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Nick Brady

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  1. Thanks, guys. I loved writing this story. I knew a blind fellow when I was in college and a few of the details of this story are factual. It took a good bit of research to be sure that the details were authentic. Having two editors who are blind in fact was a tremendous help. It amazed me that my college friend could be so independent while blind. I tried to carry his character into the story. The Ian of the story is fictional, of course, but is as I imagined my college friend would relate to a guy like Andrew. The romantic nature of Ian and Andrew's relationship was entirely fictional as we never progressed beyond a simple friendship. He was just as cute and sweet as the Ian of my story, but never gave any vibe that he might be interested in more.
  2. Thanks, Thorn. I knew when I posted that first chapter that it had three parts and there was more to the story. I'm glad I went back and finished it. Stories like this are really never over - there is always more to tell. But having them settled down together with their Labrador Retriever made a good stopping point. Thank you again for the encouragement.
  3. Thank you, Mikiesboy. Love is Blind is a better story because of the assistance of my editors. You gave me encouragement and steered me around some potholes.
  4. Love is Blind - 9 Copyright Nick Brady 2019. All rights reserved. ==========////=========== “We don't have to do the same job to work for the same company,” I pointed out. “We need to think about how we're going to do this. I can't bear the thought of being separated.” “There will be a way,” Ian smiled. “There has to be. We'll find a nice place and settle down, maybe buy a house and get a dog. We'll find a way.” Ian decided to take a break from summer classes and work full time during the summer. I worked at the lab and between us, we got by. Rather than thinking about what was mine and what was his, we were thinking in terms of what was ours. We had become a team, or more accurately, a couple. Ian was very bright and resourceful. But as independent and self-sufficient as Ian was, there were some things that were difficult for him. I made some of those things easier. He felt safe with me and knew he could count on me which was important to Ian. He told himself that to survive he had to become a person who didn't need anybody, but of course, he did need someone. He needed me. Even before I realized I was gay, I knew I was different from my friends. I consciously emulated the mannerisms of guys I admired and worked hard to be more masculine. I wanted to be a strong confident person who fit in with the guys I admired. This is who Ian saw. What he didn't see was how desperately I wanted someone to accept me, respect me and depend on me. I needed to be needed. I think that equality in marriage is largely a myth. What makes a partnership work is for the two parties to compliment each other. What one needs, the other provides. Ian and I complimented each other. I took a few post-graduate courses while Ian caught up to me so that we could graduate together. My mother came for the ceremony and so did his. We brought them to our little apartment afterwards and ordered pizza. We were asked for no explanation of our relationship and none was offered, although our mothers went for a long walk together and I think most questions were answered. Ian's mother told him she was very proud of him and we left it at that. It was a good thing. We were aware that there were places where it was acceptable for two men to live together as domestic partners, but Oklahoma in the 1960s was not one of those places. We weren't ashamed of who we were but wanted to avoid controversy. This was a time of transition. College, our jobs, and the apartment were all temporary. The only thing that looked out into the future was the commitment we had made to each other. It appeared that our future plans would require a relocation. After graduation, we spent a month doing job research and interviewed with a number of companies before settling on Boeing in Seattle. I was offered a job in the Engineering department at the Everett plant and Ian was accepted as a telephone sales agent. We applied and were accepted individually. If it mattered to Boeing that we'd be sharing the same address, nothing was said about it. We loved Seattle. The city was vibrant, the area was beautiful, and the Pacific Ocean and Vancouver were not far away. For two people who had never been out of Oklahoma, this was an exotic and exciting place to live. The cost of housing was very high but our starting salaries were adequate and we found a little efficiency apartment in Everett. We drove out in my old Chevrolet and moved in with high hopes. Life was good for us in there. Boeing was growing and we grew with them. After a few years, we found ourselves financially more comfortable and were very happy together. We looked at our combined resources and decided to find a better apartment or maybe a condo. What we really wanted was a little house with a yard, but didn't have much hope of finding something we could afford. We looked at dozens of places and talked to a lot of Real Estate agents before we got a call one Saturday from a fellow who seemed to have taken an interest in us. “Hi, this is John Berman,” he said. “You may remember that we talked about getting a house that would work for you?” I put the phone on speaker so Ian and I could both listening. “Yes, I remember you,” I said. Have you found something for us?” “I think I have. It's small, but in excellent condition and close to the transit system. I think you'll like it.” I hesitated. “But can we afford it? Everything we've looked at is way out of our reach.” “I think you'll be surprised,” he sounded excited. “I think you need to see it quickly. It won't last very long.” I looked over at Ian who was nodding head in his agreement. “We can meet you there if you give me the address.” I wrote it down and we went to the car. “If we can afford it, it must be a dump,” Ian grumbled. “You never know. We've looked at lots of places, we can look at one more.” “It'd be nice to have a dog,” Ian said. “It would be so great to have a little yard where we could have a dog..” “That would be cool,” I agreed. “We had a dog when I was little, but she went to dog heaven about the time we moved and we never got another one.” I checked the address again and we stopped in front of a little bungalow. “This must be it. There's Mr. Berman.” “What does it look like?” “It's not bad,” I grinned. “Actually, it's cute. It's a little frame house with a gabled roof and a bay window in front. It's got gray siding with a red front door and white trim. There's an attached one car garage and lots of shrubbery. There's a decent tree in the front yard and it looks like maybe it's got a new roof.” “I'm afraid to get my hopes up,” Ian sighed, then added hopefully, “Maybe it has a back yard.” Mr. Berman approached us with a smile and shook hands with us both. “Please call me John,” he said. “I think you're going to like this one. Let me show it to you.” He fished a key from his pocket, opened the front door and ushered us inside. Ian took my arm and followed me through the front door into a small living room that was furnished with a sofa and upholstered chairs although the walls were bare. John started his pitch. “It's a two bedroom Donovan house. These were built back in the 1920's and they rarely come on the market. This one has been nicely renovated with hardwood floors and a remodeled bathroom and kitchen. The roof is about 5 years old and everything works.” I led Ian into the kitchen where he let go of my arm and began a tactile inspection of the stove and refrigerator, and the location of the sink and cabinets. “It smells new. How long ago since it was remodeled?” he asked. “About five years ago at the same time the roof was replaced. I guess there's a story here. It was remodeled by an older couple when they retired. His wife died about two months ago and he didn't want to stay. I was able to pick it up for a good price.” “Let's see the rest of it,” I said. It didn't take long. There were two modest bedrooms with a nice bath between them. I noticed that one contained a bed and chest of drawers with a cushioned side chair. I mentioned that to Ian. “Now these bedrooms are kind of small, but you can each have your own room,” John said. I laughed and he looked down at the floor. “Or a master and a guest room, if you like.” The back door opened to a deck with railings and I could see more shrubbery beyond that. I described it to Ian as we walked through. “It's nice. Everything is painted white so anything will fit in here. There is some decent furniture in the living room and one bedroom. What's up with that?” John smiled. “It's yours if you want it. The previous owner moved into an assisted living center and this is what he left behind. Of course if you have something else, I can get it out of here.” I could see that Ian was getting interested. “Could we see the back yard? Is it fenced?” he asked. “Yes, of course. There are some steps that go out to the yard from the deck. Just follow me,” John said. He led me out the back door and Ian followed. “Hey, this is nice, Ian. It's fenced with some of that wooden privacy fence and there are all kinds of plants and flowers around the sides. You could keep a dog out here.” That made Ian smile. We looked around a little more then went into the living room to talk. “The question is,” I said solemnly, “How much is this place. It's nice, but we have a limited budget.” “Well now, let's talk about that. Have you gentlemen figured out what you can afford?” “We've looked at a lot of houses and we can't afford any of them. We sat down and figured out how much we can afford, but we're afraid to get our hopes up,” I told him honestly. Mr. Berman smiled at us both. “Do you like the house?” I looked at Ian and he smiled and nodded. “It's very nice,” he said quietly. “Actually, it would be perfect for us. We don't need a big place and this is close to the transportation system and everything. We could save on gas and wear and tear on my old car. Give us the bad news,” I sighed. “How much is it?” Mr. Berman wrote a number on the back of one of his business cards and handed it to me. “I think I could get more for this place but you guys look like you could use a break. Would that work for you?” I looked at the card and took a breath. I read the number to Ian and asked him, “What do you think?” Ian hesitated a minute then said, “That would buy a mansion in Oklahoma, but it's a lot less than anything else we've looked at. I think we should talk about it.” “I'll be honest with you,” John said. “A place like this doesn't come around very often in this area. I know it sounds like a lot to you, but if you don't want it, I imagine it'll be gone tomorrow. I know that sounds like a hustle, but it's really not.” Ian reached over and took my hand. “Could you give us a few minutes?” he asked. John went out to his car and smoked a cigarette while we talked. “I think we might be able to afford this place,” I told Ian. “What do you think?” “I like it. It's the first thing we've seen that we can afford and it sounds perfect. This is kind of quick, but I vote yes.” “That makes two yes votes. I have a good feeling about this place. Let's do it.” We called John inside and told him that we wanted the house. He pulled out some paperwork for us to sign and recommended a couple of lending agencies. “I'll need some earnest money from you today then I can hold this for a little while,” he said. “As soon as you get your loan approved we can talk about when you want to move in. I'm glad we could do business. I think you'll be happy here.” We shook hands with John and drove back to our apartment. Over the next several weeks we applied for and were approved for a loan. The closing took place quickly and we were able to take possession a month to the day from when we first looked at the house – our new house. We took a few days off from work and packed everything into my old Chevy. The house payment was only a little more than we were paying for our dinky apartment. The furniture that was left behind in thr house was adequate but we needed a kitchen table and some other furniture. We had enough in our joint checking account so we found a discount furniture store and bought what we needed. The store moved it in for us the next day and we got everything arranged, then sat down on the sofa. “We're here,” I said with a laugh. “We're home owners!” “John said he thought we'd be happy here. I bet he's right,” Ian smiled. “Now maybe we can talk about getting a dog.” I laughed out loud. “I guess that's next. What do you have in mind?” “It's not just me. We have to agree on it. Do you want a dog?” “I had a nice dog when I was younger. I used to tell her everything. She wasn't much of a talker, but she was a great listener. Sure, I'd like to get a dog.” “I don't want to buy something expensive. How about a rescue dog. One that needs a good home?” “I think that's a great idea. Where do we go to find one?” “Probably there's something in the newspaper. We could get a paper and you could look through it.” “What kind of a dog do you want?” “What kind of a dog did you have?” “She was a black lab. Her name was Pepper, Black Pepper. You want a big dog?” “Yeah. I might step on a little one. They can be yappy, too.” “How do you know so much about dogs?” “There were dogs at the blind school. It was my job to feed them.” Ian looked a little wistful. “Dogs are great,” I agreed. “They'll love you when nobody else will.” “Yeah. Dogs are great.” “I'll get us a paper. I'm too tired to cook. You want to go out? We can pick up some groceries on the way back.” Ian stood up and smiled. “Sure. I'm hungry.” I bought a newspaper at the grocery market, and looked at it while Ian put things where he could find them. “There's the SPCA,” I said, “and the local animal shelter. There are some photos in the classified section but those are all pedigreed dogs and expensive.” “How about the shelter?” “It's open at eight in the morning. You want to check there?” “Yes. Let's do that. I mean, if you're not ready yet, it's OK.” “First thing in the morning then?” “Yeah. That would be great. Thanks.” We drove out to the animal shelter first thing in the morning. It was a low brick building with chain link dog runs behind it. We walked into the office area to find an older lady at the desk. I pulled on Ian's arm, “Watch out for the puppies. They're wandering around on the floor.” “Sorry about the puppies,” the lady said. “Somebody just dropped them off. Can I help you?” “We wanted to look at some dogs,” Ian said. “Well, we've got plenty of them. Go through that door. Big dogs on the left and little ones on the right. Cats are in the back if you're interested.” We thanked her and went through the door to be greeted by a cacophony of barks and yelps. We turned to the left. Ian held my arm as we walked slowly down a row of wire cages. In each cage was a dog. Some barked with excitement, some growled, a few sat impassively and looked at us as we went by. “What are they?” Ian asked with a note of excitement. “Do you see one you like?” “Give me a minute. There are a lot of dogs in here.” I stopped in front of a cage where a young black dog sat looking at me. When I stopped she stood up and wagged her tail. “What is it? You found one, didn't you.” “Well, she isn't acting crazy and she's not growling at us.” I stuck my fingers through the wire and she looked up at me and licked them. “This one might be a possibility, but we should probably look at the rest of them.” I started to walk on when the black dog whined at me and scratched at the cage with her paw. Ian stopped. “Is this the one you were looking at? What is it?” He held out his hand and the dog licked it through the wire. “Tell me about this dog,” Ian insisted. “It's a female black lab – probably a mix, not a purebred, her hair is too short. I'd guess about six months or so. Not a puppy, but not full grown either.” Ian squatted down next to the cage and spoke softly to the dog. “Are you the one?” He put his face up close to the cage. “What's your name, girl” Do you want to come home with us?” She sniffed him through the cage and wagged her tail vigorously. “She likes me,” Ian said. “She says her name is Pepper.” “Oh, come on!” I laughed. “Did you pick her or did she pick you?” “We could look at her. Do you like her?” “She looks nice. Let's go tell the lady and she'll get her out for us.” I looked at the number on the cage and told the lady at the desk that we might be interested. She called to a girl who told us to take a seat and brought the dog out to us for our inspection. The dog came trotting in on a nylon leash from inside the kennel, walked up to Ian and sat down to lick his hand. Ian was a goner. “I think this is the one. Do you like her?” “I like her just fine. She certainly seems to like you. Have we made up our minds?” Ian bent over and hugged the dog, rubbing her ears and stroking her shiny fur. “I really like this girl. How are you, Pepper?” “Where did she come from?” I asked the lady. “I don't know, honey. She was just running the streets and got picked up. We get a lot of strays.” “We'll take her,” I told the girl. I paid the lady the fee and was handed a receipt and a certificate to have her neutered by a local veterinarian. The girl handed me the leash and that was that. Ian held my arm with one hand and took the leash in the other. The dog walked alongside us to the car. She had decided to adopt us and was behaving herself. We stopped at the market on the way home to buy a bag of dog chow and some bowls for food and water. Ian sat in the car with Pepper while I went into buy provisions for the new member of our family. When I got back to the car, Ian was sitting next to the door and his new buddy was leaned up against him. They looked very cozy. As soon as we got to the house, Pepper was led through to the back yard to take care of her business. She squatted, peed, then ran to the back door to be let back in. Ian put a cup of dry chow in one bowl and water in the other. She knew what to do with that. “I'll feed her,” Ian volunteered. “I'll give her a cup of dog food every morning and another at night. Maybe a little more while she's still growing. I can do this.” “She's all yours,” I laughed. “No. She's ours, but I don't mind feeding her.” “That's fine, but I'm telling you right now that she's not sleeping in our bed.” “No, of course not. But it would be nice if she could sleep in the house. She might be afraid out in the back yard all by herself.” “Who cleans up after her if she poops on the floor?” “I will, but you won't do that, will you Pepper? If you need to go out, you tell me, OK?” I shook my head and laughed. It was nice to see Ian so excited about something. It was nice to see him so happy. Pepper was a fast learner. She knew where Ian was and she knew where the back door was. When she needed to go out she went to the door and barked. Ian let her out and waited until she came back then let her inside. She was here to stay. She was a sweet girl and I became almost as attached to her as Ian was. She liked me and I liked her, but she was really Ian's dog. We bought her a doggie bed and Ian placed it in our bedroom. She was very content there. We'd become a little family. Ian was concerned about leaving her alone when we went to work. We bought her some squeaky toys and things to chew on and put them on the deck behind the house. She did fine except for digging up some of the shrubbery. As soon as we came home she was back in the house looking for a treat. We took her to the Vet and who made sure she had all her shots and spayed her. Ian was concerned that she was dopey when we picked her up but after a few days she seemed to be her usual self. When she got a little older, Ian wanted to take her to obedience school. “We need to take her for walks and it will be nicer if she knows how to heel and stay and things like that. I think we could do it together.” “You thinking about making her a seeing eye dog?” I asked. “I was just thinking about making it easier for us to walk her and things. It takes a lot of training for a guide dog.” “That's fine. My old dog was fairly well behaved but we never took her to school. It might be fun.” “Is there something about dog schools in the paper?” Ian was ready. I located the Companion Dog School and contacted them There was a 6-week class starting in about a month. We were told that we'd need a certificate verifying that she had been neutered and up to date on vaccinations. We were prepared. The school was held in the large central room of an old armory. There were about a dozen people with an assortment of dogs in attendance. We were told that the school would not train our dogs, they would teach us how to train them. We all had to have proper leashes and were told to bring our dogs to the center of the room and form up in a circle. Ian took the leash in his left hand and my arm in his right and we both took Pepper out on the floor. The immediate distraction was that the dogs all wanted to sniff at each other and there were a few growls and barks. Pepper looked excited but stayed at Ian's side. We were given some initial instruction and then told to walk our dogs around the circle. Pepper wanted to walk ahead of us but Ian tugged back on the leash and said “heel!” each time. By the third revolution Pepper was walking at Ian's side. I looked at the instructor at the center of the circle who smiled and gave us a thumbs-up. “You're doing good, Pepper. Good girl,” Ian said encouragingly. We attempted a “sit” near the end of the class and then were dismissed with instructions to rehearse the drill at home as often as we were able. As the weeks went by we learned to “sit”, “stay”, “come” and lie “down”. All the basics. The final test was to have the dogs lie down and stay there as we backed away at least 20 feet. Pepper whined and wanted to come to us but after Ian told her “stay” in a firm voice, she complied. She did great. Every evening and sometimes in the morning before work we practiced our new skills. Weekends we had several sessions each day. Just to be sure she would walk with either of us, I took her alone sometimes. After several weeks of this, Ian had a suggestion. “I'm not sure you need to walk with us. I think I could use my cane in my right hand and walk her with my left. I'm familiar with the neighborhood now and I'd like to try that.” Soon Ian and Pepper were walking alone up the street, around the block and doing fine. When Ian stopped, he said “sit” and Pepper sat by his side. When he said “heel” and started walking she walked beside him. By the last week, he didn't need the voice commands. Pepper knew the drill. It was a game for her and time spent with her beloved Ian. I sat on the front steps and watched as they made their rounds. I noticed a few of our neighbors smiling as they went by. Ian was right. This was a great idea. When Pepper graduated, we got a little certificate with a note saying how much they enjoyed having us. On the way back, Pepper jumped into the rear seat and we drove through a fast food place and got three hamburgers. When we got home, Ian fed one to Pepper. He made her “sit” and “stay” until he laid it on a plate in front of her and said “OK”. She trembled a little in anticipation but minded her manners. She was a good dog. That night after we went to bed and Pepper was comfortable on the floor, I told Ian, “I never thought a female would come between us. I think you like her better than me.” “Oh, no. I like you best. You're my favorite person, but Pepper is my favorite dog. I love you both. Then he snuggled close and ran his hand down to my crotch. “Besides, you have some things that Pepper doesn't.” The End ==========////=========== Author's Note: This concludes “Love is Blind”. The response to this story has been exceptional due in no small part to my editors W_L and Mikiesboy, and beta readers Columbusguy and Geron Kees. When I was in college in the early 1960s I ate at the same boarding house with a blind friend who was the inspiration for Ian. I learned a few things about how he managed to function in a sighted world, but not nearly enough to address the subject with credibility and sensitivity. I reached out for help and four kind gentlemen responded, two of whom are blind. Their support and assistance has been invaluable and I wish to express my sincere gratitude. You made this story much better than if I had tried to write it on my own. Thanks, guys. I appreciate you. Sincerely, Nick If you enjoyed this story please leave a comment or better yet, write a review. If you would like to be notified when I post something new, send me an email and I'll add you to my mailing list. Thank you, Nick Brady at y2kslacker@mail.com Pepper
