Feeling Comfortable in My Own Skin

Symptoms

We had just finished our midterms and both Aiden and I felt we’d done fairly well.  Of course it turned out that Aiden got an A+ on his psych midterm, but I managed to get an A-, so I was extremely pleased with my grade.  I don’t think I could have ever done so well without his help. 

As we moved into October, the weather started to turn colder, and when it did people began getting sick.  It seemed as if everyone was coughing, blowing their noses or sneezing.  In fact, one day we were sitting in psych class before Dr. Swift arrived and the girl sitting behind Aiden sneezed on him.  He turned and glared at her, extremely annoyed by what she'd done. 

“I’m so sorry.  I was digging in my purse for a tissue and just didn’t get to it in time,” she apologized, although I think Aiden was still more than a little pissed.

Then later, at the dorm, we were walking by this guy and he began coughing, but he only partially covered his mouth.  Again, it was Aiden who was closest to him and took the brunt of the unchecked germ warfare. 

“Damn.  Weren’t these people ever taught simple hygiene and courtesy at home,” he commented, after we were a few steps farther down the hall.  "This is exactly how diseases get spread."

That comment turned out to be very prophetic.  A couple of days later, Aiden woke up and wasn't feeling very well. 

"What's wrong?" I asked, concerned. 

“I just feel like I’m coming down with something,” he answered.  “I think I might have caught this from one of those people who coughed or sneezed on me.  I think I’ll just spend the day in bed and doctor up."

“Do you want me to stay here too and take care of you?” I asked, concerned. 

I really didn’t want to leave him alone if he wasn’t feeling well, but he insisted he would be fine.  I wasn’t convinced, but he reiterated that I didn't need to worry about him. 

“No, you go to your classes,” he urged.  “There’s no sense in both of us falling behind."

I was tempted not to listen to him and stay anyway, but he kept insisting I go.  I didn’t want to fight with him, so I finally gave in and left him there. 

It wasn’t exactly easy to walk away, but it was even harder not to worry about him.  He was on my mind all day long and I found it hard to concentrate in any of my classes, since I was so concerned.   When my last class ended, I hurried back to the dorm so I could see how he was doing.  He appeared to be asleep when I walked in, so I went over to take a closer look and see how he was doing.  He looked awful, so I thought I’d better wake him to make sure he was all right. 

"Aiden, are you ok?  Wake up!  Please wake up!" I called to him.  Slowly his eyes began to open. 

"Are you all right?" I repeated, as I looked as his pale, sweaty face. 

"Not really.  I don't feel very well," he moaned. 

"Tell me what's wrong?" I urged, starting to panic. 

"I'm really tired and have a really bad headache," he told me, in barely more than a whisper. 

“Let me get you some water and something for your headache then,” I stated. 

I immediately began rummaging through my desk for the bottle of acetaminophen.  After I found it, I went over and retrieved a bottle of water from our little fridge and made Aiden take the pills. 

"Anything else bothering you besides the headache?" I continued. 

“Well, my back, arms and legs are all a little sore, like I’ve been working out for hours, and I feel extremely tired and hot," he added. 

Hearing him say this, I reached out and touched his forehead.  He wasn't just hot - he was burning up!  I began to panic even more. 

“Come on.  I’m getting you over to the infirmary right now,” I insisted, quite forcefully. 

“That’s a pretty long walk and I’m not sure I can make it feeling like this," Aiden countered. 

"Then I'm going to call an ambulance," I shouted, nearly hysterical.  I knew I needed to make him see a doctor, no matter what I had to do to get him there. 

“No, don’t do that,” he groaned.  “Just give me a few minutes and then you can help me walk there."  I knew that wasn’t going to happen, so I ran out into the corridor of our residence hall. 

"Does anyone here have a car?" I screamed, but there was no response. 

"Please, does anyone have a car?" I yelled again, my frustration growing.  Finally, the R.A. stepped out of his room. 

"I do.  Why?" he wanted to know. 

“My roommate is sick and I need to take him to the infirmary,” I explained.  “The problem is that he’s too weak to walk and I have no other way to get him there.  Will you drive us?"  The R.A. didn’t look thrilled about the prospect, but since he was in charge of the residence hall, he agreed. 

