After about a month of living at home, I was ready to poke out my eyeballs. I was really trying to make it work and be the best son I could be but it was so goddamn hard. My father is an asshole. There’s no two ways about it. Maybe if I were a submissive loser like Sean, I could tolerate it, but that’s not me.
For starters, Dad treated me like I was about eight years old. He was very regimented about when I should eat dinner, watch TV (no more than two hours per night), and what time I had to go to bed. I felt like I was in the fucking army. And what else sucked was that he put up parental controls on my computer. So I couldn’t even look at porn. Not that I could jerk off or anything, but if I wanted to look at naked tits, I think I had a right. I’m 24 fucking years old.
But the worst part was how he nagged me. Every night, it was, “Ryan, have you thought about going back to school?”
Yeeeaaaahhhh, every day. Because school was just that fucking awesome. “I don’t know,” I said.
“There are some computer classes at the local college,” he said. “You could get a degree in computer science and be able to get a job.”
Um, hello? Who was going to hire a guy like me? Nobody. I was never going to be able to work. The thought of it was stupid. Besides, I wasn’t really excited about starting up college as a freshman when I was in my mid-twenties and a quadriplegic. College is supposed to be about drinking and drugs, not having your mom drop you off and pick you up for each class.
Anyway, after all the crap that Dad blocked on my computer, he failed to monitor my email. Which meant that I’d been talking a lot to my friend Ali.
I met Ali after I moved to the city and he was my first roommate. He is the fucking man. Nobody can party like Ali and nobody can get girls like Ali either. I kind of worshipped him. But he was also a really loyal friend and he always had my back. I think I’d have been dead years ago if not for Ali.
I’d been kind of hinting at the idea that maybe I could eventually live with Ali. It seemed a little out there, but the thing is, Ali has lots of money because of his parents. So he doesn’t need to work. So helping me out a little in the morning and at night wouldn’t be a big deal. And then we could spend the rest of the day partying and shit. Just like old times. My being in a wheelchair didn’t have to change any of that.
In any case, Ali was receptive to the idea of taking me out to party with him, and that was the only shit that was keeping me going. It was actually kind of exciting to plan because of course, my parents couldn’t know anything about it. Luckily, since I was on the first floor and there was no need to lock the windows in Loserville, it would be possible for Ali to come in through the window after everyone was asleep. We’d stay out all night partying, then Ali would bring me back before my parents woke up for the day.
Okay, I admit there was a reasonably high chance of getting caught. But I didn’t care. If I didn’t do something fun, I was going to lose my fucking mind. No kidding.
So about a month and half after I’d been home, Ali arranged to come get me in my bedroom after my parents were asleep. When my mother was lowering me into my bed, I told her the room was stuffy and asked her to open the window a little bit. I didn’t want to risk Ali not being able to get in.
Midnight came and went. I kept looking at the clock, getting nervous that Ali wasn’t going show. Finally, at nearly 1AM, I saw his face at my window. “Hey,” I whispered. “Get your ass in here, Ali.”
He grinned at me as he pushed the window open and crawled into the room. He landed on the floor with a thump and for a second, I was completely sure my parents were going to wake up. But they didn’t. They were all the way upstairs after all.
Ali scrambled to his feet and stood at my bedside. “Hey,” he said. “Whaddo I do?”
This was the uncomfortable part. So obviously, I wasn’t dressed. I was just wearing an undershirt and boxers. And I couldn’t dress myself. So Ali was going to have to help me. “Get some clothes out of my drawers,” I said.
Ali rifled through my drawers. “Shit, Ryan, all these clothes are totally lame.”
“I know. Just pick whatever.”
He pulled out a pair of pants and a shirt, and held them out to me. I shook my head. “Ali, I can’t get dressed myself.”
“You can’t?” He looked shocked.
“Yeah, dipshit, help me out.”
A look of pity came over Ali’s face and I cringed. I didn’t want him to feel sorry for me. I just wanted him to help me get dressed.
Ali sucked at getting me dressed. He was really having trouble and finally this other guy Brad came out of the car and asked what the fuck was taking so long, then Brad climbed in and the two of them were getting me dressed. It was all kind of mortifying, especially when I had to explain to them about my legbag and how to strap it to my thigh.
Finally, I was dressed and the two guys heaved me into my wheelchair. I told them about all the straps, and they missed a few of them, but at least got the two on my chest so I didn’t fall out. They were looking all over the room for my shoes, but couldn’t find them. “What the fuck do you need shoes for anyway?” Brad said. “You’re in a wheelchair.”
I was a little pissed off he said that, but it was getting late, so I didn’t press the shoes issue.
