I made my way through the city heading for the French Quarter. I worked at the “Maison de la Maître”, a popular high end nightclub. I had been working there for seven years, and had worked my way up to assistant manager. I still worked the floor just the same, sometimes behind the bar, sometimes waiting tables, and sometimes I still danced. I was 21 when I had started out as a dancer in small clubs around the French Quarter, and I eventually got in at the Maison. When in the beginning I was just a dancer, I eventually became assistant manager. I made good money and had a steady income now.
Nadine and Ray, a married couple, were the owners of the Maison and had been running the club for at least 15 years. The Maison was an upscale club, we entertained mostly business people and tourists who were willing to pay good money to see some very attractive and hot girls. Our girls were all insured and employed on paper, strict policies were enforced and adhered to. Cheap slutty girls never made into the club, we only hired classy girls with confident personalities. Some of our girls were actually college students making some money on the side. I felt good working at “Maison de la Maître” and I was not planning on ever working anywhere else. I usually worked Thursday through Sunday, from about 6 p.m. until about 3 a.m. I was always off on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. I made good money and even though it was rough sometimes I enjoyed working there. Nadine and Ray were like parents to me. They were good people.
My job had taken over the majority of my life for the last couple of years and with that I had not been in a serious relationship for a long time. I had men around me all the time, which was enough for me. The guys I had tried to date in the past didn’t last very long once they found out what I did for a living. I didn’t get involved with guests at the club and even being a dancer on stage there was a no touch policy and only if guests ordered a private dance the policy changed some. I understood that it was an issue for most guys to date someone like me. I didn’t blame them for not sticking around. I did dream of that one true love one day and I had debated changing my career path but it had not happened yet. Now I was 30 years old and my biological clock was ticking away. My career made my car, a nice apartment on the outskirts of New Orleans and paying my bills possible. I was able to live well with my income. My friends were night creatures like I was but usually when I was off I didn’t have the urge to go out at night a lot.
I pulled into the garage behind the night club. It was Friday night and it would probably get busy. I verified that my cell phone was turned up, because I wanted to make sure the hospital could reach me if they needed to. They also had the number to the club and to my home phone just in case.
In the building we had the staff lounge in the back of the club, where everyone hung out during the evening. There was a small kitchen and the girls had comfortable chairs and couches to sprawl on. There were dressing and make up rooms along the hallway leading from the lounge area. As I entered, the girls that were there greeted me cheerfully.
Nadine walked in and greeted me with a hug, “Hey sugar, how are you?”
“I’m good, Naddy.”
She left her hands on my shoulders and with a worried expression she asked, “How’s Jay?”
I shook my head, “Not so good but kind of unchanged.”
I told her about my visit with Jay but I didn’t mention the encounter with the guy at the hospital.
Nadine briefed me on the evening and also introduced me to a new girl. She wanted me to take her under my wing for the night and make sure the girl learned how we ran the place and what was expected of her. Heather was a pretty red head and during the evening she caught on quickly to everything. I was sure she would be a great addition to our team.
My weekend went by without anything extraordinary happening except for Jay’s blood pressure dropping dangerously low on a few occasions. I stopped by at the hospital on Saturday before work but he was not alert. Otherwise his condition remained unchanged and I was really getting worried about him at this point. I wished so much he would open his eyes for me again and we could talk a little. Even though we had talked so much over the last couple of months as his health had deteriorated I still wanted to talk to him. Jay and I had always been very close and now I was panicking and an overwhelming sadness overcame me as he seemed to be drifting away from this life. He was the only person I had, my own flesh and blood and I feared the day when I would have to say my last Good Bye to him. Over the weekend our foster parents also visited him and left sad and worried. A few of his friends stopped by and there was a new teddy bear sitting on the bed next to Jay.
Monday after I got up, cleaned my apartment and got ready I went back to Charity. I had nothing else planned and I wanted to spend some time with Jay even if I would only sit next to him and watch TV holding his hand. It was around 4 p.m. when I stepped out of the elevator on the 7th floor. The nurses waved at me from behind the nurse’s station as I passed them on my way to Jay’s room.
Jay lay still and his eyes were closed. I sat down in the chair next to the bed and took his skinny hand in mine. For some reason I just didn’t feel good that day. I was sad and facing the reality of possibly losing my brother soon brought me close to tears once again.
Softly I started talking to him, “I’m sorry Jay but I’m just so sad today. I’ve been trying very hard not to break down and to let you go but now I’m not sure if I’m really ready. I miss you so much already. Monday was always our day, remember? When we went shopping and stopped at your favorite coffee joint….you with your Hazelnut and Raspberry latte, who drinks that?”
