‘I share this as someone who would never drop my last name. Because it’s mine. And I love it. And if I did, it would never get to anyone else. That’s a big deal to me. My whole heart. So I’m not dropping, only adding. And it means the world that (Sarge) is hyphenating like I am. So our children can be like both of us, inside and out.’
When we first talked about getting married, my only issue was wanting to carry on my name. And I thought, if that’s my only issue, I’ve found the right person.
We talked about our options, and then we went over them again. Might have reached an impasse when I didn’t want something completely new and penguin-related.
‘If you’re adding my name, I’ll add your name. We are equals.’
And that’s when ‘if’ became ‘when’.
I have nothing against women who change their name. Or women who don’t at all. What we are called doesn’t matter, unless and until it means something to us.
Changing, or adding to your name is a choice. And just because I want to keep my name doesn’t mean I won’t want to share my husband’s. I’m greedy like that. Or something.
I figure if we’re going to share a life together, we can share a name. Or two.
Sarge and I still date. Each other. It’s allowed. And also important. When he’s working late, and I’m not working enough, dating is a way for us to remember what the other one looks like without tired eyes (his) or PMS (mine). These days, our dates are weekend trips to the movies after having coffee that Sarge doesn’t have to make for me. And I promise, these dates do differ from our nights in with fish and chips and a box-set (Northern Exposure, The Sopranos, Spaced, Black Books.)
And so yesterday, high on holiday mochas with whip, we rolled into the cinema to see Hugo. We asked for our tickets and there was a pause.
The wheelchair space needed to be ‘released’ and this required approval from the manager. The manager comes over and eyeballs me, possibly waiting to see if I’ll leap up and proclaim that I only use the chair to get the not-really discounted seats.
‘We have to make sure that the space isn’t booked by someone who doesn’t need it, you see.’ He said this to Sarge, not me. ‘And there’s your ticket. So you can sit next to your colleague.’
‘She’s my girlfriend.’
‘Oh. Enjoy the show.’ He went away. Leaving us with the girl at the counter.
‘Are we colleagues?’ I asked Sarge. ‘Because, you should know, I don’t sleep with my colleagues. And if we did work together, we’d never get any work done.’
‘No’, he said.
And with that we went into the movie. Where I transferred into a seat and Sarge parked the chair into its designated space.
‘Can I hold your hand? Or is that not allowed? Since we’re colleagues?’
‘That’s okay, I think it’s in the contract somewhere,’ I said.
I have CP. I hire a PA to do all the things Sarge, as my boyfriend, shouldn’t have to do. Nor would I want him to. I have been on friendly terms with all my PAs; we have a laugh on the way to my office building. Where I work. With my colleagues. Sarge is not one of them.
Saturday was the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and this is also Disability History Month in Scotland. I’ve been trying to think of something to say about these important days. On Saturday, I wrote words that had nothing to do with my CP, and then I spoke to my Dad. When Sarge got home from an afternoon spent playing ancient geek games, we had the aforementioned fish and chips and shared our evening with the Sopranos.
And yesterday I went on a date. With my boyfriend. Because I could. I can celebrate Saturday, and any other day, by just being here. Living my life, changing the things I can and hoping for the rest. Because that’s all anyone can do.
I mentioned earlier that I wanted to say something important and worthwhile within my ramble, I guess my two c(p)ents is this. Every disabled person out there has family and friends, people who care for them and support them, without being paid to do so. Some have partners and jobs. We even go to the movies.
After Hugo, Sarge and I came home, where we weren’t colleagues. Sometime in the future we might be, if I break my own rule and we ever open that bookshop we talk about. But that’s another post.
And so, I’m ‘doing’ NaNoWriMo this year. We have always had a strange relationship. Past attempts have seen me bang out 20,000 words and then well, edit them. Note to self and others: Don’t. Do. That. I have a penchant for abandoning projects in favour of others which I think ‘sound better’, and I don’t finish anything. Except really short stories or ‘novel excerpts’. Novel excerpts are short stories that wouldn’t shut up.
See, I don’t like writing that sounds like writing. The minute I’m aware of words on the page, I stop and write another scene playing out in my head. I have a lot of computer files and notebooks and thoughts. Most are non-sequential. Really. Try having a conversation with me.
This year, I promised myself, and Sarge, and my Dad that I would see one single novel to the end of its first draft. Because everyone is fed up with the frustrated writer. I’d just love to be a writer.
