Sand Castles - Part Two

(Part 2 from 2. Fiction.)

“Tell me everything again.” I whispered. “I need to hear it again. I want to be sure that I understand you correctly.”
“Okay, and I won’t sugar coat it. I want you to know the truth and I think that our relationship calls for that.” He began softly. “You have a genetic disease called Polycystic Kidney Disease, known as PKD. It is passed down from generation to generation. You have Autosomal PKD which usually only manifests itself in middle age. You just happen to show the symptoms a little earlier than normal.

What happens is that cysts develop around the kidneys and finally envelop them completely. This leads to kidney failure and ultimately death. There is no cure, I’m sorry to say, but it can be treated. The symptoms include high blood pressure and abdominal pain which explains the back ache you’ve been experiencing as well as blood in the urine. Your urology test showed a significant amount of blood in your urine although it’s not visible to the naked eye and this is what prompted me to do further tests. We still need to do an abdominal ultra-sound to see the extent of the disease.

Only then can I make a complete diagnosis and only then can I tell you what we can do about it. We can only control the symptoms with treatment and prevent complications. Treatment will include blood pressure medication, Diuretics and you must stick to a low salt diet. If the cysts become inflamed and painful then they will have to be drained. During end-stage PKD; which is unavoidable; the only treatment is dialysis or transplant. Without treatment, end-stage will be quicker and your kidneys will fail. You know what that means.” I nodded and he continued. “Remember that with treatment, it might take several years to reach end-stage PKD.” He paused and looked at me sadly. “I’m really, really sorry David, but that is the absolute truth of what we are facing here.”

“Thanks Jack, for your honesty.” I said. “So what now?”
“Well, I would like to do the ultrasound now. The sooner we know the extent of the disease, the better.” He said. “If you wait, I can set it up for you.”
“I’ll wait.” I said.

An hour later, I left Jack’s surgery, my hopes and dreams and my entire world in ruins around my feet.

My main concern right now was how to tell Nicok. I didn’t care that I would never be well again and the thought of dying soon didn’t worry me at all. Everyone dies eventually; it was just a matter of when and how. For me the when would be sooner than I had anticipated and of course, the how was pretty obvious! The thought of telling him that I would never get well and that I would die soon scared me witless. He loved me without reservation and I had no idea how the news would affect him.

I decided to walk home rather than take a taxi. It would give me time to think about how to approach the situation. The ultrasound had shown that the cysts around my kidneys were large and fairly advanced. Dr. Jack had sympathized and told me that I had very little option but a kidney transplant. The disease was too far advanced and he said that kidney failure was imminent. He said that if I was able to have a transplant from a healthy donor, the cysts would never grow back. Then he had smiled and told me that he had a donor in mind for me and he explained that a person could live and function for a very long time with just one kidney.

“Your blood type is AB negative David, a rare blood group. However, there is someone I have in mind who has the same blood type and is a possible donor.” He said.
“Who is this person and what makes you think that he or she will want to part with one of their kidneys?” I asked.
“If the situation is explained fully, I am positive that he’ll be quite happy to donate a kidney to you.” Jack said.

“Jack?” I asked my voice low, a sneaky suspicion forming in my mind. “Who is it?”
“David, I think it would be better if you didn’t know.” He said, his face grim.
“Jack, tell me who it is.” I insisted.
“Doctor, patient confidentiality forbids me to tell you.” He said.
“Jack?” I began. “That’s crap and you know it; so tell me who it is!”

He dropped his eyes to the desk and was silent for a moment and then he looked up at me.

“David, it’s Nic.” He said softly. “Strangely enough, you and he are the same blood type.”
“No Jack!” I said immediately. “No, not Nic! And you are not to even mention any of this to him, do you understand?”
“David, he’s your only chance right now.” He said gently. “You must have a transplant soon and the chances of another donor coming up in time is virtually nil because of the rare blood type.”
“No!” I said adamantly. “I will not put him through that, okay? I would rather die first.”

“David!” Jack said harshly. “You will die, don’t you understand that? And right now Nic is your only hope.”
“I understand completely Jack, and the answer is still no! And that’s my final word on it.”

I went straight home. I didn’t bother Nicok because I knew he would be working. As far as he knew, I was at the gallery also hard at work. I crept into the building and quietly let myself into my apartment. I flopped on my bed and started to cry. I didn’t cry for me, I wasn’t worth it; I cried for Nicok. I cried for the fact that I wouldn’t be with him for long and I cried for him because I knew that he would be devastated. And I cried for the life that we would never have together. Finally I fell asleep, my pillow wet from the flood of tears. Later; when I awoke, I showered, and then went over to Nicok.