I laughed softly but tears were streaming out of my eyes and down my cheeks. I squeezed his hand, wishing so much he would squeeze mine but he didn’t. I stood up and leaned over him to get a better look at his face. Two tears dropped out of my eyes and rolled down the sides of his face when all the sudden his eye lids twitched.
I wiped over my face quickly and watched him closely, “Jay, hon…hey open your eyes for me. It’s your baby sis Anna.”
As if it was no big deal to my surprise he slowly opened his eyes.
I smiled at him and kept talking, “Jay, I’m right here. Can you see me?”
His brown eyes had a glaze over them, tears and sickness showing in them. I couldn’t see much emotion in his eyes but he focused in on my face. My hand was still holding his and I felt a slight squeeze of my hand from him.
“You know I’m here, don’t you? Right here with you Jay. I’ve been coming almost every day. Did you hear me? Cindy and Al were here on Saturday and some of your friends were here as well over the weekend. We all miss you. Did you know we all were here?”
Very slowly Jay moved his head up and down in a nod. I couldn’t see his mouth because of the tubing in his throat but just watched his eyes. I could see wrinkles forming in the corners of his eyes as he apparently was trying to smile at me. His hand was still squeezing mine. I cried some more. I laid my head on his chest. He let go of my hand and I felt his hand on my head as he softly stroked through my hair. My tears were just flowing, my mascara smeared and showed on the bed sheet.
Words now came tumbling out of me as I told him how I didn’t know if I was ready to let him go, I was scared and I was sorry to break down like I did. His fingers just kept stroking over my head. I felt bad bringing on such drama but I just couldn’t help it anymore. I looked up at him and he looked right at me and then he balled his hand into a fist and softly pounded his heart with it, then made a peace sign on his heart. I had to smile under my tears and he took my hand and held it to his heart.
“I love you so much Jay.”
Wrinkles showed in the corners of his eyes as we smiled at each other. Now the blood pressure machine was beeping alarmingly, Jay’s eyes moved some toward the monitor. His hand felt heavy now.
Gloria came into the room, “Hey, what’s going on in here?”
She saw Jay’s eyes open and started talking happily, “Oh my, sugar, look at you. I haven’t seen those beautiful eyes in so long. Did your sister here cause you to get a little excited?”
I held his hand in mine and his eyes stayed right on me, he didn’t move his gaze. Gloria adjusted some IV’s and also turned off the beeping noise, checking the monitor as Jay and I just looked at each other.
Jay’s eyes looked tired now. As I kept my eyes on him he actually winked at me with his right eye and I smiled at him.
Gloria said lowly, “He’s tired I think. Maybe it’s time to finish today’s visit, baby girl. Let him rest again. His blood pressure is low, I need to adjust his meds right now, sweetie. He’ll be okay though. Don’t worry.”
Gloria turned toward Jay, “Right sugar? You’re just fine, just need some rest again.”
Jay didn’t make a move or any kind of sign.
I lost a couple more tears and Gloria said warmly, “Come back again tomorrow or if you want to stick around a little right now. Let him calm down again.”
I cried and nodded in defeat, “Okay.”
I let go off Jay’s hand, his eyes stayed on me as I kissed him quickly and said softly, “I’ll be back later.”
I grabbed my purse and walked out. I didn’t know where to go, but I didn’t want to leave yet. I needed to make sure that Jay was going to be okay. Then deep inside a small part of me wished it would be over soon and another part was filled with joy that Jay and I had made contact again. I smiled at the thought of his making the peace sign on his heart and the twinkle he had given me. It was so typically Jay, always in good spirits even as he lay dying slowly. I walked aimlessly through the hallways and thought about where to go. I decided to have a cup of coffee in the hospital cafeteria. I knew Gloria would call me as soon as Jay was stable again.
The cafeteria and gift shop were on the first floor of the hospital. I needed a cup of coffee in honor of my brother. We used to have our Coffee Mondays, when we would meet at our favorite diner in Metairie. After breakfast and coffee we usually went shopping and spent the day together. Mondays was sacred to us, time for us and time to spend together. With both of us always working nights, it was hard to get together but Monday had always been our day. Most of the time Jay would spend the night at my place.
While I sat there sipping on my coffee I thought about all those times and tears started rolling down my cheeks again. Jay was still so young and it wasn’t fair that he was facing death. I was lost in thoughts looking out toward the lobby with the fountain when to my utter surprise I saw the guy in the leg braces making his way toward the cafeteria. He wore his baseball cap again, the braces over his jeans, and a back pack on his back. He was holding on to his crutches, his legs somewhat floppy with feet dragging on the floor as he was taking seemingly unsteady steps. He was obviously focused on his gait. I froze in my seat and wiped over my face. Quickly I found a small compact mirror in my purse and checked my face.
