Icarus Illumined

It hit him suddenly and with such unnerving force that its veracity shined as undeniably as the August sun, intensely, irrevocably. It was in no way malicious, but its effects were shattering. He sat there quietly, but a violent squall was unleashed deep within his emotional theater, and although he continued to speak without showing any signs of his revelation, it was irrefutable: his complete solitude. Other than family, he had absolutely no one in his life who really cared for him. He would never have a partner with whom to share his life intimately.

When he was twenty-two years old, he was involved in a single-car accident that left him a quadriplegic, a complete spinal cord injury at the fourth and fifth vertebrae. He was paralyzed from the chest down; he couldn’t even feel his hands. Everything just below his nipples became a vacuum of sensation and utility, offering no other value than as objects of visual curiosity, and his youthful body quickly metamorphosed from a comparably Olympian paradigm to a collection of body parts that were useless, empty, soulless, repugnant. But he still had his youth and its undying accompanying optimism.

In retrospect, he believed that he would’ve been much better off had he never met her, but Kharmela became his primary nurse-angel when, two weeks after he had broken his neck, he was transferred to Shepherd Spinal Center, where he would rehab for four months. She had just finalized her divorce from a man she described as violent, and when she talked to her paralyzed patient, she looked so sincere and vulnerable that he fell for her almost immediately and with such passion that the aftermath was a combined emotionally nefarious Hiroshima and Vesuvius. For four months a friendship had kindled, and this conflagrant relationship was fanned by his innocence; he was very sure at that time that he could never again be attractive to the more gentle gender, but this was because all of his previous relationships had quickened primarily because of his aesthetics, and this kind of reward conditioning led him to falsely believe that he had nothing left of quality for any woman.

When he left Shepherd Spinal Center, Kharmela told him that she’d like to come visit him. He agreed and was happy that she was so kind to him, but he couldn’t bring himself to believe it. She lived in Atlanta, and he lived one hundred miles south in Macon; she was beautiful, and he was hardly worthy. He sincerely believed that his only contact with Kharmela would be an annual Christmas card, and he would cherish each “Love, Kharmela” that would end each card; however, she called the very next week, and he went to visit her the following month.

He never thought it would happen, but he made love to her, and even though he had no sensation and was as immobile as Stone Mountain, it was such an overwhelming expression of love that he cried. For a year they carried on their love, despite the miles that separated them. He would’ve gladly spent the rest of his life with her, but she became restless. She was so beautiful and spirited, a Leo, and he realized that she had merely misinterpreted her respect for him as love; besides, she was just coming off of a second failed marriage, so she was riding a volatile emotional roller coaster herself.

They remained friends, a friendship that ultimately evanesced in time… and distance. For the next five years, he worked hard and finally graduated from Mercer University with a BA in English and a minor in Computer Science. The following January he landed a job as a computer programmer in Columbus, Georgia, the town where he grew up. The most exciting aspect of the employment opportunity was that he’d be on his own as much as possible, but he had plenty of family to help him, and he moved into a house that was right next door to a high school buddy.

Of course, he needed help with even the most rudimentary acts of daily living, so he placed an ad in the paper for a live-in attendant. Maria answered. A Pisces, intense, passionate. Ultimately, he and she formed relationship number two, but she was the innocent lover in this affair. Again, the relationship lasted about a year, then she went back home to the small town of Talbotton to live with her mother.

He was still only in his late twenties, and he felt really good about life in general; after all, he was a professional, making more money than he’d ever dreamed of, and he was as independent as he could be under the circumstances; he felt like he was just like every other guy in the world, except for the fact that he couldn’t walk. He couldn’t use his hands either, but he never considered that; he used a mouthstick to type, and he used a wrist-splint to ineffectively feed himself and brush his teeth. That was pretty much the extent of his physical prowess. He needed help getting in and out of bed, dressing, washing and combing his hair, bathing, urinating, shitting; hell, he needed help with everything, but he had overcome so many things in his life that he felt he could do anything, even fall in love.

He had a spinster aunt who was ten years his senior, and he felt sorry for her because he knew that she was never going to find her life-mate; she stayed at home with her aging mother and had nearly no opportunity to get out and meet anyone; she even worked from her home. But he worked for a company with thousands of employees, and there were many women with whom he worked, women who were intelligent and very attractive; one was bound to discover that he had many positive qualities and characteristics that would overcome his physical inadequacies.

For ten years he worked as a computer programmer, a decade of learning about himself, work, the world, and he was well liked; he had an almost magical ability to make people very comfortable with his paralysis. He smiled most of the time, sang aloud, was pleasant to almost everyone, and he was intelligent, or, at very least, he could communicate very effectively so that many of his cohorts thought he was intelligent. When the subject of relationships came up in conversation, he would casually state that he was an eternal bachelor, too wild to tame, too free to be controlled by one woman, the usual banter from one who had no relationship and no future prospects, but just under the surface he inaudibly screamed his desire to find whomever it was with whom he was to share eternity.

He asked a few women out, and they graciously rejected his advancements, but he justified each rejection. He had lived long enough to realize that many people ended up in broken relationships because they were afraid of being left all alone at the end of their lives, but he was now in his late thirties, and he enjoyed his solitude. He knew all too well that a relationship undeniably involved compromise, and he had no desire to give up the freedoms he enjoyed just because he didn’t want to be alone. He would only make that sacrifice for an intelligent, internally beautiful woman, and she’d grow old with him, maturing in wisdom until the winter of their content where, as octogenarians, they’d sit together on the front porch of their house, holding each other’s withered hand and dreaming of the future. He still felt that his destined woman existed somewhere in the vast world and would be drawn to him through some celestial power, so he was patient, realizing that each rejection only advanced his spirit closer to ultimate happiness.

He rarely got sick, maybe a bad cold would keep him homebound for a few days once a winter, but for the most part, he was healthy. His wheelchair, however, would occasionally break down, and he’d have to miss work on these occasions. It was during his tenth year of employment when the major power source of his electric wheelchair went out. The wheelchair vendor was in Atlanta and his wheelchair maintenance worker was in Columbus, so what he initially thought would be a three-day work absence wound up being two full workweeks. It was during this time that he realized why he went to work. He was, in effect, under house arrest, and he sat all day in one spot watching television; there was nothing else to do and nothing on television during the day worth watching—six million channels of infomercials or banal daytime programming. Occasionally there’d be a good movie on the classic movie network, but when there wasn’t, he had to choose the least offensive of programming. He could really take only so much of the home and garden network; although, he did get excellent advise on how to fertilize his azalea bushes.

On the Monday of his return to work, he saw a friend of his, a young, attractive woman, and he asked rather spiritedly “Anita, did you miss me while I was gone?”

She smiled brightly, beaming like aurora borealis as she coyly replied, “I most certainly did; I cried every day! I missed you terribly!”

“You missed me so much that you cried, huh? And yet you didn’t even come to see me while I was home… alone! I was crying, too, as I was staring out my window, unable to move, watching every car that slowly passed in front of my house, wondering where they were going, envying their freedom.”

