Shawn awoke from his nap to see the nurse Tina drawing blood from his arm. He blinked his eyes until he could clearly see the red liquid flowing into the syringe. “Good afternoon!” Tina greeted him.
“How long was I sleeping?” Shawn asked.
“About two hours,” Tina replied. “Your parents are going to be here soon and I’m supposed to get you ready.”
Shawn knew what it meant to get ready for his parents’ biweekly visit. Usually it was just a shave to get rid of his three-day stubble, cleaning his face up, making sure that his leg bag was fresh so that it wouldn’t leak during the visit, and sometimes getting him dressed. Now he was already dressed though, in the sweat suit they had put on him for therapy this morning.
Tina pulled out a razor. Shawn held his head steady as Tina drew the blade up and down his cheeks. She was pretty good at shaving him, but occasionally she’d give him a painful nick on his chin and he’d spend the rest of the day with tissue paper stuck to his face. Today her hand was steady though. After doing that, she cleaned his face off. Without the use of his hands, Shawn was unable to wipe away the dirt that accumulated in his eyes or the little flecks of spit on his mouth from talking, so he depended on Tina to do that for him. She held up a mirror for him after she was done.
“Don’t you look nice?” Tina said.
Shawn reluctantly looked at his reflection. It was the same face he was used to—the accident hadn’t affected his face at all. He had always been considered good-looking, and often girls said he had a body to match. Well, the body was gone now, and all he had was his face.
“I was thinking,” Tina began. “Have your parents seen you in your wheelchair yet?”
“In that case, today would be a good day for that, don’t you think?” Tina suggested. “After all, I heard about your success getting back from therapy today.”
“Okay.” Actually, it sounded like a terrible idea to Shawn. He had been dreading having his parents see him in his wheelchair, because he knew his mother would start crying. He didn’t think he could handle that right now. Then again, he knew it was pointless to argue with Tina. She always got her way and there was really nothing he could do about it in his paralyzed state.
Tina called in one of the male nurses to help her lift Shawn into his wheelchair. Once he was strapped in, they adjusted his hands in his lap like always and adjusted his feet in the footrests. He hadn’t worn shoes since his accident and he wondered if he ever would again.
As Tina made sure the blow controls were in place, as were his stick and long straw, Shawn stared down at his paralyzed hands. They really looked completely useless now, with the fingers all curled up and soft. At first everyone had been very positive about him regaining use of one of his fingers from biofeedback, but now it was hardly ever mentioned. He had absolutely no results from biofeedback and he guessed he probably never would. It was strange that a few months ago, he was a healthy young male with no problems, and now his greatest wish was that just one of his fingers would be able to move again. He knew that life would be much easier for him if he just had that one finger.
Shawn heard Tina outside his room, talking to his parents, as he waited patiently in his chair. Tina’s voice: “Shawn wanted you guys to see him in his chair today.”
His mother, Lois’s, voice, weak and pained: “Oh?”
“He’s really been doing quite well,” Tina gushed. “He made it all the way from therapy to his room all by himself this morning.”
“Any luck with his fingers?” his father Don asked.
Tina, quietly: “No, nothing. I’m really not very optimistic about it anymore. His fingers have deteriorated a lot in the last few months and I think it’s pretty certain that he won’t regain any feeling or movement. But don’t worry. He can still be very independent even without his fingers.”
“I hope so,” Don said. “I mean, he won’t have us around to take care of him forever.”
Shawn inhaled suddenly. It was at this moment that he realized the situation: he was going to be living with his parents until both of them were dead. He would probably be fifty or even sixty years old by the time he’d get his own place. He remembered dimly when he was younger, how much he had wanted to escape from his parents’ home. How he had moved out when he was eighteen, and thought he couldn’t have spent a year longer. A year. That seemed so meaningless now, when he would be spending the next thirty years in his parents’ house. And not as an adult, but as a cripple who had to depend on them for his every need.
Tina brought Lois and Don into Shawn’s room. As Shawn expected, Lois’s eyes filled with tears at the sight of her son’s limp body strapped into his chair. “Oh, Shawn,” she murmured.
