by Karine R (firstname.lastname@example.org)
We were both too drunk. We landed on top of each other, on the floor, laughing. I had been granted permisson to assist Mark out of his wheel chair. The scene was still tensionless, until I realised I was acting on the closeness I had felt flow between us, and I was lowering my mouth towards his. Ready to make a joke about how the whiskey made me misjudge the situation.
The kiss was returned. Silence, wide eyes. He lifted his head slowly, mouth slightly ajar, inviting, but not demanding, eyes questioning, slightly challenging.
- I had no idea you were gay. He murmured as our mouths locked on once more.
- I took a chance. Was the whispered answer.
My mind was reeling – I was impressed by his every move, his strong upper torso, rippling muscles, raw strength, contrasted by his lower body, which was paralysed. I let myself be constantly surprised by him. I had been with many women, no men. Not even thought of it as an option, and here I was indulging my self with a lust that was new and unused as the daybreak. I was surprised and jubilant and didn’t much care to analyse the consequences.
I unbuttoned his shirt, gently, looking to his face for acceptance. We were still on the floor, beside the bed. It was a carpeted deep red. A lusty colour, underlining the temptations I felt float in my belly.
- Taking advantage of a poor cripple, are you? He teased.
- Nah, only helping this poor cripple into a decent bedtime state …
The shirt was gone, revealing an impressive chest, nothing wanting. I was about to continue with the belt of his trousers, when he locked his strong arms around me and murmured into my ear.
- Whoa, not so quick. First things first. Do you really know what you are letting yourself into?
- I haven’t got the slightest clue.
- I’m not sure we can handle this.
I hear an anxious undertone. His eyes flicker.
- I’m not scared. Try me.
- Not so fast – not now. I need to go slow, little brother.
He smiles, I imagine, a little sadly, withdraws slightly and drags himself into a sitting position, back against the bed. The magic is broken. I’m desperate that intimacy should last.
I try for a new kiss, surprised by my own audacity, but this time it is just short and superficial. Mark stares blankly into space. I move over to the bed and sit behind him. Stroking and massaging neck and shoulders. After a long silence, which I dare not break, he sighs, bends his neck back and looks into my eyes.
- Thank you for your patience – I think we need to do some talking - later.
I realise I am dismissed and move out of bed. He puts his arms on the sideboards of the bed, and heaves his butt onto the edge. I watch the show of strength. In a sharper tone he goes:
- Please, Luke, I need to do some thinking here…”, then he adds in a kinder tone: Good night, my friend. We’ll talk tomorrow.
I had known Mark for half a year – My admiration had grown into a selfish, all consuming, ever present obsession. It was accompanied with a creeping jealousy of anybody close to Mark. It made me feel alive. I was biding my time – waiting for these odd feelings to subside – I’d never felt like this about another man. Even though pockets in our modern world accepts such love, I was still apprehensive. Me – always mainstream, always medium, always non-descript mediocre. Here I was, entertaining ideas that would make me conspicuous, stand out, be different in the eyes of the world, that is – if I acted upon them. But I didn’t know him yet, I didn’t have to admit my feelings to anyone. It was just a whim I convinced myself, it would pass…
Anyway – why would I be more interested in getting to know him than any other of my fellow students – I don’t know, I just was. Unlike most of the other students he didn’t mind asking questions that might betray his ignorance. I was often grateful for that. Then one day - we happened to be in the same group assignment. Mark and me, and two girls. We hit it off. Issues of obvious differences were left untouched. They were phantoms that could either explode or strengthen our circle. We still don’t know which.
The assignment meant working together once a week. After the second meeting, we decided to hit a bar together. Mark tried to excuse himself, but we managed to convince him he’d spoil our evening if he didn’t come. Suddenly the wheel-chair kind of materialized, it became an issue, even though no-one mentioned it. How would he get down-town – he solved that one for us – he had a car, maybe we would like to go with him? One of the girls, Line, also had a car, whereas Heidi did not. We spilt up – Mark and me, and the two girls in the other car. But then where would we go – it ought to be accessible for all of us, or didn’t it? Would Mark mind being carried up the stairs – could we ask him? Would he be straight with us if we asked? I tried to remember if there was one nice place, where I thought he would be able to manage on his own. I realised I couldn’t remember whether the places I knew had steps or how their layout was. The only thing I could reliably recall was that they were usually so full of people hanging close to each other, moving through the locale in a snakelike – slithering manner with a booster of a half filled glass in one hand and possibly a smoke in the other. It was a magic recipe to find some other lonely character with which you could communicate the age old needs of body, and if lucky, possibly also soul. The unobtrusive manoeuvring of a wheel-chair in this environment was not only impossible, it was unthinkable. Of course, Mark came up with a better idea – we all were anxious to accommodate him and we quickly agreed to go theree. It was a bar that was a little too classy for me – I’d been there once in a while but never stayed long.
Mark and I rode downtown together. He deftly manoeuvred himself into the driver’s seat, lifted his legs into the narrow space below the wheel, folded the chair and asked me to put it into the boot. The chair was really light-weight, a sleek little thing, bright colours, stripped to the basics, low back-rest, no armrests. He drove with hand-controls. It was fascinating to watch him. Conversation between us was easy going, comments on the weather and traffic. I must have gawked quite a bit. When we entered the more trafficked parts of the down-town area he dryly commented:
- It looks more complicated than it is. You get used to it.
- Was my staring that obvious? It’s just that I’ve never seen anybody drive like this before. No offence – really. I mean, you’re different, and then you’re not. Somehow it gets to you, you know – that we have different possibilities and all…
He smiled and replied:
- Just keep on looking if you want too, but hold on to that last part – I’m not all that different. Or if I am, I’m sure our greatest differences are not these – he motioned to the hand controls in the car.
- Don’t worry - I’m used to stares. The comment was made in an easy tone,
- Yeah, I guess you would be. I managed to reply. Does it bother you – people staring I mean.
- Depends – why they’re staring I guess.
He’d out-manoeuvred me again. I let it float away. He found a parking spot marked for disabled drivers, quite close to our destination.
- There are some advantages of being a wheel-chair user – he mused – and parking regulations are one of them.
I got the chair from the trunk and tried to unfold it, but as I fiddled around, he soon asked me to hand it over. A swift combination of handgrips led to its easy unfolding. He locked both wheels, took hold of the far-end wheel with one hand, and the indoors hand-grip above the car-door with the other, leaned his body over and transferred in one motion to the chair. His legs slapped limply onto the ground, he bent down and placed each one of them on the footrest. Unlocked the wheels, moved away from the door, slammed the car door shut behind him. It was all done in a matter of seconds – really looked like no big deal at all.
The girls were already there when we arrived. They were nice enough ladies. Lina had a rare combination of being both ambitious, strong headed and shy, a warm personality and not without charm. Heidi was from somewhere up north – direct in her approach, no beating around the bush, but witty. Mark and I got the first round which consisted of beers, except for Lina, who swore to a high stemmed glass of red wine. The conversation flowed from the group-task we were working on, to characterization of our professors, and on to what we had been up to in our previous lives, before coming to university.
After a while, Mark rolled off to the counter. I followed him in the corner of my eyes while trying to keep an intelligent conversation with my fellow students. The waitress behind the counter was looking for something in response to Mark’s request, but came back shaking her head, obviously apologizing profusely. Mark shrugged his shoulders and smiled at her, soothing her and returned to our table. He seemed a little more distanced, as if his mind was on something else. At some point, the girls went off to the ladies room together – it’s something they do in pairs. When we were alone, Mark leaned over to me and whispered.
- Listen Luke, I need to you to do me a big favour.
- Well, yeah – anything you need.
- Well, the personnel weren’t able to find the key to the crip toilet, and I badly need to take a leak, but my chair won’t go into any of those narrow booths in the gent’s room.
- I understand your predicament … I whispered back. What can I do to help out?
- We just need to improvise something, find a corner with some degree of privacy. I’ll pee into a bottle, but I’d sure appreciate it if you could watch out for me. Lets go see if the men’s toilet can be of use.
The girls returned just then – we excused ourselves and headed for the toilet. The girls teased that going to the toilet together was a girl’s thing… We both made a funny face at them.
The men’s fore room was crammed – No chance of any privacy. It wouldn’t be easy to explain why a visitor should be closing off the toilet area either. I looked at him, trying to estimate what he might weigh – could a piggy-back ride into a booth do the trick? I proposed it. He didn’t seem too happy.
- No offence, but are you strong enough? He whispered back
I could understand his concern, I was no body builder, and he was well built.
- I don’t know I answered, but if I’m not, I’m sure one of the other guys in here will give us a hand…
- I really don’t want to be such a bother he replied.
I vividly sympathised with his need to do the most ordinary thing in a less obtrusive way.
We agreed that he’d keep his place in the line and I go once more to the counter. Maybe there might be an alternative room that could be used. The bar-girl smiled her sweetest and informed me that the kitchen would be the only alternative, but privacy could not be procured, nor would they allow such activities there. She did, however look again for the key, which had miraculously re-surfaced. I rushed back to the toilet with the trophy, but when I returned I could see his flag was low. I soon understood why. A yellow puddle had formed beneath the chair.
