“Teeth: brushed. Hair: brushed. Eyelids: brushed with color.”
Rebecca looked from the mirror to the window, which had a view out to the front courtyard and to downtown. From the fifth floor bathroom window, Rebecca could see all she needed, including each step necessary to reach the bus stop. The bus labored its way toward her stop. This one she would miss.
Rebecca could also see where she would be let off after a straight twenty-block ride down
Then, once pedestrians got out of the way, she could see the steps to take her
to her office.
Looking back to the mirror, Rebecca scanned from her face, which was completed to her liking, down to her shoulders, which were bare, except for the white bra straps hanging on tight and contrasting with her rich brown skin. Before her vision reached to the cups of the bra, she quickly grabbed the grey shirt hanging on the back of the chair at her side and threw it on.
“Shirt: applied and adjusted.”
At that point, Rebecca’s demeanor lessened. She avoided looking anymore at the mirror, and instead peered at her thighs. She flashed back to the five minutes that changed her life.
If it were not raining, Rebecca would have walked despite going to sleep way too late and waking up way too early. Even with the dreariness of the grey, wet first Spring morning of daylight savings, Rebecca felt jubilant. In three hours, she was to give a presentation to the company’s president and other office heads, which would lead her to a promotion and her accepting the ideal position.
Excitement, as well as joy, elevated her heart rate and spread to a beatific smile on her face. Rebecca shared the smile with other passengers, mostly business folk, but some students, who sat waiting blandly for their stops. As they each looked to Rebecca, the contagion of her smile spread to them and then was returned with warm greetings.
Rebecca made it to the driver, who had the stirrings of a scowl as he glanced at the rearview mirror. He turned and saw Rebecca’s radiant smile, and his face beamed.
She began to move toward the exit when she heard a commotion that started from the back of the bus and made its way thunderously toward her.
While lifting her gaze to determine what the noise was, Rebecca could do nothing as two teenage boys, who suddenly threw punches and curses at each other, slammed into her, shoving her down the stairs. The two continued fighting while Rebecca fell in slow motion down the steep, metal, biting steps and onto the cold, wet pavement. She landed hard on her backside. Her legs flopped and then stopped under the bus. At the same time, one of the boys fell on the lap of the driver, and the other pounced on him, flailing him with punches.
Before the driver could react, an elbow pushed hard onto the driver’s leg, forcing it down on the gas pedal. The bus jerked out of gear and bounced backward just enough to roll on top of Rebecca’s legs.
Rebecca came out of her reverie of two years ago, and saw that her vision focused on the stumps of her legs that ended at her thighs in the seat of her wheelchair.
She did not have her pants on and seemed unable to understand why the grey slacks, draped over the bathroom chair, looked like they would not fit her. She looked back and forth from the pants to her legs until tears welled in her eyes and she could no longer make either of them out.
She spoke out loud what she already knew was in order, “Teeth: brushed. Hair: brushed. Eyelids: brushed with color. Cheeks…” She stopped. Somewhere in her mind came the realization that she would not get to where she should. She would again stop preparing herself after having put on her shirt, not knowing why her pants would not fit.
She then became stuck, not looking out the window nor in the mirror. Not looking at her pants on the chair, nor at her legs which could not fit the pants, and she shut down. Somewhere deep in her mind she feared she might stay in that position, statuesque, unthinking, not understanding, forever. She remained staring, but not seeing, unmoving and silent.
When the bathroom door opened, Rebecca still did not move. A warm, soft hand caressed her forearm and took her hand, while another one stroked her cheek. A comforting, friendly voice spoke to her, “Rebecca, it’s time to go. Let’s finish getting ready.” She heard the pants slide off of the back of the chair and the legs of the pants fall to the linoleum floor.
Internally, she heard a shrieking and felt herself thrashing about, and she was sure she heard profanity spilling from between her lips. Then she felt a touch of full lips upon hers. The commotion was only in her mind. She slowly lifted a hand and felt her husband there. The kiss lingered, bringing her back to herself and outside of her delusions.
“I don’t want to go.” She animated her face enough to emote a steadfast refusal to move or go anywhere.
“I know, Rebecca,” her husband said calmly while maneuvering the pants over her hips and folding the legs to be tucked underneath her thighs.
Not knowing she did so, she adjusted her buttocks so her husband could pull the pants up on her the way they were supposed to fit. Afterward she said, “So why are you here? You know I don’t want to go anywhere. Leave me here and go yourself. There’s nothing I can do for them.”
He stooped down beside her and nestled his face in her neck. Rebecca softened and smiled. “No one expects me to go. You can tell them I’m not ready.”
“I will. I do every time.” He kissed her again, more tenderly, a little more wet.
“Okay,” Rebecca said after kissing him back. Still smiling, she let him push her out of the bathroom.
Instead of the bus, Rebecca was loaded into the passenger seat of their minivan and driven the twenty straight blocks to the office. Not stopping in front of the building, her husband drove to the bottom floor of the garage, and pushed her through to the elevator.
“You told them, right?”
“Of course. They are not expecting anything from you. It’s me they’re waiting for.”
Rebecca accepted that, knowing and trusting her husband. She was at peace, as this was the best time of her day. Confidence settled over her after being strengthened within by the comfort given to her by her husband. The confidence remained as she entered the conference room with everyone already in place and waiting.
No one said anything while Rebecca laid out her folders, paperwork, pens, and pointer, and said, “Work: ordered and set, ready for presentation.”
Her husband waited until Rebecca delivered her morning presentation, ensuring that she was fine and that her medicine was working. By then she would be able to complete her other duties of the ideal position on her own.
At the end of the day, by the time Rebecca was worn out and ready for her next dosage of medications, her husband returned to take her back home. Once they arrived in their apartment, with weariness overtaking her, she stated, “You didn’t tell them I wasn’t ready. After you left, I had to fill in.”
“I know, honey. There was nothing I could do for them. They wanted you, not me. I wasn’t ready and they expected nothing from me.”
Rebecca smiled as she waited for her husband to bring her dose of medicine. She looked forward to her other best time of the day, when she would lay in bed next to her husband.