“So what’s the deal, Matt?” Calvin asks me. “Are you celibate now or what?”
Calvin and I are at our usual after-work bar, getting drinks. Calvin is looking around the dark room, rating girls on a scale of one to ten, trying to figure out what lucky ten is going to be the object of his affections tonight. I’m mostly focusing on my beer, which has been the case more and more lately.
I have multiple sclerosis. Officially. Dr. Dunne diagnosed it a few months ago and now it’s all over my chart. It’s that primary progressive type, which means that the symptoms I’ve been having are going to get progressively worse over time. In the last year, walking has gone from something I hardly thought about to something that is becoming more and more of a challenge. I broke down and let my physical therapist Kelly fit me for a brace for my left ankle too and I had to swap out the right AFO for one that’s more supportive, but lately, I’ve found it’s not enough. I’m holding onto furniture when I walk and I took a bad spill at home a week ago.
Kelly’s advice? Get a cane. You know, a walking stick like old men use. That’s not going to happen though. I’m not using a cane. No. Way. Nobody knows I’ve got these braces on my ankles, but a cane would take things to a whole new level. I’m not going there.
If you think it’s easy to go out there and hit on girls when you’ve got braces on both ankles, you’re wrong. All I can think about when I talk to the opposite sex is what they’ll think when they see those very unsexy plastic braces strapped to my ankles. Or shit, I don’t know, what if I fall right in front of her? That’s definitely not out of the realm of possibility.
Talk about confidence killers.
“I don’t know,” I mumble. “I’m just not interested in anything right now.”
“I’m not talking about meeting the love of your life,” Calvin snorts. “I’m talking about a little pussy for a night. You used to like pussy, didn’t you, Matt?”
Yeah. I did. I still do. It just seems a lot more evasive than it used to be.
Calvin nudges me. “What about those two?”
I look where he’s pointing. There are two girls sitting two tables over, a blonde and a brunette, both of them in tight little dresses that ride up nearly to their thongs. The blonde is a ten, easy. The brunette is a seven. An eight, at best. She’s the kind of girl who wouldn’t have even been a challenge one year ago. Now looking at her makes my palms sweaty.
“I’ll pass,” I say.
“No,” Calvin says. “We are not passing. Seriously, Matt. You are getting laid tonight. Whether you like it or not.” He winks at me. “But I think you’ll like it.”
I probably would. I mean, I’m about to get carpal tunnel from all the jerking off I do. (Or go blind. Is that a real thing? I’ve never been completely sure.)
So I let Calvin buy the girls drinks and they come over to our table. They’re Lily and Sue. Lily is the gorgeous blond who is model hot up close, and Sue is the brunette, who is only a seven up close. She’s got a bit too much double chin and her lips are too thin—not that I mind any of that. Calvin doesn’t waste any time in getting his arm around Lily to claim her as his own, as if I could manage to string two words together around a woman who looks like Lily. That leaves me and Sue looking at each other awkwardly.
“How are you doing?” I finally say.
Wow. I’m really a Casanova tonight.
“Good,” Sue says.
“Is that your first drink?” I ask, nodding at her beer.
“Second,” Sue says.
Let’s make it three.
Two beers later, Sue and I are making out. I love the taste of beer and buffalo sauce on her breath. And I don’t give a shit that she’s a seven or a two or a million, because I haven’t kissed a girl in six months. And she’s drunk enough that she won’t give a shit or even notice my AFOs. I can do this. I really want this to happen.
“Hey,” Sue murmurs in my ear. “You wanna get out of here, Matt-Matt?”
That’s become my nickname during the course of our one-hour whirlwind romance. It’s fucking annoying, but whatever. Like Calvin said, I’m not looking for love. Just a little pussy.
“Sure,” I say.
Sue grabs my hand and pulls me to my feet, which is actually helpful. The bar is crowded, which is helpful and not helpful. My trick for walking is to grab on to tables and chairs as much as possible, so the fact that there’s lots of both around makes me feel confident and stable in my walking. However, I know that a foot sticking out just a bit too much could easily trip me up. I have to be careful. Always.
“Ummm,” Sue says as we get outside. “I prooooobly shouldn’t drive. I’m just a wee bit tipsy. Wanna get a cab, Matt-Matt?”
