Monday, February 15, 2010

Devo Diary Chapter 66

Birk, part 1

April 2007

After I decide that I’m done with waiting months for Dean to decide if he likes me or not, I’m back to online dating. I tried looking for able-bodied guys and it was a disaster, so I might as well try to find someone I’m actually attracted to.
I discover several dating sites specifically for people with disabilities. Each one is terrible in its own way—hard to navigate, poor search function, baffling profile layout that’s hard to read. They all share the intrinsic problem of searching for a very specific type of person, which is that the pool of participants is tiny and spread over the entire globe. When I search for, say, blind men in my age range, I get profiles of people in Australia, Russia, Brazil. When I search by location near Central City, I see profiles of people with learning disabilities or psoriasis.
I make a profile on a site with the painfully embarrassing name Whispers4U. What’s the deal with this euphemistic, infantilizing nonsense? Do they really think disabled people need to be coaxed into using this service? I choose it because it’s the only one where you can put “devotee” on your profile.
I periodically check Whispers4U without much hope that it will yield anything at all, but then to my surprise, I come across the profile of a blind guy in his late thirties living in Central City. He doesn’t have a photo on his profile, but it would be unreasonable of me to expect a blind guy to have a photo. I message him right away.
His name is Birk, and he’s a divorced dad with two kids, a thirteen year old boy and a nine year old girl. He works for the Central City ADA Center, helping employers make accommodations for people with disabilities. He lives on the far side of Central City from me, in the distant suburb of Ogdenville. He sends me a photo of himself taken in the box seats of the Central City baseball stadium. The photo is taken at an awkward angle, with him turned over his shoulder. He’s a pasty, somewhat chubby white guy in a baseball cap that he’s wearing too high on his head.
I hesitate to write back to him. I’m not sure I’m ready to date someone with kids, and Ogdenville is really far away, about three hours by car and I’d have to drive through Central City traffic to get there. When I dated blind guys in the past, the logistics of them coming to visit me were daunting even when we lived in the same city.
But I realize, now that I’m in my mid-thirties, statistically many of the guys my age will be divorced, and a lot will have kids. The guys who have reached this age without marrying are the ones with serious commitment issues. I might as well get used to the idea of dating someone with kids. The distance thing sucks but compared to the other people on Whispers4U, we’re neighbors.
I start emailing Birk without much expectation that this will go anywhere. He seems very nervous and self-conscious at the start. He writes,

I don't think my friends would believe that I am on an on-line dating site. I am not into the bar scene and only interact with women in my work environment.

I try to be encouraging, letting him know that online dating is no big deal anymore. I tell him right away that I’m a devotee. Why else would I be on Whispers4U? And I want to make sure he’s ok with it before going any further. He likes the idea, not in a hesitant way like he’s hiding the fact that he thinks I’m a freak, but like he genuinely thinks it’s pretty cool.
I find this so encouraging that I quickly suggest we progress to talking on the phone. He has that flat Midwestern accent but his voice is pleasant. He’s even more stiffly nervous on the phone at first, and my heart sinks at the thought of coaxing along yet another socially maladjusted manchild, but after a short time, he loosens up.
Birk tells me that he lost his sight five years ago to diabetic retinopathy, and got divorced three years ago. His wife didn’t like being married to a blind man, and is already married to someone else, but it’s ok, he doesn’t blame her and they have a good co-parenting relationship. He lives in the suburbs to be closer to his kids but when they get older he plans to move back to the city, since his office is downtown.
I ask right away if he’s ok with dating someone so far away and he says yes, without any hesitation. He finds it easy to get around on the train. He doesn’t share my pop culture obsessions but I find his frank enthusiasm so refreshing. Our email exchanges increase to every day, with more phone calls.
Birk writes:

I was intentionally staying away from e-mail while I was on vacation so I apologize for the delay in replying. I didn't do much on vacation. I had my kids with me most of last week and we spent a lot of time with my mom and other family.
I'm not looking forward to getting back into the swing of things tomorrow but must. I have some trainings coming up out of state in the next couple of weeks. I have one next week for transit providers on the ADA transportation regulations. The following week I am traveling out of state again for a presentation to library staff on accessibility issues. One other training after that to a retailers conference on access issues and the ADA accessible design standards.
I'm reading an audio book that is interesting but not the best I've read. I like murder mystery books. This one is called Hear No Evil. I picked it up at the library last week with the kids.
I've caught you up on my boring existence.

