This is a story from long ago. A story of youth but more. A hurt from forever ago. I loved someone in my teenage way for a long time. Going back in time like this can be painful because I was not necessarily a great person back then. I had managed to go from a shy person with girls to somewhat of a dog. So I’ll get that apology out of the way early on. What was ego enhancing back then as a teenage guy fed a fire and a reputation that wasn’t bad to have back then. What I was proud to be back then I’m not proud of now. Part of looking back for me is taking a more honest accounting of was really going on with me; and the consequences to myself and others. I don’t want to whitewash any of it because the lessons for me that can be extracted (and therefore not repeated) can be used by others to avoid making them in the first place. Having said that….
At some point this reputation had “some” young women coming to me and expressing in one way or another that they had heard something from someone and they wanted to know more about it. They wanted to take me out for a spin. This was awesome. I had gone from inexperienced, to competent, to being whispered about. This works wonders for the un-examined young male ego. It was easy to get wrapped up in all of that. It’s an unfortunate fact that I am often writing about the casualties of my behaviors over time. I wasn’t faithful to girlfriends. I didn’t stay in relationships for very long. The idea of being faithful and even being in relationships was a concept that didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me at the time. Sure you want to commit to someone and develop trust and intimacy. However, you know it’s not forever. I knew I was not getting married at 17, 18, 21 or probably even 25 years old. It wasn’t going to happen. So I went back and forth with trying and failing to be a “boyfriend.”
There were some less obvious casualties and I do have lingering regrets even after all these 30 or so years later. There were occasionally people that I more than just liked. There would be a person that would give me a flash or a hint of forever. This was pretty disturbing and could throw a guy off his game. By “off his game” I mean turn me back into a petrified guy that had no idea how to act or what to do.
There was a girl (we were 15 and above, so boys and girls) that I should have asked to the junior prom. The first recalled of my many regrets. I didn’t. I went to my junior prom with someone I was told wanted to go with me. We went out a couple times and I asked and she said yes. Then she starting dating some guy she met in Lake George and had no time for me. I’ve come to despise Lake George. Nothing was going to happen at my junior prom and by that night I didn’t even like this girl very much. I spent that night hitting on people I actually liked. The experience was so bad I skipped my senior prom entirely.
This girl. The one I should have asked to the prom and didn’t. We had gotten together once and had what was for me a very memorable little make out session. I can get flashes of summer, a blue tent, an M&M’s t shirt maybe. There is an unconfirmed story (I CAN’T STRESS THIS ENOUGH) that knowing of, or hearing of my reputation later on, we had an encounter (of course at Lake Fucking George) where I would be taken out for that spin. However I turned out to be the petrified, fumbling version of myself; faced with someone I had real feelings for. A person that was forever when forever couldn’t be real. So nothing wild was going to happen. I could in no way treat her as a casual encounter that wouldn’t mean anything. So the story goes that this was seen as a rejection by me. Now I didn’t know this at the time. I was not a great communicator at the time. I wouldn’t have been able to articulate that she represented forever and some part of me knew I was ready for that. I couldn’t tell her that she was special and that she could never be just another experience. It was all about being cool and looking cool. Being cool did not entail being flustered by someone who represented forever. Again “forever girl” is a concept that only comes with hindsight. So I honestly don’t remember how that encounter went down or how I handled it. Badly probably covers it.
Ideally, if I were fearless, I could have mumbled out: you’re different, special. I’m afraid. I don’t want to mess up.
But mess it up I did. Possibly by not being a jerk and using her as much as she would have been using me. Maybe. For the record I don’t believe that story. It’s never been confirmed by the only person that could. I believe that I somehow just screwed it up all on my own.
So now the story actually starts: I break my neck. My girlfriend has me (my mother was sent to do the dirty work) kick out all of the girls coming to visit me in the waiting room. Most were just friends or former flames but some were much more. This wounds several people; including me. Later I’ll spend years attempting to mend those relationships with varying degrees of success. The girlfriend does stay with me. Later she will cheat on me, tell me and seem to enjoy the payback somewhat… giving back to me what she had received over the past two years. Meanwhile I’ve spent a month and a half in the hospital where they brought me back from the dead the first time. (see several earlier posts). Then I moved next door, to Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital. There will be several post upcoming about some of the exploits during that 7 1/2 month stay.
