Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Cane

(Note: this story is based on a concept and a short story written by a woman known as ParaGirl. I have adapted the subject matter, and added a few frills. Cathy, this is in your honor and with thanks!)

by Amy Casseaux

The whole thing began with a big shot of irony, in that I saw it by accident. I was driving along through a neighbourhood and I passed by a garage sale when I saw someone handling a white cane - the kind that blind people use.
I circled the block, trying not get excited. When I came back around the cane was leaning, fully extended, against a table. I parked by the yard sign that said ESTATE SALE and got out, pretended to look at other items first before coming to the table which not only had the cane, but a couple of Braille books and a talking watch. Then I saw the label maker. Yes, it was Braille, too! I'd hit the mother lode!
I've always been turned on by blind people and sometimes I pretended to be one in the privacy of my apartment. With patches over my eyes, I do things by touch, listen to TV shows, and dream of being blind. Nuts, isn't it? In the office where I work there is a woman about my age named Wilma who is blind. Using her cane, she moves around the office and does all her work by touch. Some days I just stare at her, ignoring my own work. She's a beautiful woman in her own right, but somehow her blindness enhances her beauty.
I tried to control myself and stay calm as I handled the folding cane to make sure it wasn't cracked or broken anywhere. It showed only light use and seemed almost new. The watch worked fine and was even set to the correct time. The books - glory be - were in print and in Braille for teaching.
Slow, deep breaths, Erin, I told myself. Stay calm. It's time to find out how much they want. None of the items were marked. As I looked around for whoever was in charge, I saw the old woman.
She was standing sixty feet away, in the next yard. Her body was bent, her hair stringy and frazzled, and she wore a scowl on her face. She pointed at me and shook her head no.
Those are not for you.
I swear I heard those words in my head as her lips moved. I know her voice didn't carry that far. We stared at each other and a cold chill went down my spine. Once again. She pointed at me and then at the cane and shook her head no.
Those are not for you.
Before I could ask what she meant, I was touched on my shoulder. I jumped and the woman who had been handling the cane earlier asked if she could help me.
"I'm sorry.", she said. "I didn't mean to startle you."
"That's okay. My fault. I was looking at...", I broke off when I looked back to the old crone and she was gone.
"... oh, well. It wasn't important. How much for the cane and the other items?"
She named a price and I agreed to it. As she went inside to break the large bill I had given her, I looked over at the yard next door and once again, I saw the old woman. This time I could see that her eyes were white - pure white, as if the colour had been magically erased. She was blind!
Those are not for you, Erin. Go now! Run!
This time I heard the words clearly in my mind - and she called me by name! Before I could react, the woman came back with the change. As I put it away, I glanced next door out of the corner of my eye. The crone was gone again.
"I curious." I asked the woman. "If I'm not being rude by asking, whose cane was this?"
She smiled kind of sadly. "You're not being rude at all. My brother died last year. This was his house. It took some time before I could come here and clean it out, but I'm okay with it now. Life does go on, as they say."
"Had he always been blind?"
"No, only the last month of his life. It was sudden and he had a hard time adjusting to it. One night he took his own life."
I gasped, "I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to bring up..."
"It's okay. My saying it is part of my dealing with it." She took my hand in hers to show that there were no hard feelings and smiled shyly. "I've had some therapy. I'm working on it."
We chatted for a few minutes more before I left. I looked for the crone as I drove away, but she was nowhere in sight. Shaking my head to get rid of the creepy feeling, I drove home concentrating on the fun day I had in mind for tomorrow.
I spent the rest of the day arranging my apartment just so. I stocked the 'fridge and freezer with items that only required warming, not actual stove-top cooking or baking. I set my CDs in a particular order. That was when I remembered the labeller  I went back around and labelled things. I made sure my microwave buttons were all labelled  and some other things that I was sure to need. I knew my Braille numbers and alphabet, having studied them for blind weekends. I couldn't read major works of literature, but I could stumble over small words and get the gist, not unlike a second grader with print.
Oh, tomorrow was going to be a fantasy day! A fantastic fantasy day!
That night, after I set my alarm. I took out two eye patches. Relaxing one eye, I covered it, then relaxed and covered the other one. Tomorrow, I would be blind from the time I woke up to the time I went to bed. I was almost too exited to sleep.
