Lise Johnston was first introduced to the name Elliot Meyers during her freshman year of college. The Putnam math competition was one of the most widely publicized math competitions for college students, offering scholarships for exceptional performance, and it was an easy decision for Lise to take the competition. The top five scorers in the competition were designated “fellows”, historically including such famous names as Richard Feynman and John Milnor. When 18 year old Lise saw the list of fellows for the past three years, she noticed one unfamiliar name was on every single list: Elliot Meyers.
Lise was curious who this person as. She had asked her linear algebra TA, Mike, who was a college senior himself, like Elliot was back then. “One those Caltech geeks,” Mike said bitterly. “God, I hate them.”
“You know him?” Lise pressed him.
“A little,” he said. Mike explained that Elliot had been one of the six American students to compete in the International Mathematical Olympiad (the world championship of math competitions) during both his freshman and sophomore years of high school. This was unprecedented, as most team members were juniors and seniors. He had won a gold medal both years, but failed to return for his final two years of high school. He also failed to compete in any national or local competitions during this time. Back when she had first heard this, Lise had found it perplexing, but now it made perfect sense. “He’ll be a fellow again this year, I’m sure,” Mike added. “He’s a senior now, so he’s at the top of his game.”
“How often does someone win four times in a row?” Lise asked.
“Not often,” Mike replied.
Mike was correct in his conjecture that Elliot would become a Putnam fellow for a fourth year in a row. Lise herself never made the top five, but during her senior year, she won the Elizabeth Lowell Putnam award as the highest scoring female in the country.
During her sophomore year, when Lise took a class in algebraic geometry, the name came up once again. Elliot had graduated by then and had already published several articles—Lise came across one on enumeration of number fields that he had written back in college, and she had been amazed that a college student could come up with that sort of insight. She read a few of his other articles and began to understand why he found algebraic geometry such a fascinating subject.
At the same time, Lise began to wonder about what sort of man Elliot Meyers was in real life. What kind of a guy had that kind of genius? Silly as it seemed, Lise found herself fantasizing about meeting him... and that he’d fall in love with her. When she found out she’d be attending the same university as him for grad school, it was like something out of her dreams.
Strangely enough, Elliot’s appearance wasn’t so different from the way she had imagined him. She didn’t know about his disability, of course, but she had almost pictured his gentle brown eyes exactly as they were. And he had fallen for her, just like in her fantasies.
But her fantasies never included any sort of future for the two of them. Back when he was just a famous name, she never thought much past the blinding orgasms. But once she got to know him for real, she knew that she loved and respected him more than she could have thought possible.
Above all, however, she respected his wishes. Since his surgery, he had made it clear to her that at this point in his life, he had no desire to be in a relationship. He said he had to focus on his math. Lise suspected there was more to it than that, but she knew his reasons must have been legitimate. She didn’t question him, but she tried to maintain their friendship, at least.
And then she met Barry Crowler. Barry was nearly ten years older than Lise, already an assistant professor at the university. He didn’t look young either, with his receding hairline and the wrinkles forming around his eyes. She was assigned as a course assistant for his introductory real analysis class and one evening they got to talking. Barry was very sweet and soft spoken... and of course, very smart in an unassuming sort of way. If he had officially asked her out, she probably would have said no, but the way it went, they became closer and closer until Barry held her hand one night and Lise realized they were dating.
It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing either. Lise liked Barry a lot and enjoyed getting to know him better. She wasn’t sure if she had the same sparks that she did with Elliot, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t learn to care about Barry. He was a great guy, and unlike Elliot, he seemed to get along with everyone.
Barry knew about her previous relationship with Elliot and didn’t seem bothered by it. Still, she was hesitant to tell him that she planned to visit Elliot in the hospital. Most of the reason was that she was worried that Barry might want to accompany her—not out of jealousy, but out of concern for his colleague. That was just the kind of guy Barry was.
