You met the girl online, on one of those dating sites that asks you a long series of questions about how you feel about messy rooms and vegan food and bondage and politics. You are, the website claims, 95% compatible with her.
This feels true when you begin to chat through the messaging service on the website. You’ve seen many of the same shows, read many of the same books. She asks good questions, responds thoughtfully to yours, has impeccable grammar. In her pictures, she’s doing interesting things, like hiking up mountains, drinking beer against a backdrop that looks distinctly European, laughing into the sun. You try not to let your mind wrap around the word “perfect” when you think about her.
And then she asks you if you’d like to meet. Have dinner.
Your blood feels like it’s humming. This could be it, the moment you begin your love story, like in the movies you’ve been watching too often, sniffling when the music swells and the couple has the passionate kiss that seals their happy ending. You want this so badly it feels physical.
And yet, you’re not like the couples in the movies. First, and most obviously, you’re queer, and you’re sometimes much more attracted to the quirky businesswoman than the disheveled fixer-upper guy. No big deal for this date, though — this girl is bisexual, has told you that she’s dated other women before and is not just experimenting, won’t stop you mid makeout and say, “Um, actually, I’m not really into this. No offense, I think I’m straight.”
It’s the other thing you’re worried about. You don’t like the word “disabled,” the way it feels heavy, makes you picture an overturned metal table pinning you to the ground. But it’s what you are, what you have been since you were diagnosed with the untreatable genetic condition that is stealing your vision, bit by bit. And, since it began to take hold seven years ago, there are so many things you can’t do anymore. So many things you will have to explain to this girl before you can have that ending-sealing kiss, which fades to black and opens back up with wedding flower petals falling around your faces, clinging to your hair as you bare your ecstatic teeth at each other.
You know that it’s far too early to imagine marrying her. You’re just thinking all of this because you’re alone, and being alone makes you irrational, makes you skip all of the necessary steps.
You remind yourself that the last relationship you were in was also a result of terrible loneliness, that when the man proposed two months in and immediately after sex, him kneeling naked at your feet in bed, you realizing why people usually proposed with clothes on because he looked so vulnerable and ridiculous, you said yes anyway. Because you believed he really was the only one who would want to be with you. He made this feel true, too. Never said it, but made it clear in the ways he became frustrated with you and how you needed him to be your eyes. The way he sighed when you asked him to drive you to a doctor’s appointment, to read the instructions on the frozen meal so you could microwave it, to help you set up the reading software that allowed you to complete your coursework for your master’s program. The way he looked at you expectantly for a profuse thank you, sulked when you didn’t express an adequate level of humiliated gratitude. And it was this feeling that you couldn’t possibly do better that made you put up with the other things, with the nights he drank a whole bottle of vodka and then buried his face into the carpet and screamed until you needed to help him to the toilet so he could eject it all. With him accusing you of trying to attract everyone at the bar if you wore a skirt to meet your friends. With him refusing to speak to you for hours if you took a shower without inviting him to join you.
It took everything you had to escape him, to convince his mother to come collect him because he wouldn’t leave your apartment, even though you said It’s over so many times that the words just started to feel like noise. And you’ve been free for months now, which is good. So good. But the bed feels enormous, and you’re ashamed of the way you miss his body folding around yours, the solid presence of him next to you on the couch as you watched your favorite science fiction shows, him reading you Neil Gaimon books at night until you fell asleep with your head tucked under his arm.
And now, there’s this new girl. You’re terrified to meet her, terrified that as soon as she sees you, all of the damage and loneliness and insecurity and weirdness of you will come pouring out. And it’ll be over.
Wendy Elizabeth Wallace is a queer writer with vision loss who grew up in Buffalo, New York, a city she will talk about for hours if you let her. Currently, she teaches English in Connecticut, and writes when her dog is not demanding walks. She is the co-founding editor of Peatsmoke: A Literary Journal. She met the good people who are willing to suffer through her rough drafts at the Purdue University MFA. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Rumpus, jmww, Pithead Chapel, The Carolina Quarterly, Longleaf Review, Two Hawks Quarterly, and elsewhere.