  5. Love is Blind - 8 Copyright Nick Brady 2019. All rights reserved. ==========////=========== My mother smiled and excused herself to start our Christmas dinner. I reached over and took Ian's hand. “I love you,” I said quietly. “I love you too. This is the nicest Christmas I ever had.” “The first of many, Ian. The first of many.” The smell of roasting turkey filled the air and our mouths were watering. It had been a long time since breakfast and we were very hungry. We wandered into the kitchen hoping for a sample. “Is there anything we could do to help?” I asked my mother. “Now, Andrew. You'll just have to be patient. It will be ready in about an hour,” she replied as she basted the turkey. We reluctantly went back out and sat on the sofa. Ian ran his finger over his ring. “Tell me about the ring. I know it's a metal band with flat stones in it, but what does it look like?” “It's Sterling silver and the little stones are blue-green turquoise. They weren't that expensive but they're very pretty.” “It fits right. You made a good guess on the size. I really love it.” I took Ian's hand and looked at the ring then held my hand next to his. “They match, you know. They are another thing about us that's just the same.” Ian squeezed my hand. “You make me so happy. I don't deserve to be this happy.” “Don't say that. If anyone ever deserved to be happy it's you. We make each other happy. That's the way it's supposed to work.” “I appreciate your mother making me feel so welcome. I was afraid I'd be a bother.” “Not at all. She likes you,” I assured him. “I bet your mom misses you this Christmas. What did you tell her about spending it with me?” “I sent her a nice Christmas card and wrote a little note inside. I said I was visiting a friend and wished her a nice Christmas. I asked her to wish my father and brothers a merry Christmas from me too, but I don't know if she'll do that. I guess she will. It doesn't matter.” “I think it matters to you. Don't you have some feelings towards them?” “Mixed feelings, I guess. When I was a little kid I really wanted them to like me. When I came home from school I probably bugged them a lot. Before they got into their teens they were pretty nice to me but when they got to be teenagers they decided I wasn't cool, especially if they had their friends over at the house.” “Were they mean to you? Did they pick on you?” “No, basically they just ignored me or told me to get lost. It's hard to be shunned, especially by your own brothers. They mostly laughed at me if they paid any attention at all.” “How did you turn out to be such a nice person? That could have made you bitter and hateful.” Ian shrugged. “I wasn't home that much. From the time I was six years old, I was in the Blind School most of the time. They even had summer programs.” “I know you learned a lot there, but was it a good experience? How do you look back on those times?” "I guess you could say it seemed normal. I was only home during the school holidays and my friends were all at school. The school was pretty strict, but they took care of me and encouraged me. I was always ready to go back to school." “Being a kid is tough for most of us.” “What was it like for you growing up? Your mom is so great. I guess you had a happy childhood.” “It really wasn't that great.” “What do you mean?” “To tell the truth, I was pretty squirrely. Without a father I had no male role model. I looked to my mother for how to do things. She tried to go out in the yard and throw a ball with me, but it wasn't the same. I wanted to follow her around and do what she did. I guess that's how I learned to cook. I was kind of a sissy, Ian. And it didn't help that I found myself more attracted to my buddies than to the girls at school.” “Did you get picked on?” “I got teased a lot. The neighborhood had a lot of kids. The boys would get together in somebody's back yard or at the school playground and play pickup football or baseball. Two guys would be the captains and take turns choosing us to be on their side, I always got chosen last. I wasn't very popular. We moved to a different neighborhood just before I went into high school so it was like starting over.” “I know what it's like not to fit in.” " About the time we moved, I started to grow. I was as tall as I am now when I was in the eighth grade. If you're big but won't fight, you're a magnet for bullies. It makes them look tough to push around a bigger kid. A couple of times I really lost my temper and got mad enough to fight. After knocking a couple of guys on their butts, I wasn't as much fun to pick on and the bullies started leaving me alone. When I got into high school some of my friends were athletes and played sports. I wanted to fit in so I went out for football. I wasn't great at it but it helped make me more like one of the guys. I had to work at being more masculine. It didn't come naturally." “You said you were a swimmer.” "I always like to swim. Mom was a good swimmer and she taught me how when I was little. I joined the swim team and did pretty well. It was a chance to start over. It helped." “What about being attracted to guys? How did that work out?” “I learned to keep that to myself. I never hit on anybody, but there are always a few guys who let you know that they might like to play, you know? We would never admit we liked to do stuff with other boys, but it was OK to play around a little when you were horny. Turned out that some guys liked to do a lot more than others. We all thought of ourselves as straight, or claimed to be. You're the first person I've ever come out to, Ian.” “Really? Me too. I guess that's our little secret.” “I guess so,” I laughed quietly. “I think Mom knew. Mothers always know these things I guess. She watched me struggle with all this stuff. I think that's why she's so accepting of you. She understands us both, Ian.” Ian looked like he wanted to say more, but just then Mom called us to the dinner table. The turkey ended our discussion. It was a wonderful dinner. Mom was a great cook and we ate until we were about to burst. Just when we knew we couldn't eat another bite, she brought out a pecan pie and we ate some more. We sat at the table for quite a while and talked. Not that we had that much to say but because we were basically paralyzed. After some coffee and deep breathing, Ian and I got up and cleared the dishes away and shooed Mom into the living room while we washed up. When we finally joined her she was leaned back in the easy chair sound asleep. Ian and I put on our coats and slipped quietly out of the house to walk off our dinner. Ian carried his folded cane but took my elbow as I gave him a tour of the neighborhood. We walked past my old high school and I shared some stories. That reminded him of a few stories of his own and we had a nice talk The more we got to know about each other, the closer we became. An hour later we came back to the house and found my mother reading a magazine. “I was about to send out a search party,” she said. “Have you been showing Ian around?” “We were walking off your turkey,” Ian laughed. “Thank you for doing the dishes. It was a pleasure having you with us.” We talked a bit more then Mom got up to excuse herself. “I have to go back to work tomorrow. You boys will have to entertain yourselves.” We took the hint and got ready for bed ourselves. I sat on the edge of the double bed in the guest room. “Mom's going back to work and this might be a good time for us to get back to our apartment,” I suggested. “That's a good idea. We don't want to wear out our welcome,” Ian agreed. “You know what they say about fish and company.” “What do they say?” “Both begin to stink after three days.” “Oh. You're probably right,” Ian laughed. “Let's get up and fix Mom a nice breakfast then we can leave after she does. We'd have the house to ourselves for a little while.” I ran the back of my hand down the front of Ian's T-shirt. “This is a pretty nice bed,” Ian agreed. “We haven't had any quality time since we drove down here.” “Would that be safe?” “I imagine so. She won't get back from work until late in the afternoon and we'll be long gone by then.” Ian took my hand and pulled it down to his crotch. It was obvious that he thought I had a good idea. We kissed goodnight and I went to the bottom bunk in my old bedroom. When my mother woke up in the morning the house smelled like bacon. By the time she had dressed for work, there was a platter of bacon, scrambled eggs and another of pancakes waiting on the kitchen table. “I'm going to miss you guys. This is a treat.” “It's the least we can do,” I said. “I won't be able to use up all these leftovers. Let me send some of this stuff home with you.” We went away with a load of turkey, dressing and green bean casserole. We would put it to good use. We walked my mother out to her car and both gave her a big hug. “Thanks again, Mom. It's always great to come home and spend a little time with you,” I said. “I'm sorry I don't get back more often.” “You're busy. I'm busy. We both have our own lives now, Andrew. I'm proud of you and always love to have you, but I understand. Come when you can, and bring Ian with you. You're both welcome anytime.” She hugged us again then got in her car and drove away, leaving us to our own devices. “Probably we should straighten up the house a little, like clean up the kitchen and make the beds,” I suggested. “Let's make up the beds first,” Ian smiled. We went into the guest room and sat on the double bed. We didn't need to discuss what was to happen next. I turned to Ian and unbuttoned his shirt, then lowered his zipper and he did the rest. I lay back on the bed and let him remove my clothing until we were wearing nothing but smiles. Ian sat down next to me as I lay stretched out. “Let me look at you,” he whispered. His sensitive hands examined every inch of me from the hair on my head down to my toes. It was always a tremendous turn-on for both of us when he did that. When I was painfully erect, he bent over and took me in his mouth, his fingers lightly touching the surrounding area. I lay perfectly still, took his head in my hands and rubbed my fingers through his hair. My eyes were closed as I experienced him at the same time that he experienced me. After a few minutes Ian stretched out beside me and it was my turn, breathing in his scent and enjoying the feel of him in my mouth. We were in no hurry. I raised his knees and licked down between his legs causing his breath to quicken. This had become a regular part of our play and we both enjoyed it. We were not sure which role we enjoyed the most, the giver or the receiver but had learned to love both roles. “Wait,” Ian whispered. “First, would you mind hugging me? I always like it when you hug me.” He stretched out his arms and legs like a cat and I placed myself against the length of him, wrapping my arms under his shoulders and kissing him on the neck, under his chin, then gently nibbling his lips. He embraced me and sighed as we rocked against each other from side to side like we had done that first time in my little tent. But before we made a mess, we had other games to play and took turns pleasing each other in all the ways we had discovered. It was some time before we eventually found the relief we longed for. We didn't keep track of the time. We lay in each other's arms for a while then rose from the bed to shower and put on fresh clothing. We scrubbed the bath, changed the sheets on the beds then went into the kitchen to clean up from breakfast. I stood behind Ian and kissed him on the back of his neck. “I love you,” I told him. He turned and took me in his arms. “I love you too. Do you ever get tired of hearing me say that?” “Not yet. I don't think I ever will.” We tidied up the house as best we could then locked up and took our things out to my car. On the drive back to our apartment we made a few plans. Now that we had determined that our lives would be spent together we had a lot of things to talk about. When classes started again the rest of the semester went by quickly. We decided was that we needed to push the two twin beds together to make more room for our playtime. No one ever came to visit unless it was the landlord making an inspection, We decided that if he hadn't balked at our homebrew, the location of the beds probably wouldn't concern him either. “My mother hardly writes to me any more and she stopped sending any money,” Ian told me one day. “I think when I didn't come back for Christmas they decided to write me off.” “Why would they care?” “Giving me a hard time was their decision. Not coming home for Christmas was my idea. I guess I didn't play by the rules, I don't know.” “I feel bad for your Mom.” "I do too. I still write to her, but I know she's in a tough position. Maybe my father found out she was sending me some money and put his foot down. For all I know, she's not even getting my letters. Maybe it would make things simpler I didn't write to her." “It's hard for me to understand the situation with your family.” Ian sighed. “I've thought about it a lot. I think when I was little, I was sort of a curiosity. I couldn't do what my brothers did when they were my age and that was disappointing. People felt sorry for me and assumed I was retarded. They felt sorry for my family being burdened with such a freaky kid. Then when I was six they sent me off to the blind school and I was out of the way.” “So you never really lived with your family?” “I lived at the school. When I came home I was just a visitor. They never really knew me. When I was home they didn't know what to do with me.” “It's like you weren't really part of the family.” “Not really. I think they saw me as an accident, as something that never should have happened.” “I just can't understand why your father is so harsh.” “My father isn't really a bad person, he's just ignorant, Andrew. He doesn't have any education, he doesn't read. He doesn't understand things and if something happens that he doesn't understand, it makes him angry. He can't understand why he had such a freaky kid.” “You weren't a freak. You just couldn't see.” “But I didn't look like my father, didn't act like him. My brothers grew up a lot like their father. They tried to be like he was. They were good at sports and talked the talk, you know? I think my father suspected that I wasn't really his.” “He thought your mother had been with another man?” “I overheard things. I don't know what he thought. Maybe he thinks I'm not really his kid and is suspicious of my mother. Maybe that's why he's so angry. He hates anything he doesn't understand.” Do your brothers feel the same way?” “I never fit in, but my brothers were decent to me when I was little. It's when I got older that it got worse. I think they picked up on the idea that I wasn't legitimate. I was gone most of the time. I imagine the subject came up. Then when I came home they looked at me differently.” “Didn't your mother defend herself? Couldn't they talk about it?” “That's not the way it works. If something is tough, you just don't talk about it. One way or another, I was an anomaly. I wasn't supposed to be there.”” “I'm sorry, Ian.” “Don't be sorry. My life is so much better now. I can wish things were different, but I'm happy with my life. I'm happy with you.” “I think life is better for both of us now. We need to start thinking about our future.” “I'm not sure I've really thought about my future,” Ian admitted. “I guess I just figure if I can stay in school things will work out somehow. I expected to be alone.” “You're not alone now. We're not alone, we're a team, a couple. We need to make plans. How are we going to stay together after college?” I asked. “That might be a challenge. We aren't going to be doing the same kind of work. I'm not sure what I'll be able to do, to be honest. I hate to admit it, but being blind does close some doors.” “We don't have to do the same job to work for the same company,” I pointed out. “We need to think about how we're going to do this. I can't bear the thought of being separated.” “There will be a way,” Ian smiled. “There has to be. We'll find a nice place and settle down, maybe buy a house and get a dog. We'll find a way.” ==========////=========== Please send your comments to Nick Brady at y2kslacker@mail.com
  6. Love is Blind - 7 Copyright Nick Brady 2019. All rights reserved. ==========////=========== I sat and thought for a minute. “One time I was struggling with something and my mother told me that when we have to make a tough decision, all we can do is to look at what options we have and try to pick the right one. We have to do the next right thing. What's the right thing for you, Ian?” Ian leaned his head back. “What are my options and what should I do? That's a good question.” I pulled Ian into a hug. “Maybe we should sleep on it.” We enrolled for the fall semester. Now I was a Junior and Ian was a Sophomore, actually a little more than that since he had taken summer classes. At this rate, he would catch up with me before I graduated. He followed through on the idea of changing his major and was now in the school of Business Administration. He didn't lose any hours and was feeling better now that he had made his decision. Stuart assured him that his chances of finding a good job would be better in Marketing. We kept the apartment but did not sign up for Mrs. Mac's boarding house, intending to save some money by fixing our own meals. We ate breakfast together then parted for the day. I sometimes packed a lunch for each of us and tried to make something decent for our supper. Ian took over the coffee pot duties and was learning to scramble eggs and make toast. I did the serious cooking and he did the serious housekeeping. We were partners in almost everything. Ian wrote to his mother almost every week although she did not always respond, but sent at least one letter a month with a little money. From her letters, I gathered that things at home had not changed. Ian accepted the situation stoically and said little about it. My mother and I exchanged letters too, although I was not great about writing. I laughed at something she wrote and Ian asked me what was so funny. “Oh, nothing Just something my mother wrote,” I replied. “You're close to your mother, aren't you?” “She's all I've got, and I guess I'm all she's got. We are pretty close.” “You've never said anything about your father,” Ian observed. “I never really knew my father. It's a long story.” “I'm listening.” I leaned back and stretched my legs out. "I guess the short version of the story is that my mother and father were sweethearts in high school and she got pregnant with me when she was 17. They got married but I guess it didn't work out. After high school, they parted company when I was about 3. I don't actually remember him." “I'm sorry. I didn't mean to pry.” “That's OK. We agreed to be honest with each other. It's not something I talk about because there's not much to tell.” “She was pretty young. Didn't she want to get married again?” “She dated some. I remember some of the men she dated, but I guess nothing stuck. Maybe not all guys want to take on a little kid. She works as a senior manager in a manufacturing company. I think she's sort of married to her job.” “That means you grew up without a father. Was that hard?” “It would have been nice to have a dad, but it's not the worst thing in the world. I had friends with nice fathers, and I sort of borrowed theirs. It was OK. Certainly, it was better than your situation." “Is your mother happy?” “I think so. At least she never complains. She has a lot of lady friends. I guess she's happy enough.” “She sounds like a nice person.” “She is. You need to meet her sometime.” “I'd like to.” “What about you? Do you think you'll ever be reconciled with your father and brothers?” Ian sighed. "I've never really fit in. Maybe when I'm older and they can see me as an adult, but to them, I'm still the clumsy little blind kid in a family of jocks." “But you're in college and doing great. They should be proud of you,” I told him. “Why can't your father and brothers see that? At least your mother is proud of you.” “My mother does what my father tells her to. I doubt he knows she's sending me money. If he finds out he'll probably tell her to stop and that will be the end of it.” “Surely he'll let her help while you're in college. Your future depends on your education.” Ian shook his head. "You don't understand, Andrew. My father only made it through high school because he was a good football player and now he's doing menial work. He resents people with an education. He sees them as show-offs. He'd rather see me fail." “That's crazy.” “Not from his point of view. My brothers are the same way. They take pride in the fact that they're getting by with very little education. They think that educated people are eggheads. They aren't bad people, kind of 'good-old-boys', you know? Like I said, I never fit in.” “I guess the good news is that you don't need them anymore. Maybe you never did.” “Not really. I'll have to make it on my own.” “Nobody makes it on their own, Ian. We all need somebody.” Ian paused. “I like to think I don't need anybody, but that's not true. I need you, Andrew. And not just because I'm blind.” I wasn't sure what to say. “I need you too. I really like that we're together. I hope this lasts.” “What will happen to us when we get out of college? I think about that.” “I do too. If you were a girl I'd ask you to marry me.” Ian laughed. “Guys can't get married.” “No, but think about it. You're blind and I'm sort of your assistant. Nobody has questioned that. We could stay together if we could get our jobs to coincide. Kind of like Hellen Keller and that lady who helped her.” “That's almost too much to hope for.” “It won't happen by accident. We need to plan for it. What do you think?” “If you could ask me to marry you, I would accept. What do you think?” I put my arm around Ian and pulled him close. “I think that's a great idea. Let's make that a plan.” I was to run home for Thanksgiving while Ian stayed behind and caught up on some school work. The evening before I left, we made a Thanksgiving dinner of our own. I roasted a small chicken and Ian did the mashed potatoes. He was an ace at mashed potatoes. When we sat down to eat, I asked him, “What are you thankful for?” Ian thought for a moment. “I'm thankful to be in college. I was never sure I would get this far. I'm thankful for my mother and her support. Mostly I'm thankful for you. What are you thankful for?” “My list is the same as yours – college, Mom, you. Especially for you. Our mothers are different though.” “How's that?” “Both of them love us, but my mother chose to get out of a bad marriage. Your mother doesn't seem to have that choice.” “But they both love us,” Ian said. “That's the thing they have in common. That's the important part.” I agreed. We both had some things to be thankful for. I went home on Thursday morning and came back the next day. While I was home I had a long talk with my mother. She asked me about Ian. “You've mentioned a few things about your roommate. I know that he's blind and I gather that you two are close, but I've never met him.” “I'd like you to. He's a neat guy. He's smart and funny. I like him a lot.” “Is he more than just a friend?” she asked. “Yes, to be honest. We're talking about staying together after college.” “In that case, I'd really like to meet him," she smiled. "How would that work?" “What if he came home with me for the Christmas break?” “He would be very welcome, but would that be alright with his family?” “To tell the truth, he isn't close to his family. I think he would like that very much.” “In that case, I'll plan on it. Let me know when you'll be here, and tell me more about Ian.” “Thanks, Mom. You're the best.” We had a long talk. After I got back on Friday, I told Ian, “You're invited home for Christmas.” “Is that alright with your mother? I mean, does she know about us?” “Mom understands me. She's fine with us. I told you she was a neat lady.” “That sounds wonderful. I