This story is by Eliza Wang and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Right foot up. Left foot slide.
I struggled forward with my crutches as dark pillows of clouds began to gather across the sky. The tangerine glow of the setting sun dipped below the horizon while the mesmerizing colors drained away from the bustling streets. Inching slowly through the teeming city, I gazed, troubled, at the darkening sky, biting back the throbbing pain of my fractured foot. Deep in my mind, I knew that walking with this injury would only intensify the agony. Yet, no matter how harrowing it was, I promised myself to never show any signs of weakness and never let a tear leave my eye. With that, I clenched my jaw tight and marched on, glaring unrelentingly ahead.
A three-mile trudge. Every single day. It had been quite wearying even when I wasn’t wounded. Yet, with my crippled leg, the trek seemed nearly impossible. Gripping the crutches as though my life depended on them, my palms were covered in sweat when the first splatter of rain struck me on the tip of my nose. Surprised at the accumulating raindrops, I stumbled as fast as my legs allowed towards the storefronts, hoping to take shelter under the overhangs.
“This isn’t happening,” I muttered anxiously and pulled out the worn-down wallet from my back pocket. The rim was already in tatters and cobweb-like cracks crisscrossed along the leather surface. As I flipped it open, a few nickels and dimes fell from the foldings and thudded to the ground, rolling and faltering farther and farther away.
“Um, sir, could you please give me a hand?” Slightly embarrassed, I called out to the passing pedestrian. The towering man simply gave me a scornful glance, adjusted his headphones, and trod heavily away. Helplessly, I watched as he trampled over a puddle of water and splashed the murky liquid onto my legs, tainting my beige cargo trousers in a filthy shade of brown.
“It’s going to be fine,” I muttered to myself, “Not everyone would be that cold-blooded.” Pushing my weight onto the crutches, I plastered on a small smile and straightened myself up. I decided that I needed no one’s help to retrieve the fallen coins. Slowly, I hobbled forward, dragging my left leg behind me and grunting slightly as pain surged through my body.
Right foot up. Left foot slide.
One step after another, I was getting closer and closer to the shiny nickels and dimes. I strained against my tired muscles, fixating my eyes on the precious fortune. In the pouring rain, I did not care about my drenched clothes nor my soaked and disheveled locks. All that mattered to me was getting my money back. Yet, a pair of black leather shoes crashed into my view and down onto the coins. Then came a pair of crimson heels, followed by glittery flat pumps, twist bow court shoes, blue platform high heels, and half a dozen pairs of combat boots. I could no longer see the gleaming of the coins. The rain slammed down on me in buckets just as water splashed up from the muddy puddle. My pure white cast was doused into a shade of raw umber, a smudge of yellow and a smear of brown here and there. At last, the swirling crowd of pedestrians had passed, leaving the street corner in a momentary emptiness.
My vision went blurry. My right knee wobbled.
Those nickels and dimes were among the only remnants of my life savings. All those medical appointments and the costly surgery had drained my bank account to near depletion. It was still a miracle that the landlady hadn’t kicked me out of my flat. I didn’t how long it would be before I lose everything I have, but an ominous feeling told me that the day wouldn’t be too far ahead. I clenched my fists tightly around the crutches. I had to stay strong. I mustn’t show any signs of weakness. Still, it took all my willpower to contain the tears that were welling up in my eyes.
“Ma’am,” a deep, husky voice called from behind.
Relief rippled through my body. Finally, I had encountered a kind-hearted man. With new-found hope, I lifted my head and turned slowly toward my knight in shining armor. As my eyes met his, I was taken off guard by his raw glare. His sharp blue eyes carried such apathy that I never thought was possible.
“You’re in my way,” the hefty man expressed in a complete monotoned voice.
Ashamed, I quickly limped aside to let him pass. I could feel heat rising to my face and ears. I dared not raise my head. Instead, I stared straight down at my feet, suddenly realizing that, to everyone else, I was merely an obstacle. I never considered myself at such worthless value, but, apparently, my disability was just a hindrance to them.
“Everything’s going to be alright,” I tried to assure myself in a whisper, “Those strangers are not able to destroy my spirit.” However, this time, I wasn’t so convinced.
Right foot up. Left foot slide.
The green lights had jumped into life. All around, the pedestrians moved in a swirl. I was swept into the crowd and pushed onto the road that I wasn’t planning to cross. I struggled to keep up with their footsteps and ducked twice away from the spikes of their umbrellas. My frizzled curls stuck to my face and neck. My flimsy sweater clung desperately to my gaunt frame. No one gave me a second glance. Searing pain ripped through my limbs. My right leg shuddered under my full weight. Both of my arms were throbbing with all the pressure. My head ached from the biting wind and rain.
Then, as though in slow motion, I saw a pair of blinding headlights racing straight towards the crosswalk. Tires screeched. People scattered. I was left, petrified, in the middle of the road. The lights blazed, bluish-white as if they were comets streaking through the darkness of the sky. At the last second, the car swerved away and crashed into the lamppost just inches beside me. Terror-stricken, my fingers loosened against the crutches and my right leg gave in. My whole body crumbled directly onto my left ankle. An excruciating pain tore through my legs and surged through my veins. I bit down into my lower lip until all I could taste was my own blood, hot, wet, and metallic.
Looking up, a ring of people had gathered along the edge of the car crash. Some were pointing at the broken pieces that were scattered several feet away while others were videotaping the smoking wreckage. Yet, no one, no one at all, looked my way. All were busy with their own phones or commenting about the accident with one another. None offered to help me up. None came over to check on my wounds. None at all. Lying at the center of the crowd, I never felt so detached from the world. Tears filled to the brim of my eyes. I blinked furiously, refusing to let them fall. However, it was no use. A flow of tears escaped my control and flooded downwards, followed by my clenched fists meeting the rough asphalt. Vulnerability took over. I simply couldn’t bear the pain anymore. Sluggishly, I closed my eyes and allowed the pain to consume me.
I had become a part of the darkness, forever alone in the teeming city.