Of course, I had been expecting some response from GLASS when we asked them to move, but what actually happened was somewhat frightening. It started with the threatening letters shoved under my door. Some of them were general letters directed at CSA, but others were very specific threats directed toward me. I was disturbed by this, but they were just words. A few letters wasn’t enough to make me abandon my principles.
Unfortunately, the tensions escalated. I began to hear people yelling curses at me when I was outside. A few people came up right to my face and told me what they thought of me and CSA (and it wasn’t kind, believe me). The worst incident I experienced was about a week and a half after we announced our intentions. Melissa and I were dining in a rather small restaurant and I decided it would be easier if I left my wheelchair outside, which I have done many times. This time, however, my meal was interrupted by a waiter, who told me that my wheelchair had been vandalized. “Vandalized” meant that my wheelchair had been completely totaled, rendered unusable. Melissa had to go home to my dorm room, where I fortunately kept a spare.
Did my resolve ever weaken during this period? Truthfully, yes. While I did feel strongly about this matter, I didn’t like going down the street and hearing, “Fuck you, Jared Alden!” I was beginning to wonder if it was worth it.
I feel certain that I would have given up if it hadn’t been for Melissa. It was Melissa who first pointed out the proximity of GLASS to the day care. Melissa is wonderful. She’s my anchor and I can’t wait for her to become my wife. I love Jesus with all my heart, but sometimes I think I love Melissa more. Melissa is the one who rallied to make me president of CSA in the first place and she helped me to keep my resolve.
I had been expecting to be harassed during the fall formal, so I was surprised when the only GLASS members to show up were Sarah Conti and Nick Eisman. I had never been formally introduced to either of them, but I had heard the legends. When I was doing peer counseling for CSA during my sophomore year, a troubled student had come to me and told me about how he had been... I think “sodomized” was the word he used... by a Nicholas Eisman. The first time I heard this, I didn’t think much of it, but the second time the name came up I became a little curious. I made an effort to find out who Nick Eisman was and I discovered he was a rather innocuous-looking student in my own class. If I were a different sort of person, I might have approached him, but I wouldn’t have had the courage to do something like that, especially back then. I’m not sure what good it would have done anyway.
Nick’s questions at the formal were no less than what I had expected from him. I had been hoping him might surprise me, but he didn’t. Nick was obsessed with sex, so naturally he would be shocked by the way I live my life.
What I didn’t expect was this: I liked Nick Eisman. To my complete surprise, I thought he seemed like a nice person. Despite the fact that we were as different as two people could be, I felt that Nick was a person I could have become friends with. I don’t know why I felt this way. It was just a feeling I got.
Of course, in reality there was no way Nick and I could have ever been friends. I would have been shunned by CSA. And furthermore, Melissa would never have approved. She knew Nick through his reputation and hated him with a passion.
Melissa and I went back to my room after the formal. Melissa and I don’t live together and we won’t until after our wedding this spring. Usually she at least comes up with me briefly, just to say good night. Tonight I could tell Melissa wanted to talk to me more about her conversation with Sarah Conti.
“That girl is unbelievable,” Melissa said to me, sitting down in one of the few chairs in my room. “She has such loose morals. The stories I’ve heard about her... how could she even speak to me?”
Melissa looked extremely beautiful tonight, even more so than usual, if that’s possible. She had her blonde hair pinned up and I could see the curve of her long, white neck. She’s taller than I probably would be if I could stand. Perhaps I’m biased, but I think Melissa is the most beautiful girl in the world.
When I first saw Melissa at a CSA meeting, I wouldn’t have thought I had the slightest chance with her. Yes, I am an intelligent person and I believe that I’m a good person and I try to help my fellow man as much as possible. But the fact of the matter is that I have a somewhat severe disability that sets me apart from other people. Some people can look past it and some people can’t. Also, I attended a religious school for boys since age 12, so my experience with the opposite sex was very limited.
But to my surprise, Melissa approached me. She began sitting next to me during CSA meeting and she took the first steps toward starting a conversation. She was the one who asked me to my first formal dance. Our relationship blossomed from there. Six months ago, I asked Melissa to be my wife and she said yes. Melissa’s probably most excited about the wedding (the invitations went out last week), but I just can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with her. I thank God every day for giving me Melissa.
Of course, there are some aspects to our relationship that aren’t perfect. I agree with Melissa’s ideas about waiting for marriage when it comes to sex, which may very well not even be possible in our case anyway. However, at times I feel that I would like to be physically closer to her. When we kiss, it is only on the cheek, or occasionally very slight brushing against the lips. We only very rarely hold hands. I wouldn’t want her to do anything she isn’t comfortable with, but we have been a couple for three years after all. I shouldn’t complain though, because Melissa has otherwise been nothing but the most wonderful girlfriend in the world. I truly believe that we are soulmates.
“So what did Nick Eisman say to you?” Melissa wanted to know.
