Becky walked to her care with purpose, just as she was trained. Opening the door, she looked behind her to see the coffee shop she just left. Next door was an Urgent Care clinic. A young mother ushered her son, who looked to be about 6, in through the entryway and out of Becky’s sight. It reminded her of all the trips to the hospital for checkups, x-rays, reconstructive surgeries, followups and more surgeries yet. Spending so much time in the hospital gave Becky thick skin when it came to gruesome or fear-generating medical procedures. It crossed Becky’s mind to become a Doctor, because she believed she could do whatever she set her mind to. She sat in her car and looked down. Not at her knees, poking out through the rips in her jeans, and not at the bottom of the steering wheel where she tended to hold on. Becky looked at nothing. She fiddled with her keys without thinking, finding the match by feel. Her apartment key had horizontal lines, the mailbox key was short and always felt greasy for some reason, but her car key had a distinctive mass to it, due in part to the buttons that locked and unlocked the doors. Her thumb found its way to the red panic button under the lock and unlock buttons. She thought about pressing it, not because she was in danger but because she was angry. Why did he say that? What was he hoping she would say in return? Becky had been broken up with before. Hers was a life of adventure, rejection, new adventure. It wasn’t the breakup. It was what he said. Something about her limp, how it made him uncomfortable in public and how he felt guilty for even thinking it. Then why’d he say it? Something about how his dad made a joke about Becky walking in circles because one leg is shorter than the other, which was code in his family for rejection. In many families, this counted as loving banter, good natured teasing. Or at least Becky thought so. No one ever made fun of her for her disability, not to her face. It was hard not to notice. That’s what hurt: he broke the rule and said what he really thought about Becky. For her sake, for his sake, it was better this way. He just wasn’t ready. It’s not you, it’s me.
Becky remembered what a family friend said to her in middle school. We can respond to our disabilities in one of two ways. We can hide it, which is hard unless we hide from people, which often happens. Or, we can embrace it and choose to be who we are, regardless of what people will think. This is not a choice made once but repeatedly, daily and sometimes moment by moment. Becky made the decision a long time ago, supported by family and friends, that her disability would not be a hinderance. She decided this every day, over and over, until it became second nature. Of course, when her now ex brought it up, it was not what she wanted but surely what she asked for. She wanted him to acknowledge it. It stung to hear it from the other side.
Becky started her car. Sliding the gearshift into reverse, she backed her Saturn out of the tight parking spot and headed home. Tomorrow would be another day. A better day. A new adventure. Becky slowly but gracefully made her way up the stairs to her apartment. She insisted on having an apartment on the second floor, only to prove to the manager that she was capable after he insinuated that, of course, Becky would want a handicapped-accessible room on the first floor by the blue-striped parking spots. Of course. Becky insisted: of course not. The decision was made again that day, that moment, to embrace her disability. When she finally got up to the top of the stairs and turned left, she reached into her pocket to get her keys. Feeling the greasy key, she whispered under her breath. Forgot to check the mailbox on the way up. Tomorrow. It could wait until tomorrow, when the new adventure began. There was already something to go after.