Love is Blind

by Nick Brady

Chapter 3

"You learned a lot in the Boy Scouts."

"I guess it was like what you learned in your school," I said. "They tried to teach us life skills."

"Yes, different skills for different lives."

"I suppose. We're alike in most ways," I chuckled.

"In the ways that count." Ian laughed.

He took my arm and we went for a last walk through the woods. There would be other times.

After our October camping trip, Ian and I had a better understanding of each other. As a result, things were more relaxed between us. We ate lunch together every day, and sometimes supper. I read for him several evenings a week and we spent as much time together as we could. Sometimes we found Stuart and Brutus at the Campus Tavern, more often we hung out in the Student Union where we made a few casual friends.

The Union was cheap. For the price of a soda, we could kill most of an evening, unless our studies interfered. Since I was accepted as Ian's assistant, it was no big deal that we were always together. We even decided to enroll in the same English Composition class the next semester. We talked about how things were going.

"I have a math test on Friday, "I told Ian. "If you have some things for me to read we need to do it on Wednesday. Thursday might be an all-nighter."

"Are you behind?"

"No. Not really, but I need to review."

"You're smart, Andrew. You'll do alright."

"My mid-term grades were good. All A's and one B. I can't complain. What about you?"

"So far all B's," Ian smiled.

"That's great. I knew you were a brain."

"Not really. I do have a good memory. It's a skill I've had to cultivate for a number of reasons. English Lit. is mostly a matter of memorization. It's not complicated like your math and science."

"I like math and science, always have. It comes fairly easy for me, My folks help me with tuition, and I pay for room and board with the money I save up from my summer job. How do you manage your expenses."

"I have a scholarship from the state that pays for my basic expenses and my mother gives me a little spending money. That's how I pay my reader," he smiled.

"You know you don't have to pay me," I reminded him.

"That was our agreement," Ian shrugged. "You might get tired of me and quit if I didn't pay you."

"Not much chance of that."

"I'm doing alright. But I have to have at least a B average or I'll lose my scholarship. That is a concern."

"But you're doing great. What's the problem?"

"The problem is when I have to turn in written work. I have a typewriter, but I suck at typing. That's why my grades are B's instead of A's. I'll have to do a lot more writing next semester when we take English Composition."

"Don't your teachers understand that you have a little handicap?"

"They might cut me a little slack, but I don't want charity. I'd prefer to be judged by the same standards as everyone else."

"I can type.".

"You can?" Ian laughed.

"I'm a good typist. I took typing in high school because I figured I'd need it in college. I was the only boy in the class."

"Good odds," Ian teased.

"Not for me," I lowered my voice. "But really, I can type pretty fast. Can't I help with that?"

Ian frowned. "You already spend too much time with me."

"Don't be silly. We're usually together anyway. What difference does it make? You're going to have to help me with that English course."

Ian looked down and smiled. "I guess I could do that."

"So, how does this work? How do you write now?"

"I usually write things on my Braille machine then transcribe it to print with my typewriter."

"I can't read Braille," I admitted.

"Well, if you're serious. I guess we could work something out. Maybe I could pay you by the page, or something.

"Cut that out. You aren't going to pay me to help you out a little. That's what friends do for friends. Will I have to pay you to tutor me in English?" I slid my shoe up the inside of his leg under the table. "We are friends, aren't we?"

Ian blushed. "Be careful with that."

"No, really. It would be mutually beneficial. Why don't we at least try it? I'll help you and you can help me. What's wrong with that?"

So that's what we did. Instead of killing time at the Union, I started typing Ian's papers. If it was short, he would dictate it to me. If it was longer, he would type it and I would re-type it and clean it up. He was right about one thing. He sucked at typing. As a result, the grades on his papers improved.

"What would I do without you, Andrew?"

"You'd do something," I grinned. "You're resourceful."

"I should do something for you."

"You do," I assured him.

There was very little privacy either in his room or mine, but there was always my old Chevrolet. Even in cold weather, we managed to drive out to the lake several times a week and park near the beach. We called it our quality time, and it became more interesting as Ian got over his initial shyness. We were happy with things. What I liked best was just spending time with him.

Mostly, we just talked. Ian had a little radio in his room and listen to the news. He knew more about what was going on in the world than I did and I learned a lot from him. He kept up on sports, football, baseball, basketball – everything.

"How do you know so much about sports?" I wondered.

"The rules are easy to remember, and games are broadcast on the radio," he explained. "I like sports. I wrestled, remember?"

"I was a swimmer," I shrugged. "That's not a big radio sport."

We were dreading the Christmas holidays. We were both expected to be home for the holidays and had no excuse to remain on campus. On the last day of class before the break, we drove out to the lake.

"I'll miss you," I told Ian.

"I know. I'll miss you too."

"I got you a little something," I said and handed him a small coin from my pocket. "Merry Christmas."