can't wait to meet her.” “Um, you will probably have to sleep in the guest room. My room has bunk beds and she might not be quite that open-minded.” “Oh, that's fine. I hate to think what would happen if I tried to bring you home with me.” “You'll be very welcome, Ian. I can promise you that.” That night we shared one of the twin beds. It was plenty big enough for what we wanted to do. We didn't mind at all being close. We showered and slipped into bed just as we came out of the bath. Our time together was becoming more relaxed and loving. We had long passed the point of being friends to one of being committed to making life pleasurable for each other. We shared ourselves as intimately as possible, both giving and receiving. Our lives were not perfect, but we were very happy. We devoted ourselves to wrapping up the semester during the weeks before the Christmas break. Ian took off work and we spent our time studying and finishing some papers. The prospects of surviving another term looked encouraging. Just before leaving we packed our bags and got ready to go. “I hope your mother will like me,” Ian fretted. “I can be a lot of trouble.” “Don't be silly. She'll love you and you're no trouble at all.” “I'm sorry, but I'm kind of nervous. I've never had a boyfriend before and certainly never met his mother.” “She invited you, Ian. She knows we are more than just roommates and she's fine with it.” “What did you tell her?” “I told her that you were smart and funny and a hell of a good lay.” “You didn't!” “No, of course not. But I told her that we were thinking of staying together after college. She's not dumb and she knows how I am. It's OK, Ian. Really.” We packed up the car and left for mother's two days before Christmas. Ian was unusually quiet on the drive over. I knew he was stewing about making a good impression. I also knew that he would. We pulled into Mom's driveway at two in the afternoon and I took our bags and bundles out of the trunk and set them down beside the car. Before I could start for the house, the front door opened and Mom called out, “Hello! I'm so glad you came. Let me help you with those.” Ian stood still with his long white cane in his hand until she approached him. Ian held out his hand and she took it in both of hers. “You must be Ian. I have heard so many nice things about you. Please call me Catharine.” Ian smiled and said, “It's very nice to meet you. Andrew told me that you were a neat lady and I can tell that you are. Thank you for making me feel welcome.” “Well, you are very welcome. Now let's get these bags in the house and make ourselves comfortable.” My things went into my old bedroom and Ian's went to the guest room. Mother hustled us into the living room. "Now I know you've been in the car for a while. Andrew can show you the bathroom while I get something for us to munch on. Take your time." When we had relieved ourselves and washed up, Ian took my arm and we sat down together on the sofa. He looked a little uncertain. “There are some snacks on the coffee table in front of you. I'm sure you can manage just fine. Now tell me about school. Ian, I think you are in Marketing?” I placed some chips and dip on a plate, laid it on a napkin and handed it to Ian. "Yes, Ma'am," he said. "I was thinking of majoring in English but changed to Marketing in the School of Business Administration this past semester." “That's a much more practical choice,” she said. “Are you enjoying your classes?” Mom was easy to talk with and I mostly grinned and listened as she made Ian comfortable. Soon he was relaxed and making little jokes. Of course, the story of the horse meat steaks came up and we all laughed like old friends. Good old Mom. We chatted for a long time before Mom excused herself and went into the kitchen to put some supper together, leaving Ian and me alone to talk. “What do you think?” I asked. “Your mother is terrific. She just couldn't be nicer.” “She likes you. I told you she would.” “I need to know where things are. Could we walk around?” I gave Ian the tour and we located the bedrooms, the front and back doors, then found our way into the kitchen where we sat at the breakfast table and talked to Mom while she rattled the pots and pans. Soon the smell of frying chicken filled the air. I jumped up and set the kitchen table for us and we enjoyed a nice supper. “I can see where Andrew learned to cook,” Ian complimented my mother on her chicken. “Yes," Mom laughed. "I taught him everything he knows, but not everything I know. Is he feeding you alright?” “He is, and he's even teaching me how to fix a few things.” “Ian is generally in charge of breakfast. He makes the coffee and scrambles the eggs,” I bragged. “He's coming right along.” After some coffee, we all stood at the sink. I washed, Ian dried then handed things to Mom to be put away. It went well. When it was finally time for bed, Mom left us alone for a few minutes so that I could help Ian get settled. I turned down the bed for him and sat down next to him. “Do you feel welcome?” I asked. “More than welcome. Your Mom is wonderful.” “I told you she was a nice person. She wants me to be happy, Ian. If you are the one to make me happy, she will love you.” “And I will love her. I guess we should say goodnight.” “Yeah. No snuggling tonight, but we'll find a way,” I hugged him and snuck a quick kiss. “Goodnight, Ian.” I went into the living room and sat down with Mpm. "He's a nice person. I like him," she said. "Nice looking too." “I've never met anyone like him, and I'm not talking about him being blind. That's not really a big part of the deal.” “I like the chemistry between you. I approve, not that you need me to.” “That's important, Mom. This could be a long term deal.” “As long as he makes you happy,” Mom smiled. The next day was Christmas Eve. After breakfast Mom announced. “I didn't want to put up a tree until Andrew came home. We need to go to the Christmas tree lot and pick one out. You can help, Ian.” Mom sat in the front seat with me and Ian got in the back. When we got to the tree lot we got out and walked among the possibilities. “Now help me find a fresh one. I don't want pine needles all over the house,” she instructed us. As we walked down the rows of possibilities I would find one that looked nice and Ian would run his hands over the branches. “I think this one is a little dry,” he would say and we would check out another. When we came to one that passed his initial inspection he leaned forward to crush the needles and sniff. “Oh, this one smells fresh.” Mom stepped up and declared. “That's a beautiful tree. Thanks, boys. We'll take it.” We drove home with it tied to the roof of my Chevy. Once home, we lugged it into the house and screwed into the tree stand, added a little water and wrapped the old skirt around the bottom. Mom sat back and let us do the work, then hauled a box of Christmas ornaments out of the hall closet. “Help us with the decorations, Ian. I never know where to put things.” First, we threaded a long string of lights around the branches then festooned them with our vintage collection of ornaments. "Remember this one?" she would say as she first handed one to me, then passed it to Ian. "The Hendersons gave us this one. And this one we bought when you were in grade school." Each ornament had a history and a story to go with it. Ian examined each, then we collectively found a place for it in the branches. It had been our Christmas tradition ever since I could remember. When finally the box was empty, we sat down on the sofa to admire our work. Ian breathed deeply. “It smells like Christmas.” “It's a beautiful tree. Thank you, guys.” Mom excused herself and returned from the kitchen in a few minutes with a tray of cookies and cups of hot chocolate. “Careful now, that cocoa is hot.” This too was part of the tradition that my mother had created for our little family of two. Ian seemed to glow. “I'm going to feed you tonight,” she said. “Tomorrow you boys will have to starve so you'll have a good appetite for Christmas dinner. It will just be the three of us so you'll have to eat a lot.” It had been a very nice day. I walked Ian into his bedroom and we sat and talked for several minutes. “Are you glad you came?” I asked. “Oh, yes. I never dreamed that Christmas could be like this. Ours was never this way.” “What was Christmas like when you were a kid?” “I guess we had our own sort of tradition. Dad and my brothers would drive out to a state park and saw down a little cedar three and bring it home. We had an old string of lights and made a lot of our ornaments. We didn't have much money. I remember threading popcorn on a string to drape around the tree. Mom would help me while the guys drank beer and watched. It wasn't like your tradition but it was kind of nice.” “Ours has always been the same for as long as I remember,' I said. “I always loved Christmas.” “I don't have much for your mother,” Ian said. “I just got her a little present. I didn't know what she'd want.” “That's OK. I got her something and put both our names on it. She'll like it.” Ian hugged me very tightly. “Thank you, Andrew. I'm very glad I came. I can't imagine being alone this Christmas.” “Neither can I. I'm alone when I'm not with you. I love you, Ian.” “I love you too,” he sounded kind of weepy. “Goodnight.” “Goodnight. I'll see you in the morning.” We all slept a little late the next morning. Breakfast was coffee, a platter of muffins and some fresh fruit. We were to be hungry for Christmas dinner. After breakfast, I went out to the car and brought in a large plastic bag. “I think Santa came,” My mother announced and we sat on the sofa as she handed us each a wrapped box. “Your names are on these.” We opened our presents. Inside the boxes were matching tan camelhair sweaters. “Try them on,” Mom instructed. “Santa left the receipts so we can exchange them if they don't fit.” They did fit and looked very nice. “How did Santa know my size?” Ian asked. “I told you that Andrew told me all about you, enough so I could make a good guess at what size you wear. I passed that along to Santa,” she laughed. “We have something for you,” I reached into my bag and handed a package to her. “Inside was a bright red Christmas sweater with little sparkly things around the neck. “ A sweater. Great minds think alike,” she laughed and pulled it over her head then stood to look in the mirror that hung on the wall next to the front door. “Oh, I just love it. Thank you very much – both of you.” Ian sat for a moment then handed a small package to my mother. “I hope you like this.” “Oh, thank you,” mom said and tore off the paper. Inside was a red wool scarf. “We made those in my high school,” Ian explained. “I kept one and hope you can use it.” “It's lovely. It goes with the sweater.” Mom impulsively gave Ian a quick hug. Thank you very much.” Ian grinned shyly then pulled a small box from his pants pocket. “This is for you,” he said and handed it to me. Inside was a nice wristwatch. I put it on and admired it. "The cover flips up," Ian said. I pressed a small button on the side of the face and the glass cover flipped open to allow access to the hands. It was like the one Ian wore but new and nicer. “Wow! This a great, Ian. Thanks.” “If I lose mine I can borrow it,” he smiled. “It's beautiful. I really like it.” I pushed the lever and tapped the face of the watch with my fingers. It was a very personal gift and I felt my eyes grow damp. Reaching in my bag I extracted a pair of small boxes. “I have something for you, for both of us, really.” In the boxes were a pair of matching rings. “They're sort of friendship rings,” I explained. “The band is silver and the little stones are green turquoise.” We put them on and Ian sat silently, running his finger over the stones. He seemed to be unable to speak. Finally, he croaked, “Thanks.” My mother smiled and excused herself to start our Christmas dinner. I reached over and took Ian's hand. “I love you,” I said quietly. “I love you too. This is the nicest Christmas I ever had.” “The first of many, Ian. The first of many.” ==========////=========== Please send your comments to Nick Brady at y2kslacker@mail.com
  7. Love is Blind - 6 Copyright Nick Brady 2019. All rights reserved. ==========////=========== That was all we heard of it. When the remaining bottles remained intact, we put them in the refrigerator and sampled one several days later. It was potent but pretty tasty. That was our last attempt at home brew. All's well that ends well. The attempt at beer making was a learning experience and one that was not repeated. However, there were 7 bottles still intact. We thought about inviting Stuart over to sample one but were afraid to feed the stuff to anyone else before we tried it ourselves. We picked a Saturday night for the tasting. “Are you ready to try one of these?” I asked Ian. “Sure. I'm game. After all, we went through to make it, we have to at least try one." We sat at the kitchen table and I poured the contents of one of the quarts of home brew into a pair of tall glasses, being careful not to disturb the thin layer of sediment at the bottom. “It looks pretty good, I told Ian. “It's dark and has a nice head on it. What do you think?” “It smells good. Kind of funky, but good. Shall we try it?” “Cheers.” I took a cautious sip. “Not bad. What do you think?” Ian sniffed, sipped, then took a longer drink. “I like it. It has a lot of flavor.” I put a bowl of peanuts on the table and we munched and sipped until our glasses were empty. “Actually, I think this is pretty good stuff. Want to try another?” “Half a quart is just a pint,” Ian calculated. “It wouldn't hurt to have another. This is really good.” I topped up our glasses again and we moved into the living room to recline on the sofa. I had used the recipe my friend had given me but had no experience in brewing. If I had done this right, I would have used a hydrometer to gauge the proper time to bottle and cap the beer which might have prevented the under-sink explosion. I might also have realized that the alcohol content of our brew was considerably higher than the 3.2 percent alcohol by volume that Oklahoma state law allowed at the time. This was potent stuff. But, it tasted good and went down rather smoothly. We liked it. After the second glass, we discussed eating some supper. “Are you hungry?” I asked. “I don't know. This stuff is pretty filling and we've been eating peanuts. What do you think?” I let out a long low belch. “I think I'd like another. You ready?” “Yeah, sure,” Ian said with a crooked smile. “That sounds like a good idea. Got any more peanuts?” After the third beer, we were feeling pretty good. Ian announced that he needed to pee and stood up. “Oh!” he said. “What's wrong?” “I'm a little dizzy. Do you think maybe I got up too fast? I stood to take his arm and experienced the same sensation. “You think maybe it was the beer?” “Could be,” Ian giggled. “I need to go to the bathroom.” “Me too, let's go together.” We weaved our way to the toilet and emptied our bladders side by side, fencing with the yellow streams. I looked over at Ian and said. “You look pretty good.” He shook himself then replied. “You know that I look with my hands.” “Have a look,” I giggled. He did, and I did, then I suggested, “Maybe we ought to lie down until the dizziness passes.” “Yeah, that sounds like a good idea. Let's get naked.” I thought that was a great idea and we proceeded to strip and collapse on the closest bed, smooching and rubbing ourselves together. Ian and I had satisfied each other in various ways. We liked to kiss and rub together until we made a mess between ourselves. I had kissed him down his front until I found what I was looking for and swallowed him whole. He liked that a lot and discovered that it was at least as blessed to give as to receive. We did that fairly often once we broke the ice. I loved Ian and wanted to make him happy. I was satisfied with what we did, but based on my past experience, knew that there was a little more that could be done. We were quite relaxed by our intake of beverage and to my mind, it seemed like a good time to try something new. “Raise your legs,” I suggested and proceeded to push his knees to his chest. “How does this feel?” I asked as I bent down and used my tongue to give him a new experience. “Oh! Do you really want to be doing that?” “I'm doing it. Do you like it?” “Uh, It's kind of nice, actually. I guess I do.” I devoted myself to the task, rewarded by some humming noises from Ian. Then I inserted a finger. “Oh! I don't know about that.” “Hey, it's fun.” I encouraged him and continued. “I don't think I want to do that,” he cautioned me. “Have you done that before?” “I have, and I liked it,” I recklessly admitted. “It would hurt.” “Not after you get used to it. You could do it to me.” “Really? I don't know.” “You never know until you try.” I turned on my side and backed into him. “Go ahead, try it.” Ian wasn't sure about this but he made an unsuccessful attempt to comply. “It won't go in.” “Just a minute,” I said and stumbled to the bathroom, returning with a small jar of Vaseline. “Here we go.” I liberally applied it to us both. By this time, the beer and Ian's curiosity had overcome his reluctance and he tried again, this time successfully. “Oh!” he said again. “That's amazing!” I moved, he moved, and it was good for us both. The new sensation was too much for him and it was all over rather quickly. He turned and lay back, breathless. “How was that?” I asked. Ian was a bit winded. “Didn't that hurt?” “No. I like it. We just haven't tried that before. Did you like it?” Ian's reply was to turn and hug me. He kissed my neck. “I love you,” he whispered. “I love you too. You want to try it now?” Ian hesitated, kissed my neck, then proceeded to kiss southward to satisfy me in another way. It was fine. It was good. I was happy with whatever Ian was comfortable with. Now that the ice had been broken there would be other times to discuss other possibilities. We woke up sometime later and retired to our separate beds to sleep late on Sunday morning. Summer school was over the first of August. I was working at the lab and Ian put in more hours at the Safeway. We were able to save up a little money. Despite the distraction of working, running and playing with me, Ian had made good grades and we decided to celebrate. “How about a nice dinner,” I suggested, “I know you must be getting tired of my cooking.” “You cook alright,” Ian assured me, “but it would be nice for a change.” We decided to go to the Student Union and eat at the restaurant run by the School of Hotel Management. It tried to be a swanky place and the food was supposed to be pretty good. It was almost completely operated by the students with supervision by the faculty. The students purchased the food, prepared and served it to get an idea of all aspect of the business. I made reservations and we dressed up for the occasion. Ian left his cane in the car to walk in on my arm. It was a nice place. The tables were covered in white linen and each place was set with several glasses upside down and an array of cutlery, a knife, two forks, a spoon and another spoon above around an over-sized plate to be used as a charger for what was served. Soft music was playing in the background and the atmosphere was quite elegant. We were greeted at the door by a young man wearing a tux who looked up our names and showed us to a table. I went first to run interference through the tables and chairs and Ian walked closely behind me, lightly touching the back of my jacket. After we were seated, another young man came to ask us what we wanted to drink, left a basket of dinner rolls and left a pair of menus. I leaned over to quietly read the selections to Ian while he pretended to be reading his menu. “This all looks pretty good,” I said. “What sounds good to you?” “Anything besides mashed potatoes,” Ian chuckled. “But I have to order something I can eat without making a mess.” “Order what you want. I can talk you through it.” “I haven't had a decent steak in ages. I can cut it if I use my hands to position things.” “Then order a steak. They may not have horse meat though.” “I'll make a sacrifice,” Ian laughed. “Do they have a rib-eye?” “Yes. 8 or 12 ounce?” “Umm, a 12 ounce. I'd love that. What comes with it?” “Loaded baked potato, house or Cesar salad, choice of steamed broccoli or asparagus.” “Oh, that sounds wonderful.” Then he gently touched the table service. “What do I have here?” I lowered my voice to explain the layout. “The small fork on the left is for the salad, the larger is for the entree. On the right is a table knife and a spoon. If we order steak they will probably bring a steak knife when they serve it. There is a smaller spoon at the top of the plate for dessert. The rolls are in a basket between us. After a few minutes, the waiter brought our drinks and asked to take our order. I nudged Ian under the table. He sat up straight, laid his hands on the menu and said firmly. "I'd like the 12 ounce rib-eye medium rare, a baked potato, steamed asparagus, and the Cesar salad." “Yes, sir,” the waiter said and turned to me. “And for you?” “I'll have the same, thank you.” “Very good. I'll have the salads out quickly.” He gathered up the menus and hustled off to the kitchen. “That went well,” Ian laughed. “We make a good team, don't you think?” Ian smiled. “We make a very good team. This was a great idea. Thanks.” “Don't thank me. We're splitting the tab.” The salad came first. He did OK with that, except that when he stuck a fork in the salad, sometimes he got a small piece of Romaine, sometimes he got a bundle of larger pieces. After wiping his face, he took his knife and attempted to slice it into smaller more manageable pieces then used part of a dinner roll to move it onto his fork. “Could I help you with that?” I offered quietly. “I can do it if you don't mind being seen with me.” “Hey, no problem. Let me know if I can do anything for you.” He managed. The server took our salad plates and before long our steaks arrived. Ian leaned forward and inhaled. “That smells wonderful.” He hesitated then used his fingers to locate everything on his plate. “Oh, what the heck. I'm going to enjoy this.” “Go for it. Just keep one foot on the floor at all times.” He did fine, once he figured out where everything was. He speared his steak with the fork and carefully sliced it into smaller pieces. He cut across the asparagus to render it into bite-sized pieces and fingered the potato. It was wrapped in foil and pushed in at the sides to loosen it. Piled on top was butter, sour cream and crumbled pieces of bacon. "I'm not sure how to do this," he admitted. “What I do is to use my fork to mash it all together and scoop it out a bite at a time.” He touched the pile of ingredients and looked frustrated, “I can do this, but I'll make a mess of it. “You could help, I think.” Without a word, I reached over and rendered it into something he could manage with a fork. “You're good,” I said softly. I enjoyed my steak and so did Ian. The cut was tender and the inside was nice and pink. I imitated Ian and cut my food into bite-sized pieces. It was a nice meal. Ian did his trick with a piece of dinner roll and got through the meal with no problem. “How was your steak,” I asked. “Heavenly. I never had better. Even better than your horse meat.” “Well, I hope so." The waiter removed our empty plates and asked, "Would you care for dessert? We have a chocolate fudge brownie with ice cream and an excellent Crème Brulee." “Why don't you order for us,” Ian suggested. “We'll each have the Crème Brulee," said. After the waiter left, Ian asked. “What am I getting?” “It's like a little cup of egg custard that has had sugar sprinkled on top and caramelized with a blow torch," I explained. “That sounds exciting.” “It's nice and you can easily eat it with the spoon at the top of your plate.” Ian smiled and settled back to wait for dessert. “Are you having fun?” I asked. “Yes. I'm glad we came. It's a lovely dinner.” After dessert, we had coffee in little demitasse cups with cream and brown sugar. It was all very elegant. We were brought the check and I did some quick arithmetic to split it up, left a nice tip and we were ready to go. As we stood up to leave, Ian stepped back from the table just as a busboy in a white jacket rushed behind him carrying a large tray of dishes. They collided with a terrible crash throwing soiled dishes over the heads of the table behind us. Ian said, “I'm sorry,” and the