So many wheelchair people ask how I managed to “get [myself] out there”, despite my physical disability; how I got over the self-consciousness that most of us face. The truth is that for some years, I had become an incompetent person, which, surprisingly, isn’t something I’m ashamed of. In fact, it was a necessary phase that made me who I am.
Mom told me that as a baby, I used to smile at all the pretty nurses while they were giving me shots. It scared their skirts off to be perfectly honest! I was always the fun-loving little boy. I enjoyed company, meeting new acquaintances with great ease. Childhood was a whimsical fairytale come true. I have a lot of wonderful memories – just look at my kid photos if you want to know…
However, everything changed when a nightmare called high school came around. I lost my friends from elementary, and all because Pickering was the only one that had an elevator. It was a disaster, especially since the bully who threw basketballs at me during recess, also tagged along. I had a cafeteria table to myself, like a diseased animal, the vice principal made fun of me for wanting to join the choir, while my assistants were taken away by the second semester because of budget cuts. I was alone, amid losing more resulting from Duchenne muscular dystrophy’s progression.
Following lunch, I spent my time driving in circles through the hallways, round and round until the bell would ring. A few hellos would come and go, but my screeching wheels were all that I could hear. It gave me the opportunity to develop a sense of emotional independence as I reflected upon thought after thought. No one was there in the morning during drop-off and the librarian ended up having to help with my winter coat. I waited in the library for class to begin and every day was the same old routine. I hid behind the large shelf in the corner most of the time.
There were several occasions when I looked through a small gap between the books to peek at a girl. Her naturally flowing hair glimmered beneath the fluorescent lights and the way she bit her pink lips while studying was so enchanting. I envied the text that her fingertips delicately grazed upon and caught a glimpse of her graceful beauty, but then the damsel caught my stares (I’m guessing she had already suspected). She stood at the entrance of my little world and… I’ll never forget the look of pity when she discovered the cripple behind her stalker. I quickly drove past her, blushing and embarrassed.
Was I a creep? Probably. Was I a loser? A hundred percent!
From then on, life continued on a downward spiral. I lost the ability to use my hands for drawing, my dream of becoming a cartoonist, and dropped out in tenth grade. I remember so vividly, the lingering silence as I watched the building get smaller during my van ride home that afternoon. The skies were greyer than grey.
On October of ‘96, I was admitted to Bloorview MacMillan Children’s Centre for breathing difficulties. I didn’t have the strength to expel the right amount of carbon dioxide and fought my way through nearly suffocating to death. I was depressed and started watching daytime soap operas, and by the end, thrusting my chest back and forth, using my personal table as leverage to gasp for air. Soon, a tracheostomy was in order, which forced me to decide between life and death. I realized the disease would forever remain merciless and I needed to step up to the plate and make a stand for existence.
A year later, I was shopping for a new pair of glasses at Pickering Town Centre. Being dependent on 24/7 ventilation, physical independence is hard to come by when time alone can literally kill you. If something malfunctioned, or the tubing came off, well, you get the idea, so it was quite a risk I took when I zoomed into the elevator all by myself!
The doors opened, and I encountered a ravishing young lady. Careless but blushing, I continued parking my giant mechanical ass, and it was then that I heard the most darling voice. I’ll never forget the lovely demeanour in the way she said those words.
“Your driving is perfect!”
As I looked up to make eye contact, behold, there were no words to describe. I was speechless, mouth gaped and almost drooling from the kindest smile I had ever seen. SHE THINKS I’M PERFECT!!! WHAT DO I DO?! WHAT DO I DO?!
That’s right. All I could say was, “Yup!”
At the moment she walked out the door, Stupid, stupid, stupid! She inspired me to write my first ever poem, Elevator Girl, because I regretted not taking the initiative. I realized that I had so much more to say.
As the elevator door opened
I glanced at a bit of heaven
With skin as pure as milk
And a voice that blew my mind
Looking at the floor and speechless
As my breath was taken away
Blown away by her beauty
I had nothing more to say
Goodbye to the girl
The elevator girl
She was extravagant, but it was the way she mended my shattered dreams that made her more perfect than my driving skills. She breathed new life into the part that died, giving me reason to redefine the meaning of art. She was my beginning as the sorrows washed away.
Ever since that day, I kept on writing; training and learning about myself through words. It took ten years to find myself and get over the turmoil that consumed my mind. Outsiders often wonder how I have so much advice regarding survival, but sheer will and determination brings knowledge as well. I got myself out there and became a published author. I was eventually featured in Canada’s largest newspaper, the Toronto Star, and interviewed on television.
And girls? These days when my eyes are graced with the most delightful faces, I smile back in hopes for their happiness because how could it not be so? People also wonder how I come up with all the romantic junk I write, but it comes from knowing my place in the dating scene. Sadness gives me the ability to put myself in different scenarios more freely because sometimes, hope isn’t good enough. Sometimes, they deserve to be loved, even if they won’t love me in return.
No. I wasn’t a wheelchair people anymore. I became someone when I chose to stop crying and live. The highlight of the story happened when I ran over my bully. He kept harassing and daring me to do it, and when I finally did and stayed on his foot with my three hundred pound vehicle, he screamed… like a little sissy. The dumbass never bothered me again after I broke his stupid foot. Tada!