Turning Points

My current novel is progressing slowly, but I feel like the story is really coming together. I enjoy writing it because I love the determination of the main character who is forced to deal with incredible obstacles yet remains positive and undeterred. The scene below is one of the turning points later in the novel. I decided to share it here because I think it captures the essence of the main character and demonstrates how seemingly insignificant moments can actually be those seminal ones that set the direction we take in our lives. It also reminds me of the quote from Epictetus, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” In this case, Bobby, the main character decides to pursue a dream that he had otherwise given up despite the obvious challenges he faces.

The cool hands of the morning brushed across his face and startled him awake. Bobby opened his eyes and surveyed his room without moving his body as if he were frozen in place. Despite being covered by the comforter, he felt a chill in his body that started at his toes and ran up his legs. He sat up and rubbed his hands across his face and through his hair. It had been over a year since he had lost his legs and he still had these feelings that presumed his legs were still there. He looked down at the cold plastic prosthetics propped against his bed on the floor. He didn’t need to look under the covers to prove he couldn’t feel anything. He knew.

A muted light angled through the blinds in his bedroom. The clock by his bed said 7:30, but he felt no rush since he didn’t have his eight o’clock class on this day. He could take his time. He lay back down on the bed and pulled the comforter tighter around his chest. The instantaneous warmth relaxed him, but a nagging thought fluttered in his head.

He recalled the video of Oscar Pistorius running the 200-meter race in the Paralympics, and suddenly, he had an intense desire to run. He wanted to get some of those blade-like legs and see how fast he could run. He wanted to reclaim that feeling of running around the track where the crowd dissolved into nothingness and the sound disappeared like it was sucked into some black hole. He need to transcend this earth and forget about his newfound limitations. He wanted to prove to himself that he still had it in him to run.

These feelings confused him. He had no idea where to begin, how to get the legs, or how to prepare to run as a Paralympic athlete. He really didn’t understand why he felt this way, but he did know that he was as sure of himself as he had been when he decided to attend Harvard or when he enlisted in the Army. He had never been more sure in his life. He had to run and he had to get into the Paralympics. He may not be able to represent his country in the Olympic Games like he had once dreamed, but he could certainly represent it as a disabled athlete who had sacrificed for his country. He wasn’t going to let his story end any other way.

Adrenaline pumped in his veins. His mind raced around the possibilities. Suddenly, his goal became very clear. He imagined himself on that track in Athens poised over the start block next to Oscar. He could hear the start gun fire and feel his muscles tense as he propelled himself forward on the blades that stood in for his feet. He didn’t know what it would sound like to run on these blades, so he imagined the sound as if it were the same as when he had his real legs. The blades pounded the track in lockstep motion with his arms. His breathing burned and ached in his lungs. He thrust himself forward through the finish line and cut the air above his head with victorious fists. The visualization excited him, made his heart pound. He hadn’t felt this excited about running since he ran on the college track team.

The vision overwhelmed him and he squeezed his eyes shut and pressed his head into his pillow. He had to think about what to do to get to the point where he could run again. He opened his eyes and stared at his fake legs. It felt hopeless. He had barely mastered walking in the prosthetics. How could he possibly think he could run in them or anything like them. Doubt ridiculed him. He turned over in his bed and faced the window. He could see up through the slight cracks in the blinds and saw the crystal blue sky outside. A beautiful day beckoned him, and that’s when he understood the possibilities and doubt melted away. He would run again. He had to. There was no other option.

A fierce determination steeled him as he sat up in his bed and attached the prosthetics to his stunted thighs. He pushed himself up with a renewed sense of confidence and walked to the window next to his bed. He opened the blinds to morning outside and stared into the deep blue sky. A new day had dawned and once again Bobby was taking a new direction.

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