Life had never posed much of a challenge until the day I lost the ability to walk.
An arseholed chav pushed me off a three-storey building. It is what it is. At least that’s what I said my first few years in the wheelchair. I can’t stand that bloody phrase anymore. It’s just a smarmy way of saying “I’ve given up”. Now I see my wheelchair for what it really is. My crystal ball. Not to gaze into the future or any such bollocks, but into the present. To see the world as it is, with new eyes, like that Proust bloke said. When my legs worked, life was just hunky-dory. I coasted on through. But when I lost movement from the hips down, everything changed. You can’t compare the before and after. Some people do and they beat themselves up over it. If you don’t like being ogled at, you better not ever find yourself in a wheelchair. Everybody looks at you. I hated it at first. So I stayed in. That’s when I started using computers. That was the summer of 2005, six months after my fall. Before that I had what you’d call moral issues against it. Actually still do. But though I didn’t like computers, I disliked being stared at even more. At the end of the day I’m no hermit, so I joined some chat groups, bought a web cam… the works. I became a modern person. It opened my eyes to the world. Not that it’s a world I like. I was protected from it before because I had functioning legs. I could, metaphorically speaking, walk away any time. Not anymore. I can’t just go off on a gander. Now everything has slowed. Everything, that is, except my thinking.
Don’t assume it’s because I’m looking for any sympathy tears that I’m telling you this. There’s no sorrier sight than a self-pitying paraplegic and nothing more repulsive than the pity of the pedestrian. I don’t need you opening any bloody doors for me or pushing me up any inclines. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those bitter Lieutenant Dan types who rail against every Forrest Gump who comes along. I’m sure you mean well. I know you don’t mean to be a patronising imperious wanker. But it’s hard not to get riled at times, especially when some muppet in shining armour decides to make you into his damsel in distress. Like I have a sign over me that says “Push Me To Feel Good”.
So now that we’ve dropped the phoney niceties, let’s get on with the story. I should probably mention how old I am and where I’m from and all the rest of that character development rubbish they teach in writing books. The thing is, when you’re in a wheelchair, age is a meaningless term, an outdated leftover from your upright years. If there’s one thing I’ve got now, it’s time. Whether I slice it up into years or not, it’s the same shite.
As far as parents, I’ve got some, if you can call them that. They’re out there somewhere, probably getting pissed in some dingy council flat. They’d always been right twats but after the accident they revealed their true colours. I was completely dependent for the first two years so it fell on them to assist me. They resented it. I was just a pain-in-the-arse cripple to them. They never said it to my face. But when they got wasted they’d talk about me. They never were quiet drunks.
A few days ago some bloke in New Zealand clubbed his pit bull with a hammer, slit its neck, and then roasted it. He killed it because it was a nuisance. It caused a fuss in the news. I say good on him. At least he didn’t toss the dog out to die of exposure or spend his life whinging about how ugly it was.
I have more to offer than pain, suffering, and bitterness. There is light. Bright, piercing and cathartic. But first I must wheel myself through the tunnel.
You want to see me out in the world, don’t you? A character in motion, out and about, having a laugh with my mates, taking the piss out of pikeys, that sort of thing.
I’ll try. Yesterday I was waiting on the first floor for the lift at an NHS hospital. The door opened and some tall, skinny bloke was standing there, all by himself. He was a right streak of piss. You could have fit thirty of him into that lift. So he looks at me and with a perfectly straight face says, “It’s just one bleeding floor. Can’t you take the stairs?” Maybe others in my place would have lost their rag over that but I thought it was the dog’s bullocks. Funniest thing I’d heard all month.
That’s about all the character in motion you’re getting out of me, at least the kind of motion you want. I know you’ve been through the writing programmes and memorised the rules of fiction and filled your noggin with carefully thought out ideas about what makes good writing. Action, character, backstory, development… as Auggie would say, blah blah blah. If Dostoevsky were writing Notes from the Underground you’d all have probably voted the poor bugger off before Isis.
I may have dropped my knickers too early. But you asked for a character in motion so I’m moving for you. When you only have a few hundred words, there’s no time for seduction.
Onwards to our challenge. Weave an element of Fyor’s story into your passage. That’s an easy one. That night on the roof, on my last stand, as I’ve come to call it, I was feeling hard like I usually do when I’m pissed. So when that chav called me Frodo, which sometimes happens because of my curly brown hair, I took a swing at him. That’s how the brawl began. That’s how Frodo plunged to his death birth.
Now that I’m done with my weaving, let me tell you why a misanthrope like me, a bloke who detests the Internet, who despises reality shows and writing contests, who resents the cosy buggery of herd writing, who knows that the only writing worth doing is the kind that spills out of your guts alone, in silence, unheard and uncommented upon, like the final thoughts of a man abandoned to bleed to death alone in a bare room… let me tell you why someone like that has decided to do something like this. Let me tell you.
Yes. Now my wheels are moving. Let me tell you. I want to be heard.
*IGOR WAS ELIMINATED AT THE END OF ROUND 4
The closing words of my last passage were “I want to be heard”, and the response was to toss me into the dustbin. I’m not brassed off over it. You’ve done me a favour. You’ve denied me the quick fix, the online pill that delivers an endorphin rush but leaves a hollowness, the cat-and-mouse comment game that squanders your hours by stranding you in an ocean of babble, the cheap write that inevitably results from spending your entire life plugged in. I don’t fancy diluting my work for the gormy watered-down taste of the masses. I can now piss off again to my underground cavern and forge in the smithy of my solitude the uncreated portrait of my conscience.
I’m not cut out for this century. I don’t fancy its bubbly self-promotion and promiscuous exclamation marks. I’d rather have my strop on than end up among these social media slappers who pass their hours befriending half the world and losing themselves in the process. The daft hysterics of the mob drown everything else out. The web has spawned a culture of noise that dooms the writer of depth to extinction.
Cheers for the bollocking in voting me off. You might say I climbed into the noose when I turned upon you. Dear reader, if I’ve been out of order it’s because I care. As that German codger said, what doesn’t polish you off only makes you stronger. I can only blame myself for signing on to something as barmy as an online reality show/writing contest. The only word there that isn’t vile to me is “writing”.
I was seduced by the glitter and allure of the virtual world. But I’ve discovered the web is a faithless partner for a writer. She entices with her assets but she’ll betray you for the next fellow at the first opportunity. I’m just calling the tart out for what she is. Beware the Internet, for she makes cuckolds of us all.
Not that I’m chuffed to return to my isolation. In the information era it’s bloody unlikely my craft will receive any posthumous recognition. There’s no time to read the ones who have already been discovered, never mind to go digging up others. Nobody will unearth your work like they did Dickinson and Kafka. Live in chatter; die and rot in obscurity. That’s the only fate in the interactive computer age.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I must unplug and get back to wheeling myself through my tunnel. It may be dank, lonely, and wretched in there, but it’s the only place I breathe freely. Anywhere else is intolerable.