Thursday, August 18, 2011

Ethan

Story by Aloha

I guessed we were going about 70 miles an hour or more because I could feel my scalp bashing into the thin pillow behind my head with every bump in the road. I could feel my teeth vibrating in my skull, which sounds like a weird thing to say, but I’ve been noticing all sorts of crazy shit these days on the parts of my body that I can still feel. I may not be able to feel anything from my shoulders down, but the rest of me has a catlike sensitivity. I’m like a superhero from the shoulders up. Or that’s what I tell the ladies.

“Hey, tell the driver to slow down,” I said to the paramedic sitting next to the stretcher I was lying on. “Does he want to get in an accident and cripple me?”

“Shut the fuck up, Ethan,” John, the paramedic, said good-naturedly.

Every time I had to be transported anywhere, John was the one who did it so we sort of became buddies. He and I are pretty much as tight as one guy transporting another guy from hospital to hospital could get. These ambulance rides would be hell if not for me cracking jokes and John rolling his eyes at me.

This was going to be my last stop for a while though, or so I hoped, so John and I were going to have to say a tearful goodbye. In the four months since my injury, I’d been going from one life-threatening pneumonia to another life-threatening kidney infection, and now finally I was told I was out of the woods. After four months, I was finally declared “stable” which I’ve now decided is the best six letter combination in the English language. Six months ago, I probably would have said it was “ménage.”

After my trach finally (!) came out, there was a lot of discussion about what to do with me. I had what I thought was a great idea, but it turned out none of the pretty nurses wanted to take me home. So much for that. My mom said she couldn’t take me, not the way things were, and no rehab place would take me without a discharge plan. So that didn’t leave too many options left.

Mainly the social workers were talking about sending me to an old folks home. I wasn’t very excited about that. You might be fooled by my gray bushy beard, but I’m actually not that old. Actually, I’m only 19 (two months from 20). And I don’t really have a gray bushy beard. (Or a beard at all… as if they’d trim a beard for me in the ICU.)

Then the social worker brought up an idea that I liked a lot better, which was going to a children’s subacute hospital. Yes, even though I had pubes, I still counted as “a juvenile” because I was under 21. So I could chill at the subacute for a while, getting rehab, and presumably smoking some pot with the other teens, until either my mom could take me home or I could set things up to go home by myself. It didn’t sound so bad at all. Kind of fun, actually, like being back in summer camp.

The ambulance slowed down to the point where I no longer felt like I was getting a concussion from lying there, so I figured we were off the highway. “Are we there yet?” I asked John.

“No,” John said.

“How about now?”

“If you don’t shut up, we’re going to pull over and you’re going to have to walk the rest of the way there.”

It didn’t seem like we were too much further from the hospital, but we managed to get lost on the way there. Man, there is nothing like a little lost ambulance roaming the streets. At one point, John left me in the back while he went up front to help the driver figure out a map. I just lay there, trying not to think about how my nose kind of itched. One crappy thing about not being able to move my arms is not being able to scratch my face. I never realized I had such an itchy face until I got paralyzed. But usually if I kind of focused on the itch, it would slowly subside, probably better than if I actually scratched it. How very zen.

We made it to the children’s subacute only an hour behind schedule, which I know from having been transported several times, is freaking amazing. We must have been going at light speed. Seriously though, transports are really slow.

John unloaded the stretcher out of the back of the ambulance and out in front of the subacute, and I craned my neck to see it. Even though I didn’t have a halo or a cervical collar anymore, my neck was still pathetically weak, so I had trouble lifting it to get a better look, but it definitely seemed like a nice place. Quiet, small, peaceful. A great place to, like, write a novel.

“You okay, Ethan?” John asked me. He looked concerned, but I’m not sure why. I was psyched to be here, especially after the other places I could have ended up.

“I’m fine,” I assured him. “Let’s go inside. I’m probably freezing my ass off.”

