The secret to dressing really sexy isn’t so much not wearing much clothing, but it’s more hinting at nakedness. I like dresses that cling to my skin, although it really depends on what the weight situation is at the moment. You also have to be careful what you eat during the date, because you don’t want to look pregnant with a food baby.
I spend far too much money on a dress for my date, but I figure this guy is worth it. I even go to a salon and get my hair professionally done, because it really does make a huge difference (plus I can use a touch up on my highlights). By the time I’m ready to leave my apartment, I’ve probably spent a good six hours that day in front of a mirror, making sure I look perfect. It’s actually a little embarrassing.
I force myself not to leave too early. I don’t believe in keeping a guy waiting, but I know I’ll seem way too eager if I show up like half an hour before our date. I time things so that I’ll arrive at the restaurant exactly five minutes late.
My brilliant plan works and I approach the restaurant at five minutes after the hour. I see Chris is already out on the street, waiting for me. I know it sounds dumb, but I find it so sexy when I see a guy waiting for me on a date. There’s this insecure part of me that wonders why any guy would want to date me, so when I see them waiting and excited to see me, it’s kind of a thrill. Even after all these years.
And Chris looks great. He’s still wearing his glasses, which I’m glad for, since guys who wear contacts irritate me just as much as men with ponytails. He’s sitting in his wheelchair, his hands pushed against his knees to help him sit up really straight, and there’s a very small bouquet of flowers on his lap. He’s scanning the street, presumably looking for me. And when he sees me, I notice how his eyes light up. “Samantha!” He waves, as if I could have missed seeing him.
“Hey there,” I say. “You’re right on time. I like that.”
“I was actually early,” Chris admits. “I’ve been here since…” He looks like he’s about to tell me but then thinks better of it. “Hey, you look great, Samantha.”
I shrug, as if I didn’t just spend practically a month’s paycheck on this dress. “Thank you. So do you.”
Chris, bless his heart, blushes when I say that.
“Hey,” he says, reaching for the pink flowers on his lap. “I got this for you.”
“Azaleas!” I exclaim, reaching for them. I can’t believe he remembered that!
“I heard they were your favorite,” he says, looking pleased with himself.
“Who told you that?” I tease him. “Siri?”
He laughs and he’s so cute that I just want to sit in his lap and kiss him right now. But that would probably be a little too forward. “Let’s go inside,” he says. “I put our names down for a table.”
I guess the word about burgers and cupcakes hasn’t gotten out yet, because we get a table pretty easily. They seat us at a square table and the hostess pulls out one of the two chairs so that Chris can pull in his wheelchair. I was hoping he’d sit right next to me so that there could be a spontaneous kiss, but instead he sits across from me. Oh well.
I watch Chris fold and unfold his hands. When he finishes with that, he stirs his water with his straw a few times, then picks up his napkin and starts ripping it to shreds. He looks even more nervous than I feel. I’m fidgeting with my feet, but I guess he can’t do that. Or at least, I don’t think he can. I still don’t know exactly why he needs a wheelchair and I’m scared to ask. It doesn’t seem like the right thing to do, like proper dinner conversation. I guess he’ll tell me when he’s ready.
I pick up a menu and try to focus on burgers and cupcakes, although I get a little distracted by the music playing in the restaurant. It’s Coldplay’s “Paradise,” which is ironic because that song inexplicably turns me on in a dev way. It’s that line where he says, “She’d dream of para... para… paradise.” Is that totally weird? Ditto with the Finger 11 song “Paralyzer,” although that’s even more explicit. Well, I’m not paralyzed, but I seem to be struck by you. Of course, he’s saying he’s not paralyzed. Still.
And then there’s that song by The Killers, “Somebody Told Me.” I love the line where he says, “Ready, let’s roll onto something new.” And of course, in the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated,” there’s that line about “put me in a wheelchair” that always gets me. I could go on about this for a while. But I’ll spare you my entire thesis on songs that remind me of disability.
“So, um,” I say, as soon as the song draws to an end. “How long have you worked at Apple?” Time for some awkward first date conversation.
