Monday, July 18, 2011

Loserville

Story by Aloha

Today was the worst fucking day of my life.

There’s some strong competition too. Like the day I graduated from high school and got busted for buying weed during the ceremony and actually got carted away by the cops during the principal’s speech to us. I didn’t end up going to jail or anything, but that night my dad packed up all my shit and threw it on our front lawn and said he was tired of my crap and he didn’t want to see me again. I tried to go to my best buddy Jay’s house to sleep, but his grandmother told me to fuck off, that I was a bad influence. So I ended up sleeping on the sidewalk.

So yeah, that was a really bad day. But today was worse.

As a teenager, I was all about rebellion. Everything I did practically, I did it to piss off my folks. Every time I pierced something, tattooed something, snorted something, I pictured my parents finding out about it. That fueled me. I was always trying to fuck with them, trying assert my independence or some shit like that. Even though it sucked getting thrown out on my ass, I was psyched to be out on my own when I was eighteen. I went to live in New York City, where I found a lot of people who were really similar to me. The next six years were honestly kind of a blur that could be summed up in three words: lots of drugs. Mostly, meth. But I wasn’t picky.

Culminating, of course, in my dirt bike accident. Dirt bikes are pretty dangerous. And they’re especially dangerous, I guess, when you’re really fucking high. It’s probably a miracle I didn’t get hurt sooner, or maybe that I wasn’t killed. Actually, I don’t look at it as a miracle that I wasn’t killed. I’d say that was kind of a shame. Would have spared me a lot of shit. Would have spared me having to get through today.

My parents arrived at the rehab center right on time to pick me up. There were no surprises, considering they had been by to “get trained” every day this week. They were getting trained to take care of me, because there was no fucking way I could do it myself anymore. It’s funny how for eighteen years, I did everything I could to get away from my parents, and now, at age twenty-four, I was suddenly dependent on them for everything.

When I crashed my bike, I broke my neck at my C4 vertebrae. Six months ago, that would have meant nothing to me. But I woke up and couldn’t move my arms or legs or even breathe on my own, so I learned quickly. It took the doctors a few weeks to admit to me that my paralysis was probably permanent.

Things got a little better luckily. I learned to breathe on my own, so that rocked. Also, my arms went from not moving at all to…. drum roll please… being about to bend my right elbow against gravity. I know, exciting. But actually, it was life changing. Once I got that little bit of movement back in my elbow, I could feed myself again. I could brush my teeth and comb my hair. I mean, I needed a shitload of special adaptive equipment and someone to help with set up, but I could do it. That was huge. Now all I needed was some adaptive equipment to help me jerk off. (Just kidding about that. I can’t feel my dick anyway.)

Now, at my discharge, I’d been classified as a C4/C5 quadriplegic. My doctor said he didn’t expect much more in the way of improvement, so that was how it was going to be from now on. For the rest of my life.

Obviously my parents and I had a pretty rocky relationship prior to my injury, so they lay down some ground rules for me before they agreed to let me come home again:

1) I had to look respectable. That meant dressing in a way that they thought was reasonable, not the punk get up that I sported back in high school. Not that I was much of a punk in my more recent years. My bigger problem was not washing my clothes for months at a time. But since I wasn’t going to be doing the laundry again ever, it was pretty much out of my hands. Then there was my hair. When I was in high school, I kept it bleached and dyed some crazy color, usually blue or green. I got sick of the hair dye after leaving high school, but hadn’t cut it in the last four years. My hair was getting pretty damn long, but now it was cut about an inch from my scalp, in a fashion that my parents deemed “respectable.” Hey, at least it wasn’t a military cut. Anyway, who the fuck cared what my hair looked like?

2) No drugs. You’d think this was a given since I was lying in a hospital bed these days, but not so much. I’m resourceful, ya know? As soon as I was stabilized, one of my buddies snuck in some cocaine and I snorted out from a line he made for me. Long story short, a nurse noticed, I had to take a drug test, and shit went down. So now my parents were watching my ass.

3) Behave respectfully and no swearing. This was going to be fucking hard.

4) I had to go to church every Sunday. This more than anything was the part that made me want to poke out my eyeballs. But this was really important to my mother. She felt I lost my way and sitting through a fucking boring sermon every Sunday was going to help me figure things out. Whatever. It’s not like I had anything better to do anymore.

So all this should explain why I wasn’t too excited about my homecoming. But I always felt like there’s no point in getting upset about shit you can’t control. So I was trying to make the best of it.

In preparation for my parents picking me up, my physical therapist Angela got me into my wheelchair. I use a kind of bulky joystick controlled wheelchair which I operate with my right hand. Since my left arm doesn’t move at all, Angela placed my curled up hand in my lap. I had a strap across my chest, across my lap, and across both my feet. At least I wasn’t falling out of the chair so easily.

My mom showed up fifteen minutes early. She was kind of dressed up, like this was some sort of special occasion. I have to be totally honest: my mom is hot. She is! She’s got a really pretty face and a great body. In school, all my friends had a boner for her. It’s hard to say that kind of stuff about your own mom, but she was close to fifty now and she still looked great. Most people think I look a lot like her. I was always really good looking and never had any problems getting girls. Back then.

My father, on the other hand, is a lucky fucker for having such a hot wife. He’s bald, for starters. And he’s kind of an asshole. When I try to remember a time when I actually liked and got along with my father, I really can’t. He’s such a jackass.

“Are you all packed, Ryan?” Mom asked me. As if she hadn’t packed all my shit herself yesterday. I was going to point out to her that I hadn’t been up early this morning packing or anything, but I held my tongue. I had to keep the peace.

“I’m all set,” I said.

“Great!” She beamed at me. “Daddy is in the van waiting for us.”

My parents actually bought an accessible van for me to ride in. They also spent a fortune making their house wheelchair accessible. When Dad had told me how much he spent, he paused a really long time. Then he said, “Well, aren’t you going to say thank you, Ryan?”

In the olden days, I would have told him to go fuck himself. But instead I bit my tongue and said thank you.

My parents live out in Loserville, Long Island. Compared with the city, I was going to be dying of boredom. I guess it’s a great place to live if you want to have a big house with a bunch of kids and not ever go out and actually have some fun. But it wasn’t exactly my dream to be stuck in Long Island at age 24. Oh well. It was probably more accessible than the city anyway. We’d taken some outings since I’d been in rehab and it was always a pain in the ass to do pretty much anything in my wheelchair.

I went around saying my goodbyes to everyone in rehab. I kept it short because I knew Dad was waiting downstairs and he was going to be pissed off if I took too long. My father has a really bad temper. He’s one of those guys who flies off the handle when everyone doesn’t do shit his way. Honestly, it’s amazing he didn’t kick me out the house sooner. I guess he was waiting for me to be eighteen.

“Stay in touch, Ryan,” Angela told me just before I left, running a hand kind of fondly through my hair. Angela and I had been kind of flirting ever since I’d been in rehab. She had an okay face and a smoking body. She was engaged though. Not that anything would ever happen even if she wasn’t.

Sure enough, Dad was sitting in the car outside looking pissed off. “What took so long?” he said.

“I blew a tire,” I said. “We had to pull over and find a mechanic.”

I thought that was kind of funny but Dad apparently didn’t. He was fuming under his breath as he got out to help load me into the back of the van. I appreciate that my parents bought the cripple-mobile, but I feel so fucking lame when the ramp is being mechanically raised for me to get into the van.

