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Blindfolds, Pearls, and Kennedys
His name was Chase, but his friends called him Kennedy. The rest of the world knew him as Blindfold Boy.
He admired no one else, but John F. Kennedy. Kennedy was his favorite president; in fact, he was the only president Chase liked. Chase sort of liked Roosevelt. Maybe. But, Kennedy triumphed over all of them. No one knew why. If anyone asked, Chase would always reply, "Just because." He never told anyone his reason. Why? Just because.
Kennedy was also his last name. But, unfortunately enough, he wasn’t related to him. Sadly. So, his last name really didn’t matter much to him. Besides, all the other students at school just called him Blindfold Boy. What was the use of his last name?
Chase listened to the Beatles, but no other bands. Just because. His mom once asked why, but Chase didn't answer. He didn't know why himself. Maybe he just listened to them just because he could. Maybe because he wanted to. Chase goes in phases. Once in a while, Chase goes through his Beethoven phase, momentarily forgetting the Beatles, but he always comes back. Always.
Chase always wore a blindfold. Yes, a blindfold. He wore a different color everyday--black, blue, sometimes even pink, and not once did he take it off. Chase even went to school blindfolded. No one ever saw his eyes. No one. Not even his mom. Why? Just because. And no one said a word about it. Not even the teachers. Somehow there was an unspoken rule about it.
Chase was fifteen years old and he didn't talk much. Only with people he liked. Like John F. Kennedy. But, he was dead, assassinated, and for that reason, Chase barely spoke. Other than the blindfold, Chase was rather like woodwork, windows, and wallpaper. Or maybe perhaps like chewed gum underneath the tables. Chase was unnoticed and ignored and no one really remembered him, only his name. They only knew him as Blindfold Boy. Chase didn't really care anything about it. He sort of enjoyed the quiet, enjoyed the drowsy tranquility of it all, but a part of him yearned for more. He wished for something to happen, something exciting, something adventurous, something gallant. Pristine. (He was in the middle of entering his Beethoven phase.) And indeed, something did happen to Chase.
It had all started when Lauren came.
Her name was Lauren and she was new. New to the sleepy town of Seldom and even newer to the drowsy tranquility of Seldom High school. Lauren was pretty, but pretty in an unconventional way. She had large almond eyes that swelled into enormous ovals when excited, glossy lips that she always liked to bite, and a round, baby face. Creamy white pearls dangled from her ears, which stuck out from her chocolate puff of dandelion hair that were roped into large, puffy ringlets. Lauren was a rather little girl type of pretty in an adorable way. Adorable like a baby. A child. Lauren didn’t quite like it that much.
Lauren was short for her age. She was so short that even though she was the same age as Chase, she seemed younger. A lot younger in fact. Lauren still looked like she belonged to middle school and she didn't like it. So, she dressed older. A lot older. She dressed vintage.
Lauren loved antique clothes. She loved to wear pearls and polka dots and pencil skirts and dresses. She loved them so much that it was all her wardrobe consisted of. Lauren even carried a vintage backpack. And for that, people referred to her as That Nancy Drew Chick. For that same reason, people treated her as if she were wet toilet paper stuck on the bathroom ceiling; they avoided her as much as possible.
Lauren had no friends on her first week of school. No one talked to her. Every time she tried to approach someone, they’d hustle away quickly as if just talking to her was contagious. Perhaps it was, Lauren thought as she picked on her pencil eraser during art class, perhaps it was. Alone, she sat in the back of the art room, placing her feet on the empty stool beside her as the teacher explained what to do. She sat there, humming along to herself, until she saw him. Blindfold Boy. Kennedy. Chase Kennedy.
Lauren liked Chase the first time she saw him. She fell for him in a love-at-first-sight kind of way and was completely enamored with him. She liked him even though she never saw his face, never saw his eyes; she liked him just because...she couldn't put a finger why. Maybe it was because he was different. Different with his eccentric blindfold and way of speaking. Different than everyone else. Different with her. She couldn't quite describe it, but she was certain of one thing: somehow, in some inexplicable way, they were alike. Both of them were unique. And lonely.
Chase was a different person when he was sculpting, Lauren thought, he really was. There was just something about him that fascinated her. Perhaps it was his fingers. Chase had abnormally long fingers--they were the longest fingers that Lauren had ever seen--that moved so delicately, so smoothly, that it was as if somehow they were dancing. They were that elegant. Lauren watched his fingers twirl and skate across the cold, wet clay as they deftly shaped the object into something. Or maybe it was just the way he sculpted. Her almond eyes flitted to Chase himself, watching him mold the clay into something beautiful. His slender fingers pinched together the nose, balling it softly between his finger tips to make it look less rigid, and his thumb pressed itself into the figure to create the base of an eye. Slowly, he smoothed it over, running his hands across the bumpy surface, as he added tiny details along the way. The whole sight of it was amazing to Lauren. Chase had created a sculpture that looked so real, so intricate, with a blindfold wrapped around his head. She wondered what things he could create without it.
