I hate when people ask me what it’s like to be blind.
It seems like people are absolutely incapable of imagining a world without sight. They ask me if everything is just black all the time. But I’ve been blind since birth – I don’t know what “black” is. They ask me how I can possibly make it through the day, when so much of the world depends on vision. No, your world depends on vision.
What they don’t understand is that I can do just fine for myself, that being blind has just given me the opportunity to cultivate my other senses to near perfection. So much of my day depends on texture – the smoothness of my kitchen counter and the smoothness of my coffee table are two entirely different kinds of smooth. The glide of a person’s skin can tell me what kind of job they have, what kind of life they live. There are so many secrets in the grain of things that most people ignore.
What I don’t get from texture, I get from sound. My ears are able to pick up the minute shuffles and scrapes of life from hundreds of yards away. It is easy to make my way down the street, when my course is mapped out by the living space around me. I don’t need to see the car in the crosswalk to know that it’s there. I don’t need to see the businessman staring at his phone to avoid him.
Trying to explain this to people is a pain because they don’t listen. Have you ever noticed how poorly people listen, in their worlds dominated by sight? They’re always shutting off their ears, believing that nothing can be gained by listening. If only people would open their other senses, maybe this world wouldn’t be so confused, so misguided.
Yes, being blind comes with its difficulties. But never once have I felt wronged by living without sight.
A couple of months ago, I decided to find a roommate.
Up until this point, I’d been pulling enough cash to rent an apartment all to myself. I work as an educational consultant, which essentially means that I help students apply to college. I work with “unconventional” students, like myself – mostly, students who are deaf, blind, or mute. Because I can relate to them, I work the best with them.
However, about half a year ago I tripped and fell down my apartment building stairs, resulting in a broken arm, a bad concussion, and a few weeks off of work. Finding myself short on cash, I decided that it was time to get a roommate. That way, if something like this happened in the future, I wouldn’t have to worry about not making rent. Besides, it would be nice to have a little extra cash.
I posted an ad on Craigslist – yeah, yeah, I know, Craigslist – using a dictation tool to specify what I was looking for. Someone who was relatively neat and quiet, didn’t mind cats (I have a little black cat named Spooky), and didn’t mind living on the seventh floor.
I had a few responses. Most of them were a bunch of perverts asking for naked pictures. One or two of them were interested in the apartment, but ended up looking elsewhere. For a while, I thought that I was shit out of luck.
Then, one afternoon as I stood in my kitchen making cupcakes (not easy to do with a broken arm, by the way), I received a knock on my door.
The first thing I noticed when I opened the door was that the person standing there had a deep voice. I can tell with a fair amount of precision what a person sounds like by listening to them breathe. This person’s breaths were long and deep, and I could very well imagine the smooth baritone that would accompany it.
“Can I help you?” I asked, wondering what they wanted.
The person reached out and grasped my hand. I was a little bit startled and wary, until they began to sign against my palm.
When I was in high school, I had taken American Sign Language to better communicate with some of my friends. Some of them were deaf and had problems speaking, some of them were mute, and so sign language was a good way to communicate with them. I kept studying it in college since I knew I wanted to work with other “disabled” students (I hate the term “disabled,” but I also hate the term “differently abled,” so, hey, what can you do?). As such, I was fairly fluent.
Excuse me – I’m told you’re renting a room in this apartment. I’m very interested.
I felt my whole day brighten as I signed into his (I was fairly certain the person was a “he,” judging on the size and feel of their hands) palm, That’s right! Can you hear me, or should I keep signing?
He signed back, I can hear, but I am unable to speak.
“That’s just fine! I’m not sure if you can tell,” I laughed at that, because it’s always obvious, “but I’m blind. Why don’t you come inside and take a look around! Did you hear about me from the Craigslist ad?” Immediately, I realized that couldn’t be true, because I hadn’t put my whole address in the ad (for obvious reasons).
No, I have a friend who lives on the second floor and heard that someone on the seventh floor was renting a room. It seemed like a good arrangement to me.
I gave my visitor a little tour of the place, showing him the room he’d be living in. After that, I finished up the cupcakes and we sat in the kitchen, getting acquainted with each other. He told me his name was Camio and he had been mute since birth. He worked at a local community college in the Philosophy department. He was a cat-lover and connected with Spooky right away – she seemed to approve of him wholeheartedly – and I decided that he would be an excellent tenant.
Camio moved in a few days later, once we’d settled the logistics, and proved to be a great roommate. He cleaned up after himself, helped me take care of Spooky, often cooked for the two of us, and his rent was always on time.
Everything was great.
Things didn’t start getting weird until about two months into our living arrangements.
It started when Camio got a girlfriend. Now, normally this wasn’t a problem, as long as they met somewhere outside of our apartment – I have to admit, she was rather rude and I wasn’t fond of her – but the nights that they spent in his room were spent… well. Having crazy fucked up sex. And I could hear every agonizing second of it.
Thankfully, Camio didn’t bring her over often – just once or twice, so my suffering was kept to a minimum.
One night, I heard something different coming from Camio’s room.
He and his girlfriend (what was her name? Sandra?) had finished up with their, uh, nightly activities and I had long since fallen asleep. I wasn’t really expecting to wake up to the sound of Sandra screaming.
It was really a quick scream, and ended rather abruptly, but I was still on high alert. I could hear terror in that scream, and I grabbed the can of mace I keep in my bedside table and stumbled towards Camio’s room.