Mom babbled through the entire drive. I forgot how she used to talk all the time. It used to drive me fucking nuts. She was mostly talking about my brother Sean, who is in college now but still living at home. Sean has always been the good kid, the one that my parents loved the most. I don’t think Sean ever smoked a joint in his whole life. You can imagine that Sean and I hadn’t been the best of friends.

It took nearly two hours to get out to Long Island. I remember in high school, I used to take the Long Island Railroad to the city a lot of weekends in order to actually have some fun. I remember the ride back home on the LIRR always filled me with dread. But that was nothing compared to what I was feeling right now. As the house where I grew up and lived for eighteen years came into view, I felt ill.

“Are you okay, Ryan?” Mom asked me, looking back at me. “Are you carsick, honey?”

I guess I looked as bad as I felt. “Yeah, a little,” I said.

“Just hang on,” she told me, putting a hand on my knee, which of course I couldn’t feel.

Dad took his sweet time getting me out of the van. I had lived in this neighborhood a long time and I knew who lived in every house, and I was willing to bet every single one of them was watching my homecoming. I mean, NOTHING ever happens in this freaking neighborhood, so somebody breaking their neck and becoming a quadriplegic was a big deal. I felt like I could almost make out the neighbors staring through their windows.

It was only a matter of time before someone came out to get a closer look. It turned out to be Patty Haynes, who lived in the house right to the left of ours. Patty was in her sixties with two grown kids, both of whom were undoubtedly doing better than me. She had always kind of clucked her tongue disapprovingly at me. I remember one time when I was about sixteen, she caught me stumbling home at seven in the morning after a night out of heavy partying. Actually, she caught me vomiting in her bushes. She informed me that I was a disgrace to the neighborhood and I informed her that she was an ugly bitch who should mind her own goddamn business.

“Ryan,” Patty cooed now. “It’s so good to see you again.”

“Uh huh,” I said as my dad lowered the ramp down to street level.

“You look wonderful,” she told me in a really condescending voice.

I wished I could slug her. I looked down at her feet, wondering if I could run them over with my wheelchair.

“We’d love to have you over to visit sometime,” Mom said.

“That would be lovely,” Patty said.

I thought that would be a great cue for Patty to piss off, but instead she and my mother chattered as I made my way down the walkway to the new ramp at the front. The ramp was plenty long, but the junction between the ramp and the walkway was a little steep and my wheels jammed a little. My wheelchair isn’t one of those gigantic tank-like machines that runs over everything. I wanted something a little smaller and the price I had to pay was that non-even surfaces were harder to wheel over. At the time, I couldn’t imagine where I was going to be going that I’d need a super duper wheelchair.

I pushed my splinted hand into the joystick and I still wasn’t moving. “Shit,” I said.

Dad heard me. “Ryan,” he said warningly. “What did we say about your language?”

Shit isn’t a fucking curse. What the hell was wrong with him? But okay, whatever. I held my expletives and gave the joystick another push and this time bounced onto the ramp. Awesome.

I had to wait for Dad to unlock and open the door for me. It fucking sucks that I can’t even open most doors. I can’t operate a key and I can’t turn a doorknob, so yeah, not gonna happen. It’s such a basic thing though. I mean, a door. Needing help to open a door makes me feel like I’m about five years old. Actually, that’s not even true, since a five-year-old can open doors. I’m more like a two-year-old.

My parents had redone their house for me, but the second I saw the inside, I got filled with anxiety. Even though the doorways had obviously been widened, there was too much furniture around. I could already see places where my chair was going to be a tight squeeze. Believe it or not, it’s not that easy to operate a power wheelchair without having any use of your hands or wrists. I was concerned.

“Looks great, doesn’t it?” Mom said to me.

Once again, I found myself holding my tongue. I think if I wanted to live peacefully with my parents, I was going to have to become a mute.

My brother Sean was sitting on a couch and he stood up when I came in. While I mostly resemble our mother, Sean looks a lot more like Dad—tall and very angular. He’s 21, in his last year of college, and kind of a dork. I hadn’t seen him since he was fifteen, but even then we didn’t get along so hot. I remember he caught me smoking up in my bedroom and immediately ran to tell Dad.

“Hi, Ryan,” he said, looking down at me. I hated the fact that everyone had to look down at me now. I used to be close to six feet tall, but now even my fucking mother was looking down at me.

“Hi, Sean,” I said back.

Sean had the same almost military-short haircut I now had, and was dressed in preppie clothing, but the crazy thing is, that all this was his choice. He wasn’t being forced like I was. He actually enjoyed being a huge tool.

“We turned your father’s study in your new bedroom,” Mom told me. My old bedroom had been on the second floor, but obviously I wasn’t going in there any time soon.

She strode off in the direction of my new room and I tried to follow her, but just as I suspected, the living room was too crowded with furniture. I got stuck trying to navigate between the couch and the coffee table. I backed up and tried a second time, but it was obvious I wasn’t going anywhere. “Mom…” I said.

Sean noticed I was having trouble and moved the coffee table so that I could get through. Barely. I couldn’t fucking believe I was going to need people to move shit for me just so that I could wheel across my own goddamn living room. They were going to need to get rid of some furniture or something.

At least the doorway to my new room was wide enough for me to get through. “Ta da!” Mom said as I wheeled in.

I wasn’t excited. My old room was pretty awesome, probably one of the reasons I was sorry to get kicked out. The walls had been plastered with posters of my favorite bands (I don’t even remember who I liked back then, I think it was some punk shit), and I had a bunk bed that I shared with Sean when we were kids and I had gotten it in the split. I had a mini television and my shelves were filled with my favorite CDs. Best of all, I kept a good supply of weed and pills nestled in the drawers. I wondered if Dad had just tossed all my shit because nothing in this room looked familiar. Instead of a bunk bed, there was a pressure relief mattress with a sling so that I could be easily transferred into the bed. The walls were bare except for a framed photo of the four of us from when I was about ten years old. The best part of the room right now was the computer in the corner, which had my special typing splint set up next to it. It looked like the room of a handicapped person, which I guess made sense.

“What do you think?” Mom asked me.

“Um,” I said. “Yeah, great. Awesome. I love it.”

“We bought you all new clothing,” Mom told me proudly.

I suppressed a groan. I didn’t know what kind of stuff they had bought me, but I suspected I wasn’t going to like it. I was scared they were going to want me to try on all the clothes and model them or something. Instead Mom told me she was making dinner and I should go in the living room and watch TV with Sean.

Entire story

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Loserville (part 2)

The smell of my mother’s cooking reminded me that I’d been living on hospital food for the last six months, and before that mostly living on ramen noodles. Even though it had been a long time, I could recognize the smell of chicken cutlet. My stomach actually started growling.

When I was a teenager, I really hated doing chores. My parents pretty much had to threaten me and drag me by the ear in order to do anything. Taking out the garbage was my least favorite chore, mostly because it smelled bad and my hands got all dirty doing it. But setting the table was up there. Mom had a particular way she wanted the dishes and utensils put on the table. It drove me fucking nuts.

Anyway, there was no way I was going to ever get asked to set the table or do any other chores ever again. Actually, not just that, but I had actually become one of the chores. Mom asked Sean to get me ready for dinner, which meant she wanted him to wash my hands with a washcloth, stick a napkin on my chest, and also to put on my hand splint that had a fork attached to it. He obliged, like the good son he is, and I watched him set the rest of the table. He did it fucking perfectly, just like Mom likes. He’s such a tool.

