At Capitol Lake the parking areas were busy with cars on this sunny day. Shawn pulled his back pack up on his lap and was digging in it. After a moment he held up a blue disabled parking placard and glanced over at Trish, “We can use this.”
Trish looked puzzled and he informed her, “Jesse had your license number added to it.”
“Oh cool! I kind of forgot all about that.”
Shawn attached the placard to the mirror and mumbled, “Well, Jesse didn’t.”
Trish pulled around to the disabled parking spaces and spotted a good size spot. She pulled into it and left sufficient space on the passenger side for Shawn to get out.
After she dropped her purse into the trunk she lifted Shawn’s wheelchair out of it, brought it around to him and when he reached over for it she asked, “Can I unfold it?”
At her request Shawn looked a little surprised but nodded, “Be my guest!”
He watched her unfold the wheelchair swiftly and competent.
Once it was set up right next to him he remarked, “You have that down pretty good already.”
She smiled at him, “Thanks…can you take the wheels off too?”
Shawn looked up at her and she was relieved to catch a smile on his face as well, “Actually yes, it is an option to take the wheels off but since the chair fit into your trunk all right, I didn’t have to do that.”
Shawn attached the shoulder straps of his back pack on the handles of the wheelchair’s backrest.
Trish stood by as he transferred into his wheelchair and this time she tried not to stare too obvious. Shawn seriously glanced up from under his bangs during the transfer and when he met her eyes she looked away quickly.
Backwards he wheeled himself away from the car as Trish locked it remotely.
The paved path leading up to the trail around the lake was nearby. The trail wasn’t paved but consisted of a sandy surface and packed down gravel.
Trish glanced over at him, “Do you think it will be O.K. to maneuver?”
“I think so.”
They made their way along the short path until they reached the trail veering off to the left and to the right around the lake.
Shawn now turned his focus on the trail, his wheels pressing the sand and gravel under them and sounding like sandpaper being rubbed. Trish walked beside him, hoping he was O.K. and she felt very happy inside.
Watching him push his wheelchair along the trail was very hot to her. His arms were strong and she could see the flexion of his biceps and triceps as he handled the rims of his chair. His legs and his feet in the black Nike sneakers sat still and side by side on the foot rest of the wheelchair. He had buckled his seat belt over his waist and also the strap over his thighs to keep his legs from falling to either side.
He wore blue jeans and a black T-Shirt. His blue framed wheelchair looked so good on him and Shawn looked so good in it. She kept glancing over at him and watching his every move, Shawn was focused on the task of wheeling along.
The lake trail was busy with people, jogging, walking their dogs and families strolling with kids enjoying a Sunday afternoon. Lined up in even distances along the trail were benches to take a break or rest and look out to the lake.
They quietly strolled along the trail, people going around them, men looking at Trish, then glancing at Shawn, women checking out both of them and kids eyeing Shawn curiously.
Shawn seemingly did O.K. with wheeling his chair along the trail, but he didn’t say anything. Trish looked ahead to find a nice and quiet bench somewhere. Even though he seemed to be managing well, she knew it was still strenuous for Shawn with his casted wrist to spin his rims and move his wheelchair along.
After a while she asked, “Shawn, if you want I can push you or if you just want to find a place where we can plant ourselves for a couple of minutes we can do that too.”
Shawn didn’t look at her but declared decisively, “You don’t have to push me.”
She could hear the determination in his voice and chose not to bother him anymore. He obviously did not want any help in pushing his chair.
Shawn would rather struggle to wheel himself along than to let anyone push him. Only in rare circumstances he would maybe let Jesse push him. His broken wrist did make things awkward as he didn’t have a good grip with his fingers on the rim and he hated the fact that this had happened two weeks earlier when he and Jesse got into the bad fight. It made things around Trish more difficult and he had to work even harder on wheeling himself which cost him some strength.
Trish kept pace with him as they moved along the trails. She thought about making conversation with Shawn but he didn’t give her any signs, seemingly focused on dodging people and maneuvering the gravel trail and Trish pondered if the outing had maybe not been a good idea at all.
