One part of the rehab process was learning to manage my bowel and bladder. This is probably TMI, but I couldn’t tell when I had to go to the bathroom anymore and had zero control over it, and I was getting the feeling that wasn’t going to change any time soon. My goal was to become totally continent again, which I thought was a reasonable goal for an adult.
The bladder part was easy. Right now I had a Foley catheter, which went into my bladder and drained into a bag that strapped to my leg when I was in my wheelchair. The nurses and therapists kept an eye on the bag and emptied it when it got too full. Dr. Greenly talked about the catheter coming out eventually, but I wasn’t clear on what the plan would be then. I asked him if I’d be able to hold in the pee and he said no, but I trusted that I wasn’t just going to spend the rest of my life wetting my pants.
The bowel part was a little trickier. When I got to rehab, I was pumped up with laxatives and was completely incontinent. I couldn’t even tell when I had gone, but I could smell it and if it was really bad, I could see it. Between you and me, I started wearing a diaper because otherwise I was having accidents all over my clothes and it was a huge mess. But things had gotten much better. I started a twice-a-day bowel program, where a nurse inserted a suppository twice a day (after breakfast and after dinner) and that made me go number two. So far, this had cut way back on the number of accidents I was having. Dr. Greenly was still playing around with my medications, but I was hopeful that soon I wouldn’t need the diaper at all. I hadn’t had any accidents in two days, which was amazing. I knew Savannah was visiting today, and sometimes she put her hands in a place where she was dangerously close to discovering my little secret, so I was hoping maybe today I could get away with not wearing a diaper. I really, really didn’t want Savannah to know about it.
When Mary did my morning bowel program, she would always explain to me what she was doing and make me part of the process. Even though I couldn’t help with my bowel program, part of the rehab process was learning to direct my care. I had to learn how to tell others how to do my bowel program. I hated the idea of having to explain to someone how to put in a suppository, but I guess I could see her point.
This morning, Mary rolled me onto my side and inserted my suppository. There was padding under me to catch whatever came out. After she had me in position, Mary left the room and I was supposed to alert her when I was ready to be cleaned up. It was obvious when I was done, because I could smell it and also, there was often a loud noise. I’d clamp on the call button with my mouth and Mary would come.
I had just clamped on the call button when about thirty seconds later, I heard the curtains around me being pulled back. Since my back was facing the door, I couldn’t see who had come in, but I assumed it was Mary and said, “Maybe after you get me cleaned up, we don’t need to use the diapers today, okay?”
“Oh my god, I’m so sorry!” said a voice that definitely didn’t belong to Mary.
It took me half a second to place the accent: Los Angeles with a hint of Georgia twang that had almost but not quite been concealed. It was Savannah.
Fuckity fuck fuck.
Before I could say anything else to try to make this right, I heard the curtains being yanked closed again. I shut my eyes, cursing under my breath. It was bad enough that she saw what I presume she saw. I mean, that was really, really bad. But why did I have to make a comment about the diapers? Why???
I heard the curtains opening again a couple of minutes later, and this time I kept my fool mouth shut until I was sure it was Mary. Who was chuckling to herself, like she just witnessed something really funny.
“What the fuck are you laughing about?” I asked, even though I had a pretty good idea.
“Your little girlfriend,” Mary said cheerfully. “That’ll teach her to burst in when the curtains are closed.”
“Did she leave?” I asked.
“No, she’s still out there,” Mary said. “Must be true love.”
Despite the fact that I was still mortified over what had happened, that at least made me smile. I admit I didn’t love Savannah or anything remotely close to that. But she was attractive and she was female, and most importantly, she seemed to want to be with me. If I let Savannah go, it might be years before another woman expressed any interest in me. Mason could say what he wanted, but it wasn’t like he was going to have trouble meeting women. He just didn’t get it.
Mary got me cleaned up and into my sweatpants and T-shirt. Savannah made a big show out of knocking this time. “Come in,” I said.
Savannah sashayed into the room. She’d perfected her walk to the point where any red blooded male watching her walk a few feet would want to fuck her. I don’t know how she did it.
