(In 1952, polio reached its peak in the United States with 21,000 cases of paralytic polio. The first polio vaccine was introduced in 1955. By 1965, the total paralytic cases had fallen to 61. In this fictionalized history series, we will be experiencing the aftermath of polio, before the dramatic triumph of a vaccine. If you're just joining us, go back to Part 1.)
Thirteen Years and 10 Months After Hospital Admission
May 1966 (21 years old)
Julia rested her head and spoke into the telephone receiver. Her voice almost sounded too loud for the empty room. Her mind drifted as she listened.
So many flowers. All white flowers glowing brighter than the sun.
"I wish I had seen it. But I can picture it in my mind. Especially how you describe it. Beautiful."
Recurrent respiratory infections. Choking in the night. My whistling gags bringing the nurses running.
"I just couldn't chance it. I seem to always pay for it when I go out on the portable respirator. Believe me, you're not nearly as disappointed as me."
Missing summer for the first time. Mom screaming at him because he shot me in the face with a squirt gun. But I got him back. Doused him with my straw. I loved him for that. Driving me crazy despite polio.
"I know I'm gaining a sister-in-law and all, and Samatha's great, truly wonderful, really, but you'll always be my little brother. I'm telling you that right now. Sorry, you just have to live with it."
Crying at his graduation. Flopped in a pathetic chair. Respirator chugging on a black extension cord. Nobody giving me a tissue because they're bawling themselves.
"I expect to see all the pictures! That goes without saying."
Watching them hold hands. Kissing each other with their eyes every time their glances met. So uncomfortable. But intoxicating at the same time.
"You have a wonderful honeymoon. I know you will. In fact, I expect you to hang up and be out on the beach in five minutes!"
What skin must feel like under fingertips. Ten miraculous fingertips. And the hard crush of desire. What it feels like on you.
"Well, then again, maybe not the beach. It is your honeymoon, after all. Wink wink."
Mysterious places that no longer exist. Mysterious places some part of me still thinks are there.
"No, I'm not crying. But you better go. Give my love to Samantha. Again, I'm so, so happy for you!"
Can't even feel the cold of this machine.
Back to Part 11.