Blind Date (Part 2)
Ginny is parked a few blocks north of the tower complex, and we have time to talk along the way.
“Zane seems like a really nice guy,” she says.
It’s not like her to make small talk and my laughter brings her up short.
“What?” she says. “What’s funny?”
“Well, you have to admit that ‘he seems like a really nice guy’ is kind of an odd thing to say about somebody who was balls-deep inside you not five minutes ago. Seems like a really nice guy to me... Yeah, I’ll bet!”
“Tell me about him,” Ginny says, “I mean, seriously.”
“Well, he is a nice guy. One of the nicest I’ve ever known. It’s always kind of bugged me that he’s never been able to find the right person.”
“Because he’s blind?”
“There are lots of reasons that don’t necessarily have anything to do with his being blind—”
“But that’s a part of it, right?”
“I suppose—do you remember the night we first met?”
“Sure, at Cheryl’s party.”
“And do you remember who made the first move?”
“I remember us talking... but, no, I don’t remember who started the conversation.”
“I can’t forget. It was you, Ginny. You came up to me, bold as brass, and dove into a discussion like you’d known me your whole life. That conversation was one of the most exciting things that’s ever happened to me. Do you know why?”
“It was because you were so direct, so open, and honest, and verbal with me. You made it easy for me to pick up on the signals you were sending out. I didn’t have to guess about the hidden meanings in your body language.”
“Oh...” It begins to dawn on her.
“You’re already at an enormous social disadvantage when you’re visually impaired—when you can’t read people’s gestures or pick up on their visual communication. Fully-sighted people take it all for granted; being able to read the non-verbal subtext, or take the hints another person gives by the way she carries herself, or the look in her eye, or the way her upper lip twitches when she’s nervous. It’s like a set of subtitles that aren’t necessarily a literal translation of the spoken dialogue on the screen—and sometimes might even be the exact opposite of what’s being said. Body language and gestures add the deeper, richer, truer layers of meaning, and those of us who have sound but no picture really are handicapped in that department.”
“I hadn’t thought about it like that,” she says.
“Every time we saw each other after that night, especially when we started finding excuses to be alone together, you let me know—showed me in no uncertain terms—that you liked touching and being touched, that you wanted to be kissed and held and cuddled, and that it was OK for me to take the lead—be the kind of dominant that turns you on. For me, it was a dream come true. I mean, look: I have some vision, but I can’t read people from more than a few inches away. Imagine not being able to see them at all. Wonderful as it can be, you still miss out on the deeper subtleties of seduction, all those exhilarating nuances, the miniscule movements fraught with meaning, the things that make romance so thrilling and mysterious and fun. It becomes like a minefield.”
“A minefield covered with eggshells,” she says. “It’s kind of sad when you think about it.”
“To have to face those kinds of impossible hurdles everyday—”
“They’re not impossible, Ginny, just slightly more challenging than the average lazy-ass sighted wuss is used to. Jesus! If everything had to be easy, grown men would be playing T-ball in the major leagues. If everybody was expected to be good at something the first time they tried it, nobody would ever have sex more than once. Most people are given the benefit of the doubt concerning their potential abilities. If they express an interest in something, the attitude is: Sure. Go for it. Give it the ol’ beginner’s try. If you fall on your ass the first time, get up and try again. Then start practicing, concentrating, honing, improving, getting good. We’ll cut you the slack you need to grow, give you the space and time you need to fail if you have to on the way to achieving your goal.
“And that, my friend, is what being normal is all about; having the opportunity—no, the right—to try and fail like everybody else. But sighted people in their paternalistic wisdom are so concerned about protecting us ‘poor blind folks’ from ourselves that they routinely deny us this most basic human dignity.
“Let me tell you a little story. That summer when I was at the state school, they would organize recreational activities for the kids in the evening—like the thing with the go-carts where I first met Zane. One night, Miss Fotzenberg had us all line up for a game. She put shaving cream on a toy balloon and had us take turns trying to ‘shave’ the balloon with a safety razor. Sure enough, the balloon would always, always pop, because, of course, blind kids are all dull-witted, clumsy, incompetent things who will never amount to anything in their lives—never be anything other than clumsy, incompetent blind people who can’t perform the simplest task without a sighted person’s help.
“It struck me as odd that anybody would be able to pop a balloon with a safety razor, even if they really put their mind to it. And, sure enough, when it got to be my turn, I was extra careful, wanting to be the one kid in the line who didn’t fuck up. I was almost done, when I saw—saw!—the teacher’s hand coming up from underneath with a needle to pop the balloon, exactly as she’d done a dozen times before with the others. That ‘funny joke’ of hers was nothing more than a sadistic exercise in humiliation—an experiment designed to condition us—to make us all feel worthless. The message of that game was loud and clear: Don’t. Even. Try.”
“Oh my God, Hank, that’s terrible!”
“Thank your god I never went back to that school as a regular student. But Zane—”
“Was stuck there? I feel so sorry for him—”
“No pity, baby. Pity is the last thing he needs or wants. Pity is part of the reason he’s alone.”
“Guess I don’t understand.”
“You can love someone you pity, but can you honestly fall in love with them?