I have to admit he does sound slightly boring. Ugh! I’m trying to be less judgmental. He seems very nice, a good Midwestern boy like Kara is always telling me I need to meet. He’s like the polar opposite of the hipster douchebags I’ve been trying to date. Maybe this will be better. And I have to admit it’s super exciting to be meeting another blind guy, always and forever my number one dev obsession. We talk on the phone some more and agree to meet in person.
He writes,

I enjoyed talking to you last night and I am looking forward to meeting you next week. Because I am blind I learn about someone by talking to the person and by listening to the person's voice. You have a beautiful voice and I imagine you are a very good singer. It was easy to speak with you last night.
It doesn't look like we will have any warmer weather coming along any time soon. It was quite chilly walking to the train this morning.
I hope you have a great weekend and I'll talk to you next week. I hope you kept the dogs across the street yapping last night with your singing.

Me:
Thanks for the email, and thanks for the compliment about my voice, although I don't think it's anything special.
That's really interesting what you said about getting to know someone through the voice. So after you lost your sight, do you feel like your interactions with people changed fundamentally, or do you just use different cues to get the same information? I hope you don't mind, but I'm very curious. Do you still form mental pictures of people or things?
It's too bad about the weather. It's been snowing here constantly, enough to collect a bit, and it's supposed to snow even more tomorrow. So much for the return of spring, huh.

Birk:
I think the way people interact with me has changed more than I've changed. I use sound mainly to gauge where someone is and when I speak with someone I am able to hold eye contact while talking. Since I conduct presentations for my job I look from side to side and from the front of the room to the back of the room to help hold the audience's attention. I know that I can easily put a room to sleep so I try to crack a joke at the beginning of my presentations by telling folks not to bother raising their hands if they have a question.
Having been sighted I am pretty good at visualizing things and that helps with traveling. I have always had a good sense of direction and know how to ask questions of people when I am trying to find someplace. I know it is tough for some people to give directions to someone that is blind. People want to point here and there but obviously that doesn't work very well. I do have trouble walking completely straight which can be problematic. I use a long cane which helps keep me out of trouble mostly and it helps me keep up a good pace. I have some trouble at times walking alongside someone and carrying on a conversation as I tend to move here and there.
Some people just assume that I need assistance getting where I am going because I am blind. I usually grab some one's arm walking down the platform at the train station. I mainly do that because it keeps me from whacking the crap out of the back of folk's legs and feet. The guy I usually walk with is someone I have known from the station in Ogdenville for over three years and we talk while waiting for the train in Ogdenville.
I do visualize what someone looks like. I don't usually form a specific picture of what I think the individual looks like at first. I picture a body shape, height and may be hair color. I can get some clues from shaking some one's hand. At first I am attracted to someone by the voice. What qualities and characteristics do you find most attractive? I hope I am able to change quickly after reading what you write! (I'm just kidding)
Anyway, I'll share some of my funnier encounters with folks for later. I have had a few good ones.
I hope your weekend is going well. I'll talk to you later.

Me:
Thanks for the detailed answers--I find it all really interesting. I'm really impressed that you are so independent and confident, that's not the case for everyone. And I do want to hear your funny stories!
So how do you find your way when you're going someplace new?

Birk:
When I travel somewhere new I try to get exact directions to the place. While many people are not good with directions most people are willing to assist me if I ask for help. I am confident about traveling because I am able to learn from mistakes. Fortunately or unfortunately I make mistakes and I learn from them so the next time I get off track I can find my way out of it.
I probably shouldn't tell you this because it is embarrassing but about a month after moving to my apartment I wound up calling the Ogdenville police. I know not the best use of police resources but I was lost and the few people I came across couldn't get me pointed in the right direction to my apartment building. If you ever see where I live in relation to the train station you'll chuckle. If you can't laugh at yourself, in my opinion, you'll take it out on someone else. I don't mind making fun of myself because I'm an easy target.

