I didn’t sleep well that night, my mind was constantly going over whether I could make Chloe go through the torment of living her life with a useless cripple. I loved her more than I could imagine ever loving anyone else. If I decided to let her go, it would break my heart, but I knew I needed to make a decision sooner rather than later, and not for me, but for Chloe.
Around 10am two members of the nursing staff walked in and told me they were going to give me a bed wash and generally clean me up. So far other than my bowel management this was by far the most degrading aspect of my disability and one that I was in no rush for anyone else to witness.
The curtain had been half pulled around me to prevent anyone who walked into my room from seeing me immediately. I was laid naked on the bed whilst one of the nurses was emptying my catheter and the other one was cleaning around my penis.
Just at that minute I heard a rustling at the curtains and very quietly Chloe appeared around the side. “It’s only me,” she said quietly in a very hesitant voice.
“Great, good timing,” replied one of the nurses. “You can watch what we do so you can help him in the future.”
“Er… erm, ok,” stuttered Chloe.
Instantly, I felt my cheeks burn and bile rise to the back of my throat. This is the last thing I wanted Chloe to witness. I took a minute to control my emotions before I dare let myself say anything.
I looked up at Chloe and saw disgust in her eyes and at that point I knew my mind was made up. “No Chloe go,” I cried and everyone froze and looked at me. “Get out now. I don’t want you here, now go!”
Chloe froze on the spot and I could see tears forming in her eyes. “Are you stupid and deaf?” I screamed. “Leave now!”
I didn’t need to say any more because Chloe was out of the room as quick as a flash and I was left to dwell. I placed my arm up to my face trying my hardest to hold back the river of tears that threatened to break at any second whilst the nurses continued to clean me up.
I’d never seen Matt act that way and the anger in his face scared me. I eventually got to Carly’s and she took one look at me and knew something was wrong. She took me through to the kitchen and I sat down at the table. I explained what had happened as she made me a cup of tea and placed the cup in front of me.
“Don’t take what he’s said personally,” Carly stated. “I honestly can’t imagine how he’s feeling about his situation and I imagine he was mortified you saw him in that vulnerable situation.”
“Yes, but I love him and want to be there to support him in every aspect,” I sighed.
“He will have just been embarrassed,” Carly tried to explain. “Put yourself in his shoes. How would you react if he saw you been cleaned up? Something you’ve been able to do since you were a toddler.”
“Ok, I see where you’re coming from, but it still hurt like hell,” I exclaimed.
“I know. It will do, but remember he’s going to have plenty of downs over the next few months and years. You can’t take them all personally otherwise you will be a mess,” reminded Carly. “Ring his mum and explain what’s happened and give him the rest of today to get himself together.”
Later on that day my Mum appeared and instantly by the expression on her face I knew she had spoken to Chloe.
“Matthew James Hopkins what on Earth do you think you are playing at?” my Mum demanded to know with her hands on her hips.
“Please mum don’t start. It’s all for the best,” I cried.
“What on earth are you talking about?” my mum said as she came and sat at the side of my bed. “Chloe told me what had happened, but I told her to ignore you because I’m sure you have just been having a bad day. And what do you mean it’s for the best?”
“Mum look at me! I’m a 22-year-old man who can’t do anything for himself. I can’t sit up on my own, can’t hold a pen, can’t feed myself. Oh, and to top it all off I shit myself,” I cried. “I can’t put Chloe through this. She deserves so much more from her life. She needs someone who is going to look after her and protect her. Someone who is going to pull their weight in the house, father her children, someone she doesn’t have to care for. And that’s not me anymore.”
“Oh Matthew do you honestly think all that really matters to Chloe?” she questioned. “She loves you and wants you in any way you come. Don’t you think she has the right to choose for herself?”
“No mum I can’t let her. You know Chloe would never leave me even if she wanted to. She’s too loyal and a decent person for that,” I explained. “I know it will hurt her initially, but she will look back in a year or two and be so relieved she isn’t still with me. I have to do this; I love her too much not to. Mum you have to promise me though that this is between us two. If she knows the real reason she will fight me on it until I cave.”
“Oh Matthew I really wish you wouldn’t do this, but you know I’ll support you in whatever you finally decide,” Mum sighed.
I arrived at the hospital just after 6pm and stood frozen at the door, too scared to enter the room. I took deep breaths to control my breathing and wiped my clammy hands down my jeans. This was ridiculous, this was Matt I was visiting, my best friend of twelve years and the love of my life for three. I slowly placed my hands on the door and as quietly as possible, began to push the door open. I was relieved to see Matt was laid down watching television and wasn’t receiving any help which might embarrass him.
