So I initially was drawn to his dating profile because of his messy red locks and thought to myself, ‘Huh, cute curls. Why not?’. We messaged back and forth, like you do on the personals, until the conversation led into marathon racing. Dudes find my athletic prowess impressive. He told me he registered for this year’s race…but thought I should know…it was in the wheelchair division.
‘Wow!, I thought. ‘What an amazing guy. Is this like to raise money for his friend’s charity or something?’ Until the reality of it slowly thickened and filled my brain, and I double checked his photos and realized yes, yes. This man is in a wheelchair.
You never want to be the bitch that shuts someone down strictly based on physicality. As a Former Fat Girl, this is something I hold true. Who knows? There could be a spark. Who am I to rule out this potentially outstanding human being based on his inability to walk? Our banter was good, I found him attractive, he was smarter than the average bear and well-eaten. So we agreed to meet for cocktails in my neighborhood on a Sunday night. Sunday nights are low-pressure.
Maybe arriving late was purposeful so he’d already be settled when I walked in. I had never considered accessibility before. I never had to. The uncomfortable scenarios were endless and my self-conscious brain was starting to freak out. What if the only tables available are high-tops? What if he can’t get through the doorway? Do we hug to greet? The move was entirely mine since I had to be the one to lean in. When I told girlfriends about him, they naturally wanted to know: what’s the status of the dick?
I learned he wasn’t in a chair his entire life—that an autoimmune disease gone awry was the cause of the loss of his lower body. It was hard not to glance down at his emaciated legs, and wonder what his height would have felt like next to mine if we rewound fifteen years. He talked of his days as a runner. I imagined the grief he must have felt when it happened, then felt stupid for mourning a loss for this person I barely knew.
On our second date, I wore a short spring dress and cowgirl boots, picked up poutine, and drove to his place. We drank wine, I out-ate him and instead of watching a documentary as planned, we talked forever. I started to realize I liked this dude…he was sweet, attractive, interesting (albeit long winded) but generally a good person, who, under typical circumstances (I should mention I’m a little fucked in the head with dating right now due to my impending divorce/still being in love with a guy who lives in Brooklyn while I’m in Chicago) I would likely continue to see.
After a brief hiatus, we saw each other again a few weeks later for dinner and a show of one of his favorite pianists. He plays himself, and I was grateful to be introduced to this lovely new music in the company of a lovely new man. We were running a minute late to the show and he needed to use the restroom before settling in, so I told him I’d meet him at our seats.
Just how the fuck was this going to work? We had two seats on the aisle; I took the inner spot. Would he stay in his chair and park in the aisle? Would he lift himself out of his chair and into the seat? Would he need someone to help him do that? Would I be the one to help? Oh God. All these little things.
It ended up being fine. He pulled himself out of his chair, into the seat next to me, and we let the music drift around us. We relaxed, our bodies slowly drawing into one another comfortably. Our bodies. I couldn’t stop thinking about our bodies. He finally reached his hand over and placed it atop mine. I turned mine over, threading our fingers together. He tapped out notes on my knuckles, playing my hand like his instrument.
It. felt. good.
But it didn’t feel right.
It is difficult to say at this point how much of me ending things with this man is attributable to his physical disability, and how much of it is because of my own shit—still being hung up on Brooklyn, giving my heart time to be in complete disarray in the midst of my divorce—but the sad and shameful truth is that in some way, it did matter to me. It was an Issue. I wanted to prove to myself that I was a better human being, but what dating this man taught me was that I’m just a human being.