Last Week’s FFF: Still Human
Daphne only ever saw darkness. Blind from birth, she lived her life through her other senses. She had gotten very good at this. She achieved her agility primarily by sound. She couldn’t hear echos bouncing off of things like a bat. But sound did help her identify objects, nonetheless.
Every object made a sound for her. The difference between her cane striking concrete versus a dirt was as different as a wind chime sounded verses a drum. Everything she could tap sang to her in its own unique song. This was also the easiest way of identifying people. Be it the wheezy, mouth breathing of her deceased husband, the smoker’s cough of her boss, or the soft whispers of those around her they think she can’t hear. She does hear them. And she knew exactly who was saying what.
Beyond her sense of sound was touch. These two were tied closely together. Touch was more difficult to get permission for. She constructed grey-scale pictures in her mind of what she thought a face must look like based on touch. She had no reference for image, yet somehow, it felt right.
Her favorite sense was likely smell. Smells didn’t lie. Sure, people could dress themselves up in perfumes or lotions, but they were just as telling. A smell could let her know a familiar body. She could tell you who had just hooked up in the conference room, and who had been banished to sleeping on the couch. She could even smell someone being deceitful. The body produces many pheromones. There are ones for love, she always knew if she was being hit on, and then there are ones for fear. She had tuned herself into the scents of others. They weren’t always pleasant, but they were always honest.
She missed his smell.
She clanked her way through the dark streets of south Chicago. She preferred walking to Taxi’s whenever possible. Without the sensory input from her eyes, car rides unnerved her. She didn’t have any control. She felt that reality far too strongly when a stranger, often in a hurry, was behind the wheel.
“Hey, lady,” a voice called out from behind her.
From his voice she determined that he was at least four inches taller than she was. His inflection suggested that he was of a different race than her. She couldn’t be sure, as his speech patterns were often a byproduct of the neighborhood.
She cared little for race, anyhow. What difference did it make to her? She had no way of knowing what she was, or why anyone was different from her. All she wanted was for everyone to leave her alone.
“I said, hey lady,” he repeated.
“I heard you the first time. What do you want?” Daphne asked.
“You best be careful walking round this neighborhood with that cane. Someone might just take it. Might take more. You want that I should walk wit you wherever you’re going?”
“I don’t have any money,” she said.
“I didn’t ask for any,” he said.
“Whatever. I can get there just fine on my own. I don’t need any help from you or anyone else.”
The alert at the street corner chirped. She could cross the street. She did so hastily. She could feel that the boy hadn’t followed. He yelled to her, his voice getting more distant.
“I was just tryin to help. Good luck. It ain’t no mystery why you walking these streets alone!”
She huffed as she walked and shrugged the interaction off. She didn’t need an escort. She hadn’t needed anyone since her her husband had died. She was content to help herself.
It wasn’t long before she was stopped again.
“Give me your money,” a deep voice commanded.
“I don’t have any money. Why won’t anyone listen to that?” she asked.
“You think I’m playing?” the man asked.
She sniffed the air. She smelled sweat. She smelled the stench of cowardice. She kept walking.
“Hey, I know you can’t see me but I’ve got a knife.”
“Let me know when you’ve got a gun and some guts,” she said.
She continued on her route. She had come this way many times before.
She reached the hospital without further interruption. She checked herself into the inpatient OR and patiently awaited the doctor. She was taken to a bed and instructed to change after refusing help with the paper gown. Sharp needles pricked her skin. Something was inserted into her arm.
A deeper level of darkness over took her. It was sleep. Her lids closed on instinct. But she didn’t dream.
She awoke sometime later. Her lids parted way, then shut reflectively as a new sensation hit them.
“It’s okay, Daphne. That’s just the light. Can you see the light?” the Dr. asked.
She dared another peek. Blurry objects and shiny lights filled her new vision. Joy erupted inside of her.
“I can,” she said.
Her new sight filled with tears.
“Good. Can you follow my finger?” he asked.
He waved in front of her what she recognized as a finger from her own motions with the limb. Her eyes trailed it.
“Very good. It appears that the cornea transplant was a success. Your vision should continue to improve. Now, just try to get some rest.”
Over the next few days, the world came into focus around her. Everything became clearer. Once she decided that she could see well enough, she took a few items from her bag.
The first thing she removed was an old, dried bouquet. The blue dye on the flowers was still vibrant. She hadn’t known that she liked blue. Only that she liked the idea of blue. Her husband had convinced her it was a good color.
Next, she removed a picture frame. She stroked the images of the photo. She saw a much younger version of herself. And, for the first time, she saw her husband. She connected the peaks and valleys of his face with the ones she had touched so many times.
She was filled with joy and sorrow. If only he could have been here to see her see.
But then, that wouldn’t have been possible. It was only by the graciousness of his spirit, by the unlikely event that their DNA would match well enough, and by his untimely demise that she was able to see at all.