Just A Sunset:
Jasper was exhausted. There had been a non-stop flow of doctors, nurses and visitors since he woke up, less than half of whom Jasper had wanted in the room. His old friends had come by, which had left him feeling a little off balance emotionally. Seeing them had made him remember what his life had been like before he was blind, and it was those kinds of thoughts exactly that had landed him in the hospital bed in the first place.
He could hardly believe what he had been thinking, trying to go for a bike ride again. With great pain, Jasper was beginning to realize that he was going to have to resign himself to changing his whole life. He couldn't go biking of climbing or any of that anymore, and he didn't want to see his friends that reminded him of those things. So after politely listening to them talk for a little while, Jasper had pretended to be in too much pain to have visitors, and they had left.
In truth, the only people he wanted in the room were the nurses who gave him pain medications for his leg and torso, his parents, and Noah. But the latter hadn't come back since he'd seen him upon first waking up. His desire to see the moody boy was a little bit strange for Jasper, who was usually perfectly content to go with the flow. In relationships, he was usually the type that didn't call enough. Not because he was cruel, but just because he was always very much independent, and never thought much about it. Yet they weren't even really in a relationship yet, and Jasper felt himself yearning to see Noah.
He asked his mom the next morning after he hadn't seen Noah for over twenty four hours if he could have his cell phone and a little privacy.
Pushing the large button on the side of his cell phone and hearing the electronic female voice say 'please say a command,' Jasper said as clearly as possible, "Call Noah."
The phone rang and a few moments later a familiar deep voice said, "Hello?"
"Hey, you!" Jasper said, smiling a little.
Talking on the phone was one thing that hadn't changed at all for Jasper since losing his sight. If anything, he liked it better; it evened the turf a little. The voice on the other side of the line couldn't see his expressions any more than he could see theirs.
"Hi." Noah sounded somehow unsure again.
"I haven't seen you since yesterday. Aren't you supposed to come bring me flowers and feed me Jell-O?"
Jasper naturally flirted. It was what he always did when somebody showed interest in him. He'd always been confident, playful and flirtatious. Even though this was worlds different from how anything had ever started for him romantically, and even though he knew it probably made Noah uncomfortable, he didn't know what else to do.
Jasper had been right: Noah definitely sounded uncomfortable now.
"I thought…you should be with your parents….and you asked me to leave, so I thought maybe you didn't want me there…"he continued.
Jasper forced himself to drop his teasing tone, "Of course I want you here. I was just disoriented and in pain when I woke up. But it was nice to see you there."
"Oh…well…I was glad to see you, too," he still sounded awkward, but happier, "I was worried about you."
Jasper smiled and hoped that smile made it into his voice, "Well now that you know I want you here…will you come?"
"Of course," this at least sounded confident.
"See you soon, then?"
"Yeah, I'll be there as soon as I can."
Jasper hung up his phone, heart beating. All of this was so unfamiliar. It was nice in a different way from the game that beginning relationships usually was for him. He certainly wasn't used to the nervous heart beating and the uncertainty and lack of confidence.
Fifteen minutes later, after telling his parents to go home and get some more rest, Jasper heard a figure walking slowly and timidly into his room.
Jasper appreciated the shy but affectionate way in which Noah said his name. He gestured Noah to come over.
"I'm glad you're here," he said, as Noah sat in the same chair he'd sat in the other night.
"Me too," Noah said, and reached for Jasper's hand.
It was the first time they'd really interacted (at least while both were conscious) since the afternoon they'd kissed, and Jasper was very much aware of it.
Wanting to reestablish kissing as the norm between the two of him, Jasper took advantage of Noah's hand in his, using it to pull him closer.
Noah looked a little surprised at first, but then played along. Jasper lifted his head off the bed a little as Noah leaned forward and they kissed softly, as if Noah was afraid of hurting him.
Unfortunately, lifting his head the way he had did in fact hurt. Jasper groaned in pain a bit, ending their kiss too soon for either boys' taste.
"Sorry, my neck's a little sore."
Jasper could hear his companion lean back into his chair, but Noah said nothing. Suddenly Jasper felt self conscious about having kissed Noah again.
"Did you...was it okay that I wanted to kiss again?"
"Oh, yeah," Noah said, sounding desperate to make sure Jasper knew kissing was most certainly okay with him, "It just sucks that this happened to you," he clarified.
Now it was Jasper's turn to fall silent.
"Why would you do that? If either of us are going to try to kill themselves, that's supposed to be me; I'm supposed to be the depressed one." Noah said, lacking tact.
Jasper sensed that Noah was trying to be funny, but the words hurt him more than lifted his spirits.
"Noah," he said softly, "I hope you're joking, but if you are, I don't think it's very funny."
