Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Blind love

I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.
—Pablo Neruda
At the Camarillo Amtrak station a young blind couple, walking arm-in-arm, slide the red tips of their seeing-eye canes along the platform next to the train.
The tips of their canes make a parallel search of the ground, tapping out the echoes of potential obstacles, swinging this way and that. Between the sliding sticks the pair are joined at their elbows.

I watch them from my vantage point above, through the window where I’m sitting on Train 777, or “Triple Seven,” as the conductor says in his announcements. 

They have just stepped off the train heading north and west where the sun is beginning its low descent over the Pacific Ocean.

The setting sun casts an orange glow on their faces. Together they tap the ground, safely passing sign posts and cement benches, the blind lovingly leading the blind, in perfect tender unison. 

I’ve never seen a blind couple as this making their way together. When I’ve observed the blind, often they have been alone, or accompanied by a service dog or friend whose vision is not impaired.

The pair turns tentatively toward the road, scouting the audibles, as a yellow cab slowly passes by, and they pause momentarily as if to hail the driver but another couple flags the car for themselves. How do they know that it is a cab? What bit of information causes them to turn at the same time to pursue what they cannot see?

They walk so closely and intimately that their bodies and minds seem as one. It’s a stunning scene. It’s touching. How did two blind intimates find each other? What brought them together? Did they meet in school? At a support group for the blind? 

Their closeness, their intimate knowing and safety in being together unseats me, penetrates the armor I’ve worn to avoid the history and hurt of broken intimacies. An aching, bleeding feeling, as if something has begun to melt, washes through me, beginning inside of my chest.

My eyes well up with tears and, like the couple below, I put on a pair of dark sunglasses. I don’t want anyone to see my eyes. I don’t want anyone to know that I’m having a breakdown on the train. I want to avoid the appearance of a touched middle-aged man. 

As Triple Seven pulls away from the platform, I watch the pair in a final desperate attempt to see what happens to them, and feel the cauldron of losses bubbling inside of me, streams of tears burning down my face.

Perhaps I’m romanticizing the idea of a blind love that isn’t blind at all but sees everything, knows everything, and moves in unison with the melodious voices of departing passengers, the low hum of cars in the distance, the passing of a cab, and the shared need to find a safe passage home. 

Perhaps I’m a fool for thinking that such passage gains more from the company of another who is willing to share the risks and responsibilities of navigating through the darkness, guided by some other light that cannot be seen.

This coupling desire to be joined at the elbows and to walk in unison with another in a different kind of blind trust doesn’t go away easily, not even after one has passed his prime and love can seem so cruel and foolish.

“When does it stop?” I asked a friend once. “When do you stop wanting the company of a woman? When do you stop feeling like there needs to be another?”

“A great love poet,” he responded, “once said that it wasn’t until he was 70 that he realized the feminine no longer had power over him.”

It’s not merely the feminine, however, that haunts and wields power over me. Something more than charms and pleasure has broken through the walls of my resistance to love.

What moves me now is the formidable intimate knowing that is built on trust, the eagerness to hold space with another, even when there is darkness all around, the willingness to traverse obstacles despite the handicaps, to do with that one what spring does with the cherry trees.

The dark sunglasses do not hide my tears. I remove them to pat my cheeks dry with the sleeve of my jacket. Amtrak Triple Seven roars into the night and my view outside the window is blurred from blinding tears. §

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