Hi, this is Jeremy again, the DAK amputee doc. I wish I could write more frequently but I’m pretty busy being a second year resident. However, right now I’m on an outpatient month so I am living the good life in that I actually get full weekends off for the first time since medical school. It’s pretty nice.
For the last several months, I have been dating this girl named Liz, who I got set up with by my mom. Liz also has a slight disability, in that her legs are two different lengths and she wears special shoes and walks with a cane. We went out maybe once or twice a week, then usually went back to my house and had sex. Some guys might have thought it was a pretty good arrangement, but I wasn’t altogether happy with it. I know it sounds shallow, but I just thought I could do a little better than Liz. Although the sex was really good, she wasn’t that attractive.
Also, I wouldn’t say that our personalities clashed exactly, but Liz was very quiet and it was hard to get her to come out of her shell and talk to me. When she did talk, I didn’t think she was all that interesting, which is maybe why she didn’t talk that much. I’m fairly outgoing so I would talk to her about my work and she would listen and look interested. I think she really enjoyed our dates, but I can’t say it was mutual.
Liz thought of me as her boyfriend, but I wasn’t sure if we were there yet. I liked spending time with her, but I felt a little weird giving her the title of my girlfriend. When there were residents parties or whatever, I never brought her along. I guess I felt kind of embarrassed and I thought she wouldn’t fit in. Plus I was always hoping to meet someone else.
I was off for Labor Day this year and my mom made a big dinner for our whole family. She invited my brother and sister to come with their kids, so it was going to be a full house. My mom said to me, “Jeremy, why don’t you invite your girlfriend Liz and her parents?”
“Liz isn’t my girlfriend,” I corrected her. “We’re just dating.”
“Well, whatever you call it,” my mother said, “you should invite her.”
I told my mother I’d rather not. I remembered how proud I was to bring home my girlfriend Wendy from college and show her off to my family, but I didn’t feel that way about Liz. I didn’t want everyone to know I was dating her.
But my mother went ahead and invited Liz anyway, since she was friends with Liz’s mother. I was angry with her for going over my head like that, but it’s typical behavior for my mom.
I was on call the day before the dinner, so I looked kind of scruffy. I’m embarrassed to admit I hadn’t shaved or showered in about three days. It’s not like I can just hop in the shower like most people, so I occasionally skip it if I’m really tired. After all, I live with my parents so it’s not like I have to impress anyone.
My stump care has also kind of fallen by the wayside recently. I do make an effort to keep them from getting dry and out of shape, but it’s difficult when I spend every one out of four nights at the hospital. I also stopped lifting weights and lost about ten pounds since July, which is not weight that I needed to lose.
But I tried to clean myself up best I could, rubbed some Eucerin cream on my stumps and covered them in clean stockings. I wore a button down shirt and tan slacks and tucked the ends under the stumps. I shaved my face but there wasn’t much I could do about having circles under my eyes.
Liz was the first to arrive, of course. She was wearing a long green dress that hid her legs, but also accentuated her pear-shaped figure. She came with her mom and dad. One thing Liz and I have in common is that we both live with our parents, which makes things a little more difficult for us in terms of being private. But the difference is that I lived on my own for about nine years before I moved back last year. Liz has always lived with her folks and I thought she’d probably live with them until they died.
“Hi, Jeremy,” Liz said. I have to admit, I liked the way Liz’s eyes lit up when she saw me.
“Hi, Liz,” I said.
My mother had a grin on her face, as if to say, Isn’t that cute?
Eventually my brother and sister and nieces and nephews arrived. I really love my nieces and nephews, they’re great. They like me too, probably partially because of the attention I give them and partially because I give them rides in my wheelchair. The kids mostly don’t remember me from back when I had my legs and could walk, so it’s not something they’ve ever felt uncomfortable about.
The problem with kids is sometimes they know to say the exact thing to make you uncomfortable. My little nephew Duncan noticed Liz sitting on the couch and asked me right in front of her, “Who’s she? Is that your girlfriend, Jeremy?”
Of course, that was a bad question to ask. I didn’t want to say yes, but I knew that saying no would put me in the doghouse and hurt Liz’s feelings. Finally, my pride got the better of me and I said, “We’re really good friends.”
