“Noooooooo!!!!!!!!!!! You can’t! I won’t let you, you bitch!”
Kate is taking my news less than heroically. To be fair, I sort of sprang it on her out of nowhere. Initially she was thrilled when I said we should have dinner out tonight, because lately I’ve been spending every night with “freaking Chris.” Now she looks stricken though. She’s even pushed away her plate of salad as if she’ll never eat again.
“Kate,” I say. “It’s really not that far…”
“Anything out of the city is way too far,” Kate insists. Her eyes fill up with tears. “Sam, what am I going to do without you?”
During our senior year of college, it was Kate who convinced me to apply for jobs in the city. I had originally intended to stay in the Connecticut area, closer to my parents. But when Kate described how much fun we’d have as roommates in the city, I couldn’t resist.
Our first apartment in Manhattan was hardly bigger my bedroom in my parents’ house. All Kate and I could afford was a studio, and it had room for only one bed. At night, we inflated an air mattress and took turns sleeping in it. It was horrible in some ways, but it was also one of the most fun years of my life. Free from homework, Kate and I went out nearly every night.
Eventually we got better jobs and were able to upgrade to a two bedroom apartment, although we had to eat ramen most nights to pay for it. It was Kate that ended our living situation, when she decided to move in with one of her redheads, Dan McMahan. After about six months, Kate grew sick of Dan’s fiery Irish temper, but by then, I had sort of gotten to like living by myself. I love Kate, but I had forgotten how much I valued privacy.
“You’ve got like ten billion friends, Kate,” I point out.
“That’s obviously not true,” Kate huffs. “There are only seven billion people in the world, so I couldn’t possibly have ten billion friends. Unless I’m friends with aliens or something.” She pauses. “Omigod, that’s something you would say! You can’t leave me, Sam! We’ve developed a mind meld. See?! I did it again!”
“I’ll visit all the time—I promise.”
“I hate everyone else but you,” she sniffles. “And Chris is awful. You could do so, so much better, Sam. You should just dump him and find someone else. Someone who lives in the city.”
Despite everything, this is the first negative thing I’ve ever heard her say about Chris. No matter how much he’s monopolized my time, she’d always been really positive about him. “You really think I should dump him?”
Kate looks at me for a minute, then she starts crying for real. “No, I don’t. He’s perfect for you. Asshole.”
Kate and I hug. “I promise I’ll visit you all the time,” I say.
“You better,” she says. Although I have to wonder what will happen to Kate’s and my friendship after I move away.
My parents don’t know I’m a devotee.
I’m pretty sure, at least.
The closest I’ve come to discovery was during my senior year of college, when I was home for Christmas vacation. It was not long after my own personal discovery, and I was spending a large chunk of my free time looking at any disability-related stuff online that I could get my hands on. And masturbating to it. Yes, I once dialed O on the little pink telephone while looking at an information sheet about spinal cord injury. What?
I cannot for the life of me figure out why I wasn’t smart enough to erase my web-browsing history. I don’t know what I was thinking, aside from maybe assuming my parents had no idea how to use the internet and wouldn’t have any idea how look at my history. Boy, was I wrong-o.
One fine morning in the Young kitchen, we were eating a rather tense breakfast. My mother was breaking her English muffin into little pieces on her plate, so that there were little nooks and crannies everywhere. It’s exactly the kind of thing she yelled at Tom and me for doing when we were kids, and I would have pointed out the irony, except she seemed so damn tense.
“Marian, you’re getting crumbs everywhere,” my father finally pointed out to her.
“Am I?” she asked vaguely.
“I don’t want to have to tell people I have a crumby wife,” he joked. My father is the king of bad puns.
“I can’t help it,” Mom said, looking down at the plate of crumbs in front of her.
“Maybe you have Parkinson’s disease,” Dad suggested. He held out his hands in front of him and shook them in an imitation of Parkinson’s disease that I found kind of distasteful.
“Don’t joke about that,” Mom said, pushing the plate away from her. “Parkinson’s disease is horrible. Look at poor Michael J. Fox.”