They had purchased special plates for me to use. The plates had a really high rim, so that I didn’t push the food off the plate while I was trying to eat. Believe it or not, feeding yourself when you have no movement in your hand or wrist and only limited elbow movement is not that easy. Actually, it’s really hard. But it’s a hell of a lot better than being fed by someone else.

I took some secret pleasure in the fact that my special plates didn’t match the rest of the dishes, which I’m sure drove my Mom a little crazy. She’s OCD like that. If I’ve got to dress the way she wants and go to fucking church with her, at least I’ve got this.

Mom cut up my chicken into very small pieces for me. For the hundredth time today, I felt about five years old. But since I only had one hand to work with, it wasn’t realistic for me to cut the chicken myself. I stared down at my plate and my splinted hand with the fork attached and I suddenly felt really, really disabled. It’s like, sometimes I almost felt like I’m not THAT bad, but then there were moments like these, where I just felt so limited.

Everyone else dug into their food and I struggled to spear my first piece of chicken. It was too small, I think, and I was having a lot of trouble getting the fork to stay in it. I almost got it like five times then dropped it right as I was getting my fork off the plate. I’d been feeding myself for over a month now, so I knew I could do it. I guessed it was just that I was nervous or something, having my first dinner at home.

“Ryan, honey, what’s wrong?” Mom asked me. “Do you need help?”

“I think my splint is loose,” I said. I didn’t actually think that, but I wanted to come up with some kind of excuse why I was sucking so bad at feeding myself. I mean, I was usually slow, but not that slow.

My mother adjusted the splint and I had more success with spearing a different piece of chicken. After that, it was faster going, although I still hadn’t even finished a quarter of my meat by the time everyone was done. And about half of the meat I had removed from my plate was currently in my lap. And the napkin on my chest was covered in mashed potatoes. I was really making a ridiculous mess.

My family is nothing if not polite though, so everyone stayed at the table while I worked on trying to eat. When about half my food was gone, I finally gave up. I was still kind of hungry, but I wasn’t spending the whole goddamn night trying to eat my dinner. It was late enough.

As Mom was clearing the table, the doorbell rang. Dad got up to answer it and my ears perked up when I heard a familiar voice. I turned my chair around and saw the face of Ali, who was my best friend and roommate for the last three years.

“Is Ryan around?” Ali asked. “We heard he came home today.”

I felt all warm and squishy inside. Ali drove all the way out to fucking Long Island in order to see me. That’s friendship, I tells ya.

“Hey, Ali,” I called out. I approached the door in my chair.

Ali had seen me a few times since my accident, but not much since I’ve been mobile in my wheelchair. He looked a little surprised by the sight of me in the chair, but he recovered quickly and flashed me a big smile.

“I’m sorry,” Dad said. He was blocking my path to get to the front door. “You’re going to have to leave, young man.”

Ali frowned. “What?”

My father crossed his arms. “Look at my son. This is your fault. You and your… your drugs.”

“Dad, come on,” I said.

“Ryan, go to your room,” Dad ordered me. “We’ll discuss this later.”

“I’m not going to my fucking room,” I spat. “I’m 24 years old. I can do whatever the hell I want!”

My father’s face turned bright red. That was not the first time I’ve talked to him like that, not by a long shot. But it was the first time since I broke my neck and swore to him to be a good son. For a moment, I actually felt seriously scared. I thought he was going to reach out and break my neck all over again.

Before I knew what was happening, my father had slammed the door in Ali’s face. He locked it and then looked me right in the eyes. “You want to leave, Ryan?” he said. “Go right ahead.”

I think of all the times in my life that I hated my father, I never hated him more than I did at that moment. I could feel my mother and my brother staring at us, wondering what was going to happen. I wanted to hit him. I wanted to break his fucking face and storm out. But that wasn’t going to happen. There was nothing I could fucking do. I was trapped. And the thing is, it was my own goddamn fault. If only I hadn’t been an idiot and crippled myself. Now I was going to spend the rest of my life paying for it.

Dad knew he had me. There wasn’t a fucking thing I could do.

“Instead of being an ungrateful spoiled brat,” Dad said. “Why don’t you go to your room and think about what you just said to me? And when you’re ready, you can apologize.”

Dad followed me to my room, where he unplugged the computer from below so that I wouldn’t be able to use it. I was really angry. I mean, really, really angry. Except when he left the room, the first thing I did was burst into tears.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

If you’re wondering what happened, the answer is that yes, I apologized. Dad came into my room when I’d been sitting there over an hour and asked me if I had anything to say. I sucked it up and said I was sorry. I’d been crying for almost the entire time and I was sure everyone could hear it and my face was a mess anyway. Dad wiped my face off and helped me get ready for bed.

I knew things weren’t going to be like this forever. The first day was going to be hard, I should have expected that. Eventually, Dad and I would start getting along. I was sure of it.

The next few days involved getting into a sort of routine. Mom got me up in the morning, used my sling to transport me to my chair, then we went into the bathroom. She’d empty my leg bag into the toilet. If it wasn’t a shower day, she would help me put on a splint so that I could brush my teeth. She generally brushed my hair and washed my face for me, even though I could have done it with unlimited time (and her helping me). She’d make eggs or pancakes and help me get set up to eat, then we’d have a “nice” family breakfast.

Days were kind of boring. Back before I got hurt, I used to work intermittently and get high, but I couldn’t do any of those things anymore. So mostly I just hung around the house and watched TV or messed around on the computer. Very rarely, Mom bribed me into going outside, but I wasn’t excited about that.

Then in the evening, Dad and Sean would come home, we’d have dinner as a family, then watch more TV. Before bed, Mom would do my bowel program for me, which was how I stayed continent. She did it while I was in bed, then after she got me cleaned up, she’d roll me over and I’d go to sleep.

So no, my life wasn’t too exciting. But it wasn’t awful. Being crippled was better than working some shitty job eighty hours a week. I guess.

By Sunday, believe it or not, I was actually looking forward to going to church, just to have something to do. My mother had purchased a new suit for me, which made me feel like a huge tool. I’ve been generally trying to avoid mirrors since I got injured, but I passed by a mirror when I was wearing my suit and I think I threw up a little in my mouth. The material of the suit was thin enough that it made my skinny legs really look like sticks and that in addition to my two curled up hands and my gut that bulged through the thin fabric of my white shirt, I looked as disabled as I’d ever seen myself. It was like every day I got a little more crippled looking.

Seeing myself in the mirror didn’t make me feel like going out. It made me feel like isolating myself in the house and never leaving again. But it wasn’t like I had a choice in the matter.

Well, at least my new crippled status got us a great parking spot. We got a spot right in front of the church, where everyone could get a nice view of me getting lowered out of the van. It seemed to take forever, my body bouncing helplessly with each jerk of the ramp.

I recognized a lot of people in the crowd in front of the church. The girls holding babies were girls I went to high school with. The older women were friends of my mom, who came over for Bunco once a month. (What the hell is Bunco anyway? I still don’t know.) I’m sure all the parents were whispering to their kids: See? That’s what happens when you do drugs and don’t listen to your parents!

Well, fuck them. I was still alive, at least. And I could still live my life the way I wanted. This was just an adjustment period. My parents and I would work out an arrangement eventually.

