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“This is probably not going to hurt, but if it does, too bad,” Leonard said with a smirk. I rolled my eyes.
“Just do it, I can’t feel anything down there and you know it moron,” I said. Leonard’s smirk widened into a smile.
“Whatever you say boss, they’re your legs,” He said.
Leonard bent down and finished burning the design plans into my legs. He took a metal casing and blow torched it so that the metal would brand my skin. A normal person would have been screaming in pain, but I’m not normal. Ever since the car accident when I was five, I can no longer feel or use my legs. I still clearly remember what it felt like to run, to feel the wind hit my face. I was only five, but the loss of my legs was devastating. I grew up watching other kids run around, while I had to wheel myself everywhere. I had to be carried down staircases and my mom always parked in handicapped spots if there was one. I always hated when she did that but she would get annoyed with me if I made a fuss. My mom would say things like “take advantage of your position” or “its much more convenient.”
She never understood. I always wanted to say something to her like “talk to me when you can’t use your legs.”
When I was around ten, I met Leonard at the hospital. We were in the waiting room, when I heard screaming from down the hall. Curious, I wheeled myself over to where I heard it from, and wasn’t disappointed. A boy who looked like he was about my age with dark, black hair was running from several nurses.
“Leonard get back here! You little... Oh wait til I catch you!” said the nurse. Leonard jumped over my wheelchair... or at least tried to. He landed feet first into my face and we both went flying. We were both in a daze as the nurse came running over screaming.
“Oh Leonard, look what you have done! You little scoundrel, you idi-,” the nurse said as she tripped on the hem of her dress, falling on her face. Leonard and I looked at each other and just started cracking up. My whole upper body was in pain but I didn’t care. Leonard and I actually ended up spending the day together, and eventually all of our free time.
The more I got to know him, the more I started to like him. Leonard loved causing trouble, and got both us into all sorts of tricky situations. Most of the time, he acted like he didn’t have a care in the world, but I started to see through his facade. I didn’t know why he was so fiercely loyal until I told him I wanted to go to his house sometime. He hesitated and then said loudly, “Can’t. I don’t think the director would let me bring in a friend.” He looked away and I almost didn’t ask him what he meant. But, I couldn’t help it.
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
“Not everyone lives in a house like you do.” He kept looking down. That was when he told me. Leonard had no parents, they had left him at the orphanage with his little sister when he was three. He loved his little sister and cared for her. She was the only light in his life, until she was adopted.
The people Leonard cared about, the few people he truly loved, he would do anything for. One time when we were kids, some older *ssholes were pushing me around. They were real jerks, considering I couldn’t move my legs. Leonard came flying out of nowhere, tackling the biggest one. Leonard was easily beat up and completely stomped on. After it was over, I felt so bad and so much shame for letting my friend get beat up. He looked up at me and smiled and winked. See, what separated him from everyone else was the fact that he treated me like a human being. He didn’t care that I couldn’t run; he did enough for the two of us.
When I turned eleven, I was obsessed with finding a “cure” or “solution” to my legs. For five months, I spent ten hours on the internet everyday, searching and looking everywhere. I found many hoaxes, scams, and failed attempts at cures. I would only come out of my room to eat and use the toilet. My mother was worried about me, so she blocked the internet. I threw a major fit and threatened suicide if she didn’t give me the internet back. Yes, I know. I was a little dramatic.
After months of slaving away, I found the closest thing to a cure. An engineer and a doctor in Panama had collaborated to create a leg exoskeleton. The process was very unorthodox, and highly controversial. The success rate was less than twenty percent, and if the operation had one tiny mistake, the person would be permanently crippled. What I mean is, they could never even think about walking again. But, if it was successful the operation would give me back the ability to run, jump and do all of the other things domestic operations couldn’t. However, there was no way for me to get to Panama, and no doctor in the U.S. would even think about trying the operation. The only person who seemed genuinely interested in finding some sort of miraculous cure for my legs was Leonard.
Without telling me, he spent hours corresponding with the creators of the brace in Panama. They agreed to ship him the parts of the exoskeleton, as long as he gave the results back to them. The creators in Panama were so desperate for test results that they would give one away for free. Leonard, hated studying, but for some reason, he couldn’t stop researching the exoskeleton. He spent every night, staying up late, going over instructions and making sure he knew every detail. Never before had I seen him conduct anything with such zeal. By the time we turned seventeen, Leonard and I felt ready to commence the operation.
Now as I sat watching Leonard brand my leg, I started to feel anxious. The room is brightly lit by fluorescent bulbs and a water drip can be steadily heard. I check my watch and see that five minutes have gone by and Leonard still hasn’t finished.
“Dude what is taking so long, you should have finished two minutes ago,” I said worriedly. Unperturbed by my criticism of his time management, Leonard shakes his head and finishes up the branding.
“Relax man I got this. I just didn’t want to get the design plans wrong, considering I’m burning them into your legs,” Leonard said.
“Sorry, Leonard. I’m just really stressed right now, I want this to go right. You know how badly I want this.” Leonard gave me a wink and checked over his work. Satisfied with his progress so far, Leonard’s ever constant smirk turns into a grin. I roll my eyes and signal for him to move onto step two. His eyes flash in acknowledgement and he grabs the metal braces.
