All My Fault follows the relationship between William Hoskins, who lives with cerebral palsy, and John Grant. When they form a relationship, and move in together, pressure from others causes them to doubt what they have together. After being apart, the two find that maybe they are stronger together. That what they first perceive as a hostile place isn't necessarily one.
William was in the next bed to mine. We were both suffering and proving it by the antibiotics drips going into our separate cannulas from infections, he of the chest and me of the bladder. Both of us had every intention of recovering. Unfortunately, William had an added complication for he was also suffering from cerebral palsy, a brain disease for which there is no known cause, nor cure, though the symptoms can be alleviated by various drugs, notably Diazepam, Baclofen, and Botulinum Toxin. This disease can vary in forms from problems associated with abnormal muscle tone, reflexes, or motor development and coordination. (There, that's all information from the Internet, and all new to me.)
Luckily, William's condition was comparatively slight. He could walk with the aid of crutches, though his muscular coordination was sometimes uncontrollable, and even if his speech was a little indistinct and slurred, I was soon able to understand him.
In times long past, sufferers of this disease were classed as lunatics, but I soon found out that William was very intelligent, though this is not always the case with sufferers from cerebral palsy. He was culturally aware and had, I noticed, a book containing pictures painted by Vincent Van Gogh, some of which I had never seen before. I especially liked the famous night scene in which the stars explode in an immensity of inky blackness as well as being reflected in water beneath.
William showed it to me and made what I first thought was an incomprehensible sound. Then, as he said it again, I recognized the word as "beautiful." I repeated it, and he reacted violently. It was often thus, extremes of emotion caused an increase in his symptoms. This was our first communication.
I'm not saying that the rest came easily, but he was very patient and would repeat the word or phrase again and again, sometimes indicating with a gesture, until I understood.
Of course, 'indicating with a gesture' did not always clarify, for people with cerebral palsy sometimes have little control over their movements. Luckily, William, unless he was particularly excited or emotionally involved, was mostly able to restrain his more violent movements. Once, his arms flailing, I attempted to stop them. His hand caught mine, and we grasped hands, holding each other's in friendly contact.
I think--no, I am sure--it was actually more than friendly, for he would hold out his hand until I caught it, and we would remain there locked together in an amicable embrace.
It was in this position that we were found one afternoon by one of the nurses. She took a long look, and I felt a trifle embarrassed. I tried to release William's hand, but he refused to let go. If anything, his grip tightened.
But the nurse wasn't in the least upset or disapproving. Instead, she gave a broad smile. "You two look so good together. I wish I could take you home, but I wouldn't be able to care for you."
I didn't say anything at the time, but what she had said remained in my mind. When not in hospital, William was in a nursing home, but, as he told me, he didn't enjoy it. He was in a room of his own, which was pleasant enough, but often he was bored. The carers there--well, some of them at least--didn't bother to try to understand him, and though he had a computer tablet with Internet connection, there were times when even surfing paled.
What if, I thought, once both he and I were discharged, he came home with me? There were surely grants to cover such an arrangement, and outside carers could visit up to four times a day to get him up, wash, dress, and do those fundamentals I was incapable of doing, or at least untrained for. Surely, that would be cheaper than keeping him in an NHS home.
I didn't quite know how to manage the situation. If I asked William and he approved, it would be a disappointment if I discovered the arrangement was impossible. On the other hand, I could first find out from the carer if such a situation was okay, and then see a look of horror on William's face when I told him.
In the end, I decided on the latter as only I would be disappointed. During a period when William was being showered, changed, and exercised on his crutches, I asked the carer.
"Of course, it could be arranged," she said. "I think it would be a marvelous idea, but could you look after William when the carers aren't there? After all, you're able-bodied now the infection is cleared up. You'd probably want to go to the pub, the movies, etc."
"If William agrees, and I haven't mentioned it to him yet, he'll go where I go and to hell with what anyone else thinks. But he may hate the idea."
"Oh, I doubt that," she said. "Just ask him."
William came back, freshly washed, groomed, and exercised. He greeted me with his usual smile and hand holding. But there was even more sprightliness in his movements, and he seemed so excited that, for a time, even I couldn't understand what he was saying.
Eventually, it came out. The Home had at long last sent his computer. There was so much he wanted to show me, to share with me, that I didn't want to spoil his enthusiasm with my more mundane proposal.
I needn't have worried.
The most seraphic smile I have ever seen spread over his face. "You and me together?" he asked as if he couldn't believe it possible.
"If that's what you want, and if we can arrange it."
"Two surprises in one day, and I won't say which is best."
I didn't ask, but I think I knew.