I saw him now by the counter, talking to the lady behind it, and ordering something. He moved the right crutch into his left hand, and holding the two crutches with his left hand, leaning some on the counter and obviously shaky on his legs he pulled money out of his back jeans pocket and paid. He then turned to face the room to find a place to sit. I stared down into my coffee mug and tried not to meet his eyes. I didn’t think he had seen me.
I heard the lady behind the counter, “Just find your seat hon, and I’ll bring the tray to you.”
He thanked her and moved through the room finding a seat close to the lobby and also seated right in my line of sight. Holding on to his crutches he let himself down slowly, his legs stayed straight in front of him. Eventually he somewhat plopped onto the edge of the chair and he took his arms out of the crutches and leaned them on the table next to him. With his hand he pulled some kind of mechanism on the braces behind his knees and with that was able to bend his legs. He was busy with the task of getting seated by then shifting his butt further up on the chair, his legs just lugging along. He used his hands to set his legs somewhat orderly in front of him then. He also slipped his arms out of the small back pack he had on him and set it on a chair next to him. The whole time he kept his eyes down concentrating on the apparently complex task of just sitting on a chair. I had kept my head down but my eyes were glancing from behind my hair as I tried to watch the whole process with curiosity. I was fascinated.
Just when he was finally seated he looked up and he caught me peeking. Our eyes met and right away he seemed surprised but he smiled friendly at me from under his baseball cap.
I saw his lips forming a very low “Hi.”
I barely heard it but it was a greeting and so I replied with my own scratchy voice, “Hi.”
He opened the small creamer container and poured it in his coffee, stirring it. I didn’t know where to look as he was right in my view. When he looked up again from under the bib of his hat he smiled shyly. My thoughts were racing and I asked myself what was going on and if he was possibly flirting with me. I didn’t know if I should say something. I felt like a girl in elementary school with a secret crush on a boy. I felt incapable of acting normal. He made me so nervous and my hands were shaky enough that I almost spilled some of my coffee when I lifted the cup to my mouth.
He wore blue jeans again with his braces over them, the same boots attached to the braces and a white T-Shirt. I got a better look at him this time. His biceps filled out the T-Shirt sleeves, his arms were tanned nicely. Tattoos were showing on his skin from under his sleeve and down his arms some. His hair was dark brown and wavy in his neck, sticking out from under his cap. I could not make out his eye color. From what I saw I thought he was very attractive and definitely stirred my curiosity in many ways with his crutches and his braces and making me wonder why he was wearing them. At the same time he caused a certain excitement in me that I couldn’t really describe. It was an attraction of a sexual kind as well. I was shocked at myself at how I felt about seeing him in his braces. I was certain he probably had a woman in his life. He did smile at me though, but maybe he was just really being friendly.
I didn’t know why he caused this kind of reaction in me. At work I dealt with men all the time, friendly one’s, horrible one’s, dumb one’s, dirty one’s, and smart one’s. I definitely met all sorts of men all the time and over the years I had learned to deal with them. I usually knew how to act around them. This man was different. I felt very insecure and nervous in his presence.
I had been told before that I was an attractive woman, and it always made me feel good but at the same time I was a very regular, down to earth kind of girl. There were many women a lot sexier and lot prettier than I was, I saw those women at work all the time. I liked men, but my work had made me numb to their ways to a certain extent. At work it was show and strictly business and even when men would tell me how sexy and hot I was, I would just smile and thank them for their compliments. There were no emotions whatsoever involved. I did not want a man to like me for my looks only, I wanted to be loved for the person I was. If a man could tell me how hot I was when I woke up in the morning with bad breath, without my make-up, in sweat pants and an old shirt, then there was a chance.
I glanced at him again. He was looking out to the fountain. I didn’t know how and why it happened but like from a force I could not control my mouth opened and I said loud enough for him to hear, “I love the fountain. It’s beautiful.”
It was too late. Surprised at myself I wanted to disappear but he turned his face toward me and looked at me with dark eyes, replying, “Yeah, it’s very nice.”
He smiled again and even though I was nervous I smiled back at him.
After a small pause he asked, “Haven’t I seen you here before?”
Great, he remembered me from my stalking him.
I wanted to run away but I had to reply, “Yes, I think it was on Friday last week.”
I knew for sure it had been on Friday but I didn’t want to sound too enthusiastic and too sure about having seen him before.
He still smiled, “Yeah, I remember now.”
