© Copyright, 2018, the author.. All rights reserved.

Jack in the Box

Chapter 2

Michael Waters - Arlington Road : July, 2000

My godfather told me I should start to write, that it might help. I didn't tell him that I've been writing. It's all I do anymore. I write letters to Jack, dozens of them every day. They all say pretty much the same thing, but I can't stop doing it.

I don't cry anymore. I don't do anything anymore. I tried for a long time. Everybody said things would get better with time, but everybody was wrong. Nothing is better and nothing is going to get better. I need Jack to make me better. He was in my head for a while, but then he left. I was sure, absolutely positive, that he'd come back, but it's been months now and there's nothing. Nothing at all.

I still have a key to Jack's house, so I go there and sit in his room and write letters. It's empty now, but it's where I feel closest to him. Nobody knows I go there, but now I don't know how much longer I can. A guy dropped off a bulldozer in the yard today. I don't know if it was the new owner, but he didn't come inside. I hope they're not going to knock the house down.

I have most of Jack's stuff in my own room. His parents gave it to me before they moved, but I haven't touched anything yet. I don't know if I should. I'm not sure that I even can. I'm afraid that seeing his things again will make everything, all the pain, come back.

It's weird. I love a dead person. I know he's dead because I saw him dead, but I can't make myself dishonor him by having fun when he can't anymore. I haven't even touched myself since he died. I can't. I won't. I will never do that again. It would be sick thinking about sex when that's something Jack and I shared together. I get wet dreams sometimes, and I hope they're about Jack. I just never remember them, but they would have to be. He's the first and only person I ever had sex with, so he's got to be the one in my dreams.

I saw somebody going inside Jack's house earlier, so that must have been the new owner that I'd seen bringing the bulldozer in.

Then he came over and talked to my parents. My father came into my room just after he left.



"Are you okay?"

"I'm fine."

"The new guy next door just came to visit. He left this." He held out one of my letters to Jack. "What's going on, Mike? He said there were boxes of these."

"Is he mad?"

My father seemed surprised. "He wasn't mad at all, Mike. I explained everything, but I didn't know you'd been going over there so it was a little awkward for me. Why are you writing letters to Jack?"

I stared at him. Every face I look at is full of concern for me. I don't know how to react to it anymore. I guess I'm glad that people still care about me, but they don't have to keep worrying. I looked at the floor. "It's the only thing I can do. I write letters."

I could feel him looking at me, but I didn't look back up. "Are they all like this one?"

"Pretty much, I guess."

There was a pause. "Michael, are you sure you won't try counseling again?"

"It won't do any good."

I felt his hand pulling on my chin and looked up. "Mike, you know you're loved don't you?"


"Then why won't you try it again? I don't want to see you like this anymore. I know you were crushed when Jack died, but other people get over things like that."

"I can't."

"You mean you won't?"

I was getting angry. "Can't, won't ... what's the difference? I'm not other people, Dad. I can't just dump Jack because he died. I need him and he needs me!"

We'd had this discussion a hundred times and I could see the defeat in my father's eyes. He wanted me to change something that I couldn't change. He looked at the letter, then handed it to me. "Go next door, Mike. You have to take care of this at least. Can't I help you in some way?"

"I don't need any help, Dad."

He stood up and looked at me, smiling weakly. "Whatever, Mike. I love you."

I tried to smile back at him. "I love you too, Dad. I'll go over now and face the music."

"Remember your manners."

"I will."

My father left. I put the letter down, went to the bathroom, then next door. I knocked and a tall blond guy answered in a short while. He looked down at me, concern on his face. I kind of expected that. His look changed to a smile. "You're Mike?"


"I'm Tim." He held out his hand and we shook.

"I'll get my stuff out of your way. I'm really sorry."

I started to walk past him, but he put his hand on my shoulder. "You can use the room for a while longer if you need it. We won't be moving in here for another month. I just came down to get the barn started."

"You're not mad?"

He thought about that. "Not really. I was surprised, then I put the name on the letters together with the name on your mailbox. Your father told me what happened, Mike. Why do you write the letters?"