On a Saturday morning I take the train up to Central City to meet Birk for the first time. We arrange to meet at the terminal where he usually transfers on his commute to work. I arrive first and wait impatiently for his train. Among the hordes of people streaming off the train, I spot a blind guy with a long rigid white cane and call out to him. We awkwardly shake hands while being jostled by the crowd.
Birk looks exactly like his photo—a  late thirties white guy, clean shaven, receding hair buzzed to less than a quarter inch. He’s not that much taller than I am, and he’s fat. He has big round cheeks and a big round belly, although his arms and legs are relatively skinny. Even though it’s April, the weather is still bitterly cold, and he’s wearing a long heavy overcoat that makes him look even rounder.
He takes my elbow and we set off for the subway. We’ve decided in advance on a Greek restaurant, and he tells me the way as I guide him. This is what I love best, guiding while walking down a busy street, but in the moment my dev thrill is subsumed by practicalities; trying to make sure I don’t walk him into a door or a post or another person, all the while trying to act very casual, making small talk and trying hard not to be creepy or weird. As usual, I’m hamming it up, making a big show of how very ok I am with his disability—look, I can even make jokes! No need to apologize for anything disability related, I am cool with all of it! And aren’t you impressed at how expertly I already know how to guide you? I am truly a blind guy’s dev dream girl.
The conversation is understandably slow, as I am preoccupied internally with self-admiration as well as dirty dev thoughts.
The restaurant is a typical kind of family run place, decorated with plastic grape vines and murals of Greek island villas covering the walls. The food is not bad.
Over platters of spanakopita and olives, we elaborate on the getting-to-know-you conversations we’ve already had over the phone. Birk talks more about losing his sight, going through rehab, getting divorced. He has Type I diabetes, the kind that’s an autoimmune disease, and he’s had it since childhood, as well as hypothyroidism and eczema. Autoimmune issues tend to appear together like that. He is completely blind, only some light perception, and it happened very suddenly. He seems totally accepting of all of it—that’s just the way it is, you do the best you can.
Despite the fact that diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in the US, he is the first person I have met with that condition. Earlier, I looked it up on Wikipedia because I like to know all the scientific details. The Wikipedia entry is surprisingly judgmental, saying something along the lines of, “with proper glucose management and medical care, vision loss can be avoided.” In other words, if you do go blind, it’s your fault for not managing your blood sugar better. I don’t mention any of this to him.
Birk asks me about being a devotee, and I decide to go for radical honesty. I don’t want to be keeping secrets, and I definitely don’t want to waste even one minute of my time with anyone who’s not totally ok with it. I tell him that I’ve always had this very strong desire, no I can’t explain why. Yes, I’ve dated other blind guys before, and guys with other disabilities as well. But in addition to that, I’m looking for the same things as anyone else, a long-term relationship based on mutual respect and equality.
Birk really does seem fine with the whole devotee thing. Despite being a very mild-mannered, whitebread Midwestern guy in bland suburban clothes, he’s not shy about sex. I think I’ve come to recognize when a guy says he’s ok with it but secretly thinks it’s weird or gross. Birk doesn’t give me that uncomfortable silence or ironic smirk. He just smiles sincerely and says, “I guess I’m just lucky to be able to meet you.”
I tell him about Billy saying to me, “I wish you were normal” and he’s outraged on my behalf.
“I’m never putting up with that again,” I say, just so he knows. Birk nods.
“You shouldn’t! How can someone be so inconsiderate?”
How indeed.
Birk talks more about his life before losing his sight, how he was working as a manager in a local chain supermarket. When he pulls out his wallet to pay for lunch, I see his state ID card. The photo must have been taken years ago. He has the same buzz cut but he’s much thinner. Irrationally, I think if he was once like that, couldn’t he return to that weight if he tried? On the other hand, the photo really looks like the low level manager of a supermarket. Is that who I want to be dating?
All through grad school and especially now that I live in Craptown, I’ve been hyper conscious of being accused of snobbery and elitism. I really don’t think I’m smarter or better than anyone else. I think my whole two year relationship with Rollerboy was about me trying to escape from grad school, to prove to myself that I wasn’t a snob.
But I have to admit I have a horror of white lower middle class suburban life. The tacky blandness, the conformity, the boredom and bad taste. Maybe I really am a snob for saying I don’t want to live like that. I don’t want to marry a supermarket manager.
I remind myself that’s not who he is now. His job actually sounds kind of awesome, helping employers and public services be more accessible, helping people with disabilities find and keep jobs. He gets to travel all over the US giving presentations and holding workshops. He’s even traveled overseas a few times for work.
As we talk, I scrutinize him, trying to gauge my level of attraction. Because he went blind as an adult, his body language and facial expressions are mostly the same as a sighted person. It’s not like with the other blind guys I have known, like K, whose face was always unreadable, or sometimes showed the opposite expression from what he was really feeling.
The way Birk feels around on his plate with his fork, the way his hands move through the air until he encounters something solid, that all hits my dev sweet spot. His eyes are small and only open about halfway, and somewhat greyish and clouded over. Just looking at his eyes gives me that dev stab of pleasure/pain in my gut.
But he is fat. I feel guilty and superficial for even being bothered by that. I try to stifle it down. I should be judging him by how he is on the inside, and stop being so lookist.
After the meal, we take the subway back to the train terminal, but neither of us is ready for the date to end yet. With Birk holding my elbow, we wander about through the main tourist area, down big shopping streets and around the park. It would be more pleasant if the weather wasn’t freezing cold with a stiff breeze.
We sit on a park bench, huddled into our winter coats.
“Thanks for coming out to meet me,” I say a little hesitantly.
“No, thank you! I’ve had such a good time talking to you. I admit I don’t want to go home,” he says with a nervous giggle.
“Me too,” I admit. “I like you. But I have to say, I’m not sure we should be dating. I mean, we're at different stages in our lives. You've already had kids, and I still want to have them. Also, it sounds like you have a good balance with your ex and her family and seeing the kids, and I don't want to disrupt that. You also have a steady job in Central City, and I can’t move because of my job. I’m just not sure we could make it work.”
Birk rushes to reassure me. “It’s not like that! I’m really ready to start dating again. Don’t worry about my family; they’re fine. And you know, I’ve been really frustrated with my job lately. To be honest, I’ve been thinking about looking for a new one. You don’t live that far away. I might be able to move, you never know.”
This is so completely opposite from Dean, I can’t help but be charmed. Birk really, really likes me, it’s obvious, and he’s willing to try to make it work. This is not a guy who needs months to decide how he feels about me. Despite my misgivings, I allow a tiny spark of hope to glow in my heart.