busboy shouted, “oh shit!” at the same time. Our waiter appeared out of nowhere to pick up the crockery and attempt to wipe the remains of a salad from the dress of a rather large lady while apologizing to us and everyone in the area. If it weren't for Ian's embarrassment it would have been funny. The illusion of elegance was somewhat damaged as I hustled Ian away, leaving our cash on the table. “Oh my God. What happened?” Ian gasped as we walked to the car. “You got run over by a busboy.” “I'm so sorry. I hope I didn't embarrass you.” “No, it wasn't your fault. It could have happened to anybody.” I assured him. When we got home, we got comfortable on the sofa. “Did you have a good time?” I asked. “It was really nice until I collided with that poor busboy.” “More so for the busboy. It was like a scene out of a Three Stooges movie. It was funny, really.” “That's easy for you to say. You weren't one of the stooges.” “Not you, the busboy. He was in a big hurry and wasn't looking where he was going. Don't worry about it.” “It was kind of funny now that you mention it,” Ian smiled. “Other than the busboy thing, I had a great time.” “We both did, and the food was super.” “I did do pretty well with the steak," Ian admitted. “You were smooth. I don't think anybody watching would know you couldn't see.” “Yeah, we did OK.” “We did great. There's no way I could eat a steak dinner blindfolded.” “It's one of the things we learned in school. They taught us to locate everything, cut larger things into smaller pieces, then use a piece of bread to maneuver food to the fork.” “You didn't spill anything.” “I was careful and if something does slide off the plate, I'll just leave it there. I don't want to be eating off the table with my fingers. That looks worse than making a mess. We learned a lot of things like that.” I put my hand on Ian's shoulder and gave it a squeeze. “You can do anything.” Ian grew serious. “I wish that were true, but I have to admit, sometimes it's hard, Andrew. I'm lucky to be in college at all. Most blind people never make it to college and most who do, never finish. It's just too overwhelming.” “You'll make it, though.” Ian sighed. “I hope so, but it's going to get harder not easier. I made it though my freshman year with decent enough grades to keep my scholarship, but I have a long way to go.” “What's the matter? You sound kind of discouraged.” “I'm just being realistic. I'm on my own now. I have to figure out what I'll do if I can't make it through college. For that matter, I have to figure out what I'll do if I finish. Having a degree doesn't magically insure success. I'll have to find a job, make a living.” “Neither of us is guaranteed anything. I can't predict what will happen to me. All I can do is to try and got a decent education and hope for the best. That's all either of us can do.” “But you're already working in a lab. I'm sacking groceries.” I sat back and waved my hands. “So what are you going to do, give up?” “No, I won't give up. But I'm not sure I'm on the right track. I decided to major in English because it was something I thought I could do. Now I wonder if I'll be able to make a living.” “If you feel that way, you can always change your major. Everything you've done your freshman year will still count if you switch.” “I've thought about it. I was talking to Stuart. He's a business major and plans to go into marketing.” “Stuart's a smart guy. Does that sound like it might be a good plan for you?” “I don't know. I have to do something. I'm not going to go home and live off my family, for sure. The other alternative is to become a ward of the state. I won't do that. I have to be able to make it on my own. I just have to.” I sat and thought for a minute. “One time I was struggling with something and my mother told me that when we have to make a tough decision, all we can do is to look at what options we have and try to pick the right one. We have to do the next right thing. What's the right thing for you, Ian?” Ian leaned his head back. “What are my options and what should I do? That's a good question.” I pulled Ian into a hug. “Maybe we should sleep on it.” ==========////=========== Send your comments to Nick Brady at y2kslacker@main.com
  8. Love is Blind - 5 Copyright Nick Brady 2019. All rights reserved. ==========////=========== Ian leaned over and put his head in my lap as I rubbed his shoulders. When he ran his fingers over my fly, I stopped him. “I bet you're tired. Would you like to be held?” “I think that sounds nice.” Why don't we move to the bedroom and get a little more comfortable?” Ian pulled up the front of my shirt and kissed me on the belly. “That sounds like a great idea.” He stood and unbuttoned his shirt as he walked toward the bedroom. I followed. It was a good idea. We had about two days to enjoy our new apartment before our lives got busy. I started my new job and Ian started his summer classes. I was working 9 to 5 and Ian was left to negotiate the campus on his own. I worried about him a little but knew he would manage just fine. He was a very resourceful guy. Ian had classes at different times during the day and got back to the apartment before I did. He spent part of that time putting the place in order. It was helpful to Ian for things to be tidy. A place for everything and everything in its place. He wanted to know where things were so he could move about freely without bumping into something out of place. He was neat and I tended to be much more casual about where I tossed things. We quickly agreed that the little desk under the bedroom window was mine and the kitchen table was his. As a result, the desk was cluttered with my stuff and the kitchen table had a stack of books and another of papers in two neat piles. “You should use the desk,” I told Ian. “You're the student this summer and need it more than I do.” “But we have to eat off the table,” Ian reminded me. “This works better.” It did work better, with the result that our little apartment was unusually clean and orderly considering that it was occupied by a pair of college guys. On the other hand, the kitchen was my territory. Ian had never learned to do much more than pull a soda out of the refrigerator and was happy to leave food preparation to me. I liked to cook, and with a little practice was getting better at it. We ate breakfast together every morning and had time to talk. Usually, it was some combination of eggs, toast and maybe bacon or sausage washed down with milk or orange juice. On the weekends I often fixed us pancakes and there was always coffee. I packed us both a lunch of sandwiches and fruit. When I got home from work I started supper. Ian would help by sitting at the kitchen table and talking with me while I put something together. It was never fancy and our food budget was limited but I got good at the basics. Neither of us was interested in things that were rich and fattening so the menu tended to some combination of salad, vegetables, and meat - usually chicken because it was cheap. It was generally edible, and Ian never complained. When the meal was finished, Ian cleaned and put the kitchen back in order. It worked. On Saturday we normally went to the Safeway near downtown and did most of our shopping. We looked for specials and tried to get just enough to make it through the week. If I needed something during the week there was a little market only a block away. On one of my excursions there, I made an interesting discovery as I looked over the meat case. “What's this?” I asked the owner. “What's what?” he stepped behind the case and wiped his hands on his white apron. “There are two trays of ground meat. One looks like regular hamburger and the other is lean and a dark red.” “That's horse meat.” “What do you do with that? Is it good to eat?” “Yeah, it's OK. Some people use it for dog food but there's nothing wrong with it.” Each tray held a little price sticker perched on a wire holder. The horse meat was a lot cheaper than the hamburger. I was inspired. “Could you mix a half pound of each?” “I can put it together and run it back through the grinder,” he chuckled. I walked out with a pound of lean dark 'hamburger' which I mixed with a little minced onion and made into 'hamburger' steaks with a side of green beans and a salad. Ian took a bite and smiled. "This is good! I like the hamburger steak." “It's pretty lean. Does it taste OK?” “It's delicious. You're getting to be a pretty good cook,” Ian declared as he tucked it all away. I didn't explain but served it to him again several days later. “This is good,” Ian said. “But it's kind of different. What did you put in it?” I hesitated, then confessed. “Actually, it's half beef and half horse meat. I hope that doesn't turn you off.” “Horse meat? Well, that's different. It's tasty, but why horse meat?” “Because it's half the cost of regular hamburger. There's nothing wrong with it except for the idea. I hope you don't mind.” Ian smiled. “ I guess it's OK if it tastes good and saves us money. The real problem is that I like to know what I'm eating. Since I can't see it. I need you to tell me what it is. Does that sound weird?” “No, not at all,” I admitted. “I didn't think of that. I guess I should have told you what it was up front, right?” “That would be better, but now that I know what it is, it's fine.” We had it once a week. We adjusted well to living together and became very comfortable with each other. We even splurged and had a telephone installed in the kitchen. We were in contact with the outside world. Ian began to write to his mother again. He would type a letter and envelope and mail it. He wrote the return address without his name so as not to attract his father's notice. Apparently, the mail wasn't being filtered because she wrote him back, sometimes enclosing a small amount of money. He had me read the letters to him. His mother was apologetic for the problems at home and assured him that she loved him. That helped. As the weather warmed up we resumed our treks out to the lake to hike through the woods and swim. We did pitch the tent one weekend, but the availability of our bedroom removed much of the incentive for camping. Our arrangement was working well, almost too well in one regard. We both began to notice that our jeans were getting smaller. “I'm getting fat,” Ian said. “I think you're feeding me too well.” I tugged at the waist of my pants and agreed. “Me too. I think I need to get more exercise. I just sit at work all day with a soldering iron in my hand and don't move around.” “When I was in high school, I wrestled or swam in the pool. I don't get any exercise now." “We need to do something. Maybe we could start running. Would that work?” Ian chuckled. “It's hard to run with a cane.” “Couldn't you hold on to my arm like you do when we walk?” “I might, but you'd have to warn me if I'm about to run into something.” “I could do that. Want to try it? The weather's nice today.” Ian hesitated. “Where would we go? Dashing across the streets would be a challenge.” “There's a track around the practice field. That should be easy and it's not far.” “It might be fun. Let me get on some shorts and we can try it.” Twenty minutes later we stepped onto the cinder track that ran around a large grassy field that was used for soccer games and kite flying among other things. There were several students who were trotting around either singly or in pairs. We were right at home. “Let's start out walking then try to set a pace,” I suggested. Ian held onto the crook of my arm. “I've never really run before. I mean, I know how, but have never done much of it.” “Don't be nervous. There's nothing in the way and if there is, I'll tell you. Are you ready? Let's go.” I started off at a slow jog and Ian fell in beside me. It felt awkward until I got in step with him. My legs were longer and I normally would take longer strides, but when we got in step things got smoother. “How does that feel?” I asked. “Not bad. It feels nice to be doing something. It helps when we're in step.” “Is this too fast, too slow?” “I could go a little faster.” “You set the pace. We can pick it up when we get used to running,” I laughed. “This is fun. It feels good.” Ian sped up a little and I matched his pace. It was a quarter of a mile around the track and we had done 2 laps when Ian tugged back on my arm. “I'm getting winded. Let's slow to a walk, OK?” “We can't start out running marathons. We'll have to ease into this. How do you feel?” "Good! I feel good. Exhilarated, actually. It feels wonderful to be able to run like that without a cane or worrying about running into something. It feels great!” “Hey, it's nice for me too. I need the exercise and I love anything we do together.” Ian laughed in a carefree way. “We can do a lot together, can't we? Camping, swimming, now running. There's a wonderful freedom in this.” “We might make a pretty good team,” I chuckled. “Let's walk another lap then head back. I bet we're sore tomorrow.” We were, but another run would loosen us up. We began to run as often as time allowed. When we were back at the apartment we felt the need for a shower. I shooed Ian in first while I fixed some sandwiches. One of the interesting things about living with a blind guy was that he didn't worry about whether I could see him or not. As a result, he normally stripped in the bedroom and walked into the bathroom nude, then dressed after he came out. The living room, pass-through kitchen, and bedroom were all lined up on the east side of the building so I could sit from the proper vantage point in the living room and take advantage of some discrete voyeurism. Not that I didn't get a full view of him at other times, but it was a nice show. Ian looked good. The corollary of this was that Ian was immune to my state of undress. As a result, we became pretty casual about clothing. The apartment was heated but not air-conditioned. On hot days we liked to open the windows and let the fresh air in and Ian's pipe smoke out. On such days we often enjoyed the breezes sans clothing. It was very freeing, as Ian would say. I noticed that Ian had about three changes of clothing that he rotated, and they were baggy and a little shabby. I knew Ian wasn't much aware of what he wore but didn't want to make him uncomfortable by pointing out he needed new clothes. “I need to go shopping for some new running shorts,” I announced. “Want to go with me?” “Sure. Let me get dressed.” He put on number 2 in his rotation. There were some trendy men's shops near the campus that catered to the fraternity crowd. There was also a discount store on the other side of town that was cheaper. We drove there. We made our way to the men's clothing section where I picked up some running shorts. I asked Ian as tactfully as I could, “What do you think about getting a few things?” “I have all I need.” “Maybe you could use more than three changes of clothes. We need to have you looking stylish, my man.” Ian was not slow. “I guess I could dress better. I don't think about that.” “Clothes make the man, they say. How are you fixed for funds? Ian hesitated. “I have a little money. You know, from my mother. I need to get a job, I guess.” “How about some new pants and shirts, and maybe some new running shorts? Stuff is cheap here and I could loan you a little if you need extra.” Ian's need to be independent struggled with what he knew was probably a good idea. “I would need to pay you back.” “Sure. Your credit is good. Let's look for some things.” I found some pants and shirts that looked good together but was unsure of the size. “What size are you?” “I don't know,” Ian admitted. “This place is sort of self-serve. Let's try on some things, OK?” I held a pair of pants up to him, guesstimated a couple of sizes, then herded him to a little dressing room and handed him the most likely candidate. “Try these on.” Ian dutifully stripped to his underwear and pulled on the pants. These are a little tight.” I ran my fingers under the waistband and casually groped his crotch. “Do you have enough room?” “They'll get tighter if you don't quit that,” he laughed. “Let's try a larger size.” The second pair fit better. The shirts were fine. We went back out to find three matching pants and shirts. a pair of running shorts and a cool T-shirt then added a package of briefs. "You ready?" I asked. “How much is all this stuff? I'm not sure I have enough. Here,” he said and handed me his wallet. “That's all I have. You pay and tell me what you owe me.” We bundled up his new duds then went to the checkout counter. “You owe me about ten dollars,” I told him as we walked to the car. “I'll put it on your tab.” We had to trust each other. The next morning while I was getting ready for work, Ian tried on one of his new outfits. "how do I look?" he asked with arms outstretched. I looked him over. The new clothes fit him very nicely, loose enough to be comfortable, close enough to show off his fine body. “You look like a million bucks,” I told him. “I'm not sure it's safe to send you out in those. Somebody might steal you.” Ian laughed, obviously pleased. “Do I look OK?” “You look terrific,” I said as I hugged him. “You're the best looking guy on the campus.” He passed his hands down over his waist and hips. “They do fit better. Thanks. This feels nice, both the clothes and the idea that I look better.” “Not better, great. You're a very handsome guy, Ian. You don't ever have to worry about that. Some decent clothes just make that more obvious.” I slapped him on the butt. “Now let me go or I'll be late for work.” Several days later Ian made an announcement. “I have a job,” he told me with a grin. “Good man! What do you have?" “Well, I talked to Stuart on the phone and he gave me some ideas.” “Did you call him at the tavern?” “No, at his apartment. He's not there all the time.” “So what did he say?” I chuckled. “When we go to the Safeway I always help you sack stuff up. It's easy to tell what things are and pack them in the bag. Stuart suggested that I check to see if they need a sacker.” “Did you talk to them?” “I did, and it turns out they need a 'bag boy'.” “You got the job?” “I got the job. I sacked up the groceries for some customers while I was there and it went fine. The customers seemed to get a kick out of it and I got hired on the spot. I start tomorrow.” “Super! Can you fit that around your class schedule?” “Their busy times are before noon and around 3 o'clock when I have a break in my classes. It's kind of a split schedule but I'll get 4 hours a day. And it pays better than minimum wage.” Ian was practically vibrating with excitement. “It's my first real job, Andrew. I can't wait to start!” I grabbed him up and we did a little jig around the apartment. “You're in the money, my man. I'm so proud of you. You can do anything.” We stopped dancing and he held me tight. "I love you, Andrew," he said softly. “I know. I love you too.” Things were moving along. He got in 4 hours a day and 6 on Saturday. They loved him. The money was helpful too. We had a nice time that first summer together. I always knew that Ian had come back before me when I opened the apartment door and was greeted by the aroma of Ian's pipe tobacco. I didn't mind at all that he had taken up smoking but was not tempted to join him. His classes and work schedule cut into our time, but we still had our Sundays together. We were busy and happy. Later in the summer, I had a life changing talk with a guy in one of my math classes. We were discussing our common love for beer and he told me that he made his own. He explained that it was not all that complicated and gave me a recipe for home brew. When I shared the idea with Ian he was enthusiastic. “Think of the money we'd save, and we could invite Stuart over for drinks. Let's try it.” We went to the market and picked up the necessary supplies: 5 pounds of sugar, a can of hop flavored malt syrup, a package of brewer's yeast and a large plastic trash can with a lid. We were all set. “Whoever heard of Hop flavored malt syrup?" Ian asked. “Obviously, there's a market for it,” I grinned. On Sunday we set it up. We filled the trash can with warm water, stirred in the sugar, yeast, and syrup, covered it with a towel and laid the lid loosely over the can. Now we waited. In the meantime, we solicited empty quart beer bottles from everyone we knew - the kind with screw top lids. We soon had several dozen. A daily inspection showed our concoction to be bubbling nicely. It was alive! According to the instructions, after about a week the bubbling would subside and it was ready to bottle. We cleaned out the quart bottles and Ian held the funnel while I carefully dipped out the contents of our brewing vessel to fill each bottle and screw on the caps. The odor was pungent. “Can we really drink this stuff?” Ian asked. “We can try. It looks pretty potent.” “What's the alcohol content?” “I don't know, but I imagine it's stronger than what they sell in the grocery store." We carefully stacked 38 quart bottles under the kitchen sink and waited. The idea was that the small amount of sugar that remained in the brew would be enough to complete the fermentation in each bottle and give it the carbonation needed to make it fizz. On Friday afternoon I returned home before Ian and opened the apartment door to the overpowering smell of beer. I looked in the kitchen to see that the floor was covered in dark liquid, the doors under the sink were standing open and there were shards of glass embedded in the opposite wall. We had a problem. I cautiously looked under the sink and saw that only 7 quarts of our project were remaining Those in the center section had exploded causing a chain reaction that took out most of the others. I closed the cabinet doors, took a broom and dustpan and began scooping up the sad remains of our experiment, dumping the glass and soupy liquid into the empty can. After a time I heard Ian enter the apartment. “Don't come in here!” I called to him. One smell and Ian had some idea of what had happened. “Can I help?” “Stay out of here. There's glass all over.” “Did you drop one?” “No. The damn things exploded.” “Were you here?” “If I was, you would've found a bleeding corpse on the floor.” “What happened?” I told Ian what happened while I cleaned the floor. I carefully put the remaining bottles on the counter and tried to scoop out the mess under the sink, then mopped up the kitchen floor. I didn't want Ian to try and pick up broken glass and had him wait in the living room while I plucked pieces of glass out of the wall. “Was there anything left?” he asked. “There were 7 quarts that didn't go off. I put them on the left side of the counter next to the refrigerator and covered them with a towel in case they explode. Don't touch them, OK?” “OK,” he replied. When I had most of the debris cleaned up I joined him on the sofa. “Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time,” he smiled. “I guess I did something wrong,” I sighed. “I'm the engineer. I should have researched this better.” “Did you get everything cleaned up?” “I did the best I could. That stuff ran everywhere. I imagine there is still some under the cabinet but I can't get back there.” Ian was sympathetic as I stuffed a towel next to the base of the cabinet and fixed something for supper. We opened up all the windows and resigned ourselves to smelling stale beer for a while. I showered then went to bed, not bothering to dress. The next morning I was awakened by a loud knock on the door. I jerked on some shorts and opened the door to see our landlord standing outside with a large plumber's wrench on his shoulder. “I'm here to fix the leak,” he said. “Margaret called and said that the little girls were slipping on the water leaking down from your apartment.” When I let him inside. he stood and inhaled. “Bottled it a little green, eh?” He was smiling as he walked in and looked around the kitchen area. Someone had given us a fifth of Seagram's 7 which was standing unopened on the kitchen table. The landlord looked at it and smiled again. “Could I fix you something?” I asked quickly. When he didn't reply, I tossed some ice in a glass and poured it half full of whiskey. He sat down at our little table, took a long sip and laughed. “You have to be careful with that stuff.” Our landlord drank most of the Seagrams and left in a cheerful mood. That was the last that was said about it. When the remaining bottles remained intact, we put them in the refrigerator to sample later. It was our last attempt at home brewing. All's well that ends well.