He meant it as a joke, and it was funny, but she quickly turned and faced him with an astonished look and said as she put her hands over her gaping mouth, “You are so right! Oh my God! I am so busted! I didn’t even think about coming to see you…”

It was at that moment when he realized that his joke turned out to be a dramatic overstating of the obvious. She hadn’t come to see him.

No one did.

By Rusty Taylor
Spring 2002

You Would Not Believe The Day I Had

You Wouldn᾿t Believe the Day I᾿ve Had


Had you not been their father, these white flakes
did challenge pity of them. Was this a face
to be oppos’d against the warring winds?
to stand against the deep dread-bolted thunder?
in the most terrible and nimble stroke
of quick cross lightning? to watch—poor perdu!—
with this thin helm? Mine enemy’s dog,
though he had bit me, should have stood that night
against my fire, and wast thou fain, poor father,
to hovel thee with swine and rogues forlorn
in short and musty straw? Alack, alack,
’tis wonder that thy life and wits at once
had not concluded all.

King Lear
IV.vii.29-41

One fact about being a spinal cord injury that I still have trouble with, even after three decades, is that I need help moving my bowels and cleaning up afterwards. It is, literally, a shitty job, and I am beyond grateful to the many who have helped me throughout the years and who have treated me with dignity. Occasionally, as with every other person I᾿
I᾿ve ever met, my bowels become inconveniently soft. My family and I call the really embarrassing mishap an involuntary, but you call it what you want: diarrhea, Montezuma᾿s revenge, the Hershey squirts, liquid draino, a mess! the connotations are the same; it is humiliating on the most primordial level, especially when it happens at work. Imagine a 220+ pound man as his stomach starts to rumble, creating enough noise to make him start voluntarily coughing, uttering barbaric guttural sounds in an attempt to conceal the involuntary churning of his visceral discontent, then hearing the unmistakable sounds of liquid fecal matter effusively exiting with the grace of a pubescent acne-ridden ballerina—not pleasing auricularly, ocularly, or aromatically.

I was at work when the incident so wonderfully described in the previous paragraph happened to me. It was just after lunch and the skin around my stomach was so tight that if anyone would᾿ve thumped my abdominal dome it would have sounded like the singular chirp of a baby chick, so maybe it was my gorging that caused the mishap. At that time, I had had innumerable problems with our city᾿s para-transit division (the people within the Transportation Department involved with transporting patrons who are wheelchair bound), so I knew that I wouldn᾿t be able to count on this service to carry me home. (The head of Metra’s para-transit department (Dail-A-Ride) ungracefully strutted around on her two incongruously large feet in full possession of an infinitesimally small IQ and an inversely proportional gargantuan self-esteem that tended to inflate for no other reason than to take up more gaseous space in her otherwise vacuous skull… but I digress.)

I asked a friend of mine at work to assist me out the door so that I could ride my electric wheelchair back home. My parents had just moved out to Hamilton, a hamlet about thirty minutes north of Columbus, the Fountain City, and they didn᾿t have a phone yet; my uncle and aunt, who worked at a local high school, weren᾿t available; another aunt had just changed jobs and I didn᾿t have her new number; I only had my attendant᾿s number at my house, not at work; it was a cool spring day, and I figured I could make it to my grandmother᾿s house (she lived right behind me) and she could open the door at my house so that I could call my attendant who would help me change my soiled attire. It was a good plan, a plan I had used before, but this time pernicious powers prevailed.

Back at work, I told my friend Jeff the plan and asked him to inform those he thought needed to know about my special dilemma. I started off from work feeling confident as the cool breeze reminded me how lucky I was that it was not later in the season when I᾿d be suffering from the asphyxiating heat. As I passed what used to be Ballastini᾿s Cleaners on the corner of Fifth avenue and Eleventh street, I remembered an earlier incident when I was making the same trip from work to my house, but on this particular occasion, my wheelchair had stopped on that very corner, and I didn᾿t know what had happened. I had been sitting there for about five minutes when a policeman drove up to the stop sign across the street. I flagged him down; actually, I flailed my arms like a hyperactive epileptic, and the officer noticed, so he pulled up beside me. As I was explaining my situation to him, a maintenance man from TSYS, where I worked at the time, pulled up behind the police car, got out, and approached me. He took a look at the situation and said he could easily fix it. I᾿d like to be more detailed in describing the mechanical failure, but I don’t know nothin’ ’bout no ‘chinery! All I can honestly tell you is that I thanked the officer, and David, the maintenance man who (along with the rest of the guys in maintenance who helped me more times than you can shake a stick at) made my chair work when it wasn᾿t working just moments before. Needless to say, but I᾿ll say it anyway, on that particular excursion, I made it safely home after David fixed my chair; however, this trip would be more adventurous.

Jeff opened the security doors for me to leave my work place, and the sun was shining brightly as the breeze played a lovely serenade through the leaves of the trees while branches waved bon voyage. Since my accident, I really don᾿t get much time by myself, so I enjoyed the quasi-voluntary solitude; however, just after I passed Weracobra Park, aka Lake Bottom, I realized that my wheelchair was slowing and that it probably wouldn᾿t complete the trip. I was wheeling through one of the more affluent neighborhoods, so my chief concern was that my chair was going to die and the citizens of that particular section of town would be so involved with their lives that I᾿d go unnoticed until the stench of my carrion would cause enough communal concern to warrant an investigation into the effluvium caused by a week-old dead man with shitty drawers.

I altered my course to head down one of the busier streets of the Fountain City. Hilton Avenue has many costly architecturally impressive homes that stand a good 200 feet from the road, but it is widely traveled and it was my hope that if my wheelchair stopped, a policeman might come to my aid after a phone call from someone worrying that I might be casing the joint for a future burglary. I knew that on the corner of Hilton and Warm Springs Road was a Chevron gas station, and it was my hope, nay, my determined ambition, to pamper the wheelchair to that location and see if the petrol guardians would hook me up to a battery charger and thereby enable me and my trusty chair to complete the journey home. It was about 1:30 p.m., and I was a little concerned that I wasn᾿t even going to make my newly chosen destination.

Luckily, when I got on Hilton at the Country Club Drive junction, there was only a small grade hill that inched its practically straight course upward for about a hundred yards, then it indiscernibly sloped downward towards its intersection with Edgewood Drive, an intersection that looks infinitely more perilous when viewed from an electric wheelchair that was now making a top speed even slower than a pregnant ant or constipated turtle.

I know next to nothing about batteries, be they the small batteries that fit in one᾿s portable cassette player, the nine volt rectangular batteries that fit so easily in the palm of one᾿s hand that facilitates the action of throwing it a hefty distance, or the two twelve-volt deep cycle batteries that power my wheelchair. To me they᾿re all just tangible examples of magic. Things work just because batteries are used; however, in the thirty years I᾿ve placed my fat butt into one of these battery powered wheelchairs, I have noticed something for which I can give no explanation: if the batteries from my wheelchair completely die, and I turn off the power and wait for about five minutes, then turn the power back on, I will go forward for a good six to twelve inches! It also works similarly if my batteries are just about dead, crawling ever so painfully along until I turn off the power, and when I turn the power supply back on, I can race forward at a blinding centimeter per hour! I think I shall call this phenomenon the Rigor Mortis Interruptus!