I bumped into him on the way, only a little surprised that I didn’t hear him. The man could be quiet as a cat when he wanted to be, which was nice, I’ll admit. “What’s going on? Is she okay?” I asked, keeping my voice low.
Yeah, I was just coming to see if she woke you up, he signed. She just had a bad nightmare. She’s fine now.
Relieved – and just a little annoyed, though I would never admit to it – I went back to bed.
A few days later, Camio told me that he’d broken up with Sandra. I consoled him, of course, and pretended that I wasn’t secretly glad she was out of my life.
Things went back to normal.
I began to notice a trend.
Camio would date these girls – most of them awful and annoying – for a few weeks, sometimes even only a few days, and then dump them. Out of the blue. He acted as though it was totally normal, but it made me curious. Maybe he was just a womanizer, but I started thinking that there was something else behind it.
I got my answers one day when I came home from work early.
The student I was supposed to work with came down with the flu. It was too late for me to schedule any other appointments and our office had been pretty quiet that week, so my boss told me to head home early, get an early start on the weekend.
Usually, I would text Camio and let him know I was coming home, but I didn’t think of it. I figured he’d still be at work, so I didn’t bother to inform him. I grabbed a muffin at the bakery and headed home in high spirits.
I knew the apartment wasn’t empty the moment I stepped in the door.
I became instantly aware of two things.
The first, was the noise. It sounded like someone was eating something – something rather messy. It was a faint sound, coming from Camio’s room down the hall. I knew he must be home then.
The second was the smell. The moment it hit my nose, my face furrowed in disgust. It was harsh and metallic, the smell of something that shouldn’t be there.
I walked into the apartment as quietly as I could, instantly understanding that something was wrong. There was a thrum of tension in the air, I could sense it. I made my way silently down the hall, pausing once I was outside Camio’s room.
The eating sounds were louder. They were wet, hungry sounds, and I could hear Camio grunting as he feasted on something.
Spellbound, my fingers trailed to the doorknob.
I opened the door.
Camio was aware of me the moment I opened the door.
Not Camio’s blood.
“Camio…?” I asked, my voice barely a rustle above a whisper. The air felt wet in the room, as though it had been drenched with… well, with what, I could only guess, though I had a very good guess.
“What are you doing here?” came a voice.
It was that deep voice that I had been expecting when I’d first opened the door and met Camio, the voice I imagined he’d have if he wasn’t mute. Well, apparently he ISN’T mute, I thought as the baritone rang out in the room. The voice had a gravelly crunch to it, and when he spoke it sounded to me like the grating of rocks in vocal form.
“I… got out of work early…” I finished lamely, unsure of what to do.
Camio was in his room. Something else was in Camio’s room, or had been, and it had left a hell of a lot of blood, enough for the smell to be overpowering. And I was standing there, witness to it in smell and sound.
Camio walked towards me. For the first time in all the time he’d live there, I heard him walk. Thu-THUMP. Thu-THUMP. It sounded like someone was walking heel-to-toe in high heels, except the sound was heavier. I couldn’t quite place what it was, where I’d heard it before, and then it hit me.
Camio stopped in front of me. He was breathing hard, and I could almost hear him wondering what to do now that I’d caught him at… whatever he was doing. Whatever he decided, I was sure it wouldn’t end well for me.
Gathering up my courage – figuring it was the last thing I’d ever do – I reached out for him. My hand was trembling as I tried to touch him.
He brought his hand out to mine.
Well, it should have been his hand. I let my fingers drift across his arm, feeling the coarse fur that coated it. I felt his hand, the roughness of it, the way his furry fingers ended in sharp tips that sliced through my skin just a little when I touched them.
My heart began to beat wildly as I started to hyperventilate. Whatever this Camio was, it wasn’t the Camio I knew. Or maybe I had never known Camio in the first place. Yes, that seemed right. I was just feeling him for the first time.
He heaved a deep, long-suffering sigh.
As the gravel in his voice rumbled around in his head, I felt my panic begin to subside. It was almost as though something was forcing me to calm down.
“You’re…not?” I asked.
“No,” It answered, “And I’m going to leave now. Go, call the police, Camilla. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself.”
And then, all of a sudden, Camio was gone.
I was left all alone once again.
The police are calling this the most bizarre crime they’ve ever seen.
After Camio left, I stood in the room for what felt like hours, trying to make myself move, and failing. Eventually, I collapsed in a heap on the floor, dragged myself down the hall, and managed to grab my cellphone off the kitchen counter. I called the police and left the line open, prompting them to trace the call and come to my aid.
I was barely conscious when they arrived.
They didn’t tell me what they saw in Camio’s room… not that they really could, anyway. After all, what do I know of sight? I have never been more grateful in my life that I can’t see than when I heard the officers enter his room. In my fading consciousness, I could hear one of them cuss under his breath, one of them heave the contents of his stomach all over my carpet.
They found remains, they said. Belonging to several different people.
Luckily for me, they also found fingerprints. People in the building were also able to identify that a man named Camio had been living with me. They immediately sent out a warrant for his arrest, but I know they won’t find him. They can’t.
I believe what Camio said. I believe that he let me live because he had grown fond of me – as fond as… whatever he was… is able to. I believe he left fingerprints at the scene on purpose, so the police wouldn’t suspect me.
In a strange way, I guess I’m grateful to him.
But one thing is absolutely certain… I am never having another roommate.