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They say love is blind
They say love is blind
“Jess Cartwright you get in here boy, it’s time for dinner!” his mother called from the porch, across the fields and over the fledgling cotton plants. Jess put down the shovel he was holding and brushed his hands off on the faded overalls he was wearing. The sun looked like a giant plum tumbling down a dark pink and orange wall as it sank into the flat horizon. He picked up the water of bottle he had brought out with him he ran across the fields. To any onlooker it might have seemed like a smear of grey streaking across the vibrant horizon. Jess walked into the old fashioned kitchen and the dirt on his boots flaked off onto the yellow tile floor.
“Out! Out!” his mother shrieked when she saw her clean floor being covered in dust and mud. Jess stepped back and bent to unlace the boots and leave them outside the kitchen door. He took a deep breath taking in the smell of roast and floor polish.
“Jess, don’t you have homework, I swear you spend all your time in that field.” Jess just smiled, the corners of his fair blue eyes scrunching up. He took a plate down from the cabinet and found the spoon buried in the mashed potatoes. Serving himself a heaping spoonful his grip on the spoon wavered.
“Not so much Jess! Leave some for your father.” Why, Jess wondered, he was never home in time for dinner anyway.
“Will he be here tonight?” Jess asked, somewhat snidely. His mother just sighed and took more glasses down from the shelf. Jess knew his father was doing all that he could to hold onto the farm and his job at the firm. That was what his mother called it, ‘The Firm’, as if giving it a different name would make it better. It didn’t. His father had albeit abandoned every field except the one bearing cotton. That’s why Jess tried his best to keep it up, if he didn’t what would stop the field from disappearing for good, the forest surrounding their acres would eat it up without a second glance and the farm would disappear with it. And when the farm was gone what would Jess have to look forward to?
Jess sat down at the table and waited for his mother. Jess knew when his mother entered the room by the faint smell of violets and the soft sound of her feet ambling over to the table. Jessie had waited for his mother to sit before he began eating, but waiting only lasted so long. As soon as her chair was scraping the ground as she pulled it out Jess’s spoon was buried in the potatoes.
“Great dinner mom” he said before running up the stairs two by two and planting himself at his desk. Taking his guitar off its stand he began to strum a simple melody. The mournful rhythm quickly picked up and became both bright and mysterious at the same time. Jess would only stop when the wind blew, the trees applaud and his fingers collapsed. That was how he spent his nights.
The next morning Jess woke early to the sounds of birds dancing in the tree’s outside. Lacing up his tennis shoes he tore out of the house and into the woods behind it. Jessie’s heart roared and his mind blanked as he let his feet navigate the sylvan landscape. To the left, over the hole, around the creek bend and up the rocky incline. Jess knew his home better than anyone around him ever could. He knew the smells and the feels and taste of the air around him. This was his place in the world and Jess was content to stay there; to let the seasons narrate his life.
Finally, he emerged on a rocky outburst that overlooked the peaceful stream below him. Jess through himself down, panting and clutching his ribs. He inched closer and closer to the edge until his legs were dangling over the edge. The natural curve of the river was far below him now, unlike before when it was him carefully making his way around, not knowing where the solid earth ended and the fluid water began. Suddenly he heard a sharp noise to the left. Staying completely still Jessie listened for more clues to what it was that had invaded his peaceful bliss. Now footsteps were getting closer and louder until a voice behind him rang out and broke the glassy silence.
“Oh hello” said a soft, feminine voice. Jack sat up and turned his face towards her. “I hadn’t seen you before” the voice said again. “My name’s Lillian, I just moved in, down the road”. Jess knew where she was talking about. It was a small house with rough crab grass and a tin roof that echoed in the rain. Jess said hello, wanting to hear more of her voice. It was softly lilted at times as if she were tilting her head to one side or another. Jess stood and strode forward extending a rough farmers hand.
“Aint never met you before” he said, his country accent shining through. The girl took his hand and her slim fingers nestled into his callused palm. Jess could sense his eyes looking into hers.
