This morning, I had a case of the Mondays, as they say. I had been looking forward to my date Saturday and then it was kind of a bust. Well, it could have been worse. Half of me was hoping I’d never have to see Harry again and the other half was disappointed he hadn’t called me yet.
First thing when I walked in the door to the office, Sandra asked me about my date. “It wasn’t great,” I said.
“Maybe you should pay a little visit to the computer helpdesk and see Jim,” she suggested.
I was kind of tempted, but I felt like it was too late. I had rejected him too many times.
I had two cups of coffee and played a couple of games of Freecell on the computer, trying to get my brain in good enough shape to do some work. After about an hour, I got an email from the boss, saying that there was going to be a talk this afternoon that everyone had to attend. The talk was on Computer Protection. Apparently, some people at the company were dumbasses who had information stolen off them and it was a really big deal, so now we all had to suffer through this lecture.
I didn’t realize until I actually got to the conference room that afternoon that the talk was being given by none other than James Matchett. He was already in the conference room when I got there, much more dressed up than he had been on the other occasions I had seen him. He was wearing a jacket and a tie this time, and he looked really spiffy. I couldn’t help but wonder how he tied a tie with his fingers like that.
“Hi, Tessie,” he said to me when I walked into the room. “Nice to see you again.”
“I like your tie,” I blurted out. I blushed after I said it, but I did love the way the tie brought out the color in his eyes.
Jim grinned at me. “I only own two ties, so they better be good, huh?”
I slipped into a seat that was near the front of the room. Jim was talking to my boss, Rich, but he looked over at me every minute or so. Now that I had permission to look at Jim, since he was the speaker, I was really checking him out. His wheelchair was not one of those clunky ones at the hospital or something. It was compact and sporty looking. I wondered how long he’d been using it for. I think Sandra was right that he must have been paralyzed or something, because his legs weren’t moving at all. He was slender, but he also had a bit of a gut that was kind of out of place with the rest of him but almost made him more endearing somehow. He was one of those guys who clearly didn’t spend a lot of time and energy trying to look good (going for glasses rather than contacts, hair gel-free), but he somehow looked good anyway.
My boss Rich introduced Jim: “I’d like you to meet the newest member of the Information Technology Department, James Matchett. He’s got a lot of experience with computer security and we hired him away from a rival company so that he could help us out with some of the issues we’ve been having. So please give him your full attention.”
Everyone looked at Jim. I bet anything that everyone was wondering why he was in a wheelchair and thinking about how weird it was, much more than they cared about computer security. Nobody gave a shit about computer security.
“Please everyone, call me Jim,” he said. “And I’m sure I’ll get to know the rest of you as you call the helpdesk for your various computer issues. But today we really have to get down to business about security. This is a big deal.” He cleared his throat. “First thing is passwords. I don’t have access to any of your passwords, but this morning, I managed to hack into the files of nearly a quarter of the people in this department by just trying five of the same passwords. The word ‘password’ is NOT a secure password, people. And for the love of god, don’t make your password ‘love’ or ‘god.’ From now on, all passwords have to be at least seven characters, made up of letters and numbers.”
Everyone in the room looked horrified. “How are we supposed to remember our password?” someone asked.
“Well,” Jim said, “it turns out the human brain is capable of remembering seven characters, like a phone number, fairly easily. And I can tell this is a smart group. So I think you’ll be able to do it.”
Jim talked for almost an hour, giving some examples of computer security breaches at this company (some really mindboggling), and talked about the changes that were going to be implemented. I was actually really impressed with Jim. He seemed to be a really smart guy. I was also impressed at how he managed to field all the stupid questions everyone kept asking him.
“You can’t give your password out to anyone,” Jim said. “Not your boss, not your coworkers, not your grandmother, nobody.”
“What if it’s an emergency?” Sheila, this pretty but ditzy blonde, asked. “Like if there’s a fire?”
“A fire?” Jim stared at her. “If there’s a fire, you should probably move toward the exits. So no, you should not give your password out if there’s a fire.”
The talk ended and I found myself walking over to Jim. He was talking to Rich and I waited. I overheard Rich saying something about “equal opportunity” and Jim looked a little annoyed. Rich was kind of a dumbass sometimes.
“That was a really helpful talk,” I said.
“Gets more fun every time I do it,” Jim said. He smiled at me. “So are you caught up with your work yet? Can I take you to lunch?”
“Okay,” I found myself saying.
Jim paused a second, clearly surprised. Then he recovered. “No, wait, it’s too late. You waited too long. The lunch offer’s no good anymore. Now it has to be dinner.”
