When we finally did wake up, Bobby made an attempt at getting into the wheelchair and was stopped by a spasm of pain down his back. He fell violently back onto the pillow, face contorted and said fuck a few times more vehemently than I’d ever heard it uttered before. This was a good thing, the pain in his back. It was his nerve endings coming out of their hibernation. We’d been told to expect it. Nevertheless, I had to bite back tears as I watched him laying there in so much pain. I had a bottle of Darvocett in the drawer beside the bed, but he shook his head when I offered him one. Bobby’s mental agility was all important to him and he wouldn’t cloud it unless he had no choice. Eventually the spasm subsided, leaving him exhausted, drained. I helped him pull himself out of bed and into the wheelchair, moving his legs for him as he lay his head back to rest. Kneeling in front of him as I positioned his feet I told him the bag was full. He nodded, released the brake and wheeled himself into the bathroom.
I went out into the living room and sat in the rocking chair beside the window. My eyes were full of tears and my lips trembling. Staring out the window at the yard carpeted in red leaves and pine straw the word unfair ran through my mind in ferocious circles. Previously I had been able to control my unfocused rage and keep those thoughts out of my head, but it was too much now. Why Bobby, I thought; of every man in the world, why him? After my husband’s futile two year battle with cancer I had very little faith left in the medical profession. We were told repeatedly that Bobby’s condition wasn’t permanent, that he would recover, would walk again and be able to go back to work. While I wouldn’t dream of voicing doubts to him, I had them. The wheelchair meant nothing to me—he could lose the ability to use any part of his body and I would still be with him, but I was worried about him. He loved his job, it was how he defined himself and I didn’t know that he’d ever recover, emotionally, if he lost that.
When I heard the bathroom door open I wiped my eyes on my sleeve and stood up. I met him on my way into the kitchen and asked if he was hungry. He shook his head. I went to stand behind him, placed my hands on his muscular shoulders and leaned down to kiss the top of his head.
“How much weight have you lost, Bobby?”
He shook me off and wheeled himself toward the living room. I knew the answer, anyway. The nurse at the rehab center had told me before we left that I had to make him eat, he’d lost almost forty pounds since he got hurt. On his feet, Bobby was just over six feet tall—his current weight of one hundred and sixty pounds was approaching scrawny. Taking into consideration his affinity for Italian food I rummaged through the kitchen cabinets looking for ingredients for spaghetti—I’d never cooked for him and was nervous, but it was a talent I knew I had.
Bobby spent hours on the phone with Greg going over the gruesome details of a new investigation. He held the phone with his right hand and scribbled frantically with his left; when I wandered in from the kitchen I watched him write from my chair in the corner, fascinated almost childishly by the fact that his hand did something mine could not. He had amazing facial features—he could communicate any amount of information about his thoughts without using saying a word. His eyebrows raised or came together, his jaw muscles tightened, his eyes lit up or narrowed. I could, and often did, watch him for hours on end. I counted the privilege of being able to watch his mind working to be among the greatest gifts of my life.
Just before dark he put the phone down and rubbed his eyes. I went into the kitchen, came back with a plate and set it down on the coffee table. I wound pasta around the fork and held it out to him, one hand underneath to catch any drips. He eyed me warily and then consented to taking a bite.
“I didn’t know you could cook,” he said with his mouth full.
“You don’t know everything, Detective.”
He moved closer to the couch and put the break on the wheelchair. I waited for him to pull himself onto the couch and then position his feet on the floor in front of him, then put a pillow in his lap and went to get him a plate. We ate dinner and drank a bottle of wine, talking about the next day’s doctor’s appointment and Greg’s new case. Talking shop made his face light up, he had been able to advise Greg on an interrogation and suggest crime lab tests that hadn’t yet been ordered; he was in relatively high spirits for most of the evening, for which I was thankful.
Something changed while I was putting away the dishes. I came back into the living room and he was pensive, smoking a cigarette and staring at the cherry. I sat beside him, pulled my knees up to my chest and rested my cheek against them. He was fond of telling me I had the posture of a small child.
“How long, do you think, before you get bored with domesticity, Alice?” He watched the smoke curl away from his lips and didn’t look at me.
“Bobby, I overheard a conversation this afternoon that centered around a dismembered chamber maid, I don’t think there’s much domesticity involved in that.”
He wasn’t entirely satisfied with my flippant response but he was quiet since he couldn’t argue with it. I decided to continue speaking without his invitation.
“I doubt very seriously that anyone in the history of your life has ever been bored with you for ten minutes. Look at me, please. Bobby—spending all this energy doubting me is not going to accomplish anything.”
“I’m not… I don’t have doubts about you.”
“Fine, good—then doubting yourself. Either way, you’re not helping anything. You don’t need to think so fucking much all the time. Just relax. Get better. Then we can go back to the city and you can go back to work and interrogating me on a daily basis about my sincerity.”
“You don’t understand.”
“No, I don’t; you’re right. You’re always right. I can’t understand because you don’t talk to me. You ask me why I’m here and when I’m going to leave but you don’t say anything. I have no idea what’s going on in your head, I don’t know what it’s like for you.”
“It’s fucking shitty for me. What the hell do you think this feels like?”
He’d never raised his voice to me before. I suddenly understood why eliciting confessions from criminals had never been difficult for him. I felt my lower lip trembling but wasn’t ready to back down yet.
“Tell me, Bobby. Tell me about it. What are you scared of?”
“I’m scared of this.” He brought a fist down on his thigh and looked at me with eyes a little wilder than I was comfortable with. “I can’t feel half my body. I can’t walk—I can’t take a piss without a goddamn tube in my dick—I can’t fuck my girlfriend. I can’t do anything but sit in that fucking chair.”
“That’s not true.”
“The fuck it’s not. Don’t patronize me, Alice; not right now. What if it doesn’t get better? What do I do then, have you thought about that?”
“Yes, I have.”
He was quiet, just sat looking at me for a few minutes. Then he said, “And you’re still here, aren’t you?”
I had attached myself to the fact that, for the first time, he had referred to me as his girlfriend. That made it easier to continue looking into his eyes when they were full to bursting with emotions I wasn’t sure I could name. I nodded.
He touched my face with his fingertips and smiled slightly. “Maybe that should tell me something.”
That night as I lay in bed recounting the earlier conversation I felt Bobby’s fingers on my stomach, tracing circles around my belly button. I turned over into his arms and kissed him. He moved his hand lower, into my panties which were rapidly becoming very damp. It had been, after all, more than a month since he’d touched me that way. The same hand he used to pull his gun and to slap on handcuffs was capable of indescribable gentleness, as well. I squirmed against him languidly as his fingers caressed my hot clit and he breathed deeply into my ear. I reached out for his penis, found it still and sleeping and decided to play with his nipples instead. He moaned as I touched him, ran my fingers through the hair on his chest and my little fingertips across his stomach. He started moving his fingers faster between my legs, slipping one of them inside me to tickle the wet skin there. He reached over with his other hand and pulled my hair, and then it was over. My back arched and I cried out his name, then lay against him shaking. The curtains let in enough of the moonlight for me to see that he was smiling as he pressed me against him.
“For a guy who can’t fuck me, Bobby, you just made me come pretty hard.” I nibbled lightly at his nipple as I snuggled into his embrace.
“It’s possible that I may be feeling a bit better,” he said as he closed his eyes.
to be continued....