Shawn felt somewhat tense and uncomfortable with all the people and sometimes he would catch a person staring at him. He knew most people didn’t mean anything by it but he always felt exploited to an extent.
People probably wondered about him and what had happened and sometimes he just wanted to blurt out at someone staring too long or too hard, “Yeah, this is what happens when you fuck up by driving drunk!”
Trish glanced at Shawn. He seemed so focused on his task and she didn’t know if he actually enjoyed being out like this.
They had almost reached the halfway point when Trish inquired, “Shawn, there is a nice shady spot over there. Do you want to take a break?”
He looked up, seeing the bench she pointed to and nodded, “Yeah.”
Trish sat down on the outside part of the bench and with a quick back up Shawn parked his chair next to her.
She heard him breathing and looked over at him, asking insecurely, “It was a stupid idea of me to come out here, wasn’t it?”
Shawn looked up surprised at her question, but when his eyes met hers she saw a flicker of sympathy in them as he answered lowly, “No, it wasn’t a stupid idea. This is a nice place and all...it’s just…” He stopped and Trish looked at him expectantly.
He looked down at his hands in his lap and continued, “Just sucks with my broken hand…and I haven’t been out a lot…it’s a little nerve wrecking with all the people, trying to dodge them or them looking at me weird…I don’t know. I guess I am not really good being around people anymore.” He looked up at her and his eyes were dark and shiny as he declared lowly, “I know you only meant well Trish.”
He leaned his upper body forward some and let his hands rest loosely on his thighs
Trish felt her hands tremble at his words, the way he actually showed some emotion toward her and she smiled and said softly, “I think it would be good for you to get out more…you know…I have plans for some outings for us.”
He looked up from under his bangs, “You do?”
She added carefully, “Yes, you don’t have to hide away from the rest of the world Shawn.”
Shawn shrugged his shoulders and looked back down at his hands, “Well, it’s different now for me and…things can happen.”
“Yes, it’s different…but you can still do things and enjoy life, Shawn! As for things happening, you shouldn’t worry about it too much and that is why I am here right now…What all do you carry in your backpack anyways?”
He was caught off guard with the sudden turn of the conversation and thought about his answer but Trish took the word, “Meds, catheters and stuff?”
He looked up at her, “Yes.”
Shawn was intimidated at her direct approach and she said softly, “Shawn, I do know about these things, you don’t have to feel weird.” He didn’t say anything and she kept on, “I have learned about it and I’ve done it to people at the nursing home. I have no problems with it.”
Shawn stared out at the lake, he didn’t really want to have that conversation.
Trish continued, “I know about catheters, intermittent, indwelling, bowel programs, enemas, spasms, leg bags, pressure sores and what not!”
Just those few words made Shawn’s stomach twist, hearing it from Trish who really shouldn’t know him in that way. He literally felt his dignity leave his body and he wished Trish was done with her interrogation and wouldn’t say anything else of that matter.
His eyes travelled away into the distance, he was nervously playing with his fingers and he couldn’t speak.
Trish realized that he was embarrassed and she said softly, “Shawn, I know this is difficult for you. I know just me being here is not easy for you but please give me a chance to prove to you that I really want to be here and help you in any way while Jesse is gone….catheters, enemas, spasms, medications, showers, dressing…whatever it is you need me to help you with.”
Shawn swallowed and hearing those words come over Trish’s lips again made him want to disappear. He was trying to get the invisible knot by clearing his throat with a small cough and then looking down at his hands he explained lowly, “You know…I don’t enjoy being like this.”
He felt his hands tremble and his heart beat as he was trying to talk to Trish about his feelings and he realized how challenging it was for him to find the right words.
He took a deep breath, “I don’t want to be like this. I’m trying to come to some kind of peace with it…but I can’t…I struggle with it every day.”
He couldn’t talk anymore and Trish realized how much courage it cost him to say these things to her. Her heart felt heavy as she tried to find the right words. She touched his arm and he flinched, looking at her hand for a moment.
Trish started, “Shawn, I know this is difficult for you…I know but you still have your life, maybe not your legs but your life Shawn and I want to help you have fun again whatever it takes.”
