Sunday, January 31, 2016

Building Love chapter XIV

“I wanna go again,” Eli said after lunch.
Isabel looked at him for a second before she understood what he meant.
“Oh, into the pool?” she said surprised.
“Yeah,” he nodded.
“Really?” she asked already smiling.
“Yeah, let’s go in the pool again,” Eli smiled back.
“Sure,” she leaned in and kissed him.
They picked up their swimsuits from a chair where they had set them out to dry and changed back into them. Eli wheeled to the corner of the pool and they repeated the whole process. He dropped himself from the chair to the floor and then Isabel helped just a little bit to get him in the water, half hugging him so he could reach the handrail and lift his weight to fall into the water. On the first step, she wraped the stick across his chest and then pulled him in to the deeper part of the pool. Once there, she let go of him. His legs unfolded in the water and his body dangled in the current, but this time he didn’t feel helpless nor scared. He waved his arms and started swimming across the pool feeling the fresh water on his chest and shoulders. Isabel swam too, going under the water and then out to meet him in the middle of the pool.
“I want to go under, like you,” Eli said grabbing her hands. “Do you think you could help me?”
“Are you sure?” Isabel asked looking uncertain.
“Yeah, I want to wet my hair,” Eli replied smiling.
“Ok, but I’d have to get the stick off,” she said standing on the water so very close to him.
“That’s ok,” Eli agreed. “You won’t let me drown, right?”
“Of course not,” she smiled and then put her arms around him to unwrap it. Eli smelled her wet hair as he held on to her shoulders. “There,” she said pushing the stick away.
“Ok, let go of me,” he said.
“Are you sure?” she asked, hanging on to his arms.
“Yep”, he nodded.
Isabel stepped back slowly, releasing one arm first and then the other but keeping her arms stretched out ready to catch him if he sank. Eli waved his arms to keep floating and he didn’t sink. He moved across the water. He felt in control, in control of his body and his movements, which was something he hadn’t felt for a long time.
“Ok,” he said to Isabel who was staring at him perhaps a little scared. “It’s ok,” he laughed. “I won’t drown. I’m going to sink and you just grab my hand and pull me up, ok?”
“OK,” she agreed after a moment hesitation.
Eli stopped moving his arms and let himself go under the water. He felt Isabel’s hand in him pulling him out immediately.
“I thought you were certain I could do this,” he laughed.
Isabel laughed too, but nervously. “Ok hot shot,” she smiled. “Go again.”
Eli sank down once more and he felt her grab his hand under the water but gently this time, and she waited for a couple of seconds before pulling him up. Eli raised his head from the water and held on to her shoulder. He used his free hand to dry his eyes and opened them to find her face very close to his.
“That’s more like it,” he smiled and pulled himself even closer to kiss her. Her mouth was wet and he pressed her shoulders while kissing her. His legs were dangling under the water but he somehow felt as if he were standing in front of her, at her same height. He smiled, their lips still touching. “You were right. I do like this. I love this,” he said and kissed her again.
Her hands were on his back, where he could feel and he moved his down to her waist tipping a little forward. He didn’t have so much stability in this position, but he didn’t care, he let his palms extend across the small of her back, touching her smooth skin under the water and kissed her neck. Isabel moaned a little and then he pushed back from her and let go.
Isabel stretched her arms again to catch him and he laughed as he waved his arms around and floated. He took another lap across the pool using only his arms to pull his body in the water while she watched him.
“I can swim. You said I could and I can,” he said with a smile. “Why do you look so scared?” he laughed.
She laughed too and swam to him and held him by the waist where he couldn’t feel her hands.
“I want to go under again,” he said and pecked her on the lips.
“Ok.”
He let go and sank again. He grabbed her hand under the water but waved his arms to swim. His body following him weightless, dangling behind him. He resurfaced and kept swimming holding hands. When he stopped he pulled himself close to her and held on to her shoulders. They kissed again, this time deeper, longer. He felt Isabel’s body under his hands as their lips moved and his tongue travelled inside her. She had her arms around him and was holding him, keeping his torso straight under the water. Then he moved one hand and touched her breasts. She looked at him smiling and he pushed away from her again tipping his body backwards to lay on his back and waved his arms to swim away from her backwards. He could swim, he could really swim and it felt great. He felt so free inside the water. He had always loved to swim. Why hadn’t he gone into the water sooner? Why had he been so afraid? It was easy, easier than to move on land. He could travel the whole length of the pool without her help. It felt amazing.
“So you’ve got this, ha?” she said catching up to him at the end of the pool. Eli held on to the edge to rest.
“I’ve got this,” he smiled and grabbed her hand to pull her close to him. He turned around keeping one hand on the edge and placed the other one on the curve of her hip. Then he moved it to her ass and pressed her closer.
Isabel laughed and then kissed him again while touching his back close to his shoulders and then his biceps. They kissed again and Eli stopped feeling her hands, he parted from her and looked down to find her hands on his ass.
“Sorry,” she apologized. “I wanted to touch you.”
“Go ahead,” he said and she smiled. Then she moved her hands again under the water and placed them on the front of his shorts. Eli couldn’t feel her. His legs were sort of bent under the water, dangling slightly with the smooth current. He pushed himself to the edge and placed his whole arm up to carry his weight and put his elbow over the tiles of the floor around the pool so he’d have a better control of his body. Isabel looked at him for approval. He didn’t say anything but he gave her permission with his eyes and she then put her left hand inside his shorts. She kissed his wet chest and shoulders and moved up to his neck with her lips. Eli looked up enjoying the sensation, looking away from her hand. Now he had no idea what she was touching or what she was doing under the water, but he could hear her moaning. He used his free hand to touch her ass and then pressed her hip while he moved forward following her groin and then sticking his fingers under her swimsuit to find her very short pubic hair.
She continued to kiss his neck and earlobes as he advanced his finger between her legs and heard her moan louder. He moved two fingers inside her as she swayed her hips gasping. Both their breaths quickened and he pressed his finger at their rhythm harder, faster, until she threw her head back and cried out, loud, no inhibition. Eli smiled as he felt her pulsate around his fingers, coming, moaning hard, almost shouting.
“Oh Eli,” she gasped when she was done. “Oh baby!”
They kissed again and Eli laughed, he laughed hard because he was so happy.
Afterwards they swam together to the handrail and sat on the steps at the corner of the pool. Well, Isabel sat, because Eli’s legs were sort of floating, not able to stay completely on the step. He held on to the rail with one hand as the water pulled his body slightly.
“You know,” he said to Isabel who was smiling broadly at him, flirting with her eyes and her whole body. Her wet hair to the side and her cleavage inviting him. “I brought something in case you wanted more.”
“More?” She asked.
“I know we haven’t really talked about it, but I figured you’d eventually wanted to so I asked my doctor and he prescribed me something so I could, you know…” he explained.
“Really?”
Eli nodded feeling nervous all of a sudden. “You do want to, don’t you?”
“Of course I do,” she said sliding closer to him and placing her hand on his tight to lean her body closer to him. His leg moved under her weight. “I mean, as long as you really want to. I don’t want you to do it just because you think you have to. I’m really satisfied with what we’ve been doing so far, honestly. I don’t NEED sex,” she made a pause and stared at him with her piercing blue eyes and a serious expression that almost made Eli quiver. After a while she smiled again. “But if you want to, I’d love to”, she finished and changed back to her flirting attitude.
Eli stayed quiet for a moment. “I want to. I know I won’t be able to feel it, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to enjoy it anyway. I mean, how could I not enjoy having sex with YOU,” he smiled nervously.
“Are you sure?”
“Yep, positive,” he nodded.
“Ok then,” she said before kissing him deeply. “I’m definitely up for it,” she said when they parted.
Eli looked down to find her hand again on the front of his shorts.
He pulled himself backwards with his hands to the edge of the pool and then placed both hands on the floor and lifted his body to sit on the edge outside the pool. His legs were still on the water and he pulled them out one by one with his hands to place them on the yoga mat. Then he watched as Isabel stood up and got out of the pool to grab their towels. She placed Eli’s on his chair and then dried herself with hers. Eli took a moment to watch her as she robbed the towel against her chest, then her hips and finally her legs. God she was beautiful, she had a perfect curved body. He tried not to glance at his own skinny legs as they moved awkwardly while he pulled his body backwards as close to his chair as possible. Then he bent them using his hands to place himself in the right position to transfer up to his chair. He put one fist on the ground and held on to the frame of the wheelchair to pull himself up on the edge of the chair, then used both hands on the rims to lift his body and scooted to the back of the chair. Once there, he lifted his legs one by one to arrange them on the footrest. They started jumping when he did that. And Eli rubbed his tights waiting the spasm out. He lifted his sight and found Isabel staring, but not like the waitress, not like people usually did. She was giving him a sexy look, her lips were parted and she was breathing heavily.
Eli swallowed hard before releasing the brakes of his chair and wheeling towards her. He grabbed her hand pulled her to sit on his lap. Then they kissed deeply and he allowed his hands to travel freely across her body, touching her back, her breasts, her legs as she caressed his shoulders and his biceps then his chest and then her hands disappeared from his perception. He had his eyes closed as they kissed and felt her hands fade and reappear as they moved from places he could feel to places where he couldn’t and then back again to his chest or face.
He pushed his rims with Isabel still on his laps and took hard strokes with his arms to wheel them both inside. Once in the bedroom Isabel stood up and took her swimsuit off. She sled down one strap in such a sexy move and then the other one to let it unveil her round erect breasts and then sled it down across her flat stomach. Then she tilted forward a little bit to remove it from her hips and rolled it down letting him see the triangle of red hair between her legs. She pulled it down one leg and then the other one while Eli stared. He could feel the arousal on every inch of skin he could still control, his arms and chest growing more sensitive to her touch as she approached him and kissed him before kneeling down in front of him and placing her hands on the elastic band of his shorts. He lifted his body at her command placing his hands on his rims and she pulled his swimsuit off, not smoothly but by rolling it down over his hips and butt, placing her hands on one side and then the other one and then under his butt until finally she uncovered his lax penis. He let his body fall again over the sit of the chair and let her roll the short down his tights, lifting them one at a time, then down his knees and calves and finally she raised his feet one by one to get it off and then set them back down on the footrest.
Eli just watched as she handled his immobile legs, not awkwardly, not disgusted, but apparently aroused by his defective body. She was completely naked and Eli focused his attention on her rather than on his bonny legs or prominent belly. It was hard not to feel self conscious but it was also easy to get lost in her sensuality. He only parted his eyes from her to wheel over to his suitcase and get the syringe and vile out. He prepared the injection and looked up over his shoulder to find her staring.
“Is this too weird?” Eli said at her expression.
“No, of course not. I’m sorry, I just didn’t know it was a shot, I thought it would be a pill or something,” she replied.
“There are pills but the doctor said this would work better,” Eli explained.
“Do you want me to do it for you?” Isabel asked.
Eli shook his head. “No thanks, I’ve got it,” he refused and then looked back down to grab his penis. He heard her gasp and looked back up. “I have to inject it directly,” he explained. “I’m sorry. Is this a turn off?” he asked concerned that he had killed the mood.
Isabel circled around him and squatted in front of him. “No, baby. Don’t you ever worry about that. I’m so very turned on by you. I want you so badly,” she said and grabbed his penis while she got up and kissed him.
“I know this is weird,” he insisted but Isabel caught him off.
“No, Eli. No,” she shook her head. “I’m thrilled that you’re willing to do this. This is amazing.”
Eli puffed.
“Feel me and tell me if I find you weird,” she grabbed his hand and placed it on her pussy. “Tell me that you don’t turn me on,” she said as she guided his fingers inside her. He felt her so very wet as he moved his fingers and she moaned. “You’re so sexy, so strong. You turn me on so badly,” she gasped and leaned in to kiss him again with his fingers still inside of her. “I want you in me.”
The she stood back pulling his hand off her and Eli looked into her blue eyes and watched her breathe fast. He bit his lower lip and then grabbed his penis again and injected it. He didn’t feel anything, not even as it started to erect. Slowly growing as it hadn’t done for over a year now. Isabel opened her mouth and purred. Then she knelt down and licked it, she wraped it in her hand and put the tip inside her mouth, then she took it out and kissed Eli’s chest and shoulders. He put his hands on her ass and pulled her to him. He meant to take her to the bed but she turned around with her back to him and grabbed his penis and led it inside her before sitting over him still in his chair. Eli felt her gasp as it went inside her and she pressed her body down over him and started swaying. He put both his hands on her breasts and helped her up and down while he kissed her straight back and her neck. She pushed her head back and turned it to kiss him in the mouth while she arched back and moaned. Eli’s hands pressed her breasts and then sled to her stomach and her pelvis, then over her tights and back up while she moved up and down and then in circles with him inside her.
Eli was moaning too. He couldn’t feel how he was penetrating her, but he could see her, touch her, smell her and her whole body pressed against him was so sexy, her kisses were so deep, deeper than ever before, and he could feel her sweating, robbing against him, his hands on her hips and groin, the mere sound of her breath was so exhilarating, her hair falling back wetting his chest. Every sensation heightened and he let himself enjoy her body, every inch of it his. He was possessing her; they were merged into one and it didn’t matter if he couldn’t move, he was pleasing her, it was evident. And he felt like a man, like a whole and abled bodied man.
He felt her come in that position and then she stood up and he watched his penis still erect. She laid on the bed and padded over it to invite him. Eli wheeled around the bed, completely naked on his chair, his penis lifted and hard. He placed his chair next to the mattress and set the breaks before placing sliding to the edge of the chair and placing one hand on the bed to transfer. His butt landed on the mattress and he lifted his legs one by one to lay them on the bed before pushing himself up to lay against the headboard. Then Isabel mounted him and put his penis inside her again. She put both her hands on his chest and pressed them hard as she moved up and down with her whole body. Eli put his hands on her ass hard and pulled her to him and then back, guiding the movements of her hip. Her whole body was sweaty and he felt his hands slide over her wet skin as she kissed his shoulders and neck and nibbled on his nipples. He felt her come again and this time she cried out, loud, louder than he’d ever heard her moan before.
She took a pause, pressing her pelvis down hard and arching back as she enjoyed her orgasm. Then she moved to his earlobes and bit them gently while she started swaying again, this time in circles.
“Oh, Oh!” she moaned in bliss as the tip of her hair touched Eli’s chest and she leaned over to kiss him and then back up to keep moving on top of him, her mouth opened, gasping for air as she came yet again, for the third time, before falling over him pressing his shoulders in another cry.
She finally rolled off of him and laid on her back. She put one hand over her eyes and then up running it over her forehead and hair, while she pressed her pussy with the other one, pulling her legs up slightly and turning on her side.
“Holly shit,” she said and then laughed. Eli was smiling because he didn’t have to wonder if she had enjoyed it. And he had enjoyed it just as much. “That was amazing,” she said opening her eyes and pressing her lips against his shoulder, still out of breath. “Wow!”
Eli lifted himself on one elbow to kiss her. “Yes it was,” he smiled back. “You’re amazing. I love you,” he whispered into her ear.
“I love you too. I love you so much, Eli. You make me so happy,” she said and laid her head on his chest and one arm around him to hug him tight.
Then she caressed him with that same hand over his chest and arm and then down to his penis again, smiling.
“I want more,” she smiled and started kissing his chest again.
“Be my guest,” Eli laughed.
She climbed on top of him again and kissed him before using her hand to guide his penis again inside her and then moved her hips up and down before turning around with her back to him. Now he could see her butt as she moved up and down on top of him and he continued to touch her all around. She placed her hands on his legs for support and bounced on top of him until he heard her cry out again.
They spent the rest of the weekend either on bed or in the pool and when the time came neither of them wanted to go back to the city.
“Hey, Is,” Eli started when they were done packing. “I know we haven’t been together for that long but…”
Isabel sat on his lap and waited for him to continue.
“I kind of don’t want to drop you off at your place. I hate the idea of being away from you,” he continued.
“What are you saying?” she asked in a playful tone.
“Well, maybe you could… move in with me,” he almost whispered, loosing his nerve all of a sudden.
“Mmm, I don’t know…,” she joked.
“I just… I mean… if you don’t want to… It’s ok… I don’t want to push you…”
Isabel caught him off with a kiss. “I’d love to,” she whispered on his ear.
“Really?” he replied surprised.
“Come on, Eli. Isn’t it obvious that I’m madly in love with you?”
Eli smiled.
“I’d love to,” she said changing to a serious tone. “It’s a big deal, but if you’ll have me. I’d really love to.” She stared at him with such sweet eyes.
“I’d love so too,” he said and they kissed.