  9. Love is Blind - 4 Copyright Nick Brady 2019. All rights reserved. ==========////=========== It was dark when we drove back to town and stopped for a pizza. Classes would start the next day and there were a lot of people around. It was the beginning of a new semester and Ian and I were together again. We were making plans for the future. With the new semester were new classes and a new routine. We were in very different programs of study yet we managed to synchronize two things. We were both enrolled in English Composition, and we both let out for lunch at the same time. The classes were no longer in adjoining buildings. Mine was a bit farther from the boarding house than Ian's so he waited for me to pass by so we could walk together. While we walked, we talked about anything and everything. Now that a bond had been established between us, Ian was a chatterbox and very good company. After lunch, he set off on his own as my next class was later in the afternoon. I didn't suggest that I walk him to his class both because I didn't want to imply that he was in any way helpless and because he simply wasn't. He managed nicely on his own. Now I was free for supper before him and waited inside the door of Mrs. McDonald's for him to arrive. If two adjacent chairs were open we sat together. If not we tried to sit near each other. It was not so I could render assistance, but because we were friends. The others in the house knew this and we usually found a pair of chairs that were unoccupied. Ian was no longer considered unusual and his arrival was greeted by the same quiet acceptance as any other of the regulars. After supper, we usually gravitated to his room. It contained whatever I needed to read and we were comfortable there. Ian came up to my room a few times but there was seldom a need for him to be there. The first time he visited my room he gave it a thorough inspection. He stood inside the door and sampled the air. “You have a coffee pot,” he noticed, “and you make soup in here.” “All I'm allowed is a coffee pot and a popcorn popper,” I told him. “It's amazing what you can do with a popcorn popper. It's a good way to heat up canned soup late at night.” “Can you cook?” Ian asked. “A little. My mother's a good cook and she taught me some basic things. I could get by if I had to.” “They tried to teach us how to cook in school but I wasn't very good at it. If I had to cook for myself I'd starve.” “No, you wouldn't. You'd figure it out if you had to." “I suppose,” Ian shrugged. “I do like to eat.” The semester was going well. My Engineering classes were not a problem and with Ian's help, I was doing better than expected in English. I had decent ideas but had trouble putting them into words. Ian would listen as I read my attempts and would ask questions more than make suggestions. He made me think about what I really wanted to say and my ideas became clearer. I was learning, and my writing improved. My contribution to our collaboration was to retype Ian's papers and both our grades improved over the course of the semester. It was not infrequent that we found ourselves at the Campus Tavern for a beer or two in the evening or on the weekend. Nor was it unusual for us to discover that Stuart was there with Brutus. There was usually room for the two of us at his booth. We could locate him by the smell of his pipe. “That smells good,” Ian said. “Thank you,” Stuart replied. “It's toasted Cavendish.” “How do you smoke a pipe?” “I carry a few things in my tote bag. Besides a couple of pipes, I have a pouch of tobacco, a Zippo lighter and a little tool to tamp the embers down as the tobacco is burned." While he described these things, Stuart laid each item down on the table for Ian to examine with his hands. “How do you put tobacco in the pipe?” Ian asked. Stuart seemed pleased by Ian's curiosity. “If you don't mind using it after me, we can load up my second pipe so you can try it.”' “Yes, I'd like that. It smells very nice,” Ian was animated. I watched as two pairs of hands carefully tamped the smoking tobacco into Stuart's extra pipe. “Put a pinch in first and press it down with your finger,” Stuart instructed. “Don't pack it too tight or it might be hard to draw. Now when you put in more to fill it up, you can press it a little tighter. Can you feel that?” When Stuart was satisfied, he instructed Ian on how to light it. “Be careful with the lighter. You can feel the edge of the pipe and hold the top of the lighter just above it. Then turn the little wheel quickly to light the flame and start puffing on the pipe. Don't burn your fingers,” Ian first lit the lighter and passed his hand several inches above the flame to feel the heat. Next, he tried to place it over the bowl with Stuart's hands touching his. A quick flick, the flame touched the top of the tobacco, and he sucked hard on the pipe. A plume of smoke came out of his nose and mouth and he coughed violently. “Don't suck it into your lungs," Stuart laughed. "Just puff on it and blow it out your mouth and nose. You want to smell it, not breath it in. It's not like a cigarette." Ian took a deep breath, blew it out and tried again. This time he blew the smoke out through his nose and smiled. “That's nice. I see now.” He puffed slowly and a smile spread across his face. “There you go. You might make a pipe smoker after all.” Ian sat back and puffed, blowing the fragrant smoke first out of his mouth, then out of his nose. He appeared to be very pleased with himself. We continued our conversation until the pipe went out. “Is that all?” Ian asked. “That's what the pipe nail is for," Stuart placed the tool in his hand. "The head is flat. You press down on the tobacco very gently to firm it up again and relight it. The other end is like a little spoon and you can use that to clean out the ashes when you're all finished." Ian carefully followed the instructions and was rewarded by a new cloud of smoke. “I think I've got it.” I watched all this with a smile. Ian had discovered the joys of pipe smoking. He puffed slowly until his pipe contained only a residue of ash. At last, he was instructed in the proper way to dump the burnt tobacco into the ashtray and clean out the bowl with the end of the little tool. “I'm a little dizzy,” Ian said. “Is that normal?” “You'll get used to that,” Stuart laughed. “I have several other pipes at home. I could bring one for you to practice on.” “I think I'd like that,” Ian smiled. We finished our beer and left Stuart to his booth. “Are you going to get the habit?” I asked Ian. “It was nice once I figured out how to do it. It's not like cigarettes. You don't pull the smoke into your lungs. You just puff on it and it smells good. It's very relaxing.” I chuckled to myself as we walked to our street. When we came to where our houses were located we paused. “We have to go to our separate rooms. I wish we could live together,” Ian said. “I do too. Maybe there's a way. Let me think about it and we'll talk later.” I did think about Ian's remark. I checked on a couple of things and started working out a plan. After supper a few days later we sat in Ian's room and I brought up the subject. “The semester ends in about 3 weeks. What are your plans for the summer?” Ian sighed. “I've been thinking about that. I don't want to go home. My scholarship will pay for summer classes so I guess I'll stay in school. It doesn't matter. You'll be working for your carpenter so I won't see you anyway.” “Maybe not. I talked to one of my engineering professors about summer jobs. I might be able to work here this summer.” “Really?” Ian brightened up. “What would you do?” “There's a little electronics company here that makes circuit boards and is hiring students for the summer. I went out and talked to them and they were interested in me. It might even pay a little more than the carpenter job. But I'd have to live here over the summer,” I pretended to sound sad. “That's wonderful. Are you going to take the job?” “Wait, I'm not finished. I also checked on some apartments. There is a little one-bedroom apartment just across the street from the Campus Tavern that's cheap. I even looked at it.” “What's it like?” Ian was starting to get excited. “It's not bad, There are four apartments upstairs over a dance studio. It's small but in decent shape.” “How much does it cost?” now Ian looked a little worried. “I know how much I pay for my room. If your room costs about the same, the apartment is only a little more than we're paying separately. Does your scholarship care where you live?” “I don't think so. They pay me a set amount and I'm under that now.” “Would you like a roommate?” I grinned. “I don't know. Do you snore?” Ian laughed. “That would be fantastic!” “I'm glad you think so because I accepted the job and made a deposit on the apartment.” Ian jumped to his feet, clapped his hands then pounced on me for a hug. “Yes yes. I would love that!” “Great. It'll save us a little money too because there's a little kitchen and we can cook some meals for ourselves instead of eating out on the weekends.” “You worked this all out didn't you?” “That's what engineers do.” I shrugged. “We can move in the first of June.” Ian made himself comfortable on my lap and kissed me on the side of the neck. “I can't believe you did that. I thought you might be ready to get rid of me for the summer.” I turned his face to mine and kissed him gently on the lips. “You know better than that. You're beginning to grow on me.” Ian nestled his face in my neck and sighed. “Just think of all the gas we'll save. We won't have to drive out to the lake anymore.” We decided to celebrate with a beer at our favorite establishment where we found Stuart and Brutus camped out in his booth. “Hello,” Stuart greeted us. “What's new with you two?” “Let me tell you,” Ian said, and we laid out our plan. Stuart listened attentively and voiced his approval. After our plans were discussed, he pulled out a little package and place it in Ian's hand. “I have something for you. It's sort of a kit.” Ian opened it up and found a drawstring bag with a pipe, a pouch of tobacco, a lighter and pipe nail inside. “Oh! Is this for me?” “If I'm going to lead you astray I thought you needed the proper equipment. I hope you don't mind that it's one of my used pipes, but I cleaned it thoroughly and it's a nice briar.” Ian's eyes dance from side to side and he smiled from ear to ear. “Thank you, Stuart. You're very kind.” “Oh, that's alright. I have too many pipes and I'm glad to find a good home for one. Now that you have an apartment you won't have to worry about your landlady objecting to smoking in your room. I hope you enjoy it." After Ian was present with his pipe kit, we seldom walked anywhere that he did not leave behind a trail of pipe smoke. On Saturday we walked around the corner to check out the new apartment. It was a two-story yellow brick building with glass windows across the front and a sign above the windows that read 'Margaret's School of the Dance'. Off to one side was a single door that led up the stairs to two apartments on the second floor. Just to the left was our apartment. It ran down the southeast corner with windows that looked out over a sporting goods store to the east and through some trees to a row of backyards to the south. I described everything to Ian. “It's completely furnished with sofa and chair in the living room and a pair of twin beds in the bedroom in the back and a bathroom off of that. In between is a little kitchen with everything we need. There's a long counter with sink, with a stove and refrigerator. There is a table and pair of chairs on the other side. It's old stuff but decent enough. All we'll need are some cooking utensils, towels, and sheets. I can scrounge most of that from home. Mom has a ton of stuff in the garage.” Ian walked around with hands outstretched, familiarizing himself with the placement of everything. He sat on the sofa and the easy chair, turned on the taps in the kitchen and bathroom sinks and sat on one of the beds to bounce up and down. “It's perfect,” he exclaimed. “I can't believe you found this.” “It's small, but a lot roomier than the front seat of my Chevy.” Ian sat on the bed and grinned. “This might be nice. When can we move in?” “The first of June, but we're here now. Maybe we should check things out.” The twin beds provided the appearance of decorum, but we discovered that either was sufficient for two if utilized properly. It would do. When classes let out at the end of the semester, we both went home for a week. I announced that I would be moving to an apartment and was presented with several boxes of household items from the garage. Nothing fancy, but quite serviceable. My mother was generally supportive of the idea when I told her that I would be sharing expenses with Ian. I had told Mom about my blind friend while I was home over Christmas and she approved of our friendship. She thought it was nice that I could be helpful to him and assumed that we might be more than just friends. We didn't go into details, but my mother understood me. I was good to go. Ian called me on the phone the day before he was to return with a request that I pick him up at the bus station at three o'clock. I was surprised but he sounded a bit emotional so I didn't ask questions. I was waiting when the bus drove up a few minutes late and waited until he exited with his cane in front of him. The driver gave him a hand and he turned to wait while his bags were unloaded. I stepped to his side. “Hey, Ian. Nice to have you back.” “Oh, Andrew. I'm glad you're here. Did you have to wait long?” “No. You're fine. Let me help you with your bags. How many are there?” “Just the two. They are green canvas. Do you see them?” I didn't have to look, as the driver set them in front of me. “Nice to have you with us,” he said to Ian. “Have a good summer.” “Thank you. You've been very helpful.” “No problem,” the driver said and hustled off to help others find their bags and parcels. “How was your trip?” I asked. “It was fine. Can we get these to the apartment?” Ian wanted to get away from the bus station. I loaded him up and we drove off. He didn't say anything but reached over for my hand. I helped him to the door then grabbed his bags and started off after him as we climbed the stairs. I sat his things inside the door and pulled him into a hug. “How are you? I take it things didn't go well at home.” “I need a drink of water. Then let's sit down and talk.” “How about a cold beer,” I suggested. “I brought my stuff up already and put a few things in the 'fridge.” Ian plopped down on the sofa and leaned back until I put a beer in his hand. “So what's the story?” Ian took a long pull from the bottle, belched and said, “Excuse me. Thanks.” He took a deep breath and said, “I came out to my family.” “Whoa. That's heavy. How did it go?” “I didn't intend for this to happen, but it did. I told my mother that I was going to share an apartment with you and she told my father. Then at supper they all wanted to know about it and who you were and like that. I tried to explain that you have been helping me get around and we were just friends, but my brothers kept making smart remarks. Finally, I lost my temper and told them it was none of their business." He tipped up his bottle of beer and took another long pull. “John made some crack about always knowing I was a fag, and I told him to go to hell.” “How'd that work out?” Ian sighed. “Not well. Then Phillip made a vulgar remark and things went from bad to worse. I didn't admit to being gay but I didn't deny it either. I'm nineteen, almost twenty, for Pete's sake. I'm going to school on a scholarship. I don't need them, Andrew. I don't have to care what they think.” “No, you don't Ian. You're your own person. It's a shame that they have to be such jerks, but you're independent now.” “I've never been part of the family anyway. This had to happen someday.” I pulled him over and hugged him close. "I guess this makes us official." Ian sniffled a little and held my hand. “It was awful but I'm glad to get it over with. Mother wanted to bring me back to school but my father didn't wouldn't let her. She made a lame excuse that she was having car trouble and said I should take the bus.” “I'm sorry. What can I do?” “You're doing it. Just hold me.” We sat there for what seemed like a long time. I could tell that Ian was crying softly into my shoulder. I just hugged him. “They'll come around, Ian. They're your family. It'll work out.” “I doubt that. I don't ever plan to go back home again.” “Do you think they'll make trouble for you?” “What can they do now that I'm in college?” “Well, can they claim we're living together in sin?” “We're not living in sin,” Ian protested. “We're just roommates. Everybody in college has a roommate unless they're married or living alone.” “They won't make a fuss about me leading you astray?” Ian clenched his fists. “No! What can they say? Will they object to my sharing an apartment with a guy who everybody sees as my official helper? I didn't confess to anything, I just didn't deny it. My reaction was that it wasn't any of their business and I'm sticking to that story.” “OK. I just don't want them making any trouble for you, or for me either.” Ian gave a short laugh. “Actually, they're liable to feel like it's good riddance. If so, the feeling would be mutual. They've never cared what happened to me. Why would they start now? They don't hate me, they just don't care.” After a while, he sat up. “Is there anything to eat? I haven't eaten anything today.” “Sure. I have some eggs. Would you like breakfast for supper?” “That sounds great. Do you have kitchen things?” “I raided the garage. We're all set. Want another beer?” I got up and started being domestic. “I'll have something for us to eat in a minute.” Ian made his way to the bathroom and refreshed himself then felt his way to one of the chairs at the little table and waited for me to cook some eggs and make toast. “How do you like your eggs?” I yelled at him. “Scrambled is easier.” “Coming up. You want another beer?” “Two beers on an empty stomach is my limit. You got any milk?” I set plates of eggs and toast and glasses of milk in front of us and sat down at the table. “Hey. This is the first meal in our new place.” “It is. The first of many, I hope.” He managed a weak smile. “You know I love you,” I told him. “Thanks. That helps a lot.” He devoted himself to a very late breakfast. When he finished, he pushed back his plate and straightened up. “I love you too, Andrew. I don't know what I'd without you.” I cleared the table and put the dishes in the sink. “I don't know, Ian. If it weren't for me you wouldn't be in a mess with your family.” “It had to happen. I've been wanting to be set free for a long time. Going back into that toxic environment was never something I looked forward to. You helped me understand who I am. I'm grateful to you in a lot of ways.” “This is a two-way street, you know. If it weren't for you I'd be back in that rooming house. There's no one else I'd want to live with. I don't see this as a short term deal." Ian rolled his head up in the general direction of the ceiling and squinted his eyes shut tight, blinking out some tears that rolled down his cheeks. “It's not an equal partnership. You do so much. What can I do?” I stood at the sink with my arms folded across my chest. “Well, can you wash dishes?” Ian gave a short laugh. “I can do that.” “Dish soap is on the left, towels and a washcloth are on the right. The sink awaits you." I went into the living area and sat down on the sofa. Ian sat for a moment, walked over to the sink and started running the water. He did fine. After a few minutes, he asked, “Where do I put them?” “Anywhere you want. The cabinets are over the sink. Put the dishes where you can find them. You sort stuff out and then I'll know where they are. The silver drawer is on the left of the sink.” I could hear things rattle as he put them away. After a bit, he found me on the sofa and sat down next to me. "Is this going to work out?" he asked. “So far, so good.” I put my arm around him. “We'll work it out. Some things I can do. Some things you can do. We'll figure it out as we go along.” Ian leaned over and put his head in my lap as I rubbed his shoulders. When he ran his fingers over my fly, I stopped him. “I bet you're tired. Would you like to be held?” “I think that sounds nice.” “Why don't we move to the bedroom and get a little more comfortable?” Ian pulled up the front of my shirt and kissed me on the belly. “That sounds like a great idea.” He stood and unbuttoned his shirt as he walked toward the bedroom. I followed. It was a good idea.
  10. Love is Blind - 3 Copyright Nick Brady 2019 ==========////=========== “You learned a lot in the Boy Scouts.” “I guess it was like what you learned in your school,” I said. “They tried to teach us life skills.” “Yes, different skills for different lives.” “I suppose. We're alike in most ways,” I chuckled. “In the ways that count.” Ian laughed. He took my arm and we went for a last walk through the woods. There would be other times. After our October camping trip, Ian and I had a better understanding of each other. As a result, things were more relaxed between us. We ate lunch together every day, and sometimes supper. I read for him several evenings a week and we spent as much time together as we could. Sometimes we found Stuart and Brutus at the Campus Tavern, more often we hung out in the Student Union where we made a few casual friends. The Union was cheap. For the price of a soda, we could kill most of an evening, unless our studies interfered. Since I was accepted as Ian's assistant, it was no big deal that we were always together. We even decided to enroll in the same English Composition class the next semester. We talked about how things were going. "I have a math test on Friday, "I told Ian. "If you have some things for me to read we need to do it on Wednesday. Thursday might be an all-nighter." “Are you behind?” “No. Not really, but I need to review.” “You're smart, Andrew. You'll do alright.” “My mid-term grades were good. All A's and one B. I can't complain. What about you?” “So far all B's,” Ian smiled. “That's great. I knew you were a brain.” “Not really. I do have a good memory. It's a skill I've had to cultivate for a number of reasons. English Lit. is mostly a matter of memorization. It's not complicated like your math and science.” “I like math and science, always have. It comes fairly easy for me, My folks help me with tuition, and I pay for room and board with the money I save up from my summer job. How do you manage your expenses.” “I have a scholarship from the state that pays for my basic expenses and my mother gives me a little spending money. That's how I pay my reader,” he smiled. “You know you don't have to pay me,” I reminded him. “That was our agreement,” Ian shrugged. “You might get tired of me and quit if I didn't pay you.” “Not much chance of that.” “I'm doing alright. But I have to have at least a B average or I'll lose my scholarship. That is a concern.” “But you're doing great. What's the problem?” “The problem is when I have to turn in written work. I have a typewriter, but I suck at typing. That's why my grades are B's instead of A's. I'll have to do a lot more writing next semester when we take English Composition.” “Don't your teachers understand that you have a little handicap?” “They might cut me a little slack, but I don't want charity. I'd prefer to be judged by the same standards as everyone else.” “I can type.”. “You can?” Ian laughed. “I'm a good typist. I took typing in high school because I figured I'd need it in college. I was the only boy in the class.” “Good odds,” Ian teased. “Not for me,” I lowered my voice. “But really, I can type pretty fast. Can't I help with that?” Ian frowned. “You already spend too much time with me.” “Don't be silly. We're usually together anyway. What difference does it make? You're going to have to help me with that English course.” Ian looked down and smiled. “I guess I could do that.” “So, how does this work? How do you write now?” “I usually write things on my Braille machine then transcribe it to print with my typewriter.” “I can't read Braille,” I admitted. “Well, if you're serious. I guess we could work something out. Maybe I could pay you by the page, or something. “Cut that out. You aren't going to pay me to help you out a little. That's what friends do for friends. Will I have to pay you to tutor me in English?” I slid my shoe up the inside of his leg under the table. “We are friends, aren't we?” Ian blushed. “Be careful with that.” “No, really. It would be mutually beneficial. Why don't we at least try it? I'll help you and you can help me. What's wrong with that?” So that's what we did. Instead of killing time at the Union, I started typing Ian's papers. If it was short, he would dictate it to me. If it was longer, he would type it and I would re-type it and clean it up. He was right about one thing. He sucked at typing. As a result, the grades on his papers improved. “What would I do without you, Andrew?” “You'd do something,” I grinned. “You're resourceful.” “I should do something for you.” "You do," I assured him. There was very little privacy either in his room or mine, but there was always my old Chevrolet. Even in cold weather, we managed to drive out to the lake several times a week and park near the beach. We called it our quality time, and it became more interesting as Ian got over his initial shyness. We were happy with things. What I liked best was just spending time with him. Mostly, we just talked. Ian had a little radio in his room and listen to the news. He knew more about what was going on in the world than I did and I learned a lot from him. He kept up on sports, football, baseball, basketball – everything. “How do you know so much about sports?” I wondered. “The rules are easy to remember, and games are broadcast on the radio,” he explained. “I like sports. I wrestled, remember?” “I was a swimmer,” I shrugged. “That's not a big radio sport.” We were dreading the Christmas holidays. We were both expected to be home for the holidays and had no excuse to remain on campus. On the last day of class before the break, we drove out to the lake. “I'll miss you,” I told Ian. “I know. I'll miss you too.” “I got you a little something,” I said and handed him a small coin from my pocket. “Merry Christmas.” “What is it?” he asked, then when he felt of it, he smiled, “It's a dime.” “That's right. Can you tell the year?” Ian's eyes danced from side to side as he laid the coin in his hand and carefully ran his finger over it. “It's a Mercury dime, and feels like a new one, but I can't tell the year, no.” "That's pretty good," I laughed. "It's a 1944 Mercury Dime. It's not really new but it's uncirculated. It's supposed to be lucky." “Really?” “Really. A leap year silver dime is supposed to bring you luck. You have to wear it in your shoe.” Ian laughed, “Where did you hear that?” “The guy in the coin shop said that. I told him I needed a good luck piece and that's what he suggested.” Ian held it tightly in his hand. “I can always use some good luck. Thank you.” Then his face fell. “I don't have anything for you, Andrew. I'm sorry.” I took his hand in mine. “That's OK. I'm already lucky. Meeting you was the luckiest thing that's ever happened to me.” Ian leaned his head back and seemed to look out somewhere. He had tears in his eyes. I hadn't thought about it since I never saw him cry before, but I guess blind guys can cry just like anybody else, “Thank you, Andrew,” he said very softly. Then he took off his shoe and slipped the dime into his sock. “Does it matter which foot?” “I don't know,” I chuckled. “He didn't say. I don't guess so.” Ian turned towards me and held out his arms. I took him into mine and we hugged for a long time. “I love you,” he whispered. We stayed at the lake until Ian flipped open the cover on his wristwatch and tapped it with his finger. "It's 5:30," he said. We better get back if we're going to eat supper." The holidays went by slowly. Ian said it might be best not to call him on the phone. That bothered me a little, but I didn't question him. I worked for a carpenter every summer and he let me hang some sheet-rock on a house while I was home. It wasn't much but I needed the money. Besides, I wanted to stay busy. I helped with some things around the house but kept thinking about Ian, wondering what he was doing. Ian filled a place inside me that I didn't realize was empty. There were a few high school friends who were still around, but nobody I felt close to. I was in love with Ian and I'd never been in love before. I had his address and sent him a Christmas card, one that had a lot of fuzzy stuff on it where the snow was supposed to be. He could run his fingers over it and tell what it was. All it said inside was “Merry Christmas, Andrew”. His mom could read that to him. Right after New Year's Day, I drove back to Stillwater for the start of the second semester. I was a few days early but was hoping maybe Ian would be there. I went across the street to his room and knocked, but nobody was home, so I taped a dime to the doorknob. He'd know where that came from. The day before classes were to start, I sat and stared out the window at his house for most of the morning. Mrs. McDonald wouldn't be open until the next day so I went out for a burger at noon. When I got back to the house, Ian was sitting my front steps in a big hooded parka and stood when he heard my car drive up. I yelled at him before I even got out of the car. “Hey, Ian! How you doing?” He just stood there with a big grin on his face. “I'm alright,” he said. “Want to drive out to the lake so we can talk?” As soon as I pulled away, he reached for my hand. “I really missed you, Andrew. Thanks for your card.” “I missed you too. How was your Christmas?” “OK, I guess. How was yours?” “I worked a little but didn't do much,” I said. “Was it nice to spend time with your family?” Ian gave a short little laugh. “It's nicer to be back here.” Something about the way he reacted didn't sound right. “What did you do over the holidays? You've never said much about your family.” “My family...” Ian exhaled and leaned his head back. “What about your family?” “It's not something that I talk about very much.” "You can talk to me – or not if you don't want to." “I guess I need to talk to somebody. I just stuff these things.” “So talk. I'm listening.” I pulled up next to the beach and shut off the engine. It wasn't surprising that the place was deserted on a Wednesday afternoon in January. Ian turned towards me. “First, I need a hug. “Sure, I always have a hug for you.” I grabbed him and held him tight. It was not an intimate embrace due to the heavy coats we were wearing, but it was nice anyway. Ian breathed into my neck. “Oh, Andrew. I've missed you something awful,” he whispered. I pushed him away just enough to kiss him. “Me too. I thought about you all the time.” We held each other for a long time before Ian sat back, still holding my hand. “So tell me about your holiday,” I said. “I guess it wasn't all that great.” Ian hesitated. “I suppose the simple version is that I'm an embarrassment to my family.” “Embarrassment? How's that?” “How do I explain this? My father is a mechanic. He works hard, comes home dirty, showers and flops down on the sofa to watch TV. He's a big man and so are my brothers. They all love sports. That's all they talk about. That's how I know something about football. Dad and both my brothers played football in high school, but now they are doing odd jobs and working construction. Being a big jock in high school was the high point in their lives. I was this skinny little blind kid who bumped into things and looked stupid. I just didn't fit in. As soon as I was old enough to be packed off to the blind school, they hustled me out.” “ But look what you're accomplishing. Aren't they proud of you for going to college? ” “Not really. None of them ever went past high school. None of them are bad people, but to them, it's like I'm showing off or something.” “Wasn't there anything pleasant about being home for Christmas? Didn't you have Christmas dinner or anything?” Ian made a face. “Mom cooked a turkey and tried to have a nice dinner, but by the time it was ready they were all half drunk and took their plates to the TV. Can't watch the game without beer. They have a big time yelling at the screen. I just sit and keep my mouth shut.” “What about your mom?” “I think my mother loves me, but she's outvoted. I can't expect her to stand up to the rest of the family. She sort of does what she's told.” Ian said. “Did you see them much while you were in school?” "I would go home for the holidays, but they never came to see me. It was too far, they were too busy, whatever. My mother would come and get me and ask me how things were going. The rest of them pretended I didn't exist. It was better for everybody if I was at the school." “Were they mean to you? Did they pick on you?” “They just ignored me. It's like if I couldn't see, I couldn't hear either. It was like I wasn't there. They basically shunned me. That hurt a lot.”Ian said quietly. I tried to take this in. “That wouldn't encourage you to be very outgoing,”. “When I was home, I couldn't wait to go back to school. The school was good. They understood me and taught me a lot. It was better for me too. I fit in there.” I thought about this for a minute. “I take it your family doesn't know you're gay.” Ian laughed sharply. “No! They'd kill me if they knew that.” “You don't mean that literally, do you?” “I guess not, but it wouldn't be pretty. I could never tell them I was gay. To be honest, I'm still figuring that out myself. Maybe they won't ever have to know.” “That's why you didn't want me to phone you.” I guessed. “It wasn't because I didn't want to talk to you.” Ian squeezed my hand. “I didn't realize you've had such a rough time. I assumed your family was supportive of you.” Ian sighed. “Home wasn't so good, but school was better. College is great, so far.” “But you're on your own now. Actually, you've been on your own for a long time. You'll make a much better life for yourself in the future. You don't need them anymore.” Ian smiled. “I hope so. If I can manage to be self-supporting then I can leave that all behind. That's the plan, anyway.” “Don't leave everything behind. I like to think that we can end up together.” “It's hard to predict my future, but I sure hope you'll be part of it. The Christmas holiday was hard enough.” I took Ian's hand in both of mine. “You need to understand something, Ian. I've known I'm gay for a long time, but I wasn't just trying to get in your pants.” “You weren't hot for me?” Ian smiled. “Well, I do think you're hot, but that's not why I wanted us to be friends.” "We were friends first. That's a nice way to start out." Ian leaned against me. "You know when we were camping and I asked you to hold me. Did you think I was seducing you?" “I didn't know what to think. It turned me on, but we didn't do anything that first night. I held you and we just went to sleep, remember?” “I remember. I was too scared to do anything. If you'd tried to do something I think I would have panicked. But then I got to thinking about it.” “What did you think?” Ian snuggled up and put his hand on my leg. “I decided I liked it. You didn't try to do anything more than hug me, and I started to trust you. I have issues, you know?” “I could tell. I didn't know why until you told me about the guy who messed with you in school, and now about your family. I didn't want to hurt you, Ian. I figured if you wanted to do more than hug you'd let me know.” Ian chuckled. “I guess I wanted to do more. You were really nice about that.” “I'm not a bad guy,” I reminded him. “Tell me this. When did you first figure out you were gay?” Ian hesitated. “I don't know that I really thought about it. I know that when I was wrestling in high school, I liked to rub up against the other guy; liked to put my hands on him. It made me stiff sometimes, but that happens to a lot of guys.” What about girls?” “I never wrestled with any girls,” he laughed. “There were a couple of girls that were friendly with me but we never did anything. You never knew who was watching you, you know?” “Did you want to?” “Not really. I sort of took care of myself when I needed to. I've never done anything with anybody except you,” Ian admitted. “Maybe I never trusted anybody else.” “Does that make me special?” I asked softly. “Ian sighed. “Very special. It's right with you, Andrew. That's all I can tell you. It just feels right and I'm not afraid.” The right thing to do at that point was to kiss again. It was awkward to do much more in the front seat of the car with winter coats on, but we managed. It was dark when we drove back to town and stopped for a pizza. Classes would start the next day and there were a lot of people around. It was the beginning of a new semester and Ian and I were together again. We were making plans for the future.
