I ran into someone the other day, we haven't seen each other in years.
A lotta years.
In fact, I didn't recognize him at first as he ran over towards us. We had passed a patio that he was sitting on and barely heard him when our names were called. We turned and watched him approach. I asked Joe quietly, "Do you know who this is?" Joe answered in a whisper, "No." We took his warm greeting and after a couple of seconds I knew exactly who he was. I used his name in a sentence so that Joe would catch the drift as well. But even as I said his name I could see Joe had remembered.
We're going back to when we first moved to Toronto, late 70's, that's a long, long way back. He'd been a bartender in a bar that we used to go to all the time. It was a different era and you had to go down an alley and then down dark back stairs to get to it. I always felt safe going in, we could see the alley plainly, but no matter how drunk we were, I left wary. Opening a door onto an alley when you are a hated minority is never an easy thing to do. We were very lucky to never have been assaulted there, others were less lucky. Safety should never be a matter of luck.
It was nice chatting with him, he's still way younger than us, by 11 years. Those 11 years don't show now as much as they did then. He seemed like such a kid back then. We're all pretty seasoned now. As our chat grew to a close he said that he'd recognized us immediately because "Neither of you has changed a bit."
I'm sitting in a big ass wheelchair, I'll tell you for certain that it never went down those steep back stairs.
"We'll we've changed a bit," I said.
"No, not one bit," he said steadfastly ignoring the fact that I was sitting in a wheelchair looking up at him rather than on my feet looking down at him.
I pointed to the chair.
I didn't want to make further issue of it so I let it drop. We continued on and then it was time to part and we all agreed it was nice to see each other and catch up. And it was.
My guess was that he was 'being polite' and 'didn't want to mention the chair.' I have met with this before people 'being nice' and 'purposely not noticing the disability.'
Why is it polite, or nice, to erase a big part of my life. I have changed, yes. I have a disability now. It's OK, it's just change. It's just different. It isn't shameful. It isn't like a new piece of me that has to move back into the closet. For heaven's sake, I'm out about being gay and I'm out because I'm in a wheelchair.
It probably sounds like carping over something trivial, but to me it isn't. I don't like even a brush with shame, had enough of that in my younger years. That stuff stinks.
Pride is pride, isn't it? And it never blossoms in the shade of silence.