“What a day! I’m exhausted. Let’s just stay home and relax,” Janet said. She sat on the floor with her back against my bed while I painted my nails.
“Fine with me. We’ve hit the nightclubs straight these past two weeks. One night won’t hurt us. Put the radio on so we can hear tonight’s music mix,” I said. She turned the radio that was between our twin beds. Janet set the radio to our favorite radio station Power 97. The music mix had already started.
“You know, Nathasha it’s a good thing you decided to break up with Orlando at the beginning of the summer. Look how much fun we’ve had flirting with the guys at the Grove and clubs. You’ve met more guys than me,” she said.
“Well, what can I say? I’m just simply irresistible. I forgot how much fun it was to tease guys,” I smiled, “Yo, this music mix sucks.”
“Call them up and tell them,” Janet replied. I reached across my bed and called the station. I knew the number by heart since I was already trying to win a contest. The phone rang.
“Hey, it’s ringing. Do you think they’ll get mad if I tell them that it sucks?” The phone kept ringing, “Maybe I should hang up,” I said.
“With that attitude you should. Remember what I told you. Everything is attitude and” she couldn’t finish her sentence because a voice was on the other line.
“Power 97! May I help you?” he said.
“Yes, you may. Take this mix off. It sucks.” I said it nicely but bluntly. He laughed at me.
“What’s wrong with the mix?” he asked.
“It’s Friday night. The music should be fresh, not this wacked music,” I explained. Janet looked at me with surprise.
The guy on the other line just laughed again. “I’m sorry but the DJ will not change his style.”
“Great, so now we’re stuck listening to this awful music all night long,” I said, disgusted, but still playful. He caught on quickly.
“Who’s we? Are you with your boyfriend? Have him take you out tonight,” he said. His voice sounded young and friendly.
“Well, dude, for your info “we” means my friend Janet. I don’t have a boyfriend anymore and I’ve gone out every night these past two weeks so we thought we would chill tonight. Understand, babe?” There was silence.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
“Nathasha,” I said.
“Hold on, Nathasha, let me see what I can do,” he answered and put me on hold. I waited for about three minutes wondering what he was going to do.
“Ok, I’m back,” he said.
“Yeah, so? What is the DJ going to do? Is he going to change this awful music or what?” I asked.
“I didn’t talk to him. I went to answer the other lines. I just told you that so you wouldn’t hang up,” he explained.
“Oh really?” I motioned to Janet to listen to him. I pressed the mute button and told her I thought he was flirting. She sat next to me to listen better.
“Yeah,” he said, “you sound real cute. Are you?”
“No! I’m the ugliest thing in the whole world! Of course I’m cute,” I flirted back and why not? I was flirting since the start of summer with all different guys so why not the radio man?
He laughed and we continued to talk for twenty minutes. Janet got her towel and went to take a shower but before she left she gave me the OK signal with her thumb up.
“Listen, I’m off in about ten minutes. Do you think that I could give you a call when I got home?” he asked.
“Well, ok, but don’t call too late because I don’t want to wake my family,” I said. I gave him my number and I was about to hang up when I remembered that I didn’t know his name.
“Hey! What’s your name?” I asked.
“Orlando? That’s my ex boyfriend’s name,” I told him. He said he hoped he was nothing like him since he was now my ex boyfriend. We hung up and Janet came out ten minutes later after I finished painting my nails.
“Well, what happened to radio man? Did you get his number?” she asked as she dried her hair.
“No, but he has mine. I guess that’s another guy to add to our list. His name is Orlando,” I said.
We talked for about one hour about our private contest for the summer. Each of us had to date at least twenty guys before the summer was over.
“You know you’re going to win because of your personality, Nathasha.”
“What about it?”
“You just have a more outgoing personality than me or anyone I know,” Janet said. We listened to the radio until midnight when the phone rant.
“Hello,” I said.
“Hi, I hope it’s not too late to call,” Orlando said.
“No, of course not. I always get calls at midnight when normal families are asleep,” I said sarcastically.
