Well, Mike is a good doctor, because my leg and arm felt MUCH better! He had this special stuff that he put on my itchy parts that he got from a plant that was on the table in the motel… He called it allo or something, and said that he had learned about it from his Mom, when he was just a kid. He broke off a piece of the plant and this gooey stuff was inside. He kind of squeezed it out, and then spread it on the itchy parts, and said that it would fix the itch, but not the stitch, and when I asked him what that meant, he just laughed and grabbed my side and tickled me so long that I was rolling around on the bed and begging for mercy!!  He said I had to say ‘uncle’, but, I wouldn’t, and he kept tickling me until I said “OK, OK, I’ll say it!” So, he stopped, but I couldn’t get away, because he was sitting on top of my legs… And then I said “aunt”, and he really tickled me till I was almost crying!! He finally let me go, and he laughed, and said, “You’re all right, kid!  My little brother used to give up really quick, but, you’re a real warrior! You took it all, and still didn’t give in!” He smacked me on the butt, and messed my hair with his hand, and then got off the bed and took my clothes into the bathroom. He washed them in the sink with the same soap that he used on my leg and arm. He called it ‘laundry soap’, so, I guess that made sense!
             Only problem was, I still had no clothes, so Mike said, “Well, let’s watch some TV for a while till they dry, and then, we can get some dinner at the bowling ally next door.”  Cool!! I couldn’t wait!  I wanted to see my favorite show ‘The Wild Wild West’, but, it wasn’t on till later, so, we lied on the bed, and watched the news for a while… Mike got real quiet when the news guy started to talk about the war over in Vietnam. He had his arm around me and he was rubbing my arm softly, and then, he just stopped, and kind of held me a little closer. I looked at his face, and he seemed kind of scared, or something, so, I reached over him and hugged him, and put my head on his chest. He hugged me with both arms, and then, he kissed me on my forehead, and said, “Thanks, Matty…”
             We laid like that for a long time, and I hope you don’t think this is too weird, but….. that’s when I knew that I loved him…
             I’ve never had a big brother. I AM the big brother in my house!! But, it felt so good to hold Mike and stroke his strong arm with the little blond hairs, and to hear his heart beat under my head, while he held me close to him.. I felt… safe.
            After a while, I asked Mike about his home, and his little brother. He told me that he really had two little brothers, and that he missed them, and then, he stopped talking really quick, and, when I looked up at him, he was crying, and trying to wipe the tears away, before I could see them… I said, “Mike, what’s wrong… what happened?” He shook his head, and didn’t say anything for a long time, and then, he kissed me on the forehead again, and he said, “I’ll never see them again…”
          I didn’t understand why that could be, and I said, “Are they OK? Did something happen to them?” He said, “They’re OK, it’s me that’s not… ” I got real scared, then, and I sat up in the bed, and looked right at Mike, and asked him if he was sick like my grandpa had been… But, he just shook his head, and sat up and took both my hands in his, and said, “Listen, kid, I’m gonna say something that you might not understand, but, it’s why my dad threw me out of the house, and why he told me to never come back!” I looked at him and nodded, and then, he started to cry again, just a little, so, I held his hands tight and  said, “It’s OK, tell me!! ” Mike looked down at our hands and said, “I’m a homo… I’m queer…” and then, he let my hands go, and started to get off the bed, but, I grabbed his pant leg, and said, “I wish you were my big brother.”
        Mike put his face in his hands, and really started to cry, right then… I didn’t know what to do, or what to say, so, I said, “I’m sorry, Mike, I didn’t want to make you cry!” Then, I started to cry! I couldn’t stop. I was so sad, for Mike, and that I had made him feel so bad! But, Mike grabbed me then, and hugged me, and told me that I would be his special little brother, forever!! He told me about the mean things his dad had said, when he told him that he liked boys, not girls, and how his mom had cried, and his brothers had been sent to their room, and how he tried to tell his dad that he was the same son that he had always been, but, now, he was a soldier, and he needed to say these things, just in case he didn’t get to come home… But, his dad had told him that he wasn’t his son anymore, and that he should never come home, and that he didn’t care if something bad happened to him, for what he did to his family.
