Love is Blind

by Nick Brady

Chapter 9

"We don't have to do the same job to work for the same company," I pointed out. "We need to think about how we're going to do this. I can't bear the thought of being separated."

"There will be a way," Ian smiled. "There has to be. We'll find a nice place and settle down, maybe buy a house and get a dog. We'll find a way."

Ian decided to take a break from summer classes and work full time during the summer. I worked at the lab and between us, we got by. Rather than thinking about what was mine and what was his, we were thinking in terms of what was ours. We had become a team, or more accurately, a couple.

Ian was very bright and resourceful. But as independent and self-sufficient as Ian was, there were some things that were difficult for him. I made some of those things easier. He felt safe with me and knew he could count on me which was important to Ian. He told himself that to survive he had to become a person who didn't need anybody, but of course, he did need someone. He needed me.

Even before I realized I was gay, I knew I was different from my friends. I consciously emulated the mannerisms of guys I admired and worked hard to be more masculine. I wanted to be a strong confident person who fit in with the guys I admired. This is who Ian saw. What he didn't see was how desperately I wanted someone to accept me, respect me and depend on me. I needed to be needed.

I think that equality in marriage is largely a myth. What makes a partnership work is for the two parties to compliment each other. What one needs, the other provides. Ian and I complimented each other.

I took a few post-graduate courses while Ian caught up to me so that we could graduate together. My mother came for the ceremony and so did his. We brought them to our little apartment afterwards and ordered pizza. We were asked for no explanation of our relationship and none was offered, although our mothers went for a long walk together and I think most questions were answered. Ian's mother told him she was very proud of him and we left it at that. It was a good thing.

We were aware that there were places where it was acceptable for two men to live together as domestic partners, but Oklahoma in the 1960s was not one of those places. We weren't ashamed of who we were but wanted to avoid controversy. This was a time of transition. College, our jobs, and the apartment were all temporary. The only thing that looked out into the future was the commitment we had made to each other. It appeared that our future plans would require a relocation.

After graduation, we spent a month doing job research and interviewed with a number of companies before settling on Boeing in Seattle. I was offered a job in the Engineering department at the Everett plant and Ian was accepted as a telephone sales agent. We applied and were accepted individually. If it mattered to Boeing that we'd be sharing the same address, nothing was said about it.

We loved Seattle. The city was vibrant, the area was beautiful, and the Pacific Ocean and Vancouver were not far away. For two people who had never been out of Oklahoma, this was an exotic and exciting place to live. The cost of housing was very high but our starting salaries were adequate and we found a little efficiency apartment in Everett. We drove out in my old Chevrolet and moved in with high hopes.

Life was good for us in there. Boeing was growing and we grew with them. After a few years, we found ourselves financially more comfortable and were very happy together. We looked at our combined resources and decided to find a better apartment or maybe a condo. What we really wanted was a little house with a yard, but didn't have much hope of finding something we could afford. We looked at dozens of places and talked to a lot of Real Estate agents before we got a call one Saturday from a fellow who seemed to have taken an interest in us.

"Hi, this is John Berman," he said. "You may remember that we talked about getting a house that would work for you?"

I put the phone on speaker so Ian and I could both listening. "Yes, I remember you," I said. Have you found something for us?"

"I think I have. It's small, but in excellent condition and close to the transit system. I think you'll like it."

I hesitated. "But can we afford it? Everything we've looked at is way out of our reach."

"I think you'll be surprised," he sounded excited. "I think you need to see it quickly. It won't last very long."

I looked over at Ian who was nodding head in his agreement. "We can meet you there if you give me the address." I wrote it down and we went to the car.

"If we can afford it, it must be a dump," Ian grumbled.

"You never know. We've looked at lots of places, we can look at one more."

"It'd be nice to have a dog," Ian said. "It would be so great to have a little yard where we could have a dog.."

"That would be cool," I agreed. "We had a dog when I was little, but she went to dog heaven about the time we moved and we never got another one."

I checked the address again and we stopped in front of a little bungalow. "This must be it. There's Mr. Berman."

"What does it look like?"

"It's not bad," I grinned. "Actually, it's cute. It's a little frame house with a gabled roof and a bay window in front. It's got gray siding with a red front door and white trim. There's an attached one car garage and lots of shrubbery. There's a decent tree in the front yard and it looks like maybe it's got a new roof."

"I'm afraid to get my hopes up," Ian sighed, then added hopefully, "Maybe it has a back yard."

Mr. Berman approached us with a smile and shook hands with us both. "Please call me John," he said. "I think you're going to like this one. Let me show it to you." He fished a key from his pocket, opened the front door and ushered us inside.

Ian took my arm and followed me through the front door into a small living room that was furnished with a sofa and upholstered chairs although the walls were bare. John started his pitch. "It's a two bedroom Donovan house. These were built back in the 1920's and they rarely come on the market. This one has been nicely renovated with hardwood floors and a remodeled bathroom and kitchen. The roof is about 5 years old and everything works."

