One of the magazines I subscribe to is The Sun. It’s primarily non-fiction writing, photography, and fascinating (long, yay) interviews with anthropologists, artists, authors, and other interesting human beings.
And then there’s this feature toward the back called “Readers Write.” The editors give a one- or two-word prompt and readers send in their brief story (100-400 words or so) or anecdote relating to the prompt. (Upcoming prompts include “Losing,” “That Night,” “Mischief,” and “Bad Habits.”)
The contributions are always incredible: real, sad, hilarious, true. The Readers Write prompt for this month’s issue was “First Impressions.” On the plane to Kansas last night, I read one of the best submissions ever.
If I get in trouble with the magazine for posting this, I’ll take it down. But for now, please read this piece by one Ms. Rebecca Levenberg from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was a pleasure to type up your story, Ms. Levenberg; thank you for writing it and congrats for being published.
“Six years ago I was hit by a truck while riding my bicycle to work, and I had to have my leg amputated. At the rehabilitation hospital I was assigned a peer mentor. Rob was the first amputee I’d ever met. When he offered to answer my questions, I had none. I was riddled with pain from a limb that wasn’t there and overwhelmed by the change to my body. Though I felt obligated to listen to Rob, really I just wanted him to leave.
The one thing I remember about that meeting is that Rob had oe by on his way home from the gym, where he went in the evenings after work. Rob went to the gym. Rob went to work. Rob was an amputee. This information gave me hope.
Over the next year I learned to walk with a prosthetic leg. The second year brought more independence, and I went back to work and to the gym.
That summer a man waved me down on a city sidewalk. “Can I ask you a question?” he said, eyes fixed on my prosthesis. Sure, I replied. His voice got quiet. “Were you born that way?” Were you born without your leg?”
I told him no, that I’d had my leg amputated after an accident. I wondered why he was asking: he had all four limbs.
The man pointed to a nearby hospital and explained that his wife had just had a baby boy born without part of his arm. “The doctor said he’ll never know the difference,” he told me. “Do you think that’s true? Do you think he’ll never know?”
What could I say? I had no idea. We talked a bit more, and I asked if the baby was healthy. The man said yes.
“Congratulations,” I said. “What’s his name?”
He told me, and for the first time since we’d begun talking, I saw a proud dad.
After we’d parted, I realized that I was probably the first amputee he’d ever met. Walking away, I stood tall and confident, just in case he was watching.”