First, I said I’d hit 2k a day. Not so much. Then, because my brain goes faster than my typing speed, I thought I’d dictate the thing. Not so much. Last week, I just parked it and started typing. And the phone rang.
It was my Dad. And this was the conversation:
Dad: You may be interested to know I am writing a novel. (That’s how my Dad speaks. I kinda love it.)
Me: Really? Cool!
(He tells me about his novel…)
Me: Really? Cool! (Inside: Aw, shit. Really? For real, really? I know we’re psychically linked, but this is like, ridiculous…this whole line of thought took 5 seconds. I told you my brain works fast.) Well, Daddy, you’re not gonna believe this, but…(I share my plot.)
Dad: Oh. Well. Every book is different. Good luck! (I’m paraphrasing. Or something.)
I couldn’t write any more that afternoon. Because my mother called.
And when Sarge arrived home I was writing in actual notebook.
I told him about the conversations with my parents. And then the plot of my book.
‘Oh. That’s basically your Dad’s book. But not.’
‘This is what I’m saying,’ I said
‘Well. Every book is different.’
‘That’s what he said.’
‘Would you be upset if your Dad finished his book before you finished yours?’
‘No, I’d be happy. Having said that, shut your pretty mouth.’
What I have now is a book that sits at 5,861 words. I also have a supportive boyfriend who keeps plying me with gingerbread lattes, new notebooks and other things. And a father who is writing a book, which may or may not compliment my own. The only way to find out is to finish it.
A note to my Dad, and anyone else who may be writing a book: Please don’t stop. And I won’t, either. Back to it.
My weekend begins on Friday, so we’ll start there.
I woke up and asked Sarge to make me a coffee. I did so nicely.
‘Can’t (the PA) do it?’
‘She doesn’t make coffee,’ I said. ‘She pours water into ugliness.’
‘Fair enough’, he said, turning on the coffee machine.
For the rest of the day I scribbled and read, scribbled some more and thought about organising my dresser-drawers. I opened them, and quickly shut them again. A story for another day, I thought. And then I chased the cat out of the bedroom not long before Sarge got home from work.
‘What should we do for dinner, be good or get take-away?’
‘The diet starts Monday. I vote for curry.’
And forty-five minutes later, we had pakora and Futurama in front of us. Futurama is one of those shows I didn’t realise I liked until I watched a few episodes. Either that, or Sarge won the coin-toss many, many nights ago and now I’m the one who says, ‘Let’s watch Futurama!’ Ours may be the only household where ‘bite my shiny metal ass’ just means it’s time to turn on the television. Most of the time.
On Saturday, we had salmon and eggs with soy sauce for brunch. Almost everything Sarge makes has soy sauce on it. Or in it. Or around it. I don’t complain because for one thing, I like soy sauce and b, I don’t cook.
I love Woody Allen films. I liked this one because it had Hemingway in it. No, not my computer. The real one. Well, not the real one. That would have been really special. Yeah, I liked it. But as I watched Owen Wilson, I kept wanting to shout two words. ‘Blond’, and ‘Nose’. I didn’t. That would have been really special.
We went home and watched some more of the Northern Exposure Box set. I won the coin-toss. No, we don’t actually make decisions by tossing coins. Ever. Well, there was that one time.
And today, I’m scribbling and reading and scribbling some more. All while obsessively listening to this song:
Sarge had a Boys’ Night on Friday. I may have shut myself up in the office to write, with loud country music on. I may have even forgotten to eat my cheese-centric dinner, reserved for nights Sarge isn’t home.
I flipped between the very sparse notepad on Sarge’s Linux-run computer, last.fm, Facebook and Irene updates. At about midnight, I decided it might be a good idea to call my Mom, and left a long-winded message on her machine. So long, the machine cut me off. (Hey Ma, did you get my message?) I then went on Facebook and told the rest of my East Coast contingent to please be safe, wishing them only a little rain.
And then I heard sirens. And saw lights. Four sets of them. Outside my window. But no fire alarms on the inside. And I sniffed. I may have sniffed smoke. But possibly only because that’s what a person does when they realise there are fire engines outside their building.
It was about one in the morning. Would I become one of those women who phone their boyfriends during a night out and ask them to come home? Even though I had a pretty good excuse, what would I do if the fire engines left before he came home? False alarm babe, I was just checking to see how much you loved me?
Because of the presence of actual fire engines and possible scenes of minor peril, I texted him. Two seconds later, he was home. Seriously.
