On my left knee, there’s a strange scar. It wasn’t stitched all the way down, and so the one end curves down into the shape of a spoon. Travel a little bit down, and there’s a scar that’s dimpled deeply from the keloids beneath my skin, it pulls from the inside and looks like a hole from far off. I poke at it briefly thinking that if I were way more flexible, I might be able to take shots out of it.
I like my body, myself now, but that wasn’t always the case. I remember long afternoons behind locked bedroom doors wonder why God didn’t heal me the way strangers had promised he would. I remember blades collected to mark the pain people couldn’t, or refused to see behind the “inspiration.”
My body is art cataloguing not only all that I am, but all that has done to me. It is a culmination of memories some people would rather forget.
Art is supposed to hold a mirror up to the world in which we live and there is no starker reminder than disabled people’s bodies. We wear indifference, pain and hope like a coat in the face of a biting wind. And, as the cold nips at our faces, and the painful road behind us seems more familiar to us than the one ahead, we still have hope, and imagine beauty in our future. Even the most jaded among us seem to pass along a spark of it in their rage. The fact they speak up at all means they believe a better future deserved to be worked for.
And, don’t mistake my words, we don’t exist as reminders.
I love the art of us. To one another, we are galleries of solidarity. We may at times exist in isolation, in the solitary silence and loneliness that encircles a disabled life at times, but once we find one another, we can be one another’s greatest confidants, most mischievous collaborators and most unexpected joy. If you only see one piece separate of another, we forget how the others are needed to see the entire collection as a whole.
I love the art of us. I love the inside jokes that make me feel understood and the chorus of voices I can practically heat alongside me when I cry out in despair. I love the awkwardness of learning how to move around one another when we finally meet and giggling and cracking the tension in the room.
Many don’t see including us in their art, saying that our existence dilutes its power and authority. But, we are the art that matters, and not everyone will understand it. But, they can afford to ignore and forget that fact. We, however cannot afford to forget the art that is us.
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