—I’LL WORSHIP LIKE A DOG AT THE SHRINE OF YOUR LIES
The Errand Boy and the Blind Woman
The old woman was blind and had been for some time. She asked what color my eyes were. She asked what the sky looked like. How many trees still had leaves. If there were squirrels in the yard. When it rained, she asked about the depth of the puddles and potholes.
Her hands shook like tendrils waving under the sea. She might have been made of straw or pure imagination, but my mother had sent me to look after her, we being neighborly, or trying to.
“What does thirteen look like?” the old woman asked and stumped me at once. Did she mean just the number, or my age, or what? It was another ridiculous question.
“I guess,” I said, “it’s kind of blurry, like if your windshield is full of dead bugs or your glasses are super smudged. It’s tough to know where you’re going.”
“Hmm. I see.”
I wondered how long she’d been blind. It might have been forever. I wanted to tell her how sorry I was, but didn’t want to come across as condescending or better than. People were always apologizing for my mangled leg, the one some guy’s car ran over without stopping. Humiliation wears a lot of different shirts and none of them fit quite right.
I was the blind woman’s errand boy, but mostly I listened and replied. She’d rather talk and learn than eat. She was as thin as a mantis, but ever smiling.
She might have been a hundred years older than me, yet she was graceful, wise and exceptionally curious. If it was possible for me to love a woman like that at my age, well, then I surely did.
“I suppose you’ll be getting a real job soon,” she said, softly swatting the scone of sunlight in front of her.
I hadn’t told her about my leg, how it slid and dragged with each step, though she certainly must have been aware. It seemed she noticed everything. As a cripple, there weren’t a lot of jobs open to me.
“I’m happy here with you,” I said, and it made my feet tingle to tell the truth so brazenly.
“So, are you going to be a writer?” the blind woman asked.
How did she know? I guess, how did she not know? She could easily hear me scribbling down random thoughts each day, sometimes reciting them back in a muffled whisper.
“Well,” I said, “I want to, but—”
“Then you will! Then you must!” the blind woman said, twirling her arms like an overactive squid, with more commotion than I’d seen in months.
“Okay,” I said because it felt like I had to speak.
“Read me something,” she said, leaning forward so that I could smell she’d had green tea with a speck of basil and mango. “Read something imagined, but honest.”
Who was this woman? Something imagined but honest? What the fuck was that?
“I, I, I don’t have anything—”
“Yes, you do.”
“I really don’t.”
“Then write it right now. I’ll wait. I’ve got time. I’m patient but I can’t wait forever.”