“Oh, um… okay.”
“Awesome,” Jim said. “I’m busy tonight, but how about tomorrow night? Seven o’clock? I can pick you up.”
“That sounds good.”
We both stood there for an awkward minute. Finally, Jim said, “You don’t have to give me your address. Since I work in IT, I can just hack into the computer system and get it.”
“I’m just kidding. I need your address.”
I found a slip of paper and wrote down my address for him. My hand was actually shaking as I handed him the paper. I’d never felt so nervous about a date before. I was really relieved when he finally left.
When I was walking back to my desk, this guy named Todd who is a few cubicles down from me stopped me. When I first met Todd, I kind of had a crush on him, but I soon discovered he was a douche. “Hey, Tessie,” Todd said to me. “Did that guy in the wheelchair just ask you out?”
It was none of his business but I shrugged and said yeah.
“Wow,” Todd said.
Wow? What did that mean? Did that mean he was surprised I’d say yes to a guy in a wheelchair? Or that he was surprised a disabled guy would have the chutzpah to ask a girl out? Or that he was surprised that anyone would ask ME out? None of those options were very flattering. I tried not to obsess over it.
I have a date tomorrow, boys and girls!
My day didn’t start out well. In the parking lot at work, I was passing a construction area and a worker yelled out something about my having too much junk in the trunk. I always hear women complain about getting catcalls or whatever from construction workers—I must be the only woman in the world who gets insulted by the construction workers. What’s the point of telling me I have junk in the trunk? I know it.
Anyway, I’d been thinking I looked okay before that. I mean, Jim seemed so interested in me, it was helping my self-esteem. I thought maybe I was getting more attractive with age or something like that. Clearly not though. Jim must just be visually impaired.
Actually, I sort of felt like maybe the reason Jim wanted to go out with me was that I wasn’t so attractive. Considering the guy is in a wheelchair, his standards must be pretty low. I’m sure when he sees a really pretty girl, he knows he has no chance, just like I know I have no chance with a very good looking guy. Somebody like me is probably his only chance for a relationship.
Even so, my goal was to avoid seeing Jim all day. I didn’t want him to see me before the date and suddenly change his mind.
When I got to work, there was an email from Jim in my inbox:
I’ll be at your place at 7. Get ready for the night of your life, babe. –Jim
I emailed him back: I thought this was supposed to be platonic?
His reply: I lied. That a problem?
I started composing an email with something along the lines of saying that I wasn’t really looking for a relationship, etc, but then I realized I was being an idiot. Why was I so scared of a date with Jim? He was great. I just emailed him back a simple “no, not a problem.”
I even ate lunch at my desk so that I wouldn’t accidentally run into Jim. I managed to make it home without seeing him once.
Jim called me at 7 on the dot. It was actually amazing how on time he was. In my experience, everyone is usually like a minimum of fifteen minutes late. He must have really wanted to impress me.
Jim’s car was nothing fancy on the outside, but on the inside, it was rigged up with hand controls. I had been wondering how he was able to drive. Honestly, I was a tiny bit worried about my life being in the hands of a guy who couldn’t move his hands. I was relieved when he didn’t drive too fast.
“You want some music?” he asked me. “I’ve got a CD in the player.”
“Sure,” I said.
“This is a really important moment in our relationship,” he said in a very serious voice. “If our music taste isn’t compatible, we should just end the date right now. I mean, if one person likes country music and the other likes rock and roll, that just won’t work. What kind of music do you like, Tessie?”
“Mostly oldies,” I said. “Like the Beatles or the Rolling Stones.”
“Well, let’s see,” Jim said. He pressed a button to turn on the music and the sounds of the Beatles’ Rubber Soul blasted on the speakers.
“Oh my god!” I gasped. “Rubber Soul is my absolute favorite album ever!”
“You’re kidding. Wow, I guess it’s meant to be, huh?”
As I leaned back in my seat, listening to the music, a thought occurred to me. This was an awful coincidence. “Did you ask Sandra what kind of music I like?”
Jim grinned. “What a thought.”
I chatted with Jim on the way to the restaurant. It was very nice and relaxed. Without the wheelchair in the picture, there was no awkwardness. He was just a regular guy. And it was really nice that he was paying so much attention to me. I’m not sure if a guy has ever treated me so nicely.
