Why did I tell Kirby to stop kissing me?
I spend the better part of an hour beating myself up for that one. She’s the girl of my dreams and for some reason, at least in that moment, she wanted me. So why the hell would I tell her to stop? Did I suffer brain damage when I fell out of my chair?
True, I didn’t want to do that to Ted. That was definitely part of it.
But there was something more. I was worried that Kirby didn’t really want to be kissing me. That she wasn’t actually attracted to me. I mean, Christ, how could she be? She’s gorgeous and I’m… me. She’s probably missing Ted a lot, and because she’s spending so much time with me, she’s getting mixed up. She thinks she wants me when she really wants him. And I didn’t want to be around when she realized that herself.
Of course, I dream about her all night. I can’t remember most of it, but in my dreams, I don’t push her away. I let her kiss me. And then some. It’s a huge disappointment when I wake up.
The first thing I do every morning when I wake up is push myself into a sitting position in bed so that I can transfer into my wheelchair. It’s not the easiest thing in the world, but I’ve been doing it a long time so it’s not that big a deal. Usually. But this morning, the second I put weight on my left shoulder, the pain is so bad, my eyes start to water. It feels like there’s a knife jammed in my shoulder.
Fuck. It’s even worse than yesterday.
I lie in bed for a minute, contemplating my situation. Then I try again, to see if my shoulder has magically healed itself in sixty seconds. It hasn’t.
So this is the situation: I can’t fucking sit up. I can’t get in my goddamn chair. I can’t get dressed. I am completely and totally fucking screwed.
My options are limited at this point. I’ve got the number of a home health service in my phone and I know that I’ve got to call them. I need help, if only temporarily. I’ve got to give my shoulder a rest.
The woman who picks up the phone is far too cheerful. “How may I help you?” she chirps.
I put the phone on speaker and rest it next to my head. “I need to request a home health aide,” I explain. “I need someone at night and in the morning. For maybe… a week.”
“Is this for you, sir?” she asks.
“Uh, yes,” I say.
“And what services do you require?”
“I’ll need help getting in and out of my wheelchair,” I say. “And I guess with getting dressed, and… and bathing.” I also might need some help with my bowel program, but I can’t bring myself to say that.”
“Are you disabled, sir?”
“I just said I was in a wheelchair, didn’t I?” I snap. What the hell is wrong with this woman? I don’t have the patience for this. My goddamn shoulder is throbbing.
“I’ll need to collect some more information,” the woman explains.
Even though I’ve used this service before, it seems like they’re pretty much starting from scratch. Thank God they at least retained my health insurance information because I don’t know how I’d manage to get my wallet.
Then once all my information has been collected, I wait. The woman puts me on endless hold, listening to Christmas music, of all things. It’s nowhere near Christmas, for fuck’s sake.
“All right, Mr. Yang,” the woman’s voice says, interrupting a rock and roll version of Jingle Bells. “We’ve got you set up for services starting tonight.”
“And what about this morning?” I ask.
“I’m afraid we don’t have anyone available right now,” she explains. “The soonest we could have someone at your house would be about one o’clock.”
I glance at my clock. It’s barely eight in the morning. “Well, what the fuck am I supposed to do—lie here in my goddamn bed for the next five hours?”
The woman doesn’t respond right away. I sort of regret saying that, but I also don’t. I’m mad as hell and I’ve got to take it out on someone. And what am I supposed to do?
I make another attempt to sit up in my bed and the pain is too much to power through. No matter how badly I want to get up on my own, I can’t do it. I can’t. I’m literally trapped in this bed.
“Sir,” she finally says, “this is the best we could do on such short notice. If you’re in a situation where you’re going to need help, you have to give us advance notice.”
“Right,” I mutter.
“Now do you want someone to come at one?”
“No,” I say. “I’ll figure it out.”
I have to figure this out. Staying in bed is not an option, and not just because it would suck to be stuck in bed for the next twelve hours. For starters, I’ve got my urine bag hanging off the bed and it’s got to be close to full by now. If that starts backing up, it will kick off my autonomic dysreflexia, which means my blood pressure will shoot up and I’ll probably have stroked out by the time the nighttime caregiver gets here.
So I do what any guy in his thirties would do when he’s got nobody else to help him. I call my mom.
My parents live about twenty minutes away, and that’s entirely intentional. They’ve got a key to my apartment, and it’s comforting to know that they can come help me in a pinch if I need it. Or should I say, my mom will come help me. My dad’s a grumpy bastard.
I select my parents’ number from my list of favorite numbers, and after a few rings, I hear my father’s voice, “Hello?”
“Hi,” I say. “It’s me.”
“Me?” Dad barks. “Who is ‘me’?”
He hates it when I answer that way, but I always forget. “It’s John.”
Dad grunts. “What do you need?”
I’m not sure why he always assumes that I need something when I call. Although I guess he’s right. I do need something. “Is Mom around?”
