Peacock Feathers

By Mark E. Smith

The kid tells me that, at age 23, he’s bummed that he’s not scoring with chicks, that he thinks his disability is the hindrance. And, I tell him that, for the most part, he’s right. It’s evolutionary psychology, I add. Most people in their 20s are all about the superficial – peacock feathers attracting each other in the most primitive ways. But, you, my friend, have to be in it for the long haul, where you’re patient enough for the Scales of Justice to tip your way – and they will. Right now, these chicks are running scared on instinct, they’re looking for the stereotypical suitable ones – and that’s OK for the time being. They’ll find an average guy who’s attracted to them, and they’ll call him the one. Maybe he’ll have a high-school diploma or a bachelor’s degree, and he’ll have a secure but routine job, pulling in $30,000 or $40,000 per year. But, it won’t be perfect – not the guy, or his job, or any of it, the relationship. But, they won’t see that for a while – they rarely do at that age. However, at some point, the bills pile up on the kitchen counter, babies are born, and it’s hard to get ahead, even though she works, too. By 30, it’s all one big, daily reality check, dreams not fully realized but painfully dashed when contemplated. And, all over what? Peacock feathers when they were 23. But, you – you’re different. You’re not about peacock feathers or mediocrity in your 20s. You’re going to use this time to build your character, nail a Master’s degree on the wall, build an esteemed career, become a man of the world, where you’ll read Kafka, shave to Rachmaninoff, and visit Madrid, Paris, maybe Rome. And, when you’re 35 or 40, the Scales of Justice will absolutely tip your way. Women – not chicks – will admire you for your brilliance, and they’ll want to listen to you because you truly listen to them. They’ll be turned on by your ability to command a presence in a room, how others respect you, how you’re the kind of role model that a father should be – where it’s no longer about peacock feathers and disability, but that you can offer what few other guys can: A fascinating view of the world that she’s never seen.

Inadequacy

By Mark E. Smith

Often, those in-the-know in the wheelchair industry – clinicians and such – ignore my entirety, and hyper-focus on the shaft of my joystick, transfixed by its abnormalities. They’re bold enough to ask me why it’s so short, without a big knob? They stare at it, sometimes pinch it between their fingers, roll it around, and it makes me uncomfortable – violated. I tell them that it’s been that way since I was a child, that it’s easy for me to grasp, that due to my cerebral palsy, a big knob would be too cumbersome. But, they never seem to agree, all but mocking my physicality, insisting that I should have a big knob above all else. Apparently, somehow, if I just had a big knob, it would make them feel better – inside.

When It Happens, It Happens

By Mark E. Smith

The concrete of the sidewalk feeds under my power wheelchair like a conveyor belt of cold gray slab at eight miles per hour – but, it seems much faster. It is much faster. Everything is scaled down – my wheelchair, the narrow path, me. Buildings and homes loom large – gigantic, leaning creatures, casting intimidating shadows. But, I know by the ever-increasing cadence of the sidewalk expansion joints clicking against my wheels that I’m going faster, and faster, and faster, where the shadows can’t hold on to me for long. The clicks from my wheels go from countable to one loud vibration, and all that lines the sidewalk becomes a blur, the colors of buildings and homes streaking along my periphery like paint on an abstract canvas. It’s all noise and color, color and noise, noise and color, color and noise. And, it’s at that moment – always at that moment! – that my wheels leave the ground, and I rocket into the sky, headed into the scattering of clouds, and the rest… well… it just stops.