When I get home that night, I get on Match dot com again. It worked out so badly with Rob, but I already paid for the damn thing, so maybe I should give it another shot. We already tried “disabled” and “wheelchair” as search terms, so now I type in “paraplegic” and cross my fingers…
I tap my fingers on the table, then after a hesitation, I type in “quadriplegic.”
There’s one hit. A guy named Steve, 37 years old, who likes comedies and mystery novels. His face isn’t particularly attractive, and I can tell from the photo, even though it’s only from the shoulders up, that he’s got a trach.
Meaning, he has a tracheostomy. Meaning, there’s a tube pumping oxygen into his neck to help him breathe. Thanks to my interest in spinal cord injury, my knowledge level is better than the average person, so I know that the cervical levels 3-5 control the diaphragm. That means if this guy can’t breathe on his own, his injury is above that level. All this is a fancy way of saying that if he can’t breathe on his own, he probably can’t move his arms at all either.
The thought of dating a guy who can’t move his arms or legs at all is a little overwhelming to me. Would the guy have a caregiver going with us on all our dates or something? I don’t know if that’s something I could deal with. I think I’d be better off sticking with either a low-level quadriplegic or a paraplegic.
I feel like such a primadonna. It isn’t enough that I want a disabled lover, but I want only certain injuries and also, he’s got to be really hot. At this rate, I’m never going to meet anyone. I’m going to die alone. At least I have my iPhone.
Maybe I should get a cat?
I close Match, already decided that I won’t contact Steve. I rub my chest, which has been burning a bit ever since I got home. That stupid popcorn has given me an annoying case of heartburn. I know I’m supposed to pretend to be this dainty female who never has any difficulties related to my GI tract, but sorry, that’s not the case. I get heartburn, especially after eating a big bag of popcorn all by myself. I don’t get how that’s possible, considering, like I keep saying, popcorn is all air. But I’ve got this horrible burning in my chest every time I lie down in bed.
Pepto-Bismol works very well for my heartburn, but because I was trying to be a dainty female for Patrick, I failed to keep any in the house. Because omigod what if he found it??? So every time I needed it, I’d have to run down to the drugstore to buy a bottle, then I’d throw it out immediately after using it. Ah, the things we do for men.
I finally go to the drugstore, and try to figure out what size bottle I should buy (now that my home is free of all men and most likely will be for the foreseeable future). I hardly even notice at first when a guy comes up beside me. Or should I say, wheels up beside me. At first I think it must be Chris and that maybe he really is stalking me, but it’s not. It’s some other entirely different guy, who doesn’t want to sell me a phone and doesn’t know I was texting on the toilet (okay, I admit it).
And not just that, the guy is hot. Not nerd hot like Chris, not “hot for a disabled guy,” he is actually legitimately really hot. He’s definitely hotter than Chris, maybe even hotter than Patrick. From the shoulders up, he could be a movie star. He’s got blond hair streaked with even blonder hair, and an absolutely perfect profile. And when we make eye contact for a brief second, I notice he has the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen. They are like the waters of Aruba or something poetic like that.
And I’m looking at antacids.
I quickly back away from the Pepto-Bismol and place my hand on what appeared to be an innocuous looking box, but turns out to be wart removal gel. And the next shelf down is laxatives. Shit, there’s nothing in the aisle that isn’t humiliating!
I notice the cute guy has grabbed a box of Band-Aids. His hand, I can’t help but notice, is a little bit atrophied. A quadriplegic, maybe. I allow myself a quick glance at the rest of him, and notice that his posture in his wheelchair is a little bit hunched and he’s got a gut, which goes along with my quadriplegic theory. I find quad guts just devastatingly sexy. Patrick had a perfect six pack abs, but this guy’s bulging belly is about a thousand times sexier to me. I love the way it slightly stretches out his blue T-shirt, and shifts as he reaches for the Band-Aids. He’s not overweight or anything, so I know the gut is probably from weak abdominal muscles. No amount of sit-ups will get rid of a gut like that, and that’s part of what makes it sexy. He can’t help it.
The guy notices me looking at him, and I quickly look away, mortified. Even children know better than to stare. I busy myself with a package of eyedrops, but my heart leaps when I hear a male voice say, “Hey, do you think you could help me out?”
Oh my god, Wheelchair Cutie is talking to me. “Sure,” I say.
He holds out the box of Band-Aids to me. “I have a cut on my finger and I can never manage to put these on myself. D’you think you can help me?”
All right, Wheelchair Cutie is not only talking to me, but he’s asking me to touch him. I think I’m going to cream myself. But instead, I say casually, “Oh, sure.”
“Thank you,” he says. He grins at me and my knees wobble. “I’m Jake, by the way.” Ooh, like the character in Avatar. It’ll be like I’m dating Jake Sully from Avatar!
