I can't believe how quiet it is this Sunday afternoon at the farm. Mom and Dad took Ethan and the girls to the movies about an hour ago and Grandma will be gone the whole day at a Church social. I thought I would enjoy the quiet. But, Noah, it's too quiet. You know what happens to me when I have too much time alone to think. So here I sit, at my favorite spot by the pond, notebook and pen in hand. I don't know what prompted me to bring them with me. You know how long it's been since I've written anything. But now that I am, I feel the impulse to get some thoughts down on paper.
The family is doing great. Faith got the part of Anita in Oakdale Latin's production of West Side Story. Opening night is next week. She's really excited, but I can tell nerves are starting to set in as it gets closer. After all, half the town is going to turn out to see her! Natalie is growing up so fast. She's already starting to give Mom and Dad a run for their money with that attitude of hers. Faith and I didn't give them an easy time, either, so hopefully they're used to it by now. And Ethan lost a tooth last week. I can't tell you excited he was when "the Tooth Fairy" put a $5 bill under his pillow. Apparently "the Tooth Fairy" has gotten more generous than when I was a kid!
I am so happy that Mom and Dad are finally back together. I had a long talk with them about a month ago and they told me that they are done with the on again-off again nonsense. This is it forever. And even though I've heard all of that before, this time I truly believe it. I don't know how to explain it, but something's changed. They truly know that what they have, what they share with each other, is too precious to ever let go of again. And I couldn't be more thrilled. I may be 21 years old, but I am still their child and what child doesn't want to see his parents together, especially when the love between them has always continued to burn through multiple separations? I have been thinking about that conversation a lot lately.
I have been spending tons of time at the Foundation. It's amazing how much we continue to grow our programming. It warms my heart to know that a Foundation funded with Grimaldi money has made such a great contribution to bettering peoples' lives. And, of course, I have continued working with the Hospital Board to see to the completion of the Neurology Wing. The wing will be finished in just a little over a month. I feel really proud of that, too. So many people are going to benefit from this Wing. Who would have ever thought that Oakdale would be home to such a state of the art medical facility and that I would be part of making it happen?
It's wonderful, Noah. It really is. And yet I have been feeling so unfulfilled the last few months. I wake up in the morning and go to meetings for the Foundation and Hospital Board, but in both of those places I am just a contributor. And not even a particularly vital one, at that. Both the Foundation and the Neuro Wing depend on my money, but neither depends on me as a person. My mom has found such passion and zest for her work at the Foundation. It may bear my name and be funded by my inheritance, but it's really her baby at this point. And my contribution to the Neuro Wing has consisted mostly of helping to choose the decor. Much smarter people than me are tasked with deciding the truly important things. People like Bob Hughes and, of course, Reid.
I haven't mentioned Reid yet. I think I hesitate to bring him into this letter because before you left for LA, there was so much strife and tension whenever the three of us have shared the same space. I think I have been wanting to keep this letter just you and me. But I realize that I have to bring him in now. I'm expressing my thoughts on this paper and he is right there in my head with you, so I must bring him in and hope for the best.
He and I were having dinner at Al's the other night and I told him what I wrote to you just now about feeling unfulfilled by my work at the Foundation and Hospital. I think that was difficult for him to grasp. After all, the Neuro Wing is pretty much his entire life these days. I told him something I've been mulling over pretty much ever since you left, Noah. I told him I wanted to go back to school and study English Lit and Creative Writing.
"Well, you're rich, Luke" he told me, giving me that smirk I've come to know well. "Which is a good thing since you'll never make any money from either of those two majors."
"So you think it's a good idea?" I asked him.
"Oh, what do all those dippy feel-your-feelings people always say?" he answered, in mock ponderance of the question. "Follow your heart, Luke." He smirked again.
My face must have registered disappointment, because he cleared his throat and became more serious. "Luke, you know my worldview. People should do whatever they want, provided it's legal and doesn't infringe on anyone else's rights. If you want to go to OU and study English and Writing, then do it. You don't need my permission."
At that moment, Reid caught sight of Bob Hughes walking past outside and excused himself to ask Bob a quick question. As I watched Reid, I thought about how strongly I initially disliked him, hated him even. And then...I'm sorry, Noah, I know this is hard for you to read, but I have to write it. And then I thought about how an attraction grew between us, so gradually that I almost didn't realize it was happening. After months of you pushing me away, it was so exciting to feel wanted and desired by someone. And not just any someone! Reid is a handsome thirty-three year old neurosurgeon. Hell, Noah, five years ago I was a sixteen year old high school kid, terrified to tell my parents I was gay. If someone had told me that just five years later I would have a good looking doctor twelve years my senior interested in getting together with me, I never would have believed it. It had been a terrible few months and experiencing his feelings for me was intoxicating. And as you know from experience, Noah, when I get intoxicated, I don't just go halfway!
