As we stood in the foyer of my apartment Jordan looked around nervously.
I wanted to make him feel welcome and reassured him, “I’m very happy you’re here, Jordan.”
He smiled, “Thank you for letting me come here.”
“Let me show you around. It’s not a very big apartment.”
I made my way in front of him and Jordan came behind me.
As we stood there, I explained, “This is the living room. Over there is the kitchen and dining area.”
Jordan scanned my apartment, “It’s a nice place.”
I looked down the hallway, “At the end of the hallway is my bedroom and master bathroom.”
My apartment was not very spacious and I was worried Jordan couldn’t get through the hallway.
I turned to him, “Do you think you can make it down the hallway?”
My judgement at the width of his wheelchair and the width of the hallway was obviously off because Jordan right away answered, “No problem.”
I rolled with my foot on the scooter through the hallway and we made it to the bedroom door.
I went all the way in, Jordan stayed back by the door and I turned to him, “So yeah, this is the bedroom, and over there is the master bathroom. There is also a small bathroom in the foyer with just a toilet and sink but it’s probably too tight for you to get in with the…with the wheelchair.”
He nodded but didn’t come in any further.
As we made our way back to the living room, Jordan wheeled in front of me. I enjoyed watching him move his Quickie as he was pushing the rims. He easily rolled through the hallway back into the living room. I heard a low squeaking noise of his wheelchair. Except for the bedroom my apartment was carpet free. I assumed this was a good thing for him.
In the living room Jordan turned to me, “I’ve something to drink in my back pack. Could I store it in your fridge for now?”
I watched as he wheeled out into the foyer where his back pack was. I saw him having to lean over and reach down to the back pack. For a moment I was worried he would not make it as he awkwardly fiddled with the back pack on the floor, looking somewhat unsteady. He eventually came rolling back into the kitchen with a six pack of beer and a bottle of wine on his lap.
He stopped in front of me and handed me the wine bottle, “This is for you.”
I was surprised and took the bottle from his hand, “Jordan, you didn’t have to bring anything.”
Jordan shrugged his shoulders, “Well, I didn’t want to just come with nothing. The guy in the store said it was a good one, I guess. I really don’t know anything about wine. I just had to trust him.”
“Where did you get it?”
“Some store in the city, for wine and other alcohol.”
I was still surprised he had actually bought the wine for me, “That’s very nice of you. It looks like a very good bottle. Thank you so much.”
I looked at the label again, this was an Italian Chianti and I assumed it hadn’t been cheap.
He stammered, “I hope you drink wine; I didn’t know. I was going to get flowers…but I didn’t know…the bottle was easier to transport.”
Jordan sounded nervous and he looked at me shyly, then looked down at the six pack in his lap. “I drink beer or other stuff, not wine though.”
I made my way over to the refrigerator and opened the door, “Here, you can put it in there.”
He rolled up to the refrigerator and found a spot for the six pack, “Thanks.”
We awkwardly lingered in the kitchen for a moment until I asked, “So how are you feeling today?”
Jordan nodded, “I’m all right. What about you though?”
I gently touched my fingers to my head wound, “Well, I look like a mess I guess and I feel like an idiot with my foot and this little rolling thingy.”
Jordan’s eyes were on me, “I’m glad you’re all right though and didn’t actually break your leg or anything.”
“Yeah. That would have sucked even more.”
He stated softly, “And you still look beautiful.”
I lowered my eyes at his statement, because I didn’t really feel beautiful. I was nervous with Jordan there in my apartment. He seemed different than what I had seen of him so far; he seemed so normal and like he actually was okay. He appeared much healthier than during the night at the hospital and for a moment this made me forget about the things he dealt with and what was actually going on with him.
In my mind I wished so much we could be a regular couple, besides his being in a wheelchair, which was such a big deal to me and made me feel so many things for him.
I couldn’t ignore the fact that seeing Jordan in his wheelchair and the way he moved in it had a deep impact on me. Now that he was feeling okay, he looked good and he had that beautiful smile causing wrinkles in the corners of his dark eyes. He was groomed and clean and he seemed like an ordinary guy in a wheelchair.
His clothes were decent and he was presentable and I imagined how right at this moment it would have been a good time to introduce him to my family and friends. I knew everyone would possibly still be concerned with his disability and his being in a wheelchair, but only that fact would have been something people could most likely be accepting of.
