Taking Back

by Diego Kusnir

The six grad students sat at the round table, waiting for the chair of our dissertation to roll in. I mean, literally roll in—she’s in a wheelchair. I’m legally blind, so I was excited that I was finally going to have a teacher who was a disability activist, picturing all the guidance that she could uniquely provide. Usually, I do all I can to make my disability invisible. Especially if the only other blind student is there, jumping on his blindness high horse like he’s Mr. Blind, flailing his stick around aimlessly, like ever class should be his pity party. We usually have to duck for fear of getting an eye poked out. When he is in class with me, I try to make my difference crystal clear to the rest of the students, sitting furthest away from him. Although a piece of me is just jealous of his righteous indignation. But today, I was out of the closet, laptop open with its magnification program and recorder turned on, as if I had a cane and guide dog at my side. I was able to see the outline of something very short and boxy, which signaled to me our professor’s arrival. The red carpet tumbled to the front of the table as she entered on her horse and carriage. I wished I could bow as her bronzed muscled men placed her in her throne, just inches away from me. She began talking about the course, waving her scepter to and fro.

     On an offhand comment, she sharply looked at me and said,

     “No laptops in my class,” her scepter striking my laptop closed.

     “No, but, my queen, I…”

     “No laptops in class,” snarling, her face white as snow.

     I felt her chair roll over my retina. I waited for her to talk about disability accommodations. The part where teachers are supposed to say, “If any of you have a disability and need accommodations, please let me know,” so I could chime in, “I need a laptop, for I cannot read my meager scribbles.” But the moment never came and it was like an army tank, crushing my whole body flat enough to ice-skate over. As she had disabled my laptop-shield, I reached for my sword-cane as she went around the room, asking about people’s dissertation ideas.

     When at last she came to me, I was a mess. “What about youuuuu?” she said, twisting her head towards me. Sure that she thought I was just a little rule-breaker that needed a caning. I started jumbling my words like a blind juggler. I tossed words, like … spoken word … performed by a blind person could be humanizing … for blind people. She struck me. “What’s this humanizing?” She followed with a blow to the head. I saw stars. “Why are you so interested in blindness?” I tried focusing my vision, but I could not stop shattering into pieces. I was unable to even tell her I was blind.

     Maybe she thought I was just some random able-bodied white guy fascinated with the blind kind and how they work. That maybe I’d hire some blind person to do the spoken word?

     It was like she had plucked my disability away from me. Stupid little disability hog…what, being in a wheelchair isn’t enough? …You gotta take blindness away too? Here—want a hearing aid?

     I sat there invisible to everyone, without even my disability. And I imagined how it would be if Mr. Blind were sitting in my seat, robbed of his blindness by the wretched queen as I was. Bitterly, it dawned on me that I too like sitting on my throne when teachers and friends consult me, their token blind person, about how to resolve the issue of Mr. Blind. I enjoy twirling a scepter in my fingers, regaling them with the irrefutable standards of blindness, etiquette, and morality, my blindness legitimizing my sovereignty over the matter. Righteously, I declare his blindness is not the source of his flaws or difficulties, as if I knew him. He is simply flawed and difficult and should be disciplined. Unfolding my whip, I recommend maybe a lashing. How nice it is to be looked up to as opposed to looked down upon, even if it is for only a glance. But what would he recommend for me?

     I must warn him of this evil torture they dressed up as a course. I’m rolling the fuck out of here and taking my blindness with me. So thank you, my queen, and good day!

Diego Kusnir (diego.m.kusnir@gmail.com) enjoys arranging and rearranging furniture in his small studio. He hopes that if he arranges it just right, it may turn into a one-bedroom.

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