He sits with the back of his chair propped against the wall, reclining and watching the people around him. They cater to him like a child, and although he makes a game of it, inside Leo despises the pity. Shot by accident at the age of nine, he has been confined to the chair for fourteen long years. He hates it with a passion. He hates being labeled helpless, stared at, and felt sorry for. Death has been his goal for a long time. Hell do anything to put an end to the torture of life.
He will never forget that fateful day at his friends house. Their parents had gone out and left the boys alone. Connor suggested they get out his dads gun and headed off to the bedroom. Leo had a bad feeling, but didnt want to spoil the fun. Nobody wants to be deemed un-cool. They climbed to the top of the closet and retrieved the weapon.
The boys had no idea the gun was loaded. Connor played with it, spinning the Glock around with his finger in the trigger guard like in the movies. The safety failed. The sound of the shot rang through the house. Leo felt something warm and wet on his shirt at the same time his legs buckled beneath him. The bullet had entered his right shoulder, ricocheted throughout his torso and exited out his lower back. It had severed his spine in the process. The boy went into shock. The pain in his shoulder and chest was unbearable, but worse was the fact that he could no longer feel his legs. They were dead, useless. He couldnt get up, couldnt even move his toes. There was no pain, just nothing.
Multiple surgeries repaired the internal damage to his upper body, but nothing could be done for the spinal injury. He was permanently paralyzed. Gone were the days of swimming, running, and riding bikes with his friends. His dream of going rock climbing with his father died away. Images of confinement in a wheelchair replaced those things. This would be his world now, and it was a dark place for a little boy full of life.
Leos parents had money, and the settlement from the gun company for the safety malfunction gave them even more. The family began taking long vacations to far away places. Every summer they would go away for up to a month at a time to some exotic destination. Their son got to leave the house too. He got to spend his time in a private room at a local nursing home. His own mother and father saw him as an embarrassment. Dragging around a kid in a wheelchair slowed them down, and they would have to make special accommodations for him. He had become an inconvenience that his family didnt want to deal with. They pretended that they were doing what was best for him to make themselves feel better about abandoning their child.
Growing up as the proverbial skeleton in the closet made Leo a very lonely boy, and things did not improve as he got older. In high school girls had no real interest in dating him. He couldnt go to dances with them, and parties were difficult since most homes are not handicap friendly. Sports were out of the question. The other boys picked on him, popping the wheels off his chair and running away laughing as he struggled to put them back on. He started using drugs to deal with the fact that it seemed no one wanted him.
As an adult things became even worse. Women seemed to only want him for money or drugs. They cheated on him, citing his inability to satisfy them as an excuse. Most of them treated him like a child that they had to care for. Nobody would ever let him do things for himself, and when they got bored with him they left. He fell into a deep depression, and attempted suicide. One night in a hotel Leo stuck a kitchen knife deep into his lower abdomen and yanked it up until the blade hit his ribs. A friend happened to walk in right as he did it, and was able to call for help in time. A few surgeries later, he was back at home with a wound that would never fully heal.
After the incident he stopped going out in public altogether. He couldnt stand the way people stared at the freak in the wheelchair. His long-time girlfriend cheated yet again and he got rid of her. He didnt need anybody. All he needed to get through the day was a good bit of cocaine and a little bit of marijuana. The drugs kept him numb, and dealing provided an illusion of friendship and being needed.
He sits alone. Leo doesnt like to be bothered because he dislikes attention. He watches from the sidelines, from the shadows. There is no woman or friend to keep him company. He is just one more face lost in the crowd. Now he is nothing more than another soul in Hell.
Leos is a hard story for me to write. We met in Hell, hit it off instantly, and dated for quite some time. We were even engaged to be married on his birthday in 2000. He was a wonderful man with a tortured past, and I loved him deeply. But sadly, it was not to be. The wedding was called off when we learned he had cancer. He could not stand the thought of leaving me a widow before I was even twenty-one. We remained close friends, and in December 2000, at the age of twenty-six he passed away from this world to be in a better place. I later married the man he said he wanted me to be with on his death bed. I still mourn the day of his passing. He will always hold a special place in my heart. It is my hope that his soul has finally found peace.