“Not very long,” Chris says. “About a year.”
“Do you like it there?”
He hesitates as he picks up a second napkin and starts shredding it. “No, I guess not.”
“Oh. How come?”
He shrugs. “I don’t know. I’m debugging broken iPhones and iPads for Apple most of the day. It’s not the most fulfilling job I can imagine. To be honest, I don’t even like Apple products. Don’t tell anyone, but I own a ‘Droid.” He takes his phone out of his pocket and shows me that it is not, in fact, an Apple product.
“Ooh,” I gasp, taking it from him and turning it over in my hand. “You could probably get in big trouble for this.
He picks up his partially shredded napkin again and goes back to work on it. “If they fired me, they might be doing me a favor. Seriously.”
He sounds like he means it. I hand his ‘Droid back to him and he replaces it in his pocket. “So what’s your dream job?”
“I used to have it,” he says with a crooked smile. “I worked at an electronics company for about eight years. Then they went belly up. This was the best job I could find. For now.” He shrugs, as if it doesn’t matter that he hates his job. “What do you do?”
I always hate telling men what I do. They always look either confused or intimidated. “Guess,” I say.
Chris raises his eyebrows. “Uh… I have no idea…” He thinks for a minute. I swear, if he says stewardess, I’m going to throw up. “Travel writer?”
Travel writer. Ooh, I kind of like that. Makes me seem exotic. “Why did you say that?”
“I don’t know, you seem kind of worldly.” He laughs. “Am I close?”
“No,” I say. I almost hate to tell him. “I’m actually an engineer.”
Chris’s face lights up, which marks the very first time that’s ever happened when I told someone my job. “That’s way better.”
“Of course it is,” he says, shaking his head as if he can’t believe how lucky he is to have met an engineer. Seriously. “I love intelligent women. Especially women who are good at math and science.”
“Well, you’re the only one,” I say. And I mean it.
“In high school, I had a huge crush on the female captain of the math team,” Chris admits.
“You would have loved me,” I say with a wry smile. “I was all about the math team. I did all the state and national competitions.”
“You’re lying,” Chris says, shaking his head.
“I’m so not,” I say. “I’ll prove it to you: the national math Olympiad always had a math relay race and they always put me first because I was the fastest.”
“The fastest, huh?” He grins at me. “I was always last.”
“The smartest person was always last on our teams.”
He laughs and shakes his head at me again. “I’m amazed, really. You don’t look like a girl who was on the math team.”
I feign being indignant. “No? Why not?”
“Well, you’re very…” His cheeks flush slightly. “Attractive.”
Too sexy for the math team. Quite the compliment. “Was the female math team captain attractive?”
He smiles shyly. “Not like you.”
I smile back. “Did you date her?”
“No,” he says. He pauses, as if debating whether to tell me something. “I… uh, I was sick for most of high school.”
The smile dies on my lips. I had assumed that Chris was a paraplegic, that he’d been in some accident and that was the end of it. Now I realize that I might have been completely wrong. What if he had some horrible, possibly terminal, disease? He looks healthy, but who can really tell?
Chris fiddles with a napkin in front of him and lowers his eyes. “I should probably explain to you why I’m in a wheelchair. Just, you know, get that out of the way. I’m sure you’re wondering.”
“Okay,” I say, trying to pretend like I’m not desperately curious.
“The thing is,” he begins, “I always walked funny. Pretty much ever since I could remember, maybe… I don’t know, ten or eleven years old. I used to limp and I was really clumsy. Other kids used to make fun of me and I always got picked dead last for sports teams.”
“Oh, me too,” I can’t help but chime in.
Chris flashes me a wry smile. “Yeah, but I got picked last, even after the girls. Even the little skinny girls who couldn’t throw a ball to save their lives.” That pretty much described me perfectly, which is why I always got picked last. “Anyway, when I got to high school, it only got worse. I actually face-planted a few times in gym, tripping over my own damn feet.”
I realize I’m holding my breath. I have no idea where this story is going. Does he have multiple sclerosis? Lou Gehrig disease? What??
