Later, when you ask the woman you remember as the one with a bloody mouth why she saved your life, she says it’s because she didn’t mean to hurt you.
You didn’t ask to be saved. You also didn’t ask for your legs to be crushed, and her bloody mouth didn’t undo the gap between the car crumpling and the ambulance arriving.
You were promised vampires are super-strong and heal quickly. You were promised being able to fly, or become a bat, or superpowers.
Nobody promised you good health. You’re stuck with the little blue morphine pills that don’t even stop the pain. Mina says she will pay for everything, because it’s her fault, and when you’re ready, she can help you find ‘your people’.
You hang up angry, because you’d just found your people but they all have two legs that work, and now you don’t. You’re afraid they’re not your people anymore.
You scroll through the #hospitalglam hashtag and other combinations of words of people who have made peace with their bodies and try to imagine being the kind of person who looks fucking hot in your new, electric blue custom wheelchair that your partner drags in and out of the car as you limp to physical therapy. Mina bought it.
You literally have to imagine, because there’s nothing to see in the mirror. Your face isn’t there. None of you is there. Even your outfits aren’t there. This was not how you intended to deal with your dysphoria.
The physical therapist somehow never notices you can’t see yourself trying to make sure your shoulder form is good as you work on intrinsics and core muscles you didn’t even know you had. You remember your best friend telling you some ballet studios are removing the mirrors, so you really feel the form in your body. You were never great at being embodied. He still calls you. Not very many people do.
When the therapist makes you lift your arms and wave them a hundred times to strengthen your shoulders for pushing the wheelchair, you imagine you are a swan, and that you will glide serenely on your ocean-blue wheels. You pretend you are dancing. You loved to dance, before Mina. You were going to take a dance class.
The only thing the big mirrored wall shows is the blue chair gliding among the exercise equipment.
You have gotten very good at making sure nobody ever takes your picture. All the cool queer places have stairs; you’re never out where people might snap a group photo anymore. Everyone presumes you sleep all day because of the pain. It’s true. Your legs burn. Your eyes are sore. Existing hurts.
Mina has assured you that people who smell like foods you hate won’t give you bloodlust, so all your heightened sense of smell is good for is being painfully aware your partner’s morning cheap vanilla creamer reeks of beaver butts and rancid oil, and that you still love garlicky adobo.
In front of an empty mirror your partner dyes your hair to match your wheelchair. The stench is unbearable, but you need something about your body to be yours. You watch hands pass over nothing, blue dripping everywhere, until the dye coats your hair and vanishes. You’ll never be able to go to the queer salon again and see Dominique. She would notice you don’t have a reflection.
You can see yourself, kind of, only through your camera selfie lens, and you look kind of good, with your blue hair and your blue wheelchair, but when you take the photo, something about the way it passes through microscopic bits of silver inside cell phones means you’re gone again. Just an empty wheelchair sitting in another doctor’s office with pea green walls.
You upload it anyway, and tag it.
The bizarre concoction of supplements, herbs, medicines, and blood transfusions — as well as your new sense of smell — has kept you from ever getting bloodlust. The idea of drinking someone’s blood is so repulsive, you almost go to the Spanish-language Mass to take the Eucharist, just in case transubstantiation is literal. But what about the holy water? Anne Rice and Twilight didn’t prepare you for this.
Sometimes Mina calls, but you let your partner answer. She is paying for everything, you shouldn’t snub her. But you hate her for taking away things like sunrises and selfies and long walks and cheap brunch because she blew through a red light near dawn.
You hate her less for your blue wheelchair. Some people name theirs. You can’t decide if you want to name yours. It’s not a car.
You’ve gotten very good at photographing everything but yourself. The crumpled hospital gown in the wheelchair. The tray before the transfusion. All those pills. Sunsets, when it hurts less to look out the window.
You look genuinely good according to your phone screen; for one thing your arms have never been so buff. You’re glad you got your dream tattoo before the accident. You look Dead, but otherwise great. You put your coat in your lap, angle the phone so no one will be able to tell if it’s an optical illusion that it floats above the wheelchair, like abstract art. You’re making new friends in the hashtags.
The phone makes its shutter-click, but there is nothing but a weird angle of the tiled floor.
You answer her call this time.
“How are you?” she asks.
“I’m okay,” you say, surprised you mean it. “So these meetings, uh, are there stairs?”
“No,” Mina says, and you can hear her smiling. “Unlike the movies we don’t all live in basements.” She pauses. Sheepishly, she says, “it’s in my mother’s living room. No blood stuff. She’s not into that. There’s no steps.”
You take a deep breath, imagine being a swan among owls, hearing how other people live with being allergic to sunlight.
“If I’ll fit,” you finally decide. “All of me.”