The Running Shoes
November 21, 2011
The class had started. The noise of 8th graders taking out their textbooks, pens and pencils filled the room. An unfamiliar girl standing next to the homeroom teacher grabbed everyone’s attention.
She was tall and thin, but different from typical teenagers who usually seem shy and look crouched. She stood up straight, looking at our class with a slight smile on her face. I tend to compare people to animals and she looked like an elite race horse. Long legs, great posture, shiny black hair and big wise eyes of the same colour.
“This is Elena Fedotova. She is our new classmate,” announced our homeroom teacher.
“Hello,” said Elena and took the nearest empty seat.
During the breaks, most of the class gathered around her, eager to know more about Elena. It turned out that she had come from another city and that she was an orphan living with her grandparents.
That day in Physical Education we were doing running drills. The teacher broke us up into pairs, and it turned out I was running with Elena. Until then, I held the best time in those running drills, but Elena was faster than me by two seconds. Once again, she reminded me of a race horse. Her run was so powerful and graceful! The teacher even said, “If you practise enough, you will be setting new records here.”
We frequently competed with her in running, but purely as friends. It was no surprise that she was faster, but my results were getting better. After another run, on our way to changing rooms, she told me that she wanted to get into a sports college. I supported her idea since she really had the potential.
During the summer break, I got an unpleasant call from our homeroom teacher: “Elena was hit by a car and she is in the hospital now. We’re going to see her today.”
Some drunk driver had hit her while she was riding her bicycle and had disappeared from the scene. There were no witnesses, and he was not found and proven guilty.
The injuries were so bad that the doctors could only amputate her whole leg.
I decided to see her alone, without my classmates. It was hard to imagine the horror of her tragedy—her whole future was in her legs, and she wanted to go into sports, but now she had to let go of her dreams. I expected to see her in hysteria and depression and was ready to calm her down, but, as it turned out, she did not need that.
When I came into the hospital room, Elena was lying there covered with bruises and abrasions. I was shocked and tears filled my eyes, but she turned her face to me and with an empty smile said, “Hello.” It was me who wanted to burst into tears and cry, but there wasn’t a single tear in her eyes. They were filled with pain and resignation.
“Dasha, don’t cry,” she said. “And don’t look at me so!”
I sent her a questioning look.
“As if I’m disabled”, she clarified. “I’m not! And I don’t want you to pity me.”
I said, “I admire your courage, Lena” and sat next to her.
She asked me to take out a box under her bed. It was a Reebok shoes box. She opened it and took out a pair of expensive, brand new running shoes.
“My aunt bought these for me in Moscow. These are official running shoes from the last Olympiad. I kept them for a special moment; I did not want to wear them for everyday practises. There is no point of me keeping them anymore. Here,” she gave me the shoe box. “They’re yours.”
“Maybe you could still wear them?” I tried to convince her.
She laughed and said, “Well, maybe in my dreams.”
This visit affected me in a very deep way. Since then, I don’t put anything away for a special moment because it might never come. Now it seems that it’s only worth it to value the very moment you’re living in and what you have in this very moment.
In a month, Elena went to Moscow to live with her aunt, where she could get a much better artificial limb. From her letters, I found out that she was preparing to go to medical school. As she said, she wanted to be “useful” to this world. I had no doubt about her decision.
In the letters Elena always asked me if I'd been running in those shoes. The answer was “yes.” Even though they were big for me, I wore them every run. One day I felt as if these shoes called me to run, as if they were saying, “Wear me! Let’s go jogging!” I mailed Lena about it. She replied that she dreamed about a run that day.
Three years after the accident, I received a letter from Elena. It was a picture of her on the running track. She was running with a prosthetic leg, like a race horse, as I remembered her. There were the same Reeboks on her feet. At this moment I understood why she said that she was not a disabled person. A disabled person is not the one who is missing a leg, but the one who whines about his injury (physical or spiritual) and just waits for someone who will pity and comfort him. Disability is a lack of spirit, not a part of the body. Elena is not a disabled person; she is person with strong spirit and will. I admire and follow her example.
~ 927 words.