“Hello, Nick,” she said. She leaned in close to me and I could smell the spearmint on her breath. Her perfume smelled like flowers. A little too much like flowers, actually. My nose started to itch, which was something I couldn’t do much about anymore.
“Hey, there,” I said.
Savannah leaned in close to me and I thought for a minute she was going to kiss me, but instead she rubbed her nose against mine. Which was… incredibly fucking lame. I wondered if it had anything to do with what she’d seen a few minutes ago.
Jane marched into the room when Savannah and I were mid nose rub. This was the first time Jane had met Savannah and I could tell from the look on her freckled face that she wasn't too impressed. Well, fuck her. She didn't have to date Savannah. I was the only one who had to like my girlfriend, not Mason or Jane.
Jane cleared her throat loudly to get Savannah's attention. I could see Jane appraising the bleached blond hair, the fake nails, and the fake boobs. "Hello," Jane said, her voice cool.
"Hi," Savannah said perkily. "I'm Savannah, Nick's girlfriend."
Jane's eyebrows shot up. "His girlfriend? That’s a surprise. I'm sorry, I just haven't heard him mention you before."
Savannah took Jane's attitude in stride. "Our relationship was recently rekindled."
Savannah placed a loving hand on my shoulder. "I just couldn't get this guy out of my head. I knew I couldn't live my life without being with him."
Admittedly, that sounded a little bit like horseshit. But Savannah was here with me, so obviously she did have feelings for me. Right?
"That's so great," Jane said. "And since you're here, you can help me get Nick out of bed."
Savannah's pale face turned two shades paler. "No," she said. "I'm not... you know, strong or anything."
"No need to be," Jane said in an overly perky voice. "The lift does most of the work. All you need to do is get the sling under his legs while I get his upper body supported."
Savannah looked down at my legs. The look on her face made it sound like Jane had just asked her to devour the shit that she had witnessed earlier. And the truth of it is that I wasn't crazy about the idea of Savannah touching my legs either. They were too atrophied and there was too much opportunity for her hands to meet something they shouldn't, like my leg bag.
"Maybe next time?" I suggested.
Jane eventually gave in and transferred me into my chair by herself. I tried not to look at Savannah during the transfer, because it honestly felt a little weird having her watch. When I'm being transferred in the Hoyer lift, I feel really helpless, since I’m just basically hanging there. In my wheelchair, I don't feel that way quite as much.
Jane strapped me into the wheelchair, although before strapping my arms in, she stretched them out a little. To my dismay, I'd been developing what Jane calls "spasticity." I heard most people with a spinal cord injury get it sooner or later, but I guess I was hoping I'd be an exception. My fingers were starting to curl up, my wrists were getting into a bent position, and my elbows wanted to stay flexed all the time. I'd been using splints that the therapists made for me, but it was just getting worse and worse. It bothered me, not just because it made things like bathing more difficult, but because it made my arms look really crippled. But luckily, it still wasn't bad enough that my arms couldn't be strapped into the armrests.
We got out into the hallway, Savannah following several yards behind. Jane did her usual thing, which was setting up a little obstacle course for me with orange cones. I used the sip and puff controls to navigate between the cones. I was better than I used to be, but I still knocked about a quarter of them over.
"That was awful," Savannah teased me.
"Hey, it's harder than it looks," I said.
"It would have to be, wouldn't it?" she said.
"It really is pretty difficult," Jane said. Her eyes lit up, "Hey, do you want me to get you a wheelchair? You can try it yourself."
That strategy had worked really well bringing me and Mason back together, but Savannah looked utterly horrified. "No, that's all right," she said.
"Come on, you'll have fun," Jane said. "We've got plenty of spare wheelchairs."
"There's no way I'm sitting in a wheelchair," Savannah said firmly. "Only crippled people sit in wheelchairs." She glanced at me, "No offense, Nicky."
Jane gave me this look. I knew what the look meant--she wasn't a Savannah fan. I wanted to tell her to join the club.
Eventually, Savannah got freaked out enough that she decided to leave. But she did kiss me on the lips this time and tell me she'd be back tomorrow. So it didn't seem like she was freaked out enough to break up with me.
