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Heart Shaped Wheels

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My first waltz with an actual job happened the summer before my freshman year of high school. I was to work as a camp counselor at an overnight camp I have been attending since the age of 7. This kind of job was usually given to older, more qualified people but because I had been attending the camp for such a long time I was given special consideration. You’d think that I was ecstatic to receive a great opportunity at such a young age but it was the complete opposite. The reason behind this is the kind of work I was bound for. In affiliation with Easter Seals, one of the world’s largest non-profit companies who seek to help disabled people, this camp catered to disabled children as well as normal children.

Everyone at camp loved his or her job except me. For starters, I did not choose to apply; my mother forced me into the death trap. I was a fourteen year old ready for change and different opportunities but there was no way around my mother. I simply obliged in order to keep from arguing. I hated everything about the place. I hated the tortuous bus rides up to Maine. I hated the freezing showers. I hated the disgusting bugs you found everywhere. But most of all I hated the disabled kids and staff. I believed them to be the laziest creatures on Earth who got away with never having to do anything because of their situation. They were also always in the way of getting actual work done. I often thought, “Why do they even bother coming to camp if they can’t even participate in any of the fun activities?”. It was a complete waste of time for me to do anything with these handicapped kids.

I felt the wave of doom wash over me as I watched my camp director walk away. He had just asked me to spend an entire day going one on one with a boy named Jack. Going “one on one” is just another way of phrasing “Your entire day is now ruined ‘cause you have to push a boy in a wheelchair everywhere.” With heavy footsteps and slow movements, I made my way across the somewhat empty dining hall over to the corner where Jack sat in his chair. Jack made no signs of introducing himself therefore I made the first move.

“Hi Jack, I’m Kyle. I’m sure Lisa already mentioned this to you but uhh I’m going to be hanging out with you today.” My kind introduction was returned with silence and zero eye contact. Thank goodness everyone was called down to the waterfront at that second; I was saved from an awkward conversation with a wall. Jack and I made our way down to the waterfront in silence using the paved road specially made for people like him. I walked alongside Jack with my book in hand as Jack pushed himself along. There was no way on Earth I was going to push Jack, I didn’t even want to be here. We finally arrive at the waterfront seeing that everyone was already in the water. If Jack hadn’t taken forever we could have been on time. I sneak a glance at Jack and as I had expected, he has no plans of going into the water. With a confirmation of a shake of the head I sit myself down right beside him. I open my book and pick up where Bella is visiting Edward’s family for the first time.
“That’s a pretty good book you’re reading.” I turned my head to see who decided to come over and talk to us. To my surprise no one had, it was Jack.

“I know. How would you know?” I realized how rude I sounded a second too late. “Well I mean, you read books?”

“I’m pretty positive everyone in the universe reads books.” Jack said with a chuckle. And with that I continued to read my book. I will not hold a conversation with someone who’ll only make fun of me. Especially not with someone like him.

“I never really read books before the incident but when you’re in the hospital for so long there is nothing else to do.” Jack continued.

“Why were you in the hospital for so long?” Being around people like him for a very long time, I already knew the answer. Jack probably got sick and because he doesn’t have a very strong immune system as would normal people, he needed to stay in the hospital. But, for kindness sake I was going to continue the conversation.

“I got into a car accident four weeks after I got my license. I wasn’t always like this you know.” Jack said. I did the quick math in my head: if Jack was seventeen now and he got into his accident right after getting his license, that meant he had recently lost his legs. At that, my heart began topound and I had this weird feeling in my stomach that would not go away. I suddenly felt sad. Sad for Jack, sad for turn of events in his life, sad because he was just like me not too long ago. Thoughts of how things would be like if it were me in that car accident flooded my mind taking Edward and Bella’s place. I now saw Jack as this tremendously brave young man.

“Kyle are you ok?” Jack broke the silence I was unaware of. I tried my best to answer fluidly but failed instead, fragments of a sentence came out.

“Uh... um... yeah. All cool.” I managed to choke out.

“Oh yes, don’t worry about it. Everyone tends to get like that whenever I share my story.” I felt it was an appropriate time to laugh or even chuckle but I was still a bit emotional.

“But don’t feel bad for me. I’ve learned to accept the changes. Yes it’s hard but life wasn’t meant to be easy in the first place, right?” said Jack. My heart still felt heavy but I slowly felt the layers of metal peeling away and I already felt lighter.

“Sorry, I tried not to be so obvious.” My confession was replied with a smirk. Around us campers began packing their things and counselors were heading back to the cabins. Time flew right by me. I packed up my things and as I pushed Jack back to his cabin I thought of all the volunteers who come to camp every year.

“People like you are pretty cool.”

“Who? Me?” I questioned Jack.

“Yeah you. You guys spend your summers with people like me instead of staying home and chilling with friends or something.” I felt a pang of guilt but I took the compliment.

“You guys are much cooler than my friends.”





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