I led Ian into the kitchen where he let go of my arm and began a tactile inspection of the stove and refrigerator, and the location of the sink and cabinets. "It smells new. How long ago since it was remodeled?" he asked.

"About five years ago at the same time the roof was replaced. I guess there's a story here. It was remodeled by an older couple when they retired. His wife died about two months ago and he didn't want to stay. I was able to pick it up for a good price."

"Let's see the rest of it," I said. It didn't take long. There were two modest bedrooms with a nice bath between them. I noticed that one contained a bed and chest of drawers with a cushioned side chair. I mentioned that to Ian.

"Now these bedrooms are kind of small, but you can each have your own room," John said. I laughed and he looked down at the floor. "Or a master and a guest room, if you like."

The back door opened to a deck with railings and I could see more shrubbery beyond that.

I described it to Ian as we walked through. "It's nice. Everything is painted white so anything will fit in here. There is some decent furniture in the living room and one bedroom. What's up with that?"

John smiled. "It's yours if you want it. The previous owner moved into an assisted living center and this is what he left behind. Of course if you have something else, I can get it out of here."

I could see that Ian was getting interested. "Could we see the back yard? Is it fenced?" he asked.

"Yes, of course. There are some steps that go out to the yard from the deck. Just follow me," John said. He led me out the back door and Ian followed.

"Hey, this is nice, Ian. It's fenced with some of that wooden privacy fence and there are all kinds of plants and flowers around the sides. You could keep a dog out here." That made Ian smile.

We looked around a little more then went into the living room to talk. "The question is," I said solemnly, "How much is this place. It's nice, but we have a limited budget."

"Well now, let's talk about that. Have you gentlemen figured out what you can afford?"

"We've looked at a lot of houses and we can't afford any of them. We sat down and figured out how much we can afford, but we're afraid to get our hopes up," I told him honestly.

Mr. Berman smiled at us both. "Do you like the house?"

I looked at Ian and he smiled and nodded. "It's very nice," he said quietly.

"Actually, it would be perfect for us. We don't need a big place and this is close to the transportation system and everything. We could save on gas and wear and tear on my old car. Give us the bad news," I sighed. "How much is it?"

Mr. Berman wrote a number on the back of one of his business cards and handed it to me. "I think I could get more for this place but you guys look like you could use a break. Would that work for you?"

I looked at the card and took a breath. I read the number to Ian and asked him, "What do you think?"

Ian hesitated a minute then said, "That would buy a mansion in Oklahoma, but it's a lot less than anything else we've looked at. I think we should talk about it."

"I'll be honest with you," John said. "A place like this doesn't come around very often in this area. I know it sounds like a lot to you, but if you don't want it, I imagine it'll be gone tomorrow. I know that sounds like a hustle, but it's really not."

Ian reached over and took my hand. "Could you give us a few minutes?" he asked.

John went out to his car and smoked a cigarette while we talked. "I think we might be able to afford this place," I told Ian. "What do you think?"

"I like it. It's the first thing we've seen that we can afford and it sounds perfect. This is kind of quick, but I vote yes."

"That makes two yes votes. I have a good feeling about this place. Let's do it."

We called John inside and told him that we wanted the house. He pulled out some paperwork for us to sign and recommended a couple of lending agencies. "I'll need some earnest money from you today then I can hold this for a little while," he said. "As soon as you get your loan approved we can talk about when you want to move in. I'm glad we could do business. I think you'll be happy here."

We shook hands with John and drove back to our apartment. Over the next several weeks we applied for and were approved for a loan. The closing took place quickly and we were able to take possession a month to the day from when we first looked at the house – our new house.

We took a few days off from work and packed everything into my old Chevy. The house payment was only a little more than we were paying for our dinky apartment. The furniture that was left behind in the house was adequate but we needed a kitchen table and some other furniture. We had enough in our joint checking account so we found a discount furniture store and bought what we needed. The store moved it in for us the next day and we got everything arranged, then sat down on the sofa.

"We're here," I said with a laugh. "We're home owners!"

"John said he thought we'd be happy here. I bet he's right," Ian smiled. "Now maybe we can talk about getting a dog."

I laughed out loud. "I guess that's next. What do you have in mind?"

"It's not just me. We have to agree on it. Do you want a dog?"

"I had a nice dog when I was younger. I used to tell her everything. She wasn't much of a talker, but she was a great listener. Sure, I'd like to get a dog."

"I don't want to buy something expensive. How about a rescue dog. One that needs a good home?"

"I think that's a great idea. Where do we go to find one?"

"Probably there's something in the newspaper. We could get a paper and you could look through it."

"What kind of a dog do you want?"

"What kind of a dog did you have?"

