CHAPTER FOUR HUNDRED and EIGHT
He had been standing in front of his loft for a while when a rumbling old Bronco pulled up behind him. Turning, Blane saw Jacob in the driver’s seat. Jacob had jumped out of the driver’s seat and jogged to Blane’s side.
“You want any of this … stuff?” Jacob asked.
Not capable of speech, Blane shook his head.
“Looks like he kept anything of value anyway,” Jacob said. “I’ll get some guys to come by and clean this up so you don’t get a ticket.”
“He took my car,” Blane said. “The one your mom bought for me when I graduated Chef’s school.”
“That’s going to be a mess to sort out,” Jacob said with a laugh. He looked deep into Blane’s eyes. “Do you really care about the car?”
In that moment, he saw that Jacob truly got him.
“Get me out of here,” Blane whispered. “I can’t move.”
Jacob smiled. As he had when they were eight years old, Jacob put his arm around Blane. Jacob guided Blane into the passenger seat of the Bronco. Slamming the door, Jacob went around to the driver’s seat. They drove to a very dilapidated Castle where Delphie helped Blane into the building. Together, they put Blane into the Jacob’s bed in his recently remodeled basement bedroom. They stayed with Blane while he sobbed, threw up, and writhed with pain.
Every time Blane turned on his phone, he learned another piece of horrible news. The life he’d worked day and night to create out of the misery of his past was now in flames. Terrified that he’d kill himself, neither Jacob nor Delphie dared to leave Blane’s side. When Blane was able to sleep, Delphie stayed with him so that Jacob could attempt to sort out the mess with Enrique.
Two months to the day after Blane had been hurled from his life, he was sitting down at a desk outside Jacob’s office. He hadn’t cried all day in three days. Jacob passed his desk and absent mindedly dropped a catalogue for the School of Chinese Medicine onto Blane’s desk. Blane opened the cover of the catalog and knew he’d found the place to start over. Some days, he still cried all day. Slowly, but surely, with Jacob and Delphie’s help, he took the first steps toward a new life.
Present-day Blane seethed with shame and self-loathing. The factual memory only served to enhance his feelings of unworthiness.
Why had Jacob ever helped him? Why had Celia ever bothered with scumbag Blane?
Blane’s shame was so overwhelming that he struggled to breathe. If he wasn’t in the middle of trying to save Jacob’s life, he’d surely have gone to that very basement bedroom and done what he should have done all those years ago — hanged himself. He swore to himself that he would kill himself the moment he had a chance.
Shame swirled around him. Inside this wall of shame, Blane’s self-loathing began to deconstruct his entire life. He was deep into the reasons Heather was better off without him, when a Colorado Mountain Rabbit hopped through the shame wall. Blane was so surprised that he looked up.
The rabbit hopped onto Blane’s lap and began to groom himself. Surprised, Blane gawked at the rabbit. With one paw folding over his ear, the rabbit peeked up at Blane. Seeing that Blane was looking at him, the rabbit seemed to grin.
Blane blinked as he remembered all of the rabbits he’d known. He’d fed a family of rabbits when he’d lived in Cheesman Park. His best friend had a pet rabbit in the group house. Every time he was in the mountains with Jacob, he saw scores of rabbits. They would hop right up to Blane while they scattered in fear when Jacob was around. Blane held his hand over the rabbit and it seemed to nod. His self-loathing forgotten, Blane pet the rabbit.
The deck outside of the medical offices disappeared, and Blane was sitting in the meadow tucked between Holy Cross Mountain and the high reaches of Middle Mountain. The meadow was only accessible by foot. Only few people ever bothered to come here every year. It was beautiful, peaceful, and sheer heaven on earth to Blane. He and Jacob used to spend a week here at least twice a summer. Now that they were busy with their own families, they had only squeaked out a long weekend last summer and hoped to do the same this year.
The rabbit seemed content to sit on Blane’s lap. Blane picked some wild dandelions and fed the rabbit the leaves. As he’d thought no more than a hundred times before, Blane felt like he could live in this valley for the rest of his life. The rabbit in his lap stiffened.
