Chapter 12Kieran woke up on Saturday around 11 a.m. feeling sick. When he moved his hands under his blanket he realized his bed was moist with sweat. He pushed himself up on his elbows and fell right back on the pillow as his head was throbbing with a migraine. There was no way he could get up at this moment. He did feel under his blanket again and realized not just the moisture of sweat but also the moisture of urine having leaked from his briefs, wetting his boxers and the area around his butt. He had a moisture resistant cover over his mattress and now he was laying in his sweat and urine. He needed to get out of his bed soon before he would actually throw up from the migraine pounding in his head.
He called out for Fiona.
Instead of Fiona, his niece came into his room, “Uncle Kieran, Good Morning.”
She came over to his bed, carefree and cheery but changed her facial expression quickly when she saw Kieran didn’t feel well, “Ash, hey.”
Fiona came into the room, “Hey you two.”
She walked over toward the bed and saw right away Kieran didn’t feel well.
Ashleigh asked, “What is going on Uncle Kieran?”
He spoke lowly, “I don’t know. I think I have a migraine or something.”
Fiona slid her hand under the blanket and pullet it out, “Okay, I have to get you out of your bed. Your sheets are soaked.”
Ashleigh seemed somewhat uncomfortable with the statement because she wasn’t sure on what her mom was referring too. She knew Kieran dealt with issues concerning his bladder but she never talked about this with her uncle. These were things that made her uncomfortable, knowing that peeing on himself or even having an accident in the bowel department could happen to him. It was hard for her to understand how an adult could not have any control over these issues anymore and it made her feel especially sad to think about when it came to the uncle she loved.
She glanced at him and she saw he had his eyes closed, “Should I get dad?”
Fiona nodded, “Yeah, it would be easier.”
Ashleigh wanted to help but she was also relieved she had a reason to get out of the room at that moment.
She called for her dad who was in the front yard mowing the lawn.
Tyler came into the room just when Fiona helped Kieran sit up some and his face was pain stricken with the pounding in his head.
Tyler took over and helped his wife as she moved the blanket away from Kieran and actually dropped it on the floor. She would definitely need to start the washer that day.
Kieran was dealing with migraines on occasion and the stress with Erin from the night before, the vivid dreams waking him up screaming could have been factors in the full blown migraine at that time.
He was barely able to warn his sister and Tyler, “I think I am about to puke.”
Fiona rushed into the bathroom and came back with a plastic container holding it in front of Kieran just in time when he started to vomit.
Tyler had his hand on Kieran’s back and didn’t watch the vomiting, instead looking up and trying not to get sick himself at hearing Kieran gag and cough.
Fiona on the other hand handled the situation calmly and speaking softly to her brother, “There you go. It’s all right. Let it all out.”
She had a washcloth with her and wiped over Kieran’s face when he stopped. He was breathing quickly and in gasps as he tried to catch his breath from the spasticity of his stomach.
Fiona took the bucket to the bathroom and dumped its contents into the toilet bowl, flushing it down and out of sight. She rinsed out the bucket and brought it back out with her just in case Kieran would have another attack.
His face was pale and cold sweat ran over it.
Tyler stated, “We should get him into the bathroom.”
Fiona draped a towel over Kieran’s wheelchair seat and with their help Kieran eventually transferred over into his Quickie. It was difficult for him, every movement causing excruciating pain in his head. He gasped and moaned. Tyler pushed the Quickie into the bathroom.
Before they were about to help Kieran transfer onto his shower chair Fiona asked him bluntly, “Kieran, do you think you have to poop?”
Kieran thought for a moment with his eyes closed and he knew he had not had a bowel movement the day before so he decided to make sure and he nodded.
Tyler opened the toilet lid, Fiona helped Kieran slide down his soaked briefs and boxers and he transferred himself onto the toilet. When he was on it, his sister and Tyler left the bathroom. Fiona had placed the vomit bucket in front of Kieran on the floor just in case. They closed the door and gave him privacy with the matter.
As Fiona got busy taking the sheets off his bed she called, “Kieran, let me know if you need help.”
He answered only weakly, “Okay.”
Besides feeling sick with the Migraine he also felt bad for having interrupted Fiona’s and Tyler’s Saturday morning.