"You're right, and I don't want to kill myself either. I guess it's just the first thing that came to mind when your dad told me what you did. I guess I was just trying to find a way to ask you if that's what your thinking was."
"It wasn't," Jasper said firmly, still troubled by Noah joking about committing suicide.
He wished he could study Noah's face for signs of what exactly he'd meant by saying he was 'supposed' to kill himself. Since he couldn't, he reached out to find Noah's face again with his hand. He knew he couldn't interpret any of Noah's intentions with just his hand, but he could at least try to make him feel better.
Jasper felt Noah lean into his touch the moment his fingertips found the boy's cheek.
As they touched in this way, Jasper tried to explain what exactly had happened that led him to attempting a bike ride. Having Jasper's hand on his face allowed Noah to nod wordlessly as Jasper described his feelings of powerlessness. Jasper was used to talking frankly about things, but he'd never had to deal with so much happening in his life, and he found it difficult. As the conversation wore on, Noah touched Jasper's face as well, mirroring him.
Noah ended up staying with Jasper all weekend, going home only to sleep. It was an unusual way to start a relationship, Jasper thought. But then again everything about the way his and Noah's friendship and potential romantic relationship had come into being was unusual. Besides, Jasper realized, in some ways it was better this way. The awkwardness that had existed the afternoon of their first kiss was lessened by their circumstances. Noah didn't seem to be as nervous about what he was expected to do because there weren't many choices. Jasper was stuck in the hospital bed so they couldn't go out or do anything, really, other than hold hands or kiss lightly.
There was no pressure on either of them, and they could just get used to talking and touching and being around each other in way that was more than just simple friendship. Jasper was grateful for this slowness, and acknowledged that his accident, though unfortunate, afforded the two of them the perfect opportunity to get to know how each other worked romantically.
The day before Jasper was to be released back to his house and Noah was to return to school after his suspension, the two boys were once again alone in Jasper's small sterile-looking hospital room. They had been talking for several hours, and now Noah was sitting quietly in his position on the chair, resting his head on Jasper's bed as he had when Jasper had been unconscious. As opposed to that day, though, this time Jasper was awake, absent-mindedly playing with Noah's hair.
"Whatcha doin'?" Jasper asked.
"Looking out the window," Noah answered sleepily.
At this question, Jasper felt Noah's head twist in the other direction, so that Noah was now facing him.
"Just the sunset."
"You say just a sunset," Jasper said sadly. "I'd kill to see a sunset again."
An arm moved from next to his torso, and Jasper felt a warm hand on his face again.
"Maybe you can…" Noah said shyly, self-consciously.
Jasper laughed sadly, "You're very sweet, Noah, but I've told you my eye condition is completely irreversible."
"I meant…well…I could describe it for you."
Jasper was silent.
"I guess it's kinda stupid…"
"No, go ahead."
Jasper was unsure what to think about this, but obligingly closed his worthless eyes and tried to open his mind.
Noah flipped his head around again so it faced the large west window.
"Well, the sun hasn't gone down all the way yet, so the colors are still fairly yellow instead of orange and purple. But it's at that point in the sky where you can look directly the sun without your eyes hurting. There are lots of clouds around so I can tell that when it does go down the colors are going to be spectacular."
It wasn't the most eloquent description Jasper had ever heard, but somehow the emotion in Noah's voice got the image across to him perfectly, and he smiled as he saw it in his mind.
Jasper had noticed a change in Noah the last few days that went beyond the simple fact that they were getting more comfortable with each other. Deeper emotion, previously absent from Noah's demeanor, was starting to pervade his words and actions. Emotions that Noah had only expressed in words before Jasper began to feel emanating from his companion. His description of the sunset was a perfect example of this new emotionality.
"You're quiet," Noah said matter of factly, "was that totally stupid?"
"No, not all. It was great actually. I was just thinking that you've seemed a lot different the last few days."
Jasper didn't want to say exactly what the difference was, afraid Noah might take it the wrong way.
"I've felt a lot different the last few days," Noah laughed.
"Can I ask why?" Jasper ventured.
"You can, though I'm not sure I have a good answer for you. I guess there are so many things that could be the cause, I don't know which to point a finger at."
"Like what?" Jasper could guess at some of them, but not all.
"Well first there's just having a somebody new in my life. Even aside from whatever's going on between us," Noah squeezed Jasper's hand to indicate what he meant, "just having a new friend is a huge change. I haven't really let anyone in for a long time. It feels…strange…"
Noah paused for a moment thoughtfully before continuing,
"And then of course there is the fact that something is in fact going on between us beyond friendship. I've never had…whatever we have…before. I've known I was gay for a long time, but I didn't…you're my first…"
"…Boyfriend." Jasper supplied for him, knowing he'd been skirting around the word for the last few minutes.
