At the moment Patrick asks me to move in with him, that’s when I know for sure that I need to dump him.
It’s terrible timing.
He’s not on one knee, at least. He’s not asking me to marry him or anything. And he’s not asking me to move in with him in a really tacky way, like putting the key in a ring box. A girlfriend of mine got the key in the ring box once and she was so pissed off. She did move in with the guy, but she couldn’t forgive him for getting her hopes up like that.
But Patrick just wrapped a red ribbon around the bronze key, which is sweet without being too tacky. And we’re at our favorite restaurant, an Italian place that’s nice without being too fancy. That’s Patrick all over. And he made this really nice speech about how much he loves me, and how I’m beautiful, intelligent, funny, and basically everything he’s been looking for in another human being.
Omigod, this sucks so much.
“So what do you think, Sam?” Patrick is grinning at me, that hopeful puppy dog look in his eyes. He looks just like Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing when he smiles. Or maybe I’m just saying that because his name is Patrick. It was his smile that first drew me to him, making me forget about his appearance from the waist-down. But even though I can’t see them under the table, all I can think about are his legs…
I stare at the key. My answer is at the tip of my tongue, but I can’t bring myself to say it. I lift my eyes to meet Patrick’s, and all at once, he knows. We’ve been together two years so he knows me well enough to know.
“It’s the disability thing, isn’t it?” Patrick says, placing the key down on the wooden table with a loud snap. His brown puppy dog eyes have clouded with frustration.
“No, I would never dump you because of that,” I insist.
“Yeah, right,” Patrick mumbles.
“I’m sorry,” I say, although it sounds hollow, even to me.
“I thought you were different,” Patrick says, staring down into his plate of chicken parmesan. He picks up his fork and swirls sad spaghetti-angels in his tomato sauce.
I drop my eyes too because I can’t bear to face him anymore. And of course, I see the wheelchair next to our booth, because it’s impossible not to. I mean, it’s the thing that’s wrecking our relationship. Each gleaming metal spoke in the wheels is a dagger in our future.
I know it sounds shallow, but I can’t love Patrick because of that wheelchair. Or maybe I can love him, but I can’t have that animal sex with him, the kind where you want the guy so bad you need to rip his clothes off. And I’ve realized that I need that. Is it so much to ask for? Just a little ripping of clothes during sex?
And it will never be that way with Patrick. Because of his goddamn body.
“So what now?” I ask.
Patrick sets his fork down on his plate, but still refuses to meet my eyes. He seems to know the drill by now. “If you don’t see us moving forward…?”
I shake my head.
“Then we have to break up,” he says.
I feel sick at the thought of being without Patrick. He’s a wonderful guy in so many ways. But like he guessed, it’s the disability thing that got in the way. Someday he’ll find some other girl, I’m sure of it. Someone wonderful young woman will appreciate him for who he is.
Patrick digs into his pocket, and because he’s a classy guy, even in the face of getting dumped, he hands me two twenty dollar bills. “This should cover our meal, Samantha. I lost my appetite, so… I’m going to go.” (This, by the way, is why proposals should always be left for dessert.)
I try to refuse the money, but Patrick won’t take it back. He stands up, grabs his coat, and sprints out of the restaurant like he’s escaping a burning building.
My now-ex-boyfriend Patrick Mahoney still resembles the track star he’d been in college, no doubt thanks to the long runs he takes every morning at 6AM. From the waist up he resembles Patrick Swayze, and from the waist down maybe even more so. Patrick is a great guy—the whole package. Almost. So what if he walked instead of rolled? Couldn’t I just ignore that?
Not with the guy at the next table, I can’t.
He has sun-streaked hair and sexy green eyes. But as always, it’s the wheelchair that does it: the sporty manual chair that I’ve been staring at for the past twenty minutes. He uses his hands to shift his weight in the seat and looks back at his attractive dinner date, his eyes sparkling as he laughs it up. Just the way his legs stay so very, very still makes me tingle inside.
He is so, so hot.
I am so sorry, Patrick.
And so begins...
TALES OF A SICK & TWISTED DEVOTEE
When I was eight years old, I was really into Barbie dolls, like every other girl on the planet. I had a Barbie whose skirt suit transformed into a party dress. I had a Barbie with a beautiful orange ball gown. I even had a token black Barbie, to go with my bevy of blondes with insultingly tiny waists. And I had a single Ken doll.
Let’s just say, Ken was really accident prone.