I think I told him I’m Sam, but who the hell knows? Much as I’m trying to play it cool, my hands are shaking super bad as I’m opening up the box and pulling out a Band-Aid. When Jake holds out his hand, I see a deep groove between his thumb and his forefinger, where the muscle should have been. Definitely a low-level quad, meaning his upper arms were strong, but the muscles in his hands were clearly atrophied.
I almost got the Band-Aid on this tiny cut on the back of his hand, but at the last minute, my fingers jerk and I get the Band-Aid all stuck to itself. “Wow, you’re worse at this than I am,” Jake observes.
“Shut-up,” I say.
Jake grins again. “You have beautiful eyes, you know.”
Look who’s talking. “Um, thank you,” I say. I’m blushing like woah.
“If you ever get a Band-Aid on my hand, maybe we could go out sometime.”
Oh god oh god oh god oh god oh god… are you freaking kidding me? Is this really happening or am I in some sort of artificial butter induced dream?
“Uh, sure,” I say. Play it cool, Sam.
“Awesome sauce,” he says, which irritates me because I hate that expression. But I’ll forgive him “awesome sauce,” I suppose. As long as he doesn’t say “cool beans.”
Neither of us has a pen or paper, so Jake actually buys a pen and paper from the drug store just so I can write down my number. It’s sort of romantic. My standards for romance are clearly quite low. I’m stammering and grinning at him, and I end up not even buying the Pepto-Bismol and being in agony the rest of the night.
After you give a guy your phone number, it starts a clock. When the guy calls you is directly proportional to how much he likes you and also whether he saw that Swingers movie where you have to wait three days to call or else you seem desperate. If he calls you the day after he gets your number, it means he really likes you. Two days later, he likes you. Three days, he either feels lukewarm or he saw Swingers. More than three days, he’s not all that crazy about you. After a week, he’s not going to call.
In my case, it’s been two weeks since Jake took my number.
I’ve gone over and over the interaction in my head. What did I do wrong? Did I do something really objectionable in-between when he asked for my number and when we said goodbye? I can’t even imagine. Did he notice my ass looked big as I was walking away? What is it?
To make matters worse, Rob has been borderline stalking me.
He’s been sending me emails. At least once a day, sometimes more than that. Sometimes he’ll send me these long, rambling emails where he apologizes for his behavior that night and says he knows we’re meant to be. Even though I’ve replied to him several times, explaining to him that we most definitely are not meant to be.
He also calls me frequently. I blocked his number, which ought to be enough, but Rob seems to have acquired superhuman powers to annoy me. He’s been somehow calling me from alternate numbers. I don’t know how he’s managing to call from so many different phone numbers, seriously. Somehow I imagine him squeezing into a phone booth in his wheelchair. In any case, I keep having to answer the phone because I think it could be Jake, but then it’s Rob.
Occasionally, I’m stupid enough to attempt to reason with him. “Please stop calling me,” I tell him. “It’s not going to work out between us. At this point, you’re basically harassing me.”
“But I’m sorry,” he whines. “Sam, please. Give me one more chance. I’ll do anything. I… I promise I won’t even touch you for, like, five dates.”
Does he have any idea how ridiculous this sounds? “We just don’t have any chemistry, Rob,” I tell him.
“You know,” he says, sounding a little angry. “You said you like disabled guys. But then you don’t like me. I mean, what are you looking for, Sam? Maybe you shouldn’t be so picky.”
In a way, he has a point. Maybe I am too picky. Obviously the cute wheelers like Chris and Jake don’t want me. Maybe Rob is the best I’m going to do. Was I too hasty in rejecting him?
Of course, then I remember the revulsion I felt when he came near me. I can’t date a guy who makes me feel like that, picky or not. “Please don’t call me again,” I say, and hang up the phone.
In any case, at the two week mark, I’m fairly sure I’m never going to get a call from Jake. I truly wish I knew why, but it’s most likely the classic answer: he’s just not that into me.
So forget Jake. Maybe that’s not meant to work out. That last time I saw Chris at the movie theater, he definitely seemed sort of into me. I mean, he may have been on a date, but if he wasn’t, he was definitely into me. So maybe I should finally do something about it.
I resolutely grab my purse and head downstairs to the Apple store. I don’t know what I’m going to do exactly. Ask him out? No, that doesn’t sound like me. But I can flirt with him and hope for the best. (Because that’s been working so great so far.)
Just my luck though: when I get to the store, I find out Chris isn’t there. Still, I browse the phones. I really should upgrade to a new model of iPhone at some point soon. I felt so high tech when I first got my phone, and now people make fun of it for being old. The iPhone 5 is coming out soon, and I’ve heard a lot of hype.
“Decided to finally upgrade, huh?”
