The Fill-in Guy
Hello everyone, my name is Josh. Josh Newman if you're interested in my full name. I live in the leafy town of Malvern and I'm 32 years old. I'd like to think of myself as not only a guy who is open minded, but who also has an interesting sense of humour and definitely someone easy to talk to, I often like to converse with new and different people but I would probably say that I'm now a loner to a small degree, this is probably due to a little something that happened to me 2 years ago but more about that later.
All through my latter teens and twenties I dated a bit, while I wouldn't class myself as someone who was overly attractive I had enough looks to work with, add a bit of personality and a girl on my wavelength to a degree and I normally did OK with the fairer sex, it's just that they all left after a while. When I was 29 years old and my latest relationship failed I really started to wonder if I would ever met that elusive "one", Kelly(my latest girlfriend) seemed perfect for me and the first few weeks together were like magic, I fell for her in a major way before she came out and told me out of left field that I didn't have enough direction in my life, she told me she wanted someone who could inspire her and make her a better person, I couldn't believe it, while I wasn't exactly setting the world alight on the job front being a humble shoe salesman it was just as good as her job at Walmart. What really got me though was the "better person" line, I was like am I not a good person? While I have my tastes in things like anyone else I was never the kind of person who judged others or made them feel bad, I'd help out my friends if they need it but yeah somehow I wasn't a "good enough" person for her. Weird. 12 months passed and by chance one day I ran into her on the street.
"Hi Josh" she grinned like a Cheshire cat.
"Oh. Hi Kelly" I replied still a bit upset over how everything turned out.
"Have you heard?" she hinted.
"I'm engaged!! I've met this wonderful man, he's a motivational speaker and turned my life around" she beamed showing me her shiny engagement ring.
I stood there stunned and I had to say my heart strings pulled a little, with the benefit of hindsight I knew she wasn't the one for me, but I'd be lying if I didn't say I wanted her to be as unlucky in love as I was. "Congratulations" I feigned as she came up to hug me.
"Thanks by the way" she beamed
"Thanks? Why on earth are you thanking me??" I wondered
"For being there when I needed someone, you know how I got out of that bad relationship before I met you. Well, meeting you restored my faith in men"
"What?? I thought I wasn't a good enough person?" I asked in amazement at what I was hearing.
"I never said that"
"Well you definitely implied it" I quickly retorted starting to stoop down to those petty arguments you have because they dumped you, and you're desperate to win something at least.
"To be honest Josh there's just something lacking with you. Like I mean you're a sweet guy and everything but you are more a supporting actor than the lead man when it comes to a relationship" she put much to my chagrin.
"You'll find someone I hope"
"Well yeah. Anyway I gotta go, nice seeing you" she smiled as a car pulled up to pick her up. There was a suited guy in the driver's seat and she moved in and kissed him, I assumed he was the fiancee and they both drove off as happy as pigs in mud, splashing me as he span the wheels out and pulled away from the gutter.
After seeing Kelly and how happy she was I had to say it gave me the shits, what was it about her that made her any more worthy of love than me? Why was I a supporting actor when she was now a lead actress? She sure as hell never acted like a lead actress when she was with me, I'll tell you that for free! After mulling it over I did what any self respecting person does in my situation, I hit the bottle... It only took a few stiff bourbons before I started to think I would look up all my exes, I know it sounds bad but surely some of them are as hopeless in the love department as I was, their hearts broken on a regular basis like mine. The first girl I was really serious with was Charne, I met her when I was 17 and it was the year 1997, we dated for months before things just seemed to fizzle out for no good reason, I then noted that she got married at age 19 just two years later in 1999. At first I thought no worries, one more person finding love and marriage was fine, after all it had been a while, just as long as there weren't too many more...
