The absence of Todd from the developing interaction didn’t seem to be working for Anna. Whether she was simply a person who didn’t exclude people or genuinely wanted to hear what Todd might have to say. Anna began an engagement with Todd by curiously asking what he did for work. It felt like the most normal inquisition, but he figured it would surely put an end to their communication. After answering, Todd figured he could melt back into the role of wingman. You see, he had been referred to as good looking before, even a great guy, and someone fun to be around, but there was this thing about Todd that seemingly turned women the other way. If he could count the times he’d heard the you’re a really great friend speech, well, let’s just say Todd had heard it plenty. But, what could he do at this point. Anna had placed him in a pickle, it felt disrespectful to ignore the lady’s question. So, he emotionally braced himself, figuring the answer would get him ignored for the rest of the night. Todd had experienced the whole situation before.
Normally people can observe there is something off with Todd’s movement pattern. Especially in a bar setting, new people tend to keep their distance. They don’t ask too many questions, or show much curiosity in him. He always figured it resulted from overhearing his speech pattern, or watching him struggle with handling his own drink. When Todd rose from his seat to walk around, it seemed people could certainly notice something was amiss. Still, some of these women who surrounded Jason seemed kind enough to make Todd feel included. Even with that being the objective though, there usually weren’t any curious questions being posed. The pattern was usual simple small talk, often feeling awkward, sometimes things could even become slightly belittling. Todd could usually feel their interaction with him was that of a sidekick. He felt it was designed to show Jason their ability to include Todd, showing compassion for others. The attention on him in these situations often felt false, but it was still attention that seemed rude to simply ignore.
The curiosity over Todd’s occupation was a polite question. One seemingly used in our culture to begin an interaction, making someone feel included. But, the answer, he knew could have the opposite effect. He took a long breath, gathering strength and kindly answered Anna’s question. Todd told her of his cerebral palsy, that he wrote a blog about his life with the disability. Then braced himself for what he guessed would happen next. If history were to repeat itself, Anna would smile warmly at his answer, returning her attention to Jason. The action would show her compassionate nature to Todd’s handicap and reaffirm her attraction to his friend Jason. It could simply deepen the developing connection between Anna and Jason. Bonding the two together in their care for Jason’s friend Todd. However, Anna seemed to have plans of pushing her interaction with Todd slightly further than normally took place. Anna followed up her newfound knowledge of his work by pursuing more information. She wanted to know where she could find the blog. Upon Todd articulating the address, she slid her phone across the table, requesting he type in the blog address in order for her to read some of it.
Anna’s phone was returned and she hit search. His blog appeared with the title page reading ‘A journey with cerebral palsy’ in the background was the picture of a road fading into the horizon. Todd saw his blog pop up on the phone screen and reached for his drink. He slid the cocktail a few inches toward himself. His wrists slightly unsteady and the drink still relatively full, requiring him to slide the drink along the surface, rather than pick it up from the table. Once the glass came within an inch of the tables edge, he steadied the straw, and bent his head down to enjoy a sip. Todd lifted his head from the straw, sure that abnormal move would end Anna’s attention on him. Usually people would turn away in embarrassment of the scene, or give Todd an uncomfortable facial expression, turning their attention to another person in the group. But, as Todd lifted his eyes, her kind eyes hadn’t gone anywhere, and her face wore a comforting grin. He couldn’t decide in that moment if Anna’s surprising reaction felt more awkward than the ones he’d become accustomed too. One thing was for sure, in that moment, he didn’t feel alone.
The momentary gaze broke and Jason was brought back into the fold. Todd still wondered what the whole thing was about, as Jason and Anna continued their flirtatious interactions, and his attention continued migrating in and out. He watched the day’s college football highlights on the mounted television. Once they began talking about Anna’s son, Todd was drawn back in with curiosity. He listened to Anna speak lovingly of the playful relationship she enjoyed with her kid. It was yet another intriguing quality about this lady and one that would seemingly fit well with Jason. His friend had almost married someone who had two daughters. Jason seemed to be taken by children, while during his early years, he was raised by a single mom, she married his now father when Jason was just five. Jason, could seemingly become a good father figure to a child, as it was modeled for him. Todd returned to wondering if Anna would be a good fit for his buddy.
He never thought about another dating configuration. Todd was going about his merry way as if everything were remaining the same. Hearing about Anna’s son Jacob continued to be warming, but didn’t last too much longer. The three rose from the table and walked outside to the patio. Todd wasn’t a smoker, but his buddy Jason was, along with Anna. However, Todd did enjoy the fresh air and ability to move around some. The Dragon patio was normally a respite from the noise inside the bar, but not on this night. It was just as crowded as the interior, with less space to maneuver, which for most people would simply be an inconvenience. But, anxiety filled Todd when moving through the glass door to see the bustling patio. There were people everywhere with a small pathway leading through the center. He slowly followed Jason and Anna between the gathered crowd, finding a few chairs for further comradery. Once Todd safely found his seat, relief seeped through his body. The movement through people was slightly shaky, but he didn’t lose his balance or physically disturb any patrons. After everyone sat comfortably, Anna and Jason lit up their cigarettes. Anna offered a puff to Todd, which he kindly declined. The flirtation from Jason continued, as they sat side-by-side, and he complimented her choice of boots for the evening. Soon, the cigarettes were extinguished and the three began their journey back inside the bar.
As they ascended from the seats, Todd lead the way back. Usually, he would wait until the others past first. With cerebral palsy causing him to move more slowly. His shaky balance bringing some embarrassment while he attempted to navigate past people. But, in these close quarters Todd was given little choice, it was for him to front the small group. He looked down the narrow pathway guiding them back into the bar and momentarily froze. The gap was pretty tight, bringing on similar anxious feelings to those felt when entering the patio. So, Todd took a deep breath and moved cautiously through the party. He again found the glass door opening back into the bar without losing balance. Anna followed in behind Todd watching him make his way through the crowd. She was struck by something as he proceeded toward the door. Even though his struggles with movement seemed apparent, cerebral palsy effected his gait to some extent. When Todd moved past the people on the patio, no one moved out of the way for him. Anna noticed them watching him, but they seemed to feel Todd could walk past without the help of them moving. It was a vision that interested Anna and she filed away the information.