I wracked my brain on how to break the ice a second time. Post-coital conversation can be awkward too.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
A few long moments elapsed.
“Do you spend all your evenings here, Liam?”
“I may start to.”
“Then I will too!”
“What’s your name”, I asked, which set me wondering if copulating with a stranger whose name you haven’t asked made the sin more cynical.
I felt the breath of a big smile on my face.
“My name’s Denise.”
Months earlier, I had fallen off the top of a ladder at the site of the new Delux Inn. I was in a hospital bed when consciousness returned, batting my eyelids but blinder than a bat.
Once back home, it was not only joblessness and navigating the now invisible surroundings that troubled me, but equally the prospect of living in dependence on my wife. Something in Florence had changed since I lost my sight. She sounded more panicked than shocked. Panicked more about how life-changing it was for her, not me.
“I’m sorry for the burden I’m gonna be on you, Flo. I’ll make it the lightest I can.”
“I’ll still love you, Liam”, she said softly, only a touch guilt-ridden. ”But I’m young. I cannot spend a lifetime walking a blind man.”
“How will I manage, Flo?” I pleaded.
A stream of tears broke down both sides of my face.
“I always believed this was till death parts us both, for good or bad. We both swore it, Flo. I’d have done it for you.”
The last I heard of Flo was her heels lightly tapping the floor as she walked away softly. Not a farewell kiss. She must have had her stuff packed and in her car while I slept.
I adjusted to moving around the house. And doing what I could with the cleaning, the laundry, and cooking. No chore is lonelier than cooking for one. With time, I started stepping out of the house with the aid of an electronic cane, doing the shopping Blind Care brought to my door the first few months on my own. The blacked-out bustle of the streets and the movement of people around me preserved my sanity. The home had become a sarcophagus, entombing me in deafening silence. A life sentence behind a dark veil of blindness with not a hand to hold or a whisper in the home.
When solitude got the better of me, it was only Flo I could envision in my blinded eyes. I prayed daily to The Lord to allow me the transgression of a once-only blessing of partaking of another woman out of wedlock. So I could banish Flo’s body from my mind when desire knocked.
One morning, out on the street, I clattered into a woman. She turned on me, her vicious breath in my face.
“Go fuck yourself, you blind hobo. Go sit somewhere in the park.”
I walked on. But hobo stuck. What I could no longer see with my eyes mattered in the eyes of others.
A new change of clothing, in colours where shirts matched trousers whatever I got into, lifted my spirits. Feeling nicer felt good, and it dampened the dullness in my soul. And I took the advice of turning to the park. It killed time longer and I sat on a bench with a tablet plugged into my ear, listening to radio or audiobooks.
The world strolled past slowly at the park and not a soul disturbed me. And peace and solitude moved in as my companion. Until one evening a lady sat next to me on my bench. I felt her eyes on me. I asked if she minded a blind man sitting next to her.
“I wouldn’t have sat next to you if I did, hon.”
We got talking. Misery can have this sudden way of letting a man snatch at the first chance of laying bare the emotional baggage he would otherwise take to the grave. Sharing it was cathartic.
“And that’s how I’m here,” I sighed. “My Flo walked away.”
The lady with no name pressed my arm. I also found myself confessing to the standing prayer I had with The Lord. I heard her stifle back tears. She pressed my arm harder.
“I too once hurt a man very badly,” she whispered. “Would you trust a bitch with your heart a second time?”
I stiffened. Lending your heart is more than the once-only transgression I asked of The Lord. She fondled my face and I ran my fingers through her hair. Her face in mine, she turned her head left, then right, maybe in furtive looks that no one was in sight.
The exposed intimacy, Denise in my lap and no way of knowing if anyone was watching, was unnerving. But fear was not going to get in the way of liberating myself of Flo’s spirit.
I was unsure if my prayer had finally been heard or if I had taken dispensation into my own hands. But God can never have intended Man to find companionship in solitude. Maybe he had gifted me with more than the one final communion with a woman I had asked of Him.
Denise and I held hands and we talked.
“What can a blind man can give you beyond what we’ve had right now?”
She cupped her hands around my face.
“I haven’t had friendship since the day I threw it away. Only sex and punishment. I’m very lonely too.”
“A blind man is a burden,” I warned.
“Like having to walk him through the park.”
“I can walk with you.”