Neither of us tried to make a record of what the other males in the room were doing as we cleaned up as best we could with paper towels, and made a retreat to the now available handicap toilet. I asked if he needed any further assistance, but he just shook his head and locked himself in. Ten minutes later he was back at our table in a fresh pair of trousers – obviously not the first time his bladder turned on him. No reference was made to the episode. I searched for signs of desperation, but none were to be found, he was just the same old good-natured Mark.
The rest of the evening I tried to concentrate on Heidi. I liked her. We discussed the ongoing politics of war and peace, superpowers and smaller powers, nationalism and globalisation. We cheered, I drank some more. Mark declined.
- I’m driving. One beer’s the limit.
The smoke was thick, the living good – we were together, and we were fine! Mark left just before midnight, while the girls and I hung on for a couple of more hours. Met a few friends, exchanged some casual comments on life in general, which, as usual, consisted of persuading the other person of how swell, and how successful we all were. For once, I felt quite truthful as I was swapping these “how goes” packages of current classes, incomes, living quarters and girl friends. Life was great, I knew I made a convincing show – always on the air, never time to settle down. We were all of us in a breeze – floating towards an undefined destination of good companionship, the land of never-never-care. I felt I would always stand up for each of these three others in my group and they would do the same for me. We had the world at our feet. I wasn’t ready to articulate the largest change though, I had this focus on another human being which was and wasn’t new to me. It was an age old sensation, one that I’d directed towards the Heidis and the Lines of this world, so far. Now it had a new direction – I decided it was quite exciting – maybe I was finally growing up.
Heidi invited me over for a night-cap once or twice. I declined. I remember thinking, each time – yes! This is what I should go for, just not now, not today, maybe some other time. That was what I told her. I was convincing the first and second time, the third time I knew I’d blown it – or at least, I’d have to make a move myself if I wanted anything to happen. Instead I asked Mark out for a beer. Sure, we agreed to go over to the student’s pub, just off campus. We’d share a pizza. We walked and rolled over together. The road sloped slightly, and he his chair collected quite a speed. He crossed the empty street back and forth in front of me, almost making me fall over him a couple of times, just missing me by a fraction of a second.
- Hey watch out - not every body gets to go as fast as you!
- No they don’t. He agreed with a malicious smile. He looked as happy as a school kid with a new speed toy.
- The pub had no ramp, and there were two steps to get in. I managed roll him up back-wards. As we were struggling with this obstacle, I couldn’t resist getting back at him.
- Now I’m even with you – this is my domain.
- Yes, it most certainly is. He sighed
We settled at a table not far from the entrance. The locale was dimly lit and slightly cramped. He transferred to the sofa that surrounded three sides of the table on and motioned to me that I park his chair out of the way. We ordered our pizzas and small talked about the weather, which, given the season, had been exceptionally fine lately. At some point Mark grew serious.
- Listen Luke, I feel we get along famously. Yet, we…. He took a pause as if searching for words… we need to talk about our, uhm, differences as you chose to call it the other day.
- Yeah – sure, I responded meekly.
- What do you see, when you see me Luke?
I wasn’t sure what he was getting at – had he guessed that I was drawn to him, had he understood my attraction? I opted for a non-committed answer -
- Well – I see you, Mark. So far – my newest and – I paused, unsure of how far I could go – perhaps my best friend on campus so far...
He smiled as he cut me short, but the seriousness didn’t leave his eyes.
- Let me rephrase. If you were to point me out to someone who didn’t know me - how would you describe me?
- Well – I guess, I’d have said you were the guy in the wheel chair.
He looked almost elated. He had led me up the expected lane.
- That’s what I’m getting at. For most people – I am the guy in the wheel chair. I can do all kinds of acrobatics – yet it’ll stick to me – first and foremost - I am the “Wheelchair guy”. Do you know what it does to you to be seen primarily as someone in a chair, someone whose lack of ability to walk is the only quality that really sinks in.
- You know I don’t know, that’s why we’re having this talk isn’t it?
He continued as if I hadn’t spoken.
- I could do anything expected or unexpected, sing, dance, be a genius or a bastard and everything I ever do is always related to my chair. If I’m good at something it’s because I’ve got plenty of time to kill, because I’m in this chair. If I’m sour mouthed it isn’t attributed to lack of sleep, or a lousy morning, but because I’m in this chair”. Everything I ever do is seen in the context of my wheel-chair – its as if only the chair is real.
As he was speaking I tried to recollect the last few weeks. Had I been like that? Had I failed to see him as a person? Did I throw meaningless comments about his condition at him? I felt pretty sure I hadn’t. On the contrary, that was actually part of the magic. Neither of us had made a big fuss about his chair, just as nobody had asked me of my background. I found I had actually stopped thinking about the chair.
- Mark, I’m sorry you feel this way, but I really do not feel at home in this description. Did I ever behave as if you were just a chair?
He was silent for a while – as if trying to decide what to say. He did not continue right away, so I pressed him.
- Please Mark – I would hate our friendship to be burnt by some insensitive and unthinking comment or act on my part. Give me the possibility to make it up.
- Oh – he said, I wouldn’t be so rude as to hold you accountable for other people’s unease with me. On the contrary – Heidi, Line and you all seem to have forgotten about the chair altogether. Yet there was this one episode. Luke don’t be mad at me, but I need to get this of my chest. The things I said before, they are annoying, but not really all that bad. I kind of brush these things off with a comment to make people feel at ease, but you know, when people I care for can’t handle my condition it gets to me.
By now I was really concerned and worried. What had happened to bring forth this speech? I still had no idea what he was getting at, and my fluttering butterflies were sinking in my stomach. Mark took a deep breath, before he continued.
- Remember that incident at the pub the other night Luke, when I wet my pants? You know what the worst part of it was? I tried to signal to you that I was ok. You must correct me if I’m wrong, but I suspect that you were so upset on my behalf. I couldn’t get through to you after that.
His message was dawning on me.
- Yeah, you’re right. I admitted. I was quite upset. I felt really bad for you.
- Well don’t, or if you do, try keep it to yourself. I’ve done my grieving. I don’t need others to go into grieving for me. This is about pity Luke. When I get the feeling that someone feels sorry for me – that’s when I really tend to get the blues.
- I’m really sorry Mark. I guess I didn’t stop to think – I was really upset.
- Well so was I, but you know, that’s kind of my part – If I’m upset, it passes. I’ve been there before, but what I’m really not up to is that cheering up part of those around me. I felt like shit when you came back, but then it was over when I had donned new trousers.
- I could never have been as cool about this as you seem to be.
- Oh-noooo! Wrong answer Luke – but he was smiling. I’m not in a position that’s worse than death, but I’m no saint either. I’m just me – Mark, another guy, who happens to move about in a chair, and I have less tight bladder control than is the norm. That’s it.
Now, it was my turn to be exasperated.
- You make it sound so simple. I would be devastated if I was in your position.
- Who said I was trying to make it into a simple thing. I’m not pretending nothing happened. I have to accommodate, but I choose not to focus on it all the time. I’ll never like what happened, and I battle everyday to make what happened less important. Once in a while, I press my luck too far, like the other day, but it’s either that or staying afraid and away. I’ve chosen to live, and at times I meet my boundaries head on – Bang! What I don’t need at that point is that people rub my failure into my face – poor boy – what a pity…It must be hard. Yes it is damned hard to keep your self-respect up, when those around you would rather have you put away in a safe place where boundaries and limits are cushioned.
Somewhere in my brain, I registered that this was a speech not only for me. It had been held before and it was addressed to all the other men in that toilet, and to children who stare and then are told to look away, and to the architects who put neither handicap toilets nor ramps, and to all the others who forget that cripples belong to the real world. I felt at loss, knowing anything I said might justly be used against me
- I don’t know what to say – I finally said. If I say I’m sorry, you’ll bust my ass for being sorry for you, but you know, I really am, I never thought about it the way you have. I might be better at climbing stairs, and keeping my pants dry, but you sure beat me when it comes down to most other things we do here. I promise I’ll let you run your battles with toilets and stairs and God knows what. I won’t so much as raise an eyebrow, but please don’t let this come between us.
- Good, that’s settled then, Mark smiled. I’m trying hard to be just another guy. And Luke, if there’s anything you want to know, please ask, I don’t always stop to think of all the things about my condition that might seem weird to others.
The pizzas arrived. We exchanged witty comments on professors, the royal family and the ultraconservative party’s latest flops. We left the pizzeria some three hours later, feeling closer than ever, a new bond, strengthened by the accomplishment of having educated one another. It was such a good feeling.
I was lying on the couch. It had worked. I was sure Luke would be more at ease from now on. As I slumbered off into dreamland, the radio was blasting out the news, doomsday bulletins interspersed by cheerful pop-music, a frightful combination of the successes and the blackest nightmares of human kind.
