We were at an arcade and Ruby had challenged me to a game of air hockey. I’ve not played in years. I found that being in a wheelchair I didn’t have the reach necessary to be able to play well and, frankly, I didn’t have the endurance either to be up, leaning forward and reaching my arms out. But, I figured I have more strength now, I might have more reach too. Well. I did.
I was having a blast. The puck flew back and forth between Ruby and I. At one point I forgot and had my fingers over the ledge, to help me hold my body in position, and the puck slammed into them. Youch! That hurt!! Apparently it was also very funny. The game grew heated and we were tied for most of the game, one person scoring and then the next catching up. Ruby was determined to beat me. I was determined to be the winner. We screamed when we got goals, we screamed when we were scored on, and we played, hard.
A little while into the game I noticed a woman standing off to the side with her camera up. She was filming us playing air hockey. I don’t like strangers taking photos of me or of the kids. I don’t trust the motivation. I glanced at Marissa, Ruby’s mom, and she shrugged and said, “I don’t see what’s so interesting you need to film it.” I agreed. But then, before we could do anything. She stopped. The camera came down. She seemed satisfied with what she had filmed and moved on.
There are pictures of me, placed on the web by strangers, that can be found amongst other pictures of fat disabled people. Put up to mock and put up to shame and put up to demonstrate what ugliness, or laziness, or sloth looks like. I became aware of these a couple years ago and know that there’s nothing I can do about them. They are there. But because of these I am very, very, cautious around strangers and cameras. I don’t think anyone has taken a picture of my, without my consent, in a couple years now. I know how to avoid the gaze of a camera and I know how to speak to those who would violate my privacy.
This time I felt a little different. If this was ever put up to mock me, people would see a fat guy in a wheelchair having a blast playing air hockey against a 10 year old girl who was a fierce opponent. There may be shame in intention but there’s no shame in the image.
But, then, I don’t know her motivation. Maybe she was just intrigued by what she saw. Maybe playful, happy, disabled people aren’t in her emotional vocabulary about disability. Maybe children and relationships and love and passionate life aren’t in the definition she has of disability.
I don’t know.
And, I kinda don’t care.