I think of my life in two distinct parts. The accident separates them into neat parcels. Or, more correctly, separates me into pieces, which has made pieces of my life. Whereas, before the emergency workers pried me out of what was left of my car, I ran my sales office like I was still twenty-something, worked out at the gym three times a week and slept a full eight hours every night, now I’m lucky I can walk upright, much less lift a dumbbell, and I get maybe four hours of sleep, at best.
Kathy has been great about it. Very patient. Which is good because I’ve given her plenty of reason not to. After every operation, while I was flat on my back, I got demanding and ill-tempered. I snapped at her for no good reason other than she was in the room and I had no-one else to take it out on. And, ever since the first time I came home from the hospital, I’ve barely been able to stand having her in the same room when I get dressed. Especially when she has to help me.
One night, the air was hot and muggy. Kathy would have filled a bowl with water and wiped my whole body, if I’d asked. Instead, I got up from bed because I was too uncomfortable to just lie there, went into the bathroom and took off my shirt. I was wringing the washcloth for the third time when the bathroom door suddenly opened.
“Oh! I’m sorry.”
The door closed quickly, but I recognised the voice. Tess, Amelia’s friend in town for their ten year high school reunion. It took a couple of minutes to get over the sudden intrusion, and my heart to beat normally. I put my shirt back on and headed to my bedroom. As I passed the living room, I saw her sitting on the couch.
“Sorry, Tess. The bathroom’s free.”
“I’m sorry, Mr Neel. I didn’t notice anyone was in there.”
“It’s okay. I should have locked the door. I used to, all the time, but since the kids moved out, I got out of the habit. Anyway, you can use it now.”
“Mr Neel?” She kept her voice down.
“Can I ask you something?”
“Your back – ”
“I’m sorry you had to see that.”“Is that what happened in the accident?”
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