I sort of hated myself for treating Liz that way and not admitting to my family that we were dating. And the worst part was that when Liz tried to be at all physically affectionate with me that evening, I sort of shrugged her away. The whole thing became really uncomfortable for me and to compensate, I got sort of drunk.
I haven’t had much to drink in the past few months because of my residency, so as a result my tolerance was shit and I got pretty drunk pretty fast. I’m not a heavy drinker by any means, but I know I tend to drink a lot when I’m upset about something. Last year when I was going through some depression, I started drinking alone probably much too often, something I never would have admitted at the time.
This was the first time I ever got drunk at a family event and I think it was kind of noticeable. My mother kept giving me dirty looks and even yanked a bottle of wine right out of my hand. As my brother Bobby’s wife was loading their kids into the car, he stayed behind and put his arm around my shoulders and said, “You okay, Jer? You need to throw up?”
“No, I’m okay,” I told him. I was even slumping down a little in my wheelchair. I really must have looked terrible.
“Liz seems really nice,” he said to me.
“Yeah,” I said.
Bobby didn’t know what else to say after that. He’s only a few years older than me and we used to be fairly close when we were kids, but our relationship has fallen apart somewhat. I used to think of Bobby and me as being equals, but now I get the sense he just feels bad for me.
I knew my mother was waiting to yell at me after everyone was gone, but fortunately, Liz stuck around. Her parents went home, but amazingly, she decided to stay, even after my behavior all night. She followed me to my bedroom and closed the door behind me as I wheeled inside.
Liz sat down on my bed and put her hand on my stump gently. She touched my stump so lovingly, I couldn’t help it: I started crying. I buried my face in my palms and cried. “What’s wrong, Jeremy?” she said.
I shook my head. “I’m really messed up, Liz. You shouldn’t be with me.”
Liz slid her hand up the length of my stump toward my crotch. She unbuttoned my pants with one hand and penetrated my underwear. “I like you a lot,” she said. “I want to be with you.”
We had sex that night. I guess because I was drunk, I had some trouble getting a hard-on, so Liz paid extra attention to my stumps. She rubbed, licked, and kissed them until they began to tremble against my will. It felt amazing when she touched them, but every time I looked down at them, I felt a little disgusted. My stumps did feel very sensitive now, but looking down at them in some ways made me feel like less of a man.
As we lay in bed together after it was over, I noticed Liz was staring at me. I turned to her and said, “What?”
“I love you,” she said.
I didn’t say anything back. It would have been a lie to tell Liz that I loved her. I just nodded and took her hand in mine.
A few weeks ago, something big happened. Liz and I were going out to dinner at one of our usual restaurants. We tended to go to the same places because I didn’t want to go to a new place and find out it wasn’t wheelchair accessible in some unexpected way. Except this time, as we were waiting to be seated, I got a big surprise. Someone I hadn’t seen in a long time walked through the door.
It was Wendy, my ex-fiance. And her new husband. What were the chances?
When I saw her, I wanted to hide under a pile of coats. But she came right over to me. “Jeremy! Oh my god!”
I couldn’t have imagined a more awkward situation than running into Wendy and her husband while I was with Liz. We did the introductions and it felt really weird. I wasn’t sure if Wendy’s husband Sam knew who I was, although I assumed he probably did. And I had told Liz about Wendy, so she knew that Wendy was the only other woman I’ve ever had sex with.
Right away, I didn’t like Sam. He looked about ten years older than Wendy, losing his hair bigtime, and he didn’t have a very warm personality. He didn’t seem that excited when Wendy said, “Why don’t we get a table together?”
I have to admit, Wendy looked great. She had gained a little bit of weight and it made her look better than ever. I couldn’t stop staring at the way her breasts filled out her black dress. I forgot how cute those freckles on her nose looked. Sam was so lucky to have her.
When we sat down, Wendy sat next to me and immediately turned all her attention to me. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought she was flirting with me. She ignored Sam and Liz completely and just talked to me. She even touched my shoulder a few times. The only time she even looked at her husband was when he said to her, “You know, the waiter is going to come take our order soon. You might want to decide what you want.”
“I hope it’s not spaghetti and meatballs,” I said. There was a period of a year when every time Wendy and I went out, she would order spaghetti and meatballs, regardless of what kind of restaurant it was. I teased her that she had some Italian blood in her (she’s Irish Catholic, like me).
Wendy giggled when I said that and touched my shoulder again, “Wow, I totally forgot about that. How did you stand me?”