When I reached the nefarious Edgewood intersection, I was indeed crawling with the celerity of an octogenarian snail with arthritis. So, I turned off my machine (to employ the thaumaturgical syndrome Rigor Mortis Interruptus) and watched the occupants of the various automobiles that went by as they looked at me curiously, debating the immediacy of my situation in a nanosecond and determining that I needed no assistance without looking in the rear-view mirror for verification. I let the light change about five times before I decided to turn my machine back on and chance crossing the thirty feet of asphalt. I pushed the control lever forward and felt the surge of power that almost made a wisp of my hair jerk back from the force, and I inched across the intersection wondering how many drivers I was seriously angering because I may have held up their progress for the paltry fifteen seconds that must have seemed a lifetime to them. I did make it to the other side and kept the throttle determinedly forward because I was going down a slightly steeper hill and I was cruising twice as fast; that᾿s right! I was traveling two centimeters per hour!

I had enough power to cross the railroad tracks, barely, but I was still a good football field length away from the gas station that was my destination, and it was on the other side of a four-lane road. I could see it before me, the chevron pointing to the exact point for which I was heading, but the road leveled as I approached the tri-colored traffic signal that taunted me, gaily swinging like a pendulum of a clock, reminding me that my time was almost up, and the gravitational momentum that I was experiencing just seconds beforehand slowed to a more rusty gait. Again, at the intersection of Warm Springs and Hilton, I clicked off my machine and waited, anxious to test once again the powers held within Rigor Mortis Interruptus.

It took about twenty seconds to cross Warm Springs then twenty more to cross over Hilton, which seemed an eternity as glaring eyes darted ominously from tinted car windows masking Corinthian leather seats that supported the well-fed bulk of a driver intensely striving to save every possible second used in operating his automobile so that the actual time he accumulated through his frugal saving᾿s plan could be used in a more pragmatic pleasure, like watching television; but I made it! Not even pausing to savor the victory, I ever so slowly pulled into the garage, and to my delight, the petrol guardian had a battery charger to which I was quickly hooked. As I sat there, with my trousers full of waste and a dead battery, the owner of the car on the rack beside me approached. He was 83 years old, about five-eleven, one hundred and seventy pounds, and his short cropped gray hair was covered with a hat that had on its front the logo of a local bank.

“You wouldn᾿t believe the day I’ve had,” he softly said walking so spryly towards my defunct wheelchair.

He was an affable man with marble gray eyes that sort of sparkled as he explained his rough day, shaking his head every now and then in disbelief at his seeming lack of luck. He had pulled out of his driveway, apparently one of the palatial architectural structures that line Hilton Avenue or populate the surrounding suburbs, when his car had a flat. He had to use his car phone to call the wrecker to tow his Lincoln Townscar to the service station we both now employed, a few blocks from his abode. Then he had to wait an excruciating thirty minutes until the serviceman returned from a warehouse with the size and style of tire he needed. That was it! That was his rough day!

He asked me if I were waiting on someone to which I solemnly nodded; I had no desire to explain my situation, which made his rough day seem as intolerable as having sex while using a condom. After a few minutes, his car was ready, and with the agility of a teenager on his first date, he swept into his ride, rolled down his tinted window, and called back to the mechanics, “Next time I need tires, I᾿m coming here.” He put the car in drive, waved amiably at his new friends, and said, “Thanks!” as he drove out of the station.

The rest of the time I spent at the garage was relatively uneventful. I perused the calendars that adorned much of the available wall space, eyeing a particular treasure who seductively smiled, a voluptuous brunette with large, inviting… uh, eyes! yes, eyes… and dressed in a bikini that covered very minimally the parts of her divine body that people who are morally annoying or grossly overweight find offensive, and I was wondering if men bought tools from the company whose name was written in bold type above the smiling minx just because she was endorsing products from which they earn their living or if they actually purchased tools because of their usefulness and quality. Logic makes me assume that people who earn their living by using tools buy the best tools for their trade, but if this is so, what pragmatic reason would the company have for exploiting this really attractive woman᾿s body? Not that it bothers me in the least, mind you; it᾿s just that I think it would make more business sense if the company spent its earnings promoting its own merchandise instead of furthering stereotypes.

I had been eyeing the clock rather anxiously because my mother was supposed to go to where I work to help me at around three p.m., which was quickly approaching, but sit and wait was all I could do; having no other options made the choice that much easier. After about forty-five minutes, my battery was re-charged.

I drove through the Rosemont Shopping Center onto Rosemont Drive, which is actually the street on which I live but on the other side of Manchester Expressway, an eight-lane road that, oddly enough, takes one to the city of Manchester, but it has a grassy medium down its middle that is as inaccessible to me and my wheelchair as the eyebrow of Teddy Roosevelt on Mount Rushmore. Once I got to Manchester Expressway, it was my plan to turn right (heading east) until I reached Armour Road, cross at the light, head back down Manchester Expressway (heading west) and cruise the rest of the way to my beautiful front door and wait for my mother, who I knew would have come from my work place after finding out from Jeff my dilemma. But, oh how even the third revision of a master plan can still have hidden areas of foreboding.

I was now out of sight of the petrol distribution area when my wheelchair, once again, began to slow. The nigh elation I felt as I burst from the garage quickly metamorphosed into that area of concern one feels as a child at the realization that the Easter Bunny is just a symbolic rodent used to commercialize a religious celebration. My mind began, once again, to reel: Could this be happening again? Maybe that yokel attendant with the rag flaccidly dangling from his back pocket didn᾿t know what he was doing. Were those sparks I heard as he was applying the charger to the nodes? It᾿s a wonder he didn᾿t blow me up. How many brain cells does it take? I᾿m going back there and bleed all over his knuckles… or… maybe my batteries are truly dead. They are over three years old. How stupid can I be? Maybe I should᾿ve called someone!

I made it to the Manchester Expressway intersection, using Rigor Mortis Interruptus four more times. Automobiles, trucks, step vans, conversion vans, even a bus slowly pulled around me, yielding at the red triangular sign that silently commanded every one of the drivers to YIELD, to slow down and observe their immediate surroundings. I then watched the myriad vehicles as they sped past me, engulfing me oftentimes in the waste of their effluvial exhaust. I saw rosaries dangling from mirrors, the star of David, Vishnu, Brahma, Siva, bumper stickers that praised Jesus, another that designated that the driver was a clergyman, yet another that exalted a gospel singing group, but no one assisted me—an immobile wheelchair occupant just off the road, not even on the sidewalk, didn᾿t connote to anyone that something might be askew. Then, across the street, maybe 400 yards down Rosemont Drive on the other side of the bustling eight lanes of vehicular chaos, I saw my mother᾿s white van pull into my driveway. I whistled as loudly as I could, almost hyperventilating from the effort, but there was no way possible for her to hear me from that distance and all the accompanying traffic noise.

