Once Martin and Dan had recovered their equilibrium, Martin asked Dan if he really would like some coffee. Dan said that he would and the kettle was boiled for the third time. Martin reached for two mugs from the drainage basket on the sink and a spoon and put about a spoonful of instant coffee into each mug. Dan noticed how swiftly Martins fingers worked the top of the coffee jar. Martinís purposeful actions reminded Dan of the sight of Martin getting into his car outside the electrical store. Everything that he did was athletic in movement. Martin asked Dan if he would mind getting a bottle of milk (he had bought two at the supermarket) out of the fridge. Dan, who was standing in front of it, was happy to oblige. As Dan took off the top of the milk, he dropped the top onto the floor. Stupid bugger, he said to himself. As he bent down for it, he saw that there was a pair of half-gloves down by the side of the radiator. They must, thought Dan, have been on one of the work-surfaces and been sent to the floor during the installation of the washer. Dan picked these up and in one natural movement threw them onto Martinís lap. As he did so, he imagined the warmth of Martinís hands inside them.
Martin and Dan went through to the lounge, which contained the usual sort of furniture and equipment that you would find in anyoneís house. These included easy chairs, table, television, CD player. The furniture was distributed around the walls of the room, to give Martin the maximum amount of room to manoeuvre his chair. A computer sat on the large table. Dan sat on one of the two large armchairs and Martin positioned himself about three feet away.
At first, neither party quite knew what to say next. Dan, who was usually very jovial at a party, now found himself at a loss for words. It was Martin who rescued the situation, asking Dan if it had taken a lot of organising to get his mate Steve to bring the washer over. No said Dan, Steve had been only too willing to lend a hand. Dan explained how they had known each other for many years and how he always went to stay with him, when in this neck of the woods, for conferences and that sort of thing. Martin asked Dan what sort of job he did. Dan replied that he was a lecturer in physiology at one of the red-brick universities in the north. Martin was at once impressed and slightly taken aback by this. In Martinís eyes, the people who worked in universities were known to be quite bright. On the other hand, such people reminded him of school and his own teenage rebelliousness. Martin hadnít exactly been the teacherís pet whilst at school, but neither had most of his mates.
Martin asked Dan what he had bought in the shop yesterday. Dan replied that he had bought a portable CD, which he intended to use whilst travelling. He related the story of how he had Ďlostí the one he had set off with from the north earlier in the week, during his journey down on the train. Its loss was still a slight mystery to him as he was usually quite careful with these things. Dan was sure though that the new one would be just as good if not better than the old. He secretly wondered if he had wasted his money. In the last two years he had noticed a significant loss of hearing in his left ear. The consultant, whom he had seen, had put it down to some sort of infection when Dan was a child, resulting in changes in bone density, which were now showing themselves. This meant that at close quarters, sound was slightly distorted. Not a good omen for the future he thought. His other ear was quite normal and in every day conversation, none of this would be noticed.
Dan asked Martin what sort of CDís he liked to buy. He could see some, mostly middle of the road, eighties type of stuff, stacked between the two arm chairs on a small table. Whilst Martin was discussing these, Dan noticed from the corner of his eye that there were very few books around. This interested Dan as Martin was clearly very good with words, in the way that he constructed sentences. People who mark lots of papers, notice this sort of thing at the drop of a hat. He had noticed too that Martin spoke in a very self-contained manner, with confidence. Had Dan known Martin better he would not have been surprised, for Martin was well used to talking to youth groups etc about disability issues. Dan also noticed a pile of boxed games including chess and scrabble. Martin saw Dan looking at these and asked if Dan enjoyed a game of scrabble. It turned out he did. Would he like to have a game now Martin asked? It was some years since he had played, but Dan was confident, however clever this younger man was, that he would acquit himself well. After all didnít he use words every day?
Martin wheeled over to the pile of games and extracted the scrabble box, putting it on his knee, so that he could reposition himself against a small side-table. This wasnít near to the chair in which Dan had originally sat, but next to the other large arm-chair in the room, so Dan moved over from one chair to the other. In the box, in addition to the board and scrabble letters, the bag in which they would need to be shaken and the four letter racks, was pencil and paper on which to write the scores. How very organised he is, thought Dan.
