John doesn’t know it, but I’ve decided that tonight I’m going to get him a date.
We’re at a bar that’s equidistant from his place and mine. Since it’s Friday night, there are a lot of young people out and on the prowl. I think with a little encouragement, I could get John to hit on a few girls. And one of them is bound to respond.
And I can’t help notice that John looks really hot tonight. His black hoodie looks just the right amount of cute and casual, complementing his dark hair and eyes, and does the double duty of hiding how thin his lower arms are. He smiles at me when I sit down across from him, and it’s hard for me to believe that any red-blooded woman wouldn’t find him attractive.
John reaches out and rubs his cheek with the back of his hand. “Do I have something on my face?”
“You’re looking at me weird. How come?”
“Oh.” Why do I have to be so damn obvious? “No reason.”
“Okay, then quit it.”
“You quit it,” I say, even though it doesn’t entirely make sense. John obliges by looking at me bug-eyed for the next minute until I slug him in the arm.
The waitress comes to take our orders. I get my usual Corona Lite and John asks for a coca cola.
“Is Pepsi okay?” she asks.
“Hell no,” John says. “I’ll take a water please. With a straw in it.”
As the waitress walks away, I say to him, “There’s no difference between Coke and Pepsi, you know. They’re essentially the exact same drink.”
“No way,” John says. “They’re completely different. That would be like if… I told you there were no difference in taste between butter and margarine.”
“Those two are chemically different!”
“So are Coke and Pepsi!”
I shake my head at him. “Seriously, they’re exactly the same.”
“They’re not,” he insists. “Coke is more carbonated and has more of a vanilla taste. Pepsi is sweeter and has more of an ass taste.”
“Whatever.” I let out a little huff. “If I gave you a glass of Pepsi and a glass of Coke, there’s no way you’d be able to tell the difference.”
“I absolutely could.” He winks at me. “And that absolutely sounds like something we need to do sometime in the near future.”
Actually, that does sound like fun. I would love an opportunity to prove him wrong about something.
The waitress returns with our drinks. I watch John take a sip of his water and feel a twinge of disappointment. It’s going to be a lot harder to get him to hit on a girl if he’s not at least slightly buzzed.
“What’s the deal with the water?” I ask him. “No alcohol tonight?”
He shakes his head. “Alcohol and Percocet don’t mix.”
My heart speeds up a notch. “Percocet?”
“My shoulders are killing me.” As if to demonstrate, he grabs his wheels and does one of his usual quick weight shifts and I can see him wince. “My rotator cuffs are a mess. I’m going to get them injected next week.”
I grip my Corona tighter. “Is there anything else you can do about it?”
He snorts. “Well, my doctor wants me to switch to a power wheelchair. But that’s not happening.”
“Aside from the fact that the manual chair is smaller and easier to maneuver?” He sighs. “I know my social life isn’t exactly jumping, but the awkwardness and stares with a power wheelchair are probably an order of magnitude greater than what I get in this chair. Believe me—I’ve used one.”
“I’m sure you’re imagining it.”
Except maybe he isn’t. I could see how being in a giant motorized wheelchair might set him apart from other people more than his disability already does.
“I don’t know.” He shrugs. “Probably at some point in the future I won’t have a choice. But for now, I’m going to keep using this chair until I physically can’t.”
I decide not to broach the topic of finding a girl for him to hit on until we’ve got our food. John gets a Philly cheesesteak and I get a salad, because I don’t even want to think about how much weight I need to lose before the wedding.
As John is taking a big bite of his cheesesteak, I say to him, “So which woman in this room do you find the most attractive?”
He lifts his almond eyes in surprise. He takes about sixty seconds to finish chewing his bite of cheesesteak before saying, “What?”
I sigh and shake my head. “Women. Who do you think is attractive? Come on, you like women, don’t you?”
He grins crookedly. “Only occasionally.”
“So tell me. Look around—who do you like?”
“I don’t know. What’s the point?”
“The point is,” I say, “I want to get you some booty, John Yang.”
Sometimes I’m not entirely sure if what I’m going to say will make John laugh or get pissed off. Thank God, he laughs.
“That’s okay,” he says. “I appreciate the sentiment though. Really.”
I scan the bar full of patrons. It’s pretty crowded tonight. I pick out a dark-haired woman sitting at the bar who’s maybe in her mid-thirties—cute but not intimidatingly so. She glances in our direction for a few seconds before turning away.
“How about that woman at the bar?” I say.
John turns his head and stares ridiculously blatantly. “Which one?”
“Can you be a little more subtle?”
“No. I don’t think I can.”
I roll my eyes. “The one in the black and white dress.”
“Oh,” he says.
“So? What do you think?”
“I don’t know. She’s all right.”
He’s being completely maddening. I don’t know why he’s so resistant to this. I know he’s interested in having a girlfriend or at least hooking up. I guess this explains why he’s still single.
“Why don’t you go talk to her?” I suggest.
For God’s sake… “John, would you just talk to her?”
He lets out a long sigh. “Okay. If I go over there and talk to her and she shoots me down, can you leave me alone and let me enjoy my dinner?”
“You have to try,” I add. “You can’t go over there and tell her she looks fat.”
The corners of his lips twitch. “I wouldn’t do that.”
“Just introduce yourself and tell her you’d like to buy her a drink,” I say.
“Or ask her if it’s okay if you bought her a drink.”
“Would you like to write this down for me?”
John pushes away from the table, and spins his wheel to turn in the direction of our target woman. I look at him in surprise. “You can finish your sandwich first,” I say.
“Nah,” he says. “I’d rather get this over with first. It’ll be quick.”