‘Did you get my text?’
‘Not yet. But why are there fire engines outside? Did you burn the popcorn again?’
‘No, but we must have telepathy going on. You DO love me! You really love me.’
‘Yes. So much that I’m going downstairs to see if we have to vacate the premises.’
We didn’t have to. I think the shop below us blew a fuse. Or something.
Sarge made tea and we stayed up until the firemen left. ‘I’d make popcorn,’ I said. ‘But I don’t want to add to their workload.’
Sometime later, my delayed text beeped through on his phone.
The moral of this story is, sometimes you don’t have to call your boyfriend. A good one comes home on his own.
I like snow. When it’s falling outside my window, lit by street lamps and I’m inside, curled up with a book and hot chocolate, I love snow. When I’m out in snow being pulled backwards and neither eight years old nor on a sled, I turn into a bitch.
We went out to run Christmas/birthday errands on Saturday, before heading to a Christmas party. We got two feet away from the front door and my front wheels caught some gray slush.
‘OK, whose damn bright idea was this?’
‘Yours,’ said Sarge.
Sarge pulled me backwards through the snow. I tried not to get motion sickness and actually tried to enjoy the moment. Before we left the house, I bent down to get something off the floor and pulled several muscles in my back. Pulling muscles is an annual event for me. Like Christmas. Not really.
I don’t usually take pain-killers, either. When I think I’m in pain, I remember being a kid who got her hips surgically broken and put back together. The same kid who got all her leg muscles lengthened and walked laps two days later. I think of her, and then I suck it up. My pill-popping is reserved for The Annual Back Outage. I popped two before we went out on Saturday.
And so, I was in the snow, trying to hold off spasms. Backwards. But I was in love. In the snow. Off to get presents and see friends. Got to be a good story in there somewhere.
We got on the bus to the zoo. Yes, we buy presents at the zoo. No, we don’t bring real animals home. Although I’m sure Sarge would like to spring the penguins.
It was the longest bus journey of my life. ‘If that woman says one more thing, I’ll tell her to shut up,’ I said. Pain and stupidity make me vocal.
We arrived at the zoo, and went backwards up the hill to the entrance. A path had been cleared, just wide enough for pedestrians. I went outside the lines and made tire tracks. Sarge said something about ‘one more inch.’
‘Honey, don’t be silly. Wheelchair-users aren’t supposed to leave their houses. We stay in all the time and don’t even put shoes on. That’s why I’ve got chilblains.’
We were in and out of the zoo gift shop within ten minutes. No, I didn’t get thrown out for leaving slushy tire tracks everywhere. It was closing.
On the way to dinner I snapped a photo. We had Indian food and probably stayed in the warm restaurant longer than we should have.
Now. I have this personal rule that if there are friends and booze upstairs in a building with no lift, I’ll walk up the stairs. Even three flights of stairs. I was psyching myself up to make good on my rule on the way to the party.
I grabbed onto the banister, gave Sarge my arm, and up we went. We were getting into the rhythm of it. And then I did something bad. I stopped. I may have laughed. I kissed Sarge. And my back may have seized up. There is a lesson in there. Don’t stop. And definitely don’t stop kissing.
I had to sit down. Right there on the stairs. The chair was carried over my head, by a friend following us up. I sat down and looked at Sarge. ‘What’s the look?’ I asked.
‘I’m just wondering what I’ll do to make this up to you.’
My heart flipped. Twice.
‘Oh, I can think of a few things,’ I said.
And then I started to do something I’ve done since I was kid. I went up the stairs on my butt, thankful I was wearing jeans and not leggings.
This is how I made it to the top. I’ve always been resourceful.
‘At least we have another story to the grandkids someday,’ said Sarge. My heart flipped. Three times.
‘What? About the year Grandma actually hauled ass up the stairs?’
‘I like it.’
And then we went in for mulled cider, conversation and pain-killers for me. We slept in the spare room after the party. Because I wasn’t doing the stairs again so soon.
I actually walked down the stairs the next day, and my French toast brunch was the best I’d ever had.
When we got home, Sarge went out for more pain-killers. CJ was very confused when we left the flat again. This time to go to a friend’s birthday.
Dinner was at an Italian restaurant. Growing up, Italian food was just food to me. My ultimate comfort food. Forgive me for thinking the canoli I had for dessert was actually cosmically ordered by my Nana. That’s my kind of pain-killer. Thanks, Nana. And thank you for that kiss on the stairs, Sarge.