We took the elevator up, rolled over to the door, and opened it. No one was there. I pushed through the door and stopped for a moment. Memories rolled over me. Unpleasant. Unnecessary. Unwanted. But they were there anyway. As I sat, getting ready to roll, I remember all the times I came last, the taunts that were flung at me, the teachers who rolled their eyes. It seemed, in my youth, that humiliation was considered to be a motivator, and, I thought, that idea is still widely practiced.
Then, I pushed.
I didn’t go quickly at first I wanted to feel the floor. As a wheelchair user I pretty much always check out the rollability of the surface that I’m on. Entering this particular building I rolled over slightly uneven blocks in a latticework patter, it was difficult to manage and drew my focus to both mapping and pushing just to get to the door. This floor, however, was entirely rollable, my wheels were working at maximum capacity.
Then, I pushed again.
The girls were with me, Joe had sat down at a bench by the door, just watching. “Are you going to go all the way around?” they asked with hope in their voice, “can we go with you?” I told them they could but that once I started, I wouldn’t be talking because I need my breath for the work or getting around the circle.
Then, I started in earnest.
I was only there touring the facility. I’d already been to the gym and had tried all the accessible machines, now I was up on the track. They had been friendly and welcoming, showing me how to make three different machines accessible to me as a chair user. I have no past with machines like these, with the cables and the weights and the sophisticated control panels. I did have a past with track. My stomach would sour before P.E. (Physical Education) because I wasn’t good at it and because my lack of coordination and speed further demonstrated my lack of worth.
Then, I rounded the end.
The chair was going as quickly as I could make it go. I was breathing regularly, focused on staying in my lane, listening to the girls laugh as they ran with me. And suddenly, the memories were gone. It was just the push down the long stretch. I looked up and saw Joe watching, smiling, waiting for me. I wanted to show off a little so I rounded the other end dangerously quickly.
Then, I was done.
With a new memory made. A new start. I’m thinking of joining. Once I left the past in my dust, the present and future felt very, very, different.