A fox slunk out of the forest. The gorgeous, red-furred creature stuck his nose up into the air and took a few sniffs. The fox crossed the meadow in front of him. Blane was instinctively drawn to the fox. The creature stopped on the edge of the meadow and began cleaning himself. Blane was completely enraptured by the fox. The fox spied Blane; the animal look the man deep in his eyes. Entranced, Blane watched the fox with pure love.
Blane was about to get up from where he’d been sitting when the rabbit bit Blane hard on the leg. Blane shouted with pain and looked down at the rabbit. The animal in his lap seemed to be pointing. Blane looked up to see that the fox’s was reaching out toward them with his mouth open. Blane gasped and jerked back, just in time to save the rabbit.
A battered mountain lion sprang out of the forest after the fox. The mountain lion roared and gnashed his teeth in the direction of the fox. Before Blane could even respond, the mountain lion had chased the fox across the meadow and back into the dark woods. Blane and the bunny panted with relief.
When the mountain lion returned, Blane stiffened, but the rabbit in his lap didn’t seem frightened. The mountain lion strode across the meadow to where Blane and his rabbit were sitting. The rabbit stood up on his haunches and the mountain lion licked the side of the rabbit’s face. Blane gawked at the mountain lion.
The mountain lion gave Blane the “I’ve got this” grin that Jacob often gave and Blane laughed out loud. An enormous crow appeared and cawed in such a way that the entire meadow shook. The fox had reappeared at the edge of the meadow. With a laugh on the wind, the mountain lion was racing across the meadow. The crow met him in the middle of the field and they took off after the fox.
Blane could not blame the fox for being a fox any more than he could blame Enrique for being himself.
Blane couldn’t blame himself for translating his fear and trauma into shame and self-loathing. That’s was his dream, his insanity.
Across the meadow, he saw the mountain lion laugh at him for a moment before running straight at Blane. The rabbit in Blane’s lap didn’t move. Instead, the rabbit looked up at Blane as if to say, “Watch this.” The mountain lion ran full speed at Blane. About a foot from where Blane was sitting, the mountain lion smacked into a barrier. With a scream of pain, the mountain lion fell onto his back in the meadow. He ran at the barrier again.
“Isn’t that good?” Blane asked.
The more the mountain lion ran into the barrier, the more beat up the mountain lion became until Blane was weeping with empathy for the mountain lion.
“Stop!” Blane yelled. “Please stop! I’ll do anything! Please stop!”
The rabbit looked up at Blane with a smile. Before Blane could react, the rabbit had climbed up Blane’s arms and was standing on his head. The rabbit scratched around the top of Blane’s head until the rabbit jumped down onto Blane’s lap. The bunny was holding a black object with what looked like black smoke swirling around it. Without saying another word, the rabbit hopped to the mountain lion. The mountain lion bent down and the rabbit hopped onto his back. As he watched, the mountain lion, with the enormous crow flying overhead, trotted out of the meadow.
Blane felt this deep sense of relief and awe.
“Shame and self-loathing keep people from loving you,” an elderly woman said.
Blane looked up to see the grandmother was standing next to him in the meadow.
“No creature can get past it,” the grandmother said. “It may feel like it keeps you safe, but the only true thing that keeps you safe is love. This creates the strong bonds between you and others.”
“It does?” Blane asked.
“The truth is that the only way was stay safe is to forge deep bonds of love with other human beings. No one can help to keep you safe if you insist on living within your own self-loathing.”
Blane was so stunned by her words that he gawked at the woman.
“What do I do?” Blane asked.
“Sleep now,” the grandmother said.
As if by magic, Blane was sitting on the deck outside the medical offices. Jacob was lying on a cot before him and the shamans were working. He could tell by the light that it was four or five in the morning.
“You’ll know what to do when the time is right,” the grandmother said. “It will be your turn to use your love to defend him.”
“My turn?” Blane asked. “What do I need to do?”
