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.
“When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had…” again I could not read on. Visions of being pushed around in a wheelchair flashed repeatedly in my brain. I did not know what to do. Once more, the repercussions of being a paraplegic for life flooded my thoughts. But, right as my life continued to crash down before my eyes, my master’s voice called out a second time. All I had to do was reread the sentence he said. I wanted to fight but couldn’t summon the courage or conviction. I would do anything to be spared. My eyes crawled back to the start of the sentence.
“When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things…” bam-visions flooded my consciousness once more: my mom feeding me in my wheelchair, dressing me, brushing my teeth; my colostomy bag overflowing in public; struggling up a wheelchair ramp. I started to twitch-moving my arms, legs, head, and…