[Today, a return to brass tacks on apoplectic.me, as we discuss the nature of disability, and recognize that the disabled aren’t that different from you and certainly aren’t different to me.]
This Monday, we headed up to the dining hall at the Music Building of Lehman College to check out the NY Disabilities Film Festival. [Thanks for the heads-up, Avi!] It was about the longest trip you can take on the subway (as far as this layman is concerned; I’m sure the subway nerds can correct me), all the way up to Bedford Park-Lehman College near the end of the 4 line, from 15th Street-Prospect Park in Brooklyn. To further improve matters, there had been some issues with the 4 train, so by the time we were approaching The Bronx, and neighbourhoods where the 4 is the only available train, our carriage was packed. For once, my lack of left-side sensation was a boon, as the randoms pushed up against me were just vague pressures.
Geographical Reflection, Ogden Nssh
By the time we got to Lehman, we were about 15 minutes late (which will come as no surprise to those of you who know me). But fortunately, as we took our seats, the movie was just beginning. And, by this stage, I had received my new pin (see above), as well as our new fridge magnet with the contact details for Lehman College Student Disability Services. We’d trekked across three boroughs to get to a disabilities film festival. I hadn’t been able to feel swathes of my left side for the majority of the journey. I’m suffering cognitive deficits, and have been referred to physical, occupational and psycho-therapy. I’ve got an application in for disability benefit. I’ve been advised I can’t work while I’m concentrating on my rehabilitation. I’m better off than a lot of people, but I had a revelatory moment as the film began… I’m disabled!
And you know what, it didn’t feel so bad. Maybe that’s because, in the end, it wasn’t such a bad day. Beth and I never discussed the possibility that I might be seriously, permanently, disabled back when I was indubitably fucked. At that point, the thought would have been too bleak to allow for focus to stay on a proper recovery. Instead, we focused on the nurse’s assertion that Beth had fashioned into one of the “inspirational post-its” on my hospital tables: This is only temporary.
And, it was, to the extent I’m much better off than the guys in Come As You Are, the 2011 Belgian dramedy we were watching. Lars, Philip and Jozef are young men and friends affected by, respectively, paralysis arising from an inoperable brain tumor, paraplegia and blindness. Philip hears about a luxury brothel in Spain that caters to disabled men, so the three pals decide that the time is well past for them to take a road trip and lose their collective virginity. They come up with a cover story to deceive their parents into letting them plan the trip, hire an “insensible mammoth-looking woman” called Claude to act as their driver and nurse, and make good their escape with the cooperation of Lars’s little sister, who steals the show a bit. Needless to say, there is much hugging, laughing, crying and learning before Lars dies in the final reel.
I’m not going to trouble y’all with a full review today; suffice to say, we thoroughly enjoyed it. We’d be philistines not to, given the movie’s track record: opening the Ostend Film Festival (natch); Grand Prix des Amériques and People’s Choice Award at the Montreal International Movie Festival; Best Film of the Valladolid International Movie Festival; Prix de publique Europe at the Alpe d’Huez Film Festival; 2012 People’s Choice Award for Best European Film. So, don’t take my word for it. I was predisposed to enjoy it, since Philip and Lars reminded me (at least physically) of Spud and Tommy from the film version of Trainspotting. But ‘i’d urge you to catch this movie if you get a chance. We’d had a pretty rough day, and Come As You Are cheered us up a great deal. You can’t say fairer than that.
The next day had its rough spots, too. We’re at the six-month high-water mark for the incidence of PSD (post-stroke depression) for strokies and their caregivers, and on Tuesday, it was returning to Grace Maxwell’s Edwyn Collins brain hemorrhage memoir that cheered us up. We haven’t reached the drama yet (there’s been enough of that in real life to distract us), but the sense of life and fun in the pages, written after the author’s husband’s catastrophic hemorrhages, is enough to give a lift. It’s striking that she chooses to open with memories of ridiculous fun, illustrating that these are, hopefully, the things that stay with you. Needless to say, solo-rehabbing in the gym yesterday, Edwyn’s Losing Sleep album was my soundtrack. And the songs are even better now than when they reduced me to tears almost exactly two years ago.
So, yes, there’s bunch of hugging and learning on apoplectic.me today. Paraplegics want sex. Survivors of terrible, traumatic brain injuries continue to make wonderful music and carry on fabulous love affairs with brave, inspirational women. I’ll leave you with the lyrics of Edwyn’s Humble. I love that they subtly point to emotional lability for those in the know, while being kinda universal, too (echoing the themes of today’s post):
I can see it in the way you walk
So fine, so fine
I can see it in the way you smile
And it’s making me humble
It’s making me shy
And she’s making me humble
She’s making me cry
I’m looking forward
I know that I’m
Going to be fine