“You’ll know,” the grandmother said with a nod. She disappeared for a moment and returned with a cup. He gave her a questioning look and she smiled.
“Water,” the grandmother said. “Drink deep.”
Blane was suddenly very thirsty. He drank the water and took the next cup of water without questioning. The grandmother smiled at him.
“Sleep,” the grandmother said. “It’s what you need and what he needs. You’ll be called to action soon enough.”
Blane was asleep before she finished her sentence.
Jacob awoke with a start.
“Blane?” he asked out loud.
He had a terrible feeling in his gut. It was exactly how he’d felt when he’d seen Blane in the bushes at Cheesman or the day he’d turned down Blane’s street and saw Blane standing on the grass with his possessions around him.
“Blane?” Jacob’s voice rose with anxiety.
The cabin was dark, darker than he’d ever seen it. The glow from the coals of the fire were the only light.
“Sarah?” Jacob asked.
He patted the bed for the dog. Somehow, he had lost her. He felt the loss like a dagger through his heart. He stumbled out of bed and went to the bathroom. Pulling on his jeans and a long sleeved T-shirt, he went to the fire. It took a few moments, but he was able to revive the fire. He filled the kettle and settled into the rocking chair.
His mind kept going back to Blane.
Rather than fight it, Jacob allowed himself to remember. A couple of years ago, just after he had had Mack, Blane had asked Jacob how he’d happened to come to Cheesman Park that day when they were eight years old. Not wanting to lie, and yet, not sure of the truth, Jacob had simply said that Blane was a lucky son-of-a-bitch. Blane had laughed. To Jacob’s relief, Blane had let it go.
Jacob had no idea why he’d gone to Cheesman Park that day. When he left his parents tiny Mayfair bungalow, he’d planned to take the bus to the scooter shop. He had his helmet with him. He was wearing his thickest sweater and his warmest rain jacket. He was going to buy the red scooter and ride the scooter home. He’d even called the day before to make sure the scooter was ready to go.
His dad had helped Jacob figure out which bus to take to the scooter shop on Lincoln Street and Seventh Avenue. He’d have to walk over to Ninth Avenue, but he could take the Ten all the way to Lincoln Street. He’d only have to walk a few blocks to the scooter store. As his father had said, “Those blocks would be the last he’d ever had to walk.” Confident and excited, Jacob had been in such a rush that he’d forgotten his lunch. Waiting at the bus, he wondered if he should go back for his lunch. Of course, in less than an hour, he would be the proud owner of a red scooter! He could easily ride his new red scooter home for his lunch. The bus pulled up and Jacob got on. He showed the bus driver his free bus pass and sat in the back.
“This is the last bus ride I’ll ever take,” Jacob thought with a smile. Sitting next to the window, he paid no attention to the people who got on and off the bus around him. He watched the city transition from old military housing to even older historic homes. Cheesman Park was experiencing a revival and most of the big houses had construction dumpsters in front of them. The bus pulled to a stop by the park and Jacob got off.
Just like that.
He hadn’t thought about it or planned it or felt called to do it. He’d had this funny feeling in his stomach all day. If he’d thought anything, he’d thought that a walk in the park would ease his stomach. But that was dumb, he had three dogs he’d taken for a walk just a few hours ago and that hadn’t helped his stomach. Of course, the moment he’d stepped off the bus, he realized he’d done the wrong thing.
Feeling stupid, Jacob had checked the bus schedules his father had made him take with him. The Colfax bus left in ten minutes. He started across Cheesman Park toward Franklin Street. He’d catch the bus on Colfax and still get the scooter and have time to ride home for his lunch. But only if he walked fast. He was almost to Franklin Street when he stopped short.
Something was very, very wrong.
Jacob checked himself to make sure that he wasn’t bleeding. Seeing that he wasn’t bleeding, Jacob started looking around for what might be wrong. He followed the blood trail to the boy in the bushes.
“Why did you help me?” Blane had asked Jacob that question since they were kids.
The truth was that Jacob had no idea why he’d helped Blane.
