Are you scared of me? - Lateef McLeod
As a child I knew I was
Because that was what my parents told me,
that was what my grandma told me,
that was what my physical therapist told me,
that was what my teachers told me.
So I believed it.
I rolled around in my power wheelchair with my head held high
and knew I was God’s child, blessed with promise.
But the vision that I had of myself
was not always reflected back in the eyes of others.
From an early age people used to stare at me
and bore their eyes in the back of my skull,
like I was some freak,
some monster whose face is too grotesque to look at.
I grew up with kids who gawked at
my gangly limbs squirming in my chair
with an unease that never went away.
The kids’ taunts taught lessons
of how I was out of place in their space.
Malicious words sprung off their tongues
and crashed into my eardrums,
along with their hate and indifference.
Why you fear me?
Why you freak out whenever I am around?
What is it about the sight of me that makes you cringe?
Is it because when you look at me you see
a reminder of your own fragility?
The fact that one day your body will go weak
and die decomposing into dust.
Or do you fear me for my skin?
The smooth maroon encasing of my body,
illicit fears that I might kick you,
roll over you in my wheelchair.
Am I that nappy-headed criminal
that makes you clutch your purse
as you walk past me?
Do you secretly wish that a police officer
come and bust in my head and take me to jail,
or better yet, put a bullet in my heart
to stop the enraged monster you see me as?
Or do you see me as a freak?
A monster whose body
medicine cannot fix.
Whose body cannot be loved,
cannot be sexually desired.
Cannot provide a woman
with her physical,
and sexual needs.
Why does a woman emasculate me
with her gaze?
Do you see my body as only acceptable if rehabilitated?
If I work on a surgical or therapeutic way to fix me,
then you will embrace me with open arms,
because then I will be just like you?
That may look like a happy ending to you,
but you will never know why you are really scared of me.