The problem was everything else about Jordan and it scared me so much how people would react if they would ever meet him or find out about Jordan and me. I would soon learn that the times when this man I cared about so much was feeling all right, would be scarce. The way he appeared to me at the moment successfully hid all the pain Jordan usually dealt with. It was deceiving and even though inside I knew this was just an illusion, and the reality was very different, I wanted to believe that he would always be like this. With every passing moment I felt how my heart let him in more and more and there was no way back. My hands were trembling and my heart was beating fast at looking at him right there in my kitchen. I wasn’t sure though if I could ever let anyone find out about us.
I was pulled out of my thoughts by Jordan, “What are you thinking about, Shay?”
I forced a smile, “Nothing…I’m just happy you’re here.”
His eyes had a sadness to him, “I’m happy to be here too.”
I tried to relax and not worry, “Let’s have a drink. Do you want coffee or something else? Are you hungry?”
“I’m actually okay right now.”
I set a mug under my Keurig and brewed a coffee for myself, “Why don’t you get comfortable in the living room?”
Jordan nodded and he slowly wheeled into the living room. I watched him roll over to the large window that was looking down to the main road in front of my building.
I moved my coffee mug from the Keurig to the breakfast bar, rolled around into the living room and somewhat awkwardly I managed to set the mug on the coffee table.
Jordan had spun around and watched me, “You got it?”
He then turned to look out the window again. It had started raining and wind pushed dark clouds across the sky. The light misty rain saturated the streets and the city just enough to make a mess. I was glad Jordan was with me and not outside.
I made my way over to where he was and stated, “It’s dreary outside.”
Jordan nodded without looking at me, “Yeah, it’s nice to be inside. You have a very nice place Shay. Thanks for letting me be here.”
“You don’t have to thank me Jordan. I’m really just glad you’re here, especially with the weather outside.”
We were silently looking out the window until I asked carefully, “Did you bring enough stuff to stay here for a while?”
He seemed surprised when he looked at me, “What do you mean?”
“I mean, did you bring enough stuff to stay here for a few days.”
He lowered his eyes, “Let’s not think ahead. Right here, right now is all that matters.”
I was surprised at his comment and also felt a slight pain in my heart. I realized that I maybe shouldn’t have asked him this.
“I’m sorry Jordan. I just…” I really didn’t know what else to say.
Jordan spun his wheelchair toward me and reached over, gently touching my hand momentarily and I met his dark eyes. His hand was warm on my hand and I flinched at his touch.
He smiled, “It’s okay. You don’t have to be sorry about anything, Shay. I guess I don’t plan too far ahead, I never can plan far ahead out there.” He looked out to the street again.
I nodded in understanding, “I see.”
“Shay, I’m very happy to be here with you.”
He emphasized, “I’m really sorry about everything that happened when you came after me the other night.”
I shook my head and said softly, “And you don’t have to be sorry about that either. It is what it is. Like you said, right here and right now is all that counts and I’m glad you’re here.”
He smiled, “You’re catching on quickly.”
I smiled back at him and I thought it was a good moment to ask, “If not at the shelter, where do you actually sleep?”
Jordan took a deep breath, “There’s a camp by the overpass where Mercer Street merges onto the Interstate. I have a tent there with another dude. That’s where I mostly spend my nights until they’ll clear it. It’s just a small camp with a few tents, we can’t really have too many tents in one place anymore; they’ll sweep through and chase us out.”
“Who is they?”
Jordan shrugged his shoulders, “The city, I don’t know. Sometimes the police or other officials.”
I was curious and added another personal question, “When was the last time you had an actual place to live in?”
He took a deep breath, “You mean like in a house or apartment?”
I nodded and he replied, “When I was fifteen.”
This coincided with his answer to the question I had asked him at the hospital on how long he had been using drugs.
I stated softly, “That was a long time ago.”
He nodded and I debated if I should ask him my next question, “What happened then?”
Jordan took a deep breath.
I sensed his hesitation and I added quickly, “It’s okay; you don’t have to tell me.”
He let go off my hand and I turned to the couch, “I have to sit down. My foot is throbbing.”
Jordan seemed relieved that I didn’t ask anything else at the moment.
