Second Chance

In Columns, Life With Laura by Laura Stinson

I don’t know anyone who enjoys being wrong. Being wrong shows weakness, vulnerability. It shows that, even if it’s just for one moment, we’re not as good as we thought we were. I especially hate being wrong. And I mean, I hate it!! With a passion. It’s one of my bigger faults, this incessant need to be right.

Except for this one time. This one time, I am thrilled to be wrong.

You see, there was this guy.

(Yeah, it’s one of those stories.) I had seen him around campus and it only took one minute encounter for me to be completely hooked. I learned some basic information about him: his name, where he was from, his year in school. The fact that he was from Australia only intrigued me more. I’m a sucker for accents. I could have known nothing else about him and would have still wanted to know more.

Every time I saw him, I was just drawn to him. I don’t know how to explain that feeling, being drawn to someone. My friends and I half-jokingly refer to it as pheromones because there’s no other semi-logical explanation for it. He had the same effect on other girls I knew. I suppose it was his aura. There was just something about him that made him…intriguing.

It could have been the possibility of hearing his Australian accent, which I never really heard. It could have been his shaggy hair and easy manner, which was evident every time I saw him. It could have been the fact that he wore glasses from time to time, activating my so-called “Clark Kent Complex”. However, I suspect it had more to do with the fact that every time I saw him he was reading and looking supremely intelligent. Even on a college campus, intelligence among the male members of the student body is extremely and unfortunately rare.

I suppose he could have just been reading for his classes, but I suspected that wasn’t the case. I felt that he read for pleasure as well as for educational value. Not many people read for pleasure anymore. I am one of the rare few who enjoy the way the words look on the page and the way they flow together. But most people are content to watch a book’s movie or watch television rather than pick up a book. I suppose it requires too much effort on their part. This one guy apparently went against all societal norms.

After more than a year of admiring him from afar, I decided to take a leap of faith. It was my senior year of college, I figured I would never see him again, and I knew that this was my only chance. Being too shy to actually confront him face-to-face, I emailed him. I didn’t expect much out of it. How would you feel if some strange person emailed you and confessed he or she didn’t have the nerve to come up and speak to you? Imagine my surprise when he actually responded!

We exchanged emails over a couple of days discovering we both had a penchant for reading, writing, and art. He was smarter than I had hoped, almost intimidatingly so, and cultured. I was ecstatic and so very impressed.

I did keep one minor detail from him. I did not initially tell him about my being in a wheelchair. I didn’t want him to judge me based on my disability before I had the chance to show him who I really was. In fact, I had intended to keep that tidbit from him until we had had the chance to get to know one another as well as two people could via email. However, being so impressed by him that I was certain superficiality would not be among one of his faults, I decided to tell him much earlier than planned.

I was nervous about telling him. Very nervous. I did it anyway. And I waited for his response, figuring it would be negative. My assumption wasn’t based on him, really, but on my past experiences. Guys have been very willing to be my friend, but when it came to anything more than that…well, it didn’t come to anything more than that. That was the problem. Basically, I was just waiting for him to blow me off. When I got his email responding to my revelation, I wasn’t disappointed. Everything I read in those words pointed to him blowing me off. I was devastated.

My friends convinced me that I was jumping to conclusions and that I shouldn’t just write him off. I relented and wrote him one more email to which he never responded. I didn’t see him on campus for about a week after that but, when I did, the look on his face pained me. He looked so shocked to see me—I know I had the same look on my face. He turned and fled. I didn’t know what else to think. What else should I have thought? My bubble was officially burst.

For the months at the end of the spring semester and all throughout summer, he plagued my thoughts. I considered him a jerk and I had less-than-affectionately begun referring to him as “Kangaroo Jackass”. I kept pondering writing him one final email, just to tell him what I thought of him. How superficial he was, how pathetic that superficiality made him seen. In the middle of August, I finally got up the nerve. I wrote him the most civil and disparaging email I could conjure.

And I was wrong.

I never expected to get a reply from him. All I wanted from it was closure. A chance to get all the pain out of my system so I could move on. He surprised me and he did reply. He apologized profusely, explained what had happened and we both discussed the mistakes we had made, of which plenty were mine. Now, we are emailing on a regular basis, discovering more of what we have in common.

I can’t express how grateful I am to have a second chance with him. And a second chance at knowing the truth of human nature. I have spent my life being cynical about what people think of me, about how people judge me, especially guys. I can’t help it. After all, people have never proven me wrong. I am guilty of doing it myself. I expect people to judge me in a certain way and whether they do or not, that is how I see them.

If nothing else comes from my new friendship with him, at least I can learn something from the whole situation. I can learn to give people the benefit of the doubt. I can learn to not hold on to the fact that I am disabled as tightly as I do. I keep begging for society to look past it, but I have a hard time doing it myself. I know I’m more than my wheelchair but because I expect people to notice that first, I can’t let it go.

If there is someone out there feeling the same way, maybe this little story of second chances can teach you to let it go, too. Maybe we can’t let it go—-maybe I’ll never be able to let it go completely. But, we can try.