It was hard to breath. I was struggling to get loose, but I couldn’t breathe properly. Words were coming through together with blood. I was breathing bubbles. No pain. Couldn’t feel any pain, but I couldn’t get myself loose either. I was stuck, stuck, stuck. A voice, soothing, it’ll be ok. They’ll soon be here to help you. Hang on, don’t leave us. But I left; I floated away towards this dazzling light, willing myself to go. The aching was gone, I was flying. Then I felt as if I were falling fast, fast downward, something was slipping, my heart flinched as I realised I would soon be hitting the ground…
I woke my heart thumping. The last part of the nightmare was familiar. Since the accident I’d had many versions of it. It was six in the afternoon. I’d dozed off after dinner. I put one hand behind my back and raised my upper body. No abdominal muscles, getting up was all arms. I lifted my legs out of the couch and swung around. I couldn’t feel my feet, or my butt – it was as if I was seated in thin air. I had patches of sensation, here and there, especially on my right thigh. I was continent, but it was touch and go. I usually put a condom catheter when I knew it might be a while till I could get to an accessible toilet.
Still drowsy, slightly frozen, I reached out for the quilt my mother had made. Small elaborate embroideries, even a wheel chair in a corner. I stroked it before I put it around my shoulders. This was my life. I wasn’t mad; it was just something to cope with. Rehab had shown me I had much to be grateful for. At least I was still independent in most ways – I didn’t need to be fed, or helped to the toilet. It was worse for my parents. I’d lived at home the first year. They made a ramp so that I could get in and out on my own, and there were bars in the bathroom to facilitate transfers between chair and toilet and shower, but that was it. The kitchen remained out of reach, same as second floor. I moved out. They came over in the weekends. My mother’s “just checking” badly hidden and my father with a paternal wink in the eye.
I aligned myself as best I could with the wheelchair – leant over, and checked that both wheels were locked, grabbed the far wheel with one arm, and the frame of the couch with the other, then I navigated my butt into the wheelchair. I wheeled to the bathroom. Crossed one leg over the other, bended over so that my trousers could come down on one buttock, then repeated on the other side. Finally I lifted each thigh, and dragged the trousers down. The transfer – I used the grab bars by the toilet to put myself into position, then I lifted limp legs out of the chair. I held my penis. Finally – take a leak. No feeling – it was a loss. I missed jerking off. With heavy stimulation, I could still ejaculate, a vibrator in the ass did the trick. Felt good to be able to, who knew, maybe I’d want to make kids one day. I ran my fingers down on each side of my buttocks, checking – no broken skin, no signs of pressure sores. Reversal of process. Every move had been studiously practiced, and I had become good at it. A sense of achievement and badly hidden pride was reflected in the mirror. A nice upper torso, the chest and arms weren’t too bad. Those physiotherapists were right; I’d soon be prancing before I hopped onto the toilet, just to show-off...
The memory of Trevor was a painful one. At fourteen a new boy had started in the same boy-scouts unit as mine, and I literally had my first crush. I was crushed between physical desires and self despise. Every night I prayed to the Lord – please take it away, I cannot control it – what did I do wrong?
Trevor and I became the perfect friends – we did every thing together. We were cool together, we bought our first adult magazines together, we jerked off together, and we laughed our heads off. However we never touched, we never crossed that flimsy line that would send the other running. We dated girls too, but no female relationship remained closer or became more intimate than our own comradeship. I became more at ease – my heart flipped only once when the bell called and it was Trevor. I was happy – this was okay. If physical love was forbidden, I could live with this – a close friendship, and dream of Trevor.
Once we went on a camping trip – we had brought two girls too. Trevor and I had fooled around – playing boy-scout heroes – setting up the tent. Trevor had proved himself an excellent cook. At the campfire, we sang songs, laughed and talked about growing up. Gullible and easily distracted parents who commonly made fools of them selves. Inter-rail trips, far-away schools and universities. Getting new experiences was all that mattered. I was so turned on – it was hard to conceal it as we were undressing. I told the others I needed to take a leak. Trevor crept up on him from behind as I was satisfying myself – he whispered my name. He smiled:
- Mark – would you like me to help you out? –
I couldn’t help myself – my head nodded slightly as if on it’s own account, I wasn’t really there. Trevor’s eyes were shining. A soft whisper:
- Would you like to return the favour?
I was about to explode. I wanted to open my arms, embrace Trevor and make my secret known. Trevor’s beautiful body, the little scar on his left cheek, his rolling cowboy gait, his funny way of frowning when he was about to laugh, the tight butt, his large veined hands, his wavy short dark cropped hair, his musky smell, all his enchanting, enticing, allure – was within reach. I could not muster any defence. My hand came out, reached towards Tervor’s member, and felt its enormity. It literally grew in my hand.
It was over in seconds – I’m sure it was, but it felt like a slow-motion scene. The transition between each frame took minutes. Every detail was etched on my inner eye, yet I remembered nothing of what happened. I felt I had dirtied myself, but I loved it. I wanted to do it all over again, and I wanted to erase my being from the surface of the earth. I would love him for ever after, I would drive him from my life never to lay eyes on him again. I would declare myself as a gay and at the same time go into eternal hiding. Trevor had looked wistfully at me – and what he said seemed so odd at the time:
- Why don’t you come out with me?
I didn’t understand the significance of his words. We had been close, but yet, strangely apart. Touching by hand the most intimate of the other’s body, yet the rest of our bodies were as far apart as we could get them. Although we had just gotten off together, I had never been further from admitting my sexuality. I loved him so, but I did my best to hide it from both Trevor and myself.
When I woke in the morning, Trevor’s arm was carelessly lying across my belly, his foot crossed over mine. I closed my eyes, pretended to be asleep, savouring this moment of closeness while conflicting emotions were raising hell within.
Just a few weeks later, things got out of hand. We often discussed God. Trevor’s parents didn’t believe, but they encouraged him to make up his own mind. Jesus was a fairytale figure. Someone you could believe in like a role model, same as wise fairies, elves and Santa-Claus. Trevor said he believed in love and therefore was more true to the idea of Jesus than many of his proclaimed followers. He often quoted to me: “So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love”.
We were sixteen and Trevor decided it was time. It happened at school – in a class discussion. One of our classmates had just dismissed homosexuality as something that might well be a state of mind, but it should be kept as such. Gays should not engage in physical love – just see what happened when they did. AIDS was the gay plague wasn’t it.
- So I could be gay, but only in theory, not in practice.
The class went silent. Was Trevor talking about himself or about being imagined gay? He swiftly clarified.
- Yes, I’m gay, and I’m proud of it, and I won’t come out myself and leave my dick in the cupboard.
He spoke softly. The ground quivered, my head veered sideways from the soft blow of Trevor’s words. He had been gay all this time and I had actually known it, but putting it into words destroyed everything. For a flicker of a second I felt like throwing caution to the wind and stand by him. But more seconds passed and my next thought was – As I’m Trevor’s best friend, what will everyone think… I dared not raise my eyes to Trevor’s. The teacher hummed:
- Those were brave words. I trust this class has the sensitivity to accept them with respect.
Still no one said a word. The bell rang and everybody but Trevor and the teacher left. I was the first one out of the room.
We were both unprepared for the violence of my rejection. The loathing I had so far directed at myself was given direction – Trevor was to blame – of course. Why hadn’t I seen it? Now I knew where my lurid ideas came from. From now on – discipline in all matters – I bid him farewell and Trevor was driven out, not only by me - he was treated as a wisp of air by most our common friends. We would not be contaminated, and I was the most fervent of all.
That was four years ago. I spoke aloud to myself.
- Well Trevor – here I am – practically castrated. Our classmate was right in the end. You might be gay, but keep your dick out of it – seems to be true, whether I like it or not.
The telephone rang. Who would be calling now? The answering machine responded to the call: it solved two problems simultaneously - I got to know who it was and I didn’t loose important calls because I was unable to reach the phone on time. I definitely didn’t want to talk to my mother right now. She’d catch on to the blue note in my voice. But it wasn’t her. It was Luke – the bloke with a smile that made me feel I was at the centre of the universe. I acknowledged an increased heart rate as I hastily rolled out of the bathroom to answer the call.
- Hi, Luke, how are you?
- Mark, you’re there after all, are you.
- Yeah, had some trouble reaching your call, was out of the chair I explained.
- Oh - well are you comfortable, do you need to arrange yourself?
- Yeah, that’d be great.
I lay down the receiver as I arranged my feet in a more natural position and lifted my butt so I wouldn’t slide out of the chair if there was a spasm. I took up the receiver again.
- Hi, I’m back
- Did you hear about the symposium arranged for the students by that company?
- Yeah I heard.
- Well – are you going?
- Well – you know, I’d love to go. I think it’s a great opportunity. I have to know whether it’ll be accessible to me – You know, I mean literally accessible.
- But you’d want to go if it was?
- Yeah – but what are you driving at Luke?
- Listen, they want us to room in pairs and I thought I’d just call you and ask if you’d like to room with me, that is if you’re considering going.
I smiled wryly
- I don’t want to disappoint you, but after the initial promises to check things out there is usually the reluctant message, that so and so facility is regretfully, not available at this point in time…
I was proven wrong this time. It turned out that the hotel was one of the most accessible I’d ever been in since my accident. Even the waterfront had nice paved pathways that allowed a wheelchair user to seek the solitude of the nearby lake without fear of being trapped on uneven ground. Luke and I shared a room, with a wheel-chair accessible bathroom to share between us.
