A BENT STRAIGHT-GUY GUEST FEATURE
Wherein we prove once more that you don't have to be ga
y
to contribute to the ongoing dialogue in these pages.

STORY ABOUT
ISOBEL

by Mark Hendrix

Isobel is due at one.
She answered my ad in the Express for an attendant, someone who literally gets me out of bed in the morning. This basic function has slipped my grasp, and with my last attendant fired for stealing, the interviews begin.

Isobel sounded bright and cheerful on the phone. Many callers sound like they have a hard time getting out of bed themselves, so perkiness counts. When I told her my weight, she wasn't fazed, and mentioned three years' experience. So I set a time and gave her directions.

Isobel calls at one from the southwest corner of the BART station. Decidedly the wrong corner, and she seems unclear as to which way the bay lies. I redirect her and flick my gaze out into the courtyard glare for the next half-hour.

Isobel arrives with her sister from Arizona. I didn't know she had a sister. Sister doesn't look like Isobel—shorter, much older, with tight curly black hair to Isobel's straight black bowl, an angular face to Isobel's slack round one. Sister glares at me and reproaches, "We got lost on the way here," despite precise directions given twice.

Isobel mousily asks for a drink of water while her sister growls, "Where's the bathroom?" I decide to have Isobel lift me from wheelchair to bed, hoping she'll screw up and I won't have to interview her. As we enter the bedroom she asks how much I weigh. The answer makes her groan. "But I told you that on the phone!" "Yes, and you're six-foot three inches, right?" Why does she remember that? Now she stands before me and lunges, trying to lift me. I restrain her, asking her to let me tell her how to lift me, and to take off her belt pack. She reaches for the snap.

Isobel has a rightward swastika tattooed on her right hand, between thumb and forefinger. Strike four, although I'm hardly counting as fear replaces annoyance. She doesn't get me off the landing strip, in fact she barely lifts me at all, but winces from the back pain anyway. "This business is really for strong people," she notes as she scuttles out of the bedroom. I'm wondering about the three years experience as well as what sister is up to.

Isobel is huddling with her sister by the front door as I round the corner. At least Isobel is huddling; her sister blurts, "So you going to be the boss around here?" "No, no, he's too heavy," and then smiles upon seeing me. "I'm sorry it didn't work out. You seem like a nice man."

Isobel hustles her sister out the door and they fade into the courtyard glare. I glance at the empty bowl to my right and return to the dark heads bobbing out of sight and think of the heavy coins bobbing heads tails heads tails in sister's pocket as she walks. Two against one avoided—I'm just out some time and my laundry quarters. That makes me a lucky guy, and keeps me the boss around here.

Text ©2002 Mark W. Hendrix
Illustration ©2002 Robbo

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Mark Hendrix is a Berkeley-based workaholic and sometimes bon vivant (shown here in the latter guise).
A writer, activist, actor, and visual artist, his independent living has depended on the skillful deployment of attendants since 1994. He is blessed with an excellent crew as of now, but knows very well how quickly things can change for the worse.
He is appalled by the Legislative Analyst Office's analysis of the California Governor's 2002-3 budget, which calls for the elimination of the advance-pay option for In-home Supportive Services and would ban persons with disabilities from hiring their relatives as attendants. He intends to fight.

 

 

 

BENT: A Journal of CripGay Voices/March 2002