“I’ll go get my car and meet you at the front entrance,” he told me.  "Get him down there as soon as you can." 

I thanked him and then went back into our room.  I had to assist Aiden with getting dressed and then I helped him into his jacket and stocking cap.  Once he was dressed appropriately to go outside, I helped support his weight as we walked to the elevator and took it down to the main floor.  When the elevator door opened, I walked him toward the main entrance and noticed the R.A. was coming toward us.  He had already parked his car in front of the dorm and was ready to hold the door to the building open for us.  Once we were outside, he raced ahead and opened the rear door of his car. 

"Put him in here and let's get going," he ordered, as he held the door open for us.  As we were getting inside, he ran around to the other side and got in the driver’s seat.  Once we were all inside and had shut the doors, he sped over to the infirmary. 

The people at the front desk didn’t even make us wait and led Aiden and I directly into an examination room.  Since they’d done that, I figured Aiden must have looked really bad to them too.  Once we were in the examination room, a lady came in and took down all of his information, and then a young doctor strolled in a short time after she left. 

"What difficulties are you experiencing?" he asked, as he placed his hand on Aiden's forehead. 

Aiden didn’t immediately answer, so I rattled off everything Aiden had told me after I came back to the room.  The doctor immediately began taking his temperature, as he looked at me and spoke again.  "Is there anything else?"

"Not that I know of," I replied.  Just then Aiden removed the thermometer from his mouth and spoke. 

“I had diarrhea when I went to the toilet earlier,” Aiden admitted, and then he put the thermometer back under his tongue. 

I didn’t know this bit of information and wondered why Aiden had kept it from me.  I turned and looked at the doctor, so I could explain. 

"I'm sorry, but he didn't tell me that before," I offered, sounding lame. 

“That’s fine,” the doctor responded, “as long as I know everything he's experiencing. 

After another minute, the doctor removed the thermometer from Aiden's mouth and noted the temperature. 

“You have a fever of a 103-degrees, which is quite high,” he informed Aiden.  “It appears as if you have the flu.  Even though it’s kind of early in the season, there seems to be a lot of that going around campus already."

"What are you going to do for him?" I asked. 

“I’d like to put him on some anti-viral meds, but we don’t have any here,” he explained.  “I used the last of our supply earlier, on another student.  Since we don’t have another option, I’m going to have your friend transferred to the hospital, especially with his fever being as high as it is.  Do you wish to accompany him?” he asked, while looking at me. 

"Absolutely," I confirmed.  There was no way I was going to let Aiden go through this alone. 

“I’ll have an ambulance take you both to the hospital then, but I want you to put this mask on for now,” the doctor advised me.  “It may already be to late for it to do any good, but I still want you to use it, just in case it isn't."

I didn’t argue with him and put the mask on.  Before long, the ambulance arrived and the paramedics came in and placed Aiden on a stretcher.  They then wheeled him outside and I followed.  One of the paramedics rode in the back with Aiden, so the other guy told me to hop in the front passenger’s seat and buckle up.  The driver then turned on the flashing lights, but didn’t use the siren, as he drove us to the hospital. 

Once Aiden had been taken inside, I gave the people there as much information about him as I could, but then the nurse made me go out and sit in the waiting room while the doctor checked him over.  She said that since I was only his roommate and not a relative, I couldn’t be in with him while he was being treated. 

"He's also my boyfriend," I admitted, shocking even myself.  I’d never said that out loud before, at least not to anyone other than Aiden and Gavin. 

“That may be,” the nurse stated, “but I still can’t let you stay in here with him.  I was frustrating and angry, but I controlled myself. 

“Will you at least come out and update me about his condition then?” I asked, trying to sound pathetic. 

“I’m not supposed to share patient information with anyone except for close relatives," she began.  This news infuriated me and I think she could tell I was upset.  As I got ready to argue with her about this, she began to speak. 

“Since you brought him in and claim to be his boyfriend, I’ll bend the rules a little this time,” she relented.  “You go out in the waiting room and I’ll come out to see you as soon as I have any word on his condition."