“I can drive,” I say. I mean it. I’ve only had that one beer the whole night. Because when I get “tipsy,” I get tipsy. Literally. If staying on my feet is the goal, I can’t get shitfaced anymore.
Sue is too drunk to even question me. She tells me her address and I plug it in to my GPS with shaking fingers. I may not be drunk, but I’m horny as all hell—my boner is almost painful. I can’t wait to get to her place.
Sue explains during the drive that she’s sharing a small house with friends. Then she starts babbling something about how her roommate always eats all the frosted flakes, and I zone out. I don’t care what she’s talking about. I don’t like this girl, but I want her. All I can think about is what’s between her legs.
When I get to the end of her driveway, I see she’s got three steps to get to the front door. No railing. Stairs—they are the death of me. I actually had to move from the apartment I used to live in, because there were two flights of stairs to get there, and it was taking me nearly half an hour every day. Sue only has three steps, but there’s no railing. I hate to admit it, but a cane would be awesome right now.
“What are you doing?” Sue laughs as she sees me carefully making my way up the steps. “You want to come in, don’t you?”
“Of course,” I say.
I get up the stairs without falling and it’s a miracle. She fumbles with her keys for so long that I finally take them from her and open the door for her. The door sticks slightly before it swings open.
“Welcome to Casa Suzanne!” she proclaims, spreading her arms out in front of her.
Oh Christ, this place is a dump. I thought guys were slobs, but the women who live here are disgusting. There’s garbage all over the floor and random clothing slung over the furniture. Their coffee table has two open pizza boxes on top of it with congealing cheese in the center.
“You can take off your shoes,” Sue tells me.
I’m not taking off my shoes. First of all, there are so many identifiable stains and spills and garbage on the ground that I’d never want to be in my bare feet. But also, I need my shoes to hold my AFOs in place. Without my AFOs, I can walk, but barely. I can’t even make it to the bathroom in the middle of the night if I need to take a piss, which is why I keep a jug next to my bed, just in case. I need my braces and I need to keep my shoes on. Luckily, she’s too drunk to notice.
“My bedroom is this way,” Sue tells me with a wink.
I have to follow her through the living room, which is treacherous at best. I hold onto her couch to make it without falling, because there is crap all over the floor. There’s a moment when part of me wants to say the hell with it, but then I look up and see her sexy little body moving in front of me, and I instantly forget all my reservations.
Holy shit, I want her. I want her so bad. I would do literally anything right now to fuck this girl, even though she’s only a seven. It’s been that long. She’s on the heavy side, but it suits her. She’s got a great ass and big breasts that are straining against her tank top. I want this so much. If someone told me I couldn’t have her, I’d probably cry.
Sue has been drinking enough that I don’t have to overthink things too much. The second we get in her bedroom, she starts kissing me, and I guide us to her bed before I lose my balance and she has to pick me up off the floor. She never turned the lights on, which is a good thing. I can get my shoes and my braces off without her seeing anything.
And then I get the release I’ve been waiting for. Entirely worth it.
Usually, when I’m at a girl’s place, I make a quiet exit while she’s asleep. Staying through the night is a dumb thing to do if you don’t intend to see a girl ever again. It makes her expect things. Like breakfast. Plus the girl never looks anywhere as good as she looked the night before and we don’t have anything in common when we’re sober, and it’s all just depressing.
Dr. Dunne warned me that fatigue is a symptom of multiple sclerosis. It’s definitely one I’ve been noticing more and more lately. Last weekend, I spent practically the whole day in bed on Sunday—I just couldn’t make myself get up. In any case, without meaning to, I spend the whole goddamn night at Sue’s place, and next thing I know, she’s rubbing my arm and saying, “Wake up, sleepyhead.”
All I can think is, Oh shit.
“Hey,” I say carefully. I wince at the sight of Sue’s puffy face and smeared mascara. Now that I’m not horny, I’d say she’s more of a six, at best. Not that it would have mattered in the slightest last night. She could have literally been a dog.
“How about some breakfast, Matt-Matt?” she asks in an overly peppy voice.
“I’ve got sort of a….” I rub my eyes, trying to think of a way to get the hell out of here. Nothing is coming to me. I’m too tired to think straight.
I watch Sue roll out of bed, naked. Actually, maybe I shouldn’t make a quick getaway. I find Sue annoying, but on the other hand, it’s been a long time since I’ve been out with a woman. I wouldn’t mind a date with Sue. Actually, I’d love it.