I had forgotten there was a nice big flight of steps to get into the church and for a second, my stomach tightened into a knot. I wasn’t going to have to be carried into the church, was I? That would be too much. But no, there had to be a wheelchair entrance somewhere. It was required by law, I think.

I waited for my parents and Sean in front of the van and finally the came out to join me. My mother said that the wheelchair entrance was out back, so we started moving toward the back of the church, but were stopped by the fattest family I’d ever seen.

It was a man and a woman my parents’ age and their daughter, who was about my age. Together, the three of them must have weighed several tons. They were almost revoltingly fat. Like, if I’d been eating something, I would have had to spit it out after looking at them.

“Hi, Stella,” the fat older woman said to my mother. She looked down at me and said in a slow, deliberate voice. “Hello, Ryan. It’s good to see you again.”

“Thank you,” I said. I had no fucking clue who she was. I would have thought I’d remember someone so fat. “FYI, I’m not retarded or anything. You can speak to me normal.” Mom gasped. “Ryan!”

I felt my father’s hand on my shoulder, giving me an uncomfortable squeeze. “It’s still an adjustment period,” he said apologetically.

The woman seemed a little embarrassed, at least. She nodded at her daughter, who was as fat if not fatter than she was. “Ryan, you remember Whitney, right?”

Actually, now that she mentioned it, yeah, I did sort of remember Whitney. I mean, like I said, how could I forget someone so huge? I think she was in my class in high school, although I hadn’t known her very well. Obviously, we traveled with different crowds. “Hi, Whitney,” I said, making an attempt to be polite.

She just nodded at me, which was pretty fucking impolite, considering what an effort I was making. Well, fuck her. It wasn’t like I was all excited to talk to the morbidly obese girl.

It turned out that the handicapped seating in the church was in the back, which was great. It meant I could doze off or something and nobody could give me shit about it. It also turned out I wasn’t the only cripple in the church today. There was also this guy named Alan, who I remembered from when I was a kid. I think he was two or three years older than me. I think he had cerebral palsy and he was kind of like me in that he could just control his wheelchair with one hand and he had his parents with him helping him, although he was worse than me in that his face and speech were kind of affected.

Alan seemed like he must have been severely retarded from the way he looked and talked. When I was a kid and got dragged to church by my parents, my friends and I used to make fun of him a lot, sometimes to his face. It seemed really funny at the time, although now that I was sitting next to him in my own wheelchair, like a foot away from him, I felt really awkward about the whole thing. I actually heard that Alan wasn’t retarded and was some kind of genius or something.

“Hi, Ryan,” Alan said to me. “Welcome to the back row.”

I didn’t say anything to Alan. People were filtering into church now and everyone was staring at us. I mean, how fucking rude.

These two boys who were about thirteen came in with their parents and they were actually pointing at us. And giggling. I felt my face getting red. One of the boys nudged the other one and then made a retarded “duh” noise and the two of them dissolved into laughter.

“Hey, fuck you!” I screamed at them, before I could stop myself.

A bunch of people turned to stare at me, including Alan. “Ryan,” he said. “You can’t be so sensitive.”

“Yeah,” I mumbled.

“That’s what kids do,” Alan reminded me.

“I hate kids,” I said.

“Me too,” he said, managing a crooked smile. “But you learn to forgive them.”

The way he said that, I was wondering if he meant he forgave me for being such a dick to him when we were kids. I wasn’t sure if I wanted him to. If he forgave me, that meant we were going to end up being friends, by virtue of being the only two disabled guys in the room. And I didn’t know if I wanted to be friends with Alan. I mean, look at him. Then again, I couldn’t really talk. Still, it was more reason for us not to hang out. Two badly crippled guys hanging out together? They’d have to charge admission for people to see us.

“So how’s it been at home?” Alan asked me.

“Pretty fucking bad,” I admitted.

Alan laughed. “Yeah, I could see that. I’m sure it will get better.”

“Yeah.”

“It’s not as bad as you think it’s going to be,” Alan said.

“Huh,” I said.

“I actually have a pretty good life, Ryan,” Alan told me. Shit, I hated the fucking motivational speech. I rolled my eyes, but I don’t think he noticed. “I’m going to school to get a masters degree in computer science, I’ve got friends, and I know how to have fun.”

“Have you ever gotten laid?”

That stopped Alan in his tracks. “What?”

“Has a girl ever fucked you?” I said, in a slow and deliberate voice. “Better yet, has a girl ever even kissed you?”

Alan didn’t answer.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” I said. “So don’t tell me what a great life you have. We’re both just losers who can’t get laid.”

“There’s more to life than sex, Ryan,” Alan said. “Besides, can you even feel your penis?”

I was shocked Alan said that to me. I looked around to see if anyone else had heard. “No,” I confessed.

“So what the hell do you care if you’re getting sex?”

“You wouldn’t understand.”

Alan shrugged. “You know what? Maybe I’ve never had a girlfriend before, but I think that someday I will. Someday I’ll meet a great girl who loves me.” He added, “I’m not so sure about you, though.”

“At least I’ll never be a thirty year old virgin,” I retorted.

Alan’s jaw fell open. I turned my head away from him, glad we were finally on the same page about hating each other.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Loserville (part 3)

I didn’t actually fall asleep during the sermon, but I can’t honestly say I listened to a word of it. What would have been great is if I could have gone home afterwards, but instead there was a fucking church picnic I had to attend. I had always managed to duck out of those when I was a kid, but now there was absolutely no way to avoid it. There was a park a few blocks down from the church and I had no choice but to follow my parents and the rest of the crowd.

Once we got to the park, my wheelchair was having a really hard fucking time in the grass. It must have been raining the night before or something, because my wheels kept spinning while I stayed in one place. After calling for my mother to help me twice, she turned off the controls and just pushed me over to one of the tables. “I’ll get you some food, honey,” she said to me. Of course, she completely forgot to turn my controls back on and I don’t have the dexterity to do it myself. Good fucking deal.

Mom came back with a hot dog and cole slaw for me. As she started cutting up the hot dog for me, I noticed there was a two year old kid sitting at the other end of the table, and his mom was cutting up his hot dog for him too. The whole thing made me feel incredibly lame. Well, at least I could feed myself.

The McFatterson family joined us at the table also, and I was a little worried the bench might collapse under their collective weight. I got stuck sitting next to the girl I knew from school, who I was calling Fattima in my head because I couldn’t remember her real name. Fattima was staring at me as I struggled to eat my hot dog using my fork splint.

“Why don’t you take a picture?” I finally said to her.

“Ryan!” Dad snapped at me.

“She’s fucking staring at me,” I mumbled.

“Ryan…” Dad growled. “Language.”

I lifted my eyes to look at my father, and boy, he looked fucking pissed. Shit. “Sorry,” I said.

“Whitney’s sorry too,” Mrs. McFatterson spoke up. I guess Fattima’s real name was Whitney. “Right, Whitney?”

Whitney just eyed me and I was beginning to wonder if she could even talk. Finally she said, “Yeah, I’m sorry.”

I was making shit progress on my hot dogs. The two year old had already finished his and I had managed to eat two chunks. The table was just a little too far away and I was having a lot of trouble. My mother offered twice to feed me, but there was no way I was letting that happen in public. It was bad enough that everyone was watching me eat with my splint. I did manage to eat some cole slaw, although a lot of it went on the napkin on my chest and a good amount on my chin, which Mom helped me wipe off.