After hearing her make this concession, I immediately began to calm down and thanked her for doing this for me.  I must have sat in the waiting room for 40 or 50 minutes before she came out again.  When I saw her, I jumped up and moved in her direction. 

“We’ve started him on an anti-viral medication,” she began, “but we’ve also hooked him up to an IV, because he was also pretty dehydrated.  We’re also trying to bring his temperature down and are monitoring him for any sign that he might be coming down with pneumonia." 

"When can I see him?" I wanted to know. 

“He’s pretty sick, so we’re going to hold him down here until he’s stabilized,” she told me.  “Then he’ll probably be transferred to a room and will have to stay there for a couple of days."

"But when will I be able to see him?" I pressed, exasperated. 

"Probably not until he's been moved," she replied. 

"And when will that happened," i continued, since she wasn't immediately forthcoming. 

“At the earliest, a few hours,” she answered.  “So, why don’t you go back to your dorm and get some rest.  You won’t do him any good here."

"But I don't want to leave him alone," I whined, knowing I was beginning to sound like a bratty child. 

“He won’t be alone and we’ll have someone monitoring him the entire time,” she informed me.  “Since you won’t be allowed in with him, it will probably be best for both of you if you don’t run yourself down and end up getting sick too.  You certainly won’t do him any good if that happens."  I had to admit she made a valid point. 

"He's going to be all right though, isn't he?" I pressed, seeking assurance. 

“He should be fine, unless unforeseen complications set in, but I don’t expect anything like that will happen,” she told me.  “This is the best place for him to be if that does occur though, so go back to your dorm room and get some rest." 

"Ok, but I'll be back," I told her, since I didn't want to look like I was backing down completely. 

“All right, Mr. Schwarzenegger,” she quipped, about my ‘I’ll be back’ comment.  "Just wait a few hours before you do that."  She smiled and then turned around and started walking away. 

I had a fairly long walk ahead of me in order to get back to the dorm.  Since I had no other option, because I didn’t have enough money to take a cab, I zipped up my coat and pulled my stocking cap down over my ears, before putting on my gloves.  My only thoughts were about Aiden the entire time I was walking. 

‘Come on.  The flu can be treated now,’ I thought to myself.  ‘It no longer kills thousands of people each year, like it did a hundred years ago.' 

Even though I kept telling myself this, it didn’t make me feel any better.  However, I kept going until I finally reached the residence hall and went inside.  I spotted the R.A. sitting in the hallway the moment I walked in. 

"I've been waiting for you," he said.  "How's your friend?" 

“He’s in the hospital right now,” I told him.  “They say he’s got the flu."

“I’m glad I got a flu shot a few weeks ago then,” he replied, looking relieved.  “Look, just let me know if you need a ride there or anything.  I'll do what I can to help." 

“Thank you, but that isn’t part of your duties as R.A.,” I stated, puzzled. 

“I know, but I have a brother who’s gay and, well, I kind of have a soft spot in my heart for the two of you now," he admitted. 

“Thank you,” I said again.  “I mean we haven’t been trying to hide it or anything, but I didn't know you were aware." 

“I wasn’t, until I saw you hovering over him like a concerned parent or loving mate,” he replied.  “I could read the love and concern in your eyes and it was easy to tell how deeply you care about him."

“Yes, I love him,” I acknowledged, “but I’m surprised I’m admitting it.  I couldn’t have done that back when school started.  It’s just that Aiden has taught me so much about accepting who I am and as he keeps saying, 'feeling comfortable in my own skin'." 

"I like that," he told me.  "I've got to tell that one to my brother." 

I thanked him again and then went into the room to get a little rest.  It was still early, but I was emotionally drained.  I knew the nurse was right when she told me to do this and take care of myself, because I wouldn’t do Aiden any good if I got sick too.   Therefore, I lay down on the bed and drifted off to sleep, with thoughts of Aiden filling my mind. 

I awoke a few hours later when I had to go to the toilet, and after I relieved myself I put on my clothes and made the long walk back to the hospital.  I walked in to the emergency ward, made my way up to the counter and announced that I was there to see Aiden Perry.  The woman made a phone call and before long the same nurse I had spoken with earlier came out to greet me. 

