Crash Into Me
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This story is fictional. All persons depicted in sexual situations are over eighteen years of age. It features a character with a physical disability, but this is not a fetish piece. It’s also a slow burner, but if you invest the time, I believe the outcome is worth the wait.
* * * * *
And when we talked of growing up
Knew that we’d halved a soul
And fell the one in t’other’s arms
That we might make it whole;
— W. B. Yeats, “Summer and Spring”
* * * * *
In my dreams, I do the right thing. The reptilian part of my brain reacts without thinking, and because it does, I’m spared the cacophony accompanying the wrong choice. Time jolts as we come within a hair’s breadth of calamity, then share a laugh in the aftermath of the adrenaline rush. Just a couple of girls on a trip down the street to pick up snacks for a movie, my sister and I. Gas station’s two minutes away. It’s 10:49pm. We’ll be back before eleven, stay up until two or three o’clock discussing whatever film we picked out, go to bed, and wake up whenever we want because it’s a summer Saturday.
Only in my dreams.
* * * * *
Everyone said life would change when I got my driver’s license, but no one, not even my uncle Jim who fixes cars for a living at his auto-body shop, could have known how much truth those words carried. Like every teenager in the world, I couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel. I craved that sweet breath of freedom even if, unlike most of my classmates, I wouldn’t get a brand new car for my birthday.
Like that mattered! Borrowing the family wheels for a few hours on the weekend was reward enough. Mom and Dad’s rule was good grades translated to car keys, so I brought Chemistry from a ‘C+’ to a ‘B-‘, maintained Geometry at a steady ‘B’, and blasted through the rest of my classes with those coveted red ‘A’s marked across the top of every homework assignment and test. Honor roll was all but assured. Sure enough, my name appeared on the list, with the obligatory form letter of congratulations arriving in the mailbox a day or so later. A few weeks of driver’s education taught by the same guy Dad swore taught him, two quick tests, the flash of a camera, and who, aged sixteen-and-six-months, walked into her local branch of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles a passenger and walked out a driver? This girl, Colleen Alexis Singleton. Cue the orchestral swell. I had made it, and I had it made.
Mom and Dad didn’t hesitate to put my love of the road to work. Whether it was trips to the grocery store or a drive across town to grandma’s house to pick up a tin of freshly-baked cookies, I was your girl. The first few months they insisted I be accompanied by an adult, but after proving myself to their satisfaction this restriction was dropped. Most important to me, I could drive myself to school. Most important to my parents, I could drive Lynn.
What the fuck were they thinking?
* * * * *
That incessant buzzing is my alarm, telling me it’s time to face another day. Which means it’s time for her to face one too.
Flicking the switch on my clock radio, I rise but do not shine. I shove the covers off me in a haze, sit up, run a hand through my hair (a habit I picked up at age eight and have maintained ever since for reasons still unclear), slide my legs off the bed, pad across the floor in my bare feet to the dresser, and grimace at my reflection. Boring as hell shoulder-length, cinnamon-ginger hair, soon to be pulled back in a pony tail? Check. Boring as hell chestnut eyes fitted with leave-in contacts so as to avoid the stigma of wearing glasses at all costs? Check. Average build ensuring I get lost in a crowd of one whether I want to or not? Check and mate. I stick my tongue out at her, and the bitch returns the favor.
Better make myself presentable. Starting at the top drawer and working my way down, I withdraw:
Panties – white, cotton, store-brand, purchased in a pack of five, all identical.
Bra – black, soft cup, 40% off from Victoria’s Secret, last one in my size on the rack.
Socks – white, ankle-length, cotton, pink-hued toes and heels, present from the parents last Christmas.
T-shirt – lizard green, collar slightly stretched, loose enough to let air flow, featuring a band I have been told is popular but to whom I’ve never listened. Present from Lynn, their biggest fan, who won it in a contest only to find it was too large to fit her.
Jeans – shit, where are my jeans? I look around the room, but they aren’t on the floor or the foot of my bed. Whatever, I’ll find them later.
Opening the door to my room and walking out into the hallway I nearly collide with Lynn, who looks up at me with sleep-drooped, gold-flecked cafe-au-lait eyes barely visible through errant strands of her dirty-blonde hair and murmurs, “G’mornin’, Collie.”
