Dating Me

I held my pillow tighter as I bit my lower lip. What is he doing right now? I wondered. Was he thinking about me, too or was I just being a fool? When I was in the car earlier that day, Sam Smith’s “I’m Not the Only One” came on and I had a hunch – he probably likes another girl; I wouldn’t be surprised if he did. And yet I wasn’t jealous when I entertained this thought that seemed like it could be so real. He’s great, I kept repeating to myself. Damn. Was I falling for him? He was the first guy I showed my braces to. We were sitting next to a large window in a coffee shop. I arrived before him and the view drew me in, making me gaze at happy couples strolling by outside, looking like they had not a care in the world. I wanted that. I sat there nervous, extremely nervous to tell him. This was only our second meeting. But after he greeted and hugged me, I told him right away. “There’s something you should know about me by the way,” I began. Oh god, did I already ruin it? Did it sound too dramatic? “You know I use this scooter, but I wear leg braces too,” I blurted out. His face remained unchanged, serious as it always was. “I mean, I’m always pretty much wearing long pants and shoes that cover them and you would’ve found out eventually but I just wanted to tell you,” I said. Then in the middle of the coffee shop with numerous strangers around us, I hiked up the pant of my left leg. “You can’t see now, but they go up to my knees.” There, that was it. Done. All I knew was that I had laid out this secret of mine and now I was just waiting for his response. He took a hold of his ceramic coffee mug and drew in a small sip. “People look like they’re in a rush today, huh?” he said. He didn’t direct that question to me. It actually wasn’t a question, but more like empty words that spilled from his mouth to somehow distract both of us from the awkward tension that filled the air. I felt like a little life in me died. So he doesn’t like me, then. The scooter was enough. The braces were now the breaking point. We didn’t talk much, a sign that meant he was trying to stall time to seem nice instead of leaving me right then and there. I was preparing myself for the blow until he said something that shocked me. “Do you mind if we go to your place? All these crowds and people today are just too much for me,” he said. My palms instantly grew sweaty. I couldn’t even say anything; I merely nodded. He looked back down at his steaming coffee. We sat on my bed from the lack of a couch in my studio. I stretched out my legs and rested them on my scooter as we talked about how work was going for the both of us. Led Zeppelin was playing on Pandora in the background. It was both our favorite. “I know that you primarily use your scooter to get around, so how do those braces help you?” he asked. I was a bit taken back by how direct he approached me but I wasn’t shy to reply. “Well, they’re more to help position my feet and protect them from sprains,” I said. “They used to help me walk but you know, my muscles have grown weaker so they can’t really do much anymore. I actually have a walker that I use to stand up and exercise, though.” “I don’t see it,” he said, looking around the room. “It’s in the closet. I don’t really like to use it all too much. I’m lazy, I suppose.” I laughed. I looked at his eyes, expecting them to be concentrated on something else, but I was surprised to see that they were looking straight at mine. I wanted to look away, for I was turning red, but it was as if I couldn’t – they had a grip on me. We just stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity but was probably just a minute. Afterwards, he broke the silence. “You know, you’re really pretty,” he said. I stammered. “I-I don’t know what to say.” “Well, don’t disagree with me. Just accept it or say thank you.” “Thanks,” I said. “You really think so?” “You ask the stupidest questions sometimes,” he replied. We sat on my bed with a mountain of pillows between us the whole time he stayed. No kissing. No hugging. No touching at all. He talked about sports; I listened. Swimming, tennis, football. Who were the best players. What were the best tactics. I grew bored immediately, but he chattered for an hour while I just politely nodded when he occasionally paused. When he eventually got up and left, I returned to my bed and lay down. I stared at the ceiling and changed the Pandora station. That Sam Smith song played again. I imagined this guy I liked laughing and kissing someone else. My obstinate doubts fueled my fear. Surely there are prettier girls than me, smarter than me – all able-bodied. Why would he be with me? These thoughts made perfect sense. They were facts in my mind. Everything and anything bad that happened in my life were my disease’s fault. It was as if my disease had tainted me with its ugliness, revolting and repulsing people no matter what I did. I could wear the cutest clothes, perfect my makeup, and spend more than an hour on my hair. Yet none of it would matter because I would still be sitting on my scooter with my braces strapped onto my legs.

  1. It is statistically proven that people with disabilities have less sex than able-bodied people.
  2. The ways in which architecture is built and is continuously built in some areas perpetuate a belief that disabled people are not and should not be welcomed in the community.
  3. The authors we read argue that the hardest thing about living with a disability is actually not the physical pain, but rather is how society demeans and mistreats them, forever preventing them from realizing their full potential.

I lay in my bed, awake for the rest of the day, not wanting to move or do anything. I had no appetite and although I knew that I had to shower, I remained still, just staring at the ceiling. I always wanted a boyfriend. I was convinced that a guy would fill up this empty void within me and I would be fully happy again. And I could prove to everyone – even my family and friends who already loved me ­– that I can be loved in this way too. He was perfect, really: smart, tall, with pristine hair and a killer style. They were enough for me to overlook his anger issues when he hurled the flashlight behind us when he couldn’t find his phone in his car and when he slammed the table hard enough to rattle my teaspoon off the saucer when his favorite basketball team lost. I didn’t say anything back to him when I told him that I never once regretted having majored in English while he just laughed and laughed. My phone beeped and a text from him popped up across the screen. “I just wanted to say good night,” it read. I wanted to call him and hear his voice. Tell me, why do you really like me? I wanted to ask. It was as if I wasn’t enough and would never be enough. I wouldn’t compare to other girls. He could easily leave and forget me if he wanted to. I didn’t like how I was starting to feel. Two weeks after our first meeting were blissful, unreal. But everything was deteriorated now, it seemed. And yet I wanted to stay. A part of me said no, though. Leave, it called out. Leave, it first said when I saw him punch the wall. Leave, it demanded when I couldn’t precisely answer whether I truly liked him as a person. That’s what I needed to address – did the guy matter? My void was so desolate and strong that really, any guy could assume the boyfriend role in my life. Right? Did I honestly like this guy? God, what did he see in me, anyway? I kept wondering. Was this a game for him? A power game, a manipulative game to control me? Something to boost his ego? Because he knew that I’d disregard his flaws, stay, never leave, and always remind him that he’s great. My fingers were ready on my phone to delete him, never reply to him again and to never see him again. It would be the best for me, a necessary decision that I would need to make, I knew. I knew all of this, what was the right thing to do, and yet despite it all I typed “I miss you” and sent it to him.

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