He Remembers

Reflection piece—after one Duck falls, the others remember him

Category: ,






Length: words

Started: 1 Jun 2007 | Updated: 2 Jun 2007

He Remembers by Cold

The Ducks had been together for six years, which by most standards is a long time. They’d been through plenty, as a team and as friends, but this was really something else.

Gordon Bombay could remember that first broken windshield on the limo, the day he started to really think he could turn District Five hockey around. The day he found his power player—the one who couldn’t skate.

Charlie remembered their rollerblading lessons at the local shopping mall in Minneapolis. He could also remember the one-on-one time he’d spent trading tips-how to skate for how to shoot with real power. Of course, Charlie never learned as much about hockey during those times. There are plenty of tricks to good skating, but not much of a secret behind brute force. He didn’t mind. He could remember their one day… they had left their team together and walked out on Eden Hall—Fulton had gone back first. He was smarter than most people thought, and a lot less stubborn about Coach Orion. He could still hear the echoes of that tough-love encouragement: “The Ducks are there. We can deal.” Charlie also remembered the bittersweet days Portman had joined and rejoined the team one year after the other. He remembered the similar shots of jealousy he’d felt on those days, when he knew there’d be a new kind of space between himself and his friend. It seemed to stupid to care about that now.

Dwayne was dumbstruck. All he could think was that he could never remember seeing Portman in a suit before.

But Dean Portman… he remembers everything. From that first night as roommates thinking maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to be away from Chicago for a while. Their first unofficial date a few nights later, catching their coach on a date of his own. That first clumsy accidental kiss in the penalty box when the Ducks beat Iceland’s Vikings at Junior Goodwill—two thirteen year old boys had never been so relieved to go unnoticed. He remembers how later on, after the locker room, after celebrating with the team, after just enough time had passed for him to think it best to pretend the whole thing never happened, there’d been a red face and shuffling feet in front of him, and the realization that he didn’t have to pretend anything.

He remembers the angry, heartbroken phone call that came after his decision not to come to Eden Hall. He’d been scared. And the extra time they’d had to spend apart, well… it had almost seemed worth it for the unbelievable joy he’d been met with upon his late arrival. Remembering now, he can only see precious time wasted. He remembers every minute spent with Fulton. Right up to the very last.

He remembers the dark sidewalk, and the highway, and knowing what was going to happen before it did. He remembers being reaching out, but just not far enough to catch the arm under the jacket sleeve. He remembers the blue sedan swerving back and forth over the shoulder of the road, going just too fast. He remembers the driver stumbling out of the car, drunk as hell as he screamed into his cell phone for an ambulance. He remembers waiting for hours for Fulton to come out of surgery, and fighting with the orderlies when they wouldn’t let him in to the recovery room—family only, they said. He remembers pushing past, insisting that he was the only family around for miles, and staring at all the monitors, swearing to his unconscious other half that he’d stay there until they could both go home.

The rest he remembers like it was a dream. Being pushed out of the way so the crash cart could come through, hearing in answer to every demand of the hospital staff that really, everything possible had been done. He remembers trying to tell the team, how long it took when he couldn’t speak in full sentences. He remembers the vigil. He remembers finally meeting Fulton’s mother, and numbly wondering how much she had really heard about him.

Standing at the foot of Fulton’s grave, Portman remembers everything they’d had together, and everything they hadn’t had yet. Their plan to crash their own prep-school prom was only a week from being complete. Let everyone who didn’t know yet that yeah, the Bash Brothers were queers, and if you had a problem with that, well… the nickname wasn’t for nothing. Graduating. College. Life. Life was over; for Fulton in the physical sense, but for Portman… he was trapped in his body with nothing left to live for. Eighteen, and just weeks after his hockey career had ended—he didn’t make it to any college teams on his own—his boyfriend, his best friend, was taken from him. For years, there’d been Fulton, and Duck hockey. That was it. That was all he needed. Now all of it was gone.

As Portman writes his last letter, he remembers to keep a steady hand and stay in the margins. He remembers to specify that this is really something he has to do, and there wasn’t anything anyone could have done to stop him. He remembers to take both sets of jerseys with him. He remembers, two weeks after the funeral, before the headstone has been set into the ground, where Fulton was buried. And he remembers to say goodbye to the only boy that matters before he disappears.