I

::an[ph]ony and CaseSpace have joined the conversation::

an[ph]ony says: Working tonight kiddo?

CaseSpace says: Niet. I've got the night off puddin' pop.

an[ph]ony says: What? I'm slaving without you to keep me sane?

CaseSpace says: Suck it up, princess.

an[ph]ony says: Pfft. Whatever. Doing anything more awesome than me today?

CaseSpace says: Umm, I don't know, what are you doing today?

an[ph]ony says: Babysitting my two year old cousin (she-devil), then slaving behind a bar until I die or get herpes from touching too many dirty glasses. Fun, much?

CaseSpace says: Wow, sounds you're in for a fabulous time. I'm heading to Cottesloe with Penelope and Lena. Apparently Penelope needs to drop off something at a friend's who lives there. We should all be so lucky.

an[ph]ony says: Dude. It's like a million degrees today. If I weren't already sunburnt from the other day I'd be green with jealousy.

CaseSpace says: Good to hear. Listen, gotta run - Pene's honking at me like I don't live in a neighbourhood full of people who are all asleep at 9 on a Saturday morning... xxoxo

::CaseSpace has left the conversation at 8:57am::

::an[ph]ony has left the conversation at 8:57am::

I remember the first time I saw him with shame. Cheek burning, cringe worthy shame.

The day was December the 12th, 2011. It was a hot, dry day. The concrete scorched my feet as I ran across the road, three ice-creams clutched in salty, sandy hands. It was almost 4 o'clock in the afternoon and the sun didn't appear to be letting up with its relentless, blistering heat. I was at the beach with two of my friends and had drawn the short straw for the ice cream run. With said unlucky straw in hand I had promptly been sent on my merry way across the road to the tiny store which was more popular than the local pub today. Luckily for me, the shop was only twenty metres away, over a handy zebra crossing and through a tangle of picnic tables shaded with big, red Coca Cola umbrellas. People were lounging idly all over the place, sweating and clinging to cold beers or sodas for a bit of relief. It was almost too hot to think.

The inside of the small store was crowded with sweaty, salty semi-naked bodies all trying to huddle under the air-conditioner at once while simultaneously queueing in front of two hassled, equally sweaty looking teenagers. I muscled my way to the ice-cream counter -

"One strawberry, one cookie-cream-commotion and one mango sorbet please, all in waffle cones." I said cheerfully, raising my voice over the din in the tiny shop. I left the shop juggling my wallet and the three ice-creams, growing irritated with drips running down my fingers before I'd barely walked five metres in the sun. I skipped across the zebra crossing smirking at a hoon in a hotted up Volkswagon with racing stripes who had to stop for me. Honestly, who puts racing stripes on a v-dub? The heavy bass pumped from the stationary car and I wondered if people had to try to be so cliche or if it just came naturally to them. I groaned and pulled my phone out of my pocket when I felt it buzzing;

hope ur having fun at the beach bitch. the 2yr old spawn of satan just waxed my leg with duct tape when i wasnt paying attention. little tiprat.

This I laughed at before immediately swearing at the rapidly melting icecreams balanced precariously in my hands.

I mounted the footpath again, squinting as the sun glinted off the ocean, sending bright flashes of light into my eyes. This is where I ran into him, ice-cream first. The three now soft lumps of deliciousness smeared across his appallingly dorky blue and white print hawaiian button up. I growled in frustration, shaking the ice-cream from my hands and dropping the now useless waffle cones on the grass. The words were out of my mouth before my brain even registered I was speaking;

"God! Why don't you watch where you're going? You blind or something?"

Then I saw the golden retriever in a harness at his side. And I looked up from my sticky hands and his sticky shirt to his face. The first thing I noticed was that he was quite a looker - tanned skin, a strong jaw with a few days of stubble and messy, badly cut brown hair with a touch of gold. The second thing I noticed was the mirror lensed aviators he was wearing and how they hid his eyes from view. I blush now just thinking about what I did next, when he took off those glasses. He was tall, so he was looking down at me which always makes me uncomfortable, one hand was holding his dog's leash and his messy shirt away from his stomach and the other long-fingered brown hand reaching up to remove his sunglasses. I flinched when I saw his eyes; they were a milky hazel colour and I remember the green in them even now. It was the sheen of white covering his irises and pupils that freaked me out,

"Oh my god!" I began and I wish with all my heart that I'd stopped there. "That's so freaking queer!" The words hung in the air between us and even as I backed away I wished I could take them back, but I didn't and I never even tried to. He stood and stared sightlessly at me for a long moment before replacing his glasses. I couldn't stop the sigh of relief that escaped my lips when he did. He heard.

