Since November 21, 2015, I’ve been disabled. Unable to walk at all, then only able to walk with crutches, and now able to walk with one crutch and even take a few unaided baby steps. The mind-bending pain has transformed into very endurable severe discomfort, and it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
My disability is of course minor for a couple of reasons. First, the discomfort is only going to last a short time. Second, the injury will heal up completely. I’ll be as good as new, overlooking for now that “new” wasn’t all that great to start with.
But still, the world looks different. From the minute I had to go in a wheelchair from the hospital bed to the car, everything shifted.
“Wow. So this is how some people spend months, years, or their entire lives?” It’s a dumbfounding realization. No matter how aware I was of people who are paralyzed, missing a limb, walking with a bad limp, I simply wasn’t, until I had hobbled my first few yards in their shoes.
Curbs become a part of your life. A big part. Clothes and books and stuff on the floor of the apartment become lethal. Step-ups into homes. The width of doors. And the devil’s henchman, stairs. Who invented them? And can we kill him?
Toilets and beds, formerly two of life’s most pleasurable places to be, are transformed into hell holes that hurt almost every way, from sitting down to standing up to rolling over to just lying there as a board, your ass tense and sore but too afraid to move because the fracture is going to hurt a thousand times worse.
Things up high, things down low, chairs that roll when you grab them for stability, rickety handrails, narrow corridors, you name it. The world simply wasn’t made for you, it’s a trap, and it wants you in it.
The simplest thing that promises the greatest pleasure, lifting your leg over the top tube, is nothing but a hope. “I guess if I can’t lift my foot more than six inches off the ground, I’m probably not going to be able to lift my leg over the saddle tomorrow. Or the next day.” That is a heavy piece of gloom. How does it compare with “My right leg is gone?”
But it’s not all bad. You go slower, so you see more. And a lot of what you see are other people, and how they see you. The people who look right through you, the people who avert their eyes, the people who look and smile, the people who look, grin, and greet, and the people who slow down and hold a door, pull out a chair, and wish you a merry Christmas.
Which I’ll now pass on, and in my atheistic and grateful way, will also wish to you.
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