I did sleep, but I kept waking up and listening to sounds from outside my window, building sounds, and inside sounds. I tried to identify them, but each time, I dozed back off.
Finally, my alarm went off. I hit the off button, not the snooze. It was time to begin the day! I reached out and found the cane, unfolded it and stood up. I defined my space, oriented, and then turned to go to the bathroom. Gravity had kicked in and my bladder was demanding my attention. My apartment was good and dark since I'd left all the blinds closed and lights off. My eyes were open behind the patches, but no light leaked through them. It might have been the middle of the night, it was so dark.
As I moved along, navigating by cane and by touch, it was as if it were the first time - exciting and magical. I kept running my fingers over items, soaking in textures and shapes. I sat and did what a girl needs to do, cleaned up, and then I carefully washed my face, making sure not to get the patches damp. Next, my hair got brushed and put into a pony tail. I thought better of it and took the tie out, then braided my hair instead, reveling in the tactile input. I was a blind woman and I was braiding my hair by touch! I was breathing fast, I was so excited.
Next came breakfast, but first I went by the CD player. A Norah Jones CD went in and I was listening to the opening guitar strings and then singing along as I entered the kitchen.
I.. waited till I saw the sun. Don't know why I didn't come. I left you by the house of fun. Don't know why I didn't come, no, I don't know why I didn't come.
Frozen waffles went into the toaster. Plates were taken from the cabinet, silverware from the drawer and I set a place at the kitchen table. I discovered that I hadn't labelled the juice and the milk, but one quick sniff gave the answer there. Pouring the milk without seeing it and without spilling it was pure joy. I was so proud of myself. I could do this!
M' hearrrrt is drenched in... wine... you'll be onnnnn my mind... for... ev... er.
I loved this song. The waffles popped up and I plated them, then carried them back to the table, cut them and poured a little drop of syrup on the plate. I forked a bite, touched it to the spot where I thought the syrup was, and ate it. Perfect! I devoured the waffle - albeit carefully - and decided that I was still hungry. Cantaloupe! That was what I wanted.
Thinking it all out in advance, I brought the trash can close to the counter, got a cutting board, and then a knife. I sliced the cantaloupe open, cleaned it, quartered the two halves, and very carefully trimmed away the rind - all without vision. I was so happy.
I plated some of the cantaloupe, put the rest in a container, set it in the 'fridge and walked to the table. That was when I discovered that I hadn't been quite as successful as I had thought. I stepped on a glop of seed and pulp from the cantaloupe, hopped on one foot to keep my dirty foot up, and lost my balance.
With a shout, I landed on the floor, the plate went flying and so did the cantaloupe. Right in my face, juice and all.
"Uh, yuck!"
I put a hand out to get up and immediately brought it back in pain. I'd cut my hand on a piece of the shattered plate. Was it bleeding, I wondered? I touched it gently and my finger came away slick. Was it blood or cantaloupe juice. I tasted it: cantaloupe. Good.
Still, I had a mess to clean up. I started to take the patches off, but decided not to. After all, blind people have to clean up messes, too. It took a while, but I got the floor clean and the pieces of crockery in the trash can. I discovered that the tiles on my floor were not as smooth as they seemed. There was a grain to it as my fingers probed carefully around me. I reached out and felt the cabinet door, trying to divine the pattern of the wood. It was such a major turn on that I could tell that I was wet, just from the scent of it - a scent, I'd never detected before, but knew to be my own.
I took a long time, but I finished cleaning up the kitchen, then I went back to the bathroom to clean myself up. My nightgown went into the hamper, and I went into the shower.
It wasn't a total loss, I decided. Showering blind, touching myself all over, was pretty exciting. I did something I had never done before: I began to touch myself all over, comparing smoothness and sensation on different areas of my body. I wanted to have blind sex right now, but it wasn't going to happen today, so I began to masturbate right there in the shower. The water falling on me, my own touch, the coolness of the tile on the wall and the feel of the tub beneath my feet all seemed to over load me until I shouted and came.
