4 min

What I learned about myself during an encounter with a disabled married client (Part 1)

It’s usually me playing the role of the therapist, not the other way around

Credit: Indiana Joel/Daily Xtra

I’m surprised when he opens the door. We’ve exchanged a few emails in advance of meeting. I know what he wants to do. But his appearance catches me off guard. 

The session we’re planning is pretty vanilla; a little kissing, some body contact and sucking each other off. But his situation is particular. A few years ago, a stroke partially paralyzed the left side of his body. He managed to regain most of the function in his arm but his leg is still largely immobile and requires a brace. He uses that, in combination with a pair of crutches to get around.

Since we’ve gone over all of this in detail, I’m confused when the door is answered by a guy who clearly has two fully functional legs, which I can see because he’s wearing a pair of loose-fitting shorts. He gestures for me to come in. He doesn’t seem particularly excited to see me. But he also doesn’t look upset. Clients can sometimes seem a bit closed when your first arrive because they’re trying to hide their nerves. But this guy just seems completely blank, like he’s totally indifferent to my presence. 

Without saying anything, he walks into an adjacent room, which looks to be an office of some sort, and closes the door behind him. I stand, glancing around, unsure of what to do. Does he want me to leave? Does he need to do something to prepare for the meeting? Did he exaggerate the nature of his disability? Is this some sort of weird trick?

Just as I’m wondering whether I should pack it in and depart, there’s a noise from the top of the stairs to my right. Slowly, one step at a time, I hear someone descending. As his legs gradually come into view, I realize that this is person I’m here to meet. 

I’ve had a handful of experiences meeting disabled clients where they’ve invited a friend to hang out during the session. Having limited mobility puts you in a vulnerable position when you’re meeting up with a beefy, able-bodied escort whose sense of ethics you know nothing about. The possibility of being assaulted or robbed or both means a third wheel is a good idea, just in case something goes wrong.

As he gradually comes into view, I see an attractive 50-something man with a shaved head and a trim grey beard. He’s also wearing a pair of loose-fitting shorts, which clearly reveal his leg, somewhat atrophied, encased in a brace.

By the time he reaches the foyer, he’s gasping for breath and I wonder if he’s going to collapse. He just smiles and reaches one hand out to pat me gingerly on the shoulder. 

“You wanna to come up?” he says.

I feel bad that he’s struggled to make it down the stairs to greet me, just to turn around and return. But we’re not going have our session on the floor of his front hallway, so I nod my agreement and he starts his journey back up, me walking slowly behind him. 

At the top of the stairs, I follow him down a hallway to a bedroom with a king-sized bed and a small wooden dresser covered with framed photos, mostly of children. The table next to the bed is scattered will pill bottles. Underneath it sit two large plastic jugs, which I recognize as the vessels provided to bed-bound patients to pee into. A large wooden crucifix hangs above the bedroom door. 

He eases himself onto the bed, carefully placing his crutches on the floor, within reach. He stares up at me, looking bashful, but with a slight smile. I strip off my clothes and climb in next him. It takes a bit of effort but he manages to swing both of his legs up to lie himself down. He strains to grab the blanket near the bottom of the bed, that’s been folded down in advance, but he can’t reach it. I take it by the edge, pull it over us, and cuddle up next to him. 

I often say I’m not paid to ask questions. But I’m so curious about the scenario I’ve been greeted with, so I decide to take the risk to inquire what’s going on.

“Is that guy downstairs your friend?”

“You could say that.”

“And he’s just . . . um . . . hanging out here today?”

He smiles.

“No,” he says. “He lives here.”

After a little more back and forth, I realize the guy who answered the door isn’t a platonic acquaintance. It’s his husband. He’d been married to a woman for more than 20 years and they have four children together (featured in various stages of growth in the photos on the dresser). Having struggled with his sexuality since he was a teenager, in his mid-40s he finally came out and split up with his wife, by all indications amicably. About a year later he met the guy downstairs. They fell hard for each other and were married within 12 months. Four years later, he had the stroke.

Marriage, at least traditionally, is supposed to be for better, for worse, in sickness and in health. But what must it have been like for the other guy, to be four years into a relationship and have his partner become disabled? 

It makes me wonder what I might do in the same circumstances. Would I stay with someone I was romantically involved with if they suddenly lost the use of their legs? If the situation was reversed, would the person stay with me? Would I be able to forgive them if they didn’t?

The clock shows I’ve been here for 45 minutes so I decide it’s time to initiate the sex . . .