  11. Love is Blind - 2 Copyright Nick Brady 2019. All rights reserved. ==========////=========== I hesitated. “I like you a lot, Ian. I'm glad we can do things together.” He turned on his side and our legs touched. “I like you too, Andrew. I never had a friend like you before.” I ran the back of my hand over his T-shirt to feel his slender body underneath. “I guess it's mutual then.” Ian gently laid his hand on my shoulder. “I'm a little cold. Do you suppose you could hold me?” I pulled him close and felt his warmth. I was aware that he was strong and that his hair smelt nice. I was beginning to be aware of a lot of things. Ian was relaxed and sleepy, but I was excited and my body was doing things that I would rather it didn't. I hoped that Ian was not aware of my arousal. Soon his breathing told me that he was asleep, and finally, I joined him, enjoying our closeness as we slept in a warm embrace. The morning sun woke me up and I slowly turned and ran my hand over Ian's shoulder. “Good morning, sleepy head. Would you like some breakfast?” Ian rolled over onto his back and stretched. “I think so. I can't believe I slept so soundly.” We were very close together and I ran my hand over his firm stomach. “There's no hurry. You can sleep a little longer if you would like.” Ian put his hands over mine and held it still. “I need to pee.” “Me too. I guess that has to happen before we can think about breakfast,” I laughed. We crawled out of the tent, I pointed us towards the trees and we relieved our straining bladders. Ian pulled the front of his boxers down and I saw him for the first time. I could see that he was in the same state as myself. I tried to suppress the thoughts that popped into my imagination and maneuvered us back into the tent. I quickly pulled on my jeans and sweatshirt then left him to dress while I attended to the breakfast fire. In a few minutes, he emerged from the tent with the blanket wrapped around his shoulders. "Can I help?" he asked. “There was enough wood left over from last night to get a little fire going again. “Sit down and get warm while I scrounge up some more deadwood.” I soon had a decent cooking fire and started some bacon frying while I unwrapped half a dozen eggs and some shredded cheese. “How does an omelet sound?” “It sounds great! The bacon smells wonderful.” Ian was smiling. When the bacon was crisp I laid it on some paper towels and threw the eggs and a handful of cheese into the skillet then stirred them with a fork. “It won't be long. I didn't bring a coffee pot so I guess we'll have to wash this down with water,” I apologized. “Too bad we drank all the beer last night,” Ian chuckled. “We had three each. That's about my limit. I'll bring coffee next time.” Ian smiled. “I hope there's a next time. This is really great.” “Yes, it is. You're good company, Ian.” I handed him a paper plate of bacon and cheesy eggs along with several slices of bread. “It's no gourmet meal, but it will fill our bellies.” He ate it all with no complaints and told me it was great. I looked at him while he ate. He was brave, resourceful and a very beautiful young man. I only wished that he shared my feeling of affection. I wasn't sure how he felt but figured he would tell me when he wanted me to know. After we, finished our breakfast I began to clean up and Ian was content to sit and be quiet. I poured some water in the skillet and scoured it out with a handful of dry grass, then tossed the paper plates on the remains of the fire where they soon burst into flame. I joined Ian under the blanket where we sat, full and contented. “That was a nice breakfast,” Ian said. “I guess you learned that in Scouts.” I put my arm over his shoulder, he wrapped his around my waist and leaned into me. “Have you had a nice time?” I asked. Ian hugged me gently. “I think this is the nicest weekend I've ever had,” he said softly. “And I think you're the best friend I've ever had. Thank you, Andrew.” It was a tender moment and I tried to think of what to say. I wanted to tell him he was beautiful and that I was falling in love with him. I wanted to turn his face to mine and kiss him tenderly. I wanted to do much more, but I only sat quietly and held him next to me. Finally, I said simply, "It's fine with me if we're best friends. I like you a lot, Ian." To my surprise, Ian turned and kissed me on the cheek, leaned away, wrapped his arms around his knees and was silent. What did that mean? What was he thinking? I was confused. I had known I was gay since I was in my early teens. I had never found anyone I thought I was in love with, but had played with several of my friends as I suppose that most boys do. Some of them I liked, but I never felt about any of them the way I felt about Ian. I wanted to hold Ian, wanted to see him naked and run my hands over his slender body. I wanted to do a lot of things but assumed that if he knew my thoughts, he would pull away. I decided at that moment that his friendship was more important than my desire. I would be patient. I had to be patient. We sat in front of our little fire for several minutes still wrapped inside the blanket. Our shoulders were touching but we were no longer holding each other. I focused on my breathing and tried to relax the part of myself that most needed relaxing. Ian sat up and stretched his back. “Are we in a hurry? I think I'd like to lie down for a few minutes.” When he stood and folded the blanket over his arm, I walked him to our tent and we slipped back into the sleeping bag. It was unexpected. We lay still for a little while as I wondered what I should do. Ian decided for me. “Will you hold me again?” he asked quietly and turned toward me. I wrapped my arms around him and hugged him close. We had our clothes on now, but the effect on me was the same. I waited. “This is nice,” he said. “I don't ever remember being held like this.” “Never? Someone held you when you were little.” “Not that I remember. It's nice to be held.” I waited some more. “I like holding you, Ian. I really like you a lot.” It was all I dared to say. “Is it OK for us to do this?” he asked. “Maybe I shouldn't ask you to hold me. Maybe that doesn't sound right.” “It's fine with me,” I sighed. “I love holding you.” I resisted the urge to tell him I loved him. He gently rubbed his hands over my back. “You're strong,” he said. Taking that as encouragement, I ran my hands over his back, over his arms and shoulders. “You're a beautiful guy,” I whispered. "Oh. That's nice," he sighed and held me a little closer. “I kissed him on the cheek and stroked his back. “You're very special,” I said with a catch in my voice. “I've never known anybody like you – never felt this way about anybody else.” Ian sighed again and I pushed his shoulder to turn him onto his back, then put my hand on his chest, down over his stomach then up under his shirt to feel his bare chest. He relaxed and let me slowly massage his chest and stomach, his near arm under my neck. I did this for several minutes and he seemed to enjoy it. I was so excited I thought I would burst. But when I tried to slip my hand down the front of his pants he stiffened and grabbed my hand. “Don't do that, please!” I took my hand away and moved back. “I'm sorry. I thought you'd like that. I would.” “It scares me. I don't think I want to do that.” “I guess I misunderstood,” I said. “I thought you wanted to play.” Ian still had his arm around my shoulder and now he tightened his embrace. “I like it when you hold me. I like you, Andrew, I really do. But it makes me feel afraid when you touch me like that. Can you understand?” I pulled him close to me. “I understand. I'm sorry if I offended you. We're alike in some ways and very different in others. I know you're not like me.” Now Ian rubbed his hands over my back. “You didn't offend me, it just makes me feel afraid. Maybe we're more alike than you think, but I've never done anything before.” “Never done what?” “I've never played like this. Never ever with anybody, at least not on purpose.” “I'm not sure what you're saying.” Ian sighed. “I think I was about twelve and had just started wrestling. There was this older boy on the team. He stopped me in the dressing room after most of the other boys had left and told me that I needed a jock strap and he was going to measure me. I didn't have a clue what was going on until he slid his hand down the front of my pants and felt all over me. It scared me.” “Did he hurt you?” "It didn't hurt, but it frightened me. In a way, it felt nice and he got a reaction out of me, but when I realized what he was doing it made me feel ashamed." “Why ashamed? He was the one who was messing with you. You didn't ask him to do that.” "I know, but I didn't tell him to stop. He was a lot bigger than me. Remember I told you that we had some religious volunteers? They made sure to tell us that it was nasty to do things like that. It was confusing, Andrew." “I can imagine. Did you tell anybody?” “No! I figured if I told on him he would beat me up or something. Besides, I didn't want anybody to know about it. I've never told anybody except you.” “So, what did you do?” “I don't guess I did anything, except think about it a lot.” “What did you think? I mean, how did it make you feel?” “How did I feel? I guess I was angry. He tricked me. He didn't ask for permission. It frightened me and made me feel dirty.” “Did it bother you a lot?” Ian sighed. "I think the thing that bothered me was that when I thought about it, it excited me. When I was in bed at night, I would think about what happened and get stiff and that would make me feel guilty. I almost wished he would do it again. Well, maybe not him. Maybe someone nicer. It was very confusing." “I think I understand. So, when I touched you it brought back all those bad memories. It's like I was that guy.” Ian paused. “You're nicer than him.” “I thought that over. “So is the thing with the older boy, is that it? That's the only experience you ever had?” “Yeah, that's right,” Ian whispered. “That's it.” I didn't know what else to say, so I said, “I'm sorry.” Ian took my hand and held it to his chest. “That's how I feel right now – both scared and excited.” I let my hand rub slowly over his shirt. He didn't resist. “I'm not sure what you want me to do. I don't want to hurt you, Ian. I think I'm falling in love with you.” After a minute, Ian turned towards me and put his arms around me. “I know. Me too, but I'm scared.” I kissed his neck and hugged him tight. “Don't do anything you aren't ready to do. I'm not going anywhere.” Ian tipped his head to one side to allow my lips to nestle in the crook of his neck. “I like that,” he whispered. Then he ran his hand up the back of my shirt. “I don't feel so scared now.” I could feel his heart pounding against me. I held him for a bit longer. “I'm getting kind of hot. Do you mind if I took off my shirt?” "It's too hot in this bag with all our clothes on," he agreed and rolled over onto his back. I unbuttoned my shirt and slipped it off, then put my hand on his chest. He pulled my hand up to the top button of his shirt and whispered, “You could help me.” I opened his shirt, one button at a time. When it fell open he raised up to remove it and tossed it aside and pulled him to me so that our chests were pressed together. “Oh!” he sighed. “That feels so nice.” Our hearts were both pounding. I knew what I wanted to do but didn't want to frighten him again, so this time, I asked permission. “Can I touch you?” Ian answered by scooting his hips back to give me access to him. I pressed my palm against his zipper and found him full against my hand. I rolled it from side to side and he shivered. “Oh!” he sighed again. After a minute of this, Ian unbuttoned the top of his pants and whispered, “I think I'm ready now. Please be careful.” My hand shook as I unfastened his zipper and reached inside. The top of his shorts was damp. I slowly rolled him from side to side, then squeezed gently. “Is that OK?” I asked. "Oh, yes!" he whispered and pushed his face against my chest. I reached inside to hold him in my hand and found that he was intact. That excited me even more. I impulsively unzipped myself and pushed my jeans and shorts down past my hips. “Touch me, Ian.” When he laid his hand against me I could feel him trembling. His fingers looked me over and he made a gasping sound. “You're different.” “How am I different?” “Your... you don't have skin.” I realized what he meant. "I was circumcised when I was a baby.” “I've read about that. Did it hurt?” “Probably,” I chuckled. “I don't remember.” “You're a little bigger than me,” he observed, checking out all my equipment. “Not by much. You're just fine.” He continued his gentle examination. “I'm not the first, am I? I mean, you know?” “No,” I admitted. “I guess not.” “You're the only one I've ever seen, touched, whatever. Besides my own.” “Are you OK with this?” I asked cautiously. “Oh yes,” he whispered. “I've thought about doing this - wondered what you were like, but never thought it would really happen. I didn't think you'd like it.” “I like it a lot,” I assured him. Ian hesitated. “I want to know what you're like. I mean, all over. Is that alright?” “Sure. Anything you like,” I said, rolled over on my back and pushed my pants down to my ankles. “Look me over.” Ian touched my cheek then ran his hands over my chest, down across my stomach and over my hips. He felt between my legs, then touched my thighs, knees and down to where my jeans were bunched over my shoes and back again. Inspecting all of me, seeing me for the first time through his touch. He lay back. “You're very beautiful,” he said. “Do I make you uncomfortable?” “Oh, no. Not at all,” I swallowed, and asked, “Is it alright if I look at all of you?” Ian did not reply, but raised his hips to slide his clothes down to his shoe tops and took my hand to place it on his chest. I looked down at him and found him to be very beautiful. Using my hands, I very gently examined him as he had me, feeling him shiver under my touch. When at last I came to his center, I pressed down with the palm of my hand. His breath caught as he stiffened and ejaculated into the palm of my hand. “Oh! Oh! I'm sorry” he gasped. “Don't be sorry. I wanted to give you pleasure,” I assured him. “That was so fast. I made a mess.” “Some things are naturally messy,” I chuckled. “Don't worry about it.” “I've never done that before. I mean, not with someone else.” “Is this really the first time you've ever done anything with another guy?” “With anybody. The guy who checked me for a jock strap didn't count, and I didn't... you know?” I picked up a towel and gently wiped him clean, kissing him on the belly when I finished. “That was amazing,” Ian sighed. “I should do something for you.” “You don't have to. I'm fine.” “Is it OK if I do? I really want to.” Ian politely insisted. I lay back with my hands behind my head to gave him full access. By now I was incredibly aroused. He sat cross-legged at my side and lightly touch me from head to shin, examining every part of me until he found my center. He gripped me firmly and fondled the furry parts with one hand while he stroked me with the other in the time-honored way. He leaned over and sniffed me, then went back to work. Within a minute, I exploded with a grunt. “Did I hurt you?” Ian asked anxiously. “No! That was intense, simply amazing!” I laughed with relief. “Now it's me who's made a mess.” Ian sat up and ran his fingers through the puddle on my stomach, brought it to his nose. “Yours smells just like mine,” he giggled. “I guess we are the same.” He took the towel and wiped me just as I had done for him, then set it to the side and placed his hands on my stomach. “Thank you,” he said quietly. His tenderness touched me. I pulled at his arms. “Lie down on me,” I whispered, Ian stretched out on the length of me and I pulled the bag to cover us. “I love you, Ian,” I whispered. He hesitated, then whispered back, “Me too. I love you, Andrew. I never thought I could say that, but it feels right. Oh! I'm so happy!” he sighed. I took his face in my hands and kissed his cheek, then his lips. He melted against me and we kissed for real, a long gentle kiss, and then an embrace. “I'm happy too,” I breathed into his ear. We lay like that for a long time, then Ian rolled away and lay on his back. He took a deep breath then let it out slowly. “I'm not afraid.” “What?” “I'm not afraid. This wasn't scary at all. It was really nice.” “This is the way it's supposed to be,” I said. “This was right.” “Yeah,” he agreed. “It sure seemed right. I always wondered how it would be. This was better than I imagined.” I turned and laid my face on his shoulder, running my hand across his head, tousling his hair. “There are more things we can do,” I suggested. “I know. I guess we have that to look forward to, but I think that's about all the wonderful I can stand for one day,” Ian chuckled. Finally, I sat up and started folding the blankets. “We better get this stuff put away if we want time to do anything else before we have to get back. Maybe we can take a walk.” Ian got out of the sleeping bag and helped me roll it up. We put everything in the car then folded up the tent, rolling it to fit back into the stuff bag. We put everything into the trunk of my car and were almost finished. I threw water on the remains of the campfire and stirred the coals until all that remained was a steaming puddle. I tried to explain what I was doing as Ian stood by quietly. “You learned a lot in the Boy Scouts.” “I guess it was like what you learned in your school,” I said. “They tried to teach us life skills.” “Yes, different skills for different lives.” “I suppose. We're alike in most ways,” I chuckled. “In the ways that count.” Ian laughed. He took my arm and we went for a last walk through the woods. There would be other times. ==========////=========== Please send your comments to Nick Brady at y2kslacker@mail.com
  12. LOVE IS BLIND (Copyright by Nick Brady, All rights reserved) It was a bright September day when I first noticed him. I had seen him walking along tapping the ground with his long white cane when I was on campus, but here he was sitting at a table in the boarding house where I ate lunch every day. He was a nice-looking young guy, intent on checking out the items on the table, asking the person next to him what was in the bowl and carefully scooping some onto his plate. He kept checking the amount and location with a piece of bread as he homed in on his lunch. It seemed odd that he never looked down at his plate then I recalled that he was blind. His fingers did the looking. I had eaten here all last year when I was a freshman but this was the first time I had seen him. I figured he was new, either to the boarding house or to the school. I didn't live above the dining room although a few guys did. Most of us rented something nearby and just ate here. The others at the table were looking at him. I wondered if he was aware of their interest. There were a few blind people at Oklahoma State but he was the first I had watched eat. He was pretty good at it and didn't spill much. Practice, I guess. It was interesting. After a few minutes, people resumed talking with each other, although not with him. It was hard to know what to say. When he finished his lunch he carefully wiped around his area with a napkin and quietly got up to leave. Unfolding his cane, he maneuvered between the chairs and found the door. He walked out and down the sidewalk, leaving a murmur of conversation behind him. Most were merely curious, a few made jokes. The next day I noticed him again on campus. He was leaving the building next to mine just before lunch and I followed him at a little distance, watching as he carefully negotiated the streets on the way to our boarding house. I hesitated, then sat next to him. He lived in a world I knew nothing about. I remembered as a boy that the church we attended had a blind organist. He was a wonderful musician, but the thing that was interesting about him was how confident he was getting around the church. He had everything memorized and recognized people by their voices, calling them by name when they greeted him. I had always wondered how a person with what seemed like such a profound disability could manage to function in a sighted world. “Hi, my name is Andrew,” I said. “I followed you here from class. I think our eleven o'clock classes are in adjoining buildings.” He inclined his head in my direction and responded, “I'm Ian. Nice to meet you. Do you eat here every day?” “I do. How's the food suit you?” “Well, it's cheap,” he chuckled. “Not bad really.” “It's filling if you like potatoes. A monthly meal ticket isn't a bad deal. Breakfast lunch and supper for $100.00 a month fits my budget. Do you live here too?” “No, I rent a room just down the street. Do you?” “I have a room too. I guess we don't live far apart.” I watched as he carefully negotiated the serving bowls and tried to make conversation. “I haven't seen you before. Are you new here?” “Yes. I'm a freshman this year. I just graduated from OSB in Muskogee.” “OSB?” He lowered his voice slightly. “Oklahoma School for the Blind. You've probably never heard of it.” “Yes, I have. When I was a kid we sometimes attended a church in Muskogee who's organist taught music there. Have you ever heard of John Meldrum?” He smiled and nodded his head. Oh yes. He's retired now, but he's sort of a legend. So, you knew Mr. Meldrum?” “Right. He was a very talented musician and very independent. A nice man too.” Ian chuckled, “He was a little before my time but I've heard stories about him. Are you from Muskogee?” 