We went out the front door and Ali grabbed the set of spare keys so we could get back in later. Once we were at the car, Ali hefted me into the back seat, seatbelting me into to keep me from slipping, which worked somewhat. They put my wheelchair in the trunk and I heard a few unsettling declarations of, “It doesn’t fit!” Then a few more unsettling crunching noises. I found myself praying that my wheelchair would be okay.
The ride to the city was pretty fun. The guys were drinking beers in the back seat and they offered me one, but I can’t hold a regular cup and there was no straw for me to drink from. Finally, one of the guys held the beer up to my mouth and I tried to take a sip, although a lot of it ended up on my shirt. Nice.
The party was at some guy’s house in Manhattan. We found parking a few blocks away and Ali helped me back into my chair, which still worked, thank fuck. But I’d forgotten how goddamn inaccessible the city was and the ride wasn’t fun. There were a few curbs that didn’t have any kind of ramp, so I just careened off the curb and hoped for the best. I survived, but I was getting seriously worried about my wheelchair. I mean, I needed this chair to get around. I didn’t want to break it.
The apartment was a one bedroom, lit up with only candles, and smelling strongly of pot. There was music playing and a few scantily clad girls were dancing with each other. The girls were incredibly hot and I watched as Ali ran right up to get between them. It was the kind of thing I might have done way back when, although now I could only watch. I started to feel this nagging sensation in the back of my head: I didn’t belong here.
The feeling only got worse as the night wore on. I’d been to a million parties like this and usually they were a blur of cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs. But now I was just getting ignored. People were giving me these looks like they didn’t know what the hell I was doing there. Nobody was talking to me at all, even Ali. I felt completely out of place.
I tried to go to the other side of the room to try to mingle or whatever, but the first thing I did was knock over a table that had two candles on it. Luckily, someone saw my accident immediately and put out the fire. It was pretty fucking weak.
Finally, I saw two pretty girls in the corner, passing a joint between them. I took a deep breath and wheeled toward them. “Hi,” I said.
“Hi,” one of the girls said, giving me a funny look.
“Um,” I said. “Could I take a hit off that?”
The girls exchanged looks. “Are you sure that’s okay?”
“Yeah,” I said. “Just, um, hold it up to my mouth.”
One of the girls reluctantly held the joint up to my lips and I leaned forward and took a nice long drag. I love the taste and smell of weed. Man, I missed it.
I think I missed it too much though. I took too long a drag and started coughing. My coughs are not great, considering my diaphragm is only partially functional, so I was having a lot of trouble. I kept giving these weak coughs and then I felt myself starting to wheeze.
“Are you okay?” one of the girls asked me.
I tried to say yes, but I couldn’t. I was actually starting to have a lot of trouble breathing. I could breathe, but I had to focus on it really hard. I felt a sweat breaking out on my forehead. Shit, this was bad.
“Hey!” one of the girls yelled. “There’s something wrong with the crippled guy.”
I had now attracted a crowd as I kept wheezing and struggling to breathe. Ali came over to me and peered at my face. “Fuck,” he said. He shook his head. “Ryan, you need to go to the hospital?”
As much as it pained me to do so, I nodded.
The next twenty minutes or so were a blur. Ali got me downstairs and we somehow made it back to the car. He put me in the backseat with no seatbelt, but never loaded my wheelchair inside. I guess he felt like there was no time. I was pretty distressed about what was going to happen to my wheelchair, but I was more distressed that I still couldn’t breathe well. He and Brad drove me to the nearest hospital, which took about ten of the longest minutes of my life.
As they stalled outside the emergency room entrance, I could hear them talking.
“What do we do?” Brad said.
“We bring him in, I guess,” Ali said.
“I’m not fucking going in there,” Brad said. “I’m high off my ass. They’ll arrest me.”
Ali paused a long time before he finally said, “Yeah.”
So what ended up happening was that Ali, my best friend in the whole world, dumped me on the sidewalk in front of the ER, gasping for air, and sped off.
Some paramedics saw me get dumped on the ground. They leaned over me and one of them put a hand on my shoulder. “You okay, buddy?”
I shook my head no.
They wheeled over a stretcher and the next thing I knew, I was being lifted into the stretcher and wheeled into the emergency room with an oxygen mask on my face. I was hoping I’d be okay with the mask, but I still wasn’t. I was still giving weak coughs and gasping for air as I got hooked up to a bunch of monitors. I heard someone say, “I think he needs to be intubated.” I felt miserable when I heard that. I was intubated and on a ventilator right after my accident and they weren’t able to take the tube out, I ended up with a trach for weeks. It was really hard to talk that way and it was just overall horrible. I felt sick at the idea of starting all that again. Why had I done such a stupid thing to myself?
Two guys in scrubs were peering down at me while I continued to struggle to breathe. “What’s wrong with him?” one of them asked, as he started pulling off my clothes.