      I listened to Mike talk for a long time, and, he didn’t know, but, I said a prayer to Jesus and the Virgin Mary, while he talked, and asked Them to help Mike, and his brothers, and his mom and dad to be a family again… I prayed that Mike could feel like their son again, and that some day, he would be happy again, like the first day that I met him… I felt better after that, and Mike did too, I think, because he said, “Enough of this crying shit! (sorry about the bad word, that’s what he said!) We’re both hungry, so, before we flood the whole room, let’s go get something to eat!!” I thought that was a great idea! I am, just a growing boy! haha!  But, my clothes were still wet, even tho Mike had hung them up, under the red lamp in the bathroom! So, Mike opened his green duffel bag, and pulled out a green pair of army pants, and a brown t shirt that said ‘Army’ on it, and helped me to get dressed. The pants were WAY to big for me, and the shirt, too! But, I was proud to wear them, because they were Mike’s! So, he found a belt in the bag, and put it through the pant’s loops, and pulled it tight around my waist, and fastened the shiny buckle, and stepped back to look at me… He said, “Soldier, you need some grub, you’re shrinking!” Then, he laughed, and picked me up over his shoulder, and spun me around again, till we were both dizzy and fell onto the bed laughing…
       That night, was the most special night of my life… Me and Mike went to the bowling ally, and had the best pizza, and milkshakes, and potato chips and ‘payday’ candy bars (my favorite), and then we bowled for 3 hours!! I even beat Mike in 4 games, and he called me a hustler! He didn’t know that I had taken bowling lessons for two weeks last year, with the Parks and Rec’s summer programs for kids…haha!!
       But, before we knew it, it was 11:30 at night, and I was starting to yawn, and Mike finally caught me, and said, “It’s time for lights out, Matty!” So, we took the special bowling shoes (mine were cool- black and red!) back to the desk, and Mike paid the money for the games. That was good, because I didn’t have any money! We went back to the motel, and got ready for bed… I took off the pants and shirt, and got under the covers, and watched Mike hang up the clothes. He was real neat about things, and told me that someday, if I was a soldier, I would have to learn to be neat too! I just laughed, and said,”Why do I have to be neat? You’re such a good mommy!” Mike yelled and laughed, at that, and pulled me out from under the covers by my foot, and we wrestled and fake fought for a while… When we were fighting, I dove on top of him, and slid off the other side, and off the bed… My underpants pulled all the way down to my knees, almost, and I was so embarrassed, because Mike saw me naked, and my ‘Willy’ was a little stiff… Well, he laughed, and said,”Geezz kid, you’ve got quite a weapon there! You’re big for a 14 year old!!” That made me feel proud, so, I stood up, and showed Mike how big it got, and even made it jump, by pulling my butt cheeks together!! He thought that was really cool, because he laughed, and put his hands over his face for a second!!  Then, I took my underwear off, and jumped back into bed.  Mike shook his head, and laughed, and got up, and then I watched him get undressed! He was the most beautiful man that I ever saw naked! He didn’t have hair on his chest , but he did have hair in his private area, and under his arms. And, he had a nice butt, too, that was white, because it wasn’t tanned like the rest of him! But, I couldn’t stop looking at his ‘Willy’! It was so big and beautiful, and I never saw one so nice… I don’t know why, but, I wanted to touch it, or even kiss it, like Bobby did to me, when we were alone…
        Mike turned off the lights and got under the covers. He leaned over to me and said, “I want to tell you something, little guy… I think that you’re the best little brother a guy could have, and, I’ll never forget you, no matter what happens! Someday, I know that you’ll be a good soldier, and make me proud, but, what is even more important is that you are special to me… You helped me feel good when I was very sad, and I think it is a gift that you have… You feel things that a lot of people don’t, and you care… I think you might be an angel or something, because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay in this world, until I met you… You will always be in my heart.” He kissed me on the lips… a little kiss, soft, like my baby brother, and I closed my eyes and tasted him on my lips… I felt warm all over, and I touched his arm and said, “I love you, Mike.” He said, “I know, Matty, now off to sleep, little man!” I didn’t want to sleep, and I tried to tell Mike how I felt, and how I wanted him to do things, any things, that he wanted to… I wanted him to be more than my brother, but, he put his arms around me, and held my head on his chest, and said, “Maybe, someday, kid…” and he gently ran his fingertips up and down my back, and we fell asleep, after a while… just like I did, as a little boy, with my younger brother…

