I crouched against the warm brick of my new school, hidden by a row of bushes from the prying eyes of passing teachers. I waited for my new friend to return with the news of the mission I had sent her on.
“She doesn’t want to be friends anymore,” B informed me.
I was crushed by her returning message.
Here I was with a new friend, who wanted to get to know me and who volunteered to help me out. She was standing right in front of me, the girl who would be the one to always be there, and I didn’t even know what I had in her.
It had been on my first day at that new school, fourth grade and my best friend from the previous few years was meeting a whole new group of kids. We were growing apart, but on my first recess at this new school I was approached by three or four new girls, all wanting to be my friends.
I still often tend to think it was the novelty of having a blind girl in their class that caused them to do this, at least in the beginning, but perhaps it was just my luck and personality that drew them to me that September day.
B lived in a big house that was always full of a chaotic energy I sat quietly in the midst of. She had a satellite dish and an above-ground pool. We used to sit in her high-ceilinged living room and watch movies, often having to change the channel from the non-PG rated ones when her younger brothers and sister were around. We would lock ourselves in her parent’s bedroom to play Monopoly in peace, as much peace as possible with four small fists pounding on the door.
In our teen years we would escape down to the basement. B and I bonded over teen romantic comedies and the hot leading guys starring in them. We both loved The Gilmore Girls and learned the lines by heart, consuming cup after cup of black coffee to stay up all night for a marathon.
In the summer we would spend hours in the pool, just talking about anything and everything under the sun that shone brightly down upon us.
Years later I found myself sitting next to B in a college lecture on genetics. I was just visiting this place, to spend the day with her and see what university life was really like. She was living the life I had always dreamed for myself and of which I had missed out on. I didn’t understand a word the professor spoke, but I was in awe at my friend and how far she had come from that ten-year-old girl she had once been.
After she finished college she applied to medical school in Ireland. This was something we’d always talked about. We would spend hours on the phone as teenagers, discussing our plans to go to Ireland and Africa. She always wanted adventure and I followed along. I wanted to experience those places through her eyes. She had a spirit and an enthusiasm for life that I gravitated toward.
She was always just there, as a friend. She was quiet at times, while we all went through the phases of feuding and fighting all young girls go through.
I never felt like her blind friend, not after that first meeting on the playground. When I would hold onto her arm she would bounce along with every step.
Her laughter infectious, could always make me smile. “Grab on,” she would say, and away we’d go.
She and another friend of hers were going back to Ireland, a few weeks before her last year of med school, to tour around, from south to north and back again. I was never very impetuous, not free like her, but in that moment I jumped at the chance to join them and away I went.
Although she was the one far away, we kept in touch more often than any other friend I’d ever had who remained close by. Distance couldn’t break our almost twenty-year bond.
As we explored along the rugged Irish coastline, she was the only one brave and bold enough to wade into the freezing cold water. I ran in after her, but did not go out nearly as far.
I have the image forever frozen in a treasured hard-cover photo book of our trip. Rocks dotted the ground for what seemed like forever; large boulders with nasty ankle-breaking crevices between each one, but I stood there on one of those rocks and watched her. She jumped gleefully from rock to rock, her arms spread out wide in triumph.
She was as free in that moment as I’d ever seen her, and I felt free too.
I am a daughter, a sister, a friend and a good listener. I love intensely, laugh a lot, and am fiercely loyal. The best thing in my life has been to become an auntie and to see my niece and nephews grow and learn.
I am a blind woman and I speak up on causes of equality and equal rights. I will never stop speaking and writing about the causes important to me: organ donation, infertility, mental health, and chronic pain.
My memories of the vision I once had will never leave me and my other senses fill my writing. The three most fascinating themes I like to explore are: birth, love, and death. They are what makes up everything we are about and they bring both great joy and deep sorrow to us all, a universal connection we all share.
For more on all of this and so much else I invite you, as my personal guest, to read my blog and to return to it as often as you like.