Ok, heavy, heavy. Let me share an interesting story with you.
Down at the coast I went with Linds, her sister, and some other young guys from the caravan park to a night club in Margate. I was still concerned about how people saw me when I was using the chair, even though I was using it mostly full time. There was no magic wand or abracadabra. I didn't fall overnight into acceptance of the rest of my life. As with Paddy’s and the beer fest, these guys and girls were all younger, so I was beyond intimidated. I was waiting for someone buying drinks at the bar when a guy came over to talk to me. Today, after many years sitting in this chair, I can confirm I get some proper weirdos coming over. Add some booze and often it all reaches unprecedented levels of strangeness – you wouldn’t believe. Anyway, I didn’t know any of this then, as this young guy said he thought it was cool that I was getting myself out there and not hiding behind my disability. I was chuffed. I thanked him and told him it was quite a big deal for him to come over and talk to me because some people are just so peculiar when it comes to a wheelchair. They don’t see there is a real person sitting in them. All they see is the chair. I said I needed to go and find my friends. He said something that frightened the living daylights out of me. ‘Before you go, just have a feel of my leg.’
I gawked at him, thinking, ‘No way, man.’ Before I could say anything he took my hand and placed it on his shin, which, it turned out, was wooden. Then he said, ‘Feel my other leg.’ I was convinced he had some sort of disability fetish going on – surely next he was going to ask me to feel his middle leg! (I was telling this story the other night to friends, one girl said that the third leg was probably also wooden.) After my refusal, he pulled his pants leg up and showed me another prosthetic. He told me he was an athlete, and that later on in the year he was going to run at the Paralympics. I should look out for him, he said, and remember his name. Oscar Pistorius!
This, of course, was before Oscar became the blade gunner. For years, because of this episode, and because of the values he seemed to represent, Oscar was an inspiration to me. Now I can't help think about how slippery the idea of acceptance is. The public Oscar was such a powerful figure, and so obvious in his pride in who he was. Then, during the horror murder trial of his girlfriend, we see there is, and always, was, another person in there. Someone still suffering from shame, and paranoia, and much other emotional damage. No matter what someone says, or how they act in front of you or the world, it's pretty much guaranteed there is something else going on inside.