She hoped to avoid Barry that day so that she wouldn’t have to lie to him, but he showed up at her office in the morning, just before she was going to her first class. “Barry!” she exclaimed. “What are you doing here?”
He held out a cup of coffee to her. “I knew you had an early class,” he said. “Thought you could use something to help you wake up.”
Lise smiled despite herself. “Yes, thank you.” Barry was so goddamn sweet. She didn’t deserve a nice guy like him.
“Are you doing anything later?” Barry asked. Even though they were dating, he was always considerate enough to ask. “I’d like to take you to dinner.”
“Um...” Lise bit her lip. She didn’t want to lie to Barry. It wasn’t the right way to start a relationship. “I have to go to...”
“It’s okay, you’re busy,” Barry said, shrugging his shoulders. He leaned forward and pecked Lise’s cheek. “I’ll call you later, okay?”
“Sure,” Lise said, sighing with relief.
Somehow she had slipped right from her comfortable relationship with Brent to another comfortable relationship with Barry. And really, what was wrong with that? She wondered if she wasn’t making a mistake going to visit Elliot. Maybe it was better not to tempt fate.
Just for the hell of it, Lise wandered over to Elliot’s old office. Of course, he hadn’t been there in months, but it brought back memories of the time they had spent together. She remembered the thrill of electricity she used to get as she approached the office. She wondered if she’d ever feel like that about anyone again.
Elliot’s officemate Peter was sitting at his desk. Lise recalled that Peter had seldom been around earlier in the year, but was probably utilizing the office now for the first time in years since Elliot was gone. When Lise saw Peter, she tried to get away unnoticed, but Peter was too quick for her.
“Lise!” he said, grinning at her. “What are you doing in this neck of the math building?”
“I, um...” Think of a lie. “I was going to borrow one of Elliot’s books to study for the quals.”
The qualifying exams (i.e. “the quals”) were a set of exams that had to be passed by every first year grad student in order to move on to second year. Lise hadn’t started studying seriously yet, but she figured her excuse sounded plausible.
“Elliot wouldn’t have any books like that,” Peter said. “But you’re in luck because I do.”
“Oh?” Even though Lise hadn’t come here for that purpose, she was eager for any help she could get. The quals were not known for being easy.
Peter reached into their bookcase and pulled out a medium-sized text. He handed it to her. “This is what you need to pass the quals,” he said. “Believe me, I wish I had it back when I took my exam. I might have passed on the first try.”
“You failed?” Lise was surprised.
“Everyone did my year,” Peter explained. “Well, everyone except Elliot, of course.”
“I had no idea the quals were that hard back then,” Lise commented.
“Well, they were definitely hard, but that wasn’t the problem,” Peter said. “They told us to read this book, but unfortunately...” he paused, “the book hadn’t been translated from German yet at that point.”
“What?” Lise laughed. “You’ve got to be kidding!”
“Seriously, the book was only printed in German,” Peter insisted.
“I didn’t know Elliot could read German...”
“He can’t,” Peter said. “He got a fucking dictionary and translated as he went along. I never thought he’d get through that book, but he did it in about a week.” Peter shook his head. “He’s incredible, he really is.”
Lise lowered her eyes. “I know.”
He frowned. “Lise, you have to know that he really cares about you. I mean, I’ve known him a long time and I’ve never seen him act the way he does around you. He’s just... going through a lot right now.”
“It’s okay,” Lise said. “I’m over it, I really am. You know I’m seeing Barry...”
“Yeah, that’s probably a smart idea,” Peter said.
She had been hoping he might say something more encouraging. Like maybe that she should give Elliot another chance, that he’d definitely come around. But Peter was a mathematician and thoroughly realistic—Elliot wasn’t going to come around and the smart thing to do was to move on with her life.
Elliot had initially intended to change clothes before Lise arrived, but he lost his motivation. Changing clothes was a big effort and he didn’t want to look like he was trying to hard to impress her. He was still wearing the same gray T-shirt he had put on after his shower yesterday and slept in overnight, along with some navy sweatpants.
