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  • “It all comes down to this: Whose flesh are you touching and why? Whose flesh are you recoiling from and why? Whose flesh are you burning and why?” –Daniel Berrigan

    I’m living in an apartment building in Copenhagen which was designed for disabled and non-disabled people to live together. That is still what happens, but the building has become stigmatized for various reasons—mostly because the place is filled with people who have the wrong bodies. Their bodies are too brown or too old or too veiled or too pickled with drink. Their bodies move around in wheelchairs and walkers. They have twisted fingers and wrists bending and turning in on each other. They have no hands at all, or hooks in place of hands.

    I am trying to meet them and get to know them, and I am paying attention to the relationship of my body to theirs. I take his gnarled hand in mine. I lift her from the chair to her walker. The elevator door opens and the man with no hands and one hook signals me to help him because the zipper on his shirt is stuck and he can’t get at the key in his pocket. I touch his chest and un-stick his zipper, and he moves quickly away.

    When does it become important to the urban planners and architects and social workers who want to “improve” this building full of problematic people that my body now knows the weight of her body? I remember just what it felt like next to mine, moving from chair to walker on her way to watch the Jean-Luc Godard film and eat the grapes she had brought to share.
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