Chris takes me to the planetarium, and we’re both nerdishly excited about it. (Is nerdish a word? I’m pretty sure it is. And it perfectly describes taking your girlfriend on a date to the planetarium.) I take a day off on a Monday, because we think it will be less crowded on a weekday. Chris really hates crowds, more than most people do even.
Unfortunately, he didn’t manage to account for the fact that every school in the country is having a class trip to the planetarium today. There are little kids everywhere. One of them steps squarely on my toe and I practically double over in pain. He doesn’t even apologize. “I hate kids,” I mutter.
“Really?” Chris looks surprised by my statement.
I don’t want him to think I’m some kind of child-hater, because I’m not. I’m sure if I have kids someday, I’ll like them. Possibly even love them. But now they seem to exist for the sole purpose of stepping on my toes and yelling in my ear at restaurants. “Not really,” I say.
I’m wondering if there’s something in the back of his mind that’s thinking maybe I’m someone he’d want to have kids with someday. Of course, we’d have to have sex for that to happen. I don’t even know what’s going on with that situation.
I want to ask him if he’d give me a ride due to my injured toe, but I already know he’s going to say no, so I don’t embarrass myself. Frankly, I don’t know if I want even more kids staring at us than there already are.
We see the planetarium show. Chris transfers into the seat next to me, and as soon as the lights go off, he holds my hand. I lean my head on his shoulder, and long story short, we end up spending the entire show making out. We miss the entire thing. It was something about the Big Bang and stars or whatever.
When we get out of the show, there’s an exhibit outside to learn more about the solar system and the galaxy. There’s a series of scales that tells you what you would weigh on any planet. Unfortunately, the scale is much too narrow to get an accurate assessment of Chris’s weight in his wheelchair. Actually, that kind of makes me wonder how he weighs himself. How do you figure out your weight if you can’t stand?
“Go ahead and weigh yourself,” he tells me. “Don’t let me stop you.”
“Don’t you know better than to ask a girl what she weighs on the moon?” I scold him.
He laughs, but seriously, I’m not getting on a scale in front of him. Even a moon scale. The guy can do his math.
“Hey, Pluto is still here,” I say. “I thought Pluto isn’t considered a planet anymore.”
“You’re right,” Chris says. “I can’t believe that happened. My whole childhood, there were nine planets and now there’s only eight. I don’t know what to believe anymore.”
“I know,” I say. “Instead of ‘My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Peanuts,’ now it’s just… ‘My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine.’ That doesn’t even make any sense.”
“They should have kept it for the mnemonic alone,” Chris says, nodding vigorously.
He grins at me and he’s just so adorable. I love you. No, I cannot say that. It is way, way too soon. If I tell him I love him now, I may as well just drench myself in man-repellant.
It’s so unfair. If I feel a certain emotion, I should be allowed to say it, dammit.
We get pushed out of the way by a group of kids being led by a teacher of some sort. They’re looking at a picture of the Earth revolving around the sun. The teacher says, “When the Earth is at its closest point to the sun, that’s when it’s the summer. And when it’s furthest away, that’s when we have wintertime.”
I glance over at Chris, who is rolling his eyes. I ordinarily feel weird calling someone out in public, but I can’t let these kids believe something scientifically inaccurate. Why doesn’t she just teach them that the Earth is flat, for Christ’s sake? “Excuse me,” I interrupt the teacher. “But that’s not actually why we have seasons.”
The teacher, who is in her forties and old enough to know better, gives me a snooty look and says, “Yes, it is.”
“No, it’s not,” I say. “The reason we have seasons is because the Earth is tilted on its axis. When the northern hemisphere is tilted toward the sun, it’s hotter and the days are longer. When it’s tilted away from the sun, it’s colder and the days are shorter. That’s why the seasons are reversed in the southern hemisphere.”
The teacher looks at a loss for words, so Chris speaks up, “It’s true.”
“I went to Australia once and the seasons were reversed there,” one kid speaks up. “Also, the water flows the opposite way in the drain.”
“That’s actually not true,” I say. “The Coriolis effect is what causes objects to deflect due to the rotation of the Earth. But the effect isn’t really strong enough to cause fast-moving water in a drain to go one way or another. That’s actually a myth. If you noticed something like that, it’s probably more related to the way the sink is built.”
Everyone looks over at Chris, who just says, “Yep.” I guess they trust him more because he’s a man, but seriously folks, I know my science.
