On Tuesday night, Adam and I had enjoyed a wonderfully romantic evening, despite having to lay on the damp ground behind the tennis courts in order to have any intimate time together. We had made love, albeit without intercourse. I was starting to wonder if Adam was reluctant to take our physical relationship to the next level. Nonetheless, we had amazing and simultaneous orgasms that seemed to cement the bond that was developing between us. We had said 'I love you' to each other for the first time, and Adam sang a love song to me. At the end of the evening, we couldn't help but to go behind Pilgrim Hall to steal a few last kisses before saying goodnight.
Those kisses turned out to be a big mistake. On Wednesday morning, I found out from Tom that there was a rumor about some guys making out behind the dorm. I wasn't sure if anyone had recognized Adam and me, but I was concerned that Mitch might figure things out. He knew I had gone out with Adam, and he looked suspicious when I came back to the room deliriously happy. Mitch was smart enough to put the rumors and my behavior together. From there, it would be easy for Mitch to suspect that Adam and I were more than just friends. I had to find Adam and let him know what I had heard.
I knew Adam had an Art class that ran until 4:00 p.m. that day. I waited for him outside of the classroom. But when the class ended, and students came out of the room, Adam was nowhere in sight. So, I decided to go to his room in Wesley Hall. I knocked on his door, but there was no answer.
I started to worry about Adam later that evening when he didn't stop by my room. And, when I didn't see him next day, I became very concerned. I went back to Wesley Hall after dinner that night. Again, he didn't answer his door. As I was going down the stairs to leave the building, I saw Sean coming up. I was so worried that I decided to risk speaking to him.
"Sean," I said. "Have you seen Adam?"
"Do you really think I'd help you find Adam, you little piece of ass-wipe!" Sean said.
I glared at him. "Look, I know you hate me, and I'm sorry about that. But, I'm worried about Adam. Have you seen him in the last few days?"
I was surprised when Sean's attitude seemed to change. "Now that you mention it," he said. "I haven't seen him. Maybe he's been working late at the art studio. Sometimes, he gets tied up on a project and can't focus on anything else."
"I hope that's it. But, I went to Adam's art class to look for him. He wasn't there," I said.
Sean looked concerned. "I'll talk to the guys on the floor and see if they know anything."
"Will you let me know if you hear something?" I asked.
I had pushed the limits of Sean's willingness to help me, despite the fact that we were both concerned about Adam.
"Hell, no!" Sean said. "You're still at the top of my shit list – at least until I even up our score."
"Fine," I said. "Just as long as you ask around about Adam."
I started down the stairs again. "If I see him," Sean called. "I'll tell him his trophy-stealing stalker was looking for him."
I turned around and looked at Sean. "Thanks," I said.
I checked the art studio and every place on campus I could think of. When I still hadn't seen Adam by Friday afternoon, I started to panic. And, I had an uncomfortable suspicion that his disappearance might be related to his bipolar condition. I went to the library to learn more about the disorder. The descriptions of the symptoms and behaviors that I read scared me. I had to find Adam and make sure he was okay.
I wracked my brain trying to figure out where Adam might have gone. I decided the most likely places would be his parents' house or the cabin. I didn't want to contact his parents unless absolutely necessary. Adam might be angry if I stuck my nose in his business and called his family. But, I decided that if he wasn't at the cabin, I was calling his parents – or telling the school – or calling the police.
I had no way to get to the cabin, and I had not seen a telephone when I was there. I decided to call Erma. I was pretty sure that if he were at the cabin, Adam would have stopped by the restaurant to eat.
Erma answered the phone when I called. "Erma," I said. "This is Joel Young from Oberlin University. I had breakfast at your restaurant recently - with Adam Criss."
"You the picky eater?" she asked in an accusatory tone.
"Yes Ma'am," I answered. "But, I really wasn't trying to be picky. The food you made was fantastic! I just fill up fast, that's all."
"Humph," Erma snorted. "Why you calling, Boy? You don't think we deliver, do ya?"
"No," I said. "I was wondering if you've seen Adam."
"What'cha checking up on Adam for?" Erma snapped. "Adam ain't none of your business. If he wanted you to know where he was, he'd tell ya."
In a way, Erma was correct. I had no right to stick my nose in Adam's business. Still, I was too worried to give up on finding him. I decided to press my luck.
"I know you're right, Erma," I said. "This may be none of my business. It's just that Adam is my best friend, and I'm worried about him. No one on campus has seen him for days."
Erma paused before saying, "He's fine. Now, leave him alone."
