Their Days | English Columnist Sydney Lee
That boy you see everyday in class is special. He’s different from others, because he doesn’t have what others have. However, because of this fact, he’s also able to see the world through a different lense. He notices things that you don’t stop to realize in your everyday life, like how it is a blessing to hurriedly pace through historically rich buildings on campus to get to your next class.
When his alarm rings at 7am in the morning, he struggles to wake up. The struggle is not a battle between himself and sleep, but rather a battle with himself. In order to go to the restroom, he must grab the crutches leaning against his nightstand, attempting to silently hop to the restroom to avoid waking up his roommate. He showers, shaves, and brushes his teeth in the same way he has done for years in a completely different manner from the way you do. He then puts on his prosthetic where his right leg should be, puts on jeans to hide his missing limb, and proceeds to get ready for school.
He arrives to his class ten minutes early and sits at the corner. He hopes that no one notices his slightly crooked posture. No matter how many years have passed since his accident, time has not lessened the embarrassment he feels about his disability.
As he takes a glance around the rather empty room, he then notices an exquisitely pale-skinned girl, silently sitting two seats away from him in his corner of the room. Distracted by her flawlessly white skin, he decides to take out his pens and organize them, hoping she won’t notice his lingering gaze upon her. He then begins to draw a tree, as he usually does when he is seeking a peace of mind. He knows that he can never climb a tree in his life again as he used to when he was five⎯ and so trees have come to symbolize hope for him. It brings him tranquility, sketching his hope⎯ the branches he one day hopes to conquer, and the breathtaking view of the world he one day hopes to see from above.
When he briefly looks up, he notices a soft smile on her face and wonders how much brighter that smile could become once she climbs upon a tree and discovers the beauty of the world from above. Actually, no, that’s a lie since he is actually wondering about how flawlessly her skin would glisten under the sunlight as she becomes the flower amongst the dark branches and dull leaves. He envies her, for she is able to view the world from above to see all that is shining beneath her and how tiny the world’s pieces are compared to herself. For him, she represents the normal life he will never experience and the fresh air from up above that he could never breathe in. He hopes that one day, she sees that her passions, her dreams, and her hopes are bigger than any large building, vehicles, or roads beneath her feet.
As he looks at his finished tree, he smiles, realizing that he had drawn a single flower in the midst of the plain leaves and branches. He wants to gift the picture to her, for she was the one who inspired his vision, but he resists the urge. He knows how his disability can discomfort and even hurt another person; he has already seen it happen countless times to his family and friends. He knows how unfair it would be to invite this nuisance into her perfectly normal life. He fears the hurt he may feel when he sees her expression change as she stares at his missing limb and it takes everything within his body to sit through silently as she quietly taps her feet through the next one and a half hour of lecture.
And so he leaves the class without saying a word to the girl, not wanting to ruin the pathway of light within her future by bringing in the complication of himself into her life.
That girl you see everyday in class is special. She’s different from others, because she carries with her a pain that others cannot feel. This pain has made her into the person she is today as it has made her appreciate everything that surrounds her. She is grateful for the laughters she shares, the smiles she receives, and the kindness she is able to provide to all those around her.
When her alarm rings at 6am in the morning, she takes the two pills next to her nightstand. She opens up her diary and begins to write her usual list of three things that she would like to accomplish today. Today, she has written “1) Read a random op-ed article, 2) Hum a song while taking a walk down the creek, 3) Have my favorite Oreo milkshake.” And to end her entry, she writes down a date in a completely different manner from the way in which you date your journal entries. She writes, “W-18.” Only she understands this number, which she has designated to mean “approximately 18 more weeks in this world.” She suppresses the thought that her leukemia is now untreatable since she stopped responding to chemotherapy two years ago and proceeds to get ready for school.
She arrives to class fifteen minutes early and sits at the corner. She hopes that no one notices her extremely pale skin. No matter how many years have passed since she had been diagnosed, time did not wipe away her shame and guilt upon her tragedy. She hopes that no one stares too long at her in fear that they may notice her deep-set, sunken eyes and the lack of color in her skin.
She notices a boy walking in with a slight limp sitting on the other side of her, quietly taking out his neatly labeled notebook and three colored pens. He begins to doodle a tree on the front page of his notebook as he softly hums to himself. She wonders how wonderful it must be to have a peace of mind knowing you will always get to see the color of the leaves change with the seasons. She admires his composure and the elegance with which he is leaning against his notebook, brushing his pencil strokes up and down.
She wonders if he hopes to be an artist in the future. Actually, no, she wonders what it must feel like to have the possibility of an actual future. She hopes that this boy gets to achieve all that he desires, doing what he is most passionate about, surrounded by those who will give a standing ovation for his well-deserved success.
As he smiles gently at his finished tree, she resists the urge to compliment his drawing and ask for his inspiration of this sketch. However, she is cautious not to engage in a conversation that may cause her to become emotionally involved. She knows how much newly found connections will hurt her at this moment in her life, knowing how short-lived it will be. She knows it will be unfair to him and most of all, she knows it will be unfair to herself. She fears the hurt that she may feel if she lets herself meet this boy and it takes everything within her power to sit silently through the next one and a half hour of lecture, nervously tapping her feet.
And so she leaves the class without saying a word to the boy, not wanting to ruin his seemingly perfect life by bringing in her imperfect, and more significantly, her impermanent presence.
Writer’s Last Thoughts:
There are nearly 2.1 million people living with limb loss in the United States and that number is expected to double by 2050.
In 2017, 24,500 people were expected to die from leukemia (14,300 males and 10,200 females), most of whom were adolescents and children.
Tragedy is unique to each while pain itself is universal for all.