Friday, April 19, 2019

What It Was - Chapter 12

Chapter 12

The ringtone of my cellphone startled us. I quickly sat up and grabbed it from the table. Jordan pushed himself up into a sitting position next to me. When I looked at my phone, I saw Chad’s still but smiling face on the display.

I looked over at Jordan, “It’s my brother. I’ve to get that.”
Jordan nodded.

“Hey Chad!” I tried to sound congested.
“Shay, how are you feeling?”
“I’m not good.”
I saw Jordan look at me curiously.

On the other end, Chad inquired, “Did you take some meds and get some rest?”
“I’ve been on the couch all day trying to get some sleep but I think I have a fever. I won’t be able to make it tonight.”
Chad sounded disappointed but also concerned, “Dang, that sucks, Shay. It’ll be so fun. Maybe I can come over with some meds and we can still get you up to speed and you’ll be okay to go tonight.”
“I won’t be able to make it, Chad. I’m sick really. I’m drinking lots of tea and I’m just bundled up on the couch watching TV. I’ll take some Nyquil later and hopefully will be able to sleep. I should be better tomorrow.”

Chad didn’t give up that easy, “I really think I should come by. Maybe before we go to the party. Amber can check your temperature and your blood pressure and all that. It’s such a bummer you can’t come.”
I tried to sound weaker than I really was, “Chad I’m good. I want you and Amber to go to the party and not worry about me.”
“But I am worried about you. I hate that you’re sick and can’t go.”

The annual Halloween party at my cousin’s house was one of those events with lots of friends and family members invited. Everyone knew to keep the date open yearly for the Saturday after Halloween and most people spent a great deal and effort to make sure they could make it and be there. It was usually an extensive and really fun party, stemming from the fact that my cousin’s wife Rachel was a party planner. The Halloween party was her time to shine and show her talents in throwing a party different than her usual jobs of wedding planning and the likes. Lots of memories had been made at the party in the past years.

I tried to get Chad off my back, “Chad, it’s all right. Please go and have fun. Take some pictures so I can see everyone that way. Tell everyone Hi from me. I’ll text Terry and let him know I won’t make it.”
“He’ll be disappointed.”
“I’ll probably see him and Rachel at Thanksgiving though.”

Thanksgiving was the smaller event usually celebrated at a different family’s house every year but only with immediate family members and not a whole entourage of friends and friends of friends.

I glanced at Jordan and saw he had his eyes on me listening to what all I was saying to Chad.

I tried to finish up with my brother, and apologized, “I know and I’m sorry, but I just can’t do it. I would be miserable if I would go and I probably would give this mess to everyone at the party. I definitely don’t want that.”

That finally convinced Chad and we finished up.

“Okay, well, try to get better. I’ll call you later and I’ll come by tomorrow for sure.”
“Love you lil sis.”
“Love you big bro.”

With a sigh, I dropped the phone next to me on the couch and looked over at Jordan.

“Your brother?”
“Yes, his name is Chad. He’s my older brother and my only sibling.”
Jordan nodded, “Sounds like you had some place to be tonight.”
I explained, “My cousin and his wife are throwing the annual Halloween party, slash family/friend get together and I had to come up with something. No one knows what happened to me. I didn’t want to worry anyone. And after the way everything went down, I didn’t want to go anywhere tonight because I wanted to be with you.”

I kept my eyes on Jordan.

“But you lied to your brother?”
I felt bad all the sudden and even a tiny bit annoyed that Jordan had made this statement, “Yes, I had no choice. I lied to my brother. What should I have told him instead?”

My voice trembled and I felt anxiety come up at my situation. Having Jordan there at my place reminded me once again how strange all of this was. This was the first time in years that I would miss the party.

When I spoke again, I sounded tenser than I meant to, “No one knows that I’m talking to you, Jordan. Yes, I’ve kept it secret because what would I tell them? People would be worried, you know that. You said it yourself at the hospital.”
When I looked up at Jordan his eyes were sad, “Yes, I’m sure people would be worried.”

I felt bad and realized I had sounded harsh.

For a moment we were quiet, then I explained, “Jordan, no one knows about my accident and that you’re here.”
I moved closer to him and touched his hand, clarifying, “I couldn’t tell them just yet. I don’t know how it’s going to be. My brother is an awesome person and he’s usually a very understanding guy. I’ve mentioned you to him but not your whole story. He thinks you’re someone who works close to where I work and that I saw you around my work place. At least that’s what I told him.”
Jordan nodded, “I see.”

