Because it’s just John coming over and because he complained the other day about how I was overdressed, I wear a tank top and pajama pants for our movie date on Sunday afternoon. I don’t wear make-up, pull my short hair into messy pigtails, and to top it off, I wear my glasses instead of contacts. So much for living up to Ted’s former girlfriends. (Not that I would ever let Ted see me looking this way in a million years. Not even after we’ve had four children together.)
I hear rapping on the back door right at one o’clock. John is very prompt. I’m just pulling my cupcakes out of the fridge to frost them and also popping popcorn, so I yell out, “The door is unlocked!”
“Doesn’t help!” I hear John yell from the other side.
I frown and abandon my vigil on the microwave to go open the back door. When I get the door open, John looks pissed off, possibly because it’s so freaking cold outside. He’s wearing a hat, and his cheeks are very pink. He manages to yank off the hat with his fingers, and his dark hair is mussed slightly adorably even as he glares up at me.
“Thanks for letting me in,” he says. “Eventually.”
“Sorry,” I say back. I turn the doorknob to test it. “I was trying to tell you the door was unlocked.”
John holds up his hands. “Yeah, I don’t do doorknobs.”
Of course he can’t turn a doorknob. God, yet another embarrassing faux pas. Christ, I can’t do anything right with this guy. The whole thing makes me wonder how John gets into his own home. It seems like such a simple thing—being able to turn a doorknob—and he can’t manage it. That really sucks.
John looks over my own outfit, which I’m suddenly starting to regret. “I didn’t know this was a pajama party,” he comments.
Before I have a chance to reply with something snarky, I run back to the microwave to rescue my popcorn before it burns. I am the master of burning popcorn, which is possibly the worst thing you can do to a poor microwave. The smell never, ever comes out. You pretty much have to throw out the microwave and get a new one.
“Make yourself comfortable in the living room,” I tell him as I start tending to my cupcakes.
I decided to go with mini-cupcakes for my afternoon with John. Mini cupcakes are tricky because you have to be even more precise with how much batter is in each tin, but if they work right, they’re the ultimate amuse bouche. I made lemon cupcakes with lemon cream cheese frosting, making sure to use plenty of fresh lemon zest. Fresh zest is the key to any delicious citrus cupcake—don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
I make sure that the cupcakes are completely cool before I pipe on my frosting. I’m a cream cheese addict, and I absolutely love cream cheese frosting. I will make cream cheese frosting out of just about anything—raspberries, strawberries, orange, chocolate. I once made a smoked salmon and caper cream cheese frosting that ended up being a huge hit on my herbed cupcakes. It took a little persuading to get people to try it, but most people absolutely loved it and only like two people spit it out.
When I come into the living room with the bowl of popcorn, John is checking out my DVD collection. He’s examining each title, his eyes wide and excited. “Kirby, I think you might have the best DVD collection I’ve ever seen,” he says.
That’s literally the very first time anyone has ever said that to me. In fact, I think Ted may have said the exact opposite of that. Most people do. “Really?”
John hesitates for a second, as if regretting having actually said something nice to me. “Well, you’ve got some real classics. I mean, you’ve got Serial Mom. You actually own Serial Mom.”
“That movie is the reason I never wear white after Labor Day,” I say. I grin at him, trying to win one of those smiles. “Want to watch that one too?”
“So here’s the problem,” he says. “You told me this place was accessible. But it’s not. You owe me a million dollars. Not that it’s a big surprise.”
I frown. I’ve got a freaking ramp to the back door. “What are you talking about?”
He eyes my couch. “I’m not going to be able to see the TV with this couch in the way.”
I’ve got a really nice sectional sofa placed right in front of (possibly too close to) my awesome wide screen television. I probably spent far too much money on the couch and the TV, but I figure most of what I do is sit on the sofa and watch television, so it was worth it.
“How do you mean?” I ask.
John pulls his wheelchair up to the side of the couch. “Look at this angle. I’m not going to be able to see the TV. Like, at all.”
“Oh.” I study the arrangement. “Well, could you sit on the couch? It’s pretty comfortable.”
John looks down at my plush green cushions. He places his right hand on the cushion nearest to him and pushes down on it. He frowns. “Okay, what the hell? I’ll try it.”
I don’t want to stare or anything, but I can’t say I’m not curious to see how John gets in and out of his chair. I watch him scoot to the edge of his chair, then he pulls his legs out of the footrest. He leans over to put his right hand on the couch cushion, and sways a little, building momentum. Then in one swift movement, he lifts his butt from his wheelchair onto my couch. Of course, once he’s on the couch, he still seems unstable until he backs up to allow his body to rest against the back cushions.
“Okay, now could you pop the DVDs in the player while I grab the cupcakes?” I joke.