Matt didn’t notice me enter the room and I spend a few seconds taking in his chocolate brown eyes that held so many happy memories of days gone by. I slowly began walking to his bed and quietly said, “Hi.” Initially I saw a glimmer of a smile reach his lips before I saw his expression change. “What are you doing here? I thought I told you to go, that I didn’t want you here,” Matt screamed. “Get out Chloe. Go now!” I just froze unable to speak or move. I felt like my whole life was about to crumble and there was nothing I could do about it. “Didn’t you hear me, I said go and don’t come back! This accident has made me think about a lot of things in my life and it’s made me realise I don’t love you. To be honest, I’m not sure if ever did,” snapped Matt.
“You don’t mean that Matt, please don’t say things like that,” I said, whilst feeling a lone tear break free and trickle down my cheek.
“I’m sorry Chloe but it’s the truth. Maybe in a year or so we could be friends but right now, I need you gone. I can’t deal with you in my life. Now please go. Now!” pleaded Matt with his puppy dog eyes. I did the only thing I could do and I turned and ran out of the room before I totally broke down.
I ran through the hospital unable to process what had just happened and I was no longer able to hold back the tears. As I ran through the entrance doors I ran straight into Zack. “Wow hold your horses. What’s going on? Why are you crying?” asked Zack as panic became apparent across his face. “Oh no please tell me he’s ok. Chloe please tell me he’s fine.”
“No, he’s fine, it’s nothing like that. He’s finished with me! Three years down the drain without a second thought,” I sobbed. “And you know what makes it even worse. He told me he doesn’t think he ever loved me.”
Zack wrapped me in his arms and said, “he doesn’t mean it Chloe. I’ve seen him with you plenty of times over the years, he loves you loads. You are the love of his life. He just needs a good talking to. Let me speak to him and I’ll call to yours later on.”
I laid there feeling like shit. It felt like my heart had been ripped out and torn in two and I had no one to blame other than myself. It killed me to think that I was the one who had caused the pain that showed on Chloe’s face, but then I looked at myself and knew I’d done the right thing.
“What the hell do you think you are doing mate?” snapped Zack who looked like he was in a foul mood. “Chloe is in a mess. She feels like her whole world is crumbling around her. Why are you pushing her away?”
“Don’t. Please, I can’t deal with this at the moment but it’s for the best so just leave it there,” I replied. I knew what Zack was saying was true but I couldn’t face dealing with what I was about to lose with him.
“I’m not sure what you are playing at but if you don’t get your act together you are going to lose her for good you know,” moaned Zack.
“My mind is made up, now leave it. Honestly it’s what’s needed.” I explained.
“Ok mate I won’t say any more, but I so wish you wouldn’t do this,” Zack sighed.
The next two days passed in a blur. I felt like I spent the whole time reliving my rejection to Chloe. I was beginning to spend more time in my chair and could now manage ten minutes in one go. I sat there looking around in a plain quiet lonely hospital room when suddenly my phone vibrated on the table in front of me. I used the back of my hand and I opened the text to read it.
Chloe: I need to talk to you.
Chloe: I promise you after this conversation that is us done if that’s what you want. When can I come?
I sat there as if I was frozen to the spot, unsure what to do next. The more I thought, the more I realised I owed Chloe whatever she needed to say or ask.
Matt: ok come tonight around 7pm.
At 7pm prompt the door opened and in walked Chloe. Instantly my heart rate sped up as I took in all her beauty knowing this could well be the last time I saw her. Her long hair moved around her shoulders from side to side like the handles on a Grandfather clock and her breasts looked perk in a flattering black tunic top. “Hi,” Chloe said in a voice that showed no confidence. I sat there in my bed with a nurse next to me eating my dinner. It was the final time I was going to be fed before the occupational therapist trained me to do it myself. This was an ideal situation to show Chloe what she would have to deal with if we stayed together.
“Hi,” I replied back, whilst I continued to eat my dinner. “Take a seat I’ve nearly finished.”
By the time Chloe had sat down and had taken off her coat I had finished eating and the nurse packed up my lunch and left.
“So what do you want?” I snapped once she finally sat down.
“Err... erm I went out last night with some of the rugby lads and lasses,” she began to explain.
“Right … and?” I replied sarcastically.
“Well you know some of them are going on a world tour, well they have asked me to join them. If there is any chance in the slightest that what you said the other day isn’t true, then please tell me, because I won’t go, but if it is I need to go to try and get you out of my head,” Chloe continued to explain. “What’s happened to you doesn’t change how I feel about you and we still could have a good life together, but I will respect whatever you decide.”
“I’m sorry and I wish things could have been different but there’s no love there,” I lied. “This accident has taught me to be true to myself and don’t hold on to baggage that I don’t want. Now I need you to go, now!”
Chloe stood there with a new blast of pain palpable as her bottom lip began trembled.
“Leave!” I shouted, knowing I was going to lose it at any minute and I didn’t want her to witness it. Chloe turned on her heels and swiftly left the room and out of my life. I instantly felt like my life had totally crumbled and I broke down.