I lowered my eyes and debated on how much I wanted to tell Jordan.

“I just couldn’t tell him all the details yet but I did tell him that you were in a wheelchair. That part was difficult for me already but my brother reacted understanding and kind.”
Jordan had kept his eyes on me and I felt I needed to add, “He said he was happy for me and he hoped I would actually be able to meet you and get to know you.”
Jordan asked, “But he has no idea about the other stuff that’s going on with me?”

I couldn’t tell if Jordan was angry, disappointed, or okay with this. I sat back and I felt my breathing come quicker. Jordan’s eyes were on me, dark and inquiring.

I pulled the scooter up for my foot and pulled myself up from the couch. Jordan watched me quietly. I was in pain, I was tired, and I was trying to keep my feelings for him in check. But I didn’t succeed and I felt so many different things in his presence. I rested my leg on the scooter, left Jordan there on the couch, and made my way through the hallway into the bedroom.

Thinking back to the conversation about Jordan’s infection I washed my hands before I used the bathroom and again after. I stood in front of the mirror and stared at myself. I didn’t know how Jordan thought that I was beautiful. I didn’t look nor feel beautiful at the moment. I looked tired and exhausted. The stitches and steri strips holding the gash on my head closed, were still noticeable under my blonde hair. My skin looked pale and my eyes were blood shot. For a moment I looked at myself and tried to actually figure out if I had gone crazy. Quickly I focused and realized that I couldn’t be crazy if I actually debated if I was crazy or not. I was in fact completely sane standing in my bathroom.

I was startled when it knocked and I heard Jordan outside the door, pulling me from my thoughts, “Shay?”
“May I open the door?”

The door gradually swung open and Jordan appeared in the door frame, slowly spinning the rims of his wheelchair and rolling into the bathroom, looking at me with a worried expression.

I was supporting myself with my hands on the sink cabinet and looked at Jordan in the mirror. He was still without his T-Shirt, just sitting there in his wheelchair, in his baggy jeans, and his sneakers with his feet side by side on the foot rest. His legs were still twitching but he held them down so they wouldn’t jump off the foot rest. Our eyes met in the mirror.

“Are you all right, Shay?”

I stood there looking in the mirror at Jordan behind me and shrugged my shoulders.

Jordan started nervously, “Shay, I’m sorry I questioned you. I understand that you couldn’t tell your brother yet, or anyone really. I’m also worried how people will react if they find out about you talking to me.”

Jordan pushed his rims and slowly came rolling further into the bathroom. I still watched him in the mirror for a few seconds and then turned around, leaning on the sink counter.

He added, “I don’t think people will react in a good way.”

I hung my head and took a deep breath. Jordan came rolling closer. I noticed the low squeaking of his wheelchair until he came to a halt.

He sat there in my bathroom hunched over in his wheelchair with the dark green, dented frame. He was visibly skinny and looked tired. His longish dark hair was tousled around his head. In his faded jeans there was obviously still a lot of room that wasn’t filled out by his legs, and they were still trembling on and off, Jordan didn’t even seem to notice anymore.

I kept looking at him and my heart was beating fast. Seeing Jordan right there was surreal but I felt so many things for him and my naïve self still wanted to picture us to be happily ever after. Maybe I was crazy after all.
As his legs trembled more, he pressed his hands down on his thighs and he took a deep breath.

I suggested softly, “You could attach straps to go over your thighs and also over your feet to hold them down on the foot rest when they’re spastic.”
“I know. I just haven’t…”

He now put his hands to his push rims and slowly rolled all the way over to me.
He set his break and nodded at his lap, “They would also be still if you sat on my lap.”
I swallowed at the comment and Jordan repeated soft but determined, “Sit on my lap, Shay!”
Jordan asking me to sit on his lap made me nervous and when I didn’t do anything right away, he nodded toward his lap, “Please!”

I let go off the sink counter and carefully not to put any weight on my injured foot, I moved myself over to Jordan. He shifted some in his wheelchair and as I hesitantly scrambled down, he gently helped me get on his lap. I had to be careful with my foot and I couldn’t move very fast. My heart was racing in my chest at getting on Jordan’s lap. As I sat down on his thighs, I let my legs hang over the front side of his wheelchair.

Jordan right away wrapped his arms around my waist and demanded softly, “Hold on to me!”

