Today's Reading

ONE

Everything's different for girls like me.

My younger sister, Rena, would say I'm being dramatic. As in, "Stop being so dramatic, Jenna. Having CP doesn't make you the star of a telethon."

I always laugh when she says it, which is the whole point.

But right now, Rena and my best friend, Ben, are both at school, living their lives, while I'm lying on a cold MRI table, bare-assed and covered in a skimpy hospital gown. See? Different.

And also maybe a little dramatic. I get that.

The door swings open. I hold my breath, hoping for Gary as my nurse today. I cannot deal with my yearly MRI with anyone else.

"How's my favorite girl?" Gary's voice reaches me, and I let my breath go, turning my head to shoot him my best I'm-not-feeling-too-sorry-for-myself smile.

Gary's tall and lean. Muscular, though. I can see those peeking out of his scrubs. He's always changing his overall look, but now he's blond with a soul patch under his lip. He is dressed in his usual blue-gray hospital scrubs—no dorky Disney scrubs for him, despite this being the pediatric wing. We've known each other far too long, Gary and me. He was there for most of my surgeries and even the time I smashed Mom's Waterford glass into my forehead during a muscle spasm, effectively ruining Passover. So, all the good times.

He's wearing a Tree of Life necklace on a silver beaded chain and some other charm I can't make out. They clink together as he leans over me to prepare the straps they need to hold me in place. The sound is comforting, like church bells or something. I've always been a sucker for spiritual stuff. "You need anything?" he asks.

"I wouldn't turn down a trip to Florida and a good book," I joke.

"Let's run away. We can leave out the back door," Gary says. This is one of our things. "I'm thinking North Carolina. I'm sort of into mountains these days."

"Good plan. I'm pretty sure my body would terrify the beach-goers." I pull down my gown that's ridden up from all of his fiddling with the table, uncovering the most recent scars from my surgeries. If I was here with anyone but Gary, I'd feel pretty exposed. With him I don't have to worry.

Gary scoffs. "Girl, scars are sexy now. Totally in. Like tattoos and body piercings."

I laugh so hard I snort. "Are snorts sexy now, too?"

My left leg starts to spasm, pulling away from the straps. Gary launches into a story about his current boyfriend, Bryan, as he runs my leg through its range of motion, massages it, and puts it back into place.

"Bryan is very pretty to look at, but is a diva to the nth degree," Gary tells me as he adjusts a pillow under my arm and cleans the area for the needle. I barely feel the IV line going in.

"It's bad enough he's into all that new age, no-caffeine lifestyle for himself." Gary pauses for effect, his hand over his heart. "But when he buys me coffee, it's decaf!"

I fake a gasp.

"I know. You don't mess with a person's caffeine." Gary tapes my IV line in place. "I'm just going to inject the sedative now, then the contrast; it may feel a little cold."

This is one of the reasons I don't want these stupid tests. For normal people, it doesn't even hurt. For me, it's liquid ice snaking through my veins, slow enough that the rebound pain is there at the same time as the first burn. I tense, and Gary squeezes my hand. I do not want to cry. It's a deal I made with myself years ago, back when I pretended I was Daddy's little warrior.
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