I concluded that my only course of action was to remain where I was and hope that when my mother left my house, she᾿d come towards me instead of turning a block from my pad to head toward Armour Road where she wouldn᾿t see me. Of course, my decision was based on conclusions derived from the extensive analytical thought process using logic and reasoning to arrive at the most efficient and pragmatic plan of action: I could do nothing else but sit and hope; however, not long after I had accepted the plan, a deep burgundy Accra pulled up beside me and the large woman driver asked me if I needed assistance. She was driving five others of various ages, and I assumed it was her family. I excitedly tried to point to the white van and explain that I wanted her to drive down Manchester and hang a U-turn at the Armour Road intersection, take a right on Rosemont, which was on the other side of the grassy medium straight in front of me, drive to the white van that was as obvious as a pimple on a teenage model, and tell my mother where I was. I must have done a halfway decent job of explaining myself because she did exactly as I had planned it in my head, regardless of how inadequately I actually expressed it.

I watched the benevolent woman drive her burgundy life-saving chariot back towards me, and I waved at her as she turned right. About ten minutes later, I saw my parents walking towards me. My father obviously accompanied my mother to my work, and they were both coming to help out their poor, innocent crippled boy. You may find this hard to believe, but the closer that my parents got, the bigger they got! and as they approached I couldn᾿t help but ruminate upon the words of the amiable octogenarian I had met earlier at the service station: You wouldn’t believe the day I’ve had!

Russell (Rusty) Allen Taylor
April 13, 2013
#GroovicusMaximus
@SSTJazzVocalist
http://www.Southern-Standard-Time.com

Happy Anniversary, Maim!

Today is a momentous day of celebration—my thirtieth anniversary!—the thirtieth anniversary of the automobile accident that left me a quadriplegic unable to perform even the most rudimentary acts of daily living. I was twenty-two years old at the time, a young buck, strong, gregarious, undisciplined, eager for fun, trillions of hormones electrifying undeniable impulses as encouragement to explore my immediate surroundings at the cost of almost everything, trying almost without effort to inspire coquettish distaff responses from anyone to whom I was attracted, and I was attracted to everything beautiful… not pulchritudinous but beautiful with emphasis on innocence and sincerity. Yes, my head was in the clouds, dreaming of peace and trying my best not to conform to conformity mostly by observing the mundane from different angles of a prism’s refracting kaleidoscopic rainbows that had been reborn from pellucid light.

Then an automobile accident took away my physicality and stored its latent energy in an immobile body, sedentary, a gelatinous lump of organic matter, a still life portrait of unrequited potential. Still and all, today is a very special, positive celebration.

Yes, it has affected me… my paralysis. Let’s face it; my young adulthood was nourished by the late seventies and early eighties. Led Zeppelin rocked and disco sucked even though I secretly marveled at the harmonies of the Bee Gees. I was introduced to the weed, and everything was groovy as we cruised down the highway listening to our favorite tunes on FM radio. Being young and healthy was sexy; television corroborated; so did the cinema, the music industry, even the most kitsch bric-a-brac emphasized an unbounded suspension in any realization to the temporal nature of youth, attraction, life.

My life’s transition from an athletic, constantly mobile, seemingly tireless energy into one of a stationary observer, a tacit poet, a stoic comic… was relatively easy. I surrendered myself to the nearly immediate acceptance of my permanent paralysis—hell, I couldn’t feel my genitals! It was very obvious that walking, for me, was never going to be a reality. It was too easy to perceive that I was destined to live the life of bachelor for the remainder of my terrestrial existence, and this compliance was based on the fact that I was no longer a healthy male specimen. I was young… immature. I not only believed but I tightly embraced as divine Truth the fact that I was now a human blemish that deserved not only ignoring but ridicule by all women. My soi-disant physical repugnance unofficially decreed intentional lack of attention from the kind of woman that mostly attracted me: women for whom physical activity was a major part of their existence. Why would a woman who enjoyed camping, hiking, fishing, swimming, or participating in team sports, why would she want to enjoy these activities without me? Why should she? I had convinced myself that I could never have fallen in love with anyone with whom I couldn’t share these same activities?

It was easy to convince myself that I couldn’t… that I wouldn’t allow myself to fall in love with anyone who was as crippled as I. I know… it’s sad, but one must consider my youth, my inexperience in Life. During the incipience of my life of paralysis, I was just barely an adult. My expectations of romance was still marred by expectations of perfection, a perfection wrapped in enchantment, made more dazzling with the acceptance of fairy tale expectations, a perfect mate forming a perfect union within a perfect kingdom, yet as I lay crying on the cold, calloused, sterile hospital bed, supine, staring desperately at the ceiling from which I could not shield my eyes, my neck secured with screws drilled into my skull making it impossible to turn my head and further damage the spinal cord around my fourth vertebrae, I realized all too well that I would never tempt a lover. Subconsciously, I took steps to ensure a lifetime of solitude.

To my support group, the acceptance of my paralysis seemed quick and decisive, and it was. For all intents and purposes, I appeared to have accepted my paralysis with certain aplomb. And I did come to the realization fairly quickly. I had not gotten very many visits from friends of whom I thought I had many. I then got a call from a girl acquaintance of mine from Americus, Georgia, a girl who attended Georgia Southwestern University and with whom I had shared intimacy… when she called me at the rehabilitation clinic and told me that she loved me, I heard the hollowness of the words she spoke, and I new immediately that I would never see her again. I softly replied, “I love you, too,” and hung up the phone.

Four months of rehab went by quickly. Admittedly, after three months I had no desire to leave the rehab center, but after four I was really anxious to try my paralysis on the world… that’s when I was thrown my first curve: Jill.

She had been one of the terrestrial angels I met that summer, a goddess, my nurse in brilliant white too luminous to look at directly, a golden-haired princess from Disney’s studios who cared with too much intensity that I mistook for love. When I left rehab, I was certain that my relationship with Jill would be an occasional phone call and annual birthday wishes, but she made arrangements to visit me and, more amazingly, for me to visit her. I was blissfully absentminded for an entire year, blindly fantasizing that I had been the luckiest man to have ever been blessed with terrestrial opportunity… to breathe with the easiness of silent tranquility. Then, from nowhere… or everywhere… she cut me to the core, her arms draped over my shoulders as she leaned into my ear from behind… her confession of casual infidelity exculpated by the innocuous admission she hadn’t climaxed.

I actually felt a tiny rip in my heart. As far as physiological, it was an almost imperceptible tear, so small one might’ve only disclosed the actual cleavage of my heart’s muscle with powerful enough microscopic technology and enough interest to look for something so conspicuously insignificant. It was little more than a pinprick, but the pain was as intense as anything I have ever felt, an electrifying jolt of bone-shattering emptiness that instantly sated my soul with the frigid indifference of Satan’s most delicious malice.

 

Gilded Butterfly

“So we’ll live, and pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh at gilded butterflies”
King Lear
V.iii.11-13

Before the glass she sits and brushes her long
yellow corn silk strands of perfumed hair,
searching for minute signs of time. She longs
for when she didn’t slave so hard to be so fair,
back to when her total worth was visual
and her thoughts accessorized what she seemed.
She reflects but tries not to notice that her nocturnal ritual
takes longer, a false fact that belies her fast-fading dream.

Safe within her cocoon, she prepares to cloud
her subconscious with empty promises of gold,
but her dream doesn’t so easily conceal the lie.
From her chrysalis, a gilded butterfly springs out,
exploding in vibrant colors. She’ll unfold,
shake off all loose gold dust and try to fly.