I slung my arms around his neck and we looked at each other. I felt a distant vibration under my thighs but with my weight on his lap, his legs were pinned onto the seat and his feet couldn’t come off the foot rest that easily.

Jordan pushed my hair behind my ear and his eyes scanned my face, “Shay, if anyone can keep my legs from trembling and keep me from constantly thinking about my messed-up body, it’s you. I think you’re the person who can help me stay focused on getting better.”

He ran his fingers over my cheek and our eyes were locked when he added, “I really want to get better for you, Shay, but I also know it’s not something that will just happen. It won’t be easy for us and people will not approve. And for all the times I will hurt you, I am sorry already. And I will hate myself for hurting you.”

I was lost for words momentarily and lowered my eyes. I didn’t know how to respond. I wasn’t sure what Jordan was referring to.

I swallowed the lump in my throat, “We’ll worry about those things when they happen Jordan. We’ll deal with the people when they come around, we’ll deal with issues when they occur. I just can’t and don’t want to think about these things yet. I want to be in this moment with you, right here, right now.”
“I want that too, but I’m not well, Shay.”
I nodded and said in a whisper, “I know that but I’m not scared.”

Jordan nodded and took a deep breath, “Do you think you’re ready to travel the road I’m on with me, witness the battles I fight, and the demons I ward off, day in and day out in this never ending struggle that is my life?”
I looked at him again and my vision was blurry when I replied, “I don’t know if I’m ready but I’ll never know if I don’t try.”
Jordan bit his lips and his eyes scanned over my face, “I want to be the best I can be for you, Shay. And I’ll do everything I can to make you happy.”

I could barely look at him now; I was so moved by his words. 

“Jordan, I want us to be together and I don’t want to worry yet about how people will react. I don’t want you to let me go and I promise I won’t let you go. I want to be the one person who can keep you and your legs still and at peace and I want to be the one person you can come to and count on when you need to get away from your life out there. I want to be your safe space when you need to rest.”

His eyes were fixed on me, he slightly shook his head in disbelief, and he replied, “Then my broken body is yours, Shay, and you may have all of it for as long as you can endure it. I’ve been stuck with my body and the way it is for a long time, I won’t be free from it anytime soon. I’ve created my own prison and I’ve given up on finding the key to grant me release.”

My heart was racing in my chest as he said the words and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Jordan was such a force coming over me now and it seemed surreal and it was scary but at the same time I wanted nothing else than to be with him. I knew that being with him was going to be the most pain I would ever feel but I also knew that it would be the most passion I would ever experience.

He touched his hand to my cheek again and his eyes scanned my face, “I’ve never felt about anyone the way I feel about you, Shay.”
I swallowed the lump in my throat, and said, “I want to be your key, Jordan.”

For a normal couple this would have been a moment to kiss but Jordan and I were all but normal. I longed so much to feel his lips on mine or to press my lips onto his but I knew Jordan wouldn’t let me.
He smiled and we closed in on each other and hugged, staying in a tight embrace for a few moments.

I wrapped my arms around him, sitting securely on his lap. He held me close to him with his arms wrapped around my back. Sitting on Jordan’s lap I felt my body tremble in unison with his body. I had imagined so many times sitting on the lap of a man just like Jordan, a man in a wheelchair, a man whose legs didn’t work, and a man who was paralyzed. I had not imagined this man of my dreams to come with a whole lot of additional baggage, not having a home and addicted to drugs. I still couldn’t really comprehend everything Jordan was.

I nestled myself onto his shoulder and Jordan said next to me, “I didn’t mean to sound interrogating or anything earlier.”

He paused and I realized he was talking about my brother again.

He took a deep breath and explained, “I know you can’t just tell people about me and I don’t expect you to. This is all completely up to you and whatever you decide I’ll be okay with it, Shay. I guess I’m just really scared of anyone finding out about me, about us, and how that would be. I’m sorry I questioned you.”
I leaned on Jordan’s shoulder and mumbled, “It’s okay. My brother is a good person. I think he’ll be understanding and he’ll be supportive. He has a good heart and loves people, all people.”
“But you did tell him I was in a wheelchair.”
“Yes, it was important to me to tell him because I wanted him to know that you were different than the men I had been with in the past. My brother didn’t always approve of my boyfriends.”
Jordan now sighed, “If he didn’t approve of them, what do you think will happen if he finds out about me?”
“I don’t know Jordan and I’m not going to worry about it just yet.”
Jordan didn’t say anything else about this but instead he put his hands to the rims of his wheelchair, “Hold on to me.”

