Excerpt from “Blind Date”

There was a tumultuous sea of voices floating in the air around me. Certain voices stuck out more than others; a woman whose tone was a single octave higher than anyone else’s, a deep, nearly unintelligible rumble from a man fairly close to where I was sitting. There was soft music playing in the background. It alternated between indie rock and fast paced jazz with an abundance of saxophone. The melodies were hard to hear above the people in the shop, but they were meant only as a filler for when the store wasn’t busy. The volume couldn’t hold up to the natural sounds of the place during a rush.

        Along with all of the natural store sounds that I had become accustomed to, there was an abundance of things that one would only hear in a coffee house. The bubbling brewing sound of coffee and espresso machines created a musical noise that sounded moist and dripping and helped to add to the overall atmosphere of the place. There was a timer that consistently sounded at set intervals. A woman was shouting the orders of the drinks she was making, waiting for someone to claim their preferred form of caffeinated goodness, helping to prolong their addiction to the energizing substance.

        A soft form walking past and bumping roughly into my shoulder took my attention away from the surreal music created in the store. She whispered her apologies, not sounding sincere as she continued on to her destination. She was in a hurry, if the sounding of her irregular footfalls was anything to go by. I tracked the trailing sounds of her steps until I could no longer hear them. A bell, most likely the one I knew was hanging over the door, rang and I knew, then, that she had been leaving; or perhaps it was a coincidence. I couldn’t see her, so I suppose I would never know.

Someone walked up to me.

        “Hey, Jackson,” it was the store owner, James. I had come to know him when I spent the majority of my sophomore year of college in his shop studying for exams or writing papers…Well that or falling asleep on the tables when I was trying to cram overnight. His voice had always been particularly gruff, one of a wise older gentleman who spent his early days smoking a pack a day, and it was one I could easily pick out of a group. “What will it be?” he asked out of courtesy, so I wouldn’t have to get up and navigate my way over to the counter when Arianna arrived.

        “How about a black coffee and a vanilla scone,” I said, having decided easily on my usual, “so, tell me. Is there a woman here with unusually bright auburn hair and warm brown eyes? I’ve been told she’s rather striking, but I haven’t seen her. I’m supposed to be meeting her…a blind date of sorts.” He laughed heartily at my joke, having finally grown comfortable enough with me to joke of my recent change in condition.

        “She’s waiting on her coffee by the bar right now,” he toned, “shall I have her come join you and bring out her drink when I bring back yours?” I nodded slowly, suddenly nervous. I heard him leave.

        The “butterflies” of nerves filled my stomach and made me jittery in a way that was half uncomfortable and half exciting. My fingers tapped out an unknown rhythm on the table that sat in front of me, holding my cellphone. I focused my hearing outward, becoming hyperaware of every slight rhythmic pounding of footsteps on the hardwood floor. After a couple of nerve-filled minutes, a pair of shoes approached. They sounded sure of themselves, fully confident in the world around them. It was a confidence that I had lost months ago, because of the accident.

        “Hey,” she waited until I lifted my head to face the general direction of her face, “are you Jackson?” The confidence in her steps radiated into her voice. It was high-pitched, though pleasantly so, and lilted in the most interesting of places. She annunciated each sound in a way that revealed an ease of language. I felt a smile spread across my face at her beautiful voice.

        “Yes,” I said, opting to avoid nodding, no longer being able to tell how much I was exaggerating the movement and not wanting to appear brutish in front of her. I couldn’t see it, but I could tell she was smiling as she sat down. Well, maybe she wasn’t, but in my mind she was and it was a beautiful smile to match a beautiful voice. I rubbed uselessly at my eyes, straining in a futile attempt to make out an image of this woman.

        “Beautiful weather we’re having, isn’t it,” I asked, opting to start out with a joke to relieve any of the awkwardness that tended to envelope my conversations as of late. It was probably the sight of my too pale eyes and faint scars I could feel around them that made people nervous, but I thought that having sunglasses on all the time either screamed “watch out! Blind kid!” or “hey, look at this douchebag wearing sunglasses indoors.” So I had opted for being upfront about my newly blue eyes. They’d been a light and bright green before the accident, apparently turning a ghostly blue from blood loss, but I’d always heard blue eyes with dark hair was striking, so I figured I would just go with that. Hopefully she wouldn’t think I was a disturbed idiot.

        She didn’t. She actually giggled.

        “It’s very nice,” she went along with it, “the blue of the sky matches your eyes.” My smile returned with the revelation that she wasn’t uncomfortable. It was nice to know that someone could be so relaxed about all of this. Everyone else made fun of me or awkwardly avoided the subject, or stared. I would feel their judging pitiful gazes boring into my skin, stinging like acid to wound me without their knowledge.

        “So, how’re you today, Arianna,” I asked. We had only talked via text message after my physical therapist set me up with one of his cousins. He wasn’t supposed to get involved in the personal lives of his patients, but we were basically brothers at this point and he wasn’t my physical therapist anymore. Just a friend. What could it hurt?

        “I’m doing well,” her voice would prove to be as addicting as the coffee people came here to acquire, “I’ve been getting my butt kicked at lacrosse practices recently, but it’s nothing I can’t handle. How’re you?” This was the point at which James reappeared with a coffee, a scone, and some form of espresso and steamed milk combination. The smell of cinnamon enveloped the table when he placed the drink on the table in front of us. I moved my hands slowly, focusing for a moment on trying to find the position of my drink without groping around the tabletop. It wasn’t the big moments, anymore, that bothered me, but rather trying to find small things on unknown surfaces that became the hardest. After a short moment of feeling around, I found the edge of the warm mug and a small plate.

        “Never better,” I had never been shy back in highschool when I was sort of on the football team. I had plenty of practice with public speaking from my speech and poetry classes in undergrad, but she made me uncertain of my words. I wanted to impress her. I was a thoughtful person, but I wanted to seem well-spoken too. It didn’t help that my confidence had been shattered by the accident, but she was the first person to speak to me like a person, instead of some blind kid, since and maybe that’s why I found myself intrigued by her.  I lifted my cup and took a sip of the unaltered brew, trying desperately to hide my smile. I heard her cup leave the table and return, ceramic tapping against the particle board tabletop before she spoke again.

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