Here we were, the first night in our separate beds, and I know, had I wished it so, we could’ve been sharing beds right now. I had seen hope in his eyes, felt the intensity of his kiss, was aware of the quiver in his hands as he touched my back, and sensed the feeling of restraint that signalled that he would give priority to my wishes before he satisfied his own. I wasn’t entirely unaccountable for this development. The evening had been filled with good food, drink and happy company. Later we’d broken into smaller groups. I’d placed myself in a sofa, and asked Luke to put my chair out of sight, which he did, and thereafter placed himself quite close to me. It wasn’t indecent, but not called for. Several of the students I hadn’t yet become familiar with came up to our table to chat. The booze, the lack of the chair, the atmosphere. My usual feeling of being on display was alleviated. You learn to treasure those moments. A girl came up to me. Whispered a dancing proposal in my ear.
- I’m not a good dancer. She probably didn’t know.
- How do you know, she responded, have you tried lately? She blinked at me, and let me off the hook. Let me teach you – my brother’s in a wheel chair and he dances beautifully.
I let out a small sigh. No need to explain. She got the chair, I took hold of the table top and tested its stability, while holding the other hand on the wheel chair, praying neither would topple and that my coordination wasn’t too soaked in ethanol. It was no ballet performance, but it was a joy to let the movement of the chair reflect the rhythm of the music. I swirled, she swirled, the world swirled with us. After a couple of dances, the girl moved on. I stayed on in the chair and found Luke’s gaze locked on me, I smiled – he smiled back. His gaze kept on finding me throughout the night, often accompanied by a smile. Another girl dumped into my lap. She had this smile on her face, as if it was fixed with glue, her eyes were floating and her dress coming undone.
- I know you – she said – you’re the guy in the wheel chair.
- What admirable powers of observation.
- She giggled – you seem well adjusted. Does it hurt?
- What? What hurts?
- Well you know, your injury, whatever it is?
- No, it doesn’t. Do I look like I hurt?
Her eyes went cloudy, a frown appeared. Was this a dismissal? Without further comment to the previous topic, she excused herself and left. I looked over at Luke and he at me – both of us with exasperated miens – we broke out laughing.
- You see what I have to endure, I commented to Luke, and I continued:
- Once a guy on a train came up to me and struck up a casual conversation. I just had time to wonder what it was really about, as he blurted out: Had I ever contemplated suicide!
- Ah! But not all of us are that insensitive! Are we now? You’ve been pretty much the centre of the action this evening; People warm up to you. Hey - would you care for another beer?
- Aye, a last beer before I hit the pillow.
Luke gave me a slap on the back and as he passed me by, he whispered in my ear:
- Look at Tom and Stan, they seem to be quite hot on each other!
The couple were practically devouring each other. Nobody took much notice.
- Yeah – they seem to be having a good time.
When Luke came back, with the beer he asked casually:
- Did you know they were gay?
- No, not exactly, but I’m ok with it. There are worse things.
- I thought you were a strong believer of the Gospel! Isn’t homosexuality a sin in your black book?
- To love, in both the physical and psychological sense, be they the same or opposite sex, that is in accordance with everything Jesus ever practiced. I used to believe it was a sin, but I changed. Most of my childhood beliefs didn’t stand up to scrutiny.
I heard my voice was slightly agitated. These were fruits of a long journey.
- I was surprised though. Thought Stan had a girl.
- Well, he might like it both ways I suggested.
- At the same time?
- Well, maybe. Now what about your self – any girls lately?
- None at the moment no! I’ve been kept too busy by my mates lately. He said quizzically… What about you?
- Well – never had much chance, did I. Was injured at sixteen. A year lost in Rehab. I haven’t really had anything steady since then.
We were by ourselves now, the crowd had thinned. I hung on to my mug of beer and noticed he had put his hand on my thigh, and that he was gently stroking me. Couldn’t feel it - how long had he been at it? It was agreeable to be touched. I looked up, met his eyes - a steady gaze. I let his hand stay. I added a smile to our silent communication – it was returned.
- I like a guy who’s able to make up his own mind, especially in matters of faith. For faith, hope and love remain, but greatest of these are love.
I swore under my breath. I hadn’t heard anybody quote that since Trevor died.
- Let’s return to our sleeping quarters. He suggested.
I nodded vaguely and without a word I rolled out of the bar with Luke trailing behind, his left hand slightly squeezing and massaging my right shoulder.
When we got to the room, Luke asked me if I would let him help me transfer to the bed. I hooked my arm around his neck and he put an arm behind my back and another under my thighs. But Luke’s build was slight, and his courage was perhaps just a little bit boosted by the evening’s fill of beer. He almost made it, but in the last instant, we tripped. We went down. We were close, tangled together. He was desirable. I looked him in the eye, opened my mouth slightly and willed him to kiss me. He seemed surprised when he understood what he was about to do, and even I was taken aback by the intensity.
The tiny voice of my superego chimed within – you can still stop. I deliberately searched out Luke’s mouth once more – just to be sure that the point of no return was bypassed. The only way onwards was forwards. After that second kiss, my super-ego bellowed: What have you done! You have a past, remember. Luke doesn’t really know the first thing about a spinal cord injured body, except that it doesn’t stand and walk. Will he accept you when he knows more? Will you be able to satisfy him? I had no answers. He seemed to accept the brakes I put on a little unwillingly, but gracefully.
Wow – that was good and strange and different and scary and bloody lovely! I just hope I didn’t come on to him too fast. He didn’t seem pissed, just sad somehow. This guy may have scars you don’t know shit about. Take it slow. Keep your hands off him, till he allows you in, but keep the pressure up, or he’ll go into hiding. He’s a gem – Damn, I never wanted anyone as bad as I want him.
This academic world was different from where I come from. People were always civil. They exchanged ideas, not just an endless tackling of practicalities. I must admit at times I felt left out. An idea soars, take turns over it’s audience, shows off from both sides, lands elegantly with some other speaker, who ruffles it slightly, turns it round and show us elegantly that it has this slight flaw. If you change this little point – just see how much better it flies. The idea wings back into the air. Someone else launches the opposite idea – this one also worthy of flight, but its colour is different, and its edges a little sharper. The two battle. It’s like a dance, they dodge one another. They cannot logically exist at the same time. You must switch between two points of view, each upholding one idea. One minute the red one is closest to the truth, the next another line of argument proves the green one closer. In these games of words, harsh expressions, loud voices or damnations are softly but mercilessly killed with ridicule and disregard.
Where I come from, people don’t think twice before they give you a piece of their mind. If not about what you ought to be doing yourself, they know what others should be doing. This was my legacy. My analyses come out like small pebbles, small, hard, condensed little things that would ring hollow in a well. I wanted my ideas to fly too. Mark was already part of this world, and he made me participate made my arguments soar. His ridicule was mild and funny, never malignant. He made me smile at myself, us and the world in general. In short he made me feel more true to myself than anyone ever did before.
I jerked off in the lou, fantasizing about him. The bathroom ritual’s done. He was still on the bed when I returned. His back towards me. In an instant I realized he was stuck there. The wheel chair was just a few meters away, but as far as Mark was concerned, it could be on the moon. What an idiot I was. Before I got any further – he turned, towards me.
- Listen Luke could you please get me my chair.
My heart chilled to his request, I felt like running away. What a thickheaded ox he had to think I was
- Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t stop to think.
All forms of excuses were running out of my mouth. His face grew serious.
- Yeah – just imagine – you left me here, stuck and completely helpless!
I cringed and continued to excuse myself until I saw his mirthful face; he was just about doubling over in giggles.
- Stop, stop. With that look on your face, I just couldn’t resist teasing you. I wasn’t stuck, nor was I helpless. I could’ve slipped down to the floor and got to my chair. It just so happened it suited me better to sit here for a while.
I steadied the chair as he transferred, then I bided my time and gave him a quick peck on the cheek.
- That’s for making fun of me – macho. Now get out of here before I start pushing you around.
- Oooh – now that’s a real threat. He retorted as he wheeled himself towards the bathroom.
I guess he was not the only one with some thinking to do. Maybe I blocked it out, maybe I wasn’t ready, maybe I just didn’t register any previous attractions to guys, cause the guys I hung out with weren’t my type. But I definitely had made my first pass on a guy, and I was soaring.
Mark was back from the bathroom in his pyjamas. I watched him as he transferred into bed. Backed the chair up along the bed, locked the wheels, eased and turned himself in the chair till his back was halfway towards the bed. He leaned back, placed both arms in the middle of the soft bed, which obviously didn’t give him much to hold on to. When the weight of his upper body was on the bed, he slowly drew himself onto it. I heard a soft sigh. Then he gingerly lifted each leg onto the bed and lied down. As he covered himself, he turned to me and whispered:
- Good night Luke. Sleep tight.
He has taken me unawares. Luke is a nice guy, good looking even downright handsome, tall, slender, nice hands. He has a warm way. No high flying prima Donna. – he is natural, easy to read, spontaneous and forthright. He deserves to be treated with respect.
I knew I wanted to try. Not that I couldn’t see a number of both probable and possible obstacles. Wasn’t that just what Trevor had taught me – if there are impediments – you can either go round or through. A spasm in my left leg threw the blanket aside. I gathered the covers and drew them over me again, shift the position of my feet so that spasms were minimized. I’d go through, not round.
