My care assistant in the afternoon is Hannah. She comes around lunchtime, just in time to help me eat, and sticks around to serve me dinner, at which time she has to rush off to pick up her son.
Hannah is around forty, or at least, that’s how old she looks. I know she’s a single mom, but she doesn’t bother to wear make-up or cover up the gray strands in her dark brown hair. I feel weird calling her pretty, considering the things she does for me, but then again, I’m a man in my twenties and it’s hard not to notice that, yes, she’s attractive.
The best thing about Hannah though is that unlike Maria, she recognizes that I’m not retarded. She knows about my degree, and she talks about her own nursing degree, and how she wishes she had time and finances to become a nurse practitioner. “Maybe when Brian is older,” she says wistfully.
When Hannah shows up today, I know that I’m having an epically bad day. My body absolutely will not behave—it’s betraying me in every way it knows how. My muscle spasms are out of control to the point where I’m having trouble even operating my talker. Feeding myself is out of the question. And I’ve needed to be changed three times just this morning.
It’s the first thing Maria says to Hannah when she shows up. “Another wet diaper,” she says, throwing up her hands. “You need to change this one! I must go.”
As Hannah pushes my chair to my bedroom to get me changed, she whispers in my ear, “God, what’s her problem?”
Hannah doesn’t bother to set up my talker again after changing me. She understands my speech pretty well, and it’s clear that it’s useless to me today. Instead, she pushes me to the kitchen, where she makes me oatmeal for lunch.
I know oatmeal doesn’t sound like the best lunch ever, but Hannah makes it really well. Very hearty, with chopped up fruit in it. The truth of the matter, something I’m ashamed to talk about, is that I don’t do great with regular solid foods. My diet consistency is called “dysphagia ground,” which means that foods have to be soft and easy to swallow. It’s really not as bad as you think—I can eat bread as long as it’s moist, soft pasta, ground beef—basically, anything that’s soft and easy to form into a bolus in my throat. You won’t catch me eating a steak, for example.
But on bad days, I’m better off with pureed foods. Sadly, there’s a whole cabinet full of baby foods that have always been standbys for my bad days. As much as I hate being fed baby food, it’s worse to choke on my lunch.
Hannah won’t ever give me the baby food though. When she saw the cabinet, she said angrily, “They don’t really make you eat this crap, do they, Graham?” She’s always really good at making something I can eat on days like this.
“The oatmeal smells really good,” I tell Hannah.
Hannah beams at me. “I wish Brian were as appreciative of my cooking as you are.”
While it’s nice that Hannah is so kind to me, somehow it bothers me when she makes comments comparing me to her son.
When Hannah sits next to me with the bowl of oatmeal, I can’t help but notice the way her T-shirt hugs her breasts. I try not to notice. All these things just frustrate me.
“Do you think you can feed yourself today?” Hannah asks.
“Let me try,” I say.
Hannah puts the spoon in my fist for me. I manage to scoop up some oatmeal into the spoon before a spasm jerks my hand and it spills on my lap. “I guess not,” I say, as Hannah dabs at my lap.
“You’re really bad today,” Hannah notes. She looks thoughtful, then reaches out and presses her soft hand against my forehead. It feels cool. “You feel warm to me. Do you think you might have a UTI?”
Once or twice a year, I have a urinary tract infection. Hannah’s correct that my increased spasms and frequent accidents are both signs of an infection. And now that she mentions it, I have felt sort of run down today.
“I think you’re right,” I tell her.
Hannah calls my mother, and I end up at the doctor’s office an hour later. It turns out I’ve got a bad UTI, and by that night, I’m burning up. Hannah stays just long enough for me to get my first dose of antibiotics before my night nurse shows up.
A week later, I wake up with an erection.
I’m sure for a normal 24-year-old man, this wouldn’t be a big deal. But considering I can’t do anything about my erections, I could sort of do without them. Really, what good does it do me to get hard? What the hell am I supposed to do about it?
When I first started noticing my erections as a child, I thought they were interesting. As I got into my preteen years, they started to really embarrass me. The last thing you want when your nurse is cleaning you is to get a big hard-on. (Well, a little hard-on.)
