I saw a woman with one eye. I'm sure my own eyes opened a little wider, my eyebrows raised just that fraction of an inch to show my surprise, although I willed them not to. I don't mean that she had a glass eye or an eyepatch, either. Where her right eye had been was a smooth, scar-pink patch of flesh. She was a sweet old lady who chatted with my dad and little sister while i saw the doctor. But I had to wonder: does one ever get used to the stares of children or the pitying smiles of well-intentioned adults? It must be horrible to be seen as a deformity or a handicap - to stand out in a crowd because of what's wrong with your body. As Mel Gibson's character said in The Man Without A Face: "Is this all you see? Because if it is, then you don't see me. You can't see me."
Oh, I've had - and have - friends with handicaps. My best friend in middle school was deaf in one ear and wore a hearing aid in the other; I acquired the habit of always walking on the people's left side because that was Tamara's "good side". I have several acquaintances who use wheelchairs, and a relative (second cousin?), Walter, with multiple sclerosis. But I still don't know what it feels like to be handicapped. I've never broken a bone or needed a stitch. The last time I was in a hospital was to serve my required ten hours in the ER for my summer Emergency Medical Technician class.
At my high school there's an employee named Brian Kennedy. He's a short man with a receding hairline who greets students in the halls with a smile and "good morning!". His job is to patrol the parking lot, dispensing tickets to violators, and restock the soda machines. Oh, and he walks with a pronounced limp because he has multiple sclerosis.
This morning, Brian Kennedy's little white car was flipped on its side, its windshield and windows shattered. I didn't see it, just the glass fragments left on the pavement, sparkling in the afternoon sun.
What do those kids have against this guy? Is it that he's handicapped? Is it because he tickets our cars? Or is it that he's the one authority figure who is very vulnerable to attack? I'd like to be able to think more highly of my fellow students, but after something like this, I can't. I'm losing my faith in humanity.