“I kept thinking that was just me,” he says. “I’m clumsy, I fall. That was always the way I was. So I didn’t make a big thing out of it or even tell my parents. Then one day, I fell in gym class and I realized I couldn’t get up. I couldn’t feel or move my legs anymore. They had to call an ambulance to bring me to the hospital.”
“Omigod,” I can’t help but say.
Chris barely acknowledges my response. “It turned out I had a tumor growing in my spinal canal, possibly for half my life. It was benign, but it was compressing all the nerves. At the time, I actually thought maybe this was good news. That I’d have surgery to remove the tumor then I ‘d actually be normal for once in my life.” He shakes his head at his own stupidity. “Obviously that didn’t happen. They removed the tumor, but it was too late. I never recovered any movement in my legs. I got a little sensation back, but not much. I spent most of that year recovering and in rehab, then when I got back to high school, I’d not only lost a year, but I’d gone from being the clumsy kid to being the disabled kid.”
“Wow,” I breathe, my hand covering my mouth. “That must have been hard.”
I feel embarrassed by my overly dramatic response, but to my relief, Chris laughs. “Yeah, it was hard at the time. I used to get so angry about it, like saying if only I’d gone to a doctor sooner, maybe I’d still be able to walk. But now… I don’t know, I guess I don’t really care anymore. Now it’s just part of my life. This is how I am and I’m comfortable this way. If I could snap my fingers and walk again, I wouldn’t do it.”
Honestly, I find that a little hard to believe. Yes, I find him sexy in the wheelchair, but most people probably don’t. Why wouldn’t he want to be like everyone else? If I could snap my fingers and have actual decent sized boobs instead of my little mosquito bites, I’d do it in a second. “Really?” I can’t help but ask.
“Sure,” he says. “What’s so great about walking anyway? Just because you can walk, it doesn’t mean you have the answers to, like, life, the universe, and everything.”
“42,” I answer before I can stop myself. I silently curse at myself. Kate’s right... I do need to tone down the geekiness.
Chris stares at me in amazement. “I love that book,” he says, a smile spreading across his face.
“Oh,” I laugh, trying not to betray my nervousness. I’m probably going to start shredding my own napkin soon. “Me too. I read the whole Hitchhiker’s Guide series. It’s one of my favorites.”
Chris seems to be studying my face, trying to figure me out maybe. I sort of hope he doesn’t. “You’re pretty different from most other girls,” he says. You have no idea, honey. “How did you end up in engineering anyway?”
I actually get asked that question a lot and it isn’t any easier to explain than the reason I’m attracted to disabled guys. But I do my best for Chris’s sake. “Well, I’m good at math,” I say. “And science. And I like computers. And I’m sort of anal.”
“You don’t seem anal,” Chris says.
“Oh, you’d be surprised.”
“Do you enjoy your work?”
“I do,” I say. “We do a lot of airplane design at my company, which I think is really fun. If I ever get up the courage, they have free flying lessons for the engineers.”
“That is incredibly cool,” Chris says, and he sounds like he means it.
The waitress comes around and takes our order, and is annoyed that we’ve barely looked at the menu. Makes me realize that it’s been a while since I’ve been on a date that was more interesting than what I was eating on the date. I’m also glad that Chris doesn’t flirt with the waitress, because it’s totally a pet peeve of mine when the guy I’m on a date with flirts with the woman serving our food. It’s pretty demoralizing. But Chris isn’t the flirtatious type.
We quickly decide on our burgers and the waitress yanks the menus out of our hands. Chris shifts in his wheelchair and I get that tingle again. I still can’t get over on a date with the guy. But there’s a question looming in the back of my head and I just can’t get past it.
“Hey,” I say, “if Kate hadn’t said something, would you have asked me out?”
“Yes,” Chris says without hesitation. “I wanted to since we first met. I was just… working up to it.”
“Working up to it?”
He laughs, sounding a little nervous. “Well, I couldn’t just ask you out right away. You would have said no.” Ha. If only he knew. “But believe me, I really wanted to. You were just so embarrassed about dropping your phone in the toilet. It was adorable.”