Next I went to Louise, I then saw she too was married, in the year 2003, just 18 months after we dated! And she had two children as well. Bloody hell!! Louise was always going on about how she didn't want to get tied down and here she was shacking up the minute she walked away from my door. Sheesh. I was now getting quite drunk but I continued to wallow in misery and poured myself more bourbon, after sculling that I decided to go with my 3rd girlfriend, Olivia, sure enough after a bit of research she too was married, and true to form not long after we dated. God is this some kind of conspiracy or something! Worse was to come though as the last two women I dated were both in committed long term relationships as well, all up that meant all six of my girlfriends were now happy and in love, including Kelly. I started to think it had to me, was it just something basic like being an inch too short? A few pounds heavier than I should be? Or was it just the way I lived my life, stress free and someone who just likes to have fun, someone who is there own person and isn't a slave to the pressure of what is expected of someone these days? I started to think maybe I was just the 'Fill-in guy', you know the ones girls date until someone better comes along, the guy who is nice to them after they come off an abusive relationship like Kelly, but when they are confident again they kick you to the curb so to speak. Who knew.
After polishing off a whole bottle of bourbon I was utterly blind, I decided that rather than just fall into bed I would go for one of my customary night time walks, I often liked to walk at night to clear my mind, the streets were a lot quieter and you didn't have to worry about any one's dog trying to attack you or hoons driving past yelling at whoever is walking on the footpath, it was generally quite peaceful and this night was no exception. There was just a stillness about the place, it was 1am so naturally everyone was in bed, I continued to gallivant around the suburbs before I finally found myself back at my place, as I went to the front door and tried it though I realised it had locked on me, and I had left the keys inside. Shit. As I stood there I thought to myself it was probably too late to knock on next door's place, they wouldn't be able to get me inside but at least I could sleep at their place the night before working out a plan of attack the next day. I then realised I had a key to the back door under the mat there, I could get in that way.Brilliant. I quickly made my way around to the side of the house, I had a small fence there so I thought I would hop over that and be on my way to the back yard, what I didn't count on was the fact I had my bins lying right behind the fence, as I mounted the fence I jumped off and my feet hit the bins, they fell forward under the pressure of my body weight and I fell to the right throwing me head first into the side fence, I landed on the point of my chin snapping my head and neck back....
Straight away I had no idea of how bad it was, I was so drunk and it all happened so quick I didn't know what to think, I was just lying there and thinking to myself initially that nothing hurt, although I was really drunk so that would have numbed any pain, after lying there for a few seconds trying to collect my bearings I decided to try and get up but realised I couldn't, what the hell? My mind was telling my body to move but it wasn't being obeyed, I decided just to try and concentrate on moving my toes, hang on I can't feel my toes! As I realised all of this I started to have trouble breathing, oh shit! It's 1 am in the morning and I'm lying here immobile and struggling to breathe, I'm screwed.. All of a sudden I heard a voice. "Are you OK?" they asked. I could barely see who it was as it was pitch black dark. "It's Estelle, from next door. I heard a big crash so I came out to have a look" she identified herself seeing I was in distress.
"Can't..... breathe" I managed to stagger out, my condition worsening.
"Oh god you don't look well at all. Just lie still I'm going to have to do CPR" she told me before ringing an ambulance.
Lie still? Of course I was going to lie still, I couldn't bloody move! Before I knew it Estelle was planting her lips on me giving me much needed oxygen. I have to say I had always dreamed about kissing Estelle but not this way, not when I was fighting just to stay alive.
"You been drinking??" she asked after tasting my bourbon soaked lips.
Geez this wasn't the time to get on my case about drinking! This is serious. "Yes" I mumbled before she told me to try and relax and not talk. But you just asked me a question! The ambulance seemed to take an eternity but eventually they arrived, I was "stabilised" and I can vaguely remember them saying something like "Male,30's, suspected high level cervical injury, breathing compromised". Straight away I thought that didn't sound good, but they did say suspected and being so drunk I would think every 5 minutes that I would fine, just one of those crazy things that happen to people and then they walk out of the hospital the next week, like when your foot goes dead and after you shake it a bit it comes good, no biggie I would be fine...
