Guys Nights


A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself. -Jim Morrison

By Mark E. Smith

“Bionic Brogan” is what one of many headlines called him. But we just call him Mitch. He’s one of only a handful of people in the world to own an exoskeleton, a $110,000 bionic “suit” that allows him, as a quadriplegic, to walk. Yet, beyond his owning the coolest gadgets among our group, we just like Mitch as Mitch, a hipster Canadian with a great laugh and a completely silly sense of humor – a class clown at heart. He wears his trade show credentials on an elastic neck lanyard, and stretches it like a rubber band, so that it retracts and hits him in the face. And, I find it more hilarious every time he does it.


With Mitch is his buddy and bionics colleague, “Voitek.” Voitek is a literal rock star – minus any musical talent or an actual career. He’s a cross between Justin Timberlake and Johnny Depp, with the swagger and charisma we could all only wish for. And he dresses the part, pulling off the retro, bad-boy look in blazers and hats like he just walked out of a black-and-white Dolce & Gabbana ad. And, he’s always got some mystery to him, once showing up with a black eye, where he even pulled that off as cool. And, I constantly shout his name no matter where we are, just because I like the sound.


Rene sits next to me, and I first met him when I was 18. And, he’s the “orange man.” In an inexplicable way, everything he owns is orange – not just orange, but the exact same color orange, defying the difficulty of matching an exact color shade. From his wheelchair to his watch, to his phone to his clothes, it’s all the same, exact color orange. He told me it’s an attention-getter as a salesman – and it is. But, I remain boggled by his ability to get so many items in an exact shade of orange. I think he owns a Willy Wonka-type machine that creates orange things. Rene and I are affectionate toward each other, as is the whole group, where hugs and, “Love ya, Man,” trumps handshakes or Neanderthal bravado.


Across the table from me is Ryan, the “wheel guy.” Virtually every ultralight wheelchair in the country has his wheels on it. Ryan has boyish good-looks, and just smiles, seemingly glad to be anywhere. He’s the all-American guy, whom I could see teen girls getting a crush on because he comes across with a charming ease and innocence. He’s just a genuinely great person, and puts everyone at ease. And, he always ends up the designated driver, namely because he’s arguably the most responsible among us. You wouldn’t look at the rest of us and think that adding a motor vehicle to the mix would be wise. But, Ryan legitimizes everything – he’s the front man to our motley crew.


As for me, I’m always in a tie – the “tie guy” – completely overdressed for virtually every occasion, including dinner with the guys. And, I always have a ridiculous but true story to share – and sometimes create in the moment based on my pure stupidity. It usually begins with, “So, you won’t believe what happened to me last week…,” and ends somewhere hilariously bad. Or, it begins with, “Watch this…,” and ends somewhere hilariously bad. In whole, it usually ends up with my life being hilariously bad, which all of the guys appreciate and admire. Getting my power wheelchair stuck in a revolving door because I bet one of the other guys $100 that I could make it through is the story of my life.


Rene knows the owner of the high-end restaurant we’re at – and the owner and staff are as amusingly ridiculous as we are, right down to the model-ish blond hostess who tells me she’s from the Ukrane, but seems to ignore all customers, chatting us up. We’ve forgone menus, and the staff just brings us dishes of food – and we’re not totally sure what most of it is, but we just eat it, trustingly. The talk, besides trying to figure out what we’re eating, revolves around the nonsensical – no room for business when there are so many stories to swap. Women usual come up – no, not literally, as we’re too ruckus for that – but in our conversations. Married, divorced, dating, dumped, we all struggle. Except for Rene, who’s just glad that his wife has tolerated him all of these years. I’m sure it must be true love for Rene and his wife, but a few of us would gladly settle for tolerated by a woman at this point. And, tolerated is good because we can behave like the well-meaning but wacked-out bunch we are, and not get yelled at by our significant others. Mitch is a clown, Voitek ends up with black eyes, Rene dips himself in orange, Ryan just smiles, and I get stuck in revolving doors. That’s well-behaved and tolerable in my book. What woman wouldn’t want guys like us?


And, then a bottle of Patron just shows up. I still don’t know what Patron is, other than hearing it used as a status symbol in rap music. And, we all do a shot, where to me it tastes like chocolate milk. The conversation soon shifts to a group Vegas trip – which is both the best and worst idea ever. The five of us in a 550-square-foot condo, with unlimited access to …well …everything we shouldn’t be doing, is a disaster waiting to happen. I love Vegas, and if the plan went down, even with Ryan as the front man apologizing, I may never be allowed back again – that is, to the city. And, I’m not sharing a bed with Rene no matter how cuddly he is. I say, let’s just light ourselves on fire now, and save the airfare, condo cleaning fee, and various police citations.


Yet, the more that I think about it, the better the idea of Vegas with these charming sloths sounds. Maybe it’s because these are among the best friends a guy could ever have, and I’d never pass on a chance to hang out with them. Maybe because when I’m with these guys, all of our troubles are left behind, and we live in the moment, making up the rules as we go, where we just accept each other as-is. Or, maybe because I’d love a few more ridiculous stories shared, where Rene could bring up in another city, at another time, “Remember when we were in Vegas, and….”


Author: Mark E. Smith

The literary side of the WheelchairJunkie

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