“Very funny, Nathasha” he laughed. I was lying on my bed with my wheelchair beside me. Janet was in the bed next to mine. She was living with me due to problems with her family. Her parents thought that she was too young to go out. She was 21 years old. But according to her latin culture that was too young.
I got myself settled in with three pillows propped behind my back because I knew I was going to have an interesting conversation. It was. Orlando told me he was tall, 5 feet 10 inches, had a medium build and a hairstyle like Jordan, the lead singer in New Kids on the Block. My mind pictured a gorgeous Spanish looking Jordan.
“Do you enjoy dance clubs?” he asked.
“Oh yeah, I love it! I go to the Powerdome every Wednesday and to Casanova’s on Saturdays,” I answered.
“Hey, those places jam. You must love to dance,” he commented. I smiled and stared at the wheelchair. I didn’t mention it because a part of me wanted to see if it was really my personality that captured guys’ attention the way Janet said.
“No, not really. I can’t dance. I go to be with my friends and listen to the music,” I said and kept staring at the wheelchair.
“You can’t dance? You’re lying!” he said.
“No, I’m serious,” I said.
“I’ll teach you,” he said.
“I don’t think that will help. Besides let’s talk about something else,” I needed to change the subject because I felt bad not telling him about the wheelchair. I was not lying, I was simply not telling him why I didn’t dance. Hey, he didn’t ask I told myself and Janet the next morning.
“You didn’t tell him! You spoke to him until 3:30 in the morning and you didn’t tell him you were in a wheelchair? Why not?” Janet said at the breakfast table while we ate our Froot Loops cereal. I looked down at my bowl to avoid her eyes.
“Because he never asked,” I said.
“Oh, yeah. Right. Like every guy that raps to a girl on the phone says, ‘Hey, are you in a wheelchair?’ Come on, Nathasha, tell me,” Janet said.
“Look, I want to see if it is my personality that he will like. This is the first time I’ve ever rapped to a guy without seeing him so chill out!” I snapped. I didn’t mean to snap. We both looked at each other and then back at our cereal bowls.
“Well, you might get hurt. Not everyone can handle the idea of rapping to someone in a wheelchair,” she explained.
“Why not? I don’t have a freaking disease. My ex boyfriends didn’t mind,” I stated.
“Yeah, but they knew right from the start that you were in a wheelchair and they learned to see what you can do like everyone else. You’re not giving radio man the same chance,” she said and went to the sink to wash her bowl. I finished my cereal and washed my own bowl. We got into our bathing suits and went to my pool for a few laps.
I didn’t understand people. I saw the oddest couples together everyday: the attractive with the ugly, the obese with the thin, and Janet was giving me grief because I couldn’t walk. My ex boyfriend, Scott, the captain of the wrestling and football team didn’t care about the wheelchair. My other ex, Gary, a local rock singer, never mentioned the wheelchair. I swam, went to dance clubs, to the beach and everywhere else my friends went without any problems. The more I thought about it, the faster I began to swim. I felt this determination now more than ever to show Janet and the whole world that the wheelchair was insignificant when it came to relationships.
That night Janet and I fixed ourselves up and went cruising by the Grove.
We did our usual flirting. The next night we went to the movies and when we returned home around 11:45 p.m., Orlando called. We spoke for another three hours that night ant he night after that night. We made each other laugh and we seemed to enjoy each other’s company until the question came up.
“So what are you doing tomorrow night?” Orlando asked.
“I don’t know. Why?” I said very casually but I knew what direction he was heading.
“Maybe you can stop by my other job at the supermarket and say hi so I can personally meet the cutie with the sexy voice,” he said. My heart started to beat faster. I didn’t know what to say.
“You want to see me?” I asked.
“Yeah come around and say hi around 10:30 p.m., ok?”
“Ok,” I said. I spoke with him for a few more minutes, got the address, and told Janet where we were going the next night.
The next day I got out of bed and I was not feeling good. I told Janet.
“You just don’t want to go meet him after all,” she said.
The whole day I acted out in my mind the many reactions Orlando would have if he saw the wheelchair. I didn’t know what to think. I was a zombie even after we left to the supermarket.
