The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts
Locke sat there in silence. Mari looked at him. She had fear and worry in her eyes. Her belly was open and exposed. What now? She wondered. I hope I haven’t gone too far. What if his only exposure to devs has led him to believe that all devs are crazy perverts who fetishize disability. This couldn’t be farther from the truth, but what if he thinks that is what I am? Oh. This silence is killing me!
“A devotee.” stated Locke, neutrally.
“As in, we aren’t talking about you standing around in airports like a Hare Krishna kind of devotee.”
“We are talking… You are all about, this?” he gestured to his left leg.
Mari sighed. “Well, yes and no.”
“Please, explain,” said Locke tersely as he scooted, ever so slightly, away.
She took in a deep breath, collected her thoughts and began.
“Okay, how can I explain this? Short answer, yes, I find men with certain disabilities attractive.”
“Okay. Yeah. I think I got that part.” Locke said, with a bit of an edge, as he crossed his arms.
Mari sighed in distress, gathered her thoughts and continued to attempt to explain in a way that she hoped would make sense to Locke, that would help him to understand that her being a devotee was just a part of what made someone attractive to her.
“Okay, where to begin. Okay, let’s take this as an example, we’ll pretend that you like blondes. As in blondes are so very attractive to you and that you turn your head to check out any blonde girl walking down the street because they aren’t as common as other hair colors around here and you only see them once in a blue moon. Do you only look for blondes to the exclusion of all other hair colors? If you see a blond haired girl, do you instantly find her attractive from head to toe, and want to just look at her hair? Do you obsess over the length and the exact shade of her hair to the exclusion of everything else?”
“Well, no. there is more to a person than just their hair. What if she has a terrible personality? What if I don’t find her attractive in general?”
“Exactly, Locke. Being a devotee is only one part of the equation. It certainly may get my attention. However, it is not the ‘be all, end all’ part of what makes a person attractive to me. If I found that I didn’t like you because you were a jerk, do you think I would have kept talking, and well, flirting with you?”
“Well, no, but why have you been so forward with acknowledging my, shall we say limb difference?”
“Because, my darling dear, my sweet-pea, I wanted you to know that I was more than comfortable with that part of you. My hope was that once you knew that I wasn’t going to stare at you like a freak show reject, or shy away from that part of your anatomy, that you would feel comfortable to be you, simply you. Not the you that may be presenting a facade that says ‘I’m comfortable, super confident, nothing bothers me!’ even though you might be secretly worried that I’ll actually realize that you really do have a disability and run away from you because of it. I want the you, that is who you are, warts and all. The you that may be confident, but also have some insecurities but is okay with sharing those things with me because you will know that I am not scared off by that. If I must apologize for being too forward with my actions towards you, then I will, simply because I really like you and want to be with you. I’m truly sorry if I did take things too far. I really didn’t mean to upset you.”
“Y-you, don’t have to apologize.” said Locke shyly as he dropped his arms and shook his head.
“I don’t?” Mari looked confused.
“No, but I may have to.”
“Because, the moment you said ‘devotee’ I was scared. I’ve heard things about devotees. I was absolutely petrified that suddenly this awesome wonderful gal that I’d met, was nothing but a fetishist who didn’t want me, but just this small portion of me. I was scared that you would only be interested in that part of my body, almost to the exclusion of the rest of me. The portion of me, that, frankly, I am not always comfortable with. I’m sorry, I was scared. While this dev positive concept is very new to me, that way you explained it makes sense.”
“Locke, if I’m honest, this is new to me too.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I’ve only become familiar with the term over the last couple of years. I have always known how I felt, but I didn’t know that there was a term for it. Also, you are the first guy I have dated that has had a disability. Please, please know, that when I refer to you as having a disability, you are so much more than that. It is a part of you, but not all of you. I know there are times when it is nothing more than a nuisance in your day, but there are going to be times when it is front and center in your day. I want you to know that I am aware of that and as a dev, know that I am more than okay with you changing plans because of it. I’m sorry, I really am rambling on. In essence, we both may be in uncharted waters. I hope, though, that you will give me a chance, because, I really do like you. Not, just your earlobe, your left ventricle, or your right pinkie finger, but you, Locke Glasgow. The whole person, who happens to be very attractive, a fantastic uncle, and also happens to be an amputee with a “Super cool Iron Man leg!” as a certain nephew of yours puts it. I want all of you, the whole package, the weird pea that fits together with the weird me, two weird peas in a pod.”
