Jim brought me flowers at work today. It occurred to me that I don’t think a week has ever gone by in our entire relationship that he hasn’t given me flowers.
“You know,” I said to him as he handed me the roses from his lap, “you don’t need to buy me flowers every week. We’re already engaged.”
“So?” he said. “You know, my parents have been married almost forty years, and my father still buys my mother flowers every Friday.”
“Are you serious?”
God, Jim is going to make a great husband.
I went directly home after work today to finish packing up the last my stuff, which I have been really slow and lame about doing. And by “home,” I mean my old apartment where I was thankfully living month to month with no lease, so I just had to be out by the end of the month. I can’t say I have a lot of happy memories here. I can’t wait to move.
Jim hired a few guys to help me move, even though I’m donating most of my furniture to charity. I’ve got some pretty heavy boxes that I literally can’t lift. And Jim can’t either, obviously. I think he feels pretty bad about that. I mean, part of what’s nice about having a guy around is he can lift stuff that’s too heavy for me or open jars. Jim can’t do either of those things.
The moving guys were named Steve and Andy. They came striding into my apartment wearing T-shirts despite the fact that it’s pretty cold out still. They both had some serious muscles in their arms and chest. I found myself staring a little. Not that I don’t find Jim incredibly sexy, but he doesn’t have muscles like that. He can’t.
Steve and Andy put my boxes in their truck and I met them over at Jim’s apartment. I got them into the building, where Jim was waiting for us upstairs. He told them to leave the boxes in the living room.
“No, put the one that says ‘books’ by the bookcase,” I told them. I didn’t want point out that once the guys left, neither Jim nor I would be able to move these boxes.
Andy hefted the box into his arms, his biceps straining a bit, although they were actually able to lift most of the boxes with not too much effort. It made me feel like I ought to go to the gym more often.
I looked over at Jim, who was shifting a bit in his wheelchair. I know it kills him not to be able to do pretty basic things that most guys can do.
After Andy and Steve had unloaded all my boxes, I sat down at his dining table and looked at them. I really, really didn’t want to unpack. I wondered if I could pay someone to do it for me.
Jim wheeled over to me and brushed a strand of hair out of my face. “Having regrets?” he asked. He had a teasing tone, but somehow I felt like there was an undercurrent of seriousness there. It’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one who can be insecure.
“I hate unpacking,” I said.
I thought Jim might say something sympathetic, but instead he said, “Do you wish I had muscles like those guys?”
I blinked. That was the last thing I expected him to say. I mean, yes, Jim does sometimes seem a little insecure about his body. And yes, those guys had incredible chests and arms. But I don’t think I’ve ever heard him say something like that before. He usually seems pretty damn comfortable with himself. It’s something I always admired and envied about him.
“Of course not,” I said. I added: “You’re perfect.”
“You’re out of your mind,” he said with a grin. He pulled me out of my chair and into his. Well, at least he’s just as affectionate as always.
I spent today unpacking my books. Jim has two bookcases in his living room and they’re both more than half empty, so there’s plenty of room for my books. Especially since the top shelf of both bookcases is empty since Jim can’t really reach them. I don’t know why he purchased bookcases where he couldn’t reach one of the shelves, although I have to admit I’ve had a few bookcases over the years where I couldn’t reach the top shelf. I’m not tall.
While I unpacked my own books, I’ve been browsing through his. He has almost exclusively computer science books. They range from books about computer science theory, like artificial intelligence or computation theory, to books on different computer languages. He’s also got a few math and physics books. He’s only got a handful of books that aren’t math or computer books and none of them look like toilet-bowl reading. I picked up one of them, titled Godel, Escher, Bach, and it looks like it’s basically a story about math. Who would want to read a story about math? I like math as much as it’s possible for a normal person to like math, but I definitely don’t want to read a story about Achilles and a tortoise solving nonlinear equations.
I felt a little disturbed. I mean, who doesn’t have one fiction book in their entire collection? Part of me worried that Jim was just way too intellectual for me, although he honestly doesn’t seem that intellectual. More like nerdy than intellectual.
“That’s a great book,” Jim said as he watched me flipping through Godel, Escher, Bach. He had been sitting at his dining table, peering through his wire-rimmed glasses at his laptop screen as I unpacked. “It’s kind of like if Alice in Wonderland had been about math.”