My shower has a small shelf where you can raise your feet for washing, or carefully perch as you bend to wash your toes. I rested there and let the water sluice me clean. Finally, I got out, towelled dry, wrapped my hair and went to get my robe from the closet. I passed on slippers because I wanted maximum input and my feet were giving it to me, also. Each step I took, the cane was right in front of me. Aw... poor blind girl being so brave, so able. So far being blind had been pretty interesting, and quite fun.
I remembered the milk. I'd left it on the table. It needed to go back into the 'fridge so it wouldn't spoil. As I headed back to the kitchen, I walked barefoot toward the table and stepped right on a shard of crockery that I'd missed.
Ow! Dammit! That hurt!
Once again, I hopped, lost my balance and fell, picking up another shard in my knee pretty deeply. As I sat on the floor, I made a mental note to check closely next time I saw Wilma for lots of bruises and cuts. After a couple of tries, I plucked the shard from my foot, then tried to get the second one from my knee. Was it bleeding badly? Did it need stitches?
Dammit! I was going to have to peek. Grumbling, I peeled back one eye patch and discovered that my foot and my knee were the least of my problems.
I was blind. Really blind. As in... can't see!...anything! It wasn't just dark - I was truly blind!
I took a deep breath and my heart began beating wildly. I ripped off the other patch. I waved my hand in front of my face. Nothing. Ignoring the pain, I stood up and found a light switch. I turned on all three switches and three lights should have come on. None did.
Oh, my God, I thought, I'm blind! It's not a game, it's not a fantasy and my knee hurts too much for it to be a dream. It's real.
The phone began to ring. I ignored it. I wasn't expecting anyone, and right now I didn't want to talk to anyone. What would I do? What was wrong with my eyes?
The phone kept ringing. How would I make a living? My family - what would I tell them? How would I tell them? Who would I call? How did I get help?
The phone kept ringing. The answering machine had not picked up. The continual ringing was like a siren song and I reached out to get the phone.
"So, Erin. It's not so much fun now, is it?"
It was the voice of the old crone. The voice I had heard in my mind yesterday. "Who are you? What have you done to me?"
The voice was clam and serene - almost soothing in a grandmotherly sort of way. "Why, Erin, I have granted your wish. I have fulfilled your fantasy. You wanted to live without eyes, so I took them away."
"I want them back! I want to see!", I shouted.
"You do?"
"Yes! I want my eyes to work."
"Before this day is over, Erin, you will come to see many things. Right now a trip to the mail box will be most enlightening. Go check your mail, Erin."
Dial tone. She was gone.
"Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod..."
I kept saying those words over and over, like a mantra as I tried not to throw up. It was as if a hand were squeezing my heart. I tried to calm myself down but her words kept repeating in my mind: "You wanted to live without eyes, so I took them away."
Took them away!
I reached up to my face and hesitantly, I tried to touch my eyes. I couldn't at first, but finally, I touched one. It was cold and hard - like glass or plastic. My eyes were gone. Like the crone's eyes had been, I remembered. Solid white with no colour.
So long, breakfast! I made it to the sink before the contents of my stomach did. I ran water and washed my mouth out. Then I sank onto the floor and began to cry.
I don't know how much time had passed before I quit crying. The words took them away were finally replaced by a trip to the mail box will be most enlightening. I stood up and began to walk to the front door, but for a second I couldn't remember which way it was, then I remembered that I was still in my bathrobe.
I found the cane where it had fallen. With it, I made my way to my closet where I grabbed the first dress I found. I didn't want to have to mess with coordinating tops and skirts. A bra and panties came from the dresser, and then sandals. I was dressed.
How did I look?
That thought made me want to cry again, but I forced myself not to. With resolve, I headed to the front door. As I passed my purse, I groped around for my keys. Which key was the mailbox key? Think, Erin, it's the shortest one!
I opened the front door and stepped outside. I could feel the sun, but could see no light. This wasn't exciting, it was terrifying. Two steps forward, find the first step with the cane. Cane, step down, next step, Cane, step down, next step. Eighteen times I did this until I reached the bottom. I turned right. The mailboxes were near the front of the complex.
There was a breeze and birds singing. I could hear kids splashing in the pool. I had to concentrate and count steps, doorways, hedges, turns. It seemed to take an eternity to reach my mailbox. People passed by me. Were they my neighbours  Were they wondering why I was using a cane? A look at my face would tell them why - I wasn't wearing sunglasses. My eyes, or whatever was in their place, was visible for all too see.