I nabbed a chair from my dollhouse and made Ken sit in it, unable to walk due to… I don’t know, I always came up with something. Or I’d wrap his legs up in toilet paper, pretending they were in casts. If they sold crutches or wheelchairs for dolls, I would have had one in a second. But I’m kind of glad they didn’t, because I’m pretty sure that would have bought me a trip to the child psychologist. The toilet paper casts didn’t arouse as much suspicion. “I think Sam is interested in being a doctor,” my father said once. Ha.
When you’re a kid, you play at these games and you have no idea. All you know is that it’s an interesting game to pretend Ken is disabled. I’m not sure if I had any idea that there were people out there that were attracted to disability. And if I didn’t, I’m sure I thought that they were all huge perverts with dark trench coats and creepy laughs.
Then at some point, you realize that you’re the pervert. And there’s a name for you. Devotee. A devotee is a person who’s attracted to people with disability.
I wish I could say putting a name to my attraction made it easier. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.
I wait an appropriate amount of time after my break-up with Patrick to start dating again. They say that for every month of a relationship, you're supposed to wait one week. Otherwise, you risk having a rebound relationship, which is doomed to fail. Of course, since Patrick and I were doomed to fail, I don't know what the big freaking deal is, but whatever. Rules are rules.
So Patrick and I were together almost two years, about 23 months. So means 23 weeks of waiting before dating again seriously. If you count a month as having four and a half weeks, that’s five months. Actually, 5.1 months, to be precise. Which is just... way too long. Especially when my best friend Kate calls me up a week after my break-up and tells me we need to go out, get drunk, and meet some guys.
"I'm still in mourning over Patrick," I tell her.
"Oh, puh-lease," Kate says. "You didn't even like him, that’s why you dumped him. One night at Callahan's and you'll be like... Patrick, who?"
“Look,” I say, “I have to wait 23 weeks until I start dating again. That’s the rule.”
“Stop being such a nerd,” Kate says. “This isn’t one of your airplanes, where everything has to be calculated so precisely. Live a little.” By “my airplanes,” Kate was referring to my job as an engineer, in which I help design airplanes. Most of the time, it’s not as cool as it sounds. But sometimes it is.
"You don't fool me," I say. "I know why you want to go to Callahan's." Callahan's is the most Irish pub in Manhattan. And my dear Kate has a total boner for redheads. She dates them almost exclusively. That’s part of the reason I don’t feel like a complete pervert, because it’s painfully obvious that Kate has a ginger fetish. And my brother Tom is even worse. He won’t date any girls who aren’t Asian. He claims it's not true and this is all a crazy coincidence, but seriously, he has a total Asian fetish. It's sad he won't admit it.
"I want to go for you," Kate insists.
Years ago, I told Kate I was a devotee. I didn’t use the word devotee, because she wouldn’t have had any idea what I was talking about. I hate that term. I can’t imagine a less descriptive term for a person attracted to disability.
I don’t know what would be a better word. Acrotomophilia is the term for being attracted to amputees, and I have to admit, that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Cripplephilia? Wheelchairism? I don’t know. I’m an engineer, not a creative type.
I was terrified to tell Kate about my fetish. Even though she can whore up with the best of us, at times she can be very conservative. I remember anticipating all sorts of horrified reactions. I imagined we might not be able to be friends anymore. But instead, she was totally cavalier about it. She just kind of shrugged and said, "Yeah, I can see that. Scars are sexy."
While I'm glad I told her, sometimes I wish I hadn't. Because now whenever we see any sort of disabled guy, she knows what I'm thinking and it's kind of embarrassing. Like when we're on our way to Callahan's that night (yes, she managed to convince me), we pass this 90 year old man being wheeled down the street and she nudges me. Seriously, Kate?? Just for that, I'm finding the ugliest redhead in Callahan's and sending him a drink on Kate's behalf.
Kate and I are dressed up like a couple of skanks. I'm wearing a short black lace skirt and no stockings, because Kate convinced me stockings are out right now. I’m wearing a tight tank top that’s making me feel a little self-conscious because, unlike Kate, my breasts are not big enough to fill it out—I almost changed out of it a dozen times before leaving my apartment and now I wish I had. Kate complimented me on the shirt, but she’s not one to talk, because she’s wearing the tightest pants I’ve ever seen. She's really into the skinny jeans fad, even though I keep telling her that those jeans don't even look good on models. And between you and me, Kate is not model-thin. She can’t pull it off. But Kate says I’m too conservative and that I’m old before my time.