One of my nurses must’ve mentioned it to my parents because my mother brought it up at a doctor’s visit. I was 12 years old at the time and completely mortified.
“It’s completely normal for his age,” the doctor explained. “I would expect that he’s probably having wet dreams too, but you probably wouldn’t notice it because he wears a diaper during the night.”
The doctor was right. I had started having quasi-sexual dreams, usually about women I saw on television or in magazines, and sometimes about my nurses. Not that I would’ve told my mother that in a million years.
The truth is, I still have wet dreams. It’s my only outlet, since I can’t exactly jerk off.
I didn’t have a wet dream last night, but I still have an erection when Maria pulls off my diaper. Maria is relatively new, and I guess this is the first time I had ever greeted her in the morning with a hard-on, because her eyes get really wide when she sees it.
And then she starts to laugh.
She isn’t laughing in a mean way or anything. She’s laughing in the same way you’d laugh if you pulled off an infant’s diaper and saw that its tiny penis was erect.
“It’s so big!” she giggles. “How will I dress you?”
The worst part is that I know exactly what’s coming next and I can’t even warn her. I can only watch as a stream of warm urine shoots out of my erect penis and soaks my sheets. And then, of course, the erection deflates.
“Oh my!” Maria exclaims.
Well, at least it didn’t hit her.
Fortunately, I have padding on my mattress to protect it in case my diaper leaks. But Maria has to roll me over and put a pad under me while she strips off my sheets. I can see her struggling to hold the sheets in a way to keep herself from getting soaked with urine.
My mother was walking by the room and happened to see Maria holding my sheet. Even though I prayed that she wouldn’t, she sticks her head in the door to my room. “Maria,” she says. “What are you doing? Today isn’t laundry day.”
“I know, Mrs. Anderson,” she says. “Graham wet the sheets.”
“Oh,” mom says. “I see.”
Maria giggles. “You should see, Mrs. Anderson. His penis get so big. So big, like a real man.”
My mother looks at my face. Maria may not realize that I know exactly what she’s saying, but my mother does. She knows how hard it is for me to be stuck in my stupid body.
Yet she still lets Maria go by without saying a word.
Today, Hannah has an appointment and can’t be there in time to help me with lunch. My mother asked Maria if she could stay, but she can’t, so she gives me my lunch early, and then I’m on my own for a short time.
Okay, I’m not really on my own. We have a maid comes to clean our house today, so she’s there to help me. Privacy is not something I really get to experience. Sure, I’d love to get to be alone in the house. But on a practical level, I really can’t.
Yes, I could sit at my computer and work for a few hours. But if I needed absolutely anything, I’d be screwed. And if the house caught on fire, I’d just have to burn down with it. I mean, I could call 911 using my headset, but in the meantime, I’d be stuck here. I can’t even get out the door without help.
So Luisa, our maid, is instructed to check on me at regular intervals. I do get to stay in my room though, as long as the door is open so she can hear me if I yell. As I said, I have zero privacy.
Not that I’m going to sit here looking at porn or anything. But it would be nice to have a little bit of privacy. I’m 24 years old, after all.
In the late afternoon, I hear the door to our house unlocking. I can’t imagine who it could be. It’s too early for my evening nurse to be here. My parents are never here until the evening. I don’t think there’s anyone we’re expecting.
What if it’s a burglar who stole our keys, thinking the house would be empty during the daytime hours? I get a flutter of butterflies in my chest. I don’t think I would be able to defend our house against a burglar.
“Luisa!” I yell in a panicked voice.
I hear heavy footsteps in the living room, growing louder. Somebody is coming towards my room. Then I do what I always do when I’m terrified, which is I piss myself.
It’s my father’s voice. He’s home early, for some reason. I can’t even remember the last time he’s been home early on a random weekday. Maybe something really is wrong.
“Hi,” I manage.
Dad peeks his head through the doorway to my room. My father was very handsome in his younger days, and now that his head his hair is threaded with gray, he’s still handsome, but in a more distinguished way. He smiles at me awkwardly.
“What’s up?” he asks me.