“You’ve got pretty good timing,” she told me, as she approached.  “I’ll be leaving shortly and I wanted to be here when you arrived.  Your friend is stable now and we’ve just arranged for him to be transferred to a room.  It might take another half hour before we’re able to move him there, but it shouldn’t take longer than that.  Hold on a second and I’ll be right back,” she stated, before she turned and walked away.  I stood in the lobby wondering what she was up to, but she wasn’t gone long and returned a few minutes later. 

“Ok, I’ve cleared it with the doctor for you to be in with your boyfriend,” she announced, with a grin.  “You’ll be able to wait with him until he’s transferred to a room and then you’ll be able to follow behind him when they wheel him there.  Just come with me and I’ll take you to see him." 

“Thank you.  Thank you sooo much,” I gushed, since it was much more than I expected. 

Eagerly, I followed her back to where Aiden was being treated.  When I walked in, I spotted Aiden, but he still looked horrible.  He was pale, haggard and his face was gaunt.  I didn’t remember him looking this bad when we took him to the infirmary, but his eyes were open now and he was alert. 

"You look like crap," i greeted him, "so how do you feel?" 

“About the same,” he wheezed back, “and you don’t look so hot yourself."  I grinned.  At least he still had his sense of humor. 

"That's because I've been so worried about you," I confessed. 

“I am feeling better now than I did back on campus,” Aiden admitted.  “I’m not sure what they gave me, but it seems to be doing the trick." 

"Anti-viral medications and an IV to re-hydrate you," I responded.  Aiden looked at me in surprise. 

“Whoa, when did you become a doctor?” he quipped.  “That was pretty impressive." 

“I’ve made sure they’ve told me everything they’re doing for you,” I explained.  “They also did some things to get your fever down, but they didn't give me any specifics about that." 

I touched his forehead after I said that, so I could see if he was still as hot as he was before. 

“It must have worked, because you’re no longer burning up,” I told him. 

“Hey, thanks.  I probably wouldn’t have gone to be treated on my own." Aiden admitted. 

“Well, you’ve helped me, so I was just returning the favor,” I replied.  “Besides, I’m just getting used to admitting I have a boyfriend, so you're not going to duck out on me so easily."  Aiden started to laugh, but ended up coughing instead. 

“Ok.  No more jokes,” I agreed, before he could say anything.  “They’ll be moving you to a room soon and I'll be going with you." 

“How long am I going to have to stay in here,” Aiden asked, concerned. 

“Probably a couple of days,” I answered.  “They want to make sure you get through the worst of this and don’t come down with pneumonia."

“Thank you for that information, Dr. Wallace,” Aiden teased, and then he started coughing again. 

“See, even you choke on your jokes,” I told him, “so cut it out.  You won’t get out of here any sooner because of the wisecracks, but you're dying as a comedian." 

"Gee, thanks for the compliment," he replied, very sarcastically. 

Aiden was moved to a room shortly thereafter and I followed behind them.  I helped him get settled in and then he told me to take off, but he did it nicely. 

“Why don’t you go back to campus now,” he urged.  “There’s no need for you to miss any of your classes tomorrow so you’ll fall behind too.  Besides, you’re going to have to take good notes so you can help me catch up when I get out of this place."

“We only have psych together and the same professor for English Comp,” I pointed out.  “Besides, you already know everything about psychology." 

“No I don’t, so take good notes,” he reiterated.  “I may understand it once it’s presented, but I certainly don’t know it all already or I’d have my degree."  I conceded the point. 

“Fine.  I’ll leave you here in the care of strangers then,” I panned, as if I were upset.  "See if I ever volunteer to be your doctor again." 

“Ok, but you can still be my nurse,” Aiden quipped back, “but no mini-skirts."  His last statement caught me totally off guard and I began to laugh. 

“See, my jokes aren’t so bad after all,” he stated, with an air of superiority and the satisfaction of being able to claim victory, no matter how small. 

I was constantly going back and forth to the hospital over the next couple of days and pleased that Aiden was recovering so well.  He was still a little weak and his muscles were sore, but the other symptoms were rapidly disappearing.  At night, I would sit with him and go over the notes I had taken in the classes we shared, but I had also notified each of his professors about his current condition.  All of them told me they would allow Aiden time to make up the missed assignments and any other material, since he did have a legitimate medical excuse.  I was glad they were decent enough to do this much for him. 

