This is a real text I once sent to my friend Nicole:
"Hey! Does Adam know a guy in Huntington who's a guitar player named Sean? A guy with blonde hair and a big black dog? And maybe no legs?"
Let me backtrack for a moment to explain.
I was newly single. Long story short: long-distance, guy still secretly in love with his ex-girlfriend, blah, blah, blah. That it didn't work out was disappointing, but it was one of those times when it was actually clear I wasn't the cause of what went wrong. It's easy to blame yourself for not being pretty enough or funny enough; it's impossible to blame yourself for simply not being someone else. So, though sad, I was actually fine with moving on.
I met this guy online -- Sean. He was hilarious and handsome and quirky. I like myself a little quirk -- and I love myself a lot of edge. He seemed to have both, plus he was holding a guitar in several pictures, which does for me what a guy holding wads of cash does for some other girls.
We emailed a lot, back and forth, and I did read his profile, I swear, but it was long and I guess I must've skimmed it because, after we had moved on to phone calls, I went back once to read it again and I saw the following under the Things About Me section: "I can make 3-point baskets even though I don't have legs from the knees down."
Married guys asking me out? It's happened. (And no, I've never accepted and, partial agnosticism aside, I've prayed for the wives of those douchebags.) Guys claiming to be six feet tall and barely clearing my nipples? That's happened too. But legless? That was something I had not yet encountered.
Here are the things that went through my head in a jumbled rush:
-How could I possibly cancel our date because I think he doesn't have legs? Good people don't do such a thing. You're a good person, Nell. Stop it -- you are.
-Maybe he was just being sarcastic. I don't at all get that joke, but maybe he
was trying to be funny.
-Wait! Maybe that's a movie quote! Google that fucker!
-Not a movie quote. Fuck.
-No! Google HIM. Type his name. Okay, too broad a search. Add the town he lives in. All business sites. Hmmm -- try keywords "guitar" + "no legs." Nothing.
-I can't date a guy with no legs. I just moved into a townhouse with lots of stairs!
-How could you possibly cancel? What kind of asshole are you? Answer: the kind who wears five-inch heels every day. That would make me tower over a legless fellow. Does wanting to feel dainty make me a jerk? Answer to that one: kind of.
-What do you owe this person? He's a stranger! You can break the date.
-Wait: Google his name + "hideous accident." Nothing. (Accept that you're a lunatic right now for being disappointed that the search yielded no results.)
-I know! Ask him the toughest thing he's ever been through. Drag out your own past pain to get the conversation started! I could bring up my father's untimely death or maybe the time my top came off when I jumped into a pool on a first date. Which moment was more tragic in a quantifiable way?
-Actually, forget that plan. (And try to finally come to terms with the moment of one boob bobbing to the surface of the water in the shallow end without your knowledge before it ends up being the final thought on your death-bed.)
Every phone call, every text, I was left feeling that I liked this guy more and more, and that I was ever more certain he was missing limbs -- two of them. Things kept coming up for both of us that caused a delay in meeting, but we started to send pictures back and forth. And his were alwaysfrom the waist up.
Finally, I decided I had to share my fear -- but not with him; I was way too chicken for that -- with Nicole. She was seriously dating a guy who owned a music store in the town Sean lived. Maybe he'd know of a guitar player with stumps.
I sent the text.
Her response: "Whaaaaaaaaat?!?!?"
I explained the situation, laughing so hard I cried all of my mascara off. She texted Adam to ask.
I went to take a nap. All this awareness of my own selfishness and contemplating any outfit I had that would look good with flats -- as well as the question of where I could buy a pair of flats -- had made me very tired. Before I went to sleep, I texted Nicole again:
"Text me back as soon as you hear anything about if Sean is sans calves and/or femurs."
I fell into a deep sleep, the good drooly kind. My dog slept heavily next to me, her head resting on the pillow. The breath from her tiny nostrils hit my cheek until I turned over. I awoke first to her puppy snores and then to the blare of a text coming in; I'd turned the ringer way up earlier in the day.
"Yes!" said the text.
If I hadn't been lying down, I would have fallen over.
"He doesn't have legs?" I typed back. I was shaking. And, for the first time in a while, I thought about my ex-boyfriend who had all of his limbs -- and I hated him for putting me into this position.
"Lol!!!! No! I meant I'd text you as soon as I heard from Adam!"
"That, my friend, was a misleading response," I fired back.
Later, I heard from her again. Adam only knew people with legs. And that his response was calm and clear made me realize again that he was a great guy and my friend was deservedly lucky.
Sean and I finally met. He arrived, standing tall on real limbs, easily six feet tall. He was very sweet and really smart and he pulled up in a Land Rover, but it had taken so much time to finally get together that the chemistry window had kind of closed. (Sometimes you have to strike while that attraction iron is simmering.) I did tell him about the leg thing, and he laughed and laughed.
Until last night -- when I had an insanely good cheeseburger in town with Nicole -- I hadn't thought about that moment for a very long time. We became so hysterical with laughter at the memory that we had to lean on bent street signs to stand up straight.
I think that, years later, when I try to recall this time in my life -- what it meant and who I was and how it felt -- that moment of doubling over on a crowded street in the cooling heat of a summer night will be one of the images that will be brightly lit like a tree glistening with beautiful white bulbs at Christmas time.
That it even came up in the first place was because I told her that I have a date this week with a guy who is 6’8”. Nope, that’s not a typo. I have a date with a redwood.
We’re going on his boat. I’m going to waterski for the first time in over a decade.
And so, the new jumbled thoughts bubbled to the surface, because it also turns out that this moment in my life is not just about being hysterical with laughter on street corners with friends; it’s also about thoughts coming so quickly that they overlap and I’m left trying to stand up straight under the weight of it all.
Head-swimming contemplations about waterskiing with a giant:
-Will I still be able to get up? And, should it go well, will he be able to get it up?
-I can wear heels on a boat, right? I have before. But that was with people who knew me and my, um, let’s call them quirks.
-I’m going to be in a bikini on a first date? Holy fucking shit. I’m going to be in a bikini on a first date.
-If I waterski in a string bikini -- the only kind I own -- it will fall off at some point. I know this. I have to accept this now.
-Maybe I should buy a tankini! I mean, the bottom will fall off, but the top might stay on.
-Actually, fuck the tankini idea. Amazing recent cheeseburger -- oh, and $11.00 candy bag after dinner aside -- I’ve been eating far too healthy to cover up in a tankini I’ll never wear again.
-Exactly how tall is 6’8”? That’s like a circus person, right? I kind of like the circus. (Actually, I don’t -- but I like the hot pink cotton candy.)
Later that night, Nicole texted me a picture from her parents’ house where she had stopped after dinner. In it, her already tall father was holding his arm far above his head.
“This is 6’8”,” she wrote.
“Oh, dear God,” was exactly what I texted back.
“You cannot cancel,” she wrote. Turns out good friends can sometimes read your mind. “He’s a V.P. of a company with a boat and he seems really nice.”
And I won’t cancel. I’ll go. I’ll end up probably waterskiing with a nipple accidentally exposed. I will appear far more dainty than I ever wished to appear. I will be with someone I know has limbs -- extremely long ones.
Worse comes to worse, I’ll get a fantastic tan.
And this, it seems, is what life is these days: embracing moments, embracing adventures, and laughing harder than I ever have before.
Not such a bad life.