Yesterday I was enjoying a refreshing drink at a cafe named Fuel America, just steps away from my apartment in Brighton, when I happened to notice a man walking toward me on his way to the restroom. He was an amputee, with his right hand and half of his forearm missing. I don’t know how it happened. We didn’t speak at all. And there was a moment after I noticed his arm when I decided to look away quickly. I wasn’t squeamish; I wasn’t disgusted. In fact, my first instinct was to look him square in the eye and smile. But I didn’t want to make him feel awkward. And, truth be told, I was a little afraid that such a bold move by a small female, alone in a public place, might provoke unexpected feelings or actions from this stranger. E.g. “What the f*ck are you looking at?!” (You never know.)
When I looked away, I did so a little too quickly. And as soon as I jerked my head back to my laptop I regretted the decision.
He waited until he was just past me, and then coughed up a little, unhappy “Hmmph.” It was just loud enough so that I could hear it, and I knew exactly what it meant. I felt ashamed, because that was exactly what I was trying to avoid in the first place.
When my vitiligo was featured more prominently on my face, many people pulled the same move on me. (They still do, just less than before.) Often it was for the same reasons I imagine. It never made me feel good, and on countless occasions I had the same response the stranger did…
I always tried to maintain a positive attitude toward people who did the glance-oops-look-away. But I couldn’t really fully let go of the bad taste it left in my mouth. Yesterday, suddenly I was their shoes, and having been there I cannot help but thoroughly forgive everyone who has ever done the same to me.
Song (seriously obsessed with this one):