Believe it or not, I had a girlfriend once. Sort of. It’s not something I’m exactly proud of.
I think when my mother got pregnant, she thought she’d be joining her friends for weekly play dates and stuff like that. But none of her friends’ kids wanted to play with the weird kid in the wheelchair. So if we had a play date, it would mostly involve my being stuck in the corner while the other kids played.
In retrospect, I’m pretty sure she was embarrassed to bring me over to her friends’ houses. Aside from the fact that I couldn’t walk or talk much, unlike all the friends’ normal children, about half the time my body would do something that would embarrass her. Like going into spasms or having an accident in my diaper. Although truthfully, I’m pretty sure even my attempts at speaking were embarrassing to her.
When I was around 11 or 12, mom went through a phase where she tried to befriend other women with disabled children. That actually might have been a really good idea and made me some friends of my own, except all the kids were really impaired. Like, really bad.
I know what you’re thinking. Who am I to be judgmental about some other kid with a disability? The problem is that most kids who look like me, kids with cerebral palsy with spastic quadriplegia, do actually have severe mental retardation. I’m sort of an exception, which is why my parents had assumed that I had nothing going on upstairs.
So I went from being tucked away in a corner while the other kids played to sitting in the other kid’s bedroom, trying to make conversation with a kid who could basically only sit there and drool, while our parents talked about how cute it was that we were playing together
When I was 13, my mother made friends with a woman who had a daughter named Angie. Angie looked just like me, in that she didn’t have much control over her arms or legs, and the few words she was able to say came out slurred. But she didn’t have an IQ of 173. She was 12, but from what I could tell, she had the mentality of a five-year-old child.
Still, it wasn’t so bad hanging out with Angie. At least she could talk to me a little bit. While our mothers were talking, we would watch a movie together. OK, the movies were pretty babyish. But Angie really enjoyed them, so it wasn’t that bad. Then afterwards, we would all eat lunch together. I was better at feeding myself than Angie was, mostly because I cared more about not making a mess. When Angie got food all over herself, she would just laugh.
Just to be perfectly clear, I was not attracted to Angie. Despite the way I look, my taste in the opposite sex is pretty mainstream. It was hard to look at Angie, with her twisted limbs and twisted face, and feel any physical attraction. And the drool she always had in the corner of her mouth didn’t help. Maybe if her cognition had been normal, I would’ve felt differently. But I wasn’t about to be attracted to a girl who genuinely thought Barney the dinosaur was amusing.
Unfortunately, Angie’s and my parents didn’t realize I felt this way. Apparently, they thought we were dating. As in, “oh, isn’t that cute. The two crippled kids like each other!”
The whole thing came out one horrible night during a party that my mother threw. My mother is really into parties and being social. I can imagine that if I were the normal, handsome son that she expected to have, she would’ve had fun showing me off during these parties. As it was, she usually put me to bed early when she was hosting a party.
But this time, she was hosting a party for the friends of hers who had children with cerebral palsy, so I obviously had to be there. And Angie was there too, dressed in a pretty pink dress, but still looking severely disabled. As I’m sure I did as well, even in my crisp white dress shirt and dark slacks.
I wheeled myself over to talk to Angie, and I couldn’t help but notice that a bunch of the parents were staring at us. Now it’s not like I’m not used to being stared at. Anytime I leave the house, I apparently create some sort of spectacle that normal human beings have to stop everything they’re doing to watch. Then they look away and pretend that they’re not watching. It’s awesome.
But considering every single one of these people had a kid like me of their own, I didn’t expect to get stared at here. This was the one place where I wasn’t a complete spectacle. So I couldn’t figure out what was so goddamn fascinating.
I didn’t have to wonder that much longer. My mother walked over to us, put her hand on my shoulder, and said, “Graham, why don’t you give your girlfriend here a kiss?”
A few of the other parents started to giggle, because it was just so, so cute. I had never been so mortified in my life. And there was some pretty stiff competition.
“Mom,” I said angrily. “Angie is not my girlfriend!”
“Of course she is,” Mom replied, smiling at me. As usual, she had no idea how upset I was.
“But she’s retarded!” I practically screamed.
Usually people have trouble understanding my speech, but I’m pretty sure everybody at the party understood that one.
The room got really quiet and everybody really was staring now. I could tell my mother was furious with me by the way her face turned red and her hands balled into fists.
“You think you’re too good for Angie?” she shot back at me. “Maybe you should look in a mirror, Graham.”
