Todd left his beer on the kitchen counter. Walking into the family room, his eyes remained concentrated on the plate. Just beyond the plate he could watch the floor. His sightline looking for anything that could cause a stumble. He held the plate with both hands, hoping to keep the slices of pizza in place. Todd knew from experience, both hands on the plate would more fully guard against dropping it. It was possible for one of his forearms to uncontrollably spasm without his knowledge. The shake could cause the plate to fall if being balanced by the hand experiencing the spasm. As he walked across the hardwood floor with care, nothing wound up in his path. He transitioned onto the white carpet and found space on the sofa. The plate went to his knees for balance. Todd had noticed most people around him could eat from a plate while holding the plate. Even seated in a chair or sofa, they would hold onto their plate in their off-hand, handling the food with the dominate hand, the action often amazed Todd. He had always been required to find a resting place for his plate.
“Who left their beer in the kitchen?” Tonya inquired from the kitchen. She had gone back to retrieve a napkin.
“Oh, that’s mine.” Todd replied
“Do you want it?”
“No thanks, I’ll grab it later. Thank you though.” Todd answered. With the answer, Tonya made her way back into the family room.
The beer would have simply been something else to challenge Todd. His full concentration felt required to eat the pizza. Another issue could have been where to place the beer while eating. As the option ran through his mind while in the kitchen, Todd couldn’t reason a place that might work to rest his drink. Placing it at his feet didn’t seem a good idea, the carpet would seem pretty unstable. Anything to his side, could be challenging to reach for, taking his mind from maintaining the balance of his plate. So, after factoring through most of the options seemingly present, Todd simply left the beer in the kitchen. It may appear an odd solution, but the disability of cerebral palsy can bring about different thinking patterns. He carefully munched on his pizza while watching football. Taking into consideration the possibility of any great play that may happen. The spastic nature of Todd’s disability meant becoming started with any sudden loud noise caused him to jump. The startle on this Sunday afternoon could result in pizza all over the floor. With something outstandingly positive happening in the game, everyone might cheer, if it came unexpectedly, Todd could startle in unexpected excitement. In order to solve the problem, he did his best to take pizza bites between plays or during commercials. The process was something he had gotten used to over the years. It was just the facts of living with his disability.
As the opening half of the game wore on, Todd munched on his pizza. The home team scored a couple touchdowns, which he could anticipate by watching, and forced a couple turnovers, which resulted in sudden bursts of excitement. His attention was on the game with hands firmly securing his plate during all the highlighted action. None of his lunch would reach the floor before being devoured. He watched the last few minutes of the second quarter void of concern over his food, as the plate was clean. When the first half clock showed all zeros, the guys stood to move around. The time to walk into the kitchen for something to drink had finally arrived. Todd rose from the comfortable couch with little challenge, with plate in one hand, and started toward the kitchen. Ken took Tonya’s empty plate, placed it gently on his, and followed his buddies. Todd’s plate was placed gently in the sink and his beer was resting on the kitchen island where he had abandoned it an hour prior. Todd turned from the sink, reaching for his full beer. Jason and Ken set their plates in the sink and beer bottles in the trash. Ken reached in the frig, retrieving two more cold bottles. Ken handed one to Jason, moving toward the sink. He took a moment to rinse the plates and place them in the dishwasher. Grabbing a couple Ziploc bags for the remaining slices of pizza, Ken’s intrigue caught up with him as he mentioned, “Tonya said you two had some female company last night.”
“Yeah, some bar slut was hitting on Todd,” Jason remarked.
“Sounded like she wasn’t just hitting on Todd. I heard you weren’t exactly ignoring this one. Not that you ignore many of them,” Ken retorted in Jason’s direction with a snicker.
“We’ll see what happens,” Jason answered casually.