Shawn kept his eyes on his hands and he shook his head, “I don’t know if it will work.”
Trish got up and startled Shawn with her sudden closeness when she squatted down in front of him, placing her hands on his knees. This was the closest a woman had come to him in a long time.
Their eyes met when she said softly, “Shawn, you are not dead; you can still do things, all kinds of things. You are an attractive guy and I am almost certain women check you out all the time.”
His heart pounded rapidly, seeing and feeling Trish so close made him tremble.
He didn’t feel her hands on his knees, but he smelled her fruity perfume and saw her long blonde hair touch his legs as she moved her head, and her blue eyes glued to him. He wanted to touch her hand to feel it but he kept his hands to himself, fingers now locked tightly in his lap. He swallowed and realized how much he had missed a touch or caress on his body. He stared at her hand on his knee and opened his mouth to speak but no sound came out.
The emotions that overcame him seeing Trish right there in front of him, feeling her warmth radiate to him and smelling her hair and her body almost brought on exhaustion.
He was breathing quickly and when all the sudden Trish touched his locked hands with hers he swallowed and looked up into the trees.
Trish almost whispered as she unlocked his fingers and took his right hand guiding it to her other hand on his knee, “Look at me Shawn!”
She felt very nervous just like Shawn and seeing him in such an emotional state gave her chills down her spine. Despite everything, he seemed so receptive of her touch and she could see his chest rise up and down rapidly as he slowly focused his eyes on her. She took his hand and brought it up to her hair streaming down onto his thigh. She guided his hand over her hair and Shawn didn’t say a word.
With dark eyes he watched his own hand touching her hair. It felt soft and slick, perfect strands of blonde hair falling from her head onto his leg. He stroked his fingers over her hair, the feel of it gave him a shiver and even though his head told him to fight this his heart felt different. At the same time it took so much energy from him to be overcome with these feelings of extreme closeness to a woman, close like he hadn’t been in a very long time.
He was also harshly reminded of the stillness and lack of sensation of the lower half of his body, not feeling her touch on his legs or experiencing some kind of an arousal below his belly button.
His chest felt tight like he couldn’t get enough air but he wanted so much to feel Trish even though he felt like he was suffocating. Trish moved her hand to his arm and stroked it softly. He swallowed, he wanted to say something but the words didn’t come out.
Trish stroked his arm up and down and said softly, “Shawn, you are very attractive!”
He wanted to say it back to her. He wanted to tell her how beautiful she was and how he was so nervous in her presence, how he was stunned by her beauty and kindness, how he was intimidated by her bluntness, how he was so scared about her realizing how insecure he was, how he wanted her with him, how he was afraid to get too close to her, how he was so angry at Jesse and her for sleeping together, how he was so sad sometimes and how he felt so very alone most of the days and nights.
He swallowed, took a breath and just when he wanted to speak a group of kids laughing loud, screaming and shouting ran down the hill next to them. Shawn pulled his hand away from Trish quickly, put his hands to his rims in reflex and pushed himself back a bit, away from Trish and losing her hands and the connection they had established for a moment.
Trish stood up, looking from the kids to Shawn. He looked confused and tired and when she approached him again, he shook his head toward her, took a deep breath and demanded lowly, “I want to go back home.”
Trish was confused at his reaction, “Shawn…I’m sorry…I really….”
He shook his head again and pushed his rims moving his chair back onto the trail, “Let’s just go, O.K.!”
She followed Shawn who was already wheeling back toward the parking lot.
The walk back had lost all the joy of being outside in the sun and around people.
Trish felt terrible thinking she had caused Shawn some kind of emotional breakdown letting herself get so close to him. It had obviously moved him in some way and she thought how wonderful the moment had been and how much she cared for him but now it felt like she had created an even more complicated connection which had come to such an abrupt ending and it felt like it had never even happened.
It made her sad and she didn’t know how to react. She almost felt like running back to the car, it was all so strange now.
Right when they reached the turn off path toward the parking lot the situation became even more complicated when out of nowhere Trish heard her name being called by a familiar voice. She stopped, saw Shawn look up and when she heard her name again she turned around to see where the voice had come from and who it was calling her.
