After getting my flu vaccine, I went to look at the cane rack, because they have this beautiful blue and silver one that looks like dragon scales, and I have been waiting for discounts and coupons so I could get it. The price is under twenty dollars, but still.
A middle-aged man who looked so much like Idris Elba that I did a second take, also reached for the blue silver cane. Our eyes met, I smiled briefly. He said, "You know, I bet this would make an awesome magic staff for cosplay."
I grinned and said, "Good plan! I should at least join a game just so I can brag. Or just be my paganish elf self and cosplay every day." Which was blurted out because my filter is so thin.
The Idris Elba lookalike chuckled. "I adore that idea. I just pray to all mighty Atheismo that we aren't going too deep. Like that Tom Hanks movie."
My jaw dropped. "Duuude," I said. "Futurama reference plus obscure D&D rip-off movie nee book reference? Cripple high five!"
We high fived and missed on purpose, stumbling. "Mild cerebral palsy, spastic hemiplegia" I said. "Mild cerebral palsy, diplegia mixed," he said. "And knee arthritis."
"And sciatica," we said in union, surprising ourselves.
"Fibromyalgia and epilepsy and autism too," I added.
He said, "My twin nieces are autistics! Their world is so awesome. I think they prefer me to my brother when they're in meltdowns, they talk about what's going on in detail."
"Awesome!" I said.
At this point, we had been staring at the canes and I had been avoiding too much eye contact. I was about to ask the Idris Elba lookalike about advocacy. Then I saw a gleam in his eye and sensed a topic shift. "Hey, listen," he said. "I'm a proponent of the pay it forward thing. I know we're strangers, but I do know enough about you that you really want the dragon scale cane."
I tilted my head. "Yeeeaah?"
"So, okay." He pulled some pieces of paper from his pocket. "I've got a buy one get one half off for this brand of canes. I will buy you your cane. What do you think?"
I blinked a few times. I looked at him. He wasn't hitting on me. He wasn't being creepy. He was just a fellow cripple offering help.
"Okay," I said, "thank you! That's really kind."
"Hey, the community needs all the assistance we can get from each other. Cripples helping cripples, you know?"
I smiled. "Totally."
As we walked to a register, he said, "I want you to know that I had no intention of hitting on you. I see your rings, and for all I know they could mean something else. But while I think you're a gorgeous-looking person, I have no plans on being a That Guy. I punch Those Guys on a regular basis."
"Physical trainer. Not so much punch as pinch in sensitive areas. Men can be scum."
I giggled. "Hashtag Not All Men!"
He laughed. "Anyway, let me pay for everything." He nodded at my basket, which had a few comfort items. I immediately said he shouldn't, since he was getting me the cane.
He then put my basket on the conveyor belt, looked at me until I noticed that his eyes had gold rings, and said, "Then pay it forward. Help another cripple." The corner of his mouth turned up. "Even if it's just donating to help someone get better access."
I nodded. I was going to cry any minute. He paid for everything, put his things in two totes and put my things in two more totes. He saved me almost forty dollars.
He said, "I would offer you a ride, but my friend's picking me up so we can go back to Philly. It's been a great road trip so far."
I nodded. "It's cool. I'm going to take the bus home anyway." I was feeling giddy. "Well, obviously we had this encounter for a reason. So. It was lovely meeting you, clone of Idris Elba."
He threw back his head and laughed. "I get that a lot. Same to you, clone of Mia Sara. Anyway, I'm Laurence."
We fist-bumped and he helped adjust my cane for my height. We walked outside together, and he stood at the curb to wait for his friend while I walked across the parking lot. I turned and waved. He waved back and kept looking at me. I realized it was to make sure I was safe.
I got to the sidewalk crosswalk and peered back. I saw him get into a green SUV. I realized I would probably never see him again.
I am definitely going to Pay It Forward.
Also! Links! For future reference!
PMS is vicious. Although with oral contraceptives, it's technically withdrawal bleeding rather than menstruation. Besides, I haven't truly bled in over a year. Being on the highest dose of birth control for over fourteen years will do that to some women.
PMS is vicious. A veliciraptor chewing through my pelvis. There's a photo out there of a plastic female human skeleton, with a toy raptor stuck head-first through the pelvic bone.
And the bloating and bizarre fluctuations on the bathroom scale.
Having slid back to psychiatric anorexia after failing to control neurochemical anorexia, I know damn well I should not stand on that scale especially during this time. I know damn well that numbers don't mean as much as how my clothing fits. But paranoia bred from life-long anxiety over disordered eating patterns is paranoia. And then there was the entire food=growth=death connection when I was little. And then there was being under a hundred pounds until my mid-twenties. And then there was the anorexia voices insisting that I needed to get back to that, being under five feet tall. I was never overweight. I used to weigh something around the high "set point" - but I have no idea where I've constructed this memory of being convinced to lose twenty pounds. Unfortunately, my illness has burrowed deep enough into my subconscious that my thoughts have turned to the classic hallmarks of anorexia: "I absolutely must be below X number or I will never feel right". The unwillingness to stop. The belief that everything is wrong. I know where I am. I know what's happening. I've been able to compartmentalize and separate enough so that I smack myself when those thoughts occur, so that I at least eat an apple or two, or cheese, yogurt, celery, even cheesecake or dark chocolate. My friends are with me.
Sag Harbor will happen next week, with Thanksgiving. Part of me is in a total blind mute panic. That part doesn't want to eat anything. That part wants to Be Good, Be Perfect. It doesn't matter that I'm over thirty, says the panic. It only matters that I am extremely small and I must keep being extremely small.
To bring everything around again: PMS is not helping. PMS is several numbers upward on the scale because of fluid retention, bloating... losing that fight to not overeat. PMS is barely fitting into the purple dyed jeans yesterday and having them slightly loose today. It isn't helping anything.
But I look at that blue and silver dragon scale cane, bought for me by a total stranger with the same disability as me, and I think the best way I can Pay It Forward is to make sure someone I care for stays as mentally healthy as possible...