He answered my knock warily, not expecting it to be me. When he saw that it was me, he threw the door wide and grabbed me up in his arms.
“You’re early.” He said as he dropped small kisses all over my face. “Wonderful!”
“Yeah!” I said breezily. “I missed you so much, I cut my day short.”

He dragged me into his apartment and pushed the door closed. Neither of us ever forgot about that damn door again.
“You want some coffee? Are you hungry? How about some pastry? I picked up some really nice Danish for us this morning.” He bubbled excitedly.
“Slow down fella, you’ll hurt yourself!” I laughed.
“No I won’t!” He grinned. “But I would so like it for you to hurt me!”

He smiled wickedly and reached down and fondled my crotch.
“So my man, let’s get comfy and have us a bit of hot loving!” He said and dragged me onto the day bed.

He kissed me hard, his tongue writhing against mine. In minutes we were naked and lost in the wonder of each-other.

*** A Difficult Decision.

By the next morning I had made up my mind as to what course of action I was going to take. I had not slept much, my mind jumping from one solution to another. Asking Nicok to give up one of his kidneys and go through the pain of major surgery was completely out of the question. I did not want to put him through that. However, I knew that if I did not have the transplant, I would not last very long. Jack had been optimistic when he’d told me that I might have about six months.

I knew and he knew that I would probably only last about two to three months before my kidneys failed completely. Dialysis was an option of course, but Dr. Jack warned me that it would only be effective for a short period of time before I would have to have a transplant. My only hope was that a kidney from another source would become available.

Saturday dawned bright and sunny, not a match for how I was feeling. I left Nic sleeping and crept into my apartment. I quickly threw as many of my clothes that I could fit into a suitcase and placed it out in the hall by the door. I showered and changed, collected my personal effects and threw them into a shoulder bag. Then I went back across the hall to Nicok’s apartment. He was still sleeping so I made some coffee and then gently woke him.

“’Morning!” He sighed as he rolled over onto his back and smiled up at me. His body glowed in the soft light that seeped through the drapes; his chest glorious and his belly with that intriguing path of hair terribly tempting.
“Nic!” I said purposely, ignoring his request to use his full name. “I have to leave.”
“Where are you going?” He asked with a frown as he sat up.

“Away!” I replied cryptically.
“But where ‘away’?” His puzzlement was evident.
“Just away.” I said, hating what I was doing but it was my only solution right now.
“But . . why . . ?” He asked, beginning to get a little upset.

Now came the difficult part.

“Because I’ve realized that I can’t do this anymore.” I said carefully. “I thought I could but I know I can’t. It would be best for both of us if I left now before things got too serious.”
He stared at me, his mouth open in surprise. I hated myself more than anything in the world right then. I was intentionally hurting him, but I knew that he would get over it and I knew that the pain he might feel would be nothing compared to the pain he would go through if he had to watch me sicken and die.

“Don’t look so surprised.” I said firmly. “You must have known this was bound to happen. gay men are fickle and there is no such thing as a long term relationship in our world. I’m sorry, but that’s a fact! Besides, I don’t think I really love you!”
The last part broke my heart, but I had to make a clean break.
“David!” He whispered, a break in his voice. “Why are you doing this?”

“Nic, let’s just leave it at that, okay?” I said. “Let’s not get into heavy discussions and reasons. Let’s just call it quits and part amicably.”
He stared at me, tears starting to run down his cheeks. I couldn’t bear it anymore.
“Goodbye Nic, I’ll see you around.” I said, barely able to control my own emotions.

I turned and moved to the door.
“Wait David!” He called but I ignored him.
He started to cry, soft gut wrenching sobs which tore at my soul.

I opened the door and walked into the hall. I picked up my suitcase, locked my apartment and turned to face him. He sat on the day bed naked, his arm outstretched as if to stop me.
“David, no!” He sobbed. “Please don’t leave me . . please . . wait!”
“’Bye!’ I said quickly and walked out of the building, tears streaming down my face.

I hailed a taxi and directed him to Dean and Charlie’s place. I had decided to go there until I could make further arrangements. Dean, I knew would welcome me with open arms and he would understand. I cried quietly in the back of the taxi all the way to Dean’s house.
Dean did welcome me and settled me into the very comfortable spare room, but he was far from sympathetic. I told him and Charlie everything. When I had finished, Dean shook his head sadly and stared at me.

