The Republic of Texas
Mari and Locke were seated along the river on a gorgeous Friday evening. The sun was setting and the lights along the river gradually powered on as the day drifted into evening. The two of them sat, ordered their meals and just began to eat, enjoying one another’s company, slowly working their way into conversation. While conversation came very easily, there were times it seemed that they each needed time to “digest” portions of the conversation. The wonderfully strange thing was that, even during these moments of quiet, it was a comfortable quiet, the kind that people often don’t have early on in a relationship, much less on a first date, but for these two, it seemed magical.
Marisol, truly could not believe this was happening to her! What Mari didn’t know is that, Locke couldn’t believe it either. Wow. I can’t believe that I am sitting across from Mari, here along the river. All I even attempted to hope for is for a cup of coffee! I still can’t believe she said yes. I know that Finn mentioned to her that I had a “robot leg” as he calls it, but she seems unbelievably nonchalant about it. I mean, I thought I was going to melt in Starbucks when she began stroking my knee. She did say, “Well, I happen to think robot legs are *very* cool!” but I kind of thought she was just feeding me a line or something. I knew it was a little bit of a risk for me personally, because, even though, I’m “fine” with it and I’m used to it, it does pull in its fair share of looks. I mean, I’m reasonably handsome, but I get a few more stares than one would expect for just being handsome. So far,she has done nothing, but pay attention to me, with minimal acknowledgement to my, shall we say, limb deficiency?
Usually by now, the topic of conversation would have veered to that area. Some girls have tried to be subtler with questions like “So, I’m just curious, were you in the military?” (Ummm. No.) Others, not so much. “Like, when they cut off your leg, did they, like, let you keep your old foot? Like, is it in a jar somewhere, ewww, gross!” Yeah, questions like that are about as subtle as a Mack Truck. While I’m not ready to reveal every nitty gritty detail just yet,I am still kind of amazed. I tell you, this Mari, dear, dear, Ms. Marisol Llaves, has been different. I waved my placard around when we parked, an open invitation to ask something, anything about my disability, because, let’s face it. She could have taken the opportunity to ask if I was limited in my ability to walk or something. For as much as I go on about my day like an average able-bodied person, at the end of the day, I gotta take my shoes off and one of those shoes has the leg still attached. She just went with it like it was no big deal, and everyone has one of those blue placards. Wow. This girl, I think I’m falling for her with each moment, I’m digging her quirky ways and just everything so far!“
Locke, Earth to Locke?” teased Marisol.
“Huh?” said Locke.
“Are you finished with your plate? The waitress was asking so she could clear the table for us,” said Mari.
“Oh, yeah, of course. Sorry, just lost in thought!” finished Locke.
“No worries!” said Mari sweetly.
“Shall we go for a walk?” asked Locke.
“Oh yes!” giggled Mari. “We probably need to walk off that burger and fries, I feel like I ate half a cow! A delicious half cow, but half a cow nonetheless!”
Locke paid for dinner and off they began to walk.
Once again, they ended up walking hand in hand, and it felt very nice. Locke wasn’t sure just who grabbed whose hand, but in the end, they were both very happy strolling along the river on this warm, breezy evening. Should I bring attention to my leg? wondered Locke. I mean, it seems silly that the one time someone doesn’t bring it up, I feel like something is wrong and it has to be brought up. Yet, it seems that things are going quite well. I really don’t want to screw this up! What should I do, should I do anything?
They continued walking along the Riverwalk, when Mari said, “Oh man, I wish I would have thought bring shorts to change into before leaving school! I guess I didn’t originally plan on an extended outing, much less a trip down to the Riverwalk!” she chuckled. “Lucky you, smart guy! You decided to wear shorts and frankly, I’m kinda jealous right now!”
Should I ask her if she likes my shorts? thought Locke. No, that would be a totally dumb thing to say, I’m not, well 3 years old, when things like that are a big deal. “I guess I was a smart guy who lucked out, huh? Although, I guess I only get the breeze on one side, so I guess it is only a half win. “Locke said with a nervous giggle. Locke watched Mari to gauge her reaction, he wondered, just what she would say next…
“Huh, yeah, I guess I didn’t think of that, well, you at least have a one leg advantage over me,” chuckled Mari.
