The fact that my neck was broken is so ten years ago. Figuratively and literally.
I’ve moved on from that. I can still do everything that I did when I could walk. All the things I enjoy doing – shopping, my mani-pedis, wining and dining – I still do.
But the last time I dated someone, I could still main lari-lari sembunyi belakang pokok with my boyfriend like in a Hindustani movie scene.
I don’t know whether I missed having a man by my side.
People have been telling me things like, “Kalau orang nak buat movie pasal you, Maya Karin je layak berlakon jadi you.” “You duduk pun, still kat takat bahu I.” “How come you don’t have a belly ar? You nak buat sit-up pun takleh.”
Honestly la kan, I don’t know if I can be classified as a narcissist; I think every person – male or female – wants to be attractive. I guess I had forgotten how being in a relationship felt like. So, getting self-esteem boosts were already enough for me.
Besides, mungkin I got too comfortable with having so many friends and helpers that I didn’t feel the need to have a boyfriend anymore. The sex isn’t that great when you can’t feel anything below your shoulders, anyway.
Despite all of this, if I were to meet someone new, durian runtuh la kot.
And I did.
How stupid was I for not knowing that it hurts when a durian falls on your head.
I still remember the first time I met him. Two of my friends dropped by my restaurant and we were just catching up as we were having tea. Of course, one of my friends ni memang kuat tengok drama Melayu. So, she was, like, gushing over the fact that this Malay movie actor was sitting at the table right opposite ours.
Bukan I nak cakap I ni mat salleh; I kalau lapar cari nasi dagang jugak. But really, I haven’t watched a lot of Malay shows since I moved to KL. So, I wasn’t as gila-gila as my friend when he walked into my restaurant. I have to be professional, he was a customer, period.
But the place was packed that evening, as usual, alhamdulillah. At that time, we were pretty shorthanded. I saw that he was reluctantly raising his hand, aware that no waiter wanted to make eye contact with him.
So, I went to his table and asked him what I could help him with. He was speechless at first, I thought it was because he didn’t expect me to attend to him since I was not in uniform.
“Can I… hab the bill?” he asked, after a moment of silence.
“Sure. Are you paying with cash or credit card?”
“Kalau tak susahkan you, boleh tak kalau you bagi dulu credit card you kat I? Unless you nak tengok your bill first dulu,” I said. He agreed.
I went to the counter and asked my waitress to process the transaction. But I told her to give me the credit card and the receipt because I like to interact with my customers. You have to start a bond with them so that they will love to come back to your restaurant.
So I went back to him with the bill holder on my lap. He smiled as he took the holder and opened it. As he signed on the bill, he told me, in a very hero drama Melayu delivery:
“Awak ni terlalu cantik untuk duduk kat wheelchair.”
Being corny and lame aside, his line was one of those that was both flattering and – I guess to him it wasn’t – insulting at the same time. It had been awhile since a guy made a pass at me. People forget that the disabled are still human beings with feelings just like the able-bodied. I still take good care of my health and maintain a beauty regime. Being stuck in a wheelchair is not an excuse to let go of your looks.
But on the other hand, what; beautiful women are physically impervious to damage from car accidents, issit?
Yet, I let that comment slide. We Malays always think that we’re so bersopan-santun. But we tend not to think before we say something.
He came over to my restaurant more since that day. And our conversations flourished, with each liaison scraping another layer off our shells to reveal more about ourselves.
I didn’t need anyone new to look after me. I just wanted someone to talk to. To love me.
To complement me.
We dated after getting to know each other for a few months. Unavoidably, with him being a public figure, I was thrust into the limelight, too. Not that I wanted it. In fact, I hated it, aside from the fact that my restaurant got free publicity.
I hated it because the tabloid writers liked to harp on my being in a wheelchair. To their eyes, my condition meant that he was dating Bigfoot. The headlines of their articles would be, “Cinta tanpa mengira kecacatan,” or something like that. And I remember one of those Panca Indera columnists wrote, “Untunglah dia ni. Walaupun ahli OKU, tapi masih dapat menawan hati Hero Nombor Satu Malaya.”
