Breath & Shadow
A Journal of Disability Culture and Literature
in a wheelchair--I’m not brain dead.”
know, but what if you need help? What if something bad
if it does? I can handle this.”
you’re sure. . .” Uncertainty dripped from every
“See you in a few days. I love you, Mom. I’m getting on the train now.”
I overrode her last minute worries
some of my own as I hung up the phone. I was assured that the train
was “handicapped accessible” and felt optimistic. I went up
ramp and surveyed where I would be spending the next thirteen hours.
It was small, with only one window that was almost above my head. In
front of me were five stairs that led to the upper floor of the car.
I debated with myself in the short amount of time it took for the
train to depart the station. Hailing someone who looked like they
worked there, I asked them to please carry my chair up the stairs. I
stood at the bottom, the railing clutched with white knuckles to keep
my balance, and watched as my chair was dutifully deposited at the
top. After being assured that was all I needed, he moved on.
only thing that saved me from a possible broken neck was the
appearance of a young man who immediately distracted the woman. I
climbed the remaining two stairs and turned to thank my rescuer. It
was really hard to thank him. He wouldn’t look me in the eye, and
he seemed uncomfortable; careful never to look at my chair. The older
woman and the man moved off rather quickly as she spoke to him, still
man across from me slowly pulled his attention away from his writing
and said deadpan, “I’m rather enjoying myself, but if you
call my sister and ask her if she needs anything, I can give you her
phone number.” The man was nonplussed. He mumbled something and
scooted away. My defender looked to see how I’d taken the slight
and I shrugged as if to say, “Used to it.” It wasn’t
hard to say thank you to this man.
“Excuse me, do you mind if I put my feet up beside you?”
looked up from his scribbling, pausing for the first time. “Sure.
was wondering when you were going to ask.” He smiled. I’m
looked confused because then he said, “My older sister was in a
chair. She always had to put her feet up so she wouldn’t become
‘chair-shaped.’.” His eyes met mine. “CP,
“Yup,” I said. I would have said more but my cell phone began to vibrate and, of course, I flinched at the unexpected sensation. I hoped he wouldn’t react the way many people do, and laugh nervously, because they are not sure how to react. He didn’t even blink. He simply waited for me to carry on the conversation.
“Do you mind if I take this?”
shook his head and politely went back into the bubble that seemed to
encase him as he wrote.
are you enjoying your weekend vacation?” she asked.
been awesome so far. I saw some deer a while ago,” I enthused.
the train accessible enough for you? Don’t be afraid to ask for
help if you need it.”
can handle this,” I said with the utmost confidence.
Rebecca Cook is a sophomore at Southwest Minnesota State University. She is studying for a BA in Literature with a minor in history. Balance is her first publication.