By the time he had finished his business on the toilet Fiona had taken off his sheets and comforter and had dragged it all to the laundry room.
Kieran actually wanted to get into the shower on his own and after he transferred from the toilet into his wheelchair he then transferred into the shower, pressing his lips together with the pain and the strength he used.
Fiona knocked on the bathroom door and asked if he was ready for her to help him into the shower, and he replied, “I got it. I’m in the shower already.”
Fiona wouldn’t push her help on Kieran, “Well, call me if you need me. I will leave the door to your room open.”
Kieran turned on the water and felt the stream with his hand until it was warm enough for him, then he slowly let the water run over his body and just enjoyed the stream on the parts of his body where he could feel it, his shoulders, head, his upper chest and his arms. His legs started to spasm and were twitching oddly in front of him, falling from side to side or all the sudden stretching out and flexing, then falling limp again. He watched the situation for a few moments, just letting the water run over himself and thinking about the night before, about Erin, about the ending to their evening and he also remembered some things he had mentioned to Fiona after he had been ripped awake from his nightmare. He remembered how Fiona had brushed off his comments about walking in the middle of night and he knew he couldn’t say anything else about it. They didn’t believe him and he himself still had a hard time believing what was happening to him night after night.
Slowly he washed his body from head to toe and all the while adjusting his legs which were falling all over the place and not staying where he placed them. He had to hold on a few times when his leg was acting up too much or when the spasm travelled into his lower back and almost slid him off the seat some. His head was still pounding in bouts of Migraine pains and a few times he would just close his eyes and breathe through the pain. He would have to take some medication for his spasms and for his Migraine.
The shower still felt good and as he dried himself Fiona knocked again but didn’t come in and just asked, “Are you doing all right in there?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. I’m drying off and I’ll be right out.”
He came out into his bedroom to a stripped bed, Fiona had taken everything off to wash. The window was open and a summer breeze came in with the birds singing outside and a dog barking in the neighbor’s yard. Kieran had a towel draped over him, his legs were still spastic and he wheeled right up to his bedside table to take some Baclofen to ease the spasms. Another painful Migraine attack overcame him and he stopped right where he was and didn’t move, waiting out the moments. This time the pain didn’t go away and he would have to get dressed and get some Migraine tablets from Fiona.
He picked up his shorts and an old T-Shirt form his arm chair and slipped the T-Shirt over his head while still sitting in his chair. He didn’t feel like transferring back onto the bed and slipped the shorts on by lifting his feet up on his knees and first one, then the other pulling the shorts up over his legs. It was still a somewhat nervy task especially with the spasm still possessing his legs but eventually with some hassle he had the shorts over his butt and adjusted the waistband under his T-Shirt. His head hurt a lot still and even though his bathroom and his room were messy and he had been planning to clean up and pick up all his stuff at this moment he couldn’t do it and he just wanted to get some tablets for his Migraine.
Tyler appeared in the door, "Hey man, everything okay?”
Kieran nodded and answered lowly, “Yeah, I think I just need some Excedrin for my head.”
“Do you have any in your bathroom?”
“No, Fiona keeps them in your guys’s bathroom.”
“I’ll get them for you.”
Just as Kieran came wheeling through the hallway, Tyler came out of the master bedroom with the tablets and handed two to Kieran.
Kieran wheeled into the kitchen, up to the refrigerator and swallowed the tablets with some water.
Ashleigh sat down at the bar and asked him, “Are you okay again Uncle Kieran?”
He spun his Quickie around, and nodded, caught off guard with his niece appearing like this.
“Yeah, I’m all right.”
Ashleigh saw the dark circles under his eyes and his hair wasn’t brushed, but merely adjusted some with his hands.
Kieran wasn’t hungry and really just wanted to rest and wait out the Migraine. He didn’t say anything else to Ashleigh, feeling somewhat odd and worried she would ask about the night out with Erin.
She followed him into the living room and just when he transferred onto the recliner she plopped down close to him on the couch and just looked at him for a moment.
Kieran didn’t want to meet his niece’s eyes until she asked bluntly, “So you and Erin are done then?”
He looked up in surprise and after a quick thought he assumed Ashleigh had already heard from Chloe.