When Lynn started talking, she had trouble working out my name; ‘Collie’ was as close as she could get. Now nineteen, she’s fully capable of pronouncing bursa escort my name correctly in mixed company. When it’s just the two of us though, I’m still ‘Collie’. She doesn’t say it out of spite or to imply I’m a dog, it’s just one of those things little sisters do. Honestly I think it’s cute, but I’ll never tell her that.
I nod and wait as she slowly makes her way down the hall and into the bathroom. After a couple minutes, I hear the shower start up. Most older sisters would push past their younger siblings to engage in a power struggle for the bathroom, but I’m not most older sisters. Lynn means the world to me. I owe her everything, because there’s no way I can make up for what she lost six years ago. No matter what I do, it can’t change the fact it was all my fault.
Her voice, feminine and still dusky from sleep, pries me out of my thoughts. As usual the rest of the house is quiet. Dad’s been at work for an hour already, and Mom’s over at grandma’s, helping out with the stuff she can’t easily do by herself. For reasons I cannot fathom, neither has a problem entrusting me with my sister’s care.
“Collie, you out there?”
I walk toward the bathroom and pause outside the open door. “Yeah. Need something?”
“Mom forgot to put up new towels. Could you grab me one? I’m already in the shower.”
“No prob.” The linen closet is right inside the bathroom behind a single folding aluminum door, so I step into the steamy room, set my pile of clothes down on the sink, glide the closet door open, pull out four fluffy towels (lemon chiffon yellow for me, sea green for her, and a matching white and black set for our parents ) and hang them on the empty bars. My gaze falls on the tub.
It still looks as weird to me as the day it was installed. It’s the length and width of a normal bathtub, built into a recessed area and surrounded by a shower curtain like a normal bathtub, but it’s not normal. This one has a door. It starts on the left-hand side, about four inches away from the wall, and it takes up a good half of the front. It opens like a car door, and if you swing it out, it makes for a very small step up into the bath instead of having to lift your legs over the side. Inside the tub is an elevated area to sit, a seal to prevent leaking, and the taps for the hot and cold water. This one is a bath/shower combination with a waterfall-style shower head which hangs down from the ceiling, and a detachable spray nozzle hooked to a flexible hose so you can target-wash anywhere. You’ve probably seen them on TV, advertised as ideal for the elderly and those who want the comfort of a Jacuzzi without the added space requirements. Lynn needs it for a different reason, and though she tells me the water jets are relaxing after a long day, I’ve never used them myself. I’m not afraid of them or anything, I just know I don’t deserve them.
* * * * *
While I got everything right in my dream, I got everything wrong that night which still feels like yesterday, even though thousands of ‘yesterdays’ have passed. It was supposed to be a quick trip to the gas station on the corner. I grabbed a bag of hot cheese puffs for myself and a packet of chocolate cupcakes for Lynn while she handled the drinks, a task she relished with all the energy of a hyperactive thirteen year old: forty-four delicious ounces of Wild Cherry Pepsi for her and an equal amount of Mountain Dew for me ensured we’d be punching sleep in the face for hours. Five bucks later (toss the change in the donation bucket) and we were back on the road. It was a routine we’d perfected over the last few months, a dance we could perform in our sleep because traffic was always sparse this time of night.
So sparse, in fact, that when the signal turned green, I didn’t bother to check both ways before entering the intersection, didn’t bother to wait a couple seconds, just to be on the safe side. We started through and were t-boned by a guy in a pick-up who, in his booze-addled state, gambled he could beat the yellow. Like four out of every five scratch-off tickets, he lost. So did we.
I don’t remember much after the accident, to be honest. The doctor said I had a concussion, and memory problems were normal. When I think about it, all I get are intermittent flashes, like a PowerPoint presentation in fast-forward. I see bright lights. I hear an overwhelming explosion of noise, like someone setting off too many fireworks at once in a confined space. I feel glass raining across my bare arms and legs, and the soda, blasted all over the interior of the car like a Jackson Pollock painting, smeared into my hair, running down my face, staining my clothes and the floor mats Dad only bought a week ago, and all I can think is how upset he’s going to be. The smell of all four airbags deploying, front and side, overpowers everything else with its grotesque odor: a toxic mixture of burnt rubber, skunk spray, and high school locker rooms. Moving my tongue across the inside of my mouth, I taste copper.