When he looked down at his bare arms, he could see how thin his forearms had become, and he wished he had worn something with long sleeves. He hated that he cared so much about what Lise thought of his appearance, but he couldn’t help it. She was the only girl who had ever called him “sexy” before.
Arnie’s words kept echoing in his head: Look at us... we’re a couple of freaks. What woman in her right mind would have anything to do with us?
Elliot caught a glimpse of himself in a full length mirror in the rehab gym earlier today. With his paralyzed legs that didn’t move at all anymore and his hands stabilized in splints, he looked like what he was—a badly disabled quad. The thought of beautiful Lise being attracted to him was laughable.
Elliot made sure he was hard at work on his computer when she arrived. Really, it was an impossible task to try to get anything done while anticipating her visit, but he didn’t want it to look like he was just sitting there, waiting for her to show up. He just sat and stared at the computer screen, looking at the last few words he had dictated. Through this method, we may discover all curves isogenous to the strong Weil curve. If only the rest of life were as simple as math.
The door to the room was open, but she knocked anyway. Elliot kept staring at the computer screen and called, “Come in!”
And there she was. Looking so goddamn pretty and familiar, he almost started crying right then and there. She didn’t say anything—she just stared at him. “Hey, Lise,” he said, because he didn’t trust himself to say anything more than that. She didn’t respond. I can’t believe she’s dating fucking Barry Crowler. I can’t believe I lost her.
“Did you find the place okay?” he asked awkwardly.
She still wasn’t talking. She just kept staring at him and he could see her eyes getting wet. But she didn’t look sad or like she felt sorry for him. It was something else.
“I’m sorry, Lise,” he said. He wanted so badly to put his arms around her, to hold her hand, to just be close to her. Life was so fucking unfair.
Finally, she spoke: “I hate you,” she said, wiping her eyes.
“I’m sorry—” he started to say again, but she cut him off by pressing her lips against his. He didn’t know why she was kissing him, but a second later, he didn’t care. She was bent over, exploring his mouth with her tongue as she ran her fingers through his hair and down his chest. He left his hands where they were—resting in his lap, allowing her to touch him all she wanted.
When she pulled away for a second, Elliot could see that her eyes were red-rimmed. “I missed you so fucking much, Elliot,” she whispered.
“I missed you too,” he said.
“Don’t ever fucking leave me again,” she said.
“Lise, you don’t understand,” he sighed. “I can’t—”
“I don’t care,” she said firmly.
“I don’t care,” she repeated.
Elliot shook his head. “You really don’t care, Lise? Pull down my pants if you don’t care.”
Lise smiled thinly. “Wow, I’ve never seen you be so forward...”
“Just do it, Lise.”
Elliot held his breath as Lise tugged down his sweatpants. This wasn’t what he wanted to happen, but he couldn’t hide anything from her anymore. He watched as she pulled out his limp penis with the catheter snaking out of it. She inhaled sharply and released his penis when she saw the tube. “What’s this?”
“It goes into my bladder,” he explained. “It’s the only way I can take a piss anymore.”
Lise’s eyes widened. “Does... does it hurt?”
“I guess it’s lucky I can’t feel it as much as I used to,” he said. He saw the look on her face. “Sorry to disappoint you, but I thought you should know the way things are now. That’s why I think we should just be friends.”
He fully expected her to concede. However sexy she thought his intelligence was, no way she could get turned on by him now. Although he wasn’t sure if he could just be friends anymore. Seeing Lise again reminded him of how much he loved her and he didn’t think he could stand to see her all the time and not be with her.
Lise bent down her head and gently kissed the head of his penis, millimeters away from where the catheter entered his urethra. He felt the soft touch of her lips and closed his eyes, trying to keep himself from getting an erection. She looked up at him, “I don’t get it, Elliot. Aren’t you the same guy who was asking to eat me out a few months ago?”
He frowned in confusion. “I don’t understand.”