Most of the table, including my parents, wandered off to play some lame church picnic games. I was left at the table eating my hot dog pieces. Actually, it was a relief everyone was gone so I could eat in peace. I was pretty happy about it until Whitney plopped down next to me with her third or fourth serving or whatever.

Whitney was so unbelievably fat. She looked like she was carrying triplets. Her sweater stretched over her massive stomach and breasts in a really unattractive way. She had at least four chins. I mean, I definitely had a gut now, but it was nothing like what Whitney had going on. She was disgusting.

“Why don’t you take a picture?” she said to me.

I looked at her for a second and then laughed. “Busted.”

“Fuck you, Ryan,” she said to me.

Okay, that surprised me. I thought she was probably shy or something because she was so goddamn fat, but I didn’t expect her to curse at me. What the fuck? “Fuck you,” I replied. “What’s your problem?”

“You,” she said. “You were the biggest asshole I ever met in school. You made my life a living hell.”

I did? “I don’t remember that.”

“Yeah, no shit.”

“Well, I’m sorry,” I said, although I wasn’t really sorry. I mean, when you go to school weighing five hundred pounds, what the hell do you expect?

“You so deserve what happened to you,” Whitney said, looking me up and down.

“What the fuck kind of thing is that to say?” My face was getting red now.

“It’s true,” Whitney said. “You deserve to be crippled and in a wheelchair the rest of your life. I’m glad it happened to you. And I bet a lot of other people are glad too.”

“Fuck you,” I said to Whitney. I pushed my hand into my controls to back away from the table, then I remembered that my mother hadn’t switched it back on again. Shit. I was stuck here.

“Having some trouble?” she said, looking amused. “Do you need me to call your Mommy?”

I just stared at her as she got up from the table and turned around so I could get a nice look at her fat ass. “Go fuck yourself, you fat bitch!” I yelled at her.

She didn’t even turn to acknowledge me cursing at her. And now here I was, stuck at this fucking picnic table. Everyone was involved in some bullshit game and nobody was probably going to come check on me for like another hour. This fucking sucked.

I made another attempt to spear a hot dog.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I was in a really bad mood when I got home from church. For starters, the second we got in the door, my parents went to change themselves and just left me in my uncomfortable clothing. I at least reached up to try to undo my tie, but Mom had made a really strong knot. I tried to get my thumb laced into it but it was a big struggle.

I started getting really frustrated. All I was trying to do was take off my tie and I couldn’t even do that. I couldn’t even begin to take off my shirt or pants. I felt tears rising up in my eyes as I got to thinking of all the shit I couldn’t do anymore. I mean, even if I couldn’t walk, did I have to be dependent for every little fucking thing? When I was at the park, I couldn’t even control my own goddamn wheelchair.

I was pretty hysterical by the time my parents came back into the room. Mom ran over to me, looking concerned. “Ryan, honey, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” I gulped. I wasn’t about to admit how bad I was feeling about my disability, although I’m sure they guessed that’s why I was so upset.

“Do you want to get changed?” she asked me.

I nodded and followed her to my bedroom. She transferred me into my bed to get me undressed. I felt so crippled when I was hanging in that goddamn sling. I hated it. But it was easier for her to undress me when I was in bed.

“I know it’s hard right now,” Mom said, as she unbuttoned my shirt for me. “But you’ll adjust, I promise. A year from now, this will all be routine.”

The thought of being undressed by my mother becoming routine to me was even more depressing. But what choice did I have? It was very clear that I was never going to regain enough function in my arms to be independent in any way.

I guess I had to count my blessings. If my parents hadn’t agreed to take me home, the only other option was some sort of nursing home. That would be a lot worse than living here. That was also the reason why I needed to start behaving the way my father wanted me to. I couldn’t afford to get kicked out again.

That week, we went out to dinner for the first time since I’d been home. I wasn’t too excited about it. Every time I went out in public, I got stared at. A lot. Maybe that was also something I’d get used to, but I really didn’t like it now. I hated the way people looked at me, the way they talked to me, all that shit. It’s weird because when I was younger, I just wanted attention and I didn’t care if it was negative attention, but I guess there really were some kinds of attention that I didn’t want. Like the kind you get when you’re a grown man in a power wheelchair being taken care of by your parents.

We went to this Chinese restaurant, which I remembered from when I was a kid. I think it was the only Chinese restaurant in all of Loserville, so it was sure to be pretty crowded. Mom dressed me in a “nice” shirt which basically meant that it buttoned up and made me look like a tool, and then we were off in the van.

Sean also came with us. He brought his girlfriend Terri and the three of us were loaded in the back of the van. I couldn’t stop staring at his girlfriend. She was so fucking hot, it was insane. If I could have gotten a boner, I would definitely have had one right now. I really didn’t understand how a douche like Sean ended up with a knockout girlfriend like Terri. I mean, damn.

I found myself clamming up around Terri. It was weird because honestly, hot girls never intimidated me. I never had any problem getting girls before. But now I looked at Terri and it occurred to me that realistically I was never going to be able to get a girl that looked like that. It was virtually impossible. Actually, to be honest, I was getting seriously worried that I wasn’t going be able to get a girl period, hot or not. Whenever I saw myself in the mirror, I really just couldn’t imagine a woman looking at me and thinking I was someone they’d like to have a date with. Or hook up with.

I was trying not to think about it. I tried to tell myself that eventually there would be some girl who would see past the wheelchair and my body and all that. But it wasn’t just the way I looked. I mean, I lived with my fucking parents and was depending on them for practically everything. And would be for the foreseeable future, probably the rest of my fucking life. That’s not attractive to women, I don’t think.

We got to the Chinese restaurant, and like I predicted, it was ridiculously crowded. Dad had made reservations, but of course, the table was in the back. My wheelchair was just not getting through that restaurant. At least five people had to get up and move their chairs so I could get through, and I managed to bash into a table and knock over a water glass. We weren’t even eating yet and I’d already become a huge spectacle.

It seemed like we were almost at the table when my wheelchair just stopped moving. I was trying to get past some chairs, so I guessed I was stuck on the chair to my right. However, as I moved forward, the goddamn chair wasn’t budging. So I tried to back up but I couldn’t do that either. “Fuck,” I swore.

“Ryan,” my father said in that warning voice. Shit, it was really fucking annoying to keep having to censor myself.

“I think I’m stuck,” I said. And as I said the words, I looked up and saw that the occupant of the table was none other than Whitney McFatterson. On what appeared to be a DATE. With an actual human man. I was practically gawking at them. Whitney noticed and shot me a dirty look.

“Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Harrison,” Whitney said, rising from her seat. She looked at me. “Hello, Ryan.”

“Hi, Whitney,” Mom said, smiling at her.

“This is Arthur,” Whitney said, gesturing at the guy she was with.

“Nice to meet you, Arthur,” Dad said. “I apologize, but my son appears to be having an issue with his wheelchair. Can you give us a minute?”

“Of course,” Arthur said. He looked at me and flashed me this really toothy, patronizing smile. “How are you doing, buddy? You eating out with your folks today?”

I glared at him, the words “fuck off” at the tip of my tongue. But I’d already pissed my father off once tonight. I didn’t want to prolong this any further—I just wanted him to get my chair loose and get my dinner. So instead of telling Arthur to suck my dick, I simply said, “Yes.”