I was sort of relieved when she was gone, but the bad part was that now Jane was free to say what she really thought. I was hoping she might hold back to be polite or something, but no such luck. As soon as Savannah was out of earshot, Jane said, "Really, Nick? Are you serious?"
"She's actually a wonderful girl," I said with a straight face.
Jane groaned. "You've got to be kidding me. She's horrible. I can see why you would have dated a girl like that before, but I really thought you'd grown up a little bit."
"Guess you were wrong," I said. "Guess I'm just as immature as ever."
"I know what this is about," Jane said. "You think she's your only chance to have a girlfriend."
"Wrong again," I said. "I know she's my only chance to have a girlfriend."
Jane's blue eyes softened. "Nick, that's not true."
I couldn't even look at her. "It's true and you know it. Look, Savannah wants to be with me. And she's gorgeous."
"But she doesn't love you," Jane pointed out.
"She says she does," I say, although I felt really lame saying it. But it did make some sense. Why would Savannah say she loved me if she didn't?
"Well, you don't love her," Jane added.
"If a girl wants to be with me, then I love her," I said.
"Wow," Jane muttered. "That's the most disgusting thing I've ever heard a guy say. And a guy once said to me that he wanted to pee in my mouth."
"Is that bad?" I asked innocently.
Jane's face broke into a smile and she slugged me gently in the shoulder. I could tell the lecture was over for now, but I had a feeling that I hadn't heard the end of it.
Savannah never came again during my therapy sessions, but she managed to visit nearly every day over the next month. Usually she’d bring one of her magazines and read to me from it, then she’d talk about her auditions. I couldn’t say we had any great conversations, but Savannah really loved to talk, and it wasn’t so bad just listening to her. I mean, sure, it would have been nice if we could have communicated with each other more, but we had an all right relationship.
We didn’t fight much, except Savannah liked to sulk. One of her favorite things to do was to act all mopey and then force me to guess what was wrong with her. Usually it had something to do with the fact that she had a spoonful of ice cream and had gained like a quarter of a pound. Savannah swore if she gained any weight at all, her clothes didn’t fit anymore. And considering how tight her jeans were, I believed her.
Usually Savannah was just sulking a little, but one day she came into my room in full-on sulk mode. She had this cute little pout on her lips and she plopped herself into a chair next to my bed, crossed her arms, and sighed really loudly.
That was another thing. Savannah almost always came when I was in bed. Aside from the first day, when she’d watched me in therapy, Savannah had hardly seen me in my wheelchair at all. And the crazy thing was, that didn’t bother me so much. I got the feeling that the chair made her uncomfortable, which in turn made me uncomfortable.
“What’s wrong?” I asked her.
“Nothing,” she pouted. She reached into her ginormous purse and pulled out a magazine with a photo of Miley Cyrus on the cover. Savannah hated Miley Cyrus for reasons I couldn’t understand. And what’s worse was that thanks to her, I knew much more about Hannah Montana than I ever wanted to know. (Apparently, she’s Hannah Montana when she’s wearing the wig.) If you hate Miley so fucking much, Savannah, why watch the show?
“Come on, you can tell me,” I said. This might have been a moment when another boyfriend would have taken her hand, but that wasn’t going to happen for me. I looked down at my hands, both of which were in fabricated splints. Sometimes I used all my effort to try to get my fingers or my biceps or anything to move, but nothing ever happened. At this point, I knew the chances of getting any movement back in my arms were slim.
“Well, if you must know,” Savannah said. “It’s my career. It’s going nowhere, Nick.”
On one hand, I was relieved she didn’t make me spend twenty minutes guessing what was wrong, like she usually did. One the other hand, I was fucking sick of talking about her career. Between you and me and every casting director in Hollywood, Savannah was a shit actress. I ran lines with her back when I was trying to get in her pants and she was just awful. She couldn’t act her way out of a paper bag. And she was too short to get hired as a model. Her career was kind of fucked.
I would have suggested to her that she take some acting classes, but I said that once before and it didn’t go over well. Plus I didn’t think it would help. I mean, you can’t plop a kindergartener in a calculus class and expect great results.
“I’m sure you’ll get a good part soon,” I said, wondering how many years I could keep saying that for.
“I feel like I never get put up for any good roles,” Savannah said. “Nothing that really brings out my talent.”
