I hear the cane before she reaches the door, a flat tapping through an open window. I call to her through the screen, and my friend opens the door looking better than the last time I saw her, if pale and distracted. We share an awkward hug before she invites me in to the living room to sit.
"I'm glad you're here," she says. "Did you drive? I didn't hear your car."
"I took the bus," I say, "and walked over from Dover Street. I'd forgotten how nice this area is. The homes are so well-kept."
Well-kept and homogeneous. A grid of white houses and green lawns, a head lifted to assess me, a curtain pushed aside to watch me pass. I'd only seen the neighborhood from car windows, but with my feet on the ground, it felt as if I'd traveled back in time.
She sits on the end of the sofa closest to the armchair, and I sit in the armchair to be close to her. Both the room and her appearance are immaculate, a change from the girl I knew at school whose hands were always stained with ink or paint, and the inside of her car strewn with empty soda bottles.
"You look well," I tell her. "I've wanted so much to help, so I was happy to hear from you. We haven't talked much since the accident, but you know I'll come and stay whenever John is away."
"More than that, I hope."
She is gripping the cane with both hands, pressing it against her chest.
"How are you coping?" I ask, and she doesn't answer right away. We sit quietly for a while, just out of reach of the sunlight angling through the window.
Then she says, "I think I lost my mind along with my sight."
"How do you mean?"
"Things have changed since I've come home."
"You must have expected it to be different."
"How do I explain..."
She is on the verge of tears, so I put my hand on her arm and she says, "It's John."
"I hear he's been your rock through all of it. It looks like he's taking good care of things."
"I'm afraid to be alone in the house with him."
"Why is that?"
"Now that I'm not able to see him, I can sense him more fully. Do you understand?"
"I think so. Your other senses are stronger now."
"I feel him...staring at me. It's like I'm being touched without being touched. I'm not making sense, am I?"
"If he's watchful, it's only because he cares about you."
I wonder if anyone told her that John broke down in the waiting room while she was in surgery, sobbing so loudly he was taken to a separate waiting area.
"You don't find it comforting?" I ask.
"It's not meant to be. If he wanted to comfort me, he wouldn't try to conceal himself. I know he thinks I don't know he's in the same room. I can hear him being quiet and still. Is that crazy? The hairs stand up on my skin. He plays this game of coming closer and closer, holding his breath, but I can feel him. He will watch me reach out for him and call his name and say nothing."
"I can see that you're upset, but that doesn't sound like John. You've been through a lot this past year. You'll adjust."
"I won't. How can I ever? How do I trust him? I'm afraid to eat the food he gives me. I'm too self-conscious to relax. Promise you won't leave me alone with him until I can get away."
"I will stay as long as you want. But I think if you give it time, everything will get back to normal."
She lifts her chin, I think in reaction to what I've just said. Then she gasps so deeply I worry she's in pain.
"What is it? What's wrong?" I ask.
"He does this," she says. "Pretending to leave."
"Now you'll see," she whispers.
I stand and wait for John to enter the room. When he doesn't, I check the hallway and kitchen. I look out the windows, but the street is as tranquil as when I arrived.
"He's not here, unless he's hidden away in another room."
She shakes her head. "He's not in another room."
She is trembling when I put my arm around her and tell her, "There is no one here but you and me. We're alone."
"We're not," she whispers. "We're not."
I had been worried, all this time, how she was adjusting to darkness, when it seems something in the darkness was adjusting to her.
Created: Apr 06, 2014Document Media