I begin each morning, like clockwork at seven sharp, black coffee for breakfast with a typical side of nothing. The caffeine and chalky-cardboard taste is all I need to fuel my get-up-and-go attitude. Not really a suit and tie type of guy, I quickly pull on comfortable blue jeans, a long-sleeved flannel and boots and make my way toward the bathroom. I floss for 47 seconds after brushing my teeth, a compulsive habit that I picked up at a young age from my mother. Back downstairs, I grab the leather jacket from the sofa and throw it over my shoulder as I head out the door. I light a cigarette and take a quick puff as the door shuts with a loud “thud.” Not bothering to lock up, I leave the small apartment behind as I walk to work with a light rain easing down upon my pale complexion. I didn’t carry an umbrella. The mist was refreshing.
I know these streets, the sidewalks, and even the daily routine of everyone who is usually out and about at this time. Mrs. Turner, who reads on her front porch, always remembers to cough with disgust as the grey smoke escapes my nose and mouth. Every car stops for me as I cross the street while the drivers honk their horns in a friendly salutation. I turn my head in their general direction and smile at them through sightless eyes.
Everyone in town is aware that I am blind, but they don’t treat me as such. My neighbors are lovely and caring. The only thing that I ask them to do is to keep the walkways clear for me and they oblige without complaint. Other than this simple task, I never ask anyone for help. Ever. I think I’m what you would call a reckless independent soul. I know that I can’t see, but I enjoy throwing caution to the wind on occasion.
“Hey, Aiden!” Mr. Russell calls out to me, “I’m thinking about putting a few more tomato plants in the front yard. If you ever get a hankering for a home grown tomato, I’ll send some your way.”
“That would be great, Mr. Russell,” I reply with a smile, “just be careful they don’t grow too big or I might run into them.”
Mr. Russell let out chuckle, but I could tell he was uncomfortable. The neighbors make polite conversation when I am out, but I think they avoid me 60 percent of the time, probably because I joke about my condition and they aren’t sure how they should respond to it. I don’t do this to offend anyone, but to show them that I am comfortable with the way I am. They can’t blame me for God’s skimping them in the sense of humor department.
The gentle mist stops as the overcast hangs in the sky creating a blanket of darkness over the little town. I hated sunny days. Those were the days when I had to rely on my cane to get me to work. The sun creates extra shadows that taunt my eyes and completely throw off my orientation. I put on a brave face, but the thought of stumbling and making a fool out of myself sends a shiver down my back. I relish in the blackness of the clouds. The clouds are my freedom.