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This being my second or third Tinder date ever, I hadn’t yet graduated to explicitly stating in my profile that I was a paraplegic, confined to a wheelchair from a gunshot injury I had sustained two years earlier. I now know that including this information not only improves my match frequency (I suppose it does make me a bit more interesting than the next dude) but also serves as an automatic filter in that the people that I do match with are often wonderfully open-minded and have a bit more depth.
Regardless, being in a wheelchair was not the issue with this date (yet), but my technique for informing a match in those days was to only tell them once I had secured a time and location for our first meeting. My execution was to usually send a full body pic of me in my tightest, body hugging T-shirt, arms stretched wide, with a beautiful, wall-sized Monet painting serving as my backdrop, followed by, “Oh, I almost forgot to tell you, this is me! Long story (winky face), better told in person!”
As usual, my match was not weird about it at all, and we agreed to meet on Granville Street, downtown Vancouver. We set the time at 5 PM, which could go either way where beer or coffee are concerned, but I had not known yet that my date would apparently be terrified not only of the dark, but of the people of downtown Vancouver in general. I knew it was not her home city, but I reckoned that her living here for the past five years would have inoculated her to the harmless crazies and occasional homeless person that traipse along the strip both day and night. Not so.
Now first of all, a small detail, but I hate how I look when I am clean shaven. That said, the beard that I had accumulated up until the hour before our date had grown to gnarly status, so I made the game time decision to lop it off. My hair had grown a bit, and so after said lopping, I looked at myself in the mirror and was decidedly unhappy with my smooth face to hair length ratio (usually being one to favour a five o’clock shadow). My confidence had already taken a blow. I was shadowless at five.
Moving on, we met on Granville street and she was immediately weirded out, if not pretty and attractive. She followed my wheelchair down the block as we made awkward introductions and then stopped dead in her tracks.
“I don’t want to go anymore.”
“I don’t like it here.”
“What is this place?”
“It’s Granville street. Haven’t you ever been here before?”
“Well, only at night. There’s too many strange people.”
“It’s even weirder at night.”
“Can we just stop here?”
I looked at the patio of Café Crepe, not my first choice, but decided it was best to be agreeable. We planted ourselves on the patio, its only occupants. She sat mesmerized by a street performer with a guitar, as if he were a rhinoceros wearing skinny jeans and playing hacky sack by himself.
“Do you want a beer?”
“No, just tea.”
We were off and running to a horrible start. I ordered a beer and poked fun at her obvious green-ness to the city and enquired as to why this was all so new to her.
“I live in Burnaby and work at an office.”
“So you never come downtown.”
“No, I like Burnaby. It has normal people.”
Normal people. I almost spat up my beer.
“You mean boring, run of the mill, suburbanites?”
“People in Vancouver are strange. They come up and talk to you for no reason.”
“Yes!” I actually agreed. “I learned that while living in a big city, and when I moved back to Vancouver some complete stranger came up to me and asked me how I was doing and I was like 'How am I doing? Are you fucking crazy?'”
We had our bonding moment, but only for a second. My beer and her tea and our fries (which she refused to touch) arrived, and again she commented on how the people around us were weird, as if ripped jeans and long hair were indications that society was collapsing around her. We struggled with conversation, and as it grew darker, she informed me that she didn’t feel safe after dark downtown.
“How old are you again?”
Now, I pride myself being an extrovert that can draw anyone out of their shell, so I started in with the questions. Who was your last partner? What was the last book you read? What type do you go in for?
“You ask too many questions. People in Vancouver are weird.”
Did I mention she had a tiny whisper mouse voice?
“Well, I guess that’s what people do when they first meet.”
“Is that how you feel?”
I said it, didn’t I?
The beer and fries couldn’t disappear faster, but I was still game.
“Tell me about your last relationship.”
“Oh, I don’t do relationships. I’m poly. I was actually head of the Polyamorous Society of Toronto."
Head of the PST? What a thing to be a head of. And "these" people are weird?
“Oh, that’s cool.”
She delved into what it meant to be polyamorous, most definitely accusing me of having heteronormative tendencies, while I proceeded to shovel French fries into my face at an alarming rate, gulping beer and watching as the sun declined and counting the seconds until my reverse vampire date would have to say her goodbyes. At some point, she stopped talking, but it was difficult to tell as her voice had been drowned out for most of her speech by guitar street hero.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch the last part. You have a very quiet voice!”
“People tell me that it makes them listen to me better when I have a lower voice. I guess it's more lady-like, too.”
“Oh look, my beer is finished! I guess we should probably head out; you are a reverse vampire, after all.”
She made a sound that could have been a laugh, or could have been a throat clear.
“Can I tell you something?” she asked.
“Your teeth are not straight. I wasn’t expecting that.”
Well, I wasn’t expecting you to be a complete crackpot. Also, dammit, my clean shaved face has drawn attention to my somewhat goofy smile! Drat.
“Oh well, I guess I’m double handicapped!”
