He looked into my eyes and kissed me hard on the mouth. Clothes began flying about the room. Our breaths met. He gently moved me to the bed. We did what two men do best. Then, before sleeping, we spent four hours spooning, simply spending time with one another and relishing this world between fantasy and reality. It was beautiful for what it was, and a moment that I have clung to since it happened a few months back.
When it was all said and done and the light of morning flooded my room, I rolled over to find that I was still next to this beautiful stranger. He was on the bed, asking me how he could be of help. I was puzzled. Usually, at this point, the guy is throwing his clothes on as quickly as he removed them, the novelty of “crip sex” having worn off, and sheepishly heading for the door. Usually, I am waiting on my lover to leave so that I can call my attendant and lie about what I have been up to. But this time was different: This guy actually wanted to see what my wake-up routine consisted of and was selflessly offering a hand.
At this moment, two things were happening simultaneously. On the one hand, I was so excited that someone wanted to stick around to see what living with a disability really means, that he wanted to delve into my reality, not just into the theory of disability. (Also, I can’t lie: If this guy had offered you a shower, you wouldn’t have been able to refuse him either, nor would you have wanted to.) On the other hand, I was terrified of what this meant for me. I have made a point of keeping care and coitus partners separate, and here I was, letting the two worlds crash into each other without a second thought. He led me into the shower, and I showed him my routine of washing and cleaning. Of course, I took full advantage of finally having a naked man in my shower after quite some time. (If you’re reading this and cheering me on — or visualizing it with your pants off — I thank you.) Afterward, he put on my leg bag and helped me dress and get back in my chair. We went for coffee, and he told me how great his night was, and that he wanted to see me again. He then got on the bus back to the city and left. My heart, head and mind were aflutter.
Before we continue, let me just say that in this moment, I was not so naïve as to assume that we would become instant lovers, partners or homosocial friends. I have been around long enough to know a hookup when I see one. The sex was probably among the best I have ever had, but that wasn’t what I will remember. The real intimacy came afterward, when he asked to be let into my world of leg bags, washing and care. He probably thought he was just being polite and helpful, seeing someone who needed a hand and offering it.
I saw the interaction differently. By agreeing to help me with post-coital care and attempting to understand the realities of my disability, he was being more intimate with me than any one-night stand had ever been. And I was showing him my true self, my vulnerabilities and my realness. My disability and all that it encompasses were laid bare without apology or exception. By helping me in this moment, he was telling me (whether he realized it or not) that I could trust him, and that all that I am was valid and OK.
So when he disappeared without a trace (the all-too-common mark of a one-time lover), I was considerably confused. I felt, dare I say, violated. I was hurt that I had let this beautiful stranger in and showed him a part of my world that scares me the most. I had given him the opportunity to know me in my most honest state, not just what I wanted in a sexual context but what I needed as a fellow human but was unable to do on my own, and he squandered it, leaving me to have to start anew the process of hoping someone will delve into my disability and all its parts.
The next time you offer to lend a helping hand (other than the one the night before) to that pretty, palsied PwD you play with, make sure you understand the opportunity you are being given and what it might mean for them to “let you in.”
(Editor’s Note: This piece originally ran on HuffPost Gay Voices, where Andrew contributes as a disability awareness consultant. He approached me on giving it a bit more exposure, and I am only too happy to do so. You can get in touch with him on Twitter at the link above, or you can find more of his great work on his own site.)