The next week Eli went to work and left Isabel behind at his place. She hadn’t moved in yet but was going to spend the day making room in the closet and bedroom for her stuff. Eli was completely thrilled to have her there full time. He came home that night feeling a complete happiness to find her there waiting for him. As he was transferring out of his car in the parking lot of his building he saw Matt’s car. Matt had stopped coming to his place unannounced since Isabel had started to spend the night. So Eli was a little concerned to find his car there. He wheeled out of the elevator and parked his chair at his front door, and while he was looking for his keys he heard voices.
“Come on Isabel, just admit it,” he heard Matt’s voice across the door.
“Why is it so hard for you to understand?” Isabel replied, but she didn’t sound upset. Actually she sounded amused at Matt’s outbreak. “If he wasn’t on a wheel chair you would never question the fact that he was with a girl like me. You know he’s handsome. Eli is a catch,” she was explaining to Matt.
“But the fact is that he IS on a wheelchair,” Matt insisted.
They were probably arguing in the living room. Eli hurried up, he wanted to stop Matt from whatever new attack against Isabel. But he couldn’t find his keys, damn it.
“So what? He looks exactly the same. He’s still handsome and smart and successful,” she countered.
Eli stopped looking for the keys. He loved to hear her stand up for him. She sounded so sure of herself, so honest.
“You could have any man you wanted. Someone as handsome and successful who wasn’t disabled,” Matt held his ground.
“Probably, but not as talented. Has it ever occurred to you that I want him. You’re right. I can have any man I want and I want him.”
“So you say,” Matt sounded incredulous. “But maybe it’s just his money you want.”
Isabel laughed out loud. “Oh please, I make just as much money as he does, probably more.”
“You know that’s not what I’m talking about.”
“What are you talking about then?” she asked.
Eli rushed again to get the keys and opened the door. They both looked at him startled when he wheeled in.
“Matt,” Eli cleared his throat. “What are you doing?”
“It’s ok Eli,” Isabel intervened. “Matt was just sharing his theory that I’m with you over money,” she said with a smirk.
“I ran into Jayson,” Matt explained. “Apparently he knows Isabel. I’m sure you can see how that’s a concern. He admitted telling Isabel about you.”
“Yeah, so Matt here thinks I’m a gold digger,” she laughed.
“Matt, stop it,” Eli rammed at him.
“Eli it’s so obvious, can’t you see?” Matt raised his voice.
“I said stop it,” Eli caught him off upset. He was fed up with Matt’s attitude. “I talked to Jayson. He told her about me but not about the money. He was sure of it. So you have nothing to worry about.”
“What money?” Isabel asked Eli.
“Uhmm…” Eli hesitated. “Some money I inherited from my parents,” he decided to confess to show Matt he had no doubts about her. “Jayson knows about it and Matt thinks he told you and that’s why you came here. But I talked to him and…”
“Wait,” Isabel interrupted and she wasn’t smiling anymore. She didn’t sound amused anymore. “Do YOU think I’m a gold digger?” she asked Eli.
“What?” Eli was caught off guard.
“You talked to Jayson?”
“Well yeah…” Eli admitted.
“And asked him if he had told me about your inheritance?” Isabel continued.
“Yeah, and he was sure he didn’t…” Eli explained.
“So…,” Isabel interrupted again as if a sudden realization had hit her. “You think I’m a gold digger.”
“No,” Eli denied. “I just…”
“You must if you asked him that,” she said backing away from both of them. “That’s why you were so upset that night at the restaurant.”
“Well, yes but I…” he started but she took another step backwards, away from him. “I mean no. I know he didn’t tell you about it so you didn’t know.”
Isabel let out air. Her face had changed completely. She looked… heartbroken.
“Is, I…”
But it was too late. Isabel grabbed her purse from the coffee table and took off. Eli pushed his rims to go after her and he caught her pressing the button for the elevator.
“Is, don’t. I don’t think that,” he tried to stop her.

