“New Beginnings” by Ricky Tsang

Ricky Tsang was a pillar in our Duchenne community for years. From his website DearRicky.com to his Facebook group We Are Dystrophin, to his first book, Ridiculous: The Mindful Nonsense of Ricky’s Brain, Ricky’s priority was helping and advocating for our community – well, that and romancing women.

Shortly before passing in 2016, Ricky shared the manuscript of his second book with me. It was never published, but now we would like to share it with our Duchenne community.

New Beginnings
from “Inspirational: My Big Mechanical Derriere”
— Chapter 4, Part 3—

Thinking back, I can still hear Principal Jones announcing the daily “shedule” as I first parked into my ridiculously enormous desk. It wasn’t until the fifth grade that I finally found my comfort zone, since the previous year kind of scattered. Most of the stranger students disappeared, including the one who had snot coming out the wazoo. I didn’t need to wheel myself carefully anymore.

1991 was the year I met Bilal, Daisy, and Laura, who sat with me in our cluster of tables. We became a pretty tightknit clique that shared many jokes and laughs. On Pizza Day, I burped “Ghostbusters” a few seconds long and Daisy laughed so hard that soda squirted out of her nostrils. I was sure glad that my desk was higher than hers!

The good thing about being in a group was that I could exchange papers with different people. I didn’t know if it was a cultural part of Western civilization, but I was grossed out whenever teachers licked their fingers to separate the paper. I always insisted on getting the last sheet, and if not, there would at least be an innocent victim to prey upon.

Then came a surge of new bullies, the psychological warfare breed, though I never thought stupid words were much of a threat, especially coming from someone with a learning disability. It was only a year prior that one kid pushed my wheelchair into the crevasse between the hill and pavement, along with another weird movement when he climbed the toilet stall to watch me pee (a seemingly reoccurring theme). However, Shawn was more of a nuisance than anything else. He called me “wheels on wheels” in front of Mrs. Lopata and the entire class, which got him into major trouble. I was flattered that he gave me so much attention.

When it comes to bullying, it’s important to recognize that it’s impossible to avoid. The only way to make it stop, other than retribution, is to endure because bullies will ultimately lose their patience. Because of the weakness in their mental and emotional states, their capacity for strength and courage falls short. It’s only a matter of time until they self-destruct. Exploiting their inevitable breaking point is the most effective weapon.

For me, I was able to utilize both will and physical retaliation, thanks to Bilal. He often acted as my recess assassin whenever someone tried to get to me. There was one incident when he beat the living daylights out of Shawn and the three of us had to write nice things to each other in detention. I still wonder if they got the joke when I called him a good boy.

Bilal and I were best of friends. You know how some people can jump back to yesterday no matter how long they’ve drifted apart? We were like that, even after our gaps of disappearances, along with the times of falling out. I appreciated the fact that he never looked at me as a cripple, yet protected me no matter what. I’ll never forget the time at the baseball field when sand blew towards my way. He shielded my eyes with his hand without asking, which meant quite a lot.

Don’t get me wrong. Bilal was a serious ass. I remember in French class when we had a geography assignment and he questioned me with a loud voice saying “vagina?” knowing that I was asking about Regina, Saskatchewan. I could still kill him for that jerk move. I was afraid he tarnished my good reputation and that Mme. Lowe thought I was a verbal sex offender. I hate pervert accusations. It reminds me of the times when my sister and Mom bribed me with Batman and Ninja Turtles just so I wouldn’t make a scene going clothes shopping with them.

The toxic (per) fume department? Torture. Worse was going through the underwear aisle while hiding behind lingerie to avoid said accusations.

All right, so perhaps I may have had some perverted tendencies, particularly during my adolescent years, including Baywatch, Fashion Television, and various “artsy” European films on channel 39. I’m still surprised at how many times my VCR got away with it, but when Mom finally asked too many questions, I found myself being lectured on how breasts were evil. I felt ashamed for being such a bad little boy, and watched it anyway.

Oh, I still remember the promising title of that supposed soft-core movie, The Shower. It was a journey of ecstasy as I fast-forwarded to the hot, steamy fog. With much anticipation, I soon realized the truth. I got caught… for a man… that was hairy!

And that was the end of puberty.

Though, nothing could ever stop my love for women. I’m not sure why the girls were out in the hallway that day, but during our Inuit studies, we carved soap for one of the assignments. What an awful stench, much like shopping with Mom and Jackie. I took the opportunity to hold my breath and make myself turn purple, pretending to have a bad allergic reaction. It was definitely worth the hyperventilation since I got to join the pretty people.

At the time, I noticed the rapid progression of weakness in my muscles. While they continued encouraging me to practice, there came a point where I could no longer wheel myself and Mrs. Moore had to push me everywhere. It was an acceptance that I found rather easily because the exhaustion grew to become unbearable.

Did I mention how sometimes, being a tattletale is necessary? I did that to a second grader. For the sake of fire hazards, I wasn’t allowed to remain upstairs at lunch with no one around, which forced me to spend my weekday vacations with the special class downstairs. I had to eat while listening to a girl who constantly asked for the time and a boy who freaked about cheese sandwiches, leaving evidence all over. Tory used to have butterscotch pudding every day. He was another kid on wheels that I hanged out with, but much stronger than me. I felt like a girly man whenever he beat me to a pulp with his grabbing, so squealed on the munchkin. He actually caused a lot of pain, while I was at risk of getting injured.

Trouble seems to cling to me as often as possible. I remember in Music when I laughed hysterically for one reason or another. It must have been that stupid song about Ontario. I couldn’t contain myself and cracked up non-stop. Mr. Hessman, who always carried me outside during fire drills, had to kick me out.

Mr. Pickard, the gym teacher, who looked like a combination of Al Bundy and Captain Jean-Luc Picard, loved telling stories. He did so whenever he visited my primary classroom, but on every occasion, I had to take a bathroom break. The dude was angry that I had to pee, but I suspected he had a few anger issues.

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