I turn in the direction of the voice talking to me, and can’t help but smile when I see that it’s Chris. He’s here, after all! He’s wearing a nice shirt and tie today and he looks really adorable. Okay, he’s maybe not as handsome as Jake, but who is? “I didn’t think you were around,” I say.
“Trevor got me from the back when he saw you came in,” Chris says, then he blushes slightly as he looks down at his knees. “I figured you needed help.”
I guess I look like an electronics idiot. “Thanks, I guess.”
“That’s an iPhone 4G that you’re looking at,” he says. “It’s nice but it doesn’t have the voice activated features and it won’t get the newest software updates. But it’s very user-friendly. Easy to figure out.”
I almost tell Chris that I'm an engineer and I think I can figure out how to use a freaking phone, but then I remember that Kate says men don't like women who are too smart and also they don't like women who are bitchy. Better to play dumb and sweet.
"I'm just not sure if I really need the absolutely fastest and best phone," I say. (Especially when I have a tendency to drop them in the toilet.)
"Believe me," Chris says. "Once you have it, you'll wonder how you ever did without it. And there are a lot of newer apps that only work on the latest phone. Like there's a new weight loss app that a lot of women are using..."
I stare at him. Omigod, is he telling me I need to lose weight?
I watch as the red creeps up Chris's neck into his ears. "I didn't mean you need to lose weight," he says quickly. "I was just trying to give you an example of, like, an application that maybe someone else might use to... you know.... someone who was actually overweight. Not you."
I think I've had about enough of Chris Barrett and his sales pitch at this point. This isn't worth it. "Is that what you say to all the ladies you're trying to sell phones to?"
"No..." He's biting his lip and I'd say he looked cute if I wasn't so irritated with him. "Look, I'm sorry. I really don't do the whole sales thing very much, so I'm not great at it. I mostly fix phones, to be honest. I'm a tech guy, not a salesman."
"So why are you trying so hard to sell me a phone?" I ask, exasperated.
Chris grabs the wheels of his chair and shifts his body slightly. “I don’t know. I was just… trying to help you out.”
I’m a little perplexed. Mentally, I review all my interactions with Chris. How he’s given me his card to help me find a phone several times, even though he’s not even a salesman, as it turns out. Buying my popcorn at the movie theater. Does this mean…? Dare I hope…?
“Listen, Samantha,” he says, now grabbing his knees with both hands. “I was just wondering…”
Before he can complete the thought, I hear The Black Eyed Peas “Let’s Get It Started” playing within my purse. Chris blinks at me, “Is that your phone?”
“Yes,” I admit. I fish through my purse and come up with my embarrassingly outdated iPhone. I don’t recognize the number.
“Go ahead,” Chris says when he sees my hesitation. “Take the call.”
I wasn’t planning on taking it, but when he tells me to take it, I’m irritated enough to actually do it. “Hang on a second,” I tell him as I bring the phone to my ear. “Hello?”
“Hi. Is this Sam?”
“Yes…” I turn away from Chris, who wanders off to try to help a customer. I watch him as he wheels over to an elderly couple looking at a phone, and they look distinctively uncomfortable at the offer of his help. I guess that’s why he’s not in sales.
“Sam, this is Jake. We met at the drug store? By the Band-Aids?”
Jake?? Holy shit. I debate if I should pretend not to remember him. I mean, it’s been two weeks. That’s a long time to wait before calling someone. I’m kind of insulted. But then again, it seems like insulting Sam is the name of the game today. “Yeah, I remember.”
“I’m really sorry I didn’t call earlier,” Jake says.
I wait for his excuse.
“I just forgot,” Jake says. Nice. “I was cleaning out my wallet today and I found your number and I thought, oh man, I gotta call that girl.”
Are you kidding me? I literally don’t know what to say to that. So I stand there, gripping the phone in silence until Jake says, “Sam? You there?”
“Yes,” I say. If he were anyone other than an unbelievably hot wheeler, I would have hung up five minutes ago. But Chris clearly isn’t making any moves here, so this could be my last chance. Maybe ever.
“Great,” he says. “So are you free tonight?”
This is insulting for several reasons. First, it’s a weeknight, Tuesday. Not offering a girl a weekend date is tré insulting. Even Friday is okay, but not Tuesday. Also, asking a girl out that night, assuming she doesn’t have any plans, is also insulting. Even though I don’t have any plans.
I guess I could spin it differently though. Maybe he’s so excited to see me that he needs to see me immediately, tonight. So excited that he forgot all about me till he was cleaning out his freaking wallet.
“Yeah, I’m free,” I say.
“Awesome sauce,” Jake says and I suppress a groan. “Let’s meet at Killian’s on 37th street at 8 o’clock. Do you know it?”
“I’ll find it,” I say.
I hang up with Jake, and I notice that Chris is still talking to some other customers. I wonder if he overheard my conversation and knows I’m going on a date tonight. Well, screw him. I can’t wait around forever to find out if he’s interested.