I made my way over to the couch and carefully got down on it. I put my leg up on the couch, elevating my injured foot and pulled my coffee mug over. I looked over to Jordan and pushing the rims, Jordan spun his wheelchair around and came rolling over toward the couch.
I asked him nervously, “Do you want to sit on the couch?”
His eyes flickered, and in an attempt not to make him feel pressured, I added quickly, “Only if you want to.”
He eyed the couch for a moment, then looked over to the kitchen, “I’ll grab a beer first.”
I watched as Jordan swiftly rolled over to the kitchen, coming to an abrupt halt in front of the refrigerator. He pulled out a bottle and with it between his thighs he came back over to the couch.
He set the bottle on the table. He pulled his hoodie over his head and as he pulled it up, his T-Shirt underneath rode up and exposed his belly for a moment. I caught a glimpse of the waistband of his jeans and I was able to identify the “Hanes” logo on the elastic waistband of his boxers. Jordan was definitely skinny but my heart skipped a beat at getting this tiny glimpse of his body.
He hadn’t realized my shy glances and he draped the hoodie over the couch arm rest.
He was about to transfer onto the couch and my heart skipped a couple more beats at the anticipation of this.
I moved over some as he angled his Quickie next to the couch and I saw him scan his positioning like he had at the car, most likely judging the distance of his wheelchair to the couch. He pushed a bit closer and set his break.
He lifted first his right leg, then his left leg by grabbing his jeans. His feet basically just slipped off the foot rest and dropped to the floor. His legs twitched momentarily and I could barely look at him. In the past I had dreamed of moments like this and it still seemed surreal. My breaths came quicker as I watched him, not too obvious but enough for my heart to race in my chest.
Jordan now moved to the edge of his wheelchair seat and with his fist on the couch he propelled himself over and fell onto the couch. The whole time he had kept his eyes down and didn’t look at me. He shuffled next to me and pulled himself further up until he was positioned steady. He finally looked up and I smiled at him. He smiled shyly. His legs were noticeably shaking now.
I leaned over, grabbed his beer and handed it to him.
Jordan thanked me and then explained, “It’s always a bit a hassle to get out of the chair. I really spend most of my time in it.”
I nodded, “You did good though.”
He took a deep breath and smiled, “I don’t have to transfer a whole lot out there. I try to get out of my wheelchair sometimes but I’m mostly in it.”
I looked at his legs as they were hopping up and down.
He seemed embarrassed about it and held them down with his hand and explained further, “My legs don’t like it very much either.”
When I looked at him questioning, he added, “The transfers. And my hips have been giving me problems, locking up on me.”
I said softly, “Thank you for getting on the couch.”
He nodded while he twisted off the cap from the beer bottle. I held my mug up to his bottle and we smiled at each other as we tapped our beverages, saying “Cheers” to each other.
I was nervous in Jordan’s presence and I couldn’t stop looking at him and his wheelchair, watching how he moved about, how his legs twitched slightly and how his body was. At the same time, I didn’t want to be too obvious because I still felt it was wrong to stare at him.
I thought back to Friday morning before Jordan had left the hospital.
At the hospital I had asked him if we were together and he had said he wanted nothing more than that.
I set my coffee mug back on the table. Jordan was sitting silently next to me and I wanted to ask him so many things. I was surprised when he set the beer bottle between his thighs and reached over and took my hand. His hand was warm and strong and at the moment it didn’t tremble but seemed steady and calm.
I felt a relief and I looked from our hands up at Jordan. He just smiled at me.
I started with a trembling voice, “Jordan, I…”
I took a deep breath, before I continued, “I thought about…yesterday morning…at the hospital.”
His eyes were on me expectantly and he nodded.
I continued nervously, “Do you remember how I had asked you…I had asked you if we…if we were together…”
I stopped because I was too nervous and his expression turned weary. I lowered my eyes, not knowing how to keep going but I felt him slightly squeeze my hand.
His dark eyes were on me, when he softly replied, “I want that Shay…I really do…but I don’t understand all the way…why did you come after me a couple of weeks ago?”
I looked at our hands and tried to think of my answer.
“I don’t know, you…you caught my attention.”
Jordan’s eyes stayed on me making me more nervous. I didn’t know what to say and how much I could tell him.
