The ghost begins to follow me the day the sky turns black. In the clamour of sirens and the stench of burnt eucalyptus, she appears at my shoulder and touches my face. She trails icy fingers down the nape of my neck and wraps her arms tight around my waist.
I’m the leader of a loose coalition of the mouthiest, most opinionated blind, deaf, quad and para people you’ll ever meet. I’m sure Joe’s Coffee where we gather would rather we were a bunch of stoned Hell’s Angels. We get worked up. We bump things. Sometimes we spill things. We take up a lot of room. Special chairs. Crutches. Blind Sonja has her white cane. Deaf Yves has his dog. It’s a hoot to be with everyone at the noon time rush. I guess one of us with a cranky two-year old in a high chair would be wishing too much.
In these times, we face an increasing crisis of dehumanization, both interpersonal and systemic, driven largely by the capitalist society we live in. As well as everyday impacts, dehumanization has direct implications for our response to the climate crisis; the less responsibility or solidarity we feel for the most dehumanized and vulnerable among us--who experience first and worst the impacts of climate change--the less we will feel the urgency of protecting the planet.
The world of fashion carries an aura of beauty, even perfection. Gorgeous faces on the covers of fashion magazines, lovely tall slim models striding ever-so-confidently and gracefully down the catwalk – these images feed the fantasies of untold legions of us more ordinary mortals. Fashion models are popularly seen as representing an ideal to which most of us can only aspire.
The traditional and popular perception of the stylish fashion model does not include physical disabilities. Thus, fashion writer Jillian Mercado, who has muscular dystrophy, thought it would be funny if she submitted a photograph of herself, complete with wheelchair, to a contest for a new Diesel model. The joke was on her – in a good way. She won. That victory led Mercado to a busy modeling career.
This time she gets to the front gate before it hits. She pants like a dog and snaps backwards as if on tight elastic. She slams the front door against the interrogation-bright light and slumps to the hall floor. The air congeals in her mouth and nostrils, slides jelly-like into her throat and she spits her breath back up as her heart squeezes and thumps. The coir rug pokes into her bottom, her handbag lies on its back as if dead. Sweat drips from her forehead, slides with her tears down her face. A drop of one or the other has been dangling from the tip of her nose for ages. She knows that she will find that funny later.