“Just so you know Leonard, if you make a mistake here, there is no hope for me in the future. There is no chance of me walking if you puncture the wrong nerve,” I warned him. Leonard already knows this, but he needs to understand. Suddenly, my mind flashes back to my time at the doctors
“Bro, just trust me, you know me, I got hands like a NFL receiver.”
“Thats not even related Leonard, not reassuring at all.
“Well, whatever, I guess you’re just going to have to trust me.”
“Thats what I’m worried about Leonard, thats what I’m worried about.” Leonard knows I trust him more than anyone else in the world so he isn’t concerned. However, Leonard knows that I wasn’t joking, one mistake and I can no longer ever have a chance of walking. He lifts up my legs and places the braces onto my legs, so that they align with my legs. They braces fit snugly, just as we planned.The braces are made out of titanium so that they are both light and strong. Leonard grabs the first nail and locates the branding on my skin that coincides with them braces. The reason Leonard and I decided that we had to use a brand for guidance was because we needed to be exact. Anything else has a margin for error in my opinion. Besides, I can’t feel pain so its not really a problem. One of the many pros of being crippled.
“Alright, I’m going to screw it in,” Leonard says. He doesn’t even wait for my approval, he just does it. He knows that if he gives me a chance to think too long about things, I’ll eventually start to doubt myself. The nail goes in like a hot knife penetrates butter, effortlessly and painlessly. I start talking, about to criticize him, but he cuts me off.
“With all due respect, shutup and let me work,” Leonard says. I didn’t realize it before, but Leonard was really sweating this. His grin and smirk were just cover for how nervous he was feeling. He was no doctor, no surgeon, just a friend helping a friend. I trusted him much more than any professional doctor in the world. I know it sounds stupid, but I really could only do this with Leonard. Leonard starts up the blow torch and melts the braces so that they infuse with my leg. He takes extra care only to do so on the parts touching my legs so that control panel of the braces would be untouched. I can smell the burning of my own flesh. I start to gag at the thought of my flesh mixing with titanium. I feel like some sort of half-assed cyborg. Even Frankenstein was made better than me. Ugh, this is what happens when I have too much time to think. I start doubting myself, questioning my decisions. Leonard notices the concern on my face.
“Dude, relax, I’m basically done. we’ll see in the morning if it actually works. I’m forcing you to take an ambien tonight, no staying up,” he says. I don’t want to fall asleep, but I know that the braces need time to mold with my body. Leonard moves over to the sink and fills a cup with water, and manhandles me into taking the ambien.
“What the hell man, I can take it myself. Hands off,” I say, pushing Leonard away. He grins at me and watches me chug the medicine down.
“Just making sure, just making sure,” he says. He leaves the room slowly, testing his weight on each step. He doesn't say it, but I can tell that he is very worried about me. He gives me one last look, and closes the door. The second he walks out, I start playing with my legs. I know that the control panel doesn’t work yet, but I’m still curious. I’m too excited to fall asleep, but the ambien is taking effect. I try my best to stay awake, but the dru--
My eyelids refuse to budge as I emerge from my drug induced sleep. See, thats the problem with ambien, it makes you a zombie in the morning. I pry my eyelids open and glance at the clock. Six fifty eight. I stretch out my arms and sit up on the bed. The sleepiness is starting to wear off, slowly but surely. To speed up my awakening, I splash some water on my face to get the blood flowing. Leaning against the bed frame, I shift my leg-- Wait holdup. My legs! Freaking ambien made me forget about my legs. I rip off my blanket, revealing my blackened flesh. I find the control panel and hit the power button. Suddenly, my body is jolted as I feel electricity running through my whole body. It feels like someone is grinding my spine. I start yelling in pain, curling in to a ball to hold myself. Leonard comes bursting through the door, looking wild-eyed and sporting three inch eye bags.
“Dude what’s going on! Are you okay? Jesus, I need to call 911,” Leonard says. He frantically whips out his cellphone, his whole body restless.
“Leonard stop, just give me time, I’m oka---” I start coughing up blood. Leonard doesn’t look very convinced and starts typing in the number again.
“Leonard, I’m fine, its just, my legs are killing me right now!” I say. Damn, my legs are hurting like crazy. It’s like someone is drilling a hole in my femur. Leonard freezes up. He drops his cellphone and runs over to me.
“What did you say!?”
“Dude, my legs are killing me, get me some painkillers.” Leonard doesn’t move.
“Hurry up, you *sshole go get me some painkillers!” Out of nowhere, Leonard starts laughing. He falls over laughing, and starts rolling on the floor. I don’t understand what’s so funny, I’m in grievous pain and he finds that hilarious?
“Dude, listen to yourself, where does it hurt again?” Leonard says.
“My freaking legs you dick I said it like fifty times! I’m so tired of you not taking anything seriously just leave me alone!” Thats when it hit me, why Leonard was laughing. He wasn’t laughing at me, he was laughing in happiness. How could I have not realized earlier?
I can feel my legs and they hurt like hell!