He didn’t answer and Ashleigh asked him again, “Why?”
Kieran kept his eyes down and Ashleigh sounded sad when she said, “Chloe’s mom cried today.”
Kieran looked up at Ashleigh and didn’t really know what to say. Erin had cried the night before too and it had killed him inside when he wheeled out of her house and left her standing in her door.
Ashleigh sounded sad, “Uncle Kieran, what happened?”
He contemplated how much he could tell his niece but then decided he really couldn’t tell her what Erin had said that had upset him so much.
Ashleigh waited for an answer but when Kieran didn’t say anything she got up and said angrily, “Whatever! Besides my mom, Mrs. Decker is the nicest mom and the coolest person around and I don’t know what your problem is Uncle Kieran. I guess you just want to stay by yourself and feel sorry for yourself for the rest of your life.”
She walked by him and Kieran felt the sting in his heart at his niece’s words. He wanted to tell her so badly and he wanted to share with someone what had been going on with him but he couldn’t. He felt like he was getting strangled and couldn’t bring a word over his lips. Instead he felt his heart beat in his neck and he leaned his head back and closed his eyes when his vision got blurry.
After his Migraine had calmed down and his legs had stopped their spasticity he wheeled back into his room. He needed to get out of the house and he wanted to be alone.
He changed his clothes into some nicer shorts and put on socks and sneakers, then catheterized once more and with his backpack on his lap and his car keys in between his thighs he wheeled out to the car. He didn’t tell anyone he was leaving but just as he pulled out of the garage and Tyler saw it while working in the front yard he walked over to Kieran and waved him down to stop.
Kieran rolled his window down and Tyler leaned down on the window and with a quick inspecting glance into the car he said, “What do you want me to tell your sister?”
Kieran replied lowly, “Just tell her I went for a ride.”
Tyler then asked more specific, “Are you all right Kieran?”
“Yes, don’t worry about me. I just need to be by myself.”
There was nothing Tyler could do or say to keep Kieran at home and he had to trust his brother in law to not do anything stupid. They couldn’t hover over Kieran constantly and tell him what to do or not to do. He was an adult and he should be able to make his own decisions.
Tyler nodded, “Hey, be careful okay.”
Kieran nodded and Tyler held out his fist for a knuckle bump which Kieran accepted. With a quick pat on the rolled down window Tyler let Kieran drive off and watched as he disappeared down the street.
After Kieran had left the night before Erin was devastated and having drank two more glasses of wine she had cried about the whole situation. She really didn’t know what to do and how to approach Kieran now. She didn’t know why she had told him those dumb things but for some reason she had felt she needed to let him know what kind of feelings he ignited in her. They were feelings she didn’t really understand and ever since she had met Kieran she couldn’t get him out of her head but one prominent image overtook all the other ones, Kieran in his wheelchair. The fact that she had thought about him in bed at night and actually felt a kind of arousal when thinking about him not walking and being in the wheelchair felt so wrong. She didn’t know what to make of it but it had made her feel bad about herself and she had questioned her intentions about being with Kieran. She had been looking forward to the second date and at the same time seeing him in his wheelchair and adhering to all his regular tasks had made her very nervous and she had been trying to conceal her excitement about these things as good as possible the whole night. Then she had blurted out some of her thoughts and now she had destroyed everything. Kieran had stormed out and she had ended up crying herself to sleep that night.
The first thing her daughter Chloe had asked in the morning after the girls had been dropped off by their grandfather was how the second date had gone. Chloe wanted to know if her mom and Ashleigh’s uncle were together now. When tears instead of smiles had ran over her mother’s face Chloe had first assumed it was something that Kieran had done.
Instead her mother then said, “It is probably not a good idea for us to be together.”
“What are you talking about mom?”
Erin had shed a few more tears and didn’t know how to explain to her daughter.
Chloe had then turned serious, “Is it because he is in a wheelchair?”
Erin had looked up at her daughter alarmed and replied almost too quickly, “No. That has nothing to do with it. I have no problem with his being in a wheelchair.”
Just saying the words had made her tremble and in her mind she added, “I love seeing him in the wheelchair and I am glad he is in a wheelchair and it drives me crazy being with him in a wheelchair.”
