My class schedules are weird. I have a class from seven-thirty to ten. I get a four-hour lunch break. Two-to-four. Six-to-nine. Professors have lives, I guessed. So the rest of us have to fit into theirs for the privilege of learning from their fountain of genius. Right? Whatever.
I just got home. But to be honest, I barely lived through six-to-nine, and I didn’t even attend two-to-four.
When my friends got to me at the cafeteria earlier today, we headed out for lunch then drove to an arts supply store in the next city. We got back at campus an hour before my next class, but theirs were about to start, so I still had time to wander around.
There was this girl from across the street. She was just standing still. She wasn’t crossing or anything. She was looking at me, straight towards me. And then she smiled. I tried to wave at her, to say hello. Maybe I’ve met here before, I thought. Maybe she knows me. And while I went through my memories to think of who she was, suddenly, she was taking a step forward. She began to cross the street, but she was still looking at me. She was walking slowly, and stopping right before a car would pass by. She didn’t even look, but she’d stop.
And she’d still look at me.
And she was taking slow, careful steps.
The street was four lanes wide. And after the third lane, she was close enough for me to just pull her out of the way, because I don’t know if she was crossing the street, or walking down the isle of her imaginary wedding.
“What is wrong with you?!”
What is wrong with me? What’s wrong with you! Have I met you before? What were you doing crossing the street so slowly like that?
“Let go of my arm!” My hand was still on her left arm, holding her, pulling her to safety, even though we’re at a sidewalk. “Let go of me! Please! Please!”
I don’t know why I wasn’t letting go. Maybe she’d leave if I did, I don’t know.
“Who are you? Do I know you?”
“Why aren’t you talking? What’s wrong with you? Please let go of me.” She was struggling. “Why aren’t you talking? Please say something. Speak!”
Oh shit, she’s blind.
She’s also very talkative.
I let go of her arm, but quickly took her wrist. I kept on tugging it, dragging her along, and looking for a place to sit down.
“I don’t need your assistance! Where are you taking me?”
I get that she must have been panicking, but hold on, lady. Seriously.
“Tell me who you are!”
Jesus fucking Christ, how was I going to talk to her? I pulled up her wrist. Her hand was shut tight, so I slapped it open. Then I tried to use sign language into her palm, like Hellen Keller. I think she got the point.
“I—“ She hesitated. “I don’t understand sign language. I’m sorry.”
Okay, new plan.
“Try to spell letters into my skin.”
I think she did understand what I was trying to get at.
I wrote the letter I into her palm. The capital letter, with the bars on the top and bottom, so she’d know it wasn’t a slash or something. “I,” she repeated. And then, “M.” And as soon as I knew she understood the things I wrote, I picked up the pace. IM MUTE, I spelled.
I tugged at her wrist, and she followed.
“Hey, not so fast! You’re hurting me!” I loosened my grip. SORRY, I wrote at the back of her hand. “I didn’t quite get that.” It was in cursive. “Could you write it again please?” No, it didn’t matter. We kept on walking. “Please? Write it again. Please.” She doesn’t shut up, does she? SORRY. In print this time. “Sorry. My teacher never taught me letters in cursive.” Of course he wouldn’t. Cursive letters are different with each hand that writes it. Printed letters were basically the same for everyone. SORRY. “It’s okay. It’s just that I couldn’t understand things that kept on twisting. They never spelled out anything to me.”
I had nothing to say, so I didn’t talk.
“Where are you taking me?” Where were you going anyway? “I don’t know. I was trying to escape, now I’m looking for someone.” From whom? And who? “My friend Aya was supposed to walk me to where my Daddy picks me up. I study at the university, and I have a condo unit around here but I don’t use it often. Daddy misses me easily.” I didn’t ask that, and you’re missing the point. Where will he pick you up? “My mother is dead, so there’s no one home now, and I’m the only family he has. Me and Aya. We both lost our moms, and now she’s like my sister.” Okay, I’m sorry to hear that. I still have both my parents. But where do you need me to take you? “She’s my best friend, and she used to be the maid’s daughter. The maid was my first teacher. She taught me how to read and write and speak.” I don’t see what you’re trying to get at here. “There was this time when she taught me what a dog is and what it looks like. It ran away from me whenever I tried to feel what its face was like. It was really fluffy.” Don’t you ever stop talking, ever?
I know that the world can never be shut up, ever. But please make sense.
“Could you let go of me please?”
I didn’t trust her. But I didn’t know what else to do. She stopped struggling now, anyway, so I just loosened my grip and—
But I followed her.
