"Bodies of Work ", said the reminder that popped up on my cell phone. I'd put the event on my calendar weeks before the election-- a night of "disability culture ", artistic expression by and about people with disabilities. At the time, it seemed like a good excuse to get out of my apartment. Now, it was as necessary as oxygen.
There were readings from original works-- plays and essays, humorous and reflective. Good enough, but not particularly memorable.
Some guy walked onto the stage carrying a potted plant. He threw it on the floor, picked it up, and threw it again, shattering the pot and spilling its contents. He pulled a roll of masking tape from a plastic bag, fit the pieces of the pot back together like some sort of jigsaw puzzle, and re-potted the plant. His representation of life with a mental illness.
But it's the dancers who made the biggest impression on me. Three women. I recognized the first. She use to live in my building. Tall and thin, with jet black hair, coffee colored skin, and thick red painted lips. I thought of a Frida Kahlo self-portrait. Her body leaned on a sparkling silver cane. Carefully she turned toward us, shifted her weight, balanced, and lifted the cane in the air, thrusting it with defiant pride. Bearing a look which dared anyone to question her, she turned again, cane still held high, and marched around the room. The second woman followed. What she did escapes me. The third, however. . .
She came in five minutes after the others. Left crutch, right foot ; right crutch, left foot. I knew that walk. The same walk I began learning when I was three years old. I knew the curve of her back too. I' d seen it in a picture of me in my twenties standing looking at my mother. This woman' s skin was dark black though . Her hot pink shorts stretched tightly around her stomach and thighs. She wore a flowered bikini top. I envied her self-assurance. I would never have been caught dead in that outfit. Not in my twenties, and certainly not now. Crutch / foot; crutch / foot, she turned, until her back was directly in front of us. Planting her crutches firmly in front of her body, she leaned all her weight on them. . . and wiggled her hot pink butt in our faces. The genie is out, I thought . The genie is out of the bottle. You can refuse to enforce legislation. You can dilute it 'til it's meaningless. You can even make fun of the way we move and speak. But as long as our pride lives deep within our bodies, as long as our pride stirs and moves our bodies, the genie is out of the bottle. No matter how hard you try, no matter what you do, the genie is out of the bottle. And you can never put it back.