“Oh, what you’d expect,” I told her.
She smiled. “Really? Such as?”
“He wanted to know how I could bear not having sex 24 hours a day.”
Melissa laughed. “Yes, that is what I would expect.” She shook her head. “People like that will never understand that people like you and I don’t need to ever have sexual intercourse to be happy.”
Understand, this was the most words Melissa and I had ever exchanged about sex in a very long time. I had told her that I didn’t think I was capable of it and she was very understanding. But in the back of my mind, I had always been thinking that we would give it a good try when we were married. I felt guilty for these thoughts, and as I said to Nick, it wasn’t the most important thing in the world to me. Melissa was. But I liked to believe that once we were married, Melissa and I would have some sort of sexual relationship. Despite what I said to Nick, it was something that I desired.
Even though I knew it was a mistake, I had to say something. “Melissa,” I began, “I don’t want you to think that... it will be completely impossible for me to have sex with you. I mean, once we’re married, of course. We could give it a try.”
To my surprise, Melissa laughed. “Don’t be silly, Jared.”
I very rarely lose my temper, but I began to feel somewhat agitated. Was I being silly for wanting to have sex with my wife? I didn’t think so. “I’d like to try,” I said, choosing my words carefully.
“It’s not natural,” Melissa said. “God caused your accident. This is the fate he’s chosen for you and we have to respect that.”
For all my religious training, I thought that was the most ridiculous thing I ever heard. “But what about you?” I asked her. “Don’t you want to have sex with me?”
“Jared, I don’t think we should be having this conversation,” Melissa said quietly.
Melissa looked at me in surprise. I never argued with her. Occasionally we had philosophical discussions, but I always did exactly what she wanted me to do. This was the first time I had ever really challenged her in the three years of our relationship.
“Jared,” Melissa said, “I think you’re a brilliant man. And I respect your passion for your beliefs, whether religious or nonsecular. That’s why I love you. But we both have to accept the fact that our relationship can never be a sexual one.”
“Hang on a second,” I said. I was trying to figure out exactly what she meant by all this. How “nonsexual” did she expect our marriage to be? “Are you saying that we’ll never sleep in the same bed?”
Melissa shook her head.
I swallowed. “And will I ever get to see you... naked?”
Again, Melissa shook her head. “That’s not the relationship we’re meant to have.”
I rubbed my temples with my fingers. I wanted to scream at Melissa, but that wouldn’t have accomplished anything. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Perhaps it was a betrayal of all my beliefs, but I didn’t think I could live my whole life without any sort of physical relationship. Even if sex wasn’t possible, at least I wanted to be able to hold her in my arms someday, to feel her soft bare skin against my fingers.
I couldn’t understand how such an arrangement could be acceptable to Melissa. I had always desired her, sometimes almost painfully, and I had looked forward to the day in the spring when she would be mine. I had always assumed she felt the same about me. But now it seemed like she had no interest in even touching me.
“I have to ask you a question, Melissa,” I said, taking a deep breath. “Do you... feel any attraction to me?”
Melissa’s yellow eyebrows furrowed. “I love you like a brother, Jared.”
I felt my stomach sinking. “So you’re saying you have absolutely no physical interest in me?”
Tears rose in Melissa’s beautiful blue eyes. “Why does that matter?”
How could I even begin to explain this to her? Melissa and I had planned to dedicate our lives to each other. And yes, I still loved her. But a small part of me hated her all of a sudden. Melissa didn’t respect me as a sexual human being. Why was she marrying me? Because she felt it was the “right” thing to do? Because it furthered her political ends to have me as her puppet?
“Melissa, I think you should leave,” I said quietly.
As Melissa did as I told her, I felt a deep sadness come over me. I didn’t want my relationship with her to be over, yet I felt that I had been deceived over the last three years. Then again, how could I blame Melissa? I had told her that I couldn’t have sex and she had accepted it. How many women would do that? I should have felt grateful that she still wanted me.
As president of CSA, people are always asking me if I’ve ever had a crisis of faith. After all, I’m 21 years old and bound to a wheelchair for the rest of my life. How could God cripple a ten year old child? What people don’t understand is that it was my accident that gave me my strong faith.
I remember when I was first injured. Ten years old and my mother told me that from now on, I would have to use a wheelchair all the time. I was three weeks away from softball tryouts and I cried over the fact that I’d never be able to play again. My family didn’t have much money, and to our surprise, the insurance didn’t cover the cost of a new wheelchair for me. For the first few months, I had to use my grandfather’s chair, from when he had a stroke before he died. It was quite clunky and hard to maneuver, but I did the best I could. I didn’t have much of a choice, if I didn’t want to be carried around.
That’s where our church came in. When they heard of my dilemma, the church began an initiative to raise enough money to purchase my first wheelchair. And when that one got old, the church bought me a second one. Our pastor wrote letters on my behalf to get me a scholarship to a Christian high school, where I got a fantastic education. Everything I have in my life I owe to my religion. Why would I ever doubt my faith?
