When I reconnect with Lee and check out the Paradevo website after falling out of touch for over four years, I'm pleased to notice that he's attached a message board to the website. I remember back when he first put the site up there were a bunch of people posting messages on the guest book, some of them more than once, using the guest book as a kind of impromptu bulletin board, trying to connect with each other. I'm glad to see a few names from the guest book show up on the new message board as well.
As I'm scrolling through the posts on the new message board, I'm stunned to see a thread titled, Devo Girl?
Just wondering about this elusive individual. I've read and re-read and re-re-read "Devo Diary" and I was wondering if I was getting my hopes up in thinking that there might be something new to come.
Way back when I first posted that chapter about hooking up with the blind guy, I had intended to write more Devo Diary, but somehow never got around to it. Now there's so much more I hardly even know where to start. But it's so nice to know that even that one short bit was appreciated. I make an account on the message board and say hi to the group.
I also confirm with The Mantis over email that he's ok with me posting his photos on Paradevo. He writes,
Ahhh... such sweet memories, makes me pine for the days when I would grovel before you and drag myself about your apartment. If you want to photoshop my tattoos out of any where they're showing and do the same with my face, I don't have a problem with you posting them so deranged perverts can get their jollies jerking off to the sight of atrophied legs.
He also has some suggestions for captions:
The Mantis loves to be called disgusting and vile. He also likes long walks on the beach, jogging and pole vaulting, but he can't do any of those because he's paralyzed from the waist down.
I have to laugh when I read his message. Always the comedian.
I pick out a few photos where his face is covered or out of the frame, ones of him handcuffed to his chair, tied to my bed, with a bandage over his eyes, and with needles stuck all over his chest. Lee puts them up on the website, but the response is not, I think, what The Mantis was hoping for. No one really comments on the photos. I try to get him to make his own account and join the conversation on the message board, but he doesn't want to. I think he's slightly disappointed that devs aren't flinging themselves at him, although he doesn't say anything. Anyway, between Titania and the Sub Rosa Society BDSM events, he gets plenty of action.
Weirdly, though, he's not the only guy on his wheelchair basketball team with a photo on Paradevo. As The Mantis is checking out his own photos, he mentions to me that there is a picture of his teammate, who just left to train for the Paralympics. It's an action shot of the guy playing basketball. I ask Lee about it but he doesn't know; someone just shared the link with him. Even stranger, the link points to a domain that has nothing to do with wheelchair basketball. What was that photo doing there? It's like someone working for that domain just parked the photo there because there wasn't a better place to store it. It's so strange to run across the photo of someone I've met in person, but I guess the world of wheelchair basketball is not that big.
The run of La Traviata is lots of fun. I love the music, the costumes, and I love how much the chorus has to do. The backstage drama has settled down for the moment, and we all just enjoy hanging out and joking around together. I'm slowly getting over my heartbreak with Sean, and trying to accept that whatever his deal is, I won't be hearing from him again.
Lulu is dating some new guy, although honestly she doesn't seem that invested in him. She agrees to accompany me to a matinee screening of this new documentary about wheelchair rugby called Murderball. It's so nice to be able to go with someone who knows that I'm a devotee, so I don't have to hide my reactions. The movie is incredible. I love how badass all the guys are, and they are all so hot. It's so exciting to watch these guys portrayed on the big screen as real, desirable people, not as objects of pity or inspiration porn.
But at the same time, watching it increases my frustration. I want a guy like this so much it hurts. With their tattoos and trash talk and stupid stunts, they remind me a lot of Sean. Dammit, why did he have to disappear on me like that?
Watching Murderball also reminds me of Rollerboy to an almost painful degree. He was on a rugby team, and I watched him play just like in the film. But it's more than that. the way they move, the way their arms look, with the skinny flat forearm, the limp hands, the way they cock their hands back to hold a bottle of water, brings me back to that feeling when I was with him. It's a weird sort of nostalgia tinged with regret for how bad that relationship was.
After the movie, Lulu agrees with me that the guys are hot, even though she's not at all a devotee.
"The movie does such a good job of overturning stereotypes about quadriplegics," I say as we exit the movie theater into the late afternoon sun.
