One day I stayed behind in the hotel room and decided to order some tea. The waiter poured me one cup, and I managed to drink about half of it, spilling the other half in the process. This was a good average at the time. I always tucked thicknesses of towel around me before attempting to pick up a teacup. Then, bracing my elbow so my arm would tremble less, I could get the cup to a certain point where I had to hurry the movement so that the cup wouldn’t fall again. It was at this point that I usually spilled some tea. I had gotten used to the warm wet feeling as the liquid seeped through the towel.
But this afternoon I had done fairly well, so I decided that there must be a way to get some more tea into the cup. The tray was on the dresser, and I braced both elbows and got hold of the handle of the teapot with both hands. I was sure I could tip the teapot and slosh some of the tea into the cup. It sloshed everywhere but into the cup—all over the tray, the patisserie, the napkin.
That moment when I stared at the teapot in dismay is one of the most vivid memories of those first months after the acute attack of polio. There was no one to help me; there was no way I could accomplish such a simple act as pouring a little tea. I had a terrifying insight into my true position, one shockingly clear opening in the fog of protection and denial that enveloped me. I was to have many variations on this experience in the years to come.