The Lurcher (Tim)

You meet at a mutual friends Halloween party. You’re dressed as a Red Cross nurse from the 40’s and he’s a retro-cowboy in an orange satin shirt. You end up sitting next to him on a couch and you share a conversation over cheap beer. He’s funny and clearly outgoing; he makes you laugh several times in the couple of minutes it takes your friends to round up their purses and coats. You’re on your way out.

A couple of days later the host of the Halloween party calls and asks if it’s all right to give your number to Tim. He’s been asking about you. Sure.

You meet at your favorite coffee shop. He’s already there when you arrive, propped up with a steamy beverage and a music magazine. He makes you laugh, again, and you notice his thick, floppy hair, the smile wrinkles around his eyes and the dimple in his cheek. He’s cute. And funny. And nice.

He asks if you’d like to take a walk on campus. He’s got to return a book to the library. Of course. You love to walk, especially in the fall, on campus. You lead the way up the stairs and out the door and onto the sidewalk. And then you notice.

You can’t help but notice because it’s glaring. He’s limping. And it’s definitely not a, “I sprained my knee when playing soccer/basketball/skateboarding with my friends,” type of a limp. It’s an “I’ve been doing this my whole life and it’s permanent, forever,” type of a limp. It’s a one good footstep; drag the other behind, type of a limp. It’s a full-on Quasimodo limp.

You take a deep breath: All right, Joce, here’s your moment to prove that you’re totally cool, so he limps, what’s the big deal? You’re pretty sure it won’t affect his kissing. So you go with it.

You date for a couple of months. He’s got a really nice house, completely mid-century modern in grays and blues. He’s a musician; he’s been in a couple bands that had minor acclaim. He writes a song about you and records it for you as a gift. You’ve never had someone write a song about you before. He likes to cook and he’s good at it. He likes dogs.

But, there’s one thing that really bugs you about him: He’s clumsy and careless. He’s always trying to do things too fast, so he stumbles, and drops, and slops and rams. He breaks things and spills things. Your things. He drops your iPod in the toilet and tells it later as a funny story. He buys you a new one, but you’re still annoyed. Couldn’t he just be more careful? He’s a bull in a china shop.

But you realize it’s because he’s overcompensating. For the limp. He tells you his parents didn’t want him to play sports as a kid, but he wanted to, because he didn’t want the other kids to see him as different: “I wasn’t any good,” he says, “but a lot of kids weren’t very good.” He doesn’t want you, or anyone, to see him as different. So, he does everything at the quickest pace possible: maybe if he moves fast enough you won’t notice the limp, the awkward movements? Of course, it only makes things more awkward. He’s constantly lurching this way and that, running into things, stepping on your toes.

You wish he’d just invest in a stylish cane and take his time, saunter around a little. In this hustle bustle world, would a slow, graceful deliberate pace be such a bad thing? Especially if it meant you wouldn’t end up with the pasta sauce on your shirt.

You’re best friend is having a holiday party and you decide it’s the perfect opportunity to introduce your new beau to your grad school friends. You and Tim drive up to the city, get a hotel and dress up in your most festive attire. For the first time ever, you’ve decided to wear a beautiful necklace made of delicate globes of blown glass. It was a gift from an ex, and it was such a sentimental, delicate piece that you’ve never been brave enough to wear it. This is the perfect occasion.

The party is loud and raucous and fun. Everyone is smart and gorgeous; even more so, since you’re all drinking. Tim gets drunk a little earlier than most, and you hope your girlfriends don’t notice that he’s getting louder and more raucous than the majority of the guests.

Someone suggests “pass the orange:” the guests all stand in a line. One person tucks an orange between their chin and their chest and then attempts to pass it to the chin/chest region of the next person in line without using their hands. Don’t drop the orange! Everybody is laughing; it looks as though those engaged in passing the orange are aggressively kissing as they contort their bodies into silly positions. You realize at the last minute that you have your glass necklace on so you motion to Tim, who’s sitting this round out. You unclasp and hand him the string of beads. With the necklace grasped in his hand he lurches back to his seat.

Nearly there, he stumbles, and you see the glint of the glass as it falls from his fingers and lands with an almost silent ping on the floor. You watch as, with his next step, he crunches the thin walled balls under his shoe. Someone is trying to pass you an orange when a pained whimper escapes your lungs.

You date a little while longer, and then break it off for some reason or other.