Shawn tried to smile, but it came out crooked.
“Show them how you work the chair,” Tina urged him.
Shawn lowered his mouth onto the controls and exhaled to move forward. He went a little too fast and his foot bounced out of the rest and hung limply on the side. Shawn looked up. “My foot,” he said.
Tina quickly corrected it, then Shawn moved around a little more demonstrating his full abilities to move around in his chair.
“Well, that’s good work, son,” Don said with a smile.
At Tina’s urging, Shawn showed them his stick. It was in a little pocket on the side of the chair. Shawn craned his neck over and gripped the top of the stick between his teeth, then pulled it out of the pocket.
“He can do anything with that stick,” Tina said. “Or with the straw next to it.”
That’s not true, Shawn thought. I can’t open doors with the stick. I can’t feed myself with the stick. I can’t hug someone with the stick.
Tina said that the family should take a walk, now that Shawn was mobile. Shawn didn’t think it was a very good idea, but nobody argued with Tina, so it was done. He moved his chair forward, then turned to try to get through the door. As usual, he misjudged the opening and crashed into the wall. Lois cried out and tried to help him, but Shawn insisted that he wanted to do it himself. By backing up and shifting over, Shawn finally made it through the door.
“See?” Shawn said. “I can do it.” Suddenly, it became very important to him to convince his parents that he could be independent. His new goal, now that his fingers were destined never to move, was to find a way to move out on his own as soon as possible.
“I’m working on renovations for the house,” Don said, his they traveled down the hallway. “It’s almost completely wheelchair accessible. Except for the attic and the basement, but I don’t think that’s necessary. The place is one big ramp.”
“That’s great,” Shawn said. “Do you know when I’m coming home?”
“Soon, I hope,” Don said.
They reached the elevator. Shawn remembered his trouble earlier and wondered how he’d fare with his stick. He remembered his vow to show his parents that he could be independent and he said: “Let me press the button for the elevator, okay?”
“You don’t have to, honey,” Lois said.
“But I can do it,” Shawn said. He reached into the pocket the held his stick and gripped it by his teeth. He pulled it out, then swung it in the direction of the elevator button. It trembled, but soon he had it over the button. He pushed, but the button did not light. He needed to push harder. He leaned forward as far as the straps would allow and jammed the stick into the button. Unfortunately, he missed and the stick went tumbling to the ground. “Shit!” he cried.
“Don’t swear, honey,” Lois admonished. “We’ll get the button.”
She pressed the button and Shawn backed up. He saw his stick lying on the floor. “Mom, can you give me my stick back?”
“Honey, it’s all dirty,” Lois pointed out.
She was right, but it didn’t matter. The freedom that stick allowed him was worth a little dirt from the floor. “Please,” Shawn said. “Can I have my stick?”
“We’ll get you a new stick,” Lois assured him.
Shawn shot her a distressed look, but she ignored it. Then Don picked the stick up from the floor and put it back in the pocket with his straw. “There you go, Shawn.”
They went up to the cafeteria together. Don asked Shawn if there was anything he’d like and Shawn replied that he wanted an iced tea. Don laughed and said that was a pretty skimpy dinner. With a shock, Shawn realized that this was supposed to be his dinner and Tina had assigned his parents to feed him. They had never fed him before and he had never been fed in the cafeteria before. Both prospects horrified him.
“I’ll eat dinner later,” Shawn said.
“Nonsense,” Don said. “We told Tina we’d take care of it and we will.” He lowered his voice. “I know the prospect of being fed by your parents isn’t so pleasant, but that’s the way it’s going to be at home, so we might as well get used to it now, huh?” Don put his hand on Shawn’s shoulder.
“Okay,” Shawn agreed, knowing he didn’t have a choice.
Don bought the food while Shawn sat at a table with his mother and talked. She went on about how nice the house was now and how much he was going to love it. She told him she was very impressed and surprised by how easily he was able to get around in his chair.
