This may be the most emotionally difficult thing I have ever written about; perhaps the most emotionally devastating thing I have ever realized. Bear with me as I try to put in words ... I wish I could write with text the colour of bruise.
Joe and I were nearing the corner, just down the street where I live, when there was a sudden commotion and then a huge bang. The sound came from a big bag of garbage hitting the post I was passing. It hit about three feet over my head and then split open. Garbage exploded from the bag and rained down on me. I was hit only by dry garbage, the wet stuff landed just in front of me and just behind me. Joe, who had been walking behind me because the sidewalk space, as I go past the post, doesn't allow room for both of us, was able to jump out of the way entirely.
People, who were crossing the street, all turned to look for the source of the sound, saw me covered in litter frantically trying to get it all off me. Their eyes then noticed the angry man yelling at someone out of sight. I turned the corner, finally free from the trash that had rained down on me, looked at the man and said "You threw garbage at me, I don't even know you, what the hell were you thinking!" He glared at me and said, "You should be watching where you are going." Then, because Joe was insistent that we not stop and engage him, it was over. So apparently I'm supposed to be on alert for bags of garbage flying at me. I suppose that, along with watching the ground for obstacles and watching out for pedestrians who aren't watching where they are going, I'm supposed to add 'flying bags of trash' as well.
Believe it or not, this isn't the bad part of the story.
Later, when we were in the pharmacy picking up medications, I was chatting with the pharmacist and I told her what had happened, I was laughing as I told her. She looked at me horrified, absolutely horrified. A fellow shopper, a tall thin man who I've never seen there before, overheard the conversation and joined in saying that what happened was outrageous and unconscionable and the two of them expressed surprise at my relatively calm telling of the tale.
I was calm.
And I was a bit surprised at the vehemence of their response.
I should have left it at that.
But no. That's not me. I have to worry it and worry it until I figure it out. Why wasn't I outraged? Why wasn't even slightly experiencing hang-over anger? Why didn't it really, really, really bother me? Or even just really bother me?
And then I knew.
And knowing hurts.
I am used to people throwing things at me. I'm used to people rolling down windows of cars passing by so that they can lean out to throw 'piggy piggy' sounds at me. I'm used being hit by trash, regularly, 'fatso,' 'lardass,' 'pigface.' I'm used to people throwing stares at me, I'm used to glances turning into lances and cutting me open. The other day it was so bad I had to touch Joe on the arm and say, "I've got to get out of here." And I fled home. Eyes down. I couldn't take it that day. I wasn't emotionally strong enough to be me and to be out and to be the easy target. That day, about twenty minutes before fleeing for cover I had waited in the record store near my place as Joe made a purchase and three women walked by, one glanced in the door and saw me and yelled out, "That guy in there is a big fucking horse!" The others, who had passed by without seeing me, were pulled back into view and then they all stood looking at me saying things like, "How the fuck did he get like that," and 'I feel sorry for the fucking wheelchair," I was right there I could hear them. I was right fucking there.
They fling, fling, fling shit at me.
The wheelchair made it worse. I didn't think it could get worse. It did. People attack my need of space, my need of time, my need of air. People huff and puff because it takes me a moment to back into an elevator. Impatience mixes with hatred to create a toxic mix - that I am expected to drink with a thank you on my lips. Attitude aims and prejudice pulls the bow ...
They fling, fling, fling shit at me.
And when I talk about it I'm told I'm too sensitive, I'm told that I am misreading what happens around me, I'm told that I have to be tolerant of people who purposefully hurt me because they don't know better. THEY FUCKING KNOW BETTER!! I'm given advice that would never work, I'm told by the teller that they would handle my life and my situations better than I do. BETTER!!! I am a fully employed, fully contributing, fully involved person who only rarely cuts bait and runs. BETTER??? I am in a long term relationship. I attempt to make the world better. I invade public space even when, every time I do, it's dangerous. I am no coward.
A bag of garbage exploding over my head. Trash flying around me and raining down on me. That's nothing man. That's fucking nothing.
I'd rather have a boxful of garbage burst over my head every day than experience what I experience each and every fucking day that I live. Every time that I go out.
Never once, not once, in the last 7 years, since I became a fat wheelchair user, have I gone a single day in public space without many someones engaging in social violence. Bullying isn't strong enough a word, it's social violence, plain and simple. Not one day. Not one fucking day. Not one. Ever.
"He's fat and lazy and that's why he can't walk," one mother explained me to a son who hadn't asked a question.
"You better be careful or you'll end up like him," one friend says to another ordering a doughnut.
"God, they shouldn't allow people like him out, it wrecks your day," says one passerby to another.
I CAN FUCKING, FUCKING, FUCKING, FUCKING HEAR YOU!!!!
But I know that they know and I know they don't care.
It doesn't matter because I don't matter.
So when that trash burst over my head, I was a bystander, an accidental victim of another's rage. And it was just a relief not to be the target.
Because I'm always the target.