Love is Blind

by Nick Brady

Chapter 5

Ian leaned over and put his head in my lap as I rubbed his shoulders. When he ran his fingers over my fly, I stopped him. "I bet you're tired. Would you like to be held?"

"I think that sounds nice."

Why don't we move to the bedroom and get a little more comfortable?"

Ian pulled up the front of my shirt and kissed me on the belly. "That sounds like a great idea." He stood and unbuttoned his shirt as he walked toward the bedroom. I followed. It was a good idea.

We had about two days to enjoy our new apartment before our lives got busy. I started my new job and Ian started his summer classes. I was working 9 to 5 and Ian was left to negotiate the campus on his own. I worried about him a little but knew he would manage just fine. He was a very resourceful guy.

Ian had classes at different times during the day and got back to the apartment before I did. He spent part of that time putting the place in order. It was helpful to Ian for things to be tidy. A place for everything and everything in its place. He wanted to know where things were so he could move about freely without bumping into something out of place. He was neat and I tended to be much more casual about where I tossed things.

We quickly agreed that the little desk under the bedroom window was mine and the kitchen table was his. As a result, the desk was cluttered with my stuff and the kitchen table had a stack of books and another of papers in two neat piles.

"You should use the desk," I told Ian. "You're the student this summer and need it more than I do."

"But we have to eat off the table," Ian reminded me. "This works better."

It did work better, with the result that our little apartment was unusually clean and orderly considering that it was occupied by a pair of college guys. On the other hand, the kitchen was my territory.

Ian had never learned to do much more than pull a soda out of the refrigerator and was happy to leave food preparation to me. I liked to cook, and with a little practice was getting better at it. We ate breakfast together every morning and had time to talk. Usually, it was some combination of eggs, toast and maybe bacon or sausage washed down with milk or orange juice. On the weekends I often fixed us pancakes and there was always coffee. I packed us both a lunch of sandwiches and fruit.

When I got home from work I started supper. Ian would help by sitting at the kitchen table and talking with me while I put something together. It was never fancy and our food budget was limited but I got good at the basics. Neither of us was interested in things that were rich and fattening so the menu tended to some combination of salad, vegetables, and meat - usually chicken because it was cheap. It was generally edible, and Ian never complained. When the meal was finished, Ian cleaned and put the kitchen back in order. It worked.

On Saturday we normally went to the Safeway near downtown and did most of our shopping. We looked for specials and tried to get just enough to make it through the week. If I needed something during the week there was a little market only a block away. On one of my excursions there, I made an interesting discovery as I looked over the meat case.

"What's this?" I asked the owner.

"What's what?" he stepped behind the case and wiped his hands on his white apron.

"There are two trays of ground meat. One looks like regular hamburger and the other is lean and a dark red."

"That's horse meat."

"What do you do with that? Is it good to eat?"

"Yeah, it's OK. Some people use it for dog food but there's nothing wrong with it."

Each tray held a little price sticker perched on a wire holder. The horse meat was a lot cheaper than the hamburger. I was inspired.

"Could you mix a half pound of each?"

"I can put it together and run it back through the grinder," he chuckled.

I walked out with a pound of lean dark 'hamburger' which I mixed with a little minced onion and made into 'hamburger' steaks with a side of green beans and a salad.

Ian took a bite and smiled. "This is good! I like the hamburger steak."

"It's pretty lean. Does it taste OK?"

"It's delicious. You're getting to be a pretty good cook," Ian declared as he tucked it all away. I didn't explain, but served it to him again several days later.

"This is good," Ian said. "But it's kind of different. What did you put in it?"

I hesitated, then confessed. "Actually, it's half beef and half horse meat. I hope that doesn't turn you off."

"Horse meat? Well, that's different. It's tasty, but why horse meat?"

"Because it's half the cost of regular hamburger. There's nothing wrong with it except for the idea. I hope you don't mind."

Ian smiled. " I guess it's OK if it tastes good and saves us money. The real problem is that I like to know what I'm eating. Since I can't see it. I need you to tell me what it is. Does that sound weird?"

"No, not at all," I admitted. "I didn't think of that. I guess I should have told you what it was upfront, right?"

"That would be better, but now that I know what it is, it's fine." We had it once a week.