John looks at me, baffled. Shit, why did I say that? I just met the guy—surely jokes about his disability are off the table. But then he realizes that I’m joking, and he laughs—actually, laughs. I’m so pleased, I’m practically jumping up and down. I lay the popcorn down on the sofa next to John. I’m hoping he’s able to eat it. I didn’t ask, but he hasn’t protested or anything.
When I get back into the kitchen, I look down at my plate of mini cupcakes. I’m not so worried about flavor, but what I am suddenly worried about is the cupcake tins. How will he manage to get them out? I feel like this is just begging for another awkward moment.
So I wash my hands and carefully unpeel every single mini cupcake from its tin. It takes like five minutes and I’m sure John is wondering what the hell I’m doing in here. But when I come out, I’ve got twelve easy to eat cupcake bites.
I come out of the kitchen with the plate of cupcakes and John lifts his almond eyes to meet mine. “Finally!” he says. “I was wondering when I was going to get some service in this place.”
Ignoring his remark, I thrust the plate of cupcakes in his face. “Try one.”
He scoops up one of the cupcakes in his hand and pops it in his mouth. I watch him chew and I can tell by his expression that he likes it more than he thought he would. He’s probably disappointed he can’t make a snarky remark.
I cock my head to the side. “Well?”
“It’s very lemony,” he says.
“It’s a lemon cupcake.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a cupcake that was so lemony.”
“So this must have been very special for you.”
John responds by taking another cupcake off the plate. Which is probably the best compliment that a cook could receive.
The movie starts up, and I get that comfortable feeling I get when I watch a movie I really love. It’s like seeing an old friend. And for the record, even though Matthew Broderick achieved maximum hotness in the eighties (namely, as Ferris Bueller), he’s still pretty hot in this movie. He’s hot in an older, slightly fatter, more mature way. He has those big brown eyes, and he’s still got that adorable Matthew Broderick voice. That alone could get me wet.
I glance over at John, and I can’t help but compare his almond eyes to Matthew Broderick’s. Believe it or not, John might win. Don’t tell anyone I said that. Especially Ted. Not that it means anything, but guys are weird.
“Christ,” John says. “This popcorn is ridiculously salty.”
“It’s great, right?” I say eagerly. “I got this new seasoning that is completely amazing.”
“Yeah, it’s amazing,” John says, “and if I don’t get some water, I’m going to choke.”
I had poured myself a glass of water but I didn’t offer anything to John because I couldn’t figure out how he’d drink from it. All I’ve got is glasses, and there’s nowhere to put them besides the coffee table, which he clearly can’t reach.
“Usually I bring a water bottle with me,” he says. “I’m an idiot and forgot it today. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
I pick up my glass of water, which has a straw in it, and offer it to him. “Here. We can share.”
John raises his eyebrows at me. “Uh…”
I sigh. “Come on, we’re both adults here. I don’t have cooties.”
“Well, maybe I do.”
“Cooties, I can deal with,” I say. I position the straw close to his mouth. “Come on, I don’t want you to perish from thirst.”
John sighs, then leans his head forward and sips from my straw. It seems like this situation has the potential to be super awkward, but instead, it’s oddly intimate. It’s the sort of thing that I’m sort of glad Ted isn’t here to see.
We end up watching all of The Cable Guy, and we talk all through the movie. Nothing important or personal—just basically making fun of the movie and laughing together at all the same places. When Jim Carrey is about to sing “Somebody to Love,” John recites his entire preceding monologue by heart. By the end, we’re basically competing to see who can recite the character’s lines before the actor can say them. Whatever else I can say about John Yang, he’s seen this movie just as many times as I have.
It’s so unfair.
I’m thirty-one years old, single, and I’ve met this girl who is just about the cutest girl I’ve ever met. It’s almost a little painful to spend time with her, watching her bounce around in her pajamas that show every curve of her ass. Why did she have to wear pajamas? Just to torture me? Why couldn’t she have worn… oh, I don’t fucking know… a parka? That would have been a lot easier on me.
And not only that, but she likes everything I like. Stuff that almost nobody likes. And she makes cupcakes that are just about the best thing I’ve ever tasted.
And Ted’s marrying her. Ted. He can’t possibly appreciate her.
She’s sitting about six inches away from me on the couch. My wheelchair is pushed to the side and we’re sitting together like I’m just a regular guy. She grabs the remote and shuts the sound off. I’m terrified she’s going to tell me to stop being creepy and staring at her. But instead, she says, “I think we should try narrating the movie ourselves.”
Why does she have to keep being so freaking wonderful?
“We have to do that,” I agree.
If she weren’t Ted’s fiancée, I’d probably kiss her right now. But that would be dumb, because, let’s face it, I don’t really have a chance with a girl like Kirby, even if she weren’t engaged. A kiss would just trigger an awkward conversation. I like you as a friend, John. Not like that.