'Well, from near there,” I said. I was running out of conversation so we concentrated on lunch. When we had finished, Ian cleaned up after himself then stood to leave. “It was very nice to meet you, Andrew. I expect that I'll see you again.” Then he negotiated his way out of the room and disappeared. I followed him out and looked to see where he went. He entered a two-story house just across the street from my own. Many of the older homes in this area just off of campus had been converted into rooming houses. Often the owner lived downstairs and rented out a few rooms above. I was curious about Ian. I had never known a blind person before except for Mr. Meldrum. I didn't know the older gentleman very well, although once introduced to me he always recognized me and called me by name. “Nice to see you,” he would say. I saw Ian on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday as we left our classes for lunch and began to walk with him whenever I could. "Hey, Ian," I would call to him. Can I walk with you?" “Of course, Andrew. How are you today? Are you ready for lunch?” “I'm good as long as I like mashed potatoes,” I laughed. “The menu is a bit limited.” “It is, but I like meatloaf so I'm fine with it. The price is right.” I was curious about him. “Do you have family in Muskogee?” “I have two brothers, but not in Muskogee. I'm from Ardmore. I just went to school in Muskogee.” “I guess they taught you more than academics,” I said, fishing a little. "Yes, of course, there's a lot of training in adaptive things. They try to teach us how to be independent." “Like the cane, right?” “Yes, of course.” “Is it OK if I ask you about this kind of thing?” Ian paused and seemed to decide I was harmless. “If you like. I'm not that sensitive. What would you like to know?” “Like the cane. I know some people use dogs, right? Do you prefer a cane?” He smiled. "I do. It would be nice to have a guide dog. They're wonderful companions for one thing, but living in a rooming house it's easier to use a cane, I think. And, it's one less mouth to feed." “I'm sorry to be nosy, but what you do is interesting.” “Yes of course, but it's just what I do.” “Have you always been blind?” “I wasn't born blind but when I was four, I suffered detached retinas and lost my sight. As a result, I have some notion of color for example, but I've had to learn most things.” “Is it hard to live with a handicap like that?” He smiled and shook his head. “I don't regard blindness as a handicap, although occasionally it's an inconvenience.” We walked another half block then he reminded me, “Here we are. Are you ready for lunch?” He was more aware of where we were than I was. Our conversations were limited to our walks from class to lunch but he gradually seemed to become more comfortable with me. I was curious about a lot of things in his world but tried to respect his privacy. Ian became a little curious about me. “Tell me about your family,” he asked. “I'm an only child,” I told him. “My parents are divorced so it's just me and my mother. Maybe that explains why I'm so curious about things.” “How is that?” “I mean I didn't have an older brother or sister to explain things to me. I've had to figure out a lot of stuff on my own. I wish I had brothers – or a sister. I guess that would be nice too. You said you have two brothers? Older or younger?” “Both are older. John is twenty-three and Phillip is twenty-five. I'm nineteen.” “Do you remember them? I mean, do you remember what they looked like when you could still see?” I realized that probably wasn't a cool thing to ask. “I'm sorry. That was dumb.” “That's OK. I can understand your wondering. The answer is not really. I remember that they were both a lot bigger than me. I don't really remember much from that time. How much do you remember from when you were four?” “Hardly anything,” I laughed. “I ask too many questions.” “What's your major?” “Mechanical Engineering.” “Curiosity is a good trait for an engineer. You want to know how things work.” “I guess I do. I've always liked science. What's your major?” "English literature with a minor in music, I hope. I'm just starting out. I'm learning a lot of things, actually." The conversation was cut short by our arrival at the boarding house. We sat next to each other, ate, then parted. The more I knew about Ian, the more interesting he became. He was clearly an intelligent guy. The next Friday I fell in step with him and asked him another thing I was curious about. “How do you study? Like, how do you read your assignments? How do you take notes in class? How does that work for you?” “Oh, there are lots of ways to do that. I have a little tape recorder that I use instead of taking written notes. There are some books on tape. A few things are available in braille. I'll get a reader.” “A reader?” “Yes. A person who will read things to me if they are not otherwise available.” “Oh.” I thought about that. “I could read to you if you like.” “I would have to pay you.” “That's OK. You wouldn't have to do that.” “I would if I were to depend on you,” he said flatly. “My reader would need to be compensated. If it were done as a favor it would be optional.” I thought about that. “I understand how that might work. What if I was interested in doing that? I wouldn't need much.” “That's a lot of responsibility. Are you sure you'd be interested?” “I think so. We just live across the street from each other. It wouldn't be that big a deal.” We were in front of the boarding house and Ian stopped for a moment. “If you're serious, let me think about it.” “I could audition. Read something to see if I do it right.” Ian laughed. “I suppose we could try that. What time do you eat supper?” “I have a five o'clock class, so I get to the boarding house about six. What about you?” “I usually eat earlier but I can meet you at six. Then if you like, you could stop by my room and we can see how it goes.” “Sure. It's a deal. I'll see you at six, then. Ready for lunch?” I went through the rest of my day wondering what I was getting into. I was taking sixteen hours and while that kept me busy, I had some free time. There were lots of things to do on campus but nothing that was more interesting than Ian. I was looking forward to my audition. We met at six and he didn't have a lot to say. I wondered if he was having second thoughts. After supper, we walked down the street together and as we chatted, I watched him run the long white cane in front of him, moving it from side to side and tapping it on the sidewalk. He did it unconsciously but when we came to an intersection he would pause to listen, then find the curb and test it for an instant before stepping into the street. It looked dangerous to me, but he seemed confident. He lived on the second floor of an old house across the street from mine. It smelled musty inside and our footsteps rang on the wooden staircase. At the top of the stairs, he turned right, fished a key out of his pocket and opened the door to a small bedroom which was much neater than mine. As soon as he stepped inside he reached over and flipped on the lights. “You don't really need that, do you?” I chuckled. “No, but you do. If I made you navigate a dark room, it would make you uncomfortable,” he laughed. “That's another thing I learned in school.” He motioned to the chair at a small desk and sat on the bed. He got right down to business. “There's a short story by Ken Liu called 'Paper Menagerie' on the desk. Would you like to read it to me?” I looked at the desk and found a small volume. It was the story of a boy with an American father and a Chinese mother. The story begins with the young boy crying. His mother begins folding something out of wrapping paper to distract him. “....A little paper tiger stood on the table, the size of two fists placed together. The skin of the tiger was the pattern on the wrapping paper, white background with red candy canes and green Christmas trees. I reached out to Mom's creation. Its tail twitched, and it pounced playfully at my finger. "Rawrr-sa," it growled, the sound somewhere between a cat and rustling newspapers. I laughed, startled, and stroked its back with an index finger. The paper tiger vibrated under my finger, purring.” The story goes on to tell that the mother speaks little English but creates a menagerie of paper animals that come to life and become the boy's companions. Later, an older boy scornfully calls him a Chink and he decides he's ashamed to be part Chinese. He rejects his mother then when she becomes very ill he realizes his mistake although it is too late. It was a very touching story. When I finished I looked up and saw that Ian was nodding thoughtfully. “That's really about acceptance. I'm to write a synopsis and my interpretation. Thank you.” He leaned forward and pointed to the desk again. There is a volume of poetry titled, 'The Rattle Bag', and in it is a poem by William Blake that I like. It's not an assignment, but I'd like to hear you read it. It's 'The Garden of Love'. I found it and saw with gratitude that it was short. I looked it over quickly, then took a breath and read. “I went to the Garden of Love, and saw what I never had seen: A chapel was built in the midst, Where I used to play on the green. And the gates of this chapel were shut, And 'Thou shalt not' writ over the door; So I turn'd to the Garden of Love That so many sweet flowers bore; And I saw it was filled with graves, And tomb-stones where the flowers should be; And Priests in black gowns were walking their rounds, And binding with briars my joys and desires.” I looked up to see that Ian was smiling. “You read well,” he said. “Did you like that?” “It was nice,' I said. “I don't know much about poetry but at least this has some rhymes in it. I'd have to read it again to get much out of it though.” “What did it say to you?” I read it again silently then ventured a guess. “It starts out like the garden is a nice place. He played there as a kid. Then it got locked up with a big 'Thou shalt not' sign and it turned into a graveyard.” “That's pretty good,” Ian nodded. Blake was a very spiritual person but thought organized religion was too condemning. Adam and Eve were free to love each other, then religion told them it was sinful. Blake might have approved of free love.” “Yeah? I might like Blake.” “I like him a lot. I like poetry, I like the sound of it.” “Sound is important to you, isn't it?” “Sound is my way of seeing. I judge a lot of things by sound. I get an impression of people by the sound of their voices, the way they speak,” Ian explained. “You have a nice voice. For me, that's the same as saying you're nice looking.” It struck me that he had paid me a compliment. “Thanks. Maybe it's just as well that you can't see me. I'm pretty ordinary.” Ian nodded then smiled quickly as if he had said more than he intended. “Are you serious about being a reader for me?” I decided I wanted to do this. “I would. I hope we can work something out.” “About all I could pay you is ten dollars an hour. Would that be OK?” “Sure, that's fine. When would you need me, for how long?” “It depends on what I have to read. If it's recorded or available in Braille I won't need a reader, but if not, then you could read it to me. I imagine an hour or two a couple of nights a week. You could come by here after supper and get it out of the way so you would have the rest of the evening free for whatever you like.” “That should work. We'll see each at supper anyway.” “Well, I suppose you need to be getting along,” Ian said, releasing me from any other obligation on my time. “I'm not in a hurry,” I said. “What do you do when you aren't in class or studying? What do you like to do?” Ian relaxed a little and shrugged his shoulders. “I lead a pretty boring life. I listen to a lot of music. I'm trying to teach myself to play guitar. Just hang around mostly.” “Do you know many people here? Have you made any friends?” “Not really. This is the start of my freshman year. I haven't had the chance to meet many people. Well, there's Stuart.” “Who's Stuart?” “Ah. Stuart. He's a contact that the OSB people gave me - another blind guy who's a senior here. He's maybe in his forty's and has a dog. We've just talked on the phone but he seems like a nice guy. He said to call him if I had a problem. Sort of a resource, I suppose.” "Do you ever go out, like to a movie or something?" I immediately realized that he probably wasn't big on movies. "Sorry. That might have come off wrong." “Not at all,” he laughed. “When I was in high school some of us used to walk to a movie in the mall. I can enjoy the dialogue and the music. I enjoy TV if there is someone who can tell me what's going on.” “You can do pretty much anything.” “Pretty much. What do you like to do?” Ian leaned back on his elbows and looked in my general direction. “I like music although I don't play anything except the radio. I don't have a TV but once in a while I go to a movie, maybe stop by at the Campus Tavern for a beer on the way home from class. Nothing exciting.” “Beer is good,” he raised his head a little. “No girlfriend?” “Not really. I have friends who are girls but no girlfriend. No time and no money for that sort of thing.” “Me neither. I considered being a womanizer in high school but it didn't work out,” he joked. “I don't know anybody here.” He was a fit-looking guy - small and slender with nice features although his eyes tended to go in all directions. Sometimes he just looked down. There was a lot more to this guy than I first realized. I watched him while he talked. He was relaxed now and not so businesslike. I imagined that he might have to be on his guard sometimes. He was sharp, but being blind could leave him vulnerable. Best to play it safe. “What do you like?” he asked again. “Like about what?” I hadn't been paying attention. “What kind of music do you like? I think you drifted off there for a minute.” “Oh, right, sorry. Most anything. I'm not much into rap or hip-hop but I'm pretty much OK with most music if it's done well. Probably I like the older classic rock as well as anything. I'm easy.” “Name a favorite band.” “I don't know. The Beatles? Rolling Stones? I like a lot of things, mostly old stuff. What about you?” “Why Dire Straits?” I thought a minute. “I like the way the bass line and drums work together. Their lyrics are clever, too.” He nodded approvingly. “You really listen to the music or just like it in the background?” “It depends. If I'm listening for pleasure I try to catch the words and understand them. If I'm trying to study, I listen to Classical so I can ignore it if I want.” “Yeah, Classical's good.” The conversation lagged and I decided that I might be overstaying my welcome. “I need to go. I guess I'll see you tomorrow, OK?” "The boarding house serves meals on the weekend," Ian reminded me. “You want to meet for lunch?” “Sure. I love mashed potatoes.” I smiled. “We could do something tomorrow after lunch if you don't have anything else going.” “Let me check my schedule,” he laughed. “Nope, nothing there for tomorrow. What's the plan?” “I don't know. Drive out to the lake, whatever.” “You have a car?” “Yeah. It's a clunker, but it runs.” “OK then. We could do that. See you tomorrow?” Ian stood up as if to say I was free to go. "Right. See you tomorrow. Let me know when you want to do some reading." I waved goodbye as I walked out of his room. When he didn't wave back, I felt silly. ===================////==================== Ian was sitting just inside the door to our boarding house when I walked in. I turned to him and he spoke first. “Hi, Andrew. I beat you here.” I laughed and asked, “How did you know it was me?” He stood without answering, “I'm hungry. Are you ready to eat?” “Yeah, sure. I'm ready.” I walked to the long table and found a pair of seats. “Here you go.” I stopped and sat down. Ian stopped behind me, turned, touched the back of the chair and pulled it out to sit next to me. He folded his cane to put it out of the way, put his hands on the table to locate the plate and cutlery then sniffed the air. “Oh, we're having chicken and dumplings I think, and green beans. Smells good.” There were not as many guys at the table on Saturday as during the week. I asked Ian, “Can I help you with this?” I wondered if I was offending his independence. He chuckled and said softly, “I can manage by myself, but if you serve my plate it's not as messy. Tell me where things are like on a clock.” I filled his plate with what he had correctly guessed was on the table. “Chicken and dumplings at 12 o'clock, green beans at 4 and cornbread at 8,” I said quietly. He located his glass of ice tea, used the cornbread as a probe to locate things and slid them onto his fork. "Is there dessert?" he asked when we were finished. I looked around and saw small dishes of cake on a side table. “Just a minute. I'll get us some.” When I returned and set the plate in front of him, he took a deep breath and smiled. “Oh good. Chocolate is my favorite.” When we were finished, he carefully wiped around his plate with a paper napkin, then wiped his face and laid the napkin on his plate. “That was pretty good. Sort of like Sunday dinner on Saturday. Are we ready to go?” We walked outside and down the street to where my car was parked. “Where are we going,” Ian asked. “I thought we could run out to Lake Carl Blackwell. Have you ever been out there?” “No. Is it far?” “It's about 8 miles west of town. We can be there in 10 or 15 minutes. It's a decent size lake. You can camp there, go fishing, swimming, whatever.” “That sounds like fun.” “Do you like to fish? Can you swim? Have you ever been camping?” I was curious. “Ian laughed. “I can swim. They had a pool at the school, but I've never been camping unless you count sleeping in a cabin once.” “Well, that would count. I was in Scouts and we camped quite a bit.” “Really? Like in a tent? That would be an adventure.” “I have a little two-man tent and a few camping things in my room. I was thinking about going out some weekend.” Ian smiled but didn't say anything. “They have a swimming beach out at the lake,” I recalled. “It's hot today. Would you like to go for a swim? “A swim might be nice," Ian agreed. "I don't have a swimsuit. Would gym shorts be OK?" “Sure. Let me get you across the street to your house.” I took him by the arm and he stopped me. “Let me take your arm. That works better for me.” Ian put his hand lightly in the crook of my elbow and we walked across the street as far as his front door. “I'm good from here,” he said. “I'll be back in a minute.” I sat down on the front steps and waited for him. He didn't take long. “I think I'm ready.” He was carrying a white pair of gym shorts and a towel. We went back across the street. "Here's my old car," I said and led him to where I was parked. "It's an old Chevrolet. Nothing flashy, but it's dependable and gets me around. Have a seat and I'll get my suit." He found the door handle and waited while I dashed up to my room. In a few minutes, we were driving to the lake. I hesitated, then asked, “You're the first blind guy I've really known. I know you can do most everything on your own, but I'd be happy to help you if it makes things easier for you.” Ian laughed. “I have to be independent if I'm going to manage, but sometimes it is helpful to have a friend. If you don't mind my taking your arm when we're walking together, it does make it faster.” “Of course. I'm learning a lot from you. Maybe I should just let you ask for help if you need it.” “OK. I'll try not to be too stubborn." He hesitated, "Tell me what it's like around here. I mean, is it flat, hilly? Are there a lot of trees?" “It's rolling hills. Central Oklahoma is pretty flat. A few wooded areas, but not much else.” “Where have you been?” Ian asked. “Have you traveled much?” “Not a lot. When I was in the Scouts, we went to some places in Arkansas that were nice. What about you?” “Not so much. Back and forth to Ardmore, mostly. My father was always working. We did some little day trips when I was in the school, but nothing exciting." I turned on the car radio and we listened to some music on the short drive to the lake. I pulled up to the swimming beach and shut off the motor. “Here we are,” I told him. The car windows were down to give some relief from the heat and there was a soft breeze blowing. Ian leaned his head back and took a deep breath. “I can smell the lake,” he said. “I don't really smell anything. What does it smell like?” “Muddy. A few dead fish not far away. I smell exhaust fumes from the boats out on the lake.” I looked out at the water and saw a couple of outboard motor boats carrying fishermen around. “You're right. I hadn't noticed them until you said that. You're very aware of what's around you.” “I am. There are more senses than sight. I see with hearing and smell,” he said. “And touch.” I thought about that. “How would you know what a person looks like? Does that make any sense? What do you think I look like?” Ian tipped his head back. “You're taller than me. I'm five foot six. You're about five eleven. I'm guessing you're white by your speech pattern and a native Oklahoman by your accent.” Ian chuckled softly. “I go a lot by a person's voice. I told you that you have a nice voice. You seem relaxed by which I gather that you are comfortable with yourself. I imagine that you are slender and fit. I know that you are a clean person because you often smell like soap.” “That's amazing. You don't miss much, do you? Is there anything you don't know about me?” “I go a lot by what I pick up about a person's character. I know that you're a considerate person. You've been very kind to me.” “You didn't mention touch.” “No, but I do know that when you took my arm you were gentle. When I took your arm I could tell that you were muscular. That's why I assumed you to be fit. That and your breathing is even. I think you've done some sports.” “I was a swimmer in high school,” I laughed. “I guess when I think about what a person looks like, I think about how tall they are and stuff like that, but the first thing I do is look at is their face - their eyes especially. The expression on their face tells me a lot about them. That's different for you.” “But I hear the tone of their voice, whether they are tense or relaxed. If they speak loudly or softly. The way they say things. Those are expressions too.” “Yes, but you can't see my face. Maybe that's not really important.” Ian chuckled. “It does matter, I suppose. I remember...” He paused and smiled. “Remember what?” “When I was about six, my mother took me to a big shopping mall and we stopped to have my picture taken with Santa. I knew who Santa was of course. He was the guy who brought my presents, so I was very excited. I wanted to know if he had a beard and started to check him out when my mother stopped me. "Hands!" she said. Which meant that I was not to put my hands on his face. Santa assured her that he didn't mind at all so I was given permission. I reached up and carefully felt of his face, his cap, and his beard. I was excited to realize that he had a real beard which meant that he must have been the real Santa. He was really nice about it." I tried to picture the exchange between little Ian and the real Santa. “That's a nice story,” I said. “I got what I wanted for Christmas too,” he laughed. “I wouldn't mind if...” I wanted to say it was OK with me if Ian wanted to touch my face, but felt awkward about it. Maybe Ian knew what was coming because he sat up and asked, “Do you want to walk around a little? Maybe go down to the lake?” “Right, sure.” I got out and walked around to the passenger side to open the door. “The swimming beach is right here if you want to get wet.” “That might be nice. Can we change here?” I opened the back door, took out my swim trunks and handed the gym shorts to him. I stepped back, slipped off my jeans and underwear then tossed them into the back seat. I started to turn my back but realized that wasn't necessary. Ian stood with his back to the car, undressed quickly and pulled on his gym shorts. His shirt covered the front of him but I got a quick flash of what was underneath. Now that our bottom halves were covered we both took off our shirts and started for the beach. Ian knew which way to turn but hesitated and held out his hand. I offered my arm and we headed down the grassy incline towards the water. I looked over at Ian's bare torso and was surprised to see that he was slender but very muscular. “You look fit,” “I was on the wrestling team,” Ian said. “That's one of the few sports that doesn't require sight. In fact, being accustomed to going by sound and touch might be an advantage.” “I never thought about that,” I admitted. “Here's the water. The bottom is gravel and not that even. You might want to leave your shoes on and keep hold of my arm.” Ian smiled and bravely stepped out into the water. “Oh, it's warm. I was hoping it was cooler.” “It will be farther out from the bank. The sun warms it up where it's shallow.” “Sure. That makes sense.” We walked out until the water was waist deep then squatted down and stuck our heads under water. Ian brought his head up and sputtered, “You're right. It's cooler on the bottom. That feels nice. This is fun!” “Have you gone swimming in a lake before?” “No. Just in a swimming pool. What's around me?” “The other side of the lake is quite a way off, but there's a dock about 50 yards over to our left. Want to swim over to it?” “I've never swum in open water before. Will you swim with me?” “Sure. I'll be right next to you. Will that work?” “You swim straight for the dock and I can hear you off to my side. Just don't run off and leave me.” “I won't,” I laughed and splashed off for the dock. Ian fell in beside