We adjusted well to living together and became very comfortable with each other. We even splurged and had a telephone installed in the kitchen. We were in contact with the outside world. Ian began to write to his mother again. He would type a letter and envelope and mail it. He wrote the return address without his name so as not to attract his father's notice. Apparently, the mail wasn't being filtered because she wrote him back, sometimes enclosing a small amount of money. He had me read the letters to him. His mother was apologetic for the problems at home and assured him that she loved him. That helped.

As the weather warmed up we resumed our treks out to the lake to hike through the woods and swim. We did pitch the tent one weekend, but the availability of our bedroom removed much of the incentive for camping.

Our arrangement was working well, almost too well in one regard. We both began to notice that our jeans were getting smaller. "I'm getting fat," Ian said. "I think you're feeding me too well."

I tugged at the waist of my pants and agreed. "Me too. I think I need to get more exercise. I just sit at work all day with a soldering iron in my hand and don't move around."

"When I was in high school, I wrestled or swam in the pool. I don't get any exercise now."

"We need to do something. Maybe we could start running. Would that work?"

Ian chuckled. "It's hard to run with a cane."

"Couldn't you hold on to my arm like you do when we walk?"

"I might, but you'd have to warn me if I'm about to run into something."

"I could do that. Want to try it? The weather's nice today."

Ian hesitated. "Where would we go? Dashing across the streets would be a challenge."

"There's a track around the practice field. That should be easy and it's not far."

"It might be fun. Let me get on some shorts and we can try it."

Twenty minutes later we stepped onto the cinder track that ran around a large grassy field that was used for soccer games and kite flying among other things. There were several students who were trotting around either singly or in pairs. We were right at home.

"Let's start out walking then try to set a pace," I suggested.

Ian held onto the crook of my arm. "I've never really run before. I mean, I know how, but have never done much of it."

"Don't be nervous. There's nothing in the way and if there is, I'll tell you. Are you ready? Let's go."

I started off at a slow jog and Ian fell in beside me. It felt awkward until I got in step with him. My legs were longer and I normally would take longer strides, but when we got in step things got smoother.

"How does that feel?" I asked.

"Not bad. It feels nice to be doing something. It helps when we're in step."

"Is this too fast, too slow?"

"I could go a little faster."

"You set the pace. We can pick it up when we get used to running," I laughed. "This is fun. It feels good."

Ian sped up a little and I matched his pace. It was a quarter of a mile around the track and we had done

2 laps when Ian tugged back on my arm. "I'm getting winded. Let's slow to a walk, OK?"

"We can't start out running marathons. We'll have to ease into this. How do you feel?"

Good! I feel good. Exhilarated, actually. It feels wonderful to be able to run like that without a cane or worrying about running into something. It feels great!"

"Hey, it's nice for me too. I need the exercise and I love anything we do together."

Ian laughed in a carefree way. "We can do a lot together, can't we? Camping, swimming, now running. There's a wonderful freedom in this."

"We might make a pretty good team," I chuckled. "Let's walk another lap then head back. I bet we're sore tomorrow." We were, but another run would loosen us up. We began to run as often as time allowed.

When we were back at the apartment we felt the need for a shower. I shooed Ian in first while I fixed some sandwiches. One of the interesting things about living with a blind guy was that he didn't worry about whether I could see him or not. As a result, he normally stripped in the bedroom and walked into the bathroom nude, then dressed after he came out. The living room, pass-through kitchen and bedroom were all lined up on the east side of the building so I could sit from the proper vantage point in the living room and take advantage of some discrete voyeurism. Not that I didn't get a full view of him at other times, but it was a nice show. Ian looked good.

The corollary of this was that Ian was immune to my state of undress. As a result, we became pretty casual about clothing. The apartment was heated but not air-conditioned. On hot days we liked to open the windows and let the fresh air in and Ian's pipe smoke out. On such days we often enjoyed the breezes sans clothing. It was very freeing, as Ian would say.

I noticed that Ian had about three changes of clothing that he rotated, and they were baggy and a little shabby. I knew Ian wasn't much aware of what he wore but didn't want to make him uncomfortable by pointing out he needed new clothes.

"I need to go shopping for some new running shorts," I announced. "Want to go with me?"

"Sure. Let me get dressed." He put on number 2 in his rotation.

There were some trendy men's shops near the campus that catered to the fraternity crowd. There was also a discount store on the other side of town that was cheaper. We drove there.

