Two strong reactions compete to be described. Words flow from my brain, tangling with one another. My fingers fly across the keyboard.
Yesterday — NPR — I didn’t hear the set-up but I nearly drove my car off Jackson Slough when the woman said, Going into a restaurant as a bigger-bodied person has all sorts of challenges. Should I order whip cream on my drink, because I like it but people will say, She’s fat, she shouldn’t be eating whipped cream? Should I eat the thing here, because people will stare at me? Will the chair be large enough for me, strong enough?
And so on, and so on.
I pulled to the side of the road, shaking. Oh my Gawd, I whispered, to no one. My litany! Same fears, slightly recast. Should I walk into this restaurant alone, because what if I can’t get the door open? What if I fall? What if the cashier stares at me as I walk towards her? What if they bring my water in a glass that’s too heavy for me? What if I drop my fork because my hand spasms? What if I have an asthma attack and can’t breathe?
I didn’t know whether to be glad for the kinship; or feel deep sorrow that other people have similar crippling anxieties. Everything my mind cautions about public places arises from my past. I have fallen; I draw stares; I often have to stand by non-automatic doors awaiting help. I knock over glasses which a mere child could lift. My semi-paralyzed throat causes me to choke. I’m often too tired to walk down the hallway to the restroom.
And so on, and so on.
Eventually, I resumed driving and finished traveling home. I made a little food and washed a load of clothes. I wrote an essay about my weekend at Pigeon Point. I tried to ignore the news. I read a little before sleep.
In the morning, I stood in the middle of my space, examining a few pennies on the floor. Then the second onslaught of emotion hit me. Time and time again, people come into my house and say, “Do you know you have money on the floor?” Well, of course I do.
“It’s angel money,” I explain. They ask what angel money is. I tell them, when my son was little, any money which hit the floor went to the angels.
They usually just stare at me.
The truth is that I invented the concept of Angel money because I couldn’t retrieve the money from the floor. I can’t bend to recover a lid which has rolled on the stove. I’ll never again see half the things that escaped to the corners of my house. I’ve driven to the store to replace items that I’ll never find again. And forget those Grabbers, they don’t work. My hands can’t even operate the mechanism.
When I review all these anguished thoughts marching down the page, I wonder if what I’ve done qualifies as a boatload of complaint. The lady in the NPR story had written a book to highlight society’s shaming of heavy-bodied people. I’m so glad that she did. I want to shine a flashlight into all the cobwebbed corners in which we huddle. I want to draw everyone out into the open. I want to strip my crooked legs bare and say, See? You don’t have to be afraid of me anymore. It’s not contagious. I can’t hurt you.
I want to brew a cappuccino for that lady on the radio and give her an extra inch of thick, sweet cream. I want to tell her, Sit right down in this comfy chair and enjoy every last drop.
It’s the twentieth day of the sixty-fifth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.