Joe and I planned that he would pick me up after work, we’d check into a hotel downtown, then we’d go to dinner and a play. The play we wanted to see was only playing, its whole run, for two night. It started at 8 in the evening. We go to matinees. Only. We decided that since we’d be doing something in the evening we’d call this adventure a ‘date night’ to distinguish it from our typical ‘date late afternoons’.
Each of us kept waiting for the other to say, ‘Ya know, it’s pretty late, the theatre won’t get out until nearly 10, we will be halfway to pumpkins then.’ But we didn’t, we were both determined and by the time we arrived at the hotel we were ready to go.
After check in, we decided to go check out a book store slash coffee shop that had open a bit ago that we’d never been to before and were curious about. I was determined to use this as a chance to practice my outdoor pushing, Joe knowing that just walked beside me and kept an eye out for ‘let-me-helper’ flying at me from every direction.
We were near a street corner, on a wide sidewalk when we saw a man we hadn’t seen in years. He uses a walker, he’s much older than we are, and time had not been his friend. He’d been gay during a time of great persecution and he’d been hurt to the point of permanent emotional damage. He managed every day to simply get by and he used whatever strategies he could to survive inside himself.
We were a little surprised to see him.
We were amazed he was still alive.
But, in fact he looked good. He came to a stop with his walker and I came to a stop using my chair. There was room for one person to walk by us on the sidewalk if they so chose. But non disabled people often cannot see that space. They cannot even imagine that the can use that space. But it is there.
A woman and her dog came along and stood behind our friend as we chatted. The street we were on is really residential and, even in Toronto, is a quiet street. She clearly wanted us to stop talking and move along. When we didn’t she became really, really, really, angry.
Please don’t tell me that a woman’s anger is an insignificant thing, please don’t tell me that I should not be intimidated by a woman’s anger and a woman’s capacity to misuse force. I feel my vulnerability often in this situation. It’s a disability thing. I can’t run. I can’t escape. I’m naturally lowered and an easy target. She scared me.
I spoke to her.
“What are you so angry about, there’s lots of room to pass.”
That got her moving. Towards me and the space beside me. She let off invective about us ‘fags’ and ‘cripples’ and ‘sidewalks’ and ‘space.’ The dog who paused for a second to sniff at the wheel of my chair was yanked away from me with a sharp command.
She was angry.
In a world where there is so much to be angry about. Where, if she chose to, she could sit with me while I off loaded a series of aggravants that she could choose from.
She was angry.
I feared violence.
All because we three used public space. Walkers and walkers and chairs together, using public space on a sunny day in the summer. How dare we?
We dare, simply because, the community belongs to us.
I don’t even say ‘too.’
Because our ownership isn’t an add on.
We continued our conversation, each of us now knowing, how choosing to live life fully is still an act of resistance. None of us needed the reminder, but none of ignored it either.