We made our way to the men's clothing section where I picked up some running shorts. I asked Ian as tactfully as I could, "What do you think about getting a few things?"

"I have all I need."

"Maybe you could use more than three changes of clothes. We need to have you looking stylish, my man."

Ian was not slow. "I guess I could dress better. I don't think about that."

"Clothes make the man, they say. How are you fixed for funds?

Ian hesitated. "I have a little money. You know, from my mother. I need to get a job, I guess."

"How about some new pants and shirts, and maybe some new running shorts? Stuff is cheap here and I could loan you a little if you need extra."

Ian's need to be independent struggled with what he knew was probably a good idea. "I would need to pay you back."

"Sure. Your credit is good. Let's look for some things."

I found some pants and shirts that looked good together but was unsure of the size. "What size are you?"

"I don't know," Ian admitted.

"This place is sort of self-serve. Let's try on some things, OK?"

I held a pair of pants up to him, guesstimated a couple of sizes, then herded him to a little dressing room and handed him the most likely candidate. "Try these on."

Ian dutifully stripped to his underwear and pulled on the pants. These are a little tight."

I ran my fingers under the waistband and casually groped his crotch. "Do you have enough room?"

"They'll get tighter if you don't quit that," he laughed. "Let's try a larger size."

The second pair fit better. The shirts were fine. We went back out to find three matching pants and shirts. a pair of running shorts and a cool T-shirt then added a package of briefs. "You ready?" I asked.

"How much is all this stuff? I'm not sure I have enough. Here," he said and handed me his wallet. "That's all I have. You pay and tell me what you owe me."

We bundled up his new duds then went to the checkout counter. "You owe me about ten dollars," I told him as we walked to the car. "I'll put it on your tab." We had to trust each other.

The next morning while I was getting ready for work, Ian tried on one of his new outfits. "how do I look?" he asked with arms outstretched.

I looked him over. The new clothes fit him very nicely, loose enough to be comfortable, close enough to show off his fine body. "You look like a million bucks," I told him. "I'm not sure it's safe to send you out in those. Somebody might steal you."

Ian laughed, obviously pleased. "Do I look OK?"

"You look terrific," I said as I hugged him. "You're the best looking guy on the campus."

He passed his hands down over his waist and hips. "They do fit better. Thanks. This feels nice, both the clothes and the idea that I look better."

"Not better, great. You're a very handsome guy, Ian. You don't ever have to worry about that. Some decent clothes just make that more obvious." I slapped him on the butt. "Now let me go or I'll be late for work."

Several days later Ian made an announcement. "I have a job," he told me with a grin.

"Good man! What do you have?"

"Well, I talked to Stuart on the phone and he gave me some ideas."

"Did you call him at the tavern?"

"No, at his apartment. He's not there all the time."

"So what did he say?" I chuckled.

"When we go to the Safeway I always help you sack stuff up. It's easy to tell what things are and pack them in the bag. Stuart suggested that I check to see if they need a sacker."

"Did you talk to them?"

"I did, and it turns out they need a 'bag boy'."

"You got the job?"

"I got the job. I sacked up the groceries for some customers while I was there and it went fine. The customers seemed to get a kick out of it and I got hired on the spot. I start tomorrow."

"Super! Can you fit that around your class schedule?"

"Their busy times are before noon and around 3 o'clock when I have a break in my classes. It's kind of a split schedule but I'll get 4 hours a day. And it pays better than minimum wage." Ian was practically vibrating with excitement. "It's my first real job, Andrew. I can't wait to start!"

I grabbed him up and we did a little jig around the apartment. "You're in the money, my man. I'm so proud of you. You can do anything."

We stopped dancing and he held me tight. "I love you, Andrew," he said softly.

"I know. I love you too." Things were moving along. He got in 4 hours a day and 6 on Saturday. They loved him. The money was helpful too.

We had a nice time that first summer together. I always knew that Ian had come back before me when I opened the apartment door and was greeted by the aroma of Ian's pipe tobacco. I didn't mind at all that he had taken up smoking but was not tempted to join him. His classes and work schedule cut into our time, but we still had our Sundays together. We were busy and happy.

Later in the summer, I had a life changing talk with a guy in one of my math classes. We were discussing our common love for beer and he told me that he made his own. He explained that it was not all that complicated and gave me a recipe for home brew.