“You’re a fool, David!” He said. “An utter fool. I’m sorry to hear about the disease that’s killing you but as far as this guy Nic goes, you are making a huge mistake.”
“No I’m not.” I said adamantly. “It’s better this way.”
“Really?” He said. “You love this man and from what you’ve told me, he loves you. Don’t you think you should let him decided what to do? Give him the chance to make up his own mind?”
“No!” I said. “Because I know exactly what he would do and I can’t put him through that.”
“And why not?” He said. “He loves you and he would probably do anything in the world for you.”

“No!” I replied. “I’ve made my decision and I’m not going to back down on it.”
He shook his head sadly.
“I still think it’s the wrong decision.” He finished. “And I still think you’re a fool!”

I called the gallery and informed them that I was taking leave for an indefinite period. I had not had leave for nearly eighteen months so I was due. They accepted my leave application without comment.
Then I called Dr. Jack and told him where I was on the off chance that a donor became available and then I went to my room, fell on the bed and cried my heart out.

I loved Nicok beyond all good reason and I would have rather died before hurting him. But things change and I’d had no choice as I saw it. I had done what I thought was right and best for both of us and there was no going back now. He would get over me soon. He would miss me maybe but then he would hate me for what I had done and that in itself would help him forget me.

I, on the other hand, would never forget him and I knew without a doubt that I would always love him. It was going to be hard, very hard, but I didn’t care because I knew that it would only last about two months at the most; if I even lasted that long.

*** A Ray of Hope.

Two days later, Dr. Jack called me.

“David, good news!” He said. “We have a donor for you. It’s come up unexpectedly and I need you to come in as soon as possible so that we can do the transplant.”
“Oh my God, Jack.” I said unbelievingly. “I didn’t think it would be so quick.”
“Well it’s here, the kidney I mean, on ice.” He said. “So I need you in the hospital, today if possible. We only have a small window before the kidney is useless.”
“I’m on my way.” I said excitedly.

I packed a small bag and Dean very kindly ran me to the hospital. On the way, he looked at me and shook his head sadly.

“You see?” He said, a berating tone in his voice. “The irony of it all! You rushed into things and where has it got you? Nic may not want you now; not after what you did to him. You should have waited . . !”
“Don’t!” I said harshly. “Just don’t, okay?”
“Sorry, but I needed to say that.” He said.
“I know, but please don’t!” I said.

At the hospital, Dr. Jack greeted me with a broad grin.

“You are one lucky son-of-a-bitch!” He said.
“Who’s the donor?” I asked.
“Can’t tell you that but I can tell you that there was a motor accident and that the kidney is now available.” He said with a smile. “I’ll settle you in and first thing in the morning, you’ll go into surgery.”

The rest of the day was a flurry of activity. Tests and more tests were done. Nurses came and went as well as doctors with their medical students.
The night was difficult for me because I was so excited, but at the same time my heart was breaking. I had been too hasty. If I had but waited for a few days, everything would have been fine and I would still be with my beloved Nicok.


I don’t remember much of the next few days because of the sedation, but during one of my more lucid moments, Dr. Jack informed me that the surgery had gone well and that it looked like my new kidney was there to stay. He told me that the surgeons had removed both of my badly infected kidneys and he assured me that the cysts would never grow back because the new kidney was healthy and strong.

After three days, I was taken off dialysis and I was able to get up and move around easily and I was able to urinate without any problems. Jack was very pleased with my progress.

Dean and Charlie came to visit me. They were the only ones who knew about the surgery, apart from Jack so I didn’t expect many visitors. Of course I knew that the person I most wanted to see would never come.

*** Back to Life.

I was discharged ten days later. Dr. Jack was amazed at how quickly I had recovered but he put it down to how healthy and fit I was generally. He also mentioned that he had gone to see how Nicok was and he told me that he seemed to be fine, but he could tell that he was putting up a front. Jack said that he looked haggard and had obviously been crying a lot. My heart broke and bled a little more. I went back to Dean and Charlie and spent a couple of days just resting.

Then came the day that Jack came to see me. He sat me down and told me that he had to get something off his chest because he was feeling guilty about keeping it from me.
“David, there is something I have got to tell you.” He began. “It’s been bothering me and I think it’s time for you to know the truth.”

