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Empty! Some towns are like that – an emptiness in the soul. Standing on the corner looking up and down the main drag. Nothing. Up and down the side street. Nothing. Just the oppression of the place, like even the dust had given up.
I walked north. I could have boxed the compass; it wouldn’t have mattered. I walked north and hoped.
Two blocks and he was standing there. Another corner, just as empty, just as lonely, except there he was – his white cane extended into the roadway. Did he think there was somebody around to see it? Somebody who’d have to stop?
Still, there he was, cane extended and waiting – waiting for what? The sound of brakes? A horn? Maybe just somebody to come along. Blind is a lonely place to be.
I touched him on the arm. “Need help?”
“Safe to cross the street.” Did he need my reassurance?
“Yep.” He groped for my arm, curved his left hand over my bicep.
We stood – a tableau of non-communication.
“Shall we?” I asked knowing it didn’t matter.
We stood a moment longer – life lived in ellipses.
I took a step. His hand tightened. His arm offered feeble resistance. A tap with that long cane. Then he followed. Off the curb and into the street.
I took our time. He didn’t complain.
Across the street – four lanes and ample parking – too big for a town twice the size.
My knee bent, I waited before I mounted the curb – waited for him to tap twice, to figure the height. His leg cocked, too.
We had veered off course – just a bit, enough. The storefront was empty. Once there had been computer repairs. Why would anyone who could actually work on computers open shop there? For that matter, why would any one—?
I stared at the storefront – read the signs slowly ripping and peeling in the windows. Was it possible to see nothing happen?
“Which way are you headed?” I asked.
“Don’t matter. Nowhere to go.”
“Ain’t that the truth?”
We stood. I stared at the storefront. He stared, too. At what can a blind man stare? Nothing is nothing.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“Blind,” he answered.
“I know, but what’s your name?”
“Blind. That’s what they called me. Seemed to make sense – explain stuff right up front.”
“I guess I’d best be getting along.” There’s a discomfort. Sometimes a fellow ends up mentioning the weather; sometimes he just decides it’s time to move along.
“I guess I’d best be getting along.” I repeated myself.
Blind said nothing.
I turned to the left. He turned with me.
Tap … tap … tap.
Who was leading whom?
We moved down the street. The town was empty. Some towns are like that – an emptiness in the soul.
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