"They're quadriplegic?!" Lulu looks confused. "But they can move their arms...?"
Oh my god, I thought the movie explained this so clearly, but if she didn't get it after two hours, also after knowing me and having met Rollerboy, what chance is there of anyone in the general public ever understanding SCI? I try to explain about injury levels but she continues to look blank. I give up.
I go back to see Murderball a few more times on my own, just to have the full dev experience. I also look up every review and interview I can find and watch the guys guest star on Jackass. I know they all have girlfriends but man I am crushing so hard on all of them.
In an effort to forget about Sean, I spend more time on Craigslist and other online personals sites looking for submissive guys into BDSM. Dan Savage always says kinky people have to advertise if you want to find someone into the same kink as you, so here I am. There are plenty of sub guys advertising online and I message a lot of them, but our email exchanges go nowhere. Either their photos are not attractive to me, or they stop writing back, or whatever, but nothing leads to even a phone call, never mind actually meeting in person.
Anyway I can't get too excited for these lukewarm dudes on the internet when I'm meeting so many real life wheeler guys through wheelchair basketball. Since The Mantis introduced me to the coach, I've been going to the practices for the Lester State University team which meets in a gym just a few blocks from my house. I also drive the two hours south to The Mantis' games when he invites me. Everyone is very friendly and no one questions why I'm there. They seem glad that anyone is taking an interest in their team.
Hanging out with all these guys is like an object lesson in everything your mother ever told you. Yes, you will fall off the roof and break your back if you're not careful. Also the racial divide is stark: the white guys were in motorcycle accidents, and the black guys got shot.
There's this one guy in particular on the Lester State team who I develop a serious crush on. His name is Eitan. Obviously he's Jewish like me. He seems much younger than I am but he's so beautiful I can't help myself. He has a mop of dark curly hair and big brown eyes. I think he looks like Judah Maccabee. Is it too weird to find that attractive? Lulu always teases me for only dating goyim, but now I have finally found one Jew I'm attracted to. He's lean and wiry. I don't know anything about his injury but it must be low because I see him turn all the way around to look behind him during practice one day. The Mantis couldn't do that. You need abs to turn yourself like that.
Titania helps me out, making sure to invite me when the two teams are playing each other, talking me up to him, helping me to find time to chat with him during time outs. It takes me over two hours to decide what to wear to practice. The weather is turning chilly but I don't want to cover up in a bulky sweater. Dammit, why don't I have any sexy clothes that aren't fetish gear? In the end I decide on jeans and a tank top with a low plunging v neck, covered by a down jacket I leave unzipped. There--warm but lots of cleavage.
I must be doing something right because Eitan seems happy to talk to me. The game is in the afternoon, and afterwards a bunch of the guys go out for burgers and ask me to go with them. As we walk through the parking lot to the restaurant, I'm surrounded by eight sporty paras in their low-slung chairs, all wheeling around me. I feel so fucking sexy it's like I'm walking on air. How did I ever get so lucky?
I spend the meal chatting with Eitan, and he agrees to meet me for dinner before his next practice, although I can't really say it's a date since two more of his teammates will be there.
We meet a week later at an Italian restaurant near the gym. It's an old school type of place, with red checkered tablecloths, half curtains in the windows, and nothing on the menu but spaghetti and meatballs in serving sizes from large to gargantuan. When we come in the door, there's a flurry of activity as the servers leap forward to clear the chairs away from the table. It seems they come here often before practice, because the servers know them. I have no idea how they can put away so much heavy food then go to practice but they are all young guys.
Actually Eitan is even younger than I suspected, it turns out he's only twenty-three. Shit! That's ten years younger than I am. But he seems mature for his age, not like the average frat boy at Lester State. He has this very serious, soft-spoken way about him, like he's always thinking deeply about everything.
After practice that night, I ask Eitan if he ever wants to come to my place for a visit, and to my delight he says yes. He lives about an hour north of the city, in a fancy rich suburb, but we agree that he'll drive into town a few hours before the next practice to meet up with me. I give him directions to my house.