“It could never be the true love of equals, because the pitier always feels somehow superior to the pitied. The object of pity is just that, an object, a kind of pet, like a dog or a cat the master can project his own shallow, manipulative notions of dominance onto, his own imaginary nobility and righteousness.
“Most people’s first instinct when they meet somebody like Zane is to feel sorry for the poor blind bastard, and they never get past that first impression, no matter what. They’ve judged him, classified him, pigeonholed him, folded and flattened him into a trite, one-dimensional factoid before he’s spoken a single word out loud. They never allow him to speak for himself or allow themselves to see the accomplished, smart and incredibly deep human being he truly is. All the well-meaning, ignorant, pitying assholes see when they look at Zane is a blind guy, an object, a thing—”
“Isn’t that how we saw him this afternoon though? Didn’t I just treat him to a pity fuck?”
“Is that how you felt?”
She thinks about it for a second.
“Neither did I. Oh, I suppose somebody might think of it that way, but I’m pretty sure Zane doesn’t. Take his blindness out of the equation and how is what we did any different than what sighted swingers do every night of the week? Besides, it’s not like you were stringing him along or offering to go steady.”
“Maybe I should have,” she teases.
“Don’t even think about it,” I say. “You’re mine!”
We are half way to the car. A bleak cloister of dwarfing concrete pillars beneath a vacant office building affords us a transient moment of privacy. I take her in my arms for a kiss, re-breathing through my nose to make it last. Finally, she breaks away, and we resume the death march of the fast-waning weekend.
“So tell me, baby,” she says, “weren’t you just the tiniest bit jealous watching Zane and me getting it on together like that?”
“Kind of ironic, don’t you think, me being jealous of you with another guy?”
“Well, are you?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact, a little.”
“Only a little?”
“What do you want to hear, honey? Seems to me we’re a long way past being surprised or jealous about anything.”
“And what does that mean, Hank?”
“It means... how can I be jealous of you and Zane for doing exactly the same thing that you and I have been doing behind your husband’s back for half a year now?”
“What?” She is stung by my too-casual reference to our adultery. “I thought you were OK with this—I mean with me and Zane today.”
“I was—I am. I helped set it up, didn’t I? It’s not like one of us came up with the idea and dragged the other one along kicking and screaming. And if you’re asking if I regret it now, the answer is no, I don’t.”
“Do you regret us—you and me, the way we’ve been these past few months?”
“I love you, Ginny. I’ll never feel bad about anything we’ve done together.”
“I want to believe you,” she says. “So, did you get off on it?”
“Off on what?”
“You know, silly!” She punches me in the shoulder.
“You mean, watching my best friend screw my best girl? Yes. It had its discrete charms—voyeurism’s a major hoot. Anyway, it’s not like I could tell you guys to get a room.”
“Is that what you wanted to do?”
“No. What I really wanted was to be in there with the two of you, maybe pleasuring an alternate hole or three. I figured you’d be cool with it. I just didn’t know how Zane would feel about having a co-pilot.”
“I could handle two sticks at once.”
“I know you could, baby. And Zane is the only guy I would ever feel totally comfortable sharing you with, because... I love him, too, like a brother. And I could never see myself in a threesome without another guy I loved that way.”
“Awww! That is so sweet!”
“It’s what they call compersion—feeling joy when your partner has great sex with somebody else.”
“I didn’t know there was a word for it,” she says.
“True. I promise.”
“Mm hmm, and what if we had asked you to leave?”
“I would have left.”
“Liar!” She punches me in the arm again.
“I swear, Ginny—ow!—I would have left.”
“If you’d both asked nicely? Of course. I would’ve taken the elevator down to the lobby and paced around for half an hour, all the while imagining the two of you together, and that would have been pleasure and pain in pretty much equal amounts. I’d still have been glad about it, but I can’t deny the jealousy would have been a lot stronger, too. Not to mention the fantasies I’d be having if all I had to rely on was my imagination. It’d be a million times more vivid and intense than an actual memory—mainly because the laws of physics are mere guidelines in the realm of wet dreams.”
“You are such a smartass! Shame we didn’t throw you out.”
“I’m glad you didn’t, honey.”
“Seriously, Hank, you’re the smartest man I’ve ever met, the most perceptive, the most passionate. You see farther and deeper than anyone I’ve ever known.”
“And you, my lovely Virginia, are the sweetest, most intelligent, kind, empathetic, generous woman I’ve ever been with or would ever care to be with.”
I draw her close for one last kiss. She pulls away too abruptly and I am confused.
“Sorry.” She is suddenly melancholy. “I miss my kids, that’s all.”
“I understand, baby.” This is my lover’s way of trying to re-establish her real-world identity. Distancing herself from me and our shared world is how she begins to re-enter that other life.
She walks away from me like a stranger in her tight jeans and loose-fitting blouse, and I am in agony, hollowed out, empty, utterly alone. We’ll always have this city—this weekend—the final afternoon’s dalliance a memory like no other. In years to come we will recollect the glorious abandon of that hour and know that there was a time when we were truly alive together. And yet, I sense that the experience has already begun to come between us like some shameful secret—that we will look back on the moment of our greatest bliss, our highest exultation, only to realize that it was the beginning of the end for us.
I wish I could not see it all so clearly.