At the last minute, I decided to get a haircut. We were just about to go grocery shopping and I realized that we were just across the road from the mall and the salon where I go to the groomers. Over we went, Joe went and checked our lottery tickets (still paupers) while I endured a hair cut with someone who wanted to chat.
The best thing about the salon, besides the fact that it's totally accessible, is that it's right beside Teopia, my favourite shop in the mall. The clerks are friendly and I love trying different kinds of teas. We hadn't been there for awhile so I went in and browsed, looking at the new tea pots and tea caddies. When we arrived there were only two other customers in the shop. Two elderly women who were aghast at all the tea paraphinalia that abounded on the shelves.
Done shopping I was heading to the counter to order tea when a guy, maybe 24 or 25 in a sophisticated wheelchair came into the store. He had an adapted joystick that allowed him to steer the chair and he was accompanied by another young fellow and a very pretty young woman. I don't know the relationships that existed between the three of them but I can say they were all obviously in, at least, like with each other.
It was the guy in the wheelchair that was the tea expert and the others gently mocked him. At first he didn't notice me as he was wrapped up in his companions and their conversation. When he did notice me, he got an embarrassed look on his face. Kind of like, "Oh, no, people will think we came on a outing together."
He moved his chair quickly up to the counter and ordered a couple of specialty teas. His friends, caught unaware by his quick movements asked if they weren't staying for a tea. He just tersely shook his head. The teas were scooped into bags, weighed and cost calculated - one of the friends got his wallet out and paid and then slipped his wallet back. They left the store, full of tension.
I felt like, somehow, by being there - I had ruined his time with his friends. I wonder why he thought that he'd be diminished somehow if he was seen in company (or even near) someone else in a wheelchair. Would he be more valued if his friends were all two-footers instead of four-wheelers?
There was something incredibly sad in his disacceptance of me, a disabled guy, occupying the same space that he did. Suddenly his relationship with the other two, the real two, became desperate in my mind - his desperate need for the company of those who walked. His desperate need to borrow their value.
In the Bible we are admonished "to love your neighbour".
Well, buddy, I AM your neighbour.
Those two live across the river.