He grunts again and drops the phone without another word. I wait for a minute, growing anxious that maybe she’s out. My father won’t come help me. Only my mother would. I feel a flood of relief when my mother’s voice comes on the other line, “Johnny? What’s wrong?”
“I hurt my shoulder.” I’m not going to tell her what happened—it would only make her panic. “I got a health aide to come for the rest of the week, but I’m sort of… I’m stuck in bed. Do you think that you could come…?”
It’s hard to say the words. After all these years, you’d think it would be easier. Hey, Mom, I need you to help me get out of bed. I need you to help me get dressed. I need you to empty out my bag of piss.
But of course, my mother can and has done all these things, no problem. When I first got injured, I lived at home for over a year while I got stronger in the muscles I could use and got more comfortable with my new body. But when I came home from rehab, my mom did a lot for me. Not only did she help me with transfers and dressing my lower body, but she’d help me with my bowel program and get me in and out of the shower.
Having my mother help me with that kind of intimate stuff was a situation I desperately wanted to escape. The last thing you want when you’re a 23-year-old man is to have your mommy undress you and get you into the shower. And talk about confidence-killers when it came to the opposite sex. I couldn’t imagine admitting to a woman that my mother had to help me with such basic things. Hey, baby, you like this shirt my mom dressed me in?
“Of course, honey,” Mom says. “We’ll be right over.”
The word “we” irks me. I don’t want her to bring my father with her. If he comes, he’s just going to give me the same look he always does, like he’s disappointed in me for being crippled. He’s had two knee replacements and got back on his feet after both of those, so why can’t I do it? He strongly believes it’s one of those mind over matter deals.
I lie in bed to wait for my mother to come. While I’m waiting, my phone buzzes and I see that it’s a text from Kirby: Can we talk?
No, we can’t. The last thing I need right now, when I’m stuck in bed and feeling at my worst is her fumbling explanation of how she made a horrible mistake last night and let’s forget it over happen. Yes, I get it. It’s forgotten.
Of course, it’s not really forgotten. I wish more than anything in the world that she could be here right now with me in bed, kissing me, her warm body close to mine. And it’s not just my loneliness. I don’t want any girl. I want her.
But I’ll never have her. And she wouldn’t really want me anyway.
I mean, fuck. Look at me. I can’t even get out of my fucking bed.
I haven’t replied to Kirby when I hear the lock turning on my apartment door and my parents coming inside. They’re definitely both there, because I can hear my father complaining. He’s nearly eighty now and the crankiest old man you’ll ever meet. He was born in Beijing and came to this country with his wife when they were in their early twenties. They had two children, and then when his wife was about forty years old, she died of breast cancer. He met my mother, who was fifteen years younger and liked him for reasons I still can’t fathom, and they had me.
“Knock knock!” My mother calls out as she comes into my bedroom without actually knocking. She wasn’t great at respecting my privacy when I was an able-bodied teenager, and she’s really shit at it now that I’m a quadriplegic. It’s like it doesn’t occur to her that I might want any privacy. Then again, I called her to come here and help me get out of bed, so I can’t blame her.
My mother stands in front of my bed, assessing the situation. She’s in her early sixties, but she’s still what you’d call a MILF. She’s kept her hair blond instead of letting it go gray, and she’s slim with tits that my friends have been ogling for years. Yeah, I’m the guy with the hot mom. I’m over it by now.
“Johnny, where’s your lift?” she asks.
Back at home, I used to have a Hoyer lift. That’s one of those lifts that cradles my body in the air so that I can be lifted from my chair to the bed and vice versa without much physical exertion from the person helping me. I fucking hate those lifts. I know it’s not realistic to think that as a quad that I’d be able to avoid them entirely forever, but still, I hate them. I got rid of mine years ago.
“I don’t have it anymore,” I tell her.
Mom lets out an annoyed huff. Well, sorry. She knows she can do it without the lift.
The first thing she does is empty my bag of piss, because that’s the most urgent. She attaches a leg bag for me. Management of my bowel and bladder is one of the more challenging things about a spinal cord injury. I wish I could just go to the bathroom like a normal person, but when the nerves controlling your bladder and anal sphincter are shot, that’s not an option. The bladder isn’t as bad because I’ve got the suprapubic, so I just need to keep an eye on my bag to make sure it’s not too full.
The bowel is another issue. This isn’t something I enjoy talking to people about, but there it is. I can’t control when I go. I can’t feel when I go. But if I don’t want to be a guy in his thirties wearing a diaper, which I really, really don’t, I have to manage my bowel with a regular schedule.
I use a product called Magic Bullet. It’s a suppository—enough said. I transfer to the toilet and do my bowel program every single morning at the same time. If I do that and am careful about what I eat, I am relatively free of any accidents.
Do I have accidents sometimes? Yeah. I fucking do. It’s unavoidable. On one occasion, I was out with a girl who I liked a lot, and I shit my pants. You think it was fun explaining that? You think we ever went out again? No, we did not.