Of course these are things she didn’t say out loud to her daughter. She couldn’t reveal what a freak she was.
More tears had been running down her cheeks and Chloe had asked, “What is it then? What happened?”
Erin had wiped over her face and had thought of the best reply to satisfy her daughter’s curiosity, “Maybe it is just not a good idea. I don’t know if I am ready to be in a relationship yet. Let’s not talk about this anymore Chloe.”
Chloe had looked at her mother and had said somewhat angry, “You have been single for long enough now. Even though Ashleigh’s uncle is in a wheelchair, he is totally hot, mom and he is super nice. I don’t know what your problem is but I guess I won’t find out since you won’t tell me.”
With that she had walked off and Erin stayed behind in the kitchen, more tears streaming and not knowing what to do. She had checked her phone in the hope to have a message from Kieran but there was nothing.
Kieran drove through town without any destination and his mind was racing with everything. He thought of calling someone or driving out to see Brandon but then again he didn’t want to bother any of his friends with his relationship problems. Seemingly everyone except he, had their lives together and it drove him crazy. He drove out of town and still had no particular place to go. It was a sunny, clear and still warm Saturday. People were driving with their tops down and their windows open. He had his window open too and felt the wind blow around him at driving fairly fast. He had a couple of speeding tickets on record already, another one of those things he didn’t really care about anymore after everything he had been through. He had paid all his tickets, hadn’t fought them because they were justified but he had to be careful to not get caught speeding anymore in the danger of losing his license and he knew if that would ever be the case he wouldn’t be able to keep going. His car gave him the illusion of having some kind of independence no one could take away from him. For the time in his car he was able to forget about his paraplegia and never being able to walk.
He sped along the Interstate, going about 75 mph in a 60 mph zone and keeping his eyes in front and behind and to the side making sure there wasn’t a State Trooper or City Cop on his tail. Driving out of town, the houses and neighborhoods spread out more and nature took over as he made his way along. His music was blasting loud, the wind was in his hair and he was one with his car and its power. Kieran drove and drove and the flat land turned into hills covered with Evergreen trees and the Interstate ended and Kieran merged onto the Highway leading him up to the mountains. The city was long behind him and now he drove from one town into the next. He had been driving for over an hour and he was getting thirsty and in the next town he pulled into the parking lot of a gas station store. He turned his Mustang off and with his driver’s side door open he pulled his Quickie over from the passenger seat, set it up next to him and transferred into it. He slammed his door shut and pushed his rims and wheeled into the store. At the door a young boy exiting the store held it open for him as Kieran wheeled in with a Thank you. He found his favorite Soda and grabbed some chips and chocolate, transporting everything on his lap as he wheeled up to the counter. The Asian man behind the counter took his money and put Kieran’s things into a plastic bag, thanking him and ran over to the door, holding the door open as Kieran exited the store.
Back in his car and on the road he munched on the chips next to him and had a drink here and there. He mostly kept his hands on the control though adjusting his speed and breaking when necessary. The hills became higher and eventually Kieran found himself at the National Park entrance where he held out his Military ID and his VA National Park permit, allowing him to just drive in with the Ranger at the gate thanking him for his service. Kieran managed a smile and a nod and drove on, making his way up and up, higher and higher to reach the Visitor Center at almost 6,000 feet where it was quite busy with cars, hikers, and tourists.
At the disabled parking area he found one last spot. All the others were occupied. As he parked and turned off his car he thought for a moment how far he had actually driven, now ending about 2.5 hours away from home and up at the Visitor Center of the most dangerous and still active volcano in the world. The giant was in front of him, going even higher than the Visitor Center and only the brave and daring hiking to its tops and climbing the thousands of crevices and rock formations making up this silent, beautiful but very dangerous monster. It was a beautiful clear day, the meadows still covered in wild flowers and masses of people making their way along the many paths surrounding the Visitor Center and admiring this massive mountain covered in snow when the sun was beaming down hot and bright.