“Uh huh,” I said.
“My agent is terrible, that’s part of the problem,” Savannah said. “Jeremy thinks I should fire him, start fresh.”
That was a name I’d been hearing more and more lately. Jeremy. What can I say about Jeremy? He was this guy that Savannah met at the gym, and lately, her monologues had been peppered more and more with Jeremy references. I was pretty sure she wasn’t sleeping with him. I mean, I didn’t think she’d do that to me. She seemed pretty devoted. But there was no doubt in my mind that Jeremy wanted to fuck Savannah. Who wouldn’t? I asked her once if Jeremy knew she had a boyfriend and she said yes. I didn’t ask her if Jeremy knew her boyfriend was a quadriplegic.
“You might want to try to find someone new,” I said cautiously. I didn’t want to tell her to fire her agent, because I was worried she’d never find a new one.
“There’s this new movie being cast,” Savannah said. “Water High, the one with George Clooney. There’s a role in that movie that I’d be completely perfect for. But they won’t even let me read for it.”
I’d heard vaguely of the movie, only because my father’s company was producing it. It sounded like one of those movies manufactured for Oscar purposes, something I’d never see in a million years, but I could see why Savannah would have wanted a part in that movie.
“Say,” Savannah’s eyes brightened. “Isn’t your dad producing Water High?”
“Yeah, he is,” I replied warily.
“That’s perfect!” Savannah cried. “He could totally get me an audition for the role of Rita!”
I don’t know how I didn’t see this coming a mile away. Of course, since Savannah was an actress, she was going to try to use my connections to get her a part. And the thing is, I didn’t even blame her. But at the same time, I didn’t feel entirely comfortable asking my father to do this for her. My parents hadn’t been quite as judgmental as Mason and Jane were about my relationship with Savannah, but they didn’t seem thrilled about it either. It wasn’t going to make things better if I asked for a favor on Savannah’s behalf.
“I… I’m not sure,” I mumbled.
“Oh, Nicky…” Savannah leaned in close to my face so that I could feel her breath on my lips. “Please, Nicky. This would help me soooo much. I’d just be so grateful…” She put her fingers on my shoulder and slid them up my neck, into my hair. The touch of Savannah’s hands really got me. She was really good at turning me on.
“Okay, I’ll ask him,” I agreed.
Savannah squealed and kissed me deeply on the lips. Since my injury, kissing has become so much more intense. Maybe not as intense as fucking, but sometimes it was pretty damn close.
“And you know what else would really help me out?” Savannah said as she pulled away from me.
I really, really didn’t want to know. “What?”
“If I could get some collagen injections for my lips,” Savannah said. She demonstrated her pout again. Savannah didn’t have thin lips, but she didn’t have an Angelina Jolie thing going on either. “I’d surely get the part then.”
“Yeah, maybe,” I said.
“So you agree?”
Savannah threw her arms around me. “Oh, thank you, Nicky! That’s so generous of you.”
Generous? Wait a second. Did she think I was paying for her to get her lips done? Girls asked me to pay for plastic surgery in the past and sometimes I even gave them an empty promise that I’d do it, but I’d never actually done it. “Um, I can’t pay for your injections, Savannah,” I said.
She pulled away, frowning. “Why not? Nick, you’re loaded. It’s pocket change for you.”
“It’s not my money,” I said. “It’s my father’s money. And I don’t think he’ll go for this.” I didn’t want to point out that my parents already weren’t big fans of Savannah.
“I’m sure you can convince him,” Savannah said, running her finger along my line of my jaw. I knew what she was doing, of course. A retarded monkey would have known what she was doing. But I felt helpless to stop it.
I swallowed hard, working up my nerve. “Savannah, I just can’t.”
Savannah gave me a look, then she stood up. I felt a surge of panic. Was she dumping me? “Maybe you should think about it,” she said. She yanked her purse off my nightstand. “I’ll see you later, Nick. You can let me know what happens.”
I watched Savannah clip-clop out of my room, waggling her little ass as she went. I didn’t want to ask my father to sponsor her collagen injections, but I really didn’t want to lose Savannah. Maybe there was a way to convince my father.