WEDNESDAY: Man with a White Cane

BY CHRISTOPHER WOODS

This story first appeared as a play in the journal, Collages & Bricolages, and has been produced onstage. Copyright is held by the author.

 

WOULD YOU mind if I shared your park bench? No? Thank you, then. Yes, this is quite nice. I love Chapultepec. You must also love it. Am I right? Yes? It keeps us coming back, don’t you think? Like an old song. Yes, that is how I like to imagine it. Like an old song. Some kind of lure about it.

Tell me, do you know parks in Europe? No? Well, I’m sorry that you don’t. But if you are very careful, there is still time for that.

Why? Because I have to tell you something. If a bus stops here, pretend you were expecting it. Yes, I am quite sure that this is no ordinary stop. You see, at my age, the unusual becomes the pattern. I have seen or heard most everything.

For now, I can tell you this. I feel quite certain that the infamous bus will be making a stop here soon. Why? Because I know. Last night, I dreamed it stopped again. Oh, it’s always stopping somewhere, you might say. And I would agree.

This time, however, I saw it. I was, in fact, a kind of witness. I see very well in my dreams. The tired old brain doesn’t forget all the things it has lost. Memories, sight itself, the all of it.
My dreams are the colors of carnivals. I don’t know how it is for the rest of the blind, but when I dream, colors are an electric bright. They intensify. You cannot imagine. Trees are a glowing green fire. Buildings pulse. A compensation, you say? Maybe. You could say that.

But let me tell you about my dream. I was walking down Reforma, taking my usual cane-tapping stroll through the kaleidoscope. Everything lovely. Beyond loveliness, really. A song in my heart. Then, I heard the bus coming. It came close by, then veered away. Passed on.

No stopping for me, of course. But listening to it pass, I decided that, in an odd way, it reminded me of an ambulance. They are always around, you know. They pass you for someone else most of the time. But there’s no doubt about one thing. One day or night, one will stop at your door. Or at your feet.

As I was saying, I was old news for the bus. But I knew it would stop for someone else. Unexpectedly, always. But if it should stop here today, there is something I need to ask you. A small favor. Would you be kind enough to lead me up the stairs?

You’re very kind, thank you. Oh, and one more thing. An even smaller request. Don’t lead me so quickly that I might miss a step. Some do, you know, always ready to be rid of a blind man. No, I ask you to do it calmly, like you’ve done it before. A thousand times. There is salvation in this, I assure you.

Salvation? No, the temporal kind, you might say. Some say it’s just as good. But remember this. When we get on the bus, don’t look anyone in the eye. No one. I warn you, don’t look at anything in particular. Do you understand?

No matter how much you might want to look at something, say a woman’s thighs, try to resist.
Why? Because it’s a giveaway, that sort of thing. And the thieves are wise to it. You must be on guard. Always. You must be very careful. If you’re not…

Listen to me. I am not just another madman who floats through this park. I tell you all this for a reason. Once I too was young. It’s not so impossible to imagine, is it? In fact, I was about your age when it happened. You don’t mind my touching your face, do you? Hands, in my case, are like map readers. It happened, like I said, when I was still young. And on the bus. I had been sitting on a park bench, the other side of Chapultepec. Thinking too much, probably. Worrying. About money, and the fact that I didn’t have much. Or, considering ways to patch things up with my girlfriend. Oh, we were a battlefield, but it kept things molten between us.

Thinking I would buy her some flowers, or take her to a film. Thinking so hard that I only vaguely heard the bus approach. The tires squealed, the door swung open. I was young, muddled and naive. Unsuspecting. I stood up, an uncertain general making plans for peace with my girl. I stood up and got on the bus, by God.

By then it was already too late, but I couldn’t know that. The bus pulled away. We moved through the traffic. I saw the park out the window. Every blink a postcard. Couples walking hand in hand, birds landing in trees, the venders, the very pace of this place. I took it in, the film of it all.

I was such an easy target. They came up on either side of me and held me down. I was powerless. And they did it. They cut out my eyes.

Quickly, so quickly. The film I was watching suddenly turned on its side, blurred, then was gone. There was nothing but blackness. And the promise of much more blackness to come, of course.
Now you understand these dark glasses, and this white cane I call my staff. Who knows, maybe I am some kind of prophet. But this staff doesn’t divide an ocean. No, this staff divides the darkness.

Last night, as I told you, I dreamed about this. About you. I walked through the kaleidoscope of the city. In the park, I decided to sit down and rest. I found a bench, like this one.

I sat and listened to the sounds of traffic. My hearing is so intense. At times I feel like the avenues are inside my head, that cars are driving on the inside of my skull. It is another kind of compensation, I know.

Then, I heard someone approach. A youthful gait. A young man came and sat down next to me. His greeting was slight and muffled. Uncommitted, so like your own.

I could tell he was thinking hard about something. I could almost hear his thoughts. Money? His girlfriend? We didn’t discuss it. We were both so busy, watching our own films. Then, I heard the bus. Coming at us, bearing down hard.

Oh, I knew it wasn’t stopping for me. I was old news. But this young man was unsuspecting, always the best prey. When the bus stopped, he stood up, not thinking where he was going. Or what would happen after he took a seat and the bus began moving again.

That is how my dream ended. Me wanting to tell him, to warn him. I wanted to shake him loose somehow. But I couldn’t. My dreams, no matter how brilliant their colors, always leave me tongue-tied. So my only choice was to go with him, follow him onto the bus. Later, when the eye thieves were done with him, I could console him. Maybe I could lead him home.

Now, do you understand? Good. Here, take my glasses. I won’t need them. Wear them when the bus stops. Keep looking straight ahead, like I told you. Don’t give yourself away.

With any luck, they’ll think they’re already done with you. Why, if God smiles, they’ll go after someone else.

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2 comments

  1. Susan P. Blevins

    “My dreams are the colors of carnivals”; “cane-tapping stroll through the kaleidoscope”; “it kept things molten between us”; “if God smiles, they’ll go after someone else.” WOW! Brilliant writing, evocative, eerie and elegant. What amazing twists and turns you contain in your head. I’ll never wait at a bus stop again without thinking of your story!

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