The conversation seemed to fizzle, as the three walked back into the family room. Ken handed his wife another bottle of water. The guys found their original seats for the second half of football. This time Todd had brought his beer from the kitchen. The halftime reprieve had given him moments to drink some of its contents. With the bottle of beer being just half full, it would be easier to manage. Even with any unnoticed action to startle Todd, the half full bottle was unlikely to spill its contents. The second thing he had in his favor was the small quantity of alcohol already consumed. The small amount would calm his nerves enough to make his hands steadier. The calm from the alcohol would also diminish the sometime violent physical reaction to loud outbursts of excitement. There weren’t many reasons to jump for joy during the second half of the contest. The football game playing itself out in a fairly predictable manner with another home team win. They had been riding a wave of success the last few years, winning many more games than losing. Todd took his time sipping his beer through the second half. The group conversation remaining centered around football. The previous night at the Dragon didn’t resurface in their interactions. It was getting late in the afternoon when the game came to its satisfying conclusion. Todd and Jason helped clean up the kitchen, thanked their friends for hosting the afternoon, and headed out to Jason’s truck.
Dusk was beginning to settle over the small city. Ken and Tonya’s home sat on the hill above town. Pulling out of their drive and heading down the road provided spectacular views of the farm valley in the distance. Todd’s mind momentarily wondered to the short conversation over the previous night. Jason seemed to deflect the subject, almost belittling Anna until the conversation centered around him. All of a sudden, he acted in a way of shutting down the conversation. The awkward interaction left Todd feeling slightly isolated and surely confused. The subject was deflected until it came back to Jason as the center, then the topic was shut down. The curiosity bounced around inside Todd’s brain, as the two rode in relative silence. Emotions in the air of the Ram felt thick, an uneasy felling often accompanying their friendship. This time Todd was puzzled over what was truly going through the mind of his buddy. Todd peered out the side window, looking over the valley. The winter sky was colored with varying shades of red, resting on the dispersed cloud–cover. The sun was casting its final rays of the day, drifting below the tree filled hills. Jason, rarely the one to break any tension, spoke into the windshield. “Where are your thoughts on Anna?” He inquired.
“I don’t know, you seemed pretty taken by her?” Todd responded to his question with another.
“She was pretty cute.”
Todd was unsure of how to take in his friend’s response. It seemed a stark contrast to the answer he had given Ken. Todd’s mind quickened, didn’t he just call Anna a “bar slut” two hours ago. He kept his mouth quiet, letting the moment linger.
“Nothing says we couldn’t both be intimate with her.” Jason suggested. Todd simply sat in his front seat. There wasn’t any reason to respond or ask Jason for clarification. He knew exactly what his friend was implying. Sharing women was long part of Jason’s past, he knew from stories of bragging over drinks. But, Jason also knew well it wasn’t part of his friend’s makeup. Todd felt immediate shock, attempting to stuff his frustration. The two rode through town as tension inside the cab continued to fester. When they reached Todd’s street, the two shared goodbyes, mentioning they would hang out again soon, and the Dodge Ram pulled away.
Todd walked into his house with the conversation in mind. It was a topic that felt bewildering to him. He didn’t understand why men would treat women in that manner in the first place. Something Jason would have presumably understood without question from their years of friendship. One thing Todd was aware of was his friend’s ability to read people. Jason didn’t seem as good as he liked to think, but Todd had witnessed him read a room fairly well. It was another thought leaving him curious. Todd wondered about the kind of person Anna might truly be? He hadn’t spent much time around her, or much time inside the Dragon. So, from his position, guesses were all he really had, based on minimal interaction. Some people could put on a good show and sometimes that show only ran skin deep. Had Jason seen Anna before the previous night? Could he have known of her through word of mouth? The thought reiterated his idea of getting some distance from the situation. There appeared some unusual things going on around the previous night already. He reminded himself, it all carried questions that didn’t seem to have quick answers. Todd flicked on the television to watch some Sunday evening football. No matter what would go on with Anna, one thing felt obvious, dating her while Jason was in pursuit would only cause trouble. He sat on the couch after an enjoyable afternoon, sipped some water, and watched more football.