"My apologies, I should have been more careful." His clipped English accent made me flinch, "Midget," he said, "Come on girl, let's get out of here." Then he turned away, his back straight and his strides long. His beautiful big golden retriever padding along slightly ahead of him as he walked away with more dignity and grace than I've ever had in my life.

That was the first time I ever met him, and after I'd hoped it would be the only time. I'd returned to Lena and Penelope with little more than disgustingly sticky hands and a fading blush. They asked me teasingly if I'd eaten the ice-creams all myself. Well, Pene was teasing. I think Lena was a little pissed. I told them I'd dropped them accidentally and then mumbled that I would go get more. I avoided their eyes awkwardly as I scrabbled in my old, faded, Warhol print beach bag for my wallet.

"My shout." I said before taking off back to the shop. I tried to forget the proud, dignified man with the milk-eyed gaze.

::CaseSpace, LENAway and penELOPE have joined the conversation::

penELOPE says: Girl you were strange today at the beach.

CaseSpace says: Strange? Was not.

penELOPE says: Umm hello? You spent like half an hour buying ice-creams and then came back with, well, no ice-cream that's for sure.

LENAway says: I concur.

CaseSpace says: Oh shut up you.

LENAway says: Nice.

CaseSpace says: Sorry - I just ran into a weird guy. He freaked me out.

penELOPE says: Was he hot?

CaseSpace says: Please Pene. Get your mind out of the gutter! He was blind. Apart from that he was alright... no Hague though.

penELOPE says: Well. My advice, in this scenario, is to forget him, Case. Blind people lead to no good.

CaseSpace says: I'm sorry. How many blind people do you know?

penELOPE says: None, actually. But I can extrapolate from movies and stuff. Do you know that zombies are blind?

CaseSpace says: Charming.

::CaseSpace has left the conversation at 07:23pm::

LENAway says: Odd girl that one.

penELOPE says: Absoloodle (three times). G2g Lena. See you... umm... sometime.

LENAway says: Tuesday. Dinner at Casey's... remember?

penELOPE says: God. Yeah... I RSVPed didn't I? Is she cooking that awful risotto again?

::LENAway has left the conversation at 07:25pm::

::penELOPE has left the conversation at 07:25pm::

II

I didn't see him again for three-months but I would think about him in the weeks following so often, cringing in embarrassment and shame every time. My cheeks would heat up and I would shy away from eye contact with anyone, in case they could read the guilt I was harbouring and condemn me for it. My shame was real - normally I am not so callous and cruel. I can't explain my reaction that day, I have seen blind people before, and I certainly can't justify my actions - it just happened. I guess that's why, when I saw him again, I acted in the complete opposite extreme.

The second time was another meeting of chance which I was equally unprepared for, though I had imagined it more than once in the weeks gone by. I was walking out of a restaurant in Northbridge after celebrating my twentieth birthday with friends. My actual birthday had been two days earlier on the 15th of March but I'd decided to celebrate on a Saturday so no one had classes or work the next day. We were all dolled up, making a real night of it (liquor running freely all around), and I was wearing a new dress. It was bright poppy red, strapless and flowed out from the waist, ending at my knees in a swish of expensive silk. It was my birthday gift to myself and I thought I looked pretty hot in it; I'm an autumn colours kind of girl.

We exited the restaurant in a clatter of laughter, vibrant colour, cheap jewelry and sweet perfume. We turned and started walking to the first chosen bar of the night - they had a band on which Lena's mate from work was in so we were going to check them out. I remember the night was a balmy one; absolutely no need for a jacket and all the guys were sweating because it's what they do best. It was his dog I noticed first this time, probably because she was growling at a few teenage louts and standing guard over her master. The three boys were maybe fourteen or fifteen and they sickened me. Jeering and taunting the blind man who was lying on the ground in a dirty puddle. As we watched he picked himself up and started fumbling around for his glasses which had fallen in the cruel, cowardly attack. One of the boys stomped on them, I saw him flinch at the sound of crushed glass and twisting metal. Another of the boys tripped him again and kicked him in the ribs. His crony was winding up for another kick when I stepped in.

