AN: Disclaimer 1: I do not know a blind person, but I've done my best to do the character justice. If there's anywhere I've been insensitive or outright wrong, let me know.
Disclaimer 2: This story has absolutely nothing to do with cherries. Sorry.
This is a love story. Nothing more, nothing less.
It was one of those grey afternoons. Like the sun had given up for the day and told the clouds to take over its shift. It wasn't cold, but it wasn't warm either and everyone walked around wearing a coat, knowing they were far too warm with it on, but also knowing they'd be far too cold if they took it off.
The city centre was quieter than usual. Even the socialists, who gathered every weekend near the monument and waved flags with Che Guevara's face on and shouted about the care home crisis and anti-racism through megaphones, were nowhere to be seen. Not even the ubiquitous 'SALE!' signs in shop windows could entice people out on this miserable afternoon.
A man, who was decidedly too warm in his coat, stepped out of a bookshop, precariously carrying seven books in his arms. The previous night he'd watched a documentary about how plastic was filling the oceans and how there was an entire island of the stuff floating off the coast of California, so, when the guy behind the till in the bookshop had asked if he wanted a bag, the man flashed upon an image of a seagull's stomach they'd cut open, revealing all the plastic the bird had eaten. Thus, the man declined a bag, and the guy behind the till had watched, with no small degree of doubt, as the man gathered the books against his chest and carefully walked away.
The man made it from the bookshop to the coffee shop, which was only a few hundred yards away and tucked into a quiet side street. It was a little, independent coffee shop that never seemed to be busy, even though it sold best the coffee in the northern hemisphere, and the man liked to imagine that he was one of the handful of city residents that knew about it.
When he walked in, he barely noticed the fact that there was only one other customer, since he already had his nose buried in the first page of the book that sat on top of the pile, which he was now holding with only one arm. He only glanced up when he got to the counter, to place his order of a large cappuccino (to drink in), and was already reading again as he slowly walked over to the end of the counter. What he hadn't anticipated was for someone to be in his way and he merged, like Velcro, into the person in front of him.
'Sorry!' he gasped, his brain and mouth working together to automatically form the word as his attention was drawn to the seven books, which were now strewn on the floor.
'Sorry!' came the instinctive response from the other person, as they crouched down and picked up one of the books.
It was only when the man had just gathered the last of the six books that he saw the ball tip of a white cane and he followed the stick upwards to find another man looking down at him. Well, he couldn't really tell whether the other man was looking down at him, because the other man was wearing sunglasses. Rather stylish ones, actually, the man noted.
And it was only then, once the man had properly processed the white cane and sunglasses, that he came to a realisation.
'Oh, I'm sorry!' he exclaimed, by way of explaining what he'd recently comprehended.
'For what?' the other man said, his gaze (well, his sunglasses), now level with the man.
'Well, for bumping into you,' the man fumbled.
'What were you reading?' the other asked.
'Your books. I assume you were reading one. What were you reading?'
The man glanced down at the book at the top of the pile he held, which was indeed the one he'd been reading, and a small sweat broke out at the back of his scalp as he looked down at the title. "Seeing is Believing" the words said, staring up at a him in gold embossed lettering. "Seeing is Believing"…he couldn't say that to a blind man…could he? It would sound like he's making fun.
'Is it porn?' the other man asked.
'It's just that it was taking you an awfully long time to respond.'
'Oh, uh, no, it's not porn. It's called, uh, "My Life in Plastic",' the main said, quickly moving the top book to view the title of the one underneath.
'It's fantastic,' the other man said.
' "My life in plastic, it's fantastic",' he said, doing the vaguest attempt at singing the man had ever heard.
'Oh, right,' the man laughed.
'Here,' the other man said, holding out the book he'd picked up.
'Oh, thanks,' the man said, reaching for it. His forefingers accidentally brushed with the other man's and he snatched the book back as if he'd been burned. Heat was creeping up his neck and he had a sudden urge to fling his coat off.
'Are you okay?' the other man asked, his voice utterly neutral.
'Your fingers were hot.'
'Why are you apologising?'
'I don't know,' the man said, wanting nothing more than to grab his coffee and run. Surely it must be ready by now? They'd been standing there for three hours at least.
'Do disabilities make your nervous?' the other man said and his companion, who was taken completely off-guard by the question, was sure that the other man's eyes, hidden behind the sunglasses, were looking directly into his own.
'They make everyone nervous. Not that they should. I mean, I'm trying not to be nervous.'
'I'm blind,' the blind man said, rather superfluously in the man's opinion.
'Yes…I can see,' the man replied and instantly regretted it.
'Can you?' the blind man said, his face as still as a statue. Just as the man thought his stomach had physically dropped to his foot, the other man broke into a smile. Just a small one, more like a modest grin, but it made the man smile back with relief. 'What did you order?' the blind man asked, still gazing (assumedly) at the man.
'Cappuccino,' the man answered.
'Cappuccinos are the worst of all coffees,' the blind man declared, turning towards the barista, who was just walking over with a takeaway cup in her hand.
'I guess we'll just have to accept that we don't see eye-to-eye, then,' the man said, nervously glancing at his companion, who was currently accepting his coffee from the barista. Was it too soon to be making blind jokes? He didn't even know the guy. But the guy had made the first joke, so surely it was okay?
'I guess we will,' the blind man said, turning to the man with an even larger grin. Just then, the man's cappuccino also arrived, and set his books down on the tray. 'Drinking in?' the blind man asked.
'Afraid so,' the man replied, not entirely sure why he'd said it like that.
'Well, nice to meet you,' the other man said, although he didn't make any move to leave.
The man had been staring into his cappuccino, as if it were a crystal ball, and was suddenly struck by the biggest surge of courage he'd ever felt in his life.
'Actually, can I ask you something?' he said, turning to the blind man.
'Are you free tonight?' The other man's face fell into an expression that could very suitably be described as shock and he stood still, holding his coffee, his lips ever so slightly parted, for at least ten seconds before replying.
'I am free tonight.'
'Do you like jazz?' the man asked, not really having expected to get this far.
'I do like jazz.'
'There's a small bar that does live jazz on Saturday nights, called The Denver Club. It's on Hogarth Street.'
'Never been,' the blind man said.
'Do you want to, uh, go?' the man asked, feeling very grateful that the man stood opposite him couldn't see the sheen of sweat on his forehead, or the deep-red, borderline purple, colour of his face and neck.
'I would,' the blind man replied, his tone betraying no emotion whatsoever.
'Well, okay. Shall I pick you up?'
'No, it's fine. Nine o'clock will do. I'll see you there,' the other man said, before breaking into another grin and turning to leave.
'Oh, I'm Reece by the way!' Reece said, as it only just occurred to him that they didn't know each other's names.
'Zach,' said Zach, pausing in his step to glance back at Reece. 'See you later.' And with that he was gone.
And that's how this is actually a story about jazz.