THIS SHARP CHAIN
“There is now in my mouth, this sharp chain,
And it never comes out.”
- Richard Burton, as Dr. Martin Dysart in the 1977 film Equus
The Normal is the sharp smell of disinfectant in a doctor’s office. It is the red A on a report card, not the B or C; such grades are beneath the daughter of two teachers. It is singing “The B-I-B-L-E, yes, that’s the book for me!” with all your heart, never daring to believe that Crime and Punishment is better. It is the slim body, the intimate circle of friends, the furtive love of “boy talk”, and the date to Prom. It is the good-natured acceptance of boredom in school and life, because that is its essence. More than anything, however, the Normal is an able body. Can you walk, talk, jump and stretch? Moreover, can you run a relay race in satisfactory time, and do the Flex Arm Hang? If so, then give thanks. You’re Normal. The “indispensable, murderous God of Health,” as Dr. Martin Dysart puts it, has highly favored you.
I have been cursed. Cerebral palsy is my diagnosis, written in artificial blood by the white-coated priests of our Deity. Add to that a latent co-morbidity of major depression, present since childhood but only showing itself in my college years. I have other diagnoses as well, informal but no less official: poor, oversensitive, socially awkward, unemployed. They mark me as an anomaly - no longer a Freak of Nature, because that’s not politically correct. Instead, I am the one who’s “struggling, but hanging in there.” I’m the maiden aunt who “waits for the right person, who’ll come along someday.” In church, I am not exactly “lost”, but I’m “not a real Christian.” I believe in a savior called Jesus, but not the workhorse’s life attached to Him. I vote, but my concerns go unheeded after my ballot slides into the box. I’m a minority, but too much of one.
What about you? You, too, may have struggled to be Normal. You may have felt the stomach-churning fear of bullies that no roller coaster ride can equal. You might have sat rigid in class, praying that the teacher wouldn’t call on you to read or answer math problems at the board. When basketballs and volleyballs came hurtling at your face, you ducked, being more willing to lose than to win.
Eventually, however, the Normal turned its countenance upon you. Your coordination grew, in body and in spirit, and no longer were you alone. You were welcomed into the fold of Husband, Wife, and Children, House and Home. Your work qualified you, and God unified you. I, however, remain set apart. If the Lord chooses whom He will, so does the Normal. I do not begrudge you at all. I only wish I was Chosen as well.
For now, like Equus in chains, I struggle against the bit that has been prepared - and forged - for all of us.