I had no idea to what he was referring and I half wondered if it had something to do with my present health. The thought that maybe the cysts were growing back onto my new kidney crossed my mind.
“Now David, I don’t want you to get upset or angry with me, I did what I thought was right and best for you.” He said.

I nodded.
“It can’t be that bad.” I said.
“Just bear with me and if possible, please don’t say anything until I’m done, okay?” He continued.
“Okay!” I agreed.

“I went to see Nic the day after you left him and I told him everything.” He began.
I took a breath to say something but he held his hand up to stop me and continued.

“Let me finish, okay!!” He paused and I said nothing. “Nic was devastated. I then told him that he was a possible donor and he immediately told me that he would gladly give you a kidney. He said he would do anything for you and one kidney less would not kill him. So I arranged for him to come in and that’s when I called you. I’m sorry I lied to you about the donor, but I had to do something. I could not stand by and watch you die. As you know, your surgery went very well and the good news is that Nic sailed through it too. So now you each have one kidney and if that doesn’t bind the two of you together, then nothing will.”

I thought about this for a moment. Jack reached out and took my hand.
“Go to him David. He loves you so much and he really needs you.” He said gently.
“I can’t Jack.” I said. “You weren’t there when I left him. I told him I didn’t really love him. He was utterly wounded and now he probably hates me.” I said.

“David, would he have done what he did for you if he hated you?” He said. “I don’t think so.”
“That doesn’t matter.” I said adamantly. “Well, it does matter and you have no idea how grateful I am to him, but that’s not the issue here. I hurt him terribly and I feel in my heart that he will never forgive me. I made a promise to him and I broke it. I betrayed his trust and I denied his love. How can a person forgive that?”

“You’d be surprised at what a person in love is willing to do.” He said. “But it’s up to you now. I’ve done what I can. Besides, denial is just a river in Egypt!”
I stared at him puzzled for a second and then I got it. He smiled at me and winked.

“Thanks Jack, for your concern.” I said. “And I am a little pissed that you went behind my back. What if things had gone wrong? Especially with Nic. I could never have lived that down.”
“Well they didn’t so be thankful.”
“As far as Nic is concerned, I’m going to have to think about it carefully.” I said.
“You do that.” He said and stood up. “Well, I’ve got to go now. Keep well my friend and please, get in touch with him.”

“I’ll think about it.”
And I did. I thought long and hard but I kept coming up with the same answer. Knowing Nic as well as I did and how vulnerable he was, I knew that I had hurt him beyond repair. I knew that he would never forgive me and I resigned myself to the fact that I would probably never see him again.

*** Sand Revisited.

It was three days later that I went to visit Brian. I hadn’t seen him for a while and I felt that I owed him an explanation for my erratic behavior and sudden absences over the last few weeks. That evening, I told him everything. I told him about my communications with Sand and my subsequent involvement with Nicok. Then I told him about my disease and my surgery. He sat and listened in silence and when I had finished, he stared at me solidly for several minutes.

“What?” I asked, becoming a little uneasy under his heavy gaze.
“I’m your best friend, supposedly; yet you kept all this from me.” He said quietly. “Even when I asked you what was going on, you said nothing about it. Why?”
I shrugged.

“I’m so sorry Brian, but I guess I just wasn’t ready to tell anyone.” I said.
“Yeah, right!” He said and smiled bitterly. “And I’ve been so concerned about you. I had no idea what was happening in your life.”
“I’m sorry.” I said. “What more can I say.”
“That it won’t happen again?” He said.
“It won’t, I promise.” I said with a smile. “From now on, I’ll tell you everything, even the hot bits!”

“You can spare me those, but I would like to be a part of your life and not left out like I was these last few weeks.” He said.
“I won’t do it again, I promise.” I repeated.
“Good!” He smiled. “Now, are you up for a movie?”
“Sure, why not.”

And we watched a movie and had a bite to eat just like we used to do before Sand and Nic and kidney failure.
As I was leaving, I had an idea. I asked him for a sheet of paper and a pen and I wrote a quick note.

I left him and walked down to the beach in the coolness of the evening. At the playground, I bent down in front of the great rocking-horse and pushed the note deep into its throat. I was being a fool I know, but just the familiarity of doing this small thing made me feel a little better. I knew that the note would probably sit there and eventually decay and never be read, but I needed to do it. I decided that I would make a trip to the playground every second day or so to check up on it. It seemed like a useless exercise but it was something I felt a need to do.

Dear Sand, (I had written).

