The great escape

Kameron's StuffStephen & I picked Kameron (Stephen’s ex, ex, now current bf, do please try to keep up) last Sunday. So, Kameron’s currently living with me for the time being till he finds himself a job and place to stay (not necessarily in that order).

It’s all a part of my cunning plan, you see. Kameron had been planning on coming down to Dallas to live with Stephen for a while, ever since they got back together some 5 months ago. That way, when I leave, Stephen is taken care of, mostly. Add to that the free pills, free shrink and (hopefully) free money in the form of disability payments and he should be set. Sadly, Kameron lived in Jackson, Tennessee which is about 520 miles by car from where I live in Dallas. He would have to make the move, but he’d never attempted a move this big before. He desperately wanted to escape from Jackson, though, his great escape if you will.

We had a few abortive attempts at planning this move. One such plan was that Kameron would drive down all the way with a friend of his (so they could share the driving load), then the friend would dematerialize from Dallas and end up back home in time for work the next Monday. That plan sadly didn’t work, though I offered to fly the friend back to Nashville.

What did work, however, was a compromise: we met half way. Stephen & I drove up to Benton (near Little Rock) in Arkansas (277 miles from where I live), while Kameron and his family (in two separate cars, loaded with all his stuff) drove down to the same spot. I would then transfer Kameron’s stuff from his family’s car into my car. His family would return to Tennessee in one car, Kameron, Stephen & I would return to Dallas in two. Simple.

Sound plan, it required a total of 8 hours driving time for me (4 hours there, 4 hours back) but I was up to the challenge, I love to drive. It also meant I had to miss church. Ironically a service that I had been looking forward to since it was the supposed “miracle” service, but I wasn’t too concerned about that. There would be other miracles.

I awoke Stephen with a shake “rise and shine, sleepy head”. It was 6:30am I had only managed 3 hours sleep because I was nervous and excited about the upcoming trip. Stephen slept like a log, thanks mostly to the powerful drugs he’s on. He rolled over.
“Come on, we have to leave soon” I wanted to get there an hour early, just in case I got lost or Kameron and his entourage arrived early. Since we planned on meeting sometime between 12 and 1, I needed to leave at 7am sharp.

“Do you want to get some food before we go?” I had planned on getting some ice and energy drinks for the trip there.
“Mmm, I feel like donuts”
“Well, ok, I don’t know if they’re open but I’ll try.”
The donut place was open. I got 3 of Stephen’s favorites (cake batter, glazed) and three of my favourites (Bavarian cream filled éclairs). I also got the ice and drinks to fill my little “ice box” as they call them here, so we would have something to drink. I filled it with 4 of Stephen’s favourite apple soda and 3 of my favourite energy drinks.

I returned home to find him still in bed.
“Come on, we have to go, the donuts are in the car.”
He finally roused and we were soon off, headed Northeast.
Stephen had a donut (a Bavarian cream one, I noticed with a grimace) and an energy drink, then immediately complained of heartburn. Personally, I think it’s what he eats that causes it, but he says it’s been chronic all his life. I shrugged. It doesn’t pay to argue.
“I should have brought those pills with me” he said, swallowing hard.
“Yeah” I agreed noncommittally.
We continued on our journey for about 100 miles.

I had always wondered where exactly “Texarkana” was. According to the signs, we were going to pass right through it on the way into Arkansas which, Lewis Black informed me, was the birthplace of Bill Clinton. As we got nearer to that city Stephen groaned: “Texarkana, get it? On the border of Texas and Arkansas. That’s just dumb.” I nodded in agreement.

Sure enough, once past the Arkansas border, we saw a sign to another badly named city: Hope. Under the city sign was the proud declaration “Birthplace of President Bill Clinton”.

I ate up the miles, slipstreaming behind a big rig for most of the way, which essentially paid for the use of the air conditioner (which was essential considering the sweltering muggy heat outside).

We arrived at Benton at around 11:30am and I pulled into an abandoned petrol station. This was where I told Kameron I would meet them. From the satellite images it looked like a good spot. On the ground it was probably less than desireable. There was literally nothing there.

“Why are we here so early?” Stephen complained.
“Well, I don’t want Kameron’s grandfather waiting here for us. That would be rude.”
Stephen hates it when we’re early for anything (such as the psychiatrist) since he hates having to wait and do nothing, he suffers from acute boredom.

At that moment, Kameron called, Stephen had a discussion with him.
“He says he’ll be another hour and a half.” Stephen announced
“Well, good, we’ll just wait then.”
“We shouldn’t have come so early, they’re over an hour away.”
I shrugged “well, next time we drive to Arkansas to pick up your boyfriend, we’ll leave later, ok?” I offered sardonically.
“I didn’t mean it like that.”

After a while I proposed we get something to eat and we drove South a little down the service road.
“Dennys!” I haven’t had Denny’s since New Zealand so I pulled in there and we sat down for a meal.
Stephen snickered “we’re definitely in the deep South. It’s strange actually, we’ve traveled North and we’re actually further ‘South’ than Dallas”.
I nodded, there certainly were many “Southern Folk” here. This is one of the many reasons Kameron wanted to leave this place.
We ordered a late brunch, and I ate my bacon, eggs and hash brown with gusto.