I knew I would get no more information from Erma, so I didn't push her anymore. I thanked her, and the call ended when she abruptly said she had to get back to work.
I figured that if Erma knew that Adam was okay, then she probably had seen him. That meant he was most likely at the cabin. Even so, I was still very worried about him. I decided that Erma's order to 'leave him alone' wouldn't stop me from trying to talk with Adam. But, how was I going to do that? How could I get to the cabin? I didn't have my car at school.
A little voice in my head said, "You could hitch-hike."
I had never hitch-hiked before – nor had I even thought of doing so. But, it wasn't unheard of for college students to thumb a ride if they didn't have other means of transportation. Still, the prospect of standing out on the freeway waiting for a stranger to pick me up was scary. I wasn't even sure I had the nerve to try it. Then, I thought about Adam alone at the cabin – possibly suffering in a depressed or a manic state of mind.
"Adam needs me," I thought to myself. "I'm going – any way that I can!"
I stuffed a few things in my backpack. I walked to the freeway as quickly as I could – before I lost my nerve. It took me about 20 minutes to reach the southbound entrance. I walked down the ramp. A few cars passed me while they picked up speed and then merged into the freeway traffic.
There was a lot of traffic that day. I walked to a spot a few hundred feet past the on-ramp. I stopped, turned toward the on-coming traffic, and I stuck out my thumb.
I felt very much alone out there on the freeway. Cars sped past me, ignoring my need for a ride. It was late afternoon, and it would be dusk soon. Suddenly, it dawned on me that drivers would be less likely to pick me up once it was dark. I imagined myself being stuck out on the freeway all night.
After about twenty minutes of trying to catch a ride, I noticed that some people in passing cars were trying to get my attention. They were all pointing their fingers toward the south. I didn't know what was going on until I turned around and saw that a car had pulled over and stopped. I was pretty sure that I was being offered a ride.
As I walked toward the stopped car, I hesitated briefly. What if the guy was a murderer? Or a rapist? I remembered my parents sternly warning me never to get into a car with a stranger. But, at this point, it seemed that I had little choice but to take the risk.
I approached the car and looked at the driver. He was an older man – maybe in his late 50's. He rolled down the window. "Where you headed?" he asked.
"Brewer, Kentucky," I said. "Exit 133."
"I'm not going that far," the man said. "But I can get you to Exit 130. You'll be within ten miles or so."
"That'd be great," I said. The man told me to get in the car as he cleared off the passenger seat.
I got in and looked around for a seat belt. There wasn't one. The car was filthy. Empty fast food containers were strewn all over the back seat. The ashtray was overflowing with cigarette butts. The car looked like no one had cleaned it in ages, and it smelled. But, I remembered the old saying, 'Beggars can't be choosers.' So, I tried to ignore all the mess.
"I'm Joel," I said. "Thanks for picking me up."
"You got no business hitch-hiking out here on the freeway, Joel," the man said. "Your parents know what you're doing?"
"No, Sir," I answered.
"Hitch-hiking is risky business," he said. "It's risky for you, and it's risky for me. How do I know you won't try something?"
"Sir, I promise," I replied. "I'm not going to try anything. I just need a ride."
"Well, let's get one thing straight," the man said. "If you try something, I'll just step on the gas and run right into the guard rail. At least that way, I'll take you out with me when the car flips over and kills us."
"Yes, Sir," I said. "I understand. There'll be no need for anything like that."
The man turned on the radio. He drove without saying a word while chain-smoking. When we finally got to Exit 130 in Kentucky, he pulled onto the shoulder of the freeway and said, "Time to get out." I thanked him again for the ride, and I got out of the car.
I was glad to get away from the smoke and the mess in the man's car – at first. Then, I realized I was back out on the freeway - by myself. But, what could I do? I stuck out my thumb and prayed to God to keep me safe. The voice in my head – the one that always tries to get me to do the right thing – chastised me. "You're trying to go see your gay lover, and you're hoping to have sex with him again. What you're doing is an abomination! God's not going to help you while you're planning to commit a sin!"
I tried to put thoughts like that out of my mind.
A few minutes later, a car slowed down and pulled over to the side of the freeway. I saw three young guys inside. Two were in the front seat of the car; one was sitting in the back seat behind the driver.
"Get in the back," the driver yelled as I reached the car. I got in. I noticed empty beer cans on the floor of the back seat. "Where you going?" he asked.
"Brewer," I answered. I'm trying to get to Exit 133."
"Well, you're in luck. That's where we're getting off," the driver said. "What part of town you going to?"