Locke raised an eyebrow cheekily, “A one leg advantage, you say?”
“Well, sure, you have one leg in the breeze, and one in your prosthesis, while I’ve got both in my stuffy warm jeans!” said Mari, with a smile.
“Well, I must say, you are the first to tell me that!” said Locke with a bold laugh.
“I guess; I look at things from a different angle from most people. As far as I am concerned, I don’t just think outside the box, I wonder why people bother to sit in boxes thinking, when there is a whole wide world to think in!” exclaimed Mari. Then she paused and raised an eyebrow. “Oh, and by the way…
“Yeah,” said Locke.
“I love your shorts.”
“Really?” said Locke quizzically.
“Well, Finn did tell me that I really needed to see how cool your robot leg is and that we needed to have a playdate to make it happen.”
“And…” urged Locke.
“And, those shorts and this date has made it happen.”
“Really? The funny thing, Mari, is most people sort of either stare at it, or awkwardly avoid looking at it, yet somehow giving it the side eye the whole time they are around me as if they expect it to go all Terminator on them.”
“Uh, huh,” said Mari. “Go on.”
“Well, you. You have been different from the start.”
“I don’t know exactly, I mean you have made it very clear that it is not an issue for you, but I couldn’t quite believe it. At the same time, you have been complimentary and haven’t been, like, obsessed asking me a million questions. I’m just not sure what to think about that!”
“Well, can I say that, I find you attractive from head to toe, inside and out. All of you, Locke. I want to get to know you, but the thing is, I know I can’t get to know you instantly, and there are some things that I know will come to light in its own time. I have things, issues, that are very much a part of me, and are an important part of me, but not everything has to be revealed at once. Now, while my issues may be inside of me, hidden from general view, some of yours are not. That doesn’t mean I am privy to all the details from the moment of introduction.
Mari paused in contemplation before continuing, “I kind of think of it like, if I met a woman with blonde hair, but very obvious roots, I wouldn’t ask her why she dyes her hair blonde instead of brown. I wouldn’t ask her why her roots are so long. That is just none of my business. If I knew her better, maybe I could ask or tease about it in that way that people do when they are good friends. You see, that is the thing, questions of a more personal nature need time for relationships to develop. So, I just try to naturally let things unfold around me.”
Locke and Marisol walked in silence, hand in hand, for a while, as he began processing just what Mari had said. She had some interesting points. He wondered just what sort of a response he should have to what she just said, because, wow. What she articulated to him, was not anything he had ever heard before. She had some very complicated, but well-formed ideas about how things worked in her world and, frankly, how it ultimately related to his world. Now the question was, how was he going to relate his world to hers.
“You’ve been quiet. Have I upset you, or said anything to offend you?” Mari asked cautiously.
“No, no. You haven’t. I just, uh.” Locke ruffled his hair. “Well, sometimes I really like to process things after I’ve heard them. I hope that’s okay. I’m sorry if I’ve made you feel like you’ve offended me.”
“Oh, no, no worries. I just wanted to make sure I hadn’t stepped all over your feet.”
This girl, she just doesn’t stop. Anyone else would have been backtracking all over that statement trying to fix things, thinking that a little phrase like that was enough to undo me. My word.
“Nope, my feet are just fine, no feet stepped on!” Locke continued, as he leaned in and gave her a hug. “Darling, things are going just great!”
Mari sighed a happy sigh and snuggled into his hug. She looked into his eyes to confirm that what he was saying with his words matched up what he felt in his soul. Content with what she saw behind those beautiful amber eyes, she gently took his hand and led the way forward. There were still many things to talk about and it was indeed a lovely night for a stroll and if he was up for it, so was she.
“It’s been awhile since I’ve come downtown to walk around and play tourist,” remarked Mari, “I just haven’t really been motivated to come by myself to explore, and I haven’t had out of town guests to bring down here, and I had forgotten just how nice it is to come down here, just to walk and take everything in.”
