I've ridden with her a few times. She's a little older than me, gets picked up soon after I am, which is very early in the morning, and we chat for the whole ride. I get off first and wish her well on her morning trip to Tim Horton's. We talk mostly about the stuff of being disabled, she has different frustrations than I do, of course, as she lives with a different disability, but the over-arching theme of our chats is how prejudice is made manifest in physical barriers. Neither of us think that architectural exclusion is all that accidental.
When she got on the bus the other day and told me, after I'd asked, that she was going to Tim's again, I wondered why anyone would get up that early to go a long way for coffee and donuts. I also noticed, for the first time, that we went by several Tim's shops on the way to where she goes. I asked her, "Why do you go to that particular Tim's? She told me that it's the transfer point between the Toronto transit system and the Vaughn transit. "Ooooooh," I said and then admitted that I'd wondered at how such a slim person could chow down on so many donuts during the week. We both laughed.
I told her that I'd never used the Vaughn system and asked how difficult it was to book connecting rides. She said, "It's very easy. My brother does it for me. I can do it myself, but I let him do it. It's important to him to do it, so, I just tell him where I'm going and he sets it up."
"Why is it so important for him to book the rides?" I asked.
There was a pause.
"When we were younger, he was very ashamed of me. He let me know it. He let everyone know it. He bullied me and teased me through most of my childhood. He was my big brother and I wanted and needed a big brother but I got a bully instead. For the longest time I hated him."
She paused again. The story wasn't easy for her to tell. I tried to give her the option to stop but she said that she wanted to finish.
"He came to my place one Christmas bringing gifts from the family. I could see he was upset. He broke down and told me that his wife had left him and she'd taken his children. He ended up staying at my place for a long time talking. He realized that he'd been a bully his whole life. First me. Then his wife and kids."
"After that, he changed towards me. He always wanted to help me and was frustrated that I no longer needed his help. One day I asked him if he could book a trip for me, an easy one, to my doctor's office downtown. That was it, from that day on he has booked all my trips. I don't need him to, but I let him. It matters a lot to him."
"I think that's his way of saying, 'I'm sorry," she continued, "my letting him is my way of saying, 'I forgive you.'"
"Forgiveness matters," I said.
She said, "So does repentance."