10 in Locked-In

  • Nov. 30, 2021, 6:41 a.m.
  • |
  • Public

The next morning Melissa dressed me in shorts and a T-shirt and roughly slipped some sandals onto my feet.

Then she fed me, just as roughly, and also impatiently. I thought I might choke on the bland oatmeal she spooned too quickly into my mouth.

Then she wheeled me up close to the bathroom sink. “Brush your fucking teeth,” she barked.

I struggled to hold onto the lightweight, non-electric toothbrush, but it was very hard to do. It seemed to take me forever to brush my teeth and I knew that I did a horrible job.

“Come on,” she said, suddenly out of patience. “We don’t have all day for this. You may be weak, but we just don’t have all day.”

I was surprised that she acknowledged my weakness and didn’t blame me for intentionally wasting her precious time. She sure blamed me for everything else.

The last thing she did was roughly brush my hair. I would have screamed if I could have. Then she gathered it back in a sloppy ponytail, thumb painfully poking the tender sides of my neck as she worked.

Then she wheeled me out of the house and practically threw me into the passenger seat and my chair in the back. Once again, I was amazed at how someone so much lighter could move me so easily. Had I lost more weight than I realized?

After she jerked the seatbelt across me, and then herself, we were off to the daycare and rehabilitation center where I was put through physical therapy. This basically involved the nurses moving my limbs around to keep the tendons and muscles from shrinking. I was to start blinking as rapidly as I could if anything hurt and they would stop. Sure wished that trick was just as effective with Melissa.

The facility I was in was rather small, but there were still plenty of other people that were also disabled and wheelchair-bound.

Because most of us were aware of our surroundings, the staff did their best to keep us entertained by reading to us and having us watch movies. Relaxing music is also played at times.

During my time there, I was mostly bored as hell, but I sure felt a lot safer. The problem was that no matter how hard I tried to think of a way to alert someone to my situation, I just couldn’t do it.

A friendly, 30-something black woman who was about fifty pounds overweight and whose name was Serena, wheeled me over to Melissa at the end of the day. My heart began to race in fear and I started to blink my eyes as fast as I could. I couldn’t blink as fast as normal people, but I could blink fast enough. The problem was that I was facing Melissa and not Serena, so Serena couldn’t see my face. Melissa flashed me the subtlest yet obvious look of warning. But then she finally noticed me blinking and the distressed look on my face.

“Are you okay, sweetie?” she asked, gazing at me with concern.

Oh, please don’t let me go back to Melissa! I thought frantically. The next day was Saturday and I wouldn’t get a chance to escape again until Monday.

“Does something hurt?”

I stopped blinking.

The woman looked back and forth between Melissa and me with confusion and concern. Melissa faked concern for me. “I don’t understand,” said Serena.

“I’ll be sure to keep an eye on her tonight,” said Melissa. “I don’t have any plans for the night and I usually stay up until midnight when I don’t have to work the next day, so we have plenty of time together.”

I knew that the last part of her statement was meant as a threat to me than a consolation to the daycare worker.

“She looks really distressed right now,” said Serena.

“Well, maybe the physical therapy was a little rough on her.”

“I don’t think so. We tell them to blink as fast as they can if they start to feel any pain, and she never did.”

“Hmm,” said Melissa, still pretending to be totally in the dark. “Well, as a psychologist with a little bit of medical training, I’ll keep an eye on her and get her right into the clinic if she doesn’t settle down soon. Maybe she’s just uncomfortable from sitting all day.”

“Maybe. Let’s hope that’s all it is.”

“Has she shown any signs of speech improvement or an ability to write?”

“No. She doesn’t have enough muscle control yet and there’s no telling if she ever will. Motor skills are tricky, and they don’t usually resume functioning, I’m sorry to say.”

I felt tears sting my eyes at those honest but gut-wrenching words. They were quick to notice, too.

“Aw, honey,” said Serena, voice thick with sympathy.

Melissa pretended to feel just as bad for me, of course, and even rubbed my shoulders. She was as gentle as she was rough in private.

The daycare worker sighed with frustration. “I wish I could tell you what was going on.”

“Yeah, I’m sure she wishes the same thing, but as I said, she’s in good hands.”

“Oh, I know she is. You were her therapist once, right?”

“Sure was.”

Melissa got behind the chair and began to wheel me toward the exit.

“Can you manage okay or do you need any help?”

“Nope. We can manage. Thank you for everything.”

“Okay. See you next week.”

Serena squeezed my forearm in a friendly gesture, and then I was alone again with the monster that blamed me for everything but my inability to brush my own teeth.”


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