The first game went well and both Martin and Dan were keen to play another. Martin had been sat in his chair for about three hours now and he felt that he could do with a stretch. This nearly always surprised people, as most folks thought that because he needed a chair to get around, he wouldnít be able to make his legs do anything. This wasnít true, or at least not all of the time. During his rehabilitation - God, what an ugly word that is he thought, he had found that with the right articulation of his back and a certain amount of psychology, he could trick the muscles of his legs into spasmodic movement, providing enough stimulus to his muscles to straighten his legs out, enabling him to stand. Two things were imperative in this movement. The first was that he had a good purchase from which to get out of his chair. Therefore the brakes had to be secure and he needed to move his feet flat onto the floor in front of him. The second was that, because of a lack of balance, he needed to hold on to either a substantial piece of furniture or onto someone else. Martin explained to Dan that he just needed to stretch and would stand up for a moment. Martin asked if Dan could move aside to let him get over to the table for some support. Donít worry about that said Dan; Iíll give you a hand. Dan was recalling in his mind how he used to help Josh, a mate of his who had also had a spinal injury, to do much the same thing. Although in Joshís case it wasnít anywhere near successful on many occasions as he could sometimes only get one of his knees to lock causing more weight to fall on the knee that had locked, affecting the length of time for which he could stand. Martin said he was happy to give it a go. After all he thought, Iím well used to falling backwards if need be.
Martin adjusted his chair to enable Dan to stand in front of him. He applied the brakes, lifted his feet off the footrest, got hold of Danís left arm with his right and with his own left arm gave himself a mighty shove upwards. This was the muscular trick that he needed and Martin and Dan found themselves standing about eight inches apart. Once he was up on his feet, Martin immediately got hold of Danís other arm to maintain the support he needed, enabling him to balance and stand upright. Dan noticed again the strength of Martinís arms. At about five feet ten inches Dan stood about four inches taller than Martin. Looking down between them, Dan could see that they both had slightly rounded stomachs. Martinís was because of the relaxation of his lower stomach muscles. Danís, was because at fourteen stone he was slightly overweight for his height. Nothing gross, but noticeable enough in this position. Martin remarked to Dan that he bet he hadnít thought he would be doing this when he offered to deliver his washer. No, Dan replied, he hadnít. Just as it had in the shop, Danís mind ran again at a thousand miles an hour. No he hadnít, but he was glad that he was, he thought.
Some people thought Dan, are attracted to guys who use a chair all the time, almost to the exclusion of anyone else. This had never been Danís position. He had found Martin attractive, that he could not deny. Nor could he deny that he had found other guys attractive who used a chair too. But this wasnít a chair thing, or a disability thing. For Dan knew that if there was a line up of say ten men, five of whom were chair users and five of whom werenít. Their attraction would be on their overall appearance and demeanour. Dan was sure of this. After all, although he liked watching sport, he had neither watched the Olympics or Paralympics which had recently been on television. He didnít like the idea of distant gratification, although on the other hand, what was the watching of sport if it wasnít that?
As they stood there, Dan saw again, at such close quarters Martinís beautiful eyes, the pupils and irisís of which looked like stars on the milky-way. The fringe of Martinís hair was just about at the level of Danís lips. Dan wanted to caress Martinís fringe with his lips and to tell him how athletically beautiful he was. Dan, of course did none of this. Martin adjusted his position, putting his arms around Danís chest for slightly better purchase. Martin noticed what an easy and natural movement this had been with another man. Dan in his turn moved his arms further down Martinís back and held the peaches of his buttocks, one in each hand, whilst still giving some support to Martinís back. All in all this felt very good. After a couple of minutes Martin said he thought he had better sit down. So Dan, adjusting his hold of Martin, much as he didnít want too, let him slide through his arms and his hands as he sat back in his chair. Martin had some residual spasm as he put his feet back on the footrest, and he applied some firm pressure to his knees in an attempt to get them to stop. This took a while, but neither of them were bothered about this. Both of them knew that somehow a friendship was being struck and neither of them was at all embarrassed.
Martin says that he needs to go to the bathroom. Dan nods and says OK. Martin wheels himself into the hall. As he went through the door Dan again thought how majestic Martinís movements were. God he thought, this is one beautiful guy.
To be continued...