i may have, erm, mentioned that i went to see Leonard Cohen the other night.  i may have mentioned i was going in a wheelchair.  i may have made some flippant, agist cracks about how he’d probably find me more alluring that way, anyway.  and how i was gonna get me a little Children’s Wish Foundation sign that read Leonard, I – insert husky significance here, and little cartoon hearts – have a wish, wink wink, nudge nudge, and hold it up high whilst waggling my eyebrows.  pelvic rest (and our respective partners) be damned – it’s Leonard Cohen.  in town.  purrr.

he’s nearly seventy-four and yep, his hair is gray and he has a bit of a wattle and he stoops like he really does ache in the places he used to play…but oh, oh, i could overlook that for an evening. a jug of wine, a pack of smokes, and thou, Leonard. that VOICE. that poetry. that melancholic face under a gray fedora, earnest and compelling, arrogant and monkishly humble. in his words, beauty out of sorrows. in his songs, shameless celebration of the complexities of being human; the sacraments of wounding we inflict on each other and call love, religion, mythology. in my fantasy world, you could sit in front of Leonard Cohen and tell him anything – the deepest darkest, the pettiest, the saddest – and his old-world eyes would shine and say, i know. you are known. now crawl up on my lap and let me worship you. and then there would be nothing to hide from, anymore.

i had a friend in university, a male friend, who was convinced that Leonard Cohen was a dirty old misogynist pig. and i used to look at this friend and smile, and think, and that, dear Kevin, is why you are so utterly single. not because i’m into misogyny – i’m not. but Kevin missed the point. Leonard Cohen, with all his talk of women and sex and stereotypes, is the man who taught me the dignity of physicality, of sexuality; taught me that the cerebral and the poetic need the body, too. his writing is full of muses, sure, and muses do not make a full personhood to aspire to. but i wouldn’t have minded being one of his muses, nonetheless: his muses have power, are agents, make choices and are instruments of their own complicated destinies. he loves them, richly and without romance – and they are truly women, not ingenues or Barbies. his muses always have their own side to the story.

so it was with all this pent-up one-sided intimacy between me and Leonard that i rolled into the concert the other evening.   Dave dropped my friend and i at the stage door, so he could park – my friend went about procuring the wheelchair the commissionaire had said would be available.  it was.  we went through the entertaining little production wherein i transitioned magically before said commissionaire’s eyes from hale, hearty chick to the actual person wanting the wheelchair, but he adjusted with remarkable grace.  then we wheeled into the crowd.

and i swear not one person in that full house, all gathered about the lobby, mingling, electric with the ‘pinch me’ shock of an artist of Cohen’s stature and reclusivity performing here, made eye contact with me.  in this town i grew up in, at a concert where i spotted forty casual acquaintances without even trying, not one saw me.

it’s no affront to be rendered invisible when you’ve chosen the chair as a way of bending bedrest rules…when at the end of the concert you can sing out, “Praise Leonard! Hallelujah!  I’ve been healed!” and rise from your chair and walk, self-consciously but with no pain, no struggle, to the car that will return you to your couch and your temporary invalid status.  it is amusing, even, a social experiment of sorts.

but it is a hell of a lesson, too.

i learned from Leonard Cohen years ago that the body cannot be left out of the equation, that dignity is in being seen and embraced for all you are, raced and gendered and sized and abled and damaged and sexual and cerebral and individual and role, all at once. everyone deserves that dignity.

but the number of times, always in pregnancy, when i’ve been out and about in a wheelchair and realized that only kids are meeting my eyes…i don’t think we’re getting that message, as a society.

just a note, folks…the woman in the wheelchair trying to scoot by without rolling over your feet?  she may be ripe with designs on Leonard Cohen that would knock your socks off.  she may not.  she is often rendered so invisible as to be the anti-muse.  but she, i can assure you, still has her own side to the story, and is worth a look, a moment.  there is nothing to hide from…i swear.