“Hi. Can I sit here?” Lauren gushed.
No, go away and die was what Chase wanted to say, but he didn’t. Instead, he said, “Sure.”
“Thanks. Can I ask you another question?”
No, you’re annoying. “Yeah.”
“Do you think I can sit with you tomorrow?” Her voice was awkwardly high-pitched like a baby’s. Chase hated babies.
No and never again. Leave me alone. I have a headache. Chase hesitated a bit, but decided quickly, clearing out his throat as he spoke, “Sure.”
And so, from that very moment, Lauren clung to him like a child might do to a mother, like a boy may do to his video games, like a puppy may do to its owner; with wide puppy eyes, Lauren constantly hung to him as if she herself were a part of him. She was that annoying.
Chase disliked her. Even though he couldn't see her from his blindfold, she still irked him. Every time she came near him, all she did hover near him, constantly talking and talking and talking. She was that annoying. However, Chase never said a peep to her about it. He kind of enjoyed her company; he no longer felt alone.
Lauren was a question asker. Chase noticed it the first time he saw her. She was an asker that kept asking and asking and asking questions like,
Why do you wear a blindfold?
Can I see your eyes?
Isn’t that thing dirty?
How did you learn to sculpt so well?
Can you sculpt me?
Can you take off the blindfold?
She asked questions that Chase didn’t have an answer to. Questions that he wanted to avoid. Chase was lucky that art was the only class that she had with him or else he was going to implode. Or maybe drive himself crazy enough to be committed to an asylum. Most of the time, her questions made Chase feel like doing something impetuous and stupid, something wild and precarious. But, sometimes, in a special occasion when her timing’s just right, her questions made Chase for the first time in his life feel significant. For a moment, it made him feel important; it was almost like he was President Kennedy himself.
“Hey,” Lauren asked while drawing, “Hey, Chase.”
“Yeah?” Chase replied as he continued to add finishing touches to his sculpture of John F. Kennedy.
“Can I ask you a question?”
“Hold on a sec…Yeah, sure.”
“Why do you wear a blindfold?” That’s not all Lauren wanted to ask. Why do all the teachers let you wear it? Why do they pretend they don’t see it? Why doesn’t anyone else talk about it? Why?
“I don’t know, Lauren, why do you wear dresses?”
“Because I like them.”
“Mine’s the same reason. I wear blindfolds because I like them.”
“Liar. That’s not your real reason. Tell me your real reason.”
“Well, what do you want me to tell you? That I’m wearing a blindfold because I want to help the world somehow? I’m not going to tell a lie just to make you happy you know.”
“No, I want you to tell me the true reason to it. Everyone has a true reason for things. For example, a girl may say that she likes her earrings because they look cute, but in reality, she just wears them to feel better than anyone else. She wears her earrings to feel special, to feel like she matters, to feel important. Maybe because they remind her of her mother.” Lauren bit her lip as she always did, tapping her toes, as she waited for Chase’s answer.
“Fine, Lauren. I wear a blindfold because all the world does is judge you; all they do judge you for what you wear, how you look, what you like, and for once, I’m committed to not doing that. I’m living life blind, judging people only on their actions. I’m contributing for a good cause, you know? Plus, it makes me look cooler.”
“What? Okay, I like to cover my eyes when I sculpt. It improves my senses; sight hinders my artistic talent. Instead of seeing, I feel the layers, the bumps, and curves, making it more real, more lifelike.”
“Can I ask you another question?”
“Yeah, whatever,” Chase said, scraping off the clay stuck to metal sculpting tool, “I’m almost done anyways.”
Lauren hesitated a bit before asking, “Where do you eat lunch? I---”
“I don’t have lunch.” Chase replied quickly.
“Everyone has lunch.” She said, sketching a brief image of Chase on her canvas. She had already drawn out his sharp jaw and slender fingers and had begun to start the outline of his wispy hair.
“Not me,” Chase retorted, “because I’m special. Hey, what are you doing?”
“Oh,”---Chase leaned closer to Lauren’s paper, lifting up his blindfold--- “I don’t see anything. What the heck is it?”
“Way to be nice, Chase.”
“No, I didn’t—never mind. Sorry, I don’t like drawing much.” Chase shrugged.
“Well, then what do you like?” Lauren was almost finished; she just needed to draw his trademark blindfold.
“I used to write.”
