To the woman on her cell phone, whom I have known now some two plus years. I need not name you, you should know by now who you are. At least, that’s how you carry yourself.
I could hear you across the room. At your decibel, I could probably hear you from the moon. The point is I heard you, laughing. No. You were not laughing. You were cackling. Howling like a banshee and gossiping to your friends about your client.
Your client was an older woman. Not yet elderly, but certainly on in years. She needed your help to clear a case for herself, and her son, who is handicapped.
“What a LOSER!!” I heard you exclaim. And why? Because he still needs her to take care of him, even though he’s just slightly under me in age. “What kind of an invalid still lives at home with his mommy?” Is what I could hear resonating through the building. And on and on I have heard this from you about all in his position. And some are not even fully grown yet, but here you are, insisting that instead of relying on a cane or a crutch, they should just “quit being lazy” and live exactly like you do.
I heard you make fun of the boy in his 20’s, who try as he might, just can’t seem to get a job. I heard you make fun of the mother of three, who should have learned not to ever let a man inside of her, to grant her those little ankle biters, and instead, just close her legs, fight the world off, and again, live just the way you do.
To the woman on her cell phone, I’d like to have a chat with you. Of course, I will be denied this, as the only time you ever speak to me, is when my husband is in the room. Oh yes. You claim he’s not your type, and you beg him for advice because “he’s soooooooo brotherly” you swear, but when his back is turned, and I once more become invisible in your eye, I can hear you, again on the cell phone, talking about how sexy his voice is, how handsome he looks in those Rockabilly shirts, the coils of his freshly washed curls and the way his face is a a balance between smokey sensuality and boyish charm. Oh kind maiden. If you could only hear my voice when he is not present, if you would let me have audience with you outside of my invisible state, I could elaborate to you how high I have made that smokey, sultry voice of his crack in the bedroom, but I digress.
To the woman on her cell phone, let me paint you a picture of why your chiding of the handicapped boys irks my very core.
I have a little brother. Much like a practice son, he has been the apple of my eye since the first time I saw my mother’s stick turn blue in the bathroom of a restaurant we were not welcome in. I can still remember the sweet scent emanating from his bassinet the day he was born, a miracle in my then five years on this planet, after false contractions and family stress almost cost me the greatest thing to hit my childhood.
But as he was growing up, I noticed his knees didn’t bend right. Climbing was a chore and he needed more help than the average boy. Then one day at seven, he collapsed, screaming that his knees wouldn’t hold him up anymore.
We took him to a doctor, who sent him to a hospital, who stuck him full of holes and then left him in a dark room, before finally announcing he had Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. From there, we had to whisk him off to one quack after another, before finally getting him to Shriner’s, and onto the medication he needs to walk.
Shriner’s is a wonderful hospital, but it is a charity. It’s the last ditch effort for those who couldn’t get on Medicaid. You’re greeted with a competent staff of doctors, but not before also being hounded by DCFS, a group of strangers who demand more and more paperwork, threatening to take your youngster away from you forever, unless you can prove to them that his inability to walk is medical, and not the cause of abuse.
To the woman on her cell phone, I wish to spend a day with you, get to know you better, see what I can learn through your eyes, or better, have you see the world through mine.
Perhaps you would like to travel back in time with me, and meet me at age twelve. Stand beside me as I am interrogated by men and women much older than my parents, asking me if I’ve ever broken his bones or abused him, and am I the reason he can’t walk, or is it mommy or daddy? Sit with me in the waiting room for four, five, six hours between tests, beside the father on crutches who is wheeling in his teenage boy, who can’t even turn his head. Sit alone while my mother coaxed my brother to get just one more needle to see-saw through that vein, while we hear the howls of a Mennonite woman, just beneath the age of twenty, holding a pillow and screaming, because her one baby is in the ground, a second will join him, and a third is in the ICU, a foreign term meaning a room full of lights and sharp objects going through your baby while you sit in a world your parents forbade you to understand. Maybe I could get you to play with me, join me for charity Bingo night, with a little girl who is bald from chemo, and a big brother who might not make it to see six. Or maybe you’ll wait outside for me, while you watch the 89 year old Shriner with a bad hip help a little girl who can’t speak English onto a gurney. Is the hospital too much for you? No problem. Come back to my house, which was balanced poorly on a beam with insulation made of newspapers from the Truman administration. As you breathe in the mold from my Posen, Illinois bungalow, you can help me fasten a new gauntlet on my brother’s wrist, slap a knee brace on him, and help him learn how to hold a pencil all over again. I’ll pour the cherry 7UP while you press firmly the pencil guards to the recycled No 2 Ticonderoga for him.
To the woman on her cell phone, maybe you could say I am angered by your handicap jokes. Maybe it is because my doctor recently told me that now I am “one of them”. That I may need to be on medication for the rest of my life, to help me deal with a skin that rejects the elements and the brain that throbs hard enough for me to see stars.
Or maybe it’s because I’m holding a memory of all the children who are no more, whom I used to see every other week at Shriner’s. Maybe I’m holding the smaller me, who held the smaller brother, who had to be told too early that sometimes medicine and a Pokemon card just can’t save everyone he plays with.
To the woman on her cell phone, I see you hate on those who just didn’t get out of mom and dad’s house before twenty one. I apologize. It must be so hard for your simple mind to comprehend that not all of us are lucky in the job market. That sometimes your spotless credit score and PHD just can’t get you a better job than flipping burgers, or any job at all. That the 1960’s died out before your were born, and that the Baby Boomers who were handed jobs with little to no education, turned around and voted into office an ex-actor who instilled banker-friendly laws that added just a few more hoops to jump through when trying to grab that job that can make those ends meet. I’m sorry that you can’t grasp that the economy tanked several years ago, and that we are going on generation three to know a depression only made comfortable by the electronics and Wi-Fi we can’t afford, the same you use to convey your hatred of those not 100% like you.
To the woman on her cell phone, may you continue to scoff at others. May you continue to howl and cackle, pointing and enjoying your brand of faux humor at those who are less fortunate than you.
And may the world show you the same mercy your pristine pores are showing your concealer plastered skin, so that you know not what it feels like to step into the shoes of those you mock on the phone to your girlfriend.
Koriander Bullard is an author, cartoonist and human rights advocate. Keep up with her on Facebook!