Sunday, 15 September 2013

Through Different Eyes: Part 2

So, part 2 of the short story I started last week; hope you enjoy! (Part 1 is here)

We went to a pub she knew, the Horse and Hounds, I think; I remember it was really noisy, crowded, with that thick feeling in the air you get when there are too many people in a small space. That’s where being blind comes in useful, though, ‘cause people make room for you, move out of your way a bit most of the time; I think Heather appreciated it, anyway, we got served pretty quick. Blind man and pretty girl, huh, pretty much perfect for getting served at bars. Well, we got our drinks, made our way to the table, she led me over, actually, because I remember the feeling of her hand on my back through my coat and how it seemed to, I don’t know, kind of concentrate me in that one sensation, made the feeling of her hand all I could concentrate on for a moment... Anyway, we sat down and we started talking and we really hit it off. We talked about my eyes and my life and I asked her what colour her eyes were, and she told me they were green, and she let me touch her eyelids and I could see the green through my fingers, the kind of green you get when sun shines through an oak leaf, where you can see the life framed against the sky. And she let me feel the rest of her face and make a picture up of her...

I still remember that picture, that first picture I had of her. Funny, really; you’d think with what happened afterwards I wouldn’t remember that, but I do. I knew she was blonde because she told me; I pictured a kind of dirty blonde, that kind of almost-brown, like honey mixed with chocolate. And her face was soft, I remember that too; her nose was small, her mouth was small too, and it was so soft, like someone had soaked it in water for an hour, you know? She sounded perfect, she felt perfect; and she liked me. Can you believe that? She actually liked this blind bloke she’d just picked up off the street. She said later it was because I’d made her laugh, and she said she didn’t laugh much. I wanted her to laugh all the time, thought I could make her laugh all the time, didn’t want to do anything else. I mean, it wasn’t love at first sight or anything, hah, couldn’t be, but maybe love at first touch. I could believe that, love at first touch. And I knew that this picture of her was mine, and only mine, because everyone else would see her with their eyes and I saw her with my fingertips and my ears and my nose and so I had a picture that no-one else but me could ever see.

And she told me about her life, and how she worked in a charity shop and loved kittens and how her mom had been really sick when she was a little girl and- well, all the things you talk about when you meet a new person you like. I think we knew more about each other after that first drink than most people know about each other in their whole lives. Anyway, we arranged to meet up again, and again after that, and things just seemed to slip into place, and we were going out.

She’d come round some evenings and we’d sit and listen to the radio together or she’d read me a book, and we’d hold hands... I remember our first kiss, the first kiss I’d had in ten years, the way we were sitting at a table in the pub and we were talking and I said I loved her and felt her breath stroking my cheek so I could see where her lips were, where her face was, and leaning in as she put her hand on the back of my neck and I could see her fingers as they curled in my hair...

 It was the best I’ve ever felt in my life, just feeling the softness of her lips and tasting strawberries on her tongue. Since then I always saw her lips as being red as strawberries; that was another thing about not being able to see, it meant the picture in your head could change without the thing you were picturing having to change at all. And I did love her, as well, I wasn’t just saying it to get a kiss; I loved the way she felt when she held my hand and the way she always smelt like strawberries even after a hard day and the way she’d laugh whenever I said something stupid or not even that funny. I loved that I could make her laugh. And even though I couldn’t see her I felt like I knew what she looked like; I knew she had slender hands and she wasn’t that tall and she had dirty blonde hair and green eyes like the leaves on a tree and she loved the colour purple, because she said it always reminded her of her name.

After that, things just kind of melted into reality. She told me she loved me as well, told me while we sat stroking each others’ faces on the sofa in my flat, and it felt like I was flying above the clouds. That was my picture of love, then; flying above the clouds and seeing them red and gold as the sun came up above them... That’s one of the things about not being able to see physical things, you know, it means you can see abstracts, see things that don’t really exist except in your head. So love was like being above the clouds, and hope was like a fire burning against a deep, dark forest, and sadness was this kind of purple smoke that folded itself around things and became solid and wouldn’t let go... People who can see can’t see that, because they were too preoccupied with what they could see; or at least I was when I could see, before I went to Northern Ireland and the nail took out both my eyeballs in less than one second and changed my life forever.

Soon enough Heather moved in with me; said we spent so much time together anyway that it made sense, and anyway it would be better for me to stay in a place I knew well enough to walk around even without my dog to guide me.  And we loved each other, me and Heather, as much as we ever could, and we learnt about each other, met parents and everything, shared everything that two young people in love usually share, hopes and pains and dreams...

Maybe I should have started here, because this is where all the trouble started, really. We were sitting on my sofa, she was stroking the dog and I was stroking her hair, working out the new style she’d had done with my fingers, and she was reading a magazine with her other hand, just flicking through while we listened to the radio. Then I felt her tense up under my hand, and I asked her what was wrong, what was up. And she laughed, kind of nervously, really, there’s a little tremor in her laugh I hadn’t heard there before and didn’t like too much. I suppose that should have made me pause, but... She said there was an article in this magazine, this thing about a doctor in America who’d perfected an eye transplant. Like, you’d get a pair of eyes from someone who’d died, like an organ donor type deal, and as long as they were kept in the right conditions you could use them to replace the eyes of someone who’d lost their eyes. Obviously, we were both excited. I mean, I dealt with having no eyes, had to deal with it, but I missed it, you know? Missed being able to see new stuff properly, regretted that I’d never really seen Heather as she really was, just a picture in my mind and my fingertips... So yeah, we were excited. And I’d saved up some money, I mean it’s not like I was going to theme parks every weekend, right, and so we decided to go to this doctor’s clinic and see what he could do. Tried not to get our hopes up, because I’d lost my eyes so long ago and neither of us really understood exactly what the ins-and-outs of the operation were, and we knew it was a risky procedure but we talked about it and decided we’d give it a go. And in about a week we’d sorted some stuff out and got on a plane to America and then we were in New York and knocking on the door of this doctor and sitting down, hand in hand, in his office.