Yenta on Vodka
Once, and only once, did my mischief-making do anyone any good.
I had a comfortable buzz at a beach house party in Rhode Island, so I found an empty couch and struck up a conversation with a guy named John who had a friendly smile and who also seemed drunk enough to be staying put.
Maybe it was the two Cape Codders I’d had that evening, but he reminded me of my friend and former college roommate, the beautiful, irascible, lovable Kory. Like her, he was funny, opinionated, foul-mouthed; he seemed like someone who got to the heart of things quickly, who had no patience for small talk. He even liked Billy Joel, for chrissake: her favorite. My instincts, bossy at times, were clamoring for me to take action. Minus the breathalyzer attachment someone ought to put on every cell phone, I went into another room to call Kory in Wisconsin and wake her up.
“There’s a guy here who reminds me of you,” I slurred with glee.
“Wow, you’re wasted,” she said, laughing at me.
“True story, but eyes on the ball: there is a GUY here. Can I give him your email?”
I could hear her tolerating me from 1200 miles away.
“Sure, what the hell, but tell him, ok?”
Tell him. By this Kory meant that I should tell him that she has a disability, a neurological disorder that put her in a wheelchair ten years after the first diagnosis. Before anyone knew what was wrong, we watched it progress in college; all of her friends tried to help her as this nameless, ugly thing made her lose her balance, fall on the stairs, get hurt again and again. Over time, she’s learned to cope; she fights hard for herself and gets around efficiently. Despite her disability, she is one of the more adventurous people I know, living in a city far from her family and often embarking on exotic, accessible travel. She knows how to laugh at herself – and us – when something goes wrong.
Back in the living room, John was talking to my fiancee. Like Kory, John seemed like someone to whom I could immediately say anything with little fear of offense, so I started by asking if he was single (oh, the drunken audacity!) and when he said yes, I proceeded to launch into a lengthy description of Kory (her loving nature, her odd-but-lovely red hair/no freckles combo, her incredible ability to listen and not judge, etc., etc.; I must have talked for half an hour). John nodded appreciatively, actually listening (without judging, of course).
“There’s one more thing, though. She has a disability. She uses a wheelchair to get around.”
“So?” he asked.
“Well, it’s been hard for her with guys. They hear that she’s disabled, and they head for the hills.”
A beat went by, a meaningful beat: it meant something was happening that everyone knew about but me.
“Why would I care about that?” asked John, with an open, patient face I’d come to know well later. I was drunk, euphoric, and clueless, and I thought: jackpot!
John and I hauled ourselves off the couch to find a pen and paper in the kitchen. Walking behind John, I noticed that he had something of a limp; his gait was steady but unbalanced. Sauced, I thought; we’d all better knock off the cocktails.
In the kitchen, I found a notepad, and proceeded to write Kory’s email on half a sheet. I handed the pen and the other half to John.
“Write down yours, and I’ll give it to her.”
“Ok, but you’d better write it.”
I smirked. “Why? Shitfaced?”
Now some unease crept onto John’s face. “Well, a little, but actually, I can’t write very well. I have CP. Cerebral Palsy?”
If I’d had the hand-eye coordination to smack myself at that moment, I would have. The unusual walk. The not caring about a potential date’s disability. My beer goggles had reached an absurd extreme. How could I not have known?
I could have called her back; I could have warned her the way I’d warned him. I decided not to, that I’d let them work it out. This decision occasioned a phone message from Kory a few days later wherein she asked quite drolly if I’d made the match because of the “cosmic cripple connection.” I winced, but smiled underneath; she sounded pleased.
And a match it was; after a few years of on-and-off long distance contact, and a well-timed meeting, they fell in love, and John plans a move this June to her home in Wisconsin. I’ll rent a van and drive him out there, undoubtedly making plenty of mischief along the way. I like to think that, if they get married, the story of how they met will be told, its opening line perhaps boiled down to our friend Sam has outrageous conversations with strangers when she drinks. But thank goodness for drunken hubris, just this one time.