My Male Nurse
No serious permanent damage.
That’s what I’ve pieced together, fragments here and there, never straight
out with exactly how my body will mend. No burns or paralysis; that much is
certain. Just broken bones, scars and muscular trauma, damage that’ll heal. An
arm and a leg in traction, bound in casts. The upper part of the bed is cranked
up thirty degrees, my head propped on a pillow. Under the sheet I’m naked, at
least the parts of my body not covered with casts or bandages.
Days on end with no privacy; it’s funny how quickly you lose your old
inhibitions when you’re utterly dependant on people you’ve never seen before.
Bathing, peeing, bowel movements, personal hygiene of any kind; two weeks
now, I haven’t been able to do any of it without someone’s help. All because a
roadside bomb had my name on it.
Six months into a one year tour in Iraq, two days after reading a gut-
wrenching letter from my fiancé, I drove over a landmine on a dirt road outside
of Mosul. They tell me my vehicle jumped five feet into the air. Shrapnel did
most of the damage. Flying through the air broke a few bones. A day in a field
hospital before they air lifted me to Germany, then the long flight to the states,
where I’m at now, not more than five hundred miles from my hometown.
Maybe I shouldn’t expect her to come this far to see me, not after what she had
to say in the letter. I’m not too doped up to care.
7:00 A.M. I feel rested. The pills they gave me worked; I slept through the
night. Woke up hungry, thinking about Patricia, wondering if she’s had a
change of heart. I had dreamed she showed up at the hospital in tears. I
forgave her. I woke up rested, but empty. At least my parents make the drive
to see me on weekends.
Kirkland, my nurse, approaches pushing a cart with various supplies and a
breakfast tray, stands looking at me for a moment, then releases a sigh.
He parks the cart next to the bed. “How’d you sleep?”
“No nightmares,” I say. He’ll be here two hours, putting me through our
“Hungry?” he asks.
“I have to pee.”
He pulls the curtain around the bed, lowers the sheet. Other than a large
bandage under my left nipple, my chest is exposed, my undamaged right arm,
my genitals, the upper part of my right leg. From a lower shelf on the cart, he
produces a blue plastic container and situates it between my legs. I use my right
hand to take aim and both of us listen to the stream splash against the plastic.
“Your neurosurgeon’s coming by around ten o’clock,” he says, placing the
half-full container behind the breakfast tray. “They’re thinking you’re ready for
the last operation on that left leg.”
“Be glad to get that behind me.”
He pulls the sheet half way up my chest and reaches for a bowl of oatmeal,
still doesn’t let me feed myself. The first spoonful is in my mouth.
“You look a little melancholy this morning,” he says.
I reach up and rub my brow, then open my mouth for the next spoon.
“You’re thinking about your girl … uh, ex-girlfriend.”
I glance at him. He’s gotten to know me quite well. Along with the pills and
shots he gives me, he’s trying to train my mind, trying to get me to think about
Patricia and life as I once knew it as my past. The pain is returning to my left
“It’s been a week since I mailed that letter,” he reminds me, a letter he
helped me write. “She didn’t write back.”
“There hasn’t been enough time,” I remind him.
“She could’ve called.”
I look away as the next spoonful reaches my mouth.
“Don’t get moody with me, corporal. Your body’s healing; you have to let
your heart do the same thing. Stuff happens for a reason.”
“Yeah, and it’s all happening to me, isn’t it?” I stare at him as my anger
recedes, aware he’s only trying to be helpful. Actually Kirkland and I have
become friends; he, an ambitious black man about twenty-four years old, tall,
lean, attractive; me, an Anglo from the Midwest, a couple years younger.
“So you were planning to marry her?”
“Yeah, right after I got back from Iraq, until she met Mr. Perfect. A fucking
“It must’ve been tough fighting a war and getting letter like that,” he says,
blotting my mouth with a napkin. “You never told me what it said.”
“Nothing to tell. It’s over. Short and sweet.”
Kirkland nods with understanding. I finish the oatmeal in silence. He hands
me two large pills and I wash them down with a small glass of orange juice; he
lets me hold the glass on my own. He pulls the sheet back down. Time for the
“Got a bowel movement to take care of before we start this?” he asks,
squeezing out a sponge over a pan of mild cleaning solution.
“No,” I reply gladly. I hate that miserable process, painfully lifting my hips,
him positioning the bed pan, then cleaning me afterward. Humiliating, even
now, having gone through it so many times.
“Maybe later today,” he says, using his free hand to make an entry on the
He starts with my face. It feels heavenly, I must say. I close my eyes and
imagine Patricia doing it, which leads to disappointment. Heavenly nevertheless,
his masterful hands, a light massage with a damp sponge. My neck, my
shoulders, my underarms, then he takes my right arm by the wrist, lifts it and
sponges it up and down. Even my hand, thoughtfully getting between the
fingers—it feels like a caress. My chest, belly and ribs; then he rinses out the
sponge right before it gets interesting.
I wonder what goes through his mind as he cleans the intimate areas between
my legs. All in a day’s work? Or has he done it so many times, he doesn’t
even think about it? I’m too self-conscious to ask. Instead, I close my eyes and
make as if I’m not paying attention. Next, he holds my testicles aside runs the
sponge down through my crack. My buttocks muscles tighten. I resist an urge
to squirm. It’s like being fondled by a man, which carries the weight of
psychological significance. If I’m honest with myself, I have to admit it feels
good. His expression suggests indifference, like his mind is somewhere else.
“You have a girlfriend?” I ask.
He looks at me, studies me for a moment, as if he’s curious about why I
would ask. “No time,” he says. “If I’m not here, I’m studying, in class or
He shrugs, lets go of my testicles; I feel them draw up; my cock lays over on
my leg. “It is interesting. I learn a lot working here.” He rinses out the sponge,
looks at me and says: “You ready?”