One Christmas several years ago, my mom made bath robes for the entire family. My robe was florescent plaid. I loved that robe. I still do. I still wear it every chance I get. But even after it’s been washed a hundred times, it is still very loud and bright.
I was wearing the robe one morning about three or four months after that Christmas when one of my best friends, who shall go un-named, came driving up in his wheelchair accessible van. He honked to get my attention. I put on my Birks, and went outside to see what was up.
It should be known, that I was ONLY wearing the robe. I hadn’t showered yet, and still had hair going every which way. And I say that only for background purposes so the story that I’m writing has every bit of funny it had when it happened.
He rolled down his passenger-side window, and I leaned up against his van, “What’s up, Friend Who Shall Go Un-Named?”
The friend that shall go un-named had a Diet Mt. Dew can stuck under his wheelchair, and was afraid when he got home he wouldn’t be able to leave his van.
It might have even been a set of wheels I had built for his chair. Let’s say, for the sake of the funny, that it was. I have built a few sets of wheels for his wheelchair. One set for his Olympic torch carrying, with red white and blue spoke nipples...which is also mentioned for the sake of the funny.
I opened the door, climbed in, reached under his chair, got the can, and set it in the dashboard drink holder. Keeping the passenger-side door open, I then sat in the passenger seat and we started talking about this and that.
Pretty soon he put the van in reverse and began backing out of the driveway.
I thought, “The bastard!” I thought about jumping out, but we were backing up quite fast and I was sure the door would hit me in the butt and probably knock me over. Plus, if there was a chance for any hilarity to happen, I was all for it. So I just sat there as he shifted into drive.
I asked, “Um, Bastard Who Shall Go Un-Named, where are you taking me?”
He said with an evil grin, “Nowhere in particular.” As we turned onto Lincoln Avenue and started heading down town.
A few minutes later, he asked, “Are you thirsty?”
“Well, yes.” I answered.
We turned right on 40th, and again on Summitview Avenue.
Then the insults started. It was too long ago for me to remember what the insults were. He usually began by calling me an idiot in some form or another, or somehow insulting my brain injury. I usually turned his insults around, and geared them towards his spinal injury. I.E.: Knucklehead became Knuckleneck, and S#%t for brains (Or bwains), became S#%t for spine (Or Spwine). Next, he probably said how much easier his life would be once I died, and he hoped I was working on my skills to kill myself.
I probably responded something like, “You first.”
To which he almost surely told me how much he hated me. And I always relied on his false homophobia, and told him how much I loved him.
“Stop saying that!”
It should also be known that we met at the Harborview (Or to alumni, Harbor-Zoo) Brain and Spinal Injury Rehab Unit years before, on a return visit for me to get checked out for riding a bicycle.
My old primary nurse told me she had another patient from Yakima that was coincidentally in my old room. She took me to meet him. He had recently transferred from the hospital ICU. We poked our heads into his room.
That was my favorite of the three rooms I had during my stay there because it offered a view of the Columbia Center which was being built then. I spent many hours just watching the construction. As did he. It was like watching grass grow, if tiny little men used tiny little tools, and tiny little cranes to put the grass up, millimeter by millimeter.
He was laying there, looking out the window, with a cervical collar around his neck, watching the construction.
We pulled into Chalet Mall, drove across the parking lot to Wray’s Grocery, and parked in the disabled parking right in front of the Cafe European espresso stand. That’s when I realized his plan.
“If you think I’m getting out of the van, you’re nuts.” I said.
“I’m not going to leave. And please don’t talk about my nuts.” He replied.
“Un-Named Person of No Consequence, I’m not leaving this van.
“Dude,” He looked me in the eyes, “I swear, I won’t leave.”
I got out of the van. There was a line of three people, and I was the only one in it wearing a bathrobe and nothing else, besides Birkenstocks. Maybe I was wrong about my friend, maybe all he was after was the humiliation of standing in line. That’s what I was thinking as I stood in line, waiting my turn to order. It seemed like it took hours.
I didn’t have any cash, but I had been to this coffee stand many times. In fact I had hung out at this stand enough that not one of the employees, including the manager OR the owner’s wife made me pay for my lattes. I had no tab, they just gave them to me free. It was awesome.
It was soon my turn, and as I ordered, I could hear the van shift gears into reverse, and then back away.
I smiled, as the coffee girl asked, “He’s coming back, right?”
“No...He won’t be back.”
She made my latte.
As I walked the mile home on the sidewalk along Summitview, I waved at everyone who honked at me, like, “Yeah, I know I’m a fool for ever trusting that guy.” Then I came to the realization, that if roles were somehow reversed, I would have done the same damn thing.
Last Christmas my mom made robes again, and this time she gave me the choice of color or pattern.
I said simply, “Well, you’ve got to beat the first one.”
She asked, “How?”
I suggested some sort of animal print. Like zebra, or tiger.
She said, “I’ve got dalmatian.”