Little preface to this short story. I wrote this as an assignment for my creative writing class to be turned in for a grade that I have not yet received. This is my first ever official story, and first draft for that matter, so by no means is it perfect. I’d love to hear your opinions on what you liked/disliked! — also I’m no wiz at grammar, punctuation, the english language in general, etc. There are most definitely some errors in there. Fair warning.
Disclaimer: due to the formatting on wordpress I couldn’t get the indentation to work how I wanted it so I had to delete it all together and I apologize for how annoying it is. ugh.
“Mother, I am perfectly capable of using the control stick to move myself,” I spat out, tensing my jaw muscles as my mom wheeled me up through the newly renovated hallway leading to our kitchen.
She said nothing, silently insisting that I still needed her help to get around. The ramp was finished earlier today and we can finally stop eating dinner in the living room around the TV, since the stairs were no longer a barricade to the left side of the house.
This was going to be my first meal at the table in a few weeks. As we rounded the corner into the kitchen I realized how long it had been since I’d set foot in that room. I laughed to myself. ‘Set foot,’ one of those popular phrases I’d always used but never thought too much into. Now that I’ll never physically ‘set foot’ anywhere again, it seemed rather stupid.
The walls still look the same. The same uncomfortable photo of my brother and I in matching t-shirts as kids hung a little crooked against the burnt orange walls. I recognized the framed photo from my 2nd grade soccer team pictures, and next to it there’s a photo of me at my high school graduation with my arms wrapped around my high school buddies. It sure seemed like a world away, but in reality, it was only a matter of a few months.
My mother, still behind me, leaned over the right side of my chair and said softly, “Dinner’s almost ready, honey. Can I get you something to drink?”
I sat there for a few seconds hoping she would get the hint to give me some personal space.
“Water’s fine.” I say fairly monotone, and she proceeded to fill up a glass.
I parked myself in front of the spot at our dinner table that I’d sat in for years, except the wooden seat I identified as my own was now in the basement, presumably hidden under a few blankets or cornered in by some old Christmas decorations. My wheels were turned a little too far to the right. I didn’t hit the table at the angle I’d hope to, but I honestly didn’t care enough to try to move. It’s ironic because I was always very great at parallel parking my car, but learning to park myself was a monster of its own.
I looked up at the clock on the wall to check to see if my dad would be home before we started eating. It was only 5pm. I had to be fed like a senior citizen, so unironically I ate just as early as my grandpa would.
Dad won’t be home until 7 or so. I’ll likely be asleep by the time he gets here. My mother makes me go to bed so early these days, mostly so I have strength for physical therapy in the mornings.
Dinner was served, and my mom set both bowls in front of us, like for a second expected me to eat it myself. She sat down in the chair to my right. It actually ticked me off, because that was my brother John’s seat, not hers, but there was no sense in arguing. He was off at college anyways, it’s not like he’ll be sitting there anytime soon.
I sat there avoiding my mom’s glance as she shoved spoonsful of the overly chopped up mac and cheese into my mouth.
“What are you thinking about?” she asked, breaking the uncomfortable silence.
I forced my eyes to meet hers. What kind of question even is that. Does she really want to know I’m thinking about how she’s sitting in John’s seat at the dinner table, or that I’m so exhausted from using the remaining working muscles I have left in my body to chew the fucking food I can’t even pick up myself?
I swallow hard, and I tell her something she’d rather hear. “Just thinking about when dad will get home, that’s all.”
She looks disappointed, but she always kind of looks that way.
It’s hard trying to be positive, feeling like I need to put on a face and pretend like I’m happy now. And of all people, I shouldn’t have to pretend to be anything in front of my mother.
She picks up her fork and begins eating, and I manage to use my tongue to get ahold of the oversized bendy straw. My teeth latch onto it and I take a few gulps, then we start the whole process over. Feed me a little, then she eats a little, then we drink some water. The routine was so familiar we didn’t even have to ask each other what came next, although we still did sometimes, but only to create white noise.
As lame as it is, I’m absolutely exhausted after eating. I’d’ve thought my lack of motion in life would at least leave my spirit in high energy, but alas, that’s not how it works.
“Mom, I’m really tired. I think I’m going to lie down.”
“Alright honey, I’ll meet you in there in 5,” she said while combing the back of my hair with her hand.
I offer a quick flash of my dimples to say thank you.
My chair could only go a whopping 5 mph, so there was no quick way to get out of the uncomfortableness that constantly floated between us. It felt like we spent every second of every day together now. My mother and I weren’t even that close last year, I’ve always had more in common with my dad, but when her maternal instincts kicked in over the summer, some new version of her awoke inside. She’s simultaneously my best friend and the most annoying person in my life.
I rolled over the fancy ramp that was likely something my parents went into debt to install, driving the even more expensive piece of machinery that I now identified with. The mirror that hung on the hallway started to mock me. It was positioned a little too high, so I could only see from my shoulders up, almost making me forget I was stuck in this electric wheelchair. ‘Electric wheelchair’, the irony of those words is that they’re just one step off from being ‘electric chair’.
I stopped for a second and just looked at my reflection, and then down at my contorted limbs. All feeling in my legs had practically diminished. They still buzz every so often, it’s my bodies way of taunting me. As for my arms, they’re slightly better off, emphasis on the slightly. I’m learning how to move them more and more in therapy.
I heard a few clangs of dishes being washed back in the kitchen. If my mom saw me staring at myself she’d probably start crying, and that’s something I’ll avoid at all costs. If anyone should be crying it’s me. I banged my right wrist against the control stick to steer and approached my room.