“Well, good for you,” Arthur said with a wink. “And I bet at the end, you’ll get a fortune cookie!”

I could see Whitney smirking, but I kept my mouth shut for a change. I think I deserved a medal.

It turned out one of my smaller wheels got stuck on the restaurant’s chair. With some fiddling on his knees, my dad worked me loose. Just when I was celebrating finally getting away from Arthur and Whitney, my mother said to Whitney, “Won’t you join us?”

Whitney smiled. “We would love to, Mrs. Harrison.”

Fuck, fuck, fuck.

The waiter came over to push our tables together so we could all sit together. I got to sit in the middle, next to Arthur. The first thing he did was pull out the menu and open it up for me. “Here ya go, buddy,” he said to me. “Now let me read you a few things you might like.”

I wanted to punch Arthur in the face. “I can read,” I said through my teeth.

Arthur looked at me in complete shock. “Well, good for you,” he said. “But let me know if you have trouble with any words.”

I looked over at Whitney, who really seemed to be trying hard to contain her laughter. As much as I wanted to strangle Arthur, I had to admit there was also something very slightly funny about the whole thing.

It turned out that Whitney and Arthur had been dating for about a month. They had been set up on what I guessed had to have been a blind date. I was really fucking amazed he agreed to a second date with her. I mean, he wasn’t good looking at all either. He was also overweight and pretty badly balding. But still, Whitney was… I mean, she was fucking HUGE. Maybe Arthur had a fat fetish. Hey, maybe they met on a fat fetish site.

Arthur was going out of his way to be helpful. It was insane. When the food came, he actually tucked the napkin into my shirt collar while my mother put on my splint with the fork attached. Then when the food came, he cut up my chicken for me. Actually, he was pretty helpful. I wasn’t saying much through the meal, so I think he was under the complete assumption I was retarded.

“You’re doing a great job with eating, buddy,” Arthur said to me as a piece of chicken missed my lips and toppled down the front of my shirt.

I glared at him. I’d pretty much had enough. I knew I’d promised to behave but this was too fucking much. “So how did you and Whitney meet?” I asked him.

“Well, see, Ryan,” Arthur began, like he was telling a story to a small child. “When a man likes a woman, they go out on something called a ‘date’…”

“I was just wondering if you met on some kind of fat fetish website,” I said.

Everyone at the table stared at me. My mother’s jaw was hanging open and Sean was shaking his head at me. I glanced at Whitney, whose face was practically purple. My father was too shocked to even yell at me. Score.

Arthur recovered quickly. “Actually, Ryan,” he said. “It’s true that some men do prefer women who—”

“Oh, for god’s sake,” my mother finally said. “Arthur, Ryan is not mentally challenged or whatever. He knows what he’s saying and he’s just messing with you.”

Arthur blinked his eyes rapidly, looking really confused. “Oh,” he mumbled and went back to his food.

I took one more look at Whitney, thinking she’d have murder in her eyes, but actually, she was holding up her napkin to her mouth, looking like she was trying to keep from laughing. Huh.

Loserville (part 4)

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?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Loserville (part 5)

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.”

I nodded.

“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.

“You do!”

“I don’t.”

“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.”

“Fuck you.”

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.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Loserville (part 6)

Lately, my mother was really pushing me to come with her on her errands.  This was not great for me for a lot of reasons.  First, it’s a pain in the neck.  Usually when I’m home, I dress in a T-shirt and sweats, usually without shoes or even socks.  When we went out, Mom had to get me dressed in a sweatshirt and I had to wear shoes.  I know it sounds pointless for me to wear shoes considering I wasn’t going to be walking anywhere, but it felt weird to be outside with just socks on.

But I guess the bigger reason I hated going places with my mother was that when I was outside, everyone freaking stared at me.  You’d think I was wheeling around in a tank engine or something.  Considering I’ve always sort of liked being the center of attention, I guess it’s hypocritical to say I hated getting stared at.  But it’s one thing to get stared at because you’re doing something awesome and another thing to get stared at because everyone thinks you’re a loser in a wheelchair hanging out with your mother.

But anyway, Mom persuaded me to come out with her to the grocery store, saying it would be good to get some fresh air.  Actually, she didn’t so much as persuade me, as she brought it up at breakfast and Dad told me, “You better go with your mother, Ryan.”  So that was that.

She loaded me in the van and chattered the whole time about how I didn’t even have to come in with her and I could just hang out outside the grocery store.  Fucking awesome.  Actually, I was glad about that because the last thing I wanted was to tag along with her like a little kid. 

We pulled into the handicapped spot right in front of the supermarket (another perk of being a cripple).  As she was lowering the ramp to let me out, I spotted some kids hanging out on their car in front of the supermarket.  They were high school age and the whole thing made me feel really nostalgic.  I mean, I never did anything lame in high school like hanging out in front of a fucking supermarket, but they kind of looked like kids I would have been friends with.

“Okay, Ryan, honey,” Mom said.  She frowned at me in concern.  “Are you sure you’re going to be okay out here by yourself?”

“Definitely,” I said.

She gave me one last worried look before going into the supermarket. 

When Mom was safely out of sight, I went back to looking at those kids.  There were four of them: two girls and two guys.  They were dressed up in some crazy clothes and I don’t know if you’d call it emo or vampire or some shit like that.  I was never really into those stupid “looks” but I did notice that the two girls were really hot, especially one of them who was blond with a lot of eye makeup.  And I could see her navel piercing, which is something I’ve always found really fucking sexy.

I saw one of the guys pass the sexy blonde something little and white, which I guessed was a joint.  Even after what happened last time, just the sight of that joint made me have withdrawal pains.  I wondered what would happen if I went over to them and asked them for a drag.  But then again, that was probably a bad idea.  I had pretty much run out of chances with my father and I couldn’t risk it.

I was so busy staring at those kids that I didn’t realize that they noticed I was staring and had started staring at me.  One of the guys, who had earlobe stretchers that were at least an inch in diameter, nudged the blonde and actually POINTED at me.  And she laughed so that I could see the stud in her tongue. 

“Look at that retarded guy in the wheelchair,” Earlobes said.  “Hey, Cindy, I think he wants a drag of your joint.”

The blonde, Cindy, now dissolved into giggles. 

“Duuuhhhh, Cindy, you wanna get high with me?” Earlobes went on. 

I was so angry, I wanted to throw something.  Actually, what I really wanted to do was to ram my chair into their car and scratch it up, but the car was already a piece of shit and my wheelchair had taken a beating already, so I felt like I couldn’t risk it.  I guess the next alternative was to go over and tell them off, make sure they knew that I wasn’t a retard, which is what the old Ryan would have done.  But lately, I felt like I didn’t want to confront people and get all up in their faces anymore.  I didn’t want to draw more attention to myself.  I just wanted to get the fuck out of here. 

So I wheeled past the kids, trying my best not to look at them.  I was trying so fucking hard not to look at them that I bashed into the curb.  When I did that, I heard them laughing and I really tried not to lose my cool.  I just backed up and went up the curb cut ramp. 

I figured my best bet was to go into the supermarket.  Most supermarkets have automatic sensors for their doors, but Loserville is always about 50 years behind the rest of society.  There was, fortunately, a little blue handicapped button that I could press to make the doors open, but it was on my left side, which is the arm that doesn’t work at all.  I had to do some maneuvering to push my right fist into the button to get the door to open.  I wheeled inside the door, glad to get away from those kids.

