It had been a long arduous process to get to this day. Calvin couldn’t believe it, but he was finally going to get his robot arms. He sat with his parents at the doctor’s office, and they were discussing the new state of the art prosthetic arms available to him. Calvin’s mother smiled and whispered, “Looks like you're going to be a superhero after all.”
When Calvin was 9 he received his first set of prosthetic arms. As a kid he thought robot arms would give him special superpowers. His parents had taken him several times to a prosthetist to have him fitted and the anxiety built so much that Calvin had dreams of fighting villains and saving his city with the magic powers of his robot arms. He wanted to carry a sword and defeat the bad guys. Calvin pictured himself rappelling off rooftops, lighting up the fearful night with his arms that glowed in the darkness. There was nothing he wasn't going to be able to do with his new powerful arms.
He hadn’t known what to expect but the arms he received were not for any superhero, nor like anything he ever saw in a dream. He sat in the rehab center and what they placed on him were arms that almost matched his skin tone and provided limited movement, but that was it. He wouldn’t look like a freak, as the kids called him but that was only from a distance. His parents insisted he wear them home, to begin to get used to them. But his elation was deflated as he looked around and felt no different than he had before. It hadn't turned out how he had expected at all.
Calvin wanted to be anyone but himself. Everything had always been done for him; he never knew what it was like to be alone, or to bathe or even eat without help. Calvin didn't even know what it felt like to truly embrace someone. His parents were wonderful; they showered him with love and so much attention, at times to compensate for the negative attention he received outside of his home, the looks, the insensitive questions, the occasional name calling.
Calvin realized he was different early on. After his parents insisted he didn’t need a ‘special school’, because ‘his disability didn’t define him’, the teacher of his preschool, Miss Annie, had asked all the kids to welcome him by applauding. All Calvin wanted was to have friends and run around and play like the other kids in the neighborhood. But on that day, with the round of applause he received, he looked down and realized he would never be able to applaud. He wanted to be like them but knew he never would be.
When the topic of artificial limbs came up Calvin had been in school long enough to know he didn’t just want to be like everyone else, he wanted to be admired by them, to do things they only wished they could to see him as so much more than the kid with no arms. So, when his parents sat him down and asked how he’d feel about getting “robot arms” he jumped up and down and couldn’t wait to become the superhero he felt he was on the inside.
After finding out he was getting robot arms, whenever the mean boys called him a ‘freak’ or a ‘no-arm nobody’, he’d walk away instead of arguing because he could now picture himself shooting at them with a laser or taking their backpacks off with his strong new arms and throwing them so high up they would never come down.
His excitement grew over time. His parents would feed him dinner, help him in the bath and get him ready for bed, then he would dream. He would daydream until he fell asleep and then he would really dream, about standing up for himself at school, or being able to ride a bike and win competitions with the tricks he would wow audiences with. He dreamed of driving fast cars and helping the police catch the criminals. He was the hero in those dreams, and he believed that soon enough it would all be real.
But his disappointment at the reality of the arms he received was evident. But once he knew it was what his parents could afford after what insurance covered, Calvin made his peace with it and worked hard through the years to make the arms work for him and he learned to choose which battles he fought.
By the time Calvin was eighteen and about to start college, his parents’ insurance had a benefit upgrade and there were a plethora of options of new prosthetic arms on the market. When the process began, he had been shown samples at the rehab facility and he couldn’t believe what he saw. The arms looked just like they did in his dreams!
Of course he was older now and knew better but he still was overcome with the childlike feeling of wanting to save the world and have every power he could imagine. But he had long ago let go of the anger and frustration he felt and aimed to never feel helpless.
The arms fit like a glove, made just for him. There was some adjustment, but he was amazed that he could feel them as if they were his own and slowly, they became part of him. After they were home the first day with his new shiny silver arms, his parents wanted to make him lunch, but he insisted he could do it on his own. He looked at the arms as if they moved in slow motion, opening and closing them with just a thought in his mind. He opened the refrigerator, and a shock went through him for a moment. He wasn’t sure where it came from but it was gone before he could figure out what had just overcome him.
He pulled out a tub of butter to go with the bread that was laying on the counter. He moved methodically, taking care with every step and movement of his new hands. He was still getting used to them but they felt better than the other arms had ever felt because there was more he could do with them. He opened the butter and held a knife in his hands. Calvin remembered when he was a child thinking that he would hold lasers and swords and protect the city and defend himself when he was ridiculed; he dreamed of scaling buildings, fighting crime and being hailed a hero.
But now Calvin stood in his kitchen holding the knife and he felt more powerful than any superhero. He smeared the butter to his bread and in the golden butter he suddenly saw glitter sparkling upwards through the air like a moving rainbow. His eyes followed the colors and the rainbow twirled around his body and electrified him.
The rainbow showed him the future. He could see college and beyond, his parents relaxing comfortably, no longer fearing for their son. He gazed across the colors that encircled him and he could imagine falling in love and opening the door for his lady with his own hand, driving them to dinner with both silver arms that gleamed in the moonlight almost glowing. He felt overcome with dizzying emotion as if the colors of the rainbow were carrying him into greatness.
Within the brightest hues he was proudly walking into an office, and building a career and traveling the world. As the glitter and sparkling rainbow continued to swirl about him he envisioned himself eating at restaurants trying different foods, tasting every bite like he had never tasted before because his robot arms would feed him and no one else.
He was a superhero after all, the hero of his own life.
He could see his future clearly; he could see the peace forming in his parents' hearts with every twist and turn of red, orange, yellow and more. Calvin looked down at his buttered slice of bread and he was proud because he had done it himself with the special help of his robot arms. Calvin smiled as he took a bite of freedom. He could now see the powers that he always knew were inside him all along.