Lisa Martinovic

Life in the Wheelchair Accessible Lane

Itís late afternoon one Thursday
on a street-car swollen with jangled commuters
who just want to be home
At Montgomery Station a woman negotiates 
her wheelchair through the sliding doors
while people scurry to make room
The woman positions her chair with a slow, jerking swivel
the back of  her head is flattened
as if  molded from lying on beds of plywood
Her gray hair is cropped short
her scalp a balding patch of sagebrush dotted desert
in a land of meticulously considered French twists and mohawks
She is a large woman
spilling over the edges of her chair
as she adjusts her feet
tiny feet turned inward towards each other
at an angle never intended to support weight

"Pow-ell Street Sta-tion" comes the automated announcement
Muni patrons walk carefully around the wheelchair  
find their seats
take out newspapers
The woman in the wheelchair rolls her head in an elliptical motion
Her eyes stare unblinking at the ceiling,
that implacable gaze the sole point of calm
in a rush hour strung tight with cell phone palm pilot agitation
She catches me staring
She knows what Iím thinking 

" Civ-ic Cen-ter Sta-tion"
The woman hooks her left ring finger around a toggle switch
The wheelchair responds with a low hum and jagged pivot 
When the doors open
several people squeeze hurriedly around 
the wheelchair while the woman is trying to exit 
Edging past the throng, she rolls along the platform
Anyone who cares 
to look will notice a textbook on Constitutional Law
tucked neatly into the canvas bag affixed to the back of the chair
the womanís head wobbles precariously on its stem
as it does in the classroom
where she sits near the front 
patiently learning to represent people like you
and me 

Her head dangles east
her wheelchair rolls west
the elevator is in service 

Itís a good day


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G. Fisher