What she sees: She glides down the sidewalk, heels clacking. She’s always enjoyed the clipped sound of heels striking the pavement. Oh, what’s even better, heels on marble. Clip-clack, clip-clack. It’s a sound she associates with confidence. Her pink tote bag swings from her shoulder. Pink is not very feministy of her, but damnit, she’s always drawn to the color. Her mind is aflutter with the day’s activities. Columns form in her mind. Work and all the assignments she’s frantically working on. The FAQs is due tomorrow. And there are two news releases she needs to work on. Home and family and oh, that reminds her, she must send a text to her husband that she’s on strike from cleaning until everyone else can pitch in and do their part. Exercise and will it get done today? She really needs a yoga class. Oh yes, one more thing; her white cane. It sweeps in front of her. Tapping side-to-side, keeping her from tripping or stumbling or running into objects. It gives her as much confidence as the heels clicking in unison with the cane. She’s spent seventeen years using a white cane; it’s become an extension of her body. A city bus whooshes up, coming to a squeaky halt. She steps onto it, beginning her day. What you see: A woman walks down the sidewalk. A cane held out in front of her. Your mind pinpoints all the danger surrounding her. You check but no one accompanies her. Surely, it’s your duty, your civic duty to care for her. Eyes wide, brows raised, your mind frantically takes in the scene. She could walk into the street. She could knock into that pole. She might trip on that crack in the pavement. She might be accosted. A strange man may approach and grab her without consent. You’ve never been a Scout, but you’ve been taught to help the helpless. Protect the infirm. You must assist this weak but brave woman. Oh, dear god, why is she out on her own. So amazing and brave but dangerous. As she steps onto the bus (wow, how did she do that?) you provide a protective barrier close behind her. She glances over her shoulder and inches away. As she swipes her bus card through the slot, you place your hand on top of hers. “Here you go.” “I got it.” She seems to scurry away. “Oh wait, miss. Hold up. I got you.” As a strange man, you grab her without consent. You attempt to maneuver her into a seat. What she sees: The air stiffens as a presence hovers behind her. She tenses, almost pushing her body into the side of the interior. As she finds the slot for her bus card and begins to swipe, a large hand engulfs hers. She flinches. “Here you go,” a male voice speaks right behind her. “I got it.” She snatches her hand away, as if it made contact with hot iron. Moving further into the interior of the bus, her cane taps along the side of the seats looking for an empty one. Without warning, a disembodied hand seizes her elbow and fumbles her into a seat. She pivots as if ready to strike, whipping her elbow out of his grip. “Don’t touch me.” He backs away, hands raised. “I’m just trying to help.” “Did I ask for help?” “Look, I’m just trying to help; I just want you to be safe.” “What the fuck! Do I look unsafe?” “Well… I mean… You have the stick and all…” “Right… Don’t ever touch a person without consent.” His tenor equivocates while he continues to loom over her. “Well… Will you be okay?” Sitting, she glares up at him. “Yes.” She slips her phone out of a pocket on her tote and turns her attention to it, ignoring the stranger, waiting for his lingering shadow to move on.
Bridgit Kuenning-Pollpeter is a mom and writer from Omaha, Nebraska but recently relocated to Urbandale, IA. When she’s not chasing children, picking up messes or reorganizing the house, she enjoys yoga or reading to relax. In her spare time (A.K.A. her dreams) she’s a Broadway star. Kuenning-Pollpeter is a freelance marketer during the day, a creative writer at night. Her work has appeared in the Brevity blog, The Omaha World Herald, 13th Floor, Misbehaving Nebraskans, Hippocampus, Emerging Nebraska Writers and Random Sample Review. She has her BFA and MFA in writing from the University of Nebraska Omaha. Her essay “The Body” was a McKenna Fellowship finalist, and her essay “Imperfection” was a 2020 Best of the Net Nominee. She is blind and writes frequently about disability. She’s working on a memoir about the disabled feminine experience. With the kids though, expect it in stores in about a decade.View all of LitMommy's posts.