Thursday, May 21, 2009

Because of my Disability

Just when I thought I’d have the whole returning undergraduate table to myself, a woman in her late 40s approached the table. Wearing large jeans, pulled up over her belly button, with a matching button-up jean shirt with bead embroidery over the chest and shoulder area, she had the look of somebody that stopped at a roadside stand in the 4 Corners area of the southwest.

On her left hand she wore two large turquoise rings and had some sort of feathery necklace, which Jon Bon Jovi would’ve worn in the music video to the movie Young Guns. Her face was dark and she had indigenous features. If people were neon signs, she would say, “I’m Native American.” Unlike most people that claim to be Native (1/64th Cherokee?) - specifically bad rock guys to impress the woman - she actually looked like she drove down from Apple Creek Casino in San Pablo to attend this meeting (joking). I politely said “hello” and then went back to scouring the class schedule. She looked annoying, so I didn’t invite conversation.

Sheila, my guidance counselor, sat between me and the Turquoise. We were waiting for a large man to stop introducing the bevy of PhDs at other tables, where we could converse with Sheila and get our fall classes. And get the hell out of this mandatory orientation.

Turquoise made a play for Sheila’s attention, hoping that she would be the first to get her consultation. Lucky for me, Sheila said she would talk to me first, since we had met previously and it wouldn’t take much time.

I had all the papers from our previous meeting and I presented them to here. She double checked what we talked about and gave me the thumbs up for the 3 courses. Yeah!

As I filled out the paper work for the classes, she moved on to Turquoise. I was intrigued with Turquoise and knew she would have a lot to say, so I kept an ear open.

As expected, she talked enthusiastically about being back in an academic setting and was looking forward to the youthful energy of the students. She threw out all these grandiose plans, but answered all her statements with a caveat: “Because of my disability….” For example:

“I can’t wait to dive into the world of academics. You know, there’s so much to learn. And I’m really looking forward to working with young people. I feel I can help them, but because of my disability, I can only go to school part-time.” She would offer up and then rescind.

Sheila was doing her best not to throttle Turquoise. I caught her eye and gave her a look of pity. All around the room were potential students who had probably worked an 8 hour day and were haggard and had little energy to give. All of us shared one thing in common: somewhere along the line we fucked up at school or in life or both, which led us to this place today, in search of a paltry B.A. degree. I wasn’t here for youthful energy nor were the youths excited that that they may have to pair up with me – a 45 year old disheveled man – in a Science class. I resented Turquoise's free time.

I was intrigued by her disability. Recalling how she walked when she approached the table, I didn’t notice a limp or any prominent physical disability. As she sat there, I gave her a once over for any sign of labored breathing, twitching or anti-social behavior. Nothing. Her eyes were shifty and she was super annoying after 2 minutes, so I assume her disability had something to with her ability to be so fucking weird, or the great illnesses: depression, anxiety, bi-polarism, etc.

While choosing her classes, Turquoise said that she wanted to teach music to children where she grew up…on a reservation. Before Sheila could commend her on a noble professional objective, she said, “But because of my disability, I can only work part-time.”

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