Kieran thought to himself how he really had not been prepared to take a road trip like this, he didn’t have a jacket, he wore shorts and he had just enough supplies in his backpack to hopefully be okay until he would get home again. It had been somewhat irresponsible of him to just drive far like this but now he was here and without thinking about it too much more he gathered his things and eventually sat in his Quickie, buckled up, his backpack on his handles and actually his fingerless gloves on and a baseball cap he had laying around in the car. He had no sunblock or mosquito protection but it was too late now. He decided to just enjoy the sight of the mountain a little bit and just be alone. Considering the many people around though, being alone was probably not going to happen. He wheeled across the parking lot toward the restroom where he wheeled in and found the disabled stall empty and large enough for him to perform his catherization.
Eventually he was outside and just looking up at the mountain and taking some pictures with his phone. He really couldn’t get higher because all the trails were steep and slanted up. He didn’t have enough strength to wheel along where the people strolled further up and able to get some more sights of the amazing nature and area around the mountain. He was stuck at the bottom of the entrance stairs to all the trails and could only watch as people went up, kids ran by him and seeing the people that were already exploring further up.
He wheeled around the Visitor Center and explored the immediate area around it, where a few short flat trails led along some flower covered meadows. It was by no means the experience the visitors got higher up but he had to be happy with what he saw. He had been up on the mountain many years ago when he was still healthy. He remembered Ashleigh was in a carrier on Tyler’s back as they hiked some of the trails further up. Back then Fiona was pregnant with Dominic but was doing good hiking with the guys and keeping up with them.
He parked his Quickie off to the side where it was somewhat quiet and he was able to look into the direction opposite the mountain. The mountain range was impressive but even the higher mountains in the area couldn’t even come close to the King of them all.
Kieran just looked out into the distance and pulling his phone out he looked at his messages again and read over Erin’s message a few more times and it hurt him so much. He really didn’t know what to do and if he should blow the whole thing with Erin off or if he would make a big mistake ending it. He liked her, he liked her a lot. She was attractive, she was mature and settled. She was an independent woman with two teenage kids. He really couldn’t ask for anyone better. Erin had come into his life like a light at the end of the tunnel. She was beautiful and she seemed to really enjoy his company and being around him and now he was up on the highest mountain in the state pondering at what to do.
It was very quiet around him and there were no people for some reason. For the moment he was by himself at the lookout spot, behind him a few benches for people to sit on and next to him binoculars for people to look out into the distance for 25 cents. All he heard was the birds and the distant sounds of cars on the parking lot. It was hot and he was glad for the cap on his head but he felt his arms burn and when he felt his legs they were very warm. The water bottle between his thighs was getting warm and he drank a big gulp from it.
Out of nowhere he heard a familiar voice next to him, “It is beautiful up here!”
He looked over and to his absolute disbelief the old man stood next to him, looking through the binoculars. Kieran was speechless and for a moment pondered if he was dreaming or if he was going crazy.
The old man didn’t look at him but kept his eyes pressed to the binoculars and his voice was somewhat muffled, “How are you Kieran?”
Kieran felt his heart beat in his neck and his hands tremble and sweat in his gloves. He didn’t know what to do and what to say, he was dumbstruck.
The old man kept looking through the binoculars and continued, “You should be up here with Erin.”
Now Kieran found his words and swallowed before he said tensely, “It’s none of your business who I should be here with. Why are you here?”
Now the old man moved his eyes from the binoculars and looked straight at Kieran. He wore a hat but this time not a suit but instead a polo shirt and some khaki hiking pants.
He answered with a smile, “I’m here because I’m really almost everywhere you are Kieran.”
Kieran shook his head and said tense, “Don’t fuck with me again old man! I’m starting to get really pissed off at this shit. I don’t know who you are, I don’t know what you want from me and I’m getting seriously agitated at this. You got me in the hospital last week, you made me fall out of my fucking wheelchair at the VA and I’m just getting so fucking tired of this game you are playing.”
The old man replied calmly, “You curse a lot Kieran.”
Kieran put his hands to his rims and spun his chair facing the old man and with piercing green eyes he leaned forward and said angrily, “Fuck you! You tell me what you want from me and I may change my tone of voice and instead of saying Fuck you I can change it to piss off. But right now I’m fucking tired of this. I got too much shit going on in my life and I’m tired of having to deal with more bull shit every time you appear out of fucking nowhere. Tell me what you want from me and then leave me alone.”