“Don’t,” she stopped him and headed for the stairs. 

For The Love Of Not Walking Chapter 2



                It was around six when they all headed to the food court to eat dinner. Everyone picked their choice of meal from the various vendors and eventually sat around a large table eating and chatting. A number of paper and plastic bags was piled on two chairs at the table.
                Ashleigh and Fiona were done eating and wanted to check out some other stores. Tyler called them the chick stores and it usually referred to either “Bath and Body”, “Hallmark’, or “Yankee Candle”. Tyler and Dominic didn’t want to join the women and decided to head on to one of the sports stores. Kieran didn’t feel like going anywhere and said he would just stay at the table guarding the bags and hanging out.
Tyler turned to Kieran, “You sure you don’t want to go with us?”
Kieran shook his head, “Nah, I am good. I will just stay here for now.”
“All right man, we will be back. Call if something is up.”
He looked after Tyler and Dominic as they walked away.
                Kieran pulled out his phone and held it in his hands checking his messages and social media. When he looked up for a moment he was surprised when he met a pair of eyes on him from a distance across the food court. The pair of eyes belonged to an older man who didn’t move his gaze even when Kieran spotted him. The odd looking man stuck out like from another time, sitting at one of the tables on the other side of the food court, no food and no drink in front of him. He wore a suit and a hat, just sat there, and almost like he was invisible people walked by him without even glancing at him. His eyes stayed on Kieran for a little while until he got up. Kieran was on full alert at the stares he got from the stranger and he didn’t know what to think about this. He didn’t have his hand gun anymore since everything had happened and now he felt vulnerable and exposed at the shameless stares of a man he didn’t know. His only weapon was his own dark gaze at the stranger, somehow trying to show him that he was not afraid of him and that the old man’s stare didn’t do anything to him but stir frustration and anger he kept in check with daily medications. It was an anger that could develop into a very different level of emotion if antagonized by shameless staring or somehow trying to intimidate him. Kieran stuck his phone between his thighs and without further thought he put his hands to his rims to catch up to the man and it didn’t take long as he reached him just passing some tables close to him.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Building Love Chapter XV

Obviously, Eli couldn’t chase her down the stairs; so it was clear Isabel had intended to get away from him where he couldn’t follow, where he was physically incapable of going after her, and the fact hurt. He knew he had no right to feel that way, it was him who had wronged her, but it still hurt. He felt as if Isabel had used his disability against him. For the first time since he had met her she had made him feel helpless and crippled, she had done so on purpose, knowingly, deliberately, without stopping to consider how it would make him feel, and that seemed cruel.  Now he realized how she most have always been aware of all her words and actions before, to never in over six months have made him feel that way. Everyone else did, everyone, even Matt and Sarah or Jenna or a random person in the street would at some point put him in a spot that made his disability more obvious, where he felt exposed as a paraplegic. But never Isabel. She always acted the right way, said the right thing. Now it all seemed orchestrated.
He spun his wheels around and rolled towards the elevator as the door opened; but he didn’t get in. Instead he returned to his apartment and rammed at Matt.
“Why are you doing this?” he yelled at him.
“Eli, can’t you see? Jayson told her about you. She came to Boston to find you.” Matt started.
“Stop it! Shut up!” Eli caught him off. “Are you deliberately trying to make me miserable?”
“What? No, I’m trying to help you.”
“Well you don’t, you don’t help me. You treat me like a child, like an invalid and it doesn’t help. You do the opposite. You make everything harder. You try to do everything for me and it makes me feel worse. You remind me of just how disable I am, you make me feel useless and worthless. I know I’m not a catch. I know Isabel is too good for me and that it’s unthinkable for a woman like her to love someone like me. I know I’m a cripple, I don’t need you reminding me every second. What I need is for you to leave me the hell alone!”
“I just don’t want you to get hurt,” Matt replied.
“Well, I’m hurt. I’m hurt, Matt! Why would you do this? Why would you want to take away from me the one person who makes my life bearable, the one person who has been there for me through all this shit.”
Matt stayed quiet. His lips parted but he didn’t speak. He looked down at Eli, stared at him, and his eyes showed a deep sorrow that almost made Eli quiver. “I’ve been there for you,” he finally said merely above a whisper.
“This isn’t being here for me. This is screwing me over. I will say this one last time. Isabel is NOT a gold digger! Jayson told her about me as an architect. I wasn’t even on the chair when he told her about me. He’s certain he never mentioned the money. And if Isabel wanted money don’t you think she would’ve said yes to Jayson. He wanted to marry her and he’s far richer than me. So for the last time, stop meddling in my life. I know what I am, but for some crazy reason that woman actually likes me, as unthinkable as it may seem to you or me. She actually wanted to be with me and now you came here and screwed everything up. I hope you’re happy now.” Eli rammed at him with all the anger and frustration he had been bottling up.
“Eli, I…”
“Get out of here!”
“Eli…”
“Get out of my house. Get out of my life!” Eli yelled.
Matt stared at him silently for a couple of seconds and then he walked away.
Eli turned around with his chair to face the doorway. “Leave the key,” he said before Matt had reached the door.
Matt turned around and squinted at him, but Eli’s eyes were fierce. So Matt took out his keychain, removed the key and left it on a tray by the door.
Once he was gone, Eli wheeled to the bar and poured himself a scotch. He drained it in one gulp and poured a second one. How the hell was he going to fix this? Could he fix it? Or was she gone for ever? Had he lost her? He didn’t know what to do, whether to call her, go look for her, or let her cool off before trying to apologize. But being with Isabel had always been a stretch. Maybe she had finally come to her senses; maybe he had given her the perfect excuse to dump him. Maybe he should just let her go. It was the best thing for her. He couldn’t make her happy; it was selfish to tie her down to him; she deserved to be with am abled body man. Maybe… He couldn’t think anymore. He grabbed his hair with both hands.
“Damn it!” he cursed out loud.
But it was so unthinkable to be without her, to live without her. He didn’t feel strong enough to let her go. Finally he resolved to go to her apartment. Transferring into his car seemed longer than ever, tiresome, dreadful. He lifted his useless legs and they seemed to weight a ton. He looked down at his crippled body as he adjusted his position in the seat and felt disgusted by his flaccid gut and his skinny legs lying awkwardly to the side. How could he ask Isabel to be with him? He got to her building and waited for someone to step out and let him in. He took the elevator and rang the doorbell at her front door.
Isabel opened the door but stayed at the threshold. Her big blue eyes were bolting at him. Was it hatred in them? Could she hate him already?
“Is, I know you’re angry but please listen to me. Just let me explain,” he started.
“Save it,” she said in a low tone. “I don’t want to hear it. It was all pretty clear.”
“Look, Matt’s an ass,” he said.
“I could care less about Matt. What he says or thinks doesn’t hurt me. But you obviously agree with him and THAT… I want you to leave.”
“Is, no, please… I don’t think you’re a gold digger.”
“You clearly do,” she countered.
“No, Is, I don’t. Of course I don’t.”
“Oh but you do. So please leave,” she said in a pleading tone.
“No Is, just listen to me. I know you’re angry but…”
“I’m not angry,” she interrupted.
“You’ve every right to be,” he insisted.
“I’m not angry, Eli. I’m…” she stopped and looked away crossing her arms across her chest. And she really didn’t seem angry but immeasurably sad, devastated.
“I know you’re not interested in my money…”
“Don’t lie,” she caught him off again. “Just don’t, ok? Don’t disrespect me like that. I deserve that much.”
Eli took a deep breath. Perhaps he should have waited for her to cool off after all. Clearly she wasn’t going to hear him out now. He wasn’t lying to her… or was he?
“I thought you saw me, REALLY saw me. I thought you knew me better than anyone… I thought you loved me,” her voice trembled.
“I do love you,” Eli assured her.
“I thought you liked who I really am,” she continued as if she hadn’t heard him. “But it turns out you never even saw me.”
“Of course I did, Isabel. I do.”
Again she didn’t let him speak. “It turns out you don’t know me at all or you would’ve never thought…”
“I didn’t, Is,” now it was him who interrupted her. “I know you’re not like that. You’re beautiful and kind, and honest.”
“Yeah,” she said ironically. “I’m so honest you thought I had looked you up and what? Deliberately seduced you to get you to marry me? What was I going to do next? Ha? Tell me, was I going to kill you afterwards and keep your fortune?”
“No, of course not. I didn’t think that…”
“Stop lying to me!” she raised her voice. “You explicitly asked Jayson if he had told me about your money!”
“When I saw Jayson and you knew each other I…”
“Even before that,” she interrupted again. “Don’t tell me that’s not the reason you never mentioned your inheritance. And you know what? That’s ok. You didn’t have to tell me, it was none of my business, but the fact is that the reason you kept it a secret was that you always doubted me.” A tear rolled down her pink cheek and she turned around and gave her back to him.
Eli pushed his rims a little bit to come closer to her and grabbed her hand but she pulled away and turned to face him again.
“So why were you with me all this time? Did you decide I was pretty enough to risk your fortune? Did you think ‘Oh what the hell, she’s worth a few thousand dollars!’” she rammed at him. “I thought you saw past my looks. I thought you liked the person I am. I thought you of all people wouldn’t just want to get in my pants. But it turns out you’re just like every other man out there.”
“Ha,” Eli let out air. “So that’s why you were with me? Because I can’t feel sex so you thought I wouldn’t want to sleep with you?” Eli felt like a bullet had pierced him again. Quite literally, quite physically, he felt a stroke right in his chest that pushed him back against the rest of his wheelchair.
“No, you idiot!” she answered. “I was with you because I love you!” she almost yelled. “I love you and I thought you were the most amazing man alive. I thought you were so faulking special. So talented, so strong, so aware of what’s actually important. I thought you saw the world differently, like I see it. But I was wrong. Boy was I wrong! You never saw me; you just saw a pretty face and company. You were willing to buy it with all your stupid and worthless money. All you saw was a hooker!” She yelled and stepped inside the house.
Eli followed by pushing his rims hard to catch up with her. She had his back to him but he could tell she was crying.
“Is, no. NO. That’s not it. If you’d just let me explain.” He circled around her to face her.
“Leave! I want you to leave!” she said in that strong and irrefutable tone of hers.
“Isabel, please,” he begged.
“You obviously don’t think much of me, but you will respect me right now and leave my house. I don’t want you here. I don’t want to hear any more excuses. Go and buy yourself another woman,” she stated and now it was rage in her wet eyes.
“You’re right, ok,” he admitted. “I didn’t tell you about the money because I didn’t want to have a reason to doubt you and I‘m sorry. Isabel, I’m so sorry. But how could I not doubt. It makes no sense that you like me. You’re so perfect and I’m a cripple. How could I just believe that you liked me?”
“Oh, don’t!” she shook her head. “Don’t you play the cripple card,” she said and the word hit him like a splash of cold water. “I’ve gone out of my way to show you how much I like you. I’ve explained a thousand times what I like about you. I’ve made it perfectly clear that your disability is not an issue for me. Hell, I even like it. I think it makes you stronger, sexier. And I’ve told you so. So don’t expect me to feel sorry for you! Don’t expect me to say ‘Oh poor, Eli. He thinks no one would want him because he’s in a wheelchair, so it’s ok he thought I was after his money and stayed with me anyway’. Because it’s not! The fact that you can’t walk doesn’t make it ok!”
Eli shivered at the coldness with which she spoke those words. He took a deep breath and thought of what else to say. But she was right. He had always said he didn’t want pity, not form Matt, and certainly not from her, and yet, it was his only excuse. It was all he had to say. I thought so because I know I’m not worthy of you. I thought you wanted my money because you couldn’t possibly want me. Not this disabled and crippled me. I want you to forgive me because I’m paralyzed and that’s why I had doubts about you. You HAVE to forgive me because I had a reason. I had every reason to doubt. You have to understand that because you’ve always been so good at understanding how I feel. But then again she was also right when she said she had done everything in her power to convince him otherwise. She had shown him in every possible way that she liked him, not just intellectually but also physically, she had shown him he actually turned her on. So why hadn’t he believed her? She was right. He had insulted her deeply by doubting her. He had taken all her kindness and understanding and flushed it down the drain. She had showed him acceptance and he had discarded it.
He analyzed her countenance and realized she was so deeply hurt. He had hurt this beautiful creature that had saved him. The one person who had as she’d put it, seen past his looks, seen past the evident and liked him for who he really was. Tears were rolling down her lovely face and he was the cause of them. How could he have done this to her?
“Isabel I’m so sorry. I never meant to hurt you,” he pleaded.
Isabel started taking short shallow breaths to stop crying. She dried her tears with the back of her hand.
“Is…” he couldn’t stand to watch her cry.
“Please leave,” she whispered.
“I don’t want to leave things like this.”
“Please,” she begged.
Eli pondered for a moment but he couldn’t think of anything to say that would make it better, so finally he put his hands on his rims and turned his chair around. He took a deep breath and pushed his wheels to roll out of the apartment. He heard the door close behind him and sighed before continuing towards the elevator.


