I was alone for the first time since I’d woken up that day. All I could think about was Tuck not being there anymore once I left the hospital. Since I’d met him, I hadn’t thought of my life without him.
At that very moment Tuck came bustling through the door, so chipper it made me sick. “Well Mr. Happy, while I can see that you’re nothing but a barrel of smiles right now, it’s time to quit feelin’ sorry for yourself and get acquainted with your wheelchair first and foremost.”
“I’m not feeling sorry for myself,” I spat out.
“Whoa, easy does it. What’s eating you?”
I looked the other way, not wanting to get too emotional right off the bat. “Aren’t you even sad about the fact that I won’t be here much longer?”
He sighed. “No, I’m not.” I could feel the heat in my facing rising as I sharply looked over at him. “As much as you hate it, I’m not going to be happy until you’re out of the hospital. I don’t want to see you in here, Skell. I want you healthy and happy with your family, even if that means I don’t get to take care of you anymore.” My look softened, Tuck was the only one who’d ever been able to cool me down so quickly after I’d gotten myself riled up. “You’re still going to see me, silly. Just not as much.”
I was relieved, somewhat. I was afraid that Tuck was just going to accept the fact that I wasn’t going to be here anymore and move on. “I…I…” I couldn’t say it. I stopped myself before coming out and saying I love you to Tuck.
“What is it?” Tuck looked questioningly at me. “Go ahead.”
“I think I’m ready to start therapy now.”
Tuck seemed disappointed. “Ok, good. I’ll be right back with your wheelchair.”
I had been measured for my first chair only a week earlier. It had been made especially for me, but I hadn’t seen it yet. I held my breath as Tuck turned the corner and entered the room. He was sitting in the wheelchair with his hands on the armrests. He was controlling the chair with a little mouth piece on the head rest. I just stared for a minute before Tuck spoke. “Well what do you think? Pretty nice, huh?”
Nice was the furthest adjective from my mind at the moment. Horrifying was more like it. Tuck stopped the chair and climbed out, pushing the chair the rest of the way to my bedside. “Are you ready for this?”
I slowly nodded. I knew the wheelchair was an inevitable part of my injury. If not now, I would only have to do it later.
“Good. Now normally, if only a couple of the floor nurses are around, they’d use a sling to get you in and out of the chair. But since I’ve get such strong, well-muscled equipment here,” he flexed his biceps, “I’m going to save us a hassle by just picking you up.”
I watched as he pulled the railings down on my bed down and put one arm under my knees and felt the other slip around my shoulders and neck. With much more ease than I’d expected (I had lost about 30 pounds since my injury), Tuck lifted me, turned a bit, and gently placed me in my wheelchair.
He immediately got to work rearranging my body so that different parts fit properly in their designated areas. First he placed my feet in the footrests, crossing the heavy, velcro straps over my socked feet. A second strap was fastened at my shins, keeping my legs from swinging out, I suppose. I looked and saw that the padding of the seat was saddle-like. A raised portion of the cushion was directly in between my thighs, pushed up against my groin. I’m sure the pressure this was applying would have been pretty uncomfortable had I been able to feel my dick, but since I couldn’t it made no difference to me. Tuck moved up to a thick strap located at my chest. After firmly fastening it he clamped a large, clear tray into place over my lap. He reached down and pulled my weak hands up, placing them on the tray. All they did was slide closer to my chest and quietly rest there. Tuck appeared to be finished.
“What? You’re not going to strap my head down too?” I jokingly said.
“Actually, that wouldn’t be a bad idea. I don’t want you strainin’ your neck too much on the first day the brace is off.” He considered it for a second before shaking his head. “You really don’t need it. The head rest is pretty supportive, it should keep your neck from movin’ about too much.”
That was true. My neck was already so weak that I couldn’t turn my head one way or the other even if I’d wanted to. The indention in the headrest was so deep that the sides of it ended at my temples. “Is this all? Am I ready now?”
“Yep, I think that’s it. Give that little straw on the headrest a puff.” He was almost giddy with the anticipation of my first movement in the chair. I hesitated for only a moment before puffing into the straw. The wheelchair lurched forward, almost running over Tuck’s foot. “Whoa there! Gently, Skelly. It doesn’t take much force. Now you’re gonna have to sip to move backwards a bit.”
I did as he said and found myself ramming into the nightstand by my bed, knocking over a few pill bottles and a juice box. Tuck bent down to pick up the clutter. I wanted to help, since I’d made the mess in the first place. But all I could do was watch from my wheelchair as he picked up after me. He stood back up, rearranging the fallen items back on the nightstand. “It’s okay, these are only your first few tries. You’ll get better, but for now I think I’d better push you the rest of the way.”
