by James Bates
My arms were propped on my wheelchair. My wife Karen had rolled me onto the back patio saying, "It's a beautiful June day, Jake. Time for some sunshine. You're starting to look a little pale." She smiled at me, a little joke between us since I don't get outside like I used to.
I'd always loved being in the out of doors and still do, despite the fact that being outside contributed to the state I'm in now; confined to a wheelchair for the rest of my life. I'd been riding my bicycle through a forest on the Lucy Line Trail a few miles from our home when a hundred feet in front of me a Barred Owl dropped down out of a tree. The big raptor took a few strong wing beats and then glided right toward me. Mesmerized, I watched him coast past on my right, not five feet away. I turned to watch, lost control of my bike, veered over the side of the trail and careened down a deep ravine. I smashed my head into a tree and severed my spine. I will never walk again. Ever. I can't even move my arms. Nothing. I can't even talk. The only thing I can do is blink my eyes, which makes it hard to express myself, but I'm learning. It's been one year, one month and thirteen days since the accident. I hope I'm trying to make the best of things, and I think I am. After all, I don't have much choice, do I?
But some things really get to me. I can no longer hug Karen, or my kids, or my grandchildren. That loss of physical contact is hard, never being able to touch or feel a loved one. Man, I miss it. And don't get me started on my inability to talk. Even though I was never the most verbose person in the room, not being able to communicate is frustrating; sometimes downright irritating. Especially now. Now that a mosquito has landed on the back of my hand on a throbbing, exposed, blue vein. I watch as it fills it's tiny body with my blood. It's not fun. I want to call out to Karen to come and at least brush it away or something, but I can't. Of course, I can't feel anything, but it's the principle of the thing that matters here. I watch as the unwelcome insect swells larger and larger, blowing up like a living balloon, it's transparent body turning bright red, engorged with my blood.
Karen, where are you? Please, I need you. You said you'd be right back. I know you've got other things to do, but, damn. It's hard to watch this thing filling itself at will, unafraid of any repercussions. Even harder to ignore it.
Shit. I can't stand this, I really do. I hate not being able to do anything for myself. I can't even tell my loved ones I how much I cherish them and appreciate them and all they do for me. All I can do is sit here and watch that damn mosquito have its way with me.
After what seems like an hour, I hear Karen's happy voice calling from behind me, "Jake, I'm back. I just went for some ice tea. I thought a little treat would taste refreshing." She'd been gone maybe a minute.
Out of the corner of my eye, I watch as she moves into view. She sets the two glasses down on the table next to me (mine has a straw.) Then she reacts as she sees the mosquito, "Oh, my god." Quickly, her hand darts out and she smacks it, blood spurting, leaving a satisfying smear. "Got it," she say and smiles happily, "Glad I got back in time." Then she wets a napkin with her tongue and cleans away the blood from the back of my hand.
If I could shed a tear of happiness, I would. Not just that she killed that mosquito, but that she was here to do it. My wife of over thirty years, she tells me she will never leave me. My god, how fortunate am I?
She carefully picks up my glass and brings it to me, guiding the straw to my lips. Our eyes make contact and I try to express my deep love for her. I try my best.
"Let's have our tea," she says.
Yes, let's, my love. Let's have our tea, I wish I could say.
About the author
I am retired after many years of working for Honeywell, an electronic controls manufacturing company, as a course developer and trainer. Writing is a passion mine. I have self published haiku and poetry and post my short and long fiction on my blog. I live with my life partner and enjoy gardening, bird watching, reading and bicycle riding. I am the father of two wonderful sons and four fantastic grandchildren. Life is good. I am a fortunate man.