Kate and I order beers at Callahan's, even though we hate beer, because we want to appear low maintenance. To me, beer tastes like urine. And Callahan's is such a shitty bar that their beer is always warm, so I feel like I'm drinking warm urine. "Anyone you like here?" Kate asks me as she takes a drink of her warm urine.
I look around halfheartedly. The usual mix of college boys, and guys grabbing drinks post-work. I shrug and lean toward Kate. "To be honest, I was thinking this time I'll try to find a guy who's more... my type, you know?"
"You mean disabled?" Kate asks, really really loudly.
"SHUSH!" I hiss at her. "And yes, that's what I mean."
“Why are you so embarrassed?” Kate says, shaking her head at me. “How are you going to get with a cute disabled guy if you can't even admit that's what you like?”
“I want you to admit it,” Kate says. “Out loud. I want you to say, ‘I want to fuck a cripple.’ Say it, Sam. I WANT TO FUCK A CRIPPLE.”
“No!” I glance around. “Shush! Seriously, Kate!”
“You’re ridiculous,” she says, shaking her head. “I don’t understand you at all. You’re thirty years old and you’re just now deciding you want to try to date men that you’re attracted to. How could you stand it all those years?”
I shrug again. “I don’t know. It’s not like every relationship has to be the hottest thing ever.”
“Tell me something,” Kate says. “I want you to be honest. Were you ever attracted to Patrick?”
I blush. “I don’t know. It’s not like I found him disgusting. He was good looking and all. Objectively speaking.”
“And that was acceptable to you?” she says. “To be dating a man who ‘isn’t disgusting’?”
“There’s more to a relationship than hot sex,” I insist. “Patrick was a nice guy. We had a lot of good conversations.”
Kate looks at me with pure pity. “Oh, Sam…”
“Well, what do you want from me?” I say, feeling a touch of anger. “I said I’m going to try. It’s not like… disabled guys are falling out of trees.”
In fact, there are several reasons I haven't managed to date a disabled guy yet. First, while there are plenty of single guys in wheelchairs in my neighborhood, most of them are about a million years old and only single because their wives died ten years ago. Second, when I see one of those rare young disabled guys, my IQ instantly drops about 50 points, putting me solidly in the range of idiocy. I don't know what to say, I giggle way too much, I blush until my face is the color of my lipstick... it's just... bad.
And of course, there's the question of how it looks. Patrick and I looked good together. When my parents met him, they were like, "Go, Sam!" How weird would it be to introduce them to a guy in a wheelchair? Plus, considering I've had this interest in disability my whole life, there's a part of me that's scared they'll figure out the connection, that I sought out a disabled guy rather than meeting a nice guy who just happened to be disabled. Kids aren't great at being subtle about things that interest them.
“I’m just motivating you,” Kate says. “I know you. And the second a nice able-bodied guy asks you out, you’ll probably say yes. But you shouldn’t.”
“I won’t,” I promise.
“Swear to me, Sam,” Kate says.
“Great,” Kate says. “Now say, ‘I’m going to find the cripple of my dreams!’”
“Shut the fuck up, Kate.”
Kate grins at me, looking pleased with herself. “I believe in you, Sam,” she says. “Don’t let me down.”
I have done something almost interminably stupid and dropped my iPhone in the toilet.
"That's what you get for texting people on the toilet," Kate said to me when I told her why my phone was broken. Ha ha, Kate. I was NOT texting people on the toilet. I was getting up off the toilet at work and I grabbed my purse, and the phone slipped out and fell on the floor. Then when I tried to pick it up off the floor, the phone slipped right out of my hand and flew into the toilet.
"Likely story," Kate said.
I swear to god, that's what happened. That phone is as slippery as a bar of soap. Don't take that phone with you to the shower in prison.
So that's why I'm standing in the Apple store, holding my non-functional phone, hoping maybe my warranty will cover this. I have a bad feeling that it won't, considering the phone has water damage times two (I had to rinse it off obviously, since it had been in the toilet). I feel so sad, not just become I don’t have a phone, but I love my iPhone. I literally have human affection towards this phone. It’s a 3G, one of the really old ones, and I still remember how excited I was when I first got it three years ago. I don’t know what to do without out. I’m tempted to write a sad footer at the end of all my emails: Not sent from my iPhone.
