Sometimes, when they do something bad, something that hurts me, or the world — I say, “Well, they’ll learn. When their bodies turn against them, they’ll come to know what I’ve learned over the past 40 years.” And I smile the Revenge Smile.
I think of it when I read about someone in the newspaper, a dictator somewhere, or a businessman, being merciless, cruel, greedy — hurting people needlessly.
I think of it — too — when I am angry at those close to me: friends, family. I rage at their blindness for not seeing what my life is like, what having such a body is like, what I am, what I really am.
It’s definitely not nice wanting paralysis or pain for someone else — wanting them to lie hopeless in a nursing home, in a hospital bed where they have just shit on themselves, the hurt look in their eyes that comes from learning the body has its own powerful rules when it is sick or dying.
It is definitely not nice wanting someone to have a body that works just like mine. And I smile the Revenge Smile.
—Lorenzo Milam in CripZen
reprinted in NM, Fall 1992
I’m a sock in the eye with gnarled fist
I’m a French kiss with a cleft tongue
I’m orthopedic shoes sewn on a last of your fears
I am not one of the differently abled —
I’m an epitaph for a million imperfect babies left untreated
I’m an ikon carved from bones in a mass grave at Tiergarten, Germany
I’m withered legs hidden with a blanket
I am not one of the able disabled —
I’m a black panther with green eyes and scars like a picket fence
I’m pink lace panties teasing a stub of milk white thigh
I’m the Evil Eye
I’m the first cell divided
I’m mud that talks
I’m Eve I’m Kali
I’m the Mountain That Never Moves
I’ve been forever I’ll be here forever
I’m the Gimp
I’m the Cripple
I’m the Crazy Lady
I’m the Woman With Juice
— Cheryl Marie Wade, reprinted in NM, Winter 1992
On Putting Your Body on the Line
In the following excerpt from her essay, “Faith and Loving in Las Vegas,” Nancy Mairs “crosses the line between peaceful protest and nonviolent direct action” at the Nevada Nuclear Test Site. Reprinted from Carnal Acts, Essays by Nancy Mairs, in SNE, Summer 1991, courtesy of Harper/Collins.
When the bus is full, we drive a quarter of a mile or so up a straight road, stopping beside a long white trailer. At one end, an area fenced off by posts and wire holds a galvanized metal trash barrel, a couple of white Rent-a-Cans, and the first busloads of the arrested. George and I wait for the others to get off. Just as we are about to follow, a security officer tells me, “You stay right here. We’ll ticket you on the bus.”
I look at George. I look out the window at the crowd in the pen.
“I don’t want to be separated from the others,” I say. “I don’t want to be left alone. I want to get off the bus.”
“There’s no place for you to sit.” He’s right. My wheelchair is back at the crossing.
“I’ll sit on the steps,” I say. “Or we can turn the trash barrel over and I’ll sit on that. I’ll sit on one of the toilets. Please. I don’t want to be left.” The security officer glances at George, who nods, and shrugs. As I head for the steps, the bus driver starts speaking to me softly.
“Do you know what they really do here?” he asks. “They test drugs to help people like you.” Actually, no one I know of is working on multiple sclerosis at the atomic level, but I believe that medical research goes on here.
“Eighty percent of the testing has nothing to do with weapons.”
“It’s the 20 percent I’m here about.” I find myself speaking softly too. “That’s the part that scares me.” Some people express anger at his laying such a “trip” on me, but though I’m shocked, I don’t feel angry. I feel touched. He’s tried to reach out for me as best he can.