I opened my mouth to explain, but no words came out. Tuck was flustered as well and didn’t even bother trying to justify our actions. The room was silent. No one spoke as Tuck started pulling on his jeans and buttoning up his shirt. After finishing, he grabbed a towel and neatly placed it over my exposed dick then smoothed my hair.
Following the long period of silence, just when I thought my mother was going to let us both have it, she only sighed. “Boys, I can’t believe you’d be as careless as to leave the bathroom door unlocked. I mean really! I could have been your father and all hell would have broken loose.”
Tuck’s look brightened as he glanced over at me. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Shepherd. You’re right, this wasn’t the time or the place.”
Just then my father’s head appeared behind my mother’s. “Right time for what, guys?”
My eyes quickly scanned the room, trying to find any incriminating evidence of what had just happened. Finding none, I relaxed a little. “Tuck was just helping me get ready for dinner.”
I thought I had given him a reasonable excuse and looked to my mother. It was hard to describe her reaction to my father’s presence. She looked pale and kept her eyes down, something holding her gaze. I tried looking around to see what she was fixated on. I began to think that maybe she was just looking off into space and not at anything in particular. That is until I saw that my father was looking at the exact same thing. Tuck’s head was the last to turn and witness the spectacle. He winced and hung his head in defeat. I still had no idea what everyone was so concerned with. But I managed to follow Tuck’s gaze down; down to my crotch.
And lo and behold, right there in front of my parents, was the biggest fucking hard-on I’d ever had in my life.
A tent had already formed over my lap and couldn’t have possibly grown any bigger than it already was. Why couldn’t this have happened minutes earlier? Why did my dick suddenly have to spring into action when my dad was standing there, gaping at his naked quadriplegic son who in turn was staring down an overtly gay nurse that had taken care of his most intimate and personal needs for so long, it seemed almost like a second nature?
I knew it was useless wondering why this had happened, nothing was going to change it now. I clenched my teeth together and prepared myself for the worst. I heard my father inhale and waited for his anger. But all that came out was, “Good for you, son. I’m happy for you. The doctors didn’t think you’d be able to get it up after your accident, but you proved them wrong.” He put a hand on my mother’s shoulder before turning around and leaving. “Dinner’s on the table, guys. Come on.”
All I could do was sit there, stunned. Either he really didn’t have a clue as to what had happened between me and Tuck or he just didn’t care. And it seemed too bizarre that he wouldn’t care. But it’s not like he had seen Tuck naked. After I though about it, I realized that except for our guilty faces and my quickly-fading hard-on, there was nothing for my dad to suspect.
But then again, maybe he just thought I was pathetic. So pathetic that I had to let my male nurse do me in the ass; take it how I could get it. Maybe my dad was just waiting until Tuck left, and then he’d really let on that he knew. I didn’t want to think about it anymore than I had to. There were a number of possibilities, and I couldn’t narrow it down to one in particular. I just had to let it go for the time.
Dinner went pretty well considering what had just happened. My mother avoided eye contact with both me and Tuck for the rest of the night, acknowledging me only once while cleaning up some food that had spilled onto my lap. Everyone was quiet for the most part, except for Sid and my dad chatting it up about Sid’s soccer match and the upcoming football game. I noticed my dad giving Tuck the eye every once in a while from across the table. “So, uh, Tuck, any girlfriends? You got a special lady back at home?”
Tuck practically choked on mom’s broccoli but kept it together. “Actually, no, Mr. Shepherd. I’m single as can be, don’t really want a girl tyin’ me down.”
My father studied him for a moment but seemed satisfied with the response. “I guess that’s the smart thing to do. Gotta live your life while you can.” For some reason his last remark really pissed me off. I couldn’t tell if he was just chatting casually with Tuck or if he was implying that Tuck should live his life before something happens… like becoming a quad; impotent and crippled.
The rest of dinner went by in silence only broken when Tuck excused himself and thanked my mother for cooking. Instead of the kiss I longed for, Tuck only patted my shoulder and told me he’d see me soon. I watched as my mother started clearing plates from the table. Sid helped put the dishes into the sink. “Mom, when I wake up tomorrow I’m gonna go to the mall to get some new clothes. Did you want me to return that movie you and dad rented on my way?”
“Oh, thank you, Sid. I’d forgotten all about it!” She looked distracted for a moment before continuing. “You know…why don’t you and Skell go together?” She looked over at me. “I’m sure it’s been a while since you’ve been out and about, Skelly. Why don’t you and Sid make a day of it?”
The truth be told, I had no desire whatsoever to go into public in my current state, much less with Sid. But I didn’t want to sit at the house all day watching movies and laying in bed again. I looked over at Sid to see what his reaction was to my mother’s proposal. He shrugged and said, “Why not?”