The old man walked away and toward the benches. Kieran got nervous at him possibly just disappearing again. He looked around himself and there wasn’t a single soul to witness this interaction. He quickly put his hands to his rims to follow the old man but was surprised when the old man actually sat down on one of the benches. He stopped his chair from rolling further and just watched as the old man pulled out a piece of paper and handed it to Kieran.Kieran pushed his chair closer and ripped the paper from the old man’s hand and looked at it. All it had on it was a date and when Kieran looked at it his hands trembled. It was the date he got shot multiple times in a mountain village in Afghanistan.
He stared at the paper for a few seconds then looked up at the old man in disgust, “What do you want me to do with that?”
The old man replied, “It’s the date on which you almost died.”
Kieran didn’t say a word but only tried to control his emotions at the situation.
The old man added, “I was there when they did CPR on you and when you were almost bleeding to death.”
Kieran felt his heart beat race, his hands still trembled and he really didn’t want to hear anything about that night. He didn’t remember too much about it anymore. It had been an unexpected ambush. The village was supposed to be abandoned and with their convoy they had to make their way through the area that night to get back to camp. When the first vehicle hit the IED and blew up right there the rounds being fired from automatic weapons instantly killed six guys from Kieran’s Infantry unit. People no one saw were shooting at them from everywhere. Everyone jumped out of their vehicles and got down low, bullets flying over their heads and amidst the chaos they were firing back into dark corners of the buildings hoping to somehow hit the enemy.
When Kieran ran over to another guy from his unit who had been shot, he accidentally stepped on the edge of an IED and barely dodged the full blow but having his flag vest ripped off of his body and leaving him with no protection as four shots hit him in his back. He collapsed and he remembered Andy falling down next to him on the ground and screaming at him if he was alive, then Andy trying to drag him into the cover of a Humvee. As another IED exploded close to them, a large piece of metal hit Kieran on his neck and chest while he was laying on the ground already. All he felt was agonizing pain racing through his whole body and the taste of blood in his mouth. He heard Andy screaming, telling him to hang on, to stay with him, and that he was going to be okay, which was the biggest lie ever. Eventually the agony made Kieran pass out and it had been for the better. He did not witness four more guys dying and he did not witness three of the guys in the blown up vehicle lose their legs and arms. Later on in the news they said this had been one of the worst days for the US Army, having lost 10 soldiers and many severely injured.
Kieran sat there and realized how his vision got blurry at the memory of it all. He had been trying his best to forget about everything that happened that night and here was this old man handing him a piece of paper with that fateful date on it.
He snapped out of it and threw the paper to the ground saying lowly, “Why are you doing this to me? Who are you?”
The old man then picked up the paper and stuck it back into his pocket, “I’m just an old man sent to watch over you. You don’t let me into your mind a lot though, Kieran. I may not see you for a while again so I have a proposal for you.”
Kieran looked up alert and the old man continued, “Erin cares a lot about you and I think you care about her as well. If you choose to be with her, your nightly encounters of getting sensations back will stop. I know it has been difficult for you but the night you got shot in the back you said to me you would trade love for not losing your ability to walk. So with that if you choose not to continue with Erin you will keep your sensations at night and they may stay with you longer and longer and eventually lead to you being able to walk again. There had not been anyone in your life lately that you cared for or as a matter of fact loved other than family. Erin is the first woman you let into your life since your diagnosis. So this has not come up until now when we knew Erin was coming into your life. It is your choice Kieran.”
Kieran was speechless for a few moments, processing everything the old man had said and not being able to comprehend fully.
He played the words over in his head again to somehow get an understanding of what was going on but then he asked, “Wait a minute….” The old man looked up at him with a smile as Kieran continued, “So what you are saying is that I made a deal with you the night I got shot?”
The old man replied calmly, “Something like that. You were in a lot of pain, losing the feelings in your legs and realizing it was getting really bad. When I asked you what you wanted me to do you said you would trade love for the ability to walk.”
Kieran didn’t understand anything, “I didn’t talk to you. You weren’t there…what the fuck are you talking about?”
“I was there only for you to see. I have been with you all your life Kieran.”
Kieran shook his head, “So what are you saying? Are you like an angel or some shit like that?”