"What is it?" he asked, then when he felt of it, he smiled, "It's a dime."

"That's right. Can you tell the year?"

Ian's eyes danced from side to side as he laid the coin in his hand and carefully ran his finger over it. "It's a Mercury dime, and feels like a new one, but I can't tell the year, no."

"That's pretty good," I laughed. "It's a 1944 Mercury Dime. It's not really new but it's uncirculated. It's supposed to be lucky."

"Really?"

"Really. A leap year silver dime is supposed to bring you luck. You have to wear it in your shoe."

Ian laughed, "Where did you hear that?"

"The guy in the coin shop said that. I told him I needed a good luck piece and that's what he suggested."

Ian held it tightly in his hand. "I can always use some good luck. Thank you." Then his face fell. "I don't have anything for you, Andrew. I'm sorry."

I took his hand in mine. "That's OK. I'm already lucky. Meeting you was the luckiest thing that's ever happened to me."

Ian leaned his head back and seemed to look out somewhere. He had tears in his eyes. I hadn't thought about it since I never saw him cry before, but I guess blind guys can cry just like anybody else,

"Thank you, Andrew," he said very softly. Then he took off his shoe and slipped the dime into his sock. "Does it matter which foot?"

"I don't know," I chuckled. "He didn't say. I don't guess so."

Ian turned towards me and held out his arms. I took him into mine and we hugged for a long time. "I love you," he whispered.

We stayed at the lake until Ian flipped open the cover on his wristwatch and tapped it with his finger. "It's 5:30," he said. We better get back if we're going to eat supper."

The holidays went by slowly. Ian said it might be best not to call him on the phone. That bothered me a little, but I didn't question him. I worked for a carpenter every summer and he let me hang some sheet-rock on a house while I was home. It wasn't much but I needed the money. Besides, I wanted to stay busy. I helped with some things around the house but kept thinking about Ian, wondering what he was doing.

Ian filled a place inside me that I didn't realize was empty. There were a few high school friends who were still around, but nobody I felt close to. I was in love with Ian and I'd never been in love before. I had his address and sent him a Christmas card, one that had a lot of fuzzy stuff on it where the snow was supposed to be. He could run his fingers over it and tell what it was. All it said inside was "Merry Christmas, Andrew". His mom could read that to him.

Right after New Year's Day, I drove back to Stillwater for the start of the second semester. I was a few days early but was hoping maybe Ian would be there. I went across the street to his room and knocked, but nobody was home, so I taped a dime to the doorknob. He'd know where that came from.

The day before classes were to start, I sat and stared out the window at his house for most of the morning. Mrs. McDonald wouldn't be open until the next day so I went out for a burger at noon. When I got back to the house, Ian was sitting my front steps in a big hooded parka and stood when he heard my car drive up.

I yelled at him before I even got out of the car. "Hey, Ian! How you doing?" He just stood there with a big grin on his face.

"I'm alright," he said. "Want to drive out to the lake so we can talk?"

As soon as I pulled away, he reached for my hand. "I really missed you, Andrew. Thanks for your card."

"I missed you too. How was your Christmas?"

"OK, I guess. How was yours?"

"I worked a little but didn't do much," I said. "Was it nice to spend time with your family?"

Ian gave a short little laugh. "It's nicer to be back here."

Something about the way he reacted didn't sound right. "What did you do over the holidays? You've never said much about your family."

"My family..." Ian exhaled and leaned his head back.

"What about your family?"

"It's not something that I talk about very much."

"You can talk to me – or not if you don't want to."

"I guess I need to talk to somebody. I just stuff these things."

"So talk. I'm listening." I pulled up next to the beach and shut off the engine. It wasn't surprising that the place was deserted on a Wednesday afternoon in January.

Ian turned towards me. "First, I need a hug.

"Sure, I always have a hug for you." I grabbed him and held him tight. It was not an intimate embrace due to the heavy coats we were wearing, but it was nice anyway.

Ian breathed into my neck. "Oh, Andrew. I've missed you something awful," he whispered.

I pushed him away just enough to kiss him. "Me too. I thought about you all the time."

We held each other for a long time before Ian sat back, still holding my hand.

"So tell me about your holiday," I said. "I guess it wasn't all that great."

Ian hesitated. "I suppose the simple version is that I'm an embarrassment to my family."

"Embarrassment? How's that?"

"How do I explain this? My father is a mechanic. He works hard, comes home dirty, showers and flops down on the sofa to watch TV. He's a big man and so are my brothers. They all love sports. That's all they talk about. That's how I know something about football. Dad and both my brothers played football in high school, but now they are doing odd jobs and working construction. Being a big jock in high school was the high point in their lives. I was this little skinny blind kid who bumped into things and looked stupid. As soon as I was old enough to be packed off to the blind school, they hustled me out."

" But look what you're accomplishing. Aren't they proud of you for going to college? "

"Not really. None of them ever went past high school. None of them are bad people, but to them it's like I'm showing off or something. And then there's their church."