In the next week, the weather shifts abruptly from winter to summer, bypassing spring entirely, as often happens in the Midwest. The blue sunny skies and warm breezes fill me with delight. I feel like I’ve shed twenty pounds of heavy winter clothing.
I come in to work in the middle of the week to find a large bouquet of flowers delivered to my office. There’s no note. What is this? No one has ever sent me flowers before. I wonder if maybe it was delivered to me by accident.
It’s not until Birk asks me over email if I got the flowers that I realize it’s from him. In the past, I’ve always taken it as a huge red flag if a guy shows up for a first date with flowers. Not that I have anything against getting flowers, just for some reason there seems to be a correlation—whenever I get flowers, there’s always some dating disaster not far off on the horizon. But this is different, I decide, since he sent it after. The bouquet is lovely and I want to enjoy it without worrying.
When I mention to Birk that there was no note, he just laughs.
“Oh no! Sorry! I thought I included it but the website was hard to navigate. I must have missed something.”

The next day, as I’m coming into the office in the morning, I pass a co-worker who says hello.
“By the way,” he adds, “I saw you in Central City last weekend. Were you with a blind man?”
Ugh, what the fuck is this! He must have seen us in the park. I fucking hate this gossipy little town. Why is my work like a surveillance state? Can’t I go on one internet date without being spied on? When I think back to that lovely moment in the park, the idea that someone was watching makes my skin crawl.
I particularly hate that it was this dude, who has been creeping on me since I was hired. He’s only a few years older than I am but he’s married with young kids. He doesn’t work in my division, thank god, but we pass each other in the halls and parking lot often. I’m sure in his mind he thinks he’s being discreet because he’s never said anything outright but it’s so super obvious that he’s always checking me out. I try to avoid him as much as possible. There’s no way in hell I’m telling him anything about my personal life.
“Oh yeah, just a friend, haha!” I say, trying to keep my tone light and casual. “Sorry, gotta go! I have so much work, haha!”
I purposefully ignore the strange look he’s giving me. I know what he’s thinking: what are you, a normal sighted person, doing with a gross weird blind person?
Fuck that prejudiced bullshit.
Part of me wants to throw it in his face, to be like, he’s sexier than you will ever be, and I’m going to do things with him that you only dream of.
But I don’t want anyone at my horrible workplace to know the first thing about my private life, so I don’t say anything, and avoid him as much as possible. Still, it freaks me out to think that people are watching me, not just in this shitty little town, but in the big supposedly anonymous city.
I go up to my office and stare defiantly, fondly at the flowers Birk sent me. The hell with that married asshole co-worker and his crush on me. He doesn’t know anything about me at all.

Two weeks later, Birk comes to visit me on a Saturday. I send him detailed, anxious instructions on riding the train, but it’s really very easy. He gets on at the same terminal he transfers at for work every day. Then he rides the train right through to the end of the line. It’s painfully slow, but simple and direct.
I park my car in the pay lot at the train station, which is also the tiny regional airport. Luckily the train station is just an open platform with no ticket gate, so I can go right up to the train doors to meet him. Good thing too, because he somehow gets turned around in the big crowd of people exiting the train and goes wandering off in the wrong direction. I have to chase after him, calling his name.
He stops short when he hears me, and whirls around, a huge grin on his round face.
“Hey, you’re going the wrong way!”
“Was I? Oops, haha, that happens all the time! Good thing you saw me!”