My bedroom door used to have signs on it saying, ‘Drew’s man cave,’ alongside some album covers. The door wasn’t even there anymore, because of the whole I can’t open a door knob issue. A few weeks ago, my mom suggested we hang up a sheet so that I have more privacy but I didn’t see the point. No one came into my room anymore except my parents and me, so there wasn’t much to conceal. It’s not like any girls are begging to come over and be alone with me.
Right on cue my mom entered after 5 minutes exactly. She worked like clockwork. My mother was practically an unpaid servant to my every need. Financially speaking, the goal of being waited on hand and foot is a dream many wish to achieve, except now I don’t want it. My mom isn’t paid, and she never will be, but she’s the sole reason my body gets out of bed day in and day out. I’d do anything to be able to do it myself.
She began picking me up out of my chair. My 120-pound body was much easier for her to handle these days. She carefully set me onto my freshly pressed sheets and tucked me in. My lights were motion activated so I knew I had 10 minutes before they’d shut off for the night. Sleeping is the easy part. It most intrigued me post paralysis. I love researching sleep habits, REM, and the meaning of dreams. In my dreams I can run again, but I’m pretty sure that meaning is fairly obvious.
I can’t help but think for the, what seems like, millionth time about lucid dreaming. I find myself now constantly wondering if I’m just in a state of sleep paralysis. My body is numb and my muscles are permanently relaxed, while my brain is fully awake. I can’t speak sometimes after my body falls asleep. My mind flickers around while my idiot body knocks out.
As soon as I shake the thoughts of what’s behind my dreams, my mind’s stuck on that beach last July. I remember the waves, in a seemingly flawlessly motion cascaded over me, the feeling of being spun into a cycle, similar to the rickety washing machine my mother had in the basement, except this time I was the pair of blue jeans being turned over and over, ending in a sharp halt.
I felt like I was there again, face down in the Atlantic Ocean, unable to feel anything around me. When it happened, I thought I was actually dead, or maybe that tingly sensation had meant I was floating, kind of like an out of body experience. When I first realized I was paralyzed, I instinctively held my breath, a move that I now know was crucial to my survival. My body had felt like an anchor in the salt water, lifeless, yet so coherent at the same time. I never had this cliché flash of memories people have before something terrible happens, it was more like bombs going off in my frontal lobes. It wasn’t peaceful, that part’s bullshit. It was scary as hell, but shockingly that was one of the moments I felt most alive, due to the epiphany that life can be taken from me so easily. I’d never been a very philosophical guy, at least not before I became a quadriplegic. Except the yearn for survival wears off.
My mind drifts off with my body and I’m finally where I’m most happy, in my dreams.
The sun knocks on my eyes through the bent white window shade to my right. If only I could turn over and shield myself from the horror that is a new day. I can see the digital clock on my wall and it reads 7:56 am. I hate how I always wake up just a few minutes before I need to be up. What am I going do with those 4 minutes now? I can’t sleep; my mom will be in my room in exactly 4 minutes to pick me up and put me into the chair that will drag me along for yet another day.
I shut my eyes, and the minutes go by rather quickly, but when I open them it reads 8:05, and still my mother hasn’t entered my room. “Mom?” I call out sheepishly.
I memorized the sound of her footsteps. She drags the heel of her feet when she slides across the hardwood floors while my dad bends his arches at an angle that leaves a more profound sound every time his heel touches the floor. My mom was on her way in.
“Hi honey, did you have a good night’s sleep?” she says standing in the hole where my door belongs.
“It was fantastic,” I say back sarcastically, “I dreamt that no one had to wait around for me to load onto a plane, that I could dance at a wedding, that I could walk the dog instead of it walking me…” My words got faster and faster as I spewed them off.
“Stop. STOP. Drew, stop it.”
My mother hadn’t used a strong tone with me since I’d been sentenced to life in a chair.
“This is your life now,” She said, and looked around like she felt strange. “You cannot live your life constantly feeling sorry for yourself. And this is my life now, it’s our life. We have to be a team, and in order to do that you cannot hate me and you especially cannot hate the world for this.”
Even though I couldn’t reach them, I still avoided her eyes.
“I’ve listened to you pity yourself for far too long and today I am done. You can have all the time you want to be bitter about whatever vendetta you think the world has out for you, but I can’t do it anymore.” She paused for a few seconds. “So, I’m not going to put you in your chair until you decide that you are going to be positive about your life.”
“What do you mean?” I said sharply. Was she really threatening to leave me lying here if I didn’t comply to her terms? This triggered my aggression rather than stop it.
“The choice is yours,” she said as she left the doorway.
“Mom you can’t be serious!” I say in a panic. “You can’t just leave me here all day! …MOM!”
I start shifting my teeth back and forth through a clenched jaw. The ridges running over and over, back and forth while my mind races. If I could move them correctly, my hands would have coiled into fists. I’m not an angry guy, but I have every right to be mad at the world. The world took me from… well, me. I’m a prisoner in my own body for god sake, and now I’m a prisoner in my own home.
I lay there and after some time I release my jaw. My facial muscles relax and I breathe in through my nose. Forgiving the world for paralyzing me wasn’t something I had on my agenda today, or even 10 years from today. How can someone who doesn’t understand my pain have the audacity to leave me in limbo. A literal physical limbo.
She’ll give in sooner or later. She doesn’t have the heart to make me lay here all day.
And so, I wait. I wait for her to crack.