“Ok, Miss. Experiment, this is what we’ll do. I’ll cover the wheelchair with my blanket so he can see you first, then I’ll casually act as if I have to get something in the backseat of the car and I’ll uncover the wheelchair. This way you’ll know everything. We know he likes your personality or he would not ask to meet you. Ok with you, chicken?” Janet asked.
“Ok with me,” I responded and got into her Camaro. I looked myself over in the rearview mirror and smiled. I looked really nice. My hair was curly around my face and down my shoulders. My make up brought out my best features. The ride was quiet because Janet could sense that I was nervous. When we got to Orlando’s job my heart started to rapidly race. I was going to chicken out. Maybe Janet was right about the wheelchair scaring him away. Oh well, life goes on.
“Forget it Janet! Let’s get out of here,” I begged.
“No way! We’re here,” she said. From the car she called one of the bag boys over, “Excuse me, can you do us a favor and ask Orlando, he works in there, to come out here?” She slipped him a five dollar bill and the young boy went to go fetch Orlando.
I checked myself over again, turned to make sure the wheelchair was covered, sat on my legs so he couldn’t see how tall or rather how short I was.
“You’re being silly, Nathasha,” Janet said. But I didn’t care. I had to prove to her that my disability didn’t matter. When I went to check myself over again in the mirror a guy started heading straight for our car.
“Oh great, Tasha. He is not cute. Look at him. He is nothing like Jordan from New Kids on the Block. See? Now you have nothing to worry about,” Janet commented. She always knew how to make things seem a little better.
“This will be a snap.”
“Hi, are you guys looking for me?” Orlando asked as he leaned over Janet’s side of the car.
“Yeah, hi. I’m Nathasha and this is Janet,” We introduced ourselves and looked each other over.
“So you are Nathasha!”
“Yup, that’s me.”
“You are cute,” he said.
“Thanks,” I replied. He had the potential to look good if he worked out at the beach and gym and got rid of that terrible haircut. Janet looked at me and winked. Then she turned around and gave the excuse that she was looking for something in the back. Orlando was still smiling at me and I just wanted to leave. This guy was not my type. Janet slowly uncovered the wheelchair and I kept my eyes on Orlando’s face. The minute he saw the wheelchair his smile slowly disappeared. He looked into my eyes and I looked into his.
“I have to get back to work, girls. I’ll talk to you later, Nathasha,” he said. We all said our formalities and we watched him go back to the supermarket.
“Ready, Nathasha?” Janet asked. I nodded, leaned back against the car seat and looked out the window.
“Look on the bright side, he was nothing compared to your boyfriends and the guys you’ve dated this summer, so cheer up,” Janet said.
That night I pretended like nothing bothered me but it did. The next day I still could not forget his look of disappointment and sadness. I picked up the phone in my bedroom and called the station.
“Power 97. May I help you?” The voice was his and he sounded happy.
“Hi, it’s me,” I said. I was nervous. Why had I called?
“Oh hi, what’s up?” his voice changed.
“Look, Orlando, I need to know if there was something that bothered you last night,” I quickly asked.
“Yes,” he quickly responded.
“You know, why didn’t you tell me?” he sounded upset.
“Because I didn’t think it mattered. But I guess it does to you, huh?” I asked, getting a little angry.
“Yeah, it does,” he said and it got quiet.
“Look, it’s busy here so I gotta go. Bye.” I hung up and stared straight ahead. Janet walked into the bedroom. She saw my eyes shining because they were filled with tears that I was trying to hold back.
“I’m sorry, Tasha. Why did you call him?”
“Because I had to hear him say it and he did. I can’t believe it, he wanted to meet me, he called me, he said I was cute and then boom, he saw the wheelchair and that changed everything. How come?” I asked. I need to know.
That question still lingers in my mind but Orlando’s rejection didn’t stop me. I beat Janet at the dating contest by two guys. But out of all the guys I’ve dated in my entire life I will never forget Orlando because he taught me the first lesson in love and life. One day, I hope Orlando realizes what he missed out on.