Rusty Taylor
Mid 1990s

 

My anger was intense but brief… instantaneous, followed immediately by the fulgurous realization of my own unworthiness. I knew after she told me… almost just before she told me… her hands clasped on my chest, her breath in my ear, her tears on my shoulders, I knew that even though I may have a few positive qualities as a man, I didn’t have enough to ameliorate the cold hard fact that I need help with everything and that ultimately, in time, I would irritate anyone who was around me. I am as needy as an infant but have neither the umbilical connection nor the potential to be anything else but needy until I turn to dust… and, so far, I’ve been an exclusive “taker” of good intentions with negative zero reciprocation. It has been no mystery to me why I am a bachelor. I had a couple other relationships that were brief but ended as only they could; it has been apparent from the day I fully understood that I was paralyzed for life: I am not worthy of anybody’s intimacy. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.

I think that the main reason for my life of relative solitude is that I have done everything in my power to assure it. From the beginning of my paralysis, I’ve focused my energies on making people forget my paralysis as much as possible, so I’ve given myself challenges. Graduating from college was an interesting challenge, and without it I wouldn’t be the dude I am now. It was at Mercer University that Dr. Stephen Bluestone taught me how to enjoy the writing of the Bard. From there my interest in writing gained momentum. Reading, too, but I still don’t make enough time for it; although, I am jonsin’ to reread “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Becoming employed was another challenge that distracted my focus, and on January 8, 1992, not quite six years after I broke my neck, I was working full-time as a computer programmer using Assembler for the IBM mainframe. This, obviously, was a challenge primarily because programming was just a job, not my vocation. I was also engulfed in the suffocating atmosphere of social ideologies that embraced individual privilege at the expense of communal support. I did meet a few people whom I consider friends and for whom I am grateful; granted, most everyone I met and with whom I became acquainted dug me and my intentions, and most everyone seemed to be trying her best to follow a path of life that was for the collective good of society, but her rhetoric sometimes belied her obvious support for the status quo. Hopefully, that egocentric philosophy is slowly dying out for a more progressive social nurturing, but humanity is fickle and this change will soon change as well.

Throughout my incarceration in the corporate world, I watched the flock of indifferent mechanized humanity as they performed sundry lives of expectation. The constant challenges of couples seemed, to me, unendurable: divorce, child rearing, mortgage paying, teenage tolerating, and spousal compromise belied incessant myths of experiencing a “wonderful family life.” Couple that with a company policy of following impossible guidelines of moral compass, and I knew that my paralysis was incompatible with this kind of social expectation. There is no way I could afford alimony and attendant care.

I was fired after sixteen years of corporate servitude; it was a mutual severance. I won’t make too much of it. The fact is that it was time for me to go, and I’m really glad for it. Corporate life was sucking me into a vortex of indifference. There is beauty in the fact that I did experience corporate life, and that is the few relationships I’ve maintained. If I hadn’t met coworker Jeff Smith, I might not have developed a love for jazz, and since my departure from the corporate anvil of Capitalistic Idolatry, I have been able to pursue performing jazz. In retrospect, it’s easy to see now that some of the choices I made in the past were more for other people than myself, but I am now pursuing jazz and its challenges, and I’m doing it for me… I really dig how it’s affecting me… positively. What makes my current passion possible is that I don’t have the responsibility of a family, no children’s college to worry about, no wife to disappoint, and that makes me happy.

I recently watched a movie wherein the protagonist was given the following advice about chasing a dream instead of being directed by responsibility: “It’s OK to think about what you want to do until it’s time to start thinking about what you are meant to do.” Seems to me that I have lived the reverse of this quote. I spent sixteen years doing what I thought I was supposed to be doing. A small-minded person in Human Resources encouraged my more liberal nature to discontinue the work relation with my corporate overlord. Fortunately, I met Jeff when I first started working, and he encouraged—tolerated—my slow learning and consequent dilatory development of jazz techniques and traditions. After I was sprung from indentured servitude, I was confident enough to take a bold step. I recorded a CD of jazz vocals with Jeff and a few other musician friends, and I am now doing what I wish I could’ve begun when I was much younger.

I now perform jazz when I can, and I have a small, loyal group of admirers who seem to root for my success. I figure I’ve got about ten years of decent voice left. I get a gig about every three or four months at The Loft in Columbus, and I participate in the weekly jazz jam in Opelika, Alabama at the Eighth and Rail and once a month at the Unified Jazz Jam in Columbus, Georgia. Although I’m fifty-two years old, I have a passion that seems to jive with an audience (or they pity me… time will tell and I’m not above using my paralysis for sympathy). I’ve been honing my skills since ’92, and I am motivated. Things for me are currently loaded with possibility, and I am more determined to make my singing a major success. “It’s OK to think about what you want to do until it’s time to start thinking about what you are meant to do.” It’s obvious to me, and I hope it becomes obvious to everyone else: I was meant to pursue jazz. I ain’t braggin’, but it’s been a wonderful thirty years; I wonder what successes the next three decades may disclose.

Peace Through Music
#GroovicusMaximus
@SSTJazzVocalist
http://www.Southern-Standard-Time.com

Toboggan


‘A did comply, sir, with his dug before ‘a
suck’d it. Thus has he, and many more of the same
breed that I know the drossy age dotes on, only got the
tune of the time, and out of an habit of encounter,
a kind of yesty collection, which carries them
through and through the most profound and winnow’d
opinions, and do but blow them to their trial, the bubbles are out.

Hamlet
V.ii.187-195


I was incarcerated within the voluntary prison of corporate America for sixteen years, a computer programmer with a B.A. In English, although I did have a minor in Computer Science. Not surprisingly, many a programmer where I was employed had a college degree, but few were in Computer Science. I have, however, learned through many experiences that a college degree does not necessarily connote erudition nor does it always distinguish one intellectually from others who may have no degree at all. I am acquainted with too many who daily demonstrate their lack of mental acuity even though they somehow hoodwinked their way towards a piece of sheepskin bearing an impressive collegiate insignia that would have been better used wiping canine excrement from the bottom of their shoes. Grant it, I’m not all that bright myself (even though my father calls me son); I have no answers to questions that will ultimately guide me to my most worthy post-terrestrial destination.

I do dabble a bit in poetry, but I realize that I’ve too far to go before I can even consider myself a great poet, but it is great fun and mentally therapeutic. Be that as it may, I have met some people who regard themselves word-smithies on the same literary level as Shakespeare yet who haven’t graduated from what I call pubescent poetry–the kind of rhyming poesy that wreaks of teenaged angst, self-pity, self-love, and banal couplets. At the time of the occasion of which I’m now to disclose, I had been writing sonnets in an effort to better learn the craft and so that I’d have a set of guidelines to keep me from writing ad nauseam, which I still tend to do. Anyway, I hung one of my sonnets on my bulletin board at work, a rough draft of a poem on which I was working. One of my fellow employees read it and said with the sincerity of a kindergartner’s descanting about the Easter Bunny’s altruism, “That’s pretty good, but your first line is too long.”