They wheeled the stretcher inside and I got one more knock in the back of the head as we hit a bump in the sidewalk. Nice. The inside of the subacute was kind of dimly lit but still seemed relatively peaceful. I turned my head to the left and I could see a nursing station with lots of very cute girls in scrubs. Hubba hubba.

“Is this Ethan Mitchell?” one of the nurses asked as she got up off her chair. Where she was standing, her tits were practically at my eye level. I wasn’t complaining.

John nodded, “Yeah, I got his paperwork here.”

The sexy nurse took a thick manila envelope from John. In four months, I had accumulated a shitload of paperwork. The nurse actually grunted a little when she took the envelope.

“Put him in room five,” the nurse told John.

John wheeled me down the hall to a small room near the end. The bed near the door was taken, which meant I got the bed by the window. Score! The paramedic driving the ambulance joined John and the two of them lifted me from the stretcher into the bed. It’s lucky I lost like seventy pounds since my accident, considering how much other people had been lifting me. And I wasn’t exactly overweight to begin with. Now I probably looked like one of those starving kids that Sally Struthers was always trying to help.

I say “probably” because believe it or not, I hadn’t had the opportunity to see my reflection in quite a while. When you’re sitting in the ICU on a ventilator, there aren’t exactly people running to get you a mirror. Honestly, I was a little nervous. I mean, I wasn’t drop dead handsome before but I wasn’t hard on the eyes either. I know my face for the most part was intact, but I’m sure I didn’t look like I’d been skipping through a field for the last four months. I’d been near death about a hundred times and my guess was that I probably looked like shit. At the very least, I needed my hair washed. I had my head shaved when I got the halo put on, but now I actually had hair and it was greasy as shit.

John adjusted the pillow under my head, “You comfortable?”

“Sure,” I said. “Where’s my wheelchair?”

“It’s back at the hospital,” John reminded me.

“I don’t mean that shit chair,” I said. Since I was so sick at the hospital and didn’t get any real therapy, nobody bothered to get me a wheelchair I could actually operate myself. “I mean a power wheelchair.”

“I don’t know, buddy,” John said. “Soon, I bet. Don’t worry, you don’t get your chair and I’ll come over here and kick some ass.”

I laughed. I was going to miss John. Maybe he could come and transport me home when the time came.

We shot the shit for a few more minutes, then John said he had to go, so I was left alone. I decided since I was all alone and no nurses were coming to bug me yet (I suspected in a minute, they’d be all over me), I should check out my surroundings, considering I was going to be living here for a while.

The room I was in was painted yellow and there were pictures of daffodils on the walls. Yep, you could definitely tell this was a children’s hospital. It was still light out and sun poured in through the window, but I couldn’t see much out there except for some shrubs. There was a whiteboard across from my bed, which I supposed was for important information (like what’s for lunch?) but it was blank right now.

I looked to my left at my new roommate. Before coming here, I had this idea in my mind that my roommate was going to be my partner in crime and we were going stir up some hell in this place. My only hope was that my roommate wasn’t a three year old or something. Well, it turned out my roommate was about my age, but he clearly wasn’t going to stir up any hell, unless that hell involved drooling all over himself. Or crapping all over himself, which I guessed was not an unusual occurrence based on the subtle odor in the room. (Unless that was me, which I didn’t think it was, but it wasn’t totally impossible.) So yeah, my roommate was not what you would call “with it.” I don’t know what was wrong with him exactly, but I was suddenly really glad I was wearing a helmet when I crashed my motorcycle.

I didn’t have much of a chance to be depressed over my roommate because at that moment, the most beautiful woman I ever saw walked in through the door. I swear, it was love at first sight. You might say I was having these thoughts because I hadn’t been with a woman in any sort of remotely romantic way, short of flirting, in the last four months, but believe me when I say this girl was gorgeous. This is the kind of girl I had been thinking about when I jerked off since age 12. I would have been thinking about her when I jerked off tonight, if I could do that anymore, which I can’t. The whole no arms, no sensation down there combo doesn’t make for good masturbation.

