My mom and I walked through the narrow hallway, noticing all the people around us. I saw a girl in a purple floral dress standing next to her dad. She looked a little younger than I was. I wondered if we were going to be friends. After that, I saw a cast on the girl’s right arm, a type of cast I had never seen before. It looked like decorated plastic. Quickly, I glanced away because I knew it was rude to stare. Still, what was that? It didn’t look like a cast. I thought it was unusual. Absentmindedly, I strolled the rest of the way to the classroom.
When we were finally inside, I saw that four students were sitting in their chairs and were unpacking their cellos in a great rush, as if they were police searching bags. One of the students even chipped his cello because he was in such a hurry to be the first to unpack and get the best seat. I looked up at the ceiling. It looked kind of like those dance ceilings full of beams. I guessed they were used for supporting the floors above it.
Just then, I noticed that the girl I had previously seen was taking off her arm! I was blank for a minute. Then I knew it. Her right arm was actually artificial. Next, she took something out of a large grocery bag. It seemed like an advanced bionic arm. It was tan and white. Its shape made me feel as if the arm were twisted all around. I could see the technology at work. She handed the bionic arm to her dad, who was a tall and silent man. His attention was focused only on his daughter. He twisted it a few times on her arm and then “Click!”—it was on.
During the group lesson, I learned from our teacher that the girl’s name was Kylie. Kylie’s bionic arm had two clips. One was fastened to a modified bridge that supported the strings of her cello and one was fastened to her bionic arm. This way, when Kylie played, the bow wouldn’t slide off the cello. Her dad also put a Bow-Right on the bridge, a two-piece metal frame that was fastened to both sides of the bridge. It was looped by rubber bands and many small pieces of cushion. I pondered why Kylie needed so many cushions on her cello. Finally, I understood that this way, the cello would not get chipped or scratched.
I started wondering if I should pay attention to Kylie and be friends with her. Sometimes I have nightmares about people with disabilities. Once I met a boy who had lost two of his fingers. I didn’t know if I was going to have a nightmare about Kylie. Maybe not. I wasn’t sure at all. Sometimes, all these nightmares start to pop into my head. I didn’t know if I was going to have terrifying dreams about her. I thought she might scare me off in my dream. But I was still hesitating. The only problem was I still wanted a friend.
Kylie was still sitting next to me. When she was playing, I noticed something else. Her other hand’s fingers were half the length of my own. That brightened my heart up. She made me feel like she was amazing and talented. I couldn’t believe she could play the cello.
When Kylie left early that day because she was tired, a girl in the class asked, “What happened to her?”
My teacher just replied, “She was born like that.” I wasn’t sure if my teacher really meant it. Maybe it was just a secret that Kylie, her family, and her teacher shared.
One month later, my teacher set up a free 30-minute play-together for Kylie and me. We got to play duets, holiday songs, and games with each other. It was really fun. I realized that Kylie was a great, energetic girl. She asked questions, said “hi” to everyone she saw, and was never afraid to make mistakes. Gradually, Kylie and I became friends. Slowly, my fear of nightmares about Kylie disappeared. I learned that the nightmares come to me only if I let them. If I think about them too much, the nightmares overtake my brain. It is kind of like they are gum stuck to the corner of my mind. Once they are there, I can’t get them off. They only loosen when I’m sleeping, and then the devastating dreams about snakes and ghosts happen. If I don’t let them come into my head, they won’t come. And in each of my schools I have been to, I remember at least one of my friends who had a disability. I now knew that disabilities were normal. All my friends who had disabilities could be the same as me. They could eat ice cream, they could play games and instruments, and they could always have smiles on their faces.
Then one day, news from my teacher overloaded my brain. Kylie was coming to a six-day cello camp with me in Washington! I wanted to jump up and down and laugh with joy! I could not believe it. How would she play in front of a crowd without being frightened? If I were her, I would be terrified that I would make a mistake, and I would be scared that people would look at me as if I were someone to gawk at. I could imagine this because there was once a boy at my old school named Josh who always called me “lima bean girl” when I had a scar on my face. And guess what? After a few minutes, all my friends came to call me that. No one likes that kind of attention.
I waited and waited for the day to come. The day I would be able to talk to Kylie and have fun again. Finally, it came.
The day I met Kylie at cello camp was a cool day with the sun shining its bright rays over us. I was really excited to talk to her.
The lessons were 12 hours long. We had to stay with each other all the time. At first, I thought fear would return to my brain. But I knew that it was just a silly thing for a girl like me to think of.
Our teachers grouped Kylie and me into a pair. We shared music stands. Kylie helped me find which building to go to. Once we got there, I quickly unpacked and helped set up our benches and stands. Kylie had a great memory. She remembered the right music piece we needed for our lesson. On the last day of camp, we had a recital. Our music was several pages long. While playing, our right hands were occupied by the bow so we had to use our left hands to quickly turn the page. When I turned the page, it was very likely that the rest of the music on the stand would drop. When it was time to flip the pages, Kylie held the other side of the music on the stand. This way, we could move onto the next music seamlessly. After the recital, Kylie and I gave each other a Bow-Five. We had collaborated so well. Even our camp teachers couldn’t help noticing it.
Kylie told me that she has two bionic arms. One has a stripe pattern and one has a rainbow print. She also told me that her bionic arm grows with her. One afternoon, during the lesson break, I held one of her bionic arms and gazed at it in wonder. Kylie looked at me. Without a word, she reached out her hand and touched my face. I turned my eyes to her. I could feel her friendship orbiting my body. It was a gentle, friendly, and warm feeling. It felt like everlasting friendship.
To my parents, I am a wonder. To Kylie’s parents, she is a wonder. Making new friends is also a wonder. There are lots of wonders in the world. Open your hand, grab them, and they will be within your reach.