Half an hour later, at around midday, Kameron called. They were here, an hour earlier than he said they’d be.
“Good thing we were early, isn’t it, sweetie pie?” I intoned meaningfully. He went outside to spot them and I paid the bill.

I was a little apprehensive about meeting Kameron’s family. These people didn’t know any gay people apart from their son and the only thing they knew about me was that one fact. I felt like I had an obligation to make a good impression.

I walked up to his grandfather and shook his hand firmly “Hi, I’m Stephen”
As the words left my mouth, I realised that this could have caused some confusion.
“…and I’m the other Stephen” Stephen piped up nervously at my shoulder.

I made small talk about the weather with Kameron’s great grandmother as we packed his things. She was a dear old woman, who cried a little as Kameron hugged her goodbye. I know exactly what she was thinking: that’s the last she’ll see of him till she dies.

I loaded some of Kameron’s stuff into my car. I couldn’t help but be slightly surprised. He has more stuff than I do. Than I ever did. Kameron comes from a very poor family, quite desperately poor I am told. However, Kameron himself owns two TVs, a PS2, a PSP, an Xbox, an Xbox 360, an electric guitar with amp and a car. I couldn’t quite get my head around it, since when I was his age (am I that old I have started usng that phrase already?), my entire family had one TV with a screen the size of an A4 sheet of paper. Even Stephen, who is practically destitute at the moment, with no money and no job, easily has more DVDs than any other person I know.

I don’t mean to sound whiney but my family never had spare cash for such indulgences. That said I never considered my family to be “poor”. We always had food, we never ran out of petrol (well, not due to lack of money, anyway). Still, it’s only by virtue of New Zealand’s excellent student loan system that I was able to get a computer and an education, something I eventually paid off myself some years after graduating.

I am told that America is more materialistic than other countries. I am told that even the poorest people in this country have cell phones, though they may not be able to afford bread for their children. I don’t quite understand it myself but it certainly seems to be the case.

Maybe that’s why poor people are poor? Because they buy DVDs and gaming consoles rather than saving up for what really matters?

A strange thing happened: Kameron asked Stephen if he would drive the 277 miles down to Dallas, and Stephen agreed! I was surprised. This is the same Stephen who, after filling out a resume for a job at the local blockbuster, had to have a lie down because it was too stressful for him, the same Stephen who believes that if I make him get a job it will lead him to immediately committing suicide, the same Stephen who threatened suicide over a simple TODO list. The same Stephen who, for weeks on end, won’t be able to so much as get up off the couch due to crushing depression. Yet, he’s able to drive 277 miles for 4 hours non-stop? These past 5 months I have been coddling him, I don’t trust him with anything sharper than a spoon, yet Kameron was going to trust him with his life? Well, OK.

Turns out it went well, Kameron slept most of the way down, and Stephen followed me, while I drove with my eyes glued to the rear view mirror. Despite the way it sounds, I love both those guys, nothing bad was going to happen to them, at least not on my watch.

“So, what do you all want for dinner” I said cheerily as we entered my little apartment.
We settled on MacDonalds (since it’s cheap) and all trundled into my car. Kameron asked for two cheeseburgers and a 6 piece McNuggets, Stephen went for his usual double quarter pounder, which, I guess must be a half pounder. I got a salad because I am still vainly holding onto the vague idea that I’m watching what I eat.

I pulled up to the drive-through (of course, this is Texas) and I listed the food I wanted:

“A double cheese burger combo with… uh ketchup, no mustard”
“And to drink?”
“Uh… Dr. Pepper” I repeated as Kameron told me what he wanted “or Coke, I guess” I added unnecessarily. I was later scolded by Stephen: they are apparently not the same thing at all.
“What else, sir?”
“hmm, a six-count mcnuggets? and double quarter combo with mayo, no onions?”
“To drink with that, sir?”
“Uh, coke, I guess”
“What else, sir?”
“A salad, please.”
“I’m sorry sir, what was that?” oh crap
“er, Salad?”
“I’m sorry sir, please repeat that.”
“Could you pull up to window 1 please sir?” I sighed, this was going to be aggravating

I pulled up and this young man looked at me with mild concern.
“I’m sorry sir, but what did you want?”
“A salad.”
“What is that?”
“Salad, you know, with lettuce and tomatoes and stuff”
“Oh… ok, what kind of salad?”
“Crispy chicken, please”
“Uh, I mean what kind of salad”
“Um, Caesar?”
“And what kind of chicken?”
“Crispy…” I leveled my tone carefully
“Ok, your total’s at window 2”

We pulled up to the next window and received two salads.
“Uh, were we supposed to get two salads?” Stephen asked
“Well, no” I handed the superfluous greenery back to the girl behind the window
“I’m sorry but we didn’t order this.”
“Oh, but it’s on your order.”
“Well, we didn’t order that”
“Are you sure”
“What was that, sir?”
At that point, my patience frayed and I answered “yes” in 6 languages. None of them seemed to work, though. Whatever language she spoke it wasn’t any I had come across. When we finally got home we realised that Kameron’s extra order of mcnuggets had been forgotten.

That night I slept on the couch since Kameron can’t sleep without a fan running and I couldn’t sleep with that noise. Not to mention, if it’s difficult living under the same roof as your ex, it’s even more difficult living with your ex and his new partner and it’s almost impossible to sleep in the same bed. Still, the plan is they will move out in about a month’s time and I will have pulled off a great escape all of my own.