“Hello, Ethan,” the beautiful woman said to me. She was wearing scrubs with ducks on them. Suddenly, I loved ducks. “I’m Casey. I’m your nurse.”

Score! I grinned at her, “Hi, Casey. Nice to meet you.”

“What a nice smile,” Casey said, flashing me one of her own. “We love to see our residents so cheerful. Are you okay with my checking your vital signs?”

“Of course,” I said.

Casey dragged a blood pressure machine into the room and wrapped the cuff around my limp arm. I think I have had my blood pressure checked roughly five million times in the last four months. It still makes me a little nervous though, because for a while my blood pressure was never where it was supposed to be. Either it was dangerously low or dangerously high. I was always in danger.

“Perfect,” Casey declared. I couldn’t have agreed more.

She also took my temperature. She took it in my mouth, thank god. Not that I could feel it down there, but I didn’t want to present my ass to Casey quite yet. Although unfortunately, if she was going to be my nurse, that was imminent. (My temperature, by the way, was perfect too. I was beginning to get worried that if I was too perfect, they were going to tell me to stop being a baby and walk home.)

“So do you have a wheelchair for me?” I asked. I didn’t want to nag Casey, but I was very eager, as you can tell.

“Of course,” Casey said, winking at me.

She disappeared for a minute then came back with my wheelchair. I tried not to show it, but my face fell. It was not a sip and puff chair or a chin control chair or whatever. It was a freaking manual wheelchair. I was not happy. “I thought I was going to get a power wheelchair,” I said.

“I’m sorry, Ethan,” Casey said. “They ordered the powerchair for you, but it’s not here yet. You’re going to have to use this one for at least a couple of days.”

I was pissed off, but I couldn’t stay mad at Casey. Plus at least now I knew the damn chair was coming. I’d waited this long, so what was a few extra days? I’d have the rest of my life to zip around in my sip and puff chair. “It’s okay,” I said, “as long as you’re okay with having to lug me around everywhere.”

Casey laughed. She had a really pretty laugh. “I think I can handle it.”

“Awesome, let’s get into the chair,” I said.

Casey wagged her finger at me. “Not so fast, buddy, I need to finish my evaluation.”

I wasn’t all that surprised, considering I’d spent my last four months in hospitals. Medical stuff first, joyrides second.

John had covered up my legs with covers and Casey yanked them away now. I was wearing a hospital gown, which had been my attire of choice (not my choice though) for the last four months. Even though I hadn’t looked in a mirror lately, I had a nice view of my body from looking down at it. I have to admit, I wasn’t exactly looking like a young Arnold Schwarzenegger lately. Even though it hadn’t been very long yet since my injury, my legs already looked very atrophied, at least compared to the way they used to look. Even though they were doing stretches and putting on booties to prevent it, my feet were starting to point down more and more every day. I kind of felt like some of this effort was wasted, since who cared if my feet pointed down? It wasn’t like I was going to be walking anywhere.

When Casey lifted my gown up, I was hoping I could show her a six-pack, but what I had was so far from that, it was almost funny. I had what you’d call a Buddha belly. Since my belly muscles were totally gone, my abdominal contents had nothing to hold them in, so I had a nice big beer belly. You’d think I could have at least had the enjoyment of having a lifetime of beer before I ended up with a gut like that.

I was also not terribly proud of the fact that I was wearing a diaper. Once or twice, it was mentioned to me that they could try to regulate my bowel, but I had this feeling it wasn’t going to happen. Mostly because every time I ate a bean, I had a day of diarrhea. (Sorry, were you eating?) Seriously though, I kind of resigned myself to the diapers. Obviously, I didn’t want to be wearing them, but it was better than the alternative of crapping my pants.

I had on the sky blue plastic diapers from the hospital that had transferred me over here. These were not my favorite diapers. They were bulky and always shifting around. Half they time, they ended up sticking out of my pants. And it’s not like I could reach over and adjust them. Yeah okay, I’ll wear diapers, but does everyone in the room need to see? So I really wanted to get a decent brand-name diaper, like Depends. I figured if the diapers they had here were crap (figuratively), I’d ask my mom to pick up a few packs for me. I was becoming quite the diaper snob.