Next morning we had a talk to attend at nine. It was seven thirty. I hated to be in a hurry. Luke was still sleeping, his face was peaceful and beautiful. I indulged myself and studied his features: full lips, dark tanned, sandpaper stubble, short cropped dark hair, a slight scar under his chin.
I transferred to the chair, my leg bag was full. I rolled to the bathroom, emptied the piss-bag in the toilet and removed the condom catheter. Then I catheterised myself. When I was satisfied my bladder was empty according to all the rules of the book I contemplated taking a shower. There was a grab-bar, but the shower cubicle was large, and I found that it was just out of reach when I rolled the chair as close as I could to the curbs that supported the sliding glass doors. I tested the shower seat itself – it was sturdy enough, but it would not be easy to get onto it while using it as my point of support. I raised it to an upright position so it didn’t take any space. I edged myself from my chair and onto the cubicle floor while I prayed it would be wide enough to allow me to hoist myself onto it. I put one hand on the grab-bar, which was now within reach and one on the seat itself. It was hard work as the cubicle, even though it was larger than most, did not allow me to position my hands efficiently. After a struggle, my left hand on the seat slipped and I hung on to my right arm alone. I almost crashed to the floor, but just in time I managed to regain enough of a hold on the seat to ease my butt onto it. My heart was pounding as I thought of the alarm I might’ve caused if Luke had heard the commotion and come rushing in. I guess my next shower would be taken on the floor… I placed the towel on the seat of my wheel chair, and closed the glass doors, so my chair wouldn’t get wet. I gingerly touched the sensitive zone where feeling becomes non-feeling and imagined Luke’s fingers exploring my broken body.
When I was through, I transferred easily enough back to my chair. I had just donned my boxer-shorts when I heard a slight knock on the door. I have enough respect for slippery bathroom transfers to always leave the door unlocked.
- Come on in, I shout.
Luke peeks in.
- I’m sorry to bother you, but it’s almost time, and I’d really like to get a shower.
- Oh! How late is it?
- Already eight thirty.
- Well come on in, jump in the shower. I planned on dressing on the bed anyway.
I rolled out of the bathroom with my clothes in my lap and I was just about dressed 15 minutes later when he was ready to go. We went down the elevator together, grabbed two mouthfuls of breakfast before we started for the auditorium and the first lectures. We were late. The lecturer drew his breath, and was about to make a remark to Luke, but he checked himself when he saw me. I would never know what it would’ve been – a hearty welcome or a sour remark at our tardiness. The auditorium had its benches in the classical stepwise manner, which made only the first row accessible to me. I was used to take a seat at one of the back rows when I was a member of the walking community. Now I’m always conspicuously up front. It’s a position I associate with eager show-off good at everything kids from high school. I was grateful to Luke as he eased himself in on the first row beside me.
The theme of the first lecture was diagnostic imaging with ultrasound. We saw pictures of babies floating in wombs, tiny hearts that beat 200 times pr. minute and larger hearts that beat the same pace as my own. Blue and red jet streams of blood. Lunch was designed to enhance networking between students and professors. No chance for us to escape together. Before I slipped off to the compulsory toilet round, Luke promised to procure me a place at his table. When I returned I found myself seated between Luke and the lecturer. The professor looked perturbed as I took my place. He then struck up conversation with his other neighbour, not even offering a slight nod of a greeting. It probably wasn’t anything. I should labour not to notice such funny little signs, but still it got to me. The vacant look, the embarrassment, the obvious desire to be anywhere but right here next to this crippled guy with whom all communication is complicated. I endeavoured to take no notice, but the closest I came to a dialogue was to ask him pass the salt.
We were finally free to do our own programme. I felt my heart flutter with anticipation as I sought out Luke and found him already gazing at me. Heidi and Lina were also there. The threesome approached me.
- What about it Mark – should we go for dinner all four of us?
I groaned inwardly – any other evening it would’ve been a most welcome proposition – but all I wanted to now was to be with Luke. I looked at him hoping he would read the question mark in my eyes and come up with a plausible excuse. Lina was waiting for a reply. Her gaze offered no room for voiceless communication.
- Um - I need to return to the hotel to refresh myself I offered. I haven’t really thought about dinner yet. What did you have in mind?
- There is a café, just five minutes from our hotel. Heidi and me were there yesterday. They serve excellent pasta. And – it’s accessible – at least as far as we could judge…
Lina was the sociable type – she was always in the middle of some commotion – always organizing things. When others were ready to falter, she seemed to have energy to think two steps ahead. She did a bad job of hiding her disappointment if the crowd did not warm up to her suggestions, but she wouldn’t be troubled for long though, as any excuses were soon accommodated into new propositions. It generally left you defenceless and grateful for being part of her show. True to her disposition she went:
- Yeah – I think there are more of us who could do with a short stop at the hotel before we go out. Its four thirty, let’s meet in the lobby at six, and we’ll stroll down to the café together.
Luke raised his shoulders slightly, defeated “Guess we have to go along” expression in his face. Our upcoming tete a tete was both tantalizing and frightening, it couldn’t hurt if we postponed it a wee bit. The evening was still young. We agreed to meet at six.
Mark and I returned to the hotel and we went to our room together. When we were out of hearing range I couldn’t keep myself any longer.
- Damn – I was looking forward to something quite different this evening.
Mark looks amused up at me. He goes:
- Yeah – I think I was too, but there was no way we could’ve put this one off without hurting Lina.
We were at the hotel door, I turned and look down at his face hoping to be reassured, that he was not backing out, that he was still with me.
- I need to at least talk to you tonight – if not I’ll go nuts. I’m in jumbles…
Mark looked worried up at me.
- You’re ok aren’t you?
- Ok? No I’m not ok at all. I’m bloody confused, hot, scared, excited and I can’t keep my thoughts nor my hands off you, and I don’t understand what’s going on.
I sat myself on my bed. Mark looked disturbed.
- Listen Luke, are you telling me that you’re coming out with me.
- What do you mean?
- Well, you know – he was searching for words – I mean, this is your first time with a guy, is it?
I nod. He goes blank for a second – then he looks at me and goes.
- Oh shit.
- What – shit what?
- Well, I just assumed, that you’d done this before. You seemed so sure of yourself yesterday, as if you had the routine.
I was partly ashamed of my inexperience and partly afraid that my words might scare him off. As if the sound of my voice might make him jump – I whispered:
- Well – I’m not exactly a virgin, but I’ve never had a relationship to a man before, and I might add – I’ve never wanted anyone as badly either.
Mark rolled over to me, lifted my chin and made me look him in the eye.
- Then you’ve got one hell of a nerve
And he leaned forward as he pulled me to him. His stubbled chin was against mine, his lips on mine, his tongue probing carefully, his scent filling my nostrils. I thrust my own tongue into him, took hold of his head, ran my fingers through his hair and drew him closer. He tasted like nutmeg, salt and pepper. He was strong, fierce and alive and he would fall over if I drew him any closer so I got up and straddled his chair instead. My hands ran all over his face, his neck. My fingers explored his hairline, finger with his earlobe. At some point he gently pulled back.
- Need some air, he smiled as he looked into my eyes.
He held tightly on to the rims of his wheels. I was still sitting on his lap and he rolled slightly back and forth, like he was rocking a baby, to sooth it and keep it from running away. Neither of us said anything for a long time. My hands seemed to lead their own life, kept running up and down his chest, his arms, his neck. I traced the lines of his biceps, down to the elbows, then up again, up to the right trigonum of the neck, his jawline, his full lips. He opened his mouth and sucked my fingers. He slowly settled both arms around me and proceeded to give me a bear hug, literally pressing the air out of me, as my father used to hug me when I was a child. He hid his face in the nook under my chin, pressed his cheek to my chest. The moment was like glass, a moment that could shatter. I sat still, savoured his skin against mine, his arms around me and I felt safe and in a damned precarious position at the same time. I could heard him whisper:
- So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
The fierceness of his hug slowly ebbed and we contemplated each other. I stroked his hair. No words were needed. The dinner date with the girls hung in the air. Mark repeated the bible quotation and that seemed to seal the matter. He raised his face towards mine and whispered:
- I want to explore this Luke, but there are things we need to go through first…
- I’m not sure I can keep my hands off you. I’ll be drooling all over you. I reply.
- No you won’t he laughed. We’ll get ready for our girls!
- How can we go to dinner with the girls now – we’ll be the dullest of companions.
- No, you won’t he whispers back – because I want you to be fresh and bright, and funny and all the other things that I know you are – you’ll do that for me.
- I am your humble servant in all things… I grumbled as I withdrew from his chair, ruffled his hair and fell upon my bed.
Luke let himself fall onto the bed with a sigh and closed eyes and I rolled off to the bathroom. Part of me wanted to rush this –Yet, there was something that made me slow down. It was like it was too good to be true. Couldn’t really believe this was happening. There had to be a snag somewhere. I had the usual shyness and unease about my body. Would he accept it? But if he was afraid of unpleasant discoveries, wouldn’t he have beat it already? The ones who ran when they discovered the chair were fear ridden and closed. Luke wasn’t like that. Luke had sought me out. He had courted me. He had not even fallen for a man before – surely he was not going to freak out at a catheter.
