Author Archives

"Sometimes honesty can be the most beautiful literary element of them all..."

Black Disabled Wonder Women Need Love, Too

Crutches from Shutterstock

Britney Wilson | Longreads | February 2018 | 25 minutes (6,304 words)

 

“You good?” you asked, pulling a gray wool blanket up tighter around your shoulders, yawning, and stretching your legs out on the worn blue couch in the corner of my apartment.

“Yeah,” I said, closing the bathroom door behind me and attempting to do my version of tiptoeing back over to my bed, hoping the slight clanking of my crutches wouldn’t wake anyone.

It was the weekend of my 24th birthday — four years ago. You had driven my friends Mia, Lisa, and Monique from D.C. to Philly and you’d all spent the weekend with me. I was in law school. I’d spent the hours before your arrival cursing the fact that I had been born in the middle of February, and praying for your safe journey as I watched the snowstorm that was beginning outside my window.

The night before, on the phone, I had been worried. The news had been forecasting that the accumulation might be pretty significant, and as sad as the thought had made me, I’d suggested that maybe you shouldn’t come after all. You’d promised it would be fine and that you would all be there. I was genuinely concerned, but equally relieved by your determination.

A lawyer friend of mine had perfectly summed up what my transition from college to law school had been like. She said undergrad was alma mater (as in “dear mother”) and graduate school was the stepmom. You initially hate her because she’s not your mother, and you resent the way she seems to be encroaching on your life. Eventually, as you each come to appreciate the other’s unique role, you develop your own separate relationship and become friends. I liked the analogy, but I was two years in, and still hadn’t gotten to the friendly part. I desperately needed that reunion.

The only guy in the bunch, you had offered to sleep on the floor and give someone else the couch, but they’d insisted you take it. They had put you through enough on the drive up. You deserved your rest.

Because I’d known it would take me the longest, I’d let everyone else get ready for bed before me. So, I was the last person to get in the bathroom after our personal updates and in-house karaoke sessions wound down in the early hours of the morning, after you all arrived. By the time I came out, everyone was asleep, except you. I could tell you’d been fighting it.

It was the weekend of my 24th birthday — four years ago. You had driven my friends Mia, Lisa, and Monique from D.C. to Philly and you’d all spent the weekend with me.

I stepped around Mia and Monique, who were lying across the floor old-school slumber party style on a pile of extra sheets. Bending down when I got to my bed, I gingerly placed my crutches on the floor next to it and moved an extra pillow to the head of my bed where Lisa was lying at its foot.

You leaned forward from the couch, craning your neck slightly to watch me climb onto the bed. When you were sure I was all set, you leaned back against the arm of the couch and yawned again.

“Alright, good night. I love you,” you said.

“Good night. I love you too.”

As I closed my eyes that morning, flanked by my friends on all sides, feeling supported and at ease for the first time in months, with your voice as the last one I heard before I fell asleep, I wondered where it had come from — the love.

Read more…

On NYC’s Paratransit, Fighting for Safety, Respect, and Human Dignity

Illustration by Kjell Reigstad, Photo by Chris Sampson (via Flickr)

Britney Wilson | Longreads | September 2017 | 18 minutes (4,410 words)

 

He pulled up on the wrong side of the street fifteen minutes late for my pick-up time. I was sitting outside, in front of the New York City office building where I work, in a chair that the security guards at my job have set aside for me. They bring it outside when I come downstairs in the evening and take it back inside whenever I get picked up, so I don’t have to stand while I wait anymore. I was on the left side of the street; he pulled up on the right. I stood when I saw him, and taking a few steps closer to the tide of people rippling endlessly down the sidewalk that early evening, I waved one of my crutches in the air trying to get his attention. He looked up and down the street. I wasn’t sure if he’d seen me.

“Excuse me,” I said, taking a few more quick half steps forward, trying to catch the attention of a passer-by, “do you see that Access-a-Ride across the street?”

“The what?” the passer-by asked.

“The Access-a-Ride,” I repeated. “That little blue and white bus across the street.” I pointed my crutch in its direction, and his gaze followed its path.

“Oh,” he said. But just as I was about to request the man’s assistance, I saw that the driver had finally spotted me. He put his hand up as if to tell me to stay put.

“Nevermind. I think he sees me,” I said. “Thanks anyway.”

My Access-a-Ride driver, a skinny older Black man with glasses and a graying beard, exited the vehicle and crossed the street toward me. I bravely parted the latest oncoming wave of pedestrians and made my way to the curb to meet him.

“Come on,” the driver said when he reached me, urging me to step right out into traffic on Broadway and cross with him, but I was reluctant.

“I’d rather wait for the light to change,” I said.

“Don’t worry, I’ll stop traffic for you,” he said, moving toward the middle of the street, his right hand extended making a “stop” motion toward the oncoming cars. I tried to pick up my pace while also being careful not to place my crutch tips on anything slippery, or get too close to other pedestrians rushing to the other side of the street.

“Take your time. I’ll make them wait,” he attempted to reassure me. I wasn’t reassured.

Read more…