As she turned her head she saw her ex-boyfriend Corey walking up, “Trish!”
Trish glanced over her shoulder at Shawn who was in the process of spinning his chair around somewhat to see who Trish was talking to.
His eyes were dark on Corey as Trish attempted an awkward introduction, “Corey, this is Shawn, Shawn-Corey!”
Corey held a cigarette in his left hand but reached out to Shawn for a handshake. Shawn weakly shook his hand and nodded a silent greeting toward him. Corey looked like a guy one wouldn’t want to mess with. His sunglasses were up on his head with short dark hair. On his legs and arms several intimidating tattoos were showing. Corey eyed Shawn curiously.
Then he turned to Trish, “I have been trying to call you, where have you been?”
Shawn felt like he shouldn’t be around for this conversation and with a quick glance to Trish he remarked lowly, “I will be waiting at the car.”
Trish nodded, “O.K., I will be right there.”
Corey’s two friends stood off to the side and as Shawn turned himself around he could see how they were watching him closely. They all looked like a bunch of guys he didn’t want to be around too long.
As he wheeled away he could only hear how Corey asked Trish, “What’s the deal with that dude?”
He knew this question was pertaining to him but he couldn’t hear Trish’s answer. It took him a moment to get to the car and he pulled over to the side positioning himself under a tree where he could still see Trish nearby as she was talking to Corey. Shawn wondered if they were together.
He also thought about the previous moments they had shared and how they had gotten to him. Trish being so close to him made him want so much more of her but at the same time he was overcome by insecurity and shame. In his opinion he didn’t even come close to Jesse or this guy Corey, able bodied, strong and healthy young men.
He knew there was no way Trish could be interested in him the way she was obviously interested in Jesse and most likely Corey.
Even though she had told him how attractive she thought he was, he knew she had only said these things to make him feel better. He looked down at his hands still thinking about the moments with Trish and how despite everything he couldn’t physically feel he had definitely felt emotions of another kind, her hand touching his hand and feeling the softness of her hair and skin had gone straight to his head, but then his rational mind had kicked in and told him to stop the moment before it got too deep. He couldn’t allow to let Trish get to him in that way.
He shook his head to himself and then looked over to Trish and Corey again. He saw Corey touch her arm and Trish shaking it off violently. They seemed to be arguing. Trish was gesturing nervously and eventually she turned away from Corey and came along the path in quick strides.
Shawn started to wheel himself toward the car. She spotted him and she pointed her car keys toward her car and unlocked it. She glanced at Shawn and he thought he saw tears on her face. He wheeled up to the car and Trish stood by as he awkwardly opened the door, wheeled up to the passenger seat and this time she didn’t look away when he transferred into the car, this time she stared at him again shamelessly. This time she also let Shawn clumsily fold up his chair.
She took the chair from him without a word and stashed it in the trunk. Shawn wasn’t sure how to act and just pulled the passenger side door closed, arranged his legs in the car and set the backpack down by his legs. He buckled up just when Trish got in.
She sniffled a little and Shawn looked over to her, tears rolling down her cheek, “Are you O.K.?”
He wasn’t prepared for the outburst that followed now when she looked over at him angrily with a wet face and yelled, “No, actually not Shawn…I am not O.K...First you act like an idiot after I thought we shared a special moment and then the next idiot, Corey, crosses my path making me feel like crap…you guys need to get your shit together…all these issues you guys have, issues with your egos, you with your insecurity issues, feeling sorry for yourself…” she started the car, revving the engine a bit, “…get over it, Shawn.”
Shawn was speechless about how she went off on him and he was thinking about cutting her off but then in a way she was right and he let her carry on, “I’m tired of it…tired of you guys making me feel so shitty and inadequate...making me feel like I’m wrong!”
She cried and pulled out of the parking lot swiftly. When she pulled out onto the road with squealing tires, Shawn felt his hands get sweaty.
He asked lowly, “Trish, are you O.K. to drive? You should…”
She cut him off, yelling, “Should what?”
He shook his head, “Nothing!”
He started feeling anxious as he held on tight to the door handle when Trish sped through the city.