I think my mother realized about five seconds after the words left her mouth that this was an incredibly cruel thing to say to your disabled 14-year-old son. Amazingly, I managed to keep it together until I got myself out of the living room and into my bedroom. And even then, I managed to keep the sobs quiet until my mother followed me inside and shut the door behind her.
“I’m so sorry, sweetie,” she murmured. “I never should’ve said that.”
But it was too late. I was crying almost hysterically by now. My mother undressed me and got me into bed, which is something she practically never did, and she rubbed my back and my shoulders until I calmed down enough to fall asleep. We never saw Angie or her family ever again after that. And my mother stopped being friends with that group of people… I think she was embarrassed to show her face in front of any of them after that night.
Here’s the thing though. My mother apologized 100 times for having said such a terrible thing to me. But she never once told me that it wasn’t true. I think that she truly believed that somebody like Angie was the only person who would consider going out with me.
And I never forgot it.
I’m some combination of nervous and excited while I await my “date night.” It’s all I can think about some days. I had thought for sure I’d be a virgin well into my thirties or forties, maybe later, but here I was, about to have sex for the first time.
It made me think about women differently. As Hannah wiped off my face after a particularly messy lunch, I didn’t feel like a child. I didn’t feel frustrated as I looked at the curve of her thighs under her tight jeans, the swell of her breasts under her shirt. I actually thought to myself, “I’m going to get to touch a woman soon.”
“Well, you’re in a good mood today,” Hannah notes, as she studies my face.
“How can you tell?” I ask in my own voice.
Hannah winks. “I think I’ve known you long enough.”
Hannah has been with us for nearly two years now. In some ways, I’m no different than I was back then. But in other ways, a lot has changed.
I look up at Hannah, who is still looking at me curiously. “It must be a girl,” she decides. When I don’t answer her, she claps her hands together. “I knew it! It’s a girl! You’ve got a crush.”
I feel heat rising in my cheeks. “Nothing like that.”
“You can tell me, Graham,” she says, settling down next to me in one of the dining room chairs, part of a matched set. “We’re friends. I won’t tell a soul, you know that.”
The truth is, since my conversation with my father, I’ve been dying to talk to someone else about what’s been going on. But most of my “friends” are more like advisors than peers. I don’t really have any friends that I feel comfortable discussing sex with, that’s for sure.
“Do you think it’s okay to have sex with a prostitute?” I blurt out.
Hannah’s eyes widen, and I’m suddenly incredibly sorry I said anything to her. She might have wanted me to confide in her, but not about that. What was I thinking??
Hannah blinks a few times, shakes her head, then leans back in her seat thoughtfully. “Sorry about my reaction, Graham,” she says. “You just surprised me. But honestly, I can’t say I entirely blame you. I might do the same thing in your position.”
“It’s sort of my only option,” I explain.
“Well, I wouldn’t say that,” Hannah says. “But I think it’s okay if you want to get some experience. Just… don’t expect to be blown away. Blown maybe, but not blown away.” Hannah giggles at her own joke.
“You’re not the sort of man who would be satisfied by a call girl,” she says. “You’re too… cerebral. You might like it when it’s happening, but it won’t make you happy. Not really.”
I realize suddenly that in the two years I’ve known Hannah, this is the first time she’s referred to me as a “man.” I always felt like she was comparing me to her young son, but maybe she’s not thinking about me that way anymore. And that makes me feel like a man more than anything.
Her name is Jordan.
That’s all I get to know about her in advance. Since I don’t know anything about the girl, I become completely obsessed with the logistics of everything else. My evening aide will not be coming at all tonight. For the first time in my memory, my father will get me ready for bed. My mother will be gone for the evening, at some art show or other stupid event.
I wanted to be in my wheelchair when she arrived so she could see me at my best, but it really didn’t make sense to do things that way. Then Jordan would have to wait forever for my father to get me ready after arriving. Me being in bed makes a lot more sense.
Unlike my female assistants, my father is strong enough that he can simply lift me into my bed instead of using the Hoyer. He pulls off my clothing, wrestling with the tight muscles in my arms and legs. He takes off my diaper last, then puts a protective pad under my ass.
“I don’t need that,” I tell him.
It’s a complete lie. I definitely need a pad under me. There is a really good chance that I will have an accident during the next hour or so. But it’s bad enough that I have this stupid, crippled body. Why do we need to advertise the fact that I’m incontinent too?