I roll my eyes. “Oh, great.”
“But every time I tried to flirt with you,” he says, “you seemed pissed off at me, for some reason. So I figured, you know, you were trying to tell me you weren’t interested.”
“I thought you were just pressuring me to buy a new phone,” I admit.
“You did?” He shakes his head. “I was just trying to come up with excuses to get you back in the store. My friends are right… I do suck at flirting.”
I could relate to Chris on this one. At least, I suck at flirting when it comes to guys I really like. It’s a wonder we ever got together.
Chris is still playing with his napkin, now making folds in it that almost resemble origami. “So were you talking to your friend about me, or did she just sense that I wanted to ask you out?”
There’s an unspoken rule about dating that you must pretend not to be interested in the other person in the early days of a relationship. You have to basically pretend like you couldn’t care less whether the person calls you back. And it’s definitely a no-no to let him know that you’ve been talking about him to your friends. So I just say coyly, “I might have mentioned there was a cute guy in the Apple store.”
Chris looks surprised. “You mean me?”
“No, I meant that other guy behind the counter,” I say. “The one who weighs 500 pounds and has terrible B.O.”
Chris just stares at me.
“I’m kidding,” I say. “I meant you, of course.”
“Oh,” he says, looking both relieved and a little surprised. I guess he’s not used to people singling him out as “cute.” I wonder if he’s heard of devotees and how he’d react if he knew. After the fiasco with Rob, I’m terrified to say anything.
Our burgers arrive. Considering the place is called Cupcakes and Burgers, I was expecting this to be a really amazing burger, and I can’t say it entirely lives up to the hype. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good burger. But I was expecting something more along the lines of the best burger I’d ever eaten. And it’s not that.
“What do you think?” Chris asks me between mouthfuls. “On a scale of one to ten?”
“Maybe a seven,” I say. “You?”
“Seven and a half,” he says. And I secretly wonder what he would rate our date on a scale of one to ten. If the date would rate higher than the burger.
I find Chris relatively easy to talk to. We share similar taste in sci-fi movies, both of us are hooked on How I Met Your Mother, and I really like his easy sense of humor. The only problem is that by the time our cupcakes arrive, we still have had a very definite lack of physical contact. Chris is all the way across the table from me and it would be hard for me to even give him a playful shove on the arm. He’s way too far away for a kiss. And even if he wasn’t, I don’t think a kiss is something that would happen. I just don’t feel it in the atmosphere. We’re both too nervous and not flirting enough. This is almost like a friends date.
I get a red velvet cupcake and Chris gets a vanilla cupcake with lemon frosting. They both look delicious, but I give Chris a pointed look as I eye his cupcake. “Wow, yours looks really good.”
“Yeah?” He raises his eyebrows. “You want some?”
I nod. For many guys, this would be an opening to feed me a bite of the cupcake, but Chris manages to thwart my attempts to inject romance into this evening by slicing off a piece of his cupcake with a butter knife. Then he picks it up with a napkin and hands it to me, like I’d be afraid of getting his hand-cooties. Are you serious, Chris? There’s pretty much nothing romantic about that gesture. I almost want to pound my fists against the table in frustration.
When the check arrives, I grab at it before Chris can get to it. “You should let me pay,” I say. “I still owe you for that popcorn and soda.”
Chris seems alarmed. “Absolutely not. What kind of gentleman would I be if I let you pay on a date?”
“Oh, is this a date?” I ask. I meant for my tone to sound teasing, but I think it ends up sounding a little sarcastic. A hurt look flashes on Chris’s face, but he still takes the check from me and pays the bill.
Once we get out of the restaurant, I realize that if there ever were a chance that Chris would kiss me, that opportunity is now passed. With him in his wheelchair and me standing, the only way I’m getting a kiss is if I let myself fall into his lap. There’s certainly nothing subtle I can do to get a kiss. None of my usual tricks are likely to work.
“Do you want to split a cab?” I ask him.
“Actually, I live just a few blocks away,” he says. For a moment, I hope he’ll invite me to his apartment, but instead he says, “Let me get you a cab.”