For The Love Of Not Walking Chapter 3


Chapter 3          

It was at 11:30 p.m.when Kieran became sleepy and turned off the TV, then pushed himself down in the bed and adjusting his legs he found a somewhat comfortable position. He laid there staring into the darkness and he remembered the old man who had observed him so peculiar the day before. Maybe he had been wrong to have gone off on him. Maybe the old man was a veteran himself and Kieran had made a big mistake by getting angry.

Kieran was just about to fall asleep when out of nowhere a very intense spasm shot through his leg up into his hips. The impulse startled him and when another strong spasm followed he pushed himself up on his elbows. He had taken his Baclofen tablet before he had laid down and the powerful spasticity surprised him. When he looked over at the clock on the bedside table it showed 12:48 a.m. and he pulled himself all the way up on the headboard when the sudden feeling of a thousand tiny needles poking him in his legs made him press his lips together as he realized it was pain he felt. It wasn’t a spasm, it was actual pain in his legs and it travelled all the way into his back.
He moved the blanket over to get a view of his legs and hissed lowly, “What the fuck?”

When he looked at his legs they twitched frantically and when he touched his hand to his legs he felt the skin under his hand. He felt the sheets under his legs, he felt the pillow behind his lower back and he wiggled his toes when he looked at them. The impulse to move his legs overcame him and in awe he watched as he was able to pull his leg up to his body without the help of his hands.
He stared at his legs and shaking his head in disbelief he hissed again, “What the hell is going on?”

Again he contemplated calling out for Fiona but he stopped himself. It was a dream for sure. Most likely he was probably sleeping deeply and having taken his meds he was delirious and nightmarish illusions had overcome him. He touched his leg and felt his hand on his thigh. He moved his hand over to his crotch and was stunned when he even felt his hand on the briefs covering his privates.
He whispered, “Why is this happening?”

With full force he pinched the skin on his thigh causing himself a strong pain but he didn’t stop. He couldn’t believe that he actually felt the pain. It was almost like a rush for him as he squeezed the skin between his fingertips until it bruised. He did this in several spots and in every spot it hurt intensely and he left bruises on his thighs and constantly muttered to himself, not understanding what was happening. Sensation was back in his legs from his T-4 vertebrae on down but the illusion only lasted 11 minutes. As his body went back into total stillness and all the spasticity was gone just as quick as it had appeared, he glanced over at the clock again, it was now showing 12:59 a.m.

Tears were streaming over his face as he witnessed the sensation disappear into nothing and he didn’t know what to think. He stared down at his legs in front of him but now felt again like they were not even there. He touched his manhood and he didn’t feel anything but he saw the bruises he had left on his thighs and he knew the pinches and the pain had been real. He couldn’t explain it and he didn’t know what had happened.
Sadness crept up in him and he muttered to himself, “I have to go see my doctor.”

His body was paralyzed again. He pushed himself down onto the bed, adjusted his twisted legs with his hands once again and tears were dripping onto the sheets as he tried to make sense of this situation. He thought of all possibilities of paraplegia showing in strange ways but he couldn’t come up with anything similar to what he had felt. For 11 minutes sensations had come back into his body and had made him believe he would somehow go back to the way he used to be.

The new week started with Fiona and Tyler having to work, and leaving Kieran and the kids at home. One and a half more weeks of summer break and then the kids would be back in school and it would become quiet again for Kieran in the house.

He woke up to his alarm clock at 10 o’clock that morning. Even though he still believed it couldn’t have been real that he actually had recovered some sensation for just a few moments, seeing the bruises on his thighs and remembering the pain he had inflicted on himself during the strange episode, he still couldn’t wrap his head around the situation.
Slowly he ran his fingers over the bruises and mumbled, “What the hell is going on with me?”

He just sat there for a little while staring at his legs almost like he was trying to relive the experience of the previous two nights. Nothing happened. His legs lay still and motionless, not even a slight spasm giving them any life at the moment, just two limbs with no use attached to his body.

Kieran wheeled into the kitchen where Dominic was eating cereal with the small TV mounted on the wall above the breakfast bar showing a cartoon, “Good Morning Nickie.”
Dominic didn’t move his eyes from the cartoon, “Hi Uncle Kieran.”