“It wasn’t easy sometimes,” I said. “Especially when you dragged me to all those chick flicks.”
“Chick flicks?” Wendy said in mock indignance. “What chick flicks?”
I grinned at her. “You know, all those movies with the word ‘kiss’ in the title… like ‘French Kiss’, ‘Last kiss’, ‘Prelude to a Kiss’…”
“He’s right, you do have terrible taste in movies, Wendy,” Sam said.
Wendy glared at her husband and all of a sudden, the whole table got silent. All I could hear was Liz chewing her bread.
When the waiter came around, we all placed our orders. Wendy was last to order and she said, “I’ll have the chicken parmesan.”
Sam took the menu out of her hands, “Oh no she won’t.” He gave her a dirty look. “Wendy, what did we talk about with breaded foods? You don’t need to be eating something with so many calories.”
Wendy blushed. “Sam…”
Sam turned to the waiter and said, “She’ll have the grilled chicken with vegetables.” It really bothered me that he did that, but I wasn’t going to say anything. He was her husband, after all.
After the waiter left, Wendy said to him, “It’s just one meal, Sam. You don’t have to make a federal case out of it.”
“Maybe you don’t mind looking like a fat pig, but I’m the one who has to be married to you.”
That was enough. “You can’t talk to her that way,” I said.
“Why are you sticking up for her, Andrews?” Sam said to me. “Didn’t she dump you?”
Wendy is a strong person, but she was never great at confrontations. I could tell she was going to start crying before I even saw the tears in her eyes. She put her napkin on the table and ran off in the direction of the ladies’ room.
I went after her, of course, especially after I noticed Sam wasn’t making a move to do it first. Unfortunately, the restaurant was really crowded and it was difficult to get between some of the tables with my wheelchair. A few people had to stand up so that I could get by.
When I got to the back of the restaurant, Wendy was coming out of the ladies room, rubbing her eyes with tissue paper. I looked up at her. “Are you okay?”
Wendy shook her head and sunk down on this bench for people waiting to use the bathroom. “No, I’m not,” she said. “It’s not working out with Sam. I think we’re going to get a divorce.”
I didn’t know what to say to that. I had dreamed of her telling me something like that.
“He’s always giving me a hard time about everything,” she complained. “I can’t take it anymore. And all I can think about is you… and how much I miss you.” Her eyes filled up with tears again. “I made a really big mistake, Jeremy, and I’ll never forgive myself for it. I miss you so much. I never stopped loving you.”
“I love you too,” I finally said.
Wendy smiled for the first time. “What about your girlfriend?”
“She’s not my girlfriend. She’s just a girl.” I felt guilty saying that about Liz, but it was sort of true.
Wendy leaned in towards me and kissed me on the mouth. Just the feel of her lips on mine got me really hard. “Do you want to sneak out of here?” she asked me.
“Yeah,” I managed to say.
We left through a back exit, without telling Liz or Sam where we were going. It was a sleazy thing to do to Liz, but a guy doesn’t get many opportunities to be with the love of his life. We went to my car and Wendy acted all impressed by the hand controls I had. When she said it, I felt a little resentful for a minute. Like she was so amazed that I was able to drive or something. I guess I still felt a little burned by how she rejected me all those years ago because she didn’t feel attracted to me without my legs.
When I pulled into the garage at my parents’ house, Wendy looked confused. “You live with your parents now?”
“Just for a little while,” I explained. Once again, I didn’t like that look in her eyes, like I was so pathetic. “But they’re away for the weekend.” I had actually been planning to let Liz stay with me all weekend.
As soon as I wheeled in, I immediately heard the phone ring. I picked it up and I heard Liz’s small voice on the other line. “Jeremy, what happened?”
“I’m sorry, Liz,” I said. I felt like a piece of shit. “Did you get home okay?”
“I’m still at the restaurant,” she said.
I suddenly realized she must have been waiting there for me to come back for the last half hour or so. “Get a cab and go home,” I said. “I’ll pay you back.”
She was quiet a long time. “Are you with Wendy?”
I wasn’t going to lie. “Yeah.”
“Okay,” she said. I heard the phone click as she hung up. It didn’t sound like she was angry, just hurt. I had never done anything like that to a woman in my whole life. I’ve always been taught to love and respect women. I don’t know what was wrong with me, but all I could think about was Wendy.
