NORFOLK, Va. — On Tuesday, the seventh-grade students at Norview Middle School collectively realized that 13-year-old Douglas Karson’s personality was defined entirely by the design on his orthotics.
Nobody in school could say anything about Karson without mentioning the fire flame pattern on his knee-high orthotics. His classmates all paused for a couple of seconds when asked for a single other interest or personality trait of his.
“Uh … I think he likes …” Aaron Laurie, 13, trailed off. “He’s cool.”
“If I had to describe him, I’d say …” Katherine Wesley, 12, frowned. “Fiery?”
Every nine months, Karson outgrows his current orthotics and personality and trades them in for new ones.
“His design in sixth grade was horses,” offered Samantha Peterson. “I knew him best because I sat behind him in math, and all I saw were the same three brown, black and white horses repeated over and over. I don’t know whether he’s still into horses.”
“The first two times he got orthotics, they were plain white,” said Karson’s mother. “I can’t remember anything about him from that age. It was depressing,”
Karson doesn’t like to talk about his old orthotics.
“I’m a changed man,” said Karson, pulling his pants cuffs up to show off his flames. “I don’t look backwards.”
When asked what he thinks his next orthotics design will be, Karson paused, then gazed into the distance as if suddenly experiencing an existential crisis.