Kieran prepped the Keurig coffee machine and let his cup of coffee drip while he opened the refrigerator and pulled out the gallon of milk, then wheeled over to the dining table and got the other items needed for his cereal.
"Is your sister still sleeping?” 
“Yes.”
Kieran eventually had his coffee mug and a bowl of cereal in front of him.
He looked over to Dominic again, “Do you want to go to the Y with me today?”
“Maybe.”
“I am going to leave after breakfast.”
Kieran tried to work out at least three times a week and being a disabled combat veteran he had a free membership at the local YMCA. The rest of the family had a regular family membership. Dominic made the decision to accompany his uncle and with his swim shorts and towel in a bag they were on their way to the Y about an hour later. With his wheelchair on the passenger side and Dominic in the backseat of the Mustang they made their way through the traffic. Dominic loved riding in Kieran’s car.

In the empty Yoga room Kieran let himself down from his wheelchair onto a mat. Dominic stood by and watched his uncle, still sometimes wondering how a person could just not walk anymore and why this had happened to his uncle. Kieran had explained to him before about the Spinal Cord Injury and even had shown Dominic information on the Internet but Dominic felt that even though his uncle pretended like he was okay, he really wasn’t all the way okay with having lost the use of his legs like that. Dominic hadn’t really asked Kieran much anymore about the SCI and mostly kept the concerns about his uncle to himself.
Kieran met his nephew’s eyes and managed a smile while he positioned himself on the mat and leaning with his back on the wall, “Are you going to help me stretch a little Nickie?”
Dominic nodded shyly and got down on his knees next to Kieran. He had helped his uncle many times before with all his range of motion exercises. Even at home Kieran did his stretches every day in his bed when he went to sleep or woke up in the morning.

Kieran hadn’t missed that sometimes Dominic seemed slightly intimidated by his disability but he tried to make his nephew feel comfortable around him and now he instructed Dominic on what he could help him with at this time. Dominic assisted Kieran with the different stretches for about 30 minutes. The young boy was focused and helping Kieran did make him feel somewhat at ease with his uncle’s situation. Kieran praised him for his excellent job helping him, trying his best to make Dominic feel okay. When they were done Kieran pushed his Quickie against the wall and then pulling himself up into his chair with some difficulties Dominic watched quietly, thinking about the struggles his uncle had to go through just to make it up into his wheelchair again.

Breathing somewhat heavy Kieran finally situated himself in his wheelchair and looked at Dominic with a smile, “There - all done. You want to go swimming now?”
“Yes.”

While Dominic headed toward the locker rooms to get into his swim shorts Kieran made his way to the weight room, had a sip from the water fountain and then with a YMCA towel around his neck he wheeled up to the first weight machine. Since he didn’t want anyone to see all his bruises he wore sweat pants today and a muscle shirt. For most of the machines he had to transfer onto the seats and he usually had some issues with his balance until he was buckled up and adjusted his position where he could then easily do his exercises, usually three sets of fifteen for his biceps, triceps, shoulders and pectorals, adjusting the weight accordingly. He knew it was important for him to at least keep his upper body strong enough to make the transfers easier and altogether simplify his life as a paraplegic. Working out kept his mind occupied and he pushed himself to as much as his body could take.

He was used to the usual glances from people when he wheeled into the weight room and when he transferred from his chair onto the seats of the machines. He also worked out from his wheelchair, using the rubber bands attached to the wall. He kept to himself and his eyes in front of him and tried to not cause too much attention. People still looked, mostly out of curiosity, sometimes maybe pity but he tried his best to ignore them. Sweating and huffing he pushed himself with the weights and felt the pain run through his muscles. In between switching machines he wheeled over to the water fountain to stay hydrated. Lost in thoughts with his workout he remembered the previous night and the whole situation replayed in his mind and he still couldn’t grasp what had happened or if it was even real what he had been going through for two nights in a row.

One of the YMCA’s personal trainers walked into the weight room and since Kieran had been a regular at the center he was well known by the employees and volunteers.

Justin walked up to Kieran, “Hey Kieran, how is it going?”
Kieran stopped the bicep curls and resting for a moment he replied, “I am all right.”
“You want to lift some on the bench? I don’t have any clients right now and was going to lift some myself.”
“Yeah, sure.”

In the free weights lifting area with the bench press Justin could help Kieran. Eventually Kieran laid flat with his back on the bench. He adjusted his back and shoulders to find his balance on the wide bench. Justin fastened a belt over Kieran’s chest and a Velcro strap over his thighs while Kieran slipped the fingerless gloves on his hands. Justin stacked the bar with a 60 pound weight on each side. Kieran grabbed the bar, adjusting his hands for a few seconds to get a good grip and eventually slowly pushed up and let the bar come down hovering over his upper chest, then back up. Justin stood behind Kieran’s head, looking down on Kieran and holding his hands under the bar. He closely watched Kieran lift the weight, motivating him with words and praise. Kieran pressed his lips together and lifted the bar over and over again, taking quick deep breaths through his nose. Except for his thighs his legs dangled on both sides of the weight bench, not really moving, just some slight spasms working his legs out on their own. Eventually Justin lifted the bar over Kieran’s head and rested it back on its frame, Kieran breathing quickly but staying down, shaking his arms some. His arms hurt, his muscles burned but he indulged in the sensations of feeling the pain in his upper body every time. He had slowly been building up to the 120 pounds over the last couple of months. He did two more sets until he knew he was done for that day.

Justin helped him sit up and pulled the Quickie closer again, “You did good man.”
“Thanks.”
The two men clasped their hands and pulled each other in for a quick side hug.
Justin remarked, “Your upper body strength is well defined Kieran. It’s good you keep working out like you do.”
Kieran was in the process of wiping his face with the towel and nodded, “I have to man. If I don’t keep my upper body strong, I am fucked.”

It had been over an hour in the weight room when Kieran made his way to the men’s bathroom to catheterize. He ran some cold water over his arms and splashed some in his face, then ran his wet hands through his hair before he wheeled through the men’s locker rooms into the pool area where he looked for Dominic. Dominic was playing with another kid in the shallow end of the large pool and when he spotted Kieran wheel into the pool area he waved at him. Kieran wheeled around to the side Dominic was on and pulled up close to the pool. 
Dominic swam over to the edge of the pool toward Kieran, “Hey uncle Kieran!”
“Are you having fun?”
 “Yeah, I met my friend Jayden. He goes to my school.”
“Oh cool.”
Hanging on to the edge of the pool next to Dominic, Jayden eyed Kieran curiously and Kieran waved at him, making the little boy look away.
Dominic then said, “Uncle Kieran, watch me jump in!”
 “Yeah sure.”
 “I am doing it at the deep end.”
Dominic was a good swimmer and quickly made his way to the other end of the pool, Kieran wheeling along the side of the pool and then finding a good spot to watch Dominic as he climbed out of the pool and finding his uncle’s eyes, he jumped several times, headers and straight jumps. Kieran gave him thumbs up every time Dominic came up to the surface and it brought a proud smile over Dominic’s face.

On their way home they stopped for ice cream at a Baskin Robbins and sitting in the ice cream parlor, Dominic happily licked from his ice cream cone and Kieran had a chocolate shake. Dominic then started lowly, “Jayden said it is weird that you can’t walk.”
Kieran stopped sucking from the straw in his shake and looked at Dominic, “Did you explain to him why?”
Dominic licked from his ice cream again and then replied, “I told him that a bad guy shot you in the back.”
Kieran nodded quietly and waited if Dominic had anything else to say.
Dominic kept licking his ice cream so Kieran asked carefully, “Was your friend okay with that explanation?”
"I told him that you were a soldier and you had to kill bad guys and then Jayden thought that you were cool, because you got to kill people.”

Kieran swallowed at the na├»ve thought process of the kid and tried to think of what else to say to his nephew. Dominic knew his story but he also knew that his uncle didn’t really talk about his time in Afghanistan and Iraq and the kids never really asked him about it, which was perfectly okay for him. He was still trying to process everything himself and was dealing with his demons on a daily basis, only the medications helping him to keep it all under control. He sat there and sucked from his milk shake and looked at Dominic lost in thoughts, watching his nephew innocently lick from his ice cream.

Almost like Dominic could read his mind, he looked up and said lowly, “I know you didn’t like killing people, even if they were bad guys.”
Kieran nodded, “You are right. It wasn’t fun and I am not cool because of it.”
Dominic nodded now and added, “I am glad you are not a soldier anymore.”
Kieran took a deep breath and replied, “Me too.” 

This wasn’t all the way the truth. For many years the Military had been Kieran’s life and ever since he got discharged he had been feeling lost and was constantly trying to find his path again, now being paraplegic and far away from the man he used to be, a fearless warrior many times and following orders and commands, trying his best to defend his country for the longest time until a bullet in his spine stopped all of it in a moment’s time.

With that he held his arms out and nodded at Dominic, “Bring it in Nickie.”
Dominic didn’t hesitate and moved over to give Kieran a hug. It felt good to get the hug and without the hugs he had been given by his family over the last year he wouldn’t have made it that far. He still needed his sister and her family.

At home Kieran got into the shower and then spent the rest of the day with the kids at the house while Fiona and Tyler were at work. 
When Kieran sat in the living room watching TV he got a text message from Erin, “Hey Kieran, how was your day?”
He was happy to get a text from her and replied, starting a light conversation with her back and forth for about an hour. At around 10:00 o’clock that night he felt tired and made his way to his room. He got undressed, finished up in the bathroom and transferred into his bed but not wanting to watch TV anymore instead he fell asleep fairly quickly that night.

How to Be Cool


It’s getting late. Where the hell is Owen?