“Why are you home so early?” I ask him, without bothering with my talker. Dad can understand my speech pretty well, and he always complains that the talker makes me sound like a professor.
Dad clears his throat and grabs a chair from the corner of my room. “I thought you and I could have a little talk, actually. Man to man.”
In my entire life, my father has never sat down with me for “a little talk,” especially one that was “man to man.” I start to freak out about what he wants to tell me. Is he cutting me off? Is he going to tell me that I can’t live at home anymore, that he doesn’t want to put up with his disabled son anymore?
Even though I’m trying my best not to, I start to panic. And that sets off muscle spasms in my body. The spasms start in my arms, which clinch up tight against my chest, then my knees lock together and twist to the side, and finally my face squeezes into a grimace.
My father recognizes what’s happening right away, considering I’ve done this countless times over my lifetime. (Especially when we have guests over. Having embarrassing spasms in front of guests is my specialty.) He puts his hand on my knee. “Geez, Graham,” he says. “Calm down. Everything is OK.”
I wish it were that easy. Once a spasm starts, it takes a good 10 or 15 minutes for it to subside. So now we have to wait.
Dad goes and retrieves my medication from the bathroom, and we manage to get a pill into my mouth. I thought for sure he’d leave me to go work on his computer or something, but instead he sits back down next to me.
“Look, Graham,” he says, “I’m just going to say what I need to say. You can nod or shake your head or whatever. Okay?”
Dad lets out a long sigh. “I know we don’t have a lot of talks together, and I’m sorry for that. So I get why you’re nervous.”
I nod again.
“The thing is,” he began, “sometimes I forget that you’re a man now. And that even though you have all these physical limitations, you still have needs. You know what I mean?”
Huh? I shake my head no.
Dad sighs again and runs a hand through his graying hair. “Christ,” he mutters. Which doesn’t really clarify anything.
“I don’t know...” he begins again. “Maybe I’m just way off base here.”
“With what?” I manage to say.
Dad studies my face, which makes me very uncomfortable considering the muscles are still clenched up. “Graham,” he says, “do you ever… do you think much about women?”
Oh God. Mom must’ve told him about my erection this morning. That’s just great. The last thing I want is a birds and bees conversation from my father.
“Don’t worry about it, Dad,” I say.
I’m letting him off the hook. I wouldn’t blame him if he made a run for it right now. But to his credit, he pushes forward.
“Look,” he says. “I’m not going to force anything on you, and I’m not sure whether you’re interested or not, but if you ever do feel like you need… a release, well, I’m willing to hire an escort for you.”
I stare at him in disbelief. “You mean a prostitute?”
Dad laughs nervously. “Well, sort of. I’m not talking about a street walker or anything. But there are agencies out there that can provide… services to guys who need them. I called one of them for you today.”
I have no idea how my father obtained the name of a pimp. I don’t want to know. “What did they say?”
“They asked about your medical issues,” Dad says. “They didn’t think it would be a problem.”
“Has she ever serviced anyone like me?” I ask.
“I explained your situation,” dad says. “They seemed to think it would be fine.”
I can’t believe I’m considering this. A prostitute. It seems so disgusting and immoral. But at the same time, my father hit the nail on the head. I have needs. I am incredibly sexually frustrated. And I don’t see any other possible way my needs are going to get met. After all, there’s no woman who’s going to willingly have sex with me.
“Who will get me into bed?” I ask.
“I’ll help you,” Dad says.
Now I’m really surprised. I can’t remember the last time my father has participated in my care in any way. I am oddly touched.
“OK,” I say, after a long pause. “You can, you know, make an appointment.”
My father nodded. “They said she could come next week. Tuesday night.”
Tuesday night. That will be the night that I’m going to lose my virginity. Hopefully.
Dad put his hand on my shoulder. “I’m sorry we haven’t had this talk earlier, Graham. I know it’s hard for you to be, well, you know. The way you are. I mean, when I was your age, all I thought about was sex. I can’t imagine…”
He doesn’t need to complete the sentence. He can’t imagine how horrible it would be to be trapped in a body that doesn’t work, that’s so twisted that no woman would have sex with me if they weren’t getting paid. And even then, maybe not.