As a computer programmer I met more sycophants to Capitalism than I can count. (Keep in mind that my maximum number in countin’ is ten unless I am barefooted; I can then count to nineteen ‘cause one o’ my toes is missin’.) Sadly, the luxury-driven corporate-embracing zombies I witnessed are more than likely continuing to dream of a ludicrously fabulous retirement to the exclusion of living their current lives to the fullest, but they’re not the only ilk of corporate citizen. I am also familiar with the hygiene-impaired computer geek who dreams of marrying a supermodel after dazzling her with his binary prowess; the late thirty-year-old ex-high school athlete who refuses to acquiesce to the insidious pains that accompany decades of life; the once paragon of plastic distaff perfection—-a blonde-coiffed, green-eyed seductress with an infuriating lack of wit and vestigial traces of what had once been a drop-dead-gorgeous body but who has failed to notice or even acknowledge her transmogrification into a deliquescent puffy carbon-based water balloon; the fifty-year-old player who still chases, and occasionally catches, recreational pubescent coitus; egocentric dilettantes; lascivious divorcees; autumn-winter romances; winter-spring romances; and sophistic pedagogy. (All this coming from me, a writer of bombastic superfluity.)

There was a young woman employee where I worked who adored thinking that she had the answer to everything. Her name will remain unknown because I just don’t want to have to deal with either mitigation or an upset human being who, other than being daft, is hardly threatening. Anyway, she was born in the self-proclaimed academic citadel of Pennsylvania then raised in the fantasy driven utopia of Texas. Through her superior education (that was spearheaded in her youth by transcendent geographic indigenity, the myopic fantasy that one who was reared north of Mason and Dixon’s line understands everything congenitally more effectively than we who were reared in Southern climes, even though she cannot explain why or how this phenomena exists), she has come to believe that the South is filled with unacceptable atavistic barbarism not only surviving but proliferating because of its general lack of respect or knowledge of Aristocratic European Civilization that she and others of her ilk, somehow, innately understand. She, of course, has since moved from Georgia and the asphyxiating effluvium of illiteracy spawned by its intrinsic deleterious geographic condition.

I have no qualms with claiming a heritage from the South. My paternal grandparents were Hoosiers, whatever that is, but my maternal grandparents came from South Carolina and my mother’s maternal grandparents were Cherokee Indians. This is the tradition that I firmly grasp. Both my parents graduated from Baker High School in Columbus, Georgia and I would’ve been born in Columbus if my father had not joined the Air Force and married my mom right after they graduated. Of course, this was during the Vietnam conflict (call it what you will) and chances are that my father would’ve have been drafted into the Army had he not joined the Air Force, so Fate had her alabaster hand controlling the Wheel of Fortune by which it was foreordained that I be born in Wurtzburg, Germany. I have nothing against the foreign country, but I can’t recall a single event involving my birth, and it’s by my parents’ word, and a tattered birth certificate, that I must accept that I was even there. All my memories of life seem to begin around 1972, when I was eight, two years after my father was discharged from the military and my family moved back to Columbus, the land with which I share a special affinity-—as if I’m a mere gossamer on the web that is the South, gaining strength from it as well as making it stronger. I am a Southern boy.

One day in late November, the aforementioned dilettante came to me in a rush and asked me, rather anxiously, if I was from the South. I, of course, replied with an affirmative.

“Do you know what a toboggan is?” she asked.

I replied, rather eloquently, “It’s a long flat sled without runners that seats about four or five people with a front that curves up like elves’ shoes.”

She looked at me as if I had somehow grasped the secrets of quantum mechanics and with lugubrious relief almost cried, “Thank you. Thank you very much.” It seemed as if she wanted to pat my head and give me a dog biscuit. “Everyone else I’ve talked to who is from the South seems to think it’s some kind of a hat!”

It didn’t bother me in the least that she might’ve errantly thought for an instant that I was more astute than Sherlock Holmes, but the respect she feigned toward my perspicacity was but a fulgurous lapse into a more liberal and sympathetic understanding of the human condition with which she was totally uncomfortable. A nanosecond later she, once again, considered me a mal-educated product of Georgia’s Educational System that encourages teenagers to have babies out of wedlock, spit like Roberto Alamar, support the KKK and televangelists with equanimity, idolize Confederate poetry of specious spinsters elucidating unregenerate even destructive memories of the Southern antebellum paradise that never existed, obfuscate justice, suppress and oppress non-compliance, drink beer and belch loudly as we ask our barefoot and pregnant wives to retrieve another long neck bottle of Lethean amber intoxicative liquid while we smoke marijuana stogies and profane the government.

What I didn’t tell her was that not two weeks before she had asked me the all-important toboggan-defining question, I was having lunch with a friend of mine who was a denizen of our fair state but was originally from Michigan. She told me of her plans to return to her home state for the upcoming holidays and take her nephew on a toboggan ride. I was confused at the time because I was silently wondering what all this had to do with a knitted hat, so I asked her what a toboggan was; her eyes sparkled as she described the sled and how much fun she envisioned, her face an enchantingly brilliant expression of pure joy with pleasant remembrances from her past. I, of course, missed all the connotations involved with her exciting story because I have never felt of wind stinging my face as I plummet at seemingly unbearable speeds past blurred trees on a flat sled without runners until I finally stop in complete and exhilarating exhaustion at the bottom of a laughing hill of ice.

Another cohort of mine (who is also from north of the Mason-Dixon line but who, although really intelligent, lacks the critical eagerness to overstate the obvious or to become too amorous with superfluous minutia) later said that toboggan is what people from New York do when they want to haggle over a price.

Winters in west-central Georgia are rarely harsh. That’s why every city in the state, including Atlanta, shuts down at the first sign of snow; it isn’t economically feasible to spend a lot of money preparing for something that rarely occurs and that even when it does, it only produces limited financial damage, too insignificant to justify acquisition of expensive snow-managing equipment. The snow doesn’t stay on the ground more than three days before the temperatures climb back into the 70s… at least until the next ice age. I, obviously, will never ride a toboggan, but I hope that I don’t react so incredulously when a group of people are ignorant about a fact that couldn’t possibly be any less interesting to them—not something that is uninteresting, mind you, but something for which they, under no circumstances, could care less.

Peace Through Music

toboggan – “long, flat-bottomed sled,” 1829, from Canadian Fr. tabagane, from Algonquian (probably Micmac) tobakun “a sled.” The verb is recorded from 1846. As American-English colloquial for a type of long woolen cap, it is recorded from 1929 (earlier toboggan cap, 1928), presumably because one wore such a cap while tobogganing.

Unintentional Subterfuge

Crippledom. The word is a noun that sadly connotes, promotes, and strongly encourages insignificant, ultra-provincial, minutely microcosmic, and chronically monochromatic negative imagery, but this ignorant connection of paralysis to lugubrious expectations is not, for me, a reality understood by my personal experience. My paralysis is almost always surrounded by ineffable thaumaturgy as that witnessed during every seasonal change. Life is merely the opportunity to react positively to the unexpected. And the choice is… everyone’s. Every now and then, I try to challenge a perceived veracity. Why can’t crippledom be fun?

Crippledom is rarely laughed at but is rife with comic possibilities. What if somebody confined to a wheelchair falls out of it? Depends on whether it’s a drama or comedy. My college professor, Dr. Steve Bluestone, once told me that the difference between a drama and a comedy can be demonstrated by a man’s tripping and falling to the ground. If the scene is a closeup, the pain in the man’s visage creates a dramatic event; the audience empathizes with the man. If the scene is envisioned from afar, the scene becomes more comic; the audience is purposely separated from the emotional connections; laughing is then easier.