At Sunnyview they would re-teach me how to live my life. At first I was still wearing a vest with bars to hold my neck in place. Imagine the comfort as you are enduring 4 hours or more of therapy each day. As the weather grows hotter it’s sweaty and itchy and generally awful. The dude smiling in this picture must clearly be high. He’s smiling and wearing glasses. There wasn’t much smiling – at least about that vest. I’m not going to go into detail here but I was physically weak and broken. I don’t know who I am any more. I know I’m not the hyper active, hyper physical, hyper sexual, sporty specimen I was just a couple months ago. I wasn’t sure I could be the same charmer that could first make you hate me and then somehow win you over and make you love me. I wasn’t the guy that had gotten comfortable in his own skin. That guy in his second semester of college was a bit unsure of his future maybe, but totally in control and feeling good about himself. I actually used the statement back then that “I had life by the balls.”
Never say you have life by the balls out loud. Be safe and don’t even think it.
That was all done. Most of the female population that I was “close to” in varying degrees had been banished from my life. This was about the time that my girlfriend broke the news that she had cheated on me. She also made it clear that there was no room for me to be throwing a pity party for myself. I deserved it. She didn’t break up with me. She did what I had done. She had told the truth and laid out the indiscretion. She couldn’t say that it wouldn’t happen again and it was up to me whether we would continue on. I don’t remember her saying she was sorry. I probably hadn’t either.
Time out: I didn’t feel this way at the time obviously, but I LOVE this. This was perfect. As I’m typing this I feel proud of her. Because I want to be crystal clear… there is nothing this woman could do to me to make up for what I had done to her. I deserved way worse. I learned much more about what real love is; in the way she put up with me and forgave me over and over. She was and is, a stronger and better person than I will ever be. She went on to prove this over and over again, in all she does with those she loves. She is one of my heroes even though I now only know her from afar. Now back to hating her just a tiny bit:
I didn’t break up with her. I was lost. Breaking up meant being alone. Most of my friends were away at college. I took whatever she was willing to give.
My only other lifeline was occasionally seeing my old flame. The “glimpse of forever” girl was dating one of the nurses aides that took care of me. Through him I guess I’d hear from her or the outside world. It’s all very vague now and I can’t even remember his name. Dan, the other guy who most often took care of me is dead now. (Really wild stories to come). I think she would come in occasionally to meet this guy after her shift and I might see her.
The next part of the story gets me emotional in the telling. My former flame (I mean I still burned but as far as I know she never did) became my angel. There was some barbecue going on. My girlfriend and her fiend were supposed to stop by. To my memory the reason for this brief visit was mostly just to make sure I was aware that they were on the way to party at Lake Fucking George (seriously), and that the guy with whom she cheated would be there. I’m not sure how the rest of this happened and how much is my imagination. When my girlfriend and her buddy walked in giggling and whispering this angel was there. She was. She was either already in my lap or quickly jumped in my lap… and she DID NOT get up when the girlfriend entered. When the girlfriend was a bit taken aback and at a loss for words this angel leaned over and kissed me. It was the cheek but still. Then she told the girlfriend she could go ahead and leave – that we’d be just fine and she didn’t have to worry about leaving me on my own. The girlfriend left.
If this was a movie the crowd would be cheering. I turned some corner that day. I knew somehow that I’d be okay in the love department. That act was a miracle. I’ve attempted to explain this to her recently at a high school reunion. I’m not sure she heard it or if she could understand just what it meant to me back then. In particular because things were to go horribly wrong between the two of us soon thereafter. I didn’t even know it happened. We have come back a long way from our low point but there is no fairy tale ending to this story. The next part of the story is going to have anger and sarcasm and a rawness that I’m choosing not to avoid because it would not be an honest telling without it…
While still at Sunnyview, I had to be transferred out to the Layhey Clinic in Burlington, outside of Boston Massachusetts. I had a surgery there and about a week later when stable I returned to Sunnyview to finish up my rehab stint. I was nearly ready to venture out into the real world after having been sheltered in the cripple friendly heath care system and it’s personnel. I went home and began to rebuild my new life in a wheelchair. During this time the girlfriend and I finally parted ways. She was going to date this guy and live happily ever after and I was on my own. Surely enough time had passed where she wouldn’t be seen as abandoning me at my lowest point. All good. Honestly it was overdue. If I hadn’t broken my neck I’m not sure we would have lasted even another month. So we added another 9 months and even made a little Sunnyview history by being the first overnight “conjugal visit” allowed at Sunnyview. That’s a story for another time.