“Looks like maybe he has cerebral palsy,” the other guy said. “He probably doesn’t really know what’s going on.”
I wanted to explain to them that I was a quadriplegic, but I couldn’t bring in enough air to talk. I was feeling worse every second. Now I felt lightheaded. It was getting to the point where I actually wanted them to intubate me.
A woman lifted my oxygen mask and stuck a suction deep in my throat. I gagged a little, but then all of a sudden, I gave a really good cough and miraculously felt better. The monitors stopped beeping so insistently and my lightheadedness improved. I guess I just needed to give a good cough.
I turned to the woman who had suctioned me to thank her, but then got a surprise: it was Whitney. I was so shocked, I was speechless.
“Better?” she asked impatiently.
I looked down at her badge. She was a nurse. I had no idea she worked in such an important job. “Yeah,” I said.
She shook her head at me. “What the hell are you doing here at three in the morning, Ryan? Dumped on the side of the road, no less.”
I didn’t know what to say to that, so I just kept my mouth shut. A guy in scrubs came up to us, who I guessed was a doctor. He looked down at me. “You’re very lucky, young man,” he said. “We were really close to having to intubate you.”
“Yeah,” I said.
“Do you want to tell us what drugs you were doing?” he asked in a kind of angry voice.
I glanced over at Whitney. “Just some weed.”
“If you want to continue breathing on your own,” he said, “I suggest you avoid smoking weed in the future.”
The doctor’s warning seemed incredibly ominous. I realized that drugs were what ended me up in the wheelchair in the first place and now they almost took away my ability to breathe on my own. How could I have been so dumb? What the fuck was wrong with me? Hadn’t I fucked up my life enough? I didn’t want to be a guy on a ventilator.
I noticed Whitney was pulling back the covers from my legs, unearthing my legbag, which was pretty full at this point. When I was in rehab, I had a suprapubic catheter put in, so the urine bypasses my dick and goes directly from my bladder into the bag. It’s kind of gross, but I guessed it was something Whitney had seen before. She eyed it and asked me, “Do you want me to empty that?”
“Yeah, thanks,” I said.
I watched as she pulled the bag off the tubing and then went to empty out my urine, probably grabbing a sample for tox screen while she was at it. It kind of upsets me that I can’t even empty my own piss, but I just don’t have the dexterity. Oh well.
“I guess I should call your parents,” Whitney said when she returned to replace the bag.
I swallowed. “Do you have to?”
She sighed. “Well, what would you like me to do, Ryan? It’s the middle of the night and you’re here with no wheelchair and no way to get home.”
She had a point. Except my father was going to murder me. Or at least be extremely pissed off.
“You could call my friend Ali,” I suggested.
Whitney raised her eyebrows. “You mean the one who dumped you on the sidewalk when you couldn’t breathe and sped off? That guy?”
“Whitney,” I pleaded. “My dad and I… we haven’t been getting along so well. If he finds out about this…”
“I’m sorry,” she said. She genuinely sounded kind of sorry. “There’s nothing I can do.”
I lay in bed, cursing to myself, as Whitney left to call my parents. They were going to be really fucking shocked. Of all the shit I had pulled in my life, this was really up there. Worst of all, after all my promises that I had changed, this kind of proved that I hadn’t changed at all. I was the same idiot I’d always been, who got myself crippled at age 24.
My parents showed up about an hour later. My mother was pushing my spare wheelchair, which was a manual chair she bought on the cheap. I guessed Whitney told her my power wheelchair was gone. This really sucked because I couldn’t wheel a manual chair myself, so I was going to have to get pushed around till I got a new power wheelchair. Or my old one somehow turned up, but I didn’t have much hope for that.
My father looked really really pissed off. His eyes were bugging out of his head and he had this crazy vein standing out in his forehead. He stared at me, lying in the bed, now with the oxygen mask off and breathing okay on my own. “I really can’t believe you, Ryan,” he growled in a low voice.
“Let’s talk about this at home,” Mom said quietly.
Dad looked like he wanted to say a lot more, but he gritted his teeth and kept his mouth shut. He grabbed me around the chest and roughly lifted me into the manual wheelchair. Once I was inside, I couldn’t balance and sit up on my own, so my mom tied a strap across my chest. It was a little too low, so I was still kind of slumped down, but at least I wasn’t falling out anymore. Dad put my feet in the plates.
I fucking hated being in this wheelchair. I felt completely helpless, unable to even move forward on my own. I didn’t have much hope that my powerchair was recoverable though. “When do you think we can get a new power wheelchair?” I asked.
“I don’t think you’re in any position to be demanding anything,” Dad said.
“I’m not demanding,” I said quickly. “I’m just asking.
“I have no idea,” Dad said. “You may be stuck with this wheelchair for the rest of the time you’re at home.”