When we got to the restaurant, the lot was full but Jim parked in a handicapped spot right outside. I guess there are benefits to being crippled, huh? I was kind of dreading him transferring back into his chair, which he had stashed in the back seat. I wanted to watch, but I felt obligated to look away. I felt like watching him do this would be like… watching him in the shower or something. I didn’t want to seem like I was staring.
We went inside together and the pretty hostess saw us and immediately said, “Hi, Jim.” Actually, everyone in the restaurant seemed to know him. It was really weird. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a restaurant where so many people recognized me.
“I guess it’s nice to be in a place where everyone knows your name,” I commented to him after we were at a table.
“No seriously,” I said. “How come everyone knows you?”
For the first time since I’d met him, Jim actually looked a little embarrassed. “I didn’t want to tell you this, but this place is my first date restaurant.”
“You know, it’s the place where I take girls when it’s the first date,” he explained. He wasn’t looking me in the eyes. “If I’m trying to make a good impression, I want to make sure I’m in a place that’s… you know, accessible for me. It’s usually not so good when I get to a restaurant with a date and find out there’s a bunch of steps to get in. It can be… uncomfortable.”
I can’t imagine what it must be like to be in Jim’s situation and constantly having to think about stuff like that. “So you go on a lot of first dates?”
“Well, no, not really,” he laughed. “I’m kind of looking forward to a time when I won’t have to go on first dates at all anymore.”
I didn’t know what to say to that. Obviously, Jim was saying he was looking for a long-term type of relationship. Marriage? He didn’t say it, but he was at the age where he probably wanted to get married.
“Is there anything else I can to make things more awkward?” Jim said.
“Uh, what do you mean?”
“Come on, Tessie,” he said. “You’re uncomfortable with me being in a wheelchair.” I tried to shake my head, but he gave me a look. “I don’t blame you. A lot of people are and I’m used to it by now. It’s okay, Tessie. Really. I want to try to help you.”
“Ask me whatever you want,” he said. “Anything you want to make you feel more comfortable. How about this—three questions. Three questions and you don’t have to phrase them delicately to spare my feelings. In fact, I want you to ask them as un-PC as you can.”
It was such a weird thing to offer. I didn’t see how Jim could be so open about everything. I didn’t think I could do the same.
He winked. “Don’t worry, Tessie, I can handle it.”
“Okay.” I took a deep breath. “Why do you need an, um… you know…”
“A what?” He knew what I meant but he wanted to make me say it.
“A wheelchair.” I let out the breath. “Why do you need a wheelchair?”
“Nice job, Tess,” he said. “That wasn’t too hard to say, was it?” Yeah, only nearly impossible. “When I was 17, I was in a car accident. I had just gotten my license and I was a shitty driver. Smashed into a tree and broke my neck. So I’m what you’d call a quadriplegic. I need the wheelchair because I’m paralyzed and can’t move my legs. Therefore, walking is not going to happen. What’s question two?”
“How do you do anything without moving your hands?” I blushed when I said it.
“With much difficulty,” Jim replied. He held up his hands. “I’ve got a small amount of movement in my thumbs and I can move my wrists. The rest of my fingers barely move at all. But it’s been 15 years and I’ve trained myself to pretty much do anything that doesn’t require a lot of dexterity. For example, getting dressed I can do, but things like buttoning my shirt or tying my tie I can’t. So I just leave my shirts buttoned and my ties tied.” He shrugged. This was all not a big deal to him. He was so comfortable with himself. I actually felt really jealous. “Last question?”
There was one question that I was dying to ask, but I couldn’t. If he was paralyzed, was he able to have sex? I wanted to know more than anything. I couldn’t ask him that though. He said I could ask anything, but I was sure he didn’t mean that. So I tried to think of a third question.
While I was thinking, Jim leaned in close to me. I could smell his cologne and it caused a little tingling in my underwear. “Tessie, how about if I just go ahead and answer your third question, okay? The answer is yes.”
I stared at him. “What?”
“That’s the answer to your question,” he said. “Yes, I can have sex. That’s what you were wondering, right?” He burst out laughing at the look on my face. “I was right. Come on, it was so obvious. I told you that you could ask me anything.”
My face was so red, I thought that any second I might burst into flames. But I was also relieved. Jim could have sex. Just in case it ever came up, which I was sort of beginning to hope it would.
“Did I make things better or worse?” he asked me.
“Better,” I replied. “Thanks.”
“Good,” he said. “I don’t want you running for the door. I like you.”
Before I could stop myself, I blurted out: “Why?”