He asked softly, but determined, “Why did I catch your attention? I don’t understand.”
I didn’t answer right away and he just waited and sat there.
I felt his thumb rub over the back of my hand and when I looked closer at our hands and his arm, I saw the small bruises and wounds on the inside of his arm, up to the crease of his elbow where there seemed to be darker bruises and scars.
When I looked at him, his expression was weary, he was biting his lip, and I could feel how he was trying to pull back from our connection, almost like I had caught him in something he was trying to hide. He seemed anxious sitting there.
I asked softly, “Does it hurt when you do this?”
His eyes were down, he took a deep breath, and only nodded.
I added, “At the hospital you said you’ve been doing this for a long time.”
Jordan still didn’t look at me, but only nodded. I realized how it was difficult for him to talk about these things but I wanted to know everything about him.
I shifted my position to get closer to him, “Jordan?”
He finally looked up. His smile was gone, his face was sad.
I stated, “If we’re going to be together, I need to know these things about you.”
Jordan lowered his eyes and said barely audible, “What do you want to know?”
I let my fingers softly run over his battered skin on the inside of his forearm, “Everything.”
Just then his legs started shaking more again and we both looked at his legs. Jordan took this moment to move his hand from mine to push down his legs but they kept vibrating under his hands.
I asked him, “Do you have medication for this?”
“I do, but I try to take as little spasm meds as possible.”
Jordan met my eyes, “You never answered my question.”
I knew exactly which question he referred to. I had hoped that I had dodged answering but obviously Jordan hadn’t forgotten.
He repeated, “Out of all people, why did I catch your attention, Shay?”
I nervously took my coffee mug and had a sip.
Jordan was sitting there holding his legs down and he kept looking at me, questioning and expectantly.
“Please tell me Shay. I don’t understand. I’m not exactly a person who is seen by anyone or catches the attention of anyone.”
I had to tell him something.
I took a deep breath and with a trembling voice I started, “I saw the wheelchair first.”
Jordan’s eyes were fixed on me. I knew he wanted more.
I continued softly, “Then I was interested in meeting you.”
“Why? And what does the wheelchair have to do with it?”
I felt my hands shake and my vision get blurry.
Jordan realized this and he now took my hand again and said, “Shay, look at me!”
I looked up at him. His deep dark eyes were fixed on me and as tears were collecting in my eyes and wanted to come out, he looked distorted.
“Shay, when you first came after me with that coffee…I was…I was very surprised but I was also curious and…I tried to understand why a woman as you are would come after me.”
I listened to him as he cleared his throat and continued, “I’ve been out on the streets for a long time, Shay, and no one ever did anything like this for me, actually running after me with a coffee. In all the years I’ve been out on the streets, not one person wasted even one extra thought on me, let alone cared so much to come after me and bring me a coffee. You can’t expect me not to wonder why you did that, Shay.”
A tear ran out of my eye.
Jordan wiped my tear away with his finger, “And you can’t expect me not to wonder why this causes you to cry.”
He moved closer. His dark eyes were still focused on my face, “Why did you come after me, Shay?”
I thought my heart would pop out of my chest when I explained, “I’ve always been interested in disabilities.”
Jordan seemed surprised at the statement and his expression turned curious, “But you...you work in a bank?”
“Yes, but I’ve always been interested in disabilities and things like that.”
He inquired curiously, “I don’t understand. Why? What kind of disabilities?”
I glanced at Jordan’s twitching legs and swallowed the huge lump in my throat, “Mostly disabilities like yours.” My whole body was trembling at telling him these things.
Slowly I moved my eyes up to him, and another tear ran out when I said, “Disabilities that affect the legs and walking.”
A tear ran down my cheek and Jordan asked, “And why are you crying, Shay?”
I lowered my eyes and shook my head, shrugging my shoulders.
Jordan repeated, “Why are you crying?”
Now more tears streamed out of my eyes, “Because I’m ashamed.”
Jordan took a deep breath and I could sense he was trying to understand. He took my hands in his again and with my eyes down, I sniffled my nose.
He tried to make sense of it, “So, because you’re interested in disabilities that affect the legs you saw my wheelchair?”
I only nodded and Jordan kept on, “Why are you ashamed?”