“Graham, it’s a $10,000 mattress,” is all my father says.
I don’t argue.
Then I lie there and wait. I look down at my naked body and suddenly wish my father had covered me with a blanket, even though the room is plenty warm. My body looks so crippled, from my contracted, skinny arms to my bulging abdomen. I wish I had my talker hooked up, so that I could say something to Jordan that she’d understand, but I can’t exactly have a computer in bed with me while we’re having sex.
When I feel like I can’t stand it another minute, I hear a tentative knock on the door. “Come in,” I grunt.
Jordan is so much younger than I expected. She’s even younger than I am. I had expected a seasoned veteran, but instead I got a brand new soldier. She’s definitely no older than twenty, and she’s got a plumpness to her that makes her seem even younger. She also looks as terrified as I feel.
When Jordan sees me, she looks… well, not thrilled. She actually sucks in a breath and clasps her hands together. She turns and eyes the door that she came in through.
“Graham?” she asks, tugging at her tight tank top.
“Yes, that’s me,” I say, although I know how slurred my words must sound to her. And because I’m nervous, a big glob of drool escapes from my mouth as I speak and runs down my chin. I try my best to wipe it away, but again, I’m so freaking nervous that my arms mostly just flail.
“Um,” she says. “I’m Jordan.”
She makes absolutely no move to remove any clothing or come closer to me. I don’t know what to do. I want to reassure her, but I know she’s not going to be able to understand me. Part of me wants to just tell her to leave.
Tentatively, Jordan takes a few steps towards me. She isn’t looking at my face, but rather my body. I send a silent prayer to my body not to humiliate me. This would just be an awful time to piss myself.
“Do… do you know what I’m here for?” Jordan asks me.
“Sex,” I reply promptly. And then I laugh nervously, which makes Jordan wince. I know I have a laugh that sounds a lot like a donkey. I hardly notice it until I hear another guy with CP making the same sound, and then I realize how I must sound.
Jordan stares at me for a minute, not moving. A spasm grips my left arm, which clenches against my chest, and my body trembles slightly. I try to say something to reassure her, but I’m so nervous that I know she can’t understand a word of it. I’m pretty sure it just sounds like grunting to her.
“This isn’t right,” I hear Jordan murmur under her breath.
She shakes her hand, and to my dismay, she turns around and goes out the door. I hear my father’s voice in the hallway: “You can’t be done already!”
“I’m sorry,” I hear Jordan say. “This isn’t right. I don’t know what game you’re playing but I can’t participate.”
“Game? What game?” my father says.
“Does it turn you on to think of me fucking him?” Jordan retorts. “Is that it? Well, I can’t do it to him. The whole thing is sick. You’re taking advantage of him.”
“Believe me,” Dad snorts. “Graham wants this. Nobody is taking advantage.”
“He’s not capable of saying what he wants,” Jordan cries. “This whole thing is perverted. I won’t rape a retarded man just so you get your kicks.”
“Listen, sweetheart,” Dad says. “Graham is probably a hell of a lot smarter than you are.”
“I won’t do it,” she says, quieter this time. “I can’t do it.”
And that’s the last thing she says.
I lie there naked in my bed. In my life I’ve had a lot of bad moments, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt as bad as I do right now, at this moment. This woman who is paid to have sex with men actually refused to have sex with me for money. She actually couldn’t make herself do it.
I’m not an idiot. I know what I look like and what I sound like. But I guess there was always a small part of me that thought maybe someday there would be an enlightened woman out there who would be able to look past all that, and maybe fall in love with me. But what happened here is a reality check. There will never be a normal woman who is able to feel any sexual desire for me. It’s just not possible.
“Graham.” I hear my father’s voice in my bedroom, jarring me out of my thoughts. He looks down at me, and that’s when I realize that there are tears pouring down my cheeks. “Christ, Graham. I’m so sorry.”
I want to say that it’s okay, but I can’t make myself say it.
“She was too young,” Dad says, sitting down on the edge of my bed. “We’ll get someone else. Make sure they have experience with guys like you.”
I shake my head. “No.”
“Look, Graham,” Dad sighs. “You’re not so bad that… I mean, I’m sure that there will be someone out there that we can get to…”
“No,” I say again.
“We’ll talk about this later,” he says.
But there’s nothing to talk about. There’s no point. I’m just not meant to ever have sex.
To be continued...