I bursa escort bayan know we’re facing the wrong way on the road, I know my seat belt is buckled, but my mirrors aren’t adjusted properly, and I have to get them just right, because that’s what you do before you go anywhere in a car: make sure your mirrors are adjusted. But everything’s fuzzy, and the controls don’t want to work, and it’s all I can do not to start screaming as I turn and see my sister, slumped over in her seat against the belt. Mercifully everything fades into a haze of blue and red strobe lights before I can register what freaked me out in the first place.
No matter how hard I try, I can’t make myself remember what I saw that night. My brain’s smarter than I am, I guess. It knows I need to forget what I struggle to remember. The last thing to go through my mind is the realization that when I saw the truck coming, I tried to slam on the brake. In my panic, I pushed the accelerator. Had I done nothing at all, the truck would have hit our engine block. Instead the side where my sister sat holding our drinks (the center console was full of trash I was too lazy to pitch) took impact.
It was all my fault.
* * * * *
I woke up before my sister did. People were constantly telling me, my parents, and anyone else within earshot how lucky we were, how much worse things could have been, how fortunate the people in the car behind us called 911 and stayed as witnesses. For a while I believed them, at least until I saw Lynn for the first time.
They wheeled her in from ICU and I thought someone was playing a joke. The top of her head was wrapped in gauze. Her hair was gone, shaved to the scalp because the CAT scan revealed swelling and they’d operated at once to relieve the pressure. A nest of tubes and wires snaked from various parts of her body: IV into the top of her left hand; blood pressure monitor clipped to the tip of one finger; oxygen delivered through a tube in her nose; heart monitors pasted to her chest beneath the flimsy hospital gown; a catheter, the ultimate insult–she couldn’t even get herself to the bathroom. Worst of all was the dressing around the calf, ankle and foot of her right leg. Despite the thickness of the wrap, these awful yellow-orange blotches seeped through from the wounds beneath. The doctors stabilized her, then induced a temporary coma to give her body time to recover. It also gave them time to talk to my parents about what they felt was the best course of action.
* * * * *
“It’s called a trans-tibial amputation.” Dr. Natal was a lean, clean-shaven man whose tan skin and slight accent betrayed an Indian heritage and British education. Rather than standing over my parents and talking down to them like some of the other doctors, he pulled over a wheeled stool and sat right in front of us. “It sounds complicated, but it simply means the cut is below, rather than above, the knee. It’s actually one of the most common procedures performed when it comes to injuries like those sustained by your daughter.”
“What, um…” Dad swallowed. “Exactly what does this trans-, uh, this, uh, surgery entail?” He asked the question I didn’t want answered. Dr. Natal took a breath, then looked at me briefly, eyebrows arched, giving me time to excuse myself if I didn’t want to hear the details. I gritted my teeth and lowered my head. This was my fault?the least I could do was find out how bad things were about to get.
I watched, breath held, as he lifted his right leg up, balanced it across his left, and drew on it with his finger to illustrate. “Basically, we start midway between the knee and the ankle. We’ll do tests to determine the best point and preserve as much as we can. Generally the cut is made right around here.” His finger traced a curve across the middle of his calf. “The tissue and bone below this point is excised.” He smoothed his hand down his leg until it met his ankle and the top of his black athletic shoe. “We keep as much of the muscle as possible, which in Lynn’s case I believe will be a greater-than-normal amount.” Although the process he described sounded medieval, he was doing his best to accentuate the positives. I had to give him that much.
Mom clenched Dad’s hand so tightly I thought he’d recoil to find blood, but if he felt anything he didn’t show it. Just leaned in, hanging on Dr. Natal’s every word, grasping for the good news among the sluice of horrors.
“In the end, we retain a longer flap of tissue which we sculpt around the excision area,” Dr. Natal continued, holding up his left hand as a fist and then cupping his right hand gently over his knuckles. “The tissue will be stapled into place initially to form the…” He trailed off and looked to my parents again. “I don’t care for the word ‘stump’. It’s the most common, yet feels the most impersonal. Unfortunately there are no good synonyms except ‘residual limb,’ which sounds like medical jargon to most. Do you have a preference?”