“Something like that, more of a guardian. I can fulfill that wish for you if you want but it is your choice Kieran.”
Kieran felt like in a dream or more of a nightmare talking to this man. He looked around and still there was not one person witnessing any of this. His eyes were blurry. He had been fighting back the tears the whole time.
Almost in a whisper he asked, “How long until I can walk again all the way?”
“You get more and more time every night and so forth until you will be back on your feet all the way.”
Tears started flowing out of his eyes now as he asked lowly, “But I won’t be with Erin if I want to walk again?”
The old man didn’t smile anymore, “That’s correct. It was the trade you were willing to make.”
Kieran swallowed, “And if I want to be with Erin I am not going to walk ever again?”
Again the old man didn’t smile, “That’s correct but…”
Kieran interrupted the old man, “But what?”
“Erin is a very special person and you need to think about your choice Kieran.”
Kieran shook his head and wiped over his eyes, “This is more than fucked up you know.”
He felt hot and his head hurt, seemingly the Migraine coming back again, “Why 12:48 every night?”
“It is the time the bullet severed your spinal cord.”
Kieran couldn’t believe anything he heard or saw and again he looked around himself but there was no one. He now felt the tears run over his face without trying to stop them anymore. He felt alone and he felt like he was losing his mind and it scared him. Over and over he tried to figure out if this was a real conversation he was having or if it was just something in his mind, nothing real. He let his head hang and was hoping when he looked up the old man wouldn’t be there anymore but when he did look up he was still there.
He said lowly, “Kieran, I know this is difficult for you and I wish I would have other news but only some people get this opportunity in their life and this is your opportunity. I know you have been through a lot and I wish I could take the burden away from you but I can’t. You have done things in your life and you have to redeem yourself. This is it.”
When Kieran heard those words he looked up again and asked under tears, “What do you mean I have done things?”
"Only you know the things you have done Kieran.”Kieran was getting more and more discouraged and angry, “What are you talking about?”
“War changes people and it makes people do things they shouldn’t do.”
Kieran pushed his chair closer to the old man and even though he was still crying he was also furious, “What the fuck did I do that other people haven’t done? I only followed orders, always.”
The tears were streaming and deep inside he knew what the old man was getting at but he didn’t want to dig out those memories again. They had haunted him for years and only recently they had subsided and now this stranger who claimed to be some kind of a guardian to him dug things out from his past.
“I won’t talk about this Kieran, you know.”
Kieran was devastated and the tears were streaming and he spun his Quickie around and wheeled back over to the wall separating the view point from the steep downhill cliff. The pain overcame him in full force as his body was shaken by the tears he cried.
When he turned around the old man was gone and he was again overcome by such pain and sadness he could barely stand it. Everything that just happened and everything they had just talked about seemed like it had occurred in some other dimension not of this world. Kieran was very scared that he was indeed going crazy and he pulled his phone out and he looked at Erin’s message again and the emotions overcame him again. He sat there crying for a while and was relieved that no one came around and all the people were walking up on the high trails whereas he was the only one at the lower viewpoint. When he had finally calmed down some he decided to make his way back to the visitor center and maybe eat a bite and then head back down the mountains. He looked around for the old man but he was gone just like he had appeared out of nowhere. People were still enjoying the day and as he wheeled through the crowds and the cars he felt like he wasn’t even really there, more like he was floating above the people. They didn’t see him and they didn’t seem to notice him as he made his way over to the building. People did notice him though, but Kieran was still in a state of disbelief about what had happened and didn’t look at anyone. His mind was in a whole other place while his body in the wheelchair was heading for the building.
Inside he somewhat collected himself and was more focused on his surroundings again. He felt hot on his arms and he realized they were slightly red from the sun. He went over to the cafeteria and sat a tray on his lap trying to balance it as he laid a bottle of Pepsi on it, then picked up a slice of Pizza and some Yogurt. Slowly he wheeled over to the register and eventually sat the tray on the counter. He paid, set the tray back on his lap and found a small table where he had to move one chair out of the way. His mind was still racing at the encounter and as much as he wanted to brush it off as something unreal he just couldn’t.