What did he remember? How obvious I had stared at him out in the courtyard or in the elevator or in the Rehab unit? I didn’t know what else to say, my hands were trembling in my lap. I was worried to lift my cup to my mouth again. I almost couldn’t handle his gaze on me anymore. He made me so nervous.
Bluntly I asked him, “Do you come here a lot?”
Right away I felt silly asking this. Obviously he came here often probably for reasons pertaining to his health.
He answered friendly though, “About two or three times a week, usually on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. How about you?”
I was nervous, “I come here a few times a week as well to visit someone here.”
I hoped very much he wouldn’t ask any more questions as to who I was visiting. I did not feel like talking about Jay at the moment.
He nodded in understanding, “Oh, okay.”
Then he added lowly, “I’m Shane by the way.”
His name, he had told me his name and I had no choice than to tell him mine, “My name is Anna. Hi.”
Right away I felt dumb having said Hi to him. He only smiled at me.
At that moment my cell phone played its ringtone, “Last night the DJ saved my life”. I apologized, and Shane nodded.
It was Gloria on the other end, telling me that Jay’s blood pressure was still acting up and they had to hook him up to the heart monitor now, watching his heart very closely. She said his heart was very weak right now, not pumping like it should be.
I had turned away from Shane some to answer the call, leaning down a little so I could focus on what Gloria was saying. I could see Shane out of the corner of my eyes though, and even though he pretended not to listen I felt he tried to hear what I was saying. Gloria offered that I could stay overnight if I wanted to. I was very concerned now, they had never suggested that before.
I finished with Gloria and we ended the call. For a moment I didn’t move and just collected my thoughts. I sat up in my chair and I met Shane’s serious expression, “Everything all right?”
I shook my head, “Not really. I’ve to go right now.”
His smile had faded. I drank one last sip of my coffee and gathered my purse and got up. Shane moved in his chair some, shifting as trying to get up as well. I was too quick for him so he just leaned forward some and put his hands on his thighs, looking at me questioningly.
I could sense he wanted to say something but I cut him off, “Well, it was nice meeting you.”
He smiled unsure, “Yeah, it was ....it was nice meeting you too.”
I felt he wanted to say something else but I didn’t let him, “Have a good day.”
I started walking and he called after me, “You too.” I could literally hear the disappointment in his voice.
I felt bad because I had blown him off. After talking to Gloria I just couldn’t go on talking to Shane like everything was okay. I had a bad feeling about my brother.
When I got up to his room Jay had his eyes closed again, various sensors were taped to his chest, keeping track of his heart beat and rhythm.
Gloria came in and stood next to me by the bed, and put her arm around my shoulder, “He’s getting weak sugar. His heart is struggling.”
A roll a way bed was in the corner for me to sleep on during the night if I would even sleep. I took Jay’s hand in mine again, and kissed him on his forehead. I started talking to him softly, but I didn’t know if he heard me.
Before Gloria left at seven that evening to go home we talked for a few moments in the room.
“Make that boy behave until tomorrow, you hear me!”
She smiled a weary smile and we hugged tightly, Gloria mumbling in my ear, “I’ll be praying for that boy and for you all night.”
“Thank you Gloria.”
She kept on, “You know God is here with you right now. So put all your worries and your sorrows into his hand so you can free yourself for your brother and be there for him through this time. The lord is waiting for him and he’ll take care of everything sugar. He will.”
With that she glanced at Jay and then at the door she said, “I’ll see you later.”
During the night everything stayed calm but I barely slept with the humming and beeping noises in the room. I thought of my brother next to me, I got up, stroked over his head, held his hand, talked to him softly. So many things went through my mind as he was only holding on by a thin thread.
I decided to call Nadine first thing in the morning, I needed to be off for the rest of the week. I just couldn’t see myself at work when Jay’s health was declining by the minute. I needed to be at his bedside as much as possible.
The nightshift nurse Erica checked on Jay once more at 6 a.m., making sure his vitals were stable and all IV’s were still running appropriately. She tried to be quiet not wanting to wake me up. She didn’t know I was lying wide awake, not having been able to sleep at all during the night.
At 7 a.m. the dayshift nurse Carrie took over and the dietary department staff brought in a breakfast tray for me.
Before Erica left she peeked into the room once more, “I’m leaving now Anna. Dayshift is taking over now. I may see you tonight again?”
I sat at the small table in the room and smiled at her, “Maybe.”
“Well, Jay did good last night.”
I smiled at her but thought to myself “Did good with what? Not dying on us”. Nonetheless I said a friendly Good Bye to Erica and thanked her.
I had to wait to call Nadine until later because I knew they slept in usually. It was around noon when I called her.
