By Abhishek Anicca
Illustrations by Shikha Sreenivas
There is a question always lurking in the shadows. Behind the conversations that come alive on the other side of night, sliding into DMs. In casual flirtation turning into somber consolation. Soul connection fizzing out with the revelation of truth. After every rejection. Always the same question. Is it my disability?
Desire stalks me like an old muse. She watches every story that I post on Instagram but forgets to wish me on my birthday. When will I receive my gift? Physical, emotional, fantastical. Anything will do. But you are never satiated, are you? No, but that doesn’t mean I should not be offered a drink.
They say for people to love you, you have to first love yourself. I LOVE MYSELF. I really do. I have written clearly on social media how much I love myself. Not once but a thousand times. Repeating the proclamations of self-love as if I have found a religion. And still, deep into the night, there is no one to kiss me. No hands wander on my body and claim to be lost.
It’s all about chemistry, my dear boy. And you were never good at it. And you failed at organic chemistry. My chemicals are okay, sir. Maybe it’s physics. The angles that my body makes…must be a geometric anomaly. I will go look for a box that contains my compass.
The most disappointing arguments about being unable to find love as a disabled person happens within me. But there are many who can’t find love. It’s not about disability. But. But. But…It is about disability, a voice inside me cries. And we all agree. It might sound irrational but it is true. How can they love my body when they can’t even look at me? How can they love my body when my existence is some form of inspiration? Have you ever fucked a person because they are alive DESPITE their disability?
Conversations about my love life is a black hole where friendships come to die. You will surely find someone to love one day. Woah. Thank you. You will find someone not into sex. Woah. Thank you. You will find someone. Not my friend. Not my sister. Not anybody I know. The chemistry won’t be right. It won’t work out. Woah. Thank You.
I would have simply blamed my disability for this state of affairs. If only I had been confident about everything else.
My body is also ill at times and somewhat dysfunctional. Imagine a product that comes with a partial guarantee of satisfaction. Better. Imagine going to a mall full of sex toys and picking up a dildo which says NO GUARANTEES, SLIGHT CHANCE OF UTI. No sober woman is going to buy that intentionally. Truth be told, I won’t buy it myself. Even if I love myself. Capitalism, baby.
But there is more to it than a functional body, right? Pleasure. Intimacy. There is. Of course, there is. But have you been in a situation where you have to lecture your partner about intimacy every time you even think about lovemaking? It’s pretty boring. Like you will get tired even before you start talking about it. If you are on the same page, you can have fun. Lots of fun. But they have to first be comfortable with your body. And to be comfortable they have to be around you, don’t they? And to be around they have to treat you as an equal, right?
With life, I often find myself roleplaying, till I find out that I am bad at even being a submissive. When I get hints of intimacy, I start yearning for love. When I get hints of physical attraction, I yearn for emotional connection. There is nothing in the middle. It’s nothing or everything. Maybe that’s a coping mechanism.
I often console myself by saying I am emotionally very attractive. All kinds of people come seeking my attention. Straight and gay, men and women, single and married. But aren’t many of us disabled people that way? Meaning not people, but safe spaces for the able-bodied world to heal. Unpaid, temporary spaces. Devoid of any furniture. Replaceable. It hurts.
There is a bitterness that seeps into you when you are constantly shamed for who you are. And disabled people are shamed in a number of ways.
It’s the justifications which hurt the most because you internalize them. Why would they be friends with me? Why would they love me? Why would they even care about my existence?
Over the years, I have made peace with everything. Someone doesn’t like me. I understand. Someone doesn’t love me. I understand. Someone doesn’t want to be friends with me anymore. I understand. Someone wants to use me emotionally. I understand. Someone doesn’t care. I understand.
The violence of having to understand.
There is an underlying violence to this peace. A violence that produces no visible blood or wounds but eats away your soul to an extent that you pretend to love yourself, you pretend to be hopeful, you pretend that everything is alright. What else do you want me to do? Fall apart and cry in front of the world, asking them the question they will never answer — Is it my disability?
Abhishek Anicca is a writer, poet and disability rights activist. He has an Mphil in Women’s & Gender Studies and a PhD in procrastination.