The teacher ushers the students away from us after that, probably afraid they’ll pick up more of our crazy science ideas. When they’re gone, I notice Chris is giving me this kind of weird look that I’m having trouble interpreting. I’m hoping I didn’t come off as a know-it-all during that little interaction, and now he doesn’t like me anymore. Kate warned me about this. “What?” I finally say.
Chris grins at me. “My girlfriend is wicked smart,” he says, and he pulls me into his lap, which surprised the hell out of me. He nuzzles his face in my hair, and then whispers in my ear, “I love you, Samantha.”
I freeze up. Did he really say that to me or did I imagine it? Have I been wishing he’d say it so hard that now I’m hearing things?
Chris notices my reaction and pulls away from me. “I shouldn’t have said that,” he mumbles, almost to himself. “Too early.”
“I don’t think it’s too early,” I say, snuggling closer to him.
He raises his eyebrows. “No?”
“No.” I kiss him on the lips and I’m pretty sure there’s a group of fifth graders staring at us, but who the hell cares? “I love you too.”
Chris pulls me near to him, and we’re full on necking for the first time ever in a public place. I’ve honestly never felt this close to a man before.
Chris has been incredibly close-lipped about his previous girlfriends, despite my subtle digs to get more information. In general, that’s not a bad thing. There’s nothing worse than a guy who won’t shut up about his old girlfriends. But it frustrates me that he refuses to talk about them at all.
I’m especially curious about Jenna, mostly because I know that he’s still in contact with her. How do I know this? Well, last week I was at his apartment and while he was in the bathroom, he left his phone on the table and it started ringing. And the name on the screen was none other than Jenna Hirsh. I didn’t answer it, of course, and when he came back from the bathroom, I said oh so casually, “You got a call.” I watched his face when he saw who had called him, and… well, he didn’t react with surprise. Which makes me think that Jenna calling him is not an entirely unusual event.
No, I am not insane for thinking about this. These are totally normal musings about a boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend.
“Do you think it’s weird for a guy to still talk to his ex-girlfriend?” I asked Kate over a Saturday lunch after the Jenna phone call.
“Who still talks to his ex? Chris?” Kate got her judgy face on.
“I saw she called him and he didn’t look surprised,” I explained.
Kate frowned at me. “Is that the ex with cerebral palsy?”
“Yeah, I don’t think you have anything to worry about, Sam.”
Despite Kate’s reassurances, I really didn’t think she gets it. In her book, anyone with a disability is automatically inferior. In my book, that’s sure not true. And in Chris’s book, it’s not true either.
In my routine snooping around Chris’s apartment, I’ve discovered some signs that they’re relationship wasn’t a quick few months like he told me. For example, when I looked through Chris’s CD case, I found five different mix CDs that were clearly made by Jenna (I deduced this based on the fact that they each had “FROM JENNA” written in girly handwriting directly on the CDs). If she made him five CDs, that surely means they’ve known each other for quite a while. And he didn’t toss her mix CDs when they broke up, which means he doesn’t hate her.
I ask Chris one day while we’re lying in bed together, mostly naked, “Have you been in love before?”
“That’s a weird question,” he says.
“I’m just trying to learn more about you,” I say with a smile as I snuggle up to his warm body.
“I just don’t think previous relationships are important,” he says. “I mean, I’m 32 and you’re 30. We’ve both been in our fair share of relationship. I think we’d drive each other crazy trying to compare them.”
“But come on. Aren’t you curious about me?”
“No,” he says. “I mean, is that really something you want me to be asking about? How many guys you slept with before me?”
Okay, he has a point. I don’t want to reveal that number, although at the same time, I’m desperately curious to know how many women he’s slept with. Or at least eaten out, considering how good he is at it. “Well, you could ballpark your number…”
Chris flashes me an exasperated look. “Look, it hasn’t been that many. Trust me.”
“Hmm…” I say, as I toy with the light brown hairs on his chest. I feel a bit skeptical, but I don’t want to accuse him of being a liar.
“You don’t believe me?” He seems amazed. “Samantha, you must realize it’s not the easiest thing in the world to find women who are okay with going out with a guy who’s disabled. A lot of women just… don’t want that. And I’m not, you know, super outgoing or anything.”
In some ways, it’s hard for me to understand how Chris could have trouble meeting women, considering how desperately I’d been looking for a cute wheeler, and how rare they are. But I suppose he must be right. “I guess so.”
He squeezes me close to his warm body. “Isn’t it enough that I love you?”
“Yes,” I say instantly. And of course, it is. But a girl can’t help but be curious, right?
To be continued.....