I watch him push his hands into his wheels and my stomach flip-flops on his behalf. Does he have a chance of scoring with this girl? I can’t help but wonder if I’m sending the poor guy on a doomed mission.
What the fuck am I doing?
I must really be in love with Kirby to be doing this. I recognize the irony of only being willing to ask a girl out because I’m in love with another woman, but really, that’s the only way I’d ever consider hitting on a girl in a bar. Guys like me don’t score at a bar. At a bar, seventy percent of success is based on looks and the other thirty percent is based on alcohol. I’m screwed in the looks department, so I hope this woman is trashed.
Of course, the second I reach the bar, I lose my nerve. The woman I’d come over to attempt to talk to is prettier up close than she seemed from across the bar—it’s her dimples—and it messes me up. I can’t talk to a woman this attractive. She’s not going to want a guy in a wheelchair hitting on her, for Christ’s sake.
What do you say when you hit on a woman in a bar? I can’t say I’ve ever done that successfully. This whole thing is beginning to feel more and more ridiculous.
“Um, excuse me,” I finally say to the bartender. He’s a big hulking guy with muscles that only make me feel worse about myself.
He looks around for a second, confused, then he spots me. “Are you okay?” he asks me.
“I’m fine,” I mumble. “I just…” I glance over at the woman, who is listening to us curiously. “We need more beer.”
“We woulda brought that to you,” the bartender says.
“You could have,” the woman speaks up, “but then he wouldn’t have had an excuse to come over to talk to me.”
Oh shit. Did she hear Kirby and me talking about her? It’s hard to believe that she could hear that over Adam Levine’s voice blasting over the speakers. Lucky guess? Crap, this is humiliating.
The bartender looks at me with a perplexed expression, like it never occurred to him in a million years I’d want to ask a girl out. I sit up straighter in my chair, which causes my legs to shift. I try to smile at the woman.
“I’m Emma,” she tells me.
“I like that,” she says. “Nice and simple.”
“Thanks.” I keep my hands in my lap, hoping not to draw attention to them. I know my hands make people uncomfortable. The number one thing I’d change about my appearance is the way my hands look. “I, um… I wasn’t actually…”
Emma raises her eyebrows at me. “You didn’t come over to talk to me? Then how come your friend over there keeps flashing you a thumbs-up sign?”
Kirby, for fuck’s sake…
Amazingly, she doesn’t look uncomfortable or disgusted. And she doesn’t ask me for fifty bucks to stick around. My heart is slamming in my chest and I try to think of something clever to say, but my mind is a complete blank.
“So which is it?” Emma asks me, blinking her eyelashes heavy with mascara. “Did you come here to talk to me or not.”
My cheeks grow warm. “I guess… yes. I did.”
“Good,” Emma says.
I swallow hard. “Can I buy you a drink?”
“Actually,” she says, holding up her cocktail, “I’ve already got a drink. And I’m leaving to meet a friend in about two minutes. So you’ve got one hundred and twenty seconds to convince me to give you my phone number.”
“Okay.” I’m warming up to this game. “That’s great because I work well under time pressure.”
I nod. “Yeah. I’m actually Superman. This is just a really, really good disguise.”
“I don’t believe it,” Emma says. “If you’re Superman, where are your glasses?”
“I was wearing them earlier but I just took them off,” I explain. “I was called about a woman in distress and I was in the middle of changing into my costume when I came over here to talk to you.”
She raises her eyebrows. “You’re letting a woman in distress wait on my account?”
“Well, only for a hundred and twenty seconds.”
She glances down at her watch. “Actually, you’ve only got thirty seconds left. Any closing statements?”
“Yes,” I say. “If you give me your number, I solemnly swear not to write it in marker in the men’s room, preceded by the words ‘for a good time, call.’”
“Ooh,” Emma says. “I like that last bit. Very nice.”
Despite how nice Emma has been to me, I’m genuinely surprised when she scribbles her number down on a napkin and stuffs the napkin in my shirt pocket. Or by the way she lowers her lips to the level of my ears, so close that I can smell lemon-lime on her breath, and whispers, “Call me, Clark Kent.”
I wheel back to our table as Emma makes her quick exit. Kirby is grinning at me, her blue eyes wide. As I get closer to the table, she grabs me by the arm, which surprises me even more than when Emma whispered in my ear.
“So what did she say?” Kirby asks.
I shrug. “She was nice, but not interested.”
Now why the fuck did I say that? All Kirby wanted was to help me score with a girl, so I’m not sure why I felt the need to lie about it. The truth is, all I wanted to do when I was talking to Emma was get back to the table to hang out with Kirby. I don’t want to call Emma. I have zero desire to go on a date with her.
Great. Now my stupid crush is ruining my life.
“I’m so sorry, John,” Kirby says softly, her hand still on my arm. I can barely see her freckles in the dim light of the restaurant.
I shrug again. “It’s no big deal.”
“But…” She shakes her head. “I just… want you to find someone. I mean, you’re so great. And you’re also… you’re really cute.”
Kirby’s cheeks turn pink. She suddenly realizes her hand is still on my arm and she yanks it away. Remember how I said we never had a moment before? Well, I take it back. This is a moment. We’re staring into each other’s eyes and it's... well, let's just say intense. I want to kiss her. I’m going to kiss her.
No, I can’t fucking kiss her. What the hell is wrong with me? Maybe it was a moment for me, but I doubt it was for her. I'm just delusional.
I hear Kirby’s phone ringing. Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love.” Great song. Even her ring tone makes me love her. She smiles weakly at me and reaches for her phone. And it’s Ted, who is apparently psychic.
I watch her talking to him, wondering what the point of any of this is. Maybe I should just call Emma. She seemed to like me.
Except I know I won’t.