I could barely think straight without breaking down all the way at the moment. I debated how much more I should tell him about this side of me, the side I had hidden and tried to ignore all my life. It was the shame and guilt about finding a deep attraction in the fact that a man can’t walk, that I wanted him to be like this and no other way, with his legs not functioning and just attached to his body as two lifeless and still limbs. It wasn’t just a simple curiosity but something that went deeper into my mind and heart, sometimes scaring me, sometimes making me hate myself, and sometimes hurting so much.
It went beyond just an attraction but involved a complicated seemingly twisted mindset that not only once I had wished I would have never had. When these thoughts took over my mind, I always had to remind myself that I wasn’t a horrible person, that I was a good person, and I felt compassion and I felt empathy for fellow humans but there was something about a man who was paralyzed that was so deeply ingrained in me and had been trying to push through with full force throughout all my life. I had been warding off the demons long enough, I had been struggling and now I was losing strength to keep fighting these urges I had.
I wanted to submit myself into these feelings and cravings and Jordan was the man who had come into my life not only paraplegic and in a wheelchair, but with so much more baggage. As terribly afraid as I was, I also was at a point of no return. Jordan was in my life now, fully physical present and literally present in my very apartment on my couch right there next to me, paraplegic and in a wheelchair, asking me why I was ashamed.
When I didn’t answer his question Jordan finally said, “You don’t have to be ashamed, Shay. I’m glad you saw me and I’m glad I caught your attention. I for one know very well what shame feels like, it’s a constant in my life and it has been the reason for me not wanting to live anymore lots of times. You seeing me, when no one else ever had, when I have been invisible for a long time, means a lot.”
I looked up at him with teary eyes and he then said softly, “You saw the wheelchair and yes, it is a disability affecting my legs. I can’t walk. You don’t have to be ashamed anymore.”
My heart seemed to drop and more tears now started coming out of my eyes. I had expected all kinds of reactions from Jordan, but instead he had only said these things calm and without judgment.
He let go off my hand but despite my expectation of he getting into his wheelchair to leave, he shifted and turned toward me.
My tears were still streaming as he looked at me curiously with his dark eyes.
He moved closer and didn’t say anything but now opened his arms and he demanded softly, “Come here!”
I moved closer to him and he pulled me to him and wrapped his arms around me. Even though I hesitated a moment, I then wrapped my arms around him and we held each other and my tears just kept streaming out of my eyes. We sat there holding each other and we didn’t speak.
His hand ran up and down my back, comforting and gentle. Over Jordan’s shoulder I saw the distorted shape of his wheelchair as tears were running out of my eyes. I felt vulnerable but it felt good to be in his arms after my partial revelation of the way I felt about him. I smelled a faint scent of shower soap on him. His hair smelled of shampoo and his T-Shirt of fresh laundry.
While Jordan held me, he stated softly next to my ear, “So that’s what it was; my wheelchair and my disability; the fact that I can’t walk?”
His saying these things made me tremble, my heart was racing in my chest.
I nodded in his embrace, and managed a soft reply, “Yes, that’s what it was first but it’s not only that, Jordan. I wanted to meet you as the person you are.”
And I cried some more and he just held me there. I felt a faint vibration radiating from his body into mine and for a split second I remembered the things Jordan dealt with.
He kept holding me, “It’s okay, Shay, I believe you. There are apparently a lot of things going on with you and with me that we need to figure out. And you’re right when you said we need to know these things about each other if we are together.”
I nodded again and we let go off each other. I grabbed a tissue from the tissue box on the coffee table and dabbed under my eyes and my nose. I hoped I didn’t look too messy now. I took a deep breath of relief. We sat right next to each other and Jordan now put his arm around me and looked at me from the side, scanning over my face.
He then offered, “What do you want to know about me, Shay?”
I held the tissue crumbled in my hands, sniffled my nose, and I looked up at him.
Trying to choke down my tears I asked softly, “You said you’ve been in the wheelchair for eight years?”
Jordan pressed his lips together, then answered, “Yes, I was twenty-five when I got shot.”
My hands trembled when I stuttered, “Who…who shot you?”
He smiled weakly, “It’s a bit of a long story; do you want to hear it?”
I nodded, dabbing some more tears away, “Yes.”