Naturally enough I wasn't fine, not fine at all. I broke two vertebrae in my spinal cord and I was left a C3 complete quadriplegic. Complete, something I could never say about my relationships that's for sure, with a spinal cord injury I doubted even more now that I could ever find someone, not that I was thinking about that after my diagnosis, it took weeks of tears and soul searching before I got out of bed, not that I could for a while anyway having one operation after another to fix my broken body. After 2 months I started to come out of my funk a bit and started therapy, learning how to talk again with the vent, people moving my flaccid limbs up and about and around, twisting them like pretzels to get them 'moving' as they like to put it.
I have to admit that while traumatic there were plenty of lighter moments in hospital and rehab, while I had numerous nurses over my time one was a big African American woman named Bertha, I knew as soon as I saw her that we would get on, after announcing she would be taking care of me that day and knowing each other just a few minutes she went to change my catheter. As she was fiddling around near my crown jewels I joked "Would have liked dinner first!". She looked at me and completely deadpan replied "You paying?". We both just started to laugh with mine being interrupted by the vent straight away. After that day we would always be telling each other jokes and she had a personality bigger than her body, she always made me feel better with her big booming laugh which could be heard all the way down the hallway. While it was kind of hard for me to do "physical comedy" I got her a beauty one day when a friend brought in a fake wiggling arm, I had it rested just under the covers and when Bertha came in one day I announced. "Look Bertha I can move my arm!!"
"Oh that's fantastic Josh!!" she said in amazement as the arm moved. "How long have you been able to do that???"
"Oh since my friend turned up an hour ago" I smiled knowing I got her hook, line and sinker.
She then came in closer and realised it was a fake arm with my friend pressing a button for it to move."Oh, you sneaky man!!" she remarked before breaking into her customary hearty laugh.
After that day Bertha promised she was going to get me back, getting up to all these hi jinx was the best way to deal with my paralysis, while it was pretty hard to forget that you're paralyzed from the neck down a bit of levity definitely helped. Sure enough a few days later, Bertha re payed the favour as one day I was getting lifted out of my bed, it was probably one of my least favourite things to do but I loved hooning around in my chair so it was a necessary evil, as I was lowered into my chair I could see Bertha starting to chuckle to herself. Oh god what has she done I thought to myself, as my bum hit the seat of my wheelchair I heard a large fart, Bertha started cracking up and I asked "Was that me?"
"Yeah it was you alright buddy!" she laughed. I looked over and even one of the therapists was having a little bit of a chuckle. Bertha lifted me back up for a second then pulled something out from the chair and showed me.
"Whoopee cushion!! Hey no fair" I protested trying not to smile.
"All's fair in love and laughter!!"
After that day the gloves were off and we were always trying to get one up on each other, even the other people round the hospital referred to us as the 'comedians' or 'partners in crime'. After six months transpired it was time to leave though, as much as I wanted to get out and try to get on with my life I was quite sad at leaving Bertha, she was such a wonderful woman and didn't wrap me up in cotton wool like the others at the hospital and rehab, she had this innate ability to know people's limits and know exactly what they needed, not just with me but all the patients. I know it sounds a bit lame but when it was time to leave we were both weeping like babies. "I'm going to miss the fun we had together" I cried.
"Me too. You've been the most amazing patient. I wish you every happiness there is" Bertha smiled while fighting back tears. She gave me a kiss on the cheek and I headed back home.
When I got home I felt like everything had changed, while my house had been remodelled to fit my needs, everything still looked out of reach. Probably because it was. With no movement of my arms I couldn't just grab a bit of bread and make a sandwich, it had to be made for me, that made me quite sad but I knew focusing on the negative aspects of my care wouldn't do me any good, I just had to get on with life.
Two years on I haven't had a date since being paralyzed, not that I have necessarily been looking but you know what I mean. In some respects I'm still not ready but in another I need love and affection more than ever before, sure friends are great and everything but they don't give you the love and the feeling you get when you meet a new woman. I'm sure things will turn around though, after all I'm the Fill-in guy, a girl will have to come along soon...