I could tell my question took Jim by surprise. I was a little sorry I said it, but I couldn’t help myself. Why? Why was Jim pursuing me? I was the ugliest woman in the office. There were at least half a dozen other single girls who had been in that conference room who were much more attractive than I was. Why did Jim want ME? It was driving me crazy. Why? WHY??
“I don’t know,” he said finally. “Because you’re nice. And I have a weakness for redheads.”
I looked down at the napkin on my lap.
“Why’d you finally agree to go out with me?” Jim asked. “Since we’re asking the brutally frank questions….”
“I don’t know,” I said. “Because you’re nice. And you asked me like a zillion times.”
Jim smiled and I smiled back. I think we shared a little moment right there and things were easier after that. The conversation was probably the best I’ve had on a first date ever. He was really easy to talk to. And I couldn’t stop thinking about how cute he was.
I got used to his hands over the course of the meal. He actually was pretty good at using them, considering. When he was eating, I was always sure he was going to drop his fork, but he never did. By the time we finished our dinners, I was barely noticing his hands anymore.
I felt sort of bad for Jim, that with every person he met or every potential girlfriend, he had to go through forcing them to abandon their awkwardness. Not that things were so great for me, but at least I didn’t make people feel uncomfortable. He was lucky that he was so outgoing, at least. I’m not outgoing.
“So I was just thinking,” Jim said after the waiters took our plates. “How would you feel if I kissed you right now?”
The request surprised me. “Nobody ever asked my permission before. They just did it.”
“I’m not asking your permission!” Jim said. “I’m just getting your thoughts on the matter.”
“Getting my thoughts on the matter?” I repeated. “What are you—a woman?”
“Oh, that does it…” I was mid-snicker when Jim leaned in and pressed his lips against mine.
I’m not even sure if he meant it to be as intense a kiss as it was. I think he was going for a tasteful peck on the lips, but as soon as we got close, things just took on a life of their own. I’d try to describe it, but I don’t think a description would do it justice. You know the kind of kiss I mean. Like where you want the other person so bad, you just each keep pulling closer and closer and…
I’ve never had a kiss like that in thirty years. I don’t know if it was because I’ve never been kissed by a guy who liked me as much as Jim did. Or maybe it’s that I’ve never kissed a guy I liked as much as I liked Jim. Or maybe none of the other guys knew how to kiss as well as Jim did. Or maybe it was all of the above.
After we pulled apart, Jim looked as breathless as I felt. He whispered in my ear, “You’re so sexy, Tessie.” I’m not, but damned if I didn’t at least believe he thought so. I still had no idea why, but I wasn’t going to question it anymore. At least not tonight.
We ordered a dessert to share and Jim went to go to the bathroom. While he was gone, the waitress came and deposited our apple pie on the table. It looked delicious but I had already vowed to let Jim eat most of it. I was going to take one bite, at most.
“This your first date with Jimmy?” the waitress asked me. Her nametag said “Meg.” She was quite attractive.
“He’s a really good guy,” Meg said. “Aren’t too many like him out there. I’ve known him for years and years.”
“I haven’t seen him here in a while though,” she went on. “Jimmy would kill me for telling you this, but he got his heart broke real bad last year. I’m glad it looks like he’s finally recovering. Looks like he really likes you.”
I didn’t think Jim would have wanted me to know any of this, if it was in fact true. I mumbled something and Meg told me good luck and left the table. Jim was back a minute later and the first thing he asked me was, “So what did Meggie say to you?”
“She, um…” I hadn’t intended to tell him, but somehow it popped out: “She said you just got your heart broken.”
“Did I?” He raised his eyebrows. “Interesting, interesting…”
Of course, I wanted to know if it was true, but it was one thing that he actually seemed reluctant to talk about. Did he get his heart broken just a little bit? Or did some girl completely crush him? From the way Meg was talking, it sounded like the latter.
I’ve never had my heart broken, not really. Maybe because I’ve never been in love before. I’ve had crushes before, but nothing I ever felt was real love. My longest relationship has lasted only months. I never developed a strong enough attachment to have a broken heart. I guess I should feel lucky?
I broke my promise to myself and ended up eating about half of the apple pie. I figured Jim seemed to like me the way I was, so may as well enjoy my dessert.
He drove me home after that and I couldn’t invite him up because oh the stairs. He kissed me again before I left the car and it was yet another incredible kiss. I didn’t want to leave the car. Half of me wanted to ask him to drive me to his place and have the sex that he assured me he was capable of. But I was a lady and he was a gentleman, so I got out of the car, went upstairs, and masturbated.
To be continued...