Anyway, my parents came and got me, and loaded me into the van in the manual wheelchair. By the time we got home, it was morning, and everyone in Loserville got to see my father wheeling me out of the van and up the path to our house. I was feeling really frustrated about not having my wheelchair, but I was afraid to complain. I mean, it was my fucking fault the chair was gone. Now I was stuck in this goddamn manual chair, probably for weeks.
Dad grumbled something about having to get ready for work, and Mom wheeled me to the dining table and told me she was going to make me some food, then she was going to get me in bed. The other shitty thing about this wheelchair was that there was no good pressure relief in it. My power wheelchair has a great cushion and I can tilt it in space to relieve the pressure on my butt, but this chair didn’t have any of that. So I could probably only stay in it for a short time without risking a sore. Like I said, this really sucked.
While I was waiting at the table, the doorbell rang. Dad yelled out that he’d get it. I just sat there, feeling more and more frustrated. Being in a manual wheelchair was really making me feel all my limitations. At least I’d still be able to feed myself and use my computer. But other than that, I was completely dependent for everything.
I heard voices at the door that sounded kind of familiar. I tried to crane my neck to see, but I can’t do that very well since my neck got fused. So I just sat there. Finally, my dad came over and I felt him grabbing the back of my chair and turning me around. And I saw a sight that made me incredibly happy: my power wheelchair.
I almost started crying when I saw it. I was embarrassed how excited I was to see my wheelchair again. And it looked like it was in OK shape.
“Your friend Ali brought it back for you,” Dad told me.
I looked up and saw Ali hovering awkwardly by the door.
“He’d like to talk to you for a minute,” Dad said. “I’ll give you boys two minutes to talk right here.”
I was hoping Dad would leave to give us some privacy, but he didn’t. I guess I couldn’t entirely blame him after the shit I pulled last night. He sat down at the dining table and Ali sat down in the seat next to me.
“I just want to apologize,” Ali said to me. “We were freaking out last night and I feel incredibly bad about what we did. I should have brought you into the ER myself.”
“Also,” Ali said, lowering his eyes. “I don’t think we should stay in communication anymore. I don’t think it’s good for you, Ryan.”
“What?” I said. I glanced over at my father, who was nodding in approval.
“Ryan,” Ali sighed. “Things are a lot different now. For all of us. It just doesn’t make sense anymore for us to hang out. And I think I’m messing up your life.”
“But you’re my best friend,” I protested.
“We don’t have anything in common anymore,” Ali said. “And your parents hate me.”
“I can’t believe you’re just ditching me,” I said, not caring that my father was listening. “I wouldn’t ditch you just because you were in a wheelchair.”
“It’s not just that,” Ali said quietly.
“Bullshit.” I felt my face turning red. “You just think it’s going to cramp your style to hang out with a cripple.”
“That’s not true.”
“The fuck it is.”
Ali bit his lip. “Listen, Ryan, I’m going to go.”
As Ali rose from his seat, the reality of decades of living with my parents and having no friends came crashing down on me. I wasn’t going to be able to make any new friends looking the way I did. I made normal people feel awkward. “Don’t go,” I said in a small voice.
But I couldn’t talk him out of it. Ali gave me one last look then got up and walked out the door. I just sat in my stupid manual wheelchair and watched him leave. My father seemed completely thrilled. I wanted to punch him in the fucking nose.
“I know you don’t believe me right now,” Dad said, “but you’re better off without him.”
I knew that anything I said to my father at this moment regarding Ali would likely result in my immediate ejection from this house, so I held my tongue. I swallowed and tried to smile, “Can you help me into my wheelchair?”
Dad regarded me for a minute. “Of course, son.”
I was going to make this work. I wasn’t going to think about Ali. I was going to focus on being the kind of son my dad wanted me to be. I wasn’t going to fuck this up again.