It took about another week before Aiden was up and going at his normal pace again.  I also made him take it easy and wouldn’t allow him to work out during that time period, so Aiden referred to me as his ‘overly protective wet nurse and nanny.’  Jeez, some guys just don't know how to show gratitude. 

When I finally agreed that he had recovered sufficiently, he went back to giving me karate lessons again.  I had to admit, I felt stronger than I ever have, and we weren’t even lifting weights or doing anything like that.  We just did some push-ups and other exercises, but nothing too strenuous, yet I’ve still noticed a definite change in my ability to lift simple objects or even remove the lids from jars.  It must be this martial arts stuff is helping out. 

When we finally reached the week before Thanksgiving, Aiden had returned to full strength and was definitely back to being his normal self.  To my dismay, he had been hesitant about being affectionate with me up until now, because he was afraid he might still be contagious.  Even though I insisted the doctor had assured me that wasn’t possible after he’d be on the meds for a week, he still didn’t want to take any chances.  Now, he was all over me again and I was quite enjoying it. 

“Are you going to come home with me for the holiday,” he asked one evening, as we were getting ready for bed.  

“No, my parents are expecting me to come home,” I told him.  “They even sent me the money for my bus ticket." 

"You're taking the bus?" he asked, surprised.  "Isn't that a long ride?" 

“It is, but a plane ticket is just too expensive,” I explained.  “Besides, I can sleep on the bus, so it's not a big deal."  Aiden didn't look as if he agreed, but he didn't argue the point either. 

“How about at Christmas then?” he pressed.  “Will you come home with me then?" 

“My parents will expect me home then too,” I confirmed, “but when I go home for Thanksgiving, I’ll talk to them about spending some of the vacation with you though." 

“Good!  And make sure they agree,” Aiden insisted.  “I want you to meet both Gavin's and my parents.  They're all going to love you." 

“I’ll settle for just your love, but I will try to convince my parents to let me go for part of the break." I agreed. 

“And don’t worry about the expense,” Aiden informed me.  “My father will pay to get you to our place and back." 

“Aiden you can’t know that,” I challenged, “and that’s a lot of money.  I can't ask them to spend so much on me." 

“You don’t have to,” he replied.  “I already told him about you the last time I called home and I also explained how you took care of me when I was sick.  When I mentioned that I was going to ask you to come visit, my dad told me to let him know if there was anything he could do to help.  He can afford to do this, so don't worry about it." 

I wasn’t convinced, but I wasn’t going to argue with him about it until my parents agreed to this plan. 

When I got out of my last class on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I rushed back to my room and grabbed the duffle I’d packed to take home with me.  I then hurried to the bus station and hopped on the bus heading home.  It was a long and boring ride, but I slept through a big part of it.  I reached my hometown early the next morning and called my parents for a ride.  My father came down to pick me up. 

My dad has never been an overly affectionate person, not even with my mother, so I wasn’t surprised when he merely reached out to shake my hand to greet me.  I followed him to the car after that, threw my things in the back and hopped in the front seat next to him. 

“It’s nice to see you again, son,” he said, and even that was quite a bit of recognition from him. 

“I’m glad to be home too, Dad,” I answered, as we made the short drive home. 

My mother and sisters came out to greet me when we pulled in, although my two married sister’s husbands didn’t bother.  It was nice to see them all again and we filled each other in about what had happened since we'd last seen each other. 

I knew I was going to have to tell my family I was gay while I was home.  Otherwise, how would I tell them I wanted to spend part of the Christmas vacation with my boyfriend?  Yes, I could just tell them he was my roommate and a good friend, but I didn’t think that would be enough to get them to consent. 

Since I thought it might upset them when I admitted my orientation and because I didn’t want to ruin our Thanksgiving dinner, I figured I’d wait until Friday before I mentioned it.  I wasn’t looking forward to doing this, because I had no idea as to how they were going to take it, but it had to be done, especially if I wanted to spend time with Aiden.