I met Kat(Kathleen) 2 years ago. We became friends as a result of a series of misadventures. Kat is my muse. Can a woman have a female muse? Can a straight woman have a female muse? In the traditional sense no. Can a woman, paralyzed from the neck down, even be a muse? Yes I think.
Kat is a disabled woman in her mid thirties who motors around on various types of transportation devices made for the disabled. Her condition, the result of an impromptu collaboration between her, three bottles of wine, and a trampoline, is known as quadriplegia. She wears a neck brace and is dependent on a ventilator. The neck brace, once a necessity is now a sort of fashion accessory to hide the obvious mechanical entry point of the air tubing, technically called a breathing circuit. She has a collection of these neck braces, some customized. An entourage follows her around wherever she goes. Friends, assistants, followers, scavengers of valuable crumbs of thoughts and strands of conscience left behind. They are numerous, the strands. She is divorced. Her husband divorced her after her accident. She was an actual muse for two men in the past.
Pammy and Bargie
Raised in a Chinese family, I grew up in Seattle. We bounced back and forth between the US and Canada. Both of my sisters are doctors. I "work" in sales and marketing for a furniture retailer. We only had a few rules growing up. Get exceptional school marks, exhibit honest and predictable behavior, and never trouble or embarrass the family. They even created a fourth rule just for me. Don't pee your pants. Well, I was close on the school marks. Not really close in the strictest terms. I never considered myself an overly emotional person. I do panic a little if the situation calls for it. It's this character trait that my fourth rule was given to me. On occasion, I have found myself standing in a puddle with nary a cloud in the sky. I would describe it as rare and a thing of the past.
I have what some would call an imaginary friend. I call him Bargie. He barges his way into my thoughts. He manages my data, reminders, emotions, etc. He helps me plan everything. We game plan things in advance. I like to think I'm well armed with Bargie, unfortunately not very well tested? Not to worry. Bargie has been bullet proof since his inception. Me and the fourth rule parted ways long ago. Little did I know, Bargie would be tested soon.
The Initial Encounter
Cast your mind back a couple of years. Returning home from work on a Tuesday. A typical day. Rain, dark and overcast. The lobby of my building is nicely illuminated. An atrium. It's uplifting with an office for the building managers. Glass, stairs, elevators, artwork and plants combine to make an inviting experience. I have always wondered why they spend so much money on the lobby and cheap everything in the apartment units. Why can't I just live out here? Oh well I need to get my mail. The mailboxes are tucked away in a separate space around the corner. My mom still mails letters to people. People as far away as China. Who mails letters anymore? I will say it's nice though. Personal. How many people touched this letter to get it here? Just across town to my parents house. So, maybe five people. Some robots too? What's this? There's some kind of gathering over there. Some person in a wheelchair. From an inconspicuous vantage I notice it's a woman. How curious. Does she live here? New tenant maybe? Who are these people fawning all over her? Maybe she is famous. She is nicely dressed. What a curious choice of apparel though. Why do I think her dress is curious? It's not particularly short or revealing. Pretty though. Sleeveless white with floral patterns. Kinda short. I would wear it. Something unusual here though. I can't put my finger on it. How long have I been standing here? Too long? Was I staring? I smartly move on, after taking a few pics of her. I'm Curious about this.
It's Wednesday and I get two weeks vacation starting next week. Nothing big happening at work this week, so cruise time it is. My middle name is not exactly "Go Getter". I get it done though. Keep it smooth and cool. Bargie has it all under control. Need to get a few things done for the sales department today, plus a few other things. Time sheets are over due. I despise time sheets. What are managers for anyway? I'll get it all done today, then cruise the rest of the week. Stay on task. That dress she was wearing. I thought about it a lot last night. I wonder if I could find one like it. I could wear it to work. No, it's too different, compared to what I normally wear. I can just hear it now. "what's up with Pammy". I could wear it to the market. Not the one I usually go to though. Well maybe. I wonder if she saw me taking pictures of her. That would be awkward? What about staring at her for five minutes? Why was I staring at her? I wonder where can I find that dress?
The next two days? Well, just put the above ingredients on simmer and let it reduce to a dangerous concentrate. Seven hours of searching online and I finally found the dress! I'm glad my office has fast internet.
