Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Plucky Blind Girl

That summer, when everyone in Camp Freedom thought I was blind, I felt truly accepted for who I really was. Even though people thought I was someone entirely different.

They thought I was a plucky blind girl in dark glasses with a great sense of humor and a total lack of self-pity.

They were in awe of my ability to find my way around the cabin, and to and from the outhouse. No one cared that I couldn’t play tennis, or volleyball, or dodge ball.

My bunk-mates took turns walking with me to the dining hall. Sure, I had a tendency to trip over rocks and fallen tree limbs, but my friends put their arms around my waist and gently guided me past the tricky spots in the path. 

And when we finally arrived at the dining hall they marveled at my ability to serve myself, to handle a knife and fork, to almost always find my water glass without knocking it over.

On Hootenanny Nights, when we all learned to square dance, everyone was amazed that a blind girl could dosey doe and allemende right and left, and only occasionally end up in the wrong square.
I had two boyfriends that summer, Max and Smokey. If any other girl in camp went with two boys at the same time she’d have been called “fast,” or even worse. But that didn’t happen to me. People were just happy to see me happy.
“She’s blind, for God’s sake,” you could almost hear them thinking, “she deserves a little joy in her life.”
Max was the best guitar player in camp and the first time he gave me a lesson I was terrified. We had to share a single guitar and that meant sitting very close. I sucked on a wintermint life saver the entire time, while Max positioned my fingers to make the C, G, D and F chords.
It was very exciting. 
I could tell he felt good about himself. Didn’t it show what a great guy he was, having a blind girlfriend in the first place, and never getting fresh with her? 
Smokey was another story. He thought I was the benevolent one. He considered himself the camp’s real charity case. His parents were Israeli Arabs and he wondered if I knew. He wasn’t going to tell me, didn’t want to take a chance, but his friends assured him that I did know, and it didn’t matter to me. I was like Natalie Wood befriending Sal Mineo, or that blind girl with Sidney Poitier in the movie “A Patch of Blue.”
I’d only recently learned the word insecure. I knew that I was, but I couldn’t imagine that Smokey was. He was so cool, tattooing his own arm with a straight pin, scratching his camp name — Smokey — into his flesh, a little deeper each day. I’d run my fingers over the rough spot on his left forearm, feeling the letters; slightly repulsed, but also impressed. He thought it was some kind of Braille thing, like I was reading him. 
One morning we slipped away and spent an hour together in the laundry shack, sitting side by side on top of the two washing machines, feeling the pulse and energy of the spin cycles under our butts. We held hands. He kissed my fingers. He said he had never felt as close to anyone as he did to me. “And it’s not just because you’re blind,“ he said. And I wanted to believe him. 
That was the summer when, as a result of a slight mishap on the bus ride going up to camp, I broke my eyeglasses and, without saying a word to anyone, slipped my prescription sunglasses onto my face. With that single act I unintentionally took on a new and wondrous persona. 

I could have corrected people as soon as I realized what they thought.

But I didn't. I was having the best summer ever, as the blind girl.


I wrote this piece of autobiographical fiction, about the summer I was 15, a couple years ago. I wanted to share it today, as the summer of 2011 quickly comes to an end. By the way, THIS summer has been the best summer, ever. Truly.