My Name Is Bill


when i lost my legs in ’81 i thought it was the end of the world. i was incomplete, shattered, a fragment of a man. laying in my hospital bed i knew that i should be happy to be alive, that i should praise god for saving me, that i could still think and fuck and feel. but all i could think about was how i could never go up those wooden steps leading to my room two at a time again, hearing them shift and complain beneath me. i was somebody to pity, not fully human, deserving of a parking space right at the curb, colored blue, using special ramps to arrive at the door. people would move exaggeratedly out of my way and avoid looking into my eyes. i would have to pee like a woman.
i had to be treated for depression for the next year. i would shuttle awkwardly about in my wheelchair with my head down, only going out to rent movies and buy cigarettes, microwave chicken pot pies, and booze. i felt ashamed of my handicap, and what made it worse was that i could still feel my legs, that they were still there in my mind. i remembered what it was like to walk down the beach and feel my heels sink into the sand. i was something grotesque, stumps waggling about, children with fingers in their mouths staring fascinated and vaguely frightened. after a while i began to get used to wheeling around, my arms grew strong and sinewy, my chest filled out, and i began going for scoots around the park and the beach, checking out the girls, getting a tan. i discovered that girls sometimes have a strange attraction to disabled people, like it
makes them feel special, like they’re giving you some wonderful wild gift when they fuck you. charity sex, i call it. i’ve talked to other guys in wheelchairs, and they agree. a man in a wheelchair in a club is going to have a chick freaking him, guaranteed.
i began to realize that though i may have lost my legs, my mind had regenerated and transformed in a new way: i was a renewed form of human being, welded flesh with steel, a modern day centaur, a metamorphosed creature, evolving, adapting to my limits, discovering my peculiar freedom. my legs were gone. but in their place was a set of burnished wheels.
i don’t feel sorry for myself, i don’t feel like i’m missing anything anymore. i’m experiencing things differently. my wheels are a part of me, they are a part of my body, an extension of myself, just the way my legs once were. am i as agile? no, but i’m faster, i’m smoother, and damn, downhills are a piece of cake.
i have hope for the future. i can see a day where bodies are no longer important as anything more than command centers for a vast inter-connected network of minds. when we’ve learned to adapt to our new tools, and to hold them close to us, to cherish what new horizons they give us, and to never lament the loss of what is past. things that occur to us, the will of God, whether gentle or violent, are things that change us, irrevocably. the
only thing to do is adapt. the only thing to do is grow. all that love and pain. all that fear and defiance. all that loneliness and friendship. and this is the way new worlds are born.

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