Eitan has no trouble getting himself up the three red painted concrete steps to my front door. Unlike Sean, who dragged himself up ass first until his pants fell down, Eitan is downright elegant. He takes one look at the stairs, then grabs the metal railing along the side of the house and hoists himself chair and all up the steps, casters first, like it's nothing. I gape at him in amazement.
"Wow, that's so cool!" I say, inviting him to sit next to me on the couch.
He shrugs modestly, then transfers in one smooth motion onto my tiny couch. "They taught me in rehab."
I seize on this opportunity to ask him about his injury, and it turns out it was just over a year ago. Shit shit shit!! Not only his he way too young for me, but his injury is much too recent. I have a personal policy not to mess with guys so soon after SCI. They are still adjusting, and psychologically it's just too intense--most of them are not ready for a serious relationship until at least a few more years out. I was correct though that his injury is very low, L4. Not only was his injury very recent, but the story is so tragic. He was riding his bicycle on a road near his house and was hit by a truck. Most of the SCI guys I know were injured doing stupid shit like drunk driving, and some like Rollerboy have only themselves to blame. This was just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
But I don't dwell on any of this. I try to just listen and nod politely. I also don't let on to being a devotee. Something tells me he wouldn't be too into the idea. Anyway he knows I'm friend with The Mantis so that's enough reason why I am more knowledgeable than average about SCI. Anyway despite being injured so recently, Eitan seems pretty accepting, not sunk into depression or holding out futile hope for recovery or a cure. The accident happened just after he graduated from college, though, so now he's still living at home and hasn't got a job yet.
We talk for a while about our families. I thought that might be a point in common between us, both being Jewish, but I realize as he talks that our families could not be more different. What's up with these West Coast Jews? Like Lulu, I come from a long line of New York Jews--Manischewitz drinking, endlessly kvetching, Seinfieldian stereotypes all. At our synagogue every Saturday morning, the old ladies would fill up their handbags with the stale rugelach and butter cookies purchased the day before at the kosher deli. But as Eitan describes his parents, they seem like hippies, or back to the land hipsters. His father bakes challah for Shabbat dinner every single Friday afternoon. Who even does that? When I was a kid I tried baking challah once and it came out like a braided rock.
But it's not just the wholesome family activities. Eitan does not have the same sarcastic, cynical worldview that I do. Even Lulu, who is much sweeter than I am, is always quick with a one-liner. But Eitan is completely, one hundred percent earnest and serious about everything, but in a laid-back kind of way. It makes talking to him faintly exhausting.
I also start to realize, as he's sitting there on my couch, that he's deeply uncomfortable, and not just because of my crappy Ikea furniture. I desperately want to kiss him, but he seems so much like he doesn't want to be here that I don't even try. It's getting close to practice time, so I suggest getting dinner. We go together to the same Italian restaurant, but conversation is even more awkward there. At the restaurant, he chides me for putting my elbows on the table. What the hell is that about?
Ok, I get it. Eitan is not interested in me. So then why did he even agree to come over to my house in the first place? Why not just say no from the start? I hate to feel like the creepy stalker dev, forcing my attentions on guys. But honestly, this kind of situation hasn't happened since I met Tim, the museum volunteer with arthrogryposis. Every other guy who I have met has no problem saying no to a come on if he isn't interested. Unlike women, most guys just say what they want, yes or no.
Maybe Eitan is just fatally polite. But really, saying yes to everything then expecting the other person to pick up on your lack of enthusiasm is its own kind of rudeness.
The next time I see Titania, she asks me, "How's Eitan?"
"I'm done with him," I tell her. "I'm going to leave him alone."
"That's for the best," she replies. "You two are too different, personality-wise." Well, it would have been nice if she had shared that insight earlier rather than encouraging me, but I guess she was trying to help.
A few weeks later, I see Eitan again at another basketball game, and this time he's there with a girlfriend his own age. She is objectively hot: tall, thin, very stylish. She doesn't seem like his type either--too mainstream, not intellectual or hippie-ish at all, but whatever. I say hello and make some small talk just to let him know there's no hard feelings. He smiles politely. But that's it, I don't see him again after that.