Every day he does this to me, and I’m getting really sick of it. Ever since I got the Camry when I turned 18, Owen acts like he’s entitled to a ride home every day. He isn’t. Especially not when he can’t manage to make it out the door even once without forgetting something and having to go back for it. Today it’s his Spanish book. How hard is it to put a book back in his freaking bag after using it? I’m trying to be a good friend here, but seriously, he sucks.

My phone buzzes and I hope it’s Owen texting me he found the book. Instead, the text says: Didn’t leave it in the gym. Why did he look in the gym? Why on earth did he think he would have brought a textbook to gym class?  

I text him back: 5 mins and I’m leaving without you.

Friday, January 29, 2016

For The Love Of Not Walking Chapter 4

Kieran is still dealing with the mysterious encounters during the night and it becomes a problem when Fiona and Tyler find him out of his bed but not in his wheelchair after one of the ordeals. He is faced with telling or not telling his family about the mystery he has been dealing with for a few nights now.
Chapter 4
                Just like the previous nights at 12:48 a.m. he was torn out of his sleep again by a painful shock wave travelling from his legs up in his chest. He opened his eyes and felt the severe spasticity in his legs again. He could barely reach the lamp on his bedside table and turned it on. With his legs shaking under his blanket it seemed like there was a creature under it. Pushing up on his elbows he pulled himself up to a sitting position and almost fell back down with the spasticity taking over his body. He held himself up and pushed up on his hands, holding his balance some and just watching the blanket move with his legs under it. He hissed, “What is going on?”
             Kieran couldn’t grasp what was happening to his body again, now the third night in a row and trying to relax and focus on his breathing he moved the blanket over and saw his legs moving. At the same time he felt them attached to his body now, he felt them touching his mattress and he felt when he moved the blanket over and the cooler air of the room graze his legs. When he touched his hand to his leg he felt the warmth of his hand on his skin and he couldn’t help tears shooting into his eyes. There was no explanation and without thinking too much Kieran actually was able to move his legs over to the edge of his bed without the help of his hands and he pressed his lips together, tears wanting to flow and not understanding what was going on with his body. The spasticity let off some, just a slight pain still lingering in his legs but he didn’t care, he felt his legs, he felt his belly and he felt the nerves in his chest up to his T-4 vertebrae, he had sensations again.