"It's all I can think of to do. It's the only way I know how to still feel connected with Jack."

There was no furniture in the house. Tim sat on the floor with his back to the wall. "Sit down, Mike. Tell me about Jack."

"What ... what do you want me to say?"

"Everything. I'm only here through tomorrow, but we'll be moving in soon. You guys were best friends?"

"Yeah, more than that."

He smiled again. "What's more than best?"

"You saw the letters. Didn't you read them?"

"I started to, but it looked personal. You don't have to tell me if you don't want to. You don't even know me."

"I don't mind, just don't get mad."

His smile turned into a grin. "I never get mad. I have too much to lose when I do."

That made me smile for a second, then I frowned and looked at the floor. "I'm gay. I was in love with Jack. I am in love with Jack."

I thought Tim was going to stand up, but he just moved to where he could look right at me. He sat cross-legged on the floor, put his elbows on his knees and rested his chin on both hands. When my eyes caught his I couldn't let them go. It seemed like he was looking right into me. "You're gay? So am I."

I was surprised at that statement and must have given a startled look. Tim smiled again and said, "Don't worry, Mike. I'm not into kids, and I'm taken anyhow."

He kept looking into my eyes, but I was looking into his at the same time. I got the feeling that I was looking at a happy person ... a contented person. He was a gay adult, and not the first I had ever met, but he was right there. Somebody who might understand me.

I began to gush out everything about Jack and me. Tim was interested enough to keep asking me questions, trying to keep me on track. I probably talked for a half hour before I ran out of steam. I didn't talk about the bus crash at all - just the way things were before that. I even told him about the first time Jack and I had sex and how we both started laughing after. It made Tim laugh, and he just about shook the house with it. The guy had the best laugh I ever heard, and just hearing him made me start laughing. It was the first time I'd laughed ... really laughed, in a long time.

I suddenly felt guilty, and my laughter almost turned to crying. Tim noticed and stood up, holding his hand out to help me up. He headed to Jack's bedroom and turned on the light. "Why don't we sit in here, Mike?" He looked at me, the concern back on his face. "You can have this room if you need it. I didn't have any plans for it anyhow, so let's just leave it the way it is. When you need Jack, just come over here. I won't mind."

I leaned against the wall, then slid down until I was sitting. Tim sat beside me, then pushed up while he dug his wallet out of his back pocket. He looked at me, then started going through the wallet until he found what he was looking for. It was a piece of paper. He unfolded it and appeared to read it, then handed it to me.

"Letters are important, Mike. This one changed my life, and I almost didn't read it. I want it back, but you can look at it. I gotta get something to eat, then go to the motel." He looked at me and smiled again, then socked me softly on the shoulder. "Write your letters, Mike. This room is for you and Jack for as long as you need it, okay?"

He stood up and looked back down at me. He had a hopeful smile on his face. We held the glance for a moment, then he turned to leave. I looked at the paper in my hand but didn't read it. I couldn't. I was crying too hard, but for the first time I wasn't crying for Jack. I was crying for myself, for what I'd turned into ... for what I'd lost.

The tears felt good. I hadn't been trying not to cry, I just hadn't been able to. My emotions had disappeared months ago, now I was feeling one. This wasn't the emotion I wanted right then, but it still felt good.

When I finally stopped crying and had wiped my eyes, I read the letter that Tim had given me. The handwriting looked something like my own, and I wondered if that's what had triggered Tim's kindness. I didn't have any context to put the words into, but they spoke of good times and betrayal. Whoever had written this had done something awful to Tim and was trying to make it right. He wanted to give Tim a reason to hate him. Not to love him ... to hate him.

I was bewildered by it, but when I started my new letter to Jack I had things I wanted to know. I wrote my usual stuff, then copied Tim's whole letter into it, then started to ask Jack questions about it. I didn't really expect answers from Jack, but decided to ask anyhow.

My piles of other letters had just said things ... things I was thinking and things I was feeling. I had never included a question.

Could he answer?

Continued …

© Copyright, 2018, the author.. All rights reserved.