Then I realized I was totally fucked.

There was a SECOND fucking door to get into the supermarket, and this one didn’t open automatically and there was no button to get it to open.  Whoever designed this should have been shot.  I was now trapped between the two doors. 

I wasn’t sure what to do.  I figured if I started ramming my chair into the door, someone would come help me.  The whole thing was so fucking lame that I just sat there for a minute, feeling pissed off and sorry for myself.  I couldn’t believe that a little glass door had formed an impenetrable boundary for me.

“Young man, do you need help?”

I turned my head and saw that an elderly woman was behind me.  She was pretty ancient, yet still having an easier time getting into the supermarket than I was.  “Yes,” I said.

She squeezed past me and opened the inner door for me.  I wheeled past her, my cheeks on fire.  “Thank you,” I said.

“Are you looking for someone?” she asked me in that sickeningly sweet patronizing voice that was how practically everyone talked to me now.  “Your parents?”

I was about to answer that I was fine on my own, thank you very fucking much, but at that moment, my mother spotted me and came running over.  “Ryan!” she cried.  “Are you all right?”

“Oh, he got a little stuck with the door,” the old lady said.  “But I helped him out.”  Then she patted me on the head.  That’s right, she fucking patted me on the head.  I wanted to fucking kill her.

“Well, thank you very much,” Mom said.  “Ryan, honey, why don’t you come with me?”

The old woman wandered off, probably feeling psyched about her good deed for the day.  I got to follow my mother around the supermarket, spending half an hour deciding what kind of cereal to get, even though we all know Dad only eats bran flakes.  (And actually, I’ve been eating them too, because I definitely need help in that area these days.)

I thought we had gotten everything when Mom brought me to this aisle that had all the feminine hygiene products.  I was a little mortified to be seen with her buying tampons, but I was even more horrified when she picked a package of Depends off the shelf.  I could only think of one reason why she’d be buying that.  “What are you doing?” I said.

“Please don’t be difficult, honey,” Mom said. 

“I’m not wearing those,” I said.  I wanted to yell at her, but I also didn’t want to make a scene and call attention to the fact that she was buying me adult diapers.

“It will be so much easier,” Mom said.  “Dad and I discussed it.”

“I don’t need them,” I said through my teeth.

“It will just be temporary,” she said.  “Just until we get your bowel program under better control.”

“It’s under control.”

“Honey, you’re having an accident at least once a week.”

There was a woman with a child in her shopping card who looked up when my mother said that.  I realized it was dumb to discuss it here.  But I wasn’t wearing those diapers.  There was no fucking way.  Yeah, I’d had a few accidents.  But it wasn’t that big a deal.  Okay, it wasn’t great.  But still, I wasn’t going to fucking wear a fucking diaper. 

I could feel the cashier staring at me when she scanned the package of Depends.  I hated this.  But it didn’t matter if she wanted them because I wasn’t going to wear them.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

My first doctor’s visit since being discharged from the hospital was kind of a big event.  I was seeing a specialist on patients with spinal cord injury and my mother had tons of questions to ask him, apparently.  I had one big question to ask.

I actually loved the waiting room for the doctor because it was the first time where I felt right at home in my wheelchair.  Everyone there was in a chair.  In fact, I wasn’t even the most disabled person in the room.  There was a guy there who had a sip and puff wheelchair and a tube coming out of his neck with a vent.  Of course, I recognized all his equipment immediately, because in my early days, I looked just like that.  I was glad I didn’t look like that anymore, because damn did he look like a freak.

The nurse let me and Mom into the examining room to wait for the doctor.  She gave the nurse my list of meds and was basically filling out all the forms for me.  I could write with a splint, but it’s a pretty slow process and my handwriting sucked.  So it made sense for Mom to do all the paperwork.  But I hated feeling like a child who needed everything done for me.

The doctor was an old guy whose name was Dr. Martin.  You know how sometimes you meet someone and pretty much instantly don’t like them?  Well, that’s what it was for me and Dr. Martin.  I really didn’t like him.  I didn’t like that he was so tall, I didn’t like that he barely looked at me and just talked to my mom, and I didn’t like that the first words out of his mouth were, “So how’s he doing?”

“He’s fine,” I spoke up.

Mom shot me a pained look.  “Ryan,” she sighed.  “Doctor, he’s doing fine in general.  I just have some questions.”

“Go ahead,” Dr. Martin said.

“Well, he’s got some redness around his suprapubic catheter,” Mom said. 

“Let’s have a look,” Dr. Martin said. 

They undid the belt around my waist, lowered my pants, and Dr. Martin felt around my catheter site.  I guess it’s called a stoma or something.  It was a little red, I guess, but my mother was making too much of a big deal out of it.  Anyway, Dr. Martin gave her some cream to put on it. 

“How’s his bowel program going?” Dr. Martin asked, still not looking at me.

“Still having some accidents,” Mom said.

“Are you using diapers?” the doctor asked.

“They’re not diapers,” I snapped.  “They’re protective undergarments.”

 So yeah, I’ve been wearing the Depends.  I tried to fight it, but Dad said that unless I was going to be the one cleaning up my messes, which obviously I couldn’t, that I had to wear them.  So I basically didn’t have a choice.  It really wasn’t so bad though.  I mean, it’s not like anyone knows I’m wearing them.  But I really don’t like it when people call them diapers, because they’re not.  Diapers are what babies wear.  These were protective undergarments, and that’s what Mom and Dad had promised to call them. 

Mom kept saying this was just a temporary thing, but I just got this feeling that I was going to be wearing them for a very long time to come.  Which, like I said, wasn’t that big a deal.  Except when some douche doctor called them diapers.

“Right,” Dr. Martin mumbled, sounding pretty uninterested.  He then got into this long discussion with my mother about my crap, and I just sort of zoned out at that point.  Nobody really seemed that interested in what I had to say anyway.

“Okay,” Dr. Martin said after he was done talking about every aspect of my body with my mother.  “Any other questions?”

Now was my chance.  I took a deep breath.  “I was just wondering something.  Um, is there a medication I can take to have sex?”

Mom started coughing violently.  Dr. Martin was just staring at me.  “Do you… have a partner?” he asked.

“Of course not!” Mom said.

I was angry at the way she answered that question, so I said, “Not right now, but maybe in the future.”

Dr. Martin looked at my mother, “Does he get erections?”

“No,” she said.

“But I used to get them in the hospital sometimes,” I said.

“Well, obviously, you probably wouldn’t be able to have sex without help from medications,” Dr. Martin said.  “Why don’t you come back to me if you have a partner?”

IF I had a partner?  I looked at my mother, who seemed completely satisfied with that response.  But I wasn’t.  “So will I be able to have sex?” I asked.

“It might be possible,” Dr. Martin said and shrugged.

I really didn’t like that answer.  I wanted him to tell me that I’d definitely be able to do it with medication or whatever.  Even if I couldn’t feel it, the thought of never being able to have sex again really upset me. 

But I was even more upset when I was lying in bed that night and I overheard my mother telling my father about my doctor’s visit, and relaying that part of the conversation.  “Ryan asked him about sex,” Mom said.

“Why am I not surprised?” Dad said.  “And who exactly does he think he’s going to have sex with?”

Mom said something to that which I didn’t catch.

“I guess he’s still adjusting to who is now,” Dad said. 