"What about their church?"

"They all grew up in this fundamentalist church. That's where my folks met when they were in high school. I don't know that they're all that religious, but that's where they get a lot of their attitudes. It's all about sin. If something bad happens to you it's because God is punishing you for something – for example having a blind kid. I make them look bad."

"No. Surely, they don't believe that."

Ian sighed. "I don't know what they believe. To be honest. It's not particularly rational, I think it's just part of their culture. Anyway, when they found out the state would pay for me to go to the Blind School they were all too willing for me to see me go."

"Wasn't there anything pleasant about being home for Christmas? Didn't you have Christmas dinner or anything?"

Ian made a face. "Mom cooked a turkey and tried to have a nice dinner, but by the time it was ready they were all half drunk and took their plates to the TV."

"I thought they were religious."

"That never keeps them from drinking beer while they watch football. Can't watch the game without beer. They have a big time yelling at the screen. I just sit and keep my mouth shut."

"What about your mom?"

"I think my mother loves me, but she's outvoted. I can't expect her to stand up to the rest of the family. She sort of does what she's told." Ian said.

"Did you see them much while you were in school?"

"I would go home for the holidays, but they never came to see me. It was too far, they were too busy, whatever. My mother would come and get me and ask me how things were going. The rest of them pretended I didn't exist."

"Were they mean to you? Did they pick on you?"

"They just ignored me. It's like if I couldn't see, I couldn't hear either. It was like I wasn't there. They basically shunned me. That hurt a lot."Ian said quietly.

I tried to take this in. "That wouldn't encourage you to be very outgoing,".

"When I was home, I couldn't wait to go back to school. The school was good. They understood me and taught me a lot. I fit in there."

I thought about this for a minute. "I take it your family doesn't know you're gay."

Ian laughed sharply. "No! They'd kill me if they knew that."

"You don't mean that literally, do you?"

"I guess not, but it wouldn't be pretty. I could never tell them I was gay. To be honest, I'm still figuring that out myself. Maybe they won't ever have to know."

"That's why you didn't want me to phone you." I guessed.

"It wasn't because I didn't want to talk to you." Ian squeezed my hand.

"I didn't realize you've had such a rough time. I assumed your family was supportive of you."

Ian sighed. "Home wasn't so good, but school was better. College is great, so far."

"But you're on your own now. Actually, you've been on your own for a long time. You'll make a much better life for yourself in the future. You don't need them any more."

Ian smiled. "I hope so. If I can manage to be self supporting then I can leave that all behind. That's the plan, anyway."

"Don't leave everything behind. I like to think that we can end up together."

"It's hard to predict my future, but I sure hope you'll be part of it. The Christmas holiday was hard enough."

I took Ian's hand in both of mine. "You need to understand something, Ian. I've known I'm gay for a long time, but I wasn't just trying to get in your pants."

"You weren't hot for me?" Ian smiled.

"Well, I do think you're hot, but that's not why I wanted us to be friends."

"We were friends first. That's a nice way to start out." Ian leaned against me. "You know when we were camping and I asked you to hold me. Did you think I was seducing you?"

"I didn't know what to think. It turned me on, but we didn't do anything that first night. I held you and we just went to sleep, remember?"

"I remember. I was too scared to do anything. If you'd tried to do something I think I would have panicked. But then I got to thinking about it."

"What did you think?"

Ian snuggled up and put his hand on my leg. "I decided I liked it. You didn't try to do anything more than hug me, and I started to trust you. I have issues, you know?"

"I could tell. I didn't know why, until you told me about the guy who messed with you in school, and now about your family. I didn't want to hurt you, Ian. I figured if you wanted to do more than hug you'd let me know."

Ian chuckled. "I guess I wanted to do more. You were really nice about that."

"I'm not a bad guy," I reminded him. "Tell me this. When did you first figure out you were gay?"

Ian hesitated. "I don't know that I really thought about it. I know that when I was wrestling in high school, I liked to rub up against the other guy; liked to put my hands on him. It made me stiff sometimes, but that happens to a lot of guys."

What about girls?"

"I never wrestled with any girls," he laughed. "There were a couple of girls that were friendly with me but we never did anything. You never knew who was watching you, you know?"

"Did you want to?"

"Not really. I sort of took care of myself when I needed to. I've never done anything with anybody except you," Ian admitted. "Maybe I never trusted anybody else."

"Does that make me special?" I asked softly.

"Ian sighed. "Very special. It's right with you, Andrew. That's all I can tell you. It just feels right and I'm not afraid."

The right thing to do at that point was to kiss again. It was awkward to do much more in the front seat of the car with winter coats on, but we managed.

It was dark when we drove back to town and stopped for a pizza. Classes would start the next day and there were a lot of people around. It was the beginning of a new semester and Ian and I were together again. We were making plans for the future.

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