How can I describe this girl? For starters, I hated her. Her personality sucked. If I were any other situation aside from the exact situation I was in right now, there is no way I would have spent even two minutes in her company.
I might have been able to forgive that if she were at least good eye candy. But in keeping with my bad luck, Jane was definitely not eye candy. My father warned me as a teenager against dating gingers, so I avoided girls with even a sprinkling of freckles on their faces. But Jane looked like she’d been playing with a freckle machine and it had exploded on her face. She wore her red hair tied back in a ponytail, which was not flattering to her thin face. Ponytails are just unattractive in general. No guy likes a girl with a ponytail. And those gray shapeless scrubs weren’t doing her any favors either.
When she bounced into my room that morning, she looked like a fucking cheerleader. All she needed were some pom poms. I wish I could say she’d have been sexy in a cheerleading costume, but she really wouldn’t have been. “Hi, Nick!” she said. Too perky. “I see you’re dressed!”
Mary had dressed me this morning. I was wearing gray sweatpants and a white undershirt. When Mary told my mother to bring in “Nick’s sweats,” she had responded that I didn’t own any such clothing. So she had to call the housekeeper and ask her if she’d go out and buy some for me.
The first thing Jane did was deflate my trach cuff and put in a speaking valve. Again, I only had that low, hoarse voice. Still, it was an incredibly relief to be able to talk. Last night, I nearly bust an aneurysm in my brain trying to communicate to a nurse that I wanted her to turn off my TV.
“I’ve got your wheelchair outside the room,” Jane said. “But first, I want to make sure you can tolerate sitting up. I’m going to slowly elevate the head of your bed.”
“I’ll be fine,” I told her.
“Well, humor me,” Jane said.
She started elevating the head of the bed very slooowwwwly. At first I though she was being ridiculous, but then when we got close to ninety degrees, I started to feel a little dizzy and shaky. Jane looked at my face, “You okay, Nick?”
“What the fuck did you do to me?” I demanded to know.
Jane grabbed a blood pressure cuff and wrapped it around my arm. “I didn’t do anything,” she said. “You’ve been lying flat for four months. It’s going to take time to get you used to sitting up.”
“Fantastic,” I muttered.
Jane left me in the room while she went to get the wheelchair I was going to be using. My experience with wheelchairs was pretty limited, but I have to say, I was sort of horrified to see the one Jane brought in. It was gigantic. It reached up to Jane’s shoulders, with a big black headrest, trays for my arms to rest in, and two legrests jutting out. I didn’t want to sit in that thing.
“I don’t want to sit in that thing,” I said to Jane.
She just laughed, if you can believe that. I couldn’t help but wonder if Jane was a virgin. It was a possibility, for sure. She was young and she certainly wasn’t pretty in any traditional sense. I guess there are guys out there who would date a girl like Jane though. I wouldn’t, but other guys might.
“How are you feeling now?” she asked me. “Your blood pressure seems all right.”
“Okay,” I said.
Jane left the room again and came back with what looked like a sling attached to a little mechanical crane. She positioned the sling over me and started putting one part over my head and the other part under my legs. I wondered if this was some device to help me get movement back in my arms and legs. “What are you doing?” I asked her.
“This is a Hoyer lift,” she explained. “You’re too heavy for me to get into the wheelchair by myself.”
I guess she thought I was really just being funny before when I said I didn’t want to sit in that wheelchair. “I don’t want to get in the wheelchair,” I said again.
Jane stopped what she was doing and stared at me for a minute with her overly freckled face. She even had freckles on her eyelids. It was a little freaky. “Why not?” she asked.
What an idiotic question. “Look at it.”
Jane frowned at me. “What are you doing in rehab if you don’t want to get into a wheelchair?”
“I’m willing to do the rehab,” I said. “I just don’t want to use a wheelchair.”
She was looking at me like I had given her some sort of impossible riddle to solve. “But you…” she began. Then she gave up. Most people can look at me and know that they’re not going to win an argument. I never give up. “Look, how about if we use this wheelchair to transport you to the gym?”
I wasn’t crazy about that idea, but I guess the only alternative was a stretcher. Plus I was already in this sling. “All right,” I said.
I regretted my decision almost immediately. I didn’t feel any better sitting in the wheelchair than I did looking at it. Especially when Jane pulled straps over my lap, my upper chest and my feet. Then she positioned my arms in the arm troughs and put straps over them too. “Are all these straps necessary?” I asked irritably.
“Yes,” Jane replied.
She pointed to a tube in front of my mouth that she said was a sip and puff control. She explained to me how it worked, although I wasn’t really listening. There was no fucking way I was getting in this wheelchair again, so it didn’t really matter how to operate it.
Jane pushed me out into the hallway. Having never sat in a wheelchair before, it felt so bizarre. I wasn’t crazy about the feeling, although I guess it wasn’t worse than the stretcher.
“All right,” Jane said, wiping her hands on her scrubs. “Why don’t you give operating the chair a try?”
“I thought we were going to the gym?”
“Yeah, but we’ve got a big open space here,” Jane gestured to the long, windowed hallway. “It’s a great place to practice.”
“No, I’d rather just go to the gym.”
Jane put her hand on my shoulder. Generally, I wasn’t too crazy about people touching me without permission, but right now, I was sort of glad she was at least touching me somewhere I could feel. “Nick, come on. Stop messing around. Let’s just do this.”
“You said we were going to the gym,” I said. “You lied.”
“Yes, but this is what we’d be doing in the gym,” Jane said.
Suddenly, I felt furious. She had lied to me just to get me into this chair. Who the fuck was this person? She was nobody. And somehow she was directing my treatment, getting to decide what I was and wasn’t allowed to do. She had no idea who I was, who my father was. He could destroy her.
“Take me back to my room,” I said.
“Well, why don’t you navigate there yourself?” she suggested, blinking innocently.
I wanted to hit her, I really did. “No.”
Jane folded her arms across her chest. “Well, that’s the only way you’re getting back to your room.”
All right, enough messing around. This girl needed to understood who she was fucking with. “Do you know who my father is?”
“My father is George Edwards,” I said, watching her reaction. I remember the first time I said that to Savannah, how her eyes became huge and she looked like she was ready to tear her clothes off for me.
Jane shrugged again.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” I yelled. “Get. Me. Back. In. My. Fucking. Room. NOW!”
“If you puff gently, the wheelchair will turn right,” Jane said.
“You fucking bitch,” I spat. And by “spat,” I mean that I literally spit. I couldn’t walk away and I couldn’t lay a finger on her, so that was my only option. I recognize, in retrospect, it was kind of an immature thing to do. Worse, I didn’t come even close to hitting Jane with my spit. Most of it ended up just dribbling down my chin.
“Are you spitting at me?” Jane asked in amazement. “Seriously?”
Some visitors walked by us at that moment, and I don’t think they would have been staring at me more if I had been dressed in a full ballroom gown. I couldn’t even imagine what they were thinking about me, strapped into this giant wheelchair with saliva all over my chin and my T-shirt. As I thought about how badly I wanted to get back in bed, a feeling of lightheadedness came over me.
“All you all right, Nick?” Jane asked me, noticing my face.
“I feel a little funny,” I mumbled.
I ended up getting my wish. Jane checked my blood pressure and oxygen levels, and decided I needed to get back in bed right away. I went back on oxygen and just had to lie there the rest of the day, which kind of sucked.
To be continued...