My head was resting on his shoulder. I felt his arms work as with strong pushes Jordan maneuvered the wheelchair out of the bathroom and into the bedroom right next to my bed.
I had to hold my legs up some to not get caught with the wheel and my foot hurt slightly.
We parked next to the bed and Jordan held me to him.

I said softly into this ear, “I love sitting on your lap.”
Jordan’s hands were running over my back and he said, “It feels good to have you close to me and you are actually keeping my legs from shaking so much.”
He smiled when I ran my hands through his hair, “I want to stay like this but I also want to get on the bed with you.”
Jordan lowered his eyes and I added, “Only if you want to.”
He nodded without saying anything.

I attempted to climb off his lap and Jordan watched me with a worried expression, “Be careful with your foot.”

I managed to not put any weight on my injured foot but I still felt the pain throbbing in it.
Jordan had set his break and I pulled myself up onto the bed.

I smiled at him, “You want to come over here with me?”

He nodded and angled his wheelchair next to the bed. I watched as he basically folded his body by his hips and leaned over, untied the laces of his sneakers, took them off, and set them next to his wheelchair. He then pushed himself upright again. I watched all this with full focus as Jordan sat up and pushed his butt forward on the wheelchair seat. He seemed wobbly and unsteady.

As soon as I had gotten off his lap, his legs had started shaking again. Jordan seemed to concentrate on the task and he put his fist onto the bed now and with one quick push, he propelled his scrawny body over and he landed with his butt barely on the bed. I was a little worried about him not making it but he quickly balanced himself with his hands and adjusted his position sitting on the edge of the bed with his legs still hanging over the side of it.

I moved over toward Jordan and sat behind him. Right away my eyes focused on his bare back. His ribcage was obvious under the skin. He sat hunched over and I made out each and every vertebra of his broken spine. His back was covered with scars. I could clearly see where he had been shot and where he had a long surgery scar from the Spinal Cord Injury. My heart was racing in my chest as my eyes studied his back. My hands were sweaty and I felt my breath come quicker at having Jordan’s back right in my view. Seeing his broken spine, his ribs and vertebra bulging out right under a thin layer of skin, had my head spinning. The scar on his spine was at least five inches long, uneven skin with red blotches and smooth spots, marking the area where bullets had penetrated his back and where doctors had most likely fought hard to save his life.

I yearned so much to inspect and touch it, but I didn’t want to be too invasive and only scanned over his damaged back. Jordan now pulled himself up further and I moved out of his way so he could get onto the bed all the way. He was taking gasping breaths and his legs were shaking wildly as he pulled himself all the way onto the bed.

His pants legs had ridden up some and I was stunned when I got a glimpse of some type of braces on his socked feet as he dragged himself onto the bed, pulling his legs along. The whole time he avoided looking at me. I watched him curiously, his back was extremely curved as he sat hunched over, trying to get a sturdy position on the bed. I could see that getting onto the bed wasn’t all the way easy and I wondered how Jordan actually slept in a tent, possibly on the ground.

I asked softly, “You got it?”

He nodded with his hair hanging into his face and he pulled himself all the way up to the head board and was finally able to lean on it somewhat. I was fascinated with all of it and I felt so much for Jordan in those moments. Seeing the way he had transferred from his wheelchair and the way he pulled his body up onto the bed with some difficulties, made my body tremble from exhilarating desire. I had a tremedous longing to be so much closer to Jordan.

His jeans were barely hanging on his hip bones, and the “Hanes” waist band of his boxers was visible. His arms were shaking noticeably and his legs were hopping on the bed with a life of their own, riding his jeans up on his feet some and giving view to the braces he wore.

I couldn’t get enough of seeing him in this way. He then pushed his back up some, trying to get a more upright position.

I asked softly, “Are you all right?”

He nodded still without looking at me, but finally had a mostly sturdy position and now shook his hair from his face and was able to look at me.

I could clearly see that it was difficult for him to sit on the bed and he mumbled, “My back is not very strong. I was supposed to have another surgery sometime. I never got it done.”
I moved up next to him now, “What kind of surgery?”
“They were going to stabilize my spine some more.”
“Why didn’t you have it done?”
Jordan shrugged his shoulders, “I didn’t want to go through it and just didn’t care enough I guess. It didn’t matter to me. In my opinion it wouldn’t make a difference if they did that or not, my back is broken, and my spine messed up.”