My mother looked so happy at the prospect of her two sons doing something together again that I couldn’t possibly have said no. I sighed and stared down at my hands, wondering how many people would be doing the same tomorrow.
“Wake up, Skell. It’s past eleven. Sid’s already awake and getting dressed upstairs.” My mother went through the usual routine of getting me ready; changing me, taking out the night catheter, dressing me, and helping me with breakfast. Soon Sid came scrambling down the stairs and into the kitchen where my mother was wiping my face off with a wet cloth. “Is he ready?”
I looked up at him, nudging the cloth in my mother’s hand away with my chin. I couldn’t help hide the cynicism in my voice. “Yeah, he’s ready.”
Sid looked down sheepishly at me as he grabbed a piece of toast from the counter. “Well, let’s go then. Do you need to take anything?”
My mother kissed both of us on the cheek before hanging my backpack across the back of my chair. “Everything he’d need will be in here. But I don’t think you guys will be gone long enough to use any of it.”
I knew she was talking about if I shit myself. Just the thought of Sid having to wipe my ass put a look of shame across my face. That would be the ultimate humiliation. I’d even prefer my dad to change me over Sid. I saw the way the Sid looked at my body whenever I was naked or even just sitting in my wheelchair. What I at first took for fascination was probably disgust. He usually stared at my arms; some muscles seeming to bulge because of the other depleted ones surrounding it. Other times he watched intently as the stocking were put on my legs, covering my bare, arched feet. Today he only looked at my thin legs, covered by jeans instead of sweats since I was going out in public. I still wasn’t wearing shoes because none had ever been brought from the apartment back in Dallas. I hadn’t heard from the guys in a couple weeks and was starting to get pissed. So my usual socks were on my feet, which were strapped into place on the footrests.
I nodded and motioned for him to place my hand on the joystick. Sid and my mother followed close behind me to the front door and onto the driveway. Sid didn’t even stop to think before unlocking the doors to his 3000gt. I knew this was going to be a long trip and sighed. “Uh, Sid? What am I supposed to do without my wheelchair once we get there?”
A puzzled look crossed his face. “What?”
I sighed again, this time heavier and more obviously. “My wheelchair, Sid. Where’s my wheelchair supposed to go?” Something clicked and Sid finally realized what I was getting at. “Oh, yeah. Damn, I forgot about that.” He looked over to mom. “I guess we’re gonna have to take your car.”
She rummaged around in her purse for a second before retrieving the 4Runner’s keys. “That’s no problem, just be careful. You boys have fun.” She opened the passenger door of the 4Runner and knelt down to unstrap me. She held out her right hand. Inside was a folded hundred dollar bill. “This is for the mall; just in case you see something you can’t live without.” She winked at me before putting her arms under my armpits and hoisting me up out of my chair.
Sid hurried around to our side of the car and grabbed my legs, helping her shift me into the car seat. Afterwards, my wheelchair was loaded onto the carrier and we were ready to go. I glanced down at my braced wrists to make sure the velcro was secured and not peeling back. I didn’t want anything to go wrong, such as not even being able to push my own chair, in such a public setting. The last thing I wanted was to embarrass myself in front of tons of strangers. But there was already no doubt in my mind that we would run into old friends from high school or people that didn’t know about my injury. I tried to be positive and think about having a good time but knew that this day wouldn’t be any different than any other now that I was a quad; utter humiliation.
I couldn’t help but notice how full the parking lot was as we pulled up. I was pissed cause it looked like a bunch of teenagers were just hanging out; with no intentions of going anywhere. I knew they would be there to see my transfer and Sid strapping me into my chair. Even worse, now that my mother had gotten a handicapped tag on the car, they’d have a perfect view since the handicap parking space was only feet away from their little hangout.
Sid didn’t even seem to notice and got out of the car to bring my chair around without saying anything. I watched some of the kids’ faces as they realized the wheelchair was for me. Sid opened my door and unbuckled me, already letting my body lean into his for the transfer. I tried to keep my eyes on the ground as Sid set me in my chair and began repositioning my tangled legs for me.
I was acutely aware of how thin my arms were at that moment. My legs were at least covered by jeans. But thin, pale sticks with deteriorated muscles were all you could see emerging from my NOFX t-shirt. I heard a few giggles from the side of me. I looked over sharply at one of the girls, hair all in braids and a nose ring. She actually would have been kind of cute if it wasn’t for the smirk on her face; a smirk made at my expense. I seriously didn’t understand how someone could look at me in my wheelchair and laugh. It made me sick and I wanted to leave right then. But I remember back before I’d ever had my accident. Me and Ollie had had a few good laughs over ‘cripple jokes’ and when we’d see someone in an electric wheelchair almost run people over. I guess it was kind of funny at the time. But now, now that I was right here in front of them in real life, I just couldn’t see how my situation would be funny.