I take his hand and lead him to my car, chattering away a bit anxiously. I’m still not totally sure how I feel about him, but I want him to like me.
I take him to the diner at the Farmers’ Market for pancakes. I love reading the menu to him. He’s cool about it, asking me if they have certain things rather than making me read the whole thing line by line like K used to do. We eat massive servings of eggs, hash browns, bacon, and pancakes.
I enjoy the food and stifle down my lingering anxiety about unhealthy eating. I’ve been worried since I moved here that I’m getting fat. It’s hard enough to find healthy food to eat, and there’s so much junk everywhere. I worry about Birk too—it can’t be healthy for him to have so much excess weight on top of being diabetic. But me saying anything won’t change that, and it’s not my job to manage his health. I try not to think about it.
After lunch, we go for a walk along the river. The weather is beautiful, the first really sunny, hot day we’ve had all year. We stroll slowly along the bike path beside the water, surrounded by wildflowers blooming and the trees putting out new green leaves.
We sit down on a bench together and things get flirty. I decide I don’t care if anyone sees me.
I say something about how hard it is to find work clothes that are cool but not too revealing.
“You may not have noticed, but fashions have changed a lot in the last five years,” I say. “Like right now I’m wearing a pink wraparound top with a v neck, and I can’t wear it without another shirt underneath, but I think a lot of women would.”
Boldly, I take his hand and put it on my chest so he can feel my shirt. The v neck has fallen open so that it would fully expose my breasts if I weren’t wearing a tank top underneath.
Birk laughs. “No! I don’t believe you! No one would wear that.”
“I don’t know, maybe not here. But in Raser City everyone is showing off side boob.”
“Side what?”
“You know, when the shirt is cut so low you can see the whole side of the boob.”
Birk turns dark red. “Now I know you’re making it up!”
We laugh some more and joke around. When a few cars or motorcycles drive by, he makes guesses about them based on the sound, which I confirm. He’s pretty good at identifying engine sounds.
Sitting there on that bench with him, by the river in the warm sunshine with the first spring flowers blooming around us, it’s like the perfect date. I set aside my misgivings about him and just surrender to the moment.
Birk turns to me and says shyly, “I’d really like to kiss you.”
I look into his face, his scarred over eyes open wide and pointed slightly over my head. I get that stab in my gut, with a huge rush.
“I thought you’d never ask,” I say.
I lean forward and kiss him. He’s surprisingly good at it, just the right amount of pressure. His arms wrap around me and it feels so nice. We stay like that for a long time, with our arms around each other, kissing a little.
Too long.
“Uh, I think I’m getting sunburned,” he says, rubbing a rueful hand over his bald head.
“Oh no! I’m so sorry!” I look up to see his head and face looking really red. How long have we been sitting here? Even I’m a little red on my face and neck, and I don’t burn that easily.
I apologize some more as we head back to my car, but he just laughs. Reluctantly, I take him back to the train station. I really want to take him back to my place and convince him to stay over but I’ve learned I have to play this “good girl” game of waiting until the third date to have sex. It seems stupid and arbitrary but even though he talks dirty sometimes I can tell he comes from a very straitlaced background.
“So what do you think? Is the commute between here and Ogdenville doable for a relationship?” I ask as I drive him back to the train station.
“Oh yeah, it was really easy,” he says without hesitation.
“Are you sure? I feel like I’m taking you away from your kids.” I know that his custody arrangement is that he only has the kids on the weekends, so if he’s with me, then he’s not seeing them.
“No, they’re fine! It’s really ok!” he insists.
We have one more kiss on the platform, then I guide him to the train door and we say goodbye.