At last. Friday afternoon and Vacation time! They delivered the dress. It felt strange taking it out of the packaging. It's pretty. Kinda short. Mid thigh. The outer layer is somewhat sheer. I'll wear it to the store. Oh, this is super weird. Hopefully I won't run into anyone from work. Not that I'm antisocial. I just feel weird wearing this dress. I wear dresses for Pete's sake. Why am I nervous? Elevator? Check. Lobby? Check. Market? Nice and crowded. Good. Shopping cart, heart-rate is good. Oh Perfect, it's the web nerds from work. Cam and Nathaniel(Nate). I was supposed to get something to them this week. Can't remember what. Cam is buck toothed and not at all comfortable around me. Nate is not bucked toothed. Nate's parents manage the store, so Cam and Nate are always around. I love teasing them, but no time today. We say hi and I finish my shopping and find myself stuck in line. Coupons. Lots of them. All I have to do is get back to the apartment. More coupons, mind starts wondering. I wonder if someone picked out this dress for her. Was she comfortable being seen in it? Ah, that's it! That's what it is. Thats why I felt so weird looking at her. If I was paralyzed, this dress is the last thing I would wear. I would be freaked if people saw me like that. My legs and arms? I don't know for a fact that she is paralyzed though? She has to be. She looks like all the pictures on the internet. I feel naked all of a sudden. More coupons? Please hurry up, mind wonders again. I wonder if she lives in my building. What if I run into them tonight? What if she notices what I'm wearing? I think she might have caught me taking photos of her. What if she is inside the elevator when I walk up? What if I'm inside the elevator? Oh no, I'm starting to freak out. I could stay with my parents tonight. They will ask questions. Lots of questions. bad idea. I haven't game-planned any of this. Where is Bargie? Calm down, get through checkout. Lobby, elevator, finally back home. Heart rate not good. What just happened?
"Master Plans By The Dozens" or "Just Keep Simmering"
I hung around the apartment on Saturday and Sunday. I love wearing this dress. Took a few walks. I haven't seen her for almost a week now. I don't know how I got so consumed with all this. I want to see her again, just not bump into her unexpectedly. The thought of that freaks me out. I printed out one of the photos I took of her. There's like ten people looking at her. On the way to the market today, I notice the elevators seem uncomfortable to me.
The Best Laid Plans.....
Tuesday, I had some time to reflect on the previous week. Why did I get so worked up? I've never thought about this stuff before. I wonder what it would be like to be her. I'm sure she must be bitter and angry. Maybe not though. Maybe she was always this way. Maybe she is so confident, she can wear whatever she wants. Maybe she enjoys being looked at. Maybe she does it to remind people of her condition. Like rubbing it in. I could definitely see that working to her advantage. What does someone do when they get paralyzed? I don't have an entourage to fawn over me. What if I was paralyzed in some accident. I would have to live at home for one thing. I know my Mom would put this dress on me. I would die. I would just die. I haven't picked up the mail for two days, so I run down to the lobby. No mail today. I just got a text from Mom. She likes the photo of me in the dress and says I should dress like that more often. I replied to her that I was wearing it again. She asked me if I had slept in it for the past two days. No Mom. I laughed. It felt good to laugh. I heard some other people walk in to the mail box area so I decided to leave. I turned around and the woman in the wheelchair was right in front of me with some large number of people. The entourage? They're tall. It's hard to describe what happened next. I locked up somehow. I don't remember doing it, but apparently I kept saying "uh, uh, uh". like 3000 times. I also don't remember violating the fourth rule. Although quite obviously I did. Something came over me. I was stricken. I couldn't breathe or move. Some inner voice was screaming out. "Where's Bargie!!!???". At this point, Bargie was probably in his cubicle getting his resume together. I was on my own. I've never been on my own. My Mom has somehow always been there with the mop. One of the entourage guys came over and tried to calm me down. It must have partially pulled me out of whatever state I was in. I ran. A lot of people were watching. Why was everyone in the lobby? Somehow I became instantly terrified of the elevator. I found the stairs and ran and ran and ran. Some six flights later I should have been close. No, I live on the 12th floor. More stairs! I was gasping for air. Somehow I made it back to my apartment. I was hyperventilating and making some yelping noises. I was pacing around the kitchen to the dining room. I may have fainted. I got back up and threw up in the kitchen sink. I could finally breathe a little but something else was still gripping me. I finally started crying. I threw up again and passed out on the living room floor.