She giggled again, not even trying to muffle her laughter, but one of friends had enough sense to slap her on the shoulder. This temporarily silenced her. Sid had already placed my hand on the joystick and was waiting for me. I pushed my numb wrist forward and followed him past the group of gawking teens. I glared at the girl with the braids as I whirred by. For the first time, she had the decency to look embarrassed. I guess she thought I was deaf and retarded as well as paralyzed.
The doors to the mall weren’t automatic, so I had to maneuver myself into the small space provided from Sid holding one of the glass doors open for me. That was something that I had really gotten too used to in the hospital. Everywhere I turned there were automatic doors, no outside assistance necessary. But now almost every time I wanted to go somewhere there was an obstacle as simple as a door. I’d tried several times to open the conventional handle myself, but even with the brace on, my grasp was zero on a scale from one to ten. My hands just limply slapped at the handle, no more useful than trying to turn the knob with a dead fish. I always had to resort to just waiting until someone was around before I could enter the decided destination.
Entering the mall and seeing how many people were bustling about reminded me of the hospital. Only this time, I was the odd man out. There wasn’t another wheelchair user in sight, where at the rehabilitation center there would have several guys in chairs making their way back and forth. Crutch users were the most bountiful.
We passed by the foodcourt first. My mouth watered at the fragrance of pizza wafting from one of the booths. I hadn’t had fast food in months and found myself suddenly longing for it. But I knew I wasn’t going to suffer the indignity of whipping out my spoon and fork cuffs in public. So I tried to ignore the tantalizing scents of chow-lo-mein and hot pastas as I rolled by.
I really didn’t have any direction and just tagged along behind Sid. I realized our destination when he slowed down next to an American Eagle. He looked down at me. “I really need some new shirts and stuff. Mom said that you have to get new pants since the ones you’re wearing are your only pair besides sweats.”
I frowned a little. “I do have more, but they’re still back at the apartment in Dallas. I haven’t talked to Ollie or anyone in weeks. They were supposed to bring me some. Besides, I don’t really want to today.”
Sid scoffed a little. I jerked my eyes up at him with a piercing gaze. “Oh, don’t look at me like that, Skelly. I know what you’re afraid of. You don’t want me helping you in and out of the clothes. I know you can’t do it by yourself, so that’s why I’m offering now. Would you seriously like it better if mom or dad had to help you?”
I thought about it for a second. While mom probably would have been my preference, I didn’t want to have to follow my mother around the mall either. It would be equally embarrassing to have my brother helping me. So I only sighed and rolled into the store. Sid took his time sifting through various shirts and trying on belts. All I could do was sit and look. I tried pushing through some shirt on hangers but only got my hand tangled, causing the shirts to fall and the hangers to come clattering down. I made an attempt to scoop them up with my wrists, but they only fell back down got caught in my wheels.
A store attendant noticed and quickly ran over. A couple a few feet away were trying not to stare as the employee worked the shirt out of my wheels and picked up the fallen hangers. She tried to avoid eye contact with me when she had to touch my wheelchair. “Did you, um, did you want to try these on?” Just wanting to get away and find Sid, I nodded and held out my arm towards them. She awkwardly draped the shirts over my forearm and started straightening up another rack.
I wove my way in and out of the maze of shelves and clothing until I found Sid modeling shoes in front of a large mirror. I noticed a huge pile of clothes had accumulated beside a chair next to him. He noticed me behind him in the mirror. “Are you ready to try some stuff on? I’ve got a little I’m gonna try.”
I nodded and followed him into the dressing area. Sid had to call an employee over to unlock the door for us. The guy obviously wasn’t thinking or was a little flustered because he didn’t even open the handicapped stall. I cleared my throat, causing him to take me into account for the first time. “Uh, I can’t fit in there. I’m gonna need an accessible stall.”
He looked concerned for a second. “I’m sorry, sir, but the lock on our only handicapped stall is broken. A guy was supposed to come fix it yesterday but never showed. Is there anything else we can do for you?”
I looked ahead into the empty stall before us. “No, I think my brother can handle it from here.”
Sid nodded his head in agreement and the clerk dismissed himself. “I guess there’s only one way to do this.” Sid went through the usual routine of unstrapping me before cradling me in his arms and transferring me onto the bench in the cramped dressing room. I immediately began to slump over into a hunch. Sid pushed me back, gently, so that I was leaning against the wall. I slipped a little further before settling and finding my balance, which was pretty difficult considering my lack of torso muscles.