“You’re…” she said in a timid voice “I mean, are you, are you blind?” she asked her voice slowly dimming at the end. Jess nodded, unsure of what to say to her. He was, had been since he was born, but he didn’t let it bother him. That was why he was happy in his place, he knew every corner and wrinkle and crack.
“Oh” said the girl, who had been brave before but had somehow grown timid in his presence. Jess didn’t want pity, he hated pity. Blindness was his weakness not who he was. He was blind like some people had bad backs or lisped. Being blind did not define Jess; it was merely a minnow in a pond of who Jess was.
“Tell me what the world looks like” Jess asked quietly, he didn’t want to make her feel as if she had to stay, but he wanted to know. Jess heard a soft swoosh and he knew she had long hair. He was painting a picture in his mind, a picture of her soft voice and slim hands, and now her long hair. She was looking around her, picking something to describe. Jess imagined she had big eyes, to take in the glorious, mysterious world.
“The trees” she started gently “The trees are like men, tall and broad and full of power. The river below is calm, almost still, but nothing could stop it from moving forward no mater how slow it moves”. She was gaining power and her voice rose. Jess thought of how poetic her words were. “The rocks are like statues, monsters waiting deathly still in the shadows ready to pounce on the unsuspecting, those who think they have no life.” Jess smiled as the image of what he’d so long imagined became solid in is head. He could see the hulking rock beasts and the seldom rushing stream instead of just hearing the noises.
He sat for a moment contemplating the picture in his mind
“Thank you” he said. She had given him eyes to see with and she had made the world a place of beauty, not of pain and suffering. Jess already knew off all the pain in the world but he had yet to know the beauty, and she had given it to him. It was a gift no one else could have given him.
“Thank you, Lillian” he said again and the girl remained quiet. Jess felt thin cotton on the ground as he sat down. He girl had sat long before him.
“Tell me what it’s like” she said questioningly, unsure if she really wanted to know. Jess though a moment. What was it like? It wasn’t harder, because he had never known anything easier. He had grown used to it.
“First, tell me your problems” Lillian was puzzled. Why was this strange boy asking even stranger question. What were her problems? Moving to a new town, for one. Her Mama’s cancer was another. But Lillian knew what her real problem was.
“I worry” she said “I worry about everything around me even when I can’t change it. Even if it has nothing to do with me. When I get home I’ll worry about you and when I go to bed I’ll worry about whether there’s a math test tomorrow, worrying don’t help none but I do it anyway. That’s my problem” she said contemplatively, she was letting him into her life in that one simple statement. Not many girls her age would have had the wisdom to realize a problem like that, even in it’s smallness Jess though for a second.
“Now imagine” he said closing his unseeing eyes “That you never had to worry about anything ever again. You couldn’t. No mater ho hard you tried you were care free. What would you do? Its part of who you are isn’t it?” Jess knew the girl had nodded even though he couldn’t see the tilt of her chin or the wrinkle he knew was in her forehead.
“That’s what its like for me. It’s who I am. If I wasn’t blind I wouldn’t be the same person, I wouldn’t think the same or feel the same or appreciate life as much.”
“I don’t quite understand but I think your right. Our problems don’t define us, but they make us who we are. Right?” Jess nodded. H stood, it was time to go, the sun was rising over the pines and he could feel the sun warming his face.
“It was nice to meet you” he said politely, even though the experience was much more than a polite meeting. “Goodbye” he said and slowly he pushed his feet off the ground. He forced himself away, even though he wanted to stay forever, seeing something for the first time in his life. Jess knew what the place looked like now and he would never have to wonder again. Jess made his way through the knotty pine forest and over the slow river that gurgled and breathed around him. Thank you, he said again to no one in particular. Thank you.
Jess returned home to live the life he had carved out of people’s low expectations for him. He did what he always had done. Serenaded the invisible moon, explored his wilderness while never leaving his farm. He never saw Lillian again, but she lived on inside of Jess. Even after her family moved out of the rough grass house with the tin roof her picture of Jess’s river was always living.
But when I'm at home, I see just fine.