One thing was sure, he was never sorry that he had. He’d gotten Blane to Denver Health and Blane was rushed into emergency surgery. One of the ER nurses had given Blane’s clothing to Jacob. Seeing that Blane’s clothing was filthy, Jacob had found a laundromat and washed Blane’s clothing. When Blane told the story, he always made a big deal of Jacob washing his clothes, but it was really no big deal. Jacob spent most Sunday mornings at the laundromat washing his family’s laundry. Jacob had given the clothes back to the hospital for Blane and left for home.
When all was said and done, he had just enough money to take the Colfax bus back to his parent’s house in the Mayfair.
Shaking his head at the memory, Jacob got up to make his tea. He had no idea why he was remembering this, of all things, here, in the dark of his protected home.
Jacob had always felt connected to Blane. Like Jacob knew exactly where to find Blane when everyone was calling Jacob a “Fag.”
He’d also known when Enrique had betrayed Blane for the final time. Jacob wasn’t sure how he knew, he just felt this diarrhea feeling in this stomach and knew Blane was in trouble. He’d told himself that he would just drive by Blane’s house to make sure everything was all right. Once there, he saw the mess and Blane standing on the lawn staring at the house. The rest was pretty self-explanatory.
When it came to Blane, he had no idea why he felt so connected to the man. He just knew that he’d never once been sorry that he’d helped Blane.
Not that Blane had ever believed him.
Blane’s self-loathing always took Jacob’s breath away. They would be hanging out and wham! Blane was caught in his shame and self-loathing. Jacob never felt more helpless than when that happened.
He wanted to shake Blane. He had shaken Blane. He’d tried yelling at him, hugging him, offering solutions, refuting Blane’s self-loathing point-by-point. He’d tried everything he could think of and nothing had ever cracked the shell of hatred Blane felt around himself.
Blane was an amazing at everything he tried. He’d been the youngest Chef in Denver. He was an amazing assistant to Jacob. There was no way Jacob would have been able to sell the company to the employees without Blane’s ideas and assistance. Blane was even a fantastic acupuncturist. Blane had already been flown around the world to treat famous ballerinas and injured military people.
None of this mattered. Blane hated himself.
Taking his tea to a spot by the fire, Jacob sat down cross legged on a hand woven rug and tried to send Blane love. He inhaled air and exhaled love toward Blane. In his mind’s eye, Jacob saw the love deflected off Blane’s shell of self-loathing. Jacob sighed. He wasn’t sure why he’d bothered. He’d seen Mack and even their baby, Wyn, try to love Blane. Blane could see the love but never let it inside himself. Jacob had seen Mack cry to his mother over it more than once.
Jacob snorted. Only Blane could be married to the Goddess of Love and still be surrounded by a shell of self-loathing. Shaking his head, Jacob took off his clothing and went back to bed.
He lay in bed for long while before sleep caught him. When he was finally able to sleep, he was almost immediately caught in a complicated and dangerous dream. Jacob was wearing the armor he’d been given by Fin. He was carrying a sharp broadsword and a heavy shield. People were dying around him. At his right side was a magnificent mountain lion. On his shoulder sat the most beautiful Colorado Mountain Rabbit he’d ever seen. Above his head, flew a powerful crow the color of the deepest black.
Jacob continued forward until he reached the creature they were fighting. The evil thing had destroyed the stronger, better man who lay dead on the field. He squinted to see this force clearly.
It was dark — either grey or black depending on how you looked at it. A vicious wind created a vortex around the force. The wind seemed to lift the men and women in front of it. The wind spun the people around and around until it tossed them out. Once released from the depths of darkness, the men, women, and children around him impaled themselves on their own swords.
The force didn’t bother to kill them outright. It didn’t have to. A spin around this deceptive darkness was enough to cause these people to destroy themselves. Jacob squinted at the vortex. Shaking his head, he was about to walk away when the rabbit bit him on the shoulder.
“Ow,” Jacob said.
He looked at the rabbit and it was pointing. He looked up to see that Blane was spinning around the thing.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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