By Makgosi Letimile (she/her) | Edited by Janine Samuels (she/her)
“dip, spin spin”
“dip, spin spin”
I have a wet cloth in my hand and move it up and down the wheels of my wheelchair.
“dip, spin spin
Dip, spin spin”
It’s my first time cleaning my wheelchair myself unassisted. There was a time I had a lover who would wake up at the break of dawn and wash my chair for me. I would wake up to a spotless chair and I would have slept through it. He had really quiet footsteps, so deciding to clean it myself presented a new opportunity to be intimate with my chair… I only realised it when I was running the cloth into the corners, turning and twisting as I tried to reach every part of the wheel.
I had been trying to think about how to clean my chair without looking like I was out of place. I have the ever-present fear of being watched and it doesn’t help that I live in an apartment with an open balcony. I mean I moved in for the balcony but I didn’t realise how much we really watch each other. I say “we” because I looked up to rinse my washcloth and found a neighbour staring in my direction. I giggled because I imagined that it must have looked like I was dancing as I twisted, bent and turned around in my chair and in my head I imagined myself as a dancer, so maybe I was wishing my thoughts onto her.
I love dancing. I spend a lot of time listening to music and I find myself dancing without being unaware. Back in the day, when I was able bodied, I never used to dance. I was always afraid of being watched while dancing. I enjoyed watching others express themselves in motion and always congratulated and sometimes envied how people could let themselves go that freely without any self-conscious fears of judgement, so wanting to learn how to dance now is ironically funny because once I start taking my dancing lessons, I will have to be seen twisting and turning whenever the beat drops and I can’t wait.
I attended the Ms Wheelchair event in 2020 and I saw a wheelchair-using dancer who had an able-bodied partner and I dreamt of joining a dancing class since, so maybe being watched by the neighbours is good practice for future dance offs.
‘Dip, spin spin
Dip, spin spin”
When I was in rehab there was a weekly dance class we were introduced to as the newly disabled. It was meant to inspire us and remind us that there is life with Disability and I attended two of the compulsory lessons so I could get discharged. I had no interest in it and I wondered who would want to dance with a Disabled woman. I was having a difficult adjustment time, as you can imagine, my body wasn’t even used to being upright for long periods of time so the exhaustion was double-pronged, emotional and physical. I was too busy counting the losses to pay attention and I remember my dance-mate was one of the most cheerful people in the class. I was confused by his upbeat spirit, ableism was deep within my spirit.
Unlearning ableism has taught me that it’s okay to be happy even when the world expects you not to be because it’s inaccessible. In order to exist you have to be worthy of life and joy, preferably with all your physical mobility available, so realising that I am worthy of a spin around the dance floor just because the music is playing, is worth every twist and bend.
I dipped the washcloth and ran it on the tyres.
You would be surprised at how much dirt sticks to wheelchair tyres. Whether you go outside or do wheelies on the balcony: always a reminder that our wheelchairs are a part of our bodies because walking barefoot as an abled would make them dirty right? As I was spinning, trying to rinse all the dirt from the tyres, I looked up again and the neighbour was still there, observing my half crescent body in my chair spinning, leaving track marks on the kitchen floor and making a mental note to mop after my nap. I switched on my favourite song and spun around a bit more. I am looking forward to the dance classes.
It struck me at that moment that I’ve always told people to dance like nobody's watching and for once I was in a space safe and comfortable enough for me to be able to do the same, with a Disabled body that has been finding ways to heal itself and me over the past five years and it deserves to be celebrated in all its shapes and forms. So I’m going to start practicing more in my home before joining a professional class. Who knows where the music might lead me to?
So much of my life is a tale of living through ironic testimonies about self and as much as it saddens me to have found myself post my Disability. I’m glad I’m finding myself post Disability. Happy New Year, lovers. Dance.
I’ve always said I wanted an able-bodied partner so that one of us can get to the door faster in case of an emergency. I’ve since learnt to get to the door faster on my own. I think having somebody who knows when to catch me after my dip and spin is more important now. I want to dance with somebody like Ms Whitney sang for us. She was onto something.
Makgosi Letimile (she/her) is a Disabled Pleasure Writer, Consultant and Sex Worker.
Image illustrated by Rendani Nemakhavhani (she/her)