“Hey Nadine. I hope you were up already.”
“Oh yeah sug’, I’m sitting in my hot tub right now, my back has been giving me some problems.”
“So Naddy, I’ve to ask you a big favor.”
“I need to be off the rest of the week. Jay’s not doing well and I’m actually in the hospital right now. I stayed overnight.”
“Oh no, what’s going on?”
I explained to Nadine how Jay hasn’t been doing too well and she had no problem giving me off the rest of the week. We agreed to stay in touch and I would keep Nadine updated on Jay.
Jay’s room had a small balcony with a view down to the courtyard and I went outside, sat on the only chair and just enjoyed the air. It was another humid day in New Orleans, summer in full swing, middle of July. With the summer and the humidity also came the thunderstorms.
That afternoon the sky turned cloudy and grey, something was brewing in the distance. The day went by very slow, Jay was unchanged. I started contemplating to go home. There was nothing I could do at that time and I was tired and exhausted. Jay’s blood pressure had stabilized during the day and I knew if I would go home I could be back here within 45 minutes if I had to.
I walked over to his bed and leaned down to him, “Jay, is it okay if I go home for today? I’m so tired.”
For a moment I waited like he would answer, which of course he didn’t. I packed my stuff and informed the dayshift nurses that I was going home and they could call me if anything would change.
When I pulled out of the parking garage I heard thunder and a couple of rain drops hit my windshield. I made my way out to Metairie where I lived in an apartment complex called Metairie Terrace. I had lived out there for over five years and even though I had thought about moving closer to the city and my work, I felt that it was safer out in Metairie and I liked it out there. My neighbors were decent people and I had a really nice place for an affordable rent.
It started raining harder on my way home and I kept thinking about Jay. I didn’t feel good, I worried so much about him. In a way I just wanted it to end but then I still had this tiny bit of hope that somehow he would recover. He wouldn’t recover, we had known this for a couple of months now. I was a master in pushing my emotions to the back of my mind and I had been doing just that for the longest time. I had tried to be strong the whole time and I remembered one afternoon a while back. Jay and I had been talking about his being sick and he had actually told me then, “You know you may cry if you want to. I’m okay with it. I cry all the time.”
I remember when he had said that, he had been smiling and at the same time tears had been rolling down his face. I had not been able to stay in the room then and I had left him in his bed alone. Jay knew me like no other person in the world. He had never been angry with me or really anyone else for a matter of fact. He had not even been mad at the guy who gave him the dreaded disease. He had such a good heart. Sometimes I felt angry at how things had been for us and I was angry about losing my brother. Lost in thoughts I almost missed my exit. The rain was coming down hard now.
In my apartment I settled in front of the TV with a glass of wine and I didn’t want to think about anything at all. I ended up with some old photo albums around me on the couch and while I looked at all the old memories of Jay and I when we were kids I cried so much. I cried like I had not cried in a long time. It really hit me then. This is how I spent the rest of the evening, crying and remembering old times and thinking about the sad present. I also thought about Shane who had somehow gotten in my head so much and I didn’t know what to make of all of it. I really would have liked to get drunk but I didn’t want to be passed out in case the hospital would call and so I stayed sober. Sometime during the evening my eyes burned so much and were swollen from crying so I draped a cold washcloth over them. I eventually fell asleep in front of the TV, old photos strewn around me on the couch, a washcloth over my eyes staying moist from tears flowing even as I slept.
I didn’t wake up until I heard a cop car siren seemingly very close outside and when I checked the clock on the TV I saw it was almost 11 a.m. I had slept for almost 12 hours. When I went into the bathroom and looked into the mirror I was shocked to see my spotted face and my swollen eyes. I looked like a complete mess.
My phone call to the hospital brought relief. Jay was doing okay and I decided to go back there in the afternoon. After a long bath, a good lunch and some cucumbers on my eyes for about an hour I felt ready again around 2 p.m. I felt somewhat energized to tackle another day worrying about my dear brother. When I arrived at Jay’s room I was surprised to find some of his friends there already. Adrian, Jim and Travis were three good friends of Jay. We hugged and greeted each other excitedly. They didn’t look too happy about Jay either and we sat in his room and talked about him and reminisced about some fun times we had had together. Travis was probably Jay’s closest friend and even though they weren’t dating they were very close. After Jay was diagnosed with AIDS, he didn’t date anymore in an intimate way but he had close friends in his circles that stood by him no matter what. Mostly he had worked with them some time or another.
