Chapter One: Counting

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It’s the routine of it all. To the left of the bed a nightstand, a glass of water a palm length away from the light switch. Slippers on the floor, just to the right of the stand. Walk 8 steps and there was a wing-backed chair with her robe over the back. Turn right, walk 5 steps pass the bed and into the bathroom. immediately on the right was a sink with a mirror (which did her very little good), then 3 steps and a toilet, 3 more steps to a walk in shower. Towels are to the right of the shower, when exiting or of course to the left when facing.

Walking out from the bathroom keep walking straight, side step the chair, and it is twenty steps to the closet. The closet was divided into hanging space and shelving. Top shelf hats, middle cubbies for long-sleeved articles of the far left, middle short-sleeved, right side tanks and camis divided into bins. Waist high bins with underwear and bras, again divided, but by color; next shelves casual pants and finally cubbies with shoes. Hanging articles were divided on the rod by circular clothing rod dividers with Braille spelling out what was what. She wore only jewel tones, mostly solids, and mostly those colors for the sake of others. Honestly, how does she know which colors suit her more and less than others?

More counting got her to the living room and kitchen, there she had absolute order, it was almost regimental. Easy food, simple meals, quick and efficient. 8 steps to the refrigerator, 7 steps to the stove, 10 steps to the kitchen table, 15 steps to the closet for her coat, and lastly, her cane by the front door. That’s when the counting couldn’t be, well, counted on.

Once she left her apartment, walked 30 steps to the elevator, went to the ground floor and walked 15 steps out the front entrance… well, she knew she turned right and there was 3 city blocks to her bus stop to work. It rarely worked out in steps. Too many people and therefore too many variables. Too many voices loudly, talking about their days, nights, shifts, lives, steps and clomps and brisk clicks of heels hitting the pavement. More colors more blobs, tap, tap, tap.

“Watch the stick lady!” Some man shouted, followed by a shushing of his female companion, “Don’t say ‘watch’ Frank, she can’t, bless her heart.”

Sigh Indeed, bless her heart. “People,” she thought, “are aggravating.”

For all of her parent’s attempts at self-reliance and independence, they left out a critical lesson, relationships with other people. Sure they had a fantastic relationship, it was just everyone else, she could not be more unable to connect. Either everyone only saw the stick and that’s all she was or decided that she “didn’t look blind,” and believed she was faking it for tax breaks, disability checks and the like. Except you know, you get screened and tested by actual doctors for these things. It’s not like they just take a person’s word for it.

No, she actually had a job. Yes, she supposed it did center around her blindness but it certainly wasn’t her entire being. It was this very job she was heading out to this morning.

She had several ways of identifying where she was going. The Mexican restaurant by the stop, she could smell the spices thick in the air, jalapeños and avocados… chilies and cumin… the hotdog vendor Joe, who insisted she needed to come home with him so she could meet his son.

“There’s my girl! You’re looking great today, I think this is the best outfit yet, perfect for meeting Mateo! He couldn’t say no to that pretty face! What do you say hija?!” Joe yelled at her as she approached the 3rd block in her trek to the bus stop.

“I say…. no Joe! You know I don’t like to be late for work.  Mateo will just have to hear about today’s suit and dream.” She laughed at the absurdity. Everyday, it’s always the same.

“One day hija you will be calling me your  ‘suegro’ mark me! I am always right! I have the third eye like mi abuela!” He hollered good-naturedly as she passed. She didn’t get very far, and as always Joe left her alone once she reached her stop.

Her city was decked out, at least in the main thoroughfare, with chirping walk/ don’t walk signals. It was quite helpful for those on the way to the Sullivan School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. This was where she worked, and taught. This school brought in quite a few families to the area specifically for the chance for their child to attend this school.

She was told that the school was a large sweeping complex with a smooth modern exterior. Lots of metal with smoothed, domed, and curved architecture. The school had very well-kept grounds littered with sidewalks and comfortable places to read.

As for the decorations… well she wasn’t quite sure about that. She assumed that the inside of the school, especially the front section, was decorated much like a prep school in any part of the country would be. The halls however featured textured ribbons of smooth, bumpy, and rough sections along each wall. Many a teacher and student delighted running their fingertips casually across that cold surface on the way to class. Straight down the main hallway 167 steps, turn right, take another 76 steps and she was there.

Her classroom was enclosed almost entirely in glass, with arches that lead in and out of her room. The idea was, visitors could observe unobtrusively any lesson at anytime.

Her room was brightly lit with a deep blue carpet, spherical chairs surrounded multiple low tables topped with Perkins Brailers and iPads. Multiple half sized bookshelves lined two of her walls. She dropped her bag at her desk, and took out her laptop. She worked with students on enhancing their reading ability, which suited her very well. She loved reading, and sharing that with her students was the highlight of her day.

A pleasant tone reverberated down the halls letting her know the day had begun. Through PLCs, Planning periods, remediation periods and advanced reading classes, she pushed her young pupils further than they though possible. It was tiring work but completely worthwhile.

A good day of work behind her, she packed up her things and exited her room, trailing her freehand down the hall a bit, her leather messenger bag slung across her body and she tap, tap, tapped her way back out of the school.

It was still light, and using those lovely chirping crossing signals, she navigated her way to her other bus stop. There wasn’t any overly ambitious match making papás this stop, but she had to cross 3 intersections, and walk 15 steps or so to feel around for the sign. As mentioned, once out of her home, counting was inaccurate.

As it was unfortunately today. She waited at the last crossing, waiting for the chirp to sound letting her know it was safe to walk. Though the chirp did sound and she did start to make her way across the intersection, it was unfortunately not as safe as anyone who was crossing would hope. As soon as she got half way across, she heard the grinding of gears, the squealing of tires and the unmistakable sound of metal hitting metal but not stopping. Dashing straight ahead, hoping in vain that she was going truly straight, that there was a sidewalk ahead, empty of twisted metal and glass, she ran. She hoped. Surging forward like some sort of awkward bear, she tripped and felt herself falling, cane flying, arms stretched out to catch her fall, the screeching of the tires getting closer. She heard people screaming and her own heart thumping madly, echoing in her chest.

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