I was also had a tube in my bladder, which was attached to a big bag of urine that was strapped to my leg. I absolutely had no idea anymore when I had to pee, so this was kind of my only option. Still, you don’t want the ladies to know you’re carrying around a big bag of pee. So this’ll be our little secret.

Casey was pretty cool about the whole thing. She listened to my chest and belly with her stethoscope, then moved around my arms and legs a bit, and checked my diaper and legbag. Through the whole thing, she kept a smile on her face and kept saying, “Very good.”

“Do I check out?” I asked her.

“You sure do,” Casey said. “Now let me get a lift to transfer you into your chair and we’ll go get some dinner.”

I liked the way she said “we’ll go get some dinner” like we were going on a date or something. I wasn’t sure if she could tell how smitten I was. I still couldn’t get over how she was my exact type. I’ve met and dated a lot of girls and I never believed in love at first site till I laid eyes on Casey. It sounded crazy, but I was absolutely 100% sure that something was going to happen between her and me. I knew I was her patient and all, but it was just too perfect. God wouldn’t paralyze me then keep me from getting the girl of my dreams. That would be like kicking me while I was down.

Since my body wasn’t intact, I was just going to have to use my charm to win Casey over. First step: develop some charm. Just kidding.

Anyway, Casey transferred me into my new wheelchair, which I hated immediately. You know those old jokes, “You know you’re a redneck when you… fill in the blank”? Well, you know you’re crippled when you need two straps just to keep you in your wheelchair. I had a strap on my waist and a strap across my upper chest, and I was still slouched over like I was about to keel over onto my face.

Casey wheeled me down the hallway to the dining area. I had been pretty psyched about meeting the other kids at the subacute, thinking I’d actually make some friends in this place, but the second I got wheeled into the room, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. First of all, I was obviously much older than most of the kids here. And second, it was beginning to look like I was the only patient here who still had a working brain.

Casey wheeled me over to a table where two other kids were already seated. One was a kid who was maybe ten or eleven and his eyes were rolled up in their sockets. I didn’t think it was possible, but this kid had more straps on him than I did. A nurse was feeding the kid, who was amazingly chewing and swallowing his food, even though he looked like was all but dead.

The other person at the table was a girl, who amazingly looked like she was probably around my age. She looked just as messed up as any of the other kids, with a disproportionately large head and a nonexistent neck. Even though I guessed that she was around 20 like me, she had no signs of boobs. She was completely boobless. I wondered how the disease that had affected the rest of her caused her boobs not to form. Science is interesting.

Sadly, Casey left me at the table and told me she was going to fetch a nurse’s aid to feed me. That made me tied for the most disabled person at the table, since Boobless was managing to feed herself. Not very well, but she was doing it. Without arms that worked at all, I couldn’t even give it a good college try. When I was first injured, there was a doctor who thought he felt a twitch in my biceps and we were all real excited about that, because if I had biceps strength, I could theoretically feed myself. But as it turned out, that doctor was high on crack. I couldn’t move my arms at all.

I noticed Boobless was staring at me. I finally looked over at her and she said, “Hi, I’m Deanna.” Her voice was very high and sounded like she was talking with a bubble in her throat. I noticed she had a trach still in her neck, which made me extra grateful that mine was gone.

“I’m Ethan,” I said.

“This is your first day here, right?” Boobless, whose name was apparently Deanna, asked me.

“Yeah,” I said. I didn’t really want to talk to Deanna much, since she seemed kind of weird. It was beginning to become clear to me that the only friends I was going to make around here would be the nurses.

“It’s always hard for people the first day,” Deanna said.

“How long have you been here?”

Deanna giggled. “Me? Forever. I’ve been here fifteen years.”