“Sounds wonderful,” I said.
“I detect sarcasm.”
“Don’t you have any REAL books?” I asked him.
He gave me a weird look and pointed to his two half-full bookcases. “Yeah. See?”
“But what do you read for fun?”
He shrugged. “Mostly stuff on the web.”
“I don’t know. Porn.”
I stuck out my tongue at him. “I’m just trying to get to know my future husband.”
He laughed. “All right, all right. So here’s one of the websites I like to read. It’s called Slashdot.”
I lean over Jim’s shoulder to look at the computer screen, smelling his cologne wafting into my nostrils. I love the way Jim smells.
The website he’s showing me has “Slashdot” written across the top, with the banner “News for Nerds. Stuff that Matters.” I look at the first headline, which reads, “How Augmented Reality Browsers Stack Up for Navigating London.”
“Oh god,” I said. “You really read this?”
“I like it,” he said. He blushed slightly. “What? Too geeky?”
“Well, I don’t know,” I said. “It’s just… not the kind of thing most people are interested in.”
He shrugged. “We can’t all like classics like…” He squinted at my newly unpacked books. “Confessions of a Shopaholic.”
Now it was my turn to blush. I guess since Jim and I are getting married, I’m continually trying to find cracks in our façade of a perfect relationship. Jim is so easygoing and fun to be around. I feel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Even though I’m excited about getting married, I can’t seem to get excited about the wedding itself. I know weddings are something that girls plan their whole lives, but not this girl. The thought of being up in front of dozens of guests, staring at me while I walk down the aisle all dolled up, trying not to trip on my shoes, does not fill me with excitement. I think girls who dream about big weddings are girls who love being looked at and admired. I’m not like that.
“I want you to have your dream wedding,” Jim told me yesterday while we were lying in bed together. He stroked my arm lovingly as he said it. “I don’t care what it costs or what I have to do.”
Actually, my dream wedding would be at city hall or possibly Vegas. Just me and Jim. Nobody else there, nobody watching. Just the two of us. I told him that.
“Are you serious?” he said.
I think a lot of guys would be happy to find out their fiancée didn’t want a big fancy wedding. Jim didn’t look happy.
“I just think weddings are really stressful,” I said.
“Yeah, but…” Jim frowned. “Don’t you want your family to be there?”
He looked troubled. “Well, my parents would… I mean, they really want to see…”
I felt guilty. I know Jim was conflicted between wanting to give me what I wanted and also his desire to have a big huge wedding for some reason. It doesn’t make sense to me that Jim wants a huge wedding. I mean, I don’t think he’d like everyone staring at him anymore than I would. But then again, for reasons I don’t understand, he likes to show off our relationship. Plus he’s very close with his family and he’s the last of his brothers to get married, so I think his family was hoping for a big wedding.
“It’s okay,” I said. “We can have a real wedding. Just not TOO big, okay?”
He nodded. “All right. I don’t want to stress you out, Tessie. But don’t you think it would nice to have all our family and friends there when we get married?”
I sometimes forget that Jim actually really likes his family and is very close to them. For me, I feel like this is just going to be an opportunity for my family to pick on me and tell me they think I’m making a mistake.
Now that I’m actually living with Jim, there are all these little details I’ve been noticing about his apartment, things that I guess are adaptations for his disability. Like, for instance, none of the doors have knobs. They all have handles because he has a lot of trouble turning knobs.
Probably the most adaptive equipment is in the bathroom, but there’s stuff all over the apartment. The other day, I was cooking dinner in his (I mean, OUR) kitchen and I was looking for a spatula and instead discovered a whole drawer of weird looking utensils and stuff with special handles. He doesn’t use any of them though, as far as I’ve seen. I guess he doesn’t like them and can manage without them. Like I’ve said before, he can only move his fingers very slightly, but he can move his thumb a little better. Plus I’ve noticed he can sort of grip things by cocking his wrist backwards.
There are a few things he really can’t do without equipment though. Like buttons. You actually need a lot of dexterity to button your shirt or pants. He’s got this like device that he threads through the button hole in order to button his pants. He can use that on his shirts too, but the button holes are a lot smaller so it takes him for freaking ever to do it. So he generally just leaves his shirts buttoned and puts them over his head.
