ROXANN ~ A Lady in a Chair
November 2005 – Codeville, TX
Roxann wheeled out of the Principal’s office and looked at the crowded hallway lined with lockers and classroom doors. She hated being the new kid in school. It was bad enough if you were normal and had to stand up and tell the class your name and where you moved from. But when you were in a wheelchair, it was even more humiliating. She knew no one would remember her name – she’d just be that new crippled kid.
She took a deep breath and headed for her first class.
As predicted, her math teacher asked her to stand up and introduce herself. She heard the kids snicker when she stared at the teacher. Mrs. Willows apologized and Roxann nodded. Then she turned to the class and said, “My name is Roxann Thompson. My family just moved here from Baltimore.”
Mrs. Willows thanked her and moved to the blackboard to start the assignment. Roxann stayed in the front of the room and opened her book on her lap. Mrs. Willows was surprised to see her there when she turned to ask the class a question.
“Take a seat, Roxann,” she said. Again, Roxann stared at her. Mrs. Willows scanned the room and blushed. There wasn’t any space for a wheelchair around the desks.
“Bill, give me a hand,” Mrs. Willows said, as she pulled a chair away from one of the desks. Bill picked up the desk and angled it to make room for the wheelchair.
Roxann thanked them and rolled into the space. She got a couple of snide grins from the other kids, but that was nothing new to her. She was past worrying about people like that.
She looked at the math on the blackboard and grinned. Apparently, Greenbriar High wasn’t as progressive as they thought they were. She’d covered this stuff last year.
When the bell rang, she waited for the others to rush out the door. Then she wheeled down the hall to her locker. Luckily, they gave her one on the lower level.
As she pulled her padlock out of her side pouch, a very tall boy wearing a letter jacket opened his upper locker beside her. He glanced down irritated at the space her chair took and turned back to a blond hanging off his arm. Four other boys in letter jackets joined them and bragged about their last basketball game as they walked away.
Her history class was more of the same. But at least they had arranged a desk for her and Mr. Mathews actually welcomed her to his class. She truly enjoyed history, because she’d been to several countries. That was one advantage to being an Army brat. Her dad’s work had taken them all over the world. His latest assignment wasn’t really in this small Texas town outside of Amarillo. But it was as close as the family could be to his work – and only the family knew that. To the rest of the world, he’d retired from the Army and was now a contract engineer for the different oil companies in the area.
She turned her focus back to the class and smiled at the slides of Denmark. They’d had a lot of fun touring there. She loved the Mermaid statue because her brother, Rob, had pointed to it and said, “Look Roxy, there’s another beautiful woman who doesn’t have legs.”
Rob could always put a positive twist on her situation. He was the big brother every girl dreams about. She missed him terribly. He was four years older than she was and already cutting his own career path in the Marines. She loved to hear Rob and her dad banter about the two services. But the day Rob left for Iraq was such an emotional mixture of pride and love – and fear – her eyes misted just thinking about it. They were all counting the days and praying for his safe return. Mom already had a menu full of his favorite foods posted on the refrigerator.
When the bell rang, Roxann went back to her locker.
Again, Super Jock and his entourage crowded her chair, but didn’t acknowledge her presence. She heard one of the boys call her, “the new crip in school,” as they walked away.
She bit her lower lip and wheeled into science class with Mr. Guzman. He quickly rearranged a desk for her and looked around for someone to be her lab partner. No one volunteered. They already had lab partners. No one made room for the new cripple at their table. Mr. Guzman shook his head at the students and moved his experiment down to her desk so she could participate. She stifled a groan at the repulsive sight of a dissected frog in front of her and tried to listen to the lecture. She was scheduled to have a lunch break right after this class. The frog was definitely affecting her appetite.
When the class ended, Mr. Guzman held the door for her and said, “The frog is the only thing we’ll dissect, so you should be able to enjoy the rest of the class.”
She grinned and said, “I like science. But I’d rather turn the frogs loose in a pond and watch them catch bugs. Thanks for making the experiment accessible to me.”
Super Jock was at the lockers when she got there. He glanced down at her and turned away. She looked at his sneakers and grinned. “Your shoe’s untied,” she said.
When he bent down, she rolled over the loose lace and said, “Now, that I have your attention, let me introduce myself. My name is Roxann Thompson. I’m a person, just like everyone else. I get angry when people ignore me because I have to use a wheelchair. So speak to me politely or suffer the consequences.”
“You’re a helpless cripple,” he said. “Where do you come off threatening me?”
She rolled off his shoelace and said, “Crippled, yes. Helpless, no.”
He tied his laces, stood up and said, “Yeah, right.”
She gave him a defiant grin and said, “Better consider the part of your anatomy that meets my eye-level before you make too many assumptions.”
He glanced down and said, “You wouldn’t dare.”
She laughed and said, “Don’t ever dare me. It’s your choice. Either show me the respect I deserve, or worry about your family jewels.”
She rolled off to the cafeteria before he could answer. She knew his buddies overheard part of their conversation, but she didn’t care.