“Wow.” I was impressed. I couldn’t imagine living in this place for fifteen years. I wasn’t even sure how I was going to make it through the day, although I knew things were going to get a lot better when I got my power wheelchair. “Hey, how many normal kids are here?”

Deanna blinked at me. “Normal?”

“Well, you know. Not like normal, but like me.”

Deanna was smirking at me, which kind of hurt. Okay, I know I wasn’t your average twenty year old college student, but I thought I still looked relatively like a normal person. I mean, I definitely didn’t look like the drooling kid next to me. And even though she could feed herself and I couldn’t, I definitely was a lot more normal looking than Deanna.

“Welcome to the world of disability,” Deanna said. “You can start by taking a look in the mirror.”

Now I’m one of the most even-tempered guys you’ll ever meet, but what Deanna said really got me angry. Maybe I didn’t know what I looked like exactly, but I sure as hell knew I didn’t look like a weirdo like Deanna. I still had a normal head to body ratio. I looked like a normal guy sitting in a wheelchair… maybe an out of shape normal guy but still normal.

“If you think I look like you,” I said, “maybe you’re the one who should take a look in the mirror and see what a freak show you are.”

That shut Deanna up. She stared at me for a minute, then lowered her eyes and went back to her struggle to eat her food with hands that clearly didn’t work very well. She was dropping about half of it on the way to her mouth, but it wasn’t like I could throw stones. I sort of felt bad about what I had said, but I didn’t know how to take it back.

A few minutes later, a nurse’s aid came over to feed me. I was sure that in twenty years, I would feel totally and completely comfortable with being fed by another person. Hell, I’d probably think that self-feeding was some weird, foreign thing. But right now, I still had spent the vast majority of my life feeding myself, so it felt bizarre to have to depend on someone else for something so basic.

One thing I’ve noticed is that some people are better than others at feeding me. You’d think it wouldn’t be that hard, right? Maybe there should be some post graduate training, like getting a masters in feeding quads. See, when you feed yourself, you take a bite when you know you want a bite, you know when the fork is approaching your mouth, you know how long to leave the fork in your mouth and how quickly to get the food off the fork, and you know the right angle to remove the fork so as not to scrape the roof of your mouth. Those things actually take a lot of thought when someone else is feeding you. This particular nurse’s aid was going way, way too fast, not giving me a chance to get all the food off the fork before retracting it, which meant that some of it kind of propelled out of my mouth.

The aid hadn’t given me a napkin, so the front of my gown was quickly becoming covered with chunks of food. But more unsettling was all the mashed potatoes that had missed its mark and was now on my chin. You know, I didn’t mind being fed, but I didn’t really want to look like Baby’s First Meal. What was most annoying was the way the aid kept giving me instructions and talking to me in this really condescending voice, like I was brain injured in addition to crippled. I guess she didn’t know. I wanted to tell her, but it was hard enough to concentrate on eating.

Deanna didn’t say another word through the meal, but before she left the table, she gave me and my food-covered face one more knowing look. I had this bad feeling that maybe she had been right.

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The next day was possibly the most exciting day since I got injured because I got my *drum roll please* sip and puff wheelchair. I felt a little bit ridiculous for how excited I was over my new wheelchair, but man, I was sick of being wheeled around. It was incredibly frustrating. Finally, I was going to being able to go where I wanted to go when I wanted to go.

I met my new physical therapist Linzy when she wheeled the new chair into the room. I guess my eyes lit up and she started to laugh at me. Honestly, I thought I’d be waiting weeks for that chair. I was shocked to get it so quickly.

I spent a minute checking out my new ride. It was a gigantic chair compared to the one I had been placed in yesterday. My new chair looked like it could eat my old chair. It had a little wheel in front and in back and a giant wheel between the two. It was well padded and there was a headrest, which was probably going to be useful considering my neck got tired a lot faster than it used to. And then, of course, there was the sip and puff controls.