That comment really struck me.  What the hell did that mean?  Did they mean that I didn’t get that I was this freak in a wheelchair who was never going to have sex again?  I mean, yeah, there weren’t going to be women banging down the doors.  But I was only 24.  How could my sex life be completely over?

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Maybe it was because the conversation in the doctor’s office or maybe it was because my mother was bored, but a few days later, she decided that I was going to go to a singles mixer.  At the church.  Fucking shoot me now.

Mom told me about it over dinner.  It was just me, her, and Dad since Sean was out more and more with his girlfriend Terri.  After struggling a bit the first few days, I had become really proficient at eating with my fork splint, although obviously not as fast as I was before.  And my mother had to cut the food up for me because I only had one arm to work with.  Still, I could feed myself.  I was beginning to feel more like a normal person again.

“The mixer is for ages 22 to 30,” Mom said.  “I think it will be perfect.”

Dad was nodding too.  Obviously, they had discussed it beforehand.

“I don’t know,” I said.  It was one thing to ask a few hypothetical questions to my doctor.  It was pretty different to put myself out there.

“Alan is going,” Mom told me.

“Really?”  Alan and I weren’t exactly BFFs or anything, but I’d gotten to like him a lot better lately.  There weren’t a lot of young disabled people in Loserville, so Alan and I had kind of a bond.  And he was way more experienced at being a crip, so I figured I could learn things from him. 

So anyway, that’s how I ended up getting dressed up on Friday night for a church singles mixer.  Yes, the coolest of the cool.  I knew it was going to be really fucking lame, but I actually found myself getting kind of excited about it.  Maybe there was a chance I’d meet someone there.  Yeah, it would be a girl from church.  But it would still be awesome.

Mom was psyched to have a chance to dress me in some of the nicer clothes she bought for me.  It seemed like she had bought a never ending supply of polo shirts.  I really fucking hate polo shirts.  I hate them because they’re fucking lame and make me look like a tool, but also I really just don’t like wearing short sleeves anymore.  I have zero working muscles in my hands and forearms, so let’s just say short sleeve shirts are not flattering.  When I wheeled over to the full length mirror and looked at my body, with my gut bulging out and my skinny ass arms and my crippled legs, I felt way less excited about going out and socializing.  But oh well.

When I got to the mixer, it looked every bit as lame as I thought it was going to be.  First of all, and I’m not saying this to be mean or anything, but the girls were really fucking nasty.  Nobody in the room was more than a 3.  I’m not saying this is a reflection on Christian girls, because I have met (and fucked) some amazing looking Catholic schoolgirls.  I ran into a bunch of them on a trip they were taking to the city for school, and I fucked one of them in the bathroom of the Natural History Museum, which marks the only time I’ve been in that museum since age ten.  But anyway, I’m guessing the kind of girls who would go to a lameass mixer like this were not exactly high quality.

The guys were equally lame.  I felt like I fit right in with my navy blue polo shirt.  But I guess the truth was that most of these guys were actually more desirable than me, thanks to the whole wheelchair bit.  Plus I was the only guy here who was with my mom, something I wanted to remedy ASAP.  It actually seemed like I might have a chance of meeting someone here and I didn’t want to ruin my chances.

“Mom,” I whispered to her.  “I’m okay.  You can go now.”

She looked at me in surprise.  “But what if you need something?”

“I won’t need anything,” I said.

“What if you want some punch?”

I really didn’t want any punch.  And even if I did, I felt unattractive enough without having a cup of punch in my wheelchair cup holder with a long straw sticking out of it.  “I’m okay.  Really.”

“What if you need to leave?  What if…”

 Mom looked really worried and for a minute, I felt all the same worries.  What if something went wrong with my wheelchair?  What if I spilled something on myself?  What if my leg bag needed to be changed?  What if I shit my pants (or diaper, as it were)?  The thought of any of these things happening was disturbing enough to me that even though I was sick at the thought of hitting on girls in front of my mom, I just couldn’t ask her to leave.

“I think I’ll stay,” she said.

“Okay,” I said.

Mom went and got herself a drink and I sat there, scoping out the room.  It was hard to do it inconspicuously because half the fucking people in the room were staring at me.  A lot of them looked vaguely familiar too, like people I knew from back in high school.  If they were people I had once known, I was definitely never friends with any of these losers.

I saw two girls in the corner and started working up my nerve to approach them.  I picked them out because they were honestly the ugliest girls in the room.  A year ago, I never would have given them a second look, but now I found myself getting really nervous and intimidated at the thought of approaching them.  I finally took a deep breath and wheeled across the room to where they were standing.

They saw me coming and I could tell from their expressions that they weren’t thrilled.  I tried to get the image of myself in the mirror before I left the house out of my head.  Okay, my body sucked.  But from the neck up, I still looked good.  I had a good looking face and my hair was short enough that even my mother couldn’t fuck it up.

I stopped my chair in front of them.  “Hi,” I said.

“Hi,” one of the girls said.  The other rude bitch didn’t even say anything to me.  Like, what did she think?  That I wasn’t a person with feelings just because I was in a fucking wheelchair?

“I’m Ryan,” I said.

“Hi, Ryan,” the girl said.  “My name is Jill.  It’s nice to meet you.”

And then I heard it.  That fucking patronizing tone in her voice, talking to me like I was some kind of child or something.  I wanted to say something really witty so she’d recognize that I wasn’t retarded, but I felt my brain clam up.  The thing is, what kind of brilliant thing could I have said anyway?  I’m not brilliant.  I’m not smart.  I’m actually kind of dumb.  It just never seemed to matter that much until now.

I sat there in awkward silence with the two ugly girls until finally I backed up my chair, putting them out of their misery.

One piece of good news: Alan had arrived.  When I saw him in the corner of the room with his dad, I wanted to hug him.  I sped over there as fast as my chair could go, which is actually pretty fucking fast.  “Alan,” I said, grinning.  “You’re here.”

Alan snorted with laughter.  “I’ve never seen you so happy to see me.”

“This party sucks, man,” I said.  I lowered my voice so that his father wouldn’t hear.  “Have you ever, like, met someone during one of these things?”

Alan shook his head.  “No, but I’ve made friends.”

I groaned.  I knew it was going to be really hard to meet women now, but it was beginning to feel like it was damn near impossible.  And the more impossible it seemed, the more I wanted it.  All around the world, there were millions of unattractive people in relationships.  It was so easy for them.

“You look pensive.”

I craned my neck around and my eyes lit up when I saw Whitney standing behind me.  I turned my chair so that I could face her.  “What are you doing here?” I asked, trying not to let on how excited I was to see her.

“Same thing you’re doing here, I’m guessing.”

Whitney was wearing a red dress that stretched over her boobs in a really sexy way.  Have I mentioned that I love big boobs?  “You look great,” I said.

“Thank you,” she said.  I was glad she didn’t say something like “so do you” because it would have definitely been a lie.  I mean, I knew how I looked strapped into my wheelchair.  “So what, is this the church party of the century?”

“I think the cops are going to come in any minute to shut it down.”

“Well, you know,” Whitney said, “that the party don’t start ‘till I walk in.”  With those words, she did a little sexy twirl.

I laughed.  I couldn’t help it, Whitney was really funny.  And hot.  I mean, objectively hot.  Yeah, she was a big girl, but she was a fucking sexy big girl.  And I couldn’t help but wonder in the back of my mind if I had any shot in hell with this girl.

To be continued....