I am sitting at a table-for-two in a dimly lit Thai restaurant. My roommate sits opposite me, and we talk about the gym membership she’ll probably pursue, it’s the same one I won’t fork over the money for, still it’s fun to pretend, when he walks in.
He’s about 6’3” and broad and dressed in all black. Black, western-style button down shirt with tasteful rhinestones, black pants and shiny black loafers. Black sunglasses that cover his eyes. He’s blind and stylish and as I look myself over, I wonder which one of us got dressed in the dark this morning.
The hostess seats his party next to my roommate and me – he’s with a 40-something man and a younger, exotic woman. She takes the seat next to mine, across from the blind man. They launch into some lighthearted banter; one of them is working on some movie set, the other mentions a musical act he’s recently signed, the woman sits silently, pawing at the drink menu.
I always think the same thoughts when I see a blind person – what form do your dreams take? Do you not want to wake up from them, knowing you’ll face darkness when you do? Have you always been this way and if so, do you accept it gracefully? On a day that was just a touch too idyllic, do you lay awake at night and dwell on the one thing that can never be perfect? The thing you can’t change?
In a booming voice, his friend says, “What do you think? Do you know what you’re getting or do you think you might want me to read the menu to you?” The blind man is smiling. “Eh, they change the menu sometimes. Sure, maybe you’d better read it.”
To the woman, the blind man says, “The duck is delicious, though. That’s never changed.”
I order the duck.
Looking across the table at my roommate, I suddenly become engulfed by my surroundings. “This is a nice place to bring a date,” I think, and I look through my dining companion briefly, until she becomes a cobweb that shades the corner of my vision, and I think of the hundreds of times I’ve sat in a restaurant similar to this one, opposite someone I loved or thought I loved, and how I would look into their eyes and that little white speck would be there, gleaming, that cartoon comma that appears only when sitting at candlelit tables or at 7 a.m. when you roll over to break the spoon position and find yourself face-to-face with someone who wants to be there. That familiar glisten that’s found its way back to me through the eye of one lover after another, year after year, month after month, I remember it, though I only remember it vaguely now. No, that hasn’t happened in awhile.
“We didn’t even order sangria yet,” the blind man says.
He seems happy and I wonder if he’s ever had the chance to map constellations in the brown of someone’s eye.
“What they’ve just set in front of you are these fried, chip-like things, they’re in a basket, and there’s some sauce in the basket, too, in a little cup,” his friend says.
What does he imagine his dinner companions look like, I wonder, and does he even know about the beautiful woman sitting across from him, is he lucky that he doesn’t? Is he lucky to judge a woman by her character, by the way her voice rings out from the opposite end of a long hallway, the way she gives him a playful kick when he tickles her? Does he live by the mantra of Pulp Fiction’s Fabienne, that a potbelly is sexy because it’s nice to the touch and to him, this is what matters most? Can he overlook extreme heights and weights, thinking only of the way her hand finds itself in his?
Love isn’t blind, not really. Love might blind us in a metaphorical sense, but when you have perfect vision, seeing someone on a surface level can’t be avoided. And while the sight we’re privileged to behold might not fully inform whether or not we fall for a person, it plays a role beyond our control. It’s the difference between sexual attraction and believing someone is a good person, if only they were taller/ shorter/ skinnier/ fatter/ had better shoes on/ fixed their teeth/ weren’t wearing that terrible shirt. Our eyesight is a gift, no doubt – but the shallowness it can breed is a curse. An ignorant, age-old spell we’ve casted upon ourselves – prejudging people who, in an alternate universe, we could’ve loved.
When you’re blind, these things don’t matter much, do they? When you’re blind, perhaps the right things matter. The right touch. A caring whisper. A friend who says, “Bud, I’ll read you the menu, just in case.”
I look over at the blind man and he’s still smiling. I get the idea that he’s seen far more in other people than I ever could. But if ignorance is supposed to be bliss, why am I so goddamn sad?