Linzy used a Hoyer lift to transfer me into the chair and once again, I got strapped in up the wazoo. This time it wasn’t just my chest though. There was also a strap holding both my feet in place, a strap over my ankles, and a strap over each of my arms. The strongest hurricane wasn’t going to be enough to knock me out of my wheelchair. Linzy also showed me a tray that could be clipped into place so that I could use a laptop or read a book or whatever. I could even put a phone there and make some calls.

“So how do I work this thing?” I asked Linzy.

“Give a strong puff to go forward,” she instructed me.

I gave what I thought was a strong puff, but instead of going forward, I turned left. What the hell?

“A soft puff turns you left,” Linzy explained. “You have to puff harder to go forward.”

“I see,” said the blind man.

I practiced puffing to go forward, as well as sipping to stop or go backwards (or turn right). It was ridiculously hard. Linzy set up the challenge for me of just getting out of my room by myself and I couldn’t do it. I got myself wedged between my bed and the wall and I was just stuck. I tried puffing to turn and I just kept moving forward and hitting the wall. I don’t know why I thought I was just going to get in the chair and be able to take off right away.

Finally, I convinced Linzy to help me get into the hall and let me take off in the hallway. I got one good puff in and then I was off! Of course, I was moving at about the speed of a turtle because Linzy set the controls that way, but it was still fun. I felt a little discouraged from my inability to get out of the room, but I figured I’d master it eventually. Everyone did. It’s kind of like the way it’s hard to drive a car at first then it becomes second nature. (Speaking of which, I wondered if I could drive a car again? Probably not.)

I was halfway down the hallway when I saw Deanna’s wheelchair parked outside her room. I gave a strong sip and to my surprise, the chair did what I wanted and halted. Woo, I was actually learning to control this thing.

“Hi, Deanna,” I said.

She looked up at me. “Hi,” she said. She sounded a little wary.

I took a deep breath. I felt bad about what I had said yesterday and wanted to make amends. “What do you think of my new chair?” I asked her. “Pretty cool, huh?”

Deanna realized what I was trying to do and she actually smiled. She was pretty funny looking, but there was something slightly pretty about her when she smiled. “Yeah, you look like you could mow some people down with that machine.”

“I like yours too,” I told her.

Deanna blushed a little. That’s me, turning on the old Mitchell charm for all the little crippled girls. I was a real heartthrob.

I felt good about having made amends though, and I felt even better when I noticed Casey standing at the nursing station. I wanted to show her my new chair too, although as I came closer, I noticed she was talking to an older man with a stethoscope around his neck. He seemed to be upset.

“Who approved this admission?” I heard him ranting. “He’s too old to be here! Now we’re on the clock to get him out of here.”

I was so distracted by listening to the conversation that I crashed right into the nursing station. Luckily, I was still only going at a snail-like speed. Linzy rushed over to rescue me.

“Oh hi, Ethan,” Casey said to me. She had been the one to feed me breakfast this morning and she did a fantastic job. It was like she had a mind meld with me to know how to feed me just right. “This is Dr. Palmer.”

I’d heard about Dr. Palmer. He was the doctor who came a few days a week to manage the patients. I had a bad feeling that the admission he was all pissed off over was me.

Dr. Palmer approached me and actually held out his hand for me to shake, which I found kind of unbelievable. I just stared at it for a second before he realized his mistake. Kind of a stupid mistake for a doctor who was as old as he was. “Hi, Ethan,” he said. “I’m sorry if you overheard that, but you have to realize that we’ve got to start making discharge plans for you right away. These things can sometimes take a while.”

“That’s okay,” I said.

“There are a number of good nursing homes in the area,” Dr. Palmer told me. “The social worker will discuss them with you.”

“That’s okay, I’m going to go home with my mother,” I said.

Dr. Palmer glanced over at Casey, “Are you sure about that? The social worker didn’t think that was an option.”

“No, she wasn’t ready before,” I said. “But she said she’d take me home after she got the house ready.”

