Jennifer Bridgman

Letter from Clyde

Dear Friend,

We met only recently, and yet I know you well.

I feel the way your body stiffens when people stop and stare. I sense the unease in your gut when unsolicited hands reach out to help. I notice the stoop in your shoulders when a stranger presumes they must speak to you loud and slow. I know the way your breath catches when a dog announces our approach.

I hear the sigh that escapes your lips when you spot our reflection in a windowpane. I feel the rhythmic longing in your feet as your wife and child twirl about the room. I detect the lingering sadness in your heart from having sold your dirt bikes. I sympathize with your internal struggle—gratitude for all that you have, mourning for all that you have lost.

I, too, will never forget the day we were alone and tumbled in the crosswalk…the chips in my paint, the bruises on your ego. Without delay, you pulled us back up amidst the gawkers. I shuddered along with you at the uncertainty of a broken bone you could no longer feel.

Sometimes I know you appreciate me. I give you freedom to head outside when the sun calls your name. I make it possible for you to go to work each day, and I don’t mind how thankful you are that I all but disappear behind your desk. I come most alive when you pop a wheelie or throw your hands in the sky as we coast downhill, for it is in these moments I know I’ve earned your trust.

I recall the day you gave me a real name. You and your wife took turns sharing, alternating between smiles and sniffles. When your words ran out, you put down the tissue and reached for each other’s hand. It was your therapist who suggested you two give me a name. It didn’t hurt my feelings that you wanted to disassociate yourself from me—I know I am often a burden. I’m hard to navigate in cramped quarters and am no fun in the rain. I make parking a challenge, and I take up all the room in your trunk. I hurt your wife’s back, and I muddy her jeans. Sometimes I embarrass you. So I welcomed my new name and any other way I could lighten the load from your weary shoulders.

I, too, love your son. My favorite part of the day is when he climbs into your lap and we whip around the room, his giggles that transform into hiccups as you murmur in his ear…”Vrooom!” My adoration for your son has only grown with his size. While many are intimidated by me, he gazes at me with wonder. He crawls to me from across the room to investigate my spokes with curious fingers and slap my frame with pudgy hands. My spirit soared the day he held onto me with both hands and stood upright for the first time.

I have come to feel like part of the family, but have no fear—your wife only has eyes for you. To her, I am invisible. Whenever we enter the room, it is only you she sees.

I know there was another before me. His presence in the shed reminds me that I am replaceable. There are others out there…newer, younger and lighter than myself. The nicks on the wood furniture and scuffmarks along the walls are lasting souvenirs from our first rocky days, our dirty laundry left out for the world to see.

I am honored to take my place beside you each night, watching over you from my bedside post, motionless while your mind is allowed to roam free. It is during these hours that our dreams align most. Only you can bring me to life, and yet I too pray for the day we can say goodbye. Until then, I will go on silently knowing you and serving you the best that I can.

Yours truly,

the Wheelchair