The mail boxes. Mine was third from the left, second from the bottom. One, two, three... one, two. Key in the hole, turn, open, feel...there was a card!
I ran my hand over it. It wasn't Brailled  How would I know what it said? I started to head back to my apartment when I heard a voice say, "Uh, excuse me. You forgot your keys."
My keys! How stupid!
"Thanks.", I said.
"No problem." It was a male voice, kind of young sounding. "I hate to be nosy, but are you aware that your leg is covered in blood?"
Oh, great!, I thought.
"Yes, I took a fall and broke a plate this morning. Is it bad?"
"No, just messy. The bleeding has stopped, but it's all down your leg and foot."
"I'll clean it up when I get back. Thanks."
"Need some help?"
"I think I can get it."
I retrieved my keys, locked the box and started reversing my path back to my apartment. I was counting steps and hedges and turns, when I became aware of the man following me. When I reached my staircase and began climbing I was certain that he was right behind me.
"Are you following me?", I asked sharply.
His reply was hesitant. "Only to the top of the steps. I live in the apartment next door. I moved in this morning. I'm your new neighbour."
"Oh.", I said, embarrassed. "Sorry."
"I understand. My girlfriend in college was blind. You never know who's around you or why. Being careful is smart."
I got to the top. "Thanks for being nice about it. I didn't mean to be quite so sharp."
"It's okay."
I went inside and locked the door behind me. I listened and sure enough, I heard the door of the apartment next to mine open and close, then I heard muffled sounds from next door. I sighed. How did Wilma deal with it? Was she afraid all the time? Thoughts of being raped crossed my mind, thoughts of being helpless, of being touched all over and not in a welcome way. This had long since stopped being fun.
I turned my attention to the card in my hand. No Braille  no eyes. How was this going to enlighten me?
I heard a knock at the door. I called out, "Who is it?"
"It's Bob, your neighbour  I was wondering if you'd like me to help with your knee. I've got a first aid kit with me."
Decision time. I had no idea how much crockery was left on the floor and I had a tendency to go barefoot. Decide, Erin.
I let him in, but I left the door ajar. He followed me to the kitchen table and I felt him roll the hem of my dress up to my knee. "Uh, oh. This is going to need a stitch or two. Let me get gloves on."
I heard that sound of latex gloves snapping. "You have gloves in your first aid kit?"
He laughed. "I come well supplied. I'm a fourth year med student. Let me clean this up first."
As he worked I said, "So it's Doctor Bob, is it?"
"As of late May, it will be. I'll graduate then and start my residency. This is gonna sting."
"My name is - yee-owitch! - Erin. That did more than sting."
"Glad to meet you, Erin. Sorry, the shard was deeper than I thought. Here, put your hand over this and apply pressure. Any allergies to novacaine or lidocaine?"
He placed my hand on my knee and I heard paper tearing and metal clanking. I heard little sounds, wondering what he was doing. "Uh, no."
"This is going to burn a bit.", he told me as he injected me. It did.
Soon it was quite numb. As he put in the sutures, I could feel skin pulling a little but nothing more. Finally, he said, "Beautiful job, if I do say so myself. I did my dermatology rotation early on and the Doc I worked with was a cosmetic surgeon. I can do a ten stitch job, and six months later even I can't find the scar. Yours only needed two, so only your boyfriends will get close enough to see it."
"Boyfriends have been in short supply of late. I'm having a dry spell."
"Hard to believe.", he said as I heard him put things away. "A beautiful woman like you should be surrounded by guys."
I can't believe the words came out of my mouth, but they did. "Am I still pretty? I used to be, I thought, but now..."
I couldn't finish the sentence. It just hung there. He said, "You are very beautiful."
"Even with my eyes like this?"
"If you mean being blind, that has nothing to do with beauty. Yes, the white plastic is different, but it takes nothing away from you. Where are the cosmetic covers? Are they being worked on?"
Still pretty

I thought quickly and made up a lie. "Yes, there was something the tech didn't like and he wanted to re-do them. He said I looked fine but I wasn't... sure."