Been there. Done that. The only woman who really wanted to be more than just friends was Becky. And even that turned into a mess.
It turns out we don’t know the movie quite as well as we thought. Although it doesn’t help that I’m focusing really hard on not kissing Kirby. That takes more energy than you’d think. By the end, I’m just making lines up, and Kirby is laughing so hard, she screeches, “Stop! I’m going to pee myself!”
As soon as the credits come on, Kirby stands up and heads for her movie collection. “Another?”
I shake my head no. I’m meeting my friend Simon from work for dinner. I thought I’d be done hours ago, otherwise I never would have made the plans.
“You’re no fun,” Kirby whines. “Come on, you know you want to.”
“I’ve got plans,” I say with regret.
Kirby’s eyes widen and she blurts out, “Do you have a date?”
It wasn’t what she said, but how she said it. Like I just told her I was going to take a trip to the moon. “I guess that’s really hard to believe, huh?”
“I didn’t mean it that way,” she says quickly, even though she obviously did.
I don’t know why I’m even insulted. I get it. I look really impaired—she’s surprised that I’d have a date. And she’s right—I don’t have a date. So I let her off the hook. “It’s not a date. I’m just having dinner with a friend. Okay?”
“Okay,” she says quickly. She stands up, brushing off her pajama pants and even a few crumbs from her breasts. Christ, she’s got nice tits. She reaches for the empty popcorn bowl on the table. “I won’t make you late for your dinner plans.”
I nod, grateful that she goes into her kitchen so that I can have some privacy while I get back into my chair. Usually it’s a quick and easy process, but there are a couple of things going against me right now. First, the cushions are softer than I thought and I’m much lower than the surface of my chair. I used to be able to handle a transfer like that, but my shoulders have gotten really messed up over the last decade, and I can’t do it anymore. Last month, I fell during a transfer and I actually had to call the paramedics in to help me get back in my chair. If you looked up the word “embarrassing” in the dictionary, you’d find a little picture of me on the floor, explaining to the burly male paramedics that I needed them to lift me back into my chair.
I grab the seat of my chair, trying to get some momentum going. My right shoulder is hurting like a mother, which makes it so much harder. I try for a good several minutes, and by the end, both my arms are shaking and I’m still on the goddamn couch.
Why did I let myself get into this situation? I knew this was going to be a tricky transfer. I should have just stayed in my chair. Rule number one of being a quad is that you don’t get out of your chair if you don’t have a way to get back in again. Otherwise, you’re fucked.
So basically, I’m fucked.
“Kirby!” I yell.
Kirby comes out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on her thin pajama pants. “What’s up?”
I feel the heat rising in my cheeks. “Your cushions are too soft. I’m having trouble getting back in my chair.”
She clearly doesn’t get it.
“I was hoping maybe…” What do I want her to do? If I can’t get into the chair on my own, we don’t have a lot of options. “You could help me?”
I hate that I just had to ask that. And I hate the way her blue eyes get wide and… well, horrified. I already know she’s not going to do it. Why did I even ask?”
“Um…” she mumbles. “The thing is, I’m not very strong. Like, I haven’t been to the gym in… years, probably. And you’re…” She looks me over, down the length of my legs. “I mean, I could try, but I’m just not sure if—”
I’m really, really sorry I asked.
“No, fuck it.” I cut her off before this can continue. “I’ll manage myself.”
I haven’t made things better for myself, because now she’s standing there and watching me while I try to make this impossible transfer. I don’t know what we’re going to do. I guess I’ll have to call the paramedics again. A wonderful ending to our afternoon.
But I guess the motivation helps me because I make one last ditch try, and manage to shift my butt into my chair, my arms shaking like crazy the whole time. I can’t believe I did it. It’s a February miracle. I feel like I’m going to faint from relief that I’m actually back in my wheelchair. I wipe sweat from my forehead.
“Sorry,” Kirby says.
I don’t look at her as I busy myself adjusting my tangled legs in the footrest. “Yeah, well, I was fine on my own, apparently.”
“Anyway,” Kirby mumbles. She squeezes her hands together. “I had a really fun time watching the movie with you, John.”
I look back up at her. I know I’ve been unfair to her. It’s not her fault that I couldn’t make the transfer and she was scared to help me. What if she tried to help me and dropped me? Then we’d really be fucked.
“So did I, actually,” I say.
“We’ll have to do it again,” Kirby says brightly.
We will never, ever do this again in a million billion years.
To be continued........ BUT WAIT!
Are you itching for another dev story to read? Are you super sad that two of the stories on this blog just ended? Well, be sad no longer. Because I've just released a new book called Forget You! I'm going to announce it later, but I couldn't resist mentioning it here. Please, my dear readers, check it out!