I was getting used to the weekly church sessions. I didn’t enjoy it. I still generally drifted in and out of sleep through the sermon. I will never buy into that religious bullshit, even if I live to be a hundred. But it wasn’t awful. It was an opportunity to get out of the house, at least.
I had to commend Alan on how friendly he’d been to me. I guess he’d been sitting in the back of the church in his wheelchair for over twenty years and he was glad to have some company. And I was glad he was there too. It made me feel like a little less of a freak.
“I heard you have an adventure this weekend,” Alan said to me when I arrived and took my place next to him. The two of us still attracted a lot of stares, but I was working on trying to ignore it.
“You heard about that?” Shit, there are no secrets in Loserville.
“Well, your mother called mine to see if we had an extra power wheelchair you could use,” Alan said. He looked at my chair. “But I guess you located yours.”
“Yeah,” I said. Although my chair had been acting a little funky since my “adventure.” Yesterday it stalled suddenly and refused to work for several minutes. Luckily, I’m never alone.
“Take good care of your wheelchair,” Alan said. “It’s not so easy to get a replacement.”
Alan had been a wheelchair-user his whole life, about 25 years. Someday I’d have been in a wheelchair for 25 years. I couldn’t even imagine it. I’d be 50 by then. A 50 year old quadriplegic. My parents would be in their seventies by then. Would I still be living with them? Would my mom still be changing my leg bag when I was 50? Well, if she wasn’t, somebody else would be. I sure as hell would never be able to do it myself. But I guessed by then, I’d be used to needing help with every little thing.
At that moment, Whitney walked by, flanked by her parents. She was wearing a dark purple blouse and it made her tits look really big. I caught her eye and she stopped in front of me. “Hi, Ryan,” she said. “I see you got your wheelchair back.”
“Yeah, just like new,” I said. I pushed my braced hand into the controls to demonstrate, but misjudged the area in front of me and slammed into the pew. The woman sitting in front of me stared back at me in shock. “Shit.”
Whitney laughed. “Maybe you need a little more practice.”
I nodded and smiled. “Maybe I can go out in the parking lot after the service and zoom around out there.”
“Sounds like fun,” Whitney said. She winked at me. “I’ll see you later. ‘Bye, Alan.”
After Whitney was gone, I turned to look at Alan, who was gawking at me. “You like her!” he said accusingly.
“No,” I said.
“Whatever. You definitely do.”
I shrugged. “So what? I mean, it’s pointless, right?”
“Why do you say that?” Alan said. “She might go for you.”
I looked down at my wheelchair. “Uh huh. Sure.” “Don’t put yourself down.”
I sighed. “Alan, do you seriously think either of us are ever going to have girlfriends someday?”
“Yes,” Alan said without hesitation.
“Then you’re a fucking idiot.”
“You better not let your dad hear you talking that way.”
Alan laughed. “Come on, Ryan. You really think we’re both undateable?”
Yeah, I did. I was noticing more and more the way other people looked at me, and it was pretty much like I was a different species. I mean, no girl was going to want to date her dog. Well, some might, I guess. But the point was, I don’t think women were seeing me as a man anymore. Honestly, I didn’t even see myself that way anymore sometimes.
And even if I got a girlfriend, what the hell would I do with her? Would I bring my fucking mother along on a date or would I have to ask for help with feeding during a first date? And what if we somehow inexplicably got to the point where we could have sex? The whole thing would have to be overseen by my parents, which is mostly too embarrassing for words. Not that I could even have sex, based on the cumulative five minutes of erection I’d had since my accident. My dick got slightly hard when it was getting cleaned, but that was about it.
Anyway, the truth was, I did sort of like Whitney. I wasn’t head over heels, but I was digging her a lot. But while Whitney wasn’t a babe by any stretch of the imagination, I still recognized that she was out of my league.
My grandparents joined us for dinner that night. They had been over a lot lately, since I’d been home. My grandmother especially had been helping out a lot. My grandmother was in her early seventies and in fairly good shape, so she’d been coming over a lot to sort of relieve my mother’s burden (me).