"You do look fine. There's an almost ethereal beauty about you."
Neither of us said anything. I think my tear ducts must be gone with my eyes, because I felt like crying, but no tears came. Bob said, "Let me get these last two pieces of glass off the floor, so you don't step on them. Uh, you should go see your regular doctor in three days and get the sutures removed... or I might check in... if you'd like."
I smiled. "I'd like. How can I repay you? I have frozen burritos and canned soup and other ready made stuff. Can I make lunch for you?"
"Well, as it happens, I need to go run an errand, but I was going to get lunch while I was out. Would you like to come with me?"
The thought of going out into the world scared me, but right now, being alone scared me more. "I'd love to."
"Good, let me run next door and I'll be right back."
"Okay. Hey! Before you go, I got a piece of mail. What was it?"
I reached for the card and found it. He took it from my hand and said, "It's an ad for a new restaurant. It says, 'Answer the magic question and dinner is free!'. Sounds cool."
"Is it near by?"
"From the address, it's right next to where I'm going. Want to try it?"
"I'll be right back." Bob said, and left. No sooner had he done so than the phone rang. I grabbed it.
"Was the trip enlightening, Erin?"
"What's the trick? How do I get my eyes back? Does it have something to do with the restaurant?"
"You already see more than you did."
"What are you talking about? I can't see anything. You took my eyes!"
"Before the sun rises again, you will see all." Click. The line was dead.
What did she mean? That my blindness would only last for the day? Before I could think, Bob was back. It was time for lunch.
I used my cane to get back down the steps, but then I let Bob lead me, holding his elbow as I had seen Wilma do. I thought how I had once looked forward to this, to being led by someone. Now I was terrified.
He helped me get in the car, gently laying his hand on my head to keep me from hitting it on the roof of the car. Once he began to drive, I lost all orientation. In order to distract myself, I touched the interior of his car, feeling the leather and vinyl. Tactile input, Erin, that's all you'll ever have again. That and smells and sounds...this is what being blind is really like. Not just walking around with your eyes covered.
My eyes! I didn't have any sunglasses on. Everyone could see my white eyes.
Bob's errand was to get a cell phone. As it turned out, it was the same store where I had bought mine. While I heard the salesman explain the calling plan to Bob, I reflected on what it had been like to be led, to be helped in and out of a car, to stand in a room where I had once shopped for a pretty phone, and have no idea what was around me. All I had were memories of seeing. I stood still, my cane in front of me. Was I near a chair, the counter a display? I was lost, with no reference points, but I didn't dare start groping around for fear of knocking things over. Did the salesman recognize me? Was he staring at me? I know someone was. I could feel eyes on me.
I heard a whispered voice ask, "Can blind people use a cell phone?"
"Sure. It's all done by touch."
"Look at those white eyes. They can't be real eyes, can they?"
"I guess they're plastic or something. Maybe she had her eyes removed."
"God, I rather be dead than be blind."
My chin quivered and I tried hard not to cry.
I don't want to be blind forever. Let it be just for the day! Please!
We went to the restaurant and we were seated. The waitress surprised me by bringing me a Braille menu. Slowly, my fingers ran over the bumps and words formed in my head. I had to order carefully, as I had no idea how to cut lasagne or spin spaghetti without seeing. It could be messy. I had a vision of me covered in marinara and people staring at the sloppy blind woman. I tried to remember seeing Wilma eat, but she usually ate a salad or a burger at lunch. I settled for chicken parmigiana with penne pasta. The meat I could cut and the penne was already short.
Then the waitress asked the magic question: what has four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three legs in the evening? Oh, I knew that one! I had heard it in high school...in history... no, geography! The pyramids, the sphinx!
I said, "A man. On the morning of his life, he crawls on all fours. Later, he walks on two feet. In the evening of his life he walks with a cane."
The waitress said, "Dinner and dessert are on us. Buon appetito!"
Bob congratulated me, saying that he had heard that riddle, but couldn't remember the answer. All I could hear in my mind was: walks with a cane. Walks with a white cane with a red tip. That was the answer. I have crawled, I have walked, now I will walk with a cane. That was the answer I was supposed to find here. I'm gonna be blind forever.
"Erin? You all right?"
