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  • Erin Clark

Like You're Dancing


The frame of my wheelchair is a continuous bend of metal. The chair doesn’t fold or collapse for exactly the purpose of significant parts of it not getting loose with use. The wheels need intermittent replacing, cushions, too. But the frame cannot move. So when my technician rolled her out to me after replacing the bearing and asked, “is the seat supposed to be off-center?” I looked at him quizzically? He showed me where the cross bar that the seat is attached to is clamped to the frame. Definitely uneven.


“Well that explains why I’ve been so wobbly and creaky and tilty!” Lately, every time I leaned forward, one of my back wheels would spin out. I could rock back and forth between the back and front wheel just by shifting my weight.


It’s a wheelchair, not a rocking chair, but when I tried to roll in the last couple of weeks, the front wheels would stick, and I’d have to kind of hop to unstick it to move forward. I thought my wheels were travel weary. New bearings would fix it.


“I noticed it because once I fixed the bearings the wheels still weren’t even on the ground.” The technician said to me. He tipped my chair upside down, “I can see the mark where the clamp used to be.” It was about an inch out of place.


“I could feel that something was wrong. I can feel the whole chair around me and how it interacts with the ground, but it has no sensory receptors, you know? To tell me what it’s feeling.”


“Yeah, like if there is a problem with your body, you feel pain and you know,” he said. My wheelchair is paralyzed like me. When something is off kilter, we rely on a lot of inference and the odd technician. This tech in particular reached in to loosen the screws. He had to grunt, he used force.


“So, it didn’t slip,” I noted.


“Oh no, for it to move that much and still be this tight, it took a sudden and strong ...” “...impact.” I finished. “Did you have an accident?” He asked gently, like he was preparing to hear about trauma.


“No. I travel a lot, though.”


“By airplane,” he guessed. ”I fix a lot of damage caused by airlines.” He pulled the frame back into alignment like a chiropractor for wheelchair bones, then tightened my screws again.


“I like your shoes,” he said.


“Thank you! They match my rims,” I pointed out since my wheels and heels were at his eye-level. He set my chair upright for me. I stroked her sympathetically for whatever had crushed her when we were apart. Then I pressed my weight, the weight she was made for, into the frame and hopped in. It was immediate and smooth, I could feel my glide restored in the chair the way I feel restored blood flow in my body after a massage. A little dizzy, a little warm. despite the lack of nervous or venous system in metal, it was as if the the grease flowed throw it. I spun and twirled, no creaks or groans, but I ooohed and aaahed and sighed.


“It looks like you’re dancing!” the tech said.


“I am. Thats what I do!” I said.


“It shows.” He replied.

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