Wearing short sleeves in the summer may not seem frivolous but when your arms are covered in the scars of psoriasis, wounds fresh, wounds old and wounds that are still to come, you begin to wear long sleeves as if they were your own skin.
A homeless man shouted at me from across the street as I was walking with my son, “Bed bugs! Bed bugs! Don’t let the bed bugs bite that baby.”
I wondered if he remembered that only a few days ago I gave him pocket change and cigarettes. He never thanked me.
I ignored him and walked on.
Two days later I was arrested for shoplifting skin care products. The arresting officer wouldn’t even touch me to put on cuffs. He borrowed gloves from a sales clerk who snorted in distaste at my appearance. I could almost reach out and touch the waves of hate seeping from her very core.
Upon my arrival at the Burnside clink I was denied long sleeves at admission. After getting settled in, a girl in my day room handed me a long-sleeved shirt, told me her name and said simply, “I understand.”
How unusual and lovely it was for me to find compassion in a person who had been condemned for being anything but compassionate.