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7: We Float

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You guide me, watching patiently but I know something’s wrong. You won’t say it. Of course you won’t.

This is a job for you. You need it. You won’t say how you really feel to my face. You’re afraid that whatever you will say will upset me.

You know how fragile I am. I will never be able to walk again without your help. You are young, pretty, vibrant. I am just a shell of a man on the outside. Inside I feel like others feel but I know how I look, the gaze of others filled with pity, disgust, discomfort.

At the pool, where people display their healthiness, ; some proud and vain, others self-loathing, most carefree. I feel helpless in your arms but you don’t notice it. I can barely move my face any more so why would you?

When I speak, it’s a low childlike moan and you and everyone else read it as pitiful or weak. When I think, I’m still strong but my body doesn’t keep up anymore.

Who I am inside, my thoughts and passions become diluted by my physical failings. Yes, angry maybe. And lonely, yes.

Every morning you bring this broken man here, undress him, remove his legs, bathe him, swim with him, dress him, drive him home then part ways. What you do for me is a job, one of several you took on to get by, live your life, strive.

Once you had ambitions. Then you had to start again when you came here. I’m holding you back. You hide your frustration, try to smile through it but it’s in your voice, the way you respond to my tortured, childlike mutterings. How some days you pick up the swimming float I grab when we are in the water together, how you return it abruptly without looking back at me, eager to get this sad but necessary routine over then leave.

I want to help you in return but I can’t. 55 years old, crippled, barely able to speak or complete the simplest tasks. But I need this. For the connection, the touch of another person, the sound of their voice. Even if they wish they were somewhere else. It keeps the darkness away.

I still want to live. My soul is not dead. I want you to know my soul is not dead. There’s still love, hate, passion, sorrow deep within me.

And deep in the water, I can feel like a child again. With you.

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