me as I tried to set a steady pace. He was a good swimmer and had no trouble keeping up with me. When we got close to the dock, I slowed down and yelled, “Here we are.” I put out my hand and tapped him on the shoulder when we were a few feet away, then took his hand and put it on the side of the dock. I vaulted myself up on top then leaned over to take his hands and tugged him up to sit next to me. “You're a good swimmer,” I told him. “Thanks. That was a new experience!” I looked at Ian. His muscular body was wet and shining, his eyes were dancing from side to side and he had a huge grin on his face. He looked very different from the cautious person I met a few weeks earlier. “Did you enjoy that?” “Yes!” he laughed. “That felt so free! No ropes, no concrete wall, Thanks for letting me swim with you.” “My pleasure.” I felt a wave of affection for Ian. It was nice to see him so elated. We stretched out of our backs and let the sun dry us. “College is going to be a different world for you, isn't it?” “I think so. You know, I'm grateful to the Blind School. They looked after me and taught me everything I know from the time I was five years old until I graduated. But I wasn't really free there. To be sure, I was safe. But there were a lot of restrictions on where we could go, what we could do, even what opinions we were to have. It's not a Christian school exactly, but a lot of the volunteers were from fundamentalist churches and they had very specific ideas about what was right and what was wrong.” “They were pretty conservative?” “Oh yes. Lots of 'thou shalt nots' It feels good to be free of that – free to do new things, make new friends, have new ideas. Free to swim in open water,” he laughed again. “It feels great.” “You make it sound like you were a prisoner.” “No, no. Not like that. There were no locks. I guess I could have left if I wanted to, but where would I go? I shouldn't talk like this. I made some friends there and they taught me a lot, but I was ready for a change.” I reached out my hand and laid it on his arm. “I'm glad you came here. I think you could say we are friends.” Ian sat up and turned to sit facing me. He was not exactly looking right at me, but he squared away in my direction. “Yes, you my first friend here, and maybe the best friend I've ever had. I do appreciate you, Andrew.” I sat up and moved closer to him, then I took his hands and brought them to my face. He looked surprised, then began to very gently run his hands over my face, tracing the outlines of my eyes and nose and lips. He placed his hands on both sides of my head determining its shape and the placement of my ears. He ran his hands under my chin and down over my chest, then across my shoulders and down my arms, finally taking my hands in his. “You are very beautiful,” he said softly. I wasn't sure what to say. “So are you. You're really a great looking guy. I guess you know that.” Ian put his hands in his lap. “No, I don't think anybody ever told me that. But then, when all your friends are blind, that's not surprising. Do you really think so?” “Yeah, I do. You're a very nice looking guy. At least that's my opinion.” Ian lowered his head. “Thanks. That's nice of you to say.” “I'm not just saying that to be nice, Ian.” It got quiet. “Should we be getting back?” he asked. “Sure. Jump in and we'll swim to shore.” I slipped down into the water and waited for Ian to join me. I tapped him on the shoulder and started swimming slowly. When he caught up with me I increased my pace and we swam side by side until the water was shallow enough to stand up. He took my arm and we walked up to the car. “Here's your towel," I said and we dried off. This time he turned away from me to first pull on his T-shirt, then drop his wet shorts, put on his pants and sit down in the car. I dressed and climbed behind the wheel. "I'm sorry if what I said was out of line." “No. Not out of line. I said what I meant and so did you. It's just that... It's hard to say. When you're blind, it's easy for people to think they can take advantage of you. The safe thing to do is to keep people at arm's length. I'm beginning to feel close to you and that seems awkward. I'm not used to feeling that way.” “I'm really sorry, Ian. I didn't mean to make you feel awkward.” “No, it's nothing you did. It's my problem. Maybe I'm not as tough as I like to think I am. I get by pretty well, but to be honest, a lot of times I'm scared. I've come from a very sheltered environment to a big college campus and I'm on my own for the first time. It's a big change, Andrew. Then you come along and make things easier for me. I meant it when I said I appreciate you.” “So what's the problem? I think you're interesting. I've never known anybody like you. It's amazing what you can do. Besides that, you're smart and funny. I like you. You're a neat guy. Don't push me away.” Ian clasped his hands together in his lap and rocked back and forth a little. “You're not just being nice to me because you feel sorry for me?” “No! Because I don't feel sorry for you. I like you, admire you even, but I certainly don't pity you. If I can help you with something, I'm happy to do it, but it's not because I feel sorry for you. I want to help you because, well, because I like you – because we're friends. Why is that so hard to understand?” “But I can't do anything for you. I can pay you to read to me, but I can't repay your kindness.” I put my hand on his shoulder. “Ian. Friendship isn't a business arrangement. There's no price tag on friendship. Look, I'm not that nice a guy. We wouldn't be sitting here if I didn't like you.” Ian put his hand on top of mine. “Thank you,” he said. “I think I'm ready to go back if that's alright with you.” I squeezed his shoulder and took my hand away to start the engine and pull out of the park area. We drove back to Stillwater in silence. When we got back to town Ian suggested, “It's getting to be time for supper. Would you like a pizza?” “I could eat. Want to go to the Campus Hideaway?” “Sure. I've heard it was good.” When we pulled up in front of the popular pizza place, Ian got out of the car, I nudged him with my elbow and we went inside to find a booth. We sat across from each other and a young guy brought us a menu and took our drink order. “What do you like?” I asked. “I like any kind of pizza. Do you have a favorite?” “I don't know. Italian sausage with extra cheese?” “That sounds great. Are they pretty big?” “They're about standard size but they're thick. Unless you're really hungry I think we could just split a medium.” “Sure. That would be enough for me. I'm not a big eater,” Ian said. When our drinks arrived I gave the guy our order and we settled back to wait. Ian leaned forward and put his hands flat on the table. “I should apologize for getting so emotional. I don't usually do that.” “You were just being honest and there's nothing wrong with that. I need to know where you're coming from, Ian. I won't know unless you tell me.” “Well, if we're going to be friends I have to quit being so touchy. I have to start trusting you.” “It's time to change the subject. Do you have anything for me to read?” “I do, actually. We could do it tomorrow afternoon or after supper on Monday. Whatever works for you.” “I have some math to do tomorrow but I can knock that out in the morning. The boarding house doesn't feed us on Sunday. You want to get together for lunch?” “I think I'll pass on lunch. I plan to go to church in the morning and they always have stuff to eat after the service.” “OK. How about I come over to your place about two?” “Sure. That will be perfect.” Our pizza came and we focused on that until it was gone. After we finished, our waiter brought the check and Ian asked for it. “I'm getting this,” he said firmly. “We could split it,” I suggested. “We could split the gas we used going out to the lake too. I want to pay for the pizza.” I sat back and smiled. “Thanks for the pizza.” I drove Ian back home, let him out in front of his house and watched him make his way inside. It had been an interesting day. ===================////==================== When I went to Ian's room on Sunday afternoon his door was open and he had earphones hooked up to his tape recorder and was pecking away on a little machine. I rapped on his door and he raised up to ask, “Andrew?” “Hi. What have you got there?” “This is my Braille machine. I use it to summarize my audio tapes from class.” “Cool. How does this work?” “Braille writing is a set of six raised dots that stand for various letters and numbers – some are like shorthand. I can read Braille about as quickly as you can read print.” I ran my finger across the page to feel the dots. “Is it hard to learn how to do this?” “About as hard as it was for you to learn how to read printed letters. There's a simpler version that you start out with in grade school, then you keep adding to it.” “You have lots of tools, I guess.” I was impressed. Ian was back in business mode so I read a short story to him. He asked a couple of questions and we were done. Over the next few weeks I read to him several nights a week after supper, then he would relax and we talked and joked around. We started spending more time together, going over to the Student Union to hang out and watch TV. I whispered a few things to him but he got most of it on his own. One day he told me he was going to meet Stuart before supper. We're going to meet at the Campus Tavern for a beer,” he said. “Is this your first time to talk to Stuart?” “The first time to meet in person. I've talked to him on the phone a few times. He seems like a nice guy. Would you like to join us?” “Sure. They're pretty casual about checking for ID's. They've never carded me.” “We can let Stuart order the beer,” he chuckled. “Want to drop by so we can walk over there together?” I fetched Ian about five. “You pass right by the tavern on your way to the boarding house,” I told him. “I think I know where it is. I can smell the beer and cigarette smoke when I pass by.” Ian brought his cane but took my arm to make better time. When we walked in there were several guys sitting around and a heavy-set man wearing dark glasses sitting in a booth. "I bet that's him," I told Ian. “Stuart?” Ian asked. “Yes. You must be Ian,” he said. “Nice to meet you, Stuart. I've brought my friend Andrew.” We sat down opposite Stuart and I noticed a large black dog lying under the table. “Who's this guy?” I asked. “That's Brutus,” Stuart laughed. “Don't step on him.” The barman asked us what we wanted and Stuart told him “Three draw beers.” They arrived on the table with no questions asked. “So how are things going for you, Ian?” “Very well, thank you. Andrew and I eat at the same boarding house and he has been reading for me.” “Good. It's not always easy to find a good reader.” “Andrew reads very well and he's been helpful in a lot of ways,” Ian said. “I'm lucky to have his friendship.” Stuart smiled. “No doubt. Are you adapting to college life?” "So far, so good. It's a lot different than OSB. Actually, I'm enjoying it." We chatted and joked while we drank our beer. At one point I looked down at Brutus lying peacefully under the table. “Does your dog like beer?” I asked. “Oh no,” Stuart replied. “He doesn't drink. He's driving.” Stuart was fun. After a second beer, Ian and I excused ourselves saying that we didn't want to be late for supper. Stuart remained and ordered another. As we walked to supper, I asked Ian, “Will he be OK?” “Oh sure. Brutus will get him home. I guess that's one of the advantages of a guide dog. Stuart has Brutus and I have you.” I laughed. “Do I qualify as a guide dog?” “No. You're a lot better than Brutus. He doesn't have a Chevy.” Toward the end of October we had some nice fall weather. The days were warm and sunny and the nights were cool and crisp. It was my favorite camping weather. I asked Ian one evening, "What would you think about going camping this weekend?" “I've never done that. It sounds exciting. How would that work?” “I've got a pop-up tent and a few camping things. We could go out Saturday and come back Sunday. What do you think?” “Would we make a campfire and cook out there? “That's the idea. Would you be up for that?” “Certainly. I won't even need a flashlight. What can I bring to this party?” “I've got everything we need. Bring a coat in case it gets chilly at night. We can split the cost of groceries if you like.” “I would insist on that. Oh yes. I would love to go camping!” I picked Ian up on Saturday morning and we drove over to the little market just off campus where I stocked us with enough food to feed us for the weekend and a carton of Coors. The perishables and the beer went into my cooler and the rest we left in grocery bags. My tent and some gear were in the trunk. I drove us out to the lake and we found a campsite near the water. Ian helped me thread the tent poles through the nylon sleeves of the tent and it went up quickly with a minimum of fuss. I tossed several blankets and a big sleeping bag inside and we were ready. The sun was warm and the sky was clear. “There are a lot of hiking trails in the park. Are you feeling adventurous?” “This whole trip is an adventure,” Ian laughed. “You lead and I will follow.” I put a bottle of water and two Snickers bars in my rucksack and we were off. The trail led us past the lake and into a wooded area. Ian left his cane behind and bravely took my arm. The path was not paved but fairly smooth. “It cooler in here,” Ian said. “I can tell that there are a lot of trees around us. Do you hear the birds? Oh! That's a crow.” He was interested in the smells, the sounds of leaves rustling under our feet, the texture of the tree trunks. He was aware of more than I was. We took our time as we made a short loop back to our campsite. “Are you hungry?” I asked when we returned. “I hope you like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. That's what's for lunch.” We sat in front of my little tent and enjoyed the sandwiches and the soft breeze that came off of the lake. “This is nice,” Ian said quietly. I looked off to a small dock that was connected to the shore by a walkway. “When was the last time you went fishing?” I asked. “Never. All of this is new to me.” “I have a couple of fishing poles in the car. Would you like to try your luck?” Ian's smile said he would. I gathered up my meager fishing gear and we made our way to the dock with Ian on my arm. I had picked up a small container of night crawlers from the market and threaded the hooks on both poles with the wiggling worms, placing a lead weight just above the hook. Ian touched the baited hook and nodded his head. He understood. We sat on the edge of the dock and I dropped my line into the water letting the line sink to the bottom. After explaining the Zebco reel to Ian, he did the same thing. “You'll know it's on the bottom because the line will go slack. Can you tell when that happens?” “Yes. I can feel it if I let the line pass through my fingers.” “When the line goes slack you want to reel it in a little so the hook is hanging just above the bottom,” I said. “Hold the line lightly and if something bothers the worm you should be able to feel it.” We sat quietly and focused on our lines. If I were by myself I would probably put a float on the line and watch for its movement, but knew that Ian could best see with his fingers. “Oh! Something is there. I can feel it,” Ian said with surprise. “The fish is checking out the worm. Wait until he runs with it.” "It's stopped now," Ian said. "What do I do?" “He may have sucked the worm off the hook,” I laughed. “Pull it up and let's check it.” Ian reeled in his line to find a bare hook on the end. “I can do this,” he said and managed to impale another worm then dropped it back to the bottom. I was so interested in watching Ian that I neglected my own pole. He was leaning forward, communicating with the worm through his sensitive fingers. “He's back. I can feel him playing with my hook.” Suddenly he jerked on the line and shouted, “I think I got him! What do I do?” “Reel him in. Turn that crank before he gets away.” Ian did as I suggested and the line began to move from side to side as he reeled it in. Then it broke the surface with a splash. I leaned out and grabbed the line, quickly tossing it behind us. “Lord, look at that! You got a nice bass. I figured it was a catfish.” “Is that good? I don't know much about fish.” “That's the best. It's a big one too. Would you like fish for supper?” I laughed. Ian was very excited. “I did it! I caught a fish!” “You sure did. Not bad for your first try.” “Now what do we do?” We moved back to shore with our treasure and I took a sharp knife out of my fishing bag. “We need to clean this sucker.” I sliced off the head, slit it down the belly, pulled out the entrails then flipped it from side to side and scaled it with the back of my knife. Ian closely followed the process with his hands. “Be careful,” I warned him. “This knife is sharp.” Ian inspected the finished product. “That's a big one. Can you cook it out here?” “Oh sure, that's not a problem. There's enough for two. I hope you like fish.” “I love fish. We won't have to worry about it being fresh enough!” “It's getting close to supper time and I need to build a fire. Have you had enough fishing for one day?” “I suppose, but I'd like to do it again. How will you build a fire?” "We need to scrounge up some firewood. There is plenty of deadwood under the trees. Let me take a look." “I can help,” Ian insisted. He took my arm and I led him to a place where some dead limbs had fallen. “We should be able to break up enough for a decent fire,” I suggested. Ian gamely felt his way around the fallen limbs and managed to break off a small armload of sticks the size of his thumb. With a few larger pieces we had enough for a decent cooking fire. There was a fire pit at our campsite where I placed a bundle of dry grass in the center then stacked sticks around the sides to form a tepee of wood for the fire. “Once we get it going I can add the larger pieces. We'll let it burn down to make a bed of coals.” “I think I understand,” Ian said. “But I'll let you light it.” When our fire was burning well, I added more wood and got the fish ready. I washed it carefully, then sprinkled it with salt and pepper and wrapped it in foil. “When the coals are ready I'll lay this on top to cook.” “Won't it burn?” “Not if it's wrapped tight. It will steam in its own juices.” Ian was fascinated with all this. I could tell it was his first experience and was pleased to be a part of this. I opened a can of baked beans and placed it next to the fish to heat. “We have fish, beans and I brought a loaf of bread. Will that be enough?” “I'm sure it will. You're a good cook, Andrew.” “I learned to do this in Scouts. You can cook as well on a campfire as in a kitchen if you know how.” I opened a couple of beers and we sat down to wait for our supper. “Are you having fun?” I asked. Ian sat with his arms around his knees. “Oh yes. I never dreamed camping could be so much fun. I always wanted to do something like this.” “Do you think you could do this by yourself?” “Probably not, but if we do it again I can be more helpful.” “I'm sure we can camp again. You make it fun for me. You're good company, Ian.” He smiled and said, "It's beginning to smell good. Will it be ready soon?" “It won't take long. I'll get out the bread and by then it should be ready. I have some tin plates for us to eat from.” I carefully unwrapped the fish, releasing a delicious odor, stirred the beans and lifted the steamed fish from the bones, putting half on each plate. With the bread it made a very nice meal washed down with another cold beer. “Oh! This is wonderful,” Ian exclaimed. “Thanks for the fish. You're the one who caught it,” I reminded him. Ian smiled and wiped the plate with the last of his bread. “This has been a day of new experiences.” “For me too. Is there anything you can't do?” Ian smiled. “Not with a little help. Thanks, Andrew.” I threw the rest of the wood we had gathered onto the fire and we finished the beer while we watched it burn away in the growing darkness. The temperature began to drop when the sun went down and we were getting cold. I slipped into the tent and brought out one of the blankets. “Let me sit next to you, Ian. I have something to keep us warm.” We sat side by side with the blanket wrapped around us and simply enjoyed the quiet. I put my arm around his shoulder and held him close. “Are you warm enough?” I asked. “Yes. You make a good heater,” he chuckled. After the nice supper and a last beer, I was mellow. I felt a strong attraction for Ian and wondered if he felt the same. I assumed that Ian would be offended if he knew this and was determined to respect his boundaries. Nevertheless, his closeness was arousing. We sat for some time watching the fire die to embers. “It's nice to sit like this,” I said softly. "Yes, it is," Ian replied and laid his head on my shoulder. "I've had a wonderful day." After a bit, he added, "I think I'm falling asleep. Should we get into the tent?" I stood and we went to roll out the sleeping bag. It was an old Coleman double bag that I used when I was a boy. It was ample for two and we would be warmer together. Once the tent was zipped up it was snug inside and we undressed for bed, stripping down to shorts and a T-shirt. “I hope you don't mind the double bag,” I said. “It's all I have with me but it should be roomy enough.” “It'll be fine,” Ian replied. “I don't mind at all.” We wiggled into the bag and I tried to move over so that Ian had plenty of room but we were touching in places. I could feel the warmth of his skin. He seemed to be comfortable with the arrangement. I thought he had gone to sleep when he said softly, “I've enjoyed being with you today, Andrew. I've never had a friend like you. I will always remember this day.” “I can say the same. You've made me see a lot of things differently. You're aware of so much. I'm learning from you.” “That's a nice thing to say. I suppose we can learn from each other.” “You catch on to things very quickly,” I hesitated. “I really like you a lot, Ian. I'm so glad we can do things together.” Ian turned on his side and our legs touched. “I like you too. I've never felt this way about anybody. I guess I never had a friend like you before.” I dared to run the back of my hand over his T-shirt to feel his strong body beneath. “I guess it's mutual then.” Ian gently laid his hand on my shoulder. “I'm a little cold. Do you suppose you could hold me?” I pulled him close and felt his warmth against the length of me. I was aware that he was strong and that his hair smelt nice. I was beginning to be aware of a lot of things. Ian was right. It was a day to remember. ===================////==================== Please send your comments to Nick Brady at: y2kslacker@mail.com
  13. Andrew and Ian are college friends. One is sighted and one is blind. They have much to learn from each other.
  14. A recent comment in the Writer's Forum about a story involving a disabled person gave me the idea for a story about a blind college student that I befriended many years ago. I have posted a number of stories here on GA - (Carhops, Goats and Bugs, the Marco series and the Nick series). These were reposts that had previously appeared on another site but the new story will appear here first. Since it is new, and because the topic could be a bit sensitive, I would really like a Beta reader. Not so much for the usual grammar edit, but for content. I think there is a good story here and I don't want to screw it up. Any volunteers? Thanks, Nick
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