He walked around to the back of my chair and grabbed the handles. I thought the door was getting closer somehow before realizing that Tuck had started pushing. It was a weird sensation at first. I had never sat in a wheelchair before…ever. It was a strange experience, but I knew that this was the only way I’d be getting to and from anywhere from now on and relaxed, trying to absorb every little thing that was passing me by. I hadn’t been out of my room in weeks, and the smallest things were grabbing my attention.
I didn’t get to enjoy the bland scenery for long before we stopped at an elevator. Tuck appeared to the right of me. He held a stick with what looked like a mouthpiece on the end of it up. “Now, because your neck is still too weak to be movin’ it around right now, I’m just going to show you how you’ll use this in the future.” He pressed the end of the stick into the down button, which lighted up soon after. “You’ll come to rely on this stick for very basic, yet necessary things, such as pressin’ the elevator button.” He put the stick in the front pocket of my hoodie.
Only a minute more went by before the elevator doors opened, revealing at least five people inside of it already. I could feel my face get hot as all eyes settled on me. I could read their expressions easily. “Oh, look at the poor crippled boy in his wheelchair. He can’t even use his hands, poor thing.” Every little thing that had ever made me nervous about my appearance came careening back to me in moments. I glanced down at my numb hands. One had slid across the tray and was almost hanging over the side while the other was still resting peacefully against my chest. I looked down through the clear tray at my crotch. I was sure everyone could see the outline of the butt pad protruding through my sweats. I could sense how helpless they could tell I was. My face burned with embarrassment as I stared down at my balled-up fists.
Tuck swung me around before pulling me into the crowded elevator backwards. Everyone inside resituated to give my bulky wheelchair more room. I could tell one woman in front of me was uncomfortably close. Her knee kept brushing up against my left foot, strapped in place. Her cheeks turned red as she realized what she kept brushing up against. Another younger girl didn’t even try to hide the fact that she was staring at my legs. I looked down at them. They had somehow shifted under the heavy straps and now looked crooked. Her eyes moved along to my feet, still and lifeless, toes slightly curled beneath the white socks.
I could stand the stares at my legs and feet, but it was almost impossible not to sense the feverish heat covering what parts of my body I could feel every time someone gazed upon my curled hands. They were the part of my body I was most insecure about. I decided to ask Tuck to place them under the tray next time. Even though it was clear, my hands still wouldn’t be lying there out in the open for everyone to see. I held my breath for what seemed like minutes before the elevator doors opened, releasing everyone from the tense environment.
Tuck pushed me out into the wide hallway. I hadn’t expected there to be so many people bustling back and forth. Though it was slightly crowded, everyone automatically squeezed to the left or right of my chair. I’m sure I looked like fucking Moses parting the sea of nurses and visitors.
About halfway down the hall Tuck turned me into a doorway on the left. Inside I could see a large, spacious room filled with mats, treadmills, weights, and parallel bars. There were about eight other people already using various equipment. Four out of those eight were nurses supervising the progress of their patients. One guy was on a slow-moving treadmill with parallel bars. He had thick braces running all the way up to his thighs with another back brace on which was rigged up to some kind of pulley above him.
I looked at Tuck. “What’s up with that guy?”
Tuck turned to see what I was gawking at. “Oh, that. He’s an incomplete paraplegic. Hopefully his legs will recognize the walkin’ simulation, and he’ll be able to regain some function in his legs.”
“Well what about me? Am I going to use that so maybe I’ll be able to walk?”
Tuck bit his lip lightly and slowly exhaled. “Skelly, you know you’re never gonna walk again. Don’t kid around like that. The most you can ever hope for is some movement in your lower arms. That’s what we’re here for today, okay?”
I smiled but hadn’t been kidding around. I’d really thought that maybe there was some chance for me too. Tuck had immediately squashed that false hope. He pushed me over to one of the large mats lying on the ground. There was already a nurse at the other end of the mat exercising a patient like Tuck usually did for me. I looked at who she was exercising. It was a man, probably in his late thirties, lying there with his eyes closed. He was dressed in a t-shirt and nylon work-out shorts that rode up, revealing a thick, white diaper wrapped around his bottom. I was embarrassed for him and quickly averted my eyes. I made a mental note never to let Tuck take me down to therapy in shorts.
