Can You See Me?
Can You See Me?
Hello there. Yes... You.
I noticed you were having an animated conversation with your friends as we all were in line at the grocery store. You were talking loudly and laughing about something funny that happened earlier at school. You had a large smile on your face. I could tell your happiness was genuine because of the twinkle in your eyes and the difficulty you had catching your breath in between words. You looked about a year or two older than me, maybe in middle school. I’m sure we could have been friends …had we gone to the same school. Just as I was building up my courage to say hello, your eyes spotted me. I couldn’t help but notice that your smile disappeared. Your friends seemed to of noticed me, too.
Why do you all become so quiet?
I know I must look funny…a big twelve year old kid like me sitting in this huge stroller. My mother says it’s easier to push than my wheelchair when we are running a” quick errand or two”. I use to be able to walk but when I was five years old I started to fumble over my own feet. After many trips to the neurologist, and some whispers about a ‘progressive disease’, I eventually became too weak to stand. I had to leave school and leave all the friends I enjoyed running around on the playground with. Eventually my voice left me and I lost control of my hands and body. Occasionally, when I’m excited, I can blurt out some loud deep noises that tend to scare people. I don’t mean to scare them. Just like I didn’t mean to scare you and your friends when I tried to smile at you and was only able to contort my face into some strange shape. My thick, smudged, coke bottle glasses hid the same twinkle in my eyes that I had seen in yours. I thought for sure you had seen my twinkle … yet you only stared at me. Did I make you feel uncomfortable? Where you shy like me? I reached my arms out to wave “hi”, but they flailed erratically with uncontrollable spasms. I hate when they do that. You put your hands in your pockets and looked around at your friends and then down at your shoes. You pretended I wasn’t there. You pretended not to see me. Yet, If you looked up and into my eyes you would see a young boy who longs to be a friend, and to have friends, just like you. Even if I can’t speak words anymore, surely you can see I’m trying to say something.
My mother pulled me closer to her in the grocery line as if to protect me from you guys. I wanted so badly to shout hello to you and laugh the way you were laughing with your friends. I wanted to tell you that I could be a great friend too. I longed to be that young boy I was of 5 years old that was able to run around on the playground and laugh so hard I could barely catch my breath. My mother grabbed her grocery bag and slowly pulled me away towards the exit. I could see she felt uncomfortable with the situation and I think you felt relieved. I think I caught you quickly getting one last look at me as I was pushed away in my large, silly stroller. Maybe next time you see me you will recognize me and perhaps you will look at me and simply smile. That’s all I really needed. A friendly smile. Maybe next time you will see me.