Chris’s attempts to get me a cab are an epic fail. It’s sort of adorable, actually. He wheels into the street, bumping off the curb, and holds his hand out... but it’s like he’s invisible. He’s trying for several minutes, before I hold out my hand and get a cab in about five seconds. “Wow, how’d you do that?” he says.
“It helps if you show a little leg,” I say, grinning at him.
“Next time I’ll try that,” he says, grinning back.
For a second, I’m hoping that once I’m sitting in the cab, he’ll lean forward and kiss me. And there’s a moment when he’s looking at me, and I think he might actually do it. But somehow it’s just a little too awkward and he doesn’t attempt it. “Hey, Samantha, how much was your ride to get here?” he asks.
I shrug. “Six dollars plus tip, I think.”
Chris nods. He pulls a ten dollar bill out of his wallet and hands it to the driver. “Please get her home safely.”
Of course, I’d prefer it if Chris got in the cab with me, but I know he won’t do that. He touches my shoulder briefly and my whole body tingles. “I had a great time, Samantha,” he says.
“Me too,” I murmur.
“We should do this again.”
“Definitely,” I say, forgetting to be coy. “Give me a call, okay?”
He nods, then closes the cab door on me. And just like that, my dream date is over at nine freaking thirty.
Any positive thoughts I had about my date fly out of my head during the cab ride home. I analyze every interaction, realizing that we’ve veered dangerously into the friend zone. If he really liked me, he would have kissed me, right?
I grab my iPhone, the one Chris revived, out of my purse, and consider calling Kate. But she’s probably on a date with the Jewish redhead. I shouldn’t bother her. Or maybe I should.
“Hey, lady,” the cab driver says. He’s in his forties with a buzz cut and a thick Brooklyn accent. “Were you on a date with that guy?”
“Yeah,” I say, distracted by my phone. I text message Kate: You free?
“No.” Kate’s response pops up: How’s your dream date going?
“Wow,” the cabbie says. “No offense, miss, but I think you can do a little better than dating a crippled guy.”
I don’t feel like taking shit about my date from a cab driver, so I say, “Actually, I have a scorching case of genital herpes. I’m pretty lucky he’s willing to date me.”
I can almost see the driver recoil, and I’m free to continue texting Kate in peace. It’s not even ten o’clock and my dream date is over.
Do you want to call me? Kate writes.
What about hot Jewish redhead?
Hot Jewish redhead is a perv. We’re over. Give me a call.
I wait until I’m home to call Kate, because I don’t want the creepy cab driver listening in to my conversation. I kick off my heels and peel off my expensive dress, then I select Kate’s number to call. “So what’s wrong with him?” Kate asks me.
“Nothing, exactly,” I say. “We had a great time and he’s adorable…”
“I don’t know,” I sigh. “We were together for almost two hours and he didn’t even attempt to kiss me. And then when we finished eating, he just put me in a cab and said goodbye.”
“Did he pay for dinner?”
“Yes,” I say. “And he paid for the cab ride in advance.”
“The guy was a perfect gentleman and you’re disappointed,” Kate huffs. “You’re such a whore, Sam. If I were your gramma, I’d cut myself a switch right now.”
“A goodnight kiss,” I say. “That’s all I wanted. One kiss.”
“Some guys don’t kiss on a first date.”
“Excuse me, but all adult males kiss on a first date.”
“So he’s a little shy,” Kate says. “I think it’s sweet.”
“It is sweet,” I admit. “But I really wanted him to kiss me. Or hold my hand. Or something. I mean, this was basically a friends date. I’m not even sure he’s interested in me.”
“Trust me,” Kate says. “This was not a friends date for him. He’s totally into you. He’s just trying to be a nice guy and not scare you away. A blind person could see it.” She pauses thoughtfully. “Of course, you’d probably try to date the blind person.”
“Shut-up,” I say, sticking my tongue out at my phone. “Do you think he’ll call me?”
“Definitely,” Kate says. She sounds like she means it, although I’m far from sure.
To be continued....
To be continued....