But now I felt the first seedlings of doubt for the first time in my entire life. At that moment, I felt that everything important to me had been yanked away. Melissa and I were supposed to get married in less than six months, but now it looked like I may have lost her.
I wheeled into the bathroom and shut the door behind me. I unzipped my pants and pulled down my underwear to expose my penis. In addition to cleaning it, I deal with my penis several times a day when I catheterize myself. As a result of my spinal cord injury, I can’t release urine on my own and I can’t sense when my bladder is full, so I keep a regular schedule of catheterization. It’s something I’ve been doing for eleven years now and it’s not really a big deal, although I’ve never brought it up to Melissa. I don’t know how she’d feel if she knew what I had to do just to get rid of my urine.
I’ve had a couple of erections in this time, but it’s very rare. A few times, my penis has hardened a little, but it usually crumbles up again almost immediately. My urologist told me that I was probably not capable of a prolonged erection, but when I got married, we could talk about some medications. His words had given me some hope.
I touched myself now, pushing away the feelings of guilt that this was wrong. I can’t judge if my penis is large or not, considering I’ve never seen it at its full size. I’m uncircumcised. When I was first injured, the doctors contemplated cutting off my foreskin because it would decrease my chances of getting an infection. My mother said that it was my decision and I decided I wanted to keep my foreskin, infections or not.
I tugged at my penis, trying to simulate what I’ve heard guys do when they masturbate. Nothing happened. I felt nothing.
I sighed and tucked my penis back into my underwear. This was pointless. Even if I could somehow get erect enough to penetrate my wife, I wouldn’t be able to feel it.
I felt disgusted with myself and the way I had acted this evening. Melissa loved me and I had thrown it in her face. Now I understood the power of sex in manipulating the mind. It truly is the tool of the devil.
Maybe it wasn’t too late to get Melissa back. I put on my coat to go find her.
I was wheeling by the back of Trevor house, when the stench of cannabis filled my nostrils. I’ve never smoked myself, but a lot of people on campus do, so I can easily recognize the smell. I turned my head and saw Nick Eisman sitting on the steps, his white shirt unbuttoned, smoking from a little white joint.
“Jared...” Nick’s lips curled into a smile. “What are you doing in this neck of the woods?”
“I’m looking for Melissa,” I told him. “Have you seen her go by here?”
“I did, as a matter of fact,” Nick said. “She was with some guy, Bobby... uh...”
“Yes!” Nick grinned. “That’s the one. Your Christian buddy.”
My face flushed. Bobby was always flirting with Melissa, even after our engagement. How had she fallen to him so quickly?
“Something wrong, Jared?”
I bit my lip. This wasn’t the sort of thing I wanted to talk to Nick Eisman about. Then again, there was nobody else I possibly could talk to about this. “I had a momentary lapse in judgment.”
“Meaning you asked for sex?”
I looked at Nick in surprise. Perhaps I had underestimated him. “I don’t know what to do,” I said. “I’m confused.”
“I thought your love went beyond the physical act,” Nick said, smiling at me. I didn’t answer him and Nick held out his joint to me. “Want some?”
“What do you think?”
Nick stubbed out the joint on the steps. He stood up and walked behind me. I felt his hands lower onto my shoulders and he began to massage the muscles of my neck. “You almost had me believing you, Alden,” Nick said. “That whole ‘our love goes beyond the physical act’ bullshit.”
“I meant it,” I said. “Melissa and love each other...”
“Then where the fuck is she?”
Nick was still massaging me and he lowered his head so that I felt his hot breath on my neck. I should have pushed him away but for some reason I didn’t. Melissa never allowed me to be this close to her. “I’m lucky to have her,” I said. “She’s right about me. I probably never will be capable of making love to her.”
I turned my head and I saw Nick’s brown eyes looking into my own. “How about me?”
I jerked away, suddenly. “What are you talking about?”
Nick was supporting his weight on the armrests of my chair. He leaned towards me and there was no room for me to back my head away. I felt his lips press against mine, his tongue enter my mouth. I realized at that moment that I had wanted him to do this from the moment I first met him today. Maybe from the moment I first heard a fellow student tell him how Nick Eisman had corrupted him. God knows, Melissa was never going to kiss me this way.
“I want to fuck you, okay?” Nick said. “You’ll let me fuck you, right?”
“Here?” I raised my eyebrows.
Nick gestured to the side of the building. “Those bushes. Nobody will see us. Trust me, I’ve done it dozens of times.”
“What? You think I’m a fucking virgin like you, Jared? Come on, let’s go.”
Before I could protest, Nick wheeled me over to the side of the dormitory, which was spotted with shrubbery. I had to admit, it seemed very well concealed. I felt the last of my protests dissolve. This was going to happen and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I didn’t want to stop it. I had been waiting my whole goddamn life for this.
Part 3: Nick