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Wheelchair

By Christopher C. Vola

I sort of wake up and they’re all saying stuff like Matt, how are you feeling or you really had us scared for a while there man, you know, the usual bullshit from the movie they probably saw last night. Almost everybody’s here: Jeff, Dan, Chuck, Alex, my mother, my little brother, Aunt Susan, her husband.

When my little brother asks me if I can remember how it felt, Aunt Susan squeezes his shoulder hard. He winces and shuts up. Everyone else is smiling at me like the girl who sleeps at your apartment but won’t tell you she’s been fucking one of your friends for the past week.

The scene is finally starting to sink in. But it’s not the cold potatoes and spinach on the plastic tray and the nurse who wipes my ass twice a day. I mean, I can literally feel it inside of me, sucking me deeper into the bed until I can barely see over the metal railing at the far end. It’s OK; these days I like being numb.

Laura visits me at night. I don’t know how she gets by the security guard and the doctors, but she does. She gets in on the right side of the bed because she likes to lie on her left side. That way, if I fall asleep and start to snore, she can tickle my stomach until I wake up. Then she kisses my cheek. I smile when I see she’s wearing my Grateful Dead T-shirt like she used to do. It’s so big on her that she doesn’t have to put on any shorts.

I ask her why she doesn’t come visit at normal times like everyone else. She laughs and rubs her face against my neck. I don’t think she ever answers my questions.

Instead, we talk about stuff from a couple years ago, when we first met. Laura keeps reminding me about this one time after we graduated high school. We were at a party at Jackson Smith’s beach house in Westport, and somehow we ended up sitting together by the water after everybody else fell asleep or passed out.

Nobody noticed as we hurried through the gate, past the lighthouse, and onto the beach. We stopped when we got about three feet from the water. It was low tide and the air smelled like salt and shit. We laid back and looked out across the Sound.

Besides the smell, this beach was really beautiful. A string of piled rocks formed a black line that looked like it stretched out for miles. Some boulders poked their heads out of the water a few yards away. For a second I wanted to swim out to one of them. The rippling of each wave made a silver streak that lasted for a second under the moonlight. Even though there was a full moon, the stars shone brighter than I'd ever seen in the suburbs. Laura pulled on my arm.

“Do you believe in God, Matt?”

“I don’t know. Why?”

“Well, whenever I sit on the beach at night and all I can see are the stars and the water, I feel like I’m inside a huge dome, like I’m in one of those little snow globes that you shake and all the plastic snow falls on the town. The stars are like the snowflakes, except they don’t move. Then I start to wonder what’s behind those stars. I can almost see a giant hand holding the globe, and a pair of eyes looking down, trying to figure out what’s going on inside.”

“That’s scary. What if it wanted to shake the globe? We’d be fucked.”

“Yeah, but when I look at the stars, I feel the opposite. It’s almost like the hand is keeping us steady, just looking at what it’s holding and wishing everything could stay just like it is now.”

While she talked, she slipped her hand into mine. Her fingers were so small but they locked in perfectly. Her skin was hot and sandy and I could feel her pulse. We looked up at the sky for a while, not saying anything.

Her eyes reflected the moonlight hitting the waves. I felt like I was swimming in them. But I didn't have too much time to enjoy it because she started kissing my lips and neck, running her hands through my hair. Her mouth tasted like cigarettes and vodka. I looked up at the stars again for a second and breathed in the salty air that suddenly smelled incredible.

***

Everyone sits when they visit. They might be talking, showing me pictures of their kids, or just looking, but they never do it standing up. I wonder if they think it affects me. Not many people come.

Sometimes I tell my mother about my conversations with Laura and she doesn’t believe me. She says that Laura’s at school, that she’s four hundred miles away, how could she be here, but I think my mother’s full of shit.

 

 

ChristopherC. Vola is a student at the University of Richmond pursuing a
degree in French and Journalism and avoiding the real world at all costs.
He has studied with such writers as Josephine Humphreys and Brian Henry
and currently lives in Windsor, CT.

Photo "Aurora Australis 1" courtesy of Mirko Harnisch, Dunedin, New Zealand.

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