As my eyes traveled to his upper body, I was surprised to see he was a quad like me. His body looked almost exactly as mine did except that his was much, much thinner. His elbows and knees looked huge beneath his pale skin. And his hands, like mine, were also useless. It was those hands that really scared the shit out of me. They were so tense; his retracted fingers were tightly pulled back, making them seem almost claw-like. His feet had taken on the same, strong arch beneath his calf-high support stockings. He looked so helpless just lying there on the mat like that, his shorts revealing an embarrassing part of everyday life that he now had to endure. I wondered if he had a wife and kids. Then I thought about the humiliation of sitting in your wheelchair, shitting your pants while your wife feeds you lunch. Then looking over at your kid across the table, already out of diapers and feeding himself, watching as his mother wipes spittle and food from his own dad’s chin.
I didn’t want to look at him anymore. Instead of making me feel better about myself, I was only getting more depressed. Tuck wheeled me over to the other side of the mat, locking the brakes on my wheelchair and swiftly undoing the numerous velcro straps. He removed the tray, placing it over to the side. As before, he slid one hand under my knees while the other continued around my neck and shoulders. Easily lifting me, he then bent down, placing me on the blue mat no more than four feet away from the man I’d been embarrassed for.
Tuck grabbed a pillow from one of the cabinets nearby and held my head up while he slipped the pillow beneath it. After making sure my neck was properly supported he moved closer to my feet. I looked down at my arms lying quietly to my sides. My legs had gotten tangled as Tuck moved me from my wheelchair to the mat. It irritated me to see them so twisted. Tuck straightened them out, though, before I even had the chance to say anything. I was surprised at how particular I was becoming to how my legs and arms looked. I guess I somehow thought that maybe someone from across the room might mistake me for an able-bodied guy just lying down. But I knew that assumption could never be made if my arms and legs were crossed over each other looking confused and immobile.
Tuck had already begun his usual exercise regimen on my legs. I’d seen what he was doing a hundred times before so I began looking around the room. There wasn’t much in my range of motion besides the ceiling and to the left and right sides of my head. So eventually my eyes settled on the man beside me once again. His eyes were still closed. He had deep, chestnut hair with a slight wave to it and a five o’clock shadow grazing his lower face. I surveyed his familiar body once again, returning to his face soon after. I was still trying to determine whether he was asleep or not when his eyes abruptly flew open, meeting my gaze. This was so unexpected that I ended up staring him down for a couple seconds before I even realized what was happening.
Blushing, my eyes darted back to Tuck, who was bending my leg at the knee and then pulling it back out. It looked almost like a slow-motion kick. My foot just hung limply from my ankle, swinging every time Tuck thrust my leg back out. Though I was no longer looking at the man, I could sense his eyes burning a hole in me.
“Lookin’ good today, Vash.” Tuck’s attention was directed at the man. He said nothing, but continued staring in my direction. Tuck turned back to me and whispered, “He quit talkin’ a couple months after his accident. He wont even speak to his wife or little girl.”
So I had been right about that. Tuck continued. “His wife thinks he’s brain damaged but all the doctors here know he’s not. He just…gave up, I guess. After the hospital releases him he’s goin’ to a nursin’ home.”
The last few words sent a chill through me. I couldn’t even imagine having to live in a nursing home with a bunch of old people; being 22 years old and already having my life mapped out for me until the day that I died.
“What happened to him?” I quietly asked. “From what I hear, his father-in-law caught him and a boyfriend he’d picked up fuckin’ in a local motel. In a fit of rage, the father shot both Vash and his guy; putting the boyfriend in a coma which led to a permanent vegetative state and paralyzin’ Vash.” He lowered his voice even more. “He hasn’t spoken since he found out his beau’s a vegetable.” Tuck cringed. “Oh, I hate that word. Vegetable. It’s so inhuman. Seems like someone could come up with a better term for it. Also, I can’t believe how intolerant some people can be. His father-in-law should be locked away forever, but he’s out on parole right now.”
The whole story horrified me. I didn’t even want to think about my dad knowing what went on between me and Tuck when no one was around. Coincidentally, Tuck slyly rubbed his hand over my crotch, squeezing firmly for a moment before letting go. I was immediately turned on. I looked around to see if anyone had noticed. Only Vash’s sharp eyes had witnessed the incident. I was fearful for a moment before I realized that Vash wasn’t going to be telling anybody anything for a while.
I looked Tuck in the eyes while I slowly licked and bit down on my lower lip. Tuck visibly grew excited but continued massaging me, moving up to my hands. After making sure that we were still going unnoticed, Tuck pressed my balled-up fist into the fast-forming tent in his pants. He rubbed himself deeply with my hand before releasing it. I wanted him to continue pleasuring himself with my useless hand but knew we were pushing our luck. This was definitely not the time or place to get all worked up. Though we had to quit for the time being, I knew our evening would really get started as soon as it was time for my bath and we could be alone.
To be continued...