Lies, All Lies: Part Two




Lies, All Lies 
Part Two



The spoon clatters to the floor. Jesse looks at it, a small, silver thing, gleaming and mocking him. Brian sighs and bends over, and a part Jesse hopes that his friend will just take the spoon and let him have some breakfast.
Instead, Brian sticks the utensil back into the loop at the edge of the Velcro band that Jesse has strapped around his palm.
“Eat,” Brian commands.
“Let’s see you eat with your weaker hand." Bad luck? Jesse scoffs when people complain about bad luck. Bad luck is breaking your neck and spending months learning how to eat breakfast, then spraining your dominant left hand and wrist. So everyone can just shut up about the weather, okay?
Brian folds his arms, his typical fight stance. He was in the army a few years ago, and hasn’t shrugged off his military attitude or grown out his close-shaven hair. He thinks that he attracts chicks this way. Literally. He’s wearing an army jacket.
Contrarily, Jesse was never the boy who came home bloodied and muddied up – he was the boy who cleaned his glasses frequently and had panic attacks if his book got wet. Still, when he and Brian were kids, they would spend all summer tearing through the Sierra, rolling around, throwing punches at each other. Brian taught Jesse how to fight.
Now he’s teaching him how to use a spoon.
“Are you still mad about your arm?” Brian says. “Dude, I said I was sorry.” He pauses. “Sorry that you’re such a prude!”
Now, why can’t Brian teach him how to flip the bird? Jesse lowers his spoon into the bowl, wedging it into a clump of yogurty granola. Eating with his right hand was hard enough before he was paralysed, and now it’s sheer hell.
The spoon falls again and brownish goop lands on his starched button-up shirt. 
Jesse curses under his breath. The Sierra is docking at the port off of Portland in half an hour, and he’s scheduled to give a tour of the ship to group of boarding passengers. He hopes to do it quickly so he’ll have time to go into town with Ilana to do some shopping.
“Try again,” Brian insists. His sister Katie, sitting at the table with them, is busily slicing her French toast into mouse-bite-sized pieces while simultaneously monitoring Jesse’s progress.
So far, the score is:
Brian: (5) a coffee, two muffins, a poached egg and orange juice.
Katie: (1.12) chocolate milk, and two pieces out of many of French toast.
Jesse: (0) Nada. Unless you count the granola that’s slowly glopping its way toward his crotch, but that’s on him, not in him, so it doesn’t count.
He suddenly feels an angry rush flooding his face, and he can’t put his finger on why. Brian is only trying to help- that’s all be ever does, pushing Jesse to the max and reminding him how awesome life will be when he gets out of this damn wheelchair.
“Jesse, come on. Try harder. I’m pressed for time here.” Brian gives swimming lessons in the morning.
“I’m sorry,” Jesse says, as if it’s his fucking fault that his hand is bandaged up, sitting in his lap uselessly. “I’m hungry, and my hand-eye coordination is shot before I have a cup of coffee.”
“What hand-eye coordination?” Brian taps the spoon on the side of the table in time with his bouncing foot and dancing fingers. He must be on edge. “Seriously, dude, is it that you want me to feed you? Is that what you want?”
Jesse doesn’t answer. Katie saws at her French toast, humming quietly.
“Where’s Ilana?” Brian says. “All of a sudden she goes AWOL? Where is she?”
It isn’t all of a sudden, Jesse thinks. His PCA has been curiously absent all day on most days, and he’s always thought that she’s been giving him space as he becomes more independent. But now that he needs her, where is she?
“Ilana is scary,” Katie says conversationally, some unconscious part of her sensing tension. Her words are whistles because she’s missing her two front teeth.
“I thin she's sleeping. She’s hungover.” That's the most probable explanation. Jesse’s caretaker knows how to party hard. Ilana’s in her mid-forties and has never dated anyone for longer than a week, so parties are essential to her sex life.
“Hungover? Dude, if she’s got a drinking problem, you should speak to her.”
Jesse snorted. “You’re one to talk.”
“Bitch.” Brian checks his watch; a formality, since he’s itching to leave anyway. “You know what, I’ve got places to go.”
He leaves. The table is suddenly quiet, in contrast to the overall chaos of the Roman dining hall at eight-thirty in the morning. Jesse sees Lisa mopping up a spill in the corner, trying to step around two cranky toddlers with mini afros. She looks great as always- big eyes rimmed in black, black buzzcut, slender, multi-ringed fingers that grip the mop tightly.
He has to talk to her, if only to know where they stand. Jesse always been a perfectionist, and the not-knowing, hanging-in-the-balance kind of fuzziness is driving him crazy.
“Can I feed you?” Katie asks, mouth full. The poor child has to stuff her food into the back of her mouth, where her only teeth are located.
“I can eat myself, thanks.” Jesse paws at the spoon, scraping it toward himself.
“No you can’t.” Katie takes a sip of milk.
Ooh. Busted by the eight-year-old. Jesse tries to decide what’s worse: having Lisa see him being fed by a little kid, or waiting for Ilana to show up.
“Fine,” he says. “But be discreet.”
“Who’s that?”
“Never mind.”
Katie gives Jesse a spoonful, and he realizes how hungry he was. She’s tentative, like when you feed those alpacas at the petting zoo who bite off your hand if you don’t pull away fast enough.
Katie watches him chew with open adoration. The kid worships him, and he hopes this won’t change anything, since most little girls don’t have to feed their adult brother’s friends. Jesse feels that angry rush again.
She gives him another mouthful, and another, him reminding her to eat as well. Katie moves the spoon towards his mouth and Jesse leans forward, when she pauses midair. She looks at him, then at the granola, and giggles.
“What?” he says.
“It’s funny.” She says. “You’re a grownup, and I’m feeding you!”
Jesse slumps back. “It is not funny, Katie.” He says it quietly so it comes out sounding like a growl.
Startled by the severity on his face, her eyes widen.
“Hey, it’s okay,” Jesse says quickly. “Just…” 
What can he say so that she’ll understand? Nothing, because she shouldn’t have to understand. She should never have to understand. He grins at her disarmingly, and she smiles back. He opens him mouth, and she gives him another messy spoonful.
“Can I ask you a question?” Katie says when the bowl is almost empty.
“Of course,” Jesse says. I pee through a bag. No, I wasn’t born this way. I might never walk, but one day I’ll be able to use my arms better. Yes, I can feel some places.
“What do you do if you get itchy Down There?” Katie says, spoon poised.
“I pe- what?”
“Well,” Katie says, “one time I walked into Brian’s room and I saw him sticking his hand down his pants-”
“Katie-”
“And I asked my mom what he was doing, and she said that sometimes big people get itchy Down There.”
There is a moment of weighted silence. Jesse sighs. “Oh, Katie, I did not need to hear that.”
“What did I say wrong?”
“Nothing. Just… be a bit more discreet. There’s no need to yell. And finish your toast.”
“I should be discreet? What is that?”
“Yes. It means to be quiet.”
“So,” Katie whispers. “What do you do when you get itchy?”
“I can’t. I don’t. Ask me something else.” Jesse doesn’t masturbate, because he can’t feel down there, and even if he could, he can’t bend his arms all the way.
“Okay,” Katie says. “Can you go sledding? Have you ever rolled over somebody’s foot? How do you fit in a car? Do you have to sit in the trunk?”
Someone clears their throat, and Jesse glances up. Lisa stands there, balancing a coffee and a bagel on a tray. “Can I sit with you guys? My shift’s over.”
Jesse nods. He tries to signal Katie with his eyes, but eight-year-olds aren’t big on subtle cues. She obliviously feeds him the last spoonful, cleaning off his lips and chin with her fingers , and then wiping them off on the side of his wheelchair.
Lisa slides into a chair across Jesse. “What are you two up to?”
“I’m feeding Jesse,” Katie says. “I’m being discreet.”
Lisa laughs. The sound tickles Jesse in all the best ways. “This is Katie. Brian’s little sister,” he says.
Lisa takes a bite of her bagel. “Have plans for today, Katie?”
“Yeah. Brian’s giving swimming lessons and he said I could play in the pool but only if I don’t splash.”
“You better go change then,” Lisa says. “Discretely.”
Katie nods and clambers off her chair, leaving her dirty dishes behind.
Lisa takes a deep breath, and Jesse tries to read her face.
“I’m sorry about last night,” she says, holding up her bagel as he begins to interrupt. “I know you hate apologies. It’s just that I shouldn’t have said what I did.”
“Don’t worry about it.” Jesse can’t look her in the eyes- he should be the one apologizing. “Listen, Lisa, I have to go.” He sees her tense up so he adds quickly, “let’s meet for lunch. One thirty?”
“Okay.” She takes a napkin and before he can say a word, deftly scoops the granola from his pants, and takes their dishes away.
×××
The Portland harbour is crowded with rows of ferries and white sailboats, the monochromatic colour scheme interrupted every so often by a streak of red on a hull or dark, knotted ropes on a sail.  Beyond them, Portland rises up, old–fashioned buildings that have always reminded Jesse of doll houses, white-blue-red under a roiling, cloudy sky. When Jesse was younger, he’d go into town with Brian, and they’d run around and make trouble in the crowded, cobbled streets of the Old Port while Jesse’s nanny tried to keep up. Then they’d go out to eat, a new place every summer. Jesse misses Portland. He misses who he and Brian used to be, together, just two regular boys who couldn’t be tamed.
Looking across the deck, he waits for the right moment to roll up to his group of new passengers. From what he can see there are three groups: a young family and some couples, currently being whisked away by a prim female tour guide; a seniors retreat group, all sporting yellow necklace tags and pastel Polo shirts; and a boisterous, laughing group of guys. That last group is his. He watches the captain approach them for an informal welcoming.
Someone comes up to him from behind. “Hey, man!” Dustin lowers his hand for a fist bump, which Jesse responds to weakly. “You met my friends yet? It’s about time, but everyone’s finally aboard. We can get this bachelor part-tay started!”
Jesse looks up at him incredulously. “These guys are also here for the bachelor’s party? Jesus, how many friends does the groom have?”
“I’m a popular guy.” Dustin looks affronted at the suggestion that he’d invite less than thirty people.
“You’re getting married?” Jesse says incredulously. “You’re kidding. Congratulations.”
“Thanks.” Dustin looks distracted. “Listen, I have a question for you.”
I pee through a bag, Jesse thinks. I can feel most places. I may never-
“Where’s Portland?”
Jesse freezes in a moment of confusion. Then, he slowly points (well, aims his hand in the general direction of) the harbour.
“No, no,” Dustin dismisses that with a wave of his hand. “I mean, like, are we in the US?”
“Yeah,” Jesse says slowly. “In Maine.”
“So then, Canada.”
“Uh, no. Maine is in the US.”
“I thought we were in New England. So if this is Maine, where’s Portland? That’s where the brochure said we’re going.”
Jesse knows it’s rude to stare, oh, he knows- but he gapes at Dustin, stupefied.
Dustin shrugs. “I’m making an educational pamphlet about this place. Crazy, isn’t it, working during my own bachelor party.” He pats Jesse on the shoulder. “Tell me if you’re going into town. We can hang out or something.”
Jesse blinks, and manages to nod. He rolls over to his supervisor, a short, graying man with a large beer gut who’s leading the group of guys away.
“There you are,” his boss says. “Your group is there.” He points to the senior citizens and places a stack of papers in Jesse’s lap. “Don’t forget to show them the City Lights Steakhouse and the Phoenix casino- the one behind the theatre- and give them schedules. Oh, and that the hypnotist show is pushed off until nine tonight, instead of eight thirty.” He consults the chart he’s holding, and hurries off.
“Mr. Ramirez.” Jesse clears his throat, and his boss turns around. “Aren’t I supposed to be getting the younger group?”
“Oh, I switched the groups.” Mr. Ramirez doesn’t even look up from his chart. “I figured you’d be better off with folks who go at your pace.”
 Jesse swivels around. Half of the old people have canes or are being pushed in wheelchairs by attendants. Mr. Ramirez pats Jesse’s arm (everyone likes to touch the disabled guy) and gives him a smile.
×××
“Here you go.” The woman behind the counter holds out Jesse’s lunch, consisting of a fish sandwich and rice.
“Do you mind putting it on the tray?” he says, motioning his head at the black tray poisoned over his lap.
“Oh. Sure.” Her pale, freckled cheeks darken to crimson, and she leans over the counter and lowers the plate. Jesse can handle the uncomfortable feeling that comes with asking others to do basic things for him, but it bothers him when others get embarrassed. It’s just an everyday reminder of how different he is.
He brings the food to the table, and Ilana feeds him, going through the motions silently and zombie-like.
“I think I’m goin’ to take a nap,” she says when they’re done. Jesse watches her go. He generally doesn’t get personal with his PCA, but Ilana stinks of vodka. And it’s only lunchtime. He looks up to see Lisa approaching him, so he pastes on a smile.
“What’s up?” She sets down two cups of coffee and a sandwich.
“Nothing,” he says. “I had a fun morning giving a bunch of over-eighties a tour of the Sierra. It was mostly a tour of all the restrooms.”
Lisa chuckles. “I took a steaming hot shower, one long enough to make any environmentalist shudder, including myself. I’ll be taking a week’s worth of guilt trip cold showers, I think.” She bites into her sandwich. She’s wearing a black tank top and giant loop earrings, and she smells good, like Dove soap. Jesse almost regrets what he said last night, but looking at her, he knows his decision was the right one. Someone like Lisa deserves a lot more than he can give her.