“Yeah, I guess the same is true for me, it has been a while for me too. I’ve had to come downtown for ‘fun’ reasons like jury duty, but not just to walk and just enjoy the ambience.”
“So, Locke, what is it that you like to do in your free time, besides pick up your nephew from school?”
“Well, one of my favorite things, is that I love to run. I have always loved to run, there is something about the rhythm between you, your breathing and the ground, and unlike many people, I choose not to run with headphones. It isn’t because I’m safety conscious, although that isn’t a bad idea. I just love to be in the moment, me, the ground, and my breathing.”
“Ah, well, I get that too. I used to run eons ago, when I had a friend who was kind of a running partner, but I sort of fell out of the habit of that. Gosh, I did love that rhythm too, it was almost hypnotic.”
“Yeah, hypnotic and addicting. For a while I had to give it up, but I guess I missed it too much and I think it probably motivated me, more than anything else, for a while.”
Mari nodded, understanding what he was referring to, but feeling like it wasn’t in the least bit necessary to pry further, because in time, in his own time, he would talk to her more and if he needed to open up more he would. In the meantime, she was amazed that this handsome, not quite stranger, a bit more than acquaintance, but not quite full-fledged friend (boyfriend or otherwise) just seems to be able to open up to her like this, so quickly. She couldn’t help but feel like something truly special really was going on here, and hoped that she could really trust her heart to this handsome man, who was just beginning to share his heart with her.
Onward they walked. Chatting, opening up, sharing bits and pieces of each other’s soul. Before they knew it, it was after midnight, and as they walked towards his car, but Mari suddenly stopped him and asked, “Locke, how are you? You seem okay, but I can’t help but feel like something is still bothering you. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it just seems like maybe there is something…”
“Well, I gotta be honest, it really is strange to me just how well we seem to click and if I’m completely honest, I feel almost strange that this whole leg thing doesn’t throw you off one bit. I worked on my gait to get it to be where it is, but I just cannot tell you how many adults I have been around throw around condescending language about how ‘Wonderful and SO inspiring it is that you are doing XYZ in spite of your leg.’ And just want to throw a big ol’ party for me because I walked out the door and didn’t shirk in shame of my disability. To tell you the truth, I do sometimes wear pants on days when I just don’t want to deal with those attitudes. Most days I try not to care and just, as they say, put my best foot forward and get on with it, you know. I don’t often talk about this, because, I don’t know, it doesn’t seem like most people get it.
“However, tonight, Mari, you seem to have shown me, in ways that I’m not sure I fully understand, that you do get it and I’m thankful, you know, to be able to share some of this stuff with you. I hope you don’t think of me as a “Gloomy Gus”, because I’m really not, but sometimes, I just gotta share these things. I guess, it is kinda early to be sharing these kind of things, I mean it is a first date, but as much as I am attracted to you, I want you to know that the whole package with me may not be as shiny as my leg, but I can promise you the whole package, if that is what you think you may want from me down the line. I’m kind of getting to the point where I am ready to settle down and I don’t want to waste my time or yours if this is not something that is going to work.”
Mari, took a moment to process and gather her thoughts and replied, “Wow, Locke, I’m honored that you feel that you can trust me with this side of you and that you feel like I understand you in ways others may not. I totally understand what you are saying, I’m 32 and, I guess I am not going to piddle and beat around the bush when it comes to a relationship either, so I am glad you are putting that out there. Is it bold? Yes. Do I respect and appreciate your boldness? Oh yes sir, I do! I guess I can say that I’m not perfect either, I have had some issues in the past, that I will share with you, when the time comes for that. I will tell you now, that I have had issues with depression and while it doesn’t control my life now, I have had some big battles with it, and every once and a while it rears its ugly head. So, while I may not carry my afflictions where others can see, I have had my battles too, and if you are willing to accept me and my imperfections, as I am willing to accept any and all of yours, well, I guess that will make us two imperfect peas in an imperfect pod!”