Whenever Mason came to visit me lately, we raced each other. Mason was a natural athlete and he gravitated toward any physical competition he could get his hands on. It got to the point where the minute Mason would show up, Jane would immediately rush off and bring him back a wheelchair so we could race. Today Jane brought him a manual wheelchair. It was a small chair with a low backrest and the wheels tilted at an angle. It was the sort of wheelchair I'd never be able to use. Compared to mine, it actually looked really cool.
"This too small?" Jane asked Mason, as he settled into the seat.
Mason and his hulking frame were definitely too big for the wheelchair, but not comically so. He grinned up at Jane. "No, I think I'll be okay."
"Don't hurt yourself," Jane admonished him. "Whenever someone gets hurt in a chair, the wheelchair dealer always gets in trouble."
"Then I'll be extra special careful," Mason said, still grinning up at Jane.
I watched Mason and Jane's interaction, feeling a little bit uneasy. And as Jane walked away, I couldn't help but notice Mason staring at her ass. I'd seen Mason check out girls before, but I really didn't want him checking out my therapist. Especially not Jane.
Mason and I went down to the elevators so that we could race outdoors. He hit the button for me. Even though I could technically do it with my stick and mouthpiece, it was much easier for him. But I was proud of the fact that I managed to board the elevator fairly easily. I'd gotten much better at maneuvering my chair.
"So, Nico," Mason said, while we were going down in the elevator. "What's Jane's, like, situation?"
My stomach sunk. "What do you mean?"
Mason grinned. "You know what I mean."
Strapped into my sip and puff chair, I felt acutely aware of the fact that Mason and I would never be competing for a girl again. Not really, anyway. If Mason wanted a girl, he had a very good chance. I had no chance. But at least I had Savannah.
"She has a boyfriend," I lied.
"Oh," Mason said, looking disappointed. "I thought she said she was single."
"I don't know, man," I said. "I'm sorry."
I don't know why I couldn't just say to Mason that I didn't want him dating my therapist. He wouldn't have done it if I told him not to.
There was a trail around the hospital where Mason and I generally raced. Sometimes people would be walking down that trail, but they would leap out of our way when they saw us coming. When we raced in two sip and puff chairs, I always won. I had far more experience with it than he did, so he had trouble maneuvering curves and corners. With Mason in a manual wheelchair, he did better, even though he didn't have an electric motor going for him. After two laps, we were pretty much neck and neck, but then my wheelchair sputtered and stalled. Mason had gotten about fifty yards ahead of me before he heard me calling his name.
When Mason wheeled back to where I was stuck, I noticed the V-line of sweat on his shirt. I felt a stab of jealousy that I'd never be able to work up a sweat like that again, even though I always hated to sweat. "What's wrong?" he asked.
"I don't know," I said, trying all the different controls with my mouth. This had never happened before. "It just died. But the battery life looks okay."
"Should I get someone?" Mason asked.
I didn't want him to get someone. I wanted to figure out the problem myself and solve it. I wanted to believe there was a possibility that I could go out and do things by myself without getting stranded. But it was seeming more and more unlikely that was going to happen. "Hang on," I said.
As I fiddled with the controls a little more, I noticed that Mason's attention was caught by something just down the block. I followed his gaze and saw that Savannah was getting out of little red sportscar, dressed in a tight red dress that looked like it had been picked to match the car. There was a guy driving the car who was wearing sunglasses with a thick head of shaggy blond hair. I knew the guy must have been her "friend" Jeremy. I was even more sure of it when he got out of the car, squeezed my girlfriend's ass, and gave her a peck on the lips.
I looked over at Mason, whose face was bright red. "Who the fuck does she think she is?" he growled.
"Mason..." I murmured. But I couldn't stop him. He was already wheeling over there.
I wanted to follow him. I puffed desperately on the controls, but nothing was doing. I was just barely in earshot and I could hear Mason's furious voice. "Hi, Savannah."
Savannah looked appropriately startled, but Jeremy didn't look the slightest bit upset. He actually had the nerve to smile down at Mason, saying in a condescending voice, "You must be Nick. It's great to finally meet you. I'm Jeremy." Then he stuck out his hand.
"I'm not Nick," Mason said, rising out of his wheelchair, to his full height. Jeremy was not a small guy, but Mason towered over him. I could actually see the blood drain out of Jeremy's face. "But I am his friend. And I'm going to kill you."
To be fair, Mason had said that many times and never actually killed anyone (to my knowledge). But Jeremy blanched like he thought Mason really meant it, and the way Mason threw him against the car emphasized the fact that he was capable of doing it. He buried his fist in Jeremy's gut, and Jeremy doubled over in pain, retching on the sidewalk.
"Mason, quit it!" Savannah cried. "You're being a jerk!"
"Fuck off, Savannah," Mason said. "I'd do the same thing to you if you weren't a girl."
It was at that moment that my wheelchair controls kicked back in. I quickly wheeled over to the scene, where Savannah and Mason were now screaming at each other over Jeremy, who was near unconscious on the ground. When Savannah saw me, she looked relieved. "Nick, thank god," she said. "Tell your Neanderthal friend to leave me alone."
Mason shook his head. "Can you believe this bitch, Nick?"
Savannah flipped her hair and gave me her most smoldering look. As much as I love Mason, there are some things a dude just can't do for another dude. When she looked at me like that, it was hard not to forgive anything. "Nicky, honey, I'm so sorry," Savannah said. "There wasn't anything going on with Jeremy. I've told you a million times, we're just friends. I swear it."
"Do you take him for a fucking idiot?" Mason shot back.
Savannah lay her fingers on my shoulder and let them crawl up my neck into my hair. I've become so sensitive to her touch that she may as well have been sucking my dick. "Nick, you know me. I wouldn't cheat on you."
"Are you fucking kidding me?" Mason said. "He JUST SAW you kissing another guy!"
They were both staring at me, waiting for me to say something. Finally, I took a breath. "Well, it wasn't a real kiss. It was just a peck."
Mason's face turned almost purple. I could see that vein bulging in his neck like it always does when he's really angry. "I can't fucking believe this! Are you seriously going to believe this lying bitch?"
I swallowed. "Mason..."
"No." He held up his hands. "I don't want to hear it. I can't stand here and watch another second of this."
Mason stormed off, his feet pounding against the pavement like he was the Incredible Hulk. I watched him walk away, feeling a little sick about the whole thing. I guess Mason was right about a lot of things, but I felt like he didn’t get it in this case. Mason could have any girl he wanted. I couldn’t. If Savannah wanted me, I wasn’t about to just chuck her over something that might just be a misunderstanding.
It was probably just a misunderstanding.
“Thank goodness he’s gone,” Savannah said, still rubbing my shoulder. “He was really getting to be a pain in the ass.”
I looked over at Jeremy, who was picking himself up off the sidewalk, still a little hunched over. I realized now that Mason was gone, I was the vulnerable one. “What is that guy’s problem, anyway?” Jeremy croaked.
I didn’t know what to say to that, so I just stayed quiet. Savannah leaned in and pecked me on the cheek. “Nick, honey,” she said. “I actually can’t stay. I’ve got an audition I’m going to and Jeremy said he’d give me a ride. Is that okay?”
“Sure,” I said, even though I hated the idea of this asshole giving my girlfriend a ride.
“You’re the best!” Savannah chirped.
And I watched her drive off with another man.