I put a condom catheter so I would be able to pee in the bag if the toilet turned out to be inaccessible. That should keep me out of trouble at least for the next four to six hours, at least if I was careful with the booze. I returned to the room, Luke was still on his bed, eyes closed, but I could tell he was not asleep. There was still half an hour till we were due in the lobby. I transferred onto the bed, and turn myself around, so that I was lying on my stomach. My back and butt would get a break from being constantly sat on - pressure sore prevention. After a few minutes, I heard Luke stir in his bed; he got up and came over. Without a word he started rubbing my shoulders. It was exactly what I needed.
At some point Luke whispered in my ear – time to go. Luke steadied the chair as I transferred and we were down in the lobby right on time. The girls were late. Luke fidgeted with his keys, ran them from palm to palm, jingled, tinkered, threw them into the air. The girls finally came and they were beautiful. Even we could appreciate that.
By the time dinner was over, it was ten in the evening. Late enough to say good night and still early enough for us to spend some time together. Luke suggested that we stroll down to the lake instead of going upstairs. I agreed. As I rolled alongside him, I couldn’t help but notice that he looked weary:
- Hey – Luke look at me. Are you ok? We don’t have to do the serious stuff to night.
He smiled down at me.
- You, know I’m so lucky. I’m like the ugly duckling, the one who got the chance to be with the swans. Yet it is painful to remember the duckling time and the others who never made it.
- You’re talking about Bronco?
The guy was a former friend of Lukes – he had crashed our dinner party that evening.
- Yeah, he was broke, hadn’t eaten a proper meal the last week. Wouldn’t surprise me if he was into drugs of some kind.
I realized how little I knew about Luke and his ghosts. My world had been such a safe haven. Junkies were something I read about in newspapers, not real flesh and blood people who knew your name and needed a favour to get by.
- He was such a bright kid. Used to help me out with my homework. We were almost like twins.
I felt myself tensing; this was how I would’ve described Trevor. Bronco had just given me a little peep into a world so far hidden to me. I wondered at the story behind.
Luke didn’t want to turn back. The lake was calm. The moon was a shivering entity threatening to dissolve on the water surface. As we rounded the corner of a large rock, a breathtaking view unfolded in front of us. We were alone, and as polar spring goes, this was a warm evening. The night was not completely dark, and the shimmering mountains could still proudly mirror themselves in the water. They had an eerie quality as if they were made of pink icing, and might melt or come undone if somebody touched them. There was a rugged bench by the path, Luke took a seat and I rolled up next to him. And I couldn’t help myself but to try to put into words the awe the scenery inspired:
- One can get silently drunk by the view alone. It’s been such a long time – I’ve nearly forgotten how redeeming the mountains can be.
We were quiet together – such as nature alone is able to engender in weary clock-ridden souls of modernity. I took his left hand, between mine and stroked like a tiny pet, in need of protection, care and closeness. Still no words were spoken. He seemed far away, and I decided not to press him. Instead I let my own thoughts wander. I used to do quite a bit of mountain hiking in my mobile days. But since the accident, I had only experienced this from the TV-like quality of a car window. I hadn’t let myself miss it, but I hadn’t tried to find alternatives either. It was something I ought to change, there were bound to be ways to get outdoors, even in a chair. I let the feeling of tranquillity wash my pores.
- It’s an ugly world,
I heard Luke say. He was not looking at the mountains, he was not here in the wilderness with me at all. He was somewhere else, fighting phantoms of another lifetime.
- It’s Bronco, he is bothering you, I said.
- I feel like a rat who has deserted the sinking ship, and Bronco was my best mate, and he is still aboard, and he doesn’t know how to get off by himself.
- Are there others that you care about on this ship?
- My mother, and a kid sister.
- How old is your sister?
- She’d be 18 now.
- Why is their ship sinking Luke, why are they in distress?
- Oh – it’s too complicated. I don’t understand it all myself. I need to get through with these studies and get myself a decent job. Then I’ll go get them. I just hope it won’t be too late.
- When the time is right, I am here, right here for you.
- Yeah – I know Mark. I appreciate that.
Suddenly I had this flash-back – I was terrified that this guy would turn out to be as short-lived as Trevor was.
- Luke – promise me - don’t you ever do anything stupid.
- What do you mean? He asked bewildered.
- Well, I don’t know, I just got this weird feeling…
He shook his head and smiled up at me.
- Jeeze Mark, I was just taken a little aback by old memories. I’m fine, I really am.
- Promise me all the same, I said earnestly.
- He shrugged and smiled up at me – Yeah, if it’s important to you – I promise! Then he went in a sniggering tone: I swear solemnly by everything I hold sacred that I will ask your opinion in all matters of importance from now on and until Kingdom Come.
We both laughed a laugh of relief and the touch of shared realities.
- Look at you he said, you must be freezing by now, don’t you need some warming up, he asked mischievously.
He gave me a bear hug, which I feigned to ward off. We were back on track. That is to say, we were suddenly all over each other again, enjoying a deep and ardent kiss.
When we finally came up to the surface for air. I gasped.
- And you’re not really gay!?
- Well… I didn’t think I was till I met you. I guess I am in the process of reconsidering…
- Does it bother you?
- I don’t know. I mean, my head has been full of you mostly. I’ve been so scared I would send you flying off in the opposite direction. I think I’ve been happier to discover that you are gay than I’ve been worried about my own transition.
- Come on, you’re being too flippant about this – I mean I’ve been there. For me it was pure hell to discover that I was actually in love with my best mate, and for two years I was scared to death somebody would find me out.
- Are you still in hell, when you’re here with me.
Luke grinned and opted for a kiss again. But this time, I held back.
- Luke! I’m serious. Are you ready to go down this lane?
Now Luke grew serious.
- Look who’s talking. He said. I seem to remember a guy who really gave me inn for being upset on his behalf. You’ve got no business worrying over me. Where I come from, people are weird in all kinds of ways. Being gay isn’t really considered off mainstream. There are a whole host of other things my mother’d be more concerned about, such as drugs, schizophrenia or crime.
- I am only beginning to understand what a tough guy you really are. I only needed to check if you’re in as deep as I am.
- And you’re in deep?
- Up to the handles of my chair, I smiled, just barely keeping afloat and breathing…
- Well good, what are we doing out here then – why aren’t we cuddling in a comfortable bed?
- Because I’m scared. I whispered.
- Try me ...
I lunged into my nightmare;
- I haven’t been with anyone, since, since my accident. I don’t know how it’ll work out. My body’s not the same anymore, it kind of takes it’s own decisions. It can be quite disgusting. I can handle that, but I’m not sure I can handle somebody else’s revulsion on top.
At this point Luke went quiet and I was suddenly sure he was going to leave me. Unable to take me up on this issue. If he quit now, I’d break into pieces. My heart would turn to stone, and all I ever cared about would disintegrate.
So that was it – My heart reached out to him and wept. To me his body was everything but repulsive. I saw him as excitingly different, and hungered to explore his body so full of contradictions – strong, lithe. His lower body was awkward, limp, but the contrast made the strength and agility of his upper body all the more stunning. He was lovely. How could I convince him that his body would not send me reeling? I leant forward, hid my face in my hands, searching for words. The wrong words could break us apart as surely as a wedge driven into the core of the toughest piece of wood. He too was silent.
I finally raised my head, and looked him in the eyes. His gaze issued the imperative question. I needed an unfaltering voice to match.
- Mark, your body does not repulse me! Your disability makes you different, but not ugly. In my eyes, it even makes you all the more desirable.
Mark was about to voice some protest, I put a finger to his lips.
- Shhhhh! Wait – hear me out. I know, I know, the Wet-pants episode? I have admitted, I was upset, but I was not disgusted by your body! I was taken aback by the hurt and pain I detected. You put it behind you in a matter of minutes. I didn’t. I cannot prove this to you – either you trust me on this or you don’t. So far, what I’ve seen and experienced of your body signals beauty, excitement, discovery and sex appeal. I dare you. Teach me how your body works, and I will show you how stunning I think you are.
After a long silence, Mark replied. His voice was tinged with ice – he was not convinced, but he hadn’t fled either.
- I do so wish to believe you. Forgive me for not being so easily convinced. Here, put your hand here.
I knew I was being put to a test, so I obediently put my hand as instructed. I felt a soft bulge on the inside of his trousers, it felt like a small pillow.
- Know what that is?
- No. Tell me.
- It’s my piss bag. I use a catheter to collect the piss, because as you have discovered, I can’t trust my bladder to cooperate when the toilets are far apart.
- So – it’s a contraption that helps you stay out of trouble. Good – that’s fine! That makes life easier. That’s reason to celebrate, not a reason to be put off.
- There’s more. His voice was low and even slightly menacing. Did you know that a spinal cord injury not only robs you of your muscle control, but that the feedback from the skin to your brain is also cut off. I haven’t got any sensation below this line here, he pointed a little below his nipples. I can’t feel my dick. You want sex Luke, but what kind of sex can you have with someone who can’t feel what you’re doing. You won’t be able to satisfy me Luke ! – I can’t feel any orgasm. It’s all gone! I’m practically castrated. I’m hardly a man any more! How can you be attracted to somebody as broken as I am?
