The Limits of our Skins.

“I am looking for an intelligent, literate woman for companionship and, perhaps, sexual play. I am, as you see, completely paralyzed, so there will be no walks on the beach.”
Mark O’Brien

So a little while ago I told you about the brilliant movie “THE INTOUCHABLES“. Again I’ll emphasize that it’s a beautiful movie about love, strength, friendship and learning to live and love life even after coming to the end of one’s rope. While I do not mean to give so much of the movie away, one particular scene has bothered me quite a bit these past few days.

Driss is troubled by Philipe’s purely ‘epistolary’ relationship with a woman and he wants to know if and how his friend still performs or feels sensually (for lack of a better way to put it). Turns out he gets all his pleasure through his ears! Now, real life Philipe has not commented on how far true this is but I needed to know, none of this sat well with me (I’m yet to read their biographies).

Anyhow I stumbled upon this amazing article, by Mark O’Brien who after contracting polio at the age of 6 had to live the rest of his adult life in an iron lung.  He had the use of just one muscle in his right foot, one muscle in his neck and one in his jaw. It is an incredible piece, I wished I’d known this man, I wished I’d had answers for him, I wished I’d told him that he was brave and wise and just brilliant. I wished.

If you like the article you will be happy to learn that, there was a movie, dedicated to his memory and based on this article; THE SESSIONS. Stand warned though this is another tearjerker.

There is also a documentary on the man, who by the way was a poet. He somehow used his only functioning muscles to bang with a stick on the keys of a computer. I was able to watch this documentary here. And this Saloon Article says it much better than I ever could.

Both stories should be devastatingly tragic, would be devastating tragic actually if not for the power of friendship. I was shamefully reminded at how petty I can be sometimes. These two men have lived richer lives than I would have thought attainable. It is entirely possible to transcend the limits of your skin in a friendship! O’Brien’s essay is touching, poignant, powerful and so wonderfully written. O’brein was famous for his irony. This is a poem of his, taken from the saloon article.I hope you enjoy it.

“Lifestyles of the Blind and Paralyzed”

The pay is lousy,
no vacations or sick leave,
and the compliments …
You’d rather do without them.
On the plus side,
you’re exempt from military service,
get to watch lots of TV
and pay half price at the movies.
They’re out there, my public,
dying to ask me what happened to you,
wondering how I pee
and using me as proof
that God is just
and punishes only the wicked.

There is true greatness in this world.

Mark O'Brein in real life.
Mark O’Brien in real life.

Image Souces: (Via)(Via)


Written by Anita Barigye

Anita is my good friend, my sister from another mother, my often times confused but very pragmatic problem solver. She has an ear for good music and a peculiar taste in her books and movies. She also writes poetry and is thrilled to have an audience in you dear readers enjoy :)

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