Don brought mashed potatoes and peas and soup to eat, along with the iced tea Shawn had asked for. Why didn’t he just buy some baby food? Shawn wondered. “You know, I can chew,” he pointed out.
“Tina said she thought some soft foods would be better to start with,” Don said.
Shawn removed his long straw from the pocket and placed it in his drink. He took a sip. Don opened the container of soup and was stirring it with a straw. “Are you ready?” he asked.
Shawn nodded. Don held the container of soup and took a heaping spoonful of chicken and broth, and held it out to Shawn’s waiting mouth. Don’s hand wavered and about half the broth dribbled down Shawn’s chin, staining his sweatshirt. “God, I’m sorry,” Don said quickly. He grabbed a napkin from the table and patted his son’s chin to wipe away the soup. He tried to work on the stain in his sweatshirt too.
“We need a bib,” Lois decided.
“Mom, no,” Shawn pleaded.
“Don’t be silly, honey,” Lois said. “Do you want soup all over your shirt?”
“I don’t want a bib.”
“I bet the staff has one somewhere.”
“I’m not a baby!” Shawn screamed. Don and Lois both stopped. Several people in the cafeteria had turned to look at this crippled man who was being fed by his parents, but was insisting that he wasn’t a baby. Shawn looked down at his lifeless hands. “I just want to keep a little dignity, okay?”
“Honey,” Lois murmured. “I never said that you were a baby. I know you’re an adult. I just…I wanted you to keep a clean shirt, that’s all. I can’t help myself.”
Shawn fought against tears. “I’m not going to be living with you my whole life,” he said. “After a few years, I’m going to get my own place.”
His parents exchanged glances. “Sure you are, Shawn,” Don said encouragingly.
“You don’t think I can!” Shawn accused.
“It’s not that,” Don said hesitantly. “It’s just that…Shawn, do you realize how much twenty-four-hour a day care costs? That’s what you need and that’s what you will need for the rest of your life, and it’s quite expensive. Insurance doesn’t completely cover it. We have an assistant set up for when your mother and I are at work, but we can’t afford to have someone for the rest of the day. We’re going to take care of you for the rest of the time. And…in the case that something happens to us, we made arrangements to have you placed in a home for people with…special needs.”
So there it was. He would be spending the next thirty years with his parents, then he’d be transferred to some low budget home. He felt the dread churning in the pit of his stomach and there was nothing he could do about it. He was suddenly overwhelmed with self-pity. He remembered how his friends used to visit him all the time during the first month he was paralyzed, but barely at all since then. He made them nervous and uncomfortable. From now on, the only people he could count on to be his friends were his parents. And that made him feel like crying more than anything.
“Take me back to my room,” Shawn said, knowing he didn’t have the strength to work on the blow controls. “I’m not hungry anymore.”
That night, Shawn dreamt he was fifty years old. He had fine gray hair, balding on the top, glasses for seeing up close, and lines on his face. His muscles were completely soft and deteriorated, after twenty-five years of being in a wheelchair. He was used to the site of the curled up fingers in his lap.
In the dream, his father had just passed away. His mother was dead too, and now he had nobody to take care of him. His nurse loaded him into his parents’ car and drove him to a home, where he would spent the rest of his life.
His parents spent almost all their money taking care of Shawn, so the home was poor. They didn’t have people to spent time feeding him, so they hooked up tubes to his nose for him to eat. After he lived there a year, the controls on his blow wheelchair stopped functioning. There was no money to buy him a new one, so they put him in a manually operated chair. Of course, a manually operated chair was of no use to Shawn, whose hands were paralyzed, but there was little anyone could do. The nurses wheeled him to the window so he could look out, or maybe placed him in front of the television. Sometimes people left the room and forgot about him, and he’d be stuck staring out the goddamn window for hours, or maybe watching some dumb infomercial on television because he was unable to change the channel. He’d scream, but nobody would hear.