"She was a black lab. Her name was Pepper, Black Pepper. You want a big dog?"

"Yeah. I might step on a little one. They can be yappy, too."

"How do you know so much about dogs?"

"There were dogs at the blind school. It was my job to feed them." Ian looked a little wistful.

"Dogs are great," I agreed. "They'll love you when nobody else will."

"Yeah. Dogs are great."

"I'll get us a paper. I'm too tired to cook. You want to go out? We can pick up some groceries on the way back."

Ian stood up and smiled. "Sure. I'm hungry."

I bought a newspaper at the grocery market, and looked at it while Ian put things where he could find them. "There's the SPCA," I said, "and the local animal shelter. There are some photos in the classified section but those are all pedigreed dogs and expensive."

"How about the shelter?"

"It's open at eight in the morning. You want to check there?"

"Yes. Let's do that. I mean, if you're not ready yet, it's OK."

"First thing in the morning then?"

"Yeah. That would be great. Thanks."

We drove out to the animal shelter first thing in the morning. It was a low brick building with chain link dog runs behind it. We walked into the office area to find an older lady at the desk. I pulled on Ian's arm, "Watch out for the puppies. They're wandering around on the floor."

"Sorry about the puppies," the lady said. "Somebody just dropped them off. Can I help you?"

"We wanted to look at some dogs," Ian said.

"Well, we've got plenty of them. Go through that door. Big dogs on the left and little ones on the right. Cats are in the back if you're interested."

We thanked her and went through the door to be greeted by a cacophony of barks and yelps. We turned to the left. Ian held my arm as we walked slowly down a row of wire cages. In each cage was a dog. Some barked with excitement, some growled, a few sat impassively and looked at us as we went by. "What are they?" Ian asked with a note of excitement. "Do you see one you like?"

"Give me a minute. There are a lot of dogs in here." I stopped in front of a cage where a young black dog sat looking at me. When I stopped she stood up and wagged her tail.

"What is it? You found one, didn't you."

"Well, she isn't acting crazy and she's not growling at us." I stuck my fingers through the wire and she looked up at me and licked them. "This one might be a possibility, but we should probably look at the rest of them."

I started to walk on when the black dog whined at me and scratched at the cage with her paw. Ian stopped. "Is this the one you were looking at? What is it?" He held out his hand and the dog licked it through the wire. "Tell me about this dog," Ian insisted.

"It's a female black lab – probably a mix, not a purebred, her hair is too short. I'd guess about six months or so. Not a puppy, but not full grown either."

Ian squatted down next to the cage and spoke softly to the dog. "Are you the one?" He put his face up close to the cage. "What's your name, girl" Do you want to come home with us?" She sniffed him through the cage and wagged her tail vigorously.

"She likes me," Ian said. "She says her name is Pepper."

"Oh, come on!" I laughed. "Did you pick her or did she pick you?"

"We could look at her. Do you like her?"

"She looks nice. Let's go tell the lady and she'll get her out for us."

I looked at the number on the cage and told the lady at the desk that we might be interested. She called to a girl who told us to take a seat and brought the dog out to us for our inspection. The dog came trotting in on a nylon leash from inside the kennel, walked up to Ian and sat down to lick his hand. Ian was a goner.

"I think this is the one. Do you like her?"

"I like her just fine. She certainly seems to like you. Have we made up our minds?"

Ian bent over and hugged the dog, rubbing her ears and stroking her shiny fur. "I really like this girl. How are you, Pepper?"

"Where did she come from?" I asked the lady.

"I don't know, honey. She was just running the streets and got picked up. We get a lot of strays."

"We'll take her," I told the girl.

I paid the lady the fee and was handed a receipt and a certificate to have her neutered by a local veterinarian. The girl handed me the leash and that was that. Ian held my arm with one hand and took the leash in the other. The dog walked alongside us to the car. She had decided to adopt us and was behaving herself.

We stopped at the market on the way home to buy a bag of dog chow and some bowls for food and water. Ian sat in the car with Pepper while I went into buy provisions for the new member of our family. When I got back to the car, Ian was sitting next to the door and his new buddy was leaned up against him. They looked very cozy.

As soon as we got to the house, Pepper was led through to the back yard to take care of her business. She squatted, peed, then ran to the back door to be let back in. Ian put a cup of dry chow in one bowl and water in the other. She knew what to do with that.

"I'll feed her," Ian volunteered. "I'll give her a cup of dog food every morning and another at night. Maybe a little more while she's still growing. I can do this."

"She's all yours," I laughed.

"No. She's ours, but I don't mind feeding her."

"That's fine, but I'm telling you right now that she's not sleeping in our bed."

"No, of course not. But it would be nice if she could sleep in the house. She might be afraid out in the back yard all by herself."

"Who cleans up after her if she poops on the floor?"