Once we were in my bedroom, I quickly transferred into the bed. I wanted to take off my clothes, but I felt suddenly self-conscious. I remembered how disgusted Wendy had looked when she saw my bare stumps for the first time. I didn’t think I could go through that again.
Wendy sat down next to me on the bed. When she sat down, she pushed my wheelchair out of the way to make room. I didn’t like that she did that because how did she expect me to transfer back in later. I always like to have my wheelchair right at the bedside so I don’t have to drag myself across the floor. Liz always seemed to know to keep my wheelchair close, even though I never told her this.
I didn’t say anything to Wendy about this now, because I didn’t want to draw any more attention to my disability. I watched as Wendy gingerly laid a hand on the edge of my clothed stump. She looked like she thought it might bite her.
“I can keep my pants on, if you want,” I said.
Wendy shook her head. “No, I… I have to get used to them, right?”
I felt my face burn. I wanted her to do more than “get used to them.” I noticed that she was looking out the window. “What is it?” I said.
She gave me a serious look. “I feel like I should confess something to you, Jeremy,” she said.
I didn’t think I wanted to hear this, but I told her to go on.
“After your accident, before you woke up,” she said, “I sat by your bed in intensive care. I watched you breathing through that tube in your throat and… and all I wanted to do was rip it out. I knew how you were going to feel when you woke up with no legs and I didn’t want you to live your life that way. I… I was hoping that you’d die.”
I stared at her. “Jesus Christ, why are you telling me this?”
“I’m telling you this to help you understand,” she said. “When you first were injured, it was like you weren’t even you anymore. You were a mess. But now you’ve put your life back together and I want to try to be a part of it. It’s amazing how much you’ve managed to accomplish.”
“You mean, considering I’m crippled?”
I wanted to point out to Wendy that I did a hell of a lot better than she did, marrying an asshole and dropping out of school. Of course, I couldn’t say something like that to Wendy. I didn’t want to hurt her, but I could see where this was going. She wasn’t looking at me like she did back when we were in college and in love. She didn’t respect me anymore. I realized all of a sudden that the only woman I had dated in the last six years who really loved and respected me was Liz.
“I think you should leave,” I finally said.
Her eyes got wide. “Oh please, don’t be angry!”
“I’m not angry,” I said. “I just don’t think it’s going to work between the two of us.”
Wendy started crying, but I think she was a little relieved too. She cried silently the whole time as I drove her home. I think she was crying because she missed the old me, the guy who had his legs and wanted to be a surgeon. I think in her mind, that person had died in the car accident. Sometimes I wonder about that. I’d like to think I haven’t changed at all, but you can’t almost die and still be the same afterwards. I know I’m different because of what happened to me.
The whole thing with Wendy got me thinking about my relationship with Liz. I knew I had been taking her for granted, but the truth of the matter was, she had been making me happy lately. I knew I was in a lot better mood the last few months and it was mostly because of her. It was just my own stupidity that kept me from really enjoying our relationship. She really loved me and she didn’t want me to be anything different than what I was.
Of course, now that I had finally realized this, it was too late. I had fucked up with Liz bigtime.
As forgiving as Liz had been in the past, she didn’t want to speak to me after the incident with Wendy. I called her a bunch of times, but she just told me she was really hurt by what I did and she finally knew how I felt about her. “I won’t let you treat me this way anymore,” she said to me. “I’m tired of it.”
“But I love you, Liz,” I said.
“I don’t think you do,” Liz said. She sounded very sad on the phone.
I called my friend Michelle to ask for advice. “I think I’m in love with Liz,” I told her.
“I thought you weren’t that into Liz?” Michelle asked.
I tried to explain to her what had happened and how I realized what a dumbass I had been. At first Michelle was a little skeptical of my sudden change of heart, but I managed to convince her I wanted Liz back. “It might be too late,” Michelle said.
I couldn’t believe it was too late though. It couldn’t be too late. I made a bold decision that frightened me, yet as soon as I made it, I knew it was right. I decided to ask Liz to marry me. I realized that at this point in my life, nothing would make me happier than having Liz as my wife.
And that’s where I am right now. I haven’t asked her yet. I just bought a ring and I’m busy concocting a plan on how I’m going to ask her. Now that I’m sure I’m doing this, I don’t think I’ve been this excited in a long time. I really really hope she says yes.
To be continued...