[read time: 5 minutes]
This event took place over nine years ago, but I still remember the text.
I wanted to wait until you were done work, it began.
My heart sunk.
I had been seeing a guy for a while now, and everything truly felt good. He was the first person I ever dated who owned a house and had his driver’s license. Not only did he even own a car, but multiple cars. He actually treated me nice. For a while, I truly believed I was – finally – dating a real man.
And I wanted to give you a call.
He took me on dates for drives in his old Cadillac convertibles, cruising the strip along the beach, eating ice cream along the way. We would hold hands and wander into the shops. He always made sure he had an extra sweater in the car for me, in case I got cold from the breeze rolling off the ocean, cooling the warm summer night air.
There are so many great qualities in you, I continued to read.
My mind jumped back to all the things I had ever told him.
I’m sad. I’m depressed. I drink too much, I know it, and I can’t stop. My knee. My leg. My pain.
I opened up to him, and he let me. We would talk on the phone for hours. He coaxed my deepest and darkest fears out of me, and listened, and said he understood. He was empathetic.
And I’ve truly enjoyed the time I’ve spent with you.
We would make out like teenagers under the pier, licking ice cream off each other’s lips.
He was tall enough to hold me, protect me, and gently kiss the top of my head. Always a tall girl myself, finding someone even taller than me was a rarity.
But I want to be with someone who can enjoy the finer things in life. My stomach clenched.
I told him how life had always been so difficult for me because of my knee, my leg, my disability. I confided in him the self-pity I always carried but tried not to show.
I confessed to him like a diary: I won’t be able to be a police officer. I can’t be a paramedic. Anything that caused strain on my leg was out; I failed physical fitness exams and could never carry more than 40 pounds.
Someone who can do things. Bicycle. Snowboard. Hike.
I was sitting at my desk at work, and realized my palms were getting sweaty. I logged off my computer and ran down the four flights of steps to the fresh air outside.
But you can’t do any of those things.
I CAN do those things, I wanted to scream at the text. But I chose not to. They cause me pain, it hurts. Why would I put my body through that unnecessarily?
He told me, as he listened to me express my frustration with the world, that he would take care of me. Take care of my well-being, take me to doctor’s appointments.
For a while, I thought I found the one.
And I want someone who can do those things.
I started to hyperventilate. I just quit smoking a few weeks before, and I craved a cigarette now more than ever.
I went to the gas station next door and bought a single cigarillo.
I want someone who isn’t disabled, who can do those things. My hands shook as I lit the cigarillo and breathed deeply.
There is was. Not only did he not call me, and not wait until I was done work, but rather he broke up with me because I am disabled – something I have no control over nor asked for – over a text.
This guy was 43. You’d think he would have learned something – anything – by now.
I gripped my cell phone in my palm, outraged.
Good thing you told me now that you’re a little boy and not a man, I replied, then blocked him, and have not had any interaction with him since.
I let the sadness flow through me for years. I was already an alcoholic during this time period, and that text did not help matters at all.
Those words constantly played over and over in my mind.
I want someone who can enjoy the finer things in life.
Words do hurt. Words do stay with you.
I drank heavily for days after, pissed off at everything, especially him.
But the one thing I did not do was hate myself over this. I knew, deep down, that he was in the wrong. Maybe he had tricked me into thinking he was someone different, someone who cared; maybe I had fallen for it. But the one thing I knew was that this was not my fault.
It was not my fault I was born with a disability. It is not my fault I cannot snowboard, bike, hike. Do couples have to do every single thing together? Ever heard of alone time?
By the way, I do not consider those things the “finer things in life”. Who even says that to describe outdoor activities?
Speaking of which: ever heard of adaptive sports? Clearly, he had not.
That text, although it enraged me, spoke volumes. Volumes about him, about me, about the state of the world. Despite the sweet whispers he said, they were nothing but lies. A person like him could never understand me: he has no patience to.
Ever since then, I have made it a point to be more empathetic towards myself. Yes, there are things I cannot do – so what? To dump someone because they are physically limited and have been since birth is the most ridiculous and outrageous thing that has ever happened to me.
And you know what? I was not surprised. Not one bit. I knew this would happen to me one day, because that is how people deal with differences: by ignoring them, shaming them, and pushing them to the side.
Luckily for him, he would never recognize me now if we passed each other on the street. And luckily for me: I’m not with him.