"Sorry, errant thought. Didn't mean to be rude. So... what was med school like?"
Bob talked and I pretended to listen. That was the answer. Wait! That can't be the answer. She said that before the sun rises, I would see again. What did it all mean?
Lunch came. I was informed that the meat was at six o'clock, the pasta was at three and the mussels were at nine. My glass of wine was at two o'clock relative to the plate. Fresh breadsticks were at eleven.
Lunch was wonderful, and Bob was a very charming dinner companion. I tried to relax, to stop thinking about going through the rest of my life blind, but it was hard.
At length, the good time had to end. Bob had a shift beginning at eleven and he needed to take a short nap. On his arm I walked back from his car to my apartment.
Once I was there I tried listening to CDs, practising with the Braille books - I tried anything to pass the time, but the thoughts wouldn't go away. I'd have to sell my car. I'd have to go to one the blind schools and learn how to use the cane correctly and how to read Braille  I'd have to learn to dress myself, label my clothes, do laundry, cook, shop...
I'd have to be re-trained to do my job. If Wilma could do it, I could. My bosses would see to that. My health coverage at work included disability insurance, so that would pay while I was getting the training...oh God... the word disabled hit me and all that it meant.
Disabled... I'm disabled now. It felt so... horrible! A list of all the things that I would never be able to do again ran through my mind. Places I wanted to go and see. My family! How would I ever explain this?
I don't want to be blind, God! Please don't make me blind forever. It was only a game, a fantasy! I had just wanted to look like... like Wilma did. I wanted to be beautiful in that same ethereal way...
- and now I was. According to Bob, anyway.
Bob had alluded to a blind girlfriend once. Would he want another? Would anyone want me now? Would I go through life alone?
The phone rang. I knew who it was instinctively. Slowly, I reached for it. "Hello?"
"Do you see everything now?"
I thought about it. "Yes. I do."
"You see what your life will be like?"
"Yes." My heart sank. Here came the pronouncement. She was about to tell me it was forever. I waited.
"Are you prepared to accept that life?"
Here it came. There was a lump in my throat. My chin quivered and I tried not to sob. "Y-yes."
"Then hear me well. There is a choice to be made. Far away, a child you do not know and shall never meet lies in a hospital bed with her eyes bandaged from an accident. She is ten years old and her entire life is in front of her. You will decide what happens tomorrow when the doctors remove the bandages."
"I don't understand.", I said. "How can I ..."
"Tonight when you go to sleep, cover your eyes as you did before. When the sun rises, you will wake. If you remove the patches, your vision will be restored and all will be as it was, but when the doctors remove the little girl's bandages, she will be forever blind. Unlike you, she never sought to be blind. Right now she is lying in fear of her fate.
"If, when you rise tomorrow, you reach for your cane, unfold it and use it to guide your steps, the little girl will see, and you will not. The one who used that cane last faced the same choice, but could not live with the choices he made. What choices shall you make? Will you choose to see and forever condemn a little girl to darkness, or shall you give her the gift of sight and live out your fantasy? The fantasy was yours, but the reality is hers. How will you choose?"
I couldn't believe it. I was outraged. "How can you dump this decision on me? How can you ask me to determine a little girl's fate? How can you..."
But I was talking to myself. The line had disconnected. I set the phone down and leaned my head back. I called all to mind and I made my decision. It didn't take long.
I'm sorry, little girl. I'm so sorry.
I touched the watch and heard the time. It was late and suddenly I was very sleepy. I went to the bathroom, peed and cleaned up, then I went to the bedroom and sat on the bed. Hands shaking, I covered my eyes with the patches. Sobbing, I folded the cane and hurled it across the room.
I'm sorry, little girl. I'm so sorry. I want to see. I WANT TO SEE!
I began to bawl and I cried until I went to sleep.
* * * * *
"Okay, Melissa. I'm going to take the bandages off now. Keep your eyes closed until I tell you. You may have to blink a few times.
* * * * *
As I woke that morning, I knew that my decision was already made. There was no doubt in my mind. Through the patches I could see a faint glow. My eyes were back. All I had to do was remove the patches.
The cane was somewhere across the room. I had no idea where. I couldn't have found it if I had wanted to, and I had no desire to. I sat up on the edge of the bed.