“Elliot, I’m going to punch you in the fucking mouth!” she shook her head. “What don’t you understand? I want you to eat my pussy and I want to pleasure you back in any way that I can. And I want to do it as much as humanly possible.”
Holy shit. Elliot stared at her, unable to believe what she was saying. “That doesn’t leave much time for math,” he finally said, a little breathlessly.
Lise laughed. “The funny thing is, I’m not even sure if you’re joking.”
“I’m not joking.”
Lise walked over to the curtains and pulled them shut to enclose the bed. Behind the privacy of the curtains, she slid off her loose violet skirt. Elliot watched her wordlessly and she smiled at him, “I know you can’t take it off.”
“No, I can’t.”
Lise saw the lust in Elliot’s eyes and it was unparalleled to anything she had ever seen before. Plenty of men had desired her before, but never like this. And she had never wanted anyone as bad as she wanted him right now.
Elliot’s severe disability didn’t turn her off in the slightest. Just the opposite. He was one of the most brilliant minds alive, yet he was limited in doing tasks that a five year old could easily accomplish. She could see how much he wanted to grab her and throw her against the bed and take her, but he couldn’t. He could only wheel closer to her with his splinted hands.
She lay down on the bed, on top of the blankets to make her higher up. She spread her legs and she heard Elliot inhale sharply. She propped herself up on her elbows and saw that he was staring between her legs, his brown eyes wide. “What are you waiting for?” she asked him.
“Lise,” he said, shaking his head, “I have no idea what to do... you know I haven’t...”
“It’s okay, it’s okay,” she told him. She placed her hand on his head and drew his face down toward her pussy. He supported himself with his elbows on the bed. She felt his hot breath on her cunt then his wet tongue feeling around hesitantly, like a cautious puppy. For the first several minutes, he was all over the place, feeling around blindly as Lise nearly clenched her fists in frustration. Then, all of a sudden, he was touching her in the exact right spot.
“Is this okay?” he asked, lifting his head.
“For god’s sake, don’t stop!” she cried, pushing his head back down again.
She knew his arms weren’t as strong as they used to be, but he didn’t stop even for a second after that. He wasn’t great, but she knew he was trying his best and that made up for his lack of expertise. She propped herself up to watch his head bobbing up and down, his black hair starting to glisten with sweat. His arms shook as they struggled to support the weight of his upper body. As she watched him, she felt his tongue penetrating her body and she collapsed against the bed, panting to prolong the sensation before she came. Finally, she could take it no more and she exploded in an orgasm.
Elliot lifted his head and looked up at her with wet lips. He wiped his mouth with the back of his forearm. “Was... was that okay?”
“More than okay,” she replied breathlessly. “Did you enjoy it?”
“Very much,” he admitted. “I... uh... I used to fantasize a lot about going down on you and... uh, you know...”
Lise sat up on the bed. There was a V of sweat on his T-shirt and his forehead was glistening. She touched his damp chest and he reached out to lay his splinted hand on her thigh. She brushed her fingers against his. “Can you feel it at all?”
“A little,” he said. “Not as much as I used to, but some of the sensation came back. I can move my elbows a lot better now too. My wrists not as well, but a little bit. Better than nothing.”
“You look the same,” she said cupping his cheek in her hand.
“I look like shit,” Elliot replied, smiling slightly. “Come on.”
“No, you don’t,” Lise insisted. “God Elliot, after the way you were talking, I expected to see you in an iron lung. You’ve been in that same wheelchair since the first day I met you... nothing’s changed.”
“I can’t move my hands,” he pointed out.
“Your hands aren’t what I love about you.” Lise smiled. “I love you because you’re an arrogant jackass, remember?”
He managed a small smile. “Well, I admit things could be worse. But... what about after the next surgery? What if I’m...”
Lise crossed her arms. “Even if I’m mushing your food up into a fine pulp and spoon feeding it to you, I’ll still love you.”
“How can I prove to you that I mean it?”
Elliot’s eyes were wide and earnest. And scared.
She hesitated only for a second.
“No,” Lise said.
To be continued...