      The next morning came too fast… Mike and me got up when the sun was just coming up, over the hill, across the turnpike… I ran to the bathroom to pee, and Mike ran after me, trying to beat me to the door, but, I was too quick… But, he stood next to me, and we both peed together!! Then, we took a nice warm, steamy shower together, too!! He soaped my back, and legs, and put shampoo in my hair and made it stand up, and laughed at how it looked, and then smooched it all over my face, and some got into my eyes, and it burned, so, I hopped around until he turned the shower head towards my face and washed the soap away… I washed his back too, and even touched his butt a little, pretending to get the soap that dripped there… It was nice, and tight and… oh, I don’t know, it was just nice!! It also made my ‘Willy’ stand ‘at attention’ as Mike called it, so Mike said, “OK, hotshot… time to finish up, before you stab me with your bayonet!” He laughed, and stepped out of the tub, but, I saw his ‘Willy’ was starting to stand ‘at attention’ too!!

       We got dressed in our own clothes, and left the motel, and went to the ‘Center’ and got breakfast, but, I was feeling a little sad and getting kind of sick in my tummy, because, soon, I would have to go home. While we ate, I looked at the patches on Mike’s jacket again… They were real cool, and Mike told me that he got them after basic training, where he learned all the things that a soldier needs to know… I told Mike that I knew that he would be a good soldier, and fight for our country so that we could all stay free. I also said, that I had prayed to God and the Virgin Mary to help him fix the things with his family so that he could see his brothers again, someday. Mike got something in his eye right then, and used his napkin to wipe it away, and told me ‘thanks’ for doing that!!

      We left the diner, and walked back to the field where we first met. It was cold, but the sky was clear blue and the sun was bright, over the treetops… I didn’t know how to say ‘goodbye’, so, I hugged Mike and put my face into his open jacket, and started to cry. He stopped me though, and wiped the tears from my face with his fingers, and looked into my eyes, and said, “I love you kid, don’t ever forget that!” I nodded my head and told him that I loved him too, more than ANYONE else in the world!! He laughed, when I said that and held my head in his hands… They were so warm!! I asked him if he would come home for my birthday… He asked me when it was, and I told him August the 7th… He looked sad, for a second, then he smiled, and said,” I don’t think so, Matty, they probably won’t let me, but, I promise that I’ll send you a special gift… Don’t worry, I won’t forget!!”

      I felt a little better, after that, and promised Mike that one day soon, I would be a soldier too, and then we would fight together and make the world a better place… He hugged me one last time, and I held onto him, and smelled him and buried my face in his chest, and wouldn’t let go, but, he finally made me, and turned me around, and spanked my butt, and said, “Go home, little man, take care of your brothers!” I walked away, then, I ran, and when I stopped to look back, he was gone, so, I sat on a fallen tree and wiped the tears away and watched the sun come up over the big oak that I had never climbed, even in my dreams….

      The rest of the winter was hard for me. I started to watch the news, every day, when I came home from school, and the terrible things that were happening ‘over there’ to the people of Vietnam, and to the soldiers, like Mike, that went there to fight the war with no end… I got 2 letters from Mike that came to the post office with my name, and town, but no address, but the mailman smiled, and said that they found out where I lived by my dad’s name and besides, the letters were from a soldier, so they couldn’t send them back… I don’t want to say what was in the letters, because Mike said some things that should only be between us, but, I know that he was scared, and I had lots of nightmares that summer, after school let out, and thought about him, every day, when I walked across that field to work at the farm where I worked since I was 7 years old…

      So, today is July 27th, in the year of Our Lord, 1968… I think my childhood is over… I came back home from work at the farm, and Mom smiled and told me that something unusual has happened… A package came through the mail, and is sitting on my bed!!  I went to my room, and, there it was- a brown paper wrapped box, with writing and stamps on it. It came from a place that I didn’t know anyone, but, my name was on it, so I opened the box. When I got inside there was a leather jacket, and I pulled it out and held it up… It had patches on it, just like Mike’s jacket had, and when I held it to my face, I knew then- it WAS Mike’s jacket!! I couldn’t believe it!! There was also a letter in the box, so I opened it… It was from Mike!! It said, “Happy Birthday, Matty!! My favorite little brother!! Love, Mike.” I put the jacket on, even though it was hot, and stood in front of the mirror, and looked at myself and smiled. What a GREAT birthday gift… the best ever!! Then, there was a knocking on my bedroom door, so I opened the door, and Mom was standing there, holding a letter in her hands… It was opened, and she said, “Do you know a soldier named Mike, Matty?” She looked very confused… I didn’t know what to say, so, I just told the truth, and said, “Yes, why?”  Mom looked at me, and said, “Then, I guess, this is for you…” She handed me the letter and closed the door…

          My head hurts now, and I don’t really want to write this… I think that maybe if I don’t, it will all be just a dream… But, I guess Mike would want me to be brave…. The letter came from Massachusetts, and it started out with, ‘I am sending this letter to you, because my dear son, Michael, had requested, that I do so, as one of his last wishes… I don’t know how you became friends, that was not explained, but it is my sad duty to tell you that we must go on, in this life, without Michael… He was taken from us, a few weeks back after he fought bravely with his unit near a city called Hue, in South Vietnam… He suffered severe wounds that were thought to be healing, but, finally overcame him, and now, he resides with the angels… He asked that you be told, in the event of his death, to be brave and strong, and to become the good man that you should, and to keep caring, no matter what. He also requested that you be sent the package that….

          I can’t read anymore… Mike would understand… We are on this earth a short time… Who we love, is not important… THAT we love is….

                   RIP  Mike, love you, big bro!!

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