He’d let the serpent of self-disgust out. It lay between us. At my slightest encouragement it would slaughter his self-esteem. Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. If I sang his praises, he would think I was taking the easy way out. If I acknowledged his despair, it would be a recognition of his short-comings. There had to be a third option.
- So, you’re worried that I will question myself, or worse, reject you, if we fail to accomplish normal sex. Well, let me take this from the beginning – I’m the first to regret the loss you have suffered. Having said that, if you’re going to enlarge that loss by refusing to let anyone close, by guarding yourself against possible disappointments, then you are not only degrading your self, you are belittling me too. You’re expecting us to be able to handle only the norm – what could be more boring!
I made a pause, waiting for the effect. None could be discerned. I continued.
- Do you know where your most important sexual organ sits? It’s not down there where you can’t feel anything! It’s up here, where everything is still clear and works like clockwork. I tapped his forehead. Everything you do and say belies your manhood. Why else do you think I’m drawn towards you? I’m not afraid of what I won’t get from you. I’m thrilled with what we’ve shared so far, and eager, if you’ll let me, to discover more.
I was prepared to stand up for this and I was quite upset that he would not trust me to accept and welcome him as he was. If I was put off by his disability, I wouldn’t be drooling over him in the first place. It wasn’t as if it was a secret. He didn’t reply, and I was aware he was slipping away. So I continued to prod him.
- God! Mark! What about me – if you are so strict on this, what can I expect from you. My body isn’t exactly as prescribed by the media hype either! Will you turn me out because my biceps are half the size of yours? Will you be disgusted when you discover that my belly is by no means a washboard?
Still no reply. His face was set in stone. I felt snubbed by this lack of trust.
- What? Where did I go wrong? I prompted him, knowing I wouldn’t accept anything but an honest answer now. I was mad! Mark! I do not fear your body – I adore you and your body – they come together you know. I’ve been aware of that for quite some time! I was hoping that was a shared sentiment. I don’t want to force you somewhere you don’t want to go. I have no right to ask for anybody’s love or even respect. All I can do is to declare my position, and leave the rest to you. But if you’re willing, I’m curious where our relationship goes from here.
He’d been looking alternately at some point in the horizon and at some point on the ground as I gave my speech. Now he turned to look at me. He held a troubled expression, and I pictured what I hoped were conflicting emotions within.
- You just said you were in this real deep. I was led to believe that had something to do with me. If I was wrong, please stop tormenting me and give me some inkling as to where you are. If you want to stop here, we’ll return to the hotel as good mates, nothing more. I promise, even though I’m tempted, I won’t rape you or even try to kiss you. I’ll just back out, silently and softly as if nothing ever happened.
Mark finally gave in:
- You’re black mailing me!
- I’m not! I’m just trying to bait you. Nobody’s threatening you! I’d prefer you came voluntarily.
- Well – I admit, I am knee deep, and yes that does have something to do with you!
- That’s a good start – please continue!
- And yes – I’m still scared! And yes – you’re right, fear shouldn’t be allowed to govern! And – yes, I’m asking myself how this came about. How come a gorgeous fellow is falling over himself to come out with me? He’s actually the one doing the persuasion, whilst I’m sitting meekly around wondering why I’m not rushing the show. I sure as hell have often enough wished this were happening. And now, here I am, the dream is coming true and I’m not sure how to handle it.
I took his hand, and now it was my turn to treat it as a pet, trying to convey all my confidence through this slim bondage.
- Life is complicated, and it sure would be boring if it weren’t.
I leaned forward. He met me halfway and gave me a peck on the cheek, before he quickly retreated.
- Guess I’ll have to be content with that for now.
Although we hadn’t driven the demons away all-together, we were holding them at bay. I could afford to lean back and let my consciousness open up to the view in front of us which had taken on all the blue tones on the palette, from deep indigo in the south to the rose tipped turquoise light of the north, where the sun had just set. The fairy light of the northern spring closed the open sores, smoothed the surface and cooled my thoughts.
- Come on, I’m freezing. Let’s go inside and warm up.
- You sure? I blinked – things changed quickly. It’s not often I get such double bottomed invitations. Do you mean what I think you mean?
- I’m sure I’ll never wish anything so sincerely ever again. He retorted. Don’t let me down.
I strolled and he rolled slowly in the direction of the hotel. Suddenly, he gave his chair a violent push and he got ahead of me.
- I’ll race you to the door!
I ran after him and together we laughingly charged into the entrance area, he just ahead of me. I held the door for him as he rolled through I said:
- I hail the victor.
Elevators are wonderful contraptions that offer areas of seclusion in an otherwise public world. We held hands and kissed, and by the time we were at our floor, I was seated on his lap, and before I knew what was going on, I was being given a lift down the hotel corridors.
- Am I not too heavy? I whispered.
- I wouldn’t know would I, he laughed back.
The Gods held their hands over us. No one disturbed our ride.
As we entered our room, I decided it was time to celebrate, and opted for the mini bar. A bottle of champagne – was opened and fizzled into to bathroom plastic cups and we drank each other to. Mark was in the lead now. I had a feeling he was testing my sincerity, and I didn’t mind the least. After champagne he rolled towards the bathroom:
- I have to take care of my piss! he barked.
- I need to pee too, can I join you, I giggled.
Tension was there – as if he had both wanted and dreaded this possibility.
- I guess now’s as good a time as any.He sighed.
- Good. I said – I want to be part of the show. May I go first?
He nodded briefly, and I could see he slightly held his breath as I decided to undress before I let in to my bodily needs. He was getting something out of a pocket underneath his chair.
- Now it’s your turn I whispered, as I sat on my heels at his side. May I continue where we left of yesterday?
- You certainly aren’t beating around the bushes.
- Should I be?
I asked innocently. He gave me brief nod, feigning an exasperated look. He let me remove his t-shirt – once again revealing that perfect hairy chest. Broad shoulders, well defined deltoids, trapezius and triceps muscles, slightly tanned and he was lean. If looks were important, he had it all. I pictured black and white photos of him in the nude, with shadows demarking the definitions of his muscles and his handsome rough face. There were scars alongst his spine and another on the side of his chest. I kissed them
- Who put these here I whispered?
- The long one was surgery to stabilize my spine. This one on the side was made to drain blood from my chest, after the accident. And there’s another one, on my left leg – which was fractured in the fall.
- I better uncover that one as well then. Won’t do to treat it differently from the others. This is the magical line, I whispered into his ear as I undid his belt and unzipped his trousers. Now how do you get them off?
He put his muscular arms against the rims of the chair and lifted his butt into the air, and I quickly exploited the possibility to remove both pants and underwear. There, the trousers were halfway off.
- Stop, beware of the pissbag – I don’t want you to spill that all over me!
We undid the bag from its pins and the tube which snaked itself up to his penis, and emptied it into the toilet. Then I removed his trousers and with the exception of the catheter, he was as nude as I was.
- There you are! I announced boldly – finally!
I was quite unabashedly looking him over – while he was looking into the air, to the ceiling, to the door, anywhere but his own body. He was frankly just ordinary, also below the waistline. His feet were not thin and skinny, as I mentally had prepared myself for. They looked like anybody’s feet. Maybe the alignment of his feet belied the paralysis. I found the scars on his left calf with my mouth, and kissed them gently. Then I continued upwards towards his crotch, until I reached the catheter.
- What about this? Does it stay, or what do you do about it?
He was watching me now – searching for signs of retreat. Without saying anything he reached down and rolled the condom-like attachment of the catheter off and threw the whole thing in the waste bin. Then he reached for the little bag he’d taken out earlier on. He retrieved some cotton which he doused with something from a small disposable plastic bottle. Then he quelled the rest of the liquid into a small bag.
- Catheterisation with a self-lubricating disposable catheter. Watch and learn. He announced with a teachers self-confident voice.
He rinsed the head of the penis, emptied the small water filled bag and I could see the tip of a small tube just peeping out of it. He took hold of the bag and aimed the tip of the tube towards his penis and propped the tube into it until yellow urine flowed out and into the little plastic bag that was still encasing the lower end of the tube. He directed the ensemble towards the toilet and pulled the plastic bag completely away from the tube, allowing the urine to empty into the toilet. When the urine flow slowed down to a dribble, he pressed his hand over his lower abdomen while the tube was still held in place – the urine flow increased slightly, and then came to an abrupt halt.
- There, now it seems empty. He withdrew the tube and threw everything into the bin.
- That was neat. Is that how you pee every time?
- At rehab, they tried to convince me that I needed to. It ensures that the bladder is entirely empty, but I find I can avoid the infections by doing it twice daily only – so I don’t bother doing it the hard way more than mornings and evenings. The rest of the day I do more or less the same as you do, only I either sit on the toilet or I use a condom catheter and a bag, to save me from the transfer.
- Do you always find your own way?
- Well, now that you mention it I believe I’ve been far too compliant with certain elements in my close environment…
- Shhhh! I don’t believe you. I was standing behind him, exploring his chest with my fingers. Show me where your sensation goes away, I demanded, aiming at exploiting this new won openness as far as I possibly could.
