The moment your mother steps through your front door she knows it’s not going well—again.
‘I’m trying!’ your new nurse cries. It’s very unprofessional, but your mother can’t blame her. You’re a lot to handle. Though not surprised, her heart sinks.
She hurries into the kitchen, putting down her shopping bags on the bench before turning down the hall towards your bedroom.
‘You’re so useless,’ you snap back at your nurse. ‘Why don’t you do yourself a favour and get a job you’re actually good at!’
Your mother winces. She loves you, her oldest daughter, but you can be so cruel when you want to be.
Olympia, your young nurse, is on the brink of tears. She’s kneeling on the floor in front of your wheelchair, struggling with your TED stockings.
‘Maybe I should,’ the young girl mumbles. Sweat stains the underarms of her uniform and her hair is sticking out messily from her ponytail.
‘Mum,’ you say, looking up. ‘You’re back.’
The nurse turns with a start and quickly jumps to her feet, her hands behind her back. She looks exhausted.
You narrow your eyes. ‘It’s about time. Get rid of this girl, she’s not for me.’
Olympia lifts her chin, struggling against her tears—unsuccessfully. They pour down her cheeks.
Your mother stifles a sigh. Careful to keep her voice even, she says, ‘Olympia, you can go.’
The girl’s eyes widen. A flush rises up her throat. Pressing her lips together, she nods and heads towards the door.
Just before she exits, your mother grabs her wrist. ‘I’m sorry. Know that you’ll still get your full fortnight’s pay, all right?’
The girl raises her eyebrows, then gives a tremulous smile as she nods. She leaves and your mother pulls the door shut behind her.
‘You shouldn’t pay her a dime,’ you sneer from your wheelchair. ‘She’s been the worst of the bunch.’
Your mother glares at you. ‘I’m appalled at you. How can you be so nasty?’
You shrug. ‘Life is cruel. She should get used to it.’
Life is indeed cruel. You have that right. Even though it’s been almost two years since the accident that crippled you, your mother’s throat still swells with tears at the sight of you. Your once lovely face is badly burned on the left side, as is much of the left side of your body. The force of the impact caused serious brain damage that affects your right side. You can barely move your right arm and your hand is completely useless, curled into a claw. You can stand but you can’t walk, your right leg just as bad as your arm, the foot curved inwards.
But all of that she can deal with. Though painful, it’s bearable. Not like your behaviour. Sometimes, in her darkest moments, it almost seems like you’re not her daughter at all. That she’s caring for a stranger. It tears at her heart. You know it but you’re too furious to care.
‘Is that enough now?’ you say. ‘Can we give up?’
Shaking her head, your mother drops to her knees in front of you and resumes putting on your stockings.
‘Don’t, Mum. Stop it! I don’t want you to do it!’ You try to jerk away but you’re stuck in your Goddamn wheelchair. Trapped—for the rest of your life.
‘Shut it!’ she snaps, her face red. ‘You need your stockings so you don’t get a blood clot.’
You slump back into your chair. ‘A clot would be the best thing in the world. Finish the job … do what the truck should have done.’
Biting her lip, your mother continues dressing you, though her hands shake and her eyes fill with tears.
Since you no longer have someone to care for you, she stays with you for the rest of the day, cooking you meals, helping you to the toilet, doing a variety of things that humiliate and frustrate you. You love and appreciate your mother but you can’t help but be angry and hateful, snapping at her at every little thing.
By the end of the day, your mother has had enough. Once she’s helped you to bed, she goes to her room and switches on her laptop. Olympia was the twelfth nurse the agency had sent and she’s fast running out of options.
‘She will be the last,’ the administrator told your mother days before. ‘After that, it’s going to be very difficult to find any more nurses who are willing to look after her.’
‘Then what am I supposed to do?’ she asked desperately.
The administrator pondered her. ‘There are … other agencies.’ She reached into the drawer of her desk and pulled out a card, handing it over. ‘Strictly speaking, I shouldn’t tell you of this. It’s not exactly … advisable.’
Your mother looked down at the card.
Mechabashi Robotic Industries Inc.
She looked up at the administrator in surprise.
Everybody has heard of the Mechabashi company. Based in Japan, they build self-driving cars and planes. They’ve built robotic pets, and computers that can conduct surgery. And even people! Real moving, thinking people! She remembered seeing them on T.V years before but never since. As to why exactly that is, she doesn’t know.
All she knows is that they were on the cutting edge of technology until there was some kind of incident, the details of which the company refused to divulge to the public. Since then they’ve slowed down their developments and kept quiet, sticking with cars, computers and drones.
What could she possibly find useful with them?
Now, back home, she sits at her desk, the card sitting up against the monitor of her laptop as she accesses their website. Her last, desperate hope.
Her eyebrows rise higher, then higher still at what she sees. Her heart starts to pound. Nervous energy makes her shift in her seat. Could this truly be the answer? She leans in closer.
But the more she flicks through their pages, the more downhearted she becomes. The expense is astronomical, far more than she could ever afford. And just as the administrator said—it’s not advisable. Is it even legal?
She turns her head at the sound of your cry. You’re in pain again. Her heart sinks. You’ve already had your allotted medication for the day, and she’s too tired and drained to give you the massages you so desperately need. There’s no cure for nerve pain. If only there was someone who didn’t need to sleep, who could be there at your beck and call without complaint.
She turns back to the screen.
If only …
Taking a breath, she clicks onto their email.