Jordan leaned over to the table and grabbed his beer bottle. He took a large sip from it, wiped with his hand over his mouth and sighed.
He held the bottle in his hands on his lap and started, “I’ve lived on the streets since my early twenties. I had some bad stuff happen to me as a kid. I always tried to pick myself back up, pull myself out of it and I always tried to work somehow. But I also have been on drugs for a long time. About nine years ago, I was twenty-three, I finally found a steady job and started working down in the shipyards at the port. I was doing okay. I was making some money and I really wanted everything to get better and start fresh, get out of the homeless situation and somehow get away from the drugs.
Down in the Sodo district I lived in a beat-up RV I had come by from some guy who had died. I was mostly only doing Coke and Pot at that time. I tried very hard to stay away from hard drugs but I still had to shoot up sometimes. I managed to go to work though and I was reliable and they were cool with me. I was able to keep my addiction in check with being at work during the day.”
He paused and drank another sip from his beer.
After a moment of silence, he cleared his throat and continued, “One night as I was out trying to find some shit – some drugs, I got caught up in a fight with some people. I didn’t want to get involved with anyone fighting and all that. I needed to keep it together for my job, try to keep a clean slate, stay under the radar. Most people I knew on the street didn’t even know I was working. I didn’t want anyone to know so they wouldn’t try to mug me and steal my money.
Well, someone knew I guess and it was mentioned during the altercation but instead of getting involved I just left. Right as I almost got to my RV, I was shot. I don’t know who it was but four bullets hit me, two in my back, one right in my spine, one next to it. The other two in my right leg.
I lay there on the ground, still conscious but injured and watched two people in masks ransack my RV. They stole the money I had saved up and hidden away in there. I had almost saved up enough to get into an apartment and had already found a place I was going to move into. I was scheduled to sign the lease the following week. Well, that didn’t happen. I’ve no idea who they were. I managed to pull myself over to my RV but then I passed out. I was losing a lot of blood, I guess. I lay there all night right in front of the door to my RV. I almost died.
Early in the morning, a couple of guys came by on their way to work and found me. They called 911 and I was taken to Harborview. I was there for six months. I coded twice during the time in ICU but they managed to bring me back. I had a lot of blood transfusions. I almost actually lost my right leg.”
He looked down at the bottle in his hands and laughed softly, “I guess it wouldn’t have mattered if they had cut it off or not. I couldn’t feel it anymore either way.”
He took another sip of his beer and then continued, “During the time in the hospital, someone burned down my RV, I lost my job, and I was back at zero when I finally got out of Rehab, paralyzed. They never found the people who fired the shots. Honestly, I don’t think anyone really gave a shit about it. I wasn’t anybody, I was a random homeless dude and so they didn’t really do anything. Since I had no place to go to after I got discharged from rehab, I was back on the street. That was eight years ago.”
Jordan had his eyes down and rolled the beer bottle between his hands. I saw him swallow.
I just sat there and stared at him, thinking about this situation.
“Are they still trying to find the people who did this to you?”
He looked up and shrugged his shoulders, “I really don’t know. Word on the street is that someone knows who it was but I haven’t found out anything really. I’ve no idea and the last time I was in touch with the police was about two years ago and they said they didn’t have any leads. I don’t think they’re actually doing any active investigation. I’m not important and they got too much other shit they need to worry about. I understand in a way.”
I shook my head in disagreement, “No Jordan, you’re just as important as any other person who was a victim of a crime.”
Jordan laughed softly but it was a cynical laugh.
He shook his head, “Shay, that’s not how it works. It doesn’t matter what happened or happens to me. No one cares really.”
I swallowed, “Well, there’s someone now who cares.”
He looked at me and sighed.
I added, even though he most likely knew what I was going to say, “I care about you and what happens to you.”
Jordan kept his eyes on me but didn’t say anything. His hands were wrapped around the beer bottle in his lap.
I was still processing the things he had told me.
Softly I emphasized, “Jordan, you have the right that the people who did this to you will be caught and punished.”
He smiled but his eyes were sad when he replied, “It wouldn’t make a difference, Shay. My life wouldn’t be any different if some random thugs who most likely live on the streets just like I do, get locked up for having shot me.”
I was surprised at his statement, “You were trying to better your life and they interfered and you lost everything.”
My voice was shaky and I felt pain for him and at his lack of perspective.