Reid is arrogant, abrasive, and completely lacking in people skills. I'll just get that out there right away. There's no denying that. But I have grown from hating him to valuing his company deeply. We have great conversations, he makes me laugh, and he has showed me a softer, more vulnerable side to his personality that he tries to hide from pretty much everyone else. I care about him. I never could have imagined that first time I spoke to that abrasive, rude, prick on the phone that I would ever care so much about Dr. Reid Oliver.
My family and friends were pretty hesitant about the relationship at first. After all, Noah, you know how much they love you. But they have slowly come around. Relationships aren't Reid's strength, but he has come out of his shell little by little. He and Mom are even able to have a friendly conversation once in awhile. After their rocky start, I never thought that would happen! Reid has worked really hard to make our relationship work and for that I am grateful.
But there's something that I've come to realize in the last couple of weeks and I haven't worked up the courage to tell anyone yet. The last time I remember feeling this nervous about sharing a truth with the people in my life was five years ago, when the very thought of telling my parents I was gay was literally hazardous to my health. But I'm sitting here at the pond on a Sunday afternoon, feverishly writing out these thoughts, spilling them out on the page to you in much the same way that eventually I couldn't keep the secret from my folks anymore.
The truth is, Noah, that Reid, through no fault of his own, has a fundamental flaw that keeps me from being truly happy with him.
He isn't you.
You don't know how hard it was for me to write that last sentence. I had been writing at a frenzied pace for about twenty minutes, and then paused for about twenty more and just stared at the page, trying to will myself to write what I know to be the truth.
And while I'm in this cathartic truth telling mood, I have another confession for you. I'm completely full of shit. The last time I saw you before you left, I told you I was in love with Reid. I'm not. I wanted to believe I was. I wanted to think I could move on from you, have something as beautiful as what we had with someone else. It was a lie for sure, but a lie I told not only to you and to Reid, but to myself, as well. And I've really made a mess of things by proclaiming something like that without truly meaning it and I know I am going to have to answer for that.
That is something that I will have to sort out between Reid and myself. That's my mess to clean up. But that's not the thing that I most need to address with you about that day, Noah. I am haunted, over and over again, that in the last conversation I ever had with you I told you, "we were not right for each other." I knew it wasn't true, Noah. I said it because you had hurt me so much when you were blind and I wanted so badly to hurt you back, to make you feel as alienated and unwanted as you made me feel all those months.
But you were blind then, Noah. You hurt me more than I can ever say, but you were lashing out because you were in the deepest pain you had ever been in. I know that now. I "see" that now (pun completely intended!). But I was angry, Noah. I didn't know how you could push me away like that. And then I remembered something, something that seems like a lifetime ago.
Ethan and I were playing tag a couple weeks back and I was looking down at my legs as I was running. My legs! Just three and a half years ago I couldn't walk. We thought I might never walk again after your father's "camping trip." And at the time I basically ordered you to leave my life because I was scared. Scared of what the future might hold, scared that I couldn't be any kind of boyfriend to you if I couldn't feel anything below the belt.
But you didn't go. Even though we had barely officially become a couple, you stayed and helped me learn how to walk again so that I could surprise my family at Christmas dinner. You fought me when I tried to push you away and your tireless assistance and loving encouragement with my walking is the key reason I'm not still in that chair today and can run around with my baby brother.
I was scared. I was so scared I would never walk again. Why could I not recognize the fear that was being masked by your hostility toward me? You didn't think you would be able to make me happy as a blind boyfriend. The main reason you were so desperate to get your sight back was that it was the only way you could imagine being any kind of real companion or lover to me. I am so stupid for not being able to figure this out earlier, Noah. I lived exactly another version of this and I knew the hell it caused me. You weren't the only one who was “blind” at that time.
So that afternoon, when I told you, “we were not right for each other,” I was lashing back out at you, trying to cause you some pain, completely ignoring, in that moment, the fact that the entire year had been complete hell for you. I am so sorry, Noah. Because as badly as you hurt me during that horrible time for both of us, you never tried to piss on what we had, never tried to write off a three year committed relationship as though it was a regrettable error of youth. It keeps me up at night, Noah, the fact that I said those words to you and that you have probably spent the past few months thinking that this is what I truly believe.