Dr. Palmer didn’t look like he believed me, but fuck him. I mean, what sort of mother would let her 20 year old son get put in a nursing home permanently? I wasn’t like some evil drug addict or beat her up. I was a good kid and I knew my mom was going to help me out.

“Just in case,” Dr. Palmer said, “we’re going to still look at the nursing homes. Maybe we can set up a few visits for you.”

“Fine,” I said, just to be agreeable.

I tried to convince Linzy to let me get back to my room by myself, but she said she had another patient to see and she didn’t have time. I asked her if I could stay out in the hall in my wheelchair, which she said was fine except she wanted me to tilt my chair back to shift my weight. Also, since my wheelchair was so bulky, I was completely blocking off the entire hallway, so she moved me into the playroom and turned on some music for me. Unfortunately, she turned off the controls for the chair.

Moving around in the chair was like the most fun hour of the day, and now it was extra frustrating to be stuck in one place again. I rolled my head to the side to check out what was going on in the playroom. At this point, I was beginning to realize that every kid in this hospital was in a power wheelchair like me. So at least I fit in. And it seemed like at least three quarters of them couldn’t control their own chairs. So while I was one of the most physically disabled patients here, at least I was in good company.

There were several kids in the playroom, sitting in their wheelchairs and staring at the walls, much like I was doing. However, there was one teenager who was in a joystick-controlled chair who was sitting at a chess table and appeared to be playing a game of chess with himself. He was funny looking in kind of the same way as Deanna, but he at least seemed to be closer to normal than most patients.

“Hey,” I called out to him. “I’m Ethan.”

The boy looked up at me, stared for a second, then looked back down at the chess board.

I didn’t give up. “What’s your name?”

He didn’t even look up at me this time. He just reached forward and moved one of the chess pieces with his gnarled hand.

I waited for over a minute, until it became clear he wasn’t going to answer. “Do you talk?” I finally said.

The boy looked up at me and made a face. “Yeah.”

“So what’s your name?”

“None of your business.”

My jaw almost dropped open. I think the last time someone told me something was none of my business was when I was like ten. “What the hell is wrong with you?” I said.

“Why don’t you look in a mirror, dipshit?” the boy spat at me.

That’s how I figured out that Deanna had “told” on me. I didn’t know if this guy was Deanna’s boyfriend or something (although the thought of that was pretty gross), but he clearly figured he was sticking up for her.

You have to understand that I’m probably one of the most even tempered guys you’ll ever meet. Usually nothing gets me angry. But it seemed like since I got here, I was feeling angry a lot. Maybe because I couldn’t feel most of my body, the rest of my body was more sensitive, even emotionally. I know that sounds extremely dumb, but I couldn’t think of why else I kept flying off the handle. I wanted to punch this guy in the face. And I might have, if I could have moved my arms.

But instead I just felt my face get really red. “Hey, fuck you!” I yelled at him. “Tell your girlfriend to keep her fucking mouth shut.”

By the silence that ensued from my outburst, I had this feeling that swearing was kind of a no-no in this place. Everyone was staring at me like I had just opened fire with an automatic rifle or something. A nurse who looked about eighty was immediately at my side. “We do not use that kind of language around here,” she informed me.

“All right, all right,” I muttered.

“I want you to apologize to Dylan,” she said.

I looked over at the boy, Dylan, who was staring down at the chessboard. “He started it,” I said. “I’m not going to apologize.”

She looked me up and down, “How old are you?”

“I’m going to be twenty in a month,” I replied.

“You’re too old to be here,” she declared. “I’m going to talk to the social worker.”

I knew a powwow with the social worker was inevitable, but I didn’t want to do it right now. She was going to lay out my options for me, which were basically Nursing Home A or Nursing Home B. Nobody seemed to believe my mother was going to take me home. “Look, I apologize,” I said. “I’m sorry I cursed.” The nurse seemed to reluctantly accept that and I was relieved when she walked away. For some reason, it seemed like I was walking on eggshells in this place and I needed to watch it or else I really was going to end up in a nursing home.

To be continued...

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