Can you hear it?
The whisper of rustling bed sheets.
The whir of the fan as it cools the heated air.
The rushing sound of water through the pipes in the wall.
The sounds that silence makes.
Can you hear it? Can you hear it all?
Liz was bored out of her mind.
She’d awakened earlier than usual. Michael had left to attend some business meeting with someone, and he’d prohibited her from moving around without Tess.
Tess was her physical therapist and trainer. She was great, energetic and excited about helping Liz learn how to get stuff done by herself. But today she was late.
And Liz was bored. She didn’t want to listen to music. She had no interest in sitting in a probably dark corner of the apartment feeling sorry for herself. The fact was that Liz was tired of feeling sorry for herself.
Michael had helped her realize that. He’d shaken her awake and insisted that she notice the world around her. He’d forced her into new surroundings and challenged her to make them hers. And it was about time she did.
Grabbing the cane propped against the wall three steps to the left of her bed, the cane Tess had taught her to walk with, Liz chose to venture out into the neighborhood. All by herself.
She could do this. She was strong. She had survived this far, she could handle walking around the block.
Can you feel it?
Silk on skin.
The warm softness of the down comforter.
The smooth pane of the glass window.
The cool wet of rainwater dripping down.
The solid hardness of the cement wall.
Can you feel it? Can you feel it all?
Michael was unsure of exactly why he was needed here. Isabel looked more than capable of securing the entire transaction by herself. He’d actually planned to meet with Max for lunch. He still hadn’t explained the entirety of his new living situation to his friend. But he was unsure of how Max would take it, lately he’d been acting oddly, bizarrely volatile about the strangest things. Even his moving out had caused a major argument, and Michael had beginning to wonder if all that orange juice Max was drinking was laced with Smirnoff.
How Max would react to Michael and Liz sharing an apartment would be cataclysmic. Michael was certain of this. Which is why he’d dragged his feet about telling Max the truth thus far, but he really couldn’t anymore, it wasn’t fair to Liz. And Max had been his best friend all through high school. If he was going through a rough patch, it was up to Michael to be supportive.
Yet he was stuck in this meeting, and discussing financials had never been his strong suit. While he liked having money to spend as he wished, he hated thinking about his art in commercial terms. He felt as if that cheapened it, which is why he usually left all this stuff to Isabel.
But for some bizarre reason the client had requested a meeting with him. Isabel had said something about dinner, but there was no way he was abandoning Liz for this Kewpie doll look-alike of a client. In fact he wasn’t too sure he wanted her to have his painting in the first place.
She had offered a cool million for it though.
Absolutely no chance of his agreeing to the dinner. He made that crystal clear to Isabel.
He wondered what Liz was doing at that precise moment. She had really gotten a handle on moving around the apartment. And she and Tess had worked out a good system for placing Liz’s things in order to make them accessible. Plus she was learning how to use a cane.
He knew that liberty of movement wasn’t all that Liz needed though. She still needed to be able to acquire information. They had developed a ritual in the evenings where they’d talk about the books they had read, and some nights he’d actually read to her from a book they had chosen together, or the news that had gone on in the world that day. Their discussions were always so vibrant, so astoundingly intelligent, Michael loved talking to her. She’d come alive as she spoke, she glittered when she was talking about what she knew. But then there were the moments she'd just shut off, something she refused to speak to him about thus far, but something that sent her to a dark place. Michael was intent on brightening Liz's entire world, and he wouldn't rest until he figured out just what it was that made her retreat that way.
He’d hired Alexander Whitman, a specialist in Braille, to teach her how to read. For now, he’d bought a series of books on tapes, for her to listen to and enjoy whenever she wanted, and not only depend on him, he’d planned give them to her tonight.
He couldn’t wait to get back to the apartment. He wondered if he could convince her to sit still for a while, he'd been dying to sketch her. Although it also made him so happy that she was always in motion, that she was no longer that frightened shell of a girl trapped in the hospital.
God, this meeting was boring. He wanted to be with Liz now. And he knew that this want that he felt for her would only lead him to trouble.
Can you taste it?
The fresh clean mint of toothpaste.
The citrusy goodness of a morning glass of orange juice.
The bittersweet flavor of chocolate on your tongue.
The cold richness in a lick of Rocky Road ice cream.
Can you taste it? Can you taste it all?
Liz felt the sun’s rays hit her skin. The summer breeze played with the strands of hair that had fallen from her loose ponytail. Carefully she tapped and counted her steps until she reached the sidewalk.
Turning left she walked slowly. Cautiously using the cane to sense the breaks in the walkway, the cracks and tree branches that brought chaos to the even uniformity of paved streets.