“Are you still doing your bowel program in the morning?” Mom asks me.
“Yes,” I say miserably.
We’ll have to do it in bed because I can’t imagine transferring to the toilet right now. Fortunately, my mother knows my bathroom, and she’s able to get all the supplies and take care of it for me. I just lie there on my side, trying not to think too hard about what’s happening. Can you fucking imagine if Kirby witnessed this display?
After my mother has helped me get my pants on, I’ve got to get into my wheelchair. Mom helps me to sit up, then I wrap my arms around her neck. I brace myself against her, she grabs onto my pants, and then moves me into the seat of my chair in one quick movement. I put my own feet on the footplate. At least I can do that much.
Goddamn shoulder. Goddamn mugger.
It even hurts when I try to wheel my chair. It feels like a knife is jabbing me in the ball of my shoulder. Mom looks down at me and shakes her head.
“Johnny,” she says, “I thought you were going to get yourself a power wheelchair.”
I want to tell her to mind her own business, but she just helped me to get dressed and out of bed, and also, I’m not the kind of dick who says that to my own mother.
“I’m okay,” I say instead “Really.”
Except I don’t protest when she wheels my chair into the living room for me. And then I hate myself.
My father is sitting on the couch when my mother brings me into the living room, but he immediately stands up when he sees me, probably so that he can lord his height over me. Prior to my accident, I was five full inches taller than my father. I was six foot one to his five foot eight. Now in my chair, I always have to look up at him.
I look at my father’s soldier-perfect posture and instinctively try to sit up straighter in my wheelchair. My shoulder reminds me that’s not a great idea. I’m going to have to slouch.
“What’s the problem this time, John?” my father demands to know. He still has a heavy accent. “What do you need us to rush over here so early in the morning?”
“I hurt my shoulder,” I mumble.
“He needs a power wheelchair,” Mom volunteers.
“Another wheelchair?” My father looks aghast. “He shouldn’t even be in the one he’s got!”
Here we fucking go again…
“Your brother Nelson, he ran a marathon last week!” Dad informs me. “And he’s over ten years older than you are! A man in his forties and he ran a marathon. You don’t even walk.”
Calling Nelson my “brother” is a stretch. He’s my half-brother. My three half-siblings have joined in solidarity to never speak to me or my mother. Nelson doesn’t spit on me when he sees me, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call him my brother. And it doesn’t make me like him any better to have his accomplishments thrown in my face.
That’s my father for you though.
I don’t want to start fighting with him, so I just shrug.
“Are you still doing the physical therapy?” Dad presses me.
“No,” I say.
“Because I don’t need it,” I say. Although I might need it after this shoulder injury.
“Don’t need it!” my father roars. “You’re in a wheelchair. You should be doing the physical therapy until you walk again! You know how hard I worked in the physical therapy after I had my knees replaced?”
I don’t know what part of me not even being able to get out of bed on my own this morning my father didn’t get. He genuinely thinks I’m in a wheelchair because of laziness on my part. Back when I first got injured, I’d have screaming fights with him over it. Now I just tune him out. As long as I don’t have to live with the guy, I can deal with his shitty attitude.
“So I’ll be there next Monday.”
I nearly choke on the bottle of water I’ve been drinking from. That was the last thing that I expected Ted to say when we started our Facetime conversation. The worst part is that since it’s Facetime, he can obviously see my face. And probably can see the horrified expression on it.
“Next Monday?” I manage.
He frowns at me. “I told you I was flying in Monday, didn’t I? I’ve got a job interview.”
I touch my face instinctively, wondering if there’s any sign of beard burn from the kiss between me and John last night. Just the thought of it sends a tingle through my lips. If he hadn’t put a stop to it, I’d probably still be at his home right now.
After I got home from John’s apartment, I masturbated. I thought of John’s lips and his handsome face and his smile and those almond eyes. I thought about being able to touch him everywhere. Then I came fast and hard.
“That’s wonderful,” I say.
Ted’s still frowning. “You don’t look like you think it’s wonderful.”
“I do,” I insist.
Although part of me wonders why I’m bothering. Maybe I should just end it with Ted right now. After all, how can I marry another man when I feel the way I do about John? It’s ridiculous.
Then again, I love Ted.
At least, I think I do.
God, I’m conflicted. I sent John a text message, just to try to talk things out, but he hasn’t responded. He probably hates me now.
“Sorry,” I mumble. “I’m just a little shaken because… well, I got mugged last night.”
Ted’s blue eyes widen. “Are you serious? What happened?”
I tell him the whole story about the mugger shoving John out of the way and demanding my purse. I omit the events of the night following when I went home with John.
“Jesus,” Ted breathes. “I’m so sorry that happened, Kirby. I… I wish you hadn’t been all alone with John. I wish I could have been there to protect you. John obviously can’t.”
I feel my cheeks burn. No, John couldn’t protect me last night. But emotionally, there was no one else I would rather have been with after something scary like that.
To be continued....
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