I could tell Mom really appreciated it when Grandma set the table and helped me with my splints and cutting up my food. Sean sometimes did those things when he was around, but he’d been spending more and more time with his girlfriend, lucky fucker. Dad was always really tired when he got home from work, so if Sean wasn’t around, Mom usually did everything.
“You’ve gotten so much better at feeding yourself, Ryan,” Grandma commented.
I had, but it wasn’t like I swelled up at the compliment. Everyone else at the table was able to feed themselves without any problem.
My grandfather had pretty bad knee arthritis so lately he’d been thinking about getting a cane. I really hated it when they discussed this in front of me, but it seemed to come up every time we had dinner.
“The doctor said you’ll have a lot less pain if you get a cane,” Grandma said.
“I don’t want to be hobbling around with a cane like a cripple,” Grandpa said. He looked at me. “No offense.”
It went on like that for a while, with my grandfather saying how he didn’t want to be a cripple and have everyone staring at him. It was pretty fucking insulting. It wasn’t like anyone was going to stare at an old man with a cane anyway. There was nothing surprising about an old man with a cane. A 24 year old in a power wheelchair, on the other hand, really made people stare. He wasn’t disabled—I was.
After dinner, Dad and Grandpa went to watch football in the living room, but I’m not really into football. Mom and Grandma cleaned up the dining table, and I hung around out there. “Stella,” Grandma said. “You look tired.”
“I’m fine,” Mom insisted.
“Do you want me to get Ryan into bed for you?” Grandma asked.
I was really fucking pissed when she said that. First of all, it wasn’t even nine o’clock and I wasn’t ready to go to bed. Second, I really didn’t appreciate being talked about in the third person when I was sitting right there, even though it seemed like everyone did that to me these days. Third, I really didn’t like it when Grandma helped me get ready for bed. She sucked at helping me. Even though she technically knew what to do, she did everything wrong.
I wanted Mom to just say no, but instead she flashed Grandma this really grateful look and said, “Thanks, Ma. Is that okay with you, Ryan?”
It wasn’t, but it didn’t seem like anyone gave a shit what I wanted. I knew if I made a fuss over this, I was going to hear about it from my father, so I figured it was better to just agree. “Sure,” I said.
I followed Grandma to the bathroom and she helped me put the splint on so I could brush my teeth. Sometimes Mom gave me a shower at night, but I wasn’t going to let my grandmother bathe me, at least not right now. I really didn’t like being bathed by other people. I could deal with my mother doing it, but I didn’t like Dad doing it, and I really didn’t like Sean or anyone else doing it. I guessed that as time went by, Dad was definitely going to be bathing me a good amount though and maybe Sean too, so I knew it was stupid to get upset over it.
One thing I couldn’t get out of though was my bowel program. I really didn’t enjoy my 70-something year old grandmother turning me over in bed and putting in my suppository, especially because she wouldn’t stop fucking talking to me the whole time. As we were waiting for my bowel movement, she kept saying things like, “Ryan, so your dad tells me you’re going back to school. Is that true?” Or, “Ryan, have you made any new friends since you’ve been back?”
There should be an etiquette book for helping a quad with his bowel program. If there were, I’ll tell you number one would be: Don’t fucking talk!!!
The lights were out in my room before it was even ten o’clock. Everyone in the house was still up. I hated when I was a kid and there were guests and I’d have to go to bed early while they were still there. Half the time I’d sneak out of bed. I wanted to do that now, except for the fact that I couldn’t. I looked over at my wheelchair in the dark and felt frustrated that I couldn’t even get into it on my own.
I raised my arm and rubbed an itch on the back of my nose with my forearm. At least I could move my right arm a little. When I was first injured and couldn’t move my arms at all, it really sucked. The doctors told me I’d probably never be able to feed myself or anything. It would have been great if I could move my arms a little better, but I guess something was better than nothing.