Back in these days there was a watering hole called The Copper Keg. In the height of it’s popularity it was jam packed every night. By the time we hit 18 (the legal age in 1981) we had already become regulars there. The biggest night of the year was always Thanksgiving Eve. Everyone in town would end up there before the night was over. People were home from college and although there were a variety of places to go before the Keg, you could be assured you would see everyone you knew before the night was out. This became the only time I would now run into my lap angel. She might still end up on my lap, because there was literally no where to stand or sit at the Keg on thanksgiving eve, but something was horribly afoul. She HATED me. I didn’t know why and pressed hard to determine why. I would bar my soul to some small extent about my feelings about her and that I had secretly or not so secretly wished for more. I’d reveal a regret. Even if she would have said “no” I should have asked her to the prom. Both of them. She would hear none of it. She wasn’t mean to me. She just had no time for any of this talk. She might have just been protecting me. Better to say nothing then “I never felt any of that.” Eventually, or maybe all along she had a boyfriend. None of this mattered and everything was water under the bridge. For a few thanksgiving eves in a row this process would repeat, I’d get angry at no answers and I’d get shitfaced and my friends would take care of me. I’m pretty sure I was an asshole to her by the end of those nights.
It became worse when I heard that her boyfriend became her fiance. My friends loved this guy. The story went that a bale of marijuana just floated up to him one day and he was selling it to get rid of it. The ring came from the proceeds and my soul rotted and spilled out all over her. I thought he was a dealer. A liar. The ring was bought from dirty money. She deserved better. I wished that I could be that better but that was ridiculous. I was a pathetic shitfaced cripple on thanksgiving eve and she was a fucking angel. But I had to be better than this guy. I never fact checked anything that was said about this guy. I just needed to not like him because he was the destroyer of hope. The taker of forever. I was doing okay in life but I still wanted that hope. She still put up with this a couple times. Pity maybe? Angel?
She married. They of course produced the best looking child ever born in the history of kids. She’s happy and I’m happy for her except when I’m not. I’d still like some insight as to what I did wrong or what happened to cause such a change but this is getting to be old. All of this is ancient history by the time I get the insight I’m looking for. We have some mutual friends and one day years later one of them broke down and told me the big secret.
Back in 1982 she received a package with o identifying marks or card. Inside was “sexy underwear.” The postmark was from Boston. Apparetly the nurses aide taking care of me or some other secret admirer had thought this was a good thing to do. If I were doing that I’d make sure there were a card in it or at least “hey keep your eye on the mail, there’s a surprise on the way.” I’m not even sure she was still dating the nurses aide at that time. I’ve never been privy to the details or timelines for all of this.
Here’s the thing… it would have been awesome if it were me. I would have loved to have been in Boston buying sexy underwear. I’d trade anything. But I was in Burlington (spelled differently then B O S T O N) having a surgeon slice open my penis a sewing my urethra around a catheter he had inserted into my penis. He sliced a hole in me above my pubic bone and inserted another catheter to divert the urine so the surgical area could heal. I had developed a “pouch”in my urethra after repeated catheterizations done in trying to retrain my bladder to work normally. It had to be fixed because urine pooling there would cause urinary tract infections. During that time my bladder would fill and the nerves would fire to empty my bladder. Unfortunately my sphincter would tighten at the exact time it was supposed to loosen. My body reacted by sweating and shivering. It’s called autonomic dysreflection and it was constant. I was always cold and always sweating. At night I would fall asleep in a sweatshirt. I would wake freezing a short while later, turn the sweatshirt inside out and fall asleep again. I’d wake every morning in a 4th sweatshirt with 3 soaked ones laying next to the bed.