I was thinking about this and then added, “You deserve justice like anyone else.”
Jordan now rested his head on the back of the couch and with a weak smile he looked over at me, “Shay, I’m on the bottom of the food chain, the very bottom, and there is no gain for anyone in trying to figure out or find the people who did this. If I would’ve died that night, it would’ve been okay.”
I opened my mouth to speak but really was speechless.
Jordan then said softly, “It would’ve also been okay for me to die. I actually wished for it while I lay there. I thought that, that was it for me during those moments and I was actually okay with it.”
I now swallowed my tears and shook my head and I said tensely, “But you weren’t meant to die because now you’re here with me and I care about you and what happens to you.”
Jordan looked at me and for a moment didn’t say anything.
I gently touched his arm and he looked at my hand on his arm and replied, “I guess I’m not used to someone actually caring.”
I said softly, “Well, I do and I guess you should get used to it.”
Jordan smiled and watched as I ran my fingers over his arm.
After a few moments I asked carefully, “Where did the bullet hit your spine?”
Just saying the words made me tremble. I actually asked a man about the injury to his spine and it felt unreal.
Jordan’s eyes flickered when he answered, “At the T-6 vertebra.”
My heart beat fast when I asked furthermore, “Did it completely severe the cord?”
Jordan’s eyes were fixed on me and he licked his lips, “Yeah, it did.”
I wanted to ask him more questions but I was nervous and didn’t want to seem too eager to know.
I moved my hand from his arm and nervously took another sip from my coffee, finishing it.
Jordan hadn’t said anything else.
I glanced at his bottle, “Do you want another beer?”
“Yeah, I can get it.”
I already shifted to get up, “I got it.”
Before he could even attempt to transfer into his wheelchair I was up on my good foot and pulled my little scooter over to rest my injured foot on and rolled over to the kitchen with my empty coffee mug in my hand.
I needed a moment to breathe and collect my thoughts. All the things Jordan had told me and what we had talked about had stirred up so many emotions and had made me realize once again what I was possibly taking on with Jordan and his situation. But I could feel how just looking at him and seeing him right there, caused me to feel more and more for him with each passing moment. His revealing his story and how things had happened had made me tremble and I was determined that I wanted to be the one to change things for him and how he had been living his life.
I grabbed another beer bottle from the refrigerator. I would have loved to open that wine Jordan had brought for me or drink something slightly more potent than just coffee but I was still on pain medication and wasn’t allowed to have alcohol with it. I brought the beer to Jordan and he thanked me, then I rolled back into the kitchen and got myself some water. Before I went back to Jordan, I took another one of my pain pills I had laid out on the counter. My head and my foot were hurting. I brought the water bottle with me and I went back to the couch. I saw through my living room window that it was raining harder outside.
I looked out the window, “It’s raining a lot now.”
Jordan didn’t say anything and when I turned around, he patted the spot next to him again.
I was nervous still but made my way around the table and sat down next to him again.
Jordan had opened his beer bottle already and was drinking from it.
He then looked at me again and I was caught off guard when he asked, “So what do you know about paraplegia?”
I couldn’t look at him and instead held my water bottle tightly in my hands and stared at it. I didn’t answer right away.
I looked at him nervously, “A lot.”
“So, since you have always been interested in it, you probably know more about it than I do?”
I shrugged my shoulders, “I don’t know.”
Instead of asking me anything else though Jordan then started, “I didn’t know anything about it until I woke up in the hospital and they told me that I was paralyzed and wouldn’t walk anymore.”
I debated if I needed to reply but Jordan spoke again, “I didn’t know how I was going to survive out on the streets in a wheelchair, not being able to walk.”
He took a sip from the bottle again and then continued, “I didn’t think I would make it really or not very long at least. Honestly, I wished I would have died the night I got shot, or maybe when I coded in the ICU. But I didn’t die and so they sent me on my way again after I finished rehab. I had nothing except a bus pass, a hundred bucks, some phone numbers to social workers, addresses to the shelters and the soup kitchen, and a supply of my pain meds and stuff I would need. I pushed myself through the city because I was nervous about getting on a bus with a wheelchair. I didn’t know they had ramps and stuff on the busses. I had never paid attention to this stuff before.