It would be so groovy to watch a sitcom with the setting of a bustling city sidewalk: two characters are discussing the sundry aspects of their lives when a paraplegic navigates her wheelchair too close to the edge of a curb on the other side of the street, tips over, and falls (unnoticed by everything but the camera) into water that has stagnated in the gutter on the side of the street―the two characters continue their discourse without ever acknowledging the incident that in reality would cause as much commotion as two epileptic lizards dancing to Glenn Miller’s In The Mood. Now that’s funny! but you’ll never see it because of a fear quickened by demagogic pedagogy used to obfuscate unfounded christian and social dogma to sterilize our society, a herded skein of sycophantic ovine supplicants who graze hypnotically in pastureland programmed in life-like detail on electronic games that desensitizes the flock to graphic violence but a society that must, ironically, revert to calling a crippled boy physically challenged because the former appellation might offend moral sensitivities.

Yes, I have thus far in my life of paralysis fallen out of my wheelchair on two occasions and have fallen out of my Hoyer Lift twice. A Hoyer Lift (pictured on the left) is a tool hoyerLiftwith a hydraulic pump that uses chains connected to an extended arm and to a net that is placed underneath my fleshy hind end; the pump is then used to raise me up so that I may transfer from my bed to my wheelchair and visa-verse without causing permanent back damage to whomever is helping me. It’s really like a lift on the docks that transfers cargo to a ship but instead of bananas from Guam, the Hoyer transfers my fat ass.

The first time I fell from my Hoyer lift was when I was living in the infamous Columbia Apartments in Decatur, Georgia. I was getting ready for bed while, ironically, the Slam Dunk Competition for the NBA’s All-Star Weekend was on television. The person who was helping me was a really effeminate dude, but I knew him from my days at Shepherd Spinal Center, where he still worked; he was very personable, affable, congenial, and smartly dressed; most importantly, he was very concerned with my well being. He had come to me at a time when I was not having much luck with my attendant care, and we got along really well. Obviously, I was very fond of him.

After he pumped me up in the Hoyer lift so high in the stratosphere that I grew dizzy from the lack of oxygen, something happened and I came crashing down to the ground with the force comparable to the energy created by flatulent expulsion from an exceedingly corpulent man after his rapid mass consumption of a recipe that includes NoFartingvolatile chili peppers of varying sizes, colors, and heat intensity; greasy pork renderings; a five-day old burrito; and semi-chunky milk from the carton with a very questionable expiration date. It happened so quickly that there was no pain (the fact that I have no sensation in over 90% of my body is irrelevant!), but what was really unbelievable was that my friend was determined to try to pick me up without assistance―this really tiny effeminate man was carrying on like a hysterical woman trying to overcome what he had given his lifetime to proliferate, i.e. excessive feminine emotions. From the ground, I calmed him down and had him go get help from some neighbors, which he did. This was when Dominique Wilkins unjustly lost to Michael Jordan in the NBA dunking competition, and I can sympathize with Dominique; I didn’t receive appropriate recognition for my slam dunk either!

The second time I fell from the lift was when my father and I went, ironically, to Panacea, Florida. We enjoyed a little bar on Alligator Point that had an incredible ramp up to the front entrance that was ten or more feet from the sandy ground. Unfortunately, this bar no longer exists due to a hurricane; however, it had a beautiful back deck that faced the oftimes placid Gulf of Mexico from which I witnessed many breathtaking nocturnal vistas. It was the July fourth weekend, and this is where we decided to spend the three days; however, there were no hotel vacancies anywhere around to accommodate us. We ended up bedding down in Tallahassee then driving the thirty or so miles to spend our days nearer the ocean.

Luckily, we found a motel in Florida’s capital city, and it provided beds under which the Hoyer’s base could fit; many beds I’ve used in various motels have a solid base which forbids the use of my Hoyer Lift. When this happens, a two-man transfer must be employed for me to get into bed. Since my father was the only person from whom I was to receive assistance at this time, it was rather fortunate that the Hoyer could be used. My father pumped me up and swung the Hoyer around so that I was floating above the bed, but something happened and I felt the effects of gravity as I started free-falling toward the bed. In those few infinite seconds neither of us got excited; I was, after all, falling toward the soft bed, but when I hit the mattress, I bounced back upward… towards the oncoming Hoyer Lift, and it came crashing down on my head with the force comparable to the energy created by an exceedingly corpulent man… wait… I’ve already used that metaphor… let’s see… the Hoyer came crashing down on my head with the force comparable to the aromatic energy created by underwater flatulence the morning following an evening of late-night, hasty Krystal hamburger consumption after hours of excessive imbibing. (Now that was a bit too detailed!) Anyway, after my liberal use of a more vitriolic nature, we started laughing. It was, after all, funny… well, after the pain subsided.

The two times I fell out of my wheelchair involved my next door neighbors when I lived near Lake Bottom Park in Columbus, Georgia, the Fountain City. I rented a house from a simoniac Baptist preacher who coveted the greenback and used his interpretation of Christianity to buy many houses that he could rent out at exorbitant fees… but I digress. My friend Tom Perry, with whom I attended high school, was cooking out in his backyard, and I strolled over in my wheelchair to experience the elevated testosterone that accompanies my gender and barbecues. As I came through his gate, I noticed holes in the yard that his dogs had excavated for reasons known only to the canine species but probably deriving from some instinctual preservation for prehistoric mating rituals used by the ancestral male to attract his potential bitch-mate by showing her what a nice hole he could dig, or maybe Tom’s dogs just liked moving dirt. I pulled back on my control lever so that my wheelchair would reverse direction, but the ground was sandy and my wheels lost traction, spinning ineffectively and almost pleading with my chair to back-up out of danger, but my front left wheel found the hole, and I, once again, felt the effects of gravity as it pulled me toward the earth.

“Here I go!”

It was all I could say, and I said it with such insouciance that the crash must’ve shocked Tom, but he quickly put down his cooking instruments and made me more comfortable on the ground, then he got his wife Diana to help. The really wonderful thing about the whole experience was that they got me back into my chair, arranged my clothes to help me appear less disheveled, and Tom never burned the meat! Tom shall remain evermore in my mind the consummate outdoor gastronome.

The second time I fell out of my chair was at the house that I rented from the cupidinous Baptist preacher, but this time only Tom’s wife Diana was with me. My high school coach and his brothers had built me a long straight ramp that led to the front porch, a front porch I really enjoyed. I was talking to Diana as we approached the ramp, but I missed it with my left wheel, and the wheelchair careened off the lip of the sidewalk, sending me like Icarus to the soft carpet of grass. I remember reading that the definition of flying is to throw oneself at the ground but to miss it. I didn’t miss the ground, so I guess I wasn’t flying.

“Here I go again.”