I doubt that you will ever get this letter but I feel a deep desire to leave it here for you. It doesn’t matter whether you do get to read it or not; I just had to write down what I was feeling.
I have done a terrible thing. I have deeply wounded and betrayed the only man I have ever truly loved. I turned my back on him and for this I can never forgive myself. He’d offered me love, understanding and a life with him that I knew would be wonderful and yet I spurned it and brushed it all aside.

How can I have done this, you might ask? Well, I have no excuses, no explanations. I did it and now I regret it with every fiber of my being. I cannot even bring myself to see him let alone ask him for his forgiveness. It would be wrong of me and I couldn’t bear to look at the pain in his eyes.

And yet, he has since given me the greatest gift any one person can give another. Life! Without him, I would have sickened and died in a matter of months. For this I shall be eternally grateful and I will always carry a part of him inside of me, physically as well as metaphorically.
I need your help again. I need to fix the damage I have done and I need you to tell me how I can achieve that.

Please, help me; for I am as lost and as alone as when I first met you.
I love you still and I love Nicok, more than anything in the world.
David.

In the morning two days later, I borrowed Dean’s car and drove to the beachfront. I felt that I was wasting my time but at the same time I felt a deep, wild excitement that I could barely contain. What if Sand had got my note? What if he had left a reply. To me it would be a miracle. If Sand would allow it, it would be a way of re-kindling what I had lost with Nicok.

I parked the car and slowly walked down to the playground. I made my way to the huge wooden rocking-horse and paused. I took a deep breath and bent and peered into the horse’s mouth. There was a note there but I realized that it was probably the one I’d left there two days ago and it hadn’t been disturbed. I reached in and pulled it out. I sat on the wall and slowly unrolled it.

My dear David, (The words leapt out at me and my heart quickened. Sand had replied.)

I have come down to this place every day for the past week with the hope that I would hear from you again and I was overjoyed when I got your letter. Did I not say that we would speak again? Well here we are, together once more just as it was so long ago.

You tell me that you have wounded Nicok and that you have betrayed him. Well, remember that betrayal is dependent on one’s perception of it and a wound, any wound no matter how deep, even a wound to the heart; will heal in time. I assume you had good cause to do what you did and I doubt that he would question you on it. I think it would be enough for him to know that your reasons were pure and that you did these things to spare him; if he does not already know this. I know you David, and I know that this, and only this could be the reason you would do such a thing. I once told you that your heart is pure, so I don’t doubt you for a second.

I once told you that a man’s heart knows no bounds and that it is capable of a great deal of love. Just as important, it is capable of forgiveness. Your first step is to forgive yourself. If you can do that, then asking for his forgiveness would be all that much easier. If you cannot forgive yourself, how can you ask him to forgive you.

You have asked for my help and I will give it to you. Make peace with yourself and then go to him.
I shook my head quickly because all of a sudden I could actually hear the words I was reading in the letter.

I know he loves you more than life itself and I know that you love him. You and he are destined to be together . . .
The voice in my mind was louder now and I realized that I was hearing Nicok. The voice continued.
. . . and nothing in the world will change that.

So I will give you another gift if you would but do one thing for me.
Turn around, David. Turn around and embrace the man who loves you and embrace the life he has to offer you.
I love you,
Sand.

The voice stopped.

I sat frozen on the wall for a moment as I carefully folded the note from Sand.
I stood and then turned around slowly, hope thundering through my body like uncontrolled floodwaters.

Nicok was standing just three of four paces behind me, his hands in his pockets, a small smile on his face.
“And I love you!” He said softly.

I stepped over the wall and went to him. I stopped in front of him, my heart pounding.
“Nicok!’ I began. “I am so . . . !”

He reached out and stopped the words on my lips with his fingertips.
“Shh!” He whispered. “I know David, I know.”

His green eyes searched my face and then he smiled.
“And I know that you love me still.” He said. “I read it in your letter and I can see it in your eyes.”

I nodded.
“I do Nicok, I really do.”
“I know.” He said.
“Nicok, about my disease . . !” Again he stopped me, his fingers on my lips.
“Not now.” He whispered. “Later! We have plenty of time now.”

Then he took my hand in his, leaned forward and for all the world to see, he kissed me tenderly. I thrilled at the touch of his lips. Then he pulled away and smiled his old familiar smile, his dimple flashing appealingly; the smile that I had come to love so much.
“Come.” He said softly. “Let’s go home.”

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