‘Farthest Thing from Paralyzed’


Dr. Hailey, my optometrist, studies me “this is the third eye infection I’ve seen this year,” he said.

The right half of my face was paralyzed at birth and while I have regained almost complete muscle control my right eye still can’t close fully on its own.

“You poor thing,” he said. “Because you can’t blink properly your eye is chronically dehydrated.”

Then he goes on about how I’ll either need eye drops three times a day to prevent infections like this or have surgery. He described the operation in the most reassuring way someone can tell you about inserting a silver plate into your eyelid. But I am not brave. Tears burst through patchwork courage and maturity. Dr. Hailey was confused, panicked. I cried so hard, it was like I was mute.

“Speak,” I screamed to myself as the few words I managed to get out, quivered and hung stale in the air.

“I’m fine,” I said.

I opted for the eye drops, but did I use them? Nope. I had lived so far without needing anything to make me normal; I wasn’t about to change that. But my stubbornness has a price, my vision in that eye will deteriorate. That is the price I am willing to pay.

My third trumpet is named Luka but I called it Trumpet. It’s silver-plated and I’ve kept it polished to a mirror shine. It has a pinprick dent on the bell, but it is perfect to me. I got it from the guy who had it before me named Matt Harney, which I only remember because his initials MH are carved into my mouthpiece. But when I first played it for my puffy Irish trumpet teacher, he said my embouchure (where you put your lips on the trumpet) was off.

“Too far to the right,” he said.

So I tried it his way and I set my trumpet more to the left and blew into my horn. Whoosh…the trumpet didn’t peep. I cried in the middle of a trumpet lesson. I said it was allergies, and he made up a dumb excuse. The lesson went on and I replied to him like my words were being choked out of me. I belonged there, sure, but when my time was over, I was ecstatic.

I hate eyelashes. I had been staring into a mirror for what feels like hours thinking about doing the unthinkable. An eyelash swam in my right eye and no matter what I tried I couldn’t get it out. My eye had been watering so much that the salt burned my skin like acid. The right half of my face has strengthened over my life but it was just not strong enough to blink out one single infuriating eyelash. Each time I physically closed my eye the lash moved back to the center of my pupil. I was in so much pain that I did something I have never done before or since. I picked up a pair of needle nose maroon tweezers and tried to pluck out the monster myself. Putting a needle in your eye is supposed to be some sort of ultimate punishment for breaking a promise, but right then it felt like a necessity. Each try felt like trying to chew and swallow lukewarm tinfoil. I don’t remember how many times I tried, but I never could. Fortunately, I didn’t blind myself. I do know that I am lucky. I know that there was a one in a hundred chance that I would be born without brain damage. I know my paralysis has forced me to face problems that have made me stronger. I know that with this strength my future will be the farthest thing from paralyzed.