For a blind girl, she was pretty fast and it seemed like she knew where to go. She went straight ahead the sidewalk, and all that were in her way cleared themselves from her path. “Excuse me! Coming through! I’m blind! Get out of my way!” She never stops talking.
“Mack!” She called out to a traffic enforcer, and he blew his whistle and waved a STOP sign towards the cars, and the girl just ran across the street. When I was about to cross, Mack let the cars pass. It was like she owned the place. How is this even possible? I waited for the cars to stop coming, and then I crossed the street like a normal person. I didn’t run anymore. What was the point? I was late for class, and I must have lost her anyway. There was no need to hurry.
Then I was in the middle of the street, crossing with others, when I saw her again. She was just there. I think it was the end of her map, because she was touching walls and posts now. I ran to her and grabbed her wrist. Listen.
“Listen! I don’t want your help.”
That’s not what I’m trying to say. AGH, HOW DO YOU TALK TO THE BLIND?
ROB. I spelled out on her arm.
“There’s nothing you can steal from me. I swear.” She started to panic, I think. “Daddy doesn’t let me handle money, and if I had to, Aya always kept it, and I don’t have a smartphone because touch screen is useless to me. Please, all I have are noteb—“
I put my hand over her mouth. Shut up.
I think it made her panic. I touched her shoulder, hoping to calm her down. Women are difficult. When they’re blind, it gets trickier.
She was about to cry.
Naturally, I’ve been to those places where parents with “differently abled” kids—I don’t like being called differently abled. I’m handicapped; I can’t speak. Something is incomplete and that’s not a problem. Nobody’s offended. What’s the big deal?—anyway, they’d let them come over, and they’d help each other out. They taught each other how to teach their kids. I remember that the blind were taught to recognize people by voice, or they’d have them touch their faces, and give it a name. Mom didn’t really need to go to that place much—it wasn’t much of a problem for me to not to talk–but it was a good thing to know I wasn’t the only one out there. And I think this information finally became a bit useful.
I pulled her wrist and took her hand. I put it on my face, and let her touch my cheeks, and the bridge on my nose. And I let her fingertips trace my lips. Then I traced ROB on her hand again. She took her free hand and traced underneath my eyes. She curled her fingers like how you would when a bird would perch on your hand. I closed my eyes, then she used the back of her fingers to feel my lashes, then down to the skin of my cheek, right to the jaw line.
I opened my eyes again, and looked at her face. She had dark hair that ended at her shoulders. She was wide-eyed, like a child or a doll, with long dark lashes. But her eyes were the color of honey, the same color her hair glowed with when the sunlight hit her just the right way. Her lips were small. Her skin was pale. Not fair white, just pale, like she’s been sick since she was born. But since she ran from me, she looked so easily tired and there were just irregular blotches of pink on her cheeks. Actually, there was a tint of jaundice in her complexion. I don’t know if she was Asian or if she was just sick. She had bruises on her arm and her wrist.
Then I realized that the bruises came from me.
And her free hand slapped me in the face.
What the hell was that for?!
“Stop looking at me!” How’d she know? “I know I look like a sick freak, okay? But you don’t have to pull me around like a dog on a leash. I’m alright by myself.”
I’m trying to help you out here, so stop being so annoying. Where do you want me to take you?
“Look, I can find Aya myself.”
Just tell me!
“Get your phone.”
I switched hands, holding her with my left to make sure she won’t leave. I used my right hand to get the phone from my pocket. I tapped her wrist with my phone. What do you need me to dial?
She gave me a number, and I put the phone to her ear.
“Daddy? Where? No. I’m with a boy. No. He kidnapped me.” Wait, what? “He’s holding me here against my will.” No, wait. Don’t say that. “He won’t let go of me. I tried to run. No, he doesn’t know my name.” What do I do? If I hung up, he’d have thought I was guilty. “Daddy wants to talk to you.”
I put the phone to my ear. Hello? “What do you want?”
I want to give you back your daughter. Where do I take her? Where are you parked? “Let go of my daughter. What do you want?”
I want you to pay for my tuition for art school so my father can come back and not work as a domestic helper in a foreign country.
I want you to find us and take your daughter.
I want to know how you could have put up with this devious little –thing. For years! I mean, look at her! Smiling like she won a game. Her lips curled in an evil, evil way. I think she secretly practiced dark magic and traded her sight for demonic powers.
“Look, if you won’t give me back my daughter, I’ll—“ I hung up.
I sent him a text message.
I’m mute. Your daughter tried to cross the street. I’m trying to help her.
“Where can I find you?” Send.