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Image Description: The word ‘Future’ printed in black on a white background with sad faces in each of the two ‘u’s in the word.

“I feel bad for you.”

Her tone chilled me and I shivered as if someone had walked over my grave. I was at the counter, taking stuff out of my bag to be scanned and totalled, and suddenly the woman says, “I feel bad for you.” There was no context for this.

No context.

Absolutely no context.

Nothing had gone wrong. I hadn’t dropped anything. I hadn’t bumped anything over. I hadn’t run over someone. I hadn’t broke something. I hadn’t got confused and bewildered.

There was no context.

“I feel bad for you.”

She said it sorrowfully as she slowly scanned my stuff.

“Don’t feel bad for me, there’s no reason to.” I said.

“Thank you for saying that, but I feel bad for you.” she said, completely ignoring what I said.

I’d finished getting things out of the bag and she looked up and asked, “Are you having a good day? Can you have a good day??”

“I am and I can,” I said.

Sad smile.

You will notice I said nothing to her, I just mildly responded to her indicating that her sorrow was unnecessary and that it was possible for me to have a, shock, good day.

I don’t know why I didn’t.

There was such deep sorrow in what she said to me.

It filled the air.

Her eyes were too the brim full of tears.

She was unreachable.

She looked to me from the bottom of that deep pool of pity and saw, not me, but the ‘disability’ trope that stored there.

She could not hear me.

She could not see me.

I realized, too late, that the context was my disability – and my disability alone. It didn’t need amplification by a dropped product or a broken glass or a shin collision. It didn’t need magnification because it was already so huge that she couldn’t see past it.

“I feel bad for you.”

How many people really feel that way? That sorrow at the sight of us, that sadness at our mere presence in their world?

It is in small moments like these I realize what dangerous time we live in. When others will want to determine our worth and our place in the world. When others will will us gone. When others will see suffering where none exists. When others are incapable of hearing our voices simply because the thinking has already been done, the decision already made.

I am a disabled man.

I fear the future.