Not If I See You First
I don’t know what this means, or who Kensington is. A teacher from Jefferson, maybe.
“Hey, douchebag,” says a male voice to the left of Douchebag. “She’s really blind.”
Interesting. The second voice is softer, and calm in a way you don’t often hear insulting big heavy jock voices. It’s familiar but I can’t place it.
“No, Ms. Kensington does this thing where you need to pretend—”
“I know, and she doesn’t hand out canes. Besides, it’s first period on the first day.”
“But if she’s really blind then why would she wear a blindfo—”
“Trust me, dude; just shut up.” Harsh words but said with a friendly voice.
For my scarf today I chose white silk with a thick black X on each eye. It was that or my hachimaki with Divine Wind written in kanji, but I didn’t want to confuse the noobs with a mixed message. Either way, I know I made a mistake leaving my vest at home.
I usually wear a frayed army jacket, arms torn off, covered with buttons that friends bought or made over the years. Slogans like Yes, I’m blind, get over it! and Blind, not deaf, not stupid! and my personal favorite, Parker Grant doesn’t need eyes to see through you! Aunt Celia talked me out of it this morning, saying it would overwhelm all the people from Jefferson who don’t know me. She’s wrong, it turns out. They need to be overwhelmed.
I hear shuffling and the creak of wood and steel as someone sits down hard to my left.
“Hi, Parker.” It’s Molly. “Sorry I’m late. I needed to stop by the office.”
“If the bell hasn’t rung, you’re not late.” I try to sound casual but actually let her know that being my buddy just means helping with certain things in classes, not life in general.
“Hey, so your name’s Parker—” Douchebag says.
“Awww,” I interrupt him with my sweet voice. “You figured that out because you just heard someone say it. And I know your name for the very same reason. Douchebag isn’t very nice, though, so I’ll just call you D.B.”
“Shhh …” I shake my head. “Don’t ruin it.”
The silence that follows is the perfect example of the thing I love most about being blind: not seeing how people react to what I say.
“I—” D.B. says, and the bell rings.
“The stairs down to the parking lot are ahead,” Molly says.
I sigh inwardly. Actually, I’m tired; maybe I sighed outwardly, I’m not sure.
Classes let out a while ago but Molly and I worked out a schedule to do our homework in the library after school for a couple hours and afterwards I call Aunt Celia to pick me up. Molly’s mom is a teacher who also came over from Jefferson—she teaches both French and Italian—and they carpool.
“Good,” I say. “Those stairs have been there at least two years now. I bet it’d be really hard to get rid of them with the entire parking lot being five feet lower than all the classrooms.”
I consider reminding her of Rule Number Four, understanding that it hasn’t been long since I gave her the list, but it’s been a tiring first day and I don’t have the energy.
I don’t need a chaperone anywhere on school grounds. I know exactly where the handicapped parking space is and two years of Dad parking there trained the unhandicapped people to stay the hell out of it. Molly insisted she was walking with me just because, but I knew better. The combination of blind people, stairs, and cars terrifies the sighted, but it’s actually pretty safe. Cars are only dangerous when they’re moving, and they only move in certain ways and places, and they make noise you can hear, even hybrids. Stairs are like bite-sized paths that your feet can feel the size and shape of all the time.
“You know, Parker …” Molly blurts out with some energy, maybe impatience, but then doesn’t continue. She sighs.
I want to let it drop, too. I haven’t spent enough time with Molly to know if I’m going to like her or just tolerate her—the amount of energy I’m going to put into this depends a lot on which it’s going to be—but either way we’re going to be with each other more than with anyone else, all day, every day, all year.
“You can’t take it back,” I say, just as a fact, not an accusation. “I know there’s something in there now. Spit it out before it gets infected.”
I can hear her breathing. Thinking breaths. I calculate whether to prod her more or wait her out.
“It’s just …” she finally says. “I know we only just met …”
“Do you want me to help you?” I ask. “Or let you flounder around some more?”
Molly blows air out her nose. I can’t tell if it’s the laughing kind or the eye-rolling kind.
“Yeah, sure, help me out.” I hear a little of both. A good sign.
Embedded in the concrete path under my sneakers is the bumpy metal plaque describing the founding of John Quincy Adams High School in 1979. I know exactly where I am.
“Here.” I hold out my cane. “Fold this up for me?”
She takes it. “Why?”
I turn and walk briskly toward the stairs, arms swinging, counting in my head … six … five … four … three …
“Parker!” Molly scurries after me.
… two … one … step down …
I march down the stairs, counting them, hitting them hard and confident, legs straight like a soldier, each time sliding my foot back to knock my heel against the prior step.
At the bottom I keep marching and counting silently till I reach the curb where I know Aunt Celia’s car will park. I stop and spin around.
It touches my hand. She didn’t collapse it like I asked. I do and slide it into my bag.
“Maybe you’re thinking I’m a stereotypical blind girl who’s out to prove she doesn’t need anyone’s charity. But instead of being nice to people who are just trying to help her, she’s a bitter and resentful bitch because she’s missing out on something wonderful that she thinks everyone else takes for granted.”
Now I’m starting to wonder if Molly is just a loud breather, though I didn’t notice it in the library and it was pretty quiet in there.
“Am I warm?” I ask.