Sometime in the middle of November, I got into my very first relationship outside a surgical store, somewhere in Chandigarh.
She made me giddy, nervous, and tingly. Finally, I had a support system. I should have been excited, exhilarated even. But, beneath all the nerves, I only felt one thing: a pit in my stomach. A pit that acted like a vacuum, slowly sucking my energy away. This drop in my mood was not her fault, technically. She just wanted to support me. That was her sole purpose.
In my eyes, however, when I agreed to take her home, I was making a grand proclamation to the world: I desperately need this support. I am weak without it.
In the first few days I spent with her, we faced difficulties. I had to learn how to align my pace with hers, and hold her at the same time. It was tough, but we survived. At the end of our first month together, I felt lighter and more hopeful. I was walking better and for longer.
We took our first trip together soon after. We went to Shimla, desperate to wind down and see the pretty sights. It was just us and two other people. What could go wrong, I thought to myself.
The problems started when I took her to majestic, ethereal, and perfect places. I had to fight to keep her by my side at these pretty sights. My travel partners demanded that she should be put away, hidden, from all the photos; as if she was marring the beautiful scenery. As if she served as a reminder of the bad times that would taint the memories of this trip forever.
And they were right. Well, slightly. She was a reminder of the bad times. But she only served as a symbol of the ease of these bad times; of the transition into a period where I would be supported. Always.
When I debuted her at my university, I was bombarded with questions about my body, I was met with looks of pity and over-the-top displays of help. It was as if everyone was seeing my true nature for the first time. The suffering that I was hiding for the last two years, suddenly became public. For all to see. I felt strangely vulnerable, aware of the gazes of everyone on the two of us. Our relationship was available for everyone to scrutinise, analyse and criticise.
My walking stick has been called many things. An unnecessary accessory, a sign of giving up; she has been treated as my mistress, and asked to be kept away in front of guests and at grand family events. To some, she is a constant reminder of everything that is wrong with me.
She is a lot of things to a lot of people. But, over time, I decided that what actually matters is what she is to me. She helps me explore my surroundings by being an additional limb. She keeps me up when my bones are singeing in pain. She helps me climb up and down hills and valleys. She is always by my side, supporting me as I navigate the world.
The truth is, she DOES remind me of what’s wrong with my body. She DOES proclaim to the world and me that yes, I am weak without her. But, strangely, that’s a good thing. Because with these reminders, comes the indication that I need to rest, I need to take it easy, I need to choose my comfort, and I need a respite from the world. These indications help me take care of myself a little better and help me be a little gentler to myself.
Sure, she makes me the center of attention everywhere I go, but, with that, she gently reminds me to take up space, to exist and to demand accessibility without any hint of shame or embarrassment.
Keeping these reasons in mind, I can now proudly proclaim to the world that this relationship – between my walking stick and I – is of the utmost importance to me.