I looked at him and stated, “Lay down if it’s more comfortable for you.”
Jordan shook his head, “It’s okay; it’s just the softness of the bed making it a bit difficult, that’s all.”

His legs were still twitching and I asked him, “You still don’t want to take anything for your spasms?”
“No, I’m okay. It really never stops.”
“But maybe now is a good time to take medication for it?”
“I try to not take it too much. Usually I only take it when I need to sleep. I want to try to keep my tolerance to the medication low so it’s stays effective for the spasms. I don’t have a whole lot of supply of it anyways.”

I was fascinated with how his legs were shaking the whole time really, only sometimes getting some rest from the spasms, just to start again.

I touched Jordan’s arm, “Why don’t you lay down?”
He looked over at me and smiled, “I may fall asleep.”
“That’s okay too. You look tired.”
“I didn’t sleep a whole lot last night.”
“So usually you sleep in the tent?”
Jordan adjusted his position, “Yeah, or in my chair.”
“In your chair?”
“Yeah, sometimes it’s too much trouble to get down on the ground in the tent. And especially getting back into my chair is not easy. My friend helps me when I can’t get it.”
He lowered his eyes and added, “It depends on how I feel, on a good day it may be okay, on a bad day not so easy. And sometimes I don’t get up at all. Last night I didn’t really sleep at all.”
“Why not?”

Jordan sat there hunched over, his arms by his sides, trembling and I could see this was not very comfortable for him.

He looked up at me and smiled, “I don’t know, maybe I was nervous about seeing you.”
Somehow, I didn’t really believe that this was the reason and I asked carefully, “Were you even at your tent?”

Now Jordan lowered his eyes and shook his head but didn’t answer.

I reminded him, “When you called me, you were out on the streets.”
I didn’t want to make him feel like I was interrogating him and touched his arm, “But it’s all right Jordan. You don’t have to tell me.”
He did tell me though, “I was out all night…I wanted to make sure I had enough money and was able to…”
He hung his head, still holding himself in a sitting position with his hands by his sides.
He took a deep breath, “I wanted to make sure I had enough…enough stuff so I could be…with you today…Last night, lots of people were out and about…I got a lot of money…”
Softly I asked, “And enough stuff?”

He nodded without words and he didn’t look at me. I wasn’t going to ask him anything else about this.
Jordan’s arms were shaking as he held himself there and his legs were bouncing on the bed. When I glanced down, I caught a glimpse of the braces again.

I was very curious about the braces and asked him, “What are those braces on your legs?”

Jordan looked down to his socked feet held in the rigid molded shell of some black braces, a Velcro strap over the bridge of his foot and around the front of his ankle.

He took a deep breath and explained nervously, “They’re my AFOs, they keep my feet in the flexed position, so they can’t just drop down. With the spasms and without the braces my feet tend to slip off the foot rest and just hang there or drag on the ground. My feet have come off and gotten caught and twisted under the foot rest. I have literally rolled over my ankle before with my casters.”
I looked at him questioning, “Casters?”
Jordan elaborated, “The caster wheels, the small wheels in the front of the chair.”

I was intrigued with Jordan’s AFO braces. I would have loved to see more of them. I wanted to do so many things to Jordan. I wanted to touch him; I wanted to explore his body; I wanted to see his legs, his braces, and really the rest of his body but I didn’t want to pressure him. Jordan had not tried to do anything more intimate to me and I didn’t think he would take it any further unless I would.

I sensed how his body seemed to be shaking more.
“Why don’t you lay down Jordan?”

He didn’t object now and instead he shuffled on the bed and pushed himself down. I watched as he grabbed his jeans and adjusted his legs on the bed, exposing more of the braces.
He was finally flat on the bed and he sighed of obvious relief as he rested his head on the pillow.
I positioned myself next to him and held my head up on my hand with my elbow on the bed.
I smiled at him, “Is that better?”
Jordan nodded and I whisked strands of his hair from his eyes. He scanned over my face, gently touched my cheek, and his fingers ran down my hair.

My eyes travelled over his chest and I traced my fingertips over his pectorals; his skin was warm. He was watching me. I felt his chest rise and fall as he was taking breaths. Jordan let the strands of my hair glide through his fingers, I traced around the tattoos on his arm. My eyes moved over his chest and hollow belly, down his legs and to his feet. I was fascinated with the fact that even though his legs were constantly moving in uncontrolled twitches and trembles, he didn’t actually feel his legs.
As I watched this for a moment I asked softly, "Tell me from where you can't feel anything."