I followed a man leaving the movie theater the other day.
He was blind, at least that is what I gathered from the previous few times I had seen him. For many nights during work he passed by and I caught every glimpse I possibly could. He wore dark thick glasses and always swung a long white stick in front of him when he walked. When the store was slow I would stare out and watch the people walking by on the sidewalk. Occasionally the blind man would be one of them. The first time I saw him; I was following him unconsciously. As I was walking to work on the red bricks of the plaza I lifted my head and saw him in front of me. The swaying of the white stick caught my gaze. It briskly grazed the ground ahead of him searching for an obstacle. He always wore the same outfit; a green blazer made of tweed, black dress slacks and black non-slip shoes that made a ‘click clack’ noise as he passed. He wore a black fedora pulled down to his thick black glasses that shaded out any discernible features.
A blind man with repose isn’t something that comes across you so often. The acute accentuation of the other senses due to blindness could either drive one mad or make one more in tune with other frequencies. What it could be like to see things with your ears. To feel the vibrations of the fountain as it sprays in the air and falls back into the pool from which it came. The miasma of a crowded room like thick fog you could feel brushing past you. The remaining senses becoming so visceral. For some, imposing like the doorman at the gates of heaven.
I decided to catch a movie after work. I enjoyed watching movies by myself. Conveniently the theater is located right next to my workplace. I sat in the frigid theater and noticed a white stick coming out of the entrance ramp. The blind man followed in the green tweed jacket. He swung his white stuck down the handicap aisle and took a seat almost directly in front of mine. He folded up the white stick and inserted it into his left jacket pocket.
I couldn’t concentrate on the film. I could only stare at the screen and the shadow of a fedora and wide shoulders against it. He was so still, he couldn’t have been breathing. I don’t remember the film. I remember moving pictures supplemented with sounds. I closed my eyes for a few moments and listened. I thought about how we heard the same things but must have been listening to them differently. The cold air of the theater sent chills down my spine and created goosebumps on the nape of my neck.
I sat through the credits, waiting for him to rise up from his seat. When he did, I let him unfold his white walking stick and begin to swing it. When he turned the corner of the partition out of my line of sight, I rose with haste and hurried to catch up to him. I caught sight of him again just as he was leaving the darkness of the theater.
I followed him. The thick carpet that lined the theater muffled the sound of his black shoes. We walked together silently, until we reached the elevator to take us down to the first floor. He must have been a regular at this cinema, how did he know where the elevator was? He swung his stick against the aluminum threshold of the elevator which made a small twang consistent with plastic meeting metal. He reached with his right hand down towards the panel to hit the small silver button. He had to search with his hands for a few moments to find the right spot. I stood behind watching him, the button surrounded by a red ring of light. We waited for the elevator together. The aluminum doors separated and he entered first holding his white stick in both hands. By now he must have known I was with him. The elevator doors closed and we stood there together, hung in the moment. I heard my heart beating in the steel cage. He certainly heard the same thing. Still, I watched him. I felt sorry for him but in a way I knew he was content; like the burden of being blind was his alone to carry, like it was something he had to do. His hands gripped the white stick as if it were to disappear randomly. The skin of his hands was taut around his bones. His knuckles reflected the fluorescent lighting of the elevator and they looked like they had white spots. He smelled like my chess teacher in 6th grade. Like oak and cherry. It was an older man’s smell. I knew my chess teacher must be dead by now.
When the doors clanked open, he stepped forward one black shoe at a time. Perpetually swinging the white stick he walked towards the double doors of the exit, towards the darkness. I walked a few steps behind him as he thrust himself out into the darkness and turned left down the boulevard. I crept out after him and watched him walk away swinging the white stick. I pictured him with a thick, rich voice like a river of melted gold. He had the air of a man who was born with vision but adopted darkness like an unwanted son.
I wrote the first draft of this story before I read The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe. I thought it was interesting how the plot lines were so similar. Stalking or following someone without their knowledge, especially someone who is disabled, is one of the more sinister things you can do. The way Poe writes, with such lucidity yet focus, is something that I tried to emulate in the final draft of this peace. Obviously his talent far surpasses mine. I found myself referencing him unconsciously when writing the rest of the story.