"Bang's Lake Road," I said. "Do you know where that is?"
"Yeah," he said. "It's a mile or so out of our way, but I'll take you there."
"That would be great!" I told him. "I'd really appreciate it. By the way, I'm Joel."
The driver introduced himself and his friends. He was Billy. The guy in the passenger's seat was Buddy, and the guy in the back seat with me was Darryl. Billy drove the car back onto the freeway.
Then, Darryl asked me, "Do you want to play with my bat?"
I had no idea what Darryl was asking me, but it didn't sound good. Then, I froze with fear. Was 'bat' the name he had given to a private part of his anatomy?!? Was he boasting that he was as big as a baseball bat? Was he asking me to 'play' with his giant dick?
I said nothing, but I was sure my face showed that I was scared.
Darryl gave me a wicked smile, and he reached for a grocery bag that was on the floor of the car. He opened it up and took out what looked like a mason jar with holes punched in the lid. There was a real, live bat inside.
"I'll take him out for you," Darryl said. "The little guy doesn't bite - very often." He started to open the jar.
"Damn it, Darryl," Billy yelled. "Put that vampire rodent away. You know I hate that thing!"
Darryl tightened the lid of the jar and put it back in the bag. "I just thought he might be interested in it, that's all," he said.
I relaxed a little after Darryl put the bat away. And, I was glad that my ride with these guys was only going to be about ten or fifteen minutes.
Billy turned off the freeway at Exit 133, and he drove to Bang's Lake Road. He pulled off to the side. "This is it. You know the way from here?" he asked.
"Yeah," I said. "I'm fine." I started to get out of the car. "Thanks for the ride, Man. I really appreciate it."
I barely had my feet on the ground when Billy stopped me and said, "I don't suppose you've got a few extra bucks - to help out with the gas."
His request surprised me, but it sounded reasonable. After all, he had gone out of his way for me. I stood up and took my wallet out of the back pocket of my jeans to get some money. Just then, Darryl reached out and grabbed my wallet out of my hand. Billy stepped on the gas, and they drove off. The back door of their car slammed shut from the force of the car speeding away.
I stood on the side of the dark highway, and I was in shock. I had never been robbed before, and it took me completely by surprise. What had just happened began to sink in, and I felt myself becoming angry. "God damn it!" I hollered. "Now what am I going to do? Shit!" The three guys had not only taken all of my money, but my driver's license and school I.D. were gone – not to mention pictures of David and Komiko. "Fuck!!!"
I looked up the narrow road that led to the cabin. It was completely dark, and it scared me. But, I had no other choice than to walk toward the lake. I desperately wanted to find Adam, and I needed to feel safe in his arms again.
As I recalled, it was a long road. Actually, it was more like a wide path than a road. It would be a hike to the cabin. I considered the possibility that the guys who had robbed me might come back looking for me. I decided that I would hide in the thick growth of long grass and weeds growing on either side of the road if I heard the sounds of a car approaching. But, I was afraid of what I might find, or what might find me, in the densely wooded area.
I found myself thinking of 'The Wizard of Oz' movie as I walked in the dark. I didn't really believe that 'lions and tigers and bears' lived in the forests of Kentucky. But 'foxes and rodents and snakes' seemed very possible.
Then, I had another scary thought. What if Adam wasn't at the cabin? What would I do? Break in and spend the night? Try to hitch-hike back to campus? I regretted that I had acted without thinking through all the possible consequences of hitchhiking to the cabin to look for Adam.
I trudged along the road, hoping to see any sign of the cabin. It took almost 15 minutes before I saw it off in the distance. I was tremendously relieved when I saw a light coming from one of the windows.
I picked up my pace, and I walked as fast as I could. I was desperate to get off of the spooky road leading down to the lake. When I finally reached the cabin, I was out of breath. I knocked on the door, and I heard someone moving around inside.
I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I heard Adam's voice.
"Who's there?" he asked. It sounded like he was a little scared by someone knocking on his door at that time of night.
"Adam," I said. "It's Joel."
I stood there waiting for Adam to open the door. It didn't take long for me to realize that he wasn't responding.
"Adam, please, let me in," I pleaded.
"What the hell are you doing here, Joel?" he said. "Go away!"
His words pierced straight through my heart, and I got a sinking feeling in my stomach. I couldn't believe that Adam was turning me away. I stood on his porch, not knowing what to do.
"Joel," Adam said again. "Get back in your car and leave. I want to be alone."
My voice cracked as I said, "I don't have a car. I hitch-hiked."
