Janelle and I cemented our friendship in 8th grade because she was in a wheelchair from knee surgery. I pushed her around school when no one else would — for example, from lunch (where we sat in an loose alliance of awkward girls) to French class (where Ms. Martin taught us le Francaise with a Buffalo, NY accent.) All during our trip, people asked where we knew each other from, and this is the funny little tale we told.
After our harrowing near-miss of the flight from Phnom Penh to our connection in Ho Chi Minh, we’d been on our feet a while. And, well, Janelle only really had one good foot, due to the moto accident. So by the time we landed for our connecting flight, she was hobbling with braveness, but hobbling nonetheless. And we had a lot of walking to do, from the gate through the terminal to check in for our new flight.
We’d been given little blue stickers that said “TRANSIT” so that everyone knew we weren’t stopping in Vietnam. We had to wear them at all times. I felt like a piece of fruit. Breathless, blue-stickered, bag-laden. Hobbling. And then I spotted the wheelchairs. Just sitting there, a dozen stacked up by the escalator. An ah-ha moment, if you will.
So yes, Janelle got in the wheelchair. We piled her lap with all our bags and I pushed her through security and around the terminal, to the chocolate shop, to the water cooler, to the Singaporean restaurant.
Before the eighth grade dance, a bunch of our lunch-table friends went to the Japanese barbecue restaurant on Transit road for dinner. They did not invite Janelle and I (which we chalked up to the fact that being in a wheelchair made Janelle more diva-esque than usual). We’ve always added this footnote to the lore of the wheelchair-pushing, and now that footnote made the circle feel even more complete – We parked the wheelchair and dug into Singapore chicken rice.