- He looked down at himself and said again with the teacher’s intonation: I’m a T6 paraplegic, that roughly means that I’m paralysed from the lower chest and down, about from here – and he pointed at his solar plexus.
- So, you can feel this here I had my finger running down towards his nipple, let it circle around it a couple of times before it continued down towards the imaginary line. But not here. I looked questioningly at him?
- He made a face at me – Oooh!
I drew my hand back, fearing I had hurt him.
- Don’t look so startled, he grinned. You didn’t hurt me. Now learn this – I won’t break, I’m quite durable! In this region, just above the no-feeling line, the skin is hypersensitive. As if the nerves here want to make up for their lazy neighbours. They fire at the lightest stimulation. It feels good.
- And here – you can’t feel this – I stroked his slightly bulging tummy.
- I can’t feel, but I can see, and hear and enjoy being the object of somebody’s desire. And there are patches of sensation, especially on my right-hand side. So the doctors call it an incomplete injury. I gather that’s why I can still feel the urge to go to the toilet, although if I wait for a real urge to develop, it’s usually too late.
- Can you only feel the urge to pee, or can you feel more down there?
- The key questions – isn’t it? Brace your self. No sensation of any use down there as far as I’ve been able to discover. He said it briskly, matter of factly.
I put a finger under his chin and made him look at me. He looked questioningly at me. I realized his emotions were focused, not on the sorrow of his loss, but on my reaction to this piece of information.
- It’s OK, I said. It’s OK – what matters is what you can do, not what you can’t. I said as I bent down to kiss him.
He never got a chance to answer, and in moments we were embracing – our naked bodies coupled together, me straddling him in his chair, our mouths locked, our torsos intimately speaking. My hands all over his chest, his neck, his hair, his face, any inch that could feel was covered searching for a closer intimacy than those words could provide. My mouth went astray from his, searching to taste all of him, his earlobes, the rough stubble of his chin, the slightly musky scent from his neck, the freshness of his skin on his upper arms, and then I lightly, lightly kissed his nipples, first the left one until the small denture had become a fierce little tad. He flung his head back and chuckled,
- Careful, he warned, cause if you go any lower now, I might be so ticklish I’ll throw you out of my chair.
- Then lets get into a safer place, where you can’t throw me off guard.
He rolled us both into the main bedroom and took direction for his bed. I got up and as he transferred onto it, I shoved my own bed close up to his, and climbed into bed beside him.
- Gives me room to escape when you get too ticklish. I grinned.
He smiled as he put a muscular sinewy arm around my waist and effortlessly drew me close to him.
- You little devil he smiled, do you really intend to drive me into such aberrations, he mumbled as he locked his arms around my torso and gave me a squeeze – I coughed, and he kissed me tightly and ravenously this time. Inhibitions were coming apart quickly. We had so much to discover.
As I came up for air, he’d taken hold of my shaft and was gently making it grow by the second. I buried my face in his masculine jungle and opted for the high-feel zone, curious as to what a kiss in that land in-between would produce. He stiffened for a moment, and then without letting go of my manhood, his stroke on my back became more erratic and wavering. I took it as a good sign and continued my efforts.
- Enjoy it I whispered. Is this good?
His stroke at my engorged member quickened and hardened.
- It’s better than anything that’s happened since my accident he murmured.
I felt like a warrior king, going to extract whatever was possible of the land ahead of me. I also quickened my pace, until he groaned.
- I can’t take it anymore he gasped. I looked up into a pair of desperate eyes
- What do we do next, I whispered, you’re the one with experience remember?
- Well, I don’t know about that… he murmured and caught my head between his hands bringing his mouth too mine. I felt his tongue exploring, dancing within, tasting, pursuing my tongue, meeting and talking the language of lust, enjoyment and complete surrender. I’d love to suck you – would you allow me the pleasure?
I nodded. I rearranged myself and between us we rearranged him. He heaved himself on his elbows to relieve the pressure on his butt, while I swiveled both his legs across the two beds. I enjoyed getting to know his body. The leg muscles were soft, but not flaccid. His left foot even gave me a little kick as I was about to release it from my grip. Surprised I dropped his leg and looked at him.
- Spasms, or involuntary leg cramps, he explains, can’t control them.
I lay down so that we were like a pair of commas in opposite positions. He drew me closer and cautiously started licking my dick, softly and quietly at first, then more fiercely and I responded with a rhythmic beat of my pelvis. Meanwhile, I found myself facing his member, which by now was far from limp. I wanted so badly to play with it, even though I knew he couldn’t feel it. He was in no position to answer, so I didn’t ask. I’d never before given head to another man. I gingerly licked the prepuce, then closed my mouth round the organ. It responded beautifully, grew large and erect with my gentle coaxing. I was close to coming now, just a little bit more. I was living out the fantasies of the last year or so, letting myself float into a rosy world of sensual pleasure. At that moment I yelped and I went flying above the treetops and the mountains and with me I had this loveable beautiful handsome guy, his hand in mine, his eyes on me. I sucked instinctively all the harder on his dick, and suddenly he came, his seed was in me and on me. An offering to lust and trust – boy was I hooked on this guy!
He seemed so mature, but now he appeared in a more childish version. He peeped up from his position down by my crotch, and grinned sheepishly.
- That was goooooooood – he groaned. I understand I’ve been missing out on something essential. I guess I wasn’t much of a girl’s man to be honest. You’re the tops!
Then he swivelled around and faced me, looked at me with compassion and content.
- Hush, hush, hush. Keep the adjectives till later.
- Was it good for you? Did you enjoy it?
- It was fabulous I replied. I even came. You know, I didn’t think I could unless I put a vibrator up my ass.
- You weren’t so hard to coax over the edge. He replied.
- All the more tribute to you my friend I smile back at him.
- What is it like, when you come and can’t feel it?
- I get this warm relaxed good feeling all over, and then I go extremely drowsy as if I were drugged.
- Yeah, I can know what you’re referring to. He replied as he gave out a healthy yawn.
He snuggled close to me, and I gathered him in my arms and held him close, so close as if I would never let him loose again ever. As if I needed to guard and shield him against a harsh world out there. His smell held it’s own code, for as long as I loved him I would recognize him without sight or speech. We scrambled, to liberate the sheets we were lying on, and covered ourselves before we fell asleep in each other’s arms.
I woke up a few hours later – Shit, I forgot to put the condom catheter back on, and now I felt that faint urge to go to the toilet. I knew that if I didn’t act immediately, I’d have another accident on my hands. Not a happy prospect, given the circumstance. The chair was just by the bed, so I did what I had to – I negotiated myself out of Luke’s arms, hoping I wouldn’t disturb him in the process. But getting into a chair, when it’s situated on the wrong side of the bed, and there’s someone you don’t want to disturb in between, and your legs behave like a pair of logs. Add drowsiness and hastiness. This was not an operation characterised by precision and dexterity. I tried to lift my left leg over Luke, when he woke with a start, sat up wide-eyed in bed, and went:
- What, what’s happening? Are you leaving?
- Shhshh, just go back to sleep. I didn’t want to wake you up. I just need to relieve myself.
- You need to take a leak?
- Yeah – that’s the predicament. Forgot to put the condom cath on after you know…, so now I need to get to the bathroom real fast. Now that you’re awake anyway, maybe you wouldn’t mind moving over a bit, to kind of clear the way…
- No, not at all, and he moved out to the other side of the bed. Hey – do you really need to go to the bathroom? Couldn’t I just get that condom catheter thing?
- Well, the idea was not to wake you up, but yeah, I guess that would do the trick, now that you’re awake.
- Well, then. Why didn’t you ask me – tough head! Where’ve you got them?
I instructed him to get me my bag from the bathroom. He jumped out of bed, and was back in no time with the things I needed, and I managed to organise myself just in time to avoid embarrassment. The bag was full and warm. Normally I would’ve left it there till morning, but Luke was obviously adamant to prove that he was not put off. Without a word, he reached for the transparent bag, undid it, and a few seconds later, I heard him empty it in the toilet, before he took a leak himself and scrambled back underneath the covers. In the meanwhile I had attached a new empty bag and secured it to my left thigh, so as to avoid any hassle next morning.
- Was I interfering with your independence? He asked slyly as he slid back into position, snuggling as close as he could get.
- Yeah, you were, I said gruffly and kneaded my knuckles playfully on his head.
- Good – you needed some adjustment on that front.
- You’re playing with fire.
- If it wasn’t for me you’d have taken the usual precautions right?
- Well, I guess so.
- So it was my fault. Never let anyone get away without making up to you when they’ve bungled up..
- If you say so.
I replied sleepily, making a mental note to take him up on this issue at some later more lucid point in time. I was already slipping off to sleep, and having a warm body snuggling next to me was comforting and pleasant. It was time to enjoy, not to discuss. I drew him tighter to me, and kissed the dark hairline at his neck and sniffed his hair and pressed him to my chest.
- I’ll soon be a carcass if you continue squeezing the breath out me like that. You’re real strong you know.
- I am?
- You are.
We fell asleep once more, and slept till morning. When we awoke, it was way past the first session of classes.