This is based on a true story. The death of the boy has had repercussions that have echoed over 28 years. The killer never did face justice, he died an old man, comfortable in his own bed. Drunk drivers kill in more ways than just the initial impact of vehicle against vehicle or body, they destroy hopes, dreams, loves, and lives. This story is dedicated to my "One". I have had to endure my life without him in it.
"The Long Way"
A bank of grey clouds were starting to roll in over the tops of the nearby hillside as he left the music store carrying his new Washburn, and he knew he was going to have to step it up if he wanted to get back to his apartment before the rain soaked him and his new baby. He had finally saved enough to replace the old acoustic that he had lost when he left his home in Texas to escape the memories that were slowly killing him, and after months of missing playing so much that he was dreaming about it, he finally had a guitar back in his hands.
He shouldered the gig bag and plugged his headphones in and started the trek back home feeling happier than he had in a long time. The melancholy that soo many had warned him he would find in the Northwest seemed to have passed him by for the most part, he actually enjoyed the overcast weather and the deep green mystery of the surrounding Pacific forest. He liked the young and vibrant culture of Portland and though steady employment had been difficult to come by, people had been kind and welcoming of him and he was slowly building a circle of friends that shared his interests in music and writing. He was still alone, but he finally coming to terms with that maybe he was destined to be that way for a reason, he had faced death more than most in his short life, and living in the darkness was where he felt most at home, perhaps that was why the mostly overcast skies of the Northwest seemed to suit him.
He tried not to dwell on the things he didn't have any longer, though they were numerous. His body was scarred and damaged well beyond what a young man should have to bear, and his psyche was so damaged that he had medications to help him remember to eat, to sleep, to find the energy to get out of his apartment and even want to work. There were no decorations on the walls of his small apartment, he had no pictures of Edward left after his father had purged his room while he was in the hospital so his only memories were in his mind. He had no car so his world was limited to where he could walk or get to by rail or bus, and due to the headaches and seizures that often wracked his frail frame, even getting a license was out of the question. He was a man existing in the shadows, living a half-life with a huge part of himself missing.
Walking along with his music drowning out the melancholy thoughts that were trying to creep into the periphery of his mind, Jasper was disconnected from those around him. The song that he was listening to took him back home to the cab of an old truck with a boy driving home after football practice. They had stayed late, hanging out on the tailgate of the truck talking and planning stealing away for some time together over the weekend on a camping trip after the Homecoming game was over. If they had left when they normally did, they wouldn't have been at that curve in the road, but Jasper had been insistent that they plan everything out so nothing was left to chance. They were running out of time before the demands of school and family and holiday entanglements and their easy excuses of late practices would not be so easily believed, and in a small town where people had small minds, people were already talking about the boys that were closer than two boys should be.
They had lingered, and so it had happened they were at that damned curve in the road shortly after the meeting of the "Liars club" quit at the small bar just on the out skirts of town. The old man driving the Caddy was a notorious drunk driver that had been given free passes by just about every deputy in town at one time or another, they were used to finding him off in the ditch passed out behind the wheel or simply asleep in the middle of the road. The officer that responded to the scene had himself handled the old man on more than one occasion, but due to the families wealth and privilege, his son was called and he was taken home to sleep it off until the next month.
They were singing along with Waits, both living in the moment and anxious that their easy time together was soon to become complicated, each caught up in their thoughts of their limited time together, so that they didn't even have time to register the coming impact of the Caddy as it approached fully in their lane. One moment they were there in the moment happy in love, the next, time seemed to stop as all the air left Jaspers body as the world seemed to explode into sound and metal and flying glass and gasoline from the behind the seat gas tank.
When he realized they had stopped moving, he could taste blood and frighteningly , gasoline. His vision was partially obscured by blood that was running into his eyes, he tried to move, but it was difficult. He managed to clear his vision enough to see that his love was pinned behind the steering wheel of the old Ford truck but that he was breathing. The radio was still playing as Jasper reached out and took his hand in his, "Edward, please, wake up! We have to get out of here, there is gas everywhere, come on!" Jasper had begun kicking at the passenger door, and even though it sent shockwaves of agony though him he heard the door creak open and he began pulling on Edward as he heard someone shouting something about fire. Jasper had begun to frantically pull at Edward, begging God, someone to help him get him free from the truck. He heard himself saying over and over, "No! No! No! You cant do this to me, you cant leave me! Come on, we have to get out of here together, I don't want to be without you, I cant be without you. Your love is the only thing I have ever known."