I'm sitting in the front row at the theater. It's the symphony and I'm the only one there. Someone is tuning one of those huge drums. I can hear them tap tap tap, bang bang bang. I'm not at the symphony anymore. It was dream. Someone is banging on my door. What has happened to me? I have the worst taste in my mouth. I'm now totally convinced she is something. I don't know what but something. A vampire maybe? She must have seen me taking pictures her last week. I can't think straight. Bargie is gone. She probably took him. I'll call the cops. I'll tell them everything. They will arrest her. Wait, what if they don't believe me? Where is my phone? I left my phone down there! I finally go to the door. It's my friend from down the hall. You know the kind of friend that you can't tell everything to? I answer the door. She looks at me like I'm a dead person. I invite her in, but I think the vomit and pee are giving her second thoughts. I really needed her at that moment. She bolted. I have been possessed somehow. This doesn't happened to me. Okay, I did have a few episodes in high school, maybe college too. Nothing like being possessed by some paralyzed vampire though. I calm down a bit more and begin to replay the whole scene. Thinking, thinking. Oh god no! I think I may have said more than just uh uh uh. I think I might have recited the entire week of thoughts I had about her. She probably knows everything. I'm going to be committed. It's the Psych ward for me, or worse. Maybe I could make a deal with her somehow. She can have my body on the weekends. I could live with that. Suddenly more banging on the door. Perfect, I forgot to lock it when semi-friend bolted. She must have called the police because they, along with the fire department arrived, walked in, and seemed curious as to what happened. I'm still on the floor. I clearly explained to everyone what had happened. They gave me something and took me to the hospital. Later, a nice person at the hospital told me I had a panic attack and "You're not possessed by the way". I was only partially convinced. The semi-friend took me home. I passed out.
Wednesday was a quiet day. No real recollection and some amount of denial. Mom and dad came by. They're good. Being possessed is very tiring so I decided to phone this one in. My dress survived, somehow.
My Introduction to Kat
Kat felt concerned about what happened and wanted to meet me. By this time, she knew everything. My parents knew everything. Everyone knew everything. I learned that she does live in my building and I agreed to go see her. Semi-friend arranged it all. We walk in and she says "Hello Pammy, I'm Kathleen". She also introduced some of her entourage. Her speaking was paced and soft. The machine puffs her up and the lyrics come out in a sort of rhythmic fashion. It's almost musical, the words and phrases. I'm frozen, literally standing at attention. Everyone in the room can tell I am completely captivated. She asks if I'm better and I find myself more at ease. I apologized and tried to explain what happened. She had noticed me taking photos of her last week. How embarrassing and apparently it wasn't five minutes of staring. It was more like 25 minutes. She sensed my discomfort and asked me to come back and see her again. I said okay, apologized again and left. Okay I thought, so maybe I'm not exactly possessed. Something is there though. I felt a gravitational pull. A sort of requirement to do stuff for her. Guilt? No. It wasn't guilt. I was guilty though.
After I got to know Kat better, I asked about her condition. As far as her fashion choices, she doesn't think about it that much. That is, unless I bring it up. I asked her if she was bitter or angry. She was at one time. She tells me I make her feel naked. Most people don't ask such....
I help her with some things when she is around. She travels a lot. She knows I'm fascinated with her and her condition. I do her laundry sometimes. I wear all of her clothes and pajamas and I sleep in her bed sheets. I insist it's not sexual. She says I'm weird. For as long as I have known her, I have only seen her a few days a month due to her schedule. Like a muse, she has taught me many things in the area of creative development. Bargie flew the coop long ago. Kat laughs and tells me "he was a flawed coping mechanism". I have learned that a new medical device and/or therapy will see Kat leaving the ventilator behind soon. That means more words, thoughts and strands of conscience. Can't wait.