But it did get me into thinking, What does he see in me? I don’t come from the same world as he does. We have very little in common. He can date any actress that he wants. Is he trying to use me to get media’s attention? Does he truly believe that he is Malaysia’s number one hero? Does he want to be the cowboy that unties me from the railroad track?
With that said, our relationship punya panas tidak sampai ke petang. Tengahari already rain.
Our arguments grew more frequent with time.
He kept on repeating that I didn’t appreciate him for EVERYTHING that he had done for me and how he was staying truthful to me despite my disability.
Every time we quarreled for whatever reason, he would always turn his argument to him always being there to bathe me and clothe me and do the things that an able-bodied could do on their own for me. That he sacrificed his sleep so that he could wake up earlier to make breakfast for me. Because I can’t do those things on my own.
What the fishcake, kan.
I never asked him to do those things. I’ve lived with this pink electric wheelchair for years before I met him. I thought, well, if he volunteered to do all these chores for me, it was just going to make us more affectionate towards each other.
He might have a well-intentioned heart, but he had an unfiltered mouth. And that polluted my perception of him.
On days that he did not break my heart, he puzzled me.
He abhorred turning off the lights when we had sex. “I nak tengok setiap zarah badan you,” he once justified his reason. And he lifted me into the bed, clumsily pulled off my top and my long skirt, before he started massaging and licking my lifeless limbs.
Hello! I can only feel in my face and neck, mister. How about some tongue-on-tongue action here? And please massage the back of my ear; my only functioning erogenous zone.
We would kiss for a while before his head will start craning back to my arms and legs. Then he’ll do his business, which I can’t feel at all, though I would still feel calmer after I orgasm, as all the chemicals were running through my brain.
But as we had more sex, I became more flummoxed than annoyed with him.
My curiosity with his peculiar behaviour was answered when I was hospitalised due to respiratory problems and low blood pressure. There I was wearing an oxygen mask inside a room that didn’t even have Astro.
So what was this cadaver supposed to do to cure boredom?
I asked the nurse to put my body in an upright position and put my iPad on my lap. I swayed and rocked my forearm so that my knuckles would tap my password’s digits.
Could it be…
He must have accidentally taken my iPad and left his when he visited me earlier. Aha! Now this is going to be interesting.
As his mental faculty is limited, I could only assume that his birth date was the only numerical combination he could remember to be used as his password. And it was. I couldn’t help but smile thinking that I succeeded in unlocking his iPad on my first attempt, and of what I would dig up from his iPad.
I stopped smiling when I entered his picture gallery.
There were pictures of him at parties, sitting in a wheelchair amid a group of people sitting in wheelchairs.
And just like his, their legs did not look like twigs wrapped with gelatin. They were strong enough to stand and walk, I was sure.
There were also hundreds of pictures of women – most of them in solo shots – in wheelchairs, leg braces and canes. Even more sickening, he had videos of “paralysed” women collapsing and crawling on the floor.
I was nauseous. And confused. So I exited his gallery and entered his browser to see if there was anything else about him that could shock me.
There it was on his homepage: devguide.org.
This site contained videos and pictures of women pretending to be paralysed for eroticism purposes. I braved myself to Google about fetishes and looked at a list of things and phenomena that could turn people on.
And that’s when I learned of this fetishism nomenclature that I couldn’t manage to pronounce until today: abasiophilia, agalmatophilia, acrotomophilia and apotemnophilia. These are terminologies for the different types of sick fascinations of disabled people.
The last one is about people who become aroused by the thought of being disabled. In their niche society, they are called “wannabes” or “pretenders”, for obvious reasons.
I used all of my forearm’s strength to push the iPad away and screamed for the nurse to get her to lie me down and shoot me up with morphine so I could sleep and not see him if he came back to get his iPad.
But I couldn’t. I could only think that I needed to get away from this lunatic.
He made more headlines on the Malay tabloids when it became public that our relationship was over. When he was interviewed, he said the same condescending things that he was the unwanted white knight to the angkuh and egotistical cripple.
He can even produce his own derivation of (500) Days of Summer for all I care.
I need a partner. Someone to love me for who I am.
Not someone that gets a hard-on with my paralysed body.