Tommy Mulvoy
15 min readMay 10, 2021

In middle school, I remember eagerly anticipating the start of S.E. Hinton’s novel The Outsiders. The story, my teacher and friends told me, was electrifying and involved boys fighting, drinking, smoking, and chasing girls. “I am going to love this book,” I thought to myself as I lay on my bed getting ready to start the first assigned reading. “It is my life story.”

“When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had…” suddenly my eyes stopped scanning the page and my mind stopped reading-a gruesome vision of my spine, severed in multiple places, flashed repeatedly through my head. I was paralyzed. I could not move. Panic mode set in.

Oddly, my anxiety was not so much from the pain of my severed spinal cord, but from the ramifications of paralysis. My athletic career was over. I would be in a wheelchair for life and would have to move to a new house to accommodate it. I would never get behind the wheel of a car. I would never feel a woman. These thoughts crushed me. I squeezed my eyes shut, clenched my teeth, and screamed in agony.

But, just as all of my dreams were evaporating before my eyes, my master came and offered to save me. He told me that all I had to do was reread the sentence. All I had to do-yeah right. We had been through this a million times before-him showing up with the key to my freedom only to return soon thereafter in a more sinister and perverse way. But, following the pattern of the previous five years, I followed his directions and moved my eyes to the beginning of the sentence.