"I will, but you won't do that, will you Pepper? If you need to go out, you tell me, OK?"

I shook my head and laughed. It was nice to see Ian so excited about something. It was nice to see him so happy.

Pepper was a fast learner. She knew where Ian was and she knew where the back door was. When she needed to go out she went to the door and barked. Ian let her out and waited until she came back then let her inside. She was here to stay. She was a sweet girl and I became almost as attached to her as Ian was. She liked me and I liked her, but she was really Ian's dog. We bought her a doggie bed and Ian placed it in our bedroom. She was very content there. We'd become a little family.

Ian was concerned about leaving her alone when we went to work. We bought her some squeaky toys and things to chew on and put them on the deck behind the house. She did fine except for digging up some of the shrubbery. As soon as we came home she was back in the house looking for a treat.

We took her to the Vet and who made sure she had all her shots and spayed her. Ian was concerned that she was dopey when we picked her up but after a few days she seemed to be her usual self.

When she got a little older, Ian wanted to take her to obedience school. "We need to take her for walks and it will be nicer if she knows how to heel and stay and things like that. I think we could do it together."

"You thinking about making her a seeing eye dog?" I asked.

"I was just thinking about making it easier for us to walk her and things. It takes a lot of training for a guide dog."

"That's fine. My old dog was fairly well behaved but we never took her to school. It might be fun."

"Is there something about dog schools in the paper?" Ian was ready.

I located the Companion Dog School and contacted them There was a 6-week class starting in about a month. We were told that we'd need a certificate verifying that she had been neutered and up to date on vaccinations. We were prepared.

The school was held in the large central room of an old armory. There were about a dozen people with an assortment of dogs in attendance. We were told that the school would not train our dogs, they would teach us how to train them. We all had to have proper leashes and were told to bring our dogs to the center of the room and form up in a circle. Ian took the leash in his left hand and my arm in his right and we both took Pepper out on the floor.

The immediate distraction was that the dogs all wanted to sniff at each other and there were a few growls and barks. Pepper looked excited but stayed at Ian's side. We were given some initial instruction and then told to walk our dogs around the circle. Pepper wanted to walk ahead of us but Ian tugged back on the leash and said "heel!" each time. By the third revolution Pepper was walking at Ian's side. I looked at the instructor at the center of the circle who smiled and gave us a thumbs-up.

"You're doing good, Pepper. Good girl," Ian said encouragingly.

We attempted a "sit" near the end of the class and then were dismissed with instructions to rehearse the drill at home as often as we were able. As the weeks went by we learned to "sit", "stay", "come" and lie "down". All the basics.

The final test was to have the dogs lie down and stay there as we backed away at least 20 feet. Pepper whined and wanted to come to us but after Ian told her "stay" in a firm voice, she complied. She did great.

Every evening and sometimes in the morning before work we practiced our new skills. Weekends we had several sessions each day. Just to be sure she would walk with either of us, I took her alone sometimes.

After several weeks of this, Ian had a suggestion. "I'm not sure you need to walk with us. I think I could use my cane in my right hand and walk her with my left. I'm familiar with the neighborhood now and I'd like to try that."

Soon Ian and Pepper were walking alone up the street, around the block and doing fine. When Ian stopped, he said "sit" and Pepper sat by his side. When he said "heel" and started walking she walked beside him. By the last week, he didn't need the voice commands. Pepper knew the drill. It was a game for her and time spent with her beloved Ian. I sat on the front steps and watched as they made their rounds. I noticed a few of our neighbors smiling as they went by. Ian was right. This was a great idea.

When Pepper graduated, we got a little certificate with a note saying how much they enjoyed having us. On the way back, Pepper jumped into the rear seat and we drove through a fast food place and got three hamburgers. When we got home, Ian fed one to Pepper. He made her "sit" and "stay" until he laid it on a plate in front of her and said "OK". She trembled a little in anticipation but minded her manners. She was a good dog.

That night after we went to bed and Pepper was comfortable on the floor, I told Ian, "I never thought a female would come between us. I think you like her better than me."

"Oh, no. I like you best. You're my favorite person, but Pepper is my favorite dog. I love you both. Then he snuggled close and ran his hand down to my crotch. "Besides, you have some things that Pepper doesn't."


The End

Author's Note:

This concludes "Love is Blind". The response to this story has been exceptional due in no small part to my editors W_L and Mikiesboy, and beta readers Columbusguy and Geron Kees. When I was in college in the early 1960s I ate at the same boarding house with a blind friend who was the inspiration for Ian. I learned a few things about how he managed to function in a sighted world, but not nearly enough to address the subject with credibility and sensitivity. I reached out for help and four kind gentlemen responded, two of whom are blind. Their support and assistance has been invaluable and I wish to express my sincere gratitude. You made this story much better than if I had tried to write it on my own. Thanks guys. I appreciate you.

Nick Brady

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