"Hey you assholes! Go pick on someone your own miniscule intellect! Get out of here you little dipshits!" I ran forward in my shiny red shoes, backed by all my friends who had just noticed what was going on and were moving forward with me. I turned to my work friend, feeling upset,

"Anthony, can I have your sunnies?" He gave me a startled look but handed them over all the same. They hadn't seen his eyes yet. He dragged himself back to his feet and stood side on to us, shoulders tense in another sopping, gaudy Hawaiian masterpiece with his fingers buried in his dog's fur.

"Hey," I murmured walking up and standing in front of him.

"What do you want," He asked viciously, "Come to have a go? Pick on the blind guy again - didn't you get enough at the beach?" He had me there - how the hell had he known who I was? I stumbled over my words, blushing and then blushing harder because I knew he couldn't see it. My friends were watching in avid interest, curiosity all over their faces - I'd never mentioned that I had a blind friend. They didn't interfere though, which I am grateful for.

"I... no. I just wanted to give you these." I stupidly held out the glasses for a moment and just stood there. He let a bark of angry, bitter laughter loose and pointed at himself,

"Blind - remember?" He reminded me, somehow it seemed harsher with his accent.

I blushed a little more, for a change, "Oh." I reached out with my free hand and took his, which was huge compared to mine, I pressed the glasses into his palm. I noticed, as his grip tightened, the play of wiry muscles on his forearm and the writing in big black permanent marker on the inside of his wrist;

Can you see me?

Mumbling sorry to him I went back to my friends and made to walk away when his voice rang out,

"Hey, beach-girl! This isn't a pity factory." He bent down and placed Anthony's glassing with unnerving accuracy next to his own shattered ones. My friends saw his face properly for the first time. I remember glaring at them, daring them to say something but they didn't. I guess they're better people than me. For the second time I watched him walk away, his back straight and his dog faithfully guiding him. Anthony went forward and picked up his glasses, commenting lightly;

"I guess he didn't like the shape."

A few moments later a man bursts out of the restaurant we'd just been in. "Shit!" He says, in our general direction. Then he looks at us, "Sorry, but have you guys seen a blind guy around here someplace? He's my cousin and I'd be murdered if I lost him!"

I nod slowly, "He went that way." I gesture to the street leading south and watch as the man, lacking a British accent, I note, races off again.

I glanced back at the puddle after everyone else had started walking away and then I saw it - a piece of folded paper half in the dirty puddle. I nipped back quickly and picked it up, using a tissue to soak the water off it. Why would a man who can't see have paper on him? It was crumpled and old looking and when I unfolded it I realised it was a photograph of a little boy with messy bronze hair, a smiling face and beautiful hazel eyes. So he hadn't always been blind. On the back there was neat writing, a woman's I'd say. Probably his mother;

Levi at the beach. Age 7, 13/12/1996

But there was also scrawl that I couldn't read in the dark street - it was a paragraph but the lines were all overlapped and irregular. As we were waiting in line for the nightclub I managed to decode it. It almost made me cry.

Day sixteen of the blindness. It's like a plague - every night I dream in colour, but it fades. I think that soon I will forget what colours are, I will forget the the ripple of light reflecting off water. I will forget the myriad of greens all around. Every night I dream of the colours and the shapes of my life that used to be. Now, in the darkness of day, I try to picture things as I would have seen them. It gets harder and harder. This photo is the last my sister took of me, I remember the day quite clearly - I think about it all the time, I don't want to lose the best moments of my life to the darkness. I want to remember. I want to keep the colours close to me. I want to remember...


Greetings! Basically I have written most of this story and it's been sitting around in my computer for a while, languishing. If you read it and like it, tell me! I'll be motivated to post more. If you don't like it, tell me! And I won't subject you to any more of it. I adore hearing what you have to say, regardless.

Soundtrack to Chapter I... 'Landed' - Ben Folds. 'Mermaids' - Jinja Safari. 'Tucan' - Kids of 88. 'Sinister Kid' - Black Keys.

Enjoy - Jorgia.