“I don’t write anymore.”
Lauren sat crissed-crossed, her feet dangling precariously off the stool, and rhythmically, tapped her pencil as she continued to write her English narrative in art class. She was having a hard time coming up with a good opening—none of what she wrote was catchy enough for her to be satisfied. Hurriedly, she scribbled out what she had written so far and thought about what to say.
“She had blue eyes…” Lauren started, “She had blue eyes that…” Lauren trailed on and crossed her arms in frustration. This whole thing was getting to her.
“She had blue eyes,” Chase interrupted, “She had eyes as blue as the ocean--they were like dark frothy waves that skated across the black beach of her eyes--and copper curls that shone brightly as a penny.”
"You’re good at writing.” Lauren said.
“Yeah,” Chase mumbled, “I used to read a lot when I was a kid and I guess it influenced my writing.”
“I don’t read anymore?”
“You don’t read?”
“I prefer audio books.” Chase replied. At this, Lauren’s ears perked up. Slowly, as she pestered and mollycoddled him with questions, Chase had begun to open himself up more.
“Why don’t you write anymore?”
“Just because.” Chase replied flatly. In that instant, Lauren’s hopes were thrown away. Just because. Lauren hated to hear those words; they never explained why. She hated and hated and hated not knowing. Hated hearing those two little words. With his ambiguity, Chase in a sense was like his mother, never answering questions clearly and leaving them as vague as possible. She didn’t like it at all. Those words meant that the questions were done, that his door of secrets were closed, left closed and unanswered.
Chase was keeping something from her. She could tell by the way his voice hesitated every time he talked. Lauren thought as she furiously scribbled down notes in her English class. He was hiding something from her. Was it family problems? Did he have a girlfriend or something and was too embarrassed to tell her about it? Why couldn’t he just tell her about it? Did she come off as too annoying? Lauren sighed and brushed the thoughts away as she read the teacher’s handout. It was a story and a very good one at that. Didn’t Chase tell her something about writing? She couldn’t remember; all she could recall was the heart stopping proximity between them. He was so close to her that she could feel him breathing on neck. Lauren’s lips quivered as she continued to read the story, tears pricking beneath her eyelids. It was about this boy and how he deals with accepting his mother’s death from a raven.
Reading it, she remembered her own mother’s death. She didn’t want to. But, the memories had still flown—she had remembered them all: the way life seemed to freeze after she died; the anger, the hurt, and the suffering Lauren felt when she found out how her mother died; the emptiness she left behind. Lauren was only thirteen when it happened. It was before she wore the pearl earrings, the vintage dresses. Before she moved to Seldom. Her mother had---she didn’t want to remember.
Tears had begun to prick in Lauren’s eyes. She remembered the staleness of the air, the emptiness of the room, the way her limp body didn’t move when Lauren found her… In a quick motion, Lauren crumpled up the story and shredded it into millions of pieces. And threw it in the air like you would do to confetti. Or snowflakes. The story was just junk anyways. Wait, what was she supposed to be doing again? Oh yeah, reading. Wait, she had no more reading. Then, she laughed. But, she laughed a little too loud. A little too much. Perhaps if she was a tiny bit quieter Mrs. Garcia wouldn’t have heard her and saw what she was doing. Perhaps she wouldn’t be sitting in detention.
Lauren was supposed to be the good girl, the teacher’s pet, the I’m-too-good-for-my-own-good sort of person. Not a juvenile delinquent in the making. Maybe she should now dress the part. She had skull earrings. And the black skinny jeans. All she had to do was get a nose ring and pierce her belly button and shave her half of her head and dye the rest of it black. It could work. After all, she already was in detention. She was now one of those trouble makers. For a split second, Lauren thought about what her mother would say. In her mind, her mother disapproved. She shook her index finger at Lauren, her pearls draped from her ears, chiding, “Do well in school. Don’t be one of those delinquents who think that none of this mattered. Don’t do what I did. Don’t be a loser like your mother here…” But, who cared about what her mother thought? Her mother was only a coward, a fool who left Lauren alone. A mother who committed suicide and left her family to pick up the pieces.
Quickly, Lauren shook her head, pushing the horrible memories aside. It was better that she forgot, that she didn’t remember; she would only recall the happy moments. She remembered them all: the crinkles in her mother’s face when she smiled, how delicate her fingers seemed when she painted, the chalk stains on her t-shirt, her whimsical laugh… But, then she remembered the staleness in the air when Lauren found her, the way her limp body didn’t move, how her dead legs danced around as she hung from the ceiling. Lauren felt the pearl earrings dangling from her ear as she remembered how empty they had looked on her mother that day and shivered, thinking of how she swung from the ceiling like the pendulum of a clock. Lauren closed her eyes, pushing it further into mind.
