I am gimp.
I am what you pray you will never be.
A cripple. A crip. An invalid. Paralyzed and incapacitated. Bedridden and wheelchair-bound. Differently-abled, disabled. Handicapped and homebound and helpless. Mangled, marred, and mutilated. Ridden hard by disease, and put away defective.
Hell on wheels, a rolling reminder of the nasty prize behind door number three, a nightmare about your own fragile future, a test of your Mercedes dreams, lake cabin expectations, plans to live happily ever after, a reminder of your mortality, of the dichotomy between your intellectual comprehension that life ain't fair and your gut-fear that fate’s dice can roll craps and you – Oh, God, no, not me! –yes, you, will contemplate sticking a shotgun barrel in your mouth rather than be the weary bundle of pain and pressure sores, guilt and inadequacies, the incompetence, impotence, incapability you might become.
Look at me. Stare. Go ahead. Fill your eyes, suck in my repulsive image: a queer-looking guy with mocking eyes, a curious twisted thing, forever damaged, helpless and a hinderance, once a rolling miasma of anger and self-pity and guilt and self-absorption, and now a burnt out case, who will haunt your nightmares. Look again. I am smiling, watching the movement of your eyes, within your eyes, awaiting the inevitable response when I speak to you and then hear You’re such an inspiration or I admire your courage. I will smile again, a sweeter more sardonic smile, for I am here, on the other side, familiar with the harsh territory where there are rare inspirations, where courage is hard-mined from bitter ground, where roams monsters you fear, and so the smile masks the part of me who knows I once again must kneel at a macabre liturgy of irony where you lift the cup of empathy-compassion-pity and I sip the transubstantiation of fear, abhorrence, and dread.
Gary Presley's work has appeared in a variety of venues from the New York Times to Ozark Mountaineer. His memoir, Seven Wheelchairs: A Life beyond Polio, was published in 2008 by The University of Iowa Press.