Photo Description: A bearded wheelchair user in a blue shirt is in his wheelchair on an ‘ergonometer’ and exercise machine for people to develop upper body strength. It’s used by turning two handles, against resistance, one on each side of the machine in a circular motion.
At the gym yesterday, I don’t think I’ll ever get over the weirdness of saying that, I was on the ergonometer and working hard. The one at my gym is different than this one and has the capability to be connected to the internet so you can watch things on YouTube. I typically watch and episode of ‘Eggheads’ a UK quiz show and then a few music videos until I’m done.
The Eggheads had crushed a team and now I was watching a playlist of ‘Gay Love Songs’ (don’t judge me) and know most of them by heart. I try my hardest to not hum or sing along as I am so tempted to do. One of the videos started and somewhere mid video the man singing presents himself with words written all over him. The words were negative slurs about being LGBT+.. I noticed movement over my shoulder and immediately felt incredible fear. Was I going to get the shit beaten out of me?
Calming myself I noticed that a boy of about 14 was standing behind me his eyes glued to the screen. The video progressed and by the time the two singers, a man and a woman, had washed horrible words off their bodies, he was standing beside me, as if I wasn’t there, watching the screen. He couldn’t hear the music, he had no idea what was being said.
I’m done mid way thought the video, my arms don’t feel like doing another turn but I dug down and we watched the video together neither speaking to each other. When the video was over, I took out my earphones and unplugged them.
“I wish I could do that,” he said, “wash the words away, I mean.”
“Is it bad at school,” I asked.
“It gets better,” I said feeling the triteness of those words, the future looms large for those with power and privilege, they vision themselves in a future that’s bright and shiny. The future for those who are being hurt flickers like a light just about to die.
He turned to leave, and I said, “I’m sorry, that wasn’t helpful. Let me try again. ‘What is happening to you is wrong, those who do it are wrong, they are jerks whose aim is to hurt you and to humiliate you. They need to see you weak. Try on pride, it’s the only weapon you have right now to protect yourself. If you can find someone safe to talk to, find them, talk to them.”
His smile, when he thanked me was so sad.
It was Sunday.
School was tomorrow.
Words hold power.
“No Bullying Tolerated.”
Words mock themselves when in saying them, the system believes the work is done.