"Right," Noah said, letting out a sigh, "I wasn't sure if that's…I didn't want to presume anything."
Jasper smiled and laughed a little to lighten the mood,
"Well we keep on kissing and holding hands. And I don't know about you, but I'm not doing that with anyone else, nor do I plan to." Jasper said in a light tone, trying to make Noah feel more comfortable.
"No, me neither," Noah replied quickly.
Jasper could tell that Noah was still uncomfortable, as if not sure whether to believe they could actually be boyfriends.
Jasper pulled on the hand he was holding.
Following Jasper's lead, Noah carefully moved into the space that Jasper was scooting over to make for him. Jasper had become a little less sore over the course of the weekend so that he was at least a little mobile within the confines of his hospital bed. Noah laid down beside him, and though the position was awkward due to the sling holding one of Jasper's legs, they both enjoyed the comfort the proximity afforded them.
Jasper felt Noah begin to relax a little. If Jasper's words about the nature of their relationship didn't convince Noah of the reality of it, the physical contact seemed to. They lay like that for a few hours until the nurse came in and expressed her opposition to Jasper sharing his bed in his state.
Jasper could tell that her objection was purely due to the recent surgery and concern for stitches and broken bones, but Noah was clearly alarmed at having been caught cuddling. The second the door had swung open, Noah had sprung out of the bed, which came much nearer to causing harm than the actual cuddling had.
Scarcely remembering what it had been like to not be out, Jasper felt bad for not realizing that it might be difficult for his new boyfriend to be 'caught.'
"Noah, You'll have to leave in a few minutes," the nurse said
Her voice sounded kind and understanding to Jasper, and he hoped Noah picked up on her tone as well and would calm down a little.
"I'll leave for a few minutes, and then the doctor wants to come talk to you briefly, Jasper," she continued, making her way towards the door.
When he heard the door shut, Jasper turned his head instinctively to where he knew Noah had leapt off to upon the nurse's arrival.
"You okay?" he asked, concerned.
"Yeah, it's just weird for me," Noah replied, though he seemed to be calming down again.
Jasper simply nodded respectfully, waiting for Noah to elaborate if he wanted to.
"It's not even like I necessarily mind, especially since I'll never see her again after you get out of here. I guess it's just that I'm not used to anybody knowing. It's just been like this private thing that's only existed inside me, and now I'm living it and it's strange. Not even really bad, just kind of 'the unknown', you know?"
Noah had moved back closer to Jasper's bedside as he'd spoken, and now Jasper reached his hand out to find his boyfriend's in a show of understanding.
"I do sort of know, though it's been a long time," he finally responded thoughtfully, "I guess it was a little different for me, though. I knew I was gay when I was pretty young, and kind of came out to everyone way before I was ever in a relationship. So I never had to really reconcile having everyone assume I was straight with actually being gay, which is sort of what it sounds like you're talking about."
"Yeah, that's kind of what I'm saying. It would be easy if everyone in my life knew already, and I already knew which people were going to be assholes about it and which weren't."
"That's definitely an advantage to the way I went about things," Jasper reflected in response, "Since I came out really young, people that weren't okay with it just didn't befriend me, so my friends were kind of naturally sorted out. It's weird now going to a completely new school, because nobody knows, so for the first time I've been having to deal with that in trying to make new friends there."
"How's that been going?"
"Okay, I've been trying to kind of casually drop it into conversation before I waste too much time talking to anyone. You noticed I did that with you?"
"I certainly did," Noah made a point of saying, squeezing Jasper's hand, "though it certainly made me feel a lot more nervous, knowing it was possible for you to be interested in me."
Jasper smiled and laughed, "I bet."
"So lots of people know you're gay?" Noah asked, sounding serious all of a sudden.
"Yeah, it's just easier for me that way."
Noah was silent, and Jasper felt through the hand he was holding that his boyfriend had gotten suddenly tense.
"People could figure out pretty easily that I am too, then." Noah said, as though talking to himself.
Jasper felt suddenly annoyed, "Why? Just because I am and you hang out with me."
"I didn't mean it like that, I'm sorry." Noah said softly, sounding sad. "But, I mean, it's something we're going to have to deal with. I don't really think I want to come out at school, so…I mean, what are we going to do?"
Jasper listened to what Noah was saying and began to realize what he meant and the implications as to the complicated nature of the relationship. They'd been living completely disconnected from the rest of their lives in the confines of the hospital room. It had been nice in that it had helped Noah feel comfortable enough to move things forward between the two of them, but it was also not really real. Jasper was out, Noah was not, they were now in a relationship, and as soon as Jasper recovered, they'd be back at school with each other. These were the facts, and the nature of them filled Jasper with conflicting emotions.
