Peer Review by Lopiekins (United States)

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By: Vin

Last Christmas I got a bike.
        It wasn’t a wake-up-in-the-morning-and-there-it-is present. Instead, my dad and I went a few days before Christmas to a bike shop in town, so that I could choose for myself. I was fourteen, and had been riding my mum’s bike, when I’d had occasion to ride one. In the last few years I’d shot up in a rush and tangle of limbs, and my old bike sat abandoned in the back shed.
        Rain cascaded down on my me and my dad when we got out of our car; the kind of misty rain that’s like standing near a waterfall. It had been like that for days; grey, wet, dreary, and monotonous.
        Two cats patrolled the bike shop. Standoffish cats who glared disdainfully at customers invading their home, who slouched off to curl up in corners where they could avoid disturbance. They say that people are often like their pets. It was true of the woman working behind the counter. My dad and I were a source of irritation. We tried bike after bike, and she watched us, sighing and wrinkling her nose. Customers or not, she seemed to consider us invasive. When I asked to try out one of the bikes on the sidewalk in front of the store, she shook her head, crisp white bob swishing, nose wrinkled like a prune.
        “No. Too wet.”
        Tired of wrinkled glares, we decided to try another store. On the way out, my elbow brushed at line of bikes. I tried to catch the first one, but it slipped through my fingers, and one by one the bikes toppled like dominos. The cats yowled. The woman looked as if she wanted to, but she only puckered up her reddening face, and helped us fix the bikes. My cheeks burned hot, and I bit my lip. I felt like a five-year-old under her accusatory stare; like a guilty child. I didn’t mean to knock over the bikes. But she looked at me with a glint of certainty in her eyes, certainty that I had done it on purpose. I wanted to sink through the floor, but it was hard and unyielding, like the woman’s eyes. We left quickly, heads dipped by guilt.
        We found a bike at the next store. It shone with electric beauty, black and purple, sleek and streamlined, built for speed and efficiency. Expensive, too, but it was my Christmas gift, so that was alright. At this store, they were more than willing to let me try out the bike outside, and I whizzed down the sidewalk, water streaming behind me. We bought the bike, and stayed to chat a while with the man at the counter, whose eyes were friendly, and welcoming. He hoped I’d enjoy my bike.
        I haven’t gotten to, yet.
        It’s safe to say that things began to get worse after that Christmas. Before it had been fatigue, dizziness, vertigo, and the constant headaches. Other symptoms started after that, like the nausea, my constant companion, the grey mass of cement I carry around with me. The nausea has stolen my joy in eating with my family, because I know eating will only make it worse.
        I got up in the middle of the night once, heading to the bathroom, sure I was going to be sick, and fainted on the dining room floor. My mum heard the crash, and came running. She found me sprawled on the floor, still, my flashlight shining in my face.  
        The tachycardia increased, and the heart palpitations; I felt like my chest would bust open at any moment. I was kept awake at night by the throb of my own pulse. My balance disappeared; I began crashing into things, misjudging doorways and hitting into walls. My brain filled with fog; thick, cloying fog that has barely lifted since.
        And then the pain began. The joint pain, the wobbling looseness, the popping out of place. The pain so terrible I can’t sleep at night, the pain that makes it impossible to sit in any position for long. The nerve pain snaking through my fingers, destroying my dexterity. The chronic, unforgiving, unforgettable pain that is my reality.
        That bike is still brand new, and I’ve been sick now for over a year. Doctors didn’t know what to do with me. Bloodwork came back normal; I was misdiagnosed, referred to psych, and ignored. I lived in my own personal little hell.
        And then we found someone. A doctor who listened, believed, and had an answer. My diagnoses are Chronic Lyme Disease and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, a disorder of the autonomic nervous system.
        Knowing what’s wrong with me is an incredible relief, but it doesn’t change the fact that my life has turned upside-down. I’ve spent most of this past year in bed. Struggling through each day, trying to live despite the pain, looking only as far as tomorrow because I can’t see much further. That’s the way I’ve learned to cope.
        I just have to make it to tomorrow.
        And I do. It hurts and it’s messy, but I always make it to tomorrow.
        I know what I want for Christmas this year. I want to be normal again. I want to snap my fingers and have my life back.
        It isn’t that easy.
        Every day is a battle, but I’m finally starting to feel like it’s a war I can win. I’ve decided that it’s a war I have to win. Win or go mad. Get my life back or sit, passive, as it is wasted. I can’t let that happen. There’s so much I want to do.
        I’m on a path to recovery now. I’m in treatment, and things are looking more hopeful than they have in a long time. I no longer spend every day in bed. I’m walking, reading, writing. I’m starting to live again.
        Every day it gets a little easier to make it to tomorrow.
        Maybe next Christmas I’ll be riding that bike.      

Message to Readers

Is there anything that could make this piece more effective? Should I spend more time on the second half than the first? I appreciate suggestions ;)

Peer Review

The tone and subject matter. Also the character's hope and perseverance

It means hope, even in the darkness

I like that the first half was story like and the second very reflective

Yes. It was the perfect end to this story

You have an amazing story here. I would love to read more stories of yours! Keep it up😁

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