On the way home from the library, I passed an alley where it sounded like two guys were pounding a third guy.
They must have seen me looking, because they shouted in my direction. First reaction: run. But I couldn’t. It’s the wheelchair.
I wheeled across the street towards a figure who was making haste down the empty sidewalk. I called and then yelled to her but she didn’t answer, didn’t even look my way. Probably the same bitch who deliberately closed the elevator door in my face when I was leaving the stacks.
On the other side of the street, I felt a little safer since no one was in sight. However, when you’re in a wheelchair, things in the distance are a lot closer than they look.
I started to phone Sally, my girlfriend. Girlfriend in the sense that she’s a female friend. She’s normal. She’s been very patient with her paranoid, handicapped friend. On more than one occasion, she offered to give me a lift when I was working late on my research. Except for a couple of times when it was raining like hell, I routinely declined, partly to manage my mental IOUs and partly to assert my pathetic independence.
Tonight was a matter of pride though, so I stuck the phone back in my jacket pocket and rolled on—my anti-Samaritan lady out of sight save for that bobbing head of hers.
It occurred to me that I should call the cops and report the incident. I hesitated. Those guys could recognize me. For God’s sake, I was in a wheelchair on a well-lit sidewalk,and they were in the shadows.
Besides, what kind of idiot gets caught up with a couple of thugs like that? Probably just a family dispute among criminals anyway. And if the cops did … well, these guys might be off the street for a night but they’d be on the lookout the next.
And what about Ms. Door-in-your-Face? Why didn’t she call? She could at least run.
And why don’t the police at least patrol this area once in a while?
I don’t ask a lot, and I don’t expect charity, pity or any of those other self-indulgent sentiments from others, so why shouldn’t I expect not to be expected to show them to anybody else?
For Sally, yes I would. Definitely!
For a stranger, why? It was a stranger who put me in this damn chair. What do I care—why should I care—about a stranger if it means risking my own—
It was Sally’s ring tone. As soon as I answered, she noticed a difference in my voice and immediately asked what was the matter.
By this point, I was fully committed to the belief, reached by a more or less systematic reductio ad nihil, so I answered, “Oh, nothing. It was really nothing.”
“What? What was really—”
“Nothing. I’m just real tired that’s all. Think I could cash that rain check?”