It would have been awesome while this was going on to muster up the idea that I should do something nice for someone who had rescued me. She deserved something. If I had been able to get out of thinking only about myself I might have asked my parents to make the trip into Boston to buy some flowers and dictate a note. I’m more of a flowers guy when I’m grateful. My parents would have had to pay for the underwear also. And look up where she was living and get the address. If sending to her childhood home they’d have to look up the number since I don’t know it. But I was in the hospital with IV’s and a tube in my dik and another hanging out of my stomach. Maybe when my parents weren’t looking I could detach all of the tubes and call for a handicap accessible taxi to come pick me up and drive me to Boston so I could shop for sexy underwear. Oh wait right no money. It’s also 1982 and I don’t think there’s such a thing as handicap accessible taxis. Hell there isn’t even an internet yet. If there was an internet and online shopping I didn’t have a credit card. I’m over 50 years old now. Married 10 years and divorced. I’ve parented 3 girls in my lifetime and now grand daughters. I’ve lived with a woman soon 15 years and I wouldn’t know how to size and buy underwear for a single one of them… sexy or otherwise.
Deep breath. You see, the thing is, I didn’t do it. But this poor girl and her family were so creeped out about it that they hired a detective, and the detective said I did. This girl’s family paid money to some asshole who did not do his or her job. That detective pointed at me. I was in Burlington, not Boston. I don’t know how I get pointed at, but I’m not a detective; good or bad. I guess then thanks to all of this spot on detective work this angel and her family relax right? Because well it’s just this crippled guy with a hopeless crush. He’s perverted sure but it’s not like he could rape her or act on his pathetic love or lust fantasies. Sexy underwear from a cripple is mostly just sad right?
The detective got paid and the family relaxed and the real underwear seller is still out there. Maybe even knowing I was blamed. Maybe having a big fucking laugh about it. Hell maybe with her guard down she was the one that told the other likely suspect that he was clear – the detective found out it was me. Then the pervert called me a pervert and pathetic and laughed. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. Pure speculation. She would likely avoid me at all cost right? Forever. You don’t want to feed into that sort of thing. Like I said I found out decades later. It was not a great comfort realizing that she, her family, her friends and our mutual friends had been viewing me in this light for years. I’ve been a sad angry pervert in her head while she’s been an angel in mine.
I think the person that told me all of this blurted it out after watching me moan about my bafflement for years. A pity truth perhaps. Maybe solving my question of what it was that I did so wrong so many years ago. I know it would be bullshit to think I didn’t deliver when she came looking to play. She never came looking to play. I don’t even know where that story came from… that she was disappointed and felt rejected because I wouldn’t roll around. Come on.
When I next saw her I told her I knew the story and I didn’t do it. Why would I lie decades later right? All the damage was done. It’s not like if she finds out it was another guy she’s going to come running into my arms and make forever come true. Water under the bridge. She said she believed me but what would you say in the same position? Whatever it took to make me go away and leave her alone right? At the reunion after that maybe she really did believe me by now. I managed to tell her about the angel story. I’m not sure she even remembered. She sat at the same table and was nice to me all night. I might have said thank you too many times and told her she was never going to know how much that moment meant to me. I have been so angry about part of this story over time, but never at her.
Even the “what could have been” stories are just inventions in my head. Even if I had been able to tell her back then that she was special and different and I was afraid and I didn’t want to blow it with her. All of that. It doesn’t mean she ever felt the same way, or ever might have given a chance. The feeling were likely just mine own and I projected on her that she might feel the same way. If all of that were the case and it was all just in my head and she looked at me and said, “I just don’t feel the same way” I could have dealt with it. But we used to walk and talk and look at stars and laugh. We were friends. I would have been pretty happy if only that had continued. I would take that and keep my crush to myself and be happy for her when she married and produced model-type children. I would have been pleased with just friendship or even just knowing her better. But maybe even friendship was just in my head and never a real possibility. And I smile at that too. Because I think back on that barbecue and wouldn’t that make her even MORE of an angel?