Bureaucracy wasn't in it! It needed first the doctors' approval. My flat on the ground floor had to be inspected. Luckily, it had two bedrooms, the master one--mine--with a large double bed, and then the slightly smaller one with a single bed, which could be exchanged for a proper hospital bed with controls so that bits of it could be raised or lowered independently. The shower was acceptable even though it had a raised rim over which the carer (or me) and, of course, William would have to step. Finally, we had to find a firm of carers who could provide four visits per day, every day of the year.
Privately, I decided that, after observing the carer's work, especially that of the morning one, I would be able to do most of the help myself, but I kept that thought to myself for the time being.
At last, all was decided. We were discharged from hospital actually on the same day. We went in the same ambulance, William on a stretcher, me in a chair, and arrived at our home together.
William approved. It was so obvious, he didn't have to say anything. He loved his room, though he loved mine better. I had several private thoughts about that. He loved my little square of garden with its twenty-foot-high ginkgo tree in the middle.
"That's the oldest species of tree still existing from 270 million years ago," he told me.
I knew this, but I let him think it was news, putting on a surprised look on my face--but he wasn't to be fooled.
He laughed. "You knew that," he accused me, and we laughed together. There was no way I was going to get anything over on my friend. Total honesty, I hoped, on both sides.
Everything went well. I hope I'm not tempting Fate! I got up at eight or thereabouts, made tea--Rooibos from South Africa--naturally caffeine free, and took William in a beaker full. Then the carer arrived and gave him a shower, me excluded, though I certainly wouldn't have minded being present.
Food arrived, courtesy of Messrs Sainsbury, delivered once a week, frozen packs for the freezer, fresh fruit and veg for the fridge or window sill if the bananas weren't ripe enough. The carer came to help with that but wasn't needed so after the first week, I cancelled her.
William and I would watch TV, listen to music on the radio--he was a Verdi fan and both our favorite piece was the quartet from Rigoletto--supper was something simple, so again why not dispense with another carer. Finally at nine o'clock the remaining carer would put William to bed and I would sit by him and chat or read to him. He said he liked the sound of my voice. The choice of reading was eclectic and varied from Jane Austen to Mark Billingham detective stories, and all stages in between.
He was normally tired by about ten and I was ready for sleep then as well, so I'd give him a kiss, tentative at first but he seemed to want more, so more lingering as time went on. It took us longer and longer to part.
One momentous day, I decided to try the first of our carer's jobs. I got up extra early and went into his room. William was asleep. His twitches were only tiny, scarcely more than the movements a person with no disability would have. I almost regretted waking him but felt it was time to be taking even more of the care of my friend.
"William," I whispered but he didn't hear me so I said it louder. He awoke and looked surprised though not objectionably so. Obviously he'd been expecting the carer.
"Can I help you to get up, William?"
He held out both of his arms to me, grasping me round my body. He was painfully thin and I felt such a longing for him that I held him close.
As he grabbed hold of his crutches and hoisted himself upright, he sounded embarrassed. "The carer has to do 'things'," he said.
"I know, William. Don't worry I've been helpless in hospital. I know exactly what carers do and I'm happy to help you in every way possible. Then afterwards we'll have a shower together. If you really don't want me to, I won't but I'm quite happy to do everything for and with you."
Well, it was the first time and I wasn't too sure about the intimate details but we managed to turn everything into a joke and it all went more or less fine.
"Now, what about a shower?"
The shower had various handles fastened to the wall at strategic positions to hold on to, so we were both able to shower together. I soaped his body all the way. I didn't really pay too much attention to his private parts but immediately noticed--how could I ignore it--his very protuberant erection.
My hands were covered in shower gel so naturally I enclosed that erect prick in my closed fist. William drew back and I'd feared I'd gone too far but then he thrust forward and back and forward and was frotting away like a mad thing. His arms and the rest of his body were still but his breath was coming in huge gaspsâ€¦and then he gave a loud roar and his semen spurted again and again and again.
Well, that was it. He'd wanted to come and he had indeed.
But he noticed I also had an erection and he grabbed hold of it.
"You don't have to," I said.
"I want to."
So he wanked me off and our separate jizms mixed together on the floor and on the wall until I washed the mixture off and down the plug hole.
"I don't think we need mention this to the carer," I said.
And he laughed a delighted laugh and we kissed and then dried and dressed each other so that when the carer arrived and we told her we'd washed ourselves, she raised her eyebrows.
"Did youâ€¦?" she asked me.
"I did everything, or rather we did everything and we're now going to shave both of us and have breakfast."
"You'll have me completely out of a job," she said.
But it was William who answered, "That's what we're planning," except that she didn't understand what he said, and I had to explain it to her.