As he slowly started eating he was distracted in his thoughts when he saw a group of people walk by with two young men carrying two young women piggy back and they were laughing, talking, and looking very happy. He watched them walk by and one of the guys glanced at him and smiled. Kieran nodded with a smile and followed them with his eyes as they also made their way to the café where they let the girls down from their backs and scrambled about to get food and drinks.
He pulled out his phone again and brought up Erin’s message.
With trembling fingers he tapped on the reply button:
“Hi Erin! Thanks for writing to me after I took off like I did last night. I really don’t know what to say except for I am sorry too. I think I rushed into this with you and maybe I shouldn’t have invited you out for dinner and all. I don’t think I’m really ready to be with anyone yet. There is still a lot of baggage I am dragging around and I am not really doing good mentally. I don’t want to waste your time with my issues. You are a great person and I just want you to know that the little time we spent together was very nice and I enjoyed it. I think there are a lot of guys out there who wouldn’t mind dating you at all. Thanks again for letting me have a shot, Kieran”
Erin was at home working in her garden when her phone announced the message. She pulled it out of her pocket and saw it was from Kieran. Nervously she tapped on it.
Chloe was in the living room looking out the window as she saw her mom fall down on her knees in the flower bed and with her head hanging she cried and tears were just dripping onto the soil.
Chloe rushed outside to check on her mother and came up to her as she held the phone loosely in her hands and sat on her knees in the dirt.
“Mom, what is it?”
Erin looked up with teary eyes and showed her daughter the message and Chloe read over it quickly. She handed the phone back to her mom and touched her softly on the shoulder, “I’m so sorry mom. I was really rooting for you and Kieran. Why do you think he changed his mind?”
Erin shook her head and said lowly, “I don’t know but I guess it is what he is writing, he is not ready for a relationship.”
Chloe let herself down into the flower bed next to her mom, “He may think he is not ready but I know from Ashleigh that he has been alone for a couple of years now, in between of course the thing happened to him but he hasn’t dated anyone and I think he may just be nervous or something. If you like him mom, you should still try to change his mind. Not like being pushy but let him know you are around if he changes his mind.” Chloe paused a moment and then asked, “You do like him, right?”
Erin nodded, “Yes, I like him a lot and I was looking forward to getting to know him and spending time with him.”
Chloe stroked over her mom’s shoulder once more, “And you shouldn’t give up on him yet, mom. Ash told me that he was really happy he met you.”
Erin smiled at her daughter and as she hugged her she mumbled, “Thanks for making me feel better, sweetie.”
Chloe knew that she would have to definitely team up with Ashleigh to interfere in this and to keep up to date when it came to Ashleigh’s uncle and her mom. It couldn’t be that they would just stop seeing each other. She went back into the house and left her mom behind digging in the soil, tears constantly dripping.
After he had finished eating Kieran left the café inside the visitor center and wheeled back out to his Mustang. He needed to get out of the heat, mosquitos were coming after him now and he felt the skin on his arms burn.
The drive down the mountains took at least an hour with all the curves and narrow roads and the whole time Kieran was thinking about what had happened on the mountain. He couldn’t believe it still and he still had doubts if the incident had really happened. In a daze he drove his car and on a few occasions with oncoming traffic he realized he had to focus back on his driving.
He didn’t want to go home yet, he really didn’t want to see anyone, didn’t want to talk to anyone but he could feel his anxiety level go up. The anxiety of having been faced with the night of his injury again in the strangest way with a person he wasn’t even sure existed in reality or was just a vision of his imagination; the anxiety of having sent Erin a message that most likely ended what had just begun, and the anxiety of having to make a decision between walking or being with a woman he liked a lot and who possibly cared for him in a really good way. The conversation about the proposition seemed like a really bad dream, Kieran just couldn’t grasp that this really had happened.
He made it back to town and debated going home or not but he just couldn’t. He didn’t want to face the family and having to talk to them about where he had gone and definitely couldn’t tell them what had happened.
Without a destination he drove around town just going wherever the road took him and he really didn’t know what to do. He drove into one of the strip malls of town and when he saw a bar named “Watering Hole” he just pulled into the only disabled parking spot in front of it and turned his car off. He pulled his Quickie over from the passenger seat and set it up outside the car next to him and transferred into it. He needed a drink very badly.