After several long moments, I heard Adam unlock the door. When I saw him, I was shocked. He looked terrible – tense, unshaven, and with dark circles under his eyes. He appeared angry. We stared at each other. Finally, I saw the expression on his face soften. "Come in," he said.
I came in and sat down. The last time I had been in the living room of Adam's cabin, I was so happy. I had felt welcome. Now, I felt like an intruder.
"You shouldn't be here, Joel," Adam said as he sat across the room from me. "And you sure as hell shouldn't have hitch-hiked! That was just plain stupid!"
I felt like I should apologize. I wanted Adam to know that I only came because I was worried about him. I almost couldn't help but tell him how much I loved him. But, something told me it was not the time to say any of those things.
"If you let me stay tonight, I'll leave in the morning," I said.
"And just how will you get back to Oberlin?" Adam asked. He sounded quite irritated. "If you try to hitch-hike back to school and get yourself killed, I'll have that haunting me for the rest of my life!"
I tried to make a joke. "Well, there is that to consider," I said. "But, if I were murdered, I could haunt you until you were completely sick of me. Then, I'd follow 'the bright light to the great beyond' and leave you alone. That way, you could go on with your life and be glad I was gone."
My joke went over like the proverbial lead balloon.
"Okay. Okay," I said. "I saw a bus station in Brewer. I'll buy a ticket back to Oberlin."
I decided I would wait to explain that my wallet had been stolen and I'd need a loan.
Adam looked exasperated. "Fine," he said. "You can sleep in my brother's room tonight. I'll drive you to the bus station in the morning. Come on."
He got up from his chair, and I followed him down the hall to one of the small bedrooms. "You can sleep in there. I'm going to my room," Adam said. He walked up the hallway to the master bedroom without even saying goodnight.
I had not packed my pajamas; I had hoped I wouldn't need them. So, I decided to sleep in my underwear. I quietly went to the main bathroom to get ready for bed. When I finished up, I went back to the room. I closed the door, turned off the light, and crawled under the covers of the twin-sized bed. I lay there, alone, with just my thoughts.
I really didn't believe I had done anything so wrong that it would cause such a huge change in Adam's attitude toward me. Well, unless coming to his cabin uninvited was truly a blatant invasion of his privacy. More likely, I thought, Adam was depressed and felt the need to escape the pressures of campus life.
It took me a quite a while before I relaxed enough to sleep.
I don't know how long I had been asleep when I heard the bedroom door open. It was still very dark. I was facing away from the door, and I didn't move. Then, I heard Adam's voice.
"Joel?" he asked. "Can we talk? I know it's the middle of the night, but …"
"It's okay, Adam," I said. "I want to talk to you, too. Let's go to the living room."
"Can't I just get in bed with you?" he asked. "I took a shower and cleaned up."
I turned over and lifted the covers up for him. "Get in here," I said.
Two guys in one twin bed left no extra room. We pressed against each other, if for no other reason than to avoid one of us falling off onto the floor. Wrapping our arms around each other may have been for safety, but it felt natural - and comforting.
"I'm sorry I was so mean," Adam said.
"I'm sorry I came here uninvited," I told him. "If you need time alone, I should respect that."
"Why did you come?" he asked.
"I was worried about you!" I said. "I really do love you, Adam. And when you just disappeared, I was scared."
"How'd you know I was here?" he asked.
"I didn't know for sure, but … I called Erma. She wouldn't tell me anything – except that you were okay. That made me pretty sure you were here at the cabin. Why did you leave school and come here by yourself?"
"I don't want to tell you," Adam said. He sounded so sad. I just held him tight and said nothing.
Adam started to cry softly, and I continued to hold him. When he regained some of his composure, he said, "I stopped taking my medications."
"Why? I asked.
Adam kept his head down, and he wouldn't look at me. "I hate being dependent on those awful drugs! And I really thought I'd be okay without them. I was doing so well. But, I realized I was sliding back into a bad depression. I didn't want you to see me like that. So, I started back on my pills. It usually takes a few days for them to work, so I came here to wait it out."
There was so much I wanted to say to Adam. But, I decided to keep things simple. "Adam," I said. "I am totally in love with you. And, I want to be with you. But if you need time alone, it's okay. But please let me – or someone – know where you're going. And there's just one more thing. Please don't ever go off your medicine without talking to your doctor first."
Adam looked at me and said, "That's good advice, Joel. I hope I take it."
"You'd better!" I said.
"Can I give you some advice?" he asked.
"Of course, oh wise one," I teased.
He gave me a devilish smile. "I really think you shouldn't wear underwear when we're in bed together."
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