Maybe Sue is girlfriend material. She’s not so gorgeous that she’d reject me outright. Maybe I could break the MS thing to her slowly and she’d be okay with it. That would be nice—to have someone to confide in about all this shit that’s been happening to me lately. I haven’t talked to a soul about it aside from medical professionals. Even my parents don’t know.
“Yeah, okay,” I finally say.
“I’ll make you eggs,” Sue says with a sleepy smile. She grabs a pink frilly housecoat off the wall and sits next to me.
So here’s the annoying part. Sue isn’t leaving. She’s just sitting there, waiting for me to get dressed to go out of her room.
“Breakfast in bed?” I ask hopefully.
Sue laughs and tugs at my arm. “Get up, you lazy bum.”
I remind myself she isn’t actually doing anything wrong. Most guys—the overwhelming majority of guys—would be able to get up and follow her to the living room. Except I can’t just “get up.” I need my goddamn ankle braces. And she doesn’t get it. But I realize that if I don’t do something quick, I’ll be on my ass on the floor.
“Okay,” I say, “just hang on. Let me get dressed. You can go ahead.”
But she doesn’t go ahead. She just shrugs and sits there while I get my pants on, which I do by leaning against the bed while I pull them up. That part is easy. But now I’ve got to get my AFOs on.
I grab one of my shoes, which has the brace sticking out of it. I mean, it isn’t the worst thing in the world. The original black one I had wasn’t bad at all—you could barely see it—but the ones I have now are not nearly as inconspicuous. They are made of translucent white plastic that run up nearly to my knees and wrap around my entire calf muscle. And there are Velcro straps to hold them in place.
Sue watches me put on my AFOs and shoes, and when I look up at her, her eyes are really wide. I mean, ridiculously wide, considering I’m not bludgeoning someone to death on her bed. I mean, Christ. They’re just ankle braces.
In any case, the fantasy of going out on a date with her tonight or at any point in the future flies right out the window.
“Sorry,” she says when she notices I’m staring. “I just… I didn’t realize you were crippled.” Her face colors. “Sorry, I meant… what do you guys like to be called? Handi-capable?”
I glare up at her. “I’m not crippled.”
“It’s okay,” Sue says quickly, although she won’t meet my eyes. “I’m not judging you.”
“I just tore my Achilles, that’s all.”
Ah, the old Achilles lie. It doesn’t work though. Sue narrows her eyes at me. “I told you, it’s okay. You don’t have to lie.”
“I’m not fucking lying!” I shoot back at her.
And right now, I don’t even care about ever dating her or fucking her or any of that shit. I never want to fuck her again. I never want to see this girl again.
“Shit, calm down,” she mutters.
“I’m leaving,” I say. I stand up from her bed, and there’s a scary moment when I nearly lose my balance, and Sue actually has to grab me to keep me from falling. So much for making a great exit.
I have to make my way back out through Sue’s treacherous living room as she follows close behind. Somehow it’s gotten even more cluttered during the night, as if all the junk in her house decided to hold a wild party while we slept and didn’t clean up after itself. I have to hold onto the couch again, but I make it to the front door. And then of course, I’ve got to get down those three goddamn stairs again. Down is even worse than up, in case you were wondering.
“Do you need help?” Sue asks as I start contemplating the first stair.
I glance back at her. She doesn’t seem angry at me, even though I cursed at her. Then I glance back at the stairs. I think about how emasculating it will be to have her help me down these stairs, but then think about how badly I might get hurt if I fell down the stairs onto the hard pavement below.
“Yeah,” I say. “Okay.”
Sue supports me as I make my way carefully down the stairs. And then she walks next to me to my car. If I were any sort of gentleman, I’d offer to drive her back to the bar to retrieve her car, but I never was a gentleman, and I’m sure not now.
“Thanks,” I say to her as I unlock the car. I’m not sure what I’m thanking her for exactly. For helping me down the stairs? For fucking me?
“No problem,” Sue says in an overly formal voice.
For reasons I still can’t comprehend, I actually lean in to kiss her. It’s just a reflex. But Sue ducks me very neatly. Yeah, no kiss for the guy with ankle braces.
Well, at least nobody will call me Matt-Matt ever again.