Literary Orphans

How to Go Blind by Christopher Allen

I pinch my eyes shut, take three steps, then five, then slam headlong into a sign. This, my husband says later, is the only thing I can do to prepare for blindness. He’s butterflying my eyebrow back together. “This?” I ask. “Keeping your eyes closed,” he says.

I am not a bat. Or a shark. Or a mole. I need eyes. But my nose isn’t bad. When everyone on the train seems content to sit next to the guy steamy with week-old urine, I just can’t. On a scale from one to ten, my sense of smell is about a human eight. This might help me navigate my fading life if the bus stop smelled of urine or, say, caramel browning. Today I manage ten steps before my throbbing eyebrow remembers the sign and my eyes open—because they can.

When my ophthalmologist told me I was going blind, I shut my eyes and said Wow, I can finally get a dog and take him wherever I want, a Golden Retriever I’ll name Buddy. She laughed, said my humor would surely get me through this, but a tiny wrinkle above her left eye said she wasn’t sure at all.

This morning I’m going to reach the bus stop with my eyes shut if it kills me. And it probably will. The culprit will be a car, which I can’t smell coming because I’m not a shark. This morning I lock my front door, close my eyes. I turn and walk the four steps to the sidewalk. I grip the gate and align myself with the street.

Do you know how the blind walk? Duck-footed to avoid stumping their toes. They skate into each next moment, hoping to soften the inevitable blow against a door, a wall or a person. They—because I’m still just barely blind—use a collapsible stick. They click click click to probe the path.

Parts of my life are already gone—books and menus, ingredients and independence—but then my fingers are learning to read. What I miss is honesty. Going blind would be so much easier if I didn’t have a partner, a man too invested to leave, someone who says Don’t worry, I’ll be your eyes. I’ll stay—a man whose face disappears a little each day, so it’s harder and harder to know when he’s lying.

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Christopher Allen is the author of the flash fiction collection Other Household Toxins (Matter Press) His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Split Lip Magazine, [PANK], Longleaf Review and lots of other really nice places. Allen is the co-editor of SmokeLong Quarterly.

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–Art by Chelsea Sturgill