He lowers his head back down.
Tell Ben about some of your other interests, says Elsa.
The instant she calls me Ben, I feel like Ive gained some small bit of ground.
Yeah, what else are you into?
Trev shrugs again. I dont know, not much.
He likes girls, says Elsa.
Shut up, Mom, he says. But shes managed to coax him out of his shell. For the first time, he looks me in the eye.
Elsa rises to her feet. Ill leave you two to get acquainted. And without further comment, she strides across the living room and through the dining room.
After a moment of awkward silence, Trevor whirs closer to his cluttered tray table.
So, I say. Girls, huh?
He casts his eyes down, shyly, and I wish I could take it back. Poor kid. Bad enough hes all twisted in knots people are always putting him on the spot, pushing him out of his comfort zone, pretending that everything is normal, as though he can just go out and get a girlfriend, ride the Ferris wheel with her, and feel her up in the back of a car. Look at him, staring into his lap, wishing he could disappear, wishing everybody would quit pretending. But its all just a ruse. Because when he lifts his head again, he swings his chair round clockwise and checks the doorway. Jockeying back around, he smiles and looks at me unflinchingly. Theres a glimmer in his eye, a flash of the evil genius, and I understand for the first time that I may be dealing with someone else entirely.
Im crippled, not gay, he says. Of course I like girls.
I check the doorway. What kind of girls?
Any kind, he says. The kind who want to get with a guy like me.
You mean because of your . . . because of the wheelchair?
I mean because Im horny. But yeah, that too. Do you have a wife?
Not exactly. Well, technically yes, but long story.
Is she hot?
He leans in conspiratorially. Would she get with me? Do you think shed get with me?
Uh, well, um . . .
Im joking, he says. Why do you wanna work for nine bucks an hour, anyway?
Youre gonna stay broke working for DSHS.
Does this mean Ive got the job?
Sorry, man, he says. But I havent met all the candidates yet. I like you better than the fat lady, though.
Climbing into my car after the interview, my hopes are buoyed by the sight of a dented white Malibu bumping down the driveway as another candidate arrives from DSHS. The front bumper is all but dangling. The tabs are expired. The guy behind the wheel has a spiderweb tattoo on his neck.
Now, four months after the interview, I spend anywhere
from forty to sixty hours a week with Trev. Were way past
the awkward toiletry stage. Beyond the honeymoon stage.
Ive been Asking, Listening, Observing, Helping, and Asking again
for sixteen weeks, a gazillion waffles, eight trips to the shoe store,
endless hours of weather-related programming. I passed the burnout
stage about three months ago. Thats not to say I dont like Trev I
do, tyrannical streak and all. I feel for him.
His father ran off when he was three years old, two months after he was diagnosed. Funny how that works. Trev is currently enrolled in the college of life, though his mom is encouraging him to take community college classes. Elsa ought to wear a cape. She runs the farm sixteen hours a day, makes dinner, cleans house, and still finds quality time for her son. She sleeps about three hours a night, and even then, shes up every half hour to turn Trev.
Excerpted from The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison. Copyright © 2012 by Jonathan Evison. Excerpted by permission of Algonquin Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
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