They hung out for another hour and I was glad about the distraction for a while. I always enjoyed hanging out with Jay’s friends, everyone respected me and I knew most them very good. They were all just as much my friends as they were Jay’s. Once the boys were gone, the room was quiet again and only the machines were making their noises, reminding me of my brother clinging on to life.
I wanted to get my afternoon coffee and made my way to the elevator. I hadn’t thought of Shane that day because my mind had been too occupied with Jay and everything. I was very surprised when the elevator door opened on the fourth floor and there he was, waiting to get on.Shane seemed just as surprised and he smiled big when he saw me, “Anna, Hey.”
He made his way into the elevator, slow and stiff legged, his feet dragging on the floor. He was focused on his gait for a few moments and I could see he really had to concentrate on his walking with the crutches and in the braces. It didn’t look really easy. His legs seemed lifeless otherwise, and his feet not really working well either. Only the braces apparently kept his legs aligned and supported, his feet held in the boots attached to the braces but not very flexible.
As he stepped in, he found a spot and looked up at me again.
I smiled with my heart racing, “Good to see you.”
He was somewhat leaning on the wall of the elevator with the back pack on his back and standing next to him so close now I could actually see his face better. He was wearing his baseball cap again but I saw beautiful dark eyes underneath the bib of the cap, a shadow of a beard showing and his hair curling out from under the cap in the back of his neck. I even smelled him next to me now, a faint scent of deodorant and masculinity. His arms were slid through the loops of the black forearm crutches and his hands were holding on to the handles with a tight grip. This time he was actually wearing fingerless gloves on his hands and I tried to remember if he had worn them the other times I had seen him.
When he seemed to finally have a sturdy position he looked up at me, “Here we are again.”
I smiled at him shyly, “Indeed.”
Being so close to him made my heart skip beats. I didn’t want to look down not to be too obviously intrigued by his braces. So I kept my eyes forward, catching glimpses of his biceps flexing as he repositioned himself again.
My heart was pounding like a drum in my chest. He made me so nervous but helplessly attracted at the same time. He didn’t really look at me either, maybe I made him just as nervous.
We both stepped out on the first floor and I heard a tremble in his voice when he asked, “Are you on your way outta here?”
“Actually I was on my way to grab some coffee at the cafe, maybe a bite to eat.”
His dark eyes seemed to sparkle some at my explanation and he asked lowly, “You care if I join you?”
I was just as happy to hear him say that, “No, not at all.”
He smiled and we made our way to the cafeteria once again. He definitely couldn’t walk very fast. His legs were locked stiff and straight in the braces and he had to move his feet slowly, somewhat dragging them, and lifting himself slightly with the crutches, somehow swaying his body side to side. His arms were surely getting a work out every time he walked. For a moment he switched to actually swing both legs through the crutches at the same time, which made him slightly faster but then he used his feet again and was slow again. I imagined he felt tense of having me beside him witnessing his way of walking. I think he was trying to figure out the best way to walk beside me. For me it was a whole different experience. I was seriously turned on by it and I felt bad for feeling that way about his disability. I adjusted my pace to his.
At the counter in the cafeteria he stated, “It’s on me.”
I protested, “You really don’t have to.”
“I don’t have to but I want to.
We both picked out a pastry and ordered our coffee. I took the tray while he paid and I found a seat where we could see the fountain in the lobby. I sat down and I looked over at him making his way slowly to where I was sitting. He kept his eyes down and when he did look up for a moment, I looked away quickly.
He reached the chair and his legs stiff he let himself down very slowly, balancing with the crutches. It was the same process I had witnessed the Friday before. His legs were sticking straight out in front of him when his butt barely plopped on the chair. He slid his arms out of his crutches, placed them next to himself and discreetly touched the brace in the back of his knee again and after a click he was able to bend his legs. With his hands he then pulled himself up on the chair all the way and adjusted his legs.
By now I figured there was a type of mechanism behind his knees to unlock the braces, enabling him to sit down with bent legs. I heard his breathing as he positioned himself on the chair comfortably and when he was finally sitting right he looked up and shrugged his shoulders slightly, looking somewhat embarrassed. He took off the gloves from his hands and slid the back pack off.
Then he took his cap off and ran his hand through his dark hair, some strands of bangs falling right back into his forehead. I didn’t want to stare at him too much but seeing him without his cap on and getting the full frontal of his face made my hands sweaty. He was definitely my type.
With trembling fingers I pushed his plate and his coffee over to him.
He looked at me smiling, “Thanks.”
“I’ve to thank you for inviting me.”
We both opened our creamers and poured them into our coffee.
He stirred his coffee and didn’t look up, “You’re welcome. Thanks for letting me join you.”
I took a bite from my pastry and thought about how I had blown him off on Monday, “Shane?”