Edwards eyes had opened as hands had grabbed Jasper from behind pulling him backwards out of the door of the truck, he had screamed and fought, trying to hold onto Edward, screaming that he loved him and that he had to he had to hold on to him, but just as Edwards gaze locked with Jaspers and he mouthed an, "I love you" back to Jasper, the cab of the truck exploded into flames. Jaspers hands had gripped Edwards as the flames began to consume them and the men that had grabbed Jasper, did what they thought was a kindness and stunned Jasper with a blow to the head long enough to drag him away from the burning truck.
The men who had held Jasper down until the ambulance arrived later said that the screams of the two boys were the worst things that they had ever heard in their lives, including what they had witnessed in war. The fire had been started when the old man got out of the Caddy and upon seeing the carnage he had inflicted, sat on the trunk of his car and attempted to light a cigar. Edward lingered in a burn unit for 3 days before finally and mercifully succumbing to his injuries. Jasper was in intensive care for weeks, and catatonic for months. He was a hollow shell of a boy when he was finally discharged from the hospital, and his family was unable and unwilling to handle his problems. His father handed him a train ticket and told him that he just couldn't have a son that was "Less than a man." Jasper had boarded the train with nothing but a few clothes and enough money to rent a room somewhere far enough away that when the end came, they wouldn't have to hear about it. They simply discarded him and then moved away from the town to escape the scandal. Edwards family remained, but his grave lay in a forgotten part of the town cemetery, alone and untended, the one who would have taken care just as lost as the boy who lay beneath the grass
The months since that he had existed in Portland, he had often just spent sitting in his empty apartment, reliving the moments that he had spent with Edward. He constantly dwelled in the past, never really wanting to move forward without Edward. Getting a guitar was simply a way to keep his hands busy, the jobs were just a way to keep a roof over his head, but he really didn't even care about that and he had often contemplated just becoming one of the many wandering souls that peopled the streets of the Northwest, but with the damage to his body from the accident, he knew he wouldn't fare well on the streets for very long. He had thought about taking his own life, but some persistent voice in the back of his mind wouldn't allow that, because it would prove his parents right, that he was weak, so he just continued soldiering along in his misery, allowing himself small joys such as the guitar.
Jasper had tried to move forward, he had been slowly working at rebuilding some kind of life, but it was a hollow life without Edward in it. His dreams were haunted by that last moment when Edwards gaze had locked with his, and he often dreamed of Edward and the times they had spent with each other, looking forward to the day they would escape that town and their families together, but Edward had never escaped, he was stuck in a box in the ground in some out of the way cemetery and Jasper had never even gotten to go and see him. The only memories he had of Edward were in his head and the song that he knew by heart, the last thing they had heard together. Jasper didn't even have the small mercy of knowing that the old man had faced justice. By the time the scene had been handled and the old man had been questioned, it was too late to test him for anything and it was simply chalked up to an "unfortunate accident" .Edwards murderer had never spent a single minute answering for the destruction he had wrought upon the lives of the boys and their families, and as far as Jasper knew, he was still continuing on in the same manner.
Jasper was walking along rapt in his memories with his guitar on his back, thinking about how he wished he had been able to sing that song for Edward, when he looked up the hill and saw a shape standing next to a tree that he would have known anywhere. The smile on Edwards face was the same as the afternoon sitting on the tailgate of the truck, and Jaspers heart finally felt the peace and happiness of finding the light in the darkness to show his way back home.
He had never heard the out of control truck behind him as it leapt the curb striking him with enough force that he was free before his body hit the ground, the headphones that had taken him once again to thoughts of the boy he loved had granted him that mercy. He was just knew that he was no longer lost in the darkness, he had found his way back home, even if it was the long way.
The two boys set off down the road arm in arm together, no longer alone, with the song that had bound them together echoing in the damp Portland air from the headphones of a boy who was smiling as he lay dead on the damp sidewalk.