He left my wheelchair right outside the stall so that I could keep an eye on the wheels of my chair from the space under the door. Sid gathered up all the clothes we had collected and plopped them down next to me on the bench. “It’s a little crowded, I guess, but it doesn’t make any sense to run back and forth between two stalls if I’m just gonna have to dress you anyway. I don’t expect you to mind seeing me in my skivvies.” I knew he was implying that I shouldn’t care if I saw him in his boxers since he’d seen my naked ass so many times.
He shut the door completely before pulling off his white shirt. He picked up a grey t-shirt with a gay-ass logo on it. I watched the muscles in his arms work as he pulled it on over his head. The shirt pressed smoothly against his formed abs. I looked down at my own gut. They had warned me about that at the hospital. I knew that once I had a quad gut it was going to be impossible to get rid of. But it’s not like I could do sit ups every night, or just support myself for that matter.
Sid looked down and picked up one the shirts that had fallen off the rack earlier. I actually thought it was ugly as hell but hadn’t wanted to embarrass myself further by creating a mess for no reason. Sid seemed to like it though and held it up to his own chest and looked into the mirror. “I kind of like this one. But I’ll let you try it on first.” I weakly pushed my elbow into the wall on my right, propping myself up slightly. I tried sweeping at my own shirt in an attempt to get it off and help somewhat, but of course, I only made things harder. Sid grabbed the bottom of my shirt and lifted it up over my head, my arms flopped back down to my lap once the shirt was off. He then moved down and began to unbutton my jeans.
“I got some jeans for you to try on. Mom should be happy.” I knew it didn’t really make a difference, but I didn’t want so much of my body to be exposed at one time. He tugged at them a little too roughly because it caused the Depends I was wearing to slip down slightly. Sid looked more embarrassed than I was and quickly nudged them back into place.
I felt so awkward sitting there in only an adult diaper and my stockings in such a public place. I guess I was afraid that at any moment a sales person would suddenly burst through the door or a customer would stumble in hoping to find an empty stall. I stared hard at the lock on the door. It seemed secured and I relaxed a little. Sid began to take off his own pants. I wished he would have waited until I had some clothes on before he began to undress. But I guessed that he was trying on some pants too.
I was surprised at how comfortable Sid had become with my body. He had started doing little things that he normally didn’t, like repositioning my legs. I watched as he carefully threaded each of my feet through the legs of vintage style jeans. He leaned me into his chest as he pulled them up over my butt, careful not to throw me off balance. I assisted as much as I could in the process of manipulating the button and zipper once the pants were securely on but only fumbled around with clumsy quad fingers.
Sid seemed perplexed for a moment. “Maybe these wont work out for you, Skell. Aren’t there stores or magazines where people like you can get special clothes?”
Though unintentional, his excluding me from the rest of the general population over something as insignificant as a pair of pants hurt me. To me it seemed that no matter how comfortable my own family became with my condition and accepted my differences in stride, they too would continue to differentiate me even in simple situations. I recognized a sinking feeling in my chest and suddenly felt even more awkward and out of place there in that American Eagle dressing room than I had before.
I motioned for Sid to get my shirt and starting pushing at the ill-fitting jeans around my waist. “You’re probably right, Sid. I’m sure mom knows where to get some adaptive clothes or something. I want to leave now, can you hurry it up?”
Sid blinked in surprise at my request. I hadn’t been gruff with him, but I usually wasn’t so forward. I’d become complacent and less opinionated lately, just letting others do with me what they thought best. It was bad enough that I couldn’t even live independently of other people, but now I had become so unconcerned with what was done with my own body, right down to what pants I wore, that I had essentially lost who I was as a person altogether.
This wasn’t me, quad or not. I never would have worn American Eagle apparel before, why the fuck should I now? I never would have let Sid dictate what we did and didn’t do before I got hurt, but yet here I was just meekly following whatever path he set before me. I had been an idiot for so long, letting my own ignorant family whom I’d detested not so long ago control almost every aspect of my being just because I was paralyzed. I suddenly hated myself and what I had become.
But the funny thing was, for the first time I didn’t place the blame on my injury. Who cares if I’m a quad, I still have my mind…my personality. And this just wasn’t me. I could be every bit the person I was before, just in a different way. Being a twenty two year old man and still living at home with my family caring for me made me sick. It didn’t have to be like this. I had made up my mind. If Tuck wasn’t willing to take me in as a roommate then I’d find someone who was. Ollie owed me quite a few favors from back in the day, maybe now would be his time to starting filling in his debts to me.
Whatever the case I knew I’d find someone, even if by bribery or manipulation. I had started feeling like my old self again already. I grinned slyly, mentally plotting out the people I could use to assist my transfer to a more acceptable and fulfilling life on my part. I was ready for change, but I’d have to initiate it myself. Already lightheaded and feeling a buzz from the slight euphoria I felt at having seemingly clawed my way out of a bleak hole I’d called life, I looked up at Sid. “Let’s go.”
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