He watches as she takes one of the cups of coffee and places it on his food tray, removing the plastic lid and inserting one of those really thin straws made for hot drinks.
“I was thinking a lot about what happened last night,” she says, skipping to the chase. “I was just moody, I guess,” she says, positioning the straw right beneath his chin. “It’s part of my cycle.”
Jesse has a million responses, but he just echoes dumbly, “your cycle?”
“My monthly cycle. I get pretty neurotic after my period, and that lasts about a month until my next period. Then the cycle starts again.”
Jesse smiles. “What about during your period?”
“That’s when I get weepy.”
“Lisa…”
“I’m blaming my horniness on hormones. It’s a joke.”
She looks away, stirring her coffee with ardent concentration, and Jesse is hit with the stunningly clear realization that he doesn’t know her, not in the least, not the parts of her that really counts. You can learn someone’s phone password (3141)  and favourite colour (black),  you can find out what music they listen to (headache-enducing heavy metal) and what their favourite food is (icing, straight out of the container.)
You can know that they are moody and hilarious and witty, but it isn’t enough, it can never be enough. People are filled with hopes and dreams and little nuances that make them who they are, impossibly complex, like a puzzle in the dark.
And Jesse realizes that he knows nothing about the girl in front of him, nothing compared to all the intangible things there are to know, and that he wants to, more than anything. He wants to know what she’s thinking about. He wants to taste her lips. He wants to know why she almost cried in his arms, last night.
The part that hits him hardest is that she doesn’t want to tell him, doesn’t want him to know. He pushed her away. It’s too late, now.
“Thanks for the coffee,” he says. It’s strong, and dizzyingly sweet. “It tastes great. ”
“You like it?” Lisa looks elated. “I’m glad, because it was a sort of  test of character. People who drink lukewarm, tasteless coffee are wimps.”
“You’re screening me?” He cocks him head to the side. “Tell me that I get a rating at the end.”
She exhales and he grabs her hand. “Hey, I’m kidding.”
They both stare down. A bandaged monstrosity sits atop slender nails painted black. Lisa slithers her hand away.
She clears her throat. “As I was saying. Last night.”
“Lisa, we don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.”
“I have to say one thing.” She holds his gaze. “I’m not the type of girl who will chase you. I’m just not. It’s either because I’ve got a huge ego, or low self-esteem. I’m not sure.” She laughs nervously, rubbing the back of her head. “I’ve been in relationships where one person wanted it more than the other, and trust me, it sucks.” She empties her coffee. “But I still want to be friends.”
“Isn’t that my line?” Jesse says. Lisa chuckles, and he notices the deep shadows under her eyes.
“Lisa” he says quietly. “As your new best friend, I demand to know what’s wrong.”
“You aren’t my best friend. And I’m fine.”
“What can I do to fix it?” he says. “Is it your boss? I’ll beat the crap out of him. Is it a customer? I’ll beat them, too.”
“Thank you, Mr. Chauvinist. I’m good. I have the day off, so I think I’m gonna stay in my room and listen to deafening 90’s music.”
Jesse thinks for a moment. He can see Portland through the Roman’s large picture windows. “Do you like shopping?”
“Oh, yes," Lisa says enthusiastically. "I like to gossip, too, and I love drinking coffee at Starbucks with my girlfriends and instagramming photos of myself at the beach.”
“So… that’s a no?”
“God, Jesse. Do I look like a girl for whom shopping is a remedy? Look, you don’t have to cheer me up. Someone I know is sick, okay? That’s all.” She slumps over and busies herself tearing the crust off her sandwich.
Jesse breathes out slowly. Not how he imagined the big revelation playing out, but fine. “Here’s the thing. I’m going into Portland with Ilana to do some shopping- which, for the record, I hate, too. Ilana always drags it out forever.” He puts on a high-pitched voice. “Jesse, you look a’solutely hot in those jeans. We’re gonna buy you three pairs. And a sweater, to match.”
Lisa looks dubious, so he adds quickly, “if you’re there, maybe we can speed it up a bit, and then eat somewhere good. I know all the best places.”
She hesitates. “Fine,” she says. “I’ll meet you on the deck.”
×××
“We can’t go,” Jesse says when Lisa meets him a half-hour later. She’s wearing clothes that are passably clean because she hates doing laundry more than once a week, and ugly sandals that she once received from Thailand as a present from her old teacher Carolyn. Meanwhile, Jesse is the king of prep. He looks sharp and tailored in a way that seems natural, which is a silly thought since he can’t dress himself. Still, Lisa lets herself admire his neatly combed hair, ironed black shirt and vintage sunglasses. All that’s missing is a leather briefcase.
What ensues is a short argument involving Ilana’s disappearance, Jesse’s refusal to have Lisa ‘take care of him,’ and Lisa’s promise to do nothing of the sort unless Jesse promises to take care of her.
“And how am I going to that, exactly?” he says, trying to extricate the sunglasses from his face. Lisa resists the urge to help him slide them off.
“By beating the shit out of anyone trying to ruin my overall happiness,” Lisa says with a smile. “Like you said you would, before. At the very least, you can run them over for me.”
Jesse looks at like he’s trying to remain serious, but he breaks out into a reluctant grin. “Deal.”
They disembark and take a taxi to a mall, and Jesse promises to take Lisa around the Arts District, downtown, as soon as they’re finished.
The sight of H&M, J Crew, and a bunch of other giant clothing chains make Lisa’s brain start to glaze over the way it did during a boring class in high school, or when the head waitress on the Sierra begins a monologue on her depressingly nonexistent love life. Lisa walks next to Jesse, who’s looking around like he knows where he’s going. It’s not that difficult, being that most malls in America are largely interchangeable.
“Does it bother you when people stare?” Lisa says, watching a pudgy little boy with an ice cream cone gape at them.
“What makes you think they’re staring at me? You're the one with the tag sticking out of your top.”
Lisa stuffs it in quickly. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I only noticed now.” He heads towards the elevator, and Lisa follows. “Sometimes it bothers me,” he says. “But I just wave. If you wave too, it’ll be even better. If it’s an adult staring, I’ll usually wink at them, or blow them a kiss.”
“What if it’s a guy?”
“Even better.” Jesse grins. He seems to be kidding, though, because he keeps his eyes trained ahead of him, besides for when he glance up at Lisa, every so often. She hasn’t realized it before, but Jesse is… shy, and awfully self-conscious, dipping his head in the elevator during the short ride up, and mumbling a thank-you to a woman who holds the doors open for him.
They enter one of the mega clothing stores, and Lisa finds herself noticing things she never had before- how narrow the space is between racks of clothing, and how many displays are high up, out of Jesse’s reach.
“…just a couple of shirts and jeans,” Jesse is saying, and she snaps back into focus. He swivels around her in a circle, craning his head at the ceiling to see where the menswear section is. Slowly, a realization begins to creep up on her.
She marches in front of him, blocking his path. “You enjoy this, don’t you?” she says, hands on her hips. “I can’t believe it. You lured me here, trying to ensnare me in this cult of… of…”
“Unnecessary and Excessive Consumerism?” Jesse suggests, and holds up his hands, attempting the ‘guilty’ posture. “I’m a product of this society,” he says. “So shoot me.”
“The Arts District better be so worth it,” Lisa says darkly, stepping over to a dress and pulling out a price tag. Three hundred dollars? She has a little under that in the temporary duct-tape wallet she brought along. Suddenly, the Target two floors down seems to be beckoning to her.
“Most of my family like to wear tailored clothes,” Jesse says. “I’ve always been more of a casual guy.”
“Right,” Lisa says. She ambles over to a rack of costumes.
“Let’s play a game,” she says suddenly. “I used to do this with an old… friend, whenever we went to buy clothes. We each have to pick out something for each other that that person would never wear. Then you have to buy it, or at least strongly consider buying it.”
“Isn’t that wasteful?” Jesse says dubiously, rolling forwards and backwards, like a nervous habit.
“So are shaving cream fights and leaving the tap running. People still do those things, right?”
“I guess.” Jesse cranes his head to look around her. “Where’s the lingerie?”
“Jesse!” Lisa laughs and gives him a soft whap on the head, just as a teenager wearing the store uniform approaches them. He has multiple piercings in both ears, his nose, lips, and under his eyebrows.
“I wonder if he’s able to keep himself afloat in water,” Jesse whispers as he nears them.
 “Mmm.” Lisa considers asking the guy if he knows of a good piercing  place in Portland- she’s considering getting one in her lip in addition to the three already existing in her ears.
The boy stops a foot away from them and looks directly at Lisa. “Hi. Did you know that we’re having a buy one, get-”
“Would you be able to help me out for a minute?” Jesse interrupts.
“O-oh, okay. I mean, yeah, sure.” He jams his hands in his pockets. Jesse wiggles his eyebrows at Lisa. “Meet back here in twenty, okay?”
“You’re on. And you get penalty points if you bring me back underwear.”
×××
Lisa arrives at the meeting place first with a few articles draped over one arm and a black beanie in the crook of her elbow. She reclines against a wall and begins to check her phone, glancing up every few seconds for Jesse.
An old classmate has posted a picture of Carolyn on Facebook, with the caption We’re praying for you, Ms. Taylor! The photo is of Carolyn Before- a wide grin and big, curly hair that had earned her the nickname Ms. Frizzle, after the bouncy teacher from The Magic School Bus. Carolyn is wearing her oyster necklace in the picture, and holding up a book, her eyes animated mid-lecture. The picture has hundreds of likes so far.
Lisa clicks her phone off without touching the post. None of those people know Carolyn the way she does, and liking some picture that Carolyn will never even see isn’t going to help her live. Neither can anyone’s hoping and wishing, neither can chemotherapy, neither can banging the walls and screaming in frustration, because nothing, nothing is working and Carolyn is dying.
When Lisa was fourteen, she became furiously angry with the world. She looked with disgust at this planet that had produced the likes of Hitler and Torquemada and Genghis Khan, that had invented slavery and racism, that had millions of starving people on it while her fridge was stuffed with food. She wore a long black dress for most of that year, a kind of inverse Ku Klux Klan uniform to expressed her love, and consequently, hate for the people she coexisted with. She made friends with people who were angry like she was, even if they didn’t know why yet. She started to smoke more than she ate, set things on fire quite often, and considered dropping out of school to become a farmer in a third world country.
Carolyn was her history teacher in ninth grade, and she had been the only one to really talk to this world-weary girl of fourteen. 
“You have something special,” Carolyn would say. “You read about genocide, and you don’t see figures and statistics. You see a human, and a human, and on and on. Others see the forest. You see the trees.”
It took a while for Carolyn cut through Lisa’s walls. Lisa wasn’t interested in some adult who knew nothing about her. But Carolyn never gave up.
“You understand it,” Carolyn would say. “That’s why it hurts. Don’t lose that hurt, Lisa. Hold onto it. Do big things with it.”
“Lisa?” Jesse says, and she looks up, started. The salesperson is gone, and Jesse has a mountain of colourful things piled up on his lap that almost obscure his view.
“Wanna go first or should I?” he says, looking pleased with himself.
“Not so fast. You have to try on what I picked for you,” Lisa says. “Then you have to send a picture of yourself to one person in your contact list.”
“Are you making this up on the spot?”
“Maybe,” she says with a smile.
He looks at her, maybe working out what ‘try them on’ is going to mean for him. “This is what I didn’t want,” he says quietly.
“What’s the big deal?” Lisa says, shrugging. People move around them, most of them giving Jesse a quick, or not so quick, glance. Jesse’s eyes smolder, but he must not want to discuss it because he says nothing.
“Well?” Lisa asks, trying to not to sound impatient. She doesn’t get it. Does Jesse think he can dress himself? Why does he have to be so stubborn, when all she wants to do is make this fun?
Finally, impossibly, he agrees, and they walk/roll over to the changing rooms. The stalls are tall and narrow, arranged in a long row to their right. There is a wheelchair accessible changing room on the left.
“Six items each,” says the girl behind the counter, who looks younger than  Lisa. The store seems to be entirely staffed by teenagers.
“Oh, just go on in,” she tells them, raising an eyebrow at the mountain on Jesse’s lap and waving them towards the accessible stall. “Don’t tell anyone I said so.”
Lisa nods and follows Jesse. The changing room is pretty big, with a bar to lean on,  and a rickety chair, as well as numerous hooks and mirrors.
She meets his eye, and he isn’t smiling.
 The door clicks shut behind them, and they are suddenly surrounded by mirrors, copies and copies and copies of themselves from all different angles and directions. Lisa, the almost-bald girl dressed in black. Jesse, pressed and proper in his bulky wheelchair, looking absolutely petrified.
What are we doing?