When I shared the idea with Ian he was enthusiastic. "Think of the money we'd save, and we could invite Stuart over for drinks. Let's try it."

We went to the market and picked up the necessary supplies: 5 pounds of sugar, a can of hop flavored malt syrup, a package of brewer's yeast and a large plastic trash can with a lid. We were all set.

"Whoever heard of Hop flavored malt syrup?" Ian asked.

"Obviously, there's a market for it," I grinned.

On Sunday we set it up. We filled the trash can with warm water, stirred in the sugar, yeast, and syrup, covered it with a towel and laid the lid loosely over the can. Now we waited. In the meantime, we solicited empty quart beer bottles from everyone we knew - the kind with screw top lids. We soon had several dozen. A daily inspection showed our concoction to be bubbling nicely. It was alive!

According to the instructions, after about a week the bubbling would subside and it was ready to bottle. We cleaned out the quart bottles and Ian held the funnel while I carefully dipped out the contents of our brewing vessel to fill each bottle and screw on the caps. The odor was pungent.

"Can we really drink this stuff?" Ian asked.

"We can try. It looks pretty potent."

"What's the alcohol content?"

"I don't know, but I imagine it's stronger than what they sell in the grocery store."

We carefully stacked 38 quart bottles under the kitchen sink and waited. The idea was that the small amount of sugar that remained in the brew would be enough to complete the fermentation in each bottle and give it the carbonation needed to make it fizz.

On Friday afternoon I returned home before Ian and opened the apartment door to the overpowering smell of beer. I looked in the kitchen to see that the floor was covered in dark liquid, the doors under the sink were standing open and there were shards of glass embedded in the opposite wall. We had a problem.

I cautiously looked under the sink and saw that only 7 quarts of our project were remaining Those in the center section had exploded causing a chain reaction that took out most of the others. I closed the cabinet doors, took a broom and dustpan and began scooping up the sad remains of our experiment, dumping the glass and soupy liquid into the empty can. After a time I heard Ian enter the apartment.

"Don't come in here!" I called to him.

One smell and Ian had some idea of what had happened. "Can I help?"

"Stay out of here. There's glass all over."

"Did you drop one?"

"No. The damn things exploded."

"Were you here?"

"If I was, you would've found a bleeding corpse on the floor."

"What happened?"

I told Ian what happened while I cleaned the floor. I carefully put the remaining bottles on the counter and tried to scoop out the mess under the sink, then mopped up the kitchen floor. I didn't want Ian to try and pick up broken glass and had him wait in the living room while I plucked pieces of glass out of the wall.

"Was there anything left?" he asked.

"There were 7 quarts that didn't go off. I put them on the left side of the counter next to the refrigerator and covered them with a towel in case they explode. Don't touch them, OK?"

"OK," he replied. When I had most of the debris cleaned up I joined him on the sofa. "Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time," he smiled.

"I guess I did something wrong," I sighed. "I'm the engineer. I should have researched this better."

"Did you get everything cleaned up?"

"I did the best I could. That stuff ran everywhere. I imagine there is still some under the cabinet but I can't get back there."

Ian was sympathetic as I stuffed a towel next to the base of the cabinet and fixed something for supper. We opened up all the windows and resigned ourselves to smelling stale beer for a while. I showered then went to bed, not bothering to dress.

The next morning I was awakened by a loud knock on the door. I jerked on some shorts and opened the door to see our landlord standing outside with a large plumber's wrench on his shoulder.

"I'm here to fix the leak," he said. "Margaret called and said that the little girls were slipping on the water leaking down from your apartment."

When I let him inside. he stood and inhaled. "Bottled it a little green, eh?" He was smiling as he walked in and looked around the kitchen area.

Someone had given us a fifth of Seagram's 7 which was standing unopened on the kitchen table. The landlord looked at it and smiled again. "Could I fix you something?" I asked quickly. When he didn't reply, I tossed some ice in a glass and poured it half full of whiskey.

He sat down at our little table, took a long sip and laughed. "You have to be careful with that stuff."

Our landlord drank most of the Seagrams and left in a cheerful mood. That was the last that was said about it. When the remaining bottles remained intact, we put them in the refrigerator to sample later. It was our last attempt at home brewing.

All's well that ends well.

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