After detention ended, Lauren headed over to her teacher, Mrs. Garcia.
“Mrs. Garcia, I’m really sorry for what I did earlier. I wasn’t feeling so well and I’m sorry I disrespected you…” Lauren trailed on, chewing on her lip, “The handout you passed out was really good—great even--and I was wondering… Who wrote it?”
“Oh,” Mrs. Garcia replied, “It actually was one of my students. Let’s see…what was his name? He was a gifted writer--- one of the most talented students I ever had---well before the accident.”
“In Woodshop, I think. I don’t remember all the details, but I remember the poor kid became blind after it. Something had fallen in his eye.”
“He became blind?”
“Yeah, apparently some particles fell into his eye and damaged his retina. Poor boy. And such a gifted writer. I think he still goes here. His name started with a…” Mrs. Garcia said, racking her brain for the name, “Oh! I remember now. His name I believe was Chase. Chase Kennedy.”
Lauren was angry at him. She didn’t even talk to him once in this period. All she did was surround him with impenetrable silence. Chase couldn’t figure out a reason why. Unless, unless she was still mad at him for making fun of her drawing. But, it wasn’t his fault really—he couldn’t even see it. Not like he used to… He hated the quietness, hated the silence between them. It made him feel like before. The way he felt after the incident happened. The flash of lights, little bits of color, but no sight.
“Lauren,” Chase stammered, “Are you mad at me or something?”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Lauren whispered shrilly, “Why didn’t you tell me that you’re blind?” It was with those words that Chase broke down. The boy with the blindfold, the boy whose favorite president was John F. Kennedy, the boy who only listened to the Beatles (and sometimes Beethoven), was crying. It was as if he had finally snapped after bottling up his emotions for so long.
“Do you even know how it feels to not be able to see again? Under this blindfold, I can’t see anything, just some light. I can’t even see what you look like, Lauren. I no longer see crinkles of my mother’s smile, the warm eyes of my father, not even the face of my baby brother—I can’t see how brightly lit the stars and moon look in the night sky, how the earth looks after it rains, not even the sun. The only thing I can do is remember and even then, the image may fade away.” Chase slowly unwrapped his blindfold, revealing two unfocused eyes. “Look at me. Look at my eyes. I can’t even talk to someone properly without them noticing my eyes. That’s all they see. Chase Kennedy, the poor kid that became blind. If I had told you, would you have become just like the others? Would you pity me like they do? Judge me like they do? I wear this blindfold not because of not wanting to judge people, but so they don’t judge me. With this on, all they see is this weird kid. The eccentric artist. That Kennedy Kid. Blindfold Boy. Not the blind kid, Chase Kennedy. Do you have your answer?”
“Chase, I don’t care if you’re blind or not,” Lauren said, “Chase, from the very first time I saw you, I thought you were amazing. I thought you were exciting, different. I liked you. And now, Chase Kennedy, you’re still the same friend I know. The same friend who’s sarcastic and funny and weird and eccentric. The one who’s cynical, pessimistic, and a Debby Downer. It’s funny, but now I think I like you even more.”
“Why?” Chase asked, his voice cracking, “Why?” It was in that moment that Lauren understood. She understood what Chase meant before. Chase wore his blindfolds because he was afraid, afraid of their pity, afraid of their glances—all of those feelings were tied up into two little words. Just because. They were two little words to hide the pain, the vulnerability, the sadness; two little words that explained it all. It was then that Lauren finally knew the answer to her mother’s death.
She’d always asked herself why. Why did her mother kill herself? Wasn’t she happy? Wasn’t she loved? Lauren had always thought that it was impetuous decision made in haste, but now, seeing Chase, she realized it wasn’t; her decision was built over time. She had thought her mother was happy with her life, but hidden beneath her smile was sadness and regret. Her mother was an artist, spreading her love through paint and canvas, and sometimes it wasn’t enough. Even though she’d hide her sadness behind a closed door, dirty paintbrushes, and the words just because, she still couldn’t save herself from her depression, so she took herself away from the pain. Lauren didn’t want the same end to happen to Chase.
“Why?” Lauren started, “It’s because you are Chase Kennedy.”
The boy was fifteen years old and was blind. He used to wear blindfolds every day, but now he doesn’t. People see his eyes. After Lauren showed him a Braille keyboard, he has committed himself to writing stories like he used to. He still has admired no one else, but John F. Kennedy. And still listened to the Beatles (sometimes even Beethoven), but no other musicians. Even now, the boy doesn’t talk much. His name was Chase, but his friends called him Kennedy. The rest of the world knew him as Chase Kennedy.