I made it to where I knew some people with tents and a buddy of mine let me hang out at his spot. I was exhausted and tired, I smoked pot a lot for a few weeks, took my pain meds because my body was hurting all the time and I was in a constant haze for the next few months. I didn’t know how I was going to manage. I got sick pretty much right after I got out of the hospital and went right back into the ER. I had one UTI after the next for about a year. I didn’t know how to deal with it all but when they said I needed to talk to a social worker to figure out my situation I didn’t. I had been living on the streets since I was in my early twenties, I didn’t know how to be inside a place and even while I was in the hospital after I got shot, I wanted nothing more than to get out as soon as possible. I hated everything about it.”
I listened to him and asked, “While you were in the hospital, did you not get clean?”
“Being in ICU for a while and everything, I kind of cleaned up, I really had no choice. I was put on Methadone and stayed on it for about two years. I know I should have stayed on it but I kept missing my appointments to get the doses. I lived on the street and sometimes I couldn’t make it to the clinic, so all of it got fuck…”
He paused instantly and corrected his wording, “It got messed up. I really didn’t want to live like that. I barely wanted to live before I got shot, and only because things had started to get slightly better with the job and even the fuck…messed up RV, I thought I saw a little light at the end of the tunnel but then I got shot and lost everything again.”
As he had been telling me these things, Jordan’s voice had started to tremble, and he took another large sip from his beer.
He continued without looking at me, “I know…I know some of it is my fault. I really thought I had it there for a while but then it all slipped away…from me again. I’ve tried, I’ve really tried…”
I gently touched his arm.
He then looked over at me, “Shay, I keep thinking how I shouldn’t be…I shouldn’t really be here. It feels like I’m doing…I’m doing something I’m not supposed to…”
He anxiously put his fist in front of his mouth and shook his head, “I should have never…have never stopped when you called me the other night out there…”
My heart hurt and I said softly, trying not to cry, “But you did stop and I’m glad you did.”
He took a trembling breath, “I don’t know why I…I shouldn’t have let you come and see me at the hospital but I was…I was worried about you and I wanted…to make sure you were okay. I felt it had been my fault…that’s why I told them it was okay for you to come see me. I just wanted…I really just wanted to make sure you’re all right after you fell and all…”
I let my fingers run over his scarred and wounded arm, “Jordan, you can stay here as long as you need to. I’m glad you let me see you at the hospital.”
Jordan shook his head again and now he looked at me and I saw his eyes were glistening when he said, “For just a moment when you talked to me and today, everything seemed normal but in…in reality, nothing is normal about this. I shouldn’t be here Shay. I don’t want to pull you into any of my mess.”
I still traced over his arm, “I want to be in your mess and you’re safe here.”
I took the bottle from his hands and set it on the table and I took his rough, calloused hands into mine and added, “Jordan, I don’t want you to leave.”
He didn’t say anything but his expression was filled with pain and worry.
I said softly, “We are together now, remember?”
He now laughed cynically and shook his head, “It’s not normal Shay.”
“Who says so?”
His voice was weak, “I say so. This is not how things work in life.”
A tear ran over my face, “Well, maybe we need to change that.”
I now touched his face, “Jordan, that’s all I can tell you now…we’re together, you’re safe here, you can stay here as long as you need and I’m willing to help you with anything you need. You do have someone in your life now who cares a great deal about you and that someone is me. What you make of it, I don’t know but just know that I’m here for you.”
He swallowed the lump in his throat and his glistening eyes were on my face. He shook his head again but I leaned over and I wrapped my arms around him and after a slight hesitation he did the same and we held each other in an embrace once again. I felt so much for him in these moments and I could not ever imagine anymore not having Jordan in my life.
Either way this would turn out, I wanted him in my life. We had crossed the line of just a shallow connection, it was a lot more now. Jordan had caused me to tell him things about myself that I had never told anyone before. In return he had opened up about his life. The things we had revealed about each other were only the start of everything. I wanted so much more of Jordan and I could feel that it was the same for him. I was certain it had been meant to be for us to meet, it had been fate, and I assumed that he felt the same way. We would be each other’s keeper and we would hopefully make it through whatever was going to come our way. I could feel a wave of pain and love come over me but I wanted to ride out mine and Jordan’s destiny in whichever way that would happen.