He felt more of a connection to Noah than he'd ever felt with anyone before, but he was also used to being completely honest with everyone in his life all the time. As he'd shown in his unwillingness to accept help despite his new need for it, Jasper was proud. Used to such a proud and unflinchingly honest way of life, the idea of keeping their relationship closeted felt wrong.
"Jasper?" Noah interrupted his train of thought, sounding a little scared.
"I don't know," Jasper failed to keep the frustration out of his voice, and he felt the hand withdraw from his own, as if stung, "You'll have to let me think about it."
A long silence followed, then Jasper heard Noah collect his backpack.
"I'll see you later then," Noah said, then waited a moment as if he wanted to say something else.
Jasper felt like he should say something too, to reassure his new boyfriend, but was so tired and frustrated all he could get out was, "Yeah, see ya."
A few moments later, he heard Noah cross the room and then the door clicked open and, after another moment's hesitation, close again.
Immediately, Jasper felt regretful. Now he was frustrated with not only the situation, but also himself. Why did he keep being so short tempered and non-understanding with Noah, he pondered. He didn't have much time to think about it, though, because within a few moments of Noah pulling the door shut behind him, it clicked open again, and the click of dress shoes and confident stride towards him certainly didn't belong to Noah.
"Mr. Brooks," a confident voice to match the stride boomed, "I'm Dr. Phillips, I was here last Thursday when you came to the ER."
Jasper felt a hand, thicker than Noah's which he'd grown accustomed to, grab his and shake it firmly.
"Nice to meet you." Jasper replied, somewhat untruthfully. Honestly, he just wanted to be left alone for awhile.
"Well, you certainly seem to be recovering nicely. The nurse says you've had energy enough for quite a few visitors over the last few days. That's a good sign, but you should try to take it a little easier. In any case, I want to talk about the next steps for you as a patient. Is that okay?"
Still tired, but also curious now, Jasper nodded.
"Good, good. Well there are two different things we need to talk about. First, being on crutches for your broken leg isn't going to be possible for you."
Realizing what the doctor was getting at, Jasper tried to interrupt with an objection, but the doctor simply talked over it firmly,
"You're going to have to…no, I'm afraid this isn't up for negotiation, Jasper. You're going to have to be in a wheelchair for a few months. This should make it easier also for your internal injuries to heal properly, and it will reduce the risk of reinjuring yourself. Trying to navigate blind on crutches is about as dangerous as trying to ride your bike blind."
He sounded a little amused as he said this, and then seemed to study Jasper in silence for a moment before continuing,
"Which brings me to the second thing we need to discuss. Based on what your parents told me, I'm inclined to believe you when you say this was not a suicide attempt. Nevertheless, I've recommended to your parents that you see a psychologist. I think, and your parents agree, that you're having a harder time with your new disability than you're letting on. I think it would help you to talk to somebody about it."
Jasper sighed resignedly, knowing that Dr. Phillips was right on both counts.
"Alright?" the doctor asked, doubtfully.
"Yes, alright. I know you're right, but I don't have to like it." Jasper said honestly, "Now I appreciate you coming to talk to me so frankly, but I think I need some time alone to rest and to think about this."
Jasper could tell by the doctor's tone that he was impressed with his maturity.
Left alone again in his hospital room, Jasper found that he had even more to think than before. Things had become so rapidly complicated. When he'd started losing his sight, things had been difficult to be sure, but not so jumbled and unsure. He'd known how he felt at least, instead of having a million different conflicting emotions to sort through.
In essence, Jasper was at war with himself. Profound feelings for Noah were forcing him to fight against his compulsion to be up front and honest with everyone about who he was and what was important to him. It felt like Noah was asking him to go into the closet for him, and everything in his nature screamed in protest at that idea.
In the same vein, Jasper was beginning to come to the extremely uncomfortable realization that he could no longer live as independently as he used to. Where there were less accommodations for the blind, Jasper was going to have to rely on others to help him. And in the short term, he was going to have to be exceptionally dependent, being both blind and wheelchair bound.
For the first time in his life, Jasper felt utterly lost. And as he fell asleep with a few tears drying on his cheek, he wished he hadn't let Noah leave without telling him how important he'd become.
I've been absent from FictionPress for a long time, but after losing a close family member to suicide recently I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be depressed and how to help people with depression. I wanted to finish this story and use it as a way to explore my feelings about depression, suicide, family, and friendship. Though I can't promise to be quick with my updates, I can promise I will do my damnedest to finish this story and do Noah and Jasper justice.