* * * * * "Okay, open your eyes."
Melissa's parents held each other tightly and waited.
* * * * *
I reached up and pulled at the edges of the patches. One good pull and the nightmare would be over.
I'm so sorry, little girl. You're young. You'll get used to it. It's not like losing it at twenty five. I have a life. I have things to do. I...
* * * * *
"Okay, blink your eyes, Melissa."
* * * * *
I don't know how, but my cane is unfolded and leaning next to me. My fingers touch it and recoil.
How? I folded it and threw it...
Oh, God, I can see a faint glow through the patches. My eyes are back. I'm so sorry, little girl.
* * * * *
"I can see!"
* * * * *
"I'M BLIND!", I screamed and cried and covered my face with my hands.
* * * * *
Melissa's parents hugged her and they all laughed.
* * * * *
I screamed and cried as I clutched the unfolded cane. I was on the edge of the bed. When I had stood and held the cane in front of me, there was a POP! in my eyes and they went away forever. The glow that came through the patches was gone and I sat back down hard. Forever gone. I couldn't do it to that little girl. I wasn't right for her to be blind.
With the rising of the sun, I had indeed seen everything, all too clearly. It was my fantasy, and now it was my reality. The patches were in the trash can. I went to the bathroom, sat on the toilet and I cried.
I don't know how much time passed before I washed my face and brushed my hair. From memory, I styled it as I usually did. Would I keep this style, or just go with a pony tail/braid combo? Would I ever wear makeup again? Was there any point to it? Would I ever have my nails frenched again? All these questions came to mind as I performed my various hygiene chores mechanically. The horror was passing and I was becoming emotionally numb.
With that done, I dressed myself and went into the living room. I had some phone calls to make. The first one was my job. I debated between telling them that I'd been in an accident over the weekend and wouldn't be coming to work for a while or that that I'd been trying to cover up my disease related failing eyesight for a while now, and that I'd gone completely blind over the weekend. There was no way I could tell them that, in effect, I had blinded myself for life by giving my eyes to a child I had never met.
I brought my hands to my face and tried to touch my eyes. I hesitated, but finally managed to do it. Cold, smooth, hard. Where they white? Would I eventually get cosmetic covers to make them look like eyes? Should I wear sunglasses or just show my eyes to the world like Wilma did?
Dear God, what would I tell my family? How would I tell them?
The phone rang. It was her. I picked it up. "Well, Erin, you made your choice. The little girl will have a happy life and she will always be grateful that she can see."
"I'm glad for her. No one should have to be like this. No one should want to be."
"A lesson learned, then."
"What about the cane? Is it cursed? If anyone else touches it, will they go blind?"
"That cane is special, not cursed. It finds its way to those who need to learn lessons. One day soon, you will be given a new cane and that one will travel to its next owner."
"So the cycle goes on."
"Yes. There are many cycles yet to come. There are crutches that take away the ability to walk, powered wheelchairs that take away arms and legs, hearing aids that take away hearing. They all find their way to pretenders, and each pretender will be given a warning - as you were - and each will face choices."
"By what right do you..."
She had hung up. This had to stop. I had to do something. How could I stop this cycle?
I headed to the kitchen with my cane. A few minutes later, the doorbell rang.
"Who is it?" I called out.
"It's Bob. I just got off my shift, but I wanted to look at your knee before I go to bed."
"Be right there." I stood up, and turned off the TV news. As the door opened, Bob said, "Good morning. Oh, I like what you did with your hair. You look like a model with it like that."
"Come on in. I'm about to make breakfast. Join me."
Hand extended in front of me, I made my way to the kitchen and got the plates down. The waffles popped up. They smelled good.
I wonder what they look like. I wonder what Bob looks like? It doesn't matter - I'll never know. I guess looks aren't all that important.
"Pass the syrup, please."
"Here you go. What happened to your cane? It's in the trash can."
"Accident. I'm afraid it's ruined. The elastic cord inside is cut and two of the shafts are bent."
"How will you get around?"
"There's a lighthouse for the blind here in town. I'll take a cab there and get a new one."
"Would you like me to take you?"
I smiled. "Thanks, but I kinda expect to be there for a while. I need to talk to some people there."

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