He looked up at me from his coffee, “Hhm?” Meeting his dark eyes made me tremble.
“I’m sorry I left in such a hurry on Monday. I didn’t mean to be rude and just leave you.”
He lowered his eyes, then looked back up at me, “Don’t worry about it. I’m sure glad I ran into you again today.”
He was definitely a Louisiana boy probably with some Cajun in him from the way he was talking.
I was surprised about his honesty and realized that I was very glad to see him too, “You know, I’m glad too.”
Keeping his eyes down, he laughed lowly and oh it was a sexy laugh.
After a moment he looked up again, this time seriously, “You came from one of the upper floors?”
It was more of a statement than a question. His eyes were a dark shade of brown, his pupil and iris almost blending together and he had a concerned look on him. His face was nicely tanned just like his arms.
I tried to think of what to say about his comment and nothing came to mind except for, “Yes, from the 7th floor.”
I didn’t know what else to tell him but I knew I owed him more, “I have a family member up there. That’s why I had to leave so quick on Monday.”
He nodded in silence and took a bite from his pastry looking out at the fountain.
He turned his eyes to me again, “So are you okay?”
I looked at my hands wrapped around my cup now, “Not really, but I don’t want to bother you with that. Tell me why you’re here all the time.”
I smiled at him and he finished another bite, then wiped over his mouth with a napkin.
“I’ve been coming here for Physical Therapy. I’m almost done with it, only one more week left. Then I’m done.”
I had no clue what that meant for him and asked carefully, “Then you’ll…” I paused and felt my hands tremble as I kept on stuttering, “Will you…will you get rid of the…” I had a hard time finishing the sentence.
I took a deep breath and his eyes were on me expectantly as I lowly finished, “Will you get rid of those... those braces and crutches then?”
I didn’t know why I felt so nervous asking him about the braces but at the same time I wanted to know so much more about him.
He lowered his eyes for a moment, then looked back up at me, shaking his head, “No, I won’t ever get rid of them…” He paused and then continued, “I’ll still need them to walk.”
He moved his eyes out to the fountain for a moment. I felt bad.
Softly I apologized, “I’m very sorry Shane. I didn’t mean to be ignorant.”
He shook his head, “Nothin’ to be sorry about. I guess we both have some not so great reasons to be here.”
Now he actually smiled, and added, “Things that aren’t all the way easy to talk about.”
I nodded slowly, “I guess so.”
We sat in silence for a few more moments and ate and drank. I still felt bad about my question pertaining to his braces but I really had no clue about his situation. I still didn’t know what was going on with him and why he even had to wear the braces.I debated if I should ask him more about his situation.
The moment was saved just then as my phone rang.
When I looked at it I saw it was Nadine, “Excuse me Shane, I’ve to get this.”
I walked away from our table for a few steps and answered. She wanted to get an update on Jay and how everything was going. I gave her the information, told her I was having coffee but I didn’t tell her about Shane.
When I came back to the table he just smiled and I realized once again that I really enjoyed looking at him. I sat back down across from him.
My ignorance was still on my mind and I sighed as I got my nerves together and said, “Listen Shane, I’m sorry I asked a stupid question earlier. I just don’t know anything about your situation so I just assumed.”
He smiled still and glanced at me from under his bangs, “Don’t worry about it. It’s no big deal. It’s not that I know anything about your situation either.”
We both laughed lowly and seeing him across from me I felt a surge go through me. He was attractive and he was hot and I wanted to get to know him so much more.
My hope that he would tell me more right then was shattered when he looked at the watch on his wrist, “I actually have to get going now. It’s almost 6.“
I was disappointed, “Where do you need to go?”
“I’ve to catch a bus out to Kenner. I live out there by the airport.”
The airport was further than Metairie where I lived, “You take a bus every time?”
He nodded, “I don’t have a car. I’m actually staying with some friends out there until I’m done here next week. Then I’m planning on going back to Morgan City where I’m from.”
He gave me a questioning look trying to read my expression.
I was somewhat surprised at his statement, “You’re from Morgan City?”
He replied lowly, “Yes.”
I really didn’t know what to say for a moment.
Shane shifted some in his chair, getting ready to get up. He put his back pack and hat back on, and slipped into his gloves. He grabbed his crutches and slid his arms through the loops. He kept his eyes down the whole time, making sure he didn’t look at me. Then he pulled his body up and for a few seconds finding his balance he stood up, jerked a little and with a click his legs locked in the braces, straight and stiff.
He was panting slightly and when he met my eyes I smiled at him, “You okay?”
He nodded, “Yeah, all good.”