My parents both shook their escort bursa heads. “It’s what most people will call it,” Mom said, looking at Dad who nodded in agreement. “We should get used to hearing it. I mean, that’s what people will call it, right? A stump? ‘Stump’ is?it’s, um…” She choked up, had to stop for a moment, then managed a hoarse whisper: “Fine.”
Dr. Natal wheeled the stool a few inches closer, took my hand, placed it upon my parents’, then closed his hands around ours. “It will never be ‘fine’,” he said quietly. “Nothing about a situation like this is ever ‘fine’. I can tell you how lucky your daughter is to be alive, how she’ll receive exceptional care, how this is far from my first time performing this operation, how my colleagues have cared for hundreds of like injuries, and it will not change the fact that in an ideal world, Lynn would not need this. Eventually she, and you, will adapt. Life will get closer to normal. Lynn will walk again. But don’t make the mistake of minimizing.
“Even when you hear me or another medical professional say, ‘She is doing fine’, or ‘Lynn looks well today,’ we only mean her recovery is proceeding without complications. No one here,” he squeezed our hands together tighter, “believes the situation is ‘fine’ in any other sense of the word. And you don’t have to use ‘fine’ either, for anything, until you really mean it.”
Finally, I thought as I gave myself permission to cry, someone understood. Then the horror caught up with me: images of people sawing through the bone and muscle of my sister’s still-growing leg flooded my brain. I bent double and spewed my breakfast all over the tile laminate floor. To this day, I still can’t eat biscuits and gravy.
* * * * *
“Want me to leave it running for you?” Lynn, back-lit by the window, pokes her head out from behind the shower curtain.
“Okalee-dokalee.” She slides the curtain back then opens the door, which swings a couple inches above the floor so the water swirling around the bottom of the tub stays inside. “Give me a hand?”
My breath catches in my throat the way it does every morning for this routine. It’s not right, the way I look at her, but I can’t help it. I don’t know if the accident broke something inside me, or if I was destined to be defective, but after the crash some switch in my brain flipped to a different setting. Most people love their siblings, but I…
I wonder if she ever feels my heart banging and thumping like the guy in the Edgar Allan Poe story, giving away the truth while I try to play it cool. If she does she pays no attention, and unlike the poor narrator in Poe’s tale, I’ll never tear up the floorboards over my feelings.
I hold out my hand and she grasps it for support, then pushes herself with her left leg until she’s standing upright. The movements by now are natural, pure muscle memory: turning so she can get her arm over my shoulder, wrapping my arm around her hip. Water from her hair soaks into my shirt, and I wish I had already taken it off so I could feel her skin against mine.
She smells glorious, all berry tangerine body wash and ‘Sunrise Breeze’ shampoo. Rivulets run down her legs, her back, the curves of her hips, and through the cleft between her pert little breasts. A drop teeters back and forth, dangling from the light pink nipple closest to me until she shifts her weight and brushes her chest across mine. I feel my shirt dampen, and hold that sensation against my skin as she towels her upper torso off, then flips the towel around, sits on the side of the tub, and works it down over her left leg, her knee, her ankle, her foot, between each cute little toe.
I undress, sneaking glances at her as she pays careful attention to her right leg, rubbing all the moisture from her stump. Failing to keep it dry is a recipe for irritated skin and an ill-fitting prosthetic, as she’s learned on more than one occasion over the last few years.
I try my best, damn it. I try so hard to be nonchalant as I push my panties off my hips and step out of them, one foot at a time, but she still notices. I know I shouldn’t alter my routine, that I shouldn’t act like it’s a big deal, but I can’t help it. The fact remains I have two intact legs, Lynn doesn’t, and doing even the simplest things while she’s watching always makes me feel awkward.
She maneuvers herself to the toilet, sits on the closed seat, and slides her left foot into a pair of lemon yellow boy shorts, pulling them up until she reaches the stump of her right leg, then angles it to fit through the hole. She pushes off the seat and tugs them up to her waist, hiding the triangle of neatly-trimmed hair the same dishwater-blonde shade as on her head, then pitches me her winning-est smile. “Hard part’s over with!”
I smile back, move past her, and step into the shower without using the door. Damn it, old habits are hard to break. Lynn thinks anything less than ‘scalding’ is too cold, so I dial it back, wait for the temperature to adjust, then move under the waterfall. Just another morning, I tell myself. We’ll get through this one like we did the day before, do it all again tomorrow, and the rest of my life if I have to.
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