Shawn woke up with a start. To his horror, he realized he must have been moving around in his sleep, because he had rolled part of the way out of bed! He was on his stomach and his arms were hanging limply off the side of the bed. He could lift his head so that it too wasn’t hanging off the bed, but it took too much effort to keep it lifted. He yelled, but knew how slow the nurses could be if there wasn’t a real emergency. He learned that lesson one day when he had sat in his own crap for an hour, the stench slowly filling the room.
To his surprise, he felt arms on his shoulders, lifting him back into the bed. He allowed the arms to arrange his body back into its regular position, with his limp arms at his side and his head on his pillow. He looked up at the kind nurse who had helped him and his jaw dropped open.
“Hello,” Erica said.
Shawn shook his head. “What are you doing here?”
“You needed my help,” she reminded him. “You almost fell out of bed. I didn’t see anyone else coming to your rescue.”
“You’re not a nurse.”
“How observant of you.”
Shawn turned his head away. “Well, thanks…I guess.”
“How did you almost roll out of bed anyway?”
“I had a nightmare,” Shawn explained.
The future, Shawn thought. In the past, waking up from a nightmare had always been a relief. He felt none of that relief now. He was certain that everything he had foreseen in his dream would someday become true. All he could feel was dread. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“You’re not very communicative, are you?” Erica said.
“What are you doing here?” Shawn repeated.
Erica blinked. “Well, since you asked so nicely…I came here to see you.”
Shawn frowned. “Why?”
“I don’t know,” Erica shrugged. “We met earlier and…I liked you. Hasn’t that ever happened to you?”
She’s trying to be nice to me because I’m crippled, Shawn decided. “Before I was paralyzed,” he said, “if I saw a cute girl, I’d go after her. But something tells me that’s not why you’re here.”
“You don’t find me attractive?” Erica asked.
“That’s mean,” Erica said.
“I’m mean?” Shawn said incredulously. “Hey, I’m the one who’s paralyzed for the rest of my life. You’re the one who’s mean because you’re flirting with me and there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it.”
“That’s not true.”
This girl is crazy, Shawn thought. What was she trying to do? How could she possibly be acting like this when he was unable to even move a pinky finger? “It is true.”
“I find you very attractive, as a matter of fact,” Erica stated.
Shawn could only stare at her. He felt his face turning very red. He thought that if he could move his arms, he would have hit her. “That’s not funny.”
“I’m not being funny,” Erica insisted. “You’re really cute, you know that? And…I have a thing for guys who are paralyzed.”
Shawn’s jaw dropped open slightly. He had nothing to say to that. It was very clear this woman was a little crazy and he was suddenly afraid to be in the same room with her. He thought about screaming, but couldn’t find his voice. And he didn’t have his stick to press the nurse call button.
“Don’t be scared,” Erica said knowingly. “God, I’m not going to hurt you or anything. You think I’m weird, right? Well, maybe I am. But so is everyone. It turns me on to see a guy in a wheelchair. I think there are worse things.”
Shawn found his voice. “Have you ever dated one?”
Erica nodded. “I dated a few paras. Nobody who was a quad like you. Of course, nobody who was as good-looking as you either.”
Shawn couldn’t help but smile slightly. “So…I don’t understand. Why did you come here?”
Erica moved closer so that Shawn could see the line between her breasts. He inhaled deeply. She sat down at his side and lowered her lips onto his. Shawn was used to copping a feel when he kissed a girl or at least putting his arms around her, but now he could only lie there and let his tongue do all the work. He thought it was the best kiss of his life.
She stood up straight and he could see her breasts straining at the thin material of her blouse. She noticed him looking and smiled. “If you want to look, you’re going to have to take it off for me.”
Shawn’s eyes widened as she positioned her breasts close to his face. The little black buttons holding her blouse in place were within reach of his mouth. He leaned his head forward slightly and clasped one of the buttons between his teeth. He could smell her perfume coming through the holes between the buttons. He yanked viciously at the button with his teeth, but it didn’t budge, since he could only afford so much motion with only his head. He’d have to do this more carefully. He held the bottom of the button with his lower teeth, then used his top teeth to gnaw on the lacy material around the button. He worked at it for a little bit, trying to pull the fabric around the button. Finally, he put his top teeth behind the button and moved them up so that the fabric lifted. He pulled his mouth away and realized that he had almost lifted the button out of the hole! He gripped the material of the shirt with his teeth and gave one firm pull and the button was open. He had done it!