May 2007
The next weekend, I drive out to Ogdenville. It takes me a solid three hours to get there. Ugh, why couldn’t he at least live on the other side of the city?
We meet for lunch at downtown Ogdenville, a quaint little shopping street in a wealthy white suburb. We have a nice lunch then he humors me as I wander through a few of the cute little shops. There’s nothing this nice in Craptown and I miss it. Maybe Ogdenville isn’t so bad for a boring suburb.
Over lunch, I ask him again about his kids. I feel like I’m taking him away from them by seeing him every weekend. No, he insists, they’re fine, don’t worry about it.
After lunch I drive us back to his place. Birk lives in a suburban apartment complex, the kind that makes each unit look kind of like a house but in fact they’re all connected and only one floor each. His apartment is on the second floor, up a flight of stairs and down a hall of identical doors.
The apartment itself is nice but exactly the kind of boring, featureless unit I have spent my life trying to avoid. Beige wall-to-wall shag carpeting extends through every room and hallway. The only furniture is a big dining table and chairs, massive and fancy, maybe the only thing he got in the divorce, and a big leather sofa.
Down the hall from the open plan kitchen/dining/living room is the kids’ bedroom then his bedroom. All the walls are bare, of course, which is to be expected, but in the bedroom he has two framed prints of the Central City football team. Why does he have this? Is it a relic from before he lost his sight? I’m sort of praying that he’s not a die-hard sports fan so I don’t ask.
I drop my overnight bag by the bed and wander back to the kitchen. Birk lets me know that he still cooks for himself even after losing his sight, although most of what he makes is pretty basic.
“The hardest part is peeling a clove of garlic,” he says sheepishly. “Those darn little things take forever, and I’m never sure I got all of it.”
“You know, if you just smash a clove with the flat of the knife, the peel comes right off,” I tell him. “Also it’s easier to cut once it’s been flattened a bit.”
“What?!” Birk’s mouth opens wide in surprise, his eyebrows shooting up. “How come I never knew that? I’m going to try that the next time I cook something. I can’t believe I’ve never heard of doing that before.”
“Stick with me, I can teach you all kind of tricks.”
“Mmm, sounds good.”
But we don’t bother with cooking that night, and just order pizza instead. After dinner I help him clean up, then get myself ready for bed, feeling nervous and strangely unsexy as I brush my teeth in his bathroom. It’s like we’ve bypassed the exciting new relationship stage and gone directly to the old married couple stage.
I go back to the bedroom to find him waiting for me on the bed, looking even more nervous than I am. To get myself back in the mood, I put on my Cruel Mistress persona, just a bit. He seems like he would like it.
“What do you think I’m wearing?” I demand.
He blinks in surprise. “Oh, uh, I don’t know?”
This is a bit of playacting since I hardly own any sexy clothes and I usually sleep in sweatpants and a t-shirt.
“I’m wearing leopard print panties,” I inform him. These are the one pair I have that are even remotely sexy. “Want to see?”
I take his hand and put it on my ass, enjoying the way his pale face goes dark red.
“And nothing else,” I add, pulling off my very unsexy Lester State U t-shirt. I guide his hands upwards until he’s cupping my bare breasts. He’s breathing hard now, and I’m loving the effect I have on him. I give his shoulder a gentle push, so he sinks back down onto the bed. I crawl into bed next to him, and let him touch me all over.
He goes down on me, and he’s surprisingly good at it. Being a good Catholic Midwestern guy who by his own admission has led a rather conventional life, I expected he might have some hang-ups about sex, but he’s amazingly frank and open about it, without the lingering contempt for women I’ve noticed in so many guys here. He just gives himself over to the moment completely. It’s refreshing.
I return the favor for him, although I fear I’m not as good at it as he is, but he seems satisfied.
The next morning, Birk calls a taxi to take me to the train station and gives me detailed instructions on how to take the train back downtown. I’m replicating the commute to work he does every day. The taxi company is also one he uses all the time.
When I get in the taxi, the driver is confused that the passenger is me and not Birk. I try to explain that I was his guest, but the driver doesn’t speak a lot of English and the message is not getting through. He seems very concerned about something, and shows me a photocopied order stating in all caps not to dispatch a certain driver to this customer.
“It’s ok,” I reassure him, as he sets out on the short drive to the train station.
Birk told me that he’s had problems with this taxi company. Last year, one of the drivers showed up late, refused to follow the route Birk requested, drove him in circles and was generally a rude asshole. Birk complained to the company afterward, but I’m dismayed to see that the only result was this order not to send him that same driver again, while at the same time labeling Birk as a difficult customer. I think back to all the problems K had with the taxi company in College Town. If you’re a blind person living in a small town or a suburb with only one taxi company, you’re completely at their mercy. It sucks.