I explain to the guy at the counter about my phone mysteriously not working, and he nods sympathetically. "I'll get Chris," he says.
"Great," I say.
I'm all pumping up to get into my flirting-with-the-Apple-guy-to-get-my-phone-replaced mode, but all that flies out the window when I see Chris come out of a back room. Now my heart is thumping wildly and erratically, and my hands get sweaty. Chris is in a wheelchair. Not just that, he's young, maybe early thirties, and he is freaking adorable. Not rugged handsome like Patrick maybe, just really just so cute. He's got a plaid shirt on and glasses, and he's got this cute nerd thing going on that I've always found really compelling. Glasses especially are something I always have found very sexy. Maybe because they’re sort of like a wheelchair for the eyes. Glasses on a guy who’s already in a wheelchair is like a double bonus.
Plus he has no wedding band. I take notice of that right away.
"Hi, I'm Chris," he says as he holds out his hand to me.
His hand is really rough when I take it, and I get this tingle through my whole body. I'm kind of embarrassed because there's practically a swimming pool in my palm, but thankfully, Chris doesn't wipe his hand off or anything like that. "Hi," I say.
He raises his eyebrows at me. “Are your name is…?”
“Oh!” I laugh nervously. “I’m Samantha.” I watch as he types it into the computer at the front desk. “Samantha Young.”
"So what seems to be the problem, Samantha?" he asks.
My brain isn't functioning properly at the moment, so it all comes out in a gush of words: "So I just turned on my phone and I don't know what happened because it just isn't working. I mean, I just don't know. Usually it works. And I tried turning it on and off, and I tried leaving it off for a while, and I just don't know why it isn't working. It's just so weird that it doesn't work anymore." (And P.S., I dropped it in the toilet.)
"Okay, let's take a look," Chris says. He holds out his hand to me and I drop the phone into it. My fingers just slightly graze his palm again, and even that's enough to give me a jolt. This guy is making me nuts and he has no clue.
Chris looks at my phone, turning it over in his palm, and peers at it for a minute. He looks up at me and his brown eyes are gorgeous, even through his glasses. "Was this in water?" he asks me.
He clears his throat. “I'm wondering if you got the phone wet."
I just stare at him.
Chris smiles at me. "Let me put it another way. I know you got the phone wet. Is that when it stopped working?"
There's a middle-aged woman listening intently to our conversation and I just want to die. "Yes," I admit.
"What happened?" he asks.
"I dropped it in the toilet," I say. Almost instantly I wish I had said something else, something less disgusting than the toilet thing. Especially when Chris quickly drops the phone on the table like it was covered in shit. Which I guess it sort of is. In any case, I'm pretty sure I've just blown any chance I have of a romantic relationship with this guy.
"All right," he says. "Here's the situation: your warranty is invalidated because you got the phone wet. So you've got two choices. You could buy a new phone or I could give you a few tips on how to try to revive this one."
"I guess I'll try to revive this one," I say.
Chris then gives me instructions on how to try to save my phone, involving an alcohol bath and distilled water, then leaving it out in the sun. After the explanation, he hands me his card and tells me to ask for him if it doesn't work and he’ll sell me a new phone. Then, at the last second, he scribbles down a phone number on the back of the card and says, “Actually, call this number if it’s not better in two days. I may have a few other ideas.” I then slink out of there as quickly as possible.
That night, I put Chris's card on my bed and stare at it for about 20 minutes. Christian Barrett. I touch the card, getting a thrill out of the fact that this card was in his pocket, touching his thigh. Okay, it's a little weird, but trust me, girls do all sorts of weird things when they're crushing on a guy. I imagine sitting in Chris's lap, my arms stretching around his neck. I imagine what it would be like to kiss him....
Is it weird to masturbate while holding a business card? Oh well, too late now.
To be continued.....
Note from the author:
Although this story is a work of fiction, it’s a lot closer to home than my other stories. I’ve intentionally avoided writing about devotees because it makes me uncomfortable, but I’ve finally decided to seize the bull by the horns. I can’t promise that this story will portray all devotee relationships in a positive light. In fact, I can promise it won’t, because that’s just the reality. I’m sure a lot of you know that it’s not an easy task finding the disabled guy of your dreams and Samantha does not have an easy road ahead of her. I hope you can relate to this story, be entertained by her journey, and not be offended by the parts that are less than romantic. I’m taking a chance in writing this, but it’s just something I had to do.