Sometimes he ends up with a shirt that’s unbuttoned, which lately has probably been my fault, what with my unbuttoning them in a fit of passion or something. This morning he wheeled over to me while I was pulling on my socks with his shirt completely unbuttoned. “Little help, Tessie?” he said with a sheepish grin.
He doesn’t usually ask me for my help with anything, but I guess there was something wifely about doing his buttons for him. As I fastened the buttons all the way up to his neck, I started to feel a little turned on. I inhaled his aftershave. I love the way Jim smells. He has such good hygiene.
“How are you with ties?” Jim asked me. “I’ve got a meeting today and I want to look presentable.”
“Terrible,” I said. I’ve never tied a tie before in my life. Why would I have? I don’t get women who are great at tying ties.
“Eh, fuck it,” he said.
I don’t think anyone actually cares much if Jim wears a tie. I mean, he’s one of the computer techie guys. The fact that he showers and shaves already puts him way ahead of the rest of them.
I talked to my mother after work today. I had a twenty minute conversation with her and didn’t manage to quite mention that Jim and I got engaged. Actually, she’s still under the impression that we’re broken up. Oops.
My mother doesn’t like Jim. She doesn’t want her oldest daughter marrying a guy who’s disabled and she’s made that pretty clear. She’d rather I not get married at all. So honestly, it’s just easier not to tell her.
I feel guilty about this, considering Jim told his parents the same night we got engaged. I was sitting there when he was on the phone with them. “Guess what?” he said. “Tessie and I are getting married!”
I was sitting several feet away but I could still hear his mother screaming with joy on the other end of the line. Pretty flattering.
Then his mother wanted to talk to me. She told me congratulations and said that I could call her “Mom,” although I can’t even imagine doing that. Jim’s whole family has been nothing but incredibly nice to me. Mostly I think they’re just nice people, but also, they really wanted Jim to get married.
Over dinner, Jim was talking about the wedding and asked me how my mother took it when I told her the news. I mumbled something. He knew right away. “Tessie,” he sighed. “You didn’t tell her yet, did you?”
I shook my head guiltily.
He wasn’t even surprised. He knows how she reacted to our relationship. “We’ll tell her together,” he said. “Tell her we’re coming to visit.”
“Maybe we don’t have to tell her?” I suggested.
“Great idea, Tessie,” he said. “And when we have kids, we can just toss them in the closet when they come to visit.”
All right, he has a point. I guess I have to tell them. I just know that my mother will freak out and I’m dreading it. But at least Jim will be with me for support. I mean, she’ll get used to it eventually, right?
I managed to “forget” to call my mother for the last several days. Finally, Jim told me if I didn’t call her myself, he was going to sit with me and watch me call her. I guess I don’t blame him for being upset. The whole thing is pretty insulting to him and he’s actually been really understanding about it, considering everything.
So tonight I finally gave me mother a call. She was all chipper, talking about my sister Tina’s pregnancy. Tina is now six months pregnant. I can’t even believe it. I’m going to be an aunt in a few months. I’d say that my mom is going to be a grandma, except that it might not happen since I’m about to give her a stroke.
Anyway, I suggested that I drive down for a visit and she sounded very happy. “I haven’t seen you in months,” she pointed out. “Oh, and I have the perfect…” She caught herself. “Never mind.”
Except she’s been my mother for thirty years so I knew exactly what she was planning. “Please don’t set me up, Ma,” I said.
“But he’s so nice!” she said. “And he’s Greek.”
A Greek man in California. The Holy Grail.
“Also, he owns his own business,” she went on. “And he’s very handsome…”
It was time to put a stop to my mother’s Jim-less fantasies. “Look,” I said. “I’m bringing Jim.”
“What?” she screeched into the phone. I had to hold it away from my ear. She was about as loud as Jim’s mother, but kind of on the other end of the spectrum. “I thought you broke up!”
This was not a good sign. Already she was freaking out and she has no clue we’re getting married. I felt sick.
“We got back together,” I said.
She sighed loudly. “Tessie, I really thought you had more sense than this.”
I really felt like crying. My mother is never going to accept Jim. He can be as wonderful and charming and sweet as he wants, but she’s just not going to accept a guy who can’t walk. But for Jim’s sake, I’ll have to try.
To be continued...