The next day after I get home, there’s an email from Birk waiting for me.
Hope you had enough sleep last night. Thanks again for lunch yesterday and thanks for coming out to Ogdenville. I had a great time with you once again. You are special.
I’ll talk to you later.

I read the email over and over, feeling a warm glow in my heart. The way he writes is so dorky and square but utterly sincere. You are special. It’s like something off a Hallmark card, but I still find it charming. None of these lukewarm assholes I’ve been dating lately would say something so genuine. You are special. In my shriveled, cynical hipster heart, I want to mock him for writing that, but I just can’t. It feels nice to be special.

4 comments:

  1. Such a sweet chapter, DG, I'm melting! But also praying that Birk doesn't also turn out to be a secret asshole somehow. Please no, it's so refreshing to get to spend vicarious time with a genuine, relaxed, appreciative blind gent <3 Those descriptions of his eyes, ahhh... (maybe it's time for me to re-read Tom Finch?!)

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    1. It’s always time to re-read Tom Finch, haha! I’m not going to say anything more about Birk, you will just have to see what happens 😁

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  2. Seconding what Rowan said above! Out of all the guys you ever dated, Birk is by far my favorite. "You are special"... swoon! A seemingly emotionally healthy adult man... swoon! A blind man who appreciates a devotee girlfriend without any hangups... I'm a puddle over here!

    I read this chapter three times, looking for signs of hidden assholeness, and I'm really really hoping there actually aren't any.

    At the edge of my seat, waiting for the next chapter!

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    1. Aw, thank you! The next chapter will be up on Wednesday.

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