My relationship with you was the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. To deny that you were “right” for me and I for you was to deny my very self. I can't imagine how much I hurt you and I am so, so sorry, Baby.
Baby. I meant to write Noah, but Baby was what got written down instead.
But Baby is what you are, what you have always been to me.
Five years ago, I fell “in love” with Kevin Davis. It was really only an infatuation, but to my confused and vulnerable sixteen year old mind, it was true love.
I didn't even know what love was until I met you.
I didn't know that your heart could soar from being with someone else, that you could yearn so much to be near someone, to delight in hearing his laughter, seeing his smile, kissing his lips, feeling the comfort of his strong arms enveloping you, and experiencing the intensity of physical intimacy with him.
You have always been my biggest supporter, Baby. If I hadn't brought up going back to school, Reid certainly never would have thought to encourage me. You knew a year and a half ago that going back to school was the right choice for me. You know what my dreams are. We have shared our dreams over and over again. Reid is a realist. He doesn't see the point of dreams. They're for "dippy feel-your-feelings people." I've never shown Reid any of my writings or poems. I just don't trust him the way I trust you. I don't feel that deep connection within my soul with him the way I have always felt with you. And I never will. I thought, given time, I could will it into being, but I can't.
You can't force into being, with a different person, that connection that you share with your soulmate. It isn't possible.
Noah, Baby, this paper is getting soggy from my tears. I love you so much!!! I have no idea how I have managed to scribble out so many words without writing that sentence. That's the sentence that echoed through my head as I sat down at the pond with my pen and paper in hand. My first impulse was simply to write "Dear Noah, I love you so much!!!" but I was terrified. I was terrified about exactly what has now happened. There is now on this paper, physical evidence of the truth that has existed only inside my head for the past few months-that I have never stopped loving you and, more importantly, that I will never stop loving you. I could no sooner stop loving you than stop breathing. Both are just as essential to my being alive.
And, because we are now apart, that is a terrifying truth for me to confront. But I have to draw my strength from you, Baby, because I don't know anyone our age who has been through more crap than you and dealt with it so bravely. Tonight I am going to break it off with Reid. It is not fair to him to continue in this relationship when my heart and soul yearn for you. I know I will hurt him, and I am deeply sorry about that, because I do care for him. I hope he will still want to be my friend, but I am not going to hold my breath.
Noah, I am still sitting here at the pond. The entire front of my (striped!) shirt is wet with tears and you can probably make out the tear stains on this piece of paper. The sun is now beginning to set behind the trees. It is a beautiful sight to behold and we have experienced it together many times. I am remembering the first time we went swimming in this pond, that rush of excitement and connection when we had the towel fight and fell into each other in the kitchen. I was at Java earlier. I still expect to see you behind the counter whenever I go in there, and am always disappointed when I remember you are gone. I sometimes go and eat lunch at our bench in Old Town and remember all the conversations we had there. It brings me the most oddly conflicting feelings of joy and sorrow I can imagine. I never pass a redbox movie dispenser without wishing I had a movie recommendation from you. I have avoided even going near WOAK.
Everything reminds me of you, Noah. There isn't a single part of daily life or one square inch of Oakdale that doesn't evoke a memory of you.
And right now, Baby, I'm not just remembering you, I can feel you. Even as the sun continues to fade over the horizon, I feel warmed by the intense love for me that I can feel burning in your heart through the distance. I hope beyond hope that you have still felt mine and that you have not lost faith in us the way that I did for a time.
The sun has completely set, and it has now become necessary to come inside and finish this letter at the kitchen table. I called Reid and he will be arriving shortly for our talk. And I have also called the airlines and booked a flight because I need to see you, my love. I need to tell you all of this in person and assure you of my enduring love. The time has come to be brave and speak the truth.
When I just checked the time on the watch you gave me two Christmases ago, I felt compelled to take it off and look at the inscription, which seemed so very appropriate at the time: Worth the Wait. It seems even more appropriate now. The wait is over, Noah. I'm coming home.
You are probably scratching your head and thinking, "But, Luke, what are you talking about? You're writing this from Oakdale, where you've lived your entire life!"
My Noah, my love, my baby, Oakdale isn't my home. YOU are my home.
Love forever and ever,