“I wonder what would be worse,” Dad said, “to have Parkinson’s disease or to be a quadriplegic?”
And all I could think was: what an odd question. But then again, it wasn’t outside the realm of odd things my father had said in the past. My dad is kind of weird.
“What do you think, Sam?” Dad asked me.
Despite how bizarre the question was, I actually took it seriously. “I think Parkinson’s would be worse,” I said.
At this point, my mother couldn’t contain herself for another second. She blurted out: “Samantha, why were you looking up stuff about spinal cord injury on the internet?”
I felt so sick, I thought I might throw up my buttered English muffin. My father shrugged sheepishly and said, “I noticed it in the history.”
I felt like a complete idiot. I felt the heat rising in my cheeks and was sure that my pale complexion would give me away. My only chance at this point was to play it cool. I took a deep breath, shrugged my shoulders, and said, “That? Oh, that was just for a paper I was writing for school.”
“Oh!” Mom said, looking relieved.
And then, to make it really stick, I wrote a fake paper about spinal cord injury and gave it to my father to proofread.
I’m pretty sure they bought it. I’m 99% sure. If all they saw was the spinal cord injury information webpages, I’m totally safe. But there’s a small chance they might have seen one of the devotee erotica sites I went to. And if that’s the case, they may have just been humoring me all these years. Maybe, like Tom, they know the truth.
I can’t even bear to think about that possibility. Especially when I’m about to introduce them to my paraplegic boyfriend.
When I can’t possibly postpone it any longer, I call my mother and tell her that I’m going to bring Chris over for the weekend. She seems thrilled which makes it all that much harder. Again, I feel unable to tell her the truth about him. I wonder if I were just a normal girl dating a guy in a wheelchair if I’d feel this uncomfortable about it.
“So,” I finally say, “there’s something I should probably tell you about Chris. Before you meet.”
“Chris is a woman,” Mom says instantly.
My jaw drops open. What. The. Fuck? Why does everyone think I’m a lesbian? Am I giving off some kind of crazy lesbian vibe I’m not aware of? I mean, even my own mother thinks that? That’s it, from now on I’m not cutting my hair above chin length.
“No,” I say, trying to control my irritation. “Chris is not a woman.”
“Sorry,” Mom says sheepishly. “That was what your dad thought. Because you were so secretive and Chris is an androgynous name. So we just thought…”
“He’s a man, I promise you.”
“Well, we’d be understanding either way,” Mom assures me, although I highly doubt that.
“He’s a man, but…” I bite my lip.
“Is he transgender?” Mom asks.
What?! Where did she even learn that word? “No!” I say. “He’s a man. One hundred percent. Sheesh. But he’s sort of…” I close my eyes, bracing myself. “He’s disabled.”
There. I said it. In a way, it’s kind of a relief to have the words out. But in another way, I worry I’ve made a huge mistake, that I should have kept it from them longer, and now I can’t ever take it back. Plus my stomach is seizing up, waiting for my mother’s reaction.
“What do you mean?” she finally says.
“He uses a wheelchair,” I clarify.
“My God, why?” she asks. Her voice is somewhat breathy, like I just told her that he was dying from a terminal disease.
“He’s a paraplegic,” I explain.
Another very long pause. “Why would you date someone like that?” she asks.
Well, at least she doesn’t already know, like Tom did. I guess that’s a relief. “He’s really a great guy,” I tell her.
My mother doesn’t say anything. I think she’s trying to figure out a way to be supportive. Ironically, she seemed more cool with idea of my dating a woman. “Well, it’s your choice, honey,” she finally says. And she can’t help but add: “Although I always really liked Patrick.”
“I’m sure you’ll like Chris too,” I assure her, although it’s hard to believe she’ll like him as much as she liked Patrick. I think my mother had a little crush on Patrick. Everyone in the world thought he was the better choice for me.
To be continued.....
Question for the Readers: Should Sam have told her mother she's a devotee?