it?
“So, I took a leap and asked Calo to be my boyfriend. He said yes.” I whisper, leaning closer.
I sit back in the chair and sigh in relief, not knowing why I feel relieved, but feeling it nonetheless.
“I guess I’ll never get to take pictures of you skiing, huh?” I whisper, my voice hoarse as I realise he might not even be able to walk anymore. “Or play soccer with you and watch you beat every single one of us. And I wish we would have still joined during Christmas break. If I knew this was going to happen I might have even pushed aside my fear to join you on a day of skiing sooner.”
I sum up numerous of things that we might not ever be able to do together anymore, all because of some stupid jerk that caused Milan to fall and injure himself badly.
And I list more as my aunt and uncle and parents are talking to a doctor a few meters away, getting intel on his current situation.
My parents inform me how they’re cautious by saying anything about his recovery. They’re not sure if he’ll be able to walk, or how bad his head is. So far, there’s no internal bleedings and his helmet might have saved him from worse, but they’re not sure how he’ll be once he’ll wake up. If he’ll remember anything from what happened, or the days, weeks before the accident. Or even anything at all.
And sitting there, listening to what feels like a verdict, I feel as if my own struggles suddenly became small and insignificant.
My daily routines might be difficult due to my compulsions and getting to the same point as others might force me to take leaps and detours, at least I am able to get there.
At least I get to go to school, work on a future, date Calo, do the things I love to do – like photography.
Watching Milan in hospital, sounds asleep in a very shitty situation makes me realise I need to fight for what I want.
Because it could all be over in the blink of an eye.
And suddenly overcoming my compulsions feels more like a challenge and less like a battle, less like another struggle.
It’s just character building. It’s just me, growing into the person I can be, if I fight hard enough.
And there’s so many people who would love to switch places with me and fight my battles, as they are – in some cases – not as bad as their situations, their battles.
I bet, when Milan wakes up, he will be one of those people who would love to switch. Because he just lost everything he ever worked for and I’m still here, able to do what I want, just in my own way.
And maybe the compulsions don’t define me as a faulty person, but as a person that simply does things a bit different.
It’s not the compulsions that I want to get rid of so badly, it’s the fear behind them.
And things will happen, when they happen. I wasn’t able to change Milan’s day, or the fact he had an accident. Nothing I did could have influenced the events in his life, right?
And I long know my fears behind the compulsions are unrealistic. In the past weeks I’ve more then once haven’t executed some of the compulsions and nothing happened to mom, or dad, or Pyper.
I’m not implying that Milan’s accident is a good thing, but it is a thing that happens to force me to face facts; I need to fight harder to become better.
Only then can I support the people I love to the best of my ability, be there for Calo on his bad days, be there to support Milan during his recovery, or helping Pyper when she’s ill.
I need to step up my game and start growing into the person I want to be; one that isn’t controlled by his compulsions, but is in control of them and does them because they make me feel good, not help others.
I need to become a bit more selfish, to be able to be less selfish.
Which sounds like a contradiction, but right there, in front of Milan, I know it’s true.
“I promise I will grow and get better. And I promise I will help you get better too, Milan. We’ll do this together. Both fighting our own fights, but together we’ll stand strong, okay?” I gently squeeze his hand, fighting the urge to reach for my disinfectant lube when I feel a hand on my shoulder.
“That’s sweet, Neo.” Aunt Chantel whispers with a sad smile. But it’s a smile that tells me that despite previous thoughts about my mental illness, she does accept me, as her nephew, as Milan’s cousin, his friend, and as from today part of his support-system.