April 2018

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

My Peeps

Years ago, my friend Rene tried to convince her partner Alex something about community health care for Latinas. Alex, Alejandra, is Chicana and replied, "No, Ren. I know my peeps." I wondered at the time who my peeps were: Southern expatriate lesbians?

Now I know. In some ways, I love to go to the hospitals because I see so many of my peeps there. If it weren't for the doctors, a visit to the hospital would be like a reunion of lots of relatives I"ve never known. My peeps are in wheelchairs. They walk with walkers and canes. They cover their coughs with cotton masks and have tubes in their arms (or wherever). Some are young, and many are old.

When a peep and I pass one another in the hallways, we generally nod to one another. Our nods mean, "Hey. I see you. I know part of your story, and you know part of mine. We have each been through something hard, and we have each experienced loss. We are doing the best we can right now."

In the basement of the hospital that I frequent, there is a long, narrow underground walkway from one building to another. The hall is tiled with those hospital white one square foot linoleum pieces and has low florescent lights. There are no windows. When I'm there, I feel like I'm escaping from East Berlin in the days of the wall. When there are two of us in this path heading towards one another, we have no choice but to watch one another's progress for a very long time. This watching is somewhat awkward, especially since I am very slow, and often the person walking towards me is, too, so we approach one another for what seems a very long time. One of us often attempts humor. Last week, the elderly man heading towards me said, "I hear they're putting in a speed limit." The humor is more an attempt to be friendly than funny. Friendly is important to me and my peeps. So is humor.

A few years ago, I worked at a school that had a program for students with severe disabilities, and my office was near their room, so I saw these students quite often. I was wearing a patch on one eye and walking with a walker at the time. One student, a boy named Jason, stopped each time he saw me and stared hard at my face. He was unable to communicate through speech, but sometimes he would try. Once, when I was walking with the principal and some others, Jason stopped to stare, his face a few inches from mine, and gently touched my face, moving aside my eye-patch. "Hurt," he said. I said, "Yes," and he continued to stare. The principal, who was clearly nervous about this, had him stop, and we went on our way. I explained to her that I thought the attention was appropriate, that it was possible that in all of his years of schooling he had not encountered another adult with disabilities and that he was reaching out to the one adult who might, in some small way, understand his life. We were peeps.

Tomorrow I'm going to the hospital. Supposedly, I'm going to see my neurologist because I've been having headaches, but really I'm going to see my peeps.


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