She reached the corner and made another left. She’d never walked down this part of the block before. That she was exhilarated her. She felt invincible, unbreakable, unbeatable, courageous, and strong. She felt as if she could do anything. For the first time in a long while she truly felt free.
She tripped a little, she hadn’t lifted her foot enough and there was an uneven patch on the sidewalk. She felt the tree on her right. But she didn’t fall, she caught herself before that. She walked on, and as she reached the corner she turned another left.
It didn’t matter that she couldn’t see. For the first time it didn’t matter. Because she was outside. She was enjoying herself. She was doing it alone.
She could hear children playing in one of the yards, heard them as they stopped to stare at her. She smiled and waved in their direction. She couldn’t help but wonder if they had waved back as she heard them return to their game. If it was so remarkable to see someone strolling in the sidewalk with a cane?
She reached the last corner and made the final left and walked the one hundred and three steps back to the apartment. She was glad she knew that, Tess and her had walked up and down this street so many times, that she had been forced to memorize the amount of steps from each corner, the amount of steps it took to reach the front door.
Liz had done it. Her heart pounded in her ears as she felt a sense of pride and victory. For once, she hadn’t been a slave to her blindness. For once, she had taken things into her own hands.
She had gone out for a walk on her own. She wanted to tell Michael so badly, she knew he’d be so proud of her. That he’d be so happy for her. She wanted to fling herself in his arms and have him spin her around in joy. She felt like spinning in joy, but that would be foolish to do without Michael.
She walked to the front door and was about to open it when she sensed someone else. There was someone waiting on the porch. Someone familiar. Someone she’d thought she could forget.
Can you sense it?
Perfume on the pillow.
The fragrant lilacs in spring.
The scent of earth and turpentine.
The cloying of roses past their prime.
The sharp pine of wood-shavings scattered on the floor.
Can you sense it? Can you sense it all?
“What are you doing here?” Liz asked.
“I could ask you the same thing. I was looking for my friend Michael. I hadn’t realized he was running a hospital,” Max replied bitingly.
“It’s not a hospital. He took me away from there.”
“Yeah, I noticed. He must really want to fuck the blind girl then. Hell he definitely doesn’t want to hang around with me. I guess you’re lucky Liz. Lucky he saw you, lucky he’s always been jealous of what I had, lucky he still needed to take what I didn’t want anymore.”
“It’s not like that,” Liz cried out. The exhilaration of her walk, her invincibility fading at Max’s cruel words. Self-doubt, fear that she was valuable to Michael only as a novelty item, crept slowly into her consciousness. What if Max was right? What if Michael only wanted to fuck the blind girl?
“It isn’t?” he asked snidely, “Then why take you out of the sanitarium, some random girl he knew I had fucked, and set you up here, in this posh apartment? I told him you were a good lay. I guess he wanted to find out. Or maybe he thought blind was better? Or maybe he knew that blind was the only way he’d have you?”
“Why are you saying this?” Liz choked on a sob. She would not cry in front of the man who had used her so cruelly. The man whose own drunken irresponsible behavior had caused the accident that had caused her sightlessness.
“Just send Michael my regards and thank him for lunch,” Max pushed Liz against the wall and kissed her mouth, his hands rubbing her intimately against her crotch. “Tell him I wish him luck, I’m guessing it’s not that difficult for you to spread your legs.”
Liz slid down the wall, her legs trembling as she heard the car Max must have come in screech off into the distance. Racking sobs shook her body, she felt violated in the worst way possible. Was it true? Was it true that all Michael wanted of her was an easy fuck?
Can you see it?
The greens and blues of rushing water.
The reds and oranges of a burning fire.
The beauty that lies inside an artist’s soul.
The anguish beneath the written words.
Can you see it? Can you see it all?
Michael pressed his foot to the accelerator. Something was wrong. He needed to be home. He’d wrangled his way out of the meeting when he realized he’d left his cell phone in the car, and had been horrified to discover a message from Tess calling in sick. He’d unwittingly left Liz alone, and he was afraid something happened to her.
He turned into the driveway. His heart was beating, pounding rapidly against his ribs. He turned the keys and glanced to the front door.
He was running then. Across the paved driveway, sliding on the grass, he ran to her. She was huddled by the wall on the porch, the front door slightly ajar, tears still falling down her face.
Frantically he called her name. He checked her body for bruises. He made sure every bone was whole before picking her up, carrying her inside.
She curled away from him as soon as he placed her on the couch. She hid her face, recoiled from his touch.
Michael had never seen her like this. Devastated. Shattered. Not even when she was trapped in the hospital.
What could have possibly happened? How could he have prevented it?
A heartbeat. Can you hear it?
Silk on skin. Can you feel it?
Vanilla. Can you taste it?
Fear. Can you sense it?
The truth. Can you see it?