I frowned. “What do you mean?”
“I mean,” Dad said. “You’re moving out. That’s it, Ryan. I’ve had it with you.”
My jaw dropped open. “But… where will I go?”
“There are plenty of nursing homes on the island,” Dad said. “I think it would best for all of us if you lived there.”
I looked up at my mother, who looked really sad. She put her hand on my shoulder. “Ryan, we’ve tried and it just isn’t working out. I think we can all agree on that.”
I felt tears rising in my eyes. I didn’t want to live in a nursing home. I was only fucking 24 years old. This couldn’t be happening. “Please, Dad,” I said. “Give me another chance…”
Dad shook his head. “We’ve given you so many chances, I can’t even count. You’ve screwed up every attempt we’ve made to help you. I don’t think you want to be helped, Ryan. If that’s how you want to live your life, that’s fine. But we’re not going to be a part of it. I want you out of my house.”
The tears spilled out of my eyes and down my cheeks. I felt like such a fucking idiot for having snuck out that night. What the hell was I thinking? Now I had fucked up everything. It wasn’t fair. I wanted to go back to yesterday and do things differently. Or really, I wanted to go back to a year ago and do things differently.
“Please, Dad,” I said, crying hard now. “I swear I’ll change. I know I was an idiot. I want to change, I really do. Please don’t do this to me.”
“Stop crying, Ryan,” my father said in an annoyed voice.
My face was streaked with tears and my nose was running when Whitney came into the room with my discharge papers. As she looked me over, I guessed she was probably really enjoying this. I’d been an asshole to her when we were kids and now she was seeing me as a helpless quadriplegic, crying my eyes out. I bet I just made her day.
“Mr. Harrison,” Whitney said to my dad. “I couldn’t help but overhear what you were saying to Ryan.”
Yeah, no fucking kidding. She was probably eavesdropping.
“I think you may be a little bit hasty,” she said. “After all, he’s only been home a couple of months. It’s always going to be a rough adjustment, but I think Ryan has it in him to change.”
“With all due respect, Whitney,” my father said, “Ryan is never going to change. He’s been like this since he was thirteen years old. He doesn’t even want to change.”
“I believe he does,” Whitney said. She gestured at me, now crying quietly. “I mean, look at him. He’s miserable about what he did.”
“He’s miserable that he got caught.”
Whitney shook his head. “He came in here unable to breathe. His so-called friends dumped him on the sidewalk outside the ER entrance. He lost his wheelchair. I think he’s very sorry he went out tonight.”
My father turned and looked at me sharply. “Is that true, Ryan?”
I nodded, too upset to even speak.
Dad gave me a really long thoughtful look. Finally, he spoke: “All right, Ryan. I’ll give you one last chance. One chance. But things are going to be different from now on, I promise you that.”
“Thank you, sir,” I whispered.
My mother wiped off the tears on my face, then my parents went to go bring the car around. I sat there in my wheelchair, unable to do very much at all. I was so fucking angry at the guys for not bringing my powerchair along to the hospital. It was going to take weeks probably to get a new one and what the fuck was I supposed to do in the meantime? But at least I had been a temporary reprieve from being sent to a nursing home. I needed to try my hardest not to fuck this up.
Whitney came into my room to get some supplies and she nodded at me when she saw me. “Thank you,” I said to her. “For, um, you know…”
“You’re welcome,” she replied.
“I, um, I’m kind of surprised you helped me. I thought you hated me.”
“Yeah, well…” Whitney shrugged. “That’s my job.” She smiled at me and I noticed she actually had a surprisingly pretty smile.
“How’s Arthur?” I asked her.
She laughed. “He’s fine.”
“Are you two, like, dating now?”
“I don’t know,” Whitney said. “I’m not sure how I feel about him.”
“I very much enjoyed his company,” I said.
“I’ll bet,” she said with a grin.
I looked down and noticed that the laces of one of my sneakers my mother had brought was untied. Whitney saw where I was looking, and without my asking her, she bent down and tied the laces for me. As she crouched over my shoes, I could see down her scrub top and I got a glimpse of her fairly impressive cleavage. When she glanced back up at me, I quickly looked away, although I don’t think I was quick enough.
“Get a good look?” she asked me.
My face turned red. “Uh… sorry…”
But she smiled to show it was okay. Now that I had spent a little time with Whitney, I was noticing that despite her weight, she was actually pretty fucking sexy. Of course, thoughts like that were really stupid for me to have. Relationships were just not in my future. I mean, right now I couldn’t even push my own fucking wheelchair, so it didn’t seem very likely that I could have any semblance of a girlfriend. Maybe I never would. That would really suck, but seriously, I was a fucking quadriplegic. Who was going to want to date me?