“Where does the bus leave from?”
He nodded toward the main entrance, “Right outside the hospital.”
“I’ll walk out there with you.”
He smiled, “That’d be nice.”
We walked side by side and I thought about his comment of going back to Morgan City. I was disappointed some. Morgan City was about an hour away from the city.
I kept pace with Shane and he was fully focused on his walking again. It seemed difficult and I felt bad for him in a way but at the same time I couldn’t get enough of seeing it. I think it was exhausting for him and I was certain he couldn’t walk for long distances. He had obvious balance problems, his body seemed weak and his legs were only held rigid by the bulky braces. As he moved along his feet always dragged on the ground. He was very slow.
At the bus stop he turned around to me.
He seemed nervous when he asked, “Would it be okay for me to call you sometime?”
I smiled now, “I’d like that very much. Let me give you my number.”
I expected him to pull out a cell phone but he explained, “I don’t have a cell. Do you have a piece of paper?”
I quickly dug in my purse, found some paper, and wrote down my number.
I was handing it to him but he smiled and asked softly, “Do you mind sticking it in my jeans pocket?”
I was caught by surprise and felt silly when I asked, “Front or back?”
He laughed lowly, “Front is okay.”
My fingers trembled as I stuck the piece of paper in his left front pocket. He looked down to the ground and laughed slightly still, then mumbled, “I’m sorry.”
I also had to laugh now, “It’s okay.”
He looked up and his eyes were serious now, “It’s just a little awkward to let go off one crutch when I’m just free standing like this without anywhere to lean on for support.”
I cleared my throat and nodded, “Oh okay…of course.”
He took a deep breath and asked now, “Are you staying at the hospital tonight?”
I shook my head, “No, I’m going home.”
“When will you be here again?”
“I’ll be here every day this week unless something changes.”
He nodded understanding, “I’ll be here again on Friday. Maybe we can have coffee again?”
“That’d be nice.”
His eyes stayed on me and he made me nervous. I didn’t know what to say or what to do.
Shane eventually looked down for a moment, then back up at me, “You know Anna, I’m really glad we met again today. It made my day.”
He smiled his shy smile and I replied, “I’m glad too. You made my day a lot better than what it started out as.”
The bus pulled up next to Shane and me and the automatic door opened.
I could see he panicked a little, getting his balance right as he was about to enter the bus, “Well, I hope to see on Friday.”
“You will, call me.”
I reached out to him and touched his forearm. He looked at it for a second.
I don’t know what had overcome me to touch him but he looked from my hand to me and he smiled, “See you later Anna.”
It was difficult for him to get on the bus but I didn’t want to stare too much. I could see how he had to move his legs awkwardly to get up the three steps into the bus and it looked almost like he would fall any moment. I was even worried about him some.
He sat down in a seat by the front next to the window and he looked out to me. I waved at him and he put his fingers to his hat as to salute me and he smiled.
My heart was racing and I didn’t know what to think. Shane had totally gotten into my head big time. I had not felt that way in forever. Something about him made me tremble and made me nervous. I wanted to know the story behind his disability, I wanted to get to know him more and I seriously wanted to see him again. His legs in the braces stayed in my head and made my hands tremble and my heart beat race. There was something about them that made me crazy and I was seriously drawn to Shane now. Here was my brother on his death bed and I was getting all worked up about some guy I had just met.
I had not been in a relationship for about two years. I had been on a couple of dates and guys tried to get with me all the time, especially at work. I did not care very much at all about hooking up with a guy who had just paid money for a private dance. Most of the men who came to the club just saw the girls as hot entertainment and not really worth for anything beyond that. They would maybe fantasize about getting with one or jerk off once they got home but that was the extent of the men I would meet at the club. I would have never dated a guy who I met at the club.
So other than that it was difficult to meet a decent guy. Usually I worked at night, when other people would go on dates, to a movie, or out to dinner. Nadine had tried to hook me up with some men she thought were a good fit but it never really worked out with any of them. The last couple of months with Jay being sick had also taken a toll on me. I really had not had the energy to actually date.
I sat with Jay for another two hours, holding his hand and telling him about Shane this time. I didn’t know if he could even hear me, but I wanted my brother to know and I used to always tell him everything. So I sat there and I told him how I had met Shane and how nervous he made me and at the same time so incredibly curious to get to know him better. Jay didn’t move. I left the hospital about eight thirty that night and when I left I let them know at the nurses’ station and they assured me they would contact me if anything would change.
So once again I drove home leaving my brother behind at the hospital. I was exhausted from the day and after I took a bath I relaxed on my couch with some wine. I went to bed around midnight and fell asleep right away.