Diana straightened out my body so that I’d be more comfortable on the ground then phoned my uncle for help. It was a beautiful early spring day, and the sun was graciously warm. Diana went inside and got a blanket and a pillow to make me more comfortable. So there I was, laying supine on the blanket with a pillow under my head, and I was absorbing the sun’s warm embrace, talking amiably with the wife of my good friend. After about twenty minutes, Gary Gotterby and a friend of his pulled into my driveway. Gary and my uncle had coached together at a local high school, and it was through my uncle that I had met him. My uncle was tied up with work when Diana had called him, so he called Gary and asked him to check on me. Gary and I affably embarked on the casual conversation that spontaneously quickens on almost perfect days such as we were experiencing when Diana asked what method Gary and his friend were going to use to get me back into my chair.

Gary was taken aback because he wasn’t informed that I had fallen; he merely thought I was sunbathing. After the laughter died down, Gary and his friend lifted me into my chair and life was again chary (pun intended). It was then that I realized there are times I don’t look crippled.

Peace Through Music

legalize
Legalize the weed, man.

Twelve Second Angels


And then he drew a dial from his poke,
And looking on it, with lack-luster eye,
Says very wisely, “It is ten a’ clock.
Thus we may see,” quoth he, “how the world wags.
‘Tis but an hour ago since it was nine,
And after one hour more ‘twill be eleven,
And so from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe,
And then from hour to hour, we rot and rot;
And thereby hangs a tale.”

Richard II III.iii.147-54

I broke my neck in a single car accident on April 18, 1986, and I stayed at Shepherd Spinal Center in Atlanta with a blooming pink mimosa greeting me every morning from my window until September of that same year when I left the security of rehab to try out my new life as a quadriplegic in Byron, Georgia, where, at the time, my parents lived. That was the same year that Atlanta set a record for consecutive days with temperatures 100 degrees or higher. 1986 saw many events of interest, but the most memorable event was the space shuttle Challenger’s explosion. I remember walking from the cafeteria to my dorm-room at Georgia Southwestern College and wondering why the flag was at half mast; it wasn’t long before I realized the significance of the mid-raised banner. In 1986, the Chicago Bears won the Super Bowl (for the ‘85 season); L. Ron Hubbard and Georgia O’Keefe died; Clint Eastwood became mayor of Carmel, California; the infamous explosion of the nuclear reactor in Chernobyl stunned the world; and I broke my neck.

So there I was… a crippled boy with barely twenty-two years of living under my belt, living in my parents’ home with nothing to do and the rest of my life to do it. I thought back to when I first arrived at Shepherd Spinal Center a few weeks after the car accident that left me a level C-5 quadriplegic. (I’ve repressed all that occurred starting from some hours before the actual accident and including the time I spent at the Medical Center in Columbus, Georgia, the Fountain City.) I laid in bed staring at the ceiling and counting the holes in the tile when I decided that I needed to figure out what I was going to do with the rest of my life.

Actually, I had been crying. I won’t lie; I did cry, but these were excursions into a depression that was so incredibly anticipated, slightly desired. Sometimes self-pity will lure you into a yearned-for emotional abyss from which your return is questionable. I fought hard for the most part, focusing on the positive, and I was meeting special people at Shepherd who were the most diverse, creative, incredibly warm human beings I’d ever met, but I did allow myself some time to wallow in the pitying of my crippled body, the body I had until just up to that point in time, worked so hard to build into a temple of egoistic idolatry. It was a call from a banal, nasal narrator of harlequin romance:

“My poor, pitiable son. Your life has become irrevocably changed. You have a formidable obstacle to overcome before you find emotional equilibrium, and although you will ultimately find solace, you must first histrionically portray Human Suffering and Sadness; you must emotively and, yes, vociferously descant to your god the unfairness of the burden you must now bear; you must become visibly upset, both emotionally and physically (well…as much as physically possible; you are crippled after all; you know what I mean: you can still control the crying, yelling, cursing, breathing… you know, those kind of things). Ha!

”By now you must realize that you are totally paralyzed for the rest of your life. There’s a pre-prescribed amount of time for denial, anger, and depression, but then you’ll be encouraged to finally accept the fact of your paralysis as well as everything emotionally and physically associated with living the rest of your life with the inability to perform even the most rudimentary acts of daily living.”

I cried.

I had been laying for an eternity in a too-sterile, achromatic hospital bed, a bed that had been harboring vengeance for a crime I had committed, quite possibly against its mother (a crime for which I still remain ignorant); it was while I lay in that cowardly, yet malicious dark-gray and lifeless bed in a frown-ridden, leaden-weary spinal cord rehabilitation center, smack dab in the middle of the South’s Renaissance City, and I dropped my stoic character (actually felt its brittle fracturing into illimitable shards); I so flaccidly slid into embryonic depression, crying about my bad luck and my unanswered prayers, when a couple of paraplegics wheeled into my room.

I am very sorry that I don’t remember their names because they were benevolent, celestially luminous powers that vouchsafed my first experience into spirituality: the hitherto unknown ethereal, intangible, enchanting aspect of terrestrial existence that had been hidden from me. All I remember is that the couple were young, attractive, healthy, and happy, and they were only a part of my life for about twelve seconds, but their existence in my life was perfect. What else could they have been but a collective ethereal entity whose existence I will never fully understand? My two personal advisers who had helped me to see that focusing on the negative was not helpful to my life’s quest, whatever path that it may take.

These two terrestrial angels were not the only celestial advisors I was to meet throughout my four months of rehabilitation. I witnessed myriad glowing angels effortlessly floating just above a communal expression that bordered sanctification. It was like listening to Bach, or the letters written by the really young men who fought in the Civil War: sober, emotional, sacrosanct, hallowed… inspiring. How could I ever fail to achieve my most important goals? I witnessed peaceful serenity that was steadily increasing in power, a spiritual landmark that I’ve never equaled before or since, a tranquility that grew increasingly more hungry the more it had consumed, and the energy was fed by complete tolerance of everyone’s neighbor, a communal acceptance of the positive energy that exists in every person… regardless… of… anything.

It was the first time that I had been introduced to a small community that was all-inclusive, even happily accepting into its fold homosexuals, who were the most giving, caring, loving, nourishing people I have ever met, men and women who showed me personally that homosexuals in our society are grossly misunderstood and, as such, are violently mistreated both physically and mentally. In my personal experience, most homosexuals I’ve met have loved me for who I am. I have strictly heterosexual yet irrevocably shallow male acquaintances who won’t help me tuck my shirt into my pants because their fingernails might scrape my scrotum and thereby threaten their anthropocentric, male-dominated ego with insidious seeds of homosexuality that will invariably grow into a tangible temptation, invading their emotionally hardened resolves not to ever think that Val Kilmer, in his prime, was a truly attractive man! And it goes on beyond that!

It’s so ridiculous to think that many of the people with whom I am acquainted, sadly a vast majority, are so myopic when it comes to observing mankind, and these comically impassioned idolaters of infallible musings are unable to see how foolish it is to think that the human being could possibly be compared to God… foolish to think that the human being is the nexus to God, even made in His image. Humanity doesn’t come close to reaching the lofty goals of deification as defined by kindness, mercy, and compassion; how could any human possibly be compared alongside perfection, especially when excluding social segments of our society who have transcended into terrestrial angels… even if the only affect lives for just twelve seconds?

Peace Through Music

“Legalize