He swallowed, “Trish...maybe you should wait a little while to drive!”
She didn’t react and Shawn became nervous. Ever since the accident he had been a bad passenger and Jesse always called him a “back seat driver”. Jesse was an excellent driver but even in regular traffic Shawn had been dealing with anxiety and tension and Trish just didn’t seem to be in a good place to be driving at the moment.
He actually felt his hands shaking and his breathing become more rapid. He looked over at Trish, tears were still streaming down her face and she was staring ahead on the road but not really focused.
He swallowed again and said, “Trish, please, let’s pull over for a moment…I…” he took a breath, “…I am not feeling great right now!”
He felt the anxiety creep up in him.
Trish replied tensely, “I am not feeling good either!”
Shawn saw his knuckles turn white holding the door handle so tight, “Trish, please!”
She pushed the gas pedal even harder, Shawn felt like he was not getting enough air and he became angry at Trish driving irresponsibly.
He looked over at Trish and hissed sharply, “Trish, look at me! You need to stop this shit!”
A car blew its horn aggressively as Trish had taken their yield, almost hitting the car. She cried and it scared her and when she looked over at Shawn she saw sweat beads on his face, his eyes were closed and his chest was rising up and down quickly. His upper body was pressed against the seat stiffly.
She pulled into an empty parking lot of an abandoned industrial building. Shawn stayed silent but she saw him breathe quickly and he didn’t let go off the door handle even when she had shut the engine off, “Shawn?”
He opened his eyes and slowly moved his head looking at her. She saw his hand locked tightly around the door handle and the fingers of the casted hand were balled into a semi fist. Shawn’s face was wet from sweat and his breaths came in gasps.
Lowly he repeated, “I just need a moment.”
Trish wiped over her own face quickly, realizing her outburst had brought on Shawn’s apparent anxiety.
She felt some more tears drip from her eyes, “Shawn, what is going on with you?”
He shook his head and slowly let his fingers unlock from the door handle. He pulled up his back pack and with shaky hands he dug around in it until he held a small amber vial holding some tablets in his hand.
Trish saw his struggle with the lid as he tried to open the vial. His hand was shaky and carefully she took the bottle from him and opened it.
As she looked at the label Shawn said lowly next to her, “Two.”
She felt terrible now, having brought on some kind of distress for Shawn.
Shawn had pulled out a bottle of water from his back pack, held out his shaky hand to her and she dropped two tablets into it.
He swallowed the tablets with the water and closed his eyes leaning his head back on the head rest, trying to get his body under control. He was still breathing in gasps. Trish took the water bottle from his hand and screwed the lid back on.
She watched Shawn and felt horrible. She put her hand on his casted hand, touching his fingers slightly. She didn’t know what to say. After about five minutes Shawn opened his eyes again and shifted. His breathing had become almost normal and he looked over at Trish.
She could barely look at him, feeling very badly, “Are you O.K.?”
He nodded but his eyes were dark when he said lowly, “Make a note on your caretaker list not to drive like the devil when I am in the fucking car…I have some serious issues with shit like that.”
He looked away and loosened his grip from the door handle. Trish felt ashamed of having acted the way she did.
She started softly, “Shawn, I am so sorry about all of this…I don’t know what had gotten into me…I should have not put you in a situation like I did…I was wrong to act like this!”
He looked over at her, “It’s all right…” he took a breath, then added, “He must have pissed you off really bad…”
Trish was a bit surprised by his comment, “Corey?”
Shawn nodded, “Yeah!”
Trish looked down on her hands and replied, “It’s a long story.”
Shawn asked lowly, “Are you still with him?”
Trish shook her head but didn’t say anything and Shawn felt she didn’t want to say much more about the issue.
She wiped over her face once more and took a deep breath, “Well, are you ready to go home?”
She started the car and pulled out of the empty lot back onto the main road. The drive back home was quiet and Trish drove normal and safe. Shawn felt exhaustion overcome him and the medication made him sleepy. He felt how his eyes wanted to close a couple of times and he forced himself to stay awake. The excitement of the afternoon had been too much for him.