I sat waiting, for a long time, outside the accessible toilet. The green light had indicated that it was in use and I had tested the door to see if it was locked. It was. Time passes slowly when you are desperate to pee. When the door opens, a couple stumbles out. They do not have an obvious disability and this makes them both talk quickly, telling the same story. She had been in a car accident recently and now has seizures. He supports her when they happen, he loves her, he’ll do anything for her. They both tell me this in a weirdly parallel but wildly different dialogue. They needed the space for her to get changed and to get fully back into herself. They were really sorry it took so long, they knew that I’d been waiting.
Here’s the thing. I didn’t care about waiting. I don’t like it, but I am, and this may surprise you, aware that I’m not the only person with needs in this world. They were finally through the door and the fellow leans over to hold the door open. He’s reaching as far as he can, the door is heavy, it’s a struggle for him to do this. And he doesn’t need to. I’m right beside the door opener button. I tell him it’s okay as I reach for the button.
“No,” he said, “I want to help you. Nobody ever helps us. No one wants to put the work in to understand us. When we came out and saw you I thought you’d be angry and you weren’t you understand what we are going through. That’s help. That’s big help. I want to help you back.”
Mostly when people hold doors that door openers open, it annoys me a little bit but this time I just said ‘thanks, I appreciate it.’
He smiled at me, She smiled at me. It was like we were all having a moment outside a bathroom door.
I had never thought that ‘not being mad’ was an act of understanding.
But maybe it is.
Maybe it is.