by Cait Gordon
Genre: Realistic Fiction, CN: Eugenics, Ableism, Inaccessibility
“Humanity started with Eden, and now it seems we’re in hell.”
“What the heck to do you mean by that?” asks Ed.
Cherie slumps against the table, then holds a hand out to stroke the handle of her rollator. It’s smooth, comforting. This is a time for comfort. This hell. This hell that never seems to end.
“I dunno. Never mind I said anything.”
Her words are muffled by the soft woollen sweater she loves. Periwinkle blue. That colour is a stim for her eyes. It’s cool but happy. She’s tried to explain this to Ed. His usual comment: “You’re wearing that blue one again?”
“Listen,” he says now, “We’re outside. Finally. It’s what we both wanted, right?”
“I need to put my mask back on.”
“Why? It’s a big room and not many people around.”
Cherie wants so badly to bop Ed one. Violence apparently never solves anything. Whoever said that must have never been interacted with a clueless abled. She still loves Ed, though. She supposes. He wears her out sometimes with his failure to see things as they are.
Wrapping her elbow around her face, Cherie bends over to the bag in her mobility device and grabs a white KN-95 mask. Her fingers are misbehaving today and tremble as she puts on the protective piece.
Ed isn’t wearing his. He scowls at her.
“Can’t we just do anything normal anymore?”
Cherie rolls her eyes. “Dude, what is normal to you and most other non-disabled or high risk folks is a right heap of crap for us. This pandemic has brought out the worst in people. All I’ve heard from government officials, medical professionals, and even members of my own family is that we need to live with this virus. Well, maybe they want to catch it several times and play Russian roulette with their immune systems, but I don’t. Do you have any idea how much I think in a day about my body? Like, even before 2020?”
Ed’s scowl is replaced by that confused expression again. The one he wears so often when she’s talking about her health.
“I can’t leave the house without thinking how long we will be,” Cherie continues. “If I’ll need snacks in case hypoglycaemia comes to call. Or if it’s longer, do I pack a small lunch because of my food sensitivities. Then there are my legs. Will they be okay for a cane or should we bring the rollator in case there’s too much walking or standing? Should we bring the combo rollator-wheelchair in case my feet become a neuropathic symphony? Is the place where we’re going accessible at all to let me enter the joint, will the aisles be large enough to move around? Are there going to be searing lights and music that blasts bass into my sterum? That’s part of my normal!”
And then Ed does it. He sighs.
“Okay, you know what?” says Cherie, carefully standing up, “You can go visit the sun. I’m out of here.”
“Whoa, whoa, I didn’t say anything!”
Cherie unfolds the black mobility device until the seat snaps in place. She unlocks the brakes and turns to leave.
Ed puts a hand on each handle, over her hands.
Fire fills her pupils. “Get. Your. Hands. Off. Her.”
He pulls them away as if burned by the flame decals on the chassis.
“Sorry, okay? I just don’t want you to go! We never get out anymore.”
She raises her index finger. “That’s not my fault. You always propose activities that might end in harm for me. Almost every time you suggest something, I need to add to my list of thinking for my body. It stresses me out to no end!”
“Then just stop thinking so much!”
Cherie laughs. It’s not a happy sound. On reflex, Ed takes a step back from her.
“Spoken like someone who has never transitioned from a life before chronic illness and disability,” she says. “Someone who has never had to grieve who they were before they could accept and love their new self as they are. Who has to constantly live in a world that does nearly nothing to accommodate them. Don’t you think I wish I could move out of my front door and not have to prepare in advance for the constant possibility of inaccessibility? I would be a heckin’ lot more laid back if the support needs of folks like me were already woven into spaces!”
Ed sighs again, but this time it doesn’t set Cherie off again.
“Yeah, I know,” he admits, “I don’t really get it. I only want us to be together and just… live.”
“I want that too,” says Cherie. “But I need you to take the protections I need seriously. I bet we could do a ton of things if we put our thinking caps on together.”
His eyes perk.
“I could really use a thinking partner,” she adds.
“Like someone who takes the pressure off you having to think by yourself?”
Ed smiles. The breeze from the open window fluffs up his brown swoopy bangs. He reaches into the right pocket of his dark jacket and pulls out a black KN-95 mask.
“I might not be as knowledgeable as you,” he says, putting on the mask, “but I will do my best to help.”
Cherie grins under her mask, but it also shows in her blue-green eyes. “Sometimes I get exhausted from being an ‘educator’ about my criptastickness, but other times, it’s a time investment… for future happiness.”
“Well, I love you, okay? And I offer myself as a willing student. I hope you feel I’m worth the time, clueless wonder that I am.” He winks and reaches out a hand. “May I?”
She clasps it.
“What do you want to do today?” Ed asks.
Cherie looks to the side as the wheels churn in her thoughts. Ed knows enough to be silent and patient when she does this. He sighs a third time, but happily, awaiting her reply.
Deliver Me From This Pandemic Hell © 2023 Cait Gordon. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without permission except in the case of brief quotations in critical articles and reviews. This is a work of fiction from the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. For more information, contact Cait Gordon.
Cait Gordon is an autistic, disabled, and queer Canadian writer of speculative fiction that celebrates diversity. She is the author of Life in the ’Cosm, The Stealth Lovers, and the forthcoming Iris and the Crew Tear Through Space (2023). Cait also founded the Spoonie Authors Network and joined Talia C. Johnson to co-edit the multi-genre disability fiction anthologies Nothing Without Us and Nothing Without Us Too.
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