I was inspired by Daphne Ling’s The Story of Little Hisham and his Red Balloon here that immediately after I left the house of one young guy with a spinal cord injury, I felt I should write it down and say something about him.
*Roma Irama, a 20 year-old dude involved in a terrible accident two years ago and suffered exactly the same injury as mine, where our cervical cord numbers 6 and 7 were badly damaged. But the weird thing about spinal cord injury is, we may share a common injury technically but our condition varies. The thing is, I am far worse than him physically as he is capable of doing more things independently.. That’s what I told him just to give him the slight edge for that moral-boost. The numbness on his hands are there but his fingers are functioning quite well. He can even move his right toes. In a way, I was telling him the truth.
I got to know him by chance. He’s my girlfriend’s sister’s colleague or something like that. Eh, hold on. He is…my girl’s…colleague’s brother. Yea, that.
And so we went to his place situated somewhere near the graveyards in SS1 PJ. Roma Irama’s sister wanted me to come over so much as according to her, her brother has never been going out since the accident two years ago. So it would do him good if there’s someone like me to give him the ‘talk’. He was too reserved that it got her so worried.
Well, I tried my best. Immediately I learned he’s got almost all the ingredients needed to get back on track, rejoining the society. His physical strength can put most of us old quads and paras to shame. His family has been there cheering on since day one. And he doesn’t have a girlfriend to distract him.
But he lacks the self-confidence.
Naturally being an introvert, Roma Irama is definitely lacking the mental strength. It was written all over his face. His body language was there to let the whole world see how shy he was. My girl had to leave us two alone and that too I find it a little difficult to get him open his mouth. Only after awhile I knew he was listening all the time because some of my stupid jokes got him in stitches but still can’t really get him to spill out what he had in mind.
A few puffs (yes, he smokes too) actually did the trick and he was willing to open up bit by bit after that. As I predicted, the feeling of being physically different from the others was the main reason holding him back. The kind of stare you get when your fly is unzipped. Or the kind of head-turn a busty lady usually get when walking past us, men.
Yes, the feeling of discomfort. Things like, ‘oh no, he’s looking at me because I’m crippled’ or ‘Is he looking at me or my urinal bag’. That kinda stuff will always bug every person on wheelchair to bits during his earlier years being crippled. So no way I can blame him. It took me and some wheeler friends more than three years to bounce back, and this poor chap has only been in wheelchair for two. But he is lucky to have met someone in the same boat to nudge his crooked spine off and get things moving at this very early stage.
Come to think of it, its not really in what shape you are or how different one can be. It’s not really much about the lack of confidence nor mental strength from a person who had a brush with death and survived to endure more shits in this world. I think what is lacking more than all the above is, public awareness. As a result, we get the ‘unwanted stare’. Its not wrong to stare as human being are curious lot. Fine there. But must one stop just for the sake of staring for one full minute? I mean, hey, hello…you’re drooling there…60 seconds of your freakin’ life is on hold just to look at a guy on wheelchair? Whats the deal there, man? Come oonnn, your wife needs you more there. Mind your own business, a**hole.
Sorry got carried away there.
Now where was I again? Ah yes, that. A**hole!
Back to Roma Irama. We spoke for about two hours and I remember telling him its not weird to have such negative perspective towards the public and vise versa. What he needs right now is to break the duck And the best way is to get some wheelchair buddies to go along so that when the ‘stare’ starts rolling in, it could well meant for anyone of them, and not just him. That very first outing will serve as a tool to get him ‘warmed up’ at the same time. Just to get the ‘feel’ of the new atmosphere. And I promised him, once the duck’s ‘smashed’, he will be nagging his carer to take him out more often.
Before we split, I provided some infos on all the benefits he gets to enjoy from Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat. Actually more than one can imagine. Its not bad though, minus the red tape and shit.
You know what, I am in no position to tell anyone to ‘get a life’ but if only they knew my point, my intention, the message i'm trying to get it across, they’d wish they’ve had met me much earlier. But if only they knew…
*Obviously Roma Irama is not his real name. It's Amar. I just felt like dangdut-ised this entry.