disability justice

A Love Letter To My Cane

As I walk home alone from the public parking lot late at night, I grip you tightly. I lean into you as I transcend snow mountains, scramble over hardened ice patches encrusted with garbage and dog piss. I feel steadied. A big man walks up quickly behind me. I hear his boots pounding the snow and feel nervous, a small woman walking home alone at night. He brushes by me and I grip you even tighter. Envision wielding you like a baseball bat. I am grateful for your heavy walnut wood. 

In the eighth grade you weren’t heavy walnut. You were a slim, light aspen painted pink with glitters. My mom spent hours making you beautiful so that I would feel more beautiful. When I got my first boyfriend I suspected that you, in all your shining glory, were part of the appeal. But then his older brother teased him for having a crippled girlfriend and I hid you in my closet where you stayed for fifteen years. You waited so patiently.

I just had my hair cut off two weeks ago. I haven’t had short hair in years, and never this short. I like running my fingers through it and having it stand upright. I like putting on tight jeans and a blazer and feeling dapper. I like the way my short hairs brush against the neck of my long coat, and I like the way that you brush up against the hem of it, swishing against the fabric as we saunter down Barrington St. together.  You tie it all together.

Last year I was walking into a grocery store with my partner. It was about 5:00 PM, maybe 6:00. A truck load of guys drove by and yelled out their window at me, chastising me for drinking so much so early in the day. I wonder if this would have happened if you would have been there? I love you because you give me definition. When people see you they see a different, more palatable, version of me. Disabled, not drunk. And while divisions like that don't always work, it can still sometimes make life smoother.

I like that the curved head of you is coated in baby blue silicone. It matches my eyes and my iphone case. To the discerning viewer, your look a little like a butt plug. Smooth and seamless. And while I personally don’t know that I want to move our relationship in that direction, I like the idea of you as a sex object.

I used to be so reluctant to be with you that I would hold other people’s hands rather than your handle. I would grip friend’s arms as we moved through crowded dance parties, squeeze other people’s fingers as I tried to climb grassy hills. It’s nice now, to have some autonomy. To have forgotten those worries that having a cane would mean that I wouldn’t be loved, that I wouldn’t be seen, that I wouldn’t be valued. It’s  breathing in a deeper way. It’s holding my shoulders less tightly. It’s letting go of the fear of falling.