“That’s not funny.”
But then something unexpected happened. She went to a place that I thought we had no chance in going.
“So, can you have sex?”
“Why, yes I can. Glad you asked.”
“Really? I’m curious.”
Well this had just gotten a bit more interesting. She was attractive after all, and me being more of a leg and ass man, I couldn’t help but notice how well she had filled her painted-on jeans when we met. I had to admit that the labrette stud was doing something for me, too.
“Well, you’ll have to see for yourself!”
“Okay. Do you have condoms?”
“At my place, yep.”
“Okay. How far do you live?”
So it definitely did get more interesting. And here comes the part of the date that actually wasn’t so bad, but fear not, it collapses in the end. As we made our way towards my place, her continuing to gawk around at all of the utter insanity that was normal people making their way along a street on a Tuesday evening, I tried to focus on the somewhat uneven pavement along Granville street, she let out a uncharacteristically loud yelp, in what turned out to be a reaction to a person who was being a person. In my distraction at said yelp, I failed to notice a lip on the pavement that jutted up, and in my excitement to get her back to my apartment (and away from all of these "crazies" ASAP), we had been travelling at a decent speed. My wheel had caught the crack and sent my body lurching forward and my face soon met the pavement. I lay on the street, helpless.
“Oh my god!”
And again, it was strange to hear the full extent of her voice.
“Ho there!” The man who had startled her jumped to my rescue and, along with another man, had me up by my shoulders and back into my chair before I could taste the broken glass and pissed-on gravel that was sure to have lined the asphalt that I had just eaten.
The dudes were gone before I knew it, probably silently acknowledging how embarrassed I was in front of a date, and she stared at me with a new excitement.
“That was so cool! I never met a black person before!”
“Didn’t you say you lived in Toronto?”
“Oh, but I just stayed in my neighbourhood and worked.”
“He scared me. But actually he was nice!”
“That was so funny. How far do you live?”
“Two blocks.” (It was actually five).
“Okay! Let’s go! This is the most exciting time!”
We made it back to my apartment and I was geared up for sex, looking forward to not having to ask bad questions nor put up with anymore banal commentary. I invited her to sit on the couch while I went to go dust off my condoms. I glanced down at my jeans, and realized that when I fell, I had peed my pants a little. What to do here? Showering and changing would take time, though it might actually seem polite.
“I’ll just be in the washroom a sec.”
I ran the water and cleaned myself up with a bit of soap and water, whipping off my pants (which seemed appropriate) while she chattered away outside my door, again, seeming like a whole new person in voice and manner.
“I think it will be interesting to have sex with a wheelchair.”
Um, I’m a person. Unless she wants to have sex with my chair??
“I have very strong legs, don’t worry!”
I cleaned myself off and peed again to be sure (this isn’t one of those stories) and emerged from the bathroom in a T-shirt and a towel. Much to my delight, she had stripped down to a golden-black lace bra and showed off her immaculate, smooth skin. The form-fitting blue jeans were still on, as were her boots.
“Oh, your legs look normal.”
We moved to the couch and commenced, well, not so much kissing, but rather slopping our open mouths over one another like two bulldogs trying to chew a wasp between them. My tongue was too large, hers too small, and at one point we butted heads while her arm got trapped between the two of us in that weird position where it’s folded and tucked in and her wrist was bent in on itself like a Tyrannosaurus Rex. The chemistry was weird. And then it happened.
“Oh, I have to take off my boots. Can you help?”
She backed up and shoved her feet in my face, spreading her legs (not unsexily, I might add) and I commenced yanking at her brown boot with the faux fur lining, but they were on pretty damn fucking tight.
“What the hell?"
“Oh, I forgot..."
I gave a hard yank and pulled up and in, and the boot did come free, as did about a million small, granola-sized, leafy-things that dumped straight onto my couch, floor, and came straight up my nose, mouth, and into my ears. I simultaneously coughed, gasped, sneezed, and maybe farted, and fell backward onto my couch.
“Oh no, I forgot about that!”
“Forgot? What the hell is it?”
“I went to go shopping today in the bulk section at Superstore in Metrotown, and some dried anchovies fell into my boots!”
“Some? Try a few hundred. And fell into your boots??”
“The container spilled open by my feet and I forgot.”
My apartment began to fill with the smell of dried anchovy, but then something else too… and it turns out that yes, this is one of those stories, after all. I had begun peeing again on my couch, watching as the yellowy, what-used-to-be pale ale fluid soaked into the dried anchovy between my thighs and the hair in my belly button, forming a small fishy piss river that now dripped onto my floor below my couch. She leapt up in disgust and surprise, and proceeded to slip and tumble over onto my increasingly inundated hardwood floor.
“Oh no. I think I have to go now,” she whined, back firmly in tiny child voice mode.
I looked down on her naked back. Bits of silvery orange anchovy had pasted to the back part of her rib cage, stuck with my urine and the dirt and wet hair from my wheels that inevitably caked my living room floor.