Erica had enjoyed his effort immensely. She was moaning and holding his head as he slipped his tongue inside the newly formed hole in her shirt. He tasted the soft curves of her breasts as she arched her body against him. He worked his tongue against the side of her breasts, trying to get a taste of nipple. Finally, she ripped the rest of her buttons open and bared her breasts to him. They were round and the nipples were hard and pink. She held one in her hand and offered it to him. He sucked greedily on the nipple, rolling his tongue in circles, exploring every inch of the firm organ. He had never concentrated much on girls’ breasts, never thought it was his forte, but now he found that he couldn’t get enough of Erica’s breasts.
When he thought he was going to explode from the pleasure of Erica’s tits in his mouth, she moved suddenly and placed her lips on his. He could not move his hands, but she moved hers: through his hair, touching him all over his face as she kissed him. She moved her tongue away from his mouth and ran it over his earlobes and neck. He moaned at the feel of her soft lips. Her hand was still moving around, but he realized he could no longer feel it. It was an odd feeling and Shawn realized he kind of liked it. He watched her caress his chest like it was somebody else’s and it was almost more than he could take. Finally, her hand snaked under his hospital gown and Shawn cried out: “Don’t!”
Erica looked up in surprise. “What?”
Shawn shook his head. “No, you don’t understand. I…I can’t get hard anymore. I have a catheter on…I…”
“It’s okay,” Erica said in a reassuring voice.
“Please don’t,” Shawn begged.
Erica didn’t listen. She pulled up his gown and to his surprise, he saw that his penis was stiff as a rock from within the condom catheter. She gently removed the catheter and Shawn felt that familiar sick feeling he got every time he saw that tube being pulled out of his penis. Once he was free of the catheter, she stroked his penis gently. “Do you feel this?”
“No,” Shawn replied, still staring at the organ he had thought was dead for sure.
“I want you to fuck me,” Erica said.
Shawn stared at her. Could he do it? Could he fuck her? What if his penis shrunk down again as soon as he was inside her? What if he pissed all over her, now that his catheter was gone? Besides, he was used to being in control during sex, and now all he could do was lie here. He would that satisfy her?
But Erica wasn’t waiting for an answer. She straddled him and slid him inside her. She moved back and forth, slowly at first, then she began to speed up. She moved her hands around his motionless chest, then concentrated on his head. She ran her hands through her hair, moved them against his earlobes, and brushed against his cheeks. She was moving very fast now and moaning loudly. Shawn felt an odd burning sensation that was rather pleasant and seemed to encapsulate his entire body. Erica was coming now—suppressing screams as she dug her nails into his shoulders—and he realized that so was he. It was nothing like the orgasms he had experienced back in the old days, but it was wonderful in its own way.
Erica pulled out of him. He saw the stickiness on his penis and he realized that he really had come. She mopped up the mess with her hands and then licked them clean. She smiled at Shawn. “How was I?”
“That was great,” Shawn breathed.
“I told you,” Erica murmured. She lay close to him. As if an afterthought, she took his arm and wrapped it around her shoulders. In this position, Shawn remembered the old days of cuddling with a girl after sex. The catheter was gone and there was no physical sign they Shawn and Erica weren’t just any ordinary couple who had gone through a pleasant round of fucking.
“How long before the nurse comes to kick me out?” Erica asked.
“I think we have at least a few minutes,” Shawn replied. He turned his head to gaze at her. He wanted badly to stroke her hair or her breast. “Erica, will I ever see you again?”
She must have been psychic, because she took his free hand and placed it on top of her bare breast. “Do you want to see me again?”
Erica smiled. “Then you will.”
Shawn returned the smile. He didn’t want to ruin the moment with talk, so he lay beside her silently. For the first time in three months, all his senses felt alive, and he felt happy to have a beautiful girl in his arms.
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