A hand touched my shoulder and I startled out of my near, but not quite, little nap. I looked up into a friendly face. A woman, smiling, said, “I just wanted to compliment you.” I tense up. Disabled people worldwide know the sensation of being inspirational, worthy of compliment, for the most minor of accomplishment. “Thank you, you are right, I do back my chair up really, really well.” I waited to hear her finish.
“I noticed,” she said, “that you pushed yourself around the whole store without any help at all. At your size, I imagine that’s quite a task, and it’s good to see you trying so hard, keep at it, you’ll achieve your goals if you do.” I was stunned. I’m not sure what goal she was referring to, though I can guess, but what bothered me was the sudden realization, again because I’ve had it many times before, about the sheer visibility of my life.
I go about as if I’m just going about, but because of my double difference, I’m always on display, always becoming part of someone else’s story about their day. “Do you know what I saw at the store today …”
I’m an object lesson. What that lesson is, I don’t know, good or bad, inspirational or not, but a lesson I shall be. I’m always a ‘what I saw’ never a ‘who |I saw,’ I go about my business just doing things, like we all do, but those things get transmuted from ordinary to extraordinary because of my touch.
“You were watching me?” I asked, a bit coldly.
“No, no, not intentional, I just noticed, and I wanted you to know how pleased I was to see you working so hard,” she answered, smiling.
“So, you were watching me?” I said again, pushing my wheelchair away from her.
She got flustered.
“Not watching watching,”
“I’m sorry, you are making me very uncomfortable, could you please leave me alone,” I said, quietly but firmly.
Yes, I wanted to make her uncomfortable.
Because watching someone go about their business is weird.