21 maybe 22 with a pretty significant disability. She was laying on what we used to call a 'banana cart' gazing around the mall. Her care provider must have slipped into a store because she was clearly at that moment alone.
Joe and I had stopped to get a falafel pita on the way home from work. It was blistering hot out and the mall welcomed us to a cool oasis. We'd finished eating and Joe said he wanted to run down to check out to see if the mall had a Roots clothing store because he wanted to replace a pair of walking shorts.
I told him that I'd just wander about a bit by myself and to just check the stores in that vicinity when he came back. I had pushed myself only a short distance and was enjoying being alone and being cool when I saw her. She was in an odd position and she seemed to be staring at the store directly opposite her. I pushed myself into her view and noticed that she squirmed a bit as if she was trying to see around me and into the store.
I pushed away to see what it was she was looking at and realized that the store was actually a bit difficult to see into at wheelchair / banana cart level as it was mostly mirrored along the bottom. She was looking directly at herself. Appraising herself. Immediately all sorts of thoughts went through my head. I thought that she was seeing herself as a small frail being on a banana cart. I thought she'd be seeing the way her body lay, a little twisted, a little turned. I thought that she was seeing what I was seeing, in other words.
Suddenly a hand slowly came out from where it had been tucked away behind her. It moved like I imagine the Canadarm on the space shuttle moves, carefully, slowly and with a tendency to jerk. She didn't notice me watch her. She concentrated on her image in the mirror. Her hand formed into a fist with only one finger extending. Then, carefully, that finger lifted a curl of dark hair that had fallen onto her brow and pulled it slowly back into place. The effort the movement took showed on her face.
Then her hand retracted and folded back in place behind her. She burst into a smile at herself, pleased with how she now looked. She wasn't a woman on a banana cart. She was a woman fixing herself in a mirror. I had seen what others had seen, she had seen herself.
A stout woman came out of the store and said, "Sorry for leaving you so long love, you must have been bored silly."
She hadn't been.
As she was pushed by me she saw me, looked straight at me. I knew there was an intellegence in there. A woman. I said, "Your hair looks great!"
She winked, smiling because her little act of vanity had been caught.
"What on earth did you get up to?" Said the stout woman pushing her along the walkway in the mall, "Can't leave you alone for a minute.
I heard them both giggling as they walked away.
Joe came back and said, "Did you see the woman ..."
"Yes," I said, "and I know why they are laughing."
"Can't leave you alone for a minute ..."