We walk into a shoe store. Although I am her daughter, she insists on calling me "Mama." People look surprised, as she pronounces "Mama" in a loud yet childish voice. She drags her right foot. Her right arm is bent at an angle, fingers curled into a soft half a fist. She sees a shoe and points to it - "tis, tis." I take it in my hands and show it to her. She studies it, especially the front part, to see if it's broad enough for her tightly-curled toes on her right foot. "Ne, ne, ne." I put the shoe back. Using her body, she tries to explain something to me. She points at another shoe and starts talking in a language no one can understand. Loudly. I get some words, "good, pain, three hundred, pretty, give me." I try to make structured sentences from the words and her body. These might be good. If they're not good, they will cause pain to my foot. They cost three hundred. They are pretty. Let me try them on. But then, I don't always succeed in building logical sentences of her fragmented speech. When I fail, she gets upset. Loses patience. Her voice becomes louder, and she reprimands me, saying "Mama" in an even louder voice. People look now again - we've become a freak show.
Finally, after about fifteen minutes, we find a shoe that may be suitable. I look around for the saleswoman. She stands with her back to us. "Excuse me, can we have this one in size 37 please?" She looks at my mother with a frown. We're really annoying and making the place less pleasant for the other customers. She tells me with her eyes that we are not really wanted here. That we better hurry up and get out of the store.
While she goes to the back room to get the shoes, my mom sits down and I bend over to help her take off her shoes. She squirms as I take off the right shoe and try to straighten her toes. "Ouch! Mama! Pain! Ne ne ne!" I tell her I'm sorry and massage her toes while we wait for the saleswoman. When she comes with the shoes in the box, she takes out the left shoe. I ask for the right one, explaining to her that my mom needs to try on the right one. She frowns, but hands me the other shoe. I unlace the shoelaces, and the struggle starts. I try to push mom's foot into the shoe. It's not easy with the way her toes curls downwards. "Ouch!! Ne, ne, ne. Pain. Wait!" I wait until the pain passes and try again. The shoe isn't cooperating, and the saleswoman is standing over me; she doesn't like the way I'm handling the shoe. Another attempt. "Ne ne ne!!! Mama!!! Pain!" It's not working. I can't get the foot into the shoe. I feel beads of sweat tickling my back. I sit on the floor and look at mom. "No?" I ask in a resigned tone. She has tears in her eyes, but she doesn't look at me. She looks down and to the side. Disappointed. I give the shoe back to the saleswoman and thank her. Then the struggle to put mom's shoe back on.
As we walk out of the store, I see the saleswoman letting out a breath. “The freaks are out of here.” She sees me look at her, and she gives me a look that is liquid with pity.
We walk out of the store, silently. She has tears in her eyes and her lips quiver. I feel sadness.
Yes, it is always like this. Instead of treating us with patience for being a bit different, we are treated like freaks.