Being different in public space requires an act of defiance and a reclamation of ownership. I belong here. I dare to exist, as I am, as all that I am, here. There is a reason that the word ‘community’ has both a ‘U’ and an ‘I’ in it. I belong too. Nothing you can do can eradicate my right to this space nor my right to be different in this space.
After the movie, I headed straight to the arcade, I was in the mood for a blistering game of air hockey. The arcade was empty when we arrived so I grabbed my spot at the end of the table and Joe went to buy tokens to play. Seconds, after he left tons of children poured out of a movie and overwhelmed the arcade. A couple of the kids were very disappointed seeing me plucked in place, they wanted to play so bad that they eyed the table with longing.
Joe came back and popped the tokens in and we set about playing. We play the game hard because each of us wants to win and we’ve been married long enough to be bloodthirsty about it. The puck flew back and forth and the score stayed close through the game. I was laughing at one point because I had scored against myself for the second time in a row.
I heard one of the kids say to the other, in reference to me, “I thought they were all just sad.” It was like he was having a revelation that disability and joy and laughter weren’t mutually exclusive. That disability and playing to win were both possible.
I do not exist to be anyone’s lesson, but I’m not unaware of what it means to be out and disabled and participating in activities that I enjoy. I’m not unaware that existence is political.
We’ve worked so hard to rid disability of the stigma that comes from shame and sadness, with all the integration and inclusion that I read about, I expect more from children. In my day, I’m 67 I get to say things like this, we never saw a disabled person anywhere.
I wonder if we are now in classrooms and school hallways but are not yet seen. Not yet understood. Our lives left to the imagination of people without enough imagination enough to make us human.
The game ended in a tie: 5 -5.
But for me, it also ended with a win.