“Okay, but Mari, I hope you can be completely open with me and are okay with me asking questions about how you feel about certain things, too. I guess every relationship is different and in the past, I never asked how my partner felt about things in relation to my disability. I think it was mostly because I felt the other person would be uncomfortable, but I think that perhaps it was also because I wasn’t fully comfortable with that as a part of my identity. However, since you are open to these things, I may ask you things that might, at times, be uncomfortable for both of us, but I promise you, I will be honest with you, and I ask that you be honest in exchange.”
“Of course, I’ll pinkie swear, whatever it takes to show you that I will be nothing but honest with you!”
“Well, pinkie swear?” he sucked in a breath. “That is serious stuff, I am glad I have your word then.” Locke scooted over to give her a gentle punch in the arm, followed by a gentle hug.”
Mari asked tentatively, “What exactly did you mean by ‘Questions that may be uncomfortable for both of us?’ It isn’t that I’m not willing to answer any question, but I am wondering what sort of question that might be?”
Locke looked down. He seemed to be lost in thought, before he replied, “Well, I guess things like if I need to ask for you to help me when I might be in a vulnerable state. I hate to ask for help, and it might be uncomfortable for you to realize that I’m not whole. Some of these questions may also be uncomfortable to me because, again, I am still adjusting to the idea that being disabled is a part of my identity. I often forget once I have my leg on and get on with my day, but there will be times when I’m reminded by people outside my bubble and I guess, I will just need your support to remember that while it is a part of me, it isn’t all of me.”
“I promise you, that is one thing that I will never be uncomfortable with. If you are uncomfortable with things like that, let me know, and I will do whatever I need to do to help you, whether it is to give you some space, to actively help or to just let you know that it is okay.”
Locke continued.“Can I ask you something?”
“When I asked you to grab my crutches earlier, what were you thinking?”
“Well, I was thinking that you were putting your trust in me.”
“I thought that by asking me to get your crutches, you were trusting that I wasn’t going to freak out or be weirded out by it. You were trusting me with a piece of your mobility, not that you feared that I was going to throw it over the fence or in the pool, or anything like that, but it still was a certain level of trust. I also felt that you were putting some trust in me as a whole, because I was quite certain that if you didn’t trust me on an emotional level, you were more than capable of getting them yourself, you didn’t really need me to get them for you. Honestly, that you would open yourself up, and allow yourself to be trusting of me on an emotional level, spoke volumes to me. I appreciate that level of trust and hope to not lose it. I have a feeling that it is a level of trust that you don’t easily grant people.”
“Wow, Mari. I had no idea that you really read that much into it. I’m not sure that I thought that much about it, but I guess I probably was curious to see how you’d react, because of the way that you had accepted things up to that point. You know, now that I think about it, I guess I really don’t often ask people to do stuff like that for me. Mostly because the people that I’m frequently around are the very people that I still feel like I have to prove myself most to. It is an interesting thing, this… this… I don’t even know how to describe where we are at the moment, really. I’ve been so used to proving myself, to everyone and I guess to myself, that I haven’t allowed myself to be open or vulnerable to anyone. Period.”
Mari took a sip of wine and sat thinking about what he had just said.
“Locke, I want you to know that you don’t ever have to feel like you need to ‘prove’ yourself to me. You are a fantastic uncle, a gentleman, and an all-around good guy. There is nothing to do with your leg or lack of leg that you have to do to show me that you are ‘worthy’ or ‘whole’. Please don’t feel that something is wrong with you and that you have to do superhuman things to prove that you are a whole, complete man. As far as I am concerned there is nothing you have to fix to prove yourself to me. All you have to ‘prove’ is that we belong together, and so far I think you have done a pretty good job of showing that to me.”
Locke sighed. “There is so much to process.I think I have come to adopt a constant need to prove myself. I will have to try to let that go around you. I also I think I have bared a lot tonight. Right now, in this moment, I just need you to be here right next to me, and just be.”
“That” she interjected with a kiss on the lips, “ I can do.”
Locke reached around Mari and embraced her as they sat in silence, just enjoying each other’s company for a bit. Locke was a bit overwhelmed, he had never had a discussion in which his disability was such a focus, positive or negative, and it left him a bit drained. However, he felt good. He felt good with Mari in his arms. Somehow, this whole discussion while exhausting, left him feeling better about his chances with this relationship succeeding long term and he was feeling better about himself as a whole. He found himself far less self-conscious about his stump than he had ever been. He turned to Mari, picked up her hand, kissed it and placed it on his left knee, in a gesture of acceptance of himself and of Mari. It felt different, there was